Thanks for the gift, Mr. Rockefeller

Move over, Yellowstone, we have a new favorite U.S. National Park.

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Meet St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, the most tranquil, unspoiled spot in the Caribbean/South America. That’s thanks to Laurence Rockefeller, who donated much of it to the U.S. Government to create a National Park. Before that, the United States had purchased this 20-square-mile jewel from Denmark in 1917. (Note the year: it was when Germany was poised to overtake Denmark; imagine if Germany had achieved this foothold. Whew.) Before THAT, it was a haven for pirates. So what is not to adore about St. John?

Our cruise ship actually ported in St. Thomas, one of the four U.S. Virgin Islands.

Yay, our pilot is here. Oh, cool, hope Captain Jack Sparrow is here, too.

Once off the Oasis, we boarded the Island Girl with Captain Mike. It was a wild ride through once-pirate, still amazing waters, while Mike pointed out landmarks new and old with charming, entertaining stories.

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Madonna’s ‘lil spot on St. Thomas

 

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Joe and Jill Biden’s Water Island getaway.

And then, we arrived in what surely must be similar to heaven: St. John. On the short drive from the port to “our” beach for the day in our safari truck, each beach we passed was more stunning than the last.

 

Mr. Rockefeller’s home is still here, now as a resort, with remnants of a sugar plantation.

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Our destination: Trunk Bay, ranked in the World’s Top 10 Most Beautiful Beaches by National Geographic Society. We loved every grain of sand on it, from the velvet soft beach for long walks, to the underwater snorkel trail of coral and fish in the clearest waters ever. (We brought our GoPro snorkeling, too!)

After exploring this glorious place, we headed back on the Island Girl, really refreshed the way only Mom Nature and a National Park can do so… (with a little help from a local brew of course)

We’ll be back, St. John. Stay unspoiled.

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Air. Water. Food. Just gettin’ our basic needs met, Cancun style.

Like our friends and colleagues and relatives, our family runs in every direction, often at warp speed. It’s crazy good fun filled with love and laughs. But it’s also nice to get away a bit. So this Spring Break, we headed to Moon Palace in Cancun.

We went with a great group of fellow Minnesotans. Total of 14 adults; 13 kids, I believe.

Some old friends, some new. All amazing!
Some old friends, some new. All amazing!

Air

Matt got the most air, parasailing over Beach Palace one afternoon (looked like the jet ski ride out and back in to shore was quite a rush too!)

m parasailing

m jet ski ride in

Water

Our Caroline is a mermaid. We all joined her, too. How could you not? Fifteen pools (most with swim-up bars; all with water polo, water zumba, water volleyball), miles of beach (albeit not real swimmable, so our day at Beach Palace’s turquoise waves was a treat).

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c and v at beach palace

 

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4 of us at swim up bar

me and g

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Swimming laps in the Olympic pool was more fun with a swim up bar at one end. Pina coladas after every lap!

 

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a moon 1

a moon 2

“Pets” at our favorite pools

The Alligator at the edge of the Los Tacos pool.
The Alligator at the edge of the Los Tacos pool.
Iguanas - up to seven outside one pool in the perfect mid-morning sun. Skittish, prehistoric little guys.
Iguanas – up to seven outside one pool in the perfect mid-morning sun. Skittish, prehistoric little guys.
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Another reason we also ordered the Fish Tacos at Los Tacos. Plus, they were delish!

 

Dozens of restaurants, and this was our fave. Poolside Los Tacos.
Dozens of restaurants, and this was our fave. Poolside Los Tacos.
Thanks for the fish tacos...
Thanks for the fish tacos…

Food

It’s a good day when your biggest decision is where to go to dinner that evening…

I think we tried ’em all. Seafood? (The first night, Julia ordered baby octopus with “I think I’ll like that.” As they served it, she saw it really was baby octopus, suction cups and all. “I can’t eat this,” she admitted. Lesson learned for our Midwestern girl!) Mexican? Italian? Room service (why order 30 chicken nuggets? Because you can.)? Steakhouse? Hibachi? Japanese? Brazilian steak house:

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Mayan coffee!

