Friday, December 26, 2008

Beyond Our Differences

Tonight I was watching Bill Moyers Journal, Beyond our Differences. The film was a very well produced. It really made me think about faith and how it relates to others. Now, I have thought about this many times in the past, but reminders often make you ponder and rethink.

All religions call for us to think of others, pray for our enemies and to treat others as we want to be. Emphasizing these points, the piece used scriptures from all of the major religions that call for us to remember to not do things that we would find hurtful. Desmonde Tutu explained that we hurt ourselves the most when we give in to our anger and resort to violence.

Many times, I have tried to live to the ideals of forgiveness; though the truth is, I have failed many times. Falling into a desire to forgive, knowing that it is through this we can be forgiven. I have struggled with forgiveness, thinking that it also requires us to put ourselves in harms way over and over. I have found myself tolerating so much that it deteriorated my sense of self so much that I couldn't find it. Just recently I had to stop allowing people to treat me badly.

One part repeated the sentiment that it is better to be associated with the persecuted than persecutors, but I don't think it requires everyone to become martyrs. So many of our daily struggles are unnecessary. I think sometimes walking away is all people can do, especially when staying helps nobody. How do we learn and become better people if we always allow people to walk in ignorance and without consequences their actions?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Joys

Christmas Day has come again and now nears a close. This year we celebrated with my family and my mom. Our family has spent many holidays with just us; many would find this odd, but it seems to work for us. I am happy that my kids get some good time with us; in the past when we have expected family, many times we spend so much time worrying about when/if others are going to show or be nice. It is nice to know that we can focus on each other. It was a nice day. We have had a good year and we are reminded to be grateful and remind ourselves that many people were not as blessed this year.

My kids and I all got some scrapbooking stuff. I am hoping that we can spend some time in the next few weeks and get some scrapping done! Our friend Mary is a scrapper as well. We both just finished calendars to give as gifts. They were fun to make, but they really helped me motivative myself and get some stuff done for our scrapbooks.

I have made some stuff in the past, but I am hoping that next years, I can use some of the wonderful materials I have in the garage and make some great gifts for the people in our lives. Alas, I have already been online looking for some more stuff to help with my projects. many to think of. I should start planning now I think!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sweet rewards--visiting all Minnesota state parks

After camping and hiking in all weather and all seasons, my kids and I got our plaques from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. These plaques are the culmination of walking almost 200 miles in the hiking club and visiting every park and receiving our "passport" stamp for each. I love the time we spent there. When my kids were the youngest, we faced many obstacles--this allowed us to focus on us as a family. I got to watch my kids grow in many ways. It was incredible and I hope their memories are as great as mine.

The two years were way worth the effort. Many DNR employees were surprised that we had worked on it so quickly. I was determined to do so though because Alex starts college under the PSEO program next fall and I knew our lives were going to become more structured. In our letters that accompanied the laser carved wood, we were told that we joined the 1000 other people, families or groups who had completed the passport club and 200 others who had completed the hiking club. These projects were started in the 1980's and I am amazed that others have not done what we have done.

Since coming home, my kids have had me as busy as I have ever been. Alex, getting older, had me running everywhere for different things. The boys soon joined her. These things are all good--even great things, but there are times I get exhausted. It has been worth it though. They are growing up to be sweet, responsible and intelligent. Alex began working on a sheep farm not too far from us about a year and a half. I really, really like the couple that owns it. They have been great to all of my kids--even the boys who are not employed by them. They listen to their stories and one shares the enthusiasm of the outdoors. My boys could not wait to show them the core sample, the taconite pellets, or fossils from up north. (We haven't made it over there yet, but am working on it with our schedules.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Minnesota Orchestra and Underwater Aquarium

My mom is still here with us. She goes home tomorrow afternoon. We have been trying to bring her to places that she will enjoy. Friday, our homeschool had tickets to the school performance of the Minnesota Orchestra. They had dancers with them doing scenes from the nutcracker. It was wonderful to see them--they had ballerinas and less traditional dancers. They also had two very young dancers--the girl did some gymnastics. They were truly wonderful. I was glad we came.

