A Birthday, Father's Day and all the Camps

Promptly after our very last airport drop off for all the celebrations and house guests at the Hanson B&B, let me know if you're interested in reservations, Husband Jared and I began his birthday-Father's day festivities.  Mind you, we had indulged the extended family while they were here with birthday cake and the like but we do enjoy maximizing the opportunity to celebrate just as long as we can.  And since we had not had more than a few minutes alone for the past month we went out, just the two of us, for the kick off!  Pig Ate My Pizza is another restaurant owned and operated by some of our very favorite Minneapolis chefs.  Their specialty, you guessed it, pizza!  The atmosphere is casual, unpretentious and the entire staff seems as though they are in their realm.  I love it!  As if you couldn't tell.  We sampled a few different pizzas, maybe a craft brew and dessert.  Oh man the dessert.  A mini chess pie in it's very own baby cast iron skillet.  I might have exclaimed out loud that this was the very best chess pie I had ever eaten.  Yes indeed!  I think the smile on the birthday boy's face says it all.  

The Birthday Boy!

Piggy Pie, my favorite.  Brioche crust with sausage and homemade sauce.

The very next day was Husband Jared's actual 40th birthday and since we were celebrating him once again we let him choose everything we did that day.  Pool time, relaxing and watching footie and a family outing to Tin Fish, complete with a walk around the lake.  Home for a one of a kind cake creation by our resident baker, Thing 3, and more of us.  Does it get any better than that?  Our Things know how to make someone feel special and they did a fine job that day of showing Husband Jared their love.  They're the best to celebrate with!  

Pool time per Dad's request.

Free birthday coffee at the Bou!  (not pictured: Thing 4, he had training)

 Linner at Tin Fish!  

The master baker at work for her Daddy.

The finished product, hill with a falling down man and a tombstone- it doesn't get much more morbid than that.  Happy 40th!

Make a wish!

The next week was filled with camp preparations and Royal Servant check lists.  Thing 1 was scheduled to go to day camp for work, Things 2 and 4 would be at Jam Camp for a week and Thing 3 would be at training camp for a week and then off to Costa Rica for four weeks, not returning until late July.  I have mentioned her missions trip on the blog before but the reality truly set in as I sat in the room with her and rolled t-shirts, checked medicine bottles, stuffed lavender scented dryer sheets into all the zippies, labeled everything and watched her face light up as she was doing it all.  It was quite the week of packing, shopping for last minute supplies and making every attempt to savor these summer days together.  

Preparing for Royal Servants.  All the zippies and dryer sheets.

Husband Jared, Thing 3 and myself all made the trip to training camp for the drop off.  Not until we had her favorite meal and family time around the table of course; A tradition of sorts for the night before any trip.  Pardeeville, WI was the destination for this version of tent city and the place where Thing 3 would meet her traveling family.  We unpacked her box into a large bag that she would be living out of for the next 5 weeks, rolled out her sleeping mat and sleeping bag in her tent and watched her step into the unknown with a confidence that could have only been given to her by the Holy Spirit.  This Mama was so proud.  As she walked away from us, knowing I would maybe receive only a few emails and not hear her voice for the next month I promptly ran to the car and held in my tears just as long as I could.  Such a strange feeling to be witnessing the beginning of your child's independence into adulthood and yet still feel like they are just babies.  Enough on that.  I will have a separate blog post dedicated to Thing 3's trip soon.  So much to say, so many stories and so many photos.  The next morning the three that were left woke to make Father's day breakfast for the very best Dad.  We sat around the table and shared the love and celebrated Husband Jared once again, this time for the father that he is.  Then it was time to send two more off to camp.  And off they went, laughing, waving goodbye, not having a care in the world.  JAM camp is one of the best weeks of the year according to my four.  I have one photo of the two that were there, courtesy of Thing 2's photo folder.  Thing 2 was their as a camp counselor for the first time and Thing 4 a camper.  So much fun!  Thing 1 was an only child for the week and it began with a trip to German Fest and dinner at Surly, per her Dad's request for his Father's day.  Our week with just the three of us was not much different, late night walks, dinners out and too much quiet in the house.  Thing 1 even had a sushi date with Husband Jared and I.  We might have made up grand stories about all the people around us too.  It was most certainly a fun night!  Then before we knew it, our next house guest, Madison had arrived and we were picking the JAM campers up from church.  Another week or so full and complete.  
Thankfully much more summer fun was on it's way!  

