Summer Bucket List

Summer is coming. I am longing and dreaming and impatiently waiting for June 7th, the day that our school days end and our freedom returns. Days open to explore and adventure, without an itinerary beyond living our very best life.
We’re bucket listing this summer. Because time passes and we forget all of the wonderful places we wanted to go until it’s a little too late to go there. It’s not a to do list, but an ongoing reminder.

Here we go!

Rainy Day Activities

Saying Yes, a Weekend in Duluth

A few weekends ago, with nothing on the calendar (I’m intentionally keeping our weekends free, lately, and it’s absolutely incredible), Matilda asked if we could spend the night in Duluth. She wanted to throw rocks in the lake. She offered to pay. How could we possibly say no?


Throwing rocks in the lake is one of my favorite things. The big blue skies, the water that goes on for days. Nothing to do but wait. Of course I said yes. I hesitate briefly, because I was on day 3 of the Whole30-ish and traveling sounded absolutely terrible. I mean, whatever. Yolo. Pack some carrots and almonds and just roll with it.

It was amazing.


We spent Saturday exploring, we started at Gooseberry Falls, hit up our favorite Two Harbors beaches on our way back, and made it back to Duluth just in time for check in.


We squeaked in to the last available room at Comfort Inn on Canal Park. It was gorgeous. We’d stayed at The Inn on Lake Superior last summer, and, while those balconies are dreamy, they had a two night minimum and it was out of our budget. After staying in the recently remodeled Comfort Inn, I’d definitely go back. The kids loved the beds and their supreme jump-ability. I’d pay extra for a room with a balcony next time. Their free breakfast was quick and had something for everyone.


We checked out Canal Park, which was kind of a mess after the giant blizzard the week before. It was absolutely beautiful. We always head north in the summer, along with everyone else in the state. Somehow we lucked out with sunny, 50’s, and no wind. A quick trip to refresh and recharge.


We’re staying in a lakeside townhome in Lutsen in July and can’t wait! What are your favorite things to do along the North Shore?

The Point.

For the longest time, I didn’t write because I didn’t know what to write. What could I possibly add to the internet, when everyone’s always said it already? What new and original ideas do I have to share?

Let’s be clear, I have no intentions of coming up with any earth-shattering innovative ideas. I want to blog for me. For my kids. To share these adventures, to tell our ordinary story. I long to tell the full story, the context behind the photos. So here we go. Let the blogging begin.


Wilson is Four.

Four years ago, I woke up early in the morning. One week after we’d moved in to our forever home. One week before his c section date. 15 weeks in to placenta previa, I’d finally had my first bleed. We woke up Matilda and headed to the hospital.

My birth was not awesome. The first few days after were terrible. The entire first week he was here, I cried. It was hard. It was so much harder than I was ready for it to be. We can laugh now about the shit show that was that chapter, but it was hard. 

But here we are. Four amazing years later. And life is so so good.
Wilson, happy birthday. You do your own thing, in your own time. And you always have. You figure things out. You problem solve, deconstruct. I see so much of your father in you. I can watch the little gears turn in your head. You’re a planner. You’re a lover. Oh, Wilson. You love to hug. Your hugs can change the world.

Your favorite things. Grilled cheese. Ketchup. French Fries. Chocolate Milk. (Clearly, you’re a health nut.) Your sister, Iz, and Shep. And me and your dad, obviously. Riding your bike (and your scooter). The beach. Nickelodeon Universe. The Children’s Museum. The Garbage Park (aka Franconia). Culver’s, McDonald’s, Noodles & Co, and DIY pizza from Papa Murphy’s. Trucks. Trucks. Cars. Police Playmobil set. Trucks. IRL trucks.


You’re hilarious. Your confidence is astounding. You will explain anything to anyone with complete conviction. You are the man with the answers. And the questions. You love a good adventure, especially with friends (and sissy). You’re so curious, always excited to learn and explore.

But Wilson. Your lower lip. You know how to pout like no one I’ve ever met. You feel big, and you make sure that everyone knows where you stand.


Wilson, you are so dang incredible. You light up a room (or you shut that party down based on your current mood). If you’re having a moment, which happens frequently, you need hugs, lots and lots of hugs. You do things your own way, in your own time. I laugh thinking of how we potty trained you. You were almost 3.5 and it was very much time. You woke up one morning and I told you that this was your idea. That you decided you weren’t going to wear diapers. You rolled with it. You owned it. And you didn’t. Once you decide something, there’s no stopping you.

