The Quints

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The geese have quints.  After several weeks on the nest, mom now sits under her babies, who love to nestle in the fold between her wing and back.  It makes her less than nimble as she tries to get up to answer the warning call of her mate, who has detected an intruder on the pond. But, after shaking the little balls of yellow fluff off her back, and then helping them get upright in the soft mud, she was able to lead them into the channel between our backyard ponds, where her mate landed to be their protection.

Grand Fog

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Minnesotans who can afford to get away do not stay in Minnesota all winter. Most go south to tropical venues that offer beaches but we took a more moderate tack and headed to Northern Arizona in late January 2015.

It was my second ever visit to the Grand Canyon.  The first was in a blizzard, so I never really saw much of the canyon. The canyon walls, yes. Vistas, no.

This day was warm by January standards, the sky mostly sunny.  But the chasm was blanketed in fog.  Like whipped cream in a big stone bowl.  The rise and fall of the fog gave us some glimpses of glory below, but the fog stayed all day.  At times, it rose to envelope the area above the rim, literally putting a wet blanket on our enthusiasm.  The forecast for the next day was sunny and warm. So we booked a room and spent the night, expectant.

With the first fingers of sunlight on our faces, we hastily pulled on our jeans and raced to the edge.

Only fog. And disappointment.  But breakfast and little glimpses of hope on the backs of the sun’s insistent rays pushed us to explore the South Rim from as far west to as far east as we could go.  Each complex dance of fog and sun, with the changing vistas, was met with wonder, even among those who are frequent canyon visitors. Still, our view was limited. Sometime around midday, our persistence was rewarded as the sun won out. Our afternoon views were vast and unbroken, the fog all but a forgotten memory.

It was not until we got home that I discovered two amazing things:

1.  Fog that blankets the canyon on a sunny day is a very rare occurrence.  In fact, although it was the second such occurrence this year, it is considered a once-in-a-decade sight. Many of our friends saw national news clips about the event that we witnessed firsthand.

2.  The pictures we took in the fog are much, so much, more amazing than those we took when the fog cleared.

So, I will quit my prattling and let you enjoy our Grand views.

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Our State Fair is the Best State Fair!

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corn dogs We went to the Minnesota State Fair yesterday. Crazy, record-setting crowds! It was us and 53,000 smiling people loving the day. And 200,000 more people who were determined to get their money out of the $5 coupon book they bought at the entrance. Even if it meant waiting 15 minutes to save 75 cents on a root beer… Damn it.

We started the day with a giant peach.  Mmmm!  And it was all downhill nutritionally from there. As it should be.  Is Honeyweiss a grain?  Do corn dogs with ketchup count as two vegetables?  We did have a raspberry malt. Fruit and dairy to close out the day. That’s all good, right?

Why don’t they add more women’s restrooms?  And why, in God’s name, would they put water misters over the bathroom waiting area?  I waited 20 minutes for a stall while standing under running water.  I thought the top of my head was going to blow.  The person behind me asked if they could cut in.  No way I was going to let a three-year-old ahead of me!  Then the little girl grabbed my leg and her crotch at the same time and began wailing. “Fine,” I told her mother, “go ahead.”

Saw the Willis Clan (who were on America’s Got Talent).  12 siblings, several musical instruments.  Beautiful Irish music; adorable kids! But we had so many questions:  Do you set out to birth an entertainment act? Are they assigned instruments when they are born? Do you tell the tone-deaf ones that working the merchandise table is every bit as good as being onstage?  They have taken 10 trips to Ireland as a family; why didn’t I think of the act so we could afford to travel overseas? With 12 kids.  Um, never mind.

Most of the pigs in the Miracle of Birth Center had smaller litters than the Willis Clan.  We spent 10 minutes trying to figure out what they were showing on the screen there.  Little pigs. One big pig. A woman with a towel.  We assumed an impending birth. So we got closer and were nearly crushed from behind by others driven by eager anticipation. Finally, an announcement.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen! That little pig has had his temperature taken.

Never mind, we’re “finished” here, Shaina says… Let’s go find the horses.

Shaina loves anything that goes up. Ferris wheels.  The Skytower.  The Skyride gondolas.  Thanks to her, we do them all. Did I mention I have always been afraid of heights?  I think they mixed her up with another kid in the hospital nursery.  It’s OK. I can skip cardio exercises this week.  My heart rate is elevated just thinking about our high-flying adventures.

When did uber short shorts and winter boots worn together become a fashion statement?  I obviously don’t get out much. Do people look at themselves in the mirror before they go out in shorts, or don’t they really care?  I could barely make it through my bag of 20 mini-donuts while looking at the thighs of the 60-something sitting next to me on the curb.

And am I the only Minnesotan without a tattoo? Wait, do my radiation markers count as official tats?  Then, yeah, I’m so in.

I only got lost once.  Thankfully, we had friends kicked back in the Leinie loungers (who shall go unnamed as to protect the innocent).  They were able to direct me to my 6 ft., 4 inch, husband.  Hey! Cut me some slack. He was sitting!

