This summer has really flown by. The days have been mild and pleasant; the nights cool and refreshing. We've had plentiful rains, too. It's nice to finally get an agreeable summer. Now to get out there and enjoy it!

Lee and I took the youngest five kids and Grandpa and headed North for a week. Alex and Caleb stayed behind this year because they are both gainfully employed. Plus we needed someone to watch our menagerie of pets!

Yes, we had officially hit the dog-days of summer, as Bubba can attest to:

Bubba sleeping

The night before we were to check-in, the resort owner called. She wanted to make sure we were still coming because everyone else had cancelled. Seems all the other cabins were rented out by a huge family reunion, but there had been a death in the family. So we would have the whole place to ourselves!

We arrived at North Star Lake Resort after driving through a flooding downpour in Grand Rapids and getting Nora and Ella amazingly car sick driving along the only road there.

This brief video doesn't do the road justice, but gives you an idea of what it's like. Corbin, our resident roller coaster enthusiast, loved it.

While we checked in, Corbin used their wi-fi to let the boys know we made it. When I asked him if he knew what he was sitting under, I just got this look:

Corbin sitting under a elk head

We ironically had picked the cabin farthest away from everything to avoid all the other people and be closer to the natives (as in wildlife). Here's the girls outside our cabin number 17.

the girls on the deck of our cabin

Once unpacked and fed, we hit the pool. Our own, private pool for the week! Here's Anna in the kiddie pool:

Anna in the pool

and best buds Nora and Rosa in the bigger pool:

Nora and Rosa in the pool

Corbin, who is also our resident stunt man (who sadly always does his own stunts), gave the pool everything he could throw at it. Cannonballs, mostly.

Corbin and Nora in the pool

After supper we wandered down to the beach to roast some marshmallows and watch the sunset.

beach sunset

Ah. Our own private beach complete with our own private sunset. In ultra HD. The loons made for lovely background music, too.

the sunset

Here, put up your feet and pretend you are there. This works wonders on that first below zero degree day coming up in about three months.

Smells like the campfire is going nicely. Time to make some s'mores!

Nora and Rosa roasting marshmallows

Anna roasted the perfect marshmallows, and I lovingly ate s'mores until I thought I'd explode. Such a dear child.

Anna at the campfire

Newsflash: Shannon really likes sunsets. Memo to children: when I am too old to bother with, park me on a beach facing west. I'll be fine.

The next day we decided to try swimming in the lake. The temperature was in the low 70s and it was mostly cloudy the whole week. Great weather, but made swimming a bit of an exercise in how to keep hypothermia at bay. The kids didn't seem to care, though.

the kids in the lake

Nora and Rosa were proud they braved the weeds to climb aboard the floating mat.

Nora and Rosa on the mat

Corbin went out to the trampoline and declared it full of gull poo. I recommended he bounce for a while and get it all off for us, but somehow he didn't think that was such a great idea.

Corbin on the trampoline

Afterwards we did some fishing off the dock. Or rather the kids fished and Grandpa, Lee, and I baited hooks, untangled lines, and unhooked fish smaller than our goldfish.

I decided to teach Nora how to cast. I didn't even have time to hand her back the rod, however, because the bobber quickly took off. The girls all got excited at seeing a real fish, a small bass.

the bass

We soon released it, and the kids went back to catching small perch and sunfish. Here's Rosa with one of her catches:

Rosa with a fish

I love wandering (if I say hiking the kids all groan and refuse to come), so the older kids and I went on a little wander before sundown. I love this sign the resort has at the end of their driveway:

Are you buckled sign with large question mark

It has some real potential with a little help from GIMP:

the sign missing the words

Northern Minnesota has had plenty of rain this year, so the wildflowers are in full glory. I even had the joy of discovering that I am still really allergic to goldenrod. Anyway, here is a neat little number:

We came to a patch of cattails, so I got our resident cat lover, Nora one.

