With summer sprinting towards autumn, we made the most of the remainder of our school-free days. All too soon summertime will fade away, taking with it the long day-lit hours and replacing them with cold darkness.

Our last outing featured Ella traveling the muggy wood in her swimming suit. A week later, and here she is in the same wood, in a thick sweater and pants. Did Summer already pass the baton off to Autumn?

Ella in the woods

Well, no, not yet. The insects were still out; the flowers still blooming.

a bee on a flower

The kids didn't need the reminder, though. The fact that in two weeks school would start back up loomed over them all like the sword of Damocles.

Anna, Corbin, and Ella on a bench

Ah well, at least we could enjoy the day's lush jewels.

a purple flower

All the fallen trees of the last month's storm made perfect fuel for a whole new crop of gorgeous gems of another type as well.

crystal mold

Minnesota's version of coral:

a mushroom that looks like coral

Ella insisted I take a picture with her and her favorite tree...

Ella with what she named Boob Tree

This made enduring the biting cold wind worth it:

Well, that was my opinion, anyway. Some of the kids might have been a bit too cold...

Rosa and Alex in hoodies

On the way home we were treated to quite a sight: pink rain.

a cloud with pink rain below it

These photos don't do the effect justice; it was really quite the sight. The kids all agreed as they basked in the nicely heated vehicle.

the cloud again

Meanwhile... out in New York: Caleb spotted a bevy of birds basking in the beautiful still-summer-like air:

birds on a roof

He was finally settling into life at Bethel. Watching the sun sink below the surrounding hills is always a highlight for him.

a sunset

He has made a lot of close friends who live in the area. He spent a weekend kayaking in Pennsylvania with a group of buds. Even the trip there was thrilling for our country boy. He crossed the Hudson River...

the Hudson River

and watched the clouds roll right by the road.

clouds in the valley along the highway

One small tragedy of his kayak excursion: he dropped his camera in the lake. While the camera itself was fried, the SD card was salvageable. He spotted some Pennsylvanian turtles basking in the late August sun:


Interesting flora abounded...

otherworldly grasses and moss

growing from atop a boulder protruding from the water!

the rock as viewed from Caleb's kayak

It is truly awesome that this whole planet is so full of paradise-like scenes.

a tranquil scene

Back in Minnesota...we rung in September with an impromptu campfire and sunset watch.

an amazing sunset

On the first-day-of-school-eve we journeyed back for a longer jaunt in our beloved romping grounds. The usual routine was observed. First s'mores...

the gang around the campfire

Puns and other chuckle-worthy antics commenced...

Rosa with a potato chip for a face via camera trickery

then Anna, Ella, and I wandered off into the wood, while the older wanderers went off to pave their own paths. Many a mysterious mushroom was found.

a mushroom with a slug on it

I really keep meaning to dive into some mushroom research... hopefully before next summer. A question I have been wondering, for example: Why are slugs so attracted to mushrooms? (Interestingly, a quick search gave What We Don't Know About Mushrooms & Slugs.)

We even spotted some late-summer blossoms, like these common bonesets:

white common boneset flowers

Call them weeds if you must, but the tall common mullein pokers amazed the girls they towered over.

a yellow flower on a tall poker stem

A couple other of our favorites: The spotted touch-me-not:

an orange flower

and blue lobelia:

a purple flower

All too soon the canopy of green will be putting on it's spectacular fall color show.

Ella romping in the green wood

Anna spotted a critter that won't like the change at all: a perfectly camouflaged katydid.

a green bug

We came to a clearing and realized it was lightly raining. Oh well; a little rain never hurt anyone.

Ella and Anna in the rain

It did seem to temporarily ground a group of wasps, though.

a wasp on yellow flowers

An added bonus: the mushrooms benefit from the moisture. Our family all agree that they are quite cool.

a red mushroom

This golden one was huge!

a golden mushroom

Anna declared it her favorite.

