Sunday, September 26, 2010


Have you ever heard of Warrens, Wisconsin? It is the home of the world's largest cranberry festival. I personally have never heard of the town or the festival. Erik heard about it from someone at work. Since we were already thinking about going to the cabin we decided to try Cranfest out. One might ask, "What do you do at a cranberry festival?"The answer is simple. You buy all things cranberry. I came home with a cranberry candle, cranberry lotion, cranberry taffy, cranberry soap, and cranberry wassail spices. I cannot wait to make the wassail. Oh, of course we bought cranberries too. We also enjoyed some cranberry ice-cream. The ice cream was pretty good. Funny thing, there really was no place to buy cranberry juice except the Ocean Spray booth, so we opted out on that purchase (we can always hit Super Target for that one).
This festival has over 1200 booths. We spent four hours there and maybe saw 30% of it. If we had planned better, we could have gone on a tour of the cranberry fields-next year I guess. We did get to see about a million different craft booths and eat so many yummy fair foods. Emily bought herself a hanging hammock chair for her bedroom.
After the festival, we went back to our weekend at the cabin. The weather was incredible. We definitely enjoyed some relaxing time together. Gotta love a hammock on a crisp fall evening!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Biking to the Grandparents' place

As my parent were moving to Apple Valley, the kiddos and I talked about how much fun it would be to ride our bikes to their house. Yesterday was beautiful, so Ryan and I decided it would be a good time to try out the ride.
It is about 6 miles away one way. Although the streets are busy, the sidewalks are wide great to ride on. We made mini-goals along the way. For example, "we just have to get up to the no parking sign." It was easier and more fun to break the trip into pieces. The worst hill is right by our house-get up that one and then the rest is smooth sailing. We were able to stop by a gas station for some Gatorade and bubble gum. Always nice to have treats, right? We made it to their house. We stayed for dinner and games with family, so my dad gave us a ride home with his car (he has a bike rack) later that night. This morning Emily and I rode there and surprised Grandma Ginger. Grandma decided to hop on a bike and join us for the ride home. It is fun to have a new place to ride our bikes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The day is finally here!!

This is a big school year for us.
First of all Ryan has started middle school. So far that transition has gone really well. On the first day, they have a WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) orientation. They are assigned a web group and 8th grade buddies and do bonding activities. It seems like a great program and Ry felt great about day 1. Seriously, he got to ride to school with his friend, his locker opened, he sat by his friend in home room, and lunch was fine. Who could ask for anything more?

Emily is very excited about fifth grade. She is in Mrs. Hembre and Mrs. Moe's class (they job share) and she has great friends in it. She is excited about all the fun things that the fifth graders traditionally get to do. Band, wax museum, bike rodeo/zoo trip etc. Plus, she is safety patrol co-captain. Very exciting year.
The biggest news is that Andrew is in first grade. That means he is gone all day. That means ALL my kids are gone ALL day. That means my house is EMPTY all day (except me). Let's be honest, THIS is our biggest news this school year. I am trying not to smile too big.
I will focus. Andrew is in Mrs. Markstrom's class, but the bonus is that he gets to spend 1/2 the day with his Kindergarten teacher. Mrs. Ammon's is now teaching first grade part time, so she is keeping her old kindergarten class and teaching them first grade reading and math. My semester started too. I LOVED my break, but it felt really good to be back on campus. I stopped by the coffee shop near campus and got my celebratory hot chocolate and headed off to class. I am excited about my classes this semester. This first class does not seem to be to difficult. It is an intro to special education and think this class is supposed to be taken as one of the first classes in my program. I started spring semester, so I am kind-of out of order. It's all good though.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Our road trip

For years I have wanted to pack up the kiddos and take a road trip to Mount Rushmore and I have wanted to take them through Custer State Park to see the landscapes and buffalo. This is our last weekend before we all head back to school, so we jumped in the car and began our 9 hour adventure to Rapid City, South Dakota. Erik was not able to join us because he was at the PAX conference in Seattle Washington. We made a few stops along the way...
In Mitchell, South Dakota is the corn palace. We did not visit it at the right time, because they were already getting ready for next year. It was interesting, but kind-of anti-climatic. All along Interstate 90 there are signs for Wall Drug. We had fun reading them...things like "Free ice-water at Wall Drug" or "Homemade Pie at Wall Drug." Of course we stopped and played around at Wall drug. Both stops were great chances to get out of the car and stretch our legs.
We loved our hotel in Rapid city. It had an 8 story water fall, glass elevators and served the most incredible waffles for breakfast. Of course it had a pool and hot tub. As soon as we checked in, we put on our swim suits and swam. The kids loved jumping into the hot tub and then jumping into the pool. It was a great energy release.

