Thursday, August 30, 2007

End of summer ... hitting the road one more time

For a change we're heading East rather than North.

We're going to spend the weekend on Kelleys Island in Ohio with Kev, Jo and Max. It should be great once we get there! Wish us luck getting there. We do NOT want another construction/traffic nightmare like we faced a year ago going to Michigan. So we're leaving tonight so that hopefully the girls will sleep for at least some of the drive and we won't be stressed about missing the last ferry to the Island on Friday due to delays around Chicago. My hope is to get to the other side of Chicago tonight and then leisurely go from there Friday morning, but just getting to this side of Chicago will still buy us some time.

Shawn and I have both taken Tuesday off to recover from the long drive on Monday. We also hope to prepare and transition into our new fall schedule which I'll fill you all in on as soon as possible after we get back.

In other news:
  • Our grass is now back to a normal length and things appear to be drying out here.
  • According to some my hair is back to a too short length ... according to Nessa it's "beautiful."
  • Megan will be able to tell you personal stories of trying to clean up after the flood/mudslides including carrying mud out of the basement one bucket at a time. Our hearts continue to go out to everyone affected by the rain storms and resulting mud slides.
  • We have survived yet another year of "back to school" shopping and remain convinced there is a conspiracy so that a parent can never get everything all at one store.
  • When it comes to things like bike helmets you should always just go to the bike store right away instead of wasting your money on the cheap version first. My first ride with Nessa in the great new (used) bike trailer I found was met with "Get this thing OFF of me!" screams. :-( Then before I could stop she managed to get if off herself (without undoing the clasp). Other than that, I think she enjoyed the ride. :-)

May you all enjoy the last days of summer!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I Got Published!

I'm a little late in posting this, but better late than never. I had an article published in a national publication!

Last winter, a friend of Tami's became editor of The Clarion, the ICAN newsletter. Tami asked her if she would be interested in my version of Nessa's birth story. Tami's friend said yes, so I finished the article I had started soon after Nessa was born. It was published in The Clarion in February (or maybe it was March).

That was neat enough, but The Clarion only circulates to ICAN members. However, the woman who publishes The Compleat Mother saw my story in The Clarion and asked for reprint rights. The cool thing about this is that The Compleat Mother is sold all over the country in co-ops, alternative bookstores, and similar places. It might be for sale near you!

Here is the cover of the issue my article is in (no, that's not a picture of us):

And here is the first page of the article:

Even though we got many complimentary copies, I was so tickled about being able to walk into a store and purchase a magazine with something I wrote in it that I had to buy a copy as well. I'm happy, and very excited that someone liked my work enough to ask me if they could publish it. Although the issue is dated Spring '07, the magazine is a bit behind in its publishing schedule. As of yesterday this issue was still for sale at our local co-op. Get your copy today!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Links to photos and area flood information

I just wanted to quickly share these ...

Specific link to La Crosse Tribune pages --
This PDF file has a nice map of what happened in the area, complete with rainfall totals as of the time of creation (Sunday night?):

This is a list of flood photos sent to the Tribune. They are listed by community.

From the above list there is a link to Hokah area photos:
And in that slide show you can see where Megan's dad lives (look for the sunflowers in one of the pictures). There are also many pictures of nearby areas of course.

WKBT Photo link
Many, many photos here sent in by viewers; however, they are not organized in any way at all.

There is this one of what the intersection by Kwik Trip in Hokah looked like on Sunday morning:

And this one also close to that area: (those are cars from a Used Car lot)

It is hard to see this in the area, and I do have to admit that the photos of the Hokah area do hit me especially hard having once lived there. I also worry about how Megan will take this change to the area she loves so much (by the way her goat did make it home from the fair safely ... will do an official fair update soon).

I'm also appreciating our own South La Crosse home a bit more today. The last few months have brought many minor complaints about the house forward as we're dealing with more and more plumbing issues and various other little things that have me thinking about possibilities of house hunting in the future ... but today I am SO thankful that between the location and the house, we're safe and dry ... old windows and all, I'm loving our house today.

Hope you're all staying safe and dry too ...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

We're High And ... Well, Just A Tad Dampish

Those of you who have been following the weather in WI, MN, and IA might like to know that we are fine. Our house is dry (on the inside) and we have not really been affected by the 11 inches of rain we've gotten in the last 36 hours. Apparently, things are a mess in rural La Crosse county and neighboring counties on both sides of the Mississippi--roads and bridges washed out, mudslides, houses washed off their foundations...and sadly, fatalities.

We lost power last night just long enough for me to have to reset all the clocks and VCRs. Our lawn, which was a bit overgrown to start with, is visibly longer today than it was yesterday; by the time I get to mow it I may need a scythe. We all feel permanently damp from the humidity in the air. The house feels a little small with everyone cooped up inside, and patience is a little thin. But other than that, we're fine.