Anna with the mushroom

We eventually wandered to the far end of the wood, where the majestic stand of birch trees grew. We hadn't been here for a while, and were saddened to see what the earlier storms of summer had done to them.

the broken birch trees

Good thing forests are self-healing. Anna and I took our selfie on the way back to rendezvous with the others on our sunset-watching beach.

Anna and I

Yes, I have a black eye. I arrive home from work way too late and exhausted. It was only a matter of time, I suppose, before I literally walked into a wall. The pathetic thing is I managed to repeat the stunt about a month later. Our friends must really wonder about me.

Now for that rain-filled sunset... it didn't disappoint.

the sunset

So how was the first day of school? Oh, you know... the usual:

Ella crying

(No worries... Ella now really loves going to preschool. She just had some first day jitters.)

The rest of the week was so marvelously warm we just had to make the most of it. We raced a train to our usual...

a train

and watched towering cumulonimbus clouds blossom over the lake. So much for the nice weather!

a thunderhead

Not wanting to get caught in a storm, we decided to stick to the beach. The birds have all been congregating in large flocks, getting ready for their fall migration. One gull stood out from the rest.

a gull on a buoy

Ladybugs and boxelder beetles are everywhere in these type of unseasonably warm days; even the beach was fair game.

a ladybug on the sandy beach

That last picture was taken by Nora. She's acquiring quite the eye for good shots.

Nora taking a picture

Well, mostly, anyway.

the picture she took of me taking a picture of her

A more artistic shot:

a shot of her and her sisters feet

Random comment about a shot Nora took: Anna's teeth are finally coming in, ending her days of actually looking like a buck-toothed rabbit.


We went to the apple orchard with Grandpa a couple days later. We were bummed out that they didn't let us pick our own apples, but we made the most of the gorgeous day. The girls rolled about on the hay mountain.

Nora, Rosa, and Anna atop the hay bales

We basked in the almost too warm sun while taking a ride on the tractor pulled wagon.

Grandpa and the girls on the wagon

The lovely weather stubbornly clung on into mid-September. We girls went to their favorite playground for a picnic lunch and a break from school.

Nora and Anna on the playground

Stunt girl Ella conquered the climbing wall over and over again.

Ella climbing

Monkey Anna is still a pro at swinging about...

Anna on the monkey bars

I managed to talk them into going to the nearby arboretum, where eye-candy abounded...

Slide: of

We managed to find another beautiful day where everyone had off of work and school so we could all go frolic outdoors together. Well, it was a bit windy... but hey, no problem! We can bring our kites. What a great idea, right?

We fought the gusts getting our kites out onto the prairie. Ella was eager to file my minion kite again.

Ella flying the kite

She stood there quietly, watching the kite tug at her string, while we struggled to get the other two kites airborne. Moments after I took this shot...

Ella flying the kite

...Ella gave a small cry. What followed was a comical ballet of the rest of us jumping, leaping, and stumbling over each other as we raced after the freed kite's string. Within seconds it was higher than it had ever been, quickly leaving the prairie and settling into a towering oak tree some distance away, near the beach.

the minion kite stuck in the tree

The tree was quite good at flying the kite. The kite, for its part, also seemed just as content to never leave the sky again. Alex and the older girls spent way too much time trying (in vain) to get it down. I knew it was a lost cause, and decided to hike the woods with an indifferent Ella and a distraught Anna instead. We hadn't gone far, though, when something jogging along the water's edge caught my eye.

a shorebird

Later on I showed our bird expert, Caleb the pictures, who proclaimed it a Semipalmated Plover. They are not residents of Minnesota, so it was probably migrating through. Perhaps the wind temporarily grounded it.

the plover

This first sign of Autumn thrilled the face-finder in me.

a yellow leaf with a face

These little wonders were just buds when we where last here.


