Tuesday, April 30, 2013


When I was in school, I signed off in more yearbooks than I could probably count with "friends forever" or the abbreviated "f/f". Of course, I don't even remember most of those people, so clearly, I'm a liar.

Sydney's setting herself up for an even bigger challenge. On an almost weekly basis she comes home announcing someone new is her BFF. She then looks at me in all seriousness and asks, "Do you know how to spell BFF?"

Her most recent best friend is Jaydon, who's not only in her kindergarten class, but also goes to our church. Jaydon has stayed in the BFF spot for several weeks, so I figured this friendship must be serious. And so Jaydon's mom and I arranged for her to come home with us after Sunday School for a playdate.

Sydney had been counting down the days since before we actually confirmed there would be a playdate. She was so excited! At last the big day arrived. It was amazing to watch the two girls play. They look nothing alike. They sound nothing alike. And yet, they are so alike.

We set up Sydney's card table so they could eat lunch as if it was a tea party.

And then they moved on to Barbies. Oh, the dramas they created!

Later in the afternoon, when they seemed to be getting tired, I suggested they relax and watch a Barbie movie. That worked, until the scene in the movie where Barbie and her friends dance. Of course Sydney and Jaydon had to dance along.

Later they played outside, drawing their friendship on our driveway for all to see (until the rain washed it away.)

Still later, their "girls only" rule came to an end when they joined Daddy and AJ in a game of baseball.

When it came time for Jaydon to go home - seven hours later - there was pouting from both girls. They didn't want the day to end. We reminded them they'd see each other the next day in school and promised to do another playdate soon. Because that's what BFFs do.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Healthy family fun

Now that the kids are getting older, I've kind of let my guard down in the area of constant close supervision. But Saturday, I was reminded why it's important to never turn your back on them for more than a moment. We were up at UMD for Northland Community Wellness Day, a family-friendly event that St. Louis County was sponsoring.

I was keeping an eye on Sydney, who was playing in a bouncy house, and was talking with the mother of one of her friends who happened to be there. All of a sudden a woman I know from church approached us, pointing for me to turn around. That's when I saw this: 

I let them out of my sight for just a couple minutes, and the next thing you know my boys are going at it as sumo wrestlers.

Due to his size (or lack there of), AJ was at a distinct disadvantage. Any time he fell, his head pretty much disappeared inside the massive costume and he required help to get back on his feet.

That same lack of size also didn't help when he decided to shoot hoops with the Bulldog mascot.

There was plenty going on that I didn't photograph. The kids are now big enough that when they get stickers from firefighters they know to flaunt them in front of their father. Sydney stalked a clown until he made her a balloon dog, which she promptly named Squeaky. And the kids got to try on beer goggles - probably not intended for kids so young - and after stumbling repeatedly while trying to walk a straight line, they each proclaimed the experience as "Awesome" and "Cool" - probably not the intended response.

I wish we could have stayed longer because the kids were having a blast, but AJ had a birthday party to go to. On the way out, they had to stop and show me their tough bulldog face.

Fun times! We'll be looking forward to next year!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spring at last. Spring at last. Praise God almighty, it's spring at last.

Who knew? All this time I've been whining about the snow and our lack of a spring while comparing it to the weather we had on our trip to Texas. I finally finished blogging about our vacation and BAM! Eight hours later we had sun and temperatures in the 60s.

A week ago Friday we were snowed in. Yesterday on my lunch hour, I went jogging on the lakewalk. Wearing shorts. With about 800 other people who all seemed to have the same idea. As I maneuvered around people walking, jogging, biking, pushing strollers, walking dogs and even a skateboarder, I couldn't help but smile. Duluth has come out of hibernation.

Check out this beautiful picture. That is water, from melting snow, rolling in waves across our driveway yesterday. I smile at this almost as much as I do each time I hear our sump pump turn on. 

Jeff was out of town for a conference for work, which meant I had to (HAD to... it was a sacrifice!) leave work early Friday to beat the kids' bus home. Once they arrived, we quickly headed outside to soak up the sun.

For AJ, my singularly focused child, that meant playing hockey in the driveway.

Meanwhile, Sydney, the child with a million casual interests, decided the weather called for a picnic. (We settled for a bowl of fruit on a patio chair. The picnic table is still encased in snow in the backyard.)

And then she had to try out her bike. (She also asked if we could turn on the sprinkler. Um, no.)

While AJ continued to play hockey. 

Sydney next switched to soccer. (Which created some challenges because she wanted to shoot at the same net AJ was using. Though the far greater challenge was keeping the various balls away from Gus.)

And what was AJ doing by then? Oh yeah, still playing hockey.

And so, after putting the camera away, I grabbed my hockey stick and joined him. He won. No surprise there. The season may finally have changed, but his ability to outplay me is a constant.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Going Wild in Texas - part II

Wrapping up yesterday's post about our visit to a Dallas Stars/MN Wild game (which really is the wrap up of our Texas vacation), here's what we found inside the American Airlines Arena...

With the exception of watching my niece play soccer against UMD last fall, it's the first time I've ever attended a sporting event as the "minority fan". It was actually kind of fun. It's easy to strike up a conversation with other Wild fans and talk about Minnesota connections. 

Before the game started, we asked an arena worker where the Wild players would be entering the ice. Apparently other Wild fans did the same, and thus, our small community formed.

I stayed up above, but the kids could peak through the tunnel and see the players starting to line up. And then, just as the players emerged...

some freaky new father stuck his baby over the railing and totally ruined all of my shots. What did he think the baby was going to do? Get an autograph?

