Monday, June 25, 2012


Before we even hit the water, I had been told some morbid tales. Tales of death on the water, of being unprepared, or not respecting the cold depths of Lake Superior. If I hadn't been with my expert paddler friend Ian, I think I would have been really scared. As it was, I just hoped for good weather and knew that Ian would be able to help me out of any mess I got into.

From the Coast Guard - in case they found our boat with no one in it.
I managed to dump myself in the lake before even getting into my kayak. It's trickier than it looks! But I finally settled in, felt sort of stable, and we paddled out on beautifully calm waters to Sandy Island, just 4 miles off the mainland. The paddling wasn't nearly as difficult as I anticipated, but I kept going left as I couldn't quite get my strength balanced. We made it to island, set up camp, made dinner, and were invited to for smores with a nice family from Duluth.
Cooking on the dock to avoid bugs!
The next morning was glorious! Beautiful sunshine and really quite warm! A perfect day to be out on the water. We slowly made breakfast and got packed up for a day out on the water. We paddled over to the sea caves, and because the water was so calm we were even able to paddle through them. Our beautiful sunny day was quickly disappearing, with clouds rolling in and a growing breeze. We paddled on. We reached the lighthouse at the northeast corner of the island, and here the wind, which had previously been blocked by the island, came up. We were paddling directly into the wind, and in addition, the waves were all wonky because the way they were reflecting off the rocks. This made me nervous. When Ian asked what we should do, I said turn around. It was a long way around the island and i didn't feel comfortable in these waves.
A gorgeous morning on Lake Superior
I should explain why Lake Superior demands this respect. It's cold. Really cold. In the summer, it might get up to 45°F in the summer in shallow water, closer to 40°F in the rest of the lake. And that means hypothermia can set on quickly. This is why it can be so dangerous. If a kayaked cannot get back into his/her boat and is not very near shore, s/he will most likely die of hypothermia in less than 20 minutes. That's why were were wearing wetsuits, lifejackets, and spray skirts. And we had all the equipment we needed to get our boats back up in the case that we fell out. People are known to die on the lake on beautiful, warm, sunny days - even calm days - simply because they could not get back in their boat.

It rained most of the afternoon, and I spend that time curled up in the tent reading a book while Ian, the real ourdoorsman that he is, stayed outside and paddled around. With the exception of that one bit of rain, we had great weather and it was a beautiful, serene place to be. I was happy to go with someone who knew what he was doing, otherwise I probably would have spent the whole trip worrying about flipping the canoe.

Once we were back on the mainland and had the kayaks strapped back onto the car, Ian and I both ran and jumped into the lake, and let me tell you it HURT. I wasn't in for 20 seconds. Respect.

Friday, June 22, 2012

things change, things remain the same

This seemed to be a recurring theme during my trip. Things change, things remain the same. I hadn't been back to the US in more than 15 months, there were lots of friends I hadn't seen in a long time. Some were now married, had kids, bought a house, etc, but things didn't really feel all that different.

Madison Beer Festival - 2009
This was especially true for a long weekend with my Louisville girlfriends Jojo and Katie on Lake George in upstate New York. I hadn't seen either of them in more than a year, and both had babies I have never met (Jojo's first and Katie's second). The last time the 3 of us had been together Katie was 14 weeks pregnant with her first.

Now just pics of the kids - not us.
But we immediately melted into the normalcy true of great friendships. Things had changed a lot of all of us in many ways - starting families, big moves - lots of life changes. But nothing felt different. Everything felt natural and perfect.

One of the things I enjoyed most was just watching how both of my friends parent. Parenting is deeply personal, everyone does it different, everyone has different kids. But it was great to really see them in action, and know that I greatly admire them for what great mothers they are. It only deepened my sense that these women are my life-long friends. It's highly unlikely that any of us will ever live in the same city again, but that's just life. I will settle for skype dates and phone calls, and always look forward to the next reunion whenever and wherever it may be!

More pics here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Getting rid of Simon

I know it sounds harsh, but the first 10 days of our trip here largely revolved around getting rid of Simon. I should reframe that. The first 10 days of our trip was focused on Simon spending quality time with his grandparents that he rarely sees. There. That sounds better.

