Guess What?

September is BLOG MONTH for Compassion International and each Monday throughout the month I will be sharing a post directly related to Compassion.  I am thrilled to be able to participate with Compassion via this outlet and I cannot wait to share all of this and more with you soon.  For now, check out the new side bar I have added.  If you feel so moved click on it and look at those sweet faces and the opportunities calling you to be a part of ending poverty in the name of Jesus.

Thankful Thursday #101

State Fair
953. experiencing the great MN get together with amazing friends
954. nightly walks with the family
955. seeing the glass half full
956. a sky treat, two brightly shining stars up there just for us
957. Things' antics around the dinner table
958. far away friends who understand
959. pool parties
960. packages on the doorstep, waiting
961. video from a sweet niece
962. catch up phone call with a bestest who's a new Mama

The Great MN Get Together

Or at least that's what the state fair is referred to as out in these parts.  Either way that is where we spent our last weekday of the summer.  And like Thing 1 said, the only words you need to know at the fair are food and stick.  Amen sister.  These lovely friends were brave enough to be our tour guides if you will.  They know the fair, it's tradition for them and well, we didn't.  Here's our gang in the horse stables. 
Sweet friends, love them
Before we even began to roam the blocks and blocks that encompass the fair we had to try the mini donuts.  Freshly made and doused with sugar, don't think you can go wrong there?
Around the corner from the donuts is a fresh milk stand, $1 and you can drink all the milk you want, chocolate or white!  Win, win if you ask me. 
Things waiting for the dairy goodness
From there we took in the sights.  First stop, horse barn.  Thing 3 and her friend were in their hey day, pardon the pun.  We perused the stalls, talked to our horse friends and kept our noses plugged. 
Moving on, we simply wandered the streets, stopping at radio station booths, posing with over sized country artists, sitting in the chair of the Voice and eating more delectable treats.  Not to mention the people watching, which is always entertaining at the fair no matter where you are geographically.
 The Things and friends with their fried cookie dough, yes you read that correctly,
because where else can you get fried cookie dough?
For the record I think four of the six children pictured here approved of the fried concoction!
 Here we have the top choice, two thumbs up from all who tried, red velvet funnel cake.  Yes, one thousand times better than plain funnel cake and sweet enough to satisfy even the most Southern of taste buds!
Last but certainly not least, cheese curds.  For those  of you who have tasted these salty treats before disregard the ketchup.  Fried cheese, can you go wrong?  The Things love this Minnesota side dish, possibly Thing 4 most of all.  Our friends were gracious enough to share the best location within the fair for these and they were devoured in no time! 
Oops, guess the cheese curds weren't last, this is last, but certainly not least.  I forgot about this treat and this boy who had waited all summer for this creamy delight, bacon ice cream.  Yes, a sweet maple ice cream with chunks of bacon.  Hear me when I say this absolutely surprised my taste buds, and all of the adults we were with actually.  Again, only two out of the four children did not approve.  It was again two thumbs up, or taste buds in this case.
Moving on from the food, although that was a big portion of our day and the motivation for attending the fair, well for some of us at least.  We went to the Midway, where all manner of fair games are located including questionable rides and such.  The Things and friends took their chances and paid their tickets, our friends walked away big winners, with big smiles and good memories.  We cheered them on and although we left with only a stuffed Gumby to show for our efforts it was definitely a good time.
 The ring toss
Ball toss, all the Things giving it a try!
By this time in the day we were hot and alas it was time to bid farewell.  We walked and talked and laughed and ate and ate some more and experienced a good portion of what the fair had to offer.  Including this super size slide that all the Things and friends raced down.
Thing 1 and Thing 2

Another almost forgotten visit was on our way to the exit at the Miracle of Birth center.  Farmers show their animals here, or at least the ones that are ready to give birth.  They time it just right, or hope to anyway.  This time we saw baby piglets, one day old, another sow who was having contractions and I believe lambs as well.  Piglets were my favorite, hands down.  Stinkin' cute!

Look at those ears!

Hands down this was a super way to celebrate the last weekday of our summer holiday.  A day spent outside, enjoying each other's company and laughing around every corner.

