For You Thing 2 on Your Sweet Sixteen

For my sweetest Thing 2 on your sweet 16,
What joy you have brought your Dad and I these past sixteen years.  Unspeakable.  I love this photo of you staring out at the sea.  I think it tells a story with no words.  The desire of your heart, to reach across the divide and share the hope of Jesus with others.  Your adventurous spirit and longing for adventure and journeys to the unknown.  Mostly though I love that when you gaze at creation you know, I mean really know, the artist that designed it all.  Just for you.  And that my sweet girl is so very important.  You were made for such a time as this.  His unique gifting has been set in your heart and the Spirit upon you. 
Life with you lately has been full.  Your independence is taking shape.  Maybe a little of my gypsy spirit has been shared with you and you speak often of the adventures that lie ahead for you.  Traveling afar and exploring the unknown.  I pray for His will to be made known to you.  For His glory.  And I pray that your desire to GO is met. 
The wall of your bedroom is filled with canvases.  Your artwork.  And a world map.  If that doesn't offer a glimpse into who you are I don't know what would.  Those canvases, most are covered in words.  Scripture and quotes.  Some with glitter.  A little sparkle is good for the soul.  My dear those words can be a lifeline and I love how they captivate you and speak to you. 
Daughter I want you to know that I am ever grateful that God chose me to be your Mama.  From the moment you were born and before until now this sixteenth year has been nothing short of a grace filled glorious gift.  Let's continue on that narrow road, running the race and looking only at the cross.  Happy birthday my love.  I love you to the moon and back. 

Summer Wrap Up

In light of it already being the beginning of the fourth week of school for us I thought it high time to wrap up our summer photos and share our first day of school tradition as I have in years before.  As I've eluded to in previous posts this summer was nothing if not full.  And full of rich memories made with family and friends.  A part of me is a bit sad knowing we have kissed the last days of summer and her splendor goodbye.  Farewell my favorite season and thank you.  Thank you for every last fiery sunset and all of your fruit and sweet corn. 
With that I leave you with the photo montage below. 
Our friends moved this summer and we had a little farewell swim and barbeque with them to celebrate the next chapter in their journey.  They are missed. 

Family fun day in Stillwater. A sweet local offered to take our photo, thank you for that!  The last thing we need is another failed family selfie. 

Nelsons ice-cream experience, the cup at the forefront of the photo is a child's portion.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Known for their super sized scoops Nelsons is somewhat of an icon here.  The Things were beside themselves.  And let it be known that Husband Jared reaffirmed his love for peanut butter chocolate ice-cream here on the very day this photo was taken. 

Why yes, we did climb those stairs, all 152 of them I believe.  And the family photo seen above was taken at the top of this stair case. Worth the climb. 
Lumberjack expedition, log cutting.  We were also able to catch the log run.  It was a fortuitous trip we made to Stillwater this day, unplanned and all.  The fam had been wanting to experience the lumberjack fest and lo and behold there we were. 

But of course Thing 2 and 4 would want to take the mechanical horse for a spin.  Never mind that they are about 3 feet too tall for it. 

After three long weeks away from me in Cali this girlie and
I had a catch up coffee date and bike ride.

Thing 4:entrepruener.  After two days and only about 4 hours total this young man was rather successful.  He sold lemonade and cookies.  All the ingredients and supplies purchased with his own funds, leaving the profit to be entirely his. 

When these two returned from their Cali vacay a Target shopping trip was calling our names.  Then they proceeded to remind just how grown up they are becoming.  Wah!

Thing 1 tried her hand at her very first peach pie.  Made from scratch, pie crust and all.  It was the most perfect summer dessert.

The Things and I had a few afternoons at Lake Calhoun, where we lounged in the sand, swam in the lake, had fun on the tire swing and ate snow cones, of course!

This beauty had a date night with Husband Jared and me.  Her request, to be on the water.  Easily done sweet girl, Lola's here we come! 

