You See What I'm Saying

Before you watch the video -- my small part of 2nd Cup of Coffee's "I See What You're Saying" carnival -- let me get a few things out of the way.

1. This project seriously revived the TV news gene that has lain dormant since I started having babies. I had forgotten how much I enjoy working with video. Unfortunately for you, it might mean there are more video blogs ahead on Love Well.

2. I'm telling you right now -- my video is a little more than 3 minutes long. Which is an ETERNITY in the world of video. If one of my reporters had handed me a story that was 3:00 back when I was a producer, I would have laughed in their face. I routinely gave my reporters between 2 minutes and 2:30 to tell a story. Only the best or most dramatic stories were granted more time than that. And I don't think this clip falls under either of those designations. So I feel quite self-indulgent in making it this long. Forgive me.

3. Natalie was my willing accomplice for this shoot. She even shot the video of me on the chair lift. (The idea to pan the landscape at the end of that clip was her idea, by the way. She's a prodigy.)

4. I promise I have a son. Connor just didn't make it into any shots for this project.

5. You might notice that I talk out of the side of my mouth. (It's a trait I share with Drew Barrymore.) Corey teases me about it, but since I've been watching myself on video for years now, I'm not really phased. Still, I feel the need to warn you, in case you're wondering if I had a canker sore or something when I shot the video. I don't. It's just me.

6. I need a haircut. Again. I tend to wear my hair back in a bun on days when it's windy. Or days when I'm going to be dealing a lot with the baby. Or days that end with "y." So I don't think I realized how long it is until I watched the clip at the end of this video. Plus, my bangs are constantly in my eyes. How annoying. So I apologize in advance for the mane that is my hair.

Without further ado....

Up North from Kelly @ Love Well on Vimeo.

The Hike

(I apologize in advance for the length of this post. But this story begged for pictures! Begged, I tell you. With sobs and everything. I couldn't ignore it.)

Friday morning, after a hearty breakfast which may have included scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, French press coffee and blueberry, cranberry, wild rice pancakes, we packed up and left the hotel with The View and headed for one of our favorite Minnesota state parks.

Gooseberry Falls State Park is known for its spectacular waterfalls. And for good reason.

I just realized you can see the rainbow created from all the spray in the picture below.

Adding to the allure -- rock croppings in the middle of the falls are very accessible. Especially if you're a seven-year-old daredevil.

Or a four-year-old rock climber.

You can even get near the edge of one of the falls and peer down into the depths.

It's also our favorite place to hike with small children, thanks to a fairly easy stretch of trail that winds out to Lake Superior.

Our first stop was at this bridge, where the kids played Pooh Sticks.

The first round was a wash, since they dropped their twigs off the downstream side of the bridge. They were hunting for another set of sticks when Corey started shouting, "Kelly! Kelly! Come here! Quick!"

Being an obedient, submissive wife, I ambled over rushed to his side.

And this is what I saw.

Can't see it? How about if i zoom in?

See it now? No? Want a close-up shot?

Wait! Come back! It's just a picture of eight garter snakes tangled together next to their den. Which was right under the bridge on which we were standing.

I know. It gave me the willies too. Corey, on the other hand, was so excited he could barely stand still. (He's pretty much an Asian Jeff Corwin.) Which is why I now have 20 pictures of garter snakes on my computer.

Later, we found out that naturalists who've worked at Gooseberry Falls for more than a decade have never seen that many snakes together at the park. It's uncommon.

And, I might add, freaky.

Once Corey was able to regain his composure, we scooted on by the snakes and continued our hike.

The fall leaves soothed my heebie-jeebied spirit.

Ahhhh. That feels better now, doesn't it?

I love the birch trees Up North.

Eventually, we made it to our destination -- the place where Gooseberry River flows into Lake Superior.

For the record, the kids alternated between having fun and being complete whiners.

Except for Teyla. She loved being in the backpack. She shrieked and raised her arms and banged on Corey's back and grabbed at leaves. "New input!"

On the return trip, Connor and I spent part of the time jogging ahead of Corey and the girls. Connor's favorite thing to do lately, besides play Legos, is find sticks that look like guns and fight the "bad guys." So he and I were both equipped with driftwood weaponry and jogging down the path, shooting imaginary villains, when suddenly I yelled, "Connor! Stop!"

To his credit, he did, immediately. Which is a good thing, because he was about two feet from plowing into a beaver.

Poor fat thing, he was just as startled as we were. He was sitting right next to his slide, which a park ranger had pointed out to us on the first leg of our trip. It was empty at the time, but the ranger somewhat guiltily admitted that he had almost stepped on the beaver earlier that day, since Mr. Beaver was busy tearing up aspen at the top of the hill, dragging it down his slide and then transporting it to his house across the river.

