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    Archive for 2009

    By the way,

    Monday, December 21, 2009

    Did anyone notice the new photo I put up in our template??? We're all Christmas-ey!

    Rotary Lights

    Heavenly Choir

    La Crosse Rotary Holiday Lights

    Benjamin and the cute snowman

    Every year in La Crosse, Wisconsin, there is a holiday lights display down at Riverside Park put on by the Rotary Club. Mike and I have been including this event in our holiday traditions for probably about 12 years. We only missed the event when Benjamin was too tiny to enjoy it or when our holiday season was too busy to have a spare weekend to drive down. La Crosse is also one of our favorite cities, so we make a point to spend the whole day doing the things we love there: visiting the Co-Op, eating at Buzzard Billy's, and going to the candy store. We had a fabulous time there this Saturday and though the drive through line for the holiday lights was too long to endure, the weather was nice enough for us to stroll among the lights by foot. It was magical.

    Catch Up

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    I haven't exactly been feeling much like updating the blog lately, so two weekends have gone by without anything from me. Oops.

    The Swell Season - Minneapolis

    Mike and I spent a lovely weekend in downtown Minneapolis recently to see a concert of one of my favorite bands: The Swell Season. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova were in the movie Once, which won an Academy Award for Best Song in 2008. You may remember that Marketa was played off my the orchestra at the awards show and didn't get to give her thank you speech so the host, Jon Stewart, brought her back on later in the show so she could speak. Their music is just so beautiful and Glen Hansard is one of the best live performers I have ever seen. I got our tickets during a presale, so we were lucky enough to sit in the fifth row in center seats at the State Theatre for the concert. It was amazing.

    Benjamin spent that weekend with my parents and they had many adventures, which you can read about here.

    We had a snow day last week due to a blizzard that gave us about 12 inches overnight.

    This past Friday I was able to spend the day holiday shopping with my Mom, which was a treat, since for so many years they lived too far away to just spend a day with her. We also hosted Mike's parents on Saturday and they brought along a few surprise guests: Andy, Jennifer, Dan and Katie. Mike made everyone some awesome Greek soup and we spent the evening hanging out and playing some games. It was very nice.

    I am happy to report that my Christmas shopping is nearly done. I only have one more present to buy and wrap, it feels great. We are very much looking forward to our Christmas Eve traditions of holiday lights, church, a special meal and early bedtimes. Before we know it, the big day will be here!

    Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas

    Tuesday, December 01, 2009

    Christmas Parade in Excelsior

    A relaxing Thanksgiving was spent with Grandma Chris and Grandpa Ed last week. The food was great and the company was wonderful. We even fit in a long walk after dinner - Mike was happy! On Friday we went to a Christmas parade/celebration in Excelsior, which was very quaint and cute.

    Big Pink

    On Wednesday night Mike and I acted like youngsters and went to a rock concert in Minneapolis. One of our new favorite bands, The Big Pink, played an AWESOME show! We had dinner together and then miraculously stayed awake long enough to see the performance. They ROCKED our favorite song, Dominos and even did a cover of a Beyonce song - it ruled!

    The Christmas tree and decorations are up, the Christmas cards are ready to be mailed and we've started in on our shopping - the holiday is shaping up to be spectacular! Everyone at the Familie Schmitt Haus is EX-CI-TED!

    Fun day at the really fun park

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Fun day at the really fun park

    As part of our birthday extravaganza/boys' time weekend Joe, Jen and the boys came down to Rochester for a visit. We took all 3 boys to our favorite park: "really fun park" aka Three Links Park and they played for hours. I brought my camera and tripod along and snapped some great pictures of them!

    Fun day at the really fun park

    Fun day at the really fun park

    Fun day at the really fun park

    Those two big boys sure are growing up fast!

    Kid's Day

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    It was our plan to take this past Friday and use it to visit the Macy's Auditorium holiday display in Minneapolis as part of our annual tradition with Joe, Jen and the boys. However, Macy's decided to begin the display later in the month and also have the same display as last year, so we couldn't/didn't want to go. Benjamin already had the day off of school, so Mike too the day off of work and we made a kid's day out of it. We met Joe, Jen and the boys at the Minnesota Children's Museum where the kids spent hours exploring. It was fun to give them some freedom to run around in a kid-friendly atmosphere for a while and they had a great time. After they were sufficiently worn out, we took them out to lunch at the Java Train Cafe. The cafe had some great food and a really neat indoor train play area for the kids. We spent the rest of the weekend with Joe, Jen and the kids. I think Benjamin was able to get a good amount of cousin-time in. They all had a great time playing together and we all had a great time watching them play.

    A Balmy November

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    November Photo Shoot
    Benjamin and I decided to make the most out of the beautiful day we had yesterday (60 degrees and sunny in mid-November?!) by visiting Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo, a favorite of our family. I snapped a few shots of him outside, but they were cut short and not great because he had to go to the bathroom badly, haha.

    I also got this cool one of the turkeys...
    November Photo Shoot

    Good to the last drop

    Monday, November 09, 2009

    We cashed in a Christmas present from Andy and Jennifer for a weekend of bliss without Benjamin. No, no, that's not right. Benjamin cashed in HIS Christmas present for a weekend of fun and excitement with Uncle Andy and Auntie Jennifer. Actually, both are true. It was Benjamin's Christmas present - but it turned out to be our weekend of bliss.

    I dropped Benjamin off with his aunt and uncle Friday evening and then met up with Mike back at home. We decided to stay in and get Chinese food because we had planned on taking a road trip the next day down to Lake Mills, Wisconsin for a half marathon that Mike had signed up to run. I ended up not going along on the trip though because I wasn't feeling well and my cousin, Erin, wasn't able to meet up with me as planned. And really, riding in a car with 5 potentially stinky male runners isn't exactly on my to-do list for this year. Maybe next year.

    So while Mike was off running the Tyranena Beer Run half marathon and Benjamin was having a fun time at a park, I stayed home and caught up with some household stuff. Among other things, I painted a desk I had acquired for free in a new coat of a really brilliant shade of green and white for Benjamin's room. Mike's race went well. He said the weather, while marvelous for doing just about anything else outside on a November day, was a bit warm for running. After the race the guys all enjoyed some beer at the brewery and Mike was home around 9pm. We spent our second childless night at Whistle Binkies enjoying a live band.

    Sunday morning we were both able to sleep in and then watch some tv while reading the newspaper, two things we enjoyed in our past life. Since the day was so beautiful we decided that we would get the most out of it with a bike ride. We both have loved riding independently but have not had the ability to go together since we were in college. It was awesome. We had a nice 14 mile ride all through Rochester. It was one of the nicest days I have had in a long time.

    Even though we thoroughly enjoyed our time as non-parents, we sorely missed Benjamin and so we drove up to the Twin Cities on Sunday eager to see him. Before picking him up though, we had one last moment to ourselves over dinner at one of our favorites: Sawatdee, a Thai restaurant in St. Paul. Benjamin had a great weekend and is still talking about everything he did with his aunt and uncle.

    Benjamin 2000

    Tuesday, November 03, 2009

    We survived Halloween.

    Benjamin at the Plummer House Halloween Party
    Benjamin was a robot this year. We were all going to dress up as a robot family, but it took a lot of work to just put together his costume and by the time that was done, I was burned out on robot-making. We attended two Halloween events before the big day: a community education party at the Plummer House and a Harvest Moon Festival at IBM. The costume was a big hit; everywhere we went, adults were complimenting it and kids were trying to push the "buttons."

