"So throw away those Lamentations,
We both know them all too well.
If there's a Book of Jubilations,
We'll have to write it for ourselves.."

-Josh Ritter

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Three, going on thirty

Nora's got the chickens in the bag. She knows that they are happening and is confident that we have invested enough time and energy into this pursuit that she can stop nagging us about it. That's all I can figure, because she has a new obsession.

Don't get me wrong. She still loves her theoretical chickens and is counting the days until they arrive in her life. (Well, she would be if she could count that high. ) But there is something that she keeps coming back to....

For example, here is the picture she brought home from school today. (Sorry it's sideways. Blogger apparently can't recognize fine art enough to hang it on the wall the right way up. She's the next Jackson Pollock, I know it.)

In her words, the tall one with short hair is Daddy. The short one with black hair is Mommy. The short one with the heart shaped face is Nora Lee. Oh, and is that our dog next to you, Nora? No, no. That's my baby sister. You can tell because her feet are off to the side. Babies can't stand up, you know.

She has also informed me that I will have a baby in my tummy by her birthday and that we will name her Ellie. It's okay if there is more than one Ellie at her school, because only one will be hers. Apparently, daddies shine their flashlights into mommies to light the way for babies (I don't even want to know where that one came from.) And if I'm having trouble making a baby for her, Daddy will be happy to help.

After her nap the other day, the conversation went like this:

Nora: Mommy, I dreamed I had a baby sister.

Me: Oh, really. Was it a good dream?

Nora: Yeah. How about this- I'm going to go watch my movie and you work on that.

Seriously. "You work on that." Direct quote.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The many moods of Nora Lee

Here's Nora Lee's weekend in photo form.

She Trick or Treated as a lovely fairy.

Wait for it.....

Aaaaaaaand she cut insulation for her chicken house.

I love my kid.

Coop Mahal

The time has come for the unveiling of the coop that will make all the other chickens (and kinda me, too) jealous. Imagine Vanna White standing in front of it in gold lame and a deep, manly voice-over taking over for me from here on out.

Here we see the swankiest chicken coop in Duluth proper. The front is old slate roofing tiles that were picked up and expertly installed by Andrew Knutson of Knutson Custom Construction (these guys fixed our kitchen and kept the roof from falling in on us- hooray!). Some of the windows were salvaged from that kitchen project and others were ripped out of Carl's house when he remodeled.

The ridiculously nice cedar siding was also removed from Carl's house in favor of log siding.

The front door was handmade out of cedar by Andrew Knutson.

In case this isn't quite nice enough for you yet, Eric elected to spend an evening stamping a metal sheet for the front of the nest boxes.
Holy moly! Between the time and materials that many people have put into this project, I owe a lot of folks eggs! Thanks to everyone who got involved!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So far so good...

Yeah, this is exciting stuff. We have house wrap and lath and a roof and some windows!

I snuck this picture of Grandpa Dan hard at work on the chicken house during his vacation. Pretty generous, considering he strongly dislikes chickens. I suspect he likes Nora, though. And she likes chickens. I also suspect he likes eggs.
Thanks, Grandpa Dan!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chicken Coop (Part Deux)

I have officially lost track of what project day we are on. However, I can show you our progress! As Nora said last night, "My chicken house is really cool."

Here we are this past Saturday, putting up the walls. We have walls! That's Cindy and Carl Haensel with Eric in the background. We owe them dozens of eggs. Dozens.

And also, a big shout out to Nora Lee for taking a seven hour nap, thereby allowing us to frame a chicken house. Hooray for what's going around!

Nest boxes framed in:

And now we're up to this morning. It's starting to look like a building, eh?

Well, what do you do when you see a seagull?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Whatcha doin', Eric?

Oh, nuthin'... Just building Nora Lee a chicken coop! Day 1: Eric and Suma have demo'd and graded the site. I swung a sledge hammer and wrecked things. It rocked.

Day 2: Eric and Carl have obtained, through a variety of means, a large quantity of lumber. They are placing the last of the stringers. Thanks, Carl!

Day 3: The day dawned bright and beautiful on the platform for our chickens. Unfortunately, Day 3 consisted largely of more materials acquisition, Nora doing the Chicken Dance on the platform and some colorful swearing. I did not get pictures of any of these events. At the end of Day 3, we have a framed south wall! Due to swim lessons, it was not photographed. Sorry.

Wondering about the seemingly excessive size of the coop? I just bet you are. In Duluth, we are allowed to have five (5) hens for laying purposes. One does not strictly need a coop this large for five (5) hens. However, it turns out that it gets a touch chilly here for a couple months of the year. We have to leave room for better insulation than existed in my first 3 apartments.

Also, in a coop that would be perfectly adequate in 90% of America, those five (5) hens are going to get really, really fatalistically bored during that time. Sure, they'll be warm, but they won't be happy. And they have a tendency to take it out on each other in random acts