• Chapter 84- Doors Open Milwaukee (Part II- In-Depth Tour at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge)


    For the second installment of my Doors Open Milwaukee weekend, I went to an in-depth tour of Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, hosted by Wisconsin Foodie‘s Kyle Cherek.  This tour was one of the chances to get a guided tour of one of the sites, and I should mention that members of Historic Milwaukee get first dibs on tickets.


    I met my friend Kori, of AnalogEmporium, at Bryant’s and we were immediately brought to a different world.  The space was barely lit, the cash register was plated in gold (like most of the bar actually) and walls covered with velvet wallpaper.   There is no menu.  The idea is that you talk with your bartender about what kinds of things you like, and what mood you’re in, and they’ll match you with a drink.  I’m told that they have a 99.9% success rate.


    We ordered drinks (yes, at 3pm), and headed upstairs and found a seat right in front.  Kyle Cherek and bar owner John Dye led us through the rich history of this lounge and it’s three owners since opening in 1936.

    {intermission: I ran into John while I was attending a punk-rock show with my kids at Anodyne recently, and will fill you in on that adventure soon.  But he was a really nice and gracious dude who immediately gave me a greater sense of the integrity behind Bryant’s just because he seems like a stand up guy}

    What stuck out most to me was the dedication to authenticity.  From the time of its opening, the mission seems to be roughly the same: provide a unique place where attention to detail and the craft of making delicious cocktails are valued.  There’s no standing room at Bryant’s.  You can either sit at the bar, or at a table.  And once you do, you’re encouraged to put down your damn phone and talk to someone.


    Regulars and long-time waitresses remain a part of the picture.  Hardship and disaster arose in the stories told, but so did the notion of rebuilding and remaining true at most any cost.  This cocktail lounge isn’t there by chance.  It’s still around because of people like John who pour thought and time and energy into a place that brings people together.


    After the presentation, Kori snapped a picture of me and Kyle and then stuck around to take a few more photos of Bryant’s.


    And the intriguing thing about this painting is that there’s really  no story behind it.  Nobody knows who the woman is, and nobody knows who painted it.  But it sure is a good conversation piece.


    A special thanks to Kyle and John for sharing the stories, and to Doors Open Milwaukee (and Historic Milwaukee, Inc) for providing the tour.  Stay tuned for my next and final installment of the weekend, and remember that the easiest way to stay in the loop is to enter your email address is the “subscribe” box at the bottom of the column to the right.

    Cheers, all!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 84- Doors Open Milwaukee (Part I- Volunteering at Milwaukee Public Museum)


    Welcome to part one of my Doors Open Milwaukee experience…volunteering!


    As I mentioned in my original post about Doors Open, I signed up to work a 4-hour shift at one of the MANY sites open to the public for free of charge last weekend, and I was placed at The Milwaukee Public Museum.  I’d missed participating in this amazing event in years past, so I decided to volunteer so I couldn’t miss the weekend.


    And let me tell you that it was one of the most enjoyable volunteering events I’ve done.  I was paired up with a wonderful woman named Peggy (who also volunteers at the Volunteer Legal Clinic), and our task was simply to greet visitors and give them the quick rundown (all movies playing at The Dome Theater were free!) and collect zip codes for data collection.  Everyone we met was so happy to be there, and kids were excited to get their passports stamped.


    Then I asked David, the Planetarium Educator, if the Projection Room is ever open to the public (me being “the public”).  He was gracious enough to let me take a peek inside, and then Charlie the projectionist gave me a brief tour.  It was awesome!  The film reels are over 200lbs and are miles long.  To see that enormous projector was really fascinating.  I learned that it gets so hot that they have coils of cold water running around it to keep it from overheating.

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    But back to volunteering, it was so easy and I got to chat with lots of new people.   It was such a simple way to get involved AND get a badge that let me skip to the front of the line in other Doors Open sites.  More on that in the next post…

    Oh and I wanted to mention two events coming up at the Public Museum: The Sci-Fi Film Fest starts October 23 and has some great films to see in preparation for the Alien Worlds and Androids exhibit.  Check out the schedule and head on over to have your mind blown by the Dome Theater, and get details on the new exhibit.