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Love those Mayans
Love those Mayans

Treats at every turn…

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dessert

crepes

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A few other surprises:

Coconut milk outside our front door

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“Fresh Catch” one afternoon

Apparently this only happens once a month (we got lucky!). Fresh grouper, octopus, shrimp, mussels, clams and more, caught then grilled up on the beach.

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Swing bar

We ventured here during the day; the teenagers hung out here after dinner and into the wee hours!
We ventured here during the day; the teenagers hung out here after dinner and into the wee hours! We heard tales. Probably not all of them, but enough!
Some crazy characters for our kids to hang with...
Some crazy characters for our kids to hang with… (Alas, no Captain Jack…)

Early morning beach walks

(just Greg and me) – note earlier info about teenagers at the swing bar!

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Love

Most of all, it was time for us, together, unplugged. That is really all we need.

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Look! She got out of the water (for a little while).

 

Late-nigh beach walk with my Jules was a treasure of a time.
Late-nigh beach walk with my Jules was a treasure of a time.

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Our baby with a dolphin baby

Caroline was in her element.
She Swam with Delphinus (dolphins) at Xcarat in Cancun.

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The best part was the baby dolphin who wouldn’t leave Cara’s side:

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As the mom and friends did their interactions, the baby tried every trick she knew to get attention (aka fish). We tried to find out the baby’s name, but there wasn’t much English spoken at the park. So we just call her Baby.

Thanks for letting your Baby play with our Baby, Mama Dolphin.

More great playtime shots:

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Dolphin “water skiing:”

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Splash party!

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Jump for joy!

 

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My bucket overfloweth: MLB All Star Week

One of the events of MLB All Star Week has been on my bucket list: See the Home Run Derby live. But after this week, my bucket list is overflowing with other amazing adventures. What a great show, Minnesota. So proud of you!

Midwesterners are paranoid about two things: Our losing sports teams. And our weather. It rained Monday, delaying the Home Run Derby by 1 hour. But then this gorgeous rainbow appeared and all was right with the world!
Midwesterners are paranoid about two things: Our losing sports teams. And our weather. It rained Monday, delaying the Home Run Derby by 1 hour. But then this gorgeous rainbow appeared and all was right with the world!

First up: Futures game and Celebrity softball game

Sunday afternoon, good old Tom Kelly, Bert Blyleven and Tony O managed the “Futures” stars in a World vs. USA game. This was, surprisingly, one of my favorite things about the whole weekend. Amazing young talent!

Has Bert mentioned he's Dutch? This is what he wore to the pre-first-pitch meeting at home plate. Go Netherlands!
Has Bert mentioned he’s Dutch? This is what he wore to the pre-first-pitch meeting at home plate. Go Netherlands!
Loved seeing TK manage again.
Loved seeing Tony O manage the World Team.
Skipper Tom Kelly, back in action!
Skipper TK, back in action!
Lucky for baseball, that NBA gig didn't work out for a couple of the guys.
Lucky for baseball, that NBA gig didn’t work out for a couple of the guys.
The Clydesdales did a lap. The Dalmatian came to MN, too!
The Clydesdales did a lap. The Dalmatian came to MN, too!
The Twins' Kennys Vargas can play! I slept better that night, knowing we DO have a first baseman. Hopefully he is up here soon.
The Twins’ Kennys Vargas can play! I slept better that night, knowing we DO have a first baseman. Hopefully he is up here soon.

Softball is tougher than it looks: Celebrity softball

After an encouraging afternoon with Futures, it was time for Legends in the Celebrity softball game. We laughed nonstop at these antics. Our fave moments:

Larry Fitzgerald and AP. Wish they were BOTH Vikings!
Larry Fitzgerald and AP. Wish they were BOTH Vikings!

 

All the teams sent their mascots! Several danced in our section and on top of the 3rd base dugout, right in front of us. I was partial to Rose (Reds). Matt liked the Marlins fish. TC Bear was clearly a great host!
All the teams sent their mascots! Several danced in our section and on top of the 3rd base dugout, right in front of us. I was partial to Rose (Reds). Matt liked the Marlins fish. TC Bear was clearly a great host!