And that's just what he was doing when we (almost) ran into him. We backed up a few feet, to give him some space, and then watched as he slowly continued on down the slide, stopping a few feet from the path to grab a small aspen tree and drag it with him.

We watched as he made it all the way to the river and then upstream to his house. (If you squint, you can see his house across the river. It's just to the right of the birth trees on the left, a gray mass spilling out into the river.)

It was pretty exciting.

(Now I'm starting to sound like Jeff Corwin.)

The rest of our hike was uneventful, if you consider amazing fall color uneventful.

The amazing thing is: That wasn't the most exciting hike of our weekend.

Well, OK. Maybe it was.

But it wasn't the most scenic.

More to come (INCLUDING A VIDEO) tomorrow.

Up North

Probably all I need to say right now is captured in this picture.

That's the view I woke up to yesterday morning. I believe I gasped out loud when I opened the blinds. We had arrived at our hotel after dark Thursday night, so I didn't realize what was outside the window until the sun breached the horizon again.

Here’s another view, looking more to the south (and a little later in the morning).

That’s the quintessential Up North picture right there. Lake Superior. Granite cliffs. Rock beach. Pine trees. Corey and I met up here, leading a group of teenagers on a canoe trip 20 miles into the wilderness. Natalie’s middle name evokes this area. It’s one of my favorite places in the world.

And right now, it's leaf-changing season.

I took that picture on a hike yesterday, which deserves its own post. (Lots of unexpected animal sightings.) But I don't have time to tell stories at the moment. We're on our way to get one of The World's Best Donuts. What kind would you like me to pick up for you?


Whew. What a trip.

It was wonderful to see Nannie. She'll be 95 this October, and while the years have taken their toll on her memory, she's still my Nannie.

She was thrilled to meet Teyla (although I don't think she'll remember it), and she was "overcome" that we had come to see her. "This is the biggest surprise of my life!" she exclaimed time and time again. "I just don't know if I can take it!"

Teyla and I flew home last night -- only to unpack, do some laundry and repack for the Love Well Annual Up North Vacation. I'm typing this from the shore of Lake Superior, where we plan to spend the next few days taking in some serious fall color.

More to come. (I'm like a correspondent for my own blog now, aren't I?)

Including -- especially -- pictures.

In Kentucky

I'm in Kentucky today, on a quick trip to see my grandmother. Because my family is far-flung, I don't get the chance to see the extended sections often. It's enough just to try and see my parents and siblings each year.

But Nannie is almost 95, I've only seen her once in the last 10 years or so, and her memory is quite depleted at this point. So I planned this short jaunt to coincide with my parents annual visit. I hope the appearance of all of us together will help her put names with faces.

In the meantime, I have a post over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today. It's all about the dollar bins at Target and the quest to instill gratitude and compassion in my kids.

See you tomorrow, hopefully with a story or two about Nannie.

Cotton Candy

Ever since I was a little girl, I've been fascinated by cotton candy.

Maybe it was because it was such an rare treat. In the days of yore (read: the 1970s), cotton candy was reserved for the circus or the fair or some other infrequent-but-storied event.
I loved to stand next to the cotton candy booth and watch the proprietor swirl a thin, paper cone in a seemingly empty bin and emerge with a cumulonimbus cloud of gossamer pink, precariously balanced on a tiny point.

"Here you go, sweetie," he would say to the lucky buyer, who would carefully take hold of the beautiful concoction and delicately try to find a place to bite.

So it goes without saying that, when our church was looking for volunteers to work at various booths during the annual community picnic, I jumped at the chance to work in the cotton candy booth.

It was a gorgeous Sunday night in late August. The sun shone brightly; the light already held flecks of autumnal gold.

After the outdoor service, Corey and I gathered the kids and scooted through the dinner line (hot dogs, carrots, watermelon and chips) since I was first shift at the booth.

And that's how I found myself standing next to a machine that was spinning a cloud of pink sugar, clumsily wielding paper cones around the circle, passing off lopsided mounds of cotton candy to a throng of eager children.

The night was breezy, and I was near the edge of a picnic shelter. The wind caught errant wisps of candy and blew them into the crowd. Kids waiting in line opened their mouths to pluck a sparkling sample right out of the air. Delicate strands stuck to my arms, my face, my hair. (So intent and gleeful was I as Cotton Candy Maker Extraordinaire that I discovered this fact only when small children grinned my direction and shouted, "Mom, look at her hair!")

