A blog for all that goes on in our family.

Travel

Winter ’13-’14

When I say “winter,” I mean the time of year when there is snow on the ground here. And this year that lasted quite a long time. I may be starting a bit early with a Thanksgiving picture (I can’t remember now), but it definitely lasted past Easter.

These are just a few of the events from our lives this past winter, and I wanted to make sure I hit most of the highlights. Unfortunately I’m sure we’re missing a lot, but still, it was a pretty fun winter… even if we did have to stay indoors almost the entire time.


Looking Back

In mid-October we went on our (final?!) annual trip to the North Shore over MEA weekend. The tradition started when Terry, a friend of the family, invited us to go along with his family one fall. My family has been going ever since. I was in elementary school when we started going, and it’s sincerely been the highlight of the year for us; I think it occasionally even beats our Christmas time together. The last five years we have also had the Cahills join us to add to the fun. And you can bet that over the past ten years, between the “kids” getting older and bringing more people, the level of alcohol consumption (and food, for that matter) has increased exponentially.

We are really heartbroken to see this tradition end, but we still greatly enjoyed this year’s trip and hope to start new traditions as time goes on. Still, it was hard to leave that Sunday!

Grandma Sherry and Anna watch the waves roll softly in to the shore…

 

…or maybe not quite so softly! (Notice Grandma’s pants… both she and Anna got sprayed by a larger wave.)

 

Anna smiles as she throws some rocks into a little pond.

 

Anna and her friend Torin explore the landscape at Gooseberry Falls.

 

Do you see it? (Do you get it? We’ve now brought Anna in on our “Lewis & Clark” fun photos! How lucky is she to be born to such cool parents?!) 😉

 

Josie poses for the camera while on a walk with Mommy. This will be on our Christmas card but it’s just so cute I can’t help but share it now!

 

The Rogers and Cahill clans in 2008, just for comparison… (You’re welcome, everybody!)

 

The Rogers and Cahill clans in 2012

 

The Nigons and Rogers clans in 2008, for comparison, minus my sister Traci, who I tried unsuccessfully to Photoshop into the picture. 🙂 (Do you see that shaggy-haired guy on the left? He ended up marrying my sister after meeting my family like that! 🙂 We love you, Jerrery!)

 

And finally… the Nigon, Cargill, and Rogers clans in 2012.


Happy birthday to “the Big G!”

My grandma and grandpa are called the “Big G’s” for Anna’s sake – they wanted something easier than “Great-grandma/pa Hammel.” The Big G (grandma) happens to almost share a birthday with Anna; they’re just a few days apart. (And happy birthday to the other “big G,” Grandpa, this coming Saturday!)

This year was the Big G’s 70th birthday, so a party was thrown at – where else? – the American Legion in mid-August. We drove down on Friday and stayed at my parents’ home, complete with beautiful sunsets overlooking the farm and the rolling hills. The party was that night, and we got to see a lot of family, including my great-aunt Toot, my aunt Kel-lee, and her new baby boy Caden, who all traveled up (sans husbands and another child) from Arizona to celebrate with us. It was so great to see them and spend time celebrating all that my grandma has done in 70 years, including raising four awesome kids. Anna got her fill of the Big G’s favorite candies, which were all set out on the table. Every person’s lap she encountered was another opportunity to ask for “sickles, peas” (Skittles, please); and of course, no one wanted to disappoint her. Happy birthday again, Grandma! We love you!

Saturday was a relaxing, sleepy day. Anna ran around with Copper, and we all really enjoyed pizza and then a campfire outside that evening. The next day we found out that as relaxing as it had been, we had still apparently worn Anna out, because on the way to see her friend Hailey, she fell asleep in less than 20 minutes in the car – something that rarely happens anymore! She did wake up and we had a nice time visiting with Briana and Hailey before we finished our drive back home. We were sad to see that weekend end, but we get to go back already this weekend and are excited about that!

First cousins, once removed – at least I think that’s how it works. Caden was born in July. Isn’t he adorable?!?

 

Anna plays with my cousin Jeff at Grandma’s party. Right after this picture she went up and gave him a big ol’ kiss. 🙂

 

Enjoying the fire outside – Josie’s first!

 

 

Our sleepy girl.


Gopher Count

We had our attic re-insulated a few weeks ago (okay… so maybe more like 6 or 7 weeks…), so while the dust was heavy in the air, the girls and I escaped down to my parents’ home near Rochester. We had a great time just hanging out around the house, while Anna of course loved playing with, terrorizing, and giving treats to the puppies. (Both Copper and Sparky were there, as my sister and brother-in-law were living with my parents for a month before moving out of town.) This trip also explains our recent deluge of blog posts; I finally had some downtime to put together the pictures and videos I wanted to share.

The highlight of our trip happened the first morning we were there. Viola Gopher Count is the second oldest continuously running town celebration in the US, and I attended some part of it probably every year until I went to college. I hadn’t been there in oh, about ten years, but this was a great year to go again! The weather was great, and Anna got to really enjoy the parade, while Josie – who already loves to be outside – smiled and cooed for us all afternoon.

 

Our cute pink and plaid summertime girl.

 

Anna watching the parade.

 

Josie enjoying the blanket outside while the rest of us enjoy some yummy, greasy food.

 

Anna’s first Freezie. (Most of it ended up on the ground…)

 

I know, creepy photo, right? At least we know the guy in the gopher suit!

 

We of course had another fun time visiting my family. Thanks for letting us hide out for a few days, Mom and Dad! We love you!