    Friday night we went up to Minneapolis so that Mike could pick up his race packet for the Monster Dash half marathon. We stayed the night at my parents' house because they were taking Benjamin to the HallZOOween event at the Minnesota Zoo. Mike and I were up very early Saturday morning to head out to the race site, Lake Harriet. I had volunteered for the race as a course marshal, so I had to set up some barricades at two intersections and make sure no cars got onto the course. Mike's brother, Andy, came out to watch the race with me. I blasted Thriller on my car radio with all of the doors open to give the runners some entertainment at what ended up being mile 6.5 of the half marathon and mile 3 of the 10 mile race. We got a lot of thumbs-ups and shout-outs for the music, which was fun. Mike had a good run, but he accidentally lost the chip that he had tied to his shoe, which electronically tracks his time. He has no official race time, but finished in about 1 hour, 41 minutes.

    Mike and I had lunch with Andy and Jennifer and then we met up with Benjamin and my parents. Just the three of us then joined Joe, Jen and the kids at their house for trick-or-treating. Mike, Joe and I took AJ and Benjamin up and down a block near their house. The boys were very good and loved getting all of their candy. After we got back to the house, Mike and I got into our costumes (Miss Piggy and the Swedish Chef) and a bunch of friends came over for Joe and Jen's Halloween party. We had a fun time at the party and on Sunday we all got together to watch the Packers/Vikings game. Unfortunately, Minnesota won, but it was fun to watch. I still haven't taken down my indoor Halloween decorations. I think I am in denial about it being November now. There is one good thing about that though: my birthday is in a couple of weeks!


    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    Dragons at LARK Toys
    This weekend we took a trip east to Kellogg, Minnesota to meet Mike's parents at one of our favorite local places: Lark Toys. The visit was made even sweeter because of our recent reconnection with a college friend, Miranda, who just happens to now own the store along with her husband and parents! We've always enjoyed Lark and have visited many times in the past. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it is a toy store on steroids. There is an indoor Merry-Go-Round, a toy museum, candy store, fudge/ice cream/concessions, two separate toy stores, outdoor mini-golf and just generally really awesome stuff all around.

    It was so fun to see Miranda and to catch up with her on the past ELEVEN years since she graduated from Winona State. She has a daughter who is also in a Montessori school so we talked about how much we are all loving school right now.

    Benjamin went on the Merry-Go-Round twice, once with Grandma and once with Grandpa. We all enjoyed ice cream cones and we literally spent hours looking at the toys. We finished our visit with Grandma and Grandpa off with a meal at a restaurant in Wabasha that Miranda recommended to us: The Olde Triangle Pub. It is an Irish-themed pub that serves all typical Irish foods, which was perfect on a crisp fall day. Mike's parents had tickets to see a play in Red Wing, so they had to hurry off after dinner to make it to the show. We drove back to Rochester through the winding country roads, which allowed us to get the most out of one of the last days that the trees still had their colorful leaves. Many of them had already fallen thanks to an unseasonal snow storm we had experienced on Friday.

    Playing in the snow

    I was home alone on Friday and was downstairs in the basement with the blinds closed so I hadn't realized what was happening outside. When I came up to get ready to go pick up Benjamin from school, I realized that we had quite a Winter Wonderland already. Driving was horrible. The first couple of major snowfalls always seem to bring out the worst in drivers and if they're not tearing down the streets at speeds much too high for the conditions, they're driving way way waaaay under the speed limit and therefore putting everyone at risk for getting stuck in the snow. Benjamin's school sits atop a HUGE hill and the drive up is treacherous under normal circumstances. The person who does the plowing of that driveway hadn't even connected his shovel-thingy up to his truck yet, so they couldn't plow the snow. They instead layed sand down and people were getting stuck and sliding back down. It was my first experience of driving my Rondo on the snow and I am pleased to report it did splendidly. I made it up that hill and drove the both of us home with no problem. Benjamin and I spent some time playing in the snow when we got home. After we were sufficiently cold and tired we went inside to make some hot chocolate and warm up. When we got inside I was surprised to find that our power had gone off due to rolling black outs from our power company. I couldn't even close the garage door, the furnace was off and I wasn't going to be able to make hot chocolate in the microwave. We skipped the hot chocolate and instead cuddled under a blanket and read books until Mike got home. Luckily the power came back on a short while later and all was well.

    On Sunday, Mike discovered that the Packers game was not going to be broadcast to Minnesota stations because the Vikings were playing at the same time, so he headed off to Whistle Binkies to watch the game. Benjamin and I did some Halloween costume shopping. After the game(s) were over, we met up with my friend Lora and her two girls for some laser tag and bouncing at House of Bounce. The four girls all played laser tag for two games and had an absolute blast. Benjamin and Mike did some bouncing on all of the slides and bouncy houses and when all was said and done, we were all pooped! It was a great afternoon.

    I think we are all ready with our Halloween costumes. I have one more piece to find for my costume and then I am done! Benjamin and I have a Halloween event tonight at the Plummer House Mansion and then all three of us are going to an event at IBM on Thursday. We'll be up in the cities for the weekend for a half marathon, HallZOOween, a Halloween party and the Packers vs. Vikings game. We can't wait!


    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    I just HAD to post this!
    I read A LOT of blogs on various things that interest me, one of which is EuroCheapo because well, I love Europe and FamilieSchmitt is a little "cheapo." Usually they post entries about cheap Parisian lodging, free tours in Prague or something equally helpful and interesting. Today though, they posting something that is near and dear to our hearts - Biergartens in Munich!

    You see, Mike and I vacationed in Germany for our honeymoon. We left the day after the wedding having experienced one of the best days of our life mere hours before getting on a long 12 hour flight. Luckily for us the ticket counter attendant was a kind soul and when we told her that we were honeymooners, she upgraded our seats to a sort of above average coach section (more legroom, no babies) of the plane. When we arrived in Germany just around lunchtime, we were so overwhelmed by lack of sleep and excitement that we found ourselves wandering around Munich like zombies. After visiting the Glockenspiel with heavy, tired eyes, we retreated back to our hotel for a nap. Our jet-lagged bodies let us sleep until about 7:00pm when our hungry stomachs awakened us in expectation of good GERMAN food. We set off down the street to find something tasty. Just about a minute down the road we found one of the coolest places we had ever seen: it was a biergarten nestled in a grove of trees. It looked like something out of a tour guidebook about Germany. Near perfection. Germans were lazily seated on picnic tables all over sipping their beers and talking excitedly about who-knows-what. We weren't exactly sure what to do, so we found an empty table and waited for a server to find us. Soon after being seated, a stereotypical large German woman in traditional dress, carrying an armload of biersteins called over to us and simply yelled, "Zwei?!" Mike and I both took German in highschool as our language requirement and had stored enough of that knowledge to translate what the woman was asking us, but not enough knowledge about the place we were visiting to understand what she meant. We interpreted it as "Two menus?" or "Two people?," so we excitedly answered: "Ja!" We were wrong. Minutes later that same woman brought over two Colosseum-sized mugs of beer, one for each of us. So let me just put this into perspective for you:

    • We are operating under extreme wedding-related fatigue and major jet-lag
    • We have not eaten in probably 10 hours
    • I was not a beer drinker at this time
    We were expecting to order food, not consume the equivalent of a small lake of beer. But hell if we were going to tell this stern, German woman staring back at us that she was wrong! We drank all 64 (or whatever) ounces of those beers happily. We paid our waitress and then stumbled back up the street to a pizza place where we SUCKED DOWN a pizza and laughed about our experience.

