Our perfectly Minnesotan day

Minneapolis-St Paul was just ranked as a must-visit spot by Lonely Planet, endorsed for our lakes, outdoor activities, nightlife and historical venues. So on a snowy Sunday in December, our family covered quintessentially Minnesota action!

As someone in the article notes, Minnesotans love to play outside, cheer on their sports teams, support the arts and history, are skeptical of mass transit, a bit reserved and zealous with travel.

I couldn’t agree more!

Minnesotans love to play outside

My #1 favorite thing about my native and now home again state. I started the day with a lovely walk in the woods nearby, just blanketed in gorgeous snow (my #1A favorite thing about MN). It was so silent–except for our pet dogs, racing around with pure unbridled joy.

dogs in woods

dogs in woods 2

Minnesotans love to travel

Our Julia was doing just that, enjoying a week in Florida with a friend and her great family. We get photos like this texted to us:

julia in fla

Minnesotans are skeptical of mass transit

Yep. We had tickets to the Vikings  – Chi Bears game, but Matt also had a hockey game (because “all Minnesotans all play hockey” of course), so Caroline and I took the light rail downtown and Greg gave us a ride back to our vehicle after the game. See? We just went one way on the train.

It was lovely, including these views, surrounded by Bears fan on a super crowded train.

Fort Snelling cemetery.
Fort Snelling cemetery.

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downtown

downtown 2

Minnesotans are reserved

As the train approached our stop, da Bears fans regaled us with “Bear Down, Chicago Bears.” The Vikes fans didn’t break into “Skol Vikings.” But this was before the game. Which my beloved Vikes won. Betcha my purple neighbors sang on the way home!

Minnesotans cheer on their teams

Oh yes, we do. In all the agony that entails. Caroline and I schlepped our way into the Dome, ready for GAME DAY!

me and c

We also enjoyed our VIP Field Passes, seeing the players, coaches, game day staff members, equipment and warmups up close.

cara on field

Minnesotans love hockey

Well, when your lakes are frozen much of the year, you make the most of it! Matt and Greg missed this on-field experience because Matty’s team was playing for some hardware in a hockey tournament. (Thankfully, they have been on the field before.) The boys won their game! The trophy is a White Bear, which amused us all when they arrived in our seats just after kick-off.

Looks like Matty beat him to the puck on this one!
Looks like Matty beat him to the puck on this one! Photo credit: Dan R.

We got home (slowly with the lousy weather) in time to clear the driveway and play in the snow.

Sounds like a perfectly Minnesotan day to me.

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Surprises, joy + blessings galore: Our 2011 Holidaze

85 mph. That’s our family’s pace. And we wouldn’t have it any other way! The only time for our family Christmas photo was 10 minutes on a Sunday evening in our living room. More indelible moments of this magical season…

Mistletoe?! Our family Christmas photo outtakes are, ahem, interesting.
 
(almost) all the Hansen cousins pyramided up during Christmas in North Dakota.
 
In mid-December, our holiday baking peaked with 18 dozen cutout cookies. I baked, Julia and her friends decorated! (I'm still finding decor on the floor.)
Julia and her awesome friends. They also went caroling (sorry, neighbors.)
Kind family cousins at Seasons Christmas dinner theatre, compliments of my tradition-loving dad. We've been there 14 straight years. Thanks, Grandpa Jerry!

  Best part of the season: MUSIC!

Caroline’s music concert
 
Matty's choir concert
Our angel Caroline at the church Christmas Nativity pageant.
Caroline and her singin' teacher, the amazing Ms. Jansen. She is surely one of the greatest gifts to us this year. Lucky little Cara and her classmates!

 

Our Nutcracker tradition continues....

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, our hearts sang with music from the historic organ, piano, trumpets, trombone and bells at Messiah in Fargo. Welcome to the world, indeed, Baby Jesus! 

A Vegas wedding! 

Vegas, baby. The Bellagio water show was the view from our hotel room.
They Do!
 
 
 
Dare you to not catch Christmas spirit amidst Vegas' decorations. This is my fave, the Wynn.

 Christmas in North Dakota 

Cousin Dale's restored home decked out in true style! | photo credit: Kayla Hansen
 
Dale's fireplace room. Much better with Jim's eggnog in hand.
 
