Monday, September 26, 2016

September 26 - 30, 2016, MN

Wednesday, September 28.  Back on Monday, after packing up and saying my goodbyes to the girls, I headed off to Roseville to rescue my little dog.  He got a great report and the staff that I talked to really liked him.  He was so happy to see me, as I was happy to see him too.  I was back in time to unpack, get organized, and head off to pick Norah and Camille up at school.  I could see a change in them, even after only a few short days - mostly with their speech but also appearance.

This morning, I met my friend, Karen, for breakfast. She is visiting from Connecticut. We went to Wise Acres, a place near Norah and Camille's school. Breakfast was delicious and we had a nice visit, catching up on the last 2 years.  Karen lost her husband, Paul, about a year after Mike died, so we have a lot of experiences in common.  We are both adjusting, although you never stop missing them.

Unfortunately, Camille woke up with Pink Eye this morning, confirmed by the doctor and given medication to stop it. Hopefully it will not spread to the rest of us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September 19 - 25, 2016, MN

Wednesday, September 20.  Yup, busy, busy, busy, although Monday and Tuesday were not unmanageable and I had a couple of mornings alone. Today, Norah and Camille had coughs and runny noses so they stayed at home today.  They were pretty good, needed a little extra TLC (whining and crying) but mostly cooperative and playing well together.  There are times when Camille, who has a strong personality (in fact, she thinks she is an expert at everything) is a little overpowering at times.  She does things for Norah, when Norah wants to do things for herself. I was very happy when Mom and Dad finished work and I could get myself a break.

Friday, September 23.   I started preparing to empty my room yesterday, making sure that the bedding was clean for the next guests, Leah, (who is a long-time friend of Jill and Ben) and her baby son, Luke.  I will be joining the girls from Milwaukee; Leslie, Linda, Jane and Chris at the River Valley Inn in Osceola, WI for the weekend.  I only had an hour to drive but I left Ben's house around 11:00 and dropped Frisco at the Petsmart Pet hotel in Roseville and did some shopping and some sightseeing along the way.

I drove along the St. Croix River on the Minnesota side and stopped at a few sights along the way.  The St Croix River played a major role in the lumber industry and was used to transport logs from northern woods.

Looking south toward Stillwater from a scenic overlook.

I got to the hotel early, sat in my car waiting, I decided to go to the grocery store but my car wouldn't start. I tried and tried but no go, then I remembered talking with the guy who did my oil change before leaving Arizona. I had asked him to check my battery and he said that it would do no good, that when it goes, it just goes. So, I think that is what happened here.  I called my roadside assistance and they were experiencing very high call volumes, so I decided to wait and see what happens in the morning.

The girls arrived, we checked into our rooms, and then sat around Leslie and My room and had a drink and mulled over the plans for the weekend.  Dinner was right next door at the Tippy Canoe. Unfortunately, my walleye was overcooked and my old fashioned wasn't the best, but it was all ok.

I received news from Bob and Randy that Travis Standlee, the man who murdered my brother, Ray, was sentenced to 50 years in prison and will not be eligible for parole until at least 35 years have been served.  He is also facing 50 years in the upcoming trial of the woman he is suspected of murdering only days after he killed Ray. I am relieved that he will not be drifting around as a free man ever again.

Saturday, September 24.  Wow, I slept in until 8:15 - boy, did that feel good.  First on my list today was to get that battery problem resolved.  My roadside assistance sent someone to jump the battery, a nice local guy who had all kinds of suggestions for things to do and places to see in the area, and he got my car going quickly.  I drove to the Walmart in St Croix Falls, bought a battery and had it installed - only a $93 repair, not bad.

I met up with the girls on Main Street in Osceola and we browsed through some of the shops before going to the train station for our 90 minute ride along the river.  It was so enjoyable and the scenery was beautiful - I bet it is gorgeous when the fall leaves are at their peak colors.

The bridge that crosses the river into Minnesota.

This building was a pump house, distributing fresh drinking water from underground springs to nearby homes and communities.