Halfway through my shift, I looked up and saw my daughter before me. Natalie was wearing plaid sherbet-colored shorts and a pink polo shirt. Her skin was tan, her hair pulled back in a pink headband. She looked utterly delighted.

“Why Natalie!” I exclaimed, as if she were my favorite customer, which, in fact, she was. “So happy to see you here tonight! Here you go!” And I handed her a cone heavy with sweetness.

“Thanks Mom,” she giggled, before turning to find Uncle Jon among the crowd.

Later, on the way home, when she was crashing like a little addict from an overdose of sugar, she sat in the back of the minivan and sobbed because the snow cone booth had run out of syrup before she'd gotten one. Suddenly, she sat up straight, found her composure and said, “Mom, do you know why I stood in your line to get cotton candy, besides the fact that yours was pink and that’s my favorite color?”

“No, Natalie," I answered, scanning her face in my rear view mirror. "Why?"

“Because you are my favorite person, Mom,” she said. "And I love you."

The Streak Continues

So now that Amanda over at Baby Bangs knows she's having a girl, I'm free to tell the world that my husband knew she was on the pink team a month ago.

It's a continuation of his creepy unexplainable streak. He has correctly predicted (he prefers "foretold") the gender of the last 12 out of 12 babies. (Including Teyla.)

He doesn't put forth an opinion about every pregnant woman he knows. He has to get "a feeling" for him to lay it out there. But once he knows, he knows. And for the time being, anyway, statistics back him up.

This is of particular importance to a dear friend of mine who is pregnant with her second. She has a boy right now, and according to Corey, she's going to have another boy next April. She wouldn't mind having another boy. Her first will be two years old when the baby is born, and having two brothers close in age would be a blast. (If you know otherwise, do not tell me. I would like to shield her innocence.)

Problem is, she and Corey have a lovingly antagonistic relationship. And she doesn't WANT him to be right. She's tired of him always being right. She wants him to be WRONG. Not so much because she wants a girl, although that would be delightful. Just because she wants Corey to fail.

When she heard that Corey was right about Amanda, she e-mailed me and said, "Now I'm praying for TWIN GIRLS!"

And Corey, when he heard her say that, laughed and said in reply, "Poor thing. Will she even be able to love her second son, or will he always be a reminder to her of her defeat?"

Anyone want to put money down? Corey's going for lucky 13 here. (Not that we believe in luck. But you know what I mean.) My friend's ultrasound is scheduled for November.

If You Could Live Anywhere

For the last 10 years or so, Corey and I have played a little game we call, "If We Could Live Anywhere, Where Would We Live?"

(Catchy title, no?)

It's not a hypothetical question, seeing as we're somewhat nomadic (although most of our moves keep us in the U.S., unlike Planet Nomads who routinely move to Africa). We have fun speculating on the pros and cons of different cities.

Me: "I really like seasons. Maybe Colorado? It has snow in the winter, but it isn't -10 in January."
Corey: "I don't like snow. Maybe San Diego?"
Me: "But the cost of living in San Diego is so high, especially for a family of our size. What about Oregon? Talk about natural beauty."
Corey: "I don't like gray. Maybe San Diego?"

It's scintillating.

Today, over at 5 Minutes for Parenting, I'm ruminating on why I'm happy to be right here, in the Twin Cities, as I raise my kids. This is a fantastic area for families, and we tend to get high marks in other surveys as well. (Tons of link in the other article, if you doubt my veracity.)

I don't know if we'll stay here forever, but I sure am thankful for what I have today.

So head over and tell me what you like about raising kids where you live. I love learning about the different parts of the country (and/or world).

And who knows? If you give me a good description, your city could be the next contender for "If I Could Live Anywhere."


Teyla wouldn’t go to sleep last night.

She wasn’t cranky. Just the opposite. She was a shrieking, laughing, smiling, crawling bundle of enthusiasm.

I didn’t understand the sudden spurt of energy. We’d had a busy day. She’d taken a decent afternoon nap, but that had been hours ago.

Yet there she was. At 9:00 PM, 10:00 PM, even 11:00 PM – babbling, waving her hands, smiling, reaching. Happy.

What do you do with a baby so excited about life?

She finally fell asleep around 11:15. I hightailed it to bed, to join my already snoozing husband.

At 1:30, I heard her cry.

“Seriously?” I thought, as I stumbled down the hallway, navigating to the nursery by sound and not by sight.

I was greeted with the sort of sound Mr. Snuffleupagus makes.

Oh. That explains it then.

I don’t know why, but when my kids get sick, they don’t get tired – they get hyper. You can see the exhaustion in their red-rimmed eyes, but it as if their bodies refuse to give the germs any satisfaction.