Nora with her cat tail

I also traumatized the girls in the process. First they were convinced I would drown in the swamp. Then they were horrified I might get attacked by ninja wood ticks. If they had any idea if how I spent my childhood... ANYWAY, here are the girls posing next to the resort sign.

the girls next to the resort sign

One of the things I love about wandering is looking for ways to see creation in a different light. For example: a fallen tree is an intricate work of art:

the bark of a tree

I hope my children will always take the time to view the ordinary in extraordinary ways.

Before heading into the cabin for the night the girls checked out the lounge's arcade. Their hands down favorite is the skee ball.

the girls playing skee ball

They used the last of their energy on the playground.

Ella on a ladder

The next day was raining, so we headed to civilization: the Children's Discovery Museum in Grand Rapids. Ella quickly found the water table.

Ella at the water table

Then she had a meal with her dad.

Ella and Lee play eating

The museum was pretty cool. But then, any museum that lets us play with everything is tops. Nora found lots of chalkboards to decorate. Corbin built buildings to see if they were earthquake proof. I decided never to hunt lionesses. I think we all enjoyed the music room the best.

the music room

Attached to the Children's Museum is the Judy Garland Museum, so we ventured over there. I thought the history of the carriage used in the Wizard of Oz was intriguing. Abraham Lincoln owned it before MGM.

the carriage

We had lunch in town. While we waited for our food the girls colored some of the provided kiddie coloring sheets. Nora is proving to have my warped sense of humor.

Nora holding a paper of Piglet saying bacon for everyone and Piglet saying what, wait

We headed back to our own private paradise for the rest of the day. I took some time to roam around the woods by our cabin while the rest fished some more.

There were little spider webs all over the grass that glistened with raindrops.

a web with water drops

Do you see the berry old man?

berries that look like a face

A different view of a common flower:

a close up of a dandelion

Eventually I wandered down to the beach, where we made some beach cats.

cats made out of sand

While I cooked up some supper, the kids played Monopoly on Corbin's tablet.

The next day we headed to the Forest History Center. While we waited for the tour Ella "drove" a logging truck.

Ella driving

The girls all tried out an ATV. All at once, that is.

the girls on a ATV

Here's Anna, waiting for the tour guide.

Anna in a chair

The tour had us step back in time, to December 1900. Sadly, one of their loggers just met with an untimely death. They needed someone from the audience to be their new recruit. Lucky Corbin.

Corbin in the reenactment

They called him Squishy and made him jump and duck under logs. So guess who has a new nickname around here?

He was also recruited by the kitchen staff to be the water boy.

Corbin fetching water

Needless to say, Corbin was happy when that tour was done.

Back at the cabin, the older girls and I went on a boat ride with Grandpa while the rest took a nap. Here's Anna:

Anna on the boat

And Nora and Rosa:

Nora and Rosa on the boat

Grandpa let them each take a turn driving. Anna got to try first.

Anna driving

Nora was next. She made us a bit seasick.

Nora driving

Rosa drove like a real princess, of course.

Rosa driving

After that I was off paddle boating with Corbin.

Corbin on the paddle boat

Soon a loon was coming rather close to our paddle boat. He kept charging at us, going to...

the loon charging on way

and fro...

the loon going the other way

soon we could see why. It's mate with two youngsters was swimming nearby.

a loon and a chick

We headed back, had a quick swim and meal, and headed to the Bigfork Kingdom Hall for the meeting.

the girls outside the kingdom hall

On Wednesday we were greeted by a strange sight: the sunshine! Grandpa took Corbin and Anna out for some fishing.

the gang in the boat

Not one bite, was the sad report upon their return a couple hours later. Must be because all the fish are by the docks?

Anna with a fish

Remember that bass I caught? Corbin caught it again.


Lee and I took the girls wandering (remember, not hiking) at nearby Suomi Hills Trail. Ella figured out what I was up to pretty fast and put up such a fit that Lee had to take her back to the van, but the other three girls managed to stay caught up to me.

They were a bit nervous at first (probably because of my tendency of leaving the trial and wandering in the woods, like I did here. So I had to make a concession: I promised to stay on the trails. (It killed me, but hey, a wander is a wander...)

