Tag Archive | travel

Top 40

I turned the big Four-Oh on December 18 (1 week before Christmas) and I wanted to do something special.  The downside to birthdays close to Christmas is not the gifts like everyone immediately assumes, it is the attention sink of Christmas.  All time and energy are going toward the holiday and nobody has time or energy to do something ‘not’ Christmas that close.  *Including me* I also love the magic of Christmas and love making it special for my family so I also had no real energy to plan a party for myself and Lars, wonderful in many ways, is not a planner (and then I got the flu so I’m glad there wasn’t a party planned).

One answer is to move my birthday celebration to a more dead spot on the calendar but that brings back the issue of planning a party for myself, that just feels odd.  So my answer this year is to do ‘something special’ with my top 40 friends and family.  The ‘rules’ are that it has to be for my birthday, not just that we happen to be out after an event and sharing a meal or something, social time is great but the intention for birthday is a key element.   Also, no double counting, even if some of the same people are there they don’t count again.  I like this system because while I have an odd internal issue with throwing a big party for myself, I have zero issues telling a friend “hey, lets go do a XYZ for my birthday” and personally planning the activity and date and they come and say ‘happy birthday!” and we go from there.  I’m equally open to a friend inviting me to something for my birthday quest.  This also gives me the freedom to celebrate my birthday with all my favorite people at times that work for each individual and I can see people from all over and include them in the birthday quest because my timeline is long.

So far the plan is working well and I’m excited to keep rolling with it.

My first celebration was the weekend before my birthday and the serious top people in my life attended.  1. Lars, 2. Vacation Mom 3, 4, and 5 were my kids.  We had a great little dinner party in my beautiful front room with candles and the Christmas tree and a lovely lamb meal.


only took the one picture, Lars is blurry but he is in a lot of the others too.

The second celebration included Lars again but featured our friends Lou and Lisa; for my 40 count, they are #6 and #7.  We went to a very nice French restaurant that we had been to before.  They had a crazy day with plumbing issues but I really appreciated that they came out per plan. (plus after their day they needed a glass of wine).  Side bonus of this celebration was a fun kid party where #1 watched their kids who are very good friends with #2 and #3 so everyone was a winner.


pre dinner, we didn’t just drink wine (but I’m not opposed to wine events)

The third celebration was in NY with my family.  The restaurant was a comedy of errors but we all had a good time anyway.  My BiL is in restaurant management so his running commentary of ALL the things they did wrong was hilarious.  We common people notice some wrong things like a long wait or getting the wrong check but he noticed dozens of little things.  I think he (semi) secretly reveled in their ineptitude because the owner is someone he is not a big fan of.  For my count; I add my parents, #8,#9 without whom my birthday would not have ever happened.  My two sisters #10, #11 who I wish I lived closer to but maybe someday … and their husbands who are cool enough guys to count as friends/family and are #12 and #13.


getting 8 in a picture isn’t easy

#14 is a high school friend who I have a fun relationship with basically centered around phone games and technology.  He also shares his working life in NYC and I share my mellow country life with him.  It is fun to have someone in your life for basically 30 years.  We did a perfect for us birthday event; we went and played the Wizards Unite phone game from 10pm to midnight.  Lars and my mom came too (but don’t count per the rules) but having a team of 4 playing together was truly fun.


two professors, an Auror and a magizooligest

#15 is on reserve for Miss Math.  We were both sick and she did actually come visit but we did not have birthday intentions.  We had planned on going out but neither of us was up for it SO she has a reserved spot because she BELONGS in my top 40 and whether we get together in the spring if she can visit or maybe we can watch a movie or read the same book in our respective houses and then talk about it we will figure it out.  Miss Math is one of my oldest friends and we have talked basically every week (or more frequently) for 30 years.

**no photo because we used our time to chat and blow our noses**

#16 is my designer friend who drove up from NJ to see us.  She arrived with a bottle of champaign to celebrate 40 and we did the visit thing.  Seeing her is always fun, she is full of energy and creative ideas and I always want to do something more after we visit.  We have pretty different lives now but there is still plenty of common ground and I’m glad she made the drive.


birthday mimosas!