Megan's dad wasn't so lucky. Their house is at the bottom of a hill in rural Houston County, MN, an area which was hard hit. Apparently a mudslide on the hill sent some trees crashing into their garage/second kitchen/recreational space, damaging it badly. When he called from his cell phone this afternoon, they were without electricity or phone, had water in their basement higher than Megan's head, and couldn't leave because the road that goes past the house is closed due to flooding. Megan is with us right now; it remains to be seen if she'll be able to go back to her Dad's on Thursday.

I just heard some thunder, so the next round of storms is about here. I pray that the situation won't be made worse for those already affected, and that friends and co-workers who live in the affected areas in MN and IA are safe. We'll keep you posted, but assume we're fine here at the Brooks/Groth household unless you hear otherwise.

All dressed up and no place to go ?!?

Originally uploaded by Tami of BrooksGroth

One of Nessa's favorite things now is to play pretend, including dressing up in fun outfits. So, it was time to drag out Megan's old dress up clothes and things ...

Megan took these pictures a couple of weeks ago and I just made them into a set on Flickr. If you haven't seen them yet, take a look: at this and other sets (on the right side)

They've been having fun again this morning (August 19th) but no dressing up so far...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Home from R and R at the B and B

We're back home (and reality hit hard today!) after a wonderful weekend relaxing in Northern MN. Shawn and Tami spent most of the time at a B and B in Grand Rapids, MN while Nessa stayed with Grandma and Grandpa Brooks in Walker.

It was a much needed rest and while the drive home was quite brutal (traffic, construction, and an over-tired Nessa) and the first day back to reality a bit more stressful than average (work, more plumbing problems, schedule changes including an unplanned Dr. visit, and an over-tired Nessa), we're still sure it was SO worth it to get away and are hoping to get away for couple-only R&R more often.

While we didn't spend a lot of time enjoying the great outdoors (yucky heat and humidity even up north), I continued to fall in love with northern MN. While Megan tries to figure out how to add to the states she has visited, I may just try to plan more MN/WI vacations (maybe we should concentrate on how many counties we've visited?). There is just so much around here that we haven't even seen or experienced yet. That is, if you count 8 hours in the car as "around here." But with grandparents nearby it's much more "around here" than any place else.

I'm hoping to have pictures uploaded later tonight and will specifically blog some when I get a chance -- watch for the pic of the gas sign in Grand Rapids -- the cheapest gas I've seen in a long time ($2.64)!

Until then, a few more notes:
  • We visited and loved the Judy Garland museum (

  • I visited and fell in love with the Yarn Works store in Grand Rapids( It was the most wonderful yarn store I've ever been in and probably would be even if I couldn't count them all on my fingers! Oh my I can't imagine how real knitters feel there. They had lots of wool which as a fiber snob (don't have to knit for that) I loved ... I went around and felt ALL of it before deciding ... Shawn earned "patient husband of the year" award and got bonus points when he restrained himself from buying me one of the sweatshirts that said "Queen of unfinished projects." (He's new to this and doesn't realize that I'm not even close the the queen on that one!) I also started in on my "cyclone scarf" w/ the most beautiful soft royal blue hand dyed wool that afternoon! (MOM, THERE IS a QUILT STORE too!)

  • We ate at Auntie Em's Cafe ( Or, rather we had smoothies there and while I'm thinking smoothies are not Auntie's specialty, it was fun if only for it's title.

  • If you followed the above links at all, you've figured out that we shopped at Grand Rapids Old Central School shops: for some history ... fun shops, some historical displays, and a museum Shawn went to while I was still in that yarn store.

  • Some day I would like to go back and bike the Mesabi trail: So far I know the first 100 feet or so are pretty nice!

  • Grand Rapids is pretty progressive when it comes to advertising their Internet Access ... there was even a traditional green library sign that said "Wireless Internet" on it instead of library! And the same gas station I happened to use of the "cheap gas" photo shoot also had Internet access available (and drive through espresso!). I was impressed. Of course we were WAY too busy rest'n and relax'n to take advantage of the Internet access ... and if you believe that ...

      Also, it appears that Nessa took care of Grandpa Bob and Grandma Jan very well while Shawn and I were in Grand Rapids. We just hope that they aren't in too much of a withdrawl after being spoiled with Nessa smiles and "I love you" signs. A BIG Thank you to both of you! :-)

      Wednesday, August 08, 2007

      What happens at daycare, stays at daycare

      With credit to Shawn for the Title.

      Anyone with kids probably knows what kind of response the question, "what did you do in school today?" gets. Well, with a 2 year old there isn't much of an answer at all ... a ten year old will bestow a grand "stuff" on you and walk away. :-) So, of course I ask even more detailed questions about projects and events that I know DID happen and that usually just gets me a strange look unless said project is now sitting in front of us.