A Musical Look Back at Christmas 2012

(We apologize for the lack of a full Christmas post. I guess we’ll make this fun and do a musical/pictorial version!)

“During Christmas vacation, my true love gave to me…

 …board games with Wifey…
…fun brewing equipment…
…sleepy Christmas cousins…
…one sweet god-daughter…
…one more sweet god-daughter…
…one wagon from Nigons…
…a ride on Grandpa’s four-wheeler…
…and a happy little family!”

Rejoice! He is Born!

Overwhelmed by Christmas #2.

 Merry Christmas to one and all.
May God abundantly bless you in 2012. 

 


Our August Trip to Duluth (a bit late!)

During the hectic start of the school year, we completely forgot to blog about our end-of-summer trip! In late August we packed the car and headed north for a short trip to our favorite Minnesota town, Duluth. We scored a half-price stay at Fitger’s Inn, a hotel built into the old brewery down by Canal Park, by using our Minnesota Public Radio member card. The hotel was beautiful, and I would recommend it to anyone staying in the area. We really felt like kings and queens while staying there.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. On Monday we hit the road and stopped for two hours at the North West Company Fur Post along Highway 35. We were treated to a wonderful tour by a Friendly! Interpretive! Guide! and Anna got to pet some beaver pelts. Good times. By early afternoon we had checked into our hotel and purchased a Must See Duluth pass, which got us cheap access to a boat tour of Duluth and Superior harbors. Sara and I watched the sights roll by and took some pictures while Anna…well, kept the whole boat entertained by doing laps around the bar in the boat’s center. That evening we put Anna to bed and watched The King’s Speech on my laptop.

Tuesday we hit two major tourist spots. The first was a train ride through all of Duluth. Again, we got to see the sights roll by our window. Anna had fun sticking her head out the window into the cool, fresh August air. Then we checked out the Duluth freshwater aquarium, which was pretty interesting. We got to check out a bunch of huge freshwater fish and Anna cracked up at the sight of a life-sized plastic moose. Go figure, right?

Tuesday evening the three of us met up with one of Sara’s college buddies, Zach, and his wife at Fitger’s brewpub. I was really impressed with the XXX ESB on tap, as well as the smoked fish salad. Again, Anna had fun pointing at strangers and making funny noises, much to the delight of everyone around her.

There’s not much to say about Wednesday. We packed up, walked along Canal Park (and in many nearby shops to find a children’s book), drove around town, and headed home. It was a low-key trip of only two days, but it was still a perfect way to end the summer. The weather was beautiful, the lake was impressive as always, and we said goodbye to summer in style. Till next year, Duluth!

“Captain, I think I see a strange balding man with a camera in those weeds!”
“Buh!” said Anna. “That’s right, tugboats,” I replied.
An ore boat heads out onto the lake.
“One more round!”
This bird did not get the hint.
“Gah, it’s cold!”
Tiny toes on the strand.
Leaving on a big train.
Anna learns about locks and dams at the aquarium.

Our Awesome Autumnal Journy

In the autumn of 2005 I was tired, stressed out, and swamped with work. It was my first year of teaching, and I was quickly learning how stressful the profession it can be. However, a four-day weekend was quickly approaching, and I could at least look forward to catching up on grading quizzes and planning lessons.

All that changed when Sara called and invited me to head up north with her family for four days of watching Lake Superior waves crash on the strand, drinking beer, playing games, and hiking. Despite how wonderful it all sounded, I still needed convincing that leaving all my grading behind was okay. Seven years later, I’m glad I decided to go, and we’ve gone back every year since.

Each year we’ve rented out the same cabins at the Gooseberry Park, though the sleeping arrangements have changed a bit over the years. Since 2009 Sara’s parents and sisters have used one cabin, while we have stayed in another with our friends Luke and Angela. This year saw a few more changes to the usual cast of characters. Our crew included Sara’s mom and dad, middle sister, youngest sister and husband, our friend Angela and her two boys, and family friends the Ottjes family. We occupied two cabins and a hotel suite in all.

Anna did a great job on the three-hour car ride up to the cabin, and she enjoyed watching Lake Superior. The weather was uniformly beautiful—50 degrees and sunny, which we all appreciated. We played a lot of games including cribbage, 7 Wonders, Carcassonne, and Bowls, and spent most of our time drinking beer and eating delicious food. Every night one family hosted dinner, so we got to sample everyone’s cooking at least once (it was all excellent!). On Friday several of us piled into two cars for a worthwhile trip to the tiny Castle Danger Brewery; it’s here that I fell in love with their Nestor Grade amber ale. However, it was not a hit with the rest of the group, and that night we had a beer tasting back at the cabin during which, surprise of surprises, my homebrew took first prize in a blind taste test! Saturday we took our usual trip to Gooseberry Falls in the afternoon, attended mass in Two Harbors, and returned to play games and watch the World Series.

All in all, it was another relaxing weekend, and we’ve already booked our cabins for next year!

That’s what we call an “active” lake.
I spotted a creepy anthropomorphic bear-baby shuffling along the shore. We kept our distance.
One! Happy! Family!
Torin, Lachlan, and Anna. This is photo #457, and the one in which the most children (zero) were looking at the camera.
The Cahill, Cargill, Nigon, and Rogers familes all happy at the end of the weekend. Success!
Our big girl!
Hey there, blue eyes!
Channelling great-grandma Dolores.