    Thanks to everyone at the museum and my fellow volunteer Peggy for making it such an enjoyable Saturday morning!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 83- Cross The Rock (Cyclocross Bike Race)

    In cyclocross, bikers race through laps of rough terrain, steep hills, and obstacles in a timed event.  Races generally last between 30-60 minutes depending on the course, and the season runs fall through winter (making weather a huge factor in the difficulty of the event…check out last winter’s post about some below zero action!).  I think the sport started as a way for road racers to train in the off season, and has taken off in the US as an exciting and somehow extreme AND relaxed sport.  I say that because the vibe is all-out athleticism combined with an air of casual fun.  Some racers train intensely, while others are more laid-back in their approach.


    Now that you’ve got the background…In the upcoming article for Metroparent Magazine (coming out in October), I mention attending a sport as a fun thing to do with your kids this fall.  And this is our version.  On a day with “scattered thunderstorms”, I packed up my four kids and headed to watch a Cyclocross bike race at The Rock in Franklin.


    After cheering on my brother as he tagged off to his relay partner, we walked around the sports complex and course a little, watching the other racers and asking questions about why the bikers were going so fast and up hills and getting off their bikes.  But mostly, we played with rocks.


    And cheered on uncle Chris!


    And found more rocks.


    About half way through the race, the wind picked up.  Like, really picked up.

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    And before we knew it, it was downpouring.  We ran to our car and huddled inside and tried to dry off with a teeny tiny towel I just happen to have in my sweet ride.  It’s times like this I’m glad we have a minivan to more or less play in while the weather sucks.  I should mention that people KEPT RACING in this weather.  Remember the hard-core parts I described above?


    Though we didn’t tough it out to watch the rest of my brother’s race, we caught up with him afterwards.  The kids yelled things like “good job!” and “I’m cold!” and “why is it so wet outside?” to him as we drove away (to Kopp’s, because my kids were champs and deserved some custard).


    There are lots of free upcoming races that anyone is welcome to attend.  Find a spot near some obstacles so you can see the racers either master or fail the hurdles, sand/mud pits, stairs, and wood chips.  Because both falling and being extremely agile aren’t uncommon.

    And if you’re looking for a few other ideas of things to do this fall, get your hands on Metroparent’s October issue to read my article.  OR, tune in to The Morning Blend tomorrow morning at 9am to see me chat with the ladies about the article.  Wish me luck, all!

    A. Storm


  • Chapter 82- East Troy Electric Railroad


    This picture is was taken after a frantic car-unloading session and mad dash to the train that was waiting on us.  I was late to meet my friends at The Elegant Farmer to catch the East Troy electric train.  You see, there’s a Bermuda Triangle that exists for me.  It’s the highway system just south of Milwaukee.  I’m generally on top of things when it comes to navigation.  Ask any of my friends, they’ll confirm that I’d be a pretty good taxi driver. But I don’t travel on 894 very often, and when I do, I apparently drive around the entire city to get to East Troy.


    But back to the adventure.  I met four friends with their seven children (that makes 5 adults and 11 children total) and we hopped on the train.  It started down the track and my kids sat wide-eyed because it was such a whirlwind getting boarded, that they didn’t really know what was happening.  I spent the 15 minutes or so that it took to get to the East Troy Depot talking with my friend Kate who I hadn’t really seen all summer (how did it fly by so quickly?!).


    When we got to the depot, we unloaded and set up shop outside on the lawn and ate each other’s packed lunches and ran around.

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    We ate cheese curds and ran some more.  We had grand plans of touring the depot, but the kids preferred to run up and down the giant grassy hills.  So unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything about the depot.  Before we knew it, the train was heading back to The Elegant Farmer and we needed to try and snap a pic of all the kids.


    Good effort, at least.