I love you. Happy 4, Wilson. Happy 4. Thanks for letting me be your mom.


Just another Tuesay

January 9th, sleeping in late. Exploring new possibilities. Dreaming big dreams. Dancing in puddles and soaking up the 40 degree sun. Couch surfing, because we didn’t hear the please do not jump on the sofa. Bike riding and welcome home’s. Puddle jumping. Sink fixing.

A million little unimportant moments make up childhood. That’s all it is. Dirty noses, messy hair. This year, I’m working on documenting the in between. Telling the familiar stories, knowing that one day soon, they won’t be familiar and I’ll be missing them. They visitor who crawls in to bed sometime before 6 am. The angry eyes. The laughter. The inquisitiveness and eagerness and curiosities.


One day these little moments will be the big moment.

This post is part of a monthly blog circle where photographers feature ten photos from the previous month. To continue the circle follow, click here to check out Jessica Hachey‘s 10 on 10 adventure.


Uncomfortable. It’s something I’ve literally always avoided. I’d rather just not, and stay in my comfortable and familiar place.

This year, you guys, it’s all about being uncomfortable.

Things don’t change without discomfort. Trying new things isn’t easy. Growth isn’t easy, learning, failure. You have to be uncomfortable first. Trying new things is scary. It’s hard to change.


I tell my kids that they need to try new things. That it’s okay to fail. That they don’t have to be perfect. Here I am, avoiding new things, afraid to fail. What is this? Why am I afraid? Who am I afraid of? A bunch of strangers on the internet scrolling past my photos instead of stopping and liking them? Nonsense.

This year, it’s going to hurt. That good hurt that you get after a really good workout (which is also on my 2018 to-do list…). It’s going to be a year of stretching out who I am, what I know how to do. Adventuring past familiar.

I’m teaching a class next week. You guys. I’m teaching. A. Class. Who said I could teach my own class? What makes me qualified? Why am I enough of an expert in anything to tell anyone else what to do? Well, I’m not. And I guess I said I could teach a class. And sure, it’s new. And scary. And I could fail miserably, but I’m doing it anyway. 

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I am not one for resolutions. But I can see things that I would like to improve on this year, areas for growth and reflection. Spots than I can strengthen. Like the BeachBody spot, for one. I’d like to make it to the part where I can sit down the day after PIYO and  get back up again. See, uncomfortable goals.

I’d like to say no. And say yes. To say, hey, I think we should not to some relationships in my life. Close some open doors. Open some closed doors. Hell, let’s work out all those hard feelings in 2018.


2017 was a big year for me. I finally became comfortable knowing who I am in a whole bunch of ways. I found my creative voice, my place in this noisy world of photography on the internet. 2018 is all about growing that comfortable to who new uncomfortable levels.

So let’s do this. Let’s go further than we thought possible. Let’s try new things. Let’s say yes, and more importantly, let’s say no. Let’s know who we are.

Ice Skating in St Paul

Some families see Santa once. That’s their Santa. That’s not how we roll. Much like fall, we’re working on exploring as much of our local seasonal activities as we can. We’ve learned a lot this last month. I think we’ve tallied our list on things we would try again, things we’d pass on, things we’d do earlier.

I am a huge wuss when it comes to the cold. I’d rather experience it as little as possible. This late winter arrival surprised us with one last glorious weekend to do two things that were on our to-do list all of last winter and we never got to (or even attempted to do…).


Saturday night, we loaded up the kids, threw the coats in the trunk, and headed down to Rice Park in St Paul for Christmas lights and Wells Fargo WinterSkate. You guys. It was wonderful. It certainly helped that it was a balmy 40 degrees out, but it was so fun to be out after dar, surrounded by so many of my favorite things: little white lights. And my family, obviously.


Parking was a breeze, even during a Wild game (leaving was another story. IDK WTF St Paul Police was doing to route traffic, but it was a mess.). Parking stresses me out, and I like to be close knowing that we will soon lose our shit and need to book it to the car. Even with the accidentally leaving at the same time the game got out SNAFU, I did prefer the parking situation in St Paul over the Minneapolis one.


