Sunday, April 29, 2012


As I've mentioned before on this blog - Maddie has had an ongoing project all year in English class.  She picked "Ghosts" as her subject, but it really turned more into "Paranormal Activity" as the year (and her research) progressed.

About a month or so ago, the paper was turned in.  Whew!  Did she feel good about that and she received her paper back a couple weeks ago.  I guess her teacher does a little happy dance for everyone when she's able to hand them back their paper - it's a lot of work!  I'm sure the happy dance is also for the teacher...that's a lot of papers to grade and I bet she's just as thrilled to get them out of her stack of "to-do's".

The next leg of the project was to present a minimum 10 minute speech on your topic.  A student can't just read their paper.  She had to put together a Power Point presentation and had to include a couple different visual aides.  She's using a couple film trailers from different ghost movies for one part of her presentation, but she was really stuck on a second type.  I mean...there was very little chance she could bring in a real ghost.

(I did suggest purchasing a Ouija Board for this, but she informed me she had learned through her research that these are far too dangerous!)

A couple weeks ago Maddie decided she would bring in ghost cookies.  To tie them into her speech she is going to have the kids take a poll at the end and those that believe in ghosts will get a "happy" ghost and those that don't believe will get a "sad" ghost.

She and I spent the afternoon making cookies.  We had to double the recipe to get what she needed, but it also meant we had a ton of extra cookies.  We were so exhausted after just baking them that we couldn't stand the thought of making frosting so we headed to the grocery store and bought some.  Best $3.00 I've ever spent.

When looking through our cookie cutters - we only found a foot shape.  As it turns out, an upside-down foot has a very close resemblance to a ghost!

Her speech is approximately 25 minutes.  After second hour Monday morning, there is going to be one very happy girl in this family!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Like Father, Like Son

I hear a lot of comments about how much Jake looks like Mike.  The words: "clone", "twin", and "Mini-Mike" are frequent referrals.  I honestly don't see it.  I'm not saying they don't resemble each other; they have the same cowlick and the same haircut -  I only know how to cut hair one way! - but I really can't see how alike they look.

Now, if you were to ask about personality traits, that would be a different story.

"Mini-Mike" would absolutely be a fitting description.

Wednesday nights the boys are left here to fend for themselves and last night they took on installing one of the cabinets.

When I came home Jake was standing over Mike and studying what he was doing.  In about a minute Jake was on the floor next to Mike and grabbing the extra piece of hardware to try his luck at leveling the right side of the cabinet.

I heard Mike say under his breath, "This stupid hole..."  About five seconds later Jake was muttering the same thing.  (He may have said it about five times more, and stressed the word "stupid" to see if he'd get a reaction out of us for using a word we don't normally condone.)

Jake had the disadvantage of shorter arms along with not being able to see the hole.  However, he wasn't giving up and when Mike told him to move aside to let Mike have a go at leveling (it was past bedtime), Jake was bound and determined to not give up his post.  He did manage to find the hole and helped level the cabinet.

They both have this fondness for all things tool-related.  They both study something until they are fairly certain they understand it.  They both love to build and one loves to learn while the other loves to teach.  Good balance.

So, while I personally don't think they look too much alike, I don't think there's any doubt they are two peas-in-a-pod.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Just Because

Today looks to be a weird day weather-wise.  I actually hauled my rear outside this morning at 7:15 to get a run in before my busy day so I could check it off.  I was hoping to not get rained on and I didn't.  When I returned home things got dark.

Then nothing.  Now everything is sorta gray.

I was supposed to be to the middle school to start accompanying by 8:50 but that got changed to 11:30.

BUT - thanks to the running lady that passed me by, and my determination to "stalk" her while running, I managed to knock off a full minute on my fastest time.  I thought I was going to puke in our front yard when it was all said and done.

With all that, I thought I'd post a picture of some pretty blooms I came across this week that I was playing with last night.

Now the sun is peeking out again.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Beginning to Build

This past weekend Mike started laying the groundwork for our cabinets.  We finally managed to open all the boxes.  There were only a few scratches/bangs but there was one cabinet that was very smashed and needed to be replaced.  Thank goodness the manufacturer was easy to work with on that!

To begin installation, we needed a new tool.  Enter: the level.  The GREATEST level ever.

I have heard no less than 20 times how awesome this level is.  Simply amazing.

It also works great - every line is very level.  However, our basement floor isn't.  In the span of 14 feet our floor drops one inch.  This required some serious thought process as to how to proceed.

By Sunday Mike had things figured out and he started working on the craft area.  Unfortunately for him the crushed cabinet was in the bar area and will take three weeks to arrive.  To not waste time he's starting with my area.

By the way - here's a little peek of our cabinet choice: Birch with a Dakota stain (I think that's the only stain available for it, honestly).

Side note:  my camera takes pictures in black and white!

I should really read that manual some more!

By Sunday night the first big (BIG!) cabinet was installed...and level.