    All sixteen of us got back on the train, after some confusion about purchasing tickets inside the depot while part of our crew snuck onto the train.  I’ll say that it was much more expensive than I thought it would be, but luckily for me I had most of my kids under age three which made a difference.  I guess the saving factor in the ticket price is that you can get unlimited rides all day.  We didn’t have the luxury of having much time before naps/meltdowns, so it was just the one roundtrip ride for us.


    I don’t have too many photos from the actual train ride because it was pretty hectic, as you can imagine with that many kids sharing like two seats.  rr25 rr12 rr16

    A nice gentleman attempted to bestow some knowledge upon us about the rich history and landscape, but 11 kids don’t really facilitate a good listening situation.


    When we got back to the Elegant Farmer, we decided to splurge and get a treat for the kids because they were so awesome and it was summer.  I went inside to get a few cookies while the kids played with sticks and looked for bugs and followed around the big kid of the group.

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    While I was inside, I drooled over these pies baked in a paper bag.  If you get the chance, these pies are amazing.  And their GIANT cookies aren’t bad either!

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    After saying goodbye to the next departing train, we studied some more bugs, had some serious face-to-face conversations (see second pic below) and hung out as long as we could before kids started to lose it.

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    The railroad has regularly schedule weekend trips through November 2, and offers special dining and holiday train rides as well.  We’ll pair it up with an apple or pumpkin picking adventure at the Elegant Farmer next time, and skip naps so we can spend all day riding the train.  I’m sure the conductors are looking forward to our return.

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 81- Hunger Task Force Farm


    (My friend Raina Johnson wrote a piece for Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service about this adventure, as she’s a freelance writer and fellow Metroparent blogger.  It’s also been picked up by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

    I was invited by Metroparent Magazine to have a tour and volunteer session at The Hunger Task Force Farm a few weeks ago.  After I asked “you know I have four kids under age five, right?” and still got the ok, I packed up my kids and drove to Franklin for some fun in the dirt.

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    Amy Wallner and Dana Hartenstein welcomed us, and gave us a quick run down of the farm.  I’ll just tell you that Hunger Task Force serves over 50,000 meals per month, helps over 35,000 people at their food pantries per month, and delivers Stockboxes to 9,000 seniors each month.  Last year they delivered over 10.3 MILLION pounds of food to local pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.

    Volunteering at the farm is for kids ages 16 and up, but since this was a special group outing, my young kids got to help out and got assigned to picking swiss chard and kale.  Little T and Little A took it upon themselves to carry a bin to our raised garden bed of greens, and we started out by identifying which are good and bad leaves.

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    For anyone who is wondering, bad kale leaves have small holes in them and have lost the purplish color to the stems.


    Here’s an opportunity for me to tell you how amazing this farm is.  The Hunger Task Force got into the farming business because they were presented with a unique opportunity to lease the 200 acres from Milwaukee County.  They employ 5 full-time farm employees and have created a successful farm with the help from community volunteers.

    Dana Hartenstein, Communications Manager form Hunger Task Force gave me the scoop: “We researched fruits and vegetables that would grow during a Wisconsin summer and were able to come up with a variety of over 20 different options. Seeds are planted in our greenhouse in spring and transplanted into the fields when they’re ready. We have a schedule that leads to a long harvest season so we are able to deliver fresh produce longer. The fresh fruits and vegetables replace canned options at our soup kitchens, food pantries and senior centers which creates a win all the way around. Our clients enjoy greater variety in their diet, healthier options than canned and we are able to reserve non-perishable canned fruits and vegetables to use during winter months when fresh is no longer available.”

    Pretty good stuff, eh?

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    Tomatoes are Little T’s favorite veggie, so she joined the crew over there and sampled some of the delicious cherry tomatoes.

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    Some of the haul we harvested.

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    Dana and Amy  took us around the farm a bit, and we proceeded to run up and down hills because that’s pretty much all my kids want to do.

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    And then we saw the goats!  The goats help keep invasive species at bay, and keep the grasses “mowed”, while providing some decent entertainment to kids as well.

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    Three out of five looking at the camera…not bad!

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    Little T wanted her turn at holding the camera, and took the above photo of her baby sister, who she adores like no other.


