Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Up North

Exactly one year to the day of moving from St Paul to Little Rock, we packed up Subaru no 1 and returned, briefly. It was a time for escaping the heat, a time to celebrate birthdays with family, and a time to reunite with friends.

We drove straight through (again with stops at Trader Joe's for road snacks) and lumbered into Knife River somewhere around 2 in the am. 'Twas worth the drive, as we knew we would be waking up this:

Serena was thrilled to wake and be surrounded by her beloved auntie Linda and uncle Dave as well as her cousin JoJo. Before Ben and I could wrestle into our running shoes, she was out exploring the rocky shore with her cousins.
They managed to have a lovely time and after a run I got to soak in a little enjoyment of the cool breezes and magical peace of Lake Superior. 

We feasted, rested, and enjoyed family. There were no Hillary/Trump debates and this was best for all of us. We celebrated Grandma Sally's 86th birthday, Jonathan's B.S. degree, Ben's PhD, and Uncle Dave's birthday. 

The time was much too short but alas, we had to away to join in with more family and more celebration. We drove across the state and a little more north to Lake Buchanan, where Ben's Aunt Penny has an airy cabin nestled between the lake and cornfields. Their family is particularly talented and constructed much of the house down to the boat deck and beds! 
Once again, Serena was surrounded by loving family including Cousin Noey, her favorite. 

Ben and I took a quick run through the cornfields and we all cleaned up to head to Ben's Grandpa's farm for celebrating Independence Day with (you guessed it) more family and food. We sang happy birthday to Grandpa Rosell who is entering his 90th year. A highlight for the little ones is always a ride on the Tin Lizzie :

I always enjoy walking around the farm itself, breathing in the fresh cool air.

After a couple of days of rich conversation, it was time to head south to St Paul, where we met up with special friends. Our plan had been to meet up at Sea Salt, an outdoor seafood eatery adjacent to Minnehaha Falls. It is an ideal set up for a perfect summer evening and most in the Twin Cities are aware- lines typically long enough to wince at, but on this evening, threat of torrential storms seemed to keep everyone away. We found a place under cover and the kids took the opportunity to play in the rain. We met up with one of our favorite people ever, Sarah, and three families with Chinese adoptee kiddos, two of the kids were adopted the same day as Serena. It was so rich to see them again and to see how the kids have grown. 

After that lovely dinner, it was time to say good bye Minnesota, perhaps until next summer. Minnesota returned the goodbye with an amazing double rainbow:

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sleepy Hollow

Ben had work meetings today, so Serena and I packed up the beagles and a blanket and took off to a local park for a picnic breakfast. Life affords so little time to do all the things so while there were no freshly baked muffins, there is a Starbucks en route. $15 later (seriously?) we took Highway 10 until it grew smaller and collided with another highway and near this intersection, a park that is little more than a put-in for kayaks and fishing boats but gave us a front row seat to the - dragon flies dancing on lily pads - show and apart from the heat/humidity/dogs with different agendas, it was lovely and we had the park to ourselves and I think, I know that watching beauty unfold together is my favorite part of parenting.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Way out West

The occasion of my sister's move from one small town in New Mexico to another, smaller town was just the excuse we needed to venture out West. What more does a mother of two small children, running a business, with a husband commuting once weekly need than her family to visit of course? I like to think we were a nice break from the moving in. In any case, I was interested to see this part of the country, romanticized by those traveling to and from Marfa via the Instagrams. 

The drive out was punctuated by stops in Texas at a lavender farm (of course) and stocking up at Trader Joe's (when the nearest one is 4 hours away, you go when you can). 

We arrived "late late late" as Serena would say and it was good indeed to have us Usserys all under one room (Mom and Dad had traveled a few days earlier). When under a roof with three small children it is impressive to make many trips but we managed to squeeze in two adventures. 

Our first was to White Sands National Monument at dusk, which was other worldly. The advantage to going so late in the day = fewer crowds but disadvantage = less time. I'll let the pictures do their job:

'twas a bit windy

I think we all felt like this!

There was a full moon tour which would have been fantastic - noted for next time.

In between trips, we squeezed in a visit to Lindsay's well curated boutique, Olive and June. I went on a mini shopping spree, aided by my sister's superior eye and Serena got to play shop girl, which of course she delighted in. 
we went out for authentic Mexican in El Paso, took in the Mexican sights including the local flora:
and Ben and I snuck in hot runs in Lindsay's neighborhood. There was a trail beginning at this very point but I was too afraid of encountering a rattle snake to venture very far. : )

We bookmarked the trip with a visit to Carlsbad Caverns. It was a drive from Linsday's - 3 hours or so, but well worth it. The trip took us from desert valley, to mountains, to desert hills. 

The kids all became Jr Rangers immediately following the 1.5 hour self guided tour
To be reminded that the ground underneath us can hold its own on the beauty scale was not unappreciated! 

In summer my mind is never far from finding a swimming hole. The family was very trusting in my navigation into the desert away from the main roads and all internet service to end up here:
Sitting Bull Falls is about an hour's drive from the Caverns and more than worth it. There are scattered picnic tables nestled in the mountainside and a well crafted walk way to the falls. We hesitated not one second in shedding our outerwear for swimsuits and jumped right in to the slightly frigid (but in the best way) water. Serena was so brave to swim with me directly under the falls. Henry was coached so well by his Dad in learning to swim in a smaller warmer cove adjacent to the falls. I floated, looking up at the falls and surrounding beauty, trying to take a photograph for my mind to go to any time in the future when feeling stressed or anguished. 
I didn't want to leave but there was quite a trek back, so leave we must. 

The days few by and too soon we bid adieu to our family, heading back to hope for precious mail containing an I800 receipt notice (which is an application to the US CIS to adopt and bring home a specific child; we have already been accepted to adopt "a" child, you see.).
Good bye, New Mexico!