Rare get-together
It’s been at least 7 years since most of Greg’s family has been together. We were close this Christmas, with only 4 there in spirit only: Newlywed Derek, Ill Mike, Workin’ in Arizona Mathew and Jon, in heaven. Kayla was not supposed to join us, but she and Adam drove over to surprise everyone on Christmas Day! Adam, you’re gonna fit in just fine to this clan.
 
Kayla even surprised her mom and dad with her Christmas Day arrival.
 
The whole Hansen clan (almost...)
 
 
Grandma and her Granddaughters | photo credit: Dave Hansen
Grandpa and his Grandsons (except Newlywed Derek, Workin' Mathew and Jon, in Heaven)
The "'89ers," recreating the photo taken the year they were born {Josh, Kayla, Michael}
 
Here are the cousins IN 1989.
 
Nothing is ‘just a game’
Outdoor hockey, indoor Just Dance dance off, board games and other competition galore. No grudges lasted too long…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

For the record, Jules Ruled
 
 Other memories:
– Sneaking out for breakfast with my sweetie while our kids slumbered on
– Hockey, hockey, hockey – great tournament action, hockey parent parties and teammate sleepovers
– Sickness struck the kids and I a few days before Christmas (lesson = do your elf duties early)
– Greg spent Christmas Day ill in bed; Matt came down and detailed dinner to him  
– A bittersweet funeral in Grand Forks for Greg’s buddy Todd’s beloved mom; her husband’s heartbreaking + heartwarming eulogy
– Julia in two soccer tourneys, scoring goals, playing goalie and back in action
– A photo I choose to forget (MRI of my torn up ACL and knee cartilage); surgery 1/10
– Quiet moments with all those I hold so dear
 
And, of course, the unchanged blessing of Jesus’ arrival.
 
Hope your holiday memories are joyful. Now, hello 2012. Let’s do this!
 
 

Mary Christmas

It is the greatest story of all time. Last night, our youngest took her stint in our church’s annual Christmas pageant. My greatest hope is she got something meaningful out of it. I know I did.

 

Performed by the second-graders, all three of our kids have now had their roles. That’s Julia, mangerside.

I always wonder if an ANGEL talked to me, would I follow a star like the WISE MEN? Would I have MARY’S unblinking faith? And I now know each of our children fills a different role in our family.

Dec 2011

Tonight, Caroline was an angel. She is an angel, our Caroline. Sweet, quiet, quick and witty, cuddly and yet independent. And can she sing! She doesn’t remember it, but at 4 months old, she was Baby Jesus in another pageant.

Dec 2003

Matthew was one of the three wise men. He does follow stars. He’d have been first to the manger to check it all out–and he’d be content to take a different route home. Our Matty is also smart, funny, sporty and very generous. And he does like a little bling.

Dec 2007

Julia was Mary. Amazing women, those two. Julia is brave, serenely lovely, feisty and intelligent. 

 
Dec 2006

Mary is my #1 mentor, and always impresses me. She gets a visit from an angel (!) who tells her she’s going to have God’s Son. And she signs on!

My favorite Bible passage in The Christmas Story is “But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke, 2:19). I love how it shows her using her memory, affection and intellect. And grace.

Everyone else is blabbing all over the countryside about the arrival of Baby Jesus. Not his mom. She’s quietly reflecting on becoming a mother (Mother of God, no less). She knows that every person’s history is first written on her or his mother’s heart. It’s a uniquely inner experience, and in a tiny way, I relate.

I often wonder if an angel approached me with a request, What would I do? Fully open my heart and truly listen? Have faith as deep as Mary and sign on?

Then I realize angels do approach me often: their names are Julia, Matt and Cara. And hopefully like Mary, I sign on with unblinking faith. I do know I ponder things in my heart.

Merry, Mary Christmas!

Venting about Closed MN State Parks

We made the reservations in February. Site 66E at Itasca State Park over Independence Day. Greg and I have treasured memories of the gorgeous bike trails and special moment of carefully escorting our kids over the rocks in the Headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi. The kids don’t remember their first visits there, so we were all thrilled to return.

Not to happen. The MN State Parks were all shuttered June 30 when the Gov and State Legislature could not agree on a new budget.