Girls’ Night Out

My sister Traci and I hosted our little sister Beth’s Bachelorette Party the Saturday before the wedding. I drove down to Traci’s apartment Friday night so we could finish up a few details and so I could see her new, awesome apartment in SmallTown, Minnesota. When Saturday morning started out with Traci locking her keys in her car, I was praying that this wasn’t a foreshadowing of a problematic party, but everything went off better than fine.

We all met at Chateau Kramer (family friends who were sweet enough to let us use their home for our overnight party) around 12:30. The group of us boarded our party bus, driven by our cousin Sam: policeman by day, bachelorette party bus driver extraordinaire by night… at least for one day. 🙂

We first drove to Whitewater Wines, a vineyard about 40 minutes from Rochester. Let me tell you, if you are looking for a nice tour, many delicious wines to taste, and the friendliest people on the planet, this is the winery to visit. We each had 15 (yes, FIFTEEN) wine tastings for only $6. And they weren’t skimpy on the samples, either! I think we were all feeling pretty good by the time we left. Not to mention that our Bachelorette, Beth, had an extra glass we had given her, so she was double fisting it through most of these. To top it off, Beth agreed to take a dare to drink a glass full of the wine dump. She did make over $50 doing it, but that couldn’t have tasted good. Never underestimate my baby sister; if food and money is involved, she WILL take the dare!

Whitewater Wines’ Vineyard
Beth takes on the dare

Once we had all finished, we all agreed that this was a place to revisit. We had gotten progressively louder throughout our time there – there were 12 women, after all! – and I am pretty sure the hospitable staff was ready to see us go. But let me just mention one more time: their wines were great!

Sisters 🙂
Beth and her party bus
The whole group of us at Whitewater Wines
Michaela and Beth high-five during a crazy game of wedding pictionary

Our next stop was Salem Glen Vineyard, only a few miles from Rochester, and it was okay. We had called ahead to make reservations but somehow they didn’t manage to move some tables together for us, so we ended up at two separate tables; not a big deal, but odd when calling ahead apparently did nothing. Not to mention that they were going to charge us an extra $2/person just for having a group over 10, but thankfully they didn’t end up doing that, and the service was friendly while we were there. I wasn’t as impressed by these wines (we were given tastings of seven wines here), but that could just be my preference. Either way, Bethany Jo was well on her way to feeling like a rock star!

Group photo op at Salem Glen Vineyards
The bride-to-be rocks out to the great party mix (which she created)

After that we headed to dinner at Glynner’s Pub. Our bachelorette wasn’t feeling very well toward the end of dinner, but we managed to make it back to the house, where we enjoyed a game, gift opening, snacks, Rummy Bears, and… a performance of “Super Trouper” from Mamma Mia by our mom (Sherry), our “second” mom (Laurie) and Beth’s newest mom (LeAnn). Mom and Beth both love the movie and had joked about Mom doing this at her bachelorette party; I think she was happily surprised!

My Three Moms: Beth’s “Moms” perform Abba.

We slept, we woke up, we rehashed everything that had happened the day before and talked about how great the party was. Truly, there is nothing quite like a fun girls’ night out. There’s just something exhilarating about it, and I hope everyone else had as good a time as I did. Thank you, Traci, for all the help planning, and thank you, Bethany, for being a fun bachelorette! We love you and congratulations!

The Beautiful Bachelorette

 


“Today I Marry My Best Friend”

Last week was an absolute flurry of activity as we prepared for and eventually celebrated the wedding of Beth, Sara’s baby sister, to her one-and-only, Jeff. We headed down to Eyota on Thursday afternoon and enjoyed dinner at Mr. Pizza in Rochester with Sara’s family, including Aunt Kel-lee, Uncle Rob, and cousin Xander (who travelled from Arizona) and Uncle Joe, Aunt Kari, and their three girls. Later that night, Anna managed to bash her face on Grandma and Grandpa’s entertainment center; she would spend the rest of the weekend looking pretty tough with a big bruise under her eye. But that didn’t stop her from helping Grandpa fix a leaky faucet!

“Someone get him a bigger wrench! Hey, am I talking to myself here?!”

Okay, let’s be honest; Grandpa still had to call a plumber on Friday. But we were busy decorating the local American Legion and holding the rehearsal at a parish in Rochester. We set up tables, hung lights from the ceiling, made dozens of ham sandwiches, and generally made the place ready for the wedding reception. Lots of folks came out to help, including our goddaughter, Vyctoria.

Uh-dor-able.

The rehearsal went off without a hitch. I spent most of the time keeping the Sweetest Pea amused while Sara (now a Matron of Honor!) practiced entering and exiting the church. That night we attended the groom’s dinner, held at a park in Eyota, ate food, and visited with family. Oh, and we also got some nice presents from the happy couple–Sara for being the MoH, and me for lectoring. In fact, we used my present on Sunday when we drove back up to the Cities. (I received a Battle of the Sexes quiz book.)

A statue in the gathering area outside the church.
When you’re about to get married, even rehearsing is fun.

Saturday, the wedding day, was gorgeous–partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid 80s. I had one job while Sara went to the salon to get her hair done: keep the Sweetest Pea out of trouble. I failed. She tumbled off a recliner and banged up her nose good, and was not a very happy camper after that point. However, she was good for Grandpa Jim while I ran some quick errands around town. I got very strange marching orders on Saturday: decorate the bridal suite. Looking back, I still can’t believe anyone trusted Beth’s dorky brother-in-law with the job, but I did my best. Chocolates? Check. Streamers? Check. Fake rose petals? Check. Peanuts and Cracker Jacks? Check. (Don’t ask.) Car window paint? Check.