We had been running late that morning. Alex had to work on the farm so it took longer than normal and we were late. I zipped up 52 over to Minneapolis. We would have been okay, but then traffic was completely stalled on 35 to downtown. We were lucky--we had only missed a little of the performance when we finally got to our seats. We had VERY good seats since were in the VIP box. We had been very lucky to get those seats and we enjoyed it tremendously.

I had to work on Saturday to cover some Christmas events. I had to write that evening and Sunday morning to make deadline at noon. I was done around 1:30 with some of the questions that I had gotten back from my editor. We had wanted to go to Underwater Adventures last week with mom, but just got sidetracked with things to do and not feeling well. Mom had spent the night before with my sister so she had been tired. Even though it was snowing pretty heavily yesterday, we wanted to get there and did go.

We went through the aquarium. It was really neat--and we enjoyed it. I was kind of surprised that isn't bigger for the price, but it is at the Mall of America and the animals need proper care. They also had an exhibit of crystal sculptures representing each state of the union. It was actually cheaper for us to get a membership than it was to pay a daily admission. I am happy that we did it. Now we can go back if we want to for the next year.

I am not normally a fan of the mega mall, but we go occasionally. There are a few things we like to see--Legoland is really fun. I wanted to make sure my mom saw those. The mall has been around for a long time, but she has never been inside of it. I think she discovered that she even enjoyed part of it. We went to the food court with her and asked her what she wanted for dinner. My mom never went to the mall--even a smaller mall so we actually had to explain to her that we didn't have to eat at the same place. My mom is older and we never had money--any money, to do stuff like that so it isn't that surprising that she wouldn't understand the food court...She had fun though...we watched the theme park rides zip past us on the third floor. Since it was evening, the mall was lit in a way that was really fun to watch and reflected evening rides that are outside. All in all--a good time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Holiday time nearing

I have been extremely busy with my family. We have had some good times together this summer and fall. We brought my mom down from up north for Thanksgiving, she will be here through the coming weekend. She will be coming back down for Christmas, but I suspect that it will be for a shorter period.

We have been doing some scrapbooking projects with her. There are a few stores that my family loves--a small one in Zumbrota, another in Rochester and Archivers in Apple Valley. Mom has seemed to enjoy doing a couple of them, but doesn't seem to want to do it for a long time. We also went to the Vatican exhibit at the Minnesota History Center. It was a beautiful exhibit.
Earlier this week we brought her to the Science Museum of Minnesota. We did the CSI exhibit on forensic science and the IMAX movie--The Great Lakes. What a beautiful movie--though there are few IMAX movies that we have not enjoyed--really, I am not sure that there have been any that we have seen and not liked.

The most exciting thing we have done is that we brought our state park passports and hiking club books to the DNR office near the capitol and ordered our plaques. I am very excited because we have to be very, very close to getting them. I know the boys are really excited to get them and show Grandma. Woo Hoo....who would have ever thought that the day would come? I remember starting after the very first hike and I wondered then if it was possible.

I have really wanted to do these things though and the hard work has finally paid off. We have earned 10 days of free camping and I already know that we will be using them this summer to do many of the things we just lacked the time to do. The kids wanted to go to the Bear Sanctuary and the Wolf Center. I also want to finally make it to Voyageurs National Park and see the historic sites.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A new President and Civicfest

I cannot believe that November has come and the Electing the new president was a fascinating experience for my children. Discussing our government process and view was very exciting. We are thrilled that so many people were involved in the choosing of our new president. A friend from Virginia called on the phone and was crying for the truly important historic event.