      One look from Nessa was so strange it inspired the title of this post. :-)

      But Nessa does do many wonderful projects at Daycare (by the way we LOVE our Daycare Director/lead teacher and feel blessed to have her in Nessa's life) and thanks to the notes that are sent home we get to hear about some of the small "what did she just say/do" moments there as well. Here are just a few from recent sheets.

      • Built with blocks that she could crash over -- she was looking for something to crash, so I suggested the blocks.
      • Helped Jen fold washcloths. Nessa is getting very good at it. They look less "interesting" every time she helps. (Hmmm, here at home I think the things she folds still look very interesting.
      • Worked on colors and counting using different colored dinosaurs. Nessa did an awesome job! She loves to show off her skills. :-) Also knew what day it was going to be on the calendar.
      • Said "may I be excused?" at lunchtime -- good manners! (*this has actually been a problem area so it was especially nice to see this note ... that morning I had reminded her of the table "rules" such as "food stays on the plate" pause "well unless you're nicely putting it in your mouth" or some such jumbled mess of trying to explain table manners in simplistic toddler terms.
      • Read lots of books. Nessa is very good at "I Spy" books.
        Had lots of fun playing with the trains and train tracks today. Nessa loves to drive the train and "let people get on and people get off." (It's a line from a Thomas book.)
        Nessa loves to build really tall lego towers. She said "Look at my beautiful tall tower. It's nice."
      • Made an antenna headband for art. Nessa loved watching herself in the mirror with it on. she laughed and giggled and shook her head, "Jen, I'm cute." Yep she was.
      • Nessa loves to get all the kitchen stuff out and fee us and the dolls. She loves to take the dolls for walks, put them in the swing, and the highchair. Very imaginative play!
        Played with the doctor set again today. Nessa enjoyed hammering the baby (!) and checking its temperature and blood pressure. She was Dr. Nessa Brooks again today. (Once Jen asked her if she was Dr. Brooks or Dr. Nessa and she said "I'm Dr. Nessa Brooks" and since then she has occasionally been Dr. Nessa or Dr. Brooks but she usually uses her entire name and will now tell you what name she is using when she plays Dr. without being asked.)
      • Built a house with legos. Then Nessa parked the cars in it.
      • Nessa was playing house and packed the backpack and purse full of food and then "went bye bye."
      • Lots of singing today. We've been teaching all of the songs Nessa knows. She loves to dance and sing!
      • Played construction worker and "built" the train table.
      • Loved the new sandbox toys!
      • Loved the water table.
      • Went to Hintgen to play on the playground. Nessa got to ride in the wagon!
      • Walked around the neighborhood and talked about all of the trees and flowers. Walked past Nessa's house and she said "that's Nessa's house."

      Now just because we love Nessa's daycare and Nessa loves Nessa's daycare doesn't mean that Nessa's mom doesn't have pangs of guilt or outright guilt attacks on a regular basis. Now that we no longer live in a true village (you know the extended family and friends that are like family and jobs where kids are welcome and 9 to 5 hadn't been invented) there is no perfect solution.

      And then there's Megan who complains about not getting to go to daycare enough (her friends are there, she adores Jen too, and she loves the babies/toddlers too) AND tells me that Nessa should never miss out on the activities at daycare just because I'm not working that day (there is no response that works there with a 10 year old, believe me). So, while we do refer to it as daycare (and write those big ole checks so they can stay in business), it is so much more to us than that...

      Tuesday, August 07, 2007

      3 Years of Always and Forever

      The nice thing about working on our anniversary is that I can get flowers at work -- beautiful red, orange and yellow roses (so similar to our wedding flowers!) with some yellow carnations tinged with orange/red on the tip -- Thank you Shawn!

      I feel just a tad sad that I won't be able to enjoy them the rest of the week. But not sad enough to not be looking forward to our trip up north and our stay at a B&B sans kids this Thursday night through Sunday morning. (With any luck I'll give you lots to read and look at while we're gone ... and maybe a few pics of the trip when we get back!) However, I do get to enjoy them for the today and tomorrow, so I will. :-)

      Shawn occasionally breaks with his tradition of giving humorous cards and that was the case this morning when he already had me a little leaky with excess joy ... my goal in life should simply be to strive to be the person he sees when he looks at me.

      Rather than even attempt to describe the meaning in our anniversary, I'm going to share with you all some quotes -- both humorous and serious -- on the anniversary theme -- enjoy!