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Jack Morris vs John Smoltz. Again. With a little (!) less on the line than Game 7 in 1991. Gave me chills to see them both on the mound again.

John Smoltz actually took himself out of the game and tapped Jennie Finch to take the mound.
John Smoltz actually took himself out of the game and tapped Jennie Finch to take the mound.
Jennie is an Olympic Champion softball pitcher. AP is a MVP NFLer. He came up to bat and asked her to pitch as she really would. Those pitches SMOKED by him! Just as he smokes by linemen all NFL season...
Jennie is an Olympic Champion softball pitcher. AP is a MVP NFLer. He came up to bat and asked her to pitch as she really would. Those pitches SMOKED by him! Just as he smokes by linemen all NFL season…

Monday: Home Run Derby

This is one of my favorite TV shows each year. It’s an event, even more clear when you go to this show live. But so fun to watch this power, especially guys from the National League who we rarely see at Target Field. Brian Dozier and (former Twin) Justin Morneau were crowd favorites, but my pick was Cespedes. We still have no idea how to pronounce his name, but he won the slugging title this year — again (he won last year too).

Mike and Mike (from ESPN), emceeing the action as eventual winner Cespedes steps up.
Mike and Mike (from ESPN), emceeing the action as eventual winner Cespedes steps up.

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Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton had some record long balls in our Target Field. He's a slugger with an attitude!
Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton had some record long balls in our Target Field. He’s a slugger with an attitude!

 The ultimate party

Tuesday was Target Field’s night to shine. We saw All Stars past (Hank Aaron was there!) and present. And probably future. I must admit I didn’t take many pictures. I was soaking in every second of this magical night!

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The Clydesdales (and the Dalmatian!) came back for the Big Game.
The Clydesdales (and the Dalmatian!) came back for the Big Game.

An aerial shot from the NY Times that still makes my heart swell with pride. Way to go, Minnesota. You’re the true all star for hosting an amazing party. Happy I could be there. My bucket overfloweth.

Photo from NY Times.
Photo from NY Times.

How do you raise an American Girl?

The girls who loved American Girl dolls as little ones? They’re now teenagers. In the real world. Not in a historical time, and not with a store full of adorable outfits and accessories. So how do we raise them?

These young ladies are social media savvy. They have amazing opportunities in school, sports, careers and other avenues. Yet they are inundated with Working Mom vs. Stay At Home Mom opinions. They still face glass ceilings. Their sports are not the lead story on the evening news.

Mind you, I adore American Girl dolls. Our daughters have several, and a college semester’s worth of related books, outfits and accessories, too. We had great fun playing with them. And I hope our grandkids play with them someday! Meanwhile…

After a weekend with 16 of these American Girls, and as a former 15-year-old American Girl, I have a few opinions (of course). We were in Kansas City with our daughter’s soccer team and their great families. Here are my Top 7 Ways to raise an American Girl:

1. With joy. As a role model.

Our kids will become what we are. Be calm. Confident. Classy. Smile, it’s contagious! Be optimistic. Live with pure joy. They will, too. And then we’ll all get along much better!

Pretty certain we had these same smiles after tea parties with our American Girl dolls: at the actual store and especially at our own cozy home!
Pretty certain we had these same smiles after tea parties with our American Girl dolls: at the actual store and especially at our own cozy home!

2. Balance brains and beauty.

Our first evening, our girls planned an outing for a teammate’s birthday. They packed cute outfits. (All very age appropriate: love them in sundresses with just a touch of trendy style!) They found out the hotel shuttle bus would take them anywhere within 2 miles. They selected Olive Garden, 3 miles away. And they convinced the shuttle bus driver to take them there! Smart, confident, reasonable: that’s beautiful.

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They're back! I'm sure there were enough seat belts for 15 young ladies (!).
They’re back! I’m sure there were enough seat belts for all 15 young ladies (!).
There's birthday girl Jaecy with our Julia on the left.
There’s birthday girl Jaecy with our Julia on the left.

3. Celebrate talents. Everyone has at least one!

Our girls seem to really seek out each other’s talents, no matter what they are. For instance, another teammate has an aspiring cupcake baking business. She surprised the birthday girl (and all of us!) with homemade, hand-decorated cupcakes, brought 424 miles. Here’s birthday girl Jaecy and her parents:

Jaecy with her parents while we all serenaded her.

