Friday, August 20, 2010

Free canoeing and kayaking on Lake Winona

We live in a reflection of paradise.

Thanks to Park and Rec for free canoeing and kayaking weekday evenings at Lake Lodge. That's Bear kayaking and Jackrabbit and Mouse canoeing--younger kids watching on shore with Starling.
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Seeing Red (and yellow)

Blessed are you, Lord of all Creation, Who gives us tomatoes, and tomatoes, and more red and gold tomatoes.
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Our Version of Survivor: Camping 2010

Hi everyone. It's Starling again.

I am not a huge fan of camping. I like the outdoors and hiking, even canoeing, but sleeping with mosquitoes and rain and cooking in the elements with small kids--not so much. After all, didn't people move toward building permanent housing for a reason. But I am in the minority in the household. Plus its the only vacation we can afford, we went to Kathio State Park near Lake Mille Lacs!
First we stopped at Jackrabbit's family home on the way...and went to Murphy's Landing one afternoon. This is a historical education spot, with houses, farms, schools, and a small town from circa 1840-1870 in Minnesota. They have interpreters and a horse drawn vehicle to the landing site. It really is pretty cool (well, actually it was hot, which should have served as warning about the upcoming trip). Our pictures didn't turn out, but here is one of Jaybird curtseying to the teacher, as she was told she should do at the beginning of school, in the recreated town hall.

Then off to Lake Mille Lacs! This is a huge fishing lake in central Minnesota, and we chose to go there because 1) we could rent a very basic cabin and avoid freezing to death like last year, and 2) its somewhat nearby (4 hrs from Winona), and we do have a baby traveling with us, and 3) it seems like everyone else has been to Lake Mille Lacs. Why not us? So, two firsts: we went to Lake Mille Lacs and Mudpuppy chowed down on corn on the cob. He loved it.

This was our late night dining room. S'Mores are a requirement to get me camping. The kids indulge me that way.

Here's a pastoral picture of Bear fishing on the Rum River. Sadly for him, he didn't catch anything. But he got a new fishing pole because I accidentally broke his in the packing extravaganza. So he tried that out gamely.

This gives you a better sense of where our cabin was. The area is very wooded, although it is somewhat new forest--the park is a reclaimed farm from the 1920s. For the record, we did eat real non-sugary food too....

One of the cuter moments was on our last night, while it was POURING rain, we sat in the cabin (thank goodness we had a cabin) and Mouse wrote a letter to future inhabitants about what we did there. It went along the lines: "We had a great time: we swam, we hiked, we fished, we did everything! My dad even saw a porcupine!"

On the way to the observation tower to see the Lake and valley. You get a sense of the "newer" forest here. Very pretty though. Granted, I sat in the van with a sleeping Mudpuppy for this one.

Making beaded bracelets and headbands at the Mille Lacs Ojibwe Museum. The reservation is literally right next to the state park and lake, and they have a fantastic museum. Really, this was the highlight of the trip for me. The history of Native Americans in Minnesota is rough to say the least, but it is heartening how this group is trying hard (and it appears successfully) to preserve their heritage and create a healthy sovereignty on their reservation.

It was hot hot hot, and humid, and doing anything is four times harder than being at home. But we also get to be together in a way that is without distractions. I like the North Shore much better, but this worked out for this year.

And I'm glad we're home.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mudpuppy kisses

Starling here with a cute baby story alert.

Mudpuppy has been growing by leaps and bounds (but not crawling).  As I was getting him to bed tonight, I rubbed my cheek and said "mama", and then rubbed his cheek and said his name.  I did that twice, and then said  "Mama kiss!" and kissed him on the forehead.  I did it again, because he grinned.  Then I put my cheek to his mouth and said "[Mudpuppy] kiss?" and he didn't know how to work his mouth, but clearly with the same general intonation, went "mwah!"  I tried it again to see if it was a fluke--it wasn't.  So I gave him a big thank you hug.  I just received my first Mudpuppy kiss.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Boys growing up. . . .

We have written a lot here about Mudpuppy. In fact, now that I think of it, maybe not so much lately, since we were away at Starling's parents or at my parents' for Dad's funeral for almost a month. So here's a quick update:

  • Mudpuppy is still not crawling, although if you put him on his hands and knees, he'll rock back and forth for a while (a precursor to crawling). Nor is he walking . . . or standing up . . . or trying to pull himself up on furniture . . . or rolling over (we can still put him down for a nap on our bed with no worries whatsoever). . . . He does sitting up really, really well, though!!! He seems to be destined to be another non-athletically talented Windley-Daoust boy. He almost doesn't seem motivated. He does seem very interested in geometry, though -- and physics. You give him something, and he will stare at it intently, turn it this way and that, drop it, throw it -- basically explore it, all the while with this intense look of concentration.
  • He is eating more solid foods. We're desperately trying to move him onto more solids as Starling prepares to head back to work full-time after summer break (she's been doing half-days for much of the time we've been home). He loves to chew on bread, although that's not the best food for him. He has also done cut-up grapes and blueberries, applesauce, and various pureed veggies, which he's not too fond of.
  • He likes to engage with people visually -- and maybe his favorite thing to do is this fame where he shakes his head back and forth while chanting "da da da da da. . . ." All with a big smile on his face, of course. And if someone else is willing to mimick him, all the better, because that's just hilarious, don't you know!
As I was going to say at the beginning of this post, I've been thinking a lot about how much Bear (our oldest) is growing up. Now that he moved into the double-digits by turning 10 this summer, I'm starting to panick a little -- hey, where'd my kid go??? Hey, only eight more years before he's out of here! Thank goodness I think we have a pretty good relationship (not without its bumps, of course). He's entering one of those long "transitioning" periods. At times, he'll surprise us with his maturity or his deep, adult insights. At other times, he's very much like a kid. His youngest sister, Jaybird, knows how to push every button -- they are into it every day. ("Why are you squabbling with someone half your age?" I ask every other day. The answer, I think, is that Jaybird wants to run the show -- and will go to great lengths to get things her way -- and what self-respecting 10-year-old boy is going to let his 5-year-old kid sister be the boss of him?)

Here's a good example of this adult/kid mix: Bear's become a self-starter on the chore front, which means he can earn some money, which he usually saves up (that's the grown-up side). So tonight he begged me to take him to Target to buy a Legos set. He counted up all his money, calculated the tax, and spent half an hour critically comparing the various options. Then he turned all little-kid in the parking lot, excited about his new toy. "You know what my favorite thing is about shadows?" he said. "They come in so many different shades of black!"

Monday, August 02, 2010

Mexican Corn Salad

2 cups fresh cut corn kernels (from ~ 4 ears, cooked)
1 med zucchini, diced
1 med red bell pepper diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 med carrot grated
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/3 cup minced cilantro r or Italian parsley

(I used cilantro the time I made it for you, but parsley is good too.)


1/3-cup olive oil
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp each salt, pepper, cumin or (more to taste - I use a bit more of salt and pepper)
Mix salad. Whisk dressing and combine.
Chill 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

Starling's Mom made this salad for us while we were visiting last month -- it was so good, we asked for the recipe, which we are posting to our blog so we can look it up on any computer in the house!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Mouse goes horseback riding!

Mouse has been interested in going horseback riding for some time. Well, when our good friend Anne Pellowski found out, she offered to take Mouse out to her family's farm, where her great-niece has a horse that Mouse could ride. (As a side note, Anne Pellowski is a children's author and world-renown expert on children's storytelling. Always boast about the famous people in your life!)

Well, Mouse spent about fifteen minutes being led around the corral by Anne's great-niece at a slow walk, which was fine by her. ("It seemed pretty fast to me!" she later said.) She thoroughly loved the experience, and is eager to maybe take riding lessons at our local stables, to which I only said, "We'll see!"

Here's a video of her experience:

Alabama vacation 2010

Well, I have not updated this blog in some time, mainly because with Dad dying, I've either been busy with other things or busy catching up on work at home. So, now it's time to catch up on Gracewatch, beginning with a few pics from our vacation with Starling's parents in Alabama:

Well, the first thing everyone here in Minnesota asks when we tell them where we went on vacation is, "Did you see the oil spill?" We did go down to our favorite beach in Gulf Shores; while we didn't see oil on the water, there was a big cleanup effort on the beach, and when we looked carefully, we were able to find some tar balls:

They look like little black rocks, but we know from past visits that you don't generally see little black rocks on this beach, and when you squeeze them, they're squishy. For a Saturday morning in July, the beach was practically deserted . . . there were maybe a few dozen people scattered around, and only two or three wading in the water. Plus, there were maybe a dozen National Guardsmen on cleanup duty, a tractor pulling a sand-sifting device, and a very helpful park ranger who told us to stay out of the water -- and that people who had gone swimming had gotten a bad rash. He (and quite a few other people down there) was especially incensed about the dispersants BP was adding to the water. "You know, those are banned in Britain," he said. Here's a picture of the double red flag on the beach:

So we went to another nearby beach -- at Lake Shelby, in Gulf State Park. The water was bathwater warm, and the color of root beer -- you'd look down, and your body would be tinted a deep orange-brown; you couldn't see more than a couple of feet in it. This would have been a little disconcerting if there hadn't been lots of other people swimming who didn't seem at all put off. We asked another park ranger about it, and he assured us it was just the "sea grass" rotting in the lake.(I didn't think sea grass grew in freshwater lakes, but who knows?) The kids love to swim, so this suited them just fine.

As another beach alternative, we also visited the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, which is a smaller but no less cool version of our Science Museum of Minnesota. Most of the exhibits were different from ours, so the kids had a blast. Here is Bear's head on top of a table -- a magic trick that all the kids wanted to try out. They also got a kick out of the design-your-own-roller-coaster machine.

Here is Mouse with her Aunt Amy; those two are high-powered fashionistas when they get together:

And finally, here is a video of Mudpuppy -- he HAD been saying "goo" before I started up the camera!

We don't have as many pictures as usual -- but I am promised pictures from Starling's mom, so I will post them when they arrive.