Wednesday, July 26, 2017

'Tis The Gift to Be Simple

I mentioned in a previous post that my travel plans allowed me to celebrate my dad's birthday with him this year. We spent the afternoon wandering the Madison Art Fair, and then we returned home to enjoy drinks on the deck, a delicious dinner of grilled pork chops and corn on the cob, and a delectable homemade chocolate pie for dessert.

While our chops cooked, I grabbed my DSLR camera and started tiptoeing through the tulips, so to speak, in my dad's garden. He soon appeared at my side, and for the next 20 minutes, he led me and my camera from one lovingly tended bed to the next. He affectionately named each flower, and explained what he thought I should know about its size, shape, color, and/or smell. When one existed, he shared a story about how the plant first began to grow, where it had been transplanted from, or who of our family members or friends claimed it as their favorite. I snapped pictures at every turn, thinking ahead to ways I could display or use the photos as a future birthday or Christmas gift for my dad.

The four Ferri went in on a larger gift for my dad with my mom, sister, and sister's family, and a back-ordered gift for him will arrive later this summer. But I realized, as my dad and I talked and walked together - just the two of us for the first time in ages - that maybe our time spent together was all the gift either of us needed.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Wisconsin Bucket List: Wisconsin's Finest...Lumberjacks

10 years ago Tom and I left baby Will with his grandparents and went on a much-needed date to the Fred Scheers Lumberjack Show in Woodruff, WI. Within a few years I forgot most of the specifics, but I remembered enjoying the show and knew that someday I would take Will and Hallie to experience this diamond in the north woods rough.

Someday turned out to be a full decade later.

Earlier this month and on an otherwise unscheduled afternoon, the kids and I - along with Tom's parents and sister - loaded up and drove into town for the show. We climbed the rickety wooden bleachers and chose seats far enough back for the awning to block the sun but not so far that if the kids fell through the openings between the benches they would seriously injure themselves (an actual and somewhat serious concern). As we settled in and I began to take in my surroundings, I vaguely recalled two details about the show. First, the skit-like narrator-led portions - carefully interspersed among the sport portions to provide the lumberjacks time to prepare their equipment and materials for the next segment - are cheesier than Wisconsin's finest cheddar. And second, embracing that corny, cliched, and well-worn (I recognized some of the jokes from 10 years prior) "cheese" makes the experience not only bearable, but amusing and at times, delightfully entertaining.

"Steeped in the logging history of Wisconsin's north woods, the Lumberjack Shows are a blend of sport, history, and comedy." The Fred Scheers show includes 10 events featured on ESPN's Great Outdoor Games and the Lumberjack World Championships (yep, that's a real thing): log rolling, power sawing, pole climbing, canoe joust, axe throw, boom run, springboard chop, cross cut sawing, underhand chopping, and speed carving.

My favorites included log rolling, pole climbing, and the axe throw. Will also loved the log rolling, not so much for the skill it required but because one of the lumberjacks fell - in a choreographed stunt - on his nether region. Boy humor baffles me...

During "intermission" (I don't quite know what to call a break in the middle of a lumberjack show), the host/narrator/master of ceremonies invited any interested children down to the "stage" (again, I don't know what to call the wooden platform on which the majority of the chopping, sawing, and throwing took place) to try their hands at cross cut sawing. Because only in Wisconsin do we sell beer and invite children to work with sharp objects at the same venue.

I waited 10 years to take my kids to see lumberjacks in action, and Northern Wisconsin's showcase did not disappoint; seeing the smiles on Will and Hallie's faces and listening to their belly laughs (not to mention their cheers and jeers, which were not only encouraged but expected of audience members) made my smiles bigger and my laughter louder. I doubt we'll attend the show every year, but I know we'll return again someday...when enough time has passed that the every ounce of cheese and every slightly inappropriate joke feels new again.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Flashback Friday: Catch of the Day

He's come a long way...

I've reached that particularly rewarding stage of parenting in which I can ask/instruct my son to "go outside and catch me some dinner".

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

That's a Wrap (Leg #2)

After leaving the kids with Grandma and Grandpa at the Lodge in Minocqua and dropping Tom off at the airport in Madison, I headed to my parents' house to celebrate my dad's birthday. Just the three of us - my mom, my dad, and me - made for the quietest family gathering I'd experienced in more than a decade, but we had a good time never-the-less.
G-Paul with his birthday chocolate pie.
Meanwhile, the kids continued to tube...
...and keep their grandparents on their toes.
And Tom moved Tux's Bey Blade stadium from
Will's room into our room so they could bunk together.
The following morning my mom and I hopped in the car and drove down to Washington, IL, where we spent the next three days helping my sister set up her classroom. (Her entire elementary school is in the process of relocating to a new building, and while a moving company took care of the heavy lifting, Sara still had 10 years worth of teaching materials to unpack and organize.) My organizing skills and OCD tendencies came in handy, and I discovered a talent for putting together (the backgrounds of/for) bulletin boards. I also reconfirmed just how hard teachers work in the "off season" and without pay to prepare for each school year. Hug a teacher, my friends. Or at least buy them an extra box of #2 pencils.
Two of my many fabric covered and bordered bulletin boards.
After three days of working in Sara's classroom, we changed gears and worked for three days on our annual garage sale. We cleared out lots of clothes, toys, and housewares; made a little money; and best of all, enjoyed our traditional garage sale donut breakfasts, sub sandwich lunches, kid-run lemonade stand, and hours of chatting in lawn chairs. I feel a little like I've been hit by a bus, but it's nothing a day or two of long walks and good nights sleep won't cure!
They made a total of $12 but drank approximately
$23 worth of lemonade while working their stand.
Washington experienced some crazy weather - strong, slow-moving thunderstorms accompanied by constant, uninterrupted lightening and a few funnel clouds in neighboring counties - during my visit. At home I don't bat an eye when a storm rolls through, but here in Illinois, where my sister's family lost nearly everything in a battle against a tornado, inclement weather translates to increased caution and even concern. It also translates to increased appreciation for the rainbow after the storm.

On Sunday we headed back to Madison (I should have kept track - starting when we left College Station - of the number of miles logged on this trip), ready to kick off Leg #3!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Happy Birthday, Dr. Fers

Today my hubby celebrates his 30-something-th birthday, and as has been the case since we moved to Texas and three of the four Ferri started spending July in Wisconsin, the kids and I don't get to celebrate with him on his special day.

We plan ahead and leave homemade cards and wrapped gifts at home, call and sing to him, and eat a cake in his honor (and we celebrate with our extended families at the beginning and/or end of July), but all that still doesn't feel quite the same as a family celebration. Thankfully his/our framily in Texas always takes him disc golfing, which, when it comes down to it, is all he really wants for his birthday anyway.

Happy birthday, Dr. Fers. We love you, miss you, and hope you have the bestest birthday ever.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Flashback Friday: Will Sweeties

Six years ago my in-laws planted a garden full of Sweet Williams at their Lodge in Minocqua, WI. That summer, then two-year-old Hallie and her Aunt Chandi - a talented florist - spent many a morning picking and creating bouquets of these gorgeous flowers which, because she couldn't quite remember their moniker, Hallie renamed Will Sweeties.

As is often the case with children's mispronunciations, the new name stuck and we still today refer to our favorite flower as Will Sweeties.

Within minutes of their reunification at the Lodge last week, now eight-year-old Hallie and her Aunt Chandi found their way back to the garden full of Will Sweeties. In some ways, six years makes a world of difference...and in other ways, nothing much has changed.

One of the things that hasn't changed? Hallie still picks flowers wearing her pajamas.