Only about 45 more cabinets to get set up.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Special Delivery

Last Saturday we had a giant delivery to our home...our cabinets for the basement!  The final push is coming to get this thing finished.  It only took three years, but the next few weeks is going to be a flurry of activity as we install these!

By 7:15am we had a phone call that the truck would be arriving in an hour.  By 8:45 unloading began.

Two guys unloaded all this.  Ugh.  It probably took them 45 minutes to get everything into the basement.  Luckily it was a beautiful day out.  Still...a lot of work.  These guys were sweating buckets by the time they were finished going up and down those stairs and hauling these solid cabinets!

The kids and I mostly stayed out of the way.  Sadie barked from her kennel for the entire time.  ENTIRE time.  Mike stayed downstairs checking off the boxes as they came in to make sure everything had been delivered.

Saturday night Mike started researching how to install cabinets.  Sunday night we started opening the boxes to make sure the cabinets were in good shape.  That took a few nights.

Sunday night Mike also got all the level lines drawn out with his new laser level after discovering the other two he had didn't work.  I'm sure it won't be the only tool we'll "have to buy" in order to install these.

You'll have to wait for pictures of the actual cabinets.  I didn't get around to taking those yet.  We've been kinda busy just opening boxes.

In a related note - we may have a few boxes if anyone is interested.  Maddie and Jake have already claimed  some for play, but I'm sure we'll have more than a couple to send to a good home!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fourth Grade Informance

Each year the different classes in Jake's school have an "Informance".  Instead of a traditional program involving the whole grade one night, each separate class gives a little performance during their regular music time at school.  It's a much smaller setting and, according to the teacher, they get to work harder with each class and they learn more.

Jake's Informance was last week.  I think the "Info" part comes because the music teacher generally discusses a little history behind the songs they are singing or why/how the kids are learning the songs.  Jake's class learned 13 songs and this year the songs all centered around patriotic, folk music and spirituals.  I'm so glad that this teacher feels strongly that these should be learned.  I think it's sad when one of my piano students goes to play a song like "Oh, Susanna" and has never heard it before.

What I also like is that the kids are encouraged to dress up a little more than normal.  I think this is important in any performance as well so I'm definitely on board with that!

Jake is too...this little man loves to wear ties!  He thought he'd wear his suit for the day, but decided the night before to forgo the jacket.  That morning I caught this made me realize how fast he's growing up!

Before I know it, that will be a phone in his hand.

I do have to say, Jake was not thrilled with having to wear his "church shoes".  He said they were getting too small and he was going to wear his black tennis shoes with the red shoelaces.  So. Not. Happening.  He was allowed to bring clothes to school to change into (including shoes) after his performance, but he was wearing his dress shoes. The End. Maybe now he'll finally agree to go shoe shopping with me!

The performance was great.  The mix of songs were a lot of fun and Man!...those kids had to learn a LOT of words!

It's always fun to see the kids get excited about some of the songs they are performing.  They were all a little nervous beforehand and excited afterward to have a successful performance behind them!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Quiet Easter

Last weekend for Easter, as usual, we were up early for church.  Miraculously, we were ready with even a few minutes to spare!  This is probably the first time that has ever happened on a holiday.  I can't guarantee it will ever happen again.

Maddie and I each got new dresses this year.  Maddie got a little strapless dress with a tiered bottom.  She loved it, but Grandma Smith had to take in the top a little.  Thank goodness she can do anything with a sewing machine!  I know it always makes mom nervous when we ask her to help (she's always afraid she'll ruin it, though it never even crosses my mind that she could), but Maddie really wanted to wear this dress - so thanks, Mom!

Mike and Jake both opted not to get new ties.  No fun.

This year for Easter we decided to just stay home after church.  Like a lot of families, we have a ton of running around most weekends and the idea of just staying home with nothing on the agenda sounded so very appealing!

We decided to forgo the "traditional" Easter dinner and instead had burgers...with an Easter twist.

You may notice there is a little bunny silhouette on each of the plates.  On each shape I wrote "Hoppy Easter!"

During dinner, Jake looked at his shape and said, "Mom, these are cute, but you didn't spell 'Happy' right."

Maddie looked at him and slightly rolled her eyes.  "'s supposed to be like that.  You know 'Hoppy' instead of 'Happy'...hoppy like a bunny?"

He still didn't get it, so I explained what a play-on-words was and how that related to this word.

Mike said, "Huh...I thought you spelled 'Happy' wrong too."

Maddie might have rolled her eyes again.  "I got it, mom.  They were cute."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Break Road Trip, Part 3

The final chapter!

Day three of this listing really started at the end of day two.  We drove from Kellogg to Winona where we had planned on spending the night.

We decided that Wabasha, Kellogg, and Winona leave a lot to be desired in their city signs.  This was on the corner of a gas station.  Woo-hoo.

Jake and Maddie were very excited for our hotel room.  We had decided to get a family "suite" meaning there was a little sitting area, and a separate bedroom.  When Jake entered and saw the set-up he was extremely excited because he knew he'd get to sleep on the couch!  Maddie was extremely excited because she got a whole double-bed to herself.

