Minnesotans LOOOOOOVE to talk about the weather. We just can't seem to help it. We endure really long, really cold, really dark winters... a fact that makes us, I don't know, almost like weather warriors if you want to call us something. We become obsessed with embracing the outdoors and enjoying the perks of each season and making sure everyone knows how wonderful this weather is and how horrible it is surely going to get and so gosh darn it we are going to pick apples! And we are going to pet barn animals! And hike through the woods, and jump in piles of leaves, and flop around in pits of corn, and sit on trailers pulled behind tractors as we drive through farm fields. And HELL YES, we are going to take pictures of our children on every hay bale/gourd/cornstalk photo opp landscape that is prepared for us!
So I am a Minnesota mom and I did all the Minnesota fall family things over the last two months and I took loads of pictures and I am going to dump all those photos here as proof that we enjoyed this fall and every beautiful sunny day it thew at us.
I so wish there was a way to capture scent in a photo, because that is truly the best thing about this season. I just love how fall smells. There's really no describing it. I've tried, but nothing comes out right, my brain is a whirly tornado of cliches like crisp, and dewy, and maple. But all my favorite smells are wrapped up in this season. It's the season of fresh baked bread, (fresh baked anything really), musty clothes being pulled out of storage, cinnamon and nutmeg, candy corn, backyard bonfires, fresh pots of hot coffee.
The air tastes different. The breeze and the sun feel different on your skin.
Fall has its very own energy. And it seems to breathe life and energy into the everyday. Some afternoons I get so caught up in this energy that I sing at the top of my lungs on my commute home from work. I roll down the window as I drive and I feel the warmth of the sun on my shoulder and the cool autumnal breeze, and the leaves on the trees literally sparkle in their glorious shades of mustard and burgundy. And I feel like I can conquer the world. I can and I will do anything! It is exhilarating.
I told you. Minnesotans. We can't help ourselves. I can't help myself.
We've had a great couple of months. Busy and fun and so many things happening, but also just getting into our groove with the new school year. Figuring out our new normal.
First, Gus learned to ride a bike in September. It was one of those proud, spine-tingling, eye-welling parenting moments that I will truly never ever forget. It was a Friday afternoon, the end of the first week of school, a big week for all of us considering all the change that week brought to our household. Dan was home relatively early from work, and I finally convinced Louie to go for a walk with Olive and me, (he was very hesitant to leave his big brother who was unwavering in his desire to NOT go for a walk.) So we made our way through our town's little main street, picked up a few donuts, some coffee, and ended up at the park. I was nursing Olive on the bench when Dan called to ask where we were at. He and Gus were out for a bike ride and thought they'd ride towards us, but he didn't necessarily want to come all the way to the park. So Louie, Olive and I started heading back towards home and only got a few blocks when I saw that newly 6-year old boy, my boy, in his Catholic school uniform and his blue too-small helmet riding towards us on two wheels. My heart caught in my chest and... well like I said, I will never forget that moment.
Louie started preschool and he loves it so much. As we knew he would. He has a little best buddy at school and got his first birthday party invitation in the mail the other day, that was just for him, not him and his brother. He is adjusting to not having Gus around at all times, I think it's been really hard for him and his behavior at home and especially with his brother has been symptomatic of that. Our daycare lady mentioned that it has been so much fun getting to know Louie on his own. He is talkative and surprisingly insightful, and such an earnest little boy. He's gotten really good at writing his name and is coloring a lot more, very serious about "staying in the lines", and a month or so ago began drawing people for the first time. It's so fun to see what his people look like, and how different they are from his brother's.