After our train ride, we headed to St Croix Falls to the Dancing Dragonfly Winery, sampled some of their wines (most were named after dances - like CanCan, Polka, and Foxtrot - and browsed the small art far that was on the grounds - a beautiful spot with fountains and ponds and rows and rows of grape vines.  It was cold, as the wind was pretty brisk and there was dampness in the air from the rain that would be coming through later tonight.

We had dinner at the Dalles supper club and lounge - had a tasty flank steak (delicious flavor, but a little in the tough side) and dinner was served with yummy popovers.  A good day!

Chris, Leslie, Me, Linda, and Jane

Sunday, September 25.  It was a lazy morning and after lounging around until almost noon, we went across the way to the Tippy Canoe to watch the Packer game. I wasn't real interested, so after breakfast I went back to the hotel and sat in the hot tub with Jane for a while. Then we both went back to the bar and watched the last half of the game.  They gave us a raffle ticket for every drink you purchase and I won a bottle of wine in one of the drawings. I think these girls bring me good luck - last summer I won't $300 when we met up for dinner one night.

The packers won and when the game was over,  took a drive to Interstate State Park, named because there is state park land in both on both sides of the river and in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. What a gorgeous place!  We drove through the park and then parked and walked the Pothole Trail that was scattered with huge boulders that looked like they fell from the sky.  The path led us to the top of the high rock outcrop along the river - it was a long way down.  We did see some potholes - they are holes formed in the granite by water.  One of the potholes was at least 10 feet deep and one was full of water, resembling a small pond. Some of the leaves are starting to turn with the shorter and cooler days - it is fall after all.  I would definitely like to come back here to camp in the future,

Thursday, September 15, 2016

September 12 - 18, 2016, MN

Thursday, September 15.  When my first journal update is written on a Thursday, it is an indication of how my week has gone.  Ben left for SF on Tuesday, leaving Jill and I to run the show.  Any window of time without kids has been used to shop, prepare for meals, do minor clean ups and take a nap whenever I can.  That is probably what I should be doing right now.  Twice, I have had to wake the twins up after only an hour's nap, in order to get Charlotte after school (Jill had a couple of days that she couldn't do the afternoon pickup.

Yesterday, my first time driving Jill's car to pickup Norah and Camille, I couldn't get her car to start - I have no experience with a car that has keyless starting. I had to call Ben at work to learn how to get it started.  Then, in the scramble to get lunch bags, sweaters, dirty clothes, and 2 3-year olds to the parked car, I managed to drop the bag of dirty clothes, losing Camille's shoes and clothes.

Then in the afternoon while they were napping, I was out back watering the lawn when I heard a squeal, turned around and found the dogs chasing a chipmunk. I aimed the hose on them and they came away, leaving an injured chipmunk struggling as he hid in the corner of the patio.  I got the dogs in the house and observed the little guy for a while and it appeared that it was dying, staying in one place and twitching now and then.  I knew I should probably put it out of its misery, but I just didn't have the heart to kill it, choosing to let it die on its own instead.  I checked periodically and every time, it moved just a bit.  After an hour or so, I checked and didn't see any movement, so I went to the garage and got a shovel to dispose of it. When I scooped underneath, the thing ran, trying to get away from me. Fortunately, it ran off the patio and behind the fence - good thing, since I didn't want the kids to see it. I check a couple of times and each time, it had moved several feet - maybe it was going to be ok.  The last I checked, it was gone. I have no idea where, but I couldn't find it anywhere. I hope it didn't suffer too much longer, or died quickly.

I made an apple crunch for a special treat for after dinner on Tuesday but there was so much yelling, pushing and completely uncooperative kids, that the privilege was taken away

We have a pot luck for Norah and Camille's school tonight, so I made a cornbread this morning.  It looked beautiful coming out of the oven but as I tipped it out of the pan, it broke apart.  This is the result

 Dang, we won't be taking that to any potluck.

Jill sent me a quick salsa recipe and I pulled that together. I also got groceries for my camping trip with Charlotte this weekend,  Whew!  Resting now.