    We often recall this adventure and one of us will ask the other "Zwei?" when we find ourselves in similar situations. I have never bothered to look up the biergarten though and to this day had no idea what it was called or anything about it except that we fell in love with it. The blog post on EuroCheapo lists it as one of the top 3 best biergartens in Munich. They also say, "the beer, Augustiner, is from Munich’s oldest brewery and has been proclaimed the “state’s best beer” twice over." Who knew?! I'm so glad that I came across that list though so I could once again relive one of our fondest travel memories.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Benjamin sure was a popular guy this past week! Grandma Chris and Grandpa Ed drove down Thursday evening to take Benjamin out to a movie and dinner. They wanted to spend some time with him and treat him to a movie he wanted to see, which they all seemed to enjoy very much! You can read more about their adventure here. Mike and I took the rare opportunity to dine alone that night at our favorite local sushi restaurant. Almost immediately after Mom and Dad called to see if they could take Benjamin out, his Uncle Andy asked if he could take the little man up to his house for a night. How did we get so lucky?! Andy came down late on Thursday after work and stayed overnight so he could be up with Benjamin bright and early to start their time together. They had a blast going to the Science Museum, a park and doing many other fun things. Andy wrote about it in his blog, here.

    While Benjamin was off having a grand old time, Mike and I enjoyed the quiet house, Mike went on a run with some friends, I worked at the Women's Expo and we got the house ready for an influx of women. All three of our sisters-in-law drove down Saturday evening for our traditional dinner outing, this time for Katie's birthday. We went to Sontes, which is one of my favorites here in town. The food was very VERY good and the company was the BEST! I think everyone had a good time and I hope they think about coming back down here sometime soon because it was great!

    Sunday was a day of relaxing for all of us after such a busy weekend. Jen stayed overnight after our girls dinner, so we got to have her with us for breakfast and part of the morning. After she headed home, I mowed the lawn and did some grocery shopping while Mike watched the Packers "play" against the Lions. It was our week to buy the grocery supplies for Benjamin's classroom and we successfully picked up the cheese blocks, chicken in a biscuit crackers and everything else on the list. It felt good to contribute! Speaking of school, Benjamin has school pictures today. Hopefully the photos turn out well so we can get copies to those of you who have been begging me for pictures of him! ;-)

    Project (nearly) complete

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Finished (nearly) project

    The living room project is nearly complete. As you can see in the image above, I've finished the painting and decorating, except for on those 2 ugly "vents" above the fireplace. They are not functional, but pretty much impossible for us to remove. We still have not decided what to do with them. We considered covering them with mirrors or photos/paintings, but I don't really want to draw attention to them. Soo, they remain blue - for now.

    I'll have to follow-up tomorrow with more on our weekend...


    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    As I said in the previous post, I've been inspired by some home design blogs lately and had decided to redecorate our living room. I have purchased a few items here and there, one of which is this beautiful sun burst wall hanging to which I spray painted and added a mirror.

    Wall hanging that I added a mirror to and spray painted silver
    I haven't gotten around yet to photographing the final result of my efforts because I am not 100% done. I should have final pics on Thursday, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, here is an "in progress" photo of the paint job I did:
    During painting
    It turned out so well, but it was quite a project and it took me pretty much all day on Friday to complete it. I had expected to be done much sooner.

    Mike's brother, Andy, came down on Friday in order to help Mike get started on a home improvement project that he's been planning for quite some time: the heater downstairs. Our basement is considerably colder than the rest of our house, so we have been planning to install an electric baseboard heater. It requires a lot of work and the kind of work that we have not been blessed with a talent for. They were able to begin the project and we will hopefully have a fully functioning heater before the really cold weather hits.

    On Saturday both Mike and Andy met up with Joe and Dan in New Ulm for an Oktoberfest celebration. I guess the guys had heard enough about our fun girls outings and felt like they finally needed one of their own. Well, since the guys were off for the night having fun, some of us girls decided to gather at Mike's parents house for a dinner and sleepover with the little boys. The kids had a great time playing with each other and us adults had a chance to play some games after they went to bed. It was a very fun weekend for us all! Benjamin and I picked up Mike on Sunday and we all treated ourselves to lunch and shopping at IKEA.

    We experienced our first real parent-teacher conferences on Monday and I am happy to report that it was great. Benjamin's teacher, Mark, told us that he is a delight to have in the class and that his adjustment to the Montessori way of doing things is coming along very well. We are looking forward to our next conference, sometime in January, when we'll be able to get a better sense of how he is doing as far as the curriculum is concerned.

    My latest obsession

    Tuesday, October 06, 2009

    I've been hiding my nose in my computer for the past week or so, deep into design blogs and decor websites preparing for our soon-to-happen living room redesign. We have been gradually moving away from our original decor (Egyptian) for a few years now. I took down the Nefertiti papyrus painting and the pyramids long ago and finally sold them all in the garage sale we had this summer. Unfortunately we're left with a couch that really fits that color palette better than anything we currently prefer, but we soldier on.

    Our love for Colorado is no secret to anyone and it is our inspiration for this change. The changing Aspen leaves in the fall along with blue skies and rocky mountains will serve as our color inspiration. I've slowly been accumulating pieces to accent these colors and the style I am going for, which is sleek and modern. I was lucky enough to find a number of these items today at a store called Big Lots. I'm not sure where they have these stores in the country, but they're awesome. I remember visiting ours soon after it opened and thought it was pretty useless for us. However, my opinion has changed! It is now my new favorite store.

    Here is a sneak preview of some of the stuff I have for the room:

    The impression of the photo is that I'm going pretty dark with the colors, but I assure you only the small items in the room will be dark. Everything else will be very light and natural. I cannot WAIT. Unfortunately my current problem is the couch and woodwork in the space. The couch is so dark and is mostly maroon, brown and orange-ish-something. I'd like to cover it, but haven't heard great things about ready-made slipcovers and a custom slipcover is probably out of our budget - along with purchasing a brand new couch. So I am on the hunt for a solution to this problem. Also, the woodwork in this room is very a dark, 1980's style. Not much we can do about all of that now, so I will work around it by adding in very light colors within the rest of the room.

    Painting commences this Friday. Photos to follow...

    Twin Cities Marathon 2009

    Monday, October 05, 2009

    Mike successfully completed his TENTH marathon this weekend at the Twin Cities Marathon. We drove up Saturday afternoon and Andy joined the 3 of us at the requisite marathon expo and packet pickup then we spent the evening at Mike's parents' home. Mike, Benjamin and I woke up at 6am the morning of the marathon so that Benjamin and I could drop Mike off at the Metrodome, where the race was starting. Traffic was pretty bad as we approached the dome, so Mike left us and walked the rest of the way to his destination. Benjamin and I headed to a Bruegger's Bagels somewhere in Minneapolis for breakfast and then we met my parents at Lake Calhoun for Mile 6 of the race. It was a beautiful fall morning with the sun rising up over the city and a slight chill to the air. The elite marathoners breezed past us quickly as well as some local Rochester runners and friends. Right on pace, Mike reached us while running with the 3 hour, 30 minute pace group. We caught him again at mile 12, where Dan and Katie met up with us and he was still running with the same group. At mile 22, along famous Summit Avenue, he was a bit behind the pace group, but still looking great. Joe, Jen and the boys met us there and Benjamin and AJ got to run around together for a while. We were not able to see Mike finish the race, but we did catch the announcers calling his name as he was crossing the line. He finished in 3 hours and 36 minutes. All of his brothers, their wives and children, his parents and my parents were all able to see him many times along the route, which he attributes to his strong racing. It was a fun day and we capped it off with a delicious lunch at the Chatterbox Pub in St. Paul. Mike's next big feat: two half marathons back-to-back.

