Sherman’s 4th Birthday Party

Anja picked Sherman’s theme this year, which was “Blue.” 🙂 And he had a new guest at his party this year, Markus’s Sherman-look-alike dog named Oatmeal. Fun times.

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Arriving with a gift she wrapped herself

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Happy guests

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The guest of honor!

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Singing Happy Birthday

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Sherman and his new friend

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Fall Family Fun in Minnesota


Fall is, I think, my favorite time of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I love having four seasons, and summer is great with its biking and grilling and swimming. But there’s just something about fall in Minnesota. That crispness in the air, apple orchards and cider, football, raking leaves into a big pile…

Since our family has a lot of fall traditions, I thought I’d share a few that have been on our “Fall Fun List” the past couple of years. They can apply to other states as well!

Free Fun:

  • Rake leaves into a pile and jump in! Just watch out for sticks–ouch!
  • Trick-or-treat on Halloween! Make your own costumes out of stuff around the house…there are tons of great ideas on Pinterest.
  • Rotate your kids’ bookshelf so the autumn ones are all easily accessible. I take this to an extreme and only put out about 20-30 books each season, and I keep the off-season ones in boxes so they are new and fun each year when they come out.
  • Go on a “leaf hike.” We found this idea in a book we read called Leaves, Leaves, Leaves! The kids can pick out their favorites and we press them or use them to decorate the house somewhere.
  • Make a pumpkin or leaf craft out of construction paper or whatever other craft items you have lying around. We usually leave our art open-ended, and I’m amazed at the creations my kids come up with.
  • Dine in the yard. Grab a blanket or a card table and eat among the falling leaves. Hot cider optional.
  • Go on a fall foliage drive. Here’s a map of the best spots in MN. This is only free if you don’t count gas money. 🙂

Cheap Fun:

  • Have an outdoor fire (if you have a fire pit or ring) and roast some hot dogs and marshmallows. Invite friends to make it even more lively!
  • Visit a local pumpkin patch and let the kids pick out their own. Then help them carve their own design (see mine from a couple of years ago above). Or paint the pumpkins!
  • Go to Sever’s Corn Maze. We go every year and have a blast! If your kids are runners, it might be good to keep them in a stroller or hold their hand…it’s easy to get lost but oh so fun!
  • Visit the Children’s Museum and go to Mickey’s afterward for lunch. Let the kids spin on the stools at the counter. 🙂
  • Visit an apple orchard and pick your own. We’ve checked out quite a few, and our favorites are Sweetland Orchard in Webster for the best, most tasty apples and Aamodt’s in Stillwater for their fun events (like the hot air balloon rides), the best kettle corn I’ve ever tasted in my life, and the attached St. Croix Vineyards (they do a grape stomp every September).
  • Use some of your apples to make caramel apples together. Yum!
  • Go to a football game! If you can’t afford the Vikings, check out a local high school team on a night they play a big rival. Guaranteed excitement!
  • Make pumpkin donuts. I’ve made these 3 times now, and they are so. good.
  • Visit the Minnesota Trail at the MN Zoo. Those Minnesotan animals like the cold weather and seem to be much more active now.
  • Attend a local Booya Festival. Local firefighters all around the state host events where they serve this. I love that they are raising their own funds and reducing taxpayer burden, and I love the stew and the event! The kids get to meet firefighters, climb in fire trucks, and they usually have other fun kids’ activities like games and bouncy castles.

What are your family’s favorite fall traditions? I’d love some things to add to our list for this year!

Anja, 6 years

Baby Girl! How did you get to be six? It has gone so quickly (and so slowly at the same time, if you know what I mean…). The days are long, the years are short, they say, and it’s true.

Anja, at six, you:

  • Are very artistic. You draw or color daily, usually for at least 30-60 minutes a day. I love that about you. The other day when you introduced yourself for oral presentations at CC, you said, “My mom thinks I should be an artist when I grow up.” While I’ve never said that, I do hope that your creativity is something you’ll carry with you throughout your life. Currently, your favorite subject matter is princesses, families, hearts, cityscapes, houses and furniture. And Ninja Turtles for your brother when you’re feeling generous.
  • Are homeschooled! This decision was a long time in the making; we’ve been praying about it since you were 2 or 3. It’s already been a large time commitment for me, but being a part of your learning process and having the flexibility for our family is already paying off. I hope we can continue through this year learning together!
  • Have become more whiny about food. That’s a bummer, because you ate most things without complaint for the rest of your life. You’ll still often eat it, but be fussing about it. You say your favorite foods are cookies (a girl after my own heart)
  • Love photography. Your old digital camera stopped working, and Grandma bought you a new one for your birthday. You have a very unique perspective on things, partly from being a child and partly from aforementioned creative streak.
  • Still enjoy reading and books a lot. You are an elaborate story-teller, but you will rarely let us in on that story-telling anymore unless it’s right at bedtime or you need someone to write down the words for a “book” you’ve made. Bummer. I miss those tales.
  • Like the outdoors. Biking and playing at parks rank right up there with chocolate chip cookies in your book.
  • Seem like you have a good memory and inordinately good hearing. I can whisper something to Daddy across the room, and you hear every word. Yet when I am calling your name loudly to do a chore, you seem to lose your hearing. Hmmm…
  • Love to dance. You’re in ballet and tap this fall, and you entertain us with interpretive dance around home all the time.
  • Are very friendly. You try to make friends with everyone. You assume the best about people, which is awesome. Sometimes I have to physically restrain you to keep you from running to the neighbors’ houses every time you see them outside. You’re SO excited to see them even if we just talked to them two hours ago. This is a far cry from your 3-yr-old self who wanted to leave the playground if any other children were present.
  • Are still attached to your baby dolls that you’ve had since infancy. “Malia” has a rattle in her belly and is a cloth doll intended for infants, but she is far and away your favorite. She and Sherman and Coco are played with the most often.
  • Speak in baby talk when you’re excited about things. Or sometimes just for fun. It’s probably 60% of the time. Oh. So. Annoying. Can this go away soon?
  • Have two current favorite shows: Muppet Babies (Daddy introduced you and often watches with you) and Magic School Bus. We try to limit TV to 4 or 5 shows per week. Days when Mom’s working or gone bring the average up, though, I’m pretty sure. 😉
  • Have occasional tantrums. We had a doozy of one today over a simple math problem. I kind of miss your 2-yr-old tantrums, because at least then you weren’t strong enough to throw chairs. Thankfully these are, as I said, occasional. And you now feel remorse over them, which your 2-yr-old self never did.
  • Love reading God’s Word. We have several children’s Bibles, and you will often page through the entire thing, examining each story. Our current one we’re using for morning Bible time is The Jesus Storybook Bible. It has mixed reviews among Christians for various reasons, but we love that it points to Jesus throughout the scriptures. Daddy reads a different Bible at night with you kids. I am so glad he does!
  • Have retained some of your toddler nicknames and probably added a few others. I can be heard calling you Pie, Anja-pie, Peanut, Baby, and other more generic ones like Sweetheart.
  • Have a natural compassion/empathy for others. You will often cry when your brother gets disciplined, even if you know he needs it or it’s because he did something to you. Another thing I love about you.

Some other favorites from an interview with you:

Color: pink and sparkly blue
Food: spaghetti and cookies
School subject: art
Music: Django Djangos
Sport to play: biking
Clothes to wear: church dresses
Holiday: Halloween
Animal: puppy and kitty
Kind of ice cream: chocolate

Anja, we love you and are so glad to see the big girl God is turning you into. We pray that He will continue to bring your heart closer to His.
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