Day in the Life - Winter 2018

I debated about doing another day in the life series this year. I wrapped up 2017 and was feeling that this may be the time to stop this project. With Riley getting older I wondered if she'd still want me capturing these days - would it still be important to her? Would she care that I was posting the details of our lives for all to read. I'd been waiting for the heads up from another blogger (who hosts a round up of these day in lives each season) letting me know that it was time, but it didn't come. I decided I wasn't going to do it, but then asked Riley what she thought and she definitively wanted me to do it. She started talking about how she loves looking back through the books I've made each year (2012 is her favorite) and so I agreed this was a project I couldn't quite let go of. We'd just come home from a vacation in San Diego (more to come in a future post once I edit my pictures) so I couldn't bring myself to spend another day right away taking pictures all day long. But here, we are... I didn't want it to get away from me. I  really do love looking back at these posts and seeing how our lives have changed.

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

Riley is 6 days short of turning 8

Jesse is 43 and I am 46

Mason (Jesse's nephew) is 18

Frank (my dad) is 89

Lucy (the cat) is 13

The night before I stayed up reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed far past my bedtime as I couldn't put it down. I finally put down my book only to open up FaceBook. I've been so good about not scrolling mindlessly on social media, but somehow got totally caught up in it and watched a video of Jimmy Fallen visiting a local MN family while in town this weekend (for the Super Bowl). Nothing that I needed to watch and 15 minutes I could have been sleeping instead.


I finally went to bed at 11:27 or so and felt Jesse crawl into bed about 10 minutes later which was also quite late for him. I woke at 2:40 and 5:10 - each time from dreams I no longer remember, but otherwise I slept well. I'd probably have slept through the 5:10 wake up if it wasn't for the cat licking me awake.

7:00 - I wake again, but this time it's because Riley is leaving her room. I need to teach her how to quietly close her bedroom door. I think I might be able to get more sleep (I WANT to get my 8, or more, hours of sleep), but as I lay there I realize that I'm awake. Sleep is not going to happen. 


7:14 - I slip out of bed hoping to not wake Jesse, but I have a feeling the loud click of Riley's door also jolted him awake. I go downstairs and I take my morning pill and drink my Citrocel and then tackle the kitchen. We left it a mess the previous night so I get that taken care of right away. I clean up cat puke in the dining room, empty garbage cans from all the bathrooms and the office and then set out the recycling and organics garbage to be taken outside. Next I sort and start laundry feeling like I've accomplished a fair amount in the last 45 minutes. All the while, Riley is on the couch with her tablet.

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8:00 - I pour a bowl of granola  for me and some Rice Krispies for my kid. She's been watching TV  and writing fairy books so I head to my computer to check emails, the weather, and see what the internet is up to this morning.

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8:27 - I run upstairs and put on some workout clothes. My dad is coming over in an hour and I want to get this in before the day gets away from me. I head to the basement and Riley follows, continuing to multitask with her tablet and her fairy books. I should probably have her turn the tablet off, but I let it slide. I set up Yoga with Adriene, a You Tube channel that was recommended by someone I met through blogging. My husband recently bought me Piyo, which I like, but Adriene feels more my speed - as in she's laid back and quirky, but I still feel like I get a great workout. The session I choose this day is only about 21 minutes so I jump on the treadmill for about 10 minutes after that and watch Victoria as I briskly walk along. I would have gone for longer, but I know I have a number of things to do before my dad shows up at 9:30.

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9:12 - As I walk to the laundry room to dump my socks, Riley points out that someone is at the door. My dad. He's early. He's always early, but apparently I thought he would be on time today. No worries. I quickly clean up, change and pack up what I need. We are heading over to my rental property to fix a clogged sink. Afterwards, we plan to go out to a belated birthday lunch for me as I was out of town during my birthday. Whenever, I bring my dad over to my rental it's never a quick thing so I think the timing of this should all work out. 

Jesse's nephew, Mason, has been living with us since right after Thanksgiving and is trying to find a car. Jesse's promised that he would go with him this day to check one out so I double check to see if he can come to the rental with us or not. He shares that they will look at the car later.

9:33 - We head out the door. It's gloomy and snowy today and I feel a little bad that my dad has traveled out in this weather. I know he's not a fan of it; especially as he gets older. The Super Bowl will be played the day after this in Minneapolis so we also worry a little about what traffic will be like. It's slick in spots... or as my dad states "it's greasy out there", but the traffic wasn't heavy so all was good.

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We arrive at my rental and the sidewalks aren't shoveled as well as they could be and the unit smells like cat piss. It's these moments that I dislike being a landlord. My dad snakes the bathroom sink drain while I notice a light is out over the sink. Luckily, I left a bunch of light bulbs in the basement so I grab one. My dad finds a little hair in the drain (as expected) and a piece of plastic (not sure how that happened). I change the light bulb, we clean up after ourselves and I check the toilet as it apparently runs every once in a great while. 10 minutes later and we're done. We'd planned on eating at Whitey's in Northeast, but none of us are hungry for lunch at 10:16. I was SURE that was going to take way longer. We decide to go back to my house

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10:35 - We arrive home and Riley, my dad and I decide to hang out while Jesse and Mason go to Target. The snow keeps coming down and I worry about my dad driving home, but he insists he's fine. My dad and I chat and Riley plays with a race car track. Lucy joins us and plops herself down in front of one of her favorite spots... the living room register. I throw the wash into the dryer at some point. My dad looks at my Utah and 365 photo books on our coffee table and I show him the local magazine that featured a picture of my cat last month. The front doorbell rings, and even though we have a 'no soliciting' sign, I always worry that it will be someone trying to sell me something or talk religion. However, it's the girl scouts and it's hard to pass up buying some cookies from them. We don't eat them that much to be truthful, and I think the ones we have in the freezer are from two years ago, but we're almost out so it seems smart to get some more. Riley likes them as a treat so she picks out two boxes of Thin Mints. I'm sure she'll like some of the other flavors, but since this is pretty much the only one she knows, she doesn't branch out. 

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11:24 - Jesse and Mason arrive home while my dad takes a call from my sister, Angel. Jesse and Mason are still waiting on when to see the car so they decide to stay home, while Riley, my dad and I go to Applebees. Riley brings her fairy books she's been writing and continues writing at the restaurant. We talk about my recent trip to San Diego (where I got to see my cousins and a friend), we discuss his recent visit to the eye doctor (who happens to also be my dry eye doctor), and my dad marvels over Riley's love of reading and writing.

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12:55 - As we prepare to leave, I realize that I don't have a snow scraper in the car.No big deal, but I make a mental note to replace it. We get back to my place and my dad assures me that he'll be fine driving home and then heads off. Riley works some more on her fairy stories (they are a series of books based on the Rainbow Magic books) and shows her dad what she's come up with so far. Jesse and Mason are playing video games in their respective rooms, still waiting to hear from the car guy. 

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1:18 - I sit down and work on editing pictures from our recent vacation. I'm moving slow - picking far too many pictures to keep, knowing that I should delete a lot more than I have. My eyes are dry so I'm sure that's contributing (at least today) to my lack of speed and attention. I check on Riley and she's back on her tablet, and it's still snowing. I had no idea it was supposed to snow all day today so I keep waiting for it to stop, but it almost seems like it's getting stronger. Riley comes into the office and somehow the topic of Orca whales come up and how they are on the top of the food chair. We talked a lot about Orcas last week when we were at SeaWorld and somehow get into a debate about what is the largest animal that Orca's eat. I insisted that they've been known to go after Grey whales, but Riley and Jesse assert that they never heard this during the Orca whales presentation last week. I Google and find that I am correct, although they tend to attack juvenile Grey whales.

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Still snowing

Still snowing

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1:57 - I grab the clothes out of the dryer and fold them. I'm freezing so I get my new robe, which feels far too luxurious for me, and wear it around the house. Jesse gives Riley a snack, then he and Mason shovel part of the driveway and back walkway, and then leave to go look at the car finally. I sit back down with the hope of editing, and do, but get quickly distracted. The house next to my rental is for sale so I look it up online to see how much they want for it. This leads me to look at other listings, and then to see what my rental is estimated at. it's a wide range and it's rental estimate is far lower than I get. I've been debating about selling it since the market is good and then I wouldn't have to worry about fixing sinks (that wouldn't need fixing if renters didn't let plastic go down the drains), but it's also good to have the rental. There is a large supply of potential renters and, for the most part, I don't have to do anything, but collect the rent. My husband would like to be rid of it, but I'm not quite ready.

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2:40 - Riley wants another snack. I cut her up an apple and tell her that she needs to turn off the tablet since she's been on it a lot today. She's been given optional homework by her teacher so I ask that she do some of that. The only homework that her class has this year is to have each kid read with a parent at least 5 days of the week. Riley and I read together at bedtime so this isn't very hard to accomplish for us so Jesse asked Riley's teacher about additional homework, much to Riley's chagrin. Riley's teacher sends home these optional packets each Monday and somehow Riley has three of them. She has completed parts of each, but I figured we should finish at least one of them up. They cover a lot of things - my favorite is when she has to read a story and then answer questions about it, but it also has things about multiplication and division which isn't something she's learned about yet. She does what she can and we help her with some of the parts that we think she can figure out, but might need a little guidance, and we skip the rest. I go upstairs to put the laundry away and she follows me, asking questions about her homework.

