Keep your thoughts positive

Something to keep in mind as we move in to the new year.



Letter from Grandma – North Shore trip

For regular readers of this blog, you know that a few weeks ago, I took my grandma on a trip to the north shore of Minnesota with my mom and sister.

I wrote about it as a way to remember the fun times we had when I was younger and a tribute to my grandparents for being so awesome.

When we stopped by last night for a quick visit, she handed me two cards, one for me and one for my sister.

Mine reads:

Our trip to Duluth Sept.

Dear Roman,

Just a few lines to let you know how much I enjoyed our trip to Duluth.

I’m surprised how it has changed.  But why not.  We’re not the same as we were then either.

I’ll always remember how much fun we had.  It’s been a long time ago.

Thank you for letting me remember the good times we had.  They were so much fun.

Time & Tide wait for no man.  So let me tell you they are some of my best memories (Thank you).

Thank you so much and God Bless.


I knew that she appreciated our trip, but didn’t know that it impacted her in the same way that it had impacted us.

The past year has been such a great experience for me personally.  I’m glad that this memory for her, and for us happened in this year.  It’s made for one spectacular year.

I’m already looking forward to Baking Day with Grandma as near the holidays.

Stay awesome everyone,



Finally – the training wheels are gone!

It only took all summer.

There were arguments.

There was pleading.

There was even a little bit of bribing.

But he finally did it.  Today, after a long summer of long bike rides throughout town, he finally got the courage to take the training wheels off and go on two wheels.  I barely had to push.  I just got him started and away he went.  Laughing and giggling all the way down the street.

I knew he could do it too.  On some of those long rides we took this summer, he would blaze down the path, not even using the training wheels.  When I told him I’d take them off, he was completely against it!

I suppose the crash he got in to in early June didn’t help.  There’s a large hill near our house with a long bike path down it.  As he was descending the hill for the very first time, he turned around to see where I was.

When I kid turns around, usually the handlebars go in the same direction of the head.  In his case, it ended up in a big crash, lots of blood and a walk back home.  As I watched the crash happen, I could only think how grateful I was that I made him wear his bike helmet.  Bouncing off of pavement is no fun.  I was just happy he got back on the bike and rode this summer.

But here we have it.  Proof that the impossible – in his mind anyway – can happen.

Way to go buddy!  One more step on the ladder of growing up completed.



Grandma’s trip to the North Shore

A story about a trip, and in a way, a letter to my grandma.

Have you ever wished you could do something again?  Maybe something you hadn’t done in a long time?  As we move through life, there are inevitably things we will look back on and wish we could do just one more time.

A few weeks ago, I attended my nephew’s birthday party.  He was turning two and a good portion of the family was there and any time you get the family together, there is going to be a great deal of talking.  At some point during the party, I thought I would show my grandma some of the photographs we took on our day trip to Duluth.

The beginning of my love for the North Shore

When I was younger – much younger – my grandparents would take me on summer vacations.  In my immediate family, we didn’t take too many trips, but I always looked forward to a summer trip with my grandparents.

We had lots of fun on our little trips.  Over the years, we would traveled to places like Wyoming, South Dakota and Canada, however, our most frequented destination was the North Shore of Minnesota.

As many Minnesotans can attest, it’s absolutely beautiful along the north shore of Minnesota.  I’m positive that I’m not the only one who loved going up there as a kid.  From the big boats, to the trains to just simply hiking along the lake and collecting stones, you can keep kids busy for hours up there.  I look back and have to think that the main reason we went there so much was that they could keep me busy the whole time.

We camped when we went up there.

Yep, that’s me.  I know, I know…nice socks.  I was probably in 4th or 5th grade in the photo above.

Seriously though, camping along the north shore was fantastic.  Our campsite always seemed to be near the entrance of the campground – close enough to hear the waves crashing along the lake shore at night.  Close enough to cross the road and climb down the rocks to play in the lake.  Close enough to Duluth to make a quick trip there in case a ship was coming in that I wanted to see.

In the photo above, that’s my grandpa carving up a piece of wood he found.  He was probably making me a boat that I could play with in the lake.

I loved that camper.  I loved going to Duluth with my grandparents.  I’m still looking for a camper to use with my family so I can go on trips with them in much the same way.