    People often ask how I manage to take four young kids out on adventures.  And here’s my secret: I am lucky to have people like Dana, who help me along the way.  Above, she’s showing the kids a toad she spotted.  And below, she’s escorting Little A back to our group after falling behind.

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    And she helped lift Little A up so she could see the fish, a task I couldn’t perform because I had one kid on my back and was pushing a stroller.


    The experience was really refreshing.  We got to play in dirt, walk outside, see animals, and learn about a community organization.  I’m always looking for ways to get my kids thinking about people and the world outside of our home, and this was a great way to do so.  I hope you’ve learned a little more about Hunger Task Force along side of me, and can find a way to stay connected and help out such a great effort.

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 80- Skyline Music Series


    If you can access a calendar and read my blog, you will get a sense of my timeline currently.  That said, a few weeks ago was the last in the Skyline Music Series.  I’d been wanting to go to more free concerts this summer, and with it being the last chance to see one at Kadish Park, I packed up a picnic dinner and headed out with the kids.

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    The COA Youth and Family Centers puts on this awesome series, and provided some wonderful and  handouts (Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and other books, finger puppets, and more) to the kids.  If you’re not familiar with the COA, please check them out and find ways to support the organization.  They do some amazing things for the community!


    Now I can’t honestly tell you much about the above picture.  I can tell you that Shannon from the Milwaukee Art Museum was there doing her thing…getting kids involved in art and assisting in kids projects.  At the time of this photo I was either wrangling two year olds to the potty or sweating my butt off pushing a stroller up a hill.  I don’t know, but I remember just passing by and saying hi to Shannon and saying “I’ll see you this fall!” for the MAM Play Dates with Art.


    Anyway, J chose our spot to set up camp and we unloaded our dinner of pesto quesadillas (we eat this like 4x/week), refried beans, chips and raspberries.  Everyone proceeded to munch on food before the music started.

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    And once the The Urban Empress and the Urbanites took stage, the dancing began!

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    The kids definitely approve of reggae music (good thing, because it’s often on our record player at home), and felt free to dance in the lawn/on the sidewalk/anywhere they could find space.  We made friends with a very nice woman names Stacey and her two kids, and danced some more.

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    Most of the kids at the concert spent a good portion of the evening going up and down these steps.  Because I had a baby strapped to my body, and was busy dancing and working up a sweat, I kept thinking “please don’t fall and smack your face on those steps” over and over in my head.   And nobody did!

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    I’m so glad I made it to one concert, and am definitely looking forward to more next summer.  This was a really family-friendly event, and included so much of what I value: free outside fun, dancing, community, meeting new people, and feel good music.  See you next year Skyline, see you next year.

    Anyone else out there have a free concert or series they recommend?  I’m starting my bucket list for next year already…

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 79- The Original Wailers at Shank Hall


    Thanks to my favorite radio station 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, I won free tickets to see The Original Wailers at Shank Hall last week.  When I called in, DJ Marcus Doucette and I talked briefly about my name, my birthday, my phone number (all are pretty unusual) and my knack for winning things.   I tend to be lucky with things like this and other small or insignificant things.  But after my conversation, I decided to buy a lottery ticket.  No luck though, I did not become a millionaire in the past week.


    Back to the show…I got my friend Margo to come with me, and we arrived late (I can actually blame it on lack of parking from construction.  Well that and we both had a bunch of kids to get down for bed before we could leave home) and grabbed a drink.   The music was great, a lot of Bob Marley songs and some original.   The lead singer, Chet Samuels, had a smooth voice, and didn’t sound to be imitating Bob Marley or anything.  He had his own mellow style.  Howard Smith was on drums, and though I know nothing about percussion, I thought his playing was tight and on point.


    Al Anderson was on lead guitar and during a small intermission, serenaded us all with some “noodling” (improv and continuous solo playing).


    I was really impressed with everyone, but in particular the bass player Rohan Reid (pictured above).  His solo was incredible!  It was clear that he branches out from doing Raggae and plays jazz and other styles of music.