Sunday, Sptember 18.  What a great weekend I had, camping with Charlotte again.  This time, we went to Lebanon Hills Campground, only a 20-minute drive from here.  We got setup, then went on a walkabout to check out the park.  We were camped in the west loop, an area for RVs that had full hookup sites. We walked up to the East Loop, where the playground is and found those sites to be more desirable for the next time - the drawback is that they are electric only sites, so I would have to fill up with water and empty tanks at the dump station, but it would be very doable.  Those sites are bigger and more secluded, with trees surrounding each site. Another plus is that the playground is right in the middle of the loop.

We headed back home, and saw a family pull into one of the sites across the street. Charlotte wanted to see if the little girl could play, so Eliza joined us and they got to know each other and had a great time together; coloring, running around and playing with some of Charlotte's toys.

We had shrimp, rice, and edamame for dinner and then a special treat of an ice cream cone from the store.  By then, it was time to get a fire started and we sat and sang campfire songs and enjoyed the fire until it started to rain.  We were hoping to see the full Harvest Moon tonight but there were way too many clouds covering it up.  We scurried off to bed and had a fun tickle and giggle fest until she wore out and we both went to sleep.

We got right to it on Saturday morning with chats with the neighbors, Julie and Lisa and thier German Shepherd, Bago (who we learned is the same age as Charlotte, born 3 days later than her).  The dog was so smart and well behaved, loved little kids and Charlotte  loved him too, asking frequently if she could go over there to pet him.   Also, we got new neighbors on the other side of us and she had to meet that little black poodle named Molly.  Molly survived an attack by her mother when she was just a puppy and her face was deformed and crooked, but she was still a real "cutie", Charlotte's description of her.

Bago stole a kiss from her, just as she was posing for the photo.

Once things tried out a bit, we went back to the playground for a while and when we got back to the camper, Eliza joined us again in the afternoon and they played for a couple of hours, coloring, practicing leaps, Eliza teaching Charlotte how to do cartwheels, rolling down the hill, eating, and playing with toys.  

After dinner, we went for a hike along a forest path that wine along the lake shore.   Unfortunately, a large section of the path was flooded from the recent rains, so we couldn't go all around the lake, having to turn around and take the same path.

She got bored of the campfire and we went inside about 8:30, never did get to see the full moon until just before she went to sleep, and we saw it through the window.  I suggested that we go outside in our pjs to get a good look, but she was too sleepy by that time.

I had a miserable night of sleep, waking up to the sound of coyotes around midnight and then not going back to sleep until after 3 am, and when I did sleep, it was that kind of sleep that is right on the edge of awake and asleep. Charlotte sleep in until 8:00.

She was ready to go see Bago and go for a morning walk so we had a quick bowl of cereal and headed down a different woodland path, this time around another lake and it was so quiet and peaceful. When we got back to the campsite, I made eggs in a hole for breakfast and we packed up and got ready to leave.  

We ended our weekend with a stop for pizza. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

September 5 - 11, 2016, MN

Tuesday, September 7.  Yesterday was family photo day, so I had the morning to myself.  Getting prepped for this event was pretty crazy, as they all wanted their pretty new dresses on but weren't allowed until all of the morning tasks were out of the way: potty, tooth and hair brushing, breakfast, hands/face washed - then, pretty new dresses.  The twins were whining and crying, then Norah fell down the last 4 or 5 steps and cried some more, she was ok though, no big injuries.

I filled out 3 applications for subsidized apartments that have long waiting lists (20-24 months), headed out to mail them but then decided to drop them off myself next week.

The weather reports are calling for possible torrential rains, flooding, high winds, and maybe even some hail.  Since Kevin, the neighbor offered me a spot to store my trailer on his lot across the alley, we took him up on it and got the trailer moved and the family van in the garage and Jill's car just outside.  It's a perfect arrangement, I don't know why we didn't take advantage from the day I got here.