    Foster Independence and Self Esteem will grow

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    Benjamin has been attending class at his school for over three weeks and yet we still only have a few details as to exactly what he is learning. Thus far we know he has: used the pink tower, sand letters, picked a sunflower, played house where he was the "daddy", used the bells, received presentations on the binomial cube and brought home a plethora of artwork.

    What does all this mean? I asked the same the question and luckily I've had the chance to attend my own classes at Benjamin's new school.

    For the past two weeks I've been attending an evening class at his school to help us become aware of his new style of learning. Tonight I sat with 12 other parents all in the same quandary. How do we embrace what he is taught here and bring it home?

    We were given an in-depth overview into the classroom and the hour by hour schedule of how classes are conducted. I learned that there are many different "areas" of the classroom and the children are encouraged to experience different activities throughout the day based on their interests. We were assured it is not a free for all and the children are given "choices" which fit into the lessons and their interests. Tonight I learned the different areas consist of:

    Practical Living
    Math (Counting)

    The Montessori materials are designed with scientific precision. Each has a definite aim. They give the child clear impressions, help the child organize his/her environment, develop his/her muscular coordination, and permit him/her to experience the joy of accomplishment.

    The entire process has been an adjustment for all of us - but in a wonderful and positive way.

    This weekend we have an all school picnic at a local orchard (I'm elated). We look forward to meeting all of his classmates that we've heard so much about.


    Monday, September 14, 2009

    I wasn't planning on posting again today, but I just finished reading the latest entry on my favorite blogger's blog and feel inspired to write about our experience so far with school.

    Dooce speaks of her daughter's first day of Kindergarten and of her fear toward introducing Leta's strange and pretty un-nutritional (not a word, I know) eating habit to the new teacher. Before reading this, I was talking with Mike about Benjamin's eating habits of late. A new feature to his schooling is that we now pack a lunch everyday for him to bring along. Mike spent weeks looking through recipes and gathering ideas of things we could pack that would be tasty enough for Benjamin to eat and nutritional enough to pass the school's request that we not pack high sugar or high fat foods. It has been interesting and enlightening to see exactly what is left behind when he brings his lunchbox home in the afternoon.

    Benjamin so far has not enjoyed eating any bread, slightly yellowed broccoli, more than 3 baby carrots, pasta salad, squishy or unsightly grapes, or cheese sticks. He has enjoyed eating the insides of a turkey sandwich, most of a pizza quesadilla, apple sauce and teddy grahams. Because of his allergies we have to stay far away from the standard lunchbox fare of peanut butter-anything and we can't pack anything that needs to be reheated, at least not until the kids get a presentation (Montessori word for lesson) on how to use the microwave.

    So keeping all of this in mind, we are very limited in our lunchbox options. And frankly, his picky eating isn't limited to school, he also hasn't been eating much of anything we make at home. A child cannot live on apple sauce and teddy grahams alone, so what are we to do? Hopefully we will find the magic combination one day!

    Autumn on the horizon

    Autumn, our favorite time of year, is just blowing in. Temperatures are still well above average, but the leaves are falling and crunching under foot. Mike is hard at work preparing himself for the Twin Cities Marathon which is in 20 days. His long run this weekend was 20 miles and he said it felt great. Benjamin and I are so very excited to spectate at the big race!

    We had a low key weekend. We started it off with a visit from Grandma Chris and Grandpa Ed who were stopping over on their way down to Chicago for the big U2 concert. They helped get Benjamin out of my hair while I made a friend's daughter her birthday cake on Friday. The cake was a success and it felt good to become acquainted (WELL acquainted) with powdered sugar again.

    The Apple of our eye

    On Sunday we visited one of our favorite fall locations: Northwoods Orchard. I know what you're thinking: But it isn't even apple season yet! Oh yes, yes it is. Believe me, Mike is on top of these things! This orchard was a bit low on varieties to pick, but Honeycrisp and Chesnut apples were available. They stopped picking the Zestar! Regents (c'mon Jessica - get your varieties right) on Saturday, but we were still able to scrounge up a few apples off of the trees. We didn't do the corn maze this time or the hayride, but we did visit their animals. It was a lovely day. Now if only the temperature would drop a few degrees so we could pull out our sweaters and light jackets.

    First day of school

    Wednesday, September 09, 2009

    First day of school
    Originally uploaded by Familie Schmitt
    Benjamin began his journey at his new school yesterday with his first official day. He is absolutely loving it and so are we!

    Practically Perfect in Everyway

    Monday, September 07, 2009

    Friday night I had a date with a lovely gentleman. He's a little on the short side, is addicted to chocolate milk and fell asleep during the car ride home. Nevertheless, it was a MAGICAL night!

    I miraculously won 2 tickets to see Mary Poppins at the Orpheum Theatre from Go City Kids who were having a contest on Twitter. I tried to get these tickets because just a couple of days earlier, Benjamin was (for some reason) asking me when we'd get to see Mary Poppins on a stage. I thought I'd try for the tickets, but was very surprised Thursday morning when I received a message saying I had won! When I eventually told Benjamin my exciting news and asked him to go on a date with me, he promptly asked me what exactly a "date" is. After explaining it to him, he said, "Oh! Like in Lady and the Tramp where they're having spaghetti!" Um. Yah, I guess.

    I had the bright idea then to take him to the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner before the show, but unfortunately the Vikings were playing their last pre-season game at the Metrodome - just blocks from the restaurant. They had a 45 min- 1 hour wait, so we decided to skip it. Instead we dined closer to the theatre at the Rock Bottom Brewery where we had a lovely meal.

    Because the show was to begin at 8pm, I was a little concerned about bringing Benjamin along. He's not a child who stays up late very much. His bedtime is normally between 8:30pm and 9:00pm, so knowing that he would have to stay awake until 11:00pm was a little scary to me. I have to say though that he was a CHAMP. He watched the entire show intently, never complaining about being tired, not even ever yawning. Of course, after we walked to our car and I buckled him in, he was fast asleep within 5 minutes.

    The show was spectacular. It is based on the movie, so most of the scenes and songs are the same, but they've moved the story in a slightly different direction and added some new things. The performance of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was probably one of the best musicial performances I have seen - ever. The choreography of that number is unreal, I only wish I could learn it myself. Very very cool. It was a memorable night out for both of us and an opportunity for me to share my passion for theatre with Benjamin, which I will always treasure.

    Fair in fair weather

    Wednesday, September 02, 2009

    This past week, although it is only Wednesday, has been interesting. Last weekend we traveled up to Andy and Jennifer's house on Saturday night. Andy made us homemade sushi, which was very very good. Jennifer kept Benjamin and I entertained while Mike helped Andy in the kitchen. The next day all of us but Andy (who had to work) left the house early for the Milk Run at the State Fair. Mike and I have made it a tradition to have at least one of us run this race every year. In 2007 I ran it alone, 2008 we both ran it (with Jennifer) and this year I chickened out AT THE START LINE so Mike ran it alone. I haven't been running lately and didn't want to risk injuring myself, so I skipped it. I didn't know what would hurt worse: my pride or any possible pain I would have felt from running. All I know is that it was really hard to miss out on running the race. I felt like a failure and beat myself up inside all morning. Fortunately for me though, very close to the finish line is my all time favorite fair food: creme puffs! My sorrow melted away with my first bite of that creamy goodness. Since the puffs actually are mostly made up of egg, Benjamin was able to only enjoy the whipped cream inside. Don't worry, he didn't even miss the puff!