The Minneapolis Farmer's Market, forever one of my favorites.  The four Things and our sweet friend Joy traipsed up and down the aisles, sampling, choosing veggies and flowers.  A Saturday Summer tradition.
Snow cone truck at Lake Calhoun.  As the Things would say, "artsy".
This boy had a sleep over at our house when  his parents celebrated their anniversary.  I am sure we fed him too much sugar, thank you Yo Yo donuts, and made him watch too much football with us.  Thanks K for hanging out with us!

Oh and this happened!  Thing 2 passed her permit test.  She has at least 6 months before she can actually be a licensed driver but she is on her way!  Love that smile, she was one happy girl!

Thing 3 came along with me to a work meeting and then we followed a nearby trail and went exploring on our bikes! 

After the Things taught Gpa and Mema the card game of golf that quickly became our go-to card game this summer.  Some of us, not to be named, are a tad particular about how our cards are arranged.  Ahem.

Another summer afternoon spent with these three at the Como zoo.  We stood in awe of the ginormous lily pads, saw all the animals we could and then learned it was free ride day for the one hundred year old plus carousel.  Yes please.  Thing 4 is not pictured because unfortunately she was working.  Sad face.

Family day at the Chipotle Cultivate Festival in Loring Park.  The festival was sponsored by Chipotle and other than food and beverages it was entirely free.  There was live music, local chefs offering demonstrations and various educational booths.  Upon entering the fest you were given a map and information, if you visited the displays/videos, etc. that explained Chipotle's philosophy you earned stamps, if you earned so many you were given a coupon for a free burrito and Izze at Chipotle.  Needless to say we took advantage of that opportunity!  Then we stuffed our faces with tacos.

Things 1 and 2 experienced their first day trip on their own.  Well, almost.  They were accompanied by two of their sweet friends.  Here they are preparing the music for the drive, mixed CD's I'll have you know.  Then they were off to the quarries in St. Paul.  A good day was had by all.  Husband Jared and I had to laugh at the amount of "stuff" required by four teenage girls for a single day.  The back of Sven was packed to the gills. 

My summer reading list.  I wrote about it here.

Just for fun Thing 4 decided to wrap Thing 3 in plastic wrap, because why not?!  Here she is struggling to break free.  Priceless entertainment.
Fort building with Thing 4 and Husband Jared.  This was on a family movie night and Thing 4 was intent upon watching our movie from the comfort of his fort.  It lasted a few days actually and wound up being quite the spot for summer reading. 

Last but not least our annual summer list.  We were able to cross quite a bit off.  Since this photo was taken we have been to Fort Snelling.  That's it.  A few left undone.  For us that is perfectly alright.  There 's always next year. 
And now, without further ado, the first day of school photo.  Keeping in mind that this was technically the last first day for Thing 1.  Thing 2's first day of junior year, Thing 3's first day of high school and Thing 4's start to junior high as a seventh grader. 

They were gracious enough to smile for me on the first day of school and then they had the nerve to pile in Betsy and drive away.  All by themselves.  The eldest in the driver's seat.  Thing 1 was so concerned about me that day she made sure I would have something to keep me busy and my mind distracted from the quietness of the house without them here.  I am that Mama.  The one that loves having them all home.  The house full of noise and chaos and them.  I love them. 
Per our usual tradition we went for icecream immediately after school.  It was a beautiful day and we decided that Licks in Excelsior was the place.  We sat outside, soaked up some sunshine and toasted our cones! 
That my friends is a wrap.  Here's to the end of one season and beginning of the next.  And I'm not just talking summer and fall here. 

Road Tripping...Again!

Back in August we were privileged enough to witness the betrothal of our dearest friends' son and his lovely bride.  Really just remembering the day brings me to tears.  We have journeyed together with this family for almost eight years now.  They played a huge part in our coming to know Jesus intimately and watching this young man's story of redemption has been nothing short of glorious.  This was a day not to be missed.  Plus how could we say no to the opportunity to spend the weekend with some of our very best friends and their family?  To answer that, we simply couldn't nor would we have.  So we headed south once again, actually for the third time in three months and we couldn't have been more excited. 
On the way down south, sometime in the middle of the night
Since we were in town we stayed with the Horel family and soaked up some Autumn and Gemma time. Gpa and Mema were home too so the girls had a day with Mema and the boy  spent the day working with Gpa.  Husband Jared and I met the girls for lunch and then they all had a sleep over party with the grandparents, played cards and sometime that night we received the picture below with the new names that the Things had given to Gpa and Mema.

