All posts in Out of town adventures

  • Chapter 146- Pope Farm Conservancy

    In my effort to cram everything in to the last few weeks of summer, we headed to Madison to see Pope Farm Conservancy’s sunflower farm!  I’d been seeing some beautiful photos on Instagram since last summer, so this adventure has been in the back of my mind for quite some time.  As a bonus, I happen to meet up with a bunch of my amazing friends and their kids that day!

    As chance would have it, one of my friends spotted me on highway 94 near Johnson Creek, and another said she was on her way there when I called to check in.  All 4 moms plus our 12 combined children met in the parking lot and hugged, being amazed that we ended up there together!

    At the parking lot, there was one port-a-potty which had a line.  So after playing on some big rocks while waiting, we walked up a big hill to the large sunflower crop.

    There were lots of people taking photos and standing on picnic benches, and we waited our turn to snap a few pix.  It was quite hot and sunny that day, so the kids were antsy to get moving and/or retreat to the shade.

    We made our way clockwise around the flowers, and came upon a small woods with more rocks.  And honestly, this is where we spent most of our time.  The shade was oh-so important and the kids really just wanted to play with each other, anyway.   Adults talked as kids played with sticks and rocks, smashing acorns open and tasting the dry and bitter nuts inside.

    When it was time for naps/lunch/saving kids from meltdown, we headed back the same way we came.  That’s it, people!

    This trip was a bit of a letdown…I really wanted to grab some cute photos for holiday cards but people weren’t really able to put on cute holiday card faces (understandable).  The kids were underwhelmed with the flowers, because there wasn’t a path to walk through them or anything.  Having hot, thirsty, and bored kids didn’t make for a successful adventure.

    However, I learned that weather makes a huge difference, so maybe next year during the peak blooming week we could try again.  AND I got to see friends (which didn’t really happen at all this summer) so it wasn’t a big loss.  Also, the conservancy does some amazing work with land conservation and education.  There are plenty of opportunities to learn about stewardship and even volunteer, so we’ll make sure to keep this place in mind for future adventures!

    And here’s my advice:

    • -Check the farm’s Facebook page for updates on weather and peak blooming, both are super important.
    • -Bring water and snacks!  They had bottles of water for sale but not much else.
    • -Head to the farm early or late in the day.  Midday sun isn’t ideal for getting people to smile and look at a camera with eyes open.
    • -Pair this adventure with others in Madison.  It doesn’t fill up a whole day, and there are so many other fun places to explore in Madison.
    • -Call you friends to see if they all happen to be on their way to the farm at the same time on the same day.

    Here’s a quick list of some of my fave Madison spots:

    Thanks for making the trip fun, Kady, Kate and Margo!

    Good luck with school staring, everyone…

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 143- Gibraltar Rock / Merrimac Ferry / Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron

    I believe that fieldtrips are very important to a kids’ education.  And while our school is really amazing, they aren’t able to take my children on ALL the kinds of fieldtrips they need.  Those kind would be hikes in the woods.

    So when a friend I met on Instagram (weird, I know.  I feel conflicted about social media and virtual friendships, but I’ve made quite a few real friends through the internet so I can’t say it’s all bad) said she was hiking Gibraltar Rock on a Friday, I knew this was a fieldtrip worth missing school for!

    Leading up to the trip, I talked with my kids about the Ice Age Trail.  We learned that it follows the border of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin.  The giant sheets of ice pushed boulders and land into new formations 12,000 years ago, and now we get to see coulees, drumlins, bogs, kettles and moraines.  The Ice Age Trail Alliance has a great website with lots of information about the trail and ways that YOU can volunteer!  We’ll be hiking lots of different sections of the trail this summer, too.

    We met Kelly in the parking lot near Lodi, and put our boots and hats on for good measure.  The kids took turns carrying the backpack full of their water, and we decided that we’ll be asking for four of these when birthdays roll around next.

    The trail was easy to maneuver, and nobody got lost in their dashes ahead of me and Kelly.  There was a lot of yelling in excitement and finding sticks and using pine needles as brooms and whining that we were going either too fast or too slow.  You know, the usual.

    Kelly knows a lot more about plants/flowers/trees than I, so she educated us on jack-in-the-pulpits, trilliums and skunk cabbage.  Stay away from the latter.