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3:10 - Laundry has been put away, homework is done (at least one packet) and it's still snowing. It's so gloomy and I'm completely unmotivated to do anything, but I also don't want to see Riley navigate to her tablet again. We decide to bundle up and go outside. I plan to shovel and let her know that she can play, but she wants to shovel too. I grab the kid shovel for her and the big one for me and we both start working away. She seems put out that I am shoveling too, but I assure her that there is enough for both of us. We clean up the front with a little help from the neighbor who is out with her snowblower and then head to the back. I thought Riley would be done with shoveling my now, but she helped me right to the end... and then went to play in the snow. She remarked that she wished her dad was shoveling off the roof as she likes having the snow tumble down over her so I grab the roof rake and clean off the garage roof - nailing her with snow over and over while she laughs and laughs and laughs. I couldn't help, but laugh too - she was clearly having so much fun.

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4:02 - Jesse and Mason arrive home. They share that they were ready to buy the car, but there were a couple discrepancies that need to be checked out. The guy selling it is selling it for a friend so he said he would get Mason the answers to their questions. Hopefully, he finds something soon so he has a little more freedom to get around (a couple days later it all works out and Mason bought the car - yay!). Riley and I play outside for a little while longer until she gets snow all over her face.

4:11 - Riley cuddles up with the cat and a blanket while I try to call my dad a second time since he left. I hope he's outside shoveling and not in a ditch somewhere. I grab a warm compress for my dry eyes. I queue up a She Explores podcast that features Kylie Fly, an adventure photographer and I plant myself on the couch with my warm compress. At some point, Riley brings me my robe as I'm chilly and then resumes talking with her dad. Once I'm done with the compress, I head into my home office and start listening to the next podcast episode about a woman who is a two time Olympic runner while I check out Kylie Fly's website and Instagram. I dream about how fun adventure photography would be and then I come back to reality. I love the outdoors part, but adventure has a cap for me and I'm guessing Kylie goes beyond my comfort level. While I'm trying to imagine if I could hang off a cliff photographing actual climbers, Jesse is living in reality in the kitchen making Riley dinner.

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4:30 - I grab my leftover salad from lunch and eat that. It's not much, but it will do for now. My dad calls to check in as he sees I tried calling him. I share how much the rental next door to mine is going for. He once had a chance to see inside one of the units and mentions that it isn't that big so he's surprised they want that much. He expresses doubt that they will get what they are asking for. I return to my podcast after talking with him. 

5:23 - Riley has finished dinner and I'm done with my podcast. I add a picture to Instagram and then start to write this post since I haven't taken good notes or as many pictures as I usually do. I did record notes from time to time on my phone and that saved me from completely forgetting some of the details, but things probably get a little fuzzier from here on out. Mason has been mostly in his room all day, as he usually is, playing video games. There are no pictures of him partly because he was in his room all day, but also because he doesn't like his picture on the internet so I try to respect that. Riley asks for a cold cookie (re: frozen Girl Scout cookie) so I tell her to go ahead and grab one of the new boxes, but she grabs from our two year old stash.

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6:46 - I get Riley in the shower after realizing that it's shower day. While she's getting clean I head upstairs and put on my pajamas. I never showered after working out, but took a washcloth bath before going to the rental so I decide that will be good enough, especially since I plan to get up and work out again in the morning. I grab Riley's pajamas as well, fill up the humidifier, close her curtains, and then head back downstairs. While she's showering, I go in the bathroom and cut my finger nails which have been bothering me all day. Riley talks with me about the fairy books she's been writing. They started with her friend, Kylie, making one and then Riley made book 2 of that fairy series. Riley keeps writing more and more stories so she noted that she wasn't sure if she should write another book in case Kylie wants to write it. Riley stressed that she wanted to start it that night, but thought she should wait. We talked about what she might say to her friend to see if she wanted to write the next book. Since Kylie's birthday party is coming up we talked about what Riley would want to get her as a gift. Riley declares that she's going to write her a fairy book featuring Riley and Kylie. That night Riley proceeds to draw the cover page and create a title, and write up a description on the back page. When it's all written she wants to make a copy so they each have ones since they are BFF's.

7:29 - Riley is out of the shower, dressed her her jammies, and her hair dried. Jesse came home from the movie, The Hostiles, and noted that he was disappointed in it. Riley and I go upstairs where she brushes her teeth and we read together. We are on the forth book of the Series of Unfortunate Event books, The Miserable Mill. I bought her books 1 - 3 last year for her birthday thinking that was the full set. Obviously, I had no clue. We just started reading them recently and both of us totally fell in love with them. We started watching the Netflix version of the books which had some spoilers, but it's still fun to see how they translate the book into a tv show. We are almost done with this book and I'm trying to time it just right as we bought her the remaining books (5 - 13) in the series for her birthday. 

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7:50 - I leave Riley's room. She works on her book to Kylie, and then read's an entire A to Z  series book before falling asleep. I grab some meat, cheese, and crackers to make up for my small dinner and sit back down in front of the computer. I work on editing my San Diego pictures. It's slow going, but I get through the zoo. However, I'm still not through that day as we also went to Balboa Park. I watch Victoria while I edit which probably contributes to my slowness as I stop to watch the show for long periods of time.

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9:47 - I head upstairs and read another chapter of Wild and then quickly check my Instagram account before going to bed at 10:26. I close my eyes and am out. I have no idea when Jesse came to bed. I was tired. 

12:55 - I wake up from a dream where I am being chased, or hunted. Part of my blankets are off and my heart is beating hard. I get up to go to the bathroom, half expecting the person chasing me in my dream to be standing in the hallway. Once I talk myself out of how silly that is, I go back to sleep and zonk right back out. 

At some point Lucy comes into bed and is super cuddly, which is cute, but she's also licking my hand and her cold, wet nose keeps touching my face. I fall back asleep and dream that I'm in a car that my dad is driving to Alaska. He's not really paying attention to the road. He's looking at his phone and driving super fast. I'm looking at a map, trying to figure out where we are in Alaska because I determine that we have to stop and experience Alaska. It's the second dream I've had recently where my dad is driving erratically so it has me a little worried about what it means. In real life, my dad always hands me or Jesse the keys when we are in a car together so I haven't actually been in a car where my dad is driving for at least a few years. The dream fast forwards and now I'm in a bar in Canada with a couple friends. We're participating in trivia and notice that everyone is dressed far smarter than we Americans are. I'm brought out of my dream by Riley opening and closing her bedroom door... TWICE before she heads back downstairs. 

At that, is our winter day in the life...

Here I come 2018

Since it's the start of a new year it's natural to reflect back on the previous year and look forward to what 2018 might bring. I'm not one to do new year resolutions, but I have been mindful lately of the direction I want to take my life and the decisions I want to make. It really is an ongoing process as I feel this recent wave started sometime in 2017, but was built off of ideas and actions that started far before then. These dreams and goals relate to my family, my career, photography, and all other aspects of my life. And while I'm also not one to select a word to define the upcoming year... if I did, I think it would be SIMPLIFY. I'm sure I could think of many other words to connect to this need. And yes, that's really what it feels like - I NEED this. I need to simplify my life. 

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It's not that my life is crowded or busy with events. I'm not running from one thing to another. I don't have multiple children to attend to and I don't work over 36 hours a week, but I often feel there are too many things... distractions in my work and personal life. I don't have any immediate plans to change my job so for now I plan to focus on my personal life. But like I said, this process has already started and, in all honesty, I'm still figuring out what it means. It's things like unsubscribing from emails that I don't really need, backing off (some) social media (thank you 2016 election for starting that process), but it's also finding more time to work out, to get outside, to continue going to lunch with my dad, and reading books with my daughter. 

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In some ways it's turning off all the channels that are always buzzing about me to focus only on one. So far it feels satisfying.

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So while I've been reflecting on my personal life, I can't help but think about how photography plays into it as it's become such a big part of my life. I've looked back to see how I used to take pictures to document events so I could put them on my (former) blog, but then I stepped back from that. Instead, I began a 52 project where I started focusing more on the skill of photography, and last year it turned into a 365 project. And I did it! I took pictures every single day of 2017. So many other photographers said it was life changing for them, that they grew so much in that year so I hoped I would feel the same at the end of the year.

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Truthfully, I was so grateful it was over. I'm not good at allowing mistakes like missing a day. I don't give myself enough grace in those situations (perhaps 'grace' could be another word to focus on for the new year). So, in the end it felt like a bit of a chore. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I did it, but I don't think I grew as much as I did when I focused on the 52 project (and to be clear, I took waaaay more than 52 pictures, but just not pictures everyday). This past year I took pictures because I felt I had to and I spent almost every night editing so I would stay on top of it.

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I didn't take a single picture for the first 3 days of 2018 and it was absolutely freeing. But, by day four I was ready to start capturing memories again. I needed a break during those first few days, but also everything I saw felt mundane. I've captured it before, why should I capture it again? It's nothing special. But you see, last years goal wasn't only to take pictures everyday - it was to capture our life. Hopefully, I would grow in skill (working with different light sources for example), but I wanted to capture Riley playing with her friends, talking with her dad at dinner time, reading a books, stopping at the Little Library on the way to school, and so many other daily or not so daily events in our lives.

