Let's start off with a little tour highlighting just how amazing creation is. (Because we pretty much live in the woods now.)

What makes a perfect May? No mosquitoes. This little guy has our heartfelt gratitude.

a damselfly

Everything from our favorite picnic table to the forest floor was covered in tiny white flower petals, thanks to these fragrant beauties.

chokecherry flowers

Anna and Ella are turning into quite the explorers.

Anna and Ella following a stream

Why are mushrooms so cool looking?

a mushroom

We came across a female painted turtle.

a painted turtle

How could we tell it was a female? Oh, just a educated guess.

turtle eggs

Turtles: The original full-body tattoo artists.

If there's one thing Minnesota is lacking, it's mountains (well, and an ocean), but these clouds are a pretty creative stand in.

clouds that almost look like distant mountains

Being Lego nerds, we all jumped at the chance to venture over to the Minnesota Arboretum to see their temporary Lego display. Here is a slideshow of the awesomeness:

Slide: of

Of course we took in all the natural sights as well. The peonies were intoxicating, as always.

a peony

Anna posed by one...

Anna and a flowering peony

until her sisters noticed the flowers' many visitors.

a bee in a peony

Here's Corbin sporting another yum-a-luscious flower: the lilac.

Corbin by a lilac bush

The gardens were sprinkled with statues. Ella and Anna took to the wolf.

Ella and Anna with a wolf statue

There were lots of fountains, too. We like water, yes we do. (Around this time Alex counseled me on staying on the paths and keeping out of the water. Sigh.) Here was my answer to that suggestion.

the girls at a fountain as the hear, see, and say no evil monkeys

Proof that water was meant to be played with:

a waterfall

The flowers' fragrance, the gurgle of water rushing over rocks, and the sun on my back... I was in a state of bliss.

another waterfall

Until Alex chastised me for venturing off the path again. Something about signs and no entry and being a bad example. Ugh. The voice of reality can be so harsh. Soon he had the other kiddos chiming in as well. Nora took a picture of me in my defiant act.

Shannon taking a picture of the waterfall

Quiet Caleb suddenly decided to climb a tree. Of course best bud Alex didn't seem to object to that little stunt, and happily joined him.

Caleb and Alex in a tree

The girls were thrilled to see some sunbathing turtles.

3 turtles on a log

Ella really has a thing for turtles. Maybe it's because she knows she can catch them.

a little turtle

She really wanted these geese in the worst way, but they stayed just out of reach. (It was humorous, hearing me telling her to go get them while Alex was telling her to leave them alone.)

Cute little buggers, aren't they?

Corbin and some geese

Look! It's the kids and I as geese:

a mother goose with 7 babies

My favorite Lego build was the dragonfly, mostly because I thought the way it reflected in the nearby pond was so cool.

the dragonfly reflected in the water

How do you get the pond's fish to come close? Give them something to nibble on.

my foot and the fish

I'm sure you can guess just what Alex thought of that little stunt.

Alex on a bench, frowning

Soon the others bravely dipped fingers and feet in the refreshing pool.

the rest next to the pond

Ella enjoyed it so much she didn't want to leave.

Ella with her feet in the pond

I let you imagine Alex's comments as Anna and I climbed onto some off-limits rocks to take our obligatory Anna and mom selfie by a waterfall.

Anna and Shannon

Around this point Alex commandeered the map from me and took charge. No matter, I still found ways to amuse myself. Here's Rosa entering her garden:

Rosa behind a sign that says rose garden

Rosa walking:

Rosa next to a sign saying rose walk

Much to Alex's dismay, we were just getting started. Here's Rosa as the sun:

Rosa next to a sign saying Rosa sunrise sunset

Mischievous Rosa:

Rosa by a sign saying Rosa little mischief

And my favorite: Rosa making a funny face:

Rosa next to a sign saying Rosa funny face

Lunchtime! We picnicked on an outdoor patio, complete with serenading waiters.

a sparrow

From there we ventured to Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America. That seemed to cheer Alex up a bit, so I had to thoroughly embarrass him again by taking a picture of a vehicle sporting the boys' old favorite saying: XD.

the letters xd on a vehicle

Why yes, I do think Alex is actually enjoying himself here.

