Happy Place

One of the Roc’s favorite places to visit is the beach and we got to go many times in the two weeks we spent visiting GC’s family over Christmas vacation.

We went in sunny warm weather,


IMG_3036with Marcello while he was still in town,

IMG_3049and with the Roc’s cousin Aiden when he came up to stay at Nonna and Nonno’s house for a few days!




We even took our crazy dog to the beach one evening!






It wasn’t sunny every day, but even light rain won’t keep the Roc away from the water.





While we spent most of our time walking on the beach, the Roc and I finally hiked a little trail at the state park (that I won’t step foot on in the summer — poisonous snakes!) and he loved this awesome tree.

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IMG_3409I love that the Roc wants to be outside as much as I do.

We also stopped by the marsh and freshwater lagoon one afternoon so I could photograph birds.




The Roc is working on his patience while I work on my photography.  We both have a long way to go.

The beach is my happy place too.  Especially when I’m with my boy.



October in Pictures

We went camping up north the first weekend of October.  The weather was  pleasant enough on our first day, but it turned ugly that night.  Rain on and off, the temperature kept dropping, and the wind picked up as the weekend wore on.  We still had fun and (most) of us (the Roc and I) were prepared with cold weather gear….ahem GC is wearing shorts in this pic, though you obviously cannot tell…



I was glad I bought the dog a fleece sweatshirt, even though I felt ridiculous buying it.  He appreciated it.


The Roc was happy to get out of school for two days and go to some of his favorite places.  Waterfalls!



The windchill was definitely well below freezing on our second to last morning and the Roc looked like this


in his sleeping bag while GC and I were getting breakfast together so we decided to head home a day early.  It was COLD.  We stopped by some waterfalls on the way home, which made the Roc happy.


Coming home a day early meant we were back in time for the Roc to skate in the Special Hockey open skate down at the University of Minnesota.


He thought everything Goldy the Gopher did was funny, but he still didn’t want to talk to him.



The location of the Roc’s hippotherapy changed when the therapist got a new job at a gorgeous camp.  The indoor ring is awesome with lots of seating so I can watch him ride, there is a little black kitten who always comes and sleeps on my lap,

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and the trails are beautiful.  The Roc loves the trail ride portion of his lesson (which will be ending now that winter is almost here.)

2014-10-11 16.47.53


My mom had a birthday and the Roc LOVES to celebrate birthdays so he picked out a cake at the grocery store and insisted we bring it to Grandma.  I need more pictures of the Roc and my mom, they have a special connection.  Both my parents are wonderful to the Roc.

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My parents and I took the Roc hiking one day.  The fall colors were gorgeous.



The Roc likes to geocache with his Grandpa.  When I asked him if he wanted me to buy a gps so we could go geocaching he said, “But we do that with Grandpa.”  Yup, we do.


We went a little farther off the trail than we should have on this afternoon and didn’t end up finding the “treasure” as the Roc calls it because my dad and I were a little worried we might fall of the earth.


Even though we didn’t find what we were looking for, and the Roc complained bitterly, the scenery made up for it.


A whole forest of yellow maples in the late afternoon sun.  I couldn’t get over the golden color.



Towards the end of October I met up with my best friend Christa for our annual get-a-way!  We spent the first two days walking around colonial Williamsburg, taking house tours and learning a lot about the revolutionary period.





IMG_2390We also walked around Jamestown which was fascinating.




IMG_2479We had a really great time chatting, eating, laughing, catching up, and learning all about colonial times.

Before dropping me off at the airport we stopped by a plantation and took the tour.

IMG_2484After all our touring, listening, and reading museum placards on our trip I suggested that next year we spend a few days laying on a beach somewhere reading trashy novels.  No learning allowed.  We’ll see what happens next fall…


Something I didn’t take many pictures, and I really should have, was all the decorating the Roc did for Halloween.  As soon as it was October 1st he was allowed to talk about the October holiday (not that he refrained from talking about it since his birthday was over in early August, but I had good reason to tell him that I wouldn’t talk about it until October 1st-my sanity)  The Roc loves Halloween and proclaims it to be his favorite holiday.  He wanted to decorate with the few decorations we have, buy more decorations, and then when I wouldn’t buy as many as he wanted, we made one,


and then over the month he made many, many more.  He also really wanted a Halloween pinata, I think so he could get more candy.