During warm-ups, AJ got this close to the action:

My other boy did, too.

I have to say the Dallas fan were extremely nice to us. One woman whose season tickets had her sitting right where we were standing, volunteered to let our kids stand in her place while she stood off to the side. A while later, she approached Jeff and handed him Sydney's souvenir program. Apparently my daughter had gotten tired of holding it and asked the woman to take care of it. That is a gracious woman.

At last, with warm ups over, we returned to our seats. The pre-game show, designed to rev up the fans, focused on the Stars' successful 20 year run in Dallas. Twenty years! There were sound bites from Norm Green from a news conference that I think I was at. And that was 20 years ago. Unbelievable!

At last the players took the ice. Thankfully, the guy at the front desk of our hotel had warned me that during the National Anthem, the couple times that the word "stars" is mentioned, the crowd gets crazy loud. Yes, they do.

And then, because I didn't feel old enough, the Stars brought out Mike Modano so they could further highlight their 20th anniversary.

At last the game started, and it was a good game - for the first two periods. Random observation - it included the biggest ref I have ever seen. He towered over all the players. 

And that was probably a good thing, because he ended up having to get in the middle of a lot of skirmishes. By the third period, with the Wild losing 5-2, it turned into one of those "I went to the fights and a hockey game broke out" kind of event.

During the long breaks - some due to commercials, others while the refs tried to sort out who deserved how long of a penalty - the arena played clips of well known movies that had winter scenes, such as Fargo and Grumpy Old Men, super-imposing the headline, "Meanwhile, back in Minnesota..." And then they'd show Wild fans at the game so that the Dallas fans could mock us. But it was all good fun, especially when we found ourselves shown on the arena's big screen.

The game ended with the Wild losing 5-3. Not the ending we wanted, but still a great time. 

Kind of like our vacation. We wish it wouldn't have had to end, but sure are thankful for the experience.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Going Wild in Dallas - part 1

I took so many photos our last night in Texas that I'm going to break this into two posts. This story actually starts back in January, as I was driving home in frigidly cold temperatures after watching AJ play a hockey game in Twig. (Yes, we really have a town near us named Twig.)

Jeff and I had only recently started talking about the possibility of a trip to Texas. We knew we wanted to visit San Antonio and Kingsland, but that's about as much as we'd planned. Nothing had been particularly thought through. And that's when I came up with another idea that was not well thought through.

Wouldn't it be cool, while in Texas, to watch Minnesota's original hockey team play a game? As soon as I got home, I headed for the computer to check the Dallas Stars schedule. It's as if it was fate: our last night in Texas, the Stars were playing the Minnesota Wild.

And that's how we ended up driving an extra four hours and having to pay an extra $200 to drop off our rental car in a different city than from where we picked it up. Not well thought out. But definitely fun!

And definitely strange. How does one dress to attend a hockey game when it's 70 degrees outside? We wore pants, but saw a lot of people in shorts.

On the plaza outside the arena, the atmosphere reminded me of going to a Twins game back home. Live music, various activities for the kids - all sorts of things it's just too cold to do outside a hockey game in Minnesota!

Sydney couldn't wait to try out the bouncy house and inflatable slide.

Meanwhile, AJ lined up to play a little shoe hockey. (I think it'd normally be called boot hockey, but no one was wearing boots.) He quickly made friends. Never mind that they'd be rooting for opposite teams inside the arena, for this game they were teammates.

Call me a snob, but watching these kids play, I simply couldn't imagine how they could be anywhere close to AJ's level. Sure, some of them might have played in hockey leagues, but in a climate like Texas, how could they possibly understand the toughness it takes to play night after night, outdoors, in sub-zero temperatures?

AJ approached the game with his typical intensity and competitiveness.

I think they played for five minutes. And apparently these southern kids do okay in this version of hockey. AJ's team lost 5-3, though AJ was quick to point out he got an assist.

While we waited for AJ, Jeff suggested Sydney pose for a photo opp. She couldn't understand why we wanted her to do this. "But, it's not mine," she protested. "Are we stealing it?" 

We assured her we just wanted her to pick it up for the photo, and that that's why it was there.

At last, it was time to head in to the game. And that will be my next story.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The other river walk

Somehow, a month has passed since we were in Texas. And here I am, still writing about our adventures.

Our day in Kingsland proved once again that it's the simple things that become the most memorable. Like checking out an eagle's nest and its inhabitants.

After that, we visited the Llano River at a place called the ledge. The water was cool, but that didn't stop us from wading in it.

Water and rocks and sticks and an imagination. Who needs toys when you have those four items? The kids would have played here all day if we let them.

And who could blame them?

What's the last line of that poem about finding joy in life? Dance like nobody's watching. Or in Sydney's case, dance even if everybody's watching.

On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at a scenic overlook - an area where the hill had been cut to make way for the road.

Seeing the exposed layers of rock reminded me a bit of driving over Spirit Mountain. With one minor exception. At the top of this hill, we saw cactus growing. Probably won't be seeing those in Duluth any time soon.

We miss Texas. The kids have asked several times if we could move there. I'm sure all the snow this past month has only intensified their desire. A new fun fact: we've received more snow this month than we did all last winter. Oh, joy!

I remind the kids off all the wonderful activities they're involved in at home, and the friends they'd have to leave behind. So AJ found a compromise, telling me, "I wish Esko was in Texas."