Not bad for having the flu on my real birthday.  So! friends of mine, let’s do something for my 40th birthday!  I’m open to most things, the gift of your time is all I ask, and this is going to be a fun challenge for the year.  Someone asked if I know 40 people and my answer is “Absolutely” I’ve been really lucky to consistently meet awesome people over my 40 years and I’m pretty good at keeping in touch so I still have friends I’m in contact with from elementary school, middle/high school, college, my first job in MN, SCA over a lifetime in 3 kingdoms plus the international event of Pennsic, recent friends made through kids, PTO, school board and other causes.  I would likewise count some internet friends because some of my online-only relationships are pretty fabulous and have persisted for years.  Maybe I’ll make it part of my quest to have a birthday event with someone from every category in my life…. let’s make that a stretch goal.  Regardless every one will get documented here and I hope to have the best epic odyssey of a 40th year.


*Honorable mention for the list has to go to my Ny friend, who also reads this, who I ended up sitting next to in church on Christmas Eve.  Given we were there for Jesus’s birthday it certainly couldn’t be for my birthday but it was such a great extra for my visit it had to have a mention.  Sometimes you work hard to have plans fall through, sometimes you have a friend land in the seat next to you unexpectedly.  I have known her since 1st grade so if we can make a birthday thing work then I could get that fairly rare category because my class was only 11 kids.


I got the flu

I did NOT fall off the earth but I had a nasty flu.  THE flu, tested and everything.

It all started well, Monday the 16th, I had a power cleaning day.  My goal was for the house to be clean before my birthday on the 18th and ready for us to go to NY on the 20th.  I brought home plague monkey from school that afternoon sick and by morning I was right there with her.  Somehow she recovered more quickly, I got the full death feeling of the flu for 7 full days.  So, I did not have a fancy party for my 40th birthday, I had the flu (I do have a reclaim plan that is awesome but that its own post).  I am super lucky Lars took the week off with use-or-lose vacation so he could do all the things I normally do.  This included the majority of the packing…. it was ok.

The moral of this story is don’t procrastinate!  The house was fairly clean, I actually had the majority of Christmas shopping done and packed ready to get in the car very early.  Our teacher gifts were ready, I had the laundry done and we had just sorted out fancy outfits and shoes for the Christmas concert so we were in pretty good shape even if I couldn’t raise my head off the pillow.  There were things that just didn’t happen like a few little gifts I was planning on hand making and some last week activities like finding cool Christmas lights but nothing that wrecked the holiday.  #1 and Lars ended up doing the wrapping in NY, I wish I could have but I just couldn’t and it was nice to see #1 step up and do a good job.

We did drive 20 hours over 2 days to get to NY.  It was a very dull drive with no excitement at all.  I think the kids watched about 5 movies and were 90% well behaved.  By the end of the drive, Lars was showing flu signs and I was feeling better so I drove a chunk.  He succumbed to the flu the first two days in NY and then #2 and then #1.  #2 only had about a day of feeling bad and #1 had 3 but they included Christmas so she was not top form for opening fun gifts.  Good thing their major gift from us was a kindle each so she holed up in her bed with endless Netflix and Tylenol.

I was (fortunately) the only one that got the whole classic flu and I’m still not 100% two weeks later but I’m feeling much better.  It is hard to drive that far to see people and just have no energy.  I wasn’t contagious by the time we got there but part 2 of the flu is general inability to do what you think is a normal amount of activity.  We got enough festive visiting in but nowhere near maximized.   It also did not help that Mrs. Math was also sick and so were a few other NY friends so we all either didn’t feel up for it or didn’t want to cross infect each other.

We got home last night after a slightly more harrowing drive home.  We dodged a major snow event, for the most part, it hit MN and was moving east so we beat it for the first day and a half of driving and only hit snow in the last 3 hours.  Lars is a good driver but it was nice to get home and stop moving.