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Like most parents we ended the month of October with pumpkins,




and lots of candy.



Arizona (The Highlights)

The Roc and I escaped the Minnesota deep freeze and went to Arizona to visit my parents last week.  We were there for eight days.  Eight days of no alarm clocks, lots of hiking, sun, geocaching, sun, eating, plants vs. zombies, sun, and (almost) daily margaritas.

But first we had to get there.  A midnight snow storm made for slow going at 3:30 am when we left for the airport.  Luckily we got there with plenty of time.  Enough for the Roc to get some quality time playing plants vs. zombies on his iPad (a new obsession.)

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Soon enough we were on our way.

2014-01-18 06.45.29The Roc was so excited when we touched down in Arizona.  “YAY!!  Now let’s GO!  NOW!” was what the passengers surrounding us were subjected to after we landed.  It was loud and we were in the very back of a very large plane.

On the drive to Tucson we stopped at Casa Grande National Monument outside Phoenix.


IMG_2869The Roc was not used to the sun and he was feeling the effects of getting up at 3 am.

IMG_2872He actually fell asleep in the car for a bit.

2014-01-18 14.35.02We spent the first couple days taking it easy, walking around the neighborhood,

IMG_2897playing a little plants vs. zombies,

IMG_2907going for a short hike,

IMG_2922and to eat downtown–where I had a yummy prickly pear margarita!

2014-01-19 15.06.53The Roc got to climb in the empty fountains.


IMG_2976Then we got busy!

On MLK day we hiked to the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Area, which was once a prison camp and then an internment camp during WWII.


IMG_2998(A geocache)



IMG_3006(Another find!)

We also went to Sabino canyon, a favorite of the Roc’s, specifically for the water.  We rode the tram in and then walked the 4 miles back out.




IMG_3131(I told the Roc to see if he could run up this giant hill at the end–he did!)


He also found a geocache!

IMG_3141Something new we did was a cave tour and a hike at Colossal Cave Mountain Park one day.





(The boy can HIKE)

After a picnic and another geocache,

IMG_3212we spent one afternoon at the Desert Museum where the Roc asked me to take his picture,


just like he did a few years ago.


At the museum I finally get to see the coyote,


catch a sweet shot of a hummingbird,


and get a picture with my boy.IMG_3246We had one overcast day and we took the Roc to Coldstone Creamery and then for a short hike at Saguaro National Park.  The Roc was super silly and I couldn’t get him to stand still for a picture with my mom!



His silliness went away a mile later when he got a very small splinter in his hand and he spent the rest of the hike agonizing over it’s removal, which my mom was able to do when we got back to the car–thank goodness for a Grandma who hikes with a first aide kit!  (I have no photographic evidence of the splinter.)

On our final day in Arizona we went for a long hike and I soaked up the sun, knowing that we would be heading back into sub zero temperatures the very next day.

Gabe Zimmerman trail head.


IMG_3384Lest you be fooled by all the smiling photos in this post, the Roc fell apart at the turn around spot on this hike.  He had complained of hunger and so my mom and I sat down with him to eat while my dad went on to find a geocache.  When my dad came back, after finding the cache, the Roc lost it.  He wanted to see the “treasure” and proceeded to sit down, scream, and throw his hat and some rocks.  He was disappointed, sad, and frustrated that we wouldn’t go on so he could see what my dad had found, and instead we were heading back to the car.  We had a long way to go, over 3 miles, and we needed to start back to make sure we got there before the sun set.  I felt for him and was frustrated with myself as I had a feeling he was going to be upset when my dad came back and he realized he had missed out.  He wasn’t happy for a lot of that hike back, but eventually he followed close to my dad, and I didn’t hear most of his tirade.