I got to vent on ABC Nightly News.

Watch it here: http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/july-fourth-bummer-national-parks-closed-13981067

This came about though my friend Mary: her cousin’s husband is a freelance photojournalist and asked on Facebook about an unhappy MN camper. She connected us and there you have it.

What you don’t see in the clip is that I’ve always been a very proud Minnesotan. I haven’t always lived here,  but I’ve always extoled the beauty of my home state, especially the forests, streams, vibrant big cities and of course the lakes. Right now, I’m a sad Minnesotan, hoping our leaders can sort this out soon. For far larger reasons than empty campsite 66E at Itasca.

Snowy Sioux road trip

fighting sioux hockey, und fighting sioux hockey, sioux hockey, mankato hockey, sioux mavericks hockey
All decked out and ready for the game ~ We still have a deep supply of Fighting Sioux gear.

For 12 winters, our lives revolved around Fighting Sioux men’s hockey games. Indeed, we still own 4 season tickets. Yet our lives revolve around the sports and activities of our own little people, so we rarely get to see the team play live and in person. Until Mankato!

So when the Sioux schedule was published in the summer, I used pen to mark the weekend of Dec 10 – 11. The Sioux were slated to take on the Minnesota State University Mavericks in Mankato, which is practically in our back yard.

Big bragging rights on the line

Added bonus: Matt’s 5th grade teacher is Mr. Jutting. Mr. Jutting’s twin brother is the Mavericks’ head coach. It’s made for daily ribbing between the two, since Matt’s teacher and his bro also played for the Mavs–and Mr. Jutting has a son in youth hockey.

Fam time

Friday afternoon, we scooped up Matt and Caroline from school just a few moments early to head southwest. Greg mentioned something about a winter storm approaching. Whatever, I thought (mistake #1). We already had 19″ of snow.

I wanted a little more cozy family time, so we drove the Siouxgreen Honda Accord (mistake #2). See, we’re not all together that often these days. Everyone’s going in their own direction, and I, for one, was really excited about all being together. Just us. Just for a few precious hours.

Southern Minnesota is beautiful in every season, and we had a great trip down, laughing, teasing, catching up and anticipating the game. Matt and I recalled our last trip to Mankato for Vikings Training Camp. Ah, ignorance was bliss in August…

“The usual” at B dubs

We found a Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. Some cool signed Vikes memorabilia to view. Ordering here is easy: Julia and Caroline are Sweet BBQ, Matt and I are Medium, Greg had a (get this) burger.

*disclaimer: Due to an unfortunate accident during Christmas caroling, my “real” camera is no more. These photos were taken with my mobile. Please excuse quality.

Caroline’s view

We all appreciate Caroline’s view of the world. Walking in to the arena, this was our view of the beautiful building across the street. “Oh, look, mom, they put on the Siouxgreen lights. Wasn’t that nice?” Yep, Caroline. Yep.

Not exactly The Ralph

Mankato’s Verizon Wireless Center isn’t Ralph Engelstad Arena, but then again what is? We’d all been to the arena before, so it was more, um, charming this time around.

Mankato is a developing hockey program — there were more Sioux fans in the stands (or at least more vocal), yet there was a purple buzz in the air, since the Mavs had just swept the MN Gophers the previous weekend.

After Matt and Greg had some “Ticket Trouble” last season in Mankato, we did purchase tickets online Thursday evening (mistake #3: didn’t need to buy ahead; there were PLENTY of seats).

Ouch–then Ahhhh

The first shift of the game, Mankato scored. Seven minutes later, I looked up from my popcorn and the Sioux were down 0 – 2. Still, there were highlights we used to take for granted when we saw games more often:

– Matt Frattin, now nation’s top goal scorer (he had 1 goal; 2 assists)

– Chay Genoway back in action! (He suffered a concussion that left him out of the lineup most of last season)

– Aaron Dell in goal: we saw him make a career-high 35 saves

Normal children ask for popcorn or candy. Julia only wanted this. ?!

 

Rally cap!

Matt’s cap worked: Seven minutes of great hockey in the 3rd period put the Sioux ahead 4 – 3, including the game-winner by Jake Marto!

Nice view!