Soon we came to an eerie scene: a part of the forest was dying. Too much rainfall had swamped a grove of lowland trees.

dead trees in the forest

The view of a lake was awesome. Not one other human. Not any sign of human anything. It was luscious.

view of the lake

The girls were excited to spot a frog in the water. Frogs are all over back at the cabin's pool. In fact, Nora stopped swimming in the pool, she now catches frogs. Anyway, here is the previous stated frog al la natural.

a frog

Back in the woods, the girls discovered tiny tree frogs all over the trail. I found a garter snake, but they seemed to enjoy the tiny frogs more.

a tree frog

Back at the cabin the kids had swim and Nora found more frogs:

Nora with a frog

and then they had a much deserved ice cream break.

the kids eating ice cream

Looming above our cabin is a large dead tree. Much to my enjoyment, each night some cedar wax wing birds would roost.

While the boys and Anna tried some more fishing from the boat, the rest of us headed into the nearby town to get some supplies. While there we explored their playground. Here's Rosa on the 'go-round.

Rosa on the merry go round

Nora and Rosa climbed the... well, the climbing thingy.

Nora and Rosa on the climber

One of those artsy views that only I enjoy:

This was a different playground. I don't know what this is supposed to be, so I called it the alien autopsy table. Here's some aliens waiting for dissecting.

Nora and Rosa on the piece of playground equipment in question

I soon discovered, much to my joy, a walking path leading into the woods next to the playground. After giving my promise to stay on the trail the girls were game. My mother's favorite, birch trees, were everywhere.

birch trees

We totally gorged ourselves on the wild raspberries along the way. While the girls had one last romp back at the playground, I kept feeling like someone was watching us...

a tree face

The day's end found us back at the beach. Ella loved sitting on this stump while we got the campfire going.

Ella on the stump

The aggressive loon appeared almost on shore to drive some poor young mergansers away.


The girls started building another sand castle, complete with a big moat. Suddenly Rosa screamed. She had a leech on her foot.

Rosa's leech

Nora laughed and laughed at her until I pointed out that she also had one on her foot. Somehow it was no longer funny, and Grandpa heroically removed the parasites. Strangely, after that the kids didn't want to swim in the lake anymore.

The sunset that evening was breathtaking, as usual.

the sunset

My friends the cedar wax wings weren't in their usual roost. Instead this stately young fellow (a falcon, perhaps?) was waiting for me to say goodnight.

a bird of prey

The next day we all journeyed to Grandpa's childhood hometown of Hibbing to explore the Hull Rust Mahoning Open Pit Iron Mine. There is a little walking trail there with random mining gear for folks to explore. So explore we did. Here's Rosa and Anna in a mining truck tire.

Rosa and Anna in the tire

Maybe it was the longer car ride, but the girls were in full performers mode. Here's Nora and Anna as miners.

Nora and Anna in a cut out

The seven dwarfs have nothing on these hams.

the girls as miners playing with a mine car

I tend to see faces in objects a lot. Makes me look like a crazy lady, giggling to myself at random moments, no doubt. Do you see the face?

tire face

I have very vague memories of riding in the huge mining trucks with my aunt and her then-husband. I must have been about 3 or so years old. The trucks are so big; it's hard to imagine them in action. Here are the kids climbing about the one on display.

the kids in the truck cab

Here is a view of the whole truck.

a mining truck

Here's the three chipettes scooping out the scene:

the girls in a big scoop shovel

The actual mine was different than when we'd last been here, which was probably about 10 years or more ago. The huge lake I remembered was gone.

the mine

They still actively mine here, so I managed to zoom in on a truck at work:

a truck at work

and one of the huge excavators in action:

the excavators

Signs also amuse me. Here's Corbin showing how this one works:

men at work sign

Some more of the girls acting silly:

the girls in a shovel scoop

Nora is very consistent with her Caramelldansen inspired pose, isn't she?

the girls in the shovel again

Random kids doing random stunts:

the kids posing in and along two smaller scoops

I thought this road would be rather exciting to have all the distracted cell phone using text messaging thumbing people drive along.

a road leading into the lake

A sign next to these tires said one cost $20,000. Corbin commented how hard it would be to explain to the boss that you popped a tire. I hope it doesn't come out of your pay.