Cupcakes by Payton on Facebook for my Lakeville area friends!
Cupcakes by Payton on Facebook for my Lakeville area friends!

4. Cheer on everyone. Yes, everyone.

Competition is amazing fuel. Yet so is good sportsmanship. These young ladies’ first game? Vs. the OTHER Lakeville girl’s team! It was competitive, tough and truly “the beautiful game.” So is this shot of them with their classmates, neighbors and friends … who just happened to wear another color jersey for a couple hours one day.

Lakeville vs. Lakeville
Lakeville vs. Lakeville

Later, our ladies cheered on their boy classmates’ team. The boys won. High-five, guys!

My style of cheerleaders: strong girls who themselves play the game and appreciate every move.
My style of cheerleaders: strong girls who themselves play the game and appreciate every move.

5. Appreciate accomplishments. Don’t be wimpy.

Water is a great way to celebrate a game well-played. The amazing Schlitterbahn Water Park is pure indulgence! So what if the weather isn’t perfect? Go! And then enjoy it because you have the place nearly to yourselves. That’s indulgence. And even makes lost sunglasses (rapids river) and cut lip (tornado water slide) bearable.

There's my JEEM girls. Julia, Elise, Emilie, Meaghan. #lovethem
There’s my JEEM girls. Julia, Elise, Emilie, Meaghan. #lovethem

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water park 2

 

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6. Do night life right.

Our third game was “Under The Lights” vs. a team from Oklahoma. It was a magical evening, nail-bitter game and well-earned Win. Later in life (but not so many years from now), these ladies may take to a dance floor for night life. I hope they will be observant, careful and yet carefree in that night life. For now, they looked great on the pitch.

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Siblings Circle.

 

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Siblings circle.
Siblings circle.

 

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Big Win!
Big Win!

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7. Do everything with grace.

These young ladies also have a quiet faith, a sense that God will do his will. Yet they also do their part as Children of God, working hard for all they achieve. Like 2nd place at the tourney (1st place? The other Lakeville team, of course)!

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8. Bonus: A little appreciation for “jewelry” is a great way to raise American Girls, too!

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When TJ Oshie lived at our house

Time for a little love to this neglected blog. (I ‘write’ posts for here often. In my head. They just don’t get from there to the keyboard.) I could explain it’s because I blog for others (clients). But I do love blogging. It’s sad this space has been neglected. So here’s a quick post:

TJ Oshie is now The Star of the Sochi Olympics, getting the call to shoot 6 times in an epic shootout in the USA vs. Russian Olympic Hockey Game. He made 4, including the game-winner. We’ve followed Mr Oshie since his days as a Warroad high school hockey player — and especially as a UND Fighting Sioux Player. His years there were our first years living in our new home in Minnesota.

Sad face since this was the last Sioux game at REA we'd be attending that season. Matt, 2006.
Sad face since this was the last Sioux game at REA we’d be attending that season. Matt, 2006.

Matt adored TJ Oshie! We didn’t know how much until this incident.

It was February, and Matt’s First Grade Teacher phoned me after school. “Elizabeth, I don’t want to worry you, but I’m thinking you can explain this. Matt has been doing all his worksheets in green marker. In fact, he needs new green markers, they are all used up. And in the line at the top of the page for his name, he’s been writing ‘TJ Oshie.'”

I laughed, and explained green was the color of his beloved UND hockey team, of which a TJ Oshie was a star. How was she to know?! We agreed it wouldn’t require a psychologist.

One of Matt's doodle sheets from First Grade. No wonder he used up every green hue in his marker box.
One of Matt’s doodle sheets from First Grade. No wonder he used up every green hue in his marker box.

So I told Matt that story today and we all laughed.

It seems like it was just yesterday. But yet it seems so long ago.

Probably how TJ Oshie feels. Thanks for representing Minnesota, UND and our country so proudly, TJ. And thanks for giving our little guy a true hero to follow.

My top Dome memories aren’t on the Top 10 Lists

Sunday, I’ll be at the last game ever at The Dome (I refuse to call it Mall of America Field). I’m happy to say goodbye, since it’s a dump.