We wandered Rice Park and headed to the Wells Fargo rink. Totally worth the $4 to skate. One thing that I did prefer at the Holidazzle was that they have the little handle bar contraptions to help kids skate. For newbies, like us, those would have been pretty awesome.


I honestly didn’t know what to expect out of skating. Wilson can be one of the grumpiest kids you’ve ever met and has strong opinions about most things in life, including all winter outerwear. He happily ripped off his shoes in exchange for skates, and even willingly wore his hat and gloves.


We will definitely do this again. Okay, let’s be real. If it’s open and it’s above freezing, we will definitely do this again. Any recommendations for indoor skating rinks in the metro?


Next time, I think I’d like to make more of an evening out of it. I’d like to check out the European Christmas Market at Union Depot, but we ran out of time (and patience).

Riding the Union Depot North Pole Express

In an attempt to winter as hard as we fall’ed, we did our first ticketed holiday event of the season. We’re working our way through a to-do list of Minneapolis and St Paul holiday festivities to get us through winter. Back in October (way to plan ahead, self! High fives!), I purchased tickets to the Union Depot North Pole Express. When we were discussing dates, we opted for a Friday afternoon, thinking that 1. the kids would be less of a hot mess and 2. it wouldn’t be as busy.  

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In hindsight, I was a little right, but what else is new. Wilson woke up a hot mess, it wasn’t busy (we did upgrade to the First Class option, though), but looking at the schedule of events today, I really wish we’d done the mid-afternoon option so we could hit up the European Christmas Market and the Tree Lighting. Most of the Union Depot was blocked off for the movie night, so space to run and play was limited. We did appreciate the train tables by Choo Choo Bob’s to play with while we waited. We’re definitely adding a stop to that shop in the very near future.



The event was fun. Staff was really, really wonderful and friendly. The train ride was slow and pretty quick. Wilson was a little angry that we did not go to the North Pole, as promised by the conductor. Matilda enjoyed the entertainment from Choo Choo Bob’s Engineer Paul, and the free face painting. We sipped hot cocoa and snacked on cookies.


If we did it again next year, I’d definitely consult calendars a little closer. I’m not sure if tree lighting and movie nights and European Markets are planned in October, when tickets go on sale, but I’m hoping I’ll remember to book the mid-afternoon outing instead of the early afternoon.

Next weekend, we’re checking out the Minnesota Transportation Museum’s Santa Train. We went last year, but forgot until about an hour before it ended, so it was a bit rushed. At roughly a third of the price of the Union Depot event, I have high hopes that this one will be our favorite of the two.

Have you done both Santa Trains? What are your thoughts? I’ll compare my favorites of each next week!


The Works Museum, Bloomington

I always thought my kids were too young for The Works Museum in Bloomington. And then something happened. They grew up. We got free tickets a while ago at a local mommy event and they sat in my kitchen for quite a while, waiting to be used. I always thought, meh. My kids are too young. They’d be so bored. Maybe next time.

In September, my sister in law asked if we’d join her and her youngest son (a teenager) in one last adventure before school started. I really like her, so of course I said HECK YES and dusted off those free passes that’d been taking up valuable space in my junk mail sorter.

I was so wrong. This place is wonderful. My three year old, six year old, and the teen all had a blast. Let me start by saying, this place isn’t as fancy as our other local favorites. It’s small and has a definite DIY feel to the exhibits. Activities are much more limited than we’re used to, but my kids didn’t get bored.


How could you possibly get sick of building towers only to knock them over again? Or seeing which K’NEX race car design goes the fastest (spoiler alert: it’s always Matilda’s, nope. Wilson’s. It’s always Wilson’s. Oh wait. You get the point. Arguments ensue.) They have a pinewood derby inspired race track that provides the race results, which makes cheating a little harder.


They have a whole list of awesome sounding STEM activities and family events that you can take part in, including fort building over Christmas break. We haven’t tried those, but they sound like the could be a really great time, resulting in uncontrollable laughter.


We went in September and Matilda begged to return until we finally did for Ryan’s birthday shenanigans. We picked a school day, so it was pretty busy with hoards of large teenagers, but the kids were all really nice and we just skirted around the much taller car builders and tower knockers.

According to their facebook page, they have Pre K Mondays, which sounds all sorts of amazing for many reasons, one of which is that all the other local museums (Minnesota Children’s Museum and the Science Museum of Minnesota) are closed on Mondays.