There are many stories from our trips up there – ones that will be remembered for a long time.  Like the time my grandpa drove down the wrong way of one-way streets, just so we could make it to the bridge in time to see a certain ship come in.  Stories of where we stayed, campfires, Gooseberry Falls, and Split Rock Lighthouse.  There’s even a story floating around that they took me to Canada, only to reach the border and say, “Ok, I’ve seen Canada, let’s go home.”

The stories are what makes up fond memories of our childhood.

Back at the party…

I had a thought pop in my head as I was sitting there talking with my grandma outside on my sister’s patio.  I’d run home and grab my iPad that had all of the photos from our  recent day trip to Duluth with Big Dude, Little Guy.

While I sat there and showed her the photos from our trip, she said something that stuck with me.  “Oh, I wish I could just rub my hands over those smooth rocks one more time.”

Now, when we used to go up to Duluth, that was something that my grandma would do.  While I was worried about seeing ships come in and playing along the lake shore, she would look for the smoothest rocks she could find.

So I had a thought – we needed to find a way to get my grandma back to Duluth as soon as possible.  My grandma is 97 years old and it had been a really long time since she had been there.

At work, we have a program called “Dreams Can Come True”.  It’s basically a program that tries to make our residents “dreams” come true.  Maybe it was a ride in an airplane or motorcycle or maybe it was in a limo.  Maybe it was something big like wishing for world peace.  Whatever the dream was, we tried to make it come true.  Sometimes with great success, sometimes we had to modify.  Either way, these people had things they still wanted to do in life, but they hadn’t really told anyone, not even their families.

If I was advocating for our Dreams program, I needed to advocate for my grandma’s desire to just “feel how smooth those rocks are again.”

When I brought it up with my sister and mom, they agreed, we had to get her there before it got too cold to go.

So this past Tuesday, we were up early and ready to go.

When my mom picked my Grandma up, she didn’t tell her where we were going that day – only that we were going on a day trip.

In fact, we didn’t tell her until we were almost half way there.  She was surprised and kept worrying about us taking a day off for her.

We arrived in Duluth about 1 pm and figured it only made sense to eat lunch at Grandma’s in Canal Park.

My grandma and I eating lunch

After lunch we walked around a bit by the lighthouse on the pier.

Me, my grandma and my sister

Walking along the lift bridge; my sister, grandma and mom

Then we loaded back up in the car and headed for Split Rock Lighthouse.

We made a stop past the old campground – which is now a site for town homes.

As we drove up the north shore, she would comment on how much things have changed.  The biggest change being the tunnels.  If you’re from Minnesota, you may remember having to drive the road before the tunnels.  I know there were a couple of times my grandma or grandpa would make comments about how tight they were hanging on as we went around the corners.  It was a long drop down to the lake!

We continued along until we arrived at the Lighthouse.  Last fall, Angie and I came across the road that leads to the campgrounds along the lake shore.  It’s an easy access from the parking lots below to get down to the lake shore.  I figured this would be the best way to get my grandma down there.

As we walked down the path and rounded the corner, you could hear the excitement in all of us.

There was the lake – huge rocks, small rocks, water crashing against the shore.  It was all there.  If there was one drawback, it was the lack of sun.  In Duluth, it was there, but by the time we reached the lighthouse, it was basically gone.

So we set up a chair on the rocks where my grandma could sit and look out on the water.  While she sat, we went around and picked up the smoothest rocks we could find.

As we would bring her the rocks, she would take care to examine each one.  First how it looked, then how smooth it was.

It was a cool moment for each of us.

For some reason, it all lined up.

She made the comment in early September and just a few short weeks later, she was sitting along the lake shore doing exactly what she had dreamed of doing.

We stayed for about an hour or so before we decided it was too cold to stay.

As we walked back to the car, my grandma said “I never thought that after we brought you up here, that you would be the one taking ME to Duluth!”

I hadn’t really thought of it that way.  My only thought when she mentioned it was making the trip happen.

But think about that from your standpoint.  What are you doing with your kids or maybe your grand kids that they will be taking you to see or do when you get older?  If we’d all think about it from that stand point, would our kids know what’s important in our lives?  Would they know our favorite places in the world and try to help us get back there?

Before leaving Duluth, we stopped by one of the stores in Canal Park for a caramel apple to split between the four of us and to Caribou Coffee for a hot apple cider.  It was a great way to end the day and warm up again!


We talked quite a bit on the way home.  A lot of it was about the day and how much fun we had while there.  One thing kept coming up – how much change she has seen since she last visited Duluth.