I’m sure the maids hated me for marking up the mirrors.

The wedding ceremony itself went very well–the groom was dapper in his tuxedo and the bride beautiful in white, though it was the Matron of Honor that caught my eye. The Sweetest Pea even did well sitting on Grandma Kay’s lap, even though she had missed her afternoon nap.

“You should see the other guy!”
All grins in the receiving line.
Smoochin’. Married people do this sometimes.

Of course, no wedding would truly be complete without one teensy weensy little problem, and it occurred after the ceremony. We piled into a party bus that had been rented for the wedding party, only to find out that despite having been fixed the week before, it would not start. Uh oh. We sweated it out in good spirits and were just arranging alternate transportation when, miracle of miracles, it started! Hurray! The only downside was that we had worked our way through our supply of alcohol in the meantime, so we had to stop at a liquor store to fill back up. In the end, the happy couple still arrived at the reception hall on time, and we ate, drank, and danced the night away. And like all weddings the Nigons put on, it was an absolute blast. Around 10 PM I got to see an amazing rendition of the Total Eclipse of the Heart sung by none other than Sara, Traci, and Beth. Wow, I’d pay money to see that again!

On Sunday, we were a little stiff and tired out, but we had fun sitting around at Grandpa Jim and Grandma Sherry’s house, watching Jeff and Beth open presents. I took a few family photographs, and then we headed home. It was a fun weekend, but infinitely more important was that we finally got to see two of our favorite people tie the knot. May your marriage be blessed, Jeff and Beth!

Grandma Sherry with her parents and siblings.
“Can I officially call you Uncle Jeff now?”

Fourth Anniversary Trip, Part 2

For the second half of our fourth anniversary vacation, we drove to Alexandria, MN, home to goddaughter #2, Hailey Rose, and her awesome parents, Brian and Briana. We were welcome for dinner (delicious brats, awesome watermelon, etc.) and let the two kiddos play with each other for a while. Well, let me rephrase–they’re both about a year old–play next to each other. As Hailey was going to visit her grandparents the next day, Anna was kindly allowed to borrow a few of her toys for her camping trip. We camped at the Shady Rest Resort on Lake Amelia, about 10 miles south of town. Our friends Taryn and Paul let us borrow their huge six person tent, so we were able to set up Anna’s Pack ‘n Play and still have plenty of room left over for us!

The next day, July 6, was hot and sunny, and we spent it going for walks, lounging around, reading, drinking beer, and swimming in the lake. It was a gloriously lazy time, and all three of us enjoyed ourselves. In the evening, Brian & Briana came out to have dinner with us, and we made chicken-pineapple shish kebab and had s’mores for dessert. We got rained on a bit late at night, but our tent-fu learned years ago at Catholic Youth Camp was strong, and we had no problems.

On the day of our anniversary, July 7, the clouds rolled in quickly in the morning, so we packed up and headed home. All in all, it was a wonderful trip: a perfect mix of friends, tourist sites, and hangout time. When we left, I wasn’t sure how things would go at the campsite with Anna, but she loved pretty much every minute of it. The only hiccup was her peeing on top of our sleeping bags and…well, kids happen!

The Taj-ma-Tent.

“And lo, the Princess rose from her slumber in the Taj-ma-Tent…”

A kind lady was willing to take our picture in the lake. Float-a-phant brought to you by Hailey's parents

"Campfires are fun!

"Morning walks are fun too! Old ladies say hi to me!"

An unfortunate side effect of the stupidstateshutdowndontchaknow.


Fourth Anniversary Trip, Part 1

After Goddaughter #3’s baptism on Sunday, July 3, we packed the Toyota absolutely full of camping and baby gear and headed to beautiful North Dakota to visit Ry Guy and Maggie, two friends of ours who also met at Catholic Youth Camp and later married. They live in the small town of LaMoure, pop. 900, on the banks of the James River. As we headed over the border into ND proper, we were amazed at the amount of standing water in the fields due to recent rains and flooding–we even saw two places where the highway had been raised to deal with the water!

After arriving in LaMoure, Ry guided us to a nearby man-made lake, where our families watched fireworks together (Anna was terrified). I had a literal run-in with a barbed wire fence, but did not get tetanus, so that wasn’t so bad in the end. Then we headed to Ry and Maggie’s house, where we sat around the dinner table and talked late into the night. I was excited to taste Ry’s excellent homebrew–a dark cream ale.

July 4 dawned hot and hazy, but that didn’t stop us from getting a walking tour of town. Being a curious geek, I asked every Ry every question I could think of regarding the town’s major industries (farming and farming). Ry was kind enough to give me a driving tour of the area too; there’s a scenic “backway” in the area that stops by 10 Friendly! Interpretive! Signs! and family and friends know how much I love them. In the afternoon we loaded the three kids into the minivan and drove west to the Whitestone Hill state historic site, where in 1863 a large battle took place between U.S. volunteer cavalry and Sioux Indians. Basically the army decided to get revenge for the 1862 Dakota War and the general in command decided that killing any Native Americans he came across would count.

A monument erected to the 17 U.S. soldiers who died.

One of the soldier’s gravestones. The 300 Sioux who died have a only tiny plaque commemorating their deaths. Pretty sad.

Ry and Maggie's oldest.