Training Camp drop off.  

Two JAM Camp buddies!

Father's day in front of the Schmidt Brewery in St. Paul

A Week With Poppi and Nani

Following the graduation weekend we had two visitors for an additional week, all to ourselves in the breathtaking MN summer.  Said house guests had not yet experienced the Tundra during it's glory season.  We had big plans.  The agenda was full with just enough wiggle room for the spontaneous.  All eight of us were more than giddy to be together.  Here is a day by day run down of all that we did together.  It was a great week! 

With our last airport trip for an entire week completed first on the docket was a day of relaxation coupled with a few errands to ready us for the week ahead and a Twins game.  So much for easing into the week!  Thing 3 had some birthday shopping to take care of and we all accompanied her.  You know, to help her decide and choose and offer our opinions. 

The shopping trip loot!  Movie night snacks included!

We had purchased Twins tickets for Poppi for Father's Day.  His bucket list includes a trip to each and every MLB park in the USA.  Seeing as he had never before been to Target Field this was the perfect opportunity.  We picked up Husband Jared from work on our way into the city and explored Target field; Taking it all in through Poppi and Nani's baseball loving eyes.  Thing 4 learned how to keep score and the girl Things found gourmet food for us to nosh on.  We call that a win-win in this house!  

Wisdom being imparted. (a few random strangers too)

All eyes on Nani!

TC baseball, our peeps sporting their Twins gear, or at least the right colors!  

Tuesday began with another trip to the airport.  Our status has been updated and a record set.   
Poppi, Nani and I had to return the rental car and to no one's surprise that turned into a foodie field trip.  I had heard of The Baker's Wife bakery and it had been on our list to try so we did.  Highlight of the morning was discovering the bicycle shop-coffee shop next door.  Yes, you read that right.  Bikes, new and old, a mechanic's area, gear and everything in between coupled with the very best beverage, coffee.  Not just your standard drip coffee I am talking about smoky sea salt caramel mocha espresso.  One of the very best I've ever had!  In case you're wondering we weren't stingy and pastries made their way home to the fam bam.  And then we ran around town scouring the stores for fishing gear so we could try and catch a few while we were out on the pontoon.  The Things could not have been any happier than when we were on the water.  We drove around the lake and scouted out a calm spot to park for lunch and swimming and floating and fishing.  We spent hours on the lake soaking in all that Minnesota does best in the summer time.  And when we were sun soaked, actually when we looked up from the water and saw threatening clouds headed our direction we made a bee line for the dock and jumped in the car just as fast as we could.  Then we celebrated with Adele's custard and family lasagna dinner.  All the best in my book.

Four on the boat, we love the water.

Just the seven of us, Husband Jared had to work.

Poppy and Thing 4 fishing, the fish were not biting.

One of many bridges we passed under, Lord Fletchers on the right.

Oh yum!

Adele's Custard for the win!  Our family's first visit here together.

Barefoot Contessa's lasagna after a day on the boat, yes please. 

On Wednesday we woke to the brightest blue skies and sun shining which meant time for family exercise.  What could be better than a bike ride to our favorite coffee shop, or run for the other half?  Nothing, that's what!  We ran and biked and then made it home to take the Excelsior tour with the grandparents.  Last time they were here the lake was frozen over and Water St. just didn't look the same.  Shopping, lunch, fishing and ice cream were on the agenda and then Thing 4's match.  The first half of the day was better than we hoped for and the second half not so much.  There was crazy traffic that had Thing 4 running on to the pitch at game time and his Mama a tad frazzled at the situation.  All that to say his performance clearly showed that he was over the drive because he ended up scoring twice!  On this particular night the four adults had planned a date night after the match but when your Things ask you to stay home with them so you can have family dinner and game night you do not say no.  Or at least this time we didn't.  Wednesday for the win!  