We still had some daylight left for the day so we decided to drive to the top of Garvin Heights to view Winona's scenery.

I'm sure in the fall the view is absolutely beautiful.  It was a gorgeous day (I think in the 70's) and so many people were out taking advantage of the weather!

For dinner we headed to the Lakeview Drive Inn.  This is supposedly the oldest restaurant in Winona.  We thought it would be fun to taste their homemade root beer.  After a couple of sips, Maddie and I gave up.  It had the worst after taste.  Mike said it was exactly like the "root beer barrel" candies.  Once he said that I knew exactly why I didn't like the root beer - because he was absolutely right and I can't stand those candies!  Mike and Jake thought they could make it through their mugs, but about three-quarters of the way finished Jake pushed his aside and said, "I can't do it."  This is the second time we've stopped at a restaurant in the last few years and decided to try homemade root beer - and the second time we've been sorely disappointed.  We made each other swear we wouldn't fall for it again!  We also told Mike he should rethink having homemade root beer on tap in his future bar.

We headed back to the hotel for an evening of swimming and watching HGTV.  Do we know how to live it up on vacation, or what?

The next morning we headed home, but not before finding someplace for breakfast.  We left Maddie in charge of this research using her phone and trying to figure out the GPS.  She threw out some ideas, but Jake had decided at this point that he "couldn't take another cafe!"

Maddie chose Bloedow's Bakery and it was a great option!  It's a little corner bakery in a neighborhood.  There was a line almost out the door when we arrived, and it was still that long after we left!  I don't think any of us were complaining about this meal!

Scratch that...we were complaining.  It was about 40 degrees and we had decided to eat outside.  This might have been the fastest record of doughnut eating in our family!

For our drive back we headed up the Great River Road via Wisconsin.

The kids did play their iPods some on the trip, but we also would tell them, "Put those things away and look out the windows!!"

They managed to also occupy their time by being goofy - it's their favorite car pastime.

We only stopped in a couple spots along the route home.  Most of the little towns we were looking to stop in weren't really open for business until "the season" started, which we gathered was mid-April.

All in all, I think this was a fairly successful trip.  We had a great time together which included lots of laughs. It was a very nice way to unwind for a few days and spend time as a family!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Break Road Trip, Part 2.2

The second part of our day, we traveled to Kellogg - a whopping 10 minutes from Wabasha.  We visited the LARK Toy Store which is supposedly the largest independent toy store in America.

Maddie and Jake signed us in and we started walking around!

Mostly I was anxious to see the Carousel I had read about.  It is entirely hand-carved.

We headed to the back of the store where there was a cafe.  After ordering, we heard the announcement that the carousel would be running (it runs once every 30 minutes).  The kids and I ended up being the only people to ride!

While our lunch was prepared, I walked around taking a million pictures.  The work and details on this carousel are truly amazing!

(The guy above was just added for detail on the back of a boar!)

(Again - more detail.  These were the eggs on the back of a cart!)

The original owner of the toy store began sketching the animals in 1988.  He met with a local wood-carver and the two started working together.  A local woman did the painting and some man from Ohio put it all together.  It officially opened in 1997 - nine years of planning/creating! It doesn't run on wheels along the bottom, everything is suspended on a center pole.  Can you tell I found it fascinating?

After lunch we walked around and looked at the wood carvings that just sit around the carousel and are used as decoration.

Unfortunately I couldn't get a picture of the Stegosaurus.  I thought my nephew, Austin, would have appreciated that one!  I guess he'll have to take a trip there with his family.

But, there were other sites to see.  There is a big hallway that is lined with all sorts of antique toys.  Some have been donated by people from all over.

I have to say it was sad to see what were considered "antiques".  Care Bears?  Pound Puppies?  Aaagh!

I was disappointed when I saw these pots and pans...

I played with those exact sets when I was a kid.  I'm old enough to have "antique toys"?  No.  Maybe these sets were handed down to me from my mom.  Yeah...that's it...all my mom's original toys.  (Sorry...I'm totally throwing you under the bus on this one, mom!)

There were a couple mirrors we all got a kick out of...

Oh yeah - and there were toys.

(All the wood toys were made by the Lark Company.  This is only a small sample!)

(These quacked me up.)

Jake found the hat section.  I thought it was kind of small, but it surrounded a little stage where kids could don the hats and boas and other costume-y items for a little show.

This hat was perhaps my favorite of the day...who hasn't sat around seriously studying a toy while wearing a pizza hat?

There's a whole room of books and another of just baby toys.  

The kids bought some souvenir toys.  I was happy to see they really did pick out items that they couldn't find normally at Target.

On the way out we tried to take a picture near the only Kellogg sign we could find.

We tried to get the kids to look like they were leaning against the water tower.  This involved me standing across the road yelling instructions on a super windy day with a freeway right behind them.  It also involved Mike standing halfway between us interpreting my instructions to the kids who still couldn't hear anything.

As Jake would say:  "Epic Fail."