Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A quick family visit

Steph, Jordan, and Kelsie showed up Sunday while we were watching the skateboarders from the top of the bluff. We had a nice visit while everyone got ready to head into town, where we went kayaking. Below are additional pictures to the previous post. It was the first time kayak for these three and they all did great.

It's all smiles here, but somehow they disappeared after running into shore!

After we switched into dry clothes we stopped by Galvin Heights for a overlook of the town. We often fail to ask others to take family pictures, but luckily we remembered on this day.

The kids played great together. Jordan and Kelsie had more than enough energy to keep up with Michaela even though she gets into a delirious hyper state of mood when people visit.

I tried to have Michaela and Danielle hang on the branch, but they could only last a second or too. Jordan and Kelsie did much better and got a ride when I jumped on {bringing their feet to the ground} and let go {pulling them back up into the air}.

The kids are great and our girls were very sad when they left. Tonight Danielle hopped on my lap and told me "I remember them, they are really nice and played with us."

Thanks for the visit!

The Stockton Bucket List - Kayaking at Lake Lodge

We have truly enjoyed the kayak and canoe rentals at Lake Lodge and playing at Veterans Park.

This summer we were disappointed however to find out the park system is no longer letting children under 9 on their own watercraft. Both girls were looking forward to paddling themselves, as Michaela enjoyed it last summer and Danielle wanted to show how big she was and do it herself after being too small last summer.

We made a week long trek north spending a couple days in Canada fishing, biking, floating the river, and seeing friends and family.  When we returned to Winona a week ago we made it a priority to get out on the water again and talked our friends into meeting us for a night on the water.

This past weekend Steph, Jordan, and Kelsie spent a day visiting.

We were on top of the bluff when they arrived and after a quick shower we kayaking at Lake Lodge. Cooler than normal July temperatures kept many people away and there were enough kayaks for all of us to get out.

The rest of Jordan, Kelsie, and Steph's visit is on the next blog post.

The Stockton Bucket List - Hiking the bluff behind our house

Shortly after learning that we would be moving this summer, Christine and I talked about the things we wanted to do before leaving Stockton. The next couple of posts are just a couple of ideas that came out of that conversation.

When the Kallevig family visited two years ago some of them hiked the bluff behind our house. Michaela went with, but only made it about half way up. She remembers doing it before and has been asking to do so this past week. On Sunday we decided to see how far we could get.

Christine and the girls were patiently waiting for me to come out of the house and snapped this picture before the hike got too vertical. You can see the altitude difference in the pictures by looking at the size of our house.

It didn't take long however before the hill became steep enough that the girls asked for help, receiving a bit from each of us. Christine thinks I'm a bit of a softy however, as I ended up carrying both of the girls for a short while on the way up and way down.

Finding a toadlet was a good excuse to slow down and take another picture.
The view on top was great, as we could see almost all of the houses in the little subdivision.

Stockton, Minnesota

Downtown Stockton is actually right in the middle of the photo above Rollin Sunset Dr, the one most easily seen in the photo.


We took a few pictures of each other on top to remember it by and took a breather, enjoying the wonderfully cool summer day.

We saw some neighbor kids enjoying the hills of the subdivision with their skateboards. They rode down the hill a handful of times as we watched and no one took a spill. Their method of returning to the top of the hill gave Christine and I a good chuckle.

About the time we were ready to start back down the hill Steph pulled into our yard. Luckily the note on the garage told her where we were at and we were able to wave to someone down below. Their wonderful visit coincided with another of our bucket list items, and the post will follow.

FYI - No snakes were seen on the hike even though they were in both of our minds!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Needed Break - The Morris Connection and Yellow-throated Warbler

I am amazed at how stressful life can be. Christine has been selling much of our stuff in anticipation of moving to an apartment half the size of our house. In addition we are trying to sell the house, sell the Jeep, find new loft beds for the girls, look for a new used car that has AC, and I've been working on a book project that is taking more time than I had hoped it would. Put all of this together and yesterday was a needed break. To understand yesterday however we need a bit of history.


When Michaela was born in Madison we started taking walks that spring and summer to get her to sleep as she was extremely fussy. We frequented the remoteness of Nine Springs Park and Lake Farm Park on our walks as they were less than five miles away from our apartment.  Little did we know these locations were birding hotspots and would get us into birding. Since then I've slowly increased my knowledge of birds and enjoy getting out in the area as much as possible.

Fourteen years ago, when I was a Junior, at University of Minnesota - Morris I ran into a fellow duck hunter in the parking lot. The duck hunter was Josh Wallestad. We didn't know each other, but having hunting as a similar hobby was the groundwork for the start of a nice friendship.  We quickly found out that we both grew up in small towns, loved the outdoors and hunting, and played double deck pinochle. The next year we were roommates.