Olive is 8 months old and is a busy and joyful little baby, almost always perfectly happy to explore and crawl around, usually getting herself into trouble. She is extremely good on her feet, she is scooting around furniture, can adeptly bend down to pick something up while holding onto a piece of furniture. She climbs on top of things like pillows and tubs of toys and then back down almost always without getting hurt. She loves to play in the refrigerator while I'm cooking, she pulls all the condiments out and then sucks on the tops of them or throws them around. She opens up cupboards and pulls out pots and pans. She loves to take baths, but more than that she loves to stand outside the tub in a diaper after her baths and shriek and laugh at the boys' antics. She climbs stairs, but obviously we don't trust her on them on her own, so we're back to blocking the staircase from the basement with laundry baskets and bins of toys to keep her down there. She puts everything in her mouth, EVERYTHING, so I'm starting to feel somewhat panicked about all of the little toys we have floating around the house. We are trying to set ground rules about things like Legos, for instance (only in the boys' room!), but we really just have to be super diligent about making sure we have removed all potential dangers before setting her down in a room. For example, most recently I can remember fishing out of her mouth little balls of dog hair and lint (they're her favorite), a tiny Lego gun, candy wrappers, glossy paper from the toy catalog that came in the mail, cardboard that she gnawed off of an old board book, a tissue from the trash can in the bathroom, and a Halloween themed temporary tattoo. Oh and while I was in the same tiny little bathroom with her the other day, literally 10 inches away from her straightening my hair, she managed to open up the kids' shampoo bottle, dump half of it out all over the floor and start sucking soap off of the inside of the dispenser before I realized what was happening.
She's terrifying. Louie didn't do this, Louie didn't put anything in his mouth, and I totally forgot about this part of parenting a mobile baby.
She's also quite a chow hound, and is essentially eating the same things the rest of the family is eating for meals, within reason. I am so happy the phase of introducing solids is O-V-E-R and we are on the other side of all that. I hate that phase. I hate purees, and I hate having to think super hard about what I'm going to feed her at every meal, Also, hate the gagging and the worrying about choking. Now she pretty much gets whatever we're eating, and for the most part she seems to love everything and I am going to thoroughly enjoy it while I can because I know how quickly that changes. Of course now she is a complete mess after most meals, and she's getting a lot more baths these days, but whatever. She's super happy to be part of the family at mealtime, shoveling food in her cute little face and giggling at the boys.
Now on to all of those fall pictures I promised!
Mid-September we went to the Twin Cities Harvest Festival and Corn Maze with friends. Dan was moving his sister to Florida that weekend, so it was nice to have something like this to look forward to. I am kind of all about these little festivals, the kids ran their little butts off and played so hard with their friends, exhaustion levels were at an all time high by late afternoon when we finally made our way out of there. And this one was insanely close to us and relatively cheap with an online BOGO deal. Faves for sure were the hay bale maze that the kids mostly just ran and jumped on top of, the little traveling petting zoo full of bizarre animals, and of course the corn pit. Fricken corn pit. Why do they love it so much? Olive wore her socks on her hands so she could play around in there but I was still on high alert when she was anywhere near that corn pit. Lunches from home were consumed and shared and passed around between friends, and mini donuts were procured on the way out. It was a great day.
Love these kids and their parents. It's fun to think of these babies growing up together, Carter is just a bit over 2 months older than Olive, and Harris is about three months younger than her.
They could hold and pet the baby bunnies, and both boys were so sweet and careful and gentle.
THE HAIR, as it's called, was doing... a thing, on that day. ;) I will be so sad when (if?) we ever lose those curls.
BOOM. DOMINATED. (He did not just gleefully take out Kellen, Louie, and Graham, but I love that this picture makes it look like he did.)
Friends. Babies. These women and their children are my people.
Olive and I did this.
While the rest of the clan did this. Hayrides by the highway are where it's at!
The next weekend Dan's parents were heading up to his grandparents' hobby farm in rural Wisconsin and asked if we wanted to come up for the day. We jumped at the chance because it had been a few years since we had made it up there, and it's such a lovely, quiet, relaxing place to spend a Saturday. We feasted on Dan's grandma's ham and scalloped corn and cupcakes and basked in the freedom and ability to practice a little free-range parenting. The boys spent the day exploring the land, learning to swing a golf club, chilling in the hammock, being pulled by grandpa behind the riding lawn mower, playing sweaty games of annie over with Dan's younger brothers and sisters and their friends. I spent a lot of time trying to get Olive to nap in a little nest of blankets and pillows on the floor in the guest bedroom, but I really had no place to go and no tasks to complete, and a good book on my kindle, so I didn't mind the effort. I was feeling pretty smug with my first attempt, after wearing her to sleep in the pouch I was able to successfully transfer her to the floor nest, where she continued to snooze, accompanied by white noise from my iPhone on airplane mode. Then I went to check on her 5 minutes later and she was laying UNDER the bed on cold concrete clutching my iphone, eyes open, face to the cold floor. Whoops! A little later she went down for two hours and the day was saved from baby crankiness.