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I'm glad I did. I love looking back at her reading the Spiderwick Chronicles and remembering how excited she was to read each book in the series and then watch the movie. I treasure the picture of her reaching into the Little Library on our walk to school so much more now because that family has moved and taken the Little Library with them. I cherish all the pictures I captured of my dad and am grateful at how accommodating he was.

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I know photography isn't for everyone. I know a lot of people don't get why some of us take so many pictures and that's okay. It's important to me so that's all that matters. I look back at pictures from my childhood which are often the only reason I have a memory of that event. I'm grateful for every single picture I have of my brother who died far too young. I know I need to get in more pictures as I wish my mom was. So this year I plan to continue taking pictures every week, but not necessarily every day. I'll work on skill building, on telling stories, and capturing moments. I won't edit every night which means I'll spend more time working out, reading, watching TV, feeling less obligated to complete a specific task. I might even write more. I'll admit I miss it a bit.

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So hear I am, ready to start the new year, a continuation of the past. A building of a life I want to live... and capturing it along the way. 

My Minnesota - November - Westwood Hills Nature Center

As I write this, it's below freezing outside and snow covers the icy ground. It definitely feels like winter. I've barely left the house all week, but just a month ago we were having a mild November and embracing our time outdoors before our long Minnesota winter set in.

One sunny day we bundled up (more than was necessary, it turns out) and explored Westwood Hills Nature Center which is located not far from our home and a favorite get away. I love this little patch of nature hidden in my suburban neighborhood set right outside the city. It's as if you've escaped the bustling metropolis for a bit without really needing to leave the city at all. If it wasn't for the hum of cars from the highway nearby it would be quite believable that you'd driven out to the country. 

There are a number of paths to explore so we decided to start by heading up the path behind the nature center building. As we came upon the the bird feeding area we encountered a turkey. I've seen turkey's here almost every time I've visited recently, but usually they are in a group. This guy was by himself and slightly wary of us, but he had the bird feeding area to himself so he didn't seem too eager to leave either. We watched him a bit before moving on.

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After our excitement of seeing a turkey, we went forth on a mission. Several years back people noticed nature art along the trail... pictures of owls, bears, dogs, and other animal would show up from time to time on the trunk of an old tree. Eventually, they tracked down the artist who happened to be a local nanny. Apparently, she updates her art multiple times a week, but I'd never come across one myself until recently, when I decided to take a path up by the pines instead of down by the boardwalk. I was alone so Riley didn't get to see it. I knew she'd love to find one on her own so I hoped we'd come across one in the same area. We walked the path to where I had found a gorilla, and came across a lion. It looked a little old, but we were still excited to find this creation. 

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We noticed another person nearby, but it wasn't until we got closer that we realized it was the artist herself. We stopped and chatted a bit with Chelsea and then left her to finish what she was working on. We explored further on, but had to come back on the same path and were able to see the finished product. Riley was delighted to see they were cats, her favorite animal ever.

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We noticed Chelsea gathering materials so we knew she wasn't done making creations and we couldn't leave yet. We wandered around and I tried to get us down by the marsh, but Riley to anxious to get back to see what new nature art she might find.

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We were right that the lion was old as it was replaced by a couple dogs. Riley brought her journal and pencil on our excursion so she was making notes and naming each of these creatures.

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The last one we came across was this owl before making a quick stop by the marsh before heading home. Chelsea shared that she updates these weekly so we are sure to go back, especially since we know where to find them now. And while I love a good walk through the woods, it's nice to see someone be inspired by nature in a new way.

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The planning for our trip to Moab, Utah really started a few years ago when Jesse and I bought a Tacoma Toyota. I thought we were buying a truck... something to get us from point A to point B and maybe haul some things along the way. I was sorely mistaken as this truck was to become much more than that, at least to my husband.

It really started when my husband went online to research something about our truck and found a forum specifically for Tacoma owners. One thing snowballed into another, and a few posts on the forum led to connecting with other local Tacoma owners, new shocks and tires (and countless other things that didn't really need replacing, but the old versions might not be appropriate for driving off the beaten path) and eventually multiple road trips with these new truck friends.

They've gone as far as South Dakota and Michigan, but also spent multiple weekends up north here in Minnesota. My husband loves the outdoors, as do I, but I'm not really a winter camper - nor is our 7 year old, so I was glad that he found this group of people who enjoyed much of the same things he did and were willing to do it during any season of the year.

Some of these guys are much more the off-roading type and have their trucks modified a bit more than ours. They love to drive over big rocks and put their trucks to the test, perhaps even feeling an excursion wasn't as great as it could be because they didn't break anything on their vehicle. Jesse is more of a "I want to drive off the beaten path, camp, and hike" type of guy, but is open to a little challenge as long as our truck can handle it. Sometime in the last year, the guys started talking about driving to Rock Therapy, an event held in Moab each year. As best I could understand it, it was an event where people could come together and bond over off-roading adventures.  

Jesse and his buddies planned out a 10 - 12 day road trip that he wanted me to come on, but that just wasn't going to happen. He'd been wanting me to come along on one of these trips for some time so I suggested that Riley and I fly to Utah to hang out with him for a few days. If I'd known what a challenge that would be I might not have suggested it (super early flight out, late flight in, two flights with layovers each way, and then a two hour drive to our final destination), but in the end it was totally worth it. My only wish was that we'd stayed longer than four days as it just wasn't enough.

Six guys (Jesse, Sam, Chris, Aaron and his two boys), four trucks, two trailers, a scooter, and a dirt bike left Minnesota on Thursday and made their way to Colorado where they dropped off a truck and a scooter with Chris' brother. They forged on in three trucks (plus two trailers - one carrying the dirt bike) and took the 142 mile Kokopelli Trail from CO to UT. Let me back up here for a second and share that about six months ago Jesse shared a blog post of some guys who took this trail. The trail is fine, mild in many areas, but there is a section called the Rose Garden Hill that looked incredibly difficult in a truck such as ours. I most definitively said "don't ever do that trail" and then he broke it to me that it was probably going to be part of the Moab trip. 

So he did it (in the dark even), and I think it burnt him out a bit. He said it was hard and at some point they were all beat from the Kokopelli trail and just wanted to get to Moab so they didn't finish the trail. I think this kills Jesse a little to not be able to say that he finished the entire trail, but it is what it is. I have yet to see all the pictures or video footage from this part of the trip. I can't wait, and yet I can.

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And that really brings us up to where Riley and I come in. By lunchtime on Tuesday, we were in Moab eating at The Spoke and getting ready to check out our new home at Ken's Lake campground... except that those plans changed. Apparently, the weather forecast nighttime temps around 38 - 44, but ended up being more like 28 degrees. We didn't think we had enough blankets (Sam had bought an extra for himself after a particularly cold night) so Jesse determined that we needed to find a hotel for that evening. I think he may have also wanted to sleep in a real bed for a night. 

Moab is lined with hotels so we hoped we could easily find a room, but Moab is also an adventurers town (even if some of those adventures don't want to rough it at night) and people flock to it in the fall when they don't have to worry about 100 degree daytime temps. It took a bit, but we were able to secure a room.  I had mixed feeling about staying at a hotel, but was also relieved that I didn't have to sleep out in the cold. Travel tip: if a hotel says they are full, check Expedia as we were able to secure a room that way. Also, Sam and I tag teamed this trip with our Travel Advisor and Yelp apps to find hotels and restaurants.

We had plenty of time before settling into the hotel for the night so Sam, Jesse, Riley and I decided to go for a hike at the Grandstaff trail. Grandstaff is located off the beautiful Rt 128 which weaves along side the Colorado River in between mountains. We didn't have a lot of time to hike this trail so we didn't go far, but it was one of my favorite excursions on this trip.  If I ever get back to Moab, I will be hiking this trail to the end to see the Morning Glory Natural Bridge which is supposed to have the 5th largest span in the world. Travel tip: dress in layers in Utah. It get's hot in the sun, but can be cool in the shade. Unfortunately, Sam was still dressed for his cold overnight sleep and got way too hot.

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On the way back into town we made a rock stop at Lin Ottinger's Rock Shop. This isn't just any rock shop as it's owned by the guy who discovered the Iguanodon dinosaur.  We were delighted to recognize that dinosaur from our dinosaur book (which Riley insisted on bringing with her and yet, we never pulled it out of the suitcase). At any rate, this place has all sorts of rocks, fossils, jewelry, dinosaur bones, etc. Riley settled on a necklace with her birthstone of amethyst and we picked up a reproduction of a dinosaur claw for a dinosaur loving friend.

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From there, we headed to the campground to get some clothes for Sam and Jesse and then headed to the hotel to check in. Riley and I were barely functioning on fumes (I'd been up since 2:30 am, she since 3:30 am), but we were determined to power through no matter how much we just wanted to take a nap.

View at the campground.

View at the campground.