“Oh, you’d like to have me down for the count, wouldn’t you? I don’t think so.”

We were up almost every hour after that. I’d nurse her back to sleep, which enabled her to negotiate a clear breathing path again. Sixty to ninety minutes later, we were back in the glider.

Morning came much too soon.

So here’s what I want to know. Now that we aren’t supposed to give our infants cold medicine (although I think I still have a bottle back in the medicine cabinet from before the stuff was banned; I wonder what it would go for on the black market?), what can a tired parent do to relieve their babies sniffles?

She isn’t congested. She doesn’t have a fever. She just has a facet for a nose.

Do they make nasal diapers yet? I'm just sayin'.

Teyla: Eight Months

Before I launch into a full update on Teyla: The Eight-Month-Old, let's review, shall we?

At birth:

First month:

Second month:

Third month:

Fourth month:

Fifth month:

Sixth month:

Seventh month:

Eighth month:

Notice the tongue. I'm pretty sure it's a God-given clue to her personality.

She's an incredibly sweet baby, as her brother and sister before her. But as noted before, she's also mischievous. And now that she's crawling and standing and cruising, her mischief potential has multiplied exponentially.

You might say, we've widened the cone of uncertainty.

Take the stairs, for example.

No. Really. TAKE THEM. She learned to crawl them a few weeks ago, amidst wild applause from her adoring siblings. And she's fast. Really fast. I can't keep up with her.

Last week, on the first day of school, she and Connor were playing together in a corner of the living room. (Natalie had set up a "house" for Teyla, consisting of the a Fisher-Price toy that looks like a doorway, a bunch of toys and a blanket roof.) Connor came into the kitchen for a snack. I peaked over and saw the baby happily chewing on her toys. I cut up an apple. I looked back toward Teyla. She was gone.

I called her name. "Teyla? Where are you, sweetie?"

I heard a happy shriek in return. It was coming from the stairwell. She was one step from the top.

Be still my heart.

I'm going to be on my toes so much with this one, I might as well invest in ballet shoes.

Another recent development. Teyla has become a foodie.

But like Natalie, Teyla is NOT interested in baby food. She doesn't like the flavor, she doesn't like the texture and -- most of all -- she doesn't want to be fed by anyone other than herself. Since we've been down this road before, we've already ditched the baby food and have opted for soft versions of regular food that Teyla can feed herself.

Breakfast is often toast slices, bananas and Cheerios. Lunch might be pizza crusts, small strips of string cheese, thin apple slices or bites of melon. Dinner is whatever we're eating. So far, she's gobbled up small pieces of fish and chicken, cooked florets of broccoli green beans, mashed potatoes, polenta. And as you'll see soon in my report on the Minnesota State Fair, she LOVES corn on the cob.

She'll really eat just about anything, as long as she is in charge of getting it into her mouth.

Even dirt.

And, as I learned this afternoon, she might even store it, like a chipmunk. I swiped her mouth to remove what I thought was a chewed-up piece of napkin. I discovered a pickle. We'd been done with lunch for an hour.

(Does that mean we're in for a hard, cold winter?)

Her brother and sister continue to adore her. She can do just about anything to them, and they think it's funny. Case in point: Here, she (sweetly) deploys her eye-gouging talons of mayhem, and Connor just smiles.

She loves her Dad. In fact, she's starting to say "da-da-da-da." I don't think it has a meaning yet, but I'm pretty sure that will be her first word.

And me? Well, I'm her Mommy. To her, we are one entity right now. "Me-me-me-me" she babbles when she's sucking my shoulder. She's happy to play with her toys, her siblings or even watch an occasional "Baby Einstein" video. But no matter where I am or what I'm doing -- be it cooking, typing, folding laundry or playing Legos -- it's not long before I feel a little hand on my foot.

And she grabs my leg...

...and pulls herself up...

...and wraps her arms around my calf, like a little koala hanging on to its mommy.

I'm hanging on too, sweet Teyla.

I look forward to your continued adventures.

This is How I Feel Tonight

I swear -- this week is about to kill me.

It's been one thing after another. By the end of every day, I'm exhausted -- and I feel like all I've done is run on the treadmill. Making headway is like trudging through quicksand. In searing heat and humidity. While wearing the entire cast of "Ace of Cakes" on my back.

One thing is for sure -- God is teaching me that I should incorporate the phrase "if He wills" to my verbiage and my soul. Because I control very little.

Update on Teyla (no, that picture isn't it, thankfully) will come tomorrow.

If He wills.