Unfortunately, we had an unpleasant surprise on our way home from the battlefield. Anna was hot, tired, and cranky, and whenever Liam, the other baby in the car, would babble, shriek, or laugh, she would start SCREAM-ING. Maybe she hates boys, but she had a pretty extreme way of showing it! During the kids’ late afternoon nap, Ry and I headed to the Centerfield Bar and Grill, a nice place that was showing the Twins game. We had some brews, and I sampled a red ale from Tallgrass Brewing in Kansas. We read the grill menu to our wives over the phone and basically just ordered takeout. I had my first bleu cheese Juicy Lucy: uh-maz-ing! We again stayed up late into the night catching up with our friends.

July 5 was slightly cooler, and we said our goodbyes and headed out. Around noon we stopped at the Fort Abercrombie state historic site along the Red River. During the 1862 Sioux uprising it was the only fortification that was put under siege. Anna had a good time playing with a buffalo robe inside the museum, and we endured some good natured ribbing from the Friendly! Interpreters! about how ND’s state historic sites are open but our own state’s are closed because of the DangstoopidShutdowndontchaknow. We quickly toured the reconstructed sections of the fort, slapped mosquitos, and headed to Alexandria, MN to visit goddaughter #2. All in all it was a great two days with Ry Guy, Maggie, and their kids, and we thank them for their wonderful hospitality. We hope to repay them in kind soon!

"Little did Anna know at that tender age that her father would force her to pose in front of many more blockhouses and stockades across the country...

There is nothing more attractive than a Wifey with a map at a historic site. "Hawt."


Early Summer

We’re only a few weeks into summer (between Memorial Day and Labor Day) and we’ve already been very busy. We spent some of the Memorial Day weekend camping with Sara’s family outside of Oronoco, MN. It involved the usual: hanging around on camp chairs, eating lots of good food, drinking beer, and playing games. Anna really enjoyed being outside, and played for hours on her blanket in the sunshine. On Memorial Day proper we did some early summer cleaning, installing new curtains in the nursery, planting out first vegetable garden, cleaning out gutters, etc.

This weekend Anna spent Friday with John’s parents, and then spent Saturday and Sunday up in Alexandria with Sara’s parents, who were visiting some of our mutual friends, the Kramers. By all accounts she had a great time, and she even showed Grandpa Rogers what she hasn’t shown anybody else so far–her ability to go from laying down on her stomach to sitting. Apparently even she was a little surprised she could do this! I’m thinking she’ll be crawling in no time.

Squinty country baby. Country because she has a pickup truck.

Relaxing in the backyard.

Chillin' on Grandma Nigon's lap on Memorial Day weekend.


An Early Easter Visit

Finally Anna gets a throne from which to harangue her followers.

Fort Myers: Days 5-8

The final installment of our time in sunny southern Florida begins with the Twins’ slugger, Jim Thome. We love you, Jimmers! Such a nice guy. Even though he wouldn’t sign our stuff, he did sign for a bunch of kids.

On Thursday we got to the beach on Sanibel Island nice and early, with good parking spots and plenty of sandy square footage for our large group of 13 adults and two babies. Most of us went swimming in the gulf and enjoyed the cool water and waves.

Anna was actually awake most of the day, but unfortunately her cold was getting a little worse and she wasn’t too happy. Here are a few pictures of her “playing” in the sand. She was happy for a few minutes, but of course we didn’t have the camera on her at that point. After she got sand in her mouth she had had it with beach time.

We just had to post this happy picture of Tim, who scraped his nose up on the bottom of our pool earlier in the week. He and Laurie were the snorkeling and shelling king and queen of the week.

We ate lunch that day at the Island Cow, which was delicious. We had a pitcher or two of green beer for St. Patty’s Day, and as you can see, also enjoyed fried pickles and (my family’s favorite) hushpuppies. Yuuuuummmy.  (John had a very large pot of steamed clams, oysters, mussels, and shrimp swimming in broth. I will pretend to forget about that!)

Anna in the Island Cow.

The next morning a few people went back to the stadium for a few more shots at autographs and to try to get in another game. Unfortunately the scalpers bumped prices up quite a bit: one guy was asking $80 a ticket! The group said no thanks and went back to the house for some more swimming and eating and drinking, but not before getting a few more items signed. Anna now has a onesie with Scott Baker and Jason Kubel’s autographs on it!

A rare picture: all Minnesota players, major and minor leaguers.

My sister is marrying a kleptomaniac. Yep, that banner is going up in his house. Awesome!

Mauer and (sigh) Nishioka. It may be awhile before we see him again, unfortunately. His translator is on the far right of the picture.

The last morning, my family decided to play some mini golf before heading to the airport. We had a good time, and Anna slept through the whole thing. Why break the habit?

There are many things that happened that are not documented here, whether on purpose or not. One thing I’d like to mention to give you an idea of how much these two families can drink: we went through 89 beers, 2 liters of vodka, 1 liter of Kahlua, 1.75 liters of margaritas, 750ml of whiskey and… 6.5 liters of rum! Not to mention that this is just what was purchased for drinking at home… who knows how much we really had if you add in the Twins game and eating out. We had a good time!

The mid-March get-away was money very well spent. Thank you to our whole family, including those we’re not related to by blood; we had such a fantastic time spending the week with you! Thank you to everyone who helped out with Anna and made the trip much more relaxing than it could have been. Most especially, a BIG thank you to my parents, because we wouldn’t have been able to go if it weren’t for them. We love you all and wish we could go to Fort Myers every year!