Our bikes at Dunn Bros.

Sugar coffee to start the day.

My people! 

Lunch at Lago Tacos, walleye tacos for the table.

Thing 4 opted for fishing over shopping, go figure. 

Poppi and Nani just had to try Lick's.  

Professional shoppers, on the hunt for a deal.  

Watching Thing 4 at his match, he scored two goals for his supporters this night.  We celebrated with Chick Fil A for dinner a Jurassic Park movie and family game night.

Thursday was stormy and rainy and kept us inside all day.  Fine by us.  We lounged, well actually, Husband Jared and Things 1 and 2 worked all day and the rest of us lounged.  Meaning we watched the remaining Jurassic Park movies in preparation of the premier of the newest flick that we were scheduled to view that very night.  No photos to show our sloth-like day, you know because of our productivity and excellent skills in the relaxation department.  There was however, one photo snapped in the car on our way to the theatre and it was a gorgeous one.  That my friends was our Thursday!

 God's handiwork is remarkable!

Friday was Taylors Falls hiking and Stillwater exploring day.  While the Things were sleeping Poppi, Nani and I had donations to pick up for the 5K race we were running in the next morning, STOP THE TRAFFICKING!  There was the nursery where we were greeted by a donkey and his cart and two grocery stores where Poppi was a huge help with his banana knowledge.  We ran home and prepared for our hike after lugging all the goodies back to the house.  Two of our peeps were missing, Husband Jared and Thing 1 both had work obligations that could not be avoided.  Without them the group just didn't feel complete but we tried our very best to make the most of the day before us.  We decided to do the glacier hike and rock climb and gawk at the amazing trees that surrounded us, the river we heard rushing by and the bugs that accompanied us as we went along.  It was a great way to start the day. Following the hike we took a trip into Stillwater for lunch on the river, a race up the stairs for an unbeatable view and ice-cream of course!  Unfortunately Nelson's was jam packed and the line was around the block so our ice cream dreams did not come to fruition that afternoon.  From there we made the journey home, hopes of ice-cream crushed, but only a briefly.  An unexpected detour to Snuffy's turned everyones frowns upside down.  Malts for the win!  And I was able to make our last donation stop at Great Harvest bakery whom so generously donated race rolls to our cause.  Husband Jared and Thing 1 were waiting at home for us to grill and enjoy a slow evening around the table and outside playing holey board and lighting sparklers.   Another dreamy ending to a delightful summer day.

A friendly greeter as we were picking up donations for the race.  This one made us think of Grammy.

Rock Climbing, or something like that.

Two of my three girlies. 

Heart shaped glacier hole, what a find!

The fam bam selfie on the trail!  (Notice Poppi and Thing 3 have similar smiles!)

Poppi, Nani and three of the Things taking in the view.   

Saturday morning came all too quickly and the weather wasn't helping our motivation.  Gloomy, windy and rainy skies greeted us as we all donned our race gear and put our smiles on.  There was work to be done and I am proud to say everyone pitched in to help.  I love it when the family comes together for a cause.  The standard pre-race photo was taken, water stop set up, water bottles, race rolls and flowers delivered and then the race kicked off.  Congressman Paulsen and Senator Klobuchar both addressed the group as well as Sergeant Schneider who has twenty years of service fighting human trafficking.  Four organizations that were recipients of the monies raised were represented as well.  It was quite a moving morning.  The eight of us raced and celebrated our finish and the success of the event with post race pancakes at OPH, a favorite of Poppi and Nani's.  Sadly the week of non stop fun was about to end with yes, you guessed it, another airport trek!  This time only Husband Jared and I accompanied the travelers.  Have I mentioned before that I do not like airport goodbyes?  Welcome home, well that's another story altogether.  Good byes, not so much.  Maybe just see you later would suffice, how about I call Uber for you?  Poppi might just be the worse.  In the very best way.  He wears his emotions out on his sleeve for you and he despises airport farewells as much as I do.    There are always tears and longer than usual hugs and then another hug and then he runs into the terminal, using all his will power not to look back.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  Needless to say we said our goodbyes and were on our way.  And that concluded the extreme fun-filled summer week with Poppi and Nani!

