Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fun Filled Days

I have to admit I was skeptical that Leesa would be able to plan enough field trips to keep us entertained for four whole days. I should've known that a girl who spent half her life on a remote farm knew more about these things than me. I think the kids could have stayed there all summer. For one thing, their play house used to be a real house, and it even had electricity and original appliances!

Kids, this is called a typewriter.

Yeah, the appliances were a little out of date. Didn't even need electricity for this one!

The kids were determined to clean out the house.

Back in the real house, Adam was giving Brandon a ride on Grandma's walker.

Looking into some of the rooms at the farm was like looking at a snapshot of the past. Every room had a story to tell. Yes, there was a TV, but nobody uses it anymore. When a big wind storm blew the antenna down many years ago, Grandpa decided they didn't need TV anyway and never put it back up. I guess this room is just a romper room now.

Leesa doing what she does best... making food for me!!

This is apparently what I do best, since I did spend half my trip behind the wheel.

In the afternoon, we took a trip to the Tuttle general store. Some things they sell there are expired, but what are you going to do? Go to a different store? Good luck with that!

Next we visited the school Leesa attended from kindergarten through high school. It closed several years ago, but luckily the playground is still open. Look at that old school stuff! Where do you find a teeter totter these days?

Or a merry-go-round?

Leesa's mom was part of a group that raised money for three years to buy this piece of playground equipment for the kids.

This is the view down Main street in Tuttle. They have a grain elevator on the right, a bar in the red building, a post office and general store in the white building, a senior rec center, a park, a church, and the school at the end. Not much to it! When we pulled up, we were the only cars on Main Street. I had to ask if it was a ghost town because it seemed rather motionless.

Then we visited the cemetery where Leesa's little brother is buried. He died in a tragic accident twenty years ago.

The next day, we headed into Bismarck to see what we could see. The weather was cloudy and rainy much of the time we were there, so we decided to skip Fort Lincoln and just go to the Heritage Center. They had a cool dark room with minerals that glowed under a black light.

And multiple dinosaur skeletons.

Here is the capitol building.

While Leesa was making strawberry rhubarb jam the day before from rhubarb grown on the farm, I was leafing through the cookbook she was using, which was a collection of recipes contributed by locals. I came across several recipes for rhubarb dishes, knoephla soup, fleishkuechle, kuchen, and popcorn cake. They were all new to me, so Leesa decided to take me to Kroll's kitchen in Bismarck. Since they served German specialties, I escaped without having to try the traditional Norwegian dish called lutefisk. It is good that Leesa's Norwegian father married her German mother so that they could eat normal people food.

Behold, knoephla soup (pronounced neff-la). Knoephla refers to the little balls of dough in the soup, kind of like dumplings. All the kids LOVED this soup!

And here is the fleishkuechle (pronounced fly(sh)-keek-luh - um, can't figure out how to make a symbol for a long i, so I improvised), which I thought was a good concept, but had a lot of room for improvement. The menu makes no secret that its German specialties are loaded with calories. "German curves ahead," it read. I ate less than half to try to compensate since none of the kids would agree to share it with me. We got some kuchen (ku-ken) to go, which is like a fruit topped coffee cake, but I forgot to take a picture before we ate it.

At the end of the day (and the summer days are long in North Dakota), we visited Leesa's aunt's house to see the horses.

The kids got to sit on "Candy."

And then take a little ride on her.

Thanks Candy!

All that fun, and we were only half way done!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Adventure Begins

I'm a wanderer. I love to adventure, explore and just plain roam. It's hard for me to sit still, really. Now that so many of my friends and family have spread out around the country, I have the perfect excuse to take a road trip... and so I did. With kids! And no husband! I was a little nervous, but my will to wander overcame my fears. Day one we drove to Utah, and my kids are such great travelers that we only made one stop for gas and lunch. From there, we headed straight to Eagle Mountain to visit with my cousin, Brad, and his family, and to meet his new baby! Luckily my cousin's sweet wife made waffles for the kids because they were starving. Afterward, we went to the lovely home of my friend, Marsa, for the night. Kallie and Bianca stayed up way too late playing and giggling, but that was what our vacation was all about: enjoying time with people we love. The next day, I had a short visit with my cousin, Lauren, and her new (super petite and adorable) baby, and then Marsa and I left the kids at her house while the two of us went to lunch and then had fun thrifting at DI. We made it up to the kids by taking them out for ice cream at Macey's afterward.