Fort Myers: Days 3 and 4

Yes, I am finally getting around to blogging about the rest of our wonderful trip!

We went to Anna’s first outside-the-womb Twins’ game that Monday. Thanks to Dan, who works with sports teams, we were able to get a tour of the stadium, so we arrived pretty early.  Anna was sleepy and not liking the sun, which had become the norm for her. This is beautiful Hammond Stadium, home of the Minnesota Twins’ Spring Training and their AAA team, the Miracle. Yes, we have outdoor baseball in Minnesota now, but there’s nothing like seeing the grass and the palm trees in the middle of March!

Here’s our group enjoying adult beverages. We had a few rounds of beer first.  After that, people bought “rum buckets” for $10, each supposedly with 6 shots of rum in it (very cheap for a ball park, considering a beer isn’t much less than that). It was more like 12 shots – very little of anything else. The nice part was they had all the recipes for the different drink options printed on the side of them for future use. That became useful later.

Auntie Beth trying to help Anna wake up once our seats were finally in the shade.

The Rogers family picture. We were pretty happy; the Twins won 9 – 0.

Anna and her BFF Hailey playing together in the pool.

Grandma Sherry bought some bubbles to see if the babies took any interest, and they did! They loved watching the bubbles fly around.

The next day we went on a 3 hour tour (thankfully, no shipwrecks) off the end of Fort Myers Beach. We saw many dolphins and baby and mommy osprey on the way out to an island. When I say “we,” I mean everyone but Anna, as she was – you guessed it – sleeping. She slept through the entire loud boat ride over. At the island we had about an hour to swim, snorkel, and shell.

Our ubiquitous Lewis & Clark picture; I don’t think we’ve taken one in years!

Anna, actually AWAKE in Grandpa’s arms on the boat ride back to shore.

Still more to come in a few days!


Fort Myers: Days 1 and 2

We are (finally) in sunny Florida, and it is WONDERFUL!

Anna’s first flights were uneventful. In fact, she slept through the entire first flight, from gate to gate.

After arriving in Fort Myers and peeling off a few layers of clothing, we had lunch, dropped our things off at the house we’re renting, went to Mass, and shopped for food and beverages – yes, the adult kind, and plenty of it. Then we headed to the other house (close friends of Sara’s family who are down here with us: Tim and Laurie, Dan and Claire, and Brian, Briana, and our goddaughter, Hailey) for pizza and, of course, beverages. Anna and Hailey were intrigued by a Indian mobile that Claire had bought for Hailey.

Yesterday was a POOL day! The entire morning and early afternoon were spent lounging and swimming. Here’s a picture of Jeff trying to jump in the pool while catching a ball Dan is throwing him; can you spot the ball?

Anna, in true Minnesota Girl fashion, could barely open her eyes with all the sunshine. But she was still so cute in her hat and swimsuit!

She “swam” for the first time and seemed to… well, not so much enjoy it as be fairly ambiguous toward it. We’re just happy she didn’t cry! Unfortunately, even with the sunglasses, hat, and shade, she still didn’t want to open her eyes.

Later in the day we decided to go to Fort Myers Beach. At what time, you ask? Well, apparently we didn’t know. We were trying to make it by 3 p.m., so we left at what we thought was 2:40.  On the way, I went to change my watch ahead one hour for daylight savings’ time, but after I changed it, I realized it still only said 1:45. I asked if we were sure it was 2:45. This was followed by about 5 minutes of intense and confused discussion, including texts and calls to the other car of family and friends. My dad finally asked the woman in the car next to us, and sure enough, it was only 1:45. Somehow everyone else had changed their watches twice, based on the time that the oven clock said; unfortunately the oven clock had also been changed twice by two different people. The whole discussion was quite entertaining for all of us!

We went to the beach to see a “blessing of the fleet,” where there were 4 different religious men present, including a (Anglican) bishop. We then checked out a crafts market, and John ate some blue crab, which he had never tried before.

Back at the house, I spent some time playing around with camera settings. Here are a few pictures I liked.

 

Anna had a much more enjoyable time in the pool now that the sun had gone down a bit. She enjoyed kicking and splashing!

Last night we went to Pincher’s Crab Shack for some great food and then came “home” to celebrated Laurie’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Laurie! We are so happy to be in Florida with you and your fabulous family!

For those of you reading this before we return, don’t expect an update every two days. We had some cute pictures we wanted to share and some downtime, so that’s why this is appearing so soon.  We hope you’re all enjoying the weather wherever you are!


Playing with Copper

We are visiting Sara’s family this weekend. Anna had some fun with Grandma and Grandpa’s puppy, Copper.


Christmas

I LOVE Christmastime. The lights, the smells, the sounds, all of it! The whopping 33.4 inches of snow we had received by December 24 this year (well… last year… this post is a bit delayed in making its appearance) definitely didn’t hurt either, although I don’t think everyone would agree with me on that.

I’ve also decided that adding a baby to the mix only makes things more enjoyable.  Anna isn’t old enough to thoroughly appreciate the beauty of the season, but she had a good time nonetheless.

The three days leading up to Christmas day were spent with my family in Eyota, which meant lots of dog barking, beer drinking, and soda cracker cookie eating.  We enjoyed a delicious dinner with some friends from high school (thanks, Bankers!) and games and drinks with my “second family,” the Kramers (always so fun!).  Anna looked beautiful in her Christmas dress borrowed from the Shurts family, and the Christmas Eve Children’s Mass was movie-worthy: how often do you get to see a donkey dragging another donkey by the tail down the church aisle? Hysterical!

