Friday, July 19, 2019

High Five for Minocqua

Keep close to nature's heart...
Break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.
Wash your spirit clean.

~ John Muir

The longer we live in Texas, the more difficult it becomes for me to leave for our annual month-long tour of Wisconsin. No aspect of our lives is perfect, and we struggle to varying degrees with a host of situations and circumstances, but I recognize how fortuitous we are to have found a city and a house and schools and people that feel like home...and make it tremendously hard to leave.

Thankfully, we when we do leave, we eventually arrive at the Lincoln Lodge - nestled in the north woods about 10 miles west of Minocqua, Wisconsin - and find ourselves in the arms of family. We lighten our loads. We relax our schedules. We reconnect. We break clear away and wash our spirits clean.

We had lovely weather for our Northern Wisconsin vacation. The moderate daytime high temperatures (low 80s) and cool nighttime temperatures were perfect for early morning fishing, midmorning coffee drinking, late morning walks, afternoon tubing on the lake, and evening campfires.

We spend the majority of our 4th of July holidays in Minocqua, and perhaps my favorite aspect of celebrating here is that there are many activities in which to participate but no pressure to do it all. As we do most years, we staked out our parade spot, grabbed lunch at our favorite Irish pub, picked up gourmet popcorn from the local popcorn shop, and enjoyed the parade from our perfect secret spot. This year we opted to skip the waterski show, patriotic band concert, and snowshoe baseball game in favor of returning home for a (Thursday instead of Friday night) fish fry. A line of thunderstorms kept us from shooting off fireworks, but the kids didn't mind a bit - they spent 30 minutes scootering in the rain, and then after a warm shower we all watched the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. I hope you and yours had a wonderful Independence Day celebration!

This year Tom's parents orchestrated something new: a backyard concert - performed by Tom's youngest brother, Grant (who is a professional guitar player in Nashville) - for their North Woods neighbors. A couple of days in advance we distributed simple paper flyers to the homes on our side of the lake and around our loop; we had no idea how many people would show up, but we hoped for at least 10-15.  When Friday night rolled around, nearly 50 people arrived (on foot, on bikes, on electric scooters and ATVs, in utility vehicles and cars and trucks, and via both the road and through the wooded areas on either side of the Ferris property) with their lawn chairs and beverages to enjoy the music and get to know their neighbors better.

When asked, each kiddo shared their own highlight. Hallie chose two: ice cream and jewelry shopping. Not at all surprising.

Will chose three highlights: driving the Mario Kart ON HIS OWN (hold me!!!), watching the World Cup soccer games, and riding on the boat and swimming in the lake.

Happy Friday, friends!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

I Believe

I've mentioned the World Cup a few times recently, but given the United States Women's National Team's (USWNT) recent history-making tournament victory, I think I can devote a short post to this incredibly talented team, its fearless (figurative) leader, and its biggest fan.

My boy loves the USWNT. He respects and admires these athletes and threw absolutely every ounce of his support behind them on their quest for World Cup glory. Watching him invest himself in and learn from every single match, player, victory, and defeat made my mama heart swell.

He also loves Megan Rapinoe, star forward on and captain for both the USWNT and Reign FC. (When Will had longer hair he looked quite a bit like Megan, so twice he even went to Halloween soccer practices in costume - wearing one of his four official USWNT uniforms - as her.) As a soccer player, she exemplifies hard work and perseverance, supports her teammates on and off the field, and plays the game with both her head and her heart. As a human being, she stands for equality and inclusion, is unapologetically authentic, and isn't afraid to laugh at herself. Oh, and she's tough as hell in both arenas. I can't help but look up to her myself.

Megan struck her famous post-goal pose before we left for vacation, so in honor of both her and the USWNT, Will borrowed her pose and recreated it in as many places as possible during our travels.

He believed that we could win. And he was right.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Throwback Thursday: It's Like BAYBA BAYBA OH

In honor of our wonderful week at the Lincoln Lodge, here are two of my favorite Lodge videos, both of which - interestingly enough - center around Justin Bieber's hit, "Baby".