Oh man, that shirt will never be the same!!

Our final stop for the day was Heather's house. She and I used to live in the same condo complex in San Diego, and it was fun to be pregnant at the same time with our first kids back in the day. She had just moved to Utah earlier this year, and I hadn't seen her in so long... it was awesome to catch up!

The next day, we stopped on our way out of town to visit my good friend, Mindy, who used to be my neighbor when we lived in Utah. We saw her beautiful new house and had lunch with her and her daughter, who was one of Paige's best friends when she was little. Mindy and I used to work out every morning to Billy Blanks' Tae Bo. Memories! Painful memories! (You know, cuz I was sore a lot, and Billy does get annoying after a while.) I really could have used an extra day in Utah with all the people to visit, and all the people I didn't visit, but I was on a tight schedule. I did make time to pick up some caffeine free Dr. Pepper, which is not available in Arizona... cuz that's important. And yeah, I was slacking on the pictures the first couple of days, so I could totally be making up this whole story!

When we arrived in Montana, I finally busted out the camera. The pool at our hotel had a cool mini water park.

Because I love to jam pack my vacations, I decided to take a little detour so we could see the Little Bighorn Battlefield before heading to North Dakota. This memorial to the tribes who fought in the battle had just been finished last fall. It's called "Spirit Warriors."

We were on the ranger guided tour when Brandon announced he had to go potty, and of course he couldn't hold it. So, we skipped out on the last half of the tour to take a bathroom break, and then headed back up the hill to see the memorial for the U.S. soldiers.

At the top of the hill was the point of Custer's last stand, where over 200 soldiers from the battle are buried in a mass grave.

In 1985, a major archaeological excavation took place there, and they used ballistics to determine how individual soldiers moved throughout the battlefield and where they fell. There were two white markers at each place where a soldier fell, and many of the markers were clustered at the top near the point of Custer's last stand. There were brown granite markers for each of the Native American warriors, too.

Unfortunately, we didn't have time to explore the battlefield more, but we did walk out to one of the more lonely markers. You can see the point of Custer's last stand in the background. I told the kids to take a moment to listen to the quiet, to watch the breeze dance across the prairie grasses, and to think of the people who died in this place so many years ago. I wanted them to be thankful for the peace.

Near the visitor center is a national cemetery, but we didn't really have time to walk through it, so we just observed a moment of silence.

Back on the road, I guess I was getting a little camera happy. We didn't turn here.

Where the deer and the antelope play?

Just before sundown, which I am glad doesn't happen until almost 10pm in North Dakota in the middle of June, we rolled into the farm where my friend, Leesa, grew up. Her parents still own it, but they only stay there when the kids are in town. She asked if it felt like I left civilization when I turned down that dirt road. I told her that I felt like I left civilization as soon as I left Bismarck! It seemed like the middle of nowhere, but that is exactly why I came. I wanted to know what it was like.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

End of School (and Graduation!)

The years just keep going faster. This year was a doozy because our oldest son graduated from high school!! But before that happened, I showed up at the elementary school to take pictures of the girls.

Kallie and her first grade teacher.

Kallie and her bestie.

Paige's fourth grade teacher (who is expecting a baby girl in October!).

Paige and her besties.

Brandon was quite the popular guy.

And then the event I had been dreading, mainly because I knew it was going to be crowded and Russ wouldn't be there to help me herd the children. Sure, we got to park in a handicapped spot because of Russ' mom, but an hour and half before the ceremony the line was already down to the next block, around the corner, down another block, and turning into a housing subdivision. Russ' mom couldn't walk that far, so they planned to wait for us at the gate. When we got up there, they were nowhere to be found. The home side was already pretty full, so we went to the away side where I lost Brandon in the crowd for about three minutes. I was panicked, and when Russ finally answered his phone, I yelled, "I can't find Brandon!" Right then a lady in the stands pointed me to another lady who was holding him and looking around in the stands for his parents. Whew. Since I had hung up on Russ, he called back and told me where his parents were sitting, and so we headed back to the home side where we had a pretty good view of everything. Russ arrived a few minutes later, and then my parents called and asked if we were saving them seats, so we ended up a little cozy out in that hot Arizona evening, but at least we had cloud cover.

Overview of the ceremony.

Here's his big moment!!

Fireworks?!?! They didn't have any of those at my graduation!

Proud family.


He got an apprenticeship as an electrician, so those are his immediate plans for the future. Good luck, grad!