    The hike from the parking lot to the top was less than a mile which was nice.  It definitely gets a little unnerving for mothers of four near the top, so if you go make sure your kids understand the necessity to stay on the trail.  It is a very long way down.  And we of course want to be safe and not add to erosion, but also keep the plants and flowers from getting trampled.

    Once we got to the lookout, we had snacks of apples and cookies and the kids did their best to give me a heart attack.  We grilled Kelly about her life because it was the first time we’d hung out, so thanks Kelly for fielding our million questions.  And for sharing about your hiking history!

    We saw quite a few large birds flying overhead, and read a bit about red-tailed hawks and other birds of prey who fly the thermals created by the tall cliffs (JSOnline has a good article about the hike).  I can’t say for certain what we saw, but I’m pretty sure J’s guess of Peregrin Falcons was a bit off.  Good guess, though!

    After our butts were sufficiently cold from sitting on chilly rocks, we decided to head back down.  Kelly grabbed this next pic of us right before we found the brightest bug ever!

    This little spider was about the size of a pinhead, and was a vibrant red from head to toe.  Half of my kids were scared and the other half wanted to take it home.

    On the way back down, Kelly got a good dose of whining that “this view is terrible!” and “I can’t walk any farther” and “I want to go home”.   I’m getting pretty good at just ignoring the ridiculousness of such statements and getting them excited about the next big thing.

    Which was finishing the hike and heading to the Merrimac Ferry!  After we said our thank yous and goodbyes to Kelly, and promising to do it again sometime soon, I took her directions to just keep heading north on 113 and find the ferry which carries cars across the Wisconsin River.  It’s free and runs around the clock from April to November.

    We were first in line and had to wait only about 3 minutes for the ferry to return from the other side.  When the gate opened, I drove on and put my car in park, hoping that’s all I needed to do.  At first there was some hesitation with getting out of the car.  For a 5 year old, it was a little unnerving to be floating across water where he thought sharks were just waiting to eat us alive.  After going over saltwater vs. freshwater, we all exited the car and took in the sights.

    And by the time we got outside, it was time to hustle back into the car.  It took about 5 minutes to cross the river, and when we arrived at the other side, we just turned around and got back in line to go back.

    Once back, I decided to try and find Dr. Evermor’s Forevertron.  I’ve been meaning to take the kids for a while, and since we were in no hurry to get anywhere, I headed southeast.  I didn’t have a map in the car, and wasn’t getting any reception on my phone to look at GPS, so I tapped into my innate navigational skills and hoped for the best.

    We ended up finding hwy 12 and that’s when I found service, so we knew to head north.  I’m pretty sure there used to be giant metal sculptures on the side of the highway to mark the spot, but I didn’t see them this time.  It took a tiny bit of backtracking, but we eventually found the entrance, just south of  Delaney’s Surplus.

    And when we got there, any trace of whining and complaining ended.  All four of my kids were entranced by the enormous machines and creations.  They all split up and walked around in amazement, imagining what the sculptures could do if they were functioning.

    There are very few pieces that you can actually sit/stand on, so if you go remember a few things:

    • This is about art, so be respectful of the work and take time to imagine what it might take to build and create these pieces.
    • There are no bathrooms here, but there is a gas station just north of the park.
    • Hours are posted online, and there is a box for donations.  There’s no entrance fee, so be generous with your dollars.
    • This fascinating place is run by the family of Dr. Evermor.  If you get the chance to speak with Lady Eleanor, whose office is in the park, please do so.   Her husband is Dr. Evermor and she’s knowledgable about the entire park and process.

    Speaking of Lady Eleanor, here she is.  She was kind enough to let me take her photo after we talked for a while about the history and future of the park.  She shared with me Dr. Evermor’s inspiration, a bit about her family, and the timeframe in which pieces were constructed.

    Near the end of our visit, my dude J took me on a tour of all of the bird-looking creatures.  I wish you all could have seen it.  Though it was starting to sprinkle, he pointed to almost every single creature and had names like “three-headed chicken lizard” and “electric cat king” and “fire-breathing trooper”.   He was in his element!

    When the rain turned into a drizzle, we packed up and headed to Madison.  Our friends hosted us for an overnight stay (which was the best, I love you Kady!) and then we hurried back to Milwaukee for a Saturday morning soccer game.

