So the last couple of happenings pages have been, well, rather long and a bit heavy, perhaps. The good news here: not much has been happening, which, after the craziness of the last several months, is a good thing.

November was awesome. The weather was unseasonably warm and conductive to our woodland romps. Here's Ella visiting her beloved Jaws tree:

Ella in a tree

The sun sets way too early at 45° N, though, so the sunset often came before our romp even got underway.

the sunset

Summer's greenery was definitely a thing of the past. The chattering of birds and choirs of frogs and insects were but a distant memory. Now the only sound was the leaves crinkling underfoot.

the barren woods

Ah, yes, here we have Ella with another of her beloved trees. (Yes, we affectionately refer to it as Boob Tree. I always muse I should adorn it with an old bra, much to my sons' horror.)

Ella and Boob Tree

It was quite dark in the woods by the time we looped around back towards the beach. Anna and Ella didn't seem to mind. The days of them being scared of leaving the trail and fearing I would get us all lost forever were finally a thing of the past. They would have played around on the old cars for hours if I hadn't urged them on.

Anna and Ella playing on an old car

My father once gave me some good sunset watching advice: The best colors come after the sun sets. Sure enough, the whole western sky turned a vibrant orange as we exited the forest.

the afterglow of the setting sun

Meanwhile, Alex, Caleb, Nora, and Rosa were being typical teenagers. Nora took some photos of them hamming it up on the beach. Caleb decidedly kept his photography skills focused on the wildlife.

Caleb on the beach

What I love most about this shot is Rosa's face. She oftentimes has this deer-in-the-headlights look to her.

the kids on the beach

Proof Nora has a photographer's eye: this awesome shot of her brothers watching the setting sun:

Alex and Caleb watching the setting sun

Speaking of deer-in-the-headlights...
Deer hunting season was in full swing. Many a hunter was no doubt scouring the fields all around. Really, they should just stick to the roads. On the way home we encountered this big chunk of meat, who was in no hurry to move off the road.

the deer

A wintertime favorite around our home: making gingerbread cookies.

the kids decorating the cookies

Each cookie becomes a miniature work of art. Caleb made birds, of course:

some bird cookies

Anna even made a rabbit that resembled her beloved Calico:

a rabbit cookie

Random funny moment: An exhausted Ella gets buried under shed coats as we all pile inside after a late night out.

Ella sleeping under a pile of coats

Winters on the farm can be cold and dreary, but the girls still get their rabbit cuddling in.

Anna with Calico

We managed to procure some free tickets to the Minnesota Zoo. After much finagling we found a day where no one worked, and off we went.

My teenage craze of all things Monty Python came rushing back at the sight of this witty sign in the Zoo's parking lot:

a sign saying Camel Lot

We started off being entranced by the creatures of the sea. Who needs aliens when creatures like these really exist?

The penguins were amusing, in a lemming sort of way. Ella got a bang out of climbing the "rocks" to have her own private window seat.

Ella watching the penguins

Anna wore her over-the-top stuffed panda winter hat the whole time. The wolves found it interesting. Very interesting. One trotted right up to her, inches from the glass that separated her from him, and licked his chops. He spent no little time pacing right in front of her, who was totally clueless as to why he found her so interesting among all the zoo patrons.

the wolf

Their outdoor feeders hosted a bevy of local birds, from the United States' almost-national bird:

a turkey

to the envy of all concussion-prone football players:

a woodpecker

another woodpecker

This lovely lady made a dainty appearance:

a female cardinal

Here's to reality: This guy looks like how I feel about the long winter just starting:

Ella bonded with the resident wolverine. She repeatedly tripped as they raced back and forth, giggling gleefully.

Many a friend and neighbor have sworn they've seen one of these little kitties on their property, which our DNR claims is impossible. Interestingly, the zoo has this guy on their Minnesota trail. Hmmm...

a cougar

These cute little guys zoom all over our backyard in the summer.


Thankfully, these tykes are not yet natives.

a gator

The tropics was blissfully warm and, well, tropical. Birds fluttered about. Hoots and chirps tickled our ears. The smell of warm moist earth awakened our dry noses. The younger ones gleefully scampered through the many tunnels and hidden coves to get a better look at the many monkeys, birds, and other critters.

Ella in a tunnel

Caleb took this telling shot of Anna at the otters enclosure. (Yes, these are the same otters who ate her glasses years ago.)

Anna watching the otters

So cute... yet so devious.

the otters

Yep, the zoo's tropics trail can be quite hazardous. While watching the flamingos and waterfowl mingling about the lagoon I noticed the railing I almost leaned up against was quite white. Hmm. My eyes drifted overhead, where three duck butts confirmed my suspicion. I quickly pointed them out to the kids, who didn't even move. They just took pictures of the duck rumps instead. I think Corbin found the whole thing quite amusing.