Such a peaceful, breathtaking place.
We made it to an apple orchard in October. We decided to try a place out in Delano we had never been to, Fall Harvest Orchard, I had heard that even though it had new owners, it was much less commercialized than some of the other orchards have become, so no cow train or big play structures or bounce house, no bakery selling apple donuts and hot cider, it offered such a different experience. It was great. The drive out there in the morning was gorgeous, we arrived just as they were opening up the farm and it was so quiet and calm. Louie fed the crazy animals way more apples than the allotted two per person (per the sign next to the bushel baskets) and he was instantly in heaven. I hope this kid never stops with his animal obsession, makes him pretty darn easy to please.
Dropping apple after apple after apple through the fence for the goats.
These kids ALWAYS beg for snacks and act like they're starving the second we arrive somewhere, even if we've just eaten breakfast. Is this a my kid thing or an all kid thing?
The boys left the door open and one of those baby goats escaped the little petting pen. Dan had to chase him around the grounds to get him back and I laughed and laughed at the ridiculousness.
Get my precious baby girl away from those beasts!
Had to tell Louie a number of times not to chase the chickens. Kid has a death wish. Birds of all kinds freak me out.
The owner was taking people out on hayrides through the Orchard and the fields of pumpkins. He made a number of stops to give us some history of the farm, and explain what they are harvesting and all the work he and his family does to keep it running. At the first stop he hopped down and walked around with a basket of Honeycrisp apples, one for each of us to enjoy right then and there.
I was charmed, no doubt. We all were. Highly recommend.
Copying the big boys behind him and filling his shirt with corn to make a big belly.
We actually picked apples! The kids were so excited about this part, and they had a lot of advice for us as to how it worked and the best method for picking. "You have to twist and pull gently, mom!" I'm guessing they gained their expertise from TV. Or school? Who knows.
The illusive family photo!
Finally, there was a weekend at the cabin over MEA. Somehow we managed to not go up there for the entire months of August and September, I guess life was a bit nuts this summer, but what a bummer. We missed the lake.
Well it was the perfect weekend to be there, peak fall color for the drive and high 60's and low 70's during the day. (OMG I'm doing it again, I can't stop talking about the weather.)
There were s'mores over the campfire, rowdy games of kickball and ghosts in the graveyard, movie nights, cold mornings snuggled up under quilts in the camper, brisk walks through the woods to the swing set in the field, grandpa's pancakes and sausages for breakfast, and a trip into town on Saturday morning for another one of those fall festivals.
I was even able to tag along with Heidi on her run Saturday afternoon, and it was incredible. Fall will make a runner out of even the most reluctant exerciser.
The cabin in the fall is slower, kinder, easier. There is no hurry to get the children all suited up and slathered in sunscreen. There are no floaties to carry down to the lake and life jackets to find. There isn't really an agenda, no urgency, less chaos. We let the kids watch movies for longer on those chilly mornings, while we savor our 2nd and 3rd cups of coffee.
It's not better than summer at the lake, just different.
The first thing the boys did upon arrival. Some game with Lucas that involved swinging croquet mallets at piles of leaves. Super safe.
Well these guys mostly just got in the way and ran around the bases, but they were cute.
Looking related, no?
Much easier to sneak campfires in before bedtime when the sun starts to set at 6:30.
Ghosts in the graveyard was pure dumbness with this crew of rookies. But no one sprained an ankle so it was more successful than the last time this game was played up at the cabin. (Drunken pre-kid cabin weekends! Good times!)
I am in love with the above series of photos of Dan dominating John in a race on these weird bouncy horses at the pumpkin patch. Kids forever, these two.
The end. We have finally made it through. Reece's Peanut Butter cups for each of you who made it all the way to the end. (Get this Halloween candy out of my house!)