Our next stop was Dead Horse Point which my wonderful husband made a point of going to just before sunset so I could get some pretty pictures. That guy knows the way to my heart. The views here were really breathtaking (as were all our views from above on this trip). I wasn't the only one that thought this would be a good place to snap a few pics as there were also a bunch of other photographers who all seemed to be waiting patiently with their tripods for the sun to set. Jesse grabbed my tripod for me, but I declined. I knew I couldn't stand in one spot - I wanted All. The. Pictures. 

A quick stop at the visitor center before heading to the top.

A quick stop at the visitor center before heading to the top.

Examining a dinosaur track in a rock.

Examining a dinosaur track in a rock.

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Anyone else nervously looking at this picture and thinking how easily that camera and tripod could get knocked over?

Anyone else nervously looking at this picture and thinking how easily that camera and tripod could get knocked over?

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That view was just what I needed on the first day of this trip. This stop hadn't been on our original agenda, but I'm so glad Jesse suggested it. We'd promised Riley an ice cream treat of some sort so afterwards we stopped at Milts in Moab for some food and shakes before heading back to the hotel. If I hadn't already eaten a burger for lunch, I totally would have had one here and I sort of regret I didn't anyway. It's a small place, mostly outside seating, but we grabbed a counter seat inside next to the grill which was filled with 'flavor country' as we call it. Instead, we split some chicken fingers and had a couple of shakes which turned out to be a really great combination. With bellies full, Jesse and Sam went to the laundromat while Riley and I went to sleep early to rest up for another active day.

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On Wednesday, we met up with the rest of the guys back at camp. This was going to be our off-roading day. We had plenty of touristy things we wanted to do, but this was also the reason we came here. The guys decided on the Top of the World trail which was rated at moderate to difficult, and now that I've taken the trail... and in my one time off-roading experience, I would say was an accurate rating. We traveled along Rt 128 again, but even farther out (such a beautiful view on this road) and turned at the Dewey Bridge. The bridge used to be the main road across the Colorado River here, but after the new bridge was built it was converted to a walking bridge. Unfortunately, due to a human made fire, it was destroyed and now the remnants stand as a reminder of the destruction that a few matches can create. 

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For this excursion, we were joined by Shawn from North Dakota with his buggy while Sam rode his dirt bike. The trail is anticipated to take 3 - 5 hours and we likely took close to 5 hours with the downtime we had at the top. You definitely should not attempt this trail with your stock vehicle. There were quite a few 'stairs' of rocks that we had to drive up and down and while the drive up felt easier, it still had some challenging spots.

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Jesse allowed Riley to sit up front (in her car seat, fully strapped in) as a bit of a treat. We were always going slow so I wasn't worried about her and at times she and I were walking. Jesse taught her how to shift and she caught on quickly as to when he needed to be in L or 2. Later in the trip, we'd be hiking and she'd say "this trail looks like a 2, and up there a 3" or something to that effect. I learned how to drive on a three on a tree and my first 3 vehicles were manual transmission so I was extra proud to hear my kid talk about gears and totally get it.

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The guys were all really great about looking out for each other. They all had CB radios so they could chat and communicate things of importance. Whoever was up front might note to stay to the right at a particular point or let everyone know if there were other vehicles coming that they might need to move for. During extra challenging spots, one person would get out and spot for those behind them, guiding the other drivers with directions like "passenger" or "driver" to let them know which way to turn the wheel. I even did my share of spotting which seemed to really delight Jesse. He saw me embracing his hobby and I saw myself as making sure the exhaust on our truck didn't get ripped off. We're partners in this.

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We finally got to the top and took in the amazing view. It's no doubt why it's called Top of the World. The guys took turns having their picture taken on the slab of sandstone that juts out over the cliff. I have a great fear of failing off a cliff so it was a little nerve wracking to see (and I'm even a little wobbly kneed just thinking about it now), but I took a few deep breaths and stepped back from the edge (and nervously watched my kid the entire time we were up there).

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It may be obvious, but I was the photographer of the group. I mean everyone was taking pictures with their phones, but everyone knew I had the DSLR camera and they seemed pretty open, if not excited, for me to take pictures. I'm used to my husband avoiding the camera at home - he just doesn't like his picture taken (it happens anyway), but I know part of the reason he wanted me on this trip - besides my wonderful company - was to document, in pictures, their adventures. Not that I needed it, but I was often nudged to capture one picture after another. "Oh, you should get out and capture how his tire is lifted off the rock" and so on. I'm not used to such willingness to be in front of the camera, but I now know that my husband is totally cool being having his picture taken as long as it includes his truck or nature.

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While we mostly debated the 'difficult' rating on the way up, we had no doubt on the way down. The entire route is basically one road up and then a loop at the top that brings you back to the same road you take back down. It was on the down side of that loop that Chris and Shawn (with their more modified vehicles) got ahead of us. Aaron and Jesse took a slower pace to make sure that they didn't rip the undersides of their trucks off. Sam was at the back on his dirt bike, but eventually passed us slow pokes down to catch up with the other guys. Travel tip: Not that this means much to other people (or me, really), but for those that understand it... Jesse has 34 inch tires with a 2 inch lift in the front and 4 inch lift in the back so this trail certainly isn't for just any truck. Do not take this trail in your 'off the show room floor' stock vehicle. You will regret it or end up walking most of the way. Not that I should need to say that, but you know... some people.

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Sometimes a winch came in really handy. Another upgrade to our truck that I initially thought was ridiculous.

Sometimes a winch came in really handy. Another upgrade to our truck that I initially thought was ridiculous.

By the time we finished this trail and dropped the bike off at the campsite, we were starving. We wanted to check out the local Thai restaurant, but were told it was a 45 minute wait. We drove around and Jesse suddenly pulled in to a McDonald's parking lot. I was not in the mood for this and wanted to throw a hangry fit, but was also hangry and just needed food. I put my big girl pants on and ate their new chicken tenders which really weren't that half bad. After dinner, we settled in to our second hotel room of this trip as we anticipated another cold night. Travel tip: Make sure you have food when you go on long rides. We had snacks which acted as our lunch, but we didn't anticipate it would take quite as long as it did to do that trail. Big fail on our part.

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This girl was either playing with rocks or readng her books on this trip. I suspect you'll notice a theme in these pictures.

This girl was either playing with rocks or readng her books on this trip. I suspect you'll notice a theme in these pictures.

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And so on Thursday, after a day driving over the hard stuff, we split up. Chris and Shawn went on trails with names like Bone Crusher and Metal Masher or something like that, and Aaron and his boys, Sam, and Jesse selected to go sight seeing with us in Canyonlands National Park. I have to admit going into this, I really wanted to see Arches National Park over the Canyonlands, but this was a big one on Jesse's wish list and I now totally get why. You could spend a week or two just in the Canyonlands as there are so many places to drive, hike, bike, and explore.  We started at the Island in the Sky visitor center and then checked out a number of must see touristy spots before taking a road less traveled back into town. 

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At our first stop, I had an 'aha' moment when I saw the Mesa Arch which I'd seen photographed before. Maybe this place was pretty cool to visit - we weren't the only ones that thought that same thing, though. There were plenty of people out exploring, although it did feel like we might have gotten there a bit before the big crowds arrived. Still, expect to see a lot of other people exploring along side you here. 

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Each stop had a short hike with an amazing view. We all tried to capture the amazingness with our cameras, but the pictures never really quite gave it the justice it deserves. 

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I may have asked the guys to shift to the left for this photo and Jesse may have hammed it up a bit.

I may have asked the guys to shift to the left for this photo and Jesse may have hammed it up a bit.

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We started at the Mesa Arch, went on to Grand View Point, explored Whale Rock (recommended at the Visitor Center as a must explore for kids), and at the end of this particular road, found Upheaval Dome. Travel tips: Stop at the visitor center for suggestions from staff, especially important if the weather may be inclement. Additionally, keep in mind that the altitude may be different than you are used to. On the trip out, the guys stayed up in the mountains in Colorado and got sick from the altitude with it hitting Sam the worst. Sam and I tended to take some of these hikes slower as we were mindful that our bodies did not handle the altitude change as well. For a moment, I thought I was terribly out of shape with my huffing and puffing type of breathing, and then realized that it was the darn altitude impacting me.

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It's hard to see here, but it really did look like we were walking on the back of a whale... made out of rock, of course.

It's hard to see here, but it really did look like we were walking on the back of a whale... made out of rock, of course.

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We planned ahead and picked up sandwich stuff for our lunch this day. Such a better experience!

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It's unclear what caused the formation at Upheaval Dome, but a leading theory is that it was created by a meteorite. Whatever it was, it is pretty impressive.

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Once we hit all the hot spots along the Island in the Sky road, we ventured back to Moab via Shafer Canyon and Potash roads. The first part of this trail was navigating a bunch of switchbacks on Shafer's Pass. This road claimed to be two way, but was only wide enough for one vehicle for much of the way. If another vehicle came your way you hoped you were on the wider part of the road or might need to back up until it is safe to pass. The difficult road we drove the day before was not nearly as scary as this type of road is, at least for me. It's one thing to bang the bottom of your truck into rocks, it's another to careen off the side of the road altogether. Travel tip: While your vehicle might not need quite the modifications needed for the Top of the World trail, it would still be recommended to have a 4 wheel drive and to be a skilled driver to take this route.