    It was a pretty epic trip in all.  We learned a lot about geological history in Wisconsin, we met a new friend, went on our first car ferry, filled our imaginations with art, and saw some old friends.  When we got home, I had grand plans to have the kids write/draw about the Ice Age Trail and present it to their teachers.  However, that didn’t pan out so my kids just ended up talking about all the adventures they had, throwing out terms like “glacier” and “driftless”.  Good enough!

    Hope this week is treating you well, all.  Be on the lookout for some pieces I’ll be contributing to Metroparent Magazine in the next few months, and I hope to see you adventuring soon!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 142- Point Beach State Park & John Michael Kohler Arts Center

    On one of the Fridays off my kids had in March (there were a ton, though I’m not complaining because it means we get to go adventure!), I convinced my friend Margo to caravan up to Point Beach State Park with me.  Remember that I’m a “wing it” kind of woman?  Well I grossly underestimated the distance and sort of just got in the car and headed north, and it took us almost two hours to reach our destination.  Granted, a trip to Culver’s for ice cream may have added a few minutes to our travel time.

    But it was worth the drive.  Once Margo, our combined 7 children, and I arrived, we briefly looked at the trail map.  It was a little confusing because not everything was open and snow was covering most of the ground.  So we migrated towards the beach and the kids immediately waded in the icy cold water.  Luckily, our boots were waterproof enough to keep toes mostly dry.

    We then decided to just head to the woods and play in the snow.  A campground was across from the beach, so we made our way there.

    The kids got right to eating and throwing snow, dragging sticks, and searching for frozen puddles and ponds.  We hadn’t had much snow in Milwaukee, so it was a great surprise to play in lots of wet but fluffy white stuff!  Margo and I watched our kids make up imaginary games, discover new “nature treasures” as my kids say, and trek over small hills and through trees.

    After more than an hour of playing and walking not very far but having a blast, kids started to get a little chilly.

    We decided it was a good time to head back south and try to visit the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan on our way back home.  So after one last stop at the beach to get our boots thoroughly wet, we piled in the car and shoved some snacks in our faces.

    We were dry and somewhat rested by the time we arrived in Sheboygan, but my lack of planning gave us less than an hour to visit the museum.  The Arts Center has an amazing kids studio, called the ARTery which is open these hours.  The arts center is always free which is incredible.

    We made small booklets from magazines and folded paper, and worked on those fine motor skills to balance out the day.

    There was also a table with clay.  The kids were encouraged to check out the museum and a particular exhibit which had small figurines.  They came back to the ARTery and created their own little creatures.  Little T has a real strong affinity to cats, so she of course made a teeny tiny little kitty.

    Our time at the Arts Center was way too short, so we’ll definitely be back.  Sheboygan is only an hour north of Milwaukee, and we hope to combine it with the Children’s Museum and a trip back to Bookwork Gardens in the summer.

    On the way home, the sunset was incredible.  My oldest took the camera to capture the beautiful lines the clouds were making, so I’ll leave you with her shot.  A little blurry, but I think it does the sky and our day justice.

    Hope you all had a good weekend, and got outside to celebrate Earth Day!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 138- Madison for New Years!

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    Well it’s been a while, and it’s time to catch up.  For New Years, we spent the night at our dear friends’ house.  Kady and Laduma hosted our crew and threw an amazing shindig filled with glow-in-the dark balloons and a countdown at 8pm.  Shhh, don’t tell the kids!

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    After we woke up the next morning (not late enough for my liking), my husband drove back to Milwaukee to do a polar plunge with some friends and family.  The kids and I took our time leaving Madison, and I decided to take them through campus and show them my old university.

    Most everything was closed, so we ended up at the boathouse.  I told them all about how I rowed in High School with a club team, and then joined the crew team at UW Madison.  We also looked out at picnic point, thinking back to my framed drawing of it that we have back home.  My kids unenthusiastically agreed that it looks just like the real thing.

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    Since pretty much the whole city was closed on New Years Day, we ended up at the capitol building.  There were lots of people inside, and a large holiday display that the kids loved.

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    We walked around, noting the shapes and colors of the building, talking about our government and political leaders, and hoped to come back again when the rooftop access is open.

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    It was a pleasant albeit brief visit to Madison, a city that will always a certain amount of charm for me.

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 110- An Epic Road Trip to Colorado

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    I’ll tell you a story about a woman who had cabin and then spring fever so bad that she decided to pack up her four kids under age 6 and drive to Colorado.