The Mommy's New Clothes

Two years ago this month, Corey and I officially decided we want to start trying for another baby. (In the lingo of our people, we "pulled the goalie.") I didn't think it was prudent to spend a lot of money on cute fall or winter clothes that year, since I was anticipating shopping in the maternity section very soon.

That hope materialized in early January '07. I happily put the Ann Taylor Loft gift card given to me for Christmas in the back of my wallet and promptly started ordering cute maternity wear from Old Navy, my favorite maternity store.

Then came February and the miscarriage. I quietly returned the maternity clothes designed for summer. And waited.

Then came May, and the discovery of Teyla. The maternity shopping began in earnest. Then came January '08 and the birth of Teyla. The maternity clothes became anathema. Then came summer, also known as The Season of the Oversized T-Shirt.

And that's how it happened. I looked in my closet earlier this week and discovered most everything was out-of-date, dotted with grease or spit-up stains or both. I hadn't bought anything remotely stylish in nearly two years.

So I went shopping -- armed with my trusty (and dusty) Ann Taylor Loft gift card. Head over to 5 Minutes for Parenting to read the rest of the story.

And then come back tomorrow. Before I write any Summer In Review posts, I figured I'd better do an update on the baby. She turned eight months old yesterday, and man, do I have tales to tell.

Summer Lovin' Happened So Fast

You know what amazed me this week?

That I was able to write this post about the advent of fall with a pleasant tone and an air of nonchalance.

"Autumn? Oh yes. Come September, it happens. After all, I live in Minnesota. C'est la vie."

In reality, I'm more like the lone (cough, idiotic, cough) female in a horror movie who has agreed to separate from the group to see if anything is amiss at the rustic cabin where the group is stranded who then discovers a bloody stump in the wood chipper.


Lest I misrepresent, I do love fall, The Season. I just don't love fall, This Year. It's come much too quickly, and I resent its arrival.

Every June I have a recurring nightmare. I go to bed, giddy with plans of a bright tomorrow full of sunshine and swimming, and when I wake up, school buses are making the rounds and everyone is wearing sweatshirts. "School is starting today! Didn't you hear?" So I groggily stumble to the corner curb, with a backpack the size of a small Volkswagen bug, trying desperately to conjure up a few pleasant summer memories. But there are none, for apparently, I've slept the entire summer away.

That, my friends, is horrifying.

Yet that's almost exactly how I feel this year. Logically, I know we had 12 weeks off school. I can look through My Pictures folder and see hundreds of pictures of fun trips and outings. I sport suntan lines where my swimsuit once was.

But when I walked into school with Natalie this past Tuesday, I couldn't shake the cold panic, the feeling that I must be living a nightmare. "Weren't we JUST here? Didn't we JUST do this? Can it really be fall already? What happened to my summer?"

The only remedy for this situation, as I see it, is to have a Summer Review here on the blog. Maybe if I tell you a few stories and share some of my favorite memories, the brightness of Summer 2008 will have more sheen.

So get ready for next week. It will be like watching a slide show from your favorite aunt's Hawaii vacation.

Oh. Wait.

Maybe that's your nightmare.


My Second Favorite Season

I don't know how Minnesota does it.

But Labor Day weekend was muggy, hot and windy -- perfect end-of-summer weather.

And today, now that school is back in session?
It's sunny, crisp and cool. It was 51 when I woke up this morning, and we'll probably top out at 65 this afternoon.

(Can you feel the crispness?)

Even the trees are suddenly changing.


I first noticed this abrupt weather shift, which I've come to see as distinctly Minnesotan, back in college. During my teen years, I spent every summer day possible at the beach. (Minnesota has thousands of clean, cool, beautiful lakes, doncha know. More shoreline than Florida, California and Hawaii combined. And no hurricanes!) My youth pastor was the waterfront director at a local Christian college, so my friends and I had free access to a ski boat, windsurf boards and our own "private" beach. My typical summer uniform was a swimsuit -- which I only took off to shower and to sleep -- topped by ratty t-shirts and shorts for the daily trips to Pizza Hut. (Six breadsticks for $1.99.)

It was bliss.

But whenever school started, I knew it was time to pack the shorts away. For verily, the weather always changed the first week in September. Shorts and tank tops were traded for jeans and sweatshirts. My feet rediscovered the wonder of shoes. The AC was turned off, and the windows thrown open. The crowns of the maple trees started to blaze red.

Fall had begun.

For sure, more warm days lay ahead of us, just as they do this year.

But the state has spoken. The change is underway.

Hello autumn.

P.S. The start of September also means my blogging break is over. So in addition to this post, you'll also find me musing about my children's non-sleeping habits over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today.