Nora, Alex, and Rosa stumbled upon a cranky resident out on the prairie.

a snapping turtle

Alex was the only one brave enough to approach it. He removed as many leaches from his ungrateful friend as he could before the old snapper moved on.

The three wanderers found a more passive soul back on the beach, savoring the still warm late summer sun.

a frog

Ella, Anna and I must have just missed the others on the prairie. Anna and I took our shadow selfie on the lush green grass.

our shadows

We were happy to still find flowers, like this ravine filled with False Aster.

false aster flowers

Anna and Ella were not so pleased with the other flower fanatics, though. The hundreds of zooming bees, wasps, and hornets were too close for their comfort, so we headed back to the woods. Ella found a way to defend herself from any winged followers.

My heart still ached as we walked through the grove of battered birches.

the birches broken from a past storm

On several occasions a toad would quickly hop across our path, but Anna and Ella would scoop it up and thoroughly inspect each one before allowing them to continue on their way. One desperate little guy tried to camouflage himself against the base of a tree. He was so convinced we could no longer see him he didn't even move as my camera clicked away, centimeters away from his face.

a toad

The days were already getting shorter, and we soon found ourselves in a dimly lit wood. The talk of the trip home was my Minion kite. What would ever become of it?

The end of September was a whirlwind of activity. We spent a day at Grandpa's, helping with his garage sale. Nora brought along her camera. Her pictures amaze me. She is already known as quite the artist, always drawing when not working on the story she's writing. Her pictures definitely showcase her artistic eye, not just for getting a good shot, but for seeing the world as an artist sees it, noting the little details in everyday objects. Here is just a small sampling of some her pictures from that day...

While she was snapping away, her sisters found some treasures of their own, like this well loved tree dweller.

a tree frog

Yes, Nora and Rosa are still best buds. They truly bring out the best in each other.

Nora and Rosa

While exploring, Nora discovered some eggs in a long abandoned swallow nest. She was pretty nervous about touching them, but once I assured her they were not viable, and the swallows were long gone, she thought they were the find of the day.

the eggs

The next day found us preparing to host a party at a beloved friend's house. Corbin made a cake that looked (and tasted like) a giant Oreo cookie, which had many begging for his recipe.

Corbin with his cake

The weather was just perfect for the many outdoor games we played. The beanbag toss is a favorite...

Alex and Nora playing

Once I started taking pictures, though, the game became who can hit the camerawoman with their beanbag.

another shot of them playing

Tennis was a bit of a challenge in the wind, but that just added to the comical shenanigans my children thrive under.

Rosa holding a racket

Once all the balls were all gone with the wind, they switched to volleyball.

Anna ready for the ball

I don't care who you are, one must respect an angry sister with a bat. (Shortly after Nora took this shot, a not-too-minor sisterly tiff broke out.)

Anna with a bat

Right from the party we took off for the highest hill in the area to watch the lunar eclipse. We were not alone. Quite a number of others, mostly teenagers, had the same idea. My own kids were appalled, but I was proud of that younger generation. They were choosing to watch something truly worthwhile instead of burning brain cells on an electronic device.

For a bit we hammed it up, waiting for the show to start.

Rosa looking like she's holding the moon

We played many a round of duck-duck-grey duck until it started. The younger girls had never seen an eclipse. To say Anna was excited was a bit of an understatement. (Or maybe it was just all the candy we brought along...)

an excited Anna

As the moon grew dark, only Nora's camera flash exposed our revelries.

Corbin hamming it up

Shivering broke out as the night grew cooler. Clouds threatened the show, slowly migrating from the west. We grew quiet and huddled together as the moon slowly disappeared.

the moon starting to be covered

the eclipse

progressing eclipse

mostly covered moon

The clouds finally won out, and soon we couldn't see the moon. What we could still see was just as amazing, though. The whole Milky Way cut through the center of the sky, unobstructed by any streetlights or trees. We all agreed we would have to come out again just to stargaze.

the girls stargazing

We have big news for October, but that's another adventure...

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