    So let me back up a bit…I realized two weeks before Little T’s spring break that well, she had a spring break (I’m still getting used to having a child in school).  And because my parents took us on long car trips to Montana as kids, I will always have a yearning to hit the road and head west even if it’s with my four children while my husband stays at home to work (thanks babe!).

    My parents were heading out to visit my sister, Angela, and her husband Bobby, so I tagged along with them and they graciously offered to take two of the kids in their car.  We made it to Lincoln, NE the first night with no major happenings.   Sort of boring, actually.  I mean, I thought I’d have more horror stories about the car ride!

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    After a night’s stay at a hotel, we ate some free breakfast and put on a very loud singing performance (which half of the staff/guests trying to eat breakfast loved, and the other half I’m sure hated) before hitting the road.

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    There was one small puking incident in my parent’s car right after we crossed the border into Colorado, but the above picture is of Little A 5 minutes afterwards.  She and her siblings were picking dandelions for me, and she seemed alright.

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    We arrived to Buena Vista, CO, a mere 1,200 miles from home.  We immediately set up shop on my sister’s front porch, and stayed there for pretty much the rest of the week.

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    The kids were either a little sick or adjusting to the altitude (BV is at about 8,000ft.) so we laid low and did such amazing things as ride bikes…

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    …practice opening and closing the front door…

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    …get spoiled by aunts and uncles who get their nieces and nephews hats and sunglasses and flip flops…

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    …and read books with my dear sister, Aunt Angela.

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    My amazing sister has a really cool shop called Made, and every time I go in, I say things like “Ang!  I love the feel in here.  It’s got such a great vibe AND some really awesome clothes.”  Anyway, Angela is working on an exciting project at the Jailhouse.  It’ll be an art space that’s open for classes, workshops, exhibits, and shows.  Here she is showing my dad the space.

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    I come from a family of artists, if you didn’t know.

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    Back to the kids- they cruised around BV, and got used to the parks.  No swings or slides, but lots of rocks to boulder on and ropes to climb.

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    Angela and Bobby have a great back yard, mostly because it’s enclosed and has a lot of garden space that’s yet to be planted for the season.  So the kids put on their pearls, got some spoons, and started digging.

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    We explored the city with Grandpa, and relaxed in the shade.

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    We also practiced our climbing.  Someone complained about walking LITERALLY BEHIND MY SISTER’S HOUSE to the park because it was too far away.   I may have replied, “You guys are soft.  We need to get out and exercise!”.  And we did.

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    This was the best shot I could get of me and the kids.  Better than nothing!

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    More front porch shenanigans.

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    And Blu, the kindest most mellow dog you’ll ever know.

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    Since Bobby is out on the river as many days as possible, he took the kids on some adventures to see the water.  We did a lot of throwing rocks.  I mean, A LOT.

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    And Little T started a pretty rad rock collection.

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    And oh my gosh!  She lost her first tooth!!!!

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    A few nights in, we decided to try out staying at a hotel in town.  My kids were all a little needy and insisted on sleeping in the same room (or bed, UGH) as me.  It wasn’t working at the house, but the hotel was perfect.  I only had to share a bed with one kid at a time!

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    They also got to watch cartoons they never get to watch at home and jump on beds.  I’m positive they enjoyed themselves.

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    We took a mini expedition to see some cool tunnels outside of town, and got out to see some bones we spotted.

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    When we got back to the house, the kids were thrilled to tell Grandma about the “reindeer” bones they saw (I thought it too cute to correct them).  Little T is particularly interested in natural science currently (yay!) and loved discovering the bones, trying to determine which part of the animal we were looking at.

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    Another amazing photo of me and the kids.

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    And after a week, we packed up and headed home.  This is obviously a VERY abbreviated version of the week, because I haven’t even told you about my finger.  Mandoline slicers are incredibly sharp, people.  Be careful.

    On the way home, all four kids requested to be in my car which was totally fine with me.  They were champs and I can’t even tell you how well they did.  Don’t get me wrong, they complained towards the end of both driving days.  A lot.  But without any technology besides the stereo, they did amazingly well.

    That said, I need to give a shout out to raisins in tiny boxes (because they’re basically the equivalent of putting treats inside a complicated dog toy, except for children), the public library for a slew of new books, and Fox and Branch.  I bought two of their CDs at the last Anodyne show, and THANK GOD for the album “Did You Hear That?”.  In particular, the song “Bling Blang” which my kids are still singing, and my personal favorite “Rock Island Line”.

