Sunday, January 3, 2016

Winter Break

Well, here we are--one of my least favorite nights of the entire year--the last night of winter break.  It seems like there is so much anticipation and build-up for Christmas and Winter Break, and then it's just here and gone in the blink of an eye!  I can hardly believe that 16 days have gone by and now we are back to reality.  I know that once we get back into our regular routine, life will just keep moving along and we'll start looking forward to that next fun thing or the next time we get together with family, but this night just stinks.

Anyway, we did have a wonderful and very busy break!  It started off with a weekend of Dave working, Christmas program practice on Saturday morning, and the girls' Christmas program on Sunday at church.  Dave was able to come to the first service, and both sets of parents and Dave's sister came to the second service.  We all went out for Pizza Ranch after the program (minus Dave, who had to work).  My dad got some great video footage of the songs--Norah was especially into "Go Tell it on the Mountain" and her voice could be heard loud and clear over everyone else's!  She was also being a stinker and trying to grab the microphone after she saw a couple of other girls do the same.  She had to put on a good show for all of those who came to see her!

Norah was so exhausted that afternoon that she fell asleep on my lap while we watched a movie--for our non-napper, this never happens!  It was all great until she peed on me in her sleep...  :(
We had a busy Monday-Wednesday before Christmas, as Abby still had school.  We drove her to school each day, so that we could at least sleep in until 6:45.  On Monday, I was able to go in to Abby's classroom to help out with a Christmas ornament project with Abby's class.  It was so much fun, and I wish I could volunteer in her room more often.  On Tuesday, Dave was off, too, so we did a little Christmas shopping and had a little "date day".  We saw a movie and had lunch before it was time to pick the girls up.  On Wednesday, Abby had a 2-hour early release from school, and the girls had a Christmas party at daycare, so I ended up having a rare day at home by myself.  It was a good opportunity to clean, do laundry, and do some baking for our family Christmas.

Wednesday night, we slept by the Christmas tree...well, most of us, anyway.  Dave and the girls were on the big bean bag mattress on the floor with Sadie and I started out on the couch.  I ended up heading back to bed since I was having a hard time sleeping.  The girls woke up plenty early, because they were so excited to celebrate our family Christmas in the morning.  We opened presents first--Abby's highlight was a dolphin cruiser Lego set, and Norah's was a Dyson kids' vacuum.  I had attempted to make our family's traditional Christmas morning caramel rolls, but they ended up being a little gooey on the inside.  They still tasted good, though!  We had rolls and eggs and spent the morning relaxing and playing.  For lunch, we decided to go up to a family favorite, Raisin' Cane's.  For the first time ever, we were spending Christmas Eve at home, so we got dressed up and attended our church's Christmas Eve service.  It's always fun to be down in Iowa for Christmas, but there was just something about being at our own church, singing Christmas carols.  After church, we drove around and looked at Christmas lights for a bit before heading home to make homemade pizzas, watch a Christmas movie, and get ready for Santa.

Abby was up bright and early again on Christmas morning--Norah, not so much.  We eventually had to wake her up since we wanted to get on the road by about 8:30.  Abby was excited to get a doll carseat that actually has a base that clips into a car.  Norah was very happy about the wedding Barbies she had asked Santa for.  It was cute when she found a little thing of hand sanitizer in her stocking and she whispered, "He knew just what I wanted!"

We traveled down to Iowa, stopping in quickly at Dave's parents on the way down.  Once at my aunt Miriam's, we opened gifts with my dad's side of the family, then played games and relaxed before our meal.  We had soups and salads and spent the rest of the day hanging out.  Christmas evening, Miriam wanted us all to go into town to sing carols at the church while my dad played piano.  The girls and Gavin had fun dancing and singing up front.  We stayed a little bit longer, then my mom and I drove the girls up to the hotel to go to bed, while Dave and my dad stayed to play games a little bit longer.