Alex on a roller coaster

This year Nora and Rosa decided to forgo shopping and spent the day at NU with their brothers. Here is a slideshow of their for-the-cameras antics: (Sorry for the poor quality... the picture people decided no more free downloads, so I had to... um... de-watermark the pictures that somehow found their way onto my computer anyway...(Got to love GIMP))

Not surprisingly, Corbin is the extreme thrill seeker of the bunch. He mostly toggled between the SpongeBob coaster and the Airbender ride. No matter what, those hands are in the air.

Corbin on the airbender ride

Dropping straight down doesn't even phase him.

Corbin on the ride

Only Caleb was willing to go on the air-bender ride with Corbin. (Who is singing along with the song "best day of my life" in this photo while Caleb is contemplating just what he got himself into.)

Caleb and Corbin waiting for the ride to start

70 feet sure looks a long way up. Caleb kicked his feet and made desperate comments while Corbin just did his usual hands in the air pose.

the ride in action

Meanwhile... Nora, Rosa, and Alex fly like turtles (?) on the Teenage Ninja Turtle ride.

Rosa, Nora, and Alex on the ride

The girls were thrilled to be able to be just one of the "boys" this time out.

Rosa and Nora on a ride

While they continued to have a screaming good time, Anna and Ella raided the Build-a-Bear store. Ella made a blue dragon and Anna got Kevin the Minion.

their stuffed creatures being

From there we raided the bookstore, stopping to play at the train table, of course.

Anna and her Minion at the bookstore

Before we headed back home, I had to get Rosa in front of the Sponge Bob statue again.

Rosa posing by Sponge Bob

The funniest thing about her shirt is it actually was Wednesday.

Rosa in her hump-day shirt

We all agreed that was a nice diversion from our forest romps, but had way too many humans. Not to say that the wood isn't a lively place, though...

some geese

We just enjoy the musical interludes of these natives over the hustle and bustle of throngs of people.

a toad

Finding "treasures" in a mall is expensive and the joy short lived. Finding treasures like this little creation is awesome.

a tiny mushroom

Walking the mall's hard flooring gave us all blistering sore feet. We found the best foot soak ever. Ahhh...

the girls wading in the lake

Won't it be nice when the whole world's like this?

Rosa and the sunset

Proof that Rosa really is a princess:

Rosa kissing a frog

Corbin found a friend on his shoulder.

an inchworm

Funny, I found a friend on my shoulder, too.

a caterpillar

Nora found some real eye candy. Tiny tea cups:

3 tiny cup shaped mushrooms

and a radiant gent:

a colorful beetle

It's always interesting seeing the photos the gang took on each romp. Caleb, our resident bird, often trees himself. Here's his view of his sisters:

Rosa and Anna

And Corbin:


The trees in New York won't know what hit 'em.

Caleb's treed selfie

I'm a bit jealous he'll get the sunset before us.

a sunset

Another day another... wait, what?!? It's June already? The kids managed to limp their way to school's finish line. How to celebrate? Did you have to ask?

Ella climbing in the forest

Where we always have a swinging good time, naturally.

Anna swinging on a vine

There's been a lot of humans in our favorite forest lately. You'd think some goofy blogger's been writing about it's awesomeness or something. (*Slapping myself in the forehead*) You can just imagine how the kiddos and I felt upon entering our forest full of loud and obnoxious humans.

Rosa and Nora looking forlorn

Our solution to that little issue? Stay away from the trails and explore the deeper innards. (And, sadly, bring along bags to put all the dropped litter in. Note to new frolickers: Come on, you brought that can/ candy wrapper/ water bottle into the woods, surely you can manage to bring it back out again. Sheesh. And for crying out loud, if you must bring your dog, leash it! That cute little friend of yours can kill a whole lot of the younger natives here. Alright, not-human-by-choice getting off her soapbox now.)