IMG_3360We were bound for home the next day and the Roc and I were both sad to leave.  He was happy to have a treat at Starbucks near our gate at the airport,

2014-01-26 11.22.59and play plants vs. zombies while we waited to board the plane.

2014-01-26 11.59.42Which is what he did the whole way home.  I tried to get him to watch a movie, but he would have none of it and continued to play the game, while wearing headphones–which caused him to very LOUDLY exclaim for me to, “LOOK AT THIS!” and “WATCH THIS!” jolting me and the poor couple seated in front of us.  But I reminded myself how I had to entertain him by reading books, doling out snacks and crayons, and watching movies with him when he was younger and we flew across the country, and I felt a little better about the loud exclamations.

2014-01-26 12.26.42We landed and were both shocked by the below zero windchill!

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Back to real life and our routine!

Charleston with Christa

Last year Christa and I went to Key West and had a wonderfully, relaxing time.  This year we decided on Charleston, South Carolina.  We had driven through Charleston back in 2010 when we took our very first trip together, which was a road trip!  We didn’t get to see anything downtown though, and so this was a perfect destination for us.  Beautiful scenery, lots of history, tours, and of course, awesome southern food.

I took the first photo of the trip while I had a layover at the Atlanta airport.


Christa picked me up in Raleigh, North Carolina and we drove down to Charleston.  We started our historical tours the next day with the Aiken-Rhett house.  A very informative self-guided tour.





and then the Nathaniel Russell House.

IMG_1973Both tours were worth the time.  I just wish I could have taken pictures inside the houses!  While we were in town we toured two other houses, the Edmondston-Alston house,

IMG_2034and the Calhoun Mansion, which we regretted as it wasn’t so much a historical tour as it was a house jammed with stuff a really rich person collected.  The house was huge and gorgeous, and the grounds were really beautiful too.


IMG_2017There was also a cat, which made my day.

IMG_2008I had one of my best meals at Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe.  (A restaurant that was on Dinners, Drive-ins, and Dives!)


Shrimp and Grits – YUM!


The best dessert from Toast!


We actually had dinner at Toast one night, went back the next night to grab dessert to take back to our hotel,

IMAG0813and then got up early on our last day to have breakfast there.

IMAG0818We spent some time walking around downtown peeking into gardens and I took lots of pictures of the beautiful houses.






I didn’t take a picture of this awesome red door the first time I saw it and Christa was nice enough to walk around and try to find it another night.  She spotted it and the owners were actually standing in it!  We waited around, I took pictures of the gate next door until they went inside, then I was able to get a pic.


We went down to Kiawah island one day and even though it was cloudy and we got rained on, it was still a beautiful day.



Our very favorite tour happened on our last day.  We toured Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.  We started with the “Slavery to Freedom” tour.  Our tour guide was wonderful and very informative.  There are four of the original 1850s slave quarters still onsite at Magnolia.









We also went on a tram tour to see the grounds and wildlife.






We took a tour of the house,


and also walked the gardens.






At the end of our afternoon I found another cat.  Sylvester.


Neither one of us was ready to leave Charleston.  There was so much we didn’t see and do while we were there.  It’s a place we think we would like to go back to one day, and we joked about retiring to the area.  It was 80 degrees while we toured the plantation!  A far cry from the cold that awaited me back in Minnesota.

It was a wonderful trip full of fun, laughter, history, beautiful weather, and good food.  I am so grateful for this friendship, for my friend.  There are not enough words to explain my respect and admiration for Christa.  She has been the best friend to me in the few years I’ve known her.  I am lucky, so lucky.

I can’t wait to see where we end up in 2014!

Hockey weekend

I don’t know how to adequately describe this weekend.  It was a blast, it was overstimulating, it was well organized, it was full of laughter, smiles, and lots and lots of gratitude.  And it was all because the Roc’s hockey coach and the Denis Savard Foundation.

We have encountered some very awesome and very generous people because of the Roc.

