As some of you know, Caleb is beyond thrilled to be leaving to work at Bethel in June. The boy has never been on a plane, seen an ocean, or learned to drive. (He should blend in with the rest of the New Yorkers with that last point.) Anyhow, we are all getting our Caleb-fix in now while we still can. He is always the bird-guide in any service group. This non-native bird had him a bit excited the other day.

a peacock on a clothesline

Minnesota sometimes gets this complex: it tries to be like California, just in miniature. Mini-droughts. Mini-earthquakes. Mini-famous-people-drama. What have we here? A mini-wildfire.

a wildfire

So we were visiting Alex, who was roaming the Walmart parking lot, hard at work. He casually points toward home and asked if we noticed the fire. Um, wow. The sucker was headed right toward our little town, quickly turning into a swirling monster.

the growing fire

It even crossed the state highway in town, before just missing us as it headed north.

crossing the road

This is from the back of our Kingdom Hall parking lot. It got within feet of the business behind it.

the fire over the kingdom hall

Eventually enough other small town fire departments arrived to help contain the fire. For weeks afterwards Ella asked me if we died in the fire. Um, no, I'd reassure her. Poor kid.

Our frequent romps through the woods continued as usual. Caleb even spotted a princess daring to prance of the path.

Rosa in the forest

You know what happens when you shut off that cell phone/ television/ radio/ computer? LIFE. In all it's high-definition surround-sound ultra high speed glory.

Nora on the rope swing

In his wanderings Caleb found a den along the river's hillside. We're thinking fox. (On another occation Anna and I had found many rib and vertebrae bones at it's base, not noticing the den opening behind us.)

den opening

Wild? Eh. We passed a dead coyote on the roadside on the way here. Our friends swear a cougar visits their bird feeders. Our neighbor insists it really was a black bear roaming our small town a year or so ago. The only thing that we truly dread encountering in the forest are humans.

Scores of Red Admiral Butterflies fluttered about the forest. Caleb caught a cool shot of one briefly resting.

a butterfly

I swear all chipmunks somehow know about my cruel past actions toward them. (Hey, the guy paid us a dollar a head. Don't judge; I was only 8 years old.) To this day they angrily chatter and flee whenever I get too close. Caleb, on the other hand, has no such reputation, and had a nice conversation with a friendly little fella.

a chipmunk

Alex's least favorite part of his job is helping customers with carry-outs. He shutters with horror when a 70 inch television is bought. Inevitability he is asked to load it up in a compact car or small SUV. (It just doesn't work, folks. Do the math. Unless you car's trunk is 6 FEET deep or your SUV 6 feet wide, you aren't bring it home.)

I have the perfect solution for all those need-a-bigger-screen junkies: scrap the whole t.v. idea and watch the sky. I can guarantee it's the biggest screen around. No 3-D glasses required.

the sky over the lake

Ever the birder, Caleb spotted a Tree Swallow, adding another bird to his life-list. (Another reason he is so excited to go to New York: he'll see lots of new-to-his-eyes feathered friends.)

tree swallow

While we have all pulled wood ticks off ourselves as of late, (my favorite method of destruction: tape and a lighter. Corbin prefers his smash them with a penny technique...anyway) there are still no mosquitoes in sight. Maybe this is why?

a spiderweb fun of bugs

So while best buds Nora and Rosa roamed about with Caleb the little ones and I took in the lush scents of spring. Here is a slideshow of some of the forest's bounty:

We were surrounded by fluttering butterflies, too. Ella tried her best to "pet" one, but they were too quick. (Which is a good thing, trust me.)

a butterfly

Finally I distracted her by weaving Anna a dandelion bracelet. That inspired her to rid the whole forest of the under-appreciated flowers.

Ella with a bouquet of dandelions

Do you see a tree face? Anna pointed this one out. It's good to know my face fetish lives on.

Ella and Anna with the tree face

The sky was so obnoxiously blue it was spellbinding.

the sky

Ella plunked herself right down to watch the clouds stroll by. When I tried to take her picture she quickly closed her eyes, creating an amusingly grim pose.

Ella with flowers looking deceased

Cloud shadows. How cool is that?

cloud shadows in the sky

So, Caleb's 19 and has never driven. (Well, an unknowing friend once asked him to pull up his truck; the lad almost smashed his head through the window he stopped so fast.) His 15 year old brother, on the other hand, begs for the keys whenever he sees me heading out the door. At first I was horrified at the idea, (this is the kid who's name is all over the top-10 leader boards of every extreme-driving video game in the tri-county area.) but he is actually a very good driver. Here he is in action, driving us to our romping area again.

Corbin driving

Windless days create perfect tree mirrors. This tree seems to have a hitchhiker.

a tree's reflection with a person on it

Could it be? Why yes, Alex has graced us with his presence again.

Alex in the tree

Sometimes the clouds really have an eye for creating the perfect sunset.

another perfect sunset

After witnessing me de-wood-ticking Ella, Nora and Rosa wimped out and went cold turkey on our romping addiction. (I could delve into a childhood incident in which my best friend and I ran screaming down the street, covered in the blood suckers, but that probably wouldn't help matters.) Anyhow, what was left of our crew continued our insatiable addiction in earnest.

