Cheers for the Red, White and Blue

Last Friday, my sweet friend Kate invited the girls and me over for an early 4th of July celebration with her family and another mutual family of friends.

Kate served up these delicious chocolate malts (and photographed them, too!)

One of Kate’s most prominent spiritual gifts is hospitality. Sitting in the wicker furniture on her four-season porch, sipping a malt, and gazing at the breathtaking white hydrangeas… Isn’t this why lazy summer afternoons were invented? I start to wonder if I really did fall into a page of REAL SIMPLE magazine. Or perhaps it was a children’s story book I landed inside of.

 Not that any of us moms could linger daydreamily for long, mind you. With 11 kids between the three of us, it was quite a busy and festive place!

After having their faces painted and making and decorating their own patriotic top hats, the kids marched in a parade. 

Everyone took turns being the Grand Marshall; this was Linnea’s turn.

Thank you, Kate, for a lovely and memorable afternoon of fun! And thanks for taking these beautiful pictures, too! You simply amaze me, and your friendship is such a sweet blessing!

Mama’s Not a Happy Camper


It’s National Get Outdoors Day, and I have a confession: I’ve never been wild about camping in a tent.

Something about it just makes me feel like a Boy Scout. My older brother has always been waaaaay into camping, so perhaps that’s why I developed an aversion to it early in life. But nonetheless, I do have some fond memories of camping more times than I can count in the spacious backyard of my childhood home.

One time I camped out with my dear friend Aimee during a sleepover when we were about 12. That experience involved rain and some sort of catastrophic tent collapse around 4 a.m. Sadly, I was so traumatized or lacking in sleep that I blocked out the details. All I remember is laughing about it later until our sides nearly split open.

Like it or not, camping out is one of those outdoorsy things that everyone must do now and then. And recently I realized — in a small fit of mommy guilt — that neither of our daughters had ever spent the night in a tent!

Well, actually, there was that one time… When Linnea was 3, Michael tried a father-daughter backyard camp-out with her. She bounced and fidgeted in excitement for several hours, waaaaay past her usual bedtime. And then finally around 10:30 p.m., snug in her sleeping bag, Linnea was just drifting off to sleep when ka-boom! The fireworks began. It was the 4th of July. Seriously, whose grand idea was that?

Since we were here at home this Memorial Day weekend, I coaxed Michael into buying a six-man tent and pitching it for the girls to play in. They had a high old time indeed, pretending it was their house, playing with their rag dolls, and tracking in grass and other pieces of nature to litter the tent floor. You never saw two kids more eager for bedtime.


We have really long summer days here in the Frozen Tundra, so it’s still broad daylight at 9 p.m. Yet both jumped into their jammies around 7 p.m., hours before the sunset.

To cap off the evening, s’mores had been promised. Unfortunately, it was super windy that evening. Too windy for a fire in the backyard fire pit. At least, that was the conclusion of the former Boy Scout in our family. Since I had all the ingredients and I didn’t want unhappy campers, I decided to do the unthinkable.

I made s’mores in the microwave.

Strike that. I made s’mores in the microwave. I tried to make s’mores in the microwave.

If you haven’t tried this at home, please don’t. The graham cracker box is misleading. You really can’t make s’mores in the microwave. Sure the marshmallow puffs into its gooey, sticky loveliness, but the Hershey bar…

It wasn’t pretty. Laurel’s pajamas took the brunt of the s’more chocolate disaster. And our patio furniture also fell victim to the devastation of dripping chocolate loss.

By 7:30, my three happy campers were ready to call it a night. I kissed them all and headed inside, looking forward to a nice, peaceful evening alone in a quiet house, snuggled up with my laptop. Aaaah. Peace at last. 

Some things are too good to be true.

I jumped when the phone rang. Laurel’s sweet little voice was on the other end, on her daddy’s cell phone, begging, “Mommy, will you please, please come outside with us and watch for the stars come out? We miss you.”

Who on earth could deny such a plea from their 4-year-old?

I did the right thing. I shut the laptop, changed clothes, and headed out to watch the stars.

Two hours and lots of giggles later, we were all still anxiously waiting for the first star to come out. Napless Laurel didn’t dare stop moving her mouth or else she’d fall soundly asleep. She talked, talked, talked. Full of endless questions. After a while, that just made Linnea giggle, giggle, giggle. Pretty soon, we were all giggling uncontrollably as Laurel tried so hard to stay awake for the first star.

Eventually the first star did come out. And then another. And another. By the fourth star, Laurel was sawing logs. It was well after 10 p.m. And that’s about when Michael informed me I couldn’t leave because I’d let in too many mosquitos. So I was trapped. In the tent. For the whole night.

At 4 a.m. I awoke, freezing and feeling rocks that I am certain arose underneath the sod just while I was laying there. Ugh! I sneaked back inside my quiet house and into my warm, soft bed. I left my three happy campers sleeping soundly.

Aaaah. Peace at last. For a few hours anyway.

Summer Adds Up

It will be the 4th of July in a few hours, and we’ve come to that part of the year when everyone sees the back-to-school clothing ads and says in a freakish sort of tone, “Where has the summer gone!?”
Here in Minnesota, it truly feels like summer is just getting started. The lake only warmed up to swim-able temperature a couple of weeks ago. We haven’t even made it to the beach yet! So, in an effort not to join that familiar chorus of summertime blues, I’m adding up all the fun we’ve had since our fabulous Memorial Day weekend trip up north.
Here’s the math:
  • 3 sailing trips
  • 1 swim in the lake
  • 2 tea parties
  • 1 night at the movies to see Up!
  • 4 Arboretum trips
  • 1 piano recital
  • 2 fishing trips
  • 1 afternoon at the Old Log Theatre to see Treasure Island
  • 5 nights of Vacation Bible School
  • 1 afternoon playing in the sprinkler and eating popsicles
  • 2 afternoons playing in the backyard kiddy pool
  • 1 family gathering with BBQ and bubble wands
  • 1 family gathering with Bailey the Dog and Chinese food
  • 2 fun get-togethers friends who feel like family
  • countless picnics and park visits

All this and just one bee sting! Of course, I must mention that I was stung immediately upon entering the Arboretum. The bee flew into the van, stung me and flew back out all in the 15 seconds it took me to show my membership card to the guy at the entrance gate. Welcome to the Arboretum! Ouch!

Notably, Michael was hundreds of miles away on his four-day, guys-only trip to the Boundary Waters when my arm started swelling up. The pain only lasted a few hours, despite the fact that I did none of the five post-bee-sting treatment steps spelled out on I just sat on a park bench, watched the girls play and tried to avoid the wasp that kept lingering nearby. 

Despite leaving us alone to fend off the bees and wasps, and despite coming home with lots of smelly, fishy laundry, Michael did get some royal treatment on Father’s Day.

Father's Day
Father's Day

 And here’s one of our tea parties; Aunt Lilac and Great Gramma were our special guests.

Tea with the Greats
Tea with the Greats
Great Gramma
Great Gramma
For the 4th of July, this afternoon we made these fun desserts — fruit pizza in red, white and blue. Yum!
another edible flag
Linnea's edible flag
patriotic fruit pizza
patriotic fruit pizza