Girls day with Mema, just look at those smiles.
Now known as: Guppa and Weema
Husband Jared and I were scheduled to help at the rehearsal dinner that night and we were like kids at Christmas time waiting to see our friends.  We picked up Julie and made our way to Narrow Gate, where the wedding was being held.  Following a questionable drive through the country on dirt roads and past farm land we arrived and were greeted with open arms by none other than the groom himself.  That alone made the drive worthwhile.  We set up dinner for the families, served with a smile and hugged the father and mother of the groom.  On the way home we stopped at Country Boy Café for fried chicken and Julie and I laughed and shared chocolate cake and for a moment it was just like we still lived there.  For a moment.  Gosh I miss her.

The wedding was the next day and with the Things at the grandparents' house Husband Jared and I were left to our own devices.  Well, not really, there were two sweet little nieces that snuck into our bedroom and woke us up with snuggles and kisses.  Is there anything better?  I think not.  The day called for a trip to the Farmers Market, a run for Jeff and Husband Jared, a little grocery shopping for family dinner the next day and lunch at Oscar's, but of course.  Then it was the race to get ready for the wedding before the Things arrived.  Julie and I were off early to help with pre-wedding details and the Things and Husband Jared followed.  Of course I have not one photo of the bride and groom, the majestic tree under which they were married or my sweet friend and her son together.  Fail. 
I was so caught up in the moment. 

Truly I was.  Husband Jared and I had never before attended a wedding quite like this.  Neither had the Things.  Hand written vows, a minister who has history with the couple and who addressed the family and friends that were present and offered an invitation.  An invitation to relationship, to commitment and to the greatest wedding feast known to man.  Amen and Amen.  The couple shared communion privately and then the celebration began.  Covenant made. 

On to the reception.  And this is where I do have photographs.  Take a look. 

Thing 2, Caroline (sister of the groom), Thing 1, Reilly(sister of the groom) and Thing 3,
bestest friends

My friend, mother of the groom, and Thing 4, dancing the night away!

Julie, me and Holly
The two of them have rhythm and me, well, let's just say I tried.  It was a line dance after all, I could follow along, sort of.
Could not stop laughing after seeing this one, the girl Things and friends were instructing me on how to make a certain face, which clearly I captured here...NOT!

Surely we were deep in discussion here and then the photo bomb...thanks Husband Jared, priceless.
I really can not even begin to tell you the joy and fun that was had this day.  Belly laughs.  New friends made.  Barbeque and the best cupcakes made by another dear friend and dancing.  Lots of dancing.  A sweet night filled with sweet memories. 
The fam-bam as the girlie Things say!
The next day was sweeter still.  We joined our old and new friends at church, worshipped together and then sat around the table for hours sharing stories.  Which as we all know is my very favorite place to be.  Sacred space.  When it was time to say goodbye and break bread with our family the hugs lasted just a bit longer and the tears came a bit quicker.  Never gets easier.  The next hours were spent with the Horels and Gpa and Mema, pardon me, Guppa and Weema.  Uncle Jeff treated us to homemade pita bread, grilled chicken, summer salads and left over cupcakes from the wedding.  Score!  It was the very best ending to an already great weekend. 
The next morning we rose early and hit the road for our fourteen hour trek up north.  These are the faces of expert road trippers.  I'd drive anywhere with this bunch! 
And that  my friends puts another road trip in the books.  Until next time.


The 4 Things' Restaurant

Husband Jared and I celebrated our seventeenth wedding anniversary this year.  With the Things older now they seem to have an understanding, or at least a loose grasp of what a big deal this is.  There was no pomp and circumstance on the actual day of our anniversary but the day after we were under strict guidelines to not make any plans for our evening.  There was a gift card for our favorite local coffee shop, mandated pool lounging and no cooking allowed for Mama.  We had no problem adhering to this plan.  Sunday afternoon was bliss.  Husband Jared and I soaked up the rays, read our books and magazines and then leisurely talked away the afternoon.  When we received the text to "come home now", we listened and arrived to Things dressed up and notes in our closet on the appropriate attire for the evening ahead.  Clothes, shoes and even jewelry had been chosen for us. 