I didn’t take many pictures at Christmas but I’ll sift through what I have to see if it is worth a ‘Christmas post’ even though it is a week later.  I hope your week of December 25th was all you wished it would be, or, at least you didn’t have the flu.  In the end, it really was not all that sad.  I felt bad but nothing fell apart, we have plenty of good medicine and comfortable beds, I even watched a few episodes of a show I like in my conscious periods.  We did make it to Christmas, we saw the people we wanted to, we did a few things in NY and overall it was a good holiday, germs and all.

A marathon weekend

Someday I’ll plan a cruise or relaxing vacation.  This was not that at all.  It was very fun and we stayed up so late so many days in a row last night I put the kids to bed and then I think I was asleep faster than they were.


Friday I woke up early to get some housekeeping done pre trip and ended up having 3 kids with homework need so less time for what I needed to do but I’m very glad I was up early.  Drama#1 – the car we planned on using to go to the airport refused to start.  We had to take the family car that we intended to leave for easier weekend kid transport but it worked out.  We got to the airport and (drama 2) the flight was delayed for an ‘unknown’ amount of time so we went to get lunch.  Lunch was uninspired but when we went to check back on the gate we narrowly avoided drama 3 because they were on final boarding already!  This wing of the airport is new/under construction so the announcements didn’t acutlaly go out over the area we were eatting even though it was the absolute closest one.  It worked out and we were only about an hour late landing and that was all the drama for the weekend.  I much prefer getting it out of the way!

We saw our friend’s new house and then hopped in the car to drive to Canada.  Only a 2h drive to the border and that 2 hours is obviously the buffer since there is NOTHING there, no trees, a few little hills, but if Canada invades we can see them coming for a long way off.  Crossing the border was super easy, they took one look at us and decided we were no trouble.  It was dark, but, looks like the Canada side of the border is also using the flat and empty technique to see if anyone ever invades.  We got to the event site around 8 and had dinner and then event part 1 started at 9.  Tons of friends, snacks, mingling and catching up and we forced ourselves to go to our overnight accommodations at 1am.

8am start the next day, can’t be late for the actual event!  I was excited to see an event in a totally different kingdom and to see how it is the same and different.  Our group both stood out (in a good way) and also fit in and we did the normal event stuff for the next few hours.  The main event happened at 1pm and the performance and presentation were worth the drive.  By 3 we decided we needed a nap because the dinner was scheduled to start at 7 and the next court to start at 9pm.  For us, events tend to end about 6:30, this was fun but added to the marathon feel.  Post nap and mostly refreshed we had a great time at the dinner and then the second court of the day lasted until well after 10.  At this point we are more than 12 hours of social on 6ish hours of sleep but still so fun we kept going to the after-party back at the hotel.  By midnight we were getting low on energy so we went back to the house to talk there for an hour before actually sleeping.

Up early again because we wanted to visit just a little more with our hosts and the other friends before everyone needed to get going.  I wish we all lived closer but the trip does make the time more special.  On the road by 10am full of Canadian unique goodies to share, leaving them fun American ones like Girl Scout cookies, super-strong alcohol, and crazy sugar cereal we reversed the trip and got back to Minot with a brief stop for lunch in a Canadian grocery.  Drama 3 (knew it could not go perfect) was our credit and debit cards refused to work in Canada, we ended up overpaying for things using American but I have a stern phone call in my future to the bank.  It is fun to play tourist in a different countries grocery, I can imagine parrel universes because basically they already exist.  There are so many small quirky differences between virtually the same location – a 200-mile drive is not that much in the scheme of things but crossing a border is really like stepping left or right into an alternative reality.

Back to our friends house who insisted that we truly did not need 2 full hours at the small regional airport (they were right) so we relaxed and took a dip in their hot tub and discussed options for their new house and when we might see everyone again.  Airport was small but quite professional.  We had more stuff investigated in our carry on than at the giant one we live by.  They actually found something we had been missing for ages in Lars’s backpack!  All good-natured and friendly and the flight was on-time and easy.

The last step of the trip was walking over a mile from our gate to the terminal, getting the luggage back to the car and out of the maze of parking and home again.  By this point the lack of sleep and general travel was condensing into a massive headache but we made it home and did dinner and bedtime and I only started losing it a little and then I put myself to bed too.