Sure there’s been a lot of change, there always is.  But one thing that hasn’t changed is my love for the North Shore and everything about it.  I’ll always remember the trips that my grandma and grandpa took me on up there.

In the end, it couldn’t have worked out any better.  We all had a great time and we were able to make her dream come true.

Thanks for being awesome grandma!


First day of school – another year forward

I want to say that when I was the same age as our boys, I was really excited to go back to school.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.  I remember bits and pieces about going to school at the Big Dude’s age.  I still remember playing on the playground at Hartley Elementary in Waseca.  I remember the teachers and the smell of the hallways of the older schools.  I also remember doing things in phy ed that wouldn’t even come close to being allowed in today’s world. (anyone remember climbing the rope to the ceiling of the gym?)

I remember so many of my classmates from back then too.  I think that’s what the boys will remember most about going to school.  Sure they are going to grow as boys and learn a lot this year, but what I remember most about grade school and preschool was the meeting a bunch of new friends.

As I got older, I didn’t really want summer to end – in a way, I still don’t.  But this year, more than last, I am looking forward to the boys being back in school.

There is a lot of structure in the lives of a preschooler and 1st grader.  The Big Dude learned that last year during Kindergarten.  He loved school so much, he continually asked about when it was time to go back throughout the summer.

The Little Guy likes preschool, but desperately wants to be old enough to go to the “big school”.  We were lucky enough to find a preschool program that lets kids go for two years, instead of just the one.  Now that he’s in his last year, he is more excited than ever to be moving on to Kindergarten next year.  He wants to go so bad, that he followed the Big Dude on the bus to school this morning with Mom to take photos of him getting off the bus.

Both boys have seen enough of each other this summer, and I think it’s starting to annoy each of them.  Don’t get me wrong, they love each other, but I think they are getting to an age where they want their own space a little bit.

To the boys:

Good luck in starting this bright new year.  I know the both of you are going to learn so much this year.  It will be exciting for your mom and I to watch just how much you will both grow this year.  While in a way, we are sad to see you grow up, we are more excited to see the person you are becoming.  Both of you are such awesome kids.  We are proud of you guys.

Little Guy on his first day on Tuesday:


Big Dude on his first “official” day, Wednesday:

Stay awesome boys,

Mom and Dad

The case of the running sump pump

Last Sunday, while I built a new flower garden in the front yard, the boys played outside for much of the day.  They played with the Hot Cycles, their bikes, set up road cones for a track, and played with their water guns.

They seemed to be having a good time, even taking a couple of shots at me with the water gun.  Big Dude tells me at one point in time that he even filled up the water gun himself.

After a long day of being outside, we cleaned up the front yard and put everything away.

At some point early Monday morning, I kept thinking to myself, “Why is the sump pump running?”

Because it had rained here on Saturday, I thought maybe that was the culprit.

Then this morning, I felt as if the pump was almost running non stop.  I was running late this morning, so I didn’t have time to check in to it as closely as I had wanted.

Just now, I went in to the backyard to put the chairs back in their place after Saturday’s storm and guess what I found?

When the Big Dude said he filled up his water gun with water all by himself, he used the hose on the outside of the house.

It was still running.  From Sunday.  So we are looking at the hose pretty much running for around 48 hours or so.

There was a nice river of water running straight back towards the house, and right down along the foundation.

This is going to be one SWEET water bill.

Stay awesome and keep calm.  I know I’m trying to.


When a buoy, isn’t that exactly

When I started this blog, I promised myself I would try to add everything that happened in our lives, the good, the bad, the funny and the not so much.

Take this next story however you want.  At the time this was unfolding, both Angie and I were dying a little inside.  Both from laughter and from being a little embarrassed.

So here goes.

While we were on the dinner cruise, our boys were learning all sorts of new words they really hadn’t heard before.

Like “Buoy”.

Like most kids, when learning new words, the words don’t really come out the way they were intended the first few times.

Little Guy kept trying to say buoy, but it kept coming out as “boobie”.

You can imagine how this goes down.

“Daddy!  Look at that booby”.

Out loud, where everyone can hear, on the top deck of the ship.

It was usually followed by “looks” from 9 out of 10 women standing by.  Most chuckled thankfully.

On the outside, we kept cool – on the inside, we couldn’t help but laugh a little.

I kept saying “You mean Buoy?”  And he would follow with, “Yes, Booby.”  This went back and forth throughout most of the trip.

I don’t know where he get’s it from.

Stay awesome,