We promptly dressed, closed our eyes and were lead downstairs by a waiter who looked quite similar to Thing 4.  This is my teary face in disbelief of what had been prepared for us.
Our waiter seated us, poured our water and presented us with the menu for the evening. 
The table set and the chalkboard complete with the night's special and a food quote that is near and dear to me.

Two selections for dessert
Pardon the spelling, there was a misprint at the printer that day.
The kitchen was close to the table and we were privy to hear all the behind the scenes banter between the staff.  A highlight of the evening for sure.
Colorful décor
We were informed shortly after being seated that there would be entertainment included as well.  Frank Sinatra was currently playing over the speakers but the scene quickly changed to Italian Opera and our lovely performer took center stage.  Thing 3 sang a beautiful piece all while we enjoyed our appetizers and Caesar salad made table side.  The waiter was kind enough to take our photo. 
We were so impressed with the quality of our meal Husband Jared snuck behind the curtain and asked the kitchen staff for a photo.  This night was to be remembered.

The salad being served table side.  Francisco our waiter minded every detail for us, before we even thought of it he refilled our water glasses, put a bib on the wine for us and delivered fresh bread before we had eaten the last slice. 
Our evening at the 4 Things' restaurant was not yet over.  There was still dessert to decide on.  We opted for the cheesecake with pecan and caramel sauce.  It was a party in my mouth.  Not to mention the staff even placed candles for our "17" celebration.  See for yourself.
By this time in the evening our bellies were full and satisfied and the restaurant was nearing closing time.  We applauded our waiter and the entire staff for a meal that will long be remembered.  Their attention to detail left nothing to chance.   The entertainment exquisite and the quality overall top notch.  Husband Jared and I will definitely return.  Maybe next year.   Are you reading Things? 

Playing Catch Up...For Posterity's Sake

I am on my three week rotation for writing.  Supposedly I can blame it on summer and her gloriously long, lazy days.  Although around here the season has been anything but lazy.  Glorious, yes.  Lazy, no.  Again, here we go with a rather extensive photo dump and brief explanations of the who's and what's.  Oh sweet memories. 
The Horels were kind enough to offer up a road trip to bring Things 3 and 4 home after a two week stay in Tennessee.   Their days were filled with boating, friend visiting, working, yoga, ice cream and generally being spoiled to the nines.  It was good.  We left them after our fourth of July visit and came home to an empty house.  Well, other than Polo who was heart broken because his Things did not return with us.  Anyhow, Husband Jared and I had the house to ourselves.  Meaning we watched football, the remaining World Cup matches, ate crackers and olive dip for dinner on more than one night, visited several restaurants that were on our list to "try" sans Things and then we missed our Things.  While the time together was fantastic, the possibility of this being our life in not too many years was somewhat surreal.  And exciting.  And bittersweet.  I am grateful that we savored the time alone.  We kind of like each other.  Just a little. 

Shooting range in TN with Gpa and Uncle RJ

Surfing behind the Dreiman's boat at Pickwick, MS
These boys are teenagers now, man alive!

Fireworks on the lake with the best buds
Thing 4 and Autumn busting a move at Reggae Wednesday
 Thing 3 and Gemma, she was copying every face that Thing 3 made, this one might be my favorite

Thing 3 and Autumn

Thing 3 and Aunt Natalie went on a trail ride together

Thing 3 and Kendall, BFF's since 2006 when they started playing soccer together
I had to throw this photo in there because who do we take pictures of when the Things are gone?  Ourselves of course, oh and the dog.  Day date selfie.
And when the Things are gone I may or may not have shared my ice-cream with Polo.
While Things 3 and 4 were in Tennessee, Things 1 and 2 were in Cali, soaking up the sunshine and palm trees and family.  Actually they were working, or at least that's what they told us.  Thing 1 was invited to Pismo with the Stuck family to watch the girlies, she then spent some time with the Strand family babysitting their three lovelies and hanging out with Uncle Aaron and Aunt Maggie.  Thing 2 had her special week with Poppi and Nani in which there was camping at the beach, Disneyland and lunch with the Princesses, family dinner celebrations, fireworks and too many Starbucks trips to count.  She then nannied for the Strand family for a week.  I am so grateful the girls were able to love on their cousins and get to know their Uncles and Aunts.  I think they're all pretty fantastic and that Aunt/Uncle- Niece relationship is a special one, near and dear to my heart. 