This morning I still have a little fog from such a busy weekend but got the kids off and I’m starting the shed base today and all the things of the week.  It was a grand marathon up and back and we certainly maximized our social time,

Mid vacation

Today I opened my laptop for the first time in nearly 2 weeks.  It sounded like a pinball machine dinging with all the alerts and messages that it had qued up in its little body.  I’ve been having a great time with just my phone, a few facebook posts, skim the emails for anything urgent and basically back in the bag.


ready for my role, I don’t usually wear this outfit but I enjoyed visiting an early period fashion

I’m on our traditional 2-week camping adventure in PA.  Every year is a little different, every year it is nicely the same.  I can nearly walk the site with my eyes closed but each year there are new areas I become more acquainted with.  This year I got to participate in a cool ceremony for a person I think is great, it was a once in a lifetime experience and I’m am so glad I was in a position to do it.  This year is also 100% less stressful.  Sure, still a bit of stress over this or that – a difficult person, random drama, or, an uncontrollable situation but since I’m not at max stress from moving it is all much more manageable.

Why do I vacation in a place that is built to be not relaxing?  I’m trying harder this year to take a break here and there but old habits die hard.


our camp

The positives, aside from the role I got to play included giving a fun camp tour, watching my kids excel at boffer, seeing my kingdom have a great time on the field, seeing two friends new babies, tons of time to have conversations with friends from various points in my life, I’ve helped a few people out, built a great camp, attended a class I’ve been meaning to get to and even the weather has been really pretty good.  The kids have hit a milestone of being able to be (even) more independent and it is very nice to know they are happy and taken care of by our fabulous nanny, and, she isn’t frazzled because they are overall less needy.  We are growing into the tween phase that includes boys stopping over but I gave a stern lecture to my camp family against any threats against any boy.  The adults do mean well, but, “I’ve got a shovel” is a threat that we need to let go of.  It isn’t cool the threaten kids, and, if you don’t mean it (and they really never did) don’t waste your words on something people auto-dismiss. Slowly slowly we can shift away from empty threats that imply our children are helpless.  I think the phrase that actually hit home was when I asked them to think about if they had a son and someone said that to them – I’m sure the parents of the boy who has been hanging around did as good a job as me, and, I would be pretty offended if I heard someone threaten my child based on nothing but their age and gender.  I also want the kids where I can see them so having the camp that is friendly is one of my goals.


tour group photo opp!

I’m short on my hour of internet here, I got the mundane life details dialed in and the bills paid.  No matter how vacation brain I am, bills still need attention and an hour now prevents a ton of problems later.  Next up I pack up Lars who could only join us for a few days and then Friday we put this all back it the box and move on to vacation part 2 – the NY phase.   I’m visiting family and friends and I can’t wait to see them even though I’ll be missing Lars and the house and pets and friends at home.  Pennsic, as always, is a special time and place and I’m glad we can come.


Checking in before checking out

Hello internet friends!

Last week I had the pleasure of a week of kid’s at day camp where they had a fantastic time and came home not just dirty but also sticky and at the same time crunchy?  Girl Scout day camp is totally different from YMCA camp.  Far less structure, far more messy fun.  2 of my 3 like it better but I think the hold out is more a rules follower, and, she didn’t have any of her particular friends there.

The positive of camp is that I got all day (kinda) solo to get stuff done around the house.  The negative is that means all I did for a week was head down work around the house.  By the end, I was talking to strangers in the grocery store for the company.  I did get a bunch of computer work up to date and fixed our insurance and worked on other grown-up money and house things that weren’t broken but needed solid attention.  I did not get the sewing or cleaning done as intended but who thought I would?