Anna all dressed up for Christmas Eve Mass (Thanks for the dress, Jess!)

Anna slept through her daddy reading The First Christmas to her, but we are sure she loved it. Christmas morning she also slept through most of the gift opening, including the new pair of glasses she received from Auntie Traci.

Sleeping as her gifts are opened

She had received the Jumperoo from Grandpa Jim and Grandma Sherry on Wednesday night and LOVED it!

She also got The Night Before Christmas in Hawaiian from Auntie Beth and (soon-to-be) Uncle Jeff, which we are sure will inspire her to someday move to Hawaii and bring her wonderful parents along.

Christmas Part II was celebrated with John’s family in Golden Valley.  We had a great time and I am happy to say that I am now down to only 2 books remaining until I own the entire Harry Potter series (John and I were on a HP kick for awhile… more on that in another post).  Anna got lots of cute clothes and toys, including an awesome “play Bible” from her Godparents , and John got (surprise!) another board game.  We also enjoyed lots of yummy food, such as Kay’s scotch eggs, zelnicky, and chicken wild rice soup.

Anna's new hat

Auntie Hallie holds an excited Anna next to some pretty new clothes.

Anna is intrigued by Uncle Mike's IPad.

We had a beautiful time celebrating Christ’s birth, and we hope you all did, too.  May we always be thankful for the gifts God has given!


New Ulm

Last winter when we believed we were in the midst of a miscarriage, a group of our friends did a very sweet thing: they got us a one night stay at the Deutsche Strasse Bed and Breakfast in New Ulm, MN and some spending money so we could have a night away. Well, as we all know, the pregnancy continued so it ended up being more of a celebration gift than a consolation gift. We planned our big weekend in New Ulm in early July of this year, but the day we were scheduled to leave, Sara was ordered on bedrest, so we canceled. We were finally able to get away the weekend before Thanksgiving, leaving Anna at Grandpa and Grandma Rogers’ place. Two things stood in the way of having a good time, but we overcame them both: a really terrible sinus infection affecting yours truly, and a nice ice storm that blanketed the southern MN roads in a thin, clear glaze for our return trip.

We arrived in New Ulm on a clear, blustery Saturday afternoon and immediately scrounged up some grub at a local restaurant. One bite into my liver and onions I knew I was in the right place. Amazingly enough, we were also able to attend a really fun tour of the nearby Schell’s Brewery (yup, they do tours in late November). It ended with required sampling in the tasting room, and although neither of us are huge fans of Schell’s in general, it was still a good time. The New Ulm Cathedral was a wonderful place to ring in the end of the liturgical year, and we celebrated our weekend away that evening at the Rathskeller at Turner Hall. The restaurant features murals drawn over a century ago depicting castles along the Rhine River. Unfortunately, from 1916 until 1996 they were covered up (something about a war or two we fought against “dos Jarmans”).  The restaurant also has a huge poster of the Schnitzelbank song. I considered “borrowing” it so it could be used at the next family reunion, but it was a bit too big for our car.

Oh, and perhaps the best discovery of the weekend: reuben balls. Imagine a bit of rye dough, onions, sauerkraut and corned beef dipped in batter, deep fried, and then eaten with Thousand Island Dressing. Uh-maze-ing.

We spent the rest of the evening in our suite, checking out the hot tub, and lounging. This was our first experience at a bed and breakfast, and while it took a little getting used to at first, it was very relaxing. Oh, and our breakfast was great. Three courses of pure joy: homemade peanut butter granola with milk, German candied apple pancakes and sausage, and cranberry cream cake. We also got to know our fellow bed-and-breakfasters. The experience of eating a meal with complete strangers reminds me of stories I’ve read about boarding houses in the 1800s, with everyone gathered around a communal table.

We saw a few more tourist sites on our trip, including the huge statue of Herman the German, the town Glockenspiel, etc. Sara was also quick to remind me that, being we were on vacation, we needed to pick up a children’s book to commemorate our journey. I agreed and we finally decided on a beautifully illustrated picture book of the Nativity for Christmas. After that, I turned our car north and we headed home. All in all, it was a relaxing weekend, and a nice way to clear our minds of all the hustle and bustle in the Twin Cities.

Some beer girl at the brewery...

Freezing our tookuses off!

Schnitzelbank? Check

Someone was excited to see us.


The North Shore

Since I was in 3rd grade my family has taken a yearly trip up to Lake Superior’s North Shore, where we rent a cabin for the long MEA weekend every October.  (Yes, I still call it “MEA”, although I’m pretty sure it’s called something different, and John is now the only member of the family who actually gets the extra two days off!)  I look forward to this weekend all year long, as it is always fun, refreshing and relaxing!

This year was Anna’s first trip; our friends’ younger son’s first trip (he was born 6 days after Anna); and Traci’s first trip in three years – finally, the whole family was together again!  Our friends Angela and Luke and we were a little apprehensive about sharing the cabin we have this year, as there would be three kids under the age of 2, and we didn’t know how it would go, but it ended up working out really well – only a few screams during the night!  Anna did have some screaming fits (2 1/2 hours of inconsolable crying) due to her new acid reflux medicine (which we have now stopped), but she tired herself out so much that she ended up sleeping really well at night.