Ella climbing a fallen tree

Alex received quite the scare of his life when a large branch crashed to the ground right in front of him. Why? For a long moment he thought it was someone's leg. Let's just say we were all glad it wasn't.

a branch that resembles a leg

The continued frequent downpours lead to wondrous mushroom bouquets.

a batch of mushrooms

Everything is so alive this time of year. New life abounded...

a bug unfurling its wings for the first time

and old life fought to remain...

a butterfly with tattered wings

Hmm... I wonder what alpha-wolf-wannabe plans to do here?

Corbin spinning a large stick

Probably something he'll regret. Run lad, run!

Caleb chasing Corbin

Caleb with the true alpha-wolf:

Alex and Caleb in a tree

Some friends came up with a fitting illustration for the three boys: they are like an Oreo cookie: Alex and Corbin on either (and opposite) ends, and Caleb is the filling that holds them all together.

Caleb up in a tree

It will be interesting to see how Alex and Corbin get along without their sidekick.

Caleb smiling

Good thing they calm down with the sinking sun. We all conglomerated on the beach as usual, to watch the setting sun.

Caleb's picture of the rest of us huddled together

So what are we doing? Well, Alex found a poor fella half buried in the sand.

and I marveled at this tiny beast:

a spider

Rosa on her goodbye-sun perch:

Rosa clinging to some branches over the water

Well, until Ella commandeered it.

Ella in the same pose

The finale: my view:

the sunset

Caleb's take:

the same sunset

and Alex's:

Alex's has quite the eye for getting good shots with his tablet. He caught Nora showcasing the rising moon:

Nora looking like she's holding the moon

Caleb wasn't impressed. He thinks he has Alex and I in the palm of his hand sometimes.

Alex and Shannon appearing to be walking on Caleb's hand

We took Caleb for one last walk in a nearby arboretum. Rosa as a superhero:

Rosa with a superhero rose

Nora getting in touch with her inner Moses:

Nora with a rock water fountain

Nature's eye-candy: bees and flowers everywhere.

Best friends Nora and Rosa:

Rosa and Nora under a flowering bush

All too soon we were down to our last couple days with Caleb. We took one last romp in our woods. Because tables are meant to be stood on?

Caleb and Rosa standing on a table

Rosa's marshmallows are always roasted to perfection, never burnt. (She doesn't actually eat them, of course. She just like showing us how a true princess roasts them.)

Ella and Anna's favorite part? Pumping water from the well to put out the fire.

Anna and Ella bringing water

Most of the springtime flowers were gone, but if you look past the but-those-are-weeds factor, there's still plenty of eye candy. Clovers of all colors dotted the prairie. Purple is nice:


But I'm partial to this multicolored variety: variety.

alsike clover

This little beauty even made a face.

prairie fleabane

Tiny mushrooms (or, as I used to call them, ant skyscrapers) dotted the path.

a mushroom

Don't tell boarder patrol, but this little illegal is a Canada Anemone.

Canada anemone

While I was busy ogling over all the prairie flowers...

western heart-leaved groundsel

Ella and Anna spotted a fellow wanderer on the path ahead.

a turtle

The ol' chap surrendered to the paparazzi, not even trying to struggle as the girls thoroughly inspected every inch of him.

Anna holding the turtle

Ella was beside herself. She loves turtles in an almost unhealthy way.

Ella with the turtle

Anna's sympathy was finally stirred when Ella repeatedly flipped him upside down. Maybe we should let him go now, she suggested. After one last staredown, Ella reluctantly agreed.

Ella and the turtle

So we continued on, resuming our hunt for all things awesome.

another mushroom

From the prairie we ventured into the woods, where the rest were already exploring.

Rosa on a rock

What exactly were they up to?


Sometimes it's better to just not ask.

Caleb and Corbin on a fallen tree

We ended up pretty much running through the woods. Why? Well, Caleb sums it up nicely here.

Yep, it's officially summer in Minnesota!

One perk of Caleb heading off to Bethel: he got a phone so we can keep in touch. (And he actually keeps it on him, unlike mine that is buried under piles of papers somewhere.)

Caleb with his phone

We'll end with an ending: Caleb's last days with us. Who will miss him the most? Many a human have proclaimed that title (including me, of course), but the true winner of that honor may just be his beloved and loyal Birdzie.

Birdzie the dog

The next outings page will be all about Caleb's new home! Stay tuned.

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