Thankful Thursday #100

Dinner bell at Grace Retreat Center
943. short get aways with fun people
944. hearing Things' laughter outside
945. campfires
946. bike rides
947. hard lessons in hopes they're learned early
948. summer wish lists being crossed off
949. letters from Oswaldo
950. art created
951. writing, good for my soul
952. reading parent literature

This Past Weekend and The One Before

With summer nearing it's end for the Things we have been crossing off our summer wish list like
nobody's business. 
Two weekends ago the girl Things and Husband Jared and I headed to Taylor Falls for a hike.  The St. Croix river cuts through this park and divides it between two states, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  We had heard there were some beautiful trails and so we set out on one that would take us through both sides of the park, up a bajillion stairs, yes that's a number, and along the old railroad tracks.  It was gorgeous.  Green foliage everywhere we looked, red sandstone cliffs and the sound of the river in our ears. Thankfully we had a picnic lunch before our hike and Polo was properly hydrated.  He tagged along of course.  Not a fan of the many stairs we climbed along the way he had to be encouraged by all of us.  The weather cooperated and we enjoyed being together and exploring more of our new home state. 
 Picnic lunch
 Affectionately referred to by Thing 1 as the
 "they think they're hip" parents photo
 Girl Things and me, Mama, St. Croix river in the background
Thing 4 was on his special trip with Poppi and Nani so he missed out on this fun.  Although from what Nani has written it sounds like they had some adventures of their own.  You can read about them here, Thing 4's Grandparent Adventure.
Thing 1's friend celebrated her sweet sixteen last weekend as well.  I was invited by said friend's Mom to help chaperone.  The two of us may have been more excited than the five teenage girls we were spending the night with.  The plan included dinner out and an overnight stay at a hotel.  Thing 1 and I surprised her friend and decorated the girls' hotel room, there were snacks and late night convos and movies.  And that was just in the "Mom" room.  Not really, although we did surprise the birthday girl with a little diddy of a dance.  Which, thanks to modern technology is on Facebook.  Like I said, we may have had more fun.  These girls are special and it was such a treat to witness their friendship for the night.
Now this past weekend Thing 4 had returned home safely and these 6 Hansons were headed to Stockholm, Wisconsin where our church has a retreat center.  Our small group had planned a quick get away and we were so looking forward to exploring this place.  There is a pool, a barn game room, a farm house, a cottage house, a natural spring, a bunk house with a sports court,  a rock climbing wall housed within a silo and even a chapel.  Not to mention the sledding hill, wild flowers and a chicken coop.  So much to explore and entertain.  I instantly fell in love with the house and it's porch swing.  It was the kind of place where you're invited to sit a spell and just be, soaking in the quietness and awe of God's nature.  Needless to say the Things and their friends were off and running from one activity to the next.  They did stop occasionally to snack or play a quick board game and then it was full steam ahead.  Then it was night time and we had a campfire.  There was talk of star gazing and s'mores with brownie bites since we had no chocolate bars and and a failed attempt at glow bubbles.  Take a look.
Around the campfire, (some of us anyway)
Thing 1 and her bubble buddy
The next day we woke early and were determined to make the most of our last day at the GRC.  There were morning walks to the chapel, lounging on the swing, games being played and fun all around.  Not to mention there were a few kiddos excited to collect some eggs for breakfast from these girls.
The coop
A happy girl with her first egg of the day, I won't soon forget her squeal when she brought it in the house and said, "It's still warm".  Oh the delight.
On this day there was all of the above mentioned and even a synchronized swimming show, oh how we were blessed.  Sharks across the ocean was played, Dads even participated and rock climbing and hill climbing and and and.  Just a sweet day of fellowship all the way around.
 In the girl hide out, as it was affectionately called
 Synchronized swimmers
 Family volleyball
 Rope climbing
There had been whispers of a pie shop in town, a mere four miles or so from where we were.  My friends, that is all it takes is a whisper and we were on our way.  Actually Thing 4 drove us on the country dirt roads and she did great.  Stockholm Pie Co. is where it's at people.  I would make the hour and a half drive for just  a slice of pie.  No additives, homemade, from scratch and they smell, oh the smell was divine.  Our family tried the triple chocolate pecan and it did not disappoint.  Yum, and a special treat for an already special weekend. 
 And now I leave with you a few photos of the Retreat Center and all it's serene beauty.
The cottage house, right next to a natural spring
 Champ, the three legged dog
The barn, turned game room and so much more
 The green house and garden, to the right is a smoke house
Silo, that now houses the rock climbing wall
We have also had all sorts of friend visits and big family dinners at the Hanson household.  This last Sunday Thing 1 and her friend grocery shopped with me, planned a menu and made a delicious dinner for Things 2 and 3 and their friends.  Six girls and Husband Jared and I all around the table, that was a treat.  Giggles and sharing and highs and lows and girl talk.  Good summer memories.  To top off the weekend the girls created brownie waffle sundaes.  Another treat and more fun.  And that is how we began our last week of summer holiday!

Farewell D.C.