Seeing all the colorful birds was worth the white-bombing risk, though.

common emerald dove

Cool shot of a duo grooming:

2 birds grooming themselves

Some less-colorful natives also fluttered about, their break-in antics allowing them to spend the cold winter days in the tropics... no migrating necessary.

This chicken must be a fan of Beaker.

a red capped chicken

Winters often find me cursing my ancestors, who chose to settle in this cold tundra instead of, say, Hawaii. Even the zoo's spider has better winter arrangements than I!

a sign saying the tarantula is winter vacationing

Even the snow monkeys looked cold.

snow monkeys huddled together

The snow leopard didn't seem to care about the chilly weather.

snow leopard

Nora couldn't decide which photo of her snow-loving friend was best, so we'll put them both up. Here is the other:

the leopard again

Quite the photogenic little bugger, isn't he?

His cage-mate didn't find him so charming, however.

his cage mate snarling at him

We ended November with our last woodland romp. X marks the spot...

jet contrails

A quaint little campfire kept us nice and toasty while we devoured many a s'more. Once the fire died down (and the lighter fluid ran out), Anna and I wandered into the woods.

a roaring fire

Yep. I still see faces. This one looks like I feel about the colder temperatures.

a tree branch face

For some this is a nice quaint forest-at-sunset scene:

trees in the glowing light

I see something more...

the same scene with faces colored in

My other fetish, fungi, didn't disappoint. This gelatinous blob puzzled both Anna and I.

It felt like old jelly. We poked. We prodded. We bounced ideas off each other, and concluded it must be some sort of fungus. Once home I looked into what it could be. The probable answer? Jelly Fungus, naturally. Fellow fungus fanatics seem a rather straight-forward bunch.

We wandered towards the lake to watch the setting sun. Only the ice-fishermen would be happy with this development.

an ice-lined shore

Well, I must admit we found it quite beautiful. As I clamored about the prickly brush along the shore I spotted the lifeless body of a Hooded Merganser. She was draped over a branch that loomed over the lake, her bill bobbing in and out of the water. Part of me remained hopeful, so I climbed out on the limb and brought her ashore.

the merganser

Anna was a bit grossed out as she watched me inspect the dead. Other that some blood around her vent, the poor bird gave no clues as to her demise. Even in death, she was quite a beautiful find.

Anna and I walked back to the others in silence. The world seemed so still and cold. It was nice sit back in our nice warm vehicle. Corbin hadn't drove far when we all saw it. He pulled over and those of us with cameras started shooting.

the full moon

The barren field below gave the the scene an other-world feel.

another shot of the moon over the field

It is always cool to see how GIMP auto-fixes our moon shots. It rendered this shot into a vivid harvest moon.

an orange moon, courtesy of GIMP

The first of December brought with it the first meaningful snow. It was thick and wet: perfect for playing in.

Nora and Anna in the snow

If Ella had it her way she would have never come back inside!

Ella in the snow

But hey, it was December. First it got colder. Then colder. Our many pets became even more snugly, finding warmth wherever they could. Much to my dissatisfaction, Luigi found my computer a nice source of warmth.

Luigi behind my computer

Nora found it enduring, but I was not thrilled. Luigi seemed rather indifferent to my scolding.


Random tidbit, part 2: Corbin decided to showcase some of his culinary skills for our annual congregation talent party. Here he is making popovers. (He is a chef at Peter's, and has learned how to make some rather upscale dishes.)

Well, it only took about a year, but I finally think we are going to survive. We finished off 2015 with an impromptu trip to Chuck E. Cheese's. Ella was thrilled they now had a train ride.

Ella on the train

"Look! It's Mickey Mouse!" she squealed as she ran up and hugged the mouse. Or is he a rat?

Ella with Chuck E.

Another new ride: the virtual roller coaster. As far as Ella was concerned, it was as good as the real thing. Her screams and wide eyes greatly amused me, to say the least.

Ella and Caleb on the ride

I found myself shamelessly recruiting her brothers and sisters to ride with her, just so I could watch her reactions.

Ella and Anna on the ride

Here's the girls trying out a Sponge Bob game:

Nora, Rosa, and Anna having fun playing a game

I finally decided to give in and give Nora and Rosa the empty room upstairs. They eagerly picked out the paint, and soon the room was transformed into what one of their brothers dubbed "the someone barfed up cotton candy room."

Nora and Rosa's new room

Strangely, they fight a bit more now, but they are still thrilled to have a space away from their younger sisters.

Nora taking a selfie in her room

We will end with another fun pastime: buying the holiday gingerbread kits on clearance and having a fun-filled afternoon decorating. Anna and Ella made a train:

their train

Quite the work of art.

the finished product

Nora and Rosa had a blast with the Ninja gingerbread kit.

Nora and Rosa with some of their creations

We look forward to 2016, especially the warmer weather to come!

click here to go to Waveofjoy's Homepage

click here to go to the updates page

click here to go to the photo galleries

click here see our latest happenings

click here to go to our blog

click here to go to our links page