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    This was at the same rest stop in which my dad cleaned up Little A’s puke on the way to Colorado.  This time we ate ice cream and looked at ants.  Right after I took this picture, I realized they were making friends with red biting ants.  Oops!

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    And they graciously posed for a final shot.  We made it back in one piece (well except for my finger) and were all exhausted but feeling fresh from breathing the cool mountain air.

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    Thanks for reading, guys.  I’ve been a little out of the loop with keeping up with the blog, so thanks for sticking with me.

    Hope somewhere out there, someone is enjoying warm, or even mild/not snowing weather!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 106- Washington DC

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    Hey there!  It’s been a while, and I have a lot to catch up on.  So I’ll start with my out of town adventure to see my dear friend Nancy, and meet her (then) 9 week old baby girl, Ingrid June.  She’s the cutest.  I was surprised how in love I fell with a baby other than my own!

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    I spent four days snuggling and staring into the bright blue eyes of Ingrid, and catching up with Nancy (who is by the way doing a pretty kick ass job at maintaining her sanity through the newborn stage).   For that matter, so is her husband Mark (of ROM, remember my post about his band?  I hear they’ll be on tour again this fall.  Come back to MKE guys!).

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    Besides snuggling a baby and catching up with the first friend I ever had, I drank delicious hot buttered rum that Nancy made me.

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    And I finally got some basic science worked out in my head, thanks to my BF/at-hand biologist.  Mark and I had been discussing Ingrid’s eye color the night before, and couldn’t remember how it all worked.  Nancy cleared it all up the next morning.

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    On my last day, we ventured out of the house to run some errands in Cleveland Park.  We ate lunch at Nam Viet and took turns eating delicious food..

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    …and rocking the baby…

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    Nancy had an errand to run solo, so I took a walk around the neighborhood, got my kids some souvenirs, grabbed coffee, and enjoyed the sunny sky.

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    Bread.

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    Nancy is a biologist at the Smithsonian National Zoo, so I have this silly daydream in my head.  This summer, I pack up my four kids and drive 13 hours to DC.  There, Nancy gives us behind the scenes tours of the zoo and other amazing places like the National Museum of Natural History.  It’ll be seamless and memorable.

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    But for now I’ll just look over this blurry picture of The Washington Monument, which I snapped in the car on the way to the airport.  This trip wasn’t for sight-seeing, though.  It was for seeing that amazing baby, making food for new parents, late night chats, early morning coffee and recapping the sleep everyone did or didn’t get, and connecting with people I love.

    MACS

     

     

  • Chapter 98- Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum (Travel Edition)

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    St. Nick brought a toy for the kids, and a Jack White LP for Theo, but I made out on top this year.  Yesterday, I drove up to Two Rivers and attended a workshop at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum.  If you don’t read anything else in this post, just know that you should go there and get a tour of the museum.  My mind was blown by the history of print.  In a few words: the collection they have is expansive, the process was revolutionary in its day, machines were complex beyond my own comprehension, artists perform a deliberate craft, and the museum is doing an amazing job of preserving the history.

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    Assistant Director Stephanie Carpenter gave us a tour of the building, and imparted such an incredible amount of interesting knowledge to me and the other 8 workshop participants.  I can’t summarize all the information about how the wood type is made, but there are so many steps and machines which I’d never heard of before.  Read this to learn about the manufacturers, the pantograph (which people are still using in the facility!) the history, and more.  Also watch this short video to get a feel for the people and the passion at the museum.  They even have a few Linotype machines in the building.

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    The museum used to be in the Hamilton factory, just up the road, but re-opened in its current location just over a year ago.  The space is open and well-maintained, with a large amount of machines, wood type, and posters to view.  Also, the museum shop has LOTS Of beautiful prints, posters, cards, clothes and other gifts to browse.

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    Stephanie told us a story behind this poster of the Lushootseed alphabet.  I might botch it, but at one point in the state of Washington, the Tulalip Tribe only had two native speakers of their language.  In language camp, wood type was used to help people learn the language through a tactile way, hopefully enhancing the learning process.

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    Posters line lots of the walls, and this one reminded me of the John Prine song “Angel from Montgomery”.