We woke this morning, our last day in DC, with a certain sadness.  It was inevitable.  All good things must come to an end.  Here we were, posed and ready for our Capitol Hill tour.  I must say that Husband Jared was the most excited for this excursion.

The Things outside Congressman Paulsen's office

We went to the Canon building and then were lead through the underground passageway to the Capitol building.  FYI, only staffers and very important people are allowed to walk those halls.  Just another highlight for the six Hansons.  There were badges and security stops and then into the grand hall where each state's statues stand tall and a life size replica of Lady Freedom greets you.  Fascinating.  Funny story about Hawaii's statue, it arrived naked and was not allowed to be displayed because this is a family establishment.  So it was bedecked in a rather ornate gold "costume" and returned.  Interesting.  Alright, moving on. 
 Mr. Coleman was our tour guide and his knowledge and obvious passion for his work was quite evident.  When we entered the rotunda I did hear gasps from the Things and I am sure a "wow" or two might have escaped my lips.  The murals that line the walls house a  story within a story and each intricate detail both true to history and those added by the artists for personal statement or humor captivated the Things attention. 

Moving on, we saw where Abraham Lincoln's desk sat, a 9/11 Memorial that honored those civilians that sacrificed their lives from Flight 93, the House Floor, I think I had goose bumps the entire time we were sitting in the gallery there.  Circling the room are portraits of the first law makers and there at the center is Moses' picture.  We peeked in on the "old" house room, where it stood before this great nation became a nation of fifty states and many more representatives.  An original clock that is set five minutes fast so that court hearings run on time, still a tradition to this day.  The Things stood on the mark of what was supposed to be the exact center of the city, it really isn't but it is a remarkable concept, that the center of the city of our nation's capitol would be housed in the building where decisions of epic proportions are made.

There is even a slight slope in the material now from all the foot traffic

Marching on we circled back through the halls, taking in all the sites along the way and discussing all that has happened within these walls.   Before we knew it our time was over and we left the Canon building and walked on over in hopes of claiming a library card for Thing 4 for the Library of Congress.  Come to find out no one under sixteen can be a card holder and most cards are issued solely for research purposes.  Much to our surprise Husband Jared completed paperwork and received a card.  I guess Thing 4 was hoping to do some genealogy research.  This building is yet another grand structure and I was thrilled to be inside.

Look at those literary frescoes and marble archways

Much to the Things chagrin we did not have time to go into the reading room, although we were able to view it from afar.  Simply amazing and inviting.  A place I could surely get lost in, in the best way of course.  We browsed the open rooms and stood in awe of the Bibles on display.  Hand painted introduction pages with such painstaking detail.  They were beautiful.

Exiting the library we found the Supreme Court building. There was massive construction going on so we were only able to view it from afar, but standing on the steps was enough for Husband Jared.  At least for now...

 I was also able to capture this photo of Poppi and Nani with the Capitol building in the background.  So thankful we were able to share these memories with the two of them.

 The White House was on our list to see so we hailed a cab and found ourselves blocked out due to a press conference that was taking place on the lawn.  Hmm.  We did some more walking and found our way.  So did all the other tourists.  There was pointing and gazing and then the Things sat for a picture and all was complete.  It isn't about the photo per se but I do hope these photographs trigger memories for the Things of our adventures as a family.  They were most enthralled with the large gun men that stood on the lookout on top of the house, oh and Thing 4's melty ice cream that you can see below in his right hand. 

It was a short walk back to our hotel from here and we passed more protesters, saw  the Federal Reserve building, a statue of Andrew Jackson and a wealth of historical buildings along the way.  And then, sadly,  it was time to load up Betsy and hit the road again.  When Poppi's truck was brought up there was a slight gash in the sidewall of his tire.  Minor detour on the horizon.  The Things would not let us forget the last stop we promised them, chili dogs and milk shakes at Ben's Chili bowl near Howard University.  So we made our lunch stop at this infamous place and then took care of the tire situation and we were PA bound.

This trip far exceeded any expectations we carried with us.  The Things were captivated with the city and it's inner workings as was I.  Seems as though there would never be enough time to see or do all the museums, landmarks, historical buildings.  With that said, until next time and the next adventure.  Farewell Washington D.C. and thank you for an incredible holiday.

Thankful Thursday #99

Warehouse in downtown Pittsburgh

933. holding Thing 3's hand as she falls asleep
934. safe return of Thing 4
935. Thing 1 creating art
936. Thing 2 and her hugs
937. family nature hikes
938. running...again
939. rainy days with candles lit
940. new school supplies 
941. coupons
942. surprise bouquet of sunflowers from Husband Jared


This is where we began day whatever in DC.  The Things might have been most excited about this.  And when they were I tried diligently not to become the pious mother and shame them for not being this intrigued by the White House, other Smithsonian museums or even our tour of the Capitol which was scheduled for the next day.  As yet another disclaimer I was actually quite impressed with this museum and the knowledge I gained while there.  Now, for the rest of this post call me Gretta please. 