I've never been good at staying in contact with friends. Moving frequently and out of the area for graduate school and jobs have made it worse, yet over the years we have had wonderful people in our lives.  This past year Josh and I reconnect, through birding! Each of our kids were the spark that got us into birding and somehow we connect on Facebook, even with my limited social media experience.  

Present Day

Yesterday I was able to meet up with him and his son at Whitewater State Park. We had a few targeted birds that would all be lifers for the two Wallestad men, and were successful in finding a yellow-throated warbler. I enjoy reading Josh's birding exploits and you can see his recount of the day on his webpage A Boy Who Cried Heron.

During the search for this bird we found three juveniles, which represents the first time this species is confirmed breeding in Winona County and only the third for the state. Without working on the Breeding Bird Altas this summer I may have easily overlooked the juveniles. Without birding with John H, Andy N, and Dedrick B this past spring I would never have spent as much time learning a few calls and may have completely missed this species. Without birding I likely would not have reconnected with Josh, who is a class act and one of the most genuine and honest guys I've ever known. The time together at the park reminded me of the wonderful friends that Christine and I have had in our lives at each location, some of which we need to work harder on staying connected with. Josh's son was a great and knew his stuff, reminding me of how happy I am being outdoors and learning like a kid. Evan had quite the smirk when I was fooled by his ipod and thought a second adult bird was calling.

The stress was gone for a day and I was reminded of all the good things in our life.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Independence Day

The past couple of years the girls have intentionally stayed up late to watch fireworks on July 4th. Last year went to Lake Peppin but this year we were in Monroe Wisconsin with friends and their family. The Wisconsin visit felt like going home and included good golf, food, bike rides, and great hospitality.  

We spent a couple of days in Wisconsin, with more photos to come later, but on the 4th the girls started the night out with sparklers before it got too dark.

Notice how they reacted when I asked for movement in front of the camera. 
The fireworks show was great, easily beating last years and while single shells did not seem as big the overall presentation trumped the Marshfield fireworks from two years ago. {Here is a short video with synchronized music.} Danielle mad it through half of the show before she snuggled up and fell asleep on a friend's lap. Michaela stayed awake throughout and spent most of it on top of Christine as you can see below.

Fireworks offer a chance to try rear-sync flash photography. This is a technique I needed to practice with manual settings, but during a half hour show it is fun to experiment.    

When the settings and timing are right you get a photo like this.
When you forget the 2-second shutter is open you could get this.
Photoshop and a bit of time on the computer gets this.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

County Fair

The 2013 Winona County Fair wraps up tonight. We met friends Thursday night {Yes, I know the posts are out of order considering we went swimming Friday} after quickly running to Rochester to look at a Van. The girls loved the rides. They went on a Ferris Wheel type ride, used burlap bags to go down a slide, rocked a large pirate ship, played in a bounce house, rode a roller coaster and of course the Merry-go-Round.

Michaela and Danielle with L and D on the Ferris Wheel. Christine and Danielle on the Merry-go-Round. 

This was the first carnival we went to in which the Merry-go-Round had competition as the girls favorite. By the end of the night the Dragon Roller Coaster won out, even though Danielle rode her favorite horse on the Merry-go-Round three times.

Michaela and M in the back of the Dragon with Danielle and L in the front

Interestingly other kids, and of course their onlooking parents, thought the roller coaster was too rough and fast for a fair. For the four girls, at least on this night, it was just what they wanted. {Okay so our girls are out of focus, but the face on the girl behind them and the mom with her hands up were too good for me to delete the photo.} Below is a video of all four on the slide, with other videos of the roller-coaster, pirate ship, and another ride available through the youtube links.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Return to summer

At the start of July we visited Kansas City over three days and found a place to live next month and then we enjoyed the 4th holiday with friends in southern Wisconsin.  I'll get those photos and story up later, but for the time being today was a return a normal summer day after four days of working on a book project.  

The past few days ave been hot, humid, and windy.  We cleaned the house for a showing that fell through and then spent the afternoon in town.  After this move we will have moved three times in 48 months, and hopefully this time we will be able to quickly determine where boxes go when we unload.  We picked up colored tape to wrap around the top of each box, with a different color for each room in the apartment. Hopefully this will reduce the number of times Christine get asked "Where does this box go?" when we unpack.  How do you coordinate and increase efficiency when packing, moving, and unpacking?  

It is hard to believe 100 people were there from this photo shopped picture!
After the quick shopping trip we went swimming at Lacanne Park in Winona.  We've been to the park before to fly kites, bird, school gatherings, and bike rides but today was the first time swimming. Michaela likes to go underwater and pick things up, but is still working on swimming more than 5 feet without a life jacket.  Danielle is just brave enough to get her eyes wet. Here are a few photos from this afternoon, much like last summer with a new adventure every week.