      A happy marriage is a long conversation that always seems too short. ~Andre Maurois
      Marriages are made in heaven and consummated on earth. ~John Lyly, The Anatomy of Wit.
      A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year. ~Paul Sweeney
      When you meet someone who can cook and do housework - don't hesitate a minute - marry him. ~Unknown
      The bonds of matrimony are like any other bonds - they mature slowly. ~Peter De Vries
      Nobody has ever measured, even poets, how much a heart can hold. ~Zelda Fitzgerald
      The difficulty with marriage is that we fall in love with a personality, but must live with a character. ~Peter Devries
      Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
      An anniversary is a time to celebrate the joys of today, the memories of yesterday, and the hopes of tomorrow. ~Author Unknown
      Marriage: a book of which the first chapter is written in poetry and the remaining chapters written in prose. ~Beverly Nichols
      Marriage is our last, best chance to grow up. ~Joseph Barth
      True love stories never have endings. ~Richard Bach

      P.S. So far I've received several Oohs and Aahs on the flowers and one "Shawn did good." :-)

      Monday, August 06, 2007

      Megan's National Park Trip!

      Originally uploaded by Tami of BrooksGroth

      I've uploaded pictures of Megan's trip out west to 8, yes 8, National Parks ... and a Hot Air Balloon Ride to top it off!!!

      When asked what the best thing about the trip was, Megan said it was "ALL GREAT!" I guess that says it all. :-)

      She's now home with LOTS of photos, lots of State Park maps and other memorabilia and a National Park "passport" with more than a few stamps in it. (She is also happy to now say she has been to even more states ... she's keeping track on a map now and is up to 22 states that she has visited.)

      All the photos are labeled as MeganNatParkTrip on Fickr (few more to upload after we get them from Grandpa and Grandpa yet) Click the photo here to go to Flickr and then you can see more pics! :-)

      The folly of 1 percent policy

      Couldn't resist sharing this -- for my own reference if nothing else -- a great oped piece it today's Boston Globe:

      The Folly of 1 Percent

      Thursday, August 02, 2007

      Megan is on vacation and we're happy to be home

      OK, super quick update since it's my birthday and I can't concentrate on work at the moment anyway --

      Megan is on her "see all the national parks you can in a week" vacation with my parents this week. It's actually more than a week, but with travel time not much more. They left last Thursday and will return this Sunday. Hopefully she'll return with a CD of photos so I can share many of them. The big non-park highlight was that my parents took her on a hot air balloon ride (for her birthday present ... like the trip wasn't enough). I think she's going to be tired when she gets home Sunday. :-)

      While Megan's trip sounds great, I'm not even jealous because I'm just so thrilled to be spending more time at home this month. We had a nice relaxing weekend with the bonus of seeing good friends and going to a show last weekend and we have another relaxing weekend planned this weekend! :-) After that we should be all rested up for our Anniversary vacation to the following weekend (it involves a B&B and no kiddos!).

      Nessa just keeps on being an amazing toddler that comes up with new sentences every day and on the good days she does not come up with new ways of being contradictory (things MUST be her idea). Lately her talking is much more conversational so it's really fun talking to her. She's really into playing kitchen and feeding her dolls and animals as well as doing puzzles and reading books. She still plays with trucks once in awhile but now they usually haul things from her kitchen around and then end up under her blanket asleep. :-)

      We've avoided posting about it but we're down to one toilet again. This time it's the downstairs one so it's easier to ignore the problem on a day to day basis. I'm letting Shawn handle this one though. Sadly that's probably NOT the cause of our occasional water in the basement bathroom and laundry area so we'll eventually have to figure that out.

      It's been dry (as in no rain) and hot and humid here so we haven't been spending as much time outside as Nessa would like and I haven't been out on my bike much either. Today it actually feels much cooler even though it's still about 88 ... but I think the humidity finally broke with this cool front that's moving through ... I hope it stays cooler for a bit ... August is when I wouldn't mind living in a COOLER climate LOL.

      Hope to have more photos to share soon --

      Banging Head

      OK, there are a few of you out there reading that will get this one .... the rest of you can skip to the next post but don't call me when you need help with a computer program unless you've actually checked the Help first. :-)

      So we had a not very satisfactory "customer satisfaction survey" email the other day and a big part of the hit was the documentation ... I took the time to send her a lengthy email and do plan on calling her to see if she'll continue to give me good feedback ... in her reply to my email she thanked me for telling her to use F1 when in the program to get the Help topic that applies to that part of the program (I was really hoping I was reminding her). AAARGH. These customers get THREE weeks of training when they buy our program and the trainers never mention to press F1???? No, I'm not going to go on about how all Windows users should know to press the F1 key (even if there is no Help button to click with the mouse F1 often works) as I've been a tech writer too long to think it's unusual that users don't know that (and yes, darn it, they are users).

      :::bang bang bang::: ... ouch, sigh, okay now to forward that email to the boss and see if I can use it in my favor (resource justification and an attempt to get others "on board" w/ my own agenda (ha) ... worth a try)

      And NO, my writing here is NOT a reflection of my tech writing skills ... not that I spend a whole lot of time actually writing @@ ;-)