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The reassuring face my husband gives me after looking over the side of the cliff.

The reassuring face my husband gives me after looking over the side of the cliff.

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From Shafer Canyon road, you can continue on to White Rim road - something the guys really wanted to do, but time wise it wasn't in the cards for this day. We turned off on to Potash road which brought us back to Moab on mostly smooth roads, with interesting views. We were able to see the Potash ponds from Dead Horse a couple days prior so it was interesting to be able to drive right past them. 

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We got back into town during the late afternoon so we stopped by some local shops to pick up our obligatory vacation trinkets (t-shirts, magnet, etc) before walking over to Arches Thai for dinner. We made sure to call ahead and arrive much earlier than the day before. We had planned to eat here on Tuesday, but discovered they are closed that day, and of course there was the wait on Wednesday so I was incredibly grateful that the food was really, really good when we finally did get to eat here. After a highly satisfying meal, we headed back to the campsite where we planned to actually sleep for our last night in town. 

Ken's Lake campground has a man made lake within view of our campsite so Riley and I decided to walk down the road to check it out. Turns out it was far further than it appeared. It seemed within walking distance, but at one point I turned us around to avoid being stuck out in the dark by ourselves. As we returned to the campsite, I noticed that I was over 19,000 steps on my fitbit so I walk around a little more to finally get that 20,000 steps in a day badge. Done! A walk to the bathroom (one of the nicest smelling vault toilets I've ever used) and a short trek to the neighboring campsite for some chit chat around a fire got me to my goal. 

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Jesse and Riley headed to bed around 9:00 pm and I attempted to get some star shots. There was a lot of light coming from the campsites (which I tried to include in some shots), but I still don't feel like I nailed these. My quest to get a good star shot continues. 

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That night was warm inside the tent - no worries at all about being too cold. I really needed to get up and use the bathroom, but it sounded incredibly windy and cold outside. Jesse went out in the middle of the night to secure parts of the tent better as it was making quite the racket and scaring Riley. I finally got up about 6:20 to find it wasn't nearly as windy or cold outside as I anticipated. It was still quite dark so I thought about setting up for another star shot because the stars were AMAZING, but it was windy so I crawled back into the warm tent for a smidge before getting up for our last day in Utah. 

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Friday's plan was to explore Arches National Park before Jesse and Sam drove Riley and I back to Grand Junction, CO to catch our 5:00 PM flight. I got up to take pictures of the rising sun while the guys discussed plans for the next few days. Originally, they planned to leave Saturday morning which then changed to Sunday. I think Jesse was done and just wanted to go home and the thought of driving 4 hours round trip that day only to be heading in that direction in a couple days didn't appeal to him. Sam was driving with him and agreed that he was ready to go as well so they decided that once they dropped Riley and I off they would head home to Minnesota. Aaron and Chris stayed another day and two, respectively.

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We got most of the campsite packed up, but knew we'd be coming back after Arches to get the trailer so off we went National Park exploring with Aaron and his boys.  Travel tip: Arches is popular which means it's busy. Get there early or you will be waiting in line for some time.

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A co-worker recommended hiking to the Delicate Arch. I'd done some research and it was on my must do list, but we just didn't have enough time to work it in. Maybe next time... for now, we enjoyed seeing it from afar and were able to see other arches up close.

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Like the Canyonlands, there were a number of places along the road to stop off at, take a short walk and see something amazing. After seeing the Delicate Arch, we checked out the Fiery Furnace, the Sand Dunes and Broken Arch, and then finished wih the Skyline Arch.

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Sand Dunes and Broken Arch was an unexpected treat, even if it was a little more challenging to walk on the sand. The walk wasn't far and you were greeted with a cool looking arch (which just had a small slice of rock fall off of it a few years ago). It was a good reminder that some of these rocks could come down at any time. Travel Tip: If you have little kids, you may want to bring your beach toys here. It was a nice cool, comfortable spot for families to take a break.

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My 35mm lens just didn't do this arch justice, but it was incredibly windy so I didn't dare switch out to my 15mm fish-eye lens. You can see the lighter shade of rock in the upper left which is where some of the rock fell off. It doesn't look like much, but I still wouldn't have wanted to be under it when it happened. I wish I would have explored that path behind Riley, but I guess that gives me another excuse to go back. 

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Speaking of fallen rock... the Skyline Arch just lost an enormous rock in 1940 which doubled the size of it's opening. We were able to walk right up to the base of this arch and probably crawled over the piece of rock that fell out.

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We left Aaron and the boys to explore more while we went back to the campsite one more time to pack everything up for our return home. Jesse and Sam dropped Riley and I off at the airport in Grand Junction and we joked that they might be in Denver by the time we fly in there for our layover. Inside the airport Riley's bag was searched because she had so many books with her. Only my kid. Travel trip: If you have a voracious reader like my kid, encourage her to bring books, but not ALL the books, and talk her out of bringing hard copy books. She didn't complain once, but her bag was heavy. We arrived home around midnight - later than I care to be up, but it was well worth it. I'll admit that Utah wasn't originally high on my list to visit, but after this experience, I know we'll be back one day. 

November 4 on 4

Each month I join a group of talented women from Clickin Moms to create a 4 on 4 blog circle showcasing 4 of our favorite images from the last month. Be sure to click the link at the bottom of the post to follow the circle around.


Oh, October... what can I say about you? I didn't pay much attention to you due to most of my attention going to our vacation this month (post coming soon!) and some photo shoots I did for others (which I don't normally do). I noticed the weather change, raked some leaves, put the lawn furniture away, adjusted to your waning light, and then celebrated Halloween. Yet another month that flew on by that I didn't get to embrace as much as I wanted. 

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Next up make sure to check out the wonderful Chrissy Mazer and continue the circle around.

October 4 on 4

Each month I join a group of talented women from Clickin Moms to create a 4 on 4 blog circle showcasing 4 of our favorite images from the last month. This month got away from all of us, but I realized that I had something put together so I thought I would post it anyway.


September was a blend of getting in all the summer things before it gets cold, and embracing the start of fall. I'll admit I'm not a fan of the fall season - I like warm weather and can't seem to enjoy fall for what it is, but I do love fall activities (apple orchards, corn mazes, pumpkin patches!). To me, fall is the start of an inevitable winter which I'd rather do without. I don't like to be cold and I'm still trying to figure out how this wasn't enough to motivate me to move out of Minnesota during some point in my life. 

I've already turned the heat on in the house. And it wasn't even October yet.

At any rate, a lot of my September pictures bring me back to the final days before school started where we tried to summer as hard as we could, and then shift to the acceptance of returning to our structured school days while watching the greens of summer begin their unavoidable pigment change to gold,  and brown and red.

We've been walking to school when we can and enjoying the nice weather as it holds out, but as I write this it rains outside. 

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My Minnesota - September - Apple Orchard

I'm a little behind on a little bit of everything these days. Somehow it was the beginning of September and now November is right around the corner. I hope this is a sign that winter will be past us before we know it. Here's to hoping...

September found us jumping right into fall activities. We knew we had a busy October so we decided to go to the apple orchard earlier than we usually do, and I've got to tell you, this is the way to go. We arrived right as they opened and had the place to ourselves. Well, not entirely, but it wasn't super crowded as it can be later in the season. It was wonderful and I'm going to try to remember to do this moving forward.

We have a fondness for Minnetonka Orchards - it's our go to orchard. It has a number of great kid's activities, farm animals, pick your own orchards, music, tractor rides, food, and more. I highly recommend it.

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For the rest of September we soaked up as much time outside enjoying the cooler weather and the changing colors knowing that it was fleeting. As I write this, the season has taken a turn as it's snowing which makes me even more grateful for our time exploring the outdoors in September.

Day in the Life Fall 2017

It's that time of the year again...where I spend an entire day documenting our life. Thanks to Ellie and Addie for hosting this Day in the Life round up. 

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

Riley is 7 and a half years old

Jesse is 42 and I am 45

Lucy the cat is 13

The night before I head up to bed and check in on Riley. She's fallen asleep sideways and with the light on. I decide to take a picture of her with my phone and use the Lightroom app, but the shutter sound is soooo loud. I get into my bed and proceed to try to figure out how to make the shutter noise quieter. After multiple searches online it appears it isn't possible. I open the phone's camera and am able to have a quiet shutter so I decide to use that for any middle of the night pictures. I turn off the light shortly after 10 and go to sleep.

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1:02 - As usual, I wake multiple times during the night. I go to take a picture of my clock to keep track of these wake ups (with my quieter phone camera shutter, of course) and my clock is flickering with a radio station instead of the time. Eventually it shows the time, but it does this pretty much every time I look at the clock during this day. I've noticed it doing this in the past, but not to this degree. I hope this doesn't mean that my alarm clock is about to give out.

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2:30 - Up again. Get up and go to the bathroom as I always do, and go back to bed. Fall right back to sleep.

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I hear Jesse get up and then Riley. She slept in most of the summer, but seems to be back to getting up at 6:00... or at least that's the earliest she's allowed to come out of her room. Who knows how long she may have been up before that. I finally look at the clock around 6:11 and decide I'm going to try to fall back to sleep.