On Saturday morning, it was really icy out, so we stayed at the hotel all morning and did some swimming.  For lunch, we went to Steve and Lori's farm to celebrate Christmas with my mom's side of the family.  We had beef and noodles and tons of favorite desserts--coconut cake, raspberry sherbet punch, and homemade ice cream were just a few.  The girls got a lot of nice presents, including some games that we have been playing a ton over break.  We stayed for quite awhile, then Dave, Norah, and I headed back over to Miriam's.  My parents took Abby to Lori and Jon's for supper.  When they got to Miriam's, it was late so my mom and I again took the girls up to the hotel while my dad and Dave stayed to play some more games.

Sunday was a busy day--we swam at the hotel again before checking out, then drove up to Albert Lea, where we had Christmas/Santa visit with Dave's family.  We stayed there for a few hours, then drove to Rochester where we celebrated Christmas with my parents, Greg, Rose Mary, and Jenny.  The girls of course wanted to do presents first, so we did that before eating our traditional "snack supper"--chicken wild rice soup, pulled pork sandwiches, taco dip, veggies/dip, etc.  Yum!  Everyone was very generous with their gifts, and I couldn't believe that my parents got us a Roomba.

Monday was kind of a bummer...snow was coming in, so my sister took off before lunch, and we ended up leaving right after lunch to beat the storm.  It would have been fun to do something with everyone and hang out more in Rochester, but we were also feeling like we needed some down time at home.  Once we were at home and it started snowing, it was kind of a perfect, cozy, snow day (except for the fact that Dave had to work on Tuesday).  Tuesday gave us time to unpack, play with new toys, rearrange closets and sort through old toys to make room for more, plus play in the new snow.  It was our only really quiet day of break!

On Wednesday, we went to an indoor playground in Eagan with my friend Kristina and her two kids.  The girls definitely got out a lot of energy and had a blast!  We stopped to exchange some boots of Abby's and pick out a couple of books with a gift card to Barnes and Noble that she got from my grandma.

Thursday (New Year's Eve), we ended up having Dave at home with us since his boss ended up giving him the day off.  We did some cleaning and cooking to get ready for company.  Our friends, the Clarks, came over that night for supper and to hang out.  We had fun playing games with the kids and catching up.  They stayed until about 11, then Dave and I made it to a little past midnight before calling it a night.  Of course, the girls were up bright and early at 7 on New Year's Day!  Dave and Abby went to see Star Wars in the afternoon, when Norah happened to flood our bathroom...perfect timing--I had to use all of our towels to soak up the water on the floor of the bathroom and in the basement that leaked through, our washing machine is currently out of commission, and we were expecting company for the entire weekend!  Luckily, I was able to fix the toilet and my dad was nice enough to bring our towels to the laundromat on Saturday for us.

Starting around 4 on Friday, my parents, Greg, and Rose Mary came to spend the weekend.  Jenny also visited that night.  We made homemade pizzas and played games before my parents headed up to Burnsville to stay at a hotel.  On Saturday, Mara, Bryan, and Connor came up around 12:30.  After lunch, my dad had designed an "escape room" in our basement for us to do in small groups.  We had been planning on going up to Minneapolis to do one, but they were all booked.  We had a lot of fun with the one my dad designed.  Mara, Abby, and I were the first team, and Greg, Rose Mary, and Connor were the second.  That night, we headed up to the Timberwolves game (my mom stayed home with Norah).  The game started off great, but they ended up losing.  It was still fun to be up there and spend time with everyone.  Jenny went back to her apartment and my parents went back up to the hotel, but everyone else stayed with us.

Which brings us to today!  Greg and Rose Mary took off first, leaving a little before 10:00.  Mara, Bryan, and Connor took off around 10:30.  Dave had to work today, so the girls and I went up to my parents' hotel for a quick swim with my dad before he had to leave for the airport.  It was nice to have something fun to look forward to after everyone left.  We went out for a later lunch with my mom, then spent the afternoon trying to ignore the fact that it was the last day of break.  :)

It was a fun and busy break, but now I feel like we need a few more days just to relax and do nothing...  I also wish that I had taken more pictures at our Christmas celebrations--we hardly pulled out the camera at all (many of these pictures were from my relatives' Facebook posts).  Goals for next year, I guess!  We are looking forward to one more Christmas celebration next week with Dave's parents and sister--they'll come up and stay with us for the weekend.  Until then, we are going to try to stay positive and hope that the week goes as fast as break did!