Just as I clicked this photo, the announcer mentioned something about freezing rain and “blah blah drive carefully…blah blah see you tomorrow night.” Well, he was right on 2 counts. We stepped outside onto an ice rink, with rain falling. We crawled through downtown on icy roads. But the Sat. night game was moved to Sunday afternoon due to the blizzard that moved in.

Treacherous trek home

It rained and sleeted until about Jordan, when the weather turned to snow. We didn’t venture about 40 mph and nearly didn’t make it up a snowy hill in the beautiful town of Jordan. But we made it home safely, and an evening together was worth it.

By Saturday afternoon, we had another 17″ inches of snow–and as Matt said, “I can go to school proud and talk hockey with Mr. Jutting.”

All worth it. (Next time, I’ll listen to the weather forecast and take the 4WD. Perhaps…) All worth it.

Two roads diverged…

A walk in the woods and girls’ day at the ballet

The contrasts of life never cease to amaze me. It struck me last weekend that I can go for a hike in pristine woods alongside deer and turkey and coyote pawprints….then go to the Nutcracker ballet an hour later. Here’s highlights of those two events.

Reminds me of the ever-comforting Mr. Frost:

hiking, winter hiking, MN hikes, hiking with kids, walk in the woods with kids, walk in the woods, winter activities with kids, winter kids activities, winter MN kids activities, MN kids activities
Caroline, Matt and little Rev (too cold to walk any further, apparently)
nutcracker ballet, nutcracker burnsville arts center, nutcracker minnesota, activities with kids, arts with kids, ballet with kids, kids ballet, christmas theatre with kids, activities with kids
Julia, Caroline, Allison (my niece) and "Santa" Nutcracker before the show

Meaning to the Christmas season

Both events were part of the smooth segue to the Christmas season. This season, I’m again wondering how to best give the holidays meaning for our kids? At our home, it’s an evolving answer… And this year, it began with the first snow and an afternoon at the ballet.

A walk in the woods

Our first snow finally arrived last week. I wait all year for the excitement and joy as pure as fresh-fallen snow. I love winter! (Of course, if my commute was more than a skype call, I may feel otherwise.) I love the air that is somehow fresher, the snow that crunches differently each day under boots and I love mixing and matching hats, scarves and mittens. I especially love winter hikes in the woods. So, too, do the kids and especially the pooches.

hiking, walk in the woods, activities with kids, outdoor family fun, outdoor activities with kids
Caroline and Matt "tracking"
Mollie
Rev, continually trying to keep up
walk in the woods, winter activities with kids, hiking, hiking with kids
A boy and his dogs. Is this pure joy (or what)?

I know we’re not alone

The woods are home to many other creatures. Sometimes I catch glimpses of them. During Thanksgiving prep, we saved the apple peels and core from our apple-pie making and left them in the woods. We noticed all the apple treats were gone the next time we hiked through that area, with plenty of deer tracks all around. I explained it was a thank-you for them letting Mollie rustle them up.

Girls day at the ballet

Growing up, my mom took us to the Nutcracker Ballet at Northrup Auditorium. Since we’ve lived back in Minnesota, the girls and I have gone to the local production. They typically know some of the younger dancers, we’re all amazed at the professionals–and it officially starts the Christmas season for me! This year, my mom and my niece Allison joined us for the Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota performance at the new Burnsville Performing Arts Center.

nutcracker ballet, nutcracker ballet burnsville performing arts center, lakeville city ballet nutcracker, burnsville nutcracker, family fun, ballet with kids, activities with kids

It was a lovely performance. They again utilized local dancers for many of the parts, including the demanding role of Clara. The cast is 120 dancers. The prime roles were danced by professionals from New York, Texas, Italy and Spain, I believe. I’m most amazed by the male leads: the height they achieve in jumps, stamina in turns and spins across the stage. Wow!

The costumes and staging were incredible. Music, exquisite, of course.  And the story is delightful. It brings up the eternal question: “Was it all just a dream?” I think not. (But then, I think Dorothy may well have gone to Oz in some realm.) *Note: Photos from twincitiesballet.org. I wasn’t breaking rules and clicking during performance : )

So now I’m ready for the holidaze — my attitude is, we can rest and spend less $ in January.

Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying our snow and other holiday traditions.

What gets you in the holiday spirit? I’d love to hear about it.