First, two-year-old Hallie tries to teach her aunts the correct words to "Baby". She had - and still has - such determination and spunk…I loved that about her then, and I still love that about her now.

And second, four-year-old Will channels his inner Bieber and performs the song himself. I'll never quite understand the Bieber phase they both went through...

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Going on Safari

Nearly every weekend between January and May - including Memorial Day weekend and the first weekend of summer vacation - revolved around soccer and/or dance. So when the second weekend of summer vacation rolled around, I decided our Saturday morning should start off with something new. I pitched my idea for the day to Tom, and he agreed to delay his regular Saturday morning round of disc golf to join the kids and me for our inaugural trip to our area's newest attraction: Aggieland Safari, an adventure zoo and safari park.

We first heard about Aggieland Safari back in February, when one of its employees brought sweet Sheila, a baby kangaroo, to a school event. I added the Grand Opening - in May - to my calendar, but when that weekend rolled around we just couldn't make it work. Thankfully, a month later the stars aligned and we found our way back to Sheila and had an opportunity to meet the rest of her animal friends.

We started our visit with the walk-through portion of the zoo. We admired the giraffes, fed the llamas, and crossed, somewhat nervously, the boardwalk through the enclosed aviary. (The kids and I are not huge fans of birds, and Hallie and I in particular should have skipped this exhibit all together.) We spent quite a bit of time trying to spot all of the lemurs (including two babies hidden incredibly well in the fur on their mothers' abdomens) on lemur island, and then strolled through an indoor space that houses birds, frogs, toads, turtles, lizards, and a GIANT black python. Well, we strolled until we came to the python - then I walked briskly to the exit. We also glimpsed the hippopotamus from afar; worked our way much closer to the spider and squirrel monkeys, warthogs, and porcupines; and wandered among the free-range tortoises. We wrapped up our time at zoo looking for Sheila; Hallie was SURE she could correctly identify her, however I had absolutely no idea which of the many kangaroos was the one who first introduced us to this fun new attraction.
You can't tell from this picture, but the python was gigantic.
SO many baby turtles! (Tortoises? I have no idea...)
I really liked this guy's attitude.
This big guy walked right up to Tom.
When Hallie feeds animals she gets as close to
them as she can. (Except birds - she and I feel
the same way about birds.)
"Please, Hallie, I'm SOOOO hungry..."
Sheila? Maybe, maybe not.
If you look closely, you can see the baby
lemur attached to the mama lemur's chest.
Not my favorite animal...
When Will feeds animals, he stands as far
away as his outstretched arm will allow.
I've always loved giraffes...until
they stick out their tongues, that is.
It's hard to see, but the hippo's head is sticking up out of the
water just past the weeded area in the back right of the picture.
For a size comparison, Hallie next to
what we thought was the biggest tortoise.

After we saw all of the zoo animals, we hopped back in our car and headed out for the three-mile safari drive through 250 acres of grassland and wooded areas. The kids LOVED this part of the trip; throughout the 30-minute excursion - and for 30 minutes afterwards - they repeatedly thanked me for taking them on this amazing adventure. We saw zebras, longhorns, ostriches, buffalo, bison, deer, donkeys, and a host of other animals I couldn't correctly identify. They came right up to the vehicles (one licked the driver's side door of my car, which the kids found hysterical) which meant the kids were able to enjoy truly up close and personal views of all of them.
This girl licked my car. 

Besides the zoo and safari drive, the venue also includes a playground, a small outdoor grill at which guests can purchase food and drinks (outside food and drinks are not allowed), a gift shop, and party rooms.

It took us about 30 minutes to drive to Aggieland Safari, so while we won't visit the zoo every weekend, we will certainly return as a foursome as well as when family members and friends come to visit...hopefully when winter rolls around, because y'all know how I feel about Texas weather this time of year. 😉

On a different note, happy birthday to my dad! So glad we get to celebrate with you in person the year!