Sunday, October 18, 2015


The night before school started, I decided to plan a mini-vacation for our fall break.  It was a stressful school year last year, and I felt like I wanted something to look forward to, not knowing what the start of the school year would bring this year.  We've visited Ely once before, 6 years ago, when Abby was 1 1/2.  I thought it might be fun to check it out in the fall, and visit some new state parks in the meantime.

We took off on Thursday morning and stopped at Moose Lake State Park for a picnic.  It was very windy and chilly, so we ate fast!  It was nicer in the woods, so we did a short loop hike from the picnic area (about 0.9 mile).  After our hike, we warmed up in the office, where they have an agate center.  

We got up to Ely around 5, so checked in at the Grand Ely Lodge and looked around the hotel before finding a place to eat.  A friend of Dave's recommended the Boathouse Brewery, so we ate there.  Their specialty burger was amazing!  After supper, we came back to the hotel to swim.  The water was chilly, but the hot tub was great!  The girls had a hard time falling asleep in the same bed, so I eventually had to separate them.  Dave went down to the lobby to meet up with his friend who was at a banquet at the hotel that night.

On Friday morning, we went to Bear Head Lake State Park.  We knew the afternoon was supposed to bring rain/snow and be colder, so we wanted to enjoy the sun while it lasted!  We visited their new trail center first--it is so nice!  There is a wood fireplace with comfy chairs by it, and a big space with lots of tables/chairs.  Also a great fire pit with chairs outside.  We bundled up in our long underwear and winter coats for a chilly hike around Norberg Lake (3 mile hike).  Norah walked part of the way, and Dave carried her in the backpack carrier for part.  Both girls did great!  We realized that we could have taken a little shortcut to see the lake instead of walking all the way around it, but it was still a nice hike.  

We drove back to Ely for a late lunch at Gator's Grilled Cheese Emporium.  Yummy food!  The girls were excited that their kids' meals were served on souvenir frisbees.  We looked in a few shops after lunch, then went back to the hotel to nap/rest.  We swam and showered, then ate a late supper at the hotel's restaurant.  Kids eat free for hotel guests, so that's a nice perk!  The girls had a much easier time falling asleep Friday night!  

On Saturday, Dave took the girls for a quick swim after breakfast, then we checked out.  We explored the trail behind the lodge that leads to the lake--they've got free use of paddleboats, kayaks, and canoes, plus a nice fire pit and a playground.  We'll have to visit again when it's warmer! 

We drove down to Soudan Underground Mine State Park for an 11:00 tour.  We checked out the visitor center/shop area until our tour started.  There is a short introduction, then a little video before you put on your hard hats and head down into the mine.  They split the group into thirds, and about 13 of us traveled down in a mine shaft together.  It took about 2 1/2 minutes to go down a half-mile into the mine (level 27).  It's kind of a crazy ride down--feels and sounds like you're going really fast, but you aren't really.  From there, we got on a mine train and took a ride 3/4 of a mile deeper into the mine.  Then, we took a spiral staircase up to another level where the guide spent some time showing us around and explaining things.  At one point, they turned off all of the lights and lit a single candle.  They told us that groups of 3 men would share 1 candle to work by.  The tour was very interesting!  You go down another staircase, then back on the train, and back up the mine shaft to end the tour.  After the tour, we walked through the engine room and hiked around the other parts of the mine that you can see above ground.  

We ended up driving back up to Ely for a late lunch, since that was the closest town.  Dave wanted to stop and say hi to his friend who was working at Bear Head Lake State Park, so we stopped there again and did a short hike to see Cub Lake and hang out at the trail center a little bit more.  We visited with his friend, and ended up not leaving until after 4.  It was a long drive home, but I was glad we still had Sunday to get organized and rest up for a new week at school.  We had a great time!