    After a while of just hanging out in the back and watching, my friend turned to me and asked why we weren’t out on the floor dancing.   It was clear that much of the crowd was having a good time but felt self-conscious about dancing.  So we abandoned our drinks and made our way to the front of the crowd and danced like ladies I made fun of at one point in my life.


    Thanks Radio Milwaukee for the tickets!  It was a great chance to get out and see some of what the city has to offer.


    What about you?  Have you seen any good shows lately?  Are you coming to Quarters to see ROM (my friend’s band) with me on Sept 26?

    A. Storm



  • Chapter 78- Gilles Frozen Custard


    It was a day when Little T was on a Special Date with Theo, and I needed to get out of the house with the other kids.  I packed them up and we drove to Gilles Frozen Custard, a place I remember going to when I was a kid (keep in mind I grew up two hours north of Milwaukee).  You see, when you have a dad who loves ice cream as much as mine, you spend a bit of time at places like Gilles, Leon’s, Dairy Queen and anything in between.

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    We ordered burgers and grilled cheese, and scored a table outside.  The folks next to us had 7 children with them, and I felt the tables turned a little. It’s usually other people who are gawking at the huge number of young children I’ve taken out in public.  But this time, I did the gawking.  And offering kind eyes when the parents were frustrated with one of their kids who had requested vanilla custard after she’d already put in the order for and received her chocolate custard.


    Baby S looks like a muppet here.  Blame it on her first taste of grilled cheese.

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    The custard was a pretty big hit with the twins.

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    Not so much of a hit with the baby.  Her first taste of custard didn’t go so well (don’t tell my dad).

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    The twins couldn’t really fathom why I didn’t get any custard.  The words “I don’t really like ice cream that much” simply didn’t register.  Probably because they were already on their sugar high and starting to climb parking structures.  So we walked around the lot a little and took a few photos.

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    And then, because a parking lot is a terrible place to hang out with your two year old twins while they’re all hopped up on sugar, we found a playground near by.

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    And ran.  And ran.  And peed on a tree (anyone else in the midst of potty training?).  And ran.

    And if the pictures don’t do it, here’s a video: run

    Hope you’re enjoying the last bit of summer here, and good luck to all the kids (and parents) with families heading back to school!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 77- Doors Open Milwaukee (Volunteer Orientation)


    For the past few years, I’d hear about Doors Open Milwaukee as it was happening and wish I had coordinated my life so I could attend.  The idea of the event is to open up buildings in Milwaukee to the public, free of cost, for one weekend.  Check out their website for a list of over 150 buildings at which you could get a closer look.

    This year I decided to sign up to volunteer so I wouldn’t miss the weekend.  Volunteers hang out at one of the sites for a 4 hour shift and greet people entering the building.  And for just those 4 hours, you get to be a part of this cool event AND get a special volunteer badge which lets you enter some of the more popular sites through a separate “volunteer only” line.


    So this morning, after a night of food poisoning, I got myself together by stopping by Rocket Baby Bakery to grab a coffee and croissant, and then met up with other volunteers at the Central Library.

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    We met up in the Centennial Hall, and got a briefing on expectations and details.

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    Volunteer Coordinator Melinda Kallenberger gave us the run down, and also informed us that they’re still looking for over 100 volunteers for the event!  People, stop reading my blog right now and visit the site to get in touch with Melinda and let her know you’ll sign up for one 4 hour shift on Saturday September 20 or Sunday the 21st!


    Afterwards, we got our location assignments (I’ll be in the Milwaukee Public Museum’s Dome Theater), chatted with other volunteers, and fell in love with the new GLOW IN THE DARK t-shirts for sale:



    This is a family-friendly event, too.  A free kids’ passport is available to get your young ones involved in exploring their city.


    I’ll post more about the event after it happens, but I’m so excited to finally check this out.  I hope you can carve out 4 hours of your time to sit and greet people who are hoping to learn more about the city.  Stay tuned for my experience with the weekend, and I’d love to hear if you’ve volunteered or attended before.  Please share!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 76- Governor Dodge State Park and more (Travel Edition)


    You see the time on that clock?  It’s 6:45PM.  And that’s what time we finally left Milwaukee for the two hour drive to Governor Dodge State Park for a few nights of tent camping.  Just 6 hours and 45 minutes late.