Once you enter the museum small groups of unsuspecting participants are taken by secret elevator to the alias room, hence Gretta.  I know, I know.  Moving on.  You are given a mission and are invited to participate throughout the tour.  The Things were able to climb through air ducts, learn all about the important role spies have played in helping maintain our freedom and we were also given the nugget that Washington D.C. is home to the highest spy population.  Thanks for that one.  Thing 4 and Poppi walked around calling out the spies they supposedly saw and remaining in character, much to our delight.  It was entertaining.  I think what I found most fascinating about this place was the history.  We moved through rooms, into bunkers and all about.  All the while chronologically following the evolution of the spy.  Cameras hidden in pens, the smallest microchips, toys smuggled across borders carrying top secret documents and on and on.  Wow.

Recognize this family?

After having our fill of hiding out we bee lined it to the National Archives (no photos allowed ), passing tap the Navy Memorial on our way.  There is a world map on the ground within a large circle of flags and water surrounding and standing large on the other side of the street is the National Archives building.and building.  That grand structure completely overwhelmed me.  The Magna Carta, an eight hundred year old document lay behind glass and was actually legible.  I stood and gazed in disbelief and then we moved on to the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom.  We moved along due to the crowd pressing in but we had our fill and tried with all our might to discern the signatures.  History, at our finger tips.  From there we walked to China town where a tall and enormous friendship bridge stands.  We visited Vapianos, an Italian restaurant ( ironic, I know since we were in Chinatown) that Husband Jared and I had actually dined at in Vienna.  Delish.  Check it out if it's in a city near you, I think they are beginning to infiltrate the US market.  More walking, more metro riding.

Maybe a nap or two?! Don't tell.

With imminent weather looming we weren't certain our twilight monument walk would be a good idea, so  not wanting to take any chances or miss anything we hoofed it and made up our own tour.  First on the list, the Washington monument, still stunning even with it's construction fences.  There we found shade in the shadow of the monument and caught our breath and discussed relevant facts and details. 

On to the World War Two Memorial.  A wreath for each state that sacrificed soldiers, a fountain for the European countries and a beautiful wading pool in the center of it all.  If my brief descriptions and lack of detail concerning each monument seems void I apologize and no disrespect is intended.  There is so much to be said for each and everyone and I encourage you all to do further research of your own and see what you discover.  We walked through the park, along the pond and I would be remiss if I did not mention a protester whose path  crossed ours.  We exchanged words of encouragement and "God bless you's" and then were on our way.  Four Things were not at all surprised that I stopped the man, but of course.  The Vietnam Memorial was breathtaking.  To see those names, numbers unimaginable, in order, year by year.  There just aren't any words.


Then there was Honest Abe, standing, well sitting tall, larger than life.  His words flanking the walls surrounding. 

 The six Hansons

The 16th President of these United States

We toured the area and then the rain came.  Before we could run to catch a cab the girl Things had overheard a man preaching just below the monument.  Not wanting  to miss a moment they ran down after seeing Mr. Lincoln and listened.  They were hoping to hear a message of grace and that is just what they heard.  Affirming he was "on the right track" we had clearance to move on. 

Preacher on the left, tye dye shirt - Thing 1 and next to her Thing 2
A full day, full of history and heart ache and triumph and national pride and sacrifice and memories.  We raced back to the hotel in cabs, literally.
Four in one, four in the other
Dinner this night presented major dilemmas.  So much so that we needed to cool off in the pool before we decided on anything, which is exactly what we did.  And then we chose Mexican food.  A rather hip tapas style place that intrigued all of us with it's traditional menu.  The decor was bright and possibly our favorite feature was the large LCD TV framed in an elaborate, gaudy gold frame that ran the same movie in Spanish continually.  Entertaining.  Thing 4 chose the King's chair at our table and we began perusing the menu and making our choices.  I just couldn't pass up the opportunity for a culinary adventure and I went for a grasshopper taco and lamb tamale.  Whew, so very good.  The taco was earthy, and according to Husband Jared it tasted like "grass".  Well duh! 
 Prince William

Grasshopper anyone?
It was an enjoyable night and the conversation seemed to center around eccentric foods and whether or not we would be brave enough to try.  For the record the Things did not try my taco.  Yet another memorable meal ending another full day of being tourists in the capitol.