Other than that, it was the usual relaxing fun.  We took a trip to Gooseberry Falls, where Beth and Jeff took some beautiful engagement pictures, thanks to Mom and Angela.  John and Luke walked around with the babies in their front carriers, since Anna was finally over the “minimum 8 lbs.” weight limit. We also all enjoyed walking down to the shore from our cabins (it’s about 20 feet away), looking out at the sun and moon shining on the lake, and viewing the passing ships through Dad’s scope.

There were a lot of cribbage games played, as well as two games of Bowls.  Everyone there will dread being my partner next year: I got last place both times! Late Saturday night brought a competitive and cutting game of Spoons (in which I also placed last!), leaving Luke the champion, although there has been some talk that Jeff was also worthy of that title, and Angela also came close.

Family photo at Gooseberry Falls.

John and Anna.

Sara and Anna.

The newly engaged.

Moms and friends!

And last but oh-so-definitely not least, there was the food and drink.  The dinners were all delicious as usual, and the Halloween sugar cookies were the typical hit, but the snacks are always the highlight.  We all had (quite a bit more than) our share of caramel corn and puppy chow (mmmmmm…… puppy chow…), and to top it off, Saturday afternoon was spent on a new tradition: beer tasting! We each had brought 3 bottles of a brew, and although An and I couldn’t drink as much as we’d like (we’re both breastfeeding and/or pumping), we all had a great time trying and rating 9 different beers.  (The “winner” of the beers was Magic Hat #9, in case you’re curious.)  We also had some pretty sleepy – and tipsy – people at Mass that evening!

The beer we tasted.

Beer tasting!

More beer tasting!

We had a fantastic time up on the shore again this year, and already are looking forward to next year!

Car seat buddies!

Blanket buddies (it was a little chilly the morning we left).

Sara's family.


Trip to Eyota

We made our first trip to Eyota this past weekend (Sept. 17-19) to visit Mommy’s family and friends.  Grandpa and Grandma got some good cuddle time in Friday night, and Anna got to meet their puppy, Copper, for the first time.  He’s only 6 lbs, but he looked big after being used to Anna!

Unfortunately, Friday night didn’t go so well; Mommy and Daddy forgot the sleep sack and didn’t bring Anna’s bouncer (aka her bed) either, so she was a little out of her element.  AK proceeded to cry from about midnight to 5 am, when Daddy finally figured out that she was constipated, and managed to help her by reading up on these things online.  She slept peacefully after that, but Mommy and Daddy needed to sleep most of the day to make up for it.  Thankfully, Grandma Sherry and both aunts jumped in to help, so Anna still got the bath she needed before her big party that night.

Saturday night was an “open-house” for people to come meet Anna Kateri and to see great-aunt Kel-lee and cousin Xander while they are visiting.  Lots of family and friends showed up.  Thank you all for coming! We had a great time and it was so good to see everyone!

Saturday night was a huge improvement in the sleep department; we were back to our normal 3-hour intervals for feeding, and Anna managed to sleep well in between, thankfully for Mommy and Daddy.  We left to come home right after church that morning, and had an uneventful car ride.

Check out all of the pictures from the weekend here! Some highlights are below.

Grandpa Jim and Anna get some snuggle time.

Anna and Copper meet.

Great aunt Kel-lee and cousin Xander visit from New Mexico and meet Anna.

Grandma Sherry, Sara and Anna, and Great Grandma Sharon.


Anna’s Travels

In only 11 short days, Anna has managed to travel quite a few places! There have been two trips to the hospital (one for a lab test and the other to see a lactation consultant) and two trips to see her doctor in White Bear Lake. Those aren’t as exciting to talk about, though.

Everywhere we go, people (mainly women and children) seem to adore her (as most newborns everywhere are adored), always asking how old she is and commenting on how tiny she looks. Our first “big” trip was to Target last week when Anna was only 4 days old. Mommy and Daddy enjoyed taking her out in public and managed to fit the car seat in the shopping cart on the first try. Mommy especially enjoyed the trip, as she hasn’t been to Target (or any store) for over 2 months!

Saturday was Anna’s first camping “trip”. Mommy’s family goes to Lake Elmo every Labor Day weekend, and our little family was able to join Mommy’s family for a good part of the day. Anna was held by everybody and enjoyed the little bit of sunshine she got. We were even able to spend some time with Great Uncle Joe & Great Aunt Kari and their three girls, who drove up from Eyota to meet their new tiny relation. It was so good to see everyone! Thank you so much for the cute clothes Anna got!

Sunday morning we made our way to church, where everyone around us asked us questions and made comments about our little Anna Kateri. She even had an adoring crowd of three young girls afterward who wanted to see her. Anna also got to meet Fr. Creagan, who has followed our “miscarriage” story and been praying for us throughout the pregnancy.

The most recent fun outing was last night (Wednesday), when Mommy took Anna to her book club, which was meeting for drinks at Dixie’s in St. Paul. There were quite a few people there, so hopefully everyone got a chance to hold her if they wanted to; it was baby mania! (For those of you who don’t know, in Mommy’s book club there have been 6 babies born this year!) Anna got to meet Torin Cahill, born just 6 days after her, and tried to impress him with her cute pink sleeper. Of course, both babies were sleeping pretty much the entire time. 🙂

Mommy, Daddy, and Anna also went for a short walk last night to try out the stroller. It was a beautiful evening and we are hoping to get some good use out of the stroller before the winter comes!

Grandma Sherry with Anna (and Auntie Traci) at the campground.

Auntie Beth holding Anna (while soon-to-be-Uncle Jeff blocks the sun)

Cousin Kaylee holding Anna.

Cousin Jayda holding Anna.