    Mike ran the race less than a minute slower than he did last year, but he came in 11th of all the males from 30-34, which I consider to be great! He said that the hills were once again pretty tough, but the race is always fun. The four of us strolled around the fair for a while in the morning before the crowds got too bad. A little later we met up with Mike's parents and cousins who were visiting from Wisconsin. Grandma Cindy took Benjamin on the Old Mill ride, which was a favorite of the Schmitt boys when they were little. Benjamin was a rock star all day and he really enjoyed the fair. He's been asking to go back ever since we left!

    On Monday we jumped into our newest adventure with Benjamin's orientation at his new school. The first day was just a short introduction to the school that was a 15 minute visit with his teacher in the classroom. The past 2 days have been slightly longer visits (about an hour) with some of the other new children to the room and the next 2 days he will go for a 1/2 day. Next Tuesday is his first official FULL day of school. We are so pleased with our decision to send him to the Montessori school. He is really enjoying it.

    Racing Weekend

    Monday, August 24, 2009

    Racing day, it's racing day,
    Racing day, it's racing day!
    It's not sausage casing day,
    Today's the day we race.
    ~ from Born to Play by The Backyardigans

    For us, it was more like racing weekend! On Thursday, after dropping off Benjamin with Grandma Chris and Grandpa Ed who graciously watched him for us, Mike and I began our busy racing weekend. As I mentioned before, I had volunteered to be a part of the Ragnar Relay Race as a SWAT team member, which means that I managed a major exchange of the race. I had to be in Modena, Wisconsin, which was a tiny town in the middle of the Wisconsin side of the river.

    View Modena Town Hall in a larger map
    I got there at about 8am, met with my volunteers, receive instructions from other SWAT team people and began setting up the exchange. It had rained my whole drive out there, so we were all afraid of the possible weather, but it turned out to be a great day. Dark clouds would roll overhead, but they'd break up before getting to us. It was sunny on and off all day, but apparently more sunny than I thought because I came home with an unexpected, horrible sunburn. The whole day was a lot of work, but so much fun. Basically my job was to make sure everything was running smoothly, that the volunteers were doing their jobs, and that the runners were staying safe. I was there late into the night, my feet hurt, I was sunburned, tired and sore - but I'd gladly do it again!

    As I was just getting to sleep (or so it seemed), Mike was waking up to get himself out to the Rochester Half Marathon, a big race here in town. He was using the race as part of his training for the Twin Cities Marathon. Luckily it was a gorgeous day and he had a good run. Later in the day we were able to enjoy lunch before heading out to Red Wing to pick up Benjamin from Mom and Dad. On Sunday we took the time to recuperate from our vacation, catch up on housework and just relax.

    We have just one week before Benjamin starts orientation at his new school. We are all nervous and excited. This weekend all three of us will be experiencing a Minnesota tradition by attending the State Fair. Benjamin hasn't been there since he was small enough to ride along on Mike's back. It should be interesting!

    Things we learned along the way...

    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    • While revitalizing the country, road construction is still a big pain in the butt, no matter what state you're in.

    • Runzas, though a Nebraska staple, are disgusting.

    • Markers do not make for good coloring tools on a road trip unless you're trying to decorate the inside of your car.

    • When you drive up to a dodgy restaurant and you think, "it could be okay, let's try it" - it is probably NOT okay.

    • Even at 75 mph, it still takes forever to drive across Nebraska.

    • There are a lot of "slug/punchbugs" in Colorado. 4-year-olds will notice all of them.

    • There is no need to plan to spend more than 20 minutes at Wall Drug.

    • Small, simple, free and local sights are just as special as BIG, expensive and far away "attractions."

    • Sometimes the maid will steal one of your bagels.

    • Don't forget about timezone changes when planning how long a drive will take.

    • No matter how many times you say it, POUDRE (pronounced Poo-der) is FUNNY!

    • Beef: It's what's for dinner...in South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa.

    • You can make every great photo op better by placing a smiling 4 year old in it.

    • Just when you think you've driven a long way, you see a car from a state that is thousands of miles further away from home than you.

    • There is no sense in turning the radio on in South Dakota, Wyoming Nebraska, or Iowa. That is, unless you like country or Christian stations.

    • 4-year-olds CAN endure 10 hour drives.

    • Parents CAN endure 10 hour drives with 4-year-olds.

    Goodbye Mountains

    We said goodbye to Colorado's Rocky Mountains on Monday by spending the day in Fort Collins and driving up Poudre Canyon. Before a busy work schedule caused us to cancel, Mike was planning to run the Fort Collins Marathon back in May, which runs down the canyon and we wanted to check out what he had missed. Early on into the drive we both realized that he NEEDS to do this race someday. It is gorgeous. No, gorgeous is not the right word. See for yourself:

    Since Fort Collins was unusually busy with a festival all weekend, we didn't feel like we fully experienced the town, so we went back Monday afternoon. We strolled around the shops, stopped for drinks at a really cute outdoor patio and even did a bit of a treasure hunt. A lady at the visitor's center gave us a list of murals throughout the downtown area done by local artists. Benjamin had been studying the list since she gave it to us and was very excited to locate some of the paintings. His favorite was an adorable depiction of sheep on a utility box:

    Benjamin finding his favorite "mural" on the art walk in Fort Collins

    Sadly, on Tuesday morning we bid farewell to Colorado and began the long stretch of driving through Nebraska. The drive was uneventful - for obvious reasons - we were in Nebraska. We did, kind of, stop off at the Great Platte River Road Archway. Have you seen the movie About Schmidt? Jack Nicholson rides up the escalator during his character's roadtrip. Seemed appropriate that we stop, but when we saw the admission prices ($10 per adult) and because we were not sure exactly what was beyond that escalator, we decided to skip it. Benjamin thought that what he saw for free was great, so we got off pretty easily.

    We arrived at our hotel in Council Bluffs, IA (just over the river from Omaha) at about 8:30pm. 587 miles total for the day, we were zonked. Grabbed a quick bite at Applebee's and were in bed by 10. We left the hotel at about 9am in the morning, drove through torrential rains, but were home in Rochester at about 4pm. Benjamin is in bed and Mike and I are enjoying our ability to watch tv at a normal volume with all of the lights on. The trip was WONDERFUL, but we are happy to be off the road.

    Homeward Bound

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    View Larger Map

    Made it through Nebraska, but it was a long day in the car. Spending the night in Council Bluffs and then will be headed home again tomorrow after some continental breakfast in the morning.

    And THIS is why we are here.

    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    Exploring the Front Range

    After a relaxing evening of staying in our hotel room due to bad weather and tired travelers, we are off for our most physical day of the trip. Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park are on our itinerary today. We are looking forward to some mountain air, snow capped peaks, maybe some yellow aspens, elk and one of our most favorite towns on earth. Should be a great day!

    Yesterday we strolled through Old Town Fort Collins where they are having a fun summer festival. Melissa Etheridge played last night for free, but we stayed away from the crowds. We spent the afternoon enjoying New Belgium Brewery, home to Fat Tire beer. We had reserved tickets online for a tour and it was a lucky thing that we did. It was unbelievably crowded and all of the tours were full. The tour was one of the -- if not THE -- best brewery tours we've been on. The tour guide, Trevor, was extremely knowledgeable and the tour was organized like a well orchestrated song. Mike and I must have looked like the worst kind of tourist, snapping photos at every opportunity with each of our cameras, but everywhere you looked was a great photo op. Our Flickr photos will show you exactly how many shots we took, I've only uploaded about 1/2 of what was on the cameras.

    Welcome to Colorado!