Anchor's away...

the girls on a big anchor

Here is the back of the big mining truck of earlier pictures:

truck back

No comment on this one.

Nora's butt and Ella's head in a cut out

From there we hopped over to nearby Chisholm to roam Iron World, or the Minnesota Discovery Center, as they evidently renamed themselves since we'd last been there.

The kids ran from one outdoor display to the next, looking for whatever tickles their fancy. Corbin plays the part of old hermit outside his decrepit cabin well, doesn't he?

Corbin sitting outside an old cabin

We stumbled upon an awesome mini-golf course. The problem was there were no golf balls to be had, and the booth to get them was shuttered up. Not wanting to miss the fun, we all quickly fanned out to see if we couldn't fine some wayward balls. Anna hit the jackpot searching some piping under a walkway. My long monkey arm's proved just barely enough to pull out a dozen or so brightly colored golf balls, along with a couple frogs and enough slime to send me to the nearby restroom for a quick bath. No worries, though: game on!

the kids playing mini golf

Do you see the face on the building in that last picture? Lee spotted that one. I guess my weird fetish is contagious.

Many of the holes featured tunnels through cool scenes.

hole number 2 featured a tunnel through a little freight loader

Several weeks ago I stumbled upon a picture from that gave me a whole new creative outlet. We always have tons of googly eyes around here (homeschooling, remember? One can never have to many googly eyes when doing art projects.) So when I saw a triangle fountain that looked just like one of Alex's comic characters, I just had to vandal-eyes it.

Alex's comic character, evil mountain, in the flesh

The kids don't quite get it, which makes my new hobby all the more fun.

It's right up there with seeing faces when no one else does, like this one here:

a r.r. crossing that looks like a person

The kids loved this hole: can you say water hazard?!?

a hole with a stream running through it

After conquering that one, this awaited them on hole 18:

a waterfall between the putter and the hole

We highly recommend the mini-golf course here, but you might want to bring your own golf balls.

Frolicking on, here's the home to some grumpy Scandinavians:

the kids acting grumpy in a house

We eventually found ourselves at a large outdoor amphitheater. The kids were right at home. Here's Anna doing a solo of ode-to-my-love-of-rabbits:

the kids on stage

Nora played the role of both Statler and Waldorf from the audience.

Nora in the audience

I had worked my way from set crew to manager of stage right in high school. Never had the urge to be onstage, though, so I can relate to Nora more than these ham-bones.

the kids onstage

Here's a brief video of Rosa singing her little song she made up in tribute to tornadoes. (She really does have a nice singing voice, folks. This song is her version of a joke.)

After their big debut, the kids found themselves in want of lunch. So after the obligatory scenic outlook pose:

the view crew

We headed into the actual museum to try to find something edible. Nora discovered a chalkboard, and quickly left her mark:

Everything is Awesome unikitty on a chalkboard

On the way back to the cabin we stopped at the generically named Scenic State Park. Sadly, though, the kids were not about to let me even suggest a little wander. They were set on a certain private swimming pool, and didn't want to be delayed any longer. So we just took a brief view of the lake and headed for the cabin. I was absolutely delighted by this sign posted at the lake, anyway.

invasive species alert sign

You know what would make it even better?

the sign with googly eyes

I will have to revisit this park someday with some more adventurous wanderers and a canoe...

the lakeside

After a long swim...wait a moment, have I mentioned that each day the water was colder due to the lack of sunshine? The kids thought my faces of pain were hilarious as I waded in. Eventually I resorted to checking my e-mail in a lounge chair as they swam. Well, all except Nora, who was too busy pulling off the filter doors to get at all the frogs. And dead rats. That is another reason I didn't mind sitting out the swimming time. Hey, even this tomboy has limits.