Thing 1 with Uncle J and Aunt Corynn
Things 1 and 2 with Nani, at the beach of course.
Thing 2 and Cousin Tristin in Cali

Poppi, Nani and Thing 2 camping on the beach

A little shopping and a little dinner with Great Grandpa Sam, Great Grandma Sharon, Uncle J and Gianna and Olivia
Thing 2 and the Strand kiddos, play day at the sea
Thing 1 and Emme at Griffith Observatory

Snuggles with Emme and Colin

Once Things 1 and 2 returned from Cali and the Horels and Things 3 and 4 drove up North we were reunited and the fun began with another Horel summer week in Minnesnowta!  There were lake visits, fish tacos, hikes, a birthday to celebrate, crafts with Auntie Leanna and ice cream,
 lots of ice cream. In no particular order:

Ice cream at the Mom and Pop shop in Jordan

Painting Daddy's birthday cards

Birthday hike in the bluffs, the girls legs were tired

Visiting Thing 2 while she was still employed at Coldstone

Observing the waterfall in Jordan. 
We had originally planned on hiking around the waterfall but when we arrived in Jordan there was no hike.  It was more of a trail and observation deck.  No worries.  We made the most of the moment and had a picnic at the park, played on the playground, big and little kids alike, trekked into downtown Jordan and found a "vintage" baseball field that captivated me.  One of the groundskeepers was there and he filled our ears with stories and details and stats.  I wish I had taken a photo of the scoreboard and the green walls and the bleachers and all of it.  What a special place. 

Birthday boot at Rookery in Robbinsdale, tradition at it's finest!
Rookery is on mine and Husband Jared's favorites list here.  The restaurant itself is unassuming and the atmosphere welcoming and downright fun.  From the open kitchen to the wait staff and the songs and the food.  We knew it would be the perfect place to celebrate Uncle Jeff.  Especially when we saw the boot, here's the deal with that; You buy one for the staff to share and then they deliver you your very own boot.  Toe up please to avoid sloshing.  That's all I will say about that. 

Excelsior beach, debating on the jump style
We spent a day at Lake Minnetonka. It began with paddle boarding and kayaking.  Lunch at Lago Tacos, the best walleye tacos I've ever had, and then a walk around the lake all the way to Excelsior beach where we watched the clouds roll in, the water turn cold and all of us jumped off the make shift dock, cannonball style. 

Ready to kayak
Autumn and Gemma couldn't ride on our paddle boards so Uncle Jared and Thing 1 kayaked with them around the lake.  The girls were intent on using the oars.  We took advantage of the photo op and then left the oars on shore.  It was better that way. 
Thing 3 on the paddle board for the first time

Playground picnic in Jordan

Uncle Jeff paddle boarding on his birthday

Aunt Natalie

Gemma at Round Lake, ready for the water war!
When the Horels arrived the littles were full of energy and ready for some fun.  We headed to Round Lake and the splash pad.  They were back and forth from the pad and playground to the lake and then again.  I love watching them swim and splash in the water.  I tell their Mama that she might just have mermaids.
The family at the Odd Races
On our last full day together there were Odd races at Canterbury park, our horse track nearby.  Odd races include camels, zebras and ostriches.  The entire fam bam made the trip to the track and we all just shook our heads in disbelief as the jockeys attempted to stay on the ostriches.  What a sight! 

Blackberry cake for the birthday boy, make a wish!
Blackberry cake with lemon buttercream frosting for the birthday boy.  He blew out the candles and made a wish and we were all so grateful to have been able to celebrate with Uncle Jeff. 
A blip on the screen from the whirlwind summer we've had. Grateful for the memories made with family near and far.  It was good.