    Saturday, August 15, 2009

    We are settling into our hotel here in Fort Collins this morning. The task is to decide what to do for the day. It is supposed to rain today with possible thunderstorms, but we won't let that stop us. We have a reservation to tour New Belgium Brewery at 3:30, so I think we'll spend the rest of the day exploring the town. The plan for tomorrow is to head out to Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park. It is free pass weekend, so hopefully the crowds won't be too crazy!

    I've added some photos from the last leg of our trip. We visited Storybook Island as planned - which was ENCHANTING! Benjamin had a blast exploring the park. Then we drove further into the Black Hills to Hill City, which had a small Main Street that we strolled. We roamed about the prehistoric age up on Dinosaur Park later in the day and finished our time in Rapid City with dinner at the Firehouse Brewing Company.

    Friday morning we packed up the car again and added some more mileage through desolate but beautiful eastern Wyoming. You can see for hundreds of miles across the ranches. Amazing.

    View Larger Map

    Fort Collins

    Friday, August 14, 2009

    We have arrived in Fort Collins as of 6pm today. Our trip odometer reads something over 1,030 miles. We have driven through rain, hills, mountains, endured drivers from all over the country, listened to half of a book on cd, colored reams of paper and stopped at many amazing and interesting sights. We even ran into some friends on the Main Street in Hill City, SD. Mike's former manager and dear friend, Betsy, and her husband and our friend and super runner, Judy Weller, with her husband just happened to be in the same place at the same time as us outside of a store in Hill City. The two ladies are running Leading Ladies this weekend and came to the area a little early on their motorcycles to explore. How crazy!

    We are off to eat some dinner in just a minute, Benjamin has informed us at least 10 times that "He's HUNGRY!" I'll write more later...

    Hello from the Black Hills

    Thursday, August 13, 2009

    Familie Schmitt survived the 650 mile drive from Rochester to Rapid City and are happily planning their first day of vacation. We made stops at the Mitchell Corn Palace, Wall Drug and the Badlands along our route. The drive through South Dakota is a fascinating one with billboards for Wall Drug and western towns dotting the horizon. It reminds me of my childhood drives to Florida with See Rock City and Lookout Mountain ads along the way. Benjamin is handling the long hours in the car amazingly. He is impressed with everything. "They have free breakfast in the hotel?!?" "THERE IS A POOL -- OUTSIDE?!" "WALL DRUG IS SO FUN!" What a treat for us.

    Lately, Benjamin has an annoying habit of beginning every sentence with "Hey!" - for example, "Hey! There's a big truck!", "Hey! I wanted to finish those fries!" or "Hey! My crayon just fell on the floor." So we've been asking him constantly to stop saying "hey". Somewhere along the last leg of our drive (from the Badlands to Rapid City), for the 100th time, he yelled out "HEY!" -- or so we thought. Mike turned around and began yelling at him to "STOP SAYING HEY!" Benjamin began to cry and somehow spitted out "I wasn't saying HEY! I was talking about the stuff for horses: HAY!" Mike and I immediately found ourselves in a fit of laughter and eventually even Benjamin, who had been crying, was laughing, too. There were rolls of hay all over the farms, waiting to dry out or be picked up or whatever it is farmers do with those things and he was just pointing one out. But hey - maybe he'll think twice about saying that again! Haha.

    We are off to Storybook Island today. The temperature is supposed to reach 100 degrees or close to that. Sunblock and hats have been packed.

    T-Minus 8 Hours...

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    In 8 hours we hopefully will be departing for our adventure. Of course, the best part of not having to catch a plane is that if we leave at 7am instead of our planned 6:30am - WHO CARES! Haha. We have an approximately 8 hour drive (stops not included) ahead of us for our first day.

    BUT - we are armed with new coloring books, cds, snacks, drinks and yes, even DVD's (to only be used as a last resort!). We are prepared - I think. I will be blogging along the way, so look for more frequent updates than usual in the next 7 days.

    Turtleman Triathlon - Jessica's spectating report

    We knew we were walking into a situation that may not be ideal for watching Mike and Joe compete in the Turtleman Triathlon in Shoreview on Saturday. Jen and I decided that we'd do our best and if the weather turned sour, we'd watch from the safety of her car. Mom and Dad met us at the intersection of Churchill and Tanglewood, on both the bike and run courses, with their big golf umbrella. It was raining, but only a little on and off, so we unpacked all of the kids (AJ, Benjamin and John) and began cheering on the cyclists. Soon after we arrived, Joe cruised by. We all banged our thundersticks, waved our pom-poms and rang our cowbells. The athletes seemed very genuinely happy to have us there. Due to the weather and the nature of the race there were probably not many spectators out on the course, so many of them expressed heartfelt thanks for our cheering. A little while after Joe, Mike came by on his bike. He seemed very focused, which probably had something to do with the wet conditions and many, many turns along the course.

    Good morning!

    After all of the cyclists had gone past us, we all relaxed a bit, the boys ran around and we continued dodging raindrops. An Excel Energy truck pulled up near us and the guy inside told us that he was there to fix a transformer on the power lines across the street and that we should probably cover our ears when he fixes it because the noise can be quite loud. The boys were full of excitement and nerves at this site. He got out his long pole and replaced something on the electrical stuff at the top of the post. Sure enough it sounded like shotgun went off and a big spark popped out. It was actually pretty cool to watch. Funny thing is though that a little while later, the transformer blew AGAIN (this time we were not warned to cover our ears) and the guy had to come back for a second attempt at fixing it.

    Good morning!

    Runners soon started coming toward us and we all moved out of their way and began to cheer them on. A couple of minutes later, Mom noticed an ominous look to the skies both west and north of us. The clouds were literally rolling toward us and they were moving FAST! It is amazing how quickly you can pack up chairs, a stroller, misc. stuff, a 1 year old, two 4 year olds and 4 adults when it looks like danger is approaching. We managed to get everything and everyone in the car before the storm hit. After the worst went through, we took turns hopping in and out of the cars to watch the race. It was raining buckets. The points on the ground where the sidewalk slants into the street were HUGE puddles of rain. The poor runners had to run through this awful weather and here we were ringing our cowbells out in the same conditions. I thought they appreciated our cheering when they were on the bikes, but now the racers were stopping to thank us. We tried to lighten their spirits by telling them "Just a little rain, you can do it!" This brought out many smiles. It was great. We saw Joe run by and a while later Mike. At first I was concerned that he had not come by us as early as I had expected. I had no idea that they had canceled the race and was afraid something bad happened. I was relieved to finally see him and to see that he was pushing forward and having fun - in typical Mike style!

    We had quite the adventure! And it was fun!

    (Mike's race report is below...)

    Turtleman Triathlon - Mike's race report

    We had awful weather Saturday morning in Shoreview. My brother, Joe, and I were up at 6:15am in White Bear Lake to get ready for the race. We packed our gear and bikes the night before so we could take advantage of a little extra time in the morning to indulge in more sleep. Sadly, the weather, clouds, humidity and temperature surely did not make it look like a good day to compete. Nonetheless we set out to make the most of the day.

    Good morning!

    We showed up ready to compete in all three events - which wasn't meant to be. Everyone had their wetsuits on the bike racks in anticipation to swim a 1/2 mile. Unfortunately, lightning and bad weather forced the race director to cancel the swim all together in an attempt to get the bike and run legs in before the next storm front came through. So we ran through the shallow end of the beach with a record "swim" time of 37 seconds - though my knees never touched the water. Next we transitioned to the bike for a wet and wild bike ride. Everyone had to watch their turns to be sure not wipe out. As expected, it started raining about 2 miles into the bike ride. This made the already curvy course into a "mind the turns" kind of ride. We had no less than 13 turns during the 21.5 miles bike ride. One could barely get into their zone before slowing down for yet another turn. Though I don't fault the race directors, I would not say I enjoyed the topsy-turvy round-a-bouts we were forced to endure. In the end most finished the course without incident - though there was more than an usual number of people on the sidelines with flat tires. Thankfully it was no one I knew!

