Rocky Start

Maggie and Oliver’s school made it three whole days before needing to temporarily shut down due to a COVID scare. They closed on Monday and Tuesday of this week because a vaccinated staff-member tested positive and may have had close contact with a wide array of people. They wanted to make sure the entire staff could get tested and recommended that all students do as well.

As long as we were testing the kids, we decided to just do it as a family, so we all traipsed over to the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in downtown Saint Paul on Sunday to spit in five vials. It went as quickly as it could have, with no line and plenty of tables. We were all pleased to have negative results.

School reopened on Wednesday. We’re hopeful that we’ll have a smoother ride from here on out.

Wildlife Update

We continue to hear the barred owl almost every day. It’s quite vocal! I spotted it a few evenings ago, perched on a phone line. It was bigger than I expected. We’re hoping to catch a glimpse with a bit more light.

Piper and I saw a muskrat crossing the trail while running this morning.

I don’t remember if we included snakes on the previous list, but garter snakes are quite common. Saw a rather large one right outside the back door a few days ago.

Courage Retreat

Every fall, my school hires Youth Frontiers to conduct a day-long activity for our eighth graders called the Courage Retreat. I was skeptical about it the first time we ran it in 2010, but they won me over because they were able to win the students over.

This morning, while discussing the retreat with some new faculty members, one of my colleagues discovered a video on the Youth Frontiers site that features our school. These were our eighth graders three years ago, so they are in eleventh grade now. It was a great class.

The video is obviously an advertisement, but it warms my heart nevertheless. I thought some of you might enjoy catching a glimpse of one of the many things we do at SPA. Sharp eyes can even spot me in the background in a few shots.

In case the YouTube link above ever goes defunct, I made a personal copy of the video that should work in perpetuity below. (My guess is that YouTube’s streaming protocols are far more efficient, though, so I would watch the above copy as long as it is working.)

Griffin’s Application to SPA

As the school year kicks off, I’ve been spending more time on my laptop, and I keep running across files that I intended to post over the past year. (It was a very busy year!)

Attached below is a scanned copy of Griffin’s handwritten admission “essay” that he filled out last January when he first applied to St. Paul Academy (where I teach). I love it that he filled it out on his own without any input from Sarah or me. It’s a great snapshot of his thinking in the middle of a his sixth grade year. At this point, he hadn’t been at an in-person school for ten months.

You can view it below or click the download link below to view it in a larger window.

Roy Virtual Gathering

I found this screenshot while cleaning up my computer today. It’s from a Roy virtual get-together on March 14, 2021. Some of us were having fun with virtual backgrounds.

It’s odd to think that in the five+ months since this shot was taken, two of the three Roy-boy families have moved into new homes.

A New Demographic

I received an envelope yesterday at my new address with a tasteful botanical design. Upon opening it I found a similarly attractive brochure for a “conservation memorial forest” where I can book a spot to spread my ashes beneath a tree to be visited in perpetuity by my loved ones.

It’s the first time I’ve received an advertisement for what to do when I kick the bucket.

Du Nord 2021

We spent the final week of July at Camp Du Nord family camp. This was our third trip, and we all agreed that it was our favorite one. The weather was fantastic, despite the wildfire smoke, and the kids were at good ages to maximize their fun. Oliver had no separation anxieties when he joined his age-group for morning activities, often scampering off to get there early before Sarah and I were ready.

Some highlights of the trip included:

  • Polar bear plunge — we woke up every morning to run into the lake with a bunch of other howling campers. The kids were extremely excited about this.
  • Seeing the kids being increasingly independent and excited about being outdoors.
  • Inkle weaving and making friendship bracelets.
  • Numerous hikes on the North Arm trails. This area is on a triple continental divide. Depending on where you hike, water may flow north to Hudson Bay, east to the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River, or south to the Mississippi.
  • Canoeing in a 25-foot replica of a Voyageur canoe.
  • Playing a spooky role-playing game adventure on our screen porch during a thunderstorm.
  • Intense Yahtzee and Farkle games.
  • Ice cream at the camp store.
  • Seeing our friends, the Browns, as well as a number of Andrew’s former students (some of whom are Du Nord staff now).
  • Watching Oliver scamper over the “Goat Trail” at high speed.
  • Swimming in the cool lake after spending time in the sauna.
  • Finding the fabled “Bonzo Block” on our last day. (It’s hidden somewhere in camp with a cryptic clue released every morning.)

The only bummer about the trip was the smoke in the air from the Canadian wildfires. It was pretty intense, often making the sun and moon appear orange or red.

We also had some insane red squirrels who would drop pine cones on our cabin every morning at around 6:00. They sounded like gunshots as they ricocheted off the steel roof!

Battle Creek Wildlife

I know that I should be posting more about our trip to Du Nord, but I wanted to provide an update about some of the wildlife that we’ve seen and/or heard at our new home.

I recently posted about the wild turkeys that Piper an I encountered on a nearby trail. It turns out that the turkeys are pretty ubiquitous. It’s a rare day where we don’t see or hear some of them in the yard or on the trails. We frequently see a family of nine strutting through the yard. Here’s a list of other wildlife that we’ve encountered recently:

Coyote (not my photo, but this is similar to the ones that I saw)
  • A buck with fuzzy horns on a trail behind our back yard.
  • Two coyotes trotting through the yard while I was taking laundry off the line. They came within 20 feet of me before noticing that I was there and scampering off into the woods.
Barred owl (again, not my photo!)
  • Numerous garter snakes.
  • We hear lots of songbirds and frequently see cardinals and goldfinches in the yard.
  • Hummingbirds enjoy our flowers.
  • Last night and this evening, we heard loud hooting from a barred owl in the woods across the street. We have yet to spot it, but have high hopes. It seems to vocalize around sunset.

We’ve also spotted lots of scat in the woods, much of which we don’t recognize yet. We’re learning quickly, though, and intend to continue developing our understanding of the local fauna.

The latest news from Sarah and Andrew.