6:52 - Success! I haven't been feeling my best this week and I know sleep will help. I sort of want to stay in bed even longer, but I'm hungry so I work on getting myself out of bed. I finally head downstairs a little after 7:00.

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Riley is eating at the table and Jesse is in the office. I do my usual morning routine, like drink a glass of Citrocel, refill the cat's water, and debate about breakfast.

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I was pitifully inactive the day before and know that behavior contributes to me not feeling well. However, Friday night, I just didn't have it in me... lots of fatigue, headache and other body pain so I just wasn't up to any activity. The Citrocel seems to have taken care of my hunger for now so I decide to jump on the treadmill before I really have time to think about it. I decide to commit to at least 10 minutes based on how crappy I feel this morning. I watch Narcos while walking and am so engrossed in it that 25 minutes go by pretty fast. 

7:55 - My wrist has been bothering me this week, but it's in a lot of pain today. I have no idea why and don't realize how bad it is until I try to take a sock off my foot. Holy crap that hurts. I head upstairs to eat some food and find Riley and Jesse working on sketch books. Riley put one together for each of us and Jesse is cutting the letters for 'dad' out of construction paper to put on the cover of his. Riley transitions into playing on her tablet.

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8:05 - I eat gluten free waffles and a banana while reading The Sisters of Hardscrabble Bay by Beverly Jensen. It was a random library book I picked up and it's been well worth the read. The author wrote a series of short stories over almost 20 years that were inspired by her mom and aunt. When she died, her husband and friends compiled the stories into a book that chronicles the sister's lives over 70 years. 

8:27 - I take a well needed shower, check the weather and then get ready for the day. While in the shower, Jesse and Riley get dressed. I head upstairs and hang out with the cat for a moment and then strip the sheets off the bed.

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9:28 - We leave the house and head to REI. Jesse is going on a big road/camping trip to Moab, UT for 12 days with his Toyota Tacoma friends and Riley and I are going to fly out there for a few days to join him. I decide this is a good excuse to buy new pants and feel the need to splurge at REI.

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I figure Jesse will want to pick up some last minute supplies, but once there he shares that he needs to assess what he has and will be back in the next few days to get that stuff (side note, we went back the next day because we both realized we need new light coats. Jesse still did not assess his trip needs, but we picked up some camp food anyway and a couple of coats). I spend way too much money on two pair of pants and a pair of socks, but somehow feel justified since I get to apply my 8 dollars and some change in dividends on my purchase. It didn't make much of a dent, but I'm sure I earned more dividends for next year. 

Riley is in a bit of a sour mood while at the store. Not sure what's going on, but I'm sure it's not very exciting for her there. I let her play in the play area even though she's older than the 'age 6 and under' that they have posted. She perks up a little, but she is a little off the entire day - nothing too bad, but she's generally such a happy kid that it's noticeable to me.

10:53 - We leave the store and Jesse turns away from the parking lot exit. I'm quite confused until he stops in front a Tacoma truck that's all pimped out. Jesse takes a picture of it to show to the guys. He mentions that he likes this person's storage system so I figure that may be the next thing Jesse purchases for our truck. It's really gotten a little out of hand, but there could be worse hobbies to have.

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After admiring a stranger's truck, we decide to pick up lunch on the way home. It's a little after 11:00 and I remark that I'm really hungry since I didn't have my mid-morning snack. Jesse is doing this intermittent fasting thing where he doesn't eat from 5 pm at night until 11 am the next day so we have a little laugh about me complaining about not eating in the last hour while he hasn't eaten in 18 hours. I might have laughed more than he did.

We stop at Honey and Rye on the way home. I'd been mentioning this place to Jesse for years, but would never actually think to stop there until the evening and they close at 3:30 or something like that. The week before we finally went there for lunch and loooooved their sandwiches so Jesse suggested we go back. Riley doesn't really like anything there (except the sweets) so we just picked up our food and then made her lunch at home. 

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11:20- We're home and I see some packages have come. A couple books for Riley that Jesse ordered and the 2015 day in the life book that I finally got around to printing (the 2016 book came a few days later). I open it and realize that the font I used was too big. Oh well, now I know for the 2017 book. Jesse makes Riley a plate of food and we all eat our lunches. We let Riley go on her tablet again and I watch a little more of Florence Foster Jenkins that I started the day before. It's based on a true story of a socialite who thought she was a good singer, but wasn't. You won't want to watch this movie if you have a headache - her singing is horrendous, but the acting is great.

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11:49 - I clean up the kitchen, change out the laundry and decide to finish my book as I'm on the last chapter. My wrist continues to hurt and I generally feel like crap all over... most of it is low level pain, but now my teeth and face hurt. I can tell it's getting worse so at some point I take a pain pill and then head to the couch with my book.

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1:07 - I'm finished with my book and Riley is playing on the floor next to me. Jesse says his goodbyes as he's headed over to his friend's house to work on the trailer they just built. It needs some finishing touches (fenders) before it's ready to go to Utah. Jesse is hauling a friend's dirt bike along on their trip.

Riley seems content and I need to attend to how I'm feeling so I decide to meditate while putting a warm compress on my dry eyes. I do a 10 minute body scan, but only remember getting from my head to my back... and then I wake to silence. I'm not sure how long I was out, but obviously it was needed. I turn on the Calm app's music and suggest to Riley that she read to me. She hasn't had any homework yet this year until this past week. She now has to read to us for 20 minutes at least 5 days a week. I'm not too worried about Riley getting this practice since she is a skilled reader, but I like to follow directions. Riley reads me The Journey to Atlantis. She recently discovered the timer on my phone so we decide to set that for good measure. After she's done I read a little of The Secret Garden to her. We started this book long ago and then set it aside for the summer. The movie is now on Netflix so I want to finish the book and watch the movie together.

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2:40 - Good lord, I've been on the couch for a couple hours and am feeling incredibly lazy. I know it's probably good for my body to just chill today, but I feel like we have to do something. I tell Riley that we are going to walk to the library to return my book and then walk to the frozen yogurt place. I'm not totally convinced that I have it in me, but after a gloomy, rainy morning the sun is now shining and it's inspired me to get up and go. First, I change out the laundry again and put the clean sheets on our bed. The mail has come so I grab that and see that my company has sent me a gift card for Starbucks. Due to one of the recent hurricane's it impacted our phone volume at work so it was their way of saying thank you. I do so appreciate that they do this, but I don't drink coffee so I have a number of unused gift cards.

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2:54 - Finally out the door. We go to the library and see that they've installed a bench that blocks off our shortcut. It seems an odd placement since they have pavers that lead you to the shortcut. It's like they can't make up their mind as to if they want you to take that path or not. For some reason Riley's brought her book which she carries the entire way, but never reads. We head towards the frozen yogurt place and Riley goes into pretend mode. I'm queen Elizabeth and she's princess Riley. I'm not a fan of pretend, but this day she tells me exactly what I need to say... "Mom, I'm going upstairs for awhile. Now you say 'okay', okay?" And then she'd talk to herself or sing. It was a fairly easy walk and she seemed pretty content. We walk past a couple cars that clearly were in accidents so I mention that I've been in a few. She wants to hear all about them so I tell her about being rear ended a couple times and the big one where my cousin crossed a highway and got slammed into by a car. She's relived that I wasn't hurt in any of them. 

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On the way home I have to momentarily change roles to Prince Loken. Riley stages a scene where we walk across the parking lot towards each other, and bump into each other. I, the prince, walk with her for awhile before departing ways. I go off script during our encounter and Riley approves (I often do not say what she'd like me to say which is probably one of the reasons I don't care for pretend play). I can tell she's starting to peter out so I just let her do her thing. She sits on some rocks for a bit and I don't rush her. We don't have anyplace to be and it's turned out to be a beautiful afternoon.

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4:04 - we get home and I suggest we go to Goodwill to look for books. I sort of want to keep moving while I'm at it and this seems like an easy task to include in our day. When we get to Goodwill we are sorely disappointed by the kid's book options. I've never seen it so picked over. There are a bunch of new prints of Little Women so I grab one of those and a book for me. Riley finds a brand new create your own recipe book and a brand new scrapbook you make about you and your dad. She wants to go, but I make her follow me around the entire store. 

5:12 - We get home and she wants to start filling her recipe book right away. She decides she wants to start with breakfast so I tell her to search for kid friendly breakfasts on the computer. She finds one and asks me to write it in her book and then is disappointed that we can't make it immediately, but I promise to put the items on the grocery list. I notice that we have two more packages that have been delivered. Amazon can thank my husband for keeping their business going. Somewhere along the line I pop a frozen pizza into the oven as I've lost all energy to cook a meal.

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5:57 - I sit down at my computer and read up on how to sync Lightroom with Lightroom mobile. Riley watches TV because I don't really care at this point. I fold laundry and clean up a bit, but I don't take as many pictures for the rest of the day. Riley is usually game for having her picture taken, but I can tell she's over it. We are a sorry set today - getting through the day, but just not feeling our best. 

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7:07 - I tell Riley to head upstairs to get her pajamas on, but then see Jesse has arrived home and is in the driveway. Riley and I go outside and Riley excitedly tells her dad about the dad scrapbook she got. We go inside and get ready for bed. Jesse comes upstairs to say goodnight and Riley is bummed that it's already time for bed. I leave her room around 7:40 and she reads for awhile before going to sleep.