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    Jim Moran, Museum Director, joined us in the workshop to show us the steps of printing.  I absolutely love the process.  It requires planning, paying attention, keeping your station neat, and being ok with making mistakes.  We had access to pieces of type that were over 100 years old, so we understood the importance of taking care of the equipment.

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    I had grand plans to make our holiday cards, but found posters much more inspiring and fun to create.  I messed up a whole lot, and didn’t have time to look through all the (millions of pieces of ) wood type, but came away with a greater knowledge AND desire to come back!

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    I also made a poster for my dear friend Nancy’s husband’s band, ROM.  There, Nan.  I blew the secret.  This should be in your mailbox soon!

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    A lovely lady named Carol did this poster pictured below.  You can see in the above photo where she’s locking up the stars to lay over the “joy” and “peace” she’d already printed.  A great end product!

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    The guys at ArcInt Architecture and I swapped posters, which was one of the highlights for me.  The setup of the workshop facilitated working on your own (which is awesome because even though I love being around people, I also love to be alone) with the opportunity to connect with other people with similar interests.  As it turns out, I’m neighbors with one of the architects, and their office is near the Menominee Valley Branch of the Urban Ecology Center, which I’ve been meaning to visit since it opened.

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    In all, it was a wonderful day.  Totally worth the drive from Milwaukee, and I’d recommend taking a trip to anyone.  I’d also suggest getting a tour, because the vast amount of history that the museum is preserving is simply fascinating.  It really makes me think about the change our world has seen, even in the past 100 years.

    And one of the best parts of my day…I got 3 hours in a car by myself.  Without the Frozen soundtrack playing, or kids fighting, or anyone screaming because their sock is on the wrong way/their pants won’t tuck into their boots correctly/their seatbelt JUST IS NOT COMFABLE.

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    Just me and my thoughts.  Oh, and the view in Two Rivers/Manitowoc is incredible.

    Peace to everyone,

    A. Storm

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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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

  • Chapter 74- Buena Vista, Colorado (Travel Edition, obviously)

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    Pardon the long break, everyone!  It’s been a busy few weeks, and this post explains a big chunk of that.  Get ready for a week in (a million) pictures…  I took Little A and Baby S to visit my sister in Colorado last week, and had a blast.  How did I end up taking just half of my crew, you ask?  Well, it was going to be a trip by myself, but Baby S is still pretty much attached to me and can fly for free, so she was a shoe in.  And because Little A was in need of some attention (she was battling a nighttime fear of excavators when I booked the flights), I chose her to join.  The plane rides were somewhere in between perfectly fine and incredibly uncomfortable for everyone on board.  People kept saying to me in the airports “oh my gosh, you’re so brave!”.  But I had decided before I left that it would be no big deal and sort of made that idea become true.  Plus, it was only HALF of my children.

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    We talked about grand plans of going to hot springs, and hiking once we arrived in Buena Vista.  But really, all that happened was as follows:

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    We splashed in puddles and enjoyed the views,

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    rode bikes,

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    ate amazing food at The Asian Palate (that’s my dear sister Angela and her husband Bobby),

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    had a fine beverage with my sister at Deerhammer while my brother-in-law drove around in the car with the kids (what?!),

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    and visited my sister’s boutique, Made On Main.  It’s a unique shop with beautiful clothing, art, jewelry and more inside.  The Grand Opening is this weekend if you can make it!  I’m lucky enough to have a sister who can provide fashion advice and outfit me with basically a new wardrobe. Thanks, Angela!

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    Recognize this?  It’s by Jamie Heiden!

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    Original artwork by Angela.

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    And then we crossed the street to her new endeavor, Petal & Flour, the go-to place for wedding consulting in Buena Vista.

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    The week was filled with dogs and bikes and water.  And surfing on the river.  CKS is the place to go to get started with that, but I’ll get to surfing in a minute…

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    Did I mention bikes?

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    And rocks.

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    And pacies and blankies because when you’re out of your element, you need some comfort.  Even if you’re coming up on three years old and have already given up diapers.

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    Eddyline serves a paddle of beer, and I felt it a must to partake.  Unfortunately, I’m more of an Ale, Amber, and Stout kind of gal.  So the line of IPAs and other hoppy beers was better suited to someone like my husband.

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    My sister and I took the girls out for breakfast at The Evergreen Cafe, and trashed the place (sorry Barb!).  But also had killer smoothies and a sweet potato breakfast complete with balsamic vinegar, black beans and cilantro.  Barb, the owner, was kind enough to share the recipe with me.