Earlier we had had an opportunity to see Civicfest--the Presidential history exhibit at the Minneapolis Convention Center during the Republican National Convention in September. I had thought hard about not going to this great exhibit, but, thankfully we went. It was the final part of our vacation and we saw the detailed miniatures of the White House. We also got to pretend to take the oath of office. There was a great map of the Minnesota State parks, dishes and exhibits on every president of the United States, the mobile semi truck with Lincoln exhibits, the C-Span bus where they interview candidates, a flag exhibit, some information on the founding fathers who served under the Articles of Confederation--the precursor to the Constitution, an opportunity for children to cast a ballot on a real voting machine. It was great to see old presidential limos and a mock of air force one. What a wonderful day to learn about our government!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Finishing up our hikes in the Minnesota State Parks

We enjoyed this a great deal the past several weeks. In the end of September and a couple weekends in October, the kids and I made a concerted effort to get the rest of the parks done that we had left in the Minnesota State Parks' Hiking Club. There were several days that the kids and I visited several parks and walked over 10 miles per day. I was SOOOO proud of my kids. They really toughed it out--even our last day we hiked on the North Shore. The North Shore has some of the most rugged hikes in the state because of the volcanic geology that has been exposed because of the glaciation.

In the periods of hiking that we did, we visited the other three corners of the state. We did Camden and Lake Shetek one weekend. We took several days and did six of the parks up by Fargo and Grand Forks. We took another to do Cascade, Temperance River and George Crosby Manitou. WOW! What an experience and I am sooo proud of my kids for getting through this. Our last camping this year was at Temperance in mid-October. The wind was very cold--it reminded me of the ocean in the winter in Virginia.

I was kind of sad when we finished our last hikes on October 16. We did both Lake Carlos and Lake Maria to finish up. Ironically I was incredibly sad. Working on this project of the state parks was something I had shared with Dad weeks before he had passed away. I have felt him with us as we seek out people to interview about local history. Multiple times, the right person just fell into our laps as we worked to learn about our states history. I was sad that this time was coming to an end. I still have a hard time missing my father--even though it has been two years. He was the one person in the family that understood me the best in my family and losing "our" project made me feel like I had lost him all over again. I miss him so very, very much.

I am grateful for the time I had with him after growing up. I am equally glad that my kids all have fond memories of him--that is in itself a precious thing that they alone have of all the grandchildren. We truly have been blessed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

This amazing summer

I have never, ever had a summer so very busy. I am very proud of my family and the hard work they do. My boys completed swimming lessons a couple weeks ago, completing levels three and four. I almost put them in another round of lessons, but they are taking lessons with the horses for a few weeks.

We have all been very busy at RideAbility. I am extremely happy that even my younger boys have decided to help as much as they can. My older boy who will be 11 in just a few weeks has become very aware of his power to make a difference. How fast they grow up. We all went and helped put up hay at the barn--even my husband, poor thing, came after having a very busy week. As much as I see all of us growing, I will be happy at the end of the year. It has been a very hard summer on my energy.

My mother was diagnosed with cancer; it was hard to think about losing her after Dad only going a year and a half ago. I am happy that she is doing well. I was also glad that I spent time with my mom this past month. It has been hard because of Dad being gone, it was nice to get her out and see some great things. We went up to Big Bog State Recreation Area and saw the bog. We also went by Camp Rabideau in Northern Minnesota. This former CCC camp is one of the last ones left. The other two have been changed so much so that they are not eligible for recognition as a National Historic Landmark. I think she enjoyed herself. We all learned so much. Her mother passed away this past week and it reminds you that life is short. I feel badly for my mom, though I was never close to her mother.

My daughter also made contact with her biological father's adoptive dad. Confusing, I know. He was a nice guy; I support her fully. Supporting her completely doesn't make the thought of eventually dealing with my ex husband easy though. I was young and dumb and must share the burden in the failure of our marriage, though I truly believed I tried harder. No matter, though, I do not think we were ever compatible because our wants and needs are on opposite ends of the spectrum. I always wanted a close family and he just never was. It simply was a relationship that was never meant to be a lasting one. I am comforted by her level head and awareness. She is a good girl and I have been very, very blessed. I am confident in her and our family. I even hope for the newest family of my ex, that the problems we had, are no longer an issue. I just hope she isn't hurt. The funniest thing I am finding about this is that while she is compiling genealogy information, which prompted contact by an internet server, she is absolutely amazed to the secrecy surrounding adoption records. I think it is because I have always been so open. I am glad I was.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The busy life

The past couple weeks has been filled with work, play, school and family. My daughter Alex has been busy volunteering at the Minnesota zoo. While there, I spent a lot of time with my boys at the zoo, Archiver's scrapbooking, the library and the playground. After the playground, we sadly had to include a side trip to the emergency room for stitches. Collin somehow managed to gash his head in a way only he can manage.