In summation, we dropped a ton of cash on food, some good, some not so much.  We walked until Shaina cried, I nearly wet myself, we saw a pig get his temperature taken. And I made a 3-year-old cry. Oh yeah, it was a good day. Until next year Minnesota!

To A Special Dad

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This is for special dads everywhere with children who can not tell them just how much they are loved, but especially my husband Bruce, who has been the best father possible for Shaina. Shaina was born with developmental disabilities of unknown origin, and at the age of 35, is non-verbal and fully dependent on us for daily living. 
 
If she could speak, it would go something like this:  “Thank you for never doubting your call to be my dad, especially when you learned that our lives would be an uphill battle with physical and mental challenges all along the way. 
 
“Thank you for treating me as just another one of the kids, for not leaving me behind for family vacations and day trips (even when Mom suggested it would be best), and for battling with me to do things that I thought were too scary or too loud.  Because of you, I have had a full and exciting (sometimes too exciting for me) life. 
 
“Thank you for every day, when you help me bathe, wash my hair, pick out my clothes (even when Mom doesn’t approve of our choices), brush my hair and teeth, find matching socks (sometimes) and get my shoes on the right feet (most of the time). For learning about hair products, nail polish, bra fittings, periods, cramps and mood swings. (That’s been interesting, huh?)
 
“Thank you for giving me a helping hand to get down off the curb, up the stairs, into and out of bed. And out of Mom’s hair. For cutting my meat, filling my plate at buffets and cleaning up my mess when I suddenly decide I am full. 
 
“Thank you for the big things:  For bringing me home from the hospital and ‘just loving me’ like the doctor suggested (and then some), for choosing schools, and for advocating for me when those schools didn’t necessarily have my best interest at heart. And when I got older, thank you for choosing a place for me to work and a group home to live, and for letting me come home just months later when I made it clear I hated it.  Thank you for making medical care choices and for being there through so many tests and treatments.  And for counting out my pills faithfully every night and making sure I take them, even when I am feeling contrary.
 
“Thank you for your patience in oh-so-many ways.  Like waiting with me in-line even while I whine and throw a fit.  Or when I have freaked out in heavy traffic, shrieking at drivers who get in our way when my brain says we should just barrel through. Or when I have had a meltdown when you made a U-turn. And when I steal quarters from your pockets for the pop machines. Sorry about the collector’s coins that one time.
 
“Thank you for laughing at my silliness when you try to snuggle with me on the couch, and for letting me have the remote so I can watch a marathon of America’s Funniest Videos.  Or Cops.  Or Wipe Out. Although, you have to admit, Wipe Out cracks you up almost as much as it does me.  I just wish that you had greater appreciation for  Dora and Barney (and Jerry Springer), but that just reminds me to thank you, too, for forcing me sometimes to compromise.
 
“I will probably kiss you on the shoulder sometime today.  Be ready for it; you know I never linger for those extreme displays of affection. 
 
“All my love (except that reserved for pop, reams of notebook paper and library books).”
 
— Your daughter Shaina

Witness to Miracles

Witness to Miracles

If you’ve been married as long as I have, sometimes you have to go through some tough times to be reminded why you love your spouse so much.

Living in Minnesota is the same thing. Two weeks ago, we had 8 inches of new snow and I was ready to pack my bags and leave. Today, our backyard looks like this. I am madly, incredibly, heart-throbbingly in love again.

Minnesota Spring is nothing short of a host of miracles. One day, the trees begin to bud. The next day, full-on bloom. Sometimes the speed at which our view of the pond changes is so fast it leaves me breathless. Amazing!

And the sounds: From the silence of a winter snow to the symphony of new life. Canada geese on the pond, honking a raucous warning as they protect their nests from approaching dogs and children, and others of their own kind. A chorus of happy goldfinches every morning, the sweet song of the cardinals at dawn and dusk. The whir of a hummingbird as he comes inches from my head. The high cheep-cheep of baby robins, pink and bald and all-beaks, just fresh from their glistening blue eggs. The cacophony of spring peepers, bullfrogs and tree toads; lasting long after the moon has risen over the pond.

Then last night: The tiny munching sound of a chipmunk under our pallet garden, enjoying a snack of purloined sunflower seeds from the gazebo. Maybe the greatest miracle is that I didn’t go get a live trap and introduce him to a new home miles away.

Dang chipmunks! Without them, Minnesota Spring and I would have a perfect relationship!

Minnesota Winter

Have you ever thought that Minnesota gets a bad rap in the movies?

If you haven’t thought about it, I have one word. Fargo. See? Bad rap. Even without the woodchipper, Minnesota winter comes off as a harsh experience.

My husband’s brother Jonathan has set out to change our winter reputation — from the serenity of a walk through the woods to the imagination of the Ice Cavern at the Mall of America to the exhiliration of the North Shore of Lake Superior, Jonathan shows that Minnesota winters are anything but Scandinavian bland.

Enjoy!