I decide to make a salad since I didn't have any veggies with my pizza. I start to edit pictures and decide to watch a movie. I pull up New in Town and figure it has to be ok since it has Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick, Jr. I watch about 20 minutes of it and it's 20 minutes too much. Gah, it's an awful movie. It portrays my fellow Minnesotans as total bumpkins who say "you betcha" all the time. I go to turn on something else, but then decide I'm not in the mood. I listen to some more music from my Calm app, take some different pain meds for sleeping and then head up to bed a little after 9 pm.

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I check my fitbit and for feeling rather lazy for a good chunk of the day, I still managed to get in 13,114 steps. While in bed, I check Instagram and finally go to bed around 9:46

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11:44 - I wake up and go to the bathroom. When I get back in bed I realize that Jesse isn't there. He comes up a few minutes later and adds a blanket to his side of the bed and ends up hitting me in the face with it. I sleep pretty well, although get up multiple times as usual. I still feel cruddy the next day, but my wrist is way, way better. My cruddy feeling continued to carry over to Monday when I ended up taking the day off because of a horrible migraine. I just hope it all goes away for our Utah trip.

And that is our fall day in the life.

My Minnesota - August - Duluth

I'm joining up again with my fellow Minnesotans to highlight places we've explored in our state this past month. Be sure to click the link at the bottom of the post to follow the circle around. 


This month I met up with fellow photographer, Carrie Bayless, for an entire weekend in Duluth. I'd only known Carrie online so it was great to meet her face to face and hang out with her and her kids. My husband and daughter tagged along and we agreed that we had a fantastic time. We've been to Duluth many times, but never shy away from a chance to visit Duluth and the North Shore. While a number of the spots we've visited on this weekend we'd been to previously, but we were able to explore new places as well. We packed in a lot this weekend - more than I have in previous visits and was so grateful to have other people who were willing to do so with us. 

Our first stop found us meeting at Spirit Mountain. I'm not big on alpine slides and the such, but I know my family loves this stuff. While there, they enjoyed the alpine slide, the zip line, and the scenic chair lift (which I joined them on). We thought about sticking around for more, but to be honest it was a bit hotter than expected so we went on to our next spot, Enger Tower. 

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Enger Tower provides panoramic views over Lake Superior and is a must see at least one time you visit Duluth (I've been twice). After climbing to the top of the tower, we explored the Japanese Peace Garden and the walking paths before heading out to dinner.

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After checking into the hotel we decided to head down to Canal Park to eat dinner and explore. We've been there plenty of times, but this was the first time we walked over the bridge and adventured on the other side as well.

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To wrap up our day we found a little beach and the kids splashed around in the cold Lake Superior water. My daughter ended up soaking wet and wishing she had her bathing suit, but she was one happy kid and didn't seem to mind the cold.

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That night we also drove over to Brighten Beach to get pictures of the stars, but mine didn't turn out. I had big plans of getting up early on this trip for a sunrise shot, but my sleep was too precious to me to get up that early. I guess I'll leave the sunrises to someone else.

Instead, after sleeping in ever so slightly, we took a drive an hour north to Gooseberry Falls. It was no surprise that there were a ton of people visiting this popular destination as it was a beautiful weekend, but it was surprising that I was able to capture some pictures with only Riley in them. 

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After eating a quick lunch we headed north again to Split Rock Lighthouse. 

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One of my favorite things to do at Split Rock is walk down to the beach and hang out on the rocks where I can watch my daughter throw pebbles into the water.

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And then we headed further north up to Palisade Head for another spectacular view before heading back to Duluth for dinner and an early bed time after a very active day.

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On the last morning we decided that we wanted to beat the traffic home so we took off on our own and stopped at Jay Cooke State Park for one last adventure. I'd been impressed with my 7 year old's ability to pack in so much activity this weekend, but this is about the time it all broke down. This was a fun visit, but it was peppered with moments of complete breakdown followed by energetic highs by my kid. Still, Riley deserves a big kudos for her over all adventurous spirit this weekend... and while were at it, kudos to my fellow introverted husband for agreeing to a weekend with strangers.

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And that was our big adventure for the month of August. I've never Duluth'd so hard before, but boy did we have a good time. 


Make sure to check out the talented Carrie Bayless to see her take on our trip to Duluth.

September 4 on 4

Each month I join a group of talented women from Clickin Moms to create a 4 on 4 blog circle showcasing 4 of our favorite images from the last month. Be sure to click the link at the bottom of the post to follow the circle around.


This month my husband surprised me with a new lens. I'd been talking about getting a wider lens (I have a 35mm), but wasn't sure if I wanted something like the 20mm or the 15mm fisheye. It would be fun to have a lens to play with, but I'm fairly practical so I thought having the 20mm or even 24mm might get more use. In the end, my husband made the decision for me by getting me the fisheye... and I'm so glad he did. 

I got it at the end of August so I haven't been able to play with it too much, but so far I'm loving it.

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 Next up make sure to check out the wonderful Chrissy Mazer and continue the circle around.

My Minnesota - July

I'm joining up again with my fellow Minnesotans to highlight places we've explored in our state this past month. Be sure to click the link at the bottom of the post to follow the circle around. Also, be prepared for a lot of photos - I went a little nuts with this post.


June found us exploring pretty hard... and that intensity lead into July, but then we petered out a little as the month went on. We spent the 4th of July on the boat with family, went to the Hamel Rodeo and parade, hung out at a number of local parks, and then finished the month purchasing new plants to replace the ones that the wild bunnies like to eat.

It's been 30 years since I've been to the Hamel Rodeo. I've been talking about it for years, but finally went with Riley and my mother in law. It was a fun girl's night out, and when we shared the experience with my husband, he was bummed he didn't go. I'm hoping this means we go back next year. 

Mid month I realized that we hadn't hit up any of the parks on our list in awhile. We've been trying to mark all 35 playgrounds off our list that are in our city. I thought it would be easy to finish them this year (we started last year), but we still have a lot yet to explore. This last one had a pond and a baseball field next to the playground so we had to check those out as well.

One July morning, we went on a very long walk to a park that we visit quite often. Riley wanted to explore all three playgrounds along the path, plus we were met with 50 or more ducks feeding outside the pond. 

This month I was able to check another item off my bucket list... ride the Como-Harriet Streetcar/Trolley. This was one that we'd been talking about for years - like before Riley was born. I was determined to make this happen and am glad I did as we ran into friends by Lake Harriet who rode the trolley with us. 

And finally, we explored the local lawn and garden center. This may not feel like a very momentous way to explore Minnesota, but we'd finally taken some time to work on the yard and it felt like an important part of July... even if we have a lot of yard work yet to do. We dug up some plants, thinned out others, and bought new plants with the hope that the bunnies that have overtaken the neighborhood wouldn't eat them. Spoiler alert: the bunnies were pleased that we brought them a new food source. The rabbits did not eat the lavender so I'm tempted to line our yard with that and other fragrant plants. 

Riley made glasses like Geronimo Stilton and wore them much of the day - which is what you see on her head here. Jesse and I were also given costumes for character's from the book series, but were not required to wear them in public.

Riley made glasses like Geronimo Stilton and wore them much of the day - which is what you see on her head here. Jesse and I were also given costumes for character's from the book series, but were not required to wear them in public.

And that wraps up our July. It was a hot one, but we tried to embrace it to the fullest. Next make sure to check out the wonderful Carrie Bayless

My nephew wrote a book... The Long Road North

When I was 18, I moved out of my parents house and found a freedom I wasn't sure what to do with. It was exhilarating - I could make whatever choices I wanted to. I could skip my college classes, stay up way too late, eat crappy food, drink too much, and no one was there to hold me accountable, except myself... and I didn't always do a great job at that. Obviously, there were repercussions to my lifestyle choices... my grades, body, and mind all gave me the feedback I didn't really want when I made poor decisions, but it didn't seem to stop me.

The further I deviated from the structure and values I grew up with, the more I struggled to find out who I really was and where I belonged. Eventually, I found my way, trying to take the best from my youth and from what I learned in those young adult years. I look back and cringe at some of my behavior, but also know that I am who I am partly because of those days.

I think we all go through this time of self discovery... for some the road is relatively smooth, but for others we might find that we've gone completely off road. Whatever the path we take, we hope to find a good fit in the end.

My nephew, Quentin Super, recently wrote a book, The Long Road North, to share his story of growth during his college years. He documented how he found himself behaving in ways that didn't feel genuine to him and what it took for him to introspectively review his actions so he could start living the life he craved.

His journey included an actual journey or, I should say, a series of journeys on his bicycle. He and his friend, Rhino, started riding their bikes around town, and then adventured further until they found themselves riding from St Cloud, MN to Winnepeg one chilly spring break in March of 2015.

Their trip was filled with challenges, whether it was the wind, tests of endurance, or even tests of friendship, but they made the grueling journey there and back. It gave my nephew time to think and realize what he was capable of. It may not have resulted in a revolutionary shift in his behavior or who he was, but it did contribute to the man he's growing into.