The Roc’s special hockey team got an opportunity to travel to Chicago, attend the morning skates of both the Wild and the Blackhawks at the United Center, participate in a game against a special hockey team from the Chicago area, and then attend the Wild vs. the Blackhawks on Saturday night!  Our travel, lodging, meals, and tickets were paid for by the Denis Savard Foundation.  An amazing opportunity!

But first we had to get there!  The Roc was excited to go and very happy to skip school on Friday.  We met up with the team and boarded the bus.

IMG_1590I was a bit worried about the ride as the Roc doesn’t like crowds or loud noises and the bus was filled to capacity with the players, coaches/volunteers, and their families.  I wrote to my friend Stimey about how to survive the bus ride and she gave me good advice.  Bring the iPad.  She also assured me that before her first trip she had been, “kinda flipped out about it,” but found that it was pretty mellow and fun.  She was right.  The Roc did well, there was a bit of complaining about the noise and amount of people, but he plopped on his noise canceling headphones and was much happier.  I was happy that GC was also on the bus because we got to split our time and the second half of the trip I sat alone and read my kindle!  They did fine without me.


After our long ride, a pizza party, and an hour and a half in the pool, the Roc and GC got in a couple games of Uno before bed on Friday night.


Saturday morning we had breakfast and then Denis Savard and John Carpenter (from the Denis Savard Foundation, who was instrumental in organizing our trip) came to the hotel to meet the kids on the Roc’s team.  Unlike many of the other kids, the Roc didn’t want to take a picture with Denis, he just wanted to finish eating.  I didn’t bring my camera down to breakfast, but one of the dads took pictures of all the kids, so somewhere there is a picture of the Roc smiling a forced smile as he leans away from Denis Savard!

We got back on the bus and headed down to the United Center to watch the morning skates.




It was amazing to sit right at the glass and watch the players up close.  The Roc was enthralled and there were many, many smiles as I looked around at the other kids on his team.  Some of the Blackhawks threw pucks over to the kids and they were overjoyed and ran to get them signed by Denis Savard.

IMG_1648The Roc was just as excited to see the zamboni as he was to see the players.  I love that kid.


We were able to see the whole morning skate for the Blackhawks and part of the Wild’s morning skate.  I was hoping to get a few clear picture of Zach Parise, who used to play for the NJ Devils, the team I started watching with GC when we lived out East.  I’ve always liked him, GC says it’s because I think he’s cute, but I maintain that my affection for Parise is because he is from Minnesota.  I’m sticking to my story.



We left the Wild’s morning skate to go to the Roc’s game.  He was nervous when he got there, telling us he didn’t know what to do.  He doesn’t fully understand what to do when he’s on the ice, but there were a few helpers who gave him some direction.  I know he enjoyed skating.


I loved seeing this on the score board.


All the players had a great time.


After the Roc’s game we headed back to the hotel to eat and then we were back on the bus to go to the game.  Originally I wasn’t supposed to go to the game, but one of the volunteer coaches couldn’t make it at the last minute so I got his ticket!

We sat up high!


So I got to test the zoom on my lens.



It was a good game and the Wild won!  Not long after the game started the Roc started to tell me he was tired.  I couldn’t blame him, it had been a long day.  He was very, very hard to wake up the next morning.  But we had to be on the bus at 8 am to head back home.


One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to know more of the players and their families.  I went to every practice and game last year, but I didn’t talk to other families very much, and because GC helps the Roc with his equipment, I stay out of the locker room and don’t get a chance to talk to the players.  Three days of togetherness changed that for me.  I got to talk with other parents and get to know some of the players.  By the end of our weekend it really felt like a team to me and I know it helped the Roc feel part of the team.

I am so thankful for all the different experiences we have had and all the wonderful people we have met.

We are rich in a way that counts.

Indiana roadtrip, a photo story

My mom and I took the Roc to Indiana at the end of August to visit my grandmother.  We drove…

Until we were stopped by the police because of an accident and the helicopter that needed to land on the freeway.