The next day, after the yummy waffles, we got back into the car and headed south to Custer State Park. We were driving along and saw a family of four buffalo out in the distance. I thought..I hope that is not going to be the highlight of our animal viewing experience. We stopped at a visitor's center to make sure we were on the right track. The ranger said we were on the right road and that soon we would be in the beggin' burros area. He assured us we would understand what he meant as soon as we saw them. We were intrigued and continued on our way. We found the burros..They soon became our favorite part of the park. The kids got to feed them carrots and crackers. They were hilarious. If you took to long to get out of your parked car, they would stick their heads in the car. If you took to long to get the crackers out of the bag, they would bud into you (I get budded three times). I took the burro eye picture while sitting in the driver's seat...I wanted you to be able to see just how close they would get. While feeding the burros, the kids kept telling me how bad they wanted a burro for Christmas...and how they wanted to drop a trail of crackers behind our car so the burros could follow us home. This plan did not work. As we continued on our way we did get to see huge amounts of bison, prairie dogs, and prong horn deer. The landscape was incredible. We continued driving around and the kids kept beggin' to go back to the burros. So I turned the car around and went back to see the burros on our way to Mt. Rushmore. The drive between Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore is beautiful. The highway winds through the black hills and there are cool stone tunnels to drive through. Every now and then we got a peek of Mount Rushmore in the distance. We took the audio tour and walked around the presidential trail. We learned about how the artist chose this spot (because of how the sun hit the mountain) and we learned about how they made the monument. We also got to learn a little about each president. For example, we learned that one of the biggest things that George Washington did for our country was actually something he didn't do...that was become a King or Emperor of our land. I would highly recommend taking the audio tour. Along the path we got to see Mt. Rushmore from different angles. We also got to see the artist studio and the different tools they used to make the monument. I am so glad that I got to finally go and see this place and share it with my kiddos.

The next morning it was time to get ready to come home. After eating another breakfast of yummy waffles, we swam one last time. Before leaving Rapid City, we stopped at Old MacDonald's petting farm. This was the cleanest petting farm I have EVER seen. There were plenty of staff cleaning up after the animals which was really nice. We got to feed the goats-who soon joined the ranks of the burros as one of our favorite animals. We also fed the fish, pigs and sheep. Emily got to ride on Bright Eyes the pony and Andrew got to ride on Chief. We also watched a pig race..which was funny and fast.

To break up the drive home we stopped at the 1880's village that is conveniently located right along Interstate 90. The kiddos rented western costumes and we explored the town. We saw the hotel, the black smith, the saloon, the church, the jail, rang the fire house bell and even saw the gallows. Of course, the boys loved the guns and boots. Emily looked cute in her dress and feather headband. In the Hotel was a family of kitties which we really enjoyed playing with and, yes, I was asked about 100 times.. "Can we keep one?"
*I will be honest and admit that I would have been really tempted to bring one home if there was a "free" sign out for them. Luckily there was no sign. Marlin our cat would not have been pleased.
We went to the music/comedy show in the saloon. Ryan got invited onto stage to help play one of the instruments. Every time the guy with the long beard said "now" Ryan was supposed to honk the horn. Then the little girl would ring the cow bell and another boy would hit the drum. The beard guy said now about a million times before the song started...and of course Ry honked the horn each time. Andrew thought that it was so funny and giggled away during the whole thing. Ryan really looked like he had fun up on the stage and tapped his toe through the entire song.

We listen to Harry Potter CDs the entire way home which made the car ride go fast. We are on book 3.
It was so cool to do something new with the kiddos...something that I was experiencing for the first time too. We are ready for our next adventure...where ever it may be : )