I read Quentin's book within 2 days, and while I didn't identify with his experiences (let's just say, it's a little weird to read intimate stuff about your nephew), I did recognize the struggles and growth that you go through at that age. I'm not sure his book even captures the growth I've seen in him personally. I'm immensely proud of him as I know he made a physical journey that I don't think I would have had the physical or emotional strength to pull off myself at that age (or any age). 

You should totally order his book... and I'm not just saying that because I am his aunt. You can find it at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

Also, being the good nephew he is, he asked me to take his picture for the book and for an article written about him in Immersion magazine (a magazine in which he writes for as well). Let's just say that I was honored to do so... here are a few pictures from our last photo shoot.

August 4 on 4

Each month I join a group of talented women from Clickin Moms to create a 4 on 4 blog circle showcasing 4 of our favorite images from the last month. Be sure to click the link at the bottom of the post to follow the circle around.


Oh July, where have you gone? It seems impossible that you are over and that school starts back in a month. So much summerin' left to do, and yet we had a pretty full month. Riley finally mastered bike riding (and I found an excuse to try panning), we walked to the local frozen yogurt shop plenty of times, we played in the sprinkler and went to the splash pad, and spent lots of time with friends.

Summer has been good.

I just wish it could be summer every day...

 Next up make sure to check out the wonderful Chrissy Mazer and continue the circle around.

Day in the Life - Summer 2017

Each season I spend an entire day documenting our life. This day was a little different in that our nephews were with us for the weekend, but they were featured a few years ago in a day in the life when they were in town so it seems appropriate that they made an appearance again. Thanks to Ellie and Addie for hosting this Day in the Life round up. 

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

Riley is 7 years old

Jesse is 42 and I am 45

Lucy the cat is 13

Mason is 18

Cade is 15

Frank, my dad, is 89

The night before I head up to bed just after 11 pm after a late night watching an outdoor movie at the local rec center (Sing) with Riley. They were supposed to start the movie at 8, but waited until 9 when it was dark enough and then ran into a technical issue so we left by 10:20, before the movie was over, as it was way too late to keep my 7 year old up. And let's honest, it was past my bedtime too. At any rate, once home I went to bed and made the mistake of bringing my iPad and therefore, did not turn out the lights until 11:30 which is way past my regular bedtime... and then my mind raced for a bit before I actually fell asleep.

 3:48  - I wake for the first time, go to the bathroom and go back to bed. I'm annoyed that it's too cold with just the sheet on, but too hot with the comforter. Try to find a middle ground so I can fall back to sleep.

5:25 - I wake from a dream where I am with my friend, Josie. In the dream I'm trying to fall asleep and finally look at the clock and it says 5:35. I'm annoyed that I am still awake, but when I wake from the dream, I am relieved that I was actually asleep.  Kind of amazed how close in time the dream time is to the real time. Out of habit, I get up and go to the bathroom, but don't really need to.

6:48 - I usually sleep on my side, but at some point I roll over on to my back. It feels good to change positions, but it usually results in a cat jumping onto my chest and then nudging her face and wet nose against mine. The thought of that this morning makes me turn over to avoid the cat attack, but she never comes up to bed anyway. I toss and turn and realize I might as well get up.

7:28 - Out of bed and head downstairs. Everyone is still sleeping which is super late in our house, but we've all had some late nights recently. We also had our 15 and 18 year old nephews staying at our house this weekend and they were up late with Jesse and one of Jesse's friends. I assess our messy house, check Instagram and TimeHop, make breakfast, and sit down to eat. Riley comes downstairs at about this time. She grabs her Nintendo and plops herself down on the couch. 

8:07 - My husband comes down stairs and notes that he didn't go to bed until 2 am. Our schedules are waaaay off. He makes his breakfast and then I announce that I'm doing a day in the life today. He grumbles for a moment, but then gets over it.

8:27 - I decide to go on a walk before it gets too hot or rains. It's supposed to be 86 today, but it's only about 67 right now. It was supposed to rain, but now the weather forecast has changed. I'll risk it and hope for the best. I ask Jesse if he wants to come (and bring Riley, of course), but he declines. 

I decide to walk around a local park that has a pond. It's often my go to walk, but I change it up a little and wander through a wooded area first. The path leads back down to the pond and I have a choice to take the short way home or go around the entire pond. I have to pee and the clouds are looking somewhat ominous, but I've got a spurt of energy I didn't have before so I take the long route around.

I get to the far end of the pond and decide to take pictures of some flowers when it starts to sprinkle very lightly. I make no rush to move forward and hope that it doesn't start pouring. Eventually, I start moving again and notice that the park is starting to get busier. It was peacefully quiet, but it looks like some soccer games will be happening today. Luckily, the sprinkles stop and it doesn't end up raining at all this day.

9:19 - I arrive home from my walk and find Riley and Jesse playing our new game, Pokemon Monopoly. We have a kid's Monopoly game that I like because it doesn't take hours to play, but Riley played this one with her cousins the day before and it seemed to take forever.  I grab some granola and eat it in front of the computer while I cool down, and then jump in the shower.

10:00 - Monopoly game is still going. The boys are still sleeping. Oh, to be a teenager. I discover later that one of them staying up until about 3:30 am. I go upstairs to get dressed after my shower and end up changing Riley's sheets and making our bed. I found some cat hero sheets on clearance at Target and had to get them for our cat obsessed kid... even though she has more sheets than she really needs. Seriously, I have one set of sheets that I use over and over for our bed, but she has a rotation of about 6 different sheets.

10:25 - I bring clothes down for Riley and after she gets dressed I remember that I was going to give her a bath. We've had multiple late nights in a row and she needs one badly. So, she gets undressed and jumps in the shower and then brushes her teeth afterwards. Meanwhile, Jesse puts away the game that they were still playing (why so long, Monopoly). This really is a late start of the day for us, but we don't have anything else to do this morning. We normally would go to the gym on a weekend morning, but we gave up our gym membership about a month ago. Instead, I go on walks, use the treadmill at home, or try to motivate myself to workout in the living room while Jesse has access to a small gym at his work. Paying for a huge gym just didn't make sense for us anymore. Plus, the upside is that Riley sometimes works out along with me so I feel like she's getting a more direct message about how we care for our bodies than when she went to child care at the gym. 

10:44 - Riley grabs Lucy, the cat, and takes her outside. She is not an outside cat, but we'll sometimes sit on the step with her. She seems to like it, but can also be a bit overwhelmed by the outdoors so we are mindful of that. At some point, Riley grabs the chalk and Lucy and I chill on the sidewalk before I do a little weeding and then put the cat indoors. Jesse leaves for a walk while we are outside and returns before we go inside. 

11:18 - Mason is finally awake and I think Cade wakes shortly after. Riley goes inside and plays 'student resources' on my computer. It's a bunch of educational games that her school provides so I don't mind when she requests to play them. Around 11:30 I announce to everyone that we need to get ready to go to my dad's. We need to get there before they close down the roads for the parade near his house at 2:00 pm. Jesse, Cade, and Mason take turns showering. Jesse, Riley and I grab some food, and we pack up the car. 

12:11 - We head to pick up sandwiches for the boys and then go to my dad's house. While at my dad's, we hang out outside and then Riley plays his out of tune piano with her new piano book. She had a piano lesson for the first time last week and loved it. My dad offers us the piano, but we have no place to put it. While inside with Riley, I look outside and see the guys checking out one of my dad's trees. Riley and I head outside to see what they are staring at and I notice my dad created some type of contraption to help take down a branch on one of his trees (basically, a rope tied to the hanging branch, with concrete blocks and a heavy chain tied to the end to weigh it down). This is sooooo my dad. I mean, it screams 'Frank'.

Apparently, my brother hooked the rope up to his truck, but it wouldn't come down so my dad and Jesse brain storm about how to hitch it to our truck and try it out in the future. Riley isn't as interested in this thing as I am so she goes back inside to play the piano. Eventually, we end up back in the driveway while waiting for the parade to start. 

1:52 - We grab our chairs and walk through my dad's back yard and sit in his neighbor's front yard to watch the parade. This spot puts us near the start of the parade as most people sit in town (a whole couple blocks away). We don't have a ton of people near us and there isn't any shade, but it's the shortest walk from my dad's house. The Hamel Rodeo was this same weekend (we went on Friday night) and the parade is sort of part of the Rodeo celebration so there are a lot of horses, along with businesses, firetrucks... and new this year was a couple bands (like country/rock bands - not marching bands) which was a nice improvement. 

We got lots and lots of candy, but also some reusable water bottles, a size XL shirt, water, coupons, and freezer pops, which are seriously the best parade idea ever. It was pretty hot and besides some passing clouds, we were in the direct sun. I tucked one of those freezer pops in my shirt and it helped me cool down.

2:50 - The parade is over so we head back to my dad's and fix a leaning and crumbling concrete deer, and marvel at the gnarly old willow tree in my dad's front yard. We find both toads and frogs hopping around the yard and I'm surprised when Riley goes right in and tries to pick one up. I totally thought she would be freaked out, but was genuinely interested in trying to at least touch one. She wasn't successful, but she was able to touch the one Cade picked up and she proclaimed it "slimey".