Caleb, Corbin, and Anna at the campfire

Some may say we're all quacked up, but we don't care.

Caleb, Corbin, and Anna with chip duck bills

The last couple summers have been pretty calm. Too calm. I figure we're overdue for some good freakish storms. This could be the year. So far May has been rather rainy, cool, and stormy. And when it rains, it RAINS. Deer tracks were everywhere, baked into the hardened mud.

deer tracks

Corbin was amused to find a tree who loved him right back.

Corbin signing I love You to a tree doing the same

Yep. I do believe the kid's officially taller than his 5-foot-10 mum.

Corbin and Shannon

Caleb's latest fetish is blurry action shots. We all agreed that this one is pretty cool.

We ended the day walking into the sunset.

Caleb walking towards the sunset


a sunset

I am often asked if Ella ever stops. Why yes, occasionally.

Ella sleeping in her car seat

Don't worry. As soon as the van arrives at our destination, she is bright-eyed and ready for a woodland frolic.

Creative things that look awesome when thrown in the campfire part two:

a chip canister belching out flames

Rosa bravely made a comeback this trip. She romped with Caleb, who promptly treed her.

Rosa in a tree

Caleb found some, um, interesting objects outside the fox den, which thoroughly grossed out Princess Rosa.

jaw bones

My un-expert analysis concluded the smaller jaw is of a vole, and the larger a squirrel.

Just to disturb Her Highness further, he proceeded to stumble upon a doe's skull in the swamp.

a deer skull

There's no bones about it, we always have a swinging good time in the forest.

Caleb on a vine swing

So much has happened to the kids and I so far this year it has gone past the point of being stressful and entered the realm of insanity. When the tears no longer come what does one do? Laugh. Hysterically.

Instant lakefront property? How amusing.

our flooded street

According to our neighbors, we received over two inches of rain in 15 minutes. The waters headed right over our new driveway, which we had pitched to prevent our garage from flooding again.

our flooded driveway

All we need is a canoe...

the river to our garage

It all rushed into our backyard, flooding my garden...

our flooded backyard

And filling our garage. What do you do? Laugh. Especially when our friend stops by a week later to help get our lawnmower to start and asks if we'd ever left it out in the rain.

our flooded garage

Once the storm quieted down a bit Caleb bravely grabbed a shovel and unclogged our street's storm sewer.( Holy vortex, Batman!)

the swirling waters above the drain

Why? Oh, just because water was literally pouring through the walls of our basement. How amusing.

flooding basement

Turned out there were several small tornadoes in the area, which the big city television crews eagerly hyped up. Our answering machine received lots of calls from worried family and friends. Don't worry. The reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated. The only real sign of something amiss was the missing roof off of a local chicken barn.

storm damaged barn

The really ugly stuff hit right around our favorite forest, so we seized the next sunny evening to go check up on our home-away-from-home. Thankfully all seemed fine. How does one get really wet wood to burn? Lots and lots of lighter fluid.

the campfire

Corbin's got quite a redi-whip fetish, so when I jokingly recommended putting some in his Pepsi, he thought that a heavenly idea.

a Pepsi with red-whip in it

Bird silhouettes remind me of one of my favorite scriptures: Matthew 6:26 (Put your cursor here to read it.)

a bird facing the sun

One of my favorite birds to listen to has to be the catbird. One serenaded the girls and I as we strolled along. I used to call it the R2D2 bird until Caleb finally told me what it was. (Click here to hear it's song.)

the catbird

The flooding rains brought a return of the mushrooms. This little guy sports a stylish hat.

a morchella mushroom

Ella, treed.

Ella in a tree

Mushroom face:

mushrooms looking like a profile of a face

Ella now de-dandelions the entire woods each time we roam it. This one has an amazingly long stem.

Ella with a long stemmed flower

The obligatory Anna and I selfie, with an Ella cameo:

Shannon and Ella and Anna

Meanwhile, Corbin and Caleb were up to their usual antics.

Corbin with a tree spectacle

Return of the alpha-wolf competition: Corbin Farmer-Joes it times three:

Corbin with 3 grass reeds in his mouth

Caleb ups that challenge by balancing a small tree in his mouth:

Caleb with a stick, leaves and all hanging out of his mouth

Both wandering groups found some of these little guys.

an inchworm

Yep, our forest weathered the storm just fine.

Random wow-that's-cool moment of May: being greeted by this upon leaving a home-improvement store:

hot air balloons

We supped with G-pa at a Chinese Buffet while Alex had to work. The kids were thrilled to find crab legs there. Caleb just had to rub that in poor Alex's face a bit.

Caleb sporting crab legs

We finally all got together and got some updated family photos taken. Group shot:

the whole family

Ella's thrilled to be big enough for a "real" bike, kindly given to her by a friend.

We'll finish up mid-May with just some of the shots Nora took of our own flowering bounty. Our apple tree:

apple blossoms

A bleeding heart bush:

white bleeding hearts

Some little beauties in our perennial garden:

blue flowers

a columbine:

a columbine flower

and some Dianthus:


Always remember to dwell on the good... and take time to smell the flowers!

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