    Good morning!

    Next it was time for the run... I set out with an absolute downpour of rain in my face. I had to use my hands as wiper blades just to see what was coming next. It turns out due to in climate weather, (forecast for hail) the race directors decided to call the run off. Most everyone (besides myself) turned around after mile 1 to head for shelter. I decided a long time ago (about mile 12 of the bike ride) that if they canceled the official race, I was going to cross the finish line - race sanctioned or not. I did not train this much for this long to have it canceled on me. I kept running past the crowd of people who turned around so I flagged down a crew of volunteers who were under a bus shelter keeping dry. I told them I was going to finish the course and wanted to know where the next turn was. They told me to run to the next stop light, turn left and keep running until I saw the next set of volunteers. I made a B-Line!

    In the end I caught the back end of the crowd who were "sanctioned" to finish the race...and even passed few along the way. Joe was cheering me on to push push push and run hard to the finish....which I appreciated. Of course it was my first and best time competing in an "Olympic" Triathlon race. Next time I hope I can actually put my face down in the water and make the race a 3 event sport.

    Good morning!

    Summer is dwindling down

    Tuesday, August 04, 2009

    The days of summer are becoming fewer and fewer. It doesn't help that this summer is going to be unusually short for us due to a big change in September. Benjamin has been accepted into a new school. He will be leaving daycare and moving on to a traditional school schedule. Mike and I have been curious about the Montessori philosophy for a while and so we toured a school and fell in love. It will be a little sad for us to leave the daycare that we have been at since Benjamin was just 3 months old, but it is time for him to move onto bigger and better things.

    He will be attending his new school Monday-Friday from 8am-3pm, which means that I also have to change my work schedule so that I can pick him up when school is over. Unfortunately this means that I will have to give up part of my four day weekend and will now be working Mon-Thurs from 8am-2pm. But that also means that I will have Fridays all to myself, which will be BEYOND strange for me. We are sadly going to lose our "stay at home Mommy" days, so I've been trying to take advantage of the few days at home that I have left with him. This change will move his first day of school up a year. We were preparing ourselves for this to happen in another year, so it may be tough. We are still waiting to get our paperwork from the school about his schedule, but his first official day of school will be September 8th.

    On Friday I let Benjamin choose what he wanted to do from a small list of options. He picked going to a park and going on a hike. First we had a little picnic at his favorite park, "the really fun park" aka Three Links Park and he played around on the equipment there. Next he wanted to go to Quarry Hill Nature Center so that we could hike their trails and he could look at the nature-related education stuff in their building. They have a magnifying camera that projects whatever bone, fossil or animal body part you put under it onto a television-like monitor, which he LOVES. His interest in learning about science and nature is so fun. We took each animal part (like a turtle tail or chicken foot) and compared them to the live animals. Then we headed out for our hike. I think we hiked about 2 miles around the trails before Benjamin decided that he was too tired to continue.

    Saturday was an early morning wake up for all of us. Mike did his training run and Benjamin and I volunteered for a water stop for the runners. For some reason, every single time we've done a water stop, it has been a moderately crummy day. Saturday morning was very unseasonably cold and cloudy. Benjamin mostly stayed in the back of the Rondo watching a movie on my laptop while I poured the water and Gatorade for the runners. The morning tired all of us out, so we spent the day inside, relaxing.

    Here is what our water stop usually looks like:

    To make up for our lazy Saturday, we filled our Sunday with a day trip to Northfield, Minnesota, home of St. Olaf and Carleton colleges. It was a gorgeous day! We had lunch at Beef O'Brady's, which we all enjoyed. Then we walked around the downtown area and hopped in and out of some shops. We visited both college campuses and Mike and Benjamin spent some time running around the big center field of Carleton's campus. The whole day felt like a mini-vacation, it was great.

    While we were in Northfield, we came across a brown paper bag along the side of a neighborhood road that said "Cukes - FREE." Not being one to pass up anything free -- or vegetables, Mike stopped and picked them up. Monday night Benjamin and Mike pickled some of the cucumbers. Benjamin is an expert vegetable peeler and though he didn't like the finished product, is very proud of his "cooking" endeavor.

    A lovely August day...

    Sunday, August 02, 2009

    brought to you by Familie Schmitt:

    Spent the day in Northfield, MN - about an hour's drive from Rochester. We had a splendid time. More details to come...

    Friday, July 31, 2009

    I feel like I've been neglecting my blogging duties lately. I guess it has been one of those times where living life becomes more important than writing about it. Also, work has been busy for me, so my usual blogging time slot has been filled up with effort put toward planning a research symposium. But I won't bore you with details about my job.

    What have we been up to lately? Well, last weekend - not much. Friday was Winona and Saturday I drove up to the Cities solo for a girls night dinner to celebrate sister-in-law, Jen's birthday. I came home late Saturday night so that I could have the whole day on Sunday at home. We read the paper outside on the deck in our beautiful unsummer-like weather and then went out for a tasty Mexican meal for an outdoor lunch. It was a lovely day. Wednesday night we drove up to the Cities again to surprise everyone gathered at Mike's parents house for Jen's actual birthday. Benjamin hadn't seen his grandparents or cousins in a very long time and since they weren't going to be coming down here anytime soon, we decided to go up to them.

    Mike joined a swim club this week. They have open swimming with coaches available to members every weekday morning from 5:30am-7:30am at a local outdoor pool. He's been getting some tips in order to more efficiently swim in his next triathlon on August 8th. He has also started his Twin Cities Marathon training with his weekend long runs. Benjamin and I are volunteering as a waterstop for the run this Saturday. Hopefully the weather is nice. We always enjoy seeing the runners early in the morning.

    Speaking of volunteering, I took an interesting position recently. I am now a member of the Great River Ragnar Relay SWAT team as a Major Exchange Manager for the race on August 21st. I am going to manage a large group of volunteers at an exchange in Modena, Wisconsin (pretty much the middle of nowhere). Mike has done this relay race for the past 2 years, but couldn't get a large enough group of runners to run it this year. A call came out by email for people that were able to do more than your average volunteer and since I worked at an exchange for last year's race, I decided to see if they would take me. I'm told that this could involve traveling to the other relay races across the country, which happen in sweet places like Washington State, Utah, Vegas, LA, Florida, etc, etc. Who knows if that will happen, but at least I get a free race entry and an official Ragnar jacket, shirt and hat. I'm all for the swag!

    We are still working on planning our trip to Colorado. We've had to move it around a bit due to some scheduling conflicts, but at this point it looks like we'll be going August 12-19. I've been on the hunt to find some reasonable (i.e. CHEAP) lodging and it hasn't been easy. Traveling with Benjamin means that we ideally want to stay somewhere that has a closed off room with a bed so that when he goes to sleep, we can stay up and not disturb him. One bedroom places usually come with a kitchen, which we don't need, but with the kitchen comes a bigger price. Sooo, we'll see. We will be driving there (because we like torture) and will split up the drive to Colorado with one night in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Mike and I made this same trip in September 2004, which is nice because we kind of know what to expect. It is 8 hours to Rapid City, SD from Rochester and then 6 hours to Estes Park, CO from there. We will have to stop along the way though with requisite visits to the Mitchell Corn Palace, the Bad Lands and Wall-Drug, of course. I am personally very excited to stop again at the Sonic in Cheyenne, WY. Those of us in Rochester are forced to watch Sonic commercials on our local tv stations without a Sonic restaurant anywhere close to us. Those delicious shakes topped with mountains of whipped cream get me everytime! Mostly though I am SO looking forward to mountain views. There is just something so romantic about the Rocky Mountains. We can't wait to share that with Benjamin.