Poppi thinking he is a contortionist as we drive to set up the water stop.  I had to include this photo as it really says so much about my Dad; Willing to do anything for us.  

Poppi crossing the finishing line.  Thing 4 and Husband Jared finished before any of us, they were speed racers.  Husband Jared ran with one of Thing 3's friends from school, he kept pace with him.  I really did marry a stud!  Thing 2 finished shortly after me, then Nani and Things 3 and 1 right after.  Way to go family!  

The fam bam, pre-race, man oh man I do love these people!

Hashtag: Madison in Minnesota

As you probably assumed from the title this post is all about Thing 2's dear friend from Tennessee, Madison.  These girls met in our neighborhood almost nine years ago and have been friends ever since.  We lived across the street from their family and the memories that have been made are abundant.  There are countless pictures and videos made by the both of them documenting their rock collecting, mud adventures and explorations in the forest behind our houses.  Then they moved away.  Then we moved to another country.  Then we moved back to the states.  Then they moved to the PNW.  Now they are back in TN and it was high time for Madison to visit the great white North, or frozen tundra as I affectionately refer to it.  Regardless, Madison came to MN, navigated the airport on her own and arrived while Thing 2 was still at JAM camp.  I was thankful for some catch up time with her to hear all the latest and greatest with her fam, what's going on with her, how the move back has been, what she thinks about being a junior in high school now, almost having her license, etcetera, etcetera.  We did just that and then Thing 2 came home and we were both happy to have her back.  

First things first, the girls updated our summer bucket list with their summer bucket list.  Beginning with MOA.  Sadly, or maybe not, I have no photos from the epic shopping trip they had.  Things 1 and 2 felt it their duty to showcase the MOA for Madison and that they did, as evidenced by the number of bags she returned home with.  The MN weather was showing off for her and after an exhausting day shopping we shared dinner with friends and sat outside listening to music and roasting marshmallows.  It was a good summer night.  

Every picture is something else with these two lovelies!

Marshmallow roasting 101.

S'mores face.

Two smiles and one chocolate smile!

For our next MN highlight we had a family field trip to the food truck festival in Uptown.  An artsy area to take in, the best people watching and an opportunity to sample new foods, yes please! Everyone tried something different, we all shared tastes with each other and then it became too much and the ice cream lines were too long so we hit the road for a frozen treat and an afternoon nap.  It's one of our love languages around here.  Or maybe that's food.  I digress.  Anyhow, our plan for the evening was to go to church together but no sooner had we beautified ourselves than a summer storm came loud and strong.  Gusty winds and sideways rain kept us home watching a sermon on-line and talking about all the food we had sampled.  Still another good day. 

Three Things and Madison!

Food truck fest, stop 1!  Shrimp po boy, I think.

Yogurt-Lab, you know the science yogurt place.  Yes, we know, thanks for that Thing 2!

The weekend was over but the sight seeing had just begun.  Monday came with a full agenda.  First stop, breakfast at Black Coffee and Waffle Bar.  Second stop, The Sculpture Garden, third stop, well we attempted to go the Walker but to our surprise it is closed Mondays.  Oh well.  Next up, the Guthrie Theatre and Mill City Ruins, last but not least a new do for Madison and finally home.  I was grateful to be their chauffeur for the day and a participant in all the silliness!

Breakfast please, the most important meal of the day.

Standard waffle picture.

Sculpture Garden shenanigans.

Life imitating art...Madisoninminnesota style!

Artsy at the Guthrie.

Silly at the Guthrie.