But it’s OUR dump.

And as a lifelong sports fan, many of my best memories took place right there. Yeah, I was there waving my Homer Hankies for the World Series–both of ’em. I saw the Rolling Stones there. Cheered on Kirby. Saw a few of the NCAA men’s basketball final 4 games there. Kept our oldest kid out too late on a school night to watch Carlos Gomez win a game in the 10th inning to make the MLB playoffs. Pretty cool.

But here are a few Dome memories you won’t see on all the Best Dome Moments Lists. I think they’re better because, well, they’re my memories. And I will treasure them forever. Goodbye, Dome. Thank you.

1. Starving to see Nolan Ryan

As a college kid, I knew the pitching rotation of every team. It became clear Nolan Ryan would probably be up while they were in Minnesota. I prayed, skipped lunch for days and used that money for bus fare and a $5 ticket to see Nolan Ryan pitch. Worth every cent. And hunger pang.

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2. Sid’s sage advice

Since I could read, Sid Hartman has been one of my heroes. I met him in The Dome concourse one Twins Sunday afternoon game when I was in college, studying communications and English and contemplating my career. I got up enough nerve to say Hi and he chatted for a bit. I’ll never forget his advice: “Never stop being curious. Newspapers are changing, go into something else. And never act your age.” I’ve always wanted him to know I follow that advice every single day.

Sid Hartman Bronze Statue Target Field Twins Game Pre-Game
I still try to stop by and say Hi to my hero Sid, who now stands sentinel at Target Field.

3. Air Jordan

I knew someone who got us court side seats for the MN Timberwolves first home game. Yes, they started at the Dome. They played the Chicago Bulls, including Michael Jordan in his prime. Seeing him fly, literally fly, from so close was amazing.

4. “I can die happy.”

August 25, 2009, the NFL player who I so loved watching joined OUR TEAM. #4, Brett Favre, had beat up our Vikes so many times but now, he was ours. I went to the game, thanks to great seats from my husband and his amazing connections. It was electric. We all stood for Brett’s first drive as OUR QB. Then, the older gentleman behind me eased into his seat and breathed happily, “I can die happy.” We’ve returned since, and I always look for that gentleman. Perhaps he is gone now. I’m glad he’s happy. (And after I got off suicide watch when Brett & co. got beat in the playoffs, I went back to the Dome to see #4 again. It wasn’t as memorable.)

5. Left field bliss

Again as a college kid, all I could usually afford were cheap seats. But left field, with a great view of Dan Gladden from, ahem, behind suited me just fine.

See? Nice scenery from this side, too.
See? Nice scenery from this side, too.

6. Introducing a new generation

In the chunk of time we lived in North Dakota, we always made time for a Twins game when we returned here for a visit. I proudly watched our kids get sucked out of the Dome, taught them to keep score, and cheered on the team. The Twins sucked their last __ years in the Dome. But we loved them. When we moved back to Minnesota, we spent more time there. One afternoon, we donned our Joe Mauer sideburns as part of that promo. Another Sunday, we intentionally skipped church to see Francisco Liriano pitch.

July 2003, with my dad, little Julia, Matty and Caroline, who arrived a few weeks later!
July 2003, with my dad, little Julia, Matty and Caroline, who arrived a few weeks later!

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matt and nick on field

Matt got to see his then hero, Payton Manning, up close.
Matt got to see his then hero, Payton Manning, up close.
Matty as Joe.
Matty as Joe.

7. Sharing the joy

My mom, an equally rabid Twins fan, came to the very last Twins game at the Dome. Still makes me smile, her right behind home plate soaking it all in… And now we know the pure joy of Target Field and outdoor baseball together!

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8. Introducing my generation

Just a few weeks ago, my husband used those great connections again to, again, get on-field passes. My brother in law, at his first Vikes game, met Carl Eller on the field. Priceless. (And then new gun Cordarrelle Patterson ran back a kick for TD on the FIRST play of the game.)

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I think these memories are better because, well, they’re my memories. And I will treasure them forever. Goodbye, Dome. Thank you for giving me reasons to never, ever act my age.