    Because my husband is a genius, and because the above picture is of Little A passed out before we even left Milwaukee County, he suggested we stay in a hotel that night and ease our way into camping.  The kids were beyond excited once we arrived at some crappy Super 8, because “MOM!!! There’s a tiny coffee maker!!!!  And little soap and a tiny fridge and a COFFEE MAKER!  You want coffee?  Here you go.  Papa, you want coffee?”

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    I’d read recently some great ideas and tips on traveling with kids, and had visions of neatly packaged snacks and toys and car games.  But instead, we piled in the car with blankies and water bottles.  That’s pretty much it.  So when it came to bedtime, Theo happened to have Harry Potter in his bag (of all the books he was going to read while on vacation…yeah right) and that was their bedtime story.


    The next morning, we headed to our site at the park and set up camp.  Little T, Little A and J got one tent, while the rest of us got the other.

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    Accommodations were great, mosquitos were minimal, and shade was a plenty.

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    Our Eno hammock (highly recommend that to anyone in the market for one.  Just make sure to get the double so you can fit a million kids into it) fit nicely between some trees, and we all took turns relaxing (or roughhousing) in it.

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    My oldest went on a hike and brought me back a special rock and a clover.  It was pretty much the sweetest.


    I was sort of dreading sleeping in tents.  Not because I’d be uncomfortable, but because kids would be out of their element and potentially NOT sleep.  But for the most part, people slept when they should have.

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    Bagheera joined me on a few of the trips I took back up to the ranger station to do things like get firewood and inquire about ice.  He’s the best dog ever and I could go on and on about him, but that’s really all you need to know.

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    This peaceful moment was brought to you by a few mugs of wine and my husband who took the kids on a car ride (all were either approaching or already in meltdown mode).   He was gone for much longer than I anticipated, and everything was packed in the car with him (except said wine and mug), so I got a little weird.  I’d spent enough time in the hammock, stoked the fire, threw some rocks, and found the only logical next step to take pictures of myself jumping off things.  So here you go.

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    The next day, Uncle Wow (Will) and Auntie Brave (Rae) joined us and we went to the lake to swim, play games, and eat ice cream.

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    Little T picked up my camera to take some photos of us playing a game.  I have no idea what it’s called but it involves a frisbee and a drink in your hand.  I’ll just let her pictures explain.

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    We hung out at the beach and Little A proved she’s fearless.  She’ll be swimming soon, while her twin preferred to play in the “sandbox”.

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    Back at the campsite Uncle Wow broke out a huge red balloon and my kids had a blast with it for 5 minutes until they popped it.

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    At the end of the camping trip, we packed up and kept heading west to the Driftless area to visit some family for a few days.

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    Here are some wildflowers Little T picked for me.  She’s such a sweetheart.


    We camped out at the cabin that Theo built back when we moved back to WI from Seattle.  It’s a beautiful place up on a hill, surrounded by trails and flowers and ferns galore.  We’re excited to spend more time there, and make some memories for our kids.


    Oh, and not only can my husband make things like cabins, he makes a mean pudgie pie grilled cheese sandwich and cup of coffee for breakfast.


    The above picture is of Theo taking the big three to the Sound of Music hill, and treating them to some chocolate.  I have a feeling that Hershey’s bar was accompanied by some words of love and adoration.

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    Back at my sister in law’s house, we gathered with more family for some cousin time.  And let me tell you, that motorcycle pictured is a hit!

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    Our old neighbors and dear friends stopped by the cabin to eat some corn and try and keep kids out of trouble.  We were pretty successful at both endeavors (minus some mystery slivers).

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    It was a great week.  Not all parts were super relaxing or easy, but it was great to spend time outside and see some people we love.

    We’re now home trying to recover from a few cases of croup and ear infections.  But hey, at least it happened now instead of while camping!

    A. Storm