I volunteered to be a bus parent, meaning I had a list of kids that should get on and off the bus.  Pretty easy job especially since an Alpha Mom took over the job because ‘she already knew everyone’.  The other volunteer and I let it go, she did know everyone, and the times we tried to do a more formal parent sign to get child method she really fussed over how long it took.  ANYWAY, she asked if we could do it solo the last afternoon and morning since her child was doing the sleepover and that is reasonable except suddenly we were in charge of a crowd of untrained parents who expected us to know them all by sight.  Oh well.  AND.  That was the day that the one kid, you know the kid, the kid who you know would be trouble at some point because of the sass rolling off her like waves at the ocean – well she hops off the bus and no parent is there for her.  No problem, her parent has been late the last few days, who of us hasn’t had a tight drive.  Then I ask why she isn’t sleeping over like all the others her age are, her reply is she has lacross and is going back later that night.  A reasonable explanation, sure.  We wait 15 min and call her mom, she tells us that mom is at work she is expecting dad.  Ok, what is dad’s number?  She has no idea… I call my leader friend who is running things and she finds a number in the permanent file.  We call it.  Oh, did we mention she meant her stepdad?  We called her dad who lives 4 hours away to say we had his kid… bet that was a fun call between former partners (perpetual parents though!).  Actually, he did help and we got the step dad’s number who was on his way. We wait for another 15 and get the feeling he may have been ‘on the way’ to the wrong place… yup, we get a call he is at camp, she was indeed going to lacross but stepdad was picking her up at camp for it since it was that end of town.  In the end, he collected her and there were smiles all around since we all were pretty chill about a random spare child.  It wasn’t a bad day to hang out in a parking lot for an hour and hey, I would rather have an extra kid then be missing one.

The camp week also had all of the afternoon rushes that school does so that was something I didn’t miss.  The race to gymnastics, jujitsu etc worked out but I’m glad we are at home most of the summer.  The crowning moment of the week and my motherhood career is from that Friday when #3’s very good friend invited her to a sleepover on one of the few days between their vacation and ours.  I had a drop off window but it would only work if I went directly from the bus.  Recall the sticky, crunchy child comment?  Well, I dropped off a filthy child, hungry child to her friend’s house.  Good thing the mom is super nice and we get along really well.  I actually don’t feel bad because I know they have so much fun and #3 really can shower solo.  She came back the next day full of bounty from the farmers market clean and with clean clothes in her bag!  It was a sleepover miracle.

This past week has been all about getting ready for being gone for a month.  We are going on our traditional 2 weeks in NY and 2 weeks camping event in PA – we just don’t usually string them together.  Poor Lars can’t come to much, work is very work right now and I’m proud of his efforts but a solo month is slightly daunting.  I truly won’t be alone, I travel with one friends out there, have my parents and a ton of friends at the event, and the hardest thing will be driving from PA to NY.  I’ll kidnap my mom to drive NY to MN with me at the end and I know it will be fun and relaxing in a crazy sort of way.

The positive of my 3 at home with me is we have fun doing stuff and I plan differently. We got stuff done but we also had a book club, friends over, park time, swim time – all the good parts were back.  I still wanted some solo time to gather my leaking brains because of their various urgent needs but it has been a fun week overall.

Anytime I’m overwhelmed these past two weeks I just think about last year.  I may be packing for a month but I’m NOT packing 100% of my possessions to move to storage since the new house wasn’t ready yet.  I may be cleaning so I don’t come back to something sentient but I’m not waking up at 4am to scrub tubs and clean the shell of our former home.  I might be stressing the details of camping and travel but they are peanuts compared to juggling mortgage, closing, crazy buyers, behind builders, where my kids will physically sleep and eat the vast unknown of a giant life change that is mostly out of your hands.  Any emotion I feel this week about being gone for a month is minuscule when measured against the emotions of leaving the place I brought home each child.  On the other hand, just because I’ve handled worse does not mean this is nothing but I think this year things will be better overall because I actually have brain space.

Ok, this is my last day and while my list isn’t crazy, I still have a list.  Off to do the things that I can and tomorrow we drive.

Summer of 6 Part II

Still Alive!  All of us!  And back in our original locations

I attempted to write something partway through the experience but if  I thought me sitting at a computer was a signal for 3 to line up to ask questions, fight, gush blood and generally interrupt my flow of typing – it was doubled with 6.  We also went out more.

There were crazy moments but nothing too crazy.  Nobody actually gushed blood, there was one minor fireworks related burn, and I don’t think we wrecked anything too badly with Mr Diabetic/No Gluten.  We didn’t even lose anyone or leave anybody behind on any of our many many outings (although it was occasionally tempting).