    It is Friday and we have yet another relaxing weekend at home ahead of us. How'd we get to be so lucky?!?

    Top of the World, Ma!

    Monday, July 27, 2009

    Benjamin and I drove down to Winona Friday morning to visit a friend from my college days, Samantha. Sam and Jake have the cutest little girls, Nora (almost 3) and Nina (15 months). Benjamin and Nora loved getting into mischief together while Sam and I caught up a bit. After our visit, I took Benjamin up to the top of the bluffs at the Garvin Heights lookout. For those of you who do not know, Mike and I both went to Winona State, where we met THIRTEEN years ago. Winona will always hold a special place in our hearts and we both love visiting very much. As Benjamin gets older, he is more able to understand the significance of the place and can enjoy the cool stuff Winona has to offer. He was very intrigued with the bluffs, so when I took him up to the lookout, he was SO excited. We stayed up there for quite a while, exploring and hiking down/up a trail. Unfortunately, our time up there had to end because Benjamin decided to fall down a small hill and cover himself in mud. All good things must come to an end, I guess.

    Benjamin on top of Winona at Garvin Heights

    I'm behind, I know.

    Monday, July 20, 2009

    I had totally planned to write up a post that summarized my trip to Hawaii and the boys' time at home last week, but I just never got around to it. Now it has been so long since I returned that I am not sure I feel like getting into the nitty gritty about the whole trip. Some of the highlights included many many tropical drinks, swimming at Waikiki Beach (where our resort was), a drive up the North Shore of the island with cousins Roland and Cicely and of course, Kelly and Mike's beautiful wedding. Getting married on a beach in Hawaii certainly has its benefits - the sunset behind the ceremony was stunning, also the food was outstanding (definitely some of the best wedding food I've ever had). Mom and I had a lot of fun on the trip, but by the end we were ready to come home to see our dudes.

    While we were away, Mike and Benjamin kept very busy by fishing with Grandpa Ed, playing with friends and attending the only All Comers Track Meet that we made it to this summer. Though they had some great bonding time, I think they were also happy to have me home again when I got back. The next week flew by for all of us. This weekend we hosted our Sister-in-law/Aunt Jen and the two of us attended the new Harry Potter movie, which was AWESOME! She was also able to stay for a while on Sunday afternoon too, which was so fun. Benjamin was SO happy to have her all to himself, which has never happened before, so it was a big treat! The weekend ended too quickly for us all. Last night I pulled out our old home movies from when Benjamin was a baby. He loved watching them. We watched 8 video tapes worth of stuff and just finished them all today. Now he wants to watch them all again, aiyiyi. It was amazing to see how much he's grown. What happened to our little curly-haired baby?!? Compared to the little guy on those movies, we have ourselves a little man now! He's still a cutie though. :-)

    We made it!

    Monday, July 06, 2009

    Mom and I made it to Honolulu yesterday at approximately 3pm. Checked into the hotel, consumed sushi, swam on Waikiki beach, had drinks with Roland and Cicely and went to bed early. Right now we are having breakfast on a patio overlooking the ocean. The photo above is the view from our room at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort. Beautiful.

    TRI-de & True

    Wednesday, July 01, 2009

    Good morning!

    Even after all of the excitement of Benjamin's birthday, things did not settle down here at the Familie Schmitt household because Mike had his first triathlon Sunday morning. He headed out to the race site, Foster Arend beach, early in the morning to set up his transition area. A little after 8am, I gathered up the spectating troops (me, Joe, AJ, Benjamin, Jennifer and Andy) and we headed out to a spot which I hoped would be good for seeing Mike bike and run. As it turned out, the spot was fantastic! We parked at Hy-Vee and walked just a bit down to the trail. From our vantage point we could see the bikers across 37th street coming and going and also a good section of the run along the trail. It was really neat to see all of the cyclists on their bicycles which varied from very expensive triathlon bikes to run-of-the-mill mountain bikes. Mike looked strong on both the bike and the run. Jennifer dropped Joe and I off at the finish line and we were able to see Mike complete the race. He finished the 1/4 mile swim, 10 mile bike ride and 3.1 mile run in 1:17:42. His impressions of the race were that it was "way fun," "the bike ride kicked my butt," and "I can't wait to do the next one!" He and Joe are planning to do the Turtleman Triathlon in August, which has much longer distances for each event (1 mile swim, 23 mile bike, 5 mile run). He has already begun his training and is very excited to race again.

    Birthday Recap

    Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    Good morning!

    We started off the birthday celebrations on Thursday at Benjamin's daycare. Mike and I brought in some Go-Gurts (yogurt in a tube) for the kids and all of his friends in the preschool and pre-K rooms sang Happy Birthday to him. He loved it. That evening Uncle Andy came down to spend some time with Benjamin and then he took us out to Dos Amigos Mexican Restaurant for a dinner on their patio.

    We were supposed to go to the Rochesterfest parade Friday evening, but we decided to go a much less stressful route and watched on tv at home instead. Mike and I got the house ready for Saturday while Benjamin danced around to the marching bands.

    Saturday morning we followed with our tradition of serving Benjamin breakfast in bed on his actual birthday.
    Lately he has been in love with instant oatmeal, so that was what he requested as his breakfast. Eating in his bed with a tray is something that he just thinks is so special, it is so cute! After breakfast we all continued with our preparations for visitors by cleaning and getting all of the provisions for our family BBQ.

    Benjamin's party was at the House of Bounce this year. He invited a bunch of his friends, most of whom unfortunately were out of town this weekend, but we had a nice group of 5 kids. They bounced for an hour or so in the new facility that just opened earlier this month, which is awesome.
    The kids (along with Mike and I) were all tired, red-faced and sweaty by the end of our jumping time. It was just a joy to see them all having such a great time. The new party rooms are basically just little walled off areas with cubicle dividers separating each space. They provide plates, napkins, forks and ice cream while you can bring in your own cake or cupcakes. I made vegan cupcakes with icing so that Benjamin and AJ could both enjoy the treat. They actually tasted no different than a regular cupcake and I felt as though the icing was even better than standard buttercream (I used Palm Oil Shortening with powdered sugar mixed in). So delicious! Here is the cupcake recipe I made. I had to use corn oil because of AJ's allergy to soy.

    I put a lot of effort into making the goodie bags for the kids this year. Benjamin's birthday party theme was Superheroes, so I bought plain gift bags and dressed them up with logos from his favorite superheroes. For the inside of the goodie bags, I compiled a bunch of Benjamin's favorite songs (Backyardigans, Muppets, his music class, etc) onto a cd with a label that I designed.
    I also filled the bags with superhero fruit snacks, a pack of crayons and a pack of little dinosaurs that grow in water. I had so much fun putting everything together!

    Benjamin opened his gifts from his friends and then we went back to our house where we were having a small BBQ for grandparents and aunts/uncles. Andy, Jennifer and Jen came a little later and we all enjoyed a delicious Greek meal that Mike prepared. He made seasoned chicken with veggies and tzatziki sauce, an orzo, pea and pepper salad and a red pepper spread with pitas. So good. After dinner Benjamin opened even more presents, including the infamous drum set, and we once again enjoyed some of the cupcakes I made. It was a lovely day and lucky for us, the storms that were threatening to show up all day never did materialize.