Today was the first day of the new school routine and after I walked Charlotte to school this morning, I headed out for some more apartment research, including dropping off the apps that I had ready and taking another look at those places. Either would fit my needs well.  I also drove out to Savage to check out the single story cottage apartments, Villas by Mary T, and learned that they are way to far away (25 minute drive without traffic) and out of my price range by about $300 a month.  It's too bad, because I find that type of living arrangement to be very attractive.  I checked out 1 more apartment complex in Minnetonka, but again, it's a bit far and the manager wasn't around to talk to, so I think I will nix that place.

I stopped at a produce stand for a yummy peach and added some popcorn to it for my lunch, I couldn't find anything but fast food restaurants in the area.  A little bit of shopping topped my day off, then I headed back home.

Ben was training the new Nanny, Maria, so I got busy with dinner prep. I fixed pork tenderloin, Cuban beans and rice, and dilled carrots for dinner and it was well received.

Sunday, September 11.  A day to remember for sure, a day when America lost so many in the attacks on the twin towers in NYC.  For Mike and I, it was also a day of horror as we waited to hear that Ben was safe and back in the US from his trip to Japan. Many calls were made to the airlines and local officials and then his flight was allowed to land in San Franciso, right where he was supposed to be.  The people on the plane knew nothing until after they landed and could talk with loved ones on the phone again.

Ben and I went to Costco this morning and loaded up on groceries that should last a while. We also got him on my account.

The week went well, although Ben got a text from the new nanny on Tuesday saying that she thought the job was way more than spwhat she could handle.  Come on - you don't even give it more than a half-day?  I can't believe the work ethic of the younger generations - I never would have done something like that.

I did some exploring and found another apartment complex nearby to check out.  It was a pretty rainy day and we had some good thunderstorms during the night.  I was mostly in charge of the kids on the days that Charlotte finished school at 12:30 and for a short time after naps until Ben and Jill finished work.  Charlotte will start full days until 3:30 next week and the twins schedule will stay the same for the next few weeks. Ben and Jill have worked it out with their work schedules so that no nanny is needed.  I think that a regular schedule will be nice.

I made a reservation at Lebanon Hills Campground for Charlotte and I next weekend, as she asked me to take her camping one more time.  The timing is good because Ben will be in SF for work and Jill will have one less child to keep track of on Friday night and Saturday morning.  It is nice to have them on their own too - a third wheel really does cause problems some times, but for the most part, they get along and play well together.  Some of their antics just crack me up and their imaginations are so lively and vivid.  

I got a Jill haircut this afternoon and I can't believe the difference in the style and quality that she does. She also cut and colored her Mom's hair, then Lois helped her to color her own, and then Charlotte got a haircut too - so much for having a Sunday afternoon off.

Ben fixed a delicious Mexican dinner that everyone raved about - marinade flank steak tacos, guacamole, rice and beans and then we topped it off with homemade margaritas by Jill.   Mmmmmm! Little Norah ate 3-4 servings of rice and 3 meat tacos.  She looked at me and said, "I like meat"!  What a cutie!

And now I have finished the dinner cleanup, walked the dogs while the kids are being put to bed and I'm done for the night and ready to close up on this week.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September 1 - 4, 2016, MN

Thursday, September 1.  It is the first day of school for Norah and Camille and they were excited and up by 6:30 this morning.  We all knew that they had to get up earlier today, but that was pushing it a bit.  Ben and Jill took them to school and stayed with them in their classes today and again tomorrow, Monday they are on their own.  Big day!

I took them for special treats and playground time when they were done.

Saturday, September 4.  Jill headed off to her parents house with the kids this morning and Ben and I stayed back to top dress and seed the back yard.  We got to the store for a yard of compost and had to wait about 45 minutes for the guy to return from a delivery and for our clerk to find his keys, so we went for a coffee while we waited.  

While Ben mowed the grass and shoved and spread compost, I got started on prepping the soil and planting some sedum cuttings that Lois brought us.  I also pruned a scruffy looking shrub that was overgrown, then helped Ben to rake in the compost.  By the time we finished, we were both stiff and sore, took showers and headed out to meet up with the family for a yummy dinner, adult beverage,  and a nice visit.  The kids all fell asleep in the car on the way home, bedtime was a cinch.