Simon did great on the trip over. He slept some on the plane, but not so much that he wasn't ready to totally pass out when we made it to MN, so we managed to avoid any jet lag issues and crazy middle of the night lego sessions.
Fell asleep right before boarding, of course.
Martin and I had plans to go camping with the Stirling-Palms (Chris, Hanna, and Annika) on the North Shore of Lake Superior, but weather forced us south to Gays Mills, WI, where we had real beds and delicious home cooking. It was a pretty good decision. We got to bond with Simon's future wife, Annika, and enjoy some time with no parental duties. At one point, I felt I had to clarify to Don and Mary (Hanna's parents) that I really do love him and spending time with him, but I just get so few breaks so I was relishing every minute. This was probably while I was explaining that Simon can start taking direct flights alone when he's 5, and indirect flights when he's 7. Only 3 more years! Is it wrong that I am so excited about this?
Simon's future wife. We're hoping the drooling lessens.
When we got back to the Twin Cities we continued to take advantage of grandparents and run errands, spend time together, exercise, and hang with friends.

I am writing this during week 4 of this trip, and I have to admit I love this whole having support thing. I know my parents are being especially accommodating because we visit so infrequently, but I must say that you should never underestimate the effect of some grandparent support. All parents (especially primary caregivers) need a break. We need time for ourselves to get back some of what we had before parenting, and to adjust to this crazy world we have entered. Making this time is a huge challenge for all parents. I am now seeing how much less challenging it would be if I had some Grandma (Mormor) and Grandpa (Patis) around to help. (Simon says the Swedish word for Grandma for my mom (mother's mother) and I don't really know what he calls Grandpa, except that it's the same word he uses for pasta.)

But no complaints here. I love spending time with my little guy, and I know that it's a real gift to be able to spend as much time with him as I can. I will just continue to try to find time for myself to help me be a better mama.


So, I meant to do a countdown to my big trip to the USA, but that never happened. Now I have been here for nearly 4 weeks - oh how time flies! It felt like 6 weeks was going to be so long, so I planned lots of little trips and have been really relaxed about seeing all of my friends in MN. Therefore, I have been out of town nearly half the time and not seen many of my friends because I always felt like there was time, but that window is closing in quickly. Two more weeks left, including two more trips up north. Lots of friends and family to still squeeze in.
Think he's having fun?
I am working on updating my blog, but here are the highlights up until now:

  • Memorial Day Weekend in Gays Mills, WI
  • Macalester 10 year reunion - woohoo! Am I really that old?
  • Beach weekend in Charleston, SC with my sisters AND their hubbies. It was epic, except that Martin was laid out sick the whole time.
  • Girls weekend (with kids!) at Hulett's Landing on Lake George. Three years and four kids later - together again!
That's up until now. Still on the books:
  • Apostle Islands sea kayaking trip (Proposed route is 21 miles...Yikes!)
  • Cabin - my old stomping grounds at Trout Lake. Can't wait to bring Simon there. (Contingent on me surviving sea kayaking trip.)
More to come, including pics. It has been a great trip so far full of mixed emotions and seriously overwhelming grocery stores. Don't even get me started on Supertarget.

Pics are here!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mac Reunion - I know everything about you

I recently attended by 10 year college reunion. Can it really be 10 years? We all look so young...but I guess the 5-year reunion folks did look a bit younger, and the student volunteers were....we we really ever that young? Anyways, a whole bunch of our Macalester Class of 2002 descended upon the Twin Cities to pretend like nothing's changed, including our alcohol tolerance (which, in fact, it has).

I was very excited for reunion - but also a little nervous. Not because I was worried about where I am in life compared to others, not at all. It had to do with FB. Yes, Facebook. Like most people, I am friends with a lot of people that I am not really friends with. What I mean is, we were friends in college, but in the last 10 years I've seen them once - at our 5 year reunion. Yet, I know a lot about them. Who they're dating, where they're working, when they got married, and where they took their last vacation. I found the thought of having a conversation with someone who I haven't seen in years, but already knowing everything what's going on.
My little man at reunion.
Turns out nearly everyone was in the same boat. We all seemed to know everything about each other, and were ok chalking it up to FB stalking. Whew! What a relief!

But, at least for me, this did lead to more awkwardness. For example, as those college years become distant memories, I start to forget how I knew people. Did I have a class with him? Did we live on the same floor? Same major? For example, I would be talking with someone and it was clear that we knew each other. But I couldn't for the life of me conjure up an actual memory from school. Admittedly, I don't have a great memory. But it felt so strange to be talking so familiarly with someone so...unfamiliar.
Kegger - Wallace 3
Overall, I really LOVED reunion. Macalester was a great place for me, and the people I met were (and continue to be) amazing. Since graduation, I have not lived in a city with other Mac grads. I wish it were otherwise. I know that if I lived in a city with some of my other classmates I would absolutely hang out with them, even if we didn't know each well in college (not that I would know!). That said, Mac Class of 2002 you are all invited to Düsseldorf for a visit!