I’d love to meet up for a local Minnesota Mom Monday hang out! Who’s in for some half-priced play with littles?

Rosedale Center and their Winter Wonderland

Have you been to Rosedale Center lately? Because it’s gorgeous. As a former weekly mall-walker, I can safely say that I would definitely walk this mall willingly. Wilson, on the other hand, has long outgrown his stroller, and would prefer to run it. Anyway. It’s gorgeous – bright, airy, clean. Matilda and I can shop here, aimlessly wandering and coffee dating for as long as she thinks I’m cool enough to hang out with (and then I’ll push it a few more years). Rosedale, two huge thumbs up.

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We spent a few days hanging out with their Santa in their new Winter Castle. I’m sure some of you felt a big hole of holiday happenings with the closing of Macy’s Downtown. We were so bummed we wouldn’t be able to see our annual Santa display. That was (along with many Minnesotans) our holiday tradition.


While Rosedale Center isn’t Santaland, it’s pretty fun. Santa took time to get Wilson to warm up. He listened patiently to all of Matilda’s stories. He did a great job.

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We really enjoyed finding the other hidden holiday displays throughout the mall. My personal favorite was the giant, Christmas light ornament that you can stand in for photos ( I think I take my ornament photos a little differently than most visitors). Wilson really like jumping under the giant star.

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Overall, Rosedale Center was a really doable and fun family outing for the holidays, without dealing with driving down to the Mall of America. I’m crossing my fingers that updating their play area is next on their to-do list.

Minnesota Mom Blog Rosedale Center

Halloween Bash at the Minnesota Children’s Museum

This year, I was so excited when the Minnesota Children’s Museum was bringing back their Halloween Party. It was our favorite Halloween activity before they stopped hosting it for renovations. They offered a few different times, which was great. We went Sunday evening with Matilda and Ryan, and Wilson and I went back Monday morning to help out with a few photos. Halloween during the week is always a drag, so it was nice that weekend options were offered so everyone could join in on the fun.

We’re frequent visitors to the Minnesota Children’s Museum (and I’m a play ambassador for them, which basically means I get a membership and coupon code to share so you can get discounts on memberships – “EmilyO” will save you money on your next membership!). We try to go every Friday night as a way to reconnect as a family, to play, to decompress. We don’t always make it, but we try.

The kids had so much fun being silly with so many new friends. Wilson went as “Marshall from Paw Patrol” or “nothing”, depending on when you asked him (he didn’t actually dress up, so I have a brand new Marshall from Paw Patrol costume I’ll send you for free) and Matilda went as THE WORLD because she’s literally the coolest kid I know. She drew her dress and ordered it from Picture This Clothing. It was a piece of cake to do – you just print their template, your kid draws whatever they want to wear, you take a photo and email it back. Boom. Custom dress.


She finished it off with a yellow sun hat, a rainbow necklace she made, Lularoe road leggings, and some dirt boots.


An unexpected favorite from the Halloween party was this amazing lantern, which we promptly ordered and added to our daily life.


We love the quieter ticketed events at the Children’s Museum, where we can explore and play a little more freely. We’ve already bought tickets for their New Year’s Eve bash and we can’t wait to go! An 8pm “human ball drop” featuring Twin Cities Trapeze? Heck yes!

The Return of the Schedule

Here we are, at the end of August. I can count the days left of summer vacation on one hand. We did first grade orientation yesterday, we had our meet the teacher today (where I had to describe my indescribably wonderful human in 20 words or less.).

And I’m bummed.

You guys. I’m so bummed. I mean, I’m less bummed at 7 am when they’re fighting over who gets which frozen waffle or whether or not Matilda can walk through Wilson’s construction site in the middle of the hallway.

But right now, I’m sad. I’m sad that someone else will get to spend more time with my tiny human every day than I will. That she’ll adventure without me. That I’ll adventure without her.

As an adventurous mother, I will stare Tuesday in the face and say OH HELLO TUESDAY. GREAT TO SEE YOU. LETS DO THIS. But as a stay at home mom, I’ll swing by the Caribou drive through, order my usual hot drink, and cry in the car a bit while Wilson and I jet set somewhere for the day.

I’m excited to introduce myself. To recap our summer. To share our grand adventures.