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    The deer in peoples’ front yards look a little different in Colorado.

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    Back to river surfing.  Here’s how you do it:

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    Easy, right?  Well if you’re interested in the sport, BV is a great place to go.  The Arkansas river offers some premiere whitewater rafting and surfing experiences, with a long stretch of navigable water.  At pretty much any time of day, you can see people getting ready to put in or boats floating past.

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    We took a trip to the pond to meet up with neighbors and cousins and get the kids out on the water.  For all the two year olds out there, here’s how you rock some new sunglasses.

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    Little A had a blast, clearly.  She got to mess around and be with big kids and run the show.  Not that that’s all that different than at home, ahem.

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    I’m thinking she can be a poster child for Badfish stand up paddleboards, yeah?

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    After the trip to the pond, we went back to the river to watch these ladies, Liz and Alex.  They had come in from out of town and were happy to see us and join in on the fun.

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    It was great week.  I got to see my one and only sister, spend time outside, pet some dogs, throw rocks in the river, pawn my kids off on my brother in law (who happily obliged), give Little A some one-on-one, and gaze upwards at the western sky.

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    I’ll leave you with a few parting shots of Bobby and Earl Richmond (the latter who practically invented the sport) taking a nighttime surf.

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    Special shout out to my parents for helping with Little T and J, to my sister and brother in law for hosting, and to the people of United Airlines for attempting to help.  Well wait…I take that last part back.  No thanks to United’s tiny plane with NO changing table in the bathroom.  Because sitting on the toilet seat and changing your baby’s diaper on your lap while the bathroom door is open because there’s no room otherwise sucks.  But thanks to the lady sitting a foot away from said open bathroom door for not minding, and even keeping Little A entertained while it all took place.

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    Hope the summer’s treating you well, everyone.  Tell me about your latest adventure, in OR out of state!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 73- Possibility Playground

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    A change of scenery is always welcome, so when the opportunity to meet up with some family at Possibility Playground in Port Washington came up, we jumped at it.  The playground is “universally accessible” so kids with all abilities can enjoy the fun.  And as a bonus, it has a fence around the playground and only one entrance/exit.  So if you have a circus of children, it’s easier to keep track of everyone.

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    The drive up to Port Washington wasn’t bad, I think it was 30 miles from door to destination.  Once we found the park, we made a stop at the (clean, yay!) bathrooms because the twins decided last week that they’re done with diapers.  Well, Little A did and J was all “uh, ok.  I guess I’ll be done too”.  In the two hours that we spent at the park, I schlepped all four kids into the family bathroom 5 times.

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    The playground was great!  There was a ton for them all to do (except Baby S, she spent the entire time strapped to my person because the ground was too hot for her to crawl around on).

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    A nice little girl even helped J get his shoes off for the sandbox.  And he proceeded to spend a solid 30 minutes in there not caring what else was going on around him.

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    I spoke with Dennis, a very nice gentleman who volunteers his time with the playground.  He stops by most days to sweep up sand and keep things looking good and safe.  He filled me in on the history of the playground and some insight into the community.  I was really happy to talk with such a genuine guy who cared deeply for kids, wanting them to have a safe and fun place to play.

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    Between trips to the bathroom, we set up shop for some lunch.  It was a pretty warm day in the sun, so the shaded picnic table was great.

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    My kids doted over their new baby cousin, munched on blueberries, and begged to get back to the playground.

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    Hats.  It was super sunny.

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    In our post-lunch round at the playground, we discovered the slide and climbing wall.

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    And then attempted another family photo.  I love it.  Who cares if you can see all of our faces, if other kids are in the shot, or if we’re giggling and trying to run away.  I like being able to vouch that we were all there, together.

    I love the idea of this playground.  It’s great to see people coming together to make sure kids of all abilities have a place to play.  And I appreciate that anyone is welcome to join in the fun.  Everyone I spoke with that day was willing to chat and share a smile, which made the trip even more worth it.

    We’ll be back for more adventures, and next time I’d like to explore some of the lighthouses that Barbara Ali mentioned in her blog.  Maybe even take some time to grab a bite to eat in the cute historic part of Port Washington, too!

    Hope the summer’s treating you all well.  As usual, I’d love to hear suggestions for place you frequent, want to check out, or have even just heard of.  Comment below and let me know your ideas!

    A. Storm