IMAG0680That night my mom had a (huge!) drink.  (I think spending 8 hours trapped in the car with the Roc and I may have had something to do with her desire for alcohol.)

IMAG0681I decided against the drink, and the Roc and I shared a dessert instead.  I will always pick chocolate over alcohol.  Even after spending 8 hours in the car.IMAG0683My grandmother lives in a small town and there isn’t too much to do at her house.  This can spell disaster for a guy like the Roc so we took him to a nearby lake to wear him out.  He will only smile once, so you had better catch it if you want a happy picture.

IMG_1283Otherwise you get this face.  Still cute…to me.

IMG_1284He is usually smiling while he’s swimming.

IMG_1294Especially if you swim with him.


But don’t try to take too many pictures.

IMG_1329The Roc enjoyed watching my uncle and cousins on the tractor.  So did Zora the dog.

IMG_1369GC flew in just for the weekend, and he enjoyed hanging out with the family.  Even if his face doesn’t always show it.


The Roc ended up watching movies, coloring, and playing with play dough at the house.



We saw lot more of this face as the weekend wore on,

IMG_1402(I’m working on writing more about this face…the sound(!) that goes with it, the aftermath, and words that sting.  It is not easy.)

and I tried to get him out of the house when I could.  I even got him to go running (well, walk/run, with more walking than running) with me.  We would go to the end of a dirt road and back, about 3.75 miles round trip.   A couple times we caught a beautiful sunset.

Camera HDR Studio - 1377389534090

In all we had a nice visit with my grandmother, aunt and uncle, and my aunt’s mother.  It was nice to see my grandmother smile and spend time with her.



In the end I was ready to get back home and get started on the new school year.  Back to structure, routine, and a little break each day (for me.)  We just had to drive all the way home.  I reminded my mom that I had a pair of ear plugs she could use…


A tale of two birthdays

The Roc turned nine while we were in South Carolina and he was lucky enough to have two celebrations.  First we celebrated at my in-laws house on the Roc’s actual birthday.  My MIL, the Roc, and I went out that morning to get some decorations and some cake.  We got to decorating when we got back to the house.  Uncle Chelch and Guinness slept on the couch.  Both had good reason, Chelch because he flew overnight from CO and Guinness…because he’s a dog.



My cousin, who moved to Charleston last summer, was able to come up and help us celebrate.  It was so fun to see him.


IMG_0425We had a very nice meal and then the Roc was able to have some cake, which was what he was waiting for all afternoon.



It was a nice little celebration.



The real party came a few days later when we went down to my SIL’s house.  The Roc wanted an angry birds/pool party so we took all the kids over to the pool,



IMG_0609before coming back for a meal and some pinata bashing.  We let the Roc go first,


but it was his cousin Aiden who busted the tiki head open!


The kids were all very gracious and let the Roc go in and get some candy because he was really worried about all the kids rushing in.  Uncle G helped the Roc pick out some candy.


When he had picked up a few of each kind, he took a step back and the rest of the kids ran to fill up their bags.


Then Uncle G had some fun with the tiki head.


The Roc was so excited to come back inside for cupcakes,


and presents!


He was very happy to get angry birds toys and he and his cousin Bella got to playing right away.

IMG_0832 It all proved too much for Uncle G and he just laid down on the floor and went to sleep…

IMG_0826At this point the poor man had been awake for over 30 hours!  Unlike Uncle G, it was hard getting the Roc to go to sleep that night.  He was so wired up and overstimulated from the day, but he had such a great birthday party and lots of fun with his cousins (and his cousin’s cousins who were visiting!)


And this has nothing to do with the Roc’s birthday celebration(s) but I stopped and stared at something I saw in my SIL’s neighborhood:  See that dark shape below the bench in the next photo?  You know, a bench you are supposed to sit on and relax?

Yup, you’re right!  That’s an ALLIGATOR!  o.m.g


There is no sign like this one in my neighborhood in Minnesota!