The positives absolutely outweigh the negatives.  We had tons of cousin interaction time where they could just play and get to know each other.  Like the magic of adding a friend, there were actually fewer “I’m bored” and general fights then if I just had my 3.  We did have quite a few visits from local friends to keep the fresh fun rolling, and, sent a kid off on a playdate a time or two to keep things fun.  It totally helped that all 6 are self-sufficient in the basics and 5 of the 6 can be left home alone so grocery shopping was not me + 6 every time (only 3 times, that was plenty).

Ever notice that you do more when you have guests?  That was absolutely the case here.  We didn’t do some of the ‘normal’ things we do in summer like tennis lessons but we did get the opportunity to get out and show off our awesome state.  The cousins are living in Texas, the word hot does not accurately describe their daily weather – I think you can make driveway jerky from the long slow dry heat baking through their neighborhood.  Here we hit 85 a couple times but we also went down to 65 and sweatshirts were required.  TONs of outside time and I never felt guilty about kicking them out to use up some energy.  In our 3 weeks together we:


Went to the MN sculpture garden after picking up #1 from camp.  This is ‘the’ famous sculpture for the Twin Cities.  (don’t have a clue why)


Hiked the interstate trail from MN to WI and climbed around all over the pothole area on the MN side.  Kids hiking is always an adventure, it was only a couple miles but to some of them, it was a very long walk.img_1619

We hit the weather jackpot for our Duluth day, sunny but cool and perfect for playing on the shore, building rock sculptures and general sightseeing on the great lake Superior.


We also took a boat tour in Duluth, it was actually cold out on the lake.  PS, this is the last we saw of Zoe’s sweater, she left it at the park in Duluth shortly after.  I hope someone adopts it.img_1504

Lots and lots of trips to our local parks, we were waiting on a particular park to reopen so we went more than once to be disappointed that it *still* wasn’t open but they had fun anyway.  Helps that I bring snacks.


Everyone enjoyed our only rainy day at the bowling ally.


Can’t visit the land of 10,000 lakes without swimming in at least 1 or 2.  This is one of them and even Prima got in the water.


#1 suggested that we participate in a volunteer event at Feed My Starving Children where we packed food for kids in other countries.  Our session packed enough for 65 kids for a year!  It was a nice change from frivolous summer or boring regular life and we did a good job working together.


I didn’t get many actual 4th of July pictures because I was IN the parade and they had fun watching.  Again a gorgeous day, not too hot and a good breeze.  My shoe broke at the very end but that was the only negative.  We did the BBQ thing with friends and then local fireworks.  This picture is actually from the weekend when we went to a friends house who really really loves 4th of July and the party was fantastic.  Over 30 kids all in the right ages, a river to swim in, shade trees, trampoline, as Zoe said: it was ‘paradise’.


Obligatory sunset over the lake.  They swam in this one too


They really got into putting mulch in the garden.  There may have been icecream bribes mentioned but I didn’t expect the team effort going on.  We didn’t get much done around the house over the 3 weeks beyond the basics of food, laundry and dishes but we did get the garden full of weed blocker.img_1712

Toward the end, we headed out to the Franconia sculpture garden.  It is way more fun than the downtown one.  This has stuff you can climb on, walk around and it is more a discovery than a walk in a park.  We had not been there in a few years and there are tons of new installations as well as old favorites


Last but not least, we got this kid to his first SCA event.  He wanted to fight so badly that it made the day trip worth it.  Usually, we camp but this year with the extra kids we didn’t want to worry about overnights.  We wished we could stay but their flight was 8am the next day so we had to take what we could get.


Not shown are the trips to the pool, many meals together, tablet and tv time where they all puppy piled together, books traded back and forth, adventure games spread over the entire playroom floor and board games all over the table tops.  Sure there were fights and short tempers and some moments where you wonder how they survived on earth this long and my attention was pulled 6 ways at all times but I would do it again for sure.

And now starts the next phase of summer.  A two-week interlude before our travels where 1 week all three kids are in summer camp and the next week we need to get ready to be gone for nearly a month.  I’m glad I’m not moving like last year,