Nora did take some time out from frog wrangling to walk on water...

Nora walking on water

Rosa finally conquered her fear of the deep end and ventured past the black-line-of-certain-doom without suffering any apparent ill effects.

Corbin and Rosa swimming

Anyway, after some of us had a long swim we headed back to the small local town for more s'more supplies and another romp at the playground there. This time we had muscle man Lee to really get us going on the go-'round. Here's Rosa:

Rosa on the go-'round

and Corbin:

Corbin on the go-'round

After commenting that the monkey bars were actually high enough for me to use, Lee gave it a go. What does it mean when your retired Navy husband grabs the bars, makes a noise like a deflating walrus, and quickly drops to the ground?

The kids' jaws all dropped to the ground and Corbin quickly grabbed my camera to prove the fact that his old senile mother could actually briefly discard her walker and monkey herself across the monkey bars. Sigh.

Shannon on the monkey bars

Here's Nora proving she's got her mother's grace:

Nora on the monkey bars

Here is the part of the playground for little people. At least people littler than Corbin.

Corbin on a short tire swim

The kids must have felt bad for denying me a wander earlier, because they were eager to go on the trails here again. Corbin even found a walking stick.

Corbin with a huge stick

I am so glad this won't really happen for another 12 years:

Ella driving

Back on our private beach... s'more time!

roasting marshmallows

Yes, they are really that good.

Anna eating s'mores

Took another of those artsy shots only I enjoy:

colorful kayaks in a row

The next day was our last day. The start of school loomed over us like a sword. We went to the Hill Annex Mine State Park to try our hand at fossil hunting. After a brief delay because their bus wouldn't start, we were off. The guide led us to a mound of dumped material from the old miners (who were after ore, not fossils), showed us what to look for, and set us free.

the kids on the hill

What did the kids find?

a toad

We had an hour to look. Most of the kids soon grew bored of looking. Ella amused everyone in the group by sliding down the hill over and over again.

the hill with the kids

I found the whole thing fascinating. Here is a close up of what we had to look through. The fossils were right in with everything else, no digging required.

close up of the dig site

I found the best spot to find fossils was by vegetation; where heavy rains had washed away the dirt, exposing roots. It was also a great place to find wildlife.

a toad

All said and done, the kids got to handle many toads, got to keep many cool rocks, and Ella had a very dirty bum from all that sliding.

Ella's dirty bottom

I managed to find some small fossil shells.


After a wash up:

Anna and Ella washing up

We headed back to the cabin for one final night. First we had one last swim in our private pool. Corbin blessed it with a great many cannonballs.

Corbin on the diving platform

Ella got a hold of my ipod and took a selfie with me.

Ella and Shannon

While the kids rested I roamed about a bit with the ol' camera. A shot of the still North Star Lake:

a boat on the water

I came across a part of the forest that was a reminder of nature's power:

a broken tree

The resort owner loved giving the girls candy when she found us. Here's Nora munching away in the playhouse there.

Nora in the playhouse

One final night of a campfire at the beach didn't disappoint. Ella even braved the possibility of a leech to splash around a bit.

Ella in the lake

The girls loved finding dry needles, branches, and such to toss in the fire. Ella got rather dirty in the process.

a dirty Ella

Soon our fire was roaring nicely under the setting sun.

the fire

Another shot of my little cinder-girl:

Dirty Ella

Our last sunset didn't disappoint, either.

Slowly the glow turned pink and purple...

another view of the sunset

The girls went out on a dock to watch.

the girls watching the setting sun

There's nothing like hearing the loons, smelling the campfire, feeling the cool lake breeze, and seeing a sunset slowly fade to black.

the sunset

The drive home was hard. To lighten the mood Corbin took out Bub, and I cheered up watching fellow motorist's reactions as Bub waved and sang along to the radio.

Corbin with his puppet, Bub

We made it back home with many happy memories, and a few new hobbies to keep the back to school blahs at bay...

a milk carton with googly eyes

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