We have been out to Rideability volunteering for the parades and riders. I am looking forward to a break. We also have been busy with an equine massage clinic, riding at my friend Mary's house and trying to help out when I can. I had to break down and get some cleaning and yardwork done this week--I had neglected both and the laundry was piling up as the grass grew.

My husband's work has been crazy busy, but they will be having a customer appreciate night. It will be nice to not have to cook tonight, though I need to juggle vacation Bible school tonight with it. I had really wanted to go camping Thursday, but there is an event I really should cover this so I would have to leave late to do it. I would go the following week, however my husband needs to work and the boys will start their swimming lessons the week after that.

Sadly, I also spent time this weekend with my mother trying to help her decide to find another assisted living home. I am glad that I looked at the one she was looking at. It was truly horrible and would have been three times the price as what she is paying now. It would have been truly awful for her to make that decision based on a badly thought out "plan."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Small towns, Father's Day and the Minnesota zoo

This past weekend has been very nice. The lack of rain was good to help the flooding and also the community festivals that have begun. Miss Goodhue was just crowned on Friday. I also spent a very long time at the Goodhue Volksfest yesterday and burned badly because I forgot the sunscreen. It was a good time. We got to see a "burnout" contest where people try to burn the tires on their cars. It was an experience--not necessarily something I would have done on my own--but people seemed to enjoy it.

I spent most of the day with my daughter running from event to event and saw a bunch of people having a good time and some very cute kids. There was one girl dressed up as Little Bo Peep, leading her lamb for the children's parade. I eventually went home to get my boys and husband to enjoy some watermelon, watch families compete in some games and listen to a band call Generation that was playing. It was fun, but we went home long before the crowds gathered and before it would have been an inappropriate environment for them.

Today is Father's day. We spent a good part of today sitting around and running the kids around. While I was working, John brought the kids over to Rideability so that they could ride in the wagon to the lineup, where they were to walk over to a friend's house to meet up with us. John picked me up when I was finished with my work and while they were riding to town. We came home after a bit of trouble, but it smoothed out and we cooked out.

Right now, everyone is outside talking and playing tag with the neighbors. I can hear the boys outside my bedroom window laughing at my dog. Alex has a new friend in the little girl next door and John is talking with the guy next door. As Alex is volunteering at the Minnesota Zoo this week, I really need to get them in and ready for bed so we can be ready in the morning.

Alex started volunteering there last year after an extensive interview. She was one of a lucky few that was given the opportunity and has really taken her work seriously. She wants to become a vet in the futures so she actively seeks out opportunities to build skills. She loves to work with the horses at Rideability, the people and animals at the zoo and the sheep at her work. She has been very, very blessed to work with a couple on their small farm.

As it is Father's Day, I want to keep this short, but it has been an incredible weekend and wanted to remember the kids' excitement at riding in the wagon and the beautiful weekend that we have been able to enjoy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Building, art and the electoral process

Last Saturday we had a big day. I brought my kids to Home Depot so they could build their monthly kids' project with wood. They made a sailboat; it was cute and was pretty easy. I remember when I first started bringing my daughter; she was so little. Even the boys have gotten so big. They are getting better at doing the projects--I think I have finally gotten them to stop pounding when the nails bend. They have even gotten better at reading the directions. It has been awhile since I brought them down there--seems like there is always something to divert us that particular day.

Afterwards, I remembered that the Rochester Art Center was also having a kids' project. This month they made volcanoes with paper cups and tin foil. Then they "erupted" it with diluted tempera paint, vinegar and baking soda. It was fun and we were able to discuss basic chemistry. Since we had to wait between Home Depot and the Art Center, we had walked over to the Mayo Civic Center, which is attached to the Art Center.