Up next, a day in Excelsior.  We walked Water St., showed off Lake Minnetonka, ate fish tacos at Lago Tacos and had ice-cream at Licks.  Have I mentioned we especially like taking our guests on food tours when they visit?  We're not foodies by any classification but we do like good food and we do like sharing it with the people we love.  We like sharing with it with people we like.  Hey, we like sharing it with people we don't even know.  So there it is, the day in a nutshell. 

On the dock, Lake Minnetonka photo bombing!

I was channeling my inner karate kid, or maybe practicing my tree pose, balancing my purse and all! 

Ice cream please!

I had plans the next morning so the girls slept in and were having a slow morning when spontaneity got the best of them.  They decided to strap on their running shoes and meet me for breakfast at our favorite coffee house, 2.6 miles away.  I was at said coffee house meeting a friend for a blogapalooza, yes we coined the word and I will be using it as often as possible from here on out until it becomes a part of everyday vernacular.  So the girls ran, or ran and walked rather, and arrived to share breakfast with me.  Then they met Thing 2's mentor and Madison was given a tour of our church which I am sure was complete with story upon story.  From there they went to the fields to play footie with friends.  Thing 4 met them there and there they stayed for a few hours until it was time for more footie with Thing 4.  He had a match and the girls were coming along to support him.  Although their idea of support was collapsing on the blanket before the match even started because they were spent after their day full of physical activity.  It was comical! Another better than good day in the books.

Thing 4's supporters.  You will be my squishy?!

Tired girlies.  It really is exhausting being a tourist.  

We spent our last day in MN paddle boarding and preparing for the upcoming road trip to TN.  A fourteen hour drive, just me, Things 2 and 4 and Madison.  Paddle boarding was not a first for Madison, her and Thing 2 have some fond memories of attempting to paddle board at the beach where I think there was more tipping over and swimming than actual time on the board.  This day was different.  The water was calm and once we all got our balance we tried paddling on our knees, our bellies and then of course the usual ensued and one Thing was going after the other, kids were falling off their boards and I was threatening them all to stay away from me!  I wanted no part of their "games".  I still managed to end up in the water.  Go figure.  G-times people.  Thing 2 taught me that, I only hope I used the term correctly so as not to embarrass her...NOT!  

Ready to paddle board!  Gosh, I love those smiles.

There was one last family dinner and prayer session around the table for everyones' upcoming travels, us to TN and Thing 1 and Husband Jared's trip to Israel, and early bed for all of us because as we all know the alarm always rings too early the next morning.

Coffee in hand, travel CD's blaring and nothing but open road ahead.  That is how our trip began.  Oh and three sleepy-eyed passengers all trying to get comfortable in the back.  The drive was uneventful with the exception of two dead birds thanks to Sven the Volvo machine!  We made our usual stops for gas, oil checks, coffee and ooey-gooey butter bars.  Before we knew it we were in TN at Pappo and Grammy's having a night swim with the cousins and more than ready for some 4th of July fun!

My road trip warriors.  

Our first day in TN and our last full day with Madison began with breakfast at Monell's; Southern style, gathered around the table with strangers, heaping portions of fried chicken, biscuits, corn casserole, pancakes, all the breakfast meats passed around and bottomless glasses of sweet tea being poured.  We rolled ourselves back to Pappo and Grammy's where we swam, picked fresh fruit and veg from the garden, played volleyball, had diving contests and indulged in a rib cook off.  The night ended with a stellar fireworks show, despite the rainy weather, conducted by none other than Uncle Jeff and Thing 4.  We stayed up too late talking and singing in the outhouse because we knew the next day meant see you laters were inevitable.  

Ready for the 4th, matching headbands, tank tops and red lipstick!

Me and the girlies.  I didn't get the memo on the red lipstick.  

Fun with sparklers.  Photo creds to Thing 2.

Watching the fireworks, so happy together.  

There was one last family breakfast before we met the Durbins for the Madison drop-off.  Although that took a few hours since we decided to chat in the parking lot catching up on all manner of topics.  Man do we love that family!  Thanks for sharing your girl with us Durbins and thanks Madison for giving us the opportunity to use our newest hashtag creation: "madisoninminnesota".  It was real.  Real fun!