Rather, the Art Center is attached to the Civic Center. I had been unaware that they were holding the Minnesota state DFL convention. At first, I was reluctant to go in. I had become disillusioned with our politicians when they failed to help my family when we asked for it during my husband's enlistment. I am a firm believer that things happened for a reason; I wasn't happy about it, but my daughter's excitement made me realize that there was a learning opportunity there. We stayed. I am happy I did. We got to listen to Al Franken speak--I was really energized. I realized how much my daughter's excitement reminded me of how I used to feel. I doubt I will ever lose the touch of cynicism, but at least I have lost the hopelessness and remember that we can fire our leaders when they fail us. It is a great feeling to know that.

My daughter would really like to volunteer at some campaigns. I think I would like to do that just to help my kids realize that we all have a responsibility to ourselves and each other to be aware and vote. There are times that doing so much with my kids can wear me out, but there are other times that I am grateful to have such a motivating force in my life.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fear and Gratitude

This past week when my daughter was volunteering at the therapeutic riding place that we work at, I had come home. I had debated on staying and waiting for her to finish, but I was really behind on some stuff at home so I didn't.

Turns out that I missed the phone call letting me know that there was a horrible accident at the stables. My daughter was supposed to be the back rider, a person that lends stability for the riders who have the hardest time, but didn't. The horse ran forward as they were mounting and both the volunteer and the student fell off. The student is fine, thank God. Unfortunately, the volunteer was hurt badly. She has a very good prognosis, but is in a lot of pain right now. The helmet and her small stature probably saved her. I am truly upset for her.

My daughter thought she was fine, but the next day was a bit sore. I know that I cannot stop my children from becoming their own adults, but I worry for her. This is the second accident in the past month--though in fairness, I don't know of a lot in the past three years. The other happened at the barn dance last month.

There is always a spring barn dance that serves as a community function and a fund raiser for Rideability--a great time for the entire family with horse riding, food and dancing. I was side-walking with someone who was very nervous and holding the reins tightly. The reins were so tight the horse thought he was supposed to back up and tripped over himself. It was scary, but the person was okay. I was really nervous after that, but now I am doubly concerned. I worry, but the people are so helped by the horses.

I can say that even as a volunteer, my family has been truly blessed. I have found a very supportive network of people. I think everyone in my family has benefited from our contact with the group--way more than any work that we have done for them. I think we will try to visit the other volunteer in the hospital. I know she needs some prayers and visits while she recovers in the hospital. I hope I am helped in learning to deal with the nervousness I feel around the horses so I can be less worried about my kids. Time will tell--my daughter has been riding more this summer and my boys will be riding later this summer. Maybe time will help all of us.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Bison and Pipestone

We are so happy to be at home. This past weekend my children and I went with a couple friends to Blue Mounds State Park near the South Dakota border. We did an pretty fair amount of hiking, but also viewed the bison heard that the park maintains. We also visited the Pipestone National Monument and the Jeffers Petroglyphs.

Pipestone has been the site where Native Americans quarried Catlinite, a soft stone named for a European explorer who "found" the site. The stone was and is often made into ceremonial pipes and sacred figures. My children each got a piece as well as I. The items made of this soft stone will have to be placed up in a "safe" spot in our home and left alone--a true challenge for my small boys.

We also returned to the petroglyphs. While the we had been there last summer and were very impressed. Mary and Kathryn seemed to enjoy them as well. Kathryn went ahead of us to look at them; it seemed to fascinate her, but she really likes Native American culture and history.

The petroglyphs, estimated to be about nine to be about nine to twelve thousand years old, are beautiful. Blue mounds also had some wonderful sites. There is an alignment of rocks that are in line with the sun on the first day of spring and fall. The outcroppings of Sioux quartzite are pinkish red, however, when the lichen grows on them and the sun hits them, they appear blue in color. From one, a person is able to view Iowa on the left and South Dakota on the right.

I had always thought that southern Minnesota was a bland flatland devoid of many features. It is, in fact, a vast prairie that has wonderful sites from the small cacti and unique flowers to the magnificent rolling hills. I am glad my kids don't have to wait for years to discover that all of our state should be appreciated.

I was happy that Mary was able to stop to see her brother and parents. It was a pleasant surprise for them and I think she enjoyed the impromptu visit. It reminded me of my father and then again of the bittersweet nature of life. It was an exhausting weekend for all of us, but I definitely want to do it again sometime. Perhaps in the fall.

Monday, May 26, 2008

dancing, music, and running

I cannot believe how long it has been since I have written. Can it be over a month already and May is nearing an end? How fast time can go. We are happy to be sitting at home cleaning up at a slow pace.

Last weekend seemed to go by in a whirlwind. Friday morning I brought the kids up to the cities for some field trips. We first went to the 20th anniversary of the Minnesota Dance Festival at the Fitzgerald theater in St. Paul. We saw a cute dances from several ballets, including swan lake and a new children's ballet which I cannot think of right now. We also saw a cute couple of tap dancer's that had a funny routine and a flamenco dancer who was accompanied by a guitarist. Very cool morning.

After the dancing, we went to Burger King--I think the last time we went to BK was last year's dance festival! Since it happens to be Minnesota's sesquicentennial this year, we are lucky to have hosted the only original printed copy of the Declaration of Independence that travels on exhibit. Since it is a printing press copy, rather than a hand written copy, we were told it actually came out faster than what we think of when "Declaration of Independence" is mentioned. It was nice to see just the same. We had hoped to see more of the Minnesota History Center when we were there, but we left to meet up with my brother and his kids.

Later that evening, when we went to a full performance at the Minnesota Orchestra. The boys had had enough of sitting by the end of it, but all in all, they were pretty good. We stayed at my brother's that night because we had to be back up in the morning. I was glad we did it, because we got back to his house at 11 and it would have been midnight if we had to drive home.

The next morning, the kids were running in the Medtronic Twin Cities Kids' Marathon event which allows kids to choose a half mile run or a mile run. It was fun because they get to run with other kids, get a free t-shirt, cute medal for running and lunch afterward. It really was a fun morning. After getting home the kids went horseback riding--Alex with the other volunteers at RideAbility and the boys at a dear friends home. Mary, Kathryn and John are truly wonderful and my family so appreciates theirs.

A very, very full weekend. I was happy to spend Sunday morning writing and the afternoon lounging. This spring has been extremely busy with the horses, my daughter's work on the farm, school and my work. Even with all this, my poor hubby has been working crazy hours and I think this is the first weekend we have actually spent any time together.

I also wanted to add the following for anyone interested. The page is a link if you want to try the test out yourself. I found a typing test on another blog. As a homeschooling mom, I know my kids will be curious. It is a fun way to encourage them to use proper typing techniques to get faster.

76 words


I hope you have fun doing it as well!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cold Camping on the Iron Range

Last week, my children and I went ventured to Northern Minnesota and went winter camping at Savanna Portage State Park. Having had friends from across the states, many would think we were insane. Truth be told, many here thought we were crazy--maybe even a little of ourselves did. However crazy it sounds, we went.

The days weren't too bad at about 38 degrees Fahrenheit; even the nights only went down to about 27. While the temps may sound cool to non-Minnesotans, they really were not horrible. I felt a tad guilty calling it "winter" camping when it was that warm. It was truly spring camping, though we had plenty of snow on the ground surrounding the camping pad that had been plowed clear. We used several layers of blankets under and over our bags and slept fully covered. The worst part was getting out in the morning.

While we were there, we did an oral interview with an old miner and went to Ironworld. Ironworld, since renamed the Minnesota Discovery Center, is a cute museum in Chisholm which is dedicated to the history of mining on the Iron range of Northern Minnesota. We also did a small hike, though that was kept short because of the snow. Walking in snow is kind of like walking in sand--it takes a lot of work!

My kids learned more about mining, saw some incredible sights and realized that they are survivors. I think it was an wonderful experience that built both their understanding of our history and of their inner strengths. I loved it!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Horses at the NAHRA conference

Last week my daughter, 15, went to her first professional conference at the Region 6 conference for NAHRA in Fargo. I cannot believe that she is so grown up. Having volunteered with a therapeutic riding program for two years already, it only made sense that she would want to go to this and learn even more about this and horses.

Several staff members drove up there with her. She learned so much; she was ablaze with enthusiasm when she came back. The people with her also taught her a lot about equipment on when they were on their way back from Fargo. They had stopped at a supply store--she found the saddle she wants to buy. (I have had to point out the wisdom in not buying a saddle until she is actually has a horse.)

I miss the days of her toddling around. I guess so many moms dread these days. I must learn to rejoice in her independence, intelligence, generosity and strength. I guess I always knew that animals would be her first love. I can only hope that I am able to do as much for my boys.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Soaring Eagles at the National Eagle Center

My family is fortunate to live in an area that allows us to get to many places in a short drive and still live in a rural setting. Last Thursday, my 3 children and I went to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, about 40 minutes away, with another friend and her son. The NEC celebrated a fabulous new building last spring. My daughter went to a class there in the old building and she was amazed at the difference.

This building sets right on the Mississippi River and overlooks several eagles' nests on the Wisconsin side. They were beautiful and they kept the interest of all the kids. It was nice to see them interact with each other. My oldest boy, and middle child, has a hard time keeping his attention focused on things, but these magnificent birds did it. They went around the center checking out the stations that helps explain the birds' features and learned quite a lot.

We had a great time and had lunch at a small cafe nearby. As my friend put it..."memorable moments." The experience left me wishing we had chosen the other coffee shop instead. Despite surrounding conditions that would make anyone raise an eyebrow, we found the food both tasty and enjoyable.

We finished the afternoon by returning to the NEC and looking at the flag display. Every flag from our nation's history was represented from a private collection. There was also a display and short film about some Native American artifacts. All in all, the experience was worth the short drive.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Music to our ears: an evening with the Minnesota Orchestra

Saturday my daughter and I were fortunate enough to spend the evening with our friends at the Minnesota Orchestra in Minneapolis. They are the same friends that we spent a couple days in Duluth--they have been an answer to multiple prayers. It was a wonderful evening.

The music was beautiful. Listening to a world class orchestra play the selections brought new meaning to listening to classical music on cds. There was a vitality that we are able to understand better now.

The musicians brought a small amount of envy from a person that cannot play any instrument. I am grateful that I have my children in piano lessons even more so now. I cannot imagine taking that opportunity away from them. I also appreciate the concerts where all of my children have gone. As my boys grow up, I know I want to be able to bring them as well.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Winter Wonders

This past week, my children and I were fortunate enough to have been invited by a friend of ours to Duluth. My oldest was able to ski with a friend who uses a monoski. While my daughter was able to participate a little while, for the most part, her status as a beginner and her sore feet made her hand the skis in early.

We stayed in a hotel with a very awesome waterpark. I felt privileged to be there with a my friend, Mary, and was happy to be the one to go down a watertube with her for the first time. She told me that this makes us blood brothers--an honor I truly appreciate. I was thrilled to see her daughter, Kathryn, work her way to the top despite being in a wheelchair. This girl is incredible--she swims, she skis, she rides horses and she gets herself up a ton of stairs to go down this pretty intimidating slide. I am impressed and proud.

I was equally impressed with my youngest who is petrified of heights. It took him a while, but he faced his fears. I am sad to say he didn't get his bravery from his mother--it would have taken me tons longer to battle that. I relished his giggle as soon as we embarked into the dark tube because until that moment he wanted to back out.

This trip to Duluth was incredible. Beautiful, memorable and a great time. I feel very blessed.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Exploring the big woods

Having returned to Southeastern Minnesota in what would have been the southern edge of the historic big woods three years ago, I have been busy caring for my family and working. I have three children, the oldest already 15. We have been a homeschooling family for five years and we love it. While we chose to continue to homeschool when we returned home after my husband left the service because we love it, we began when stationed in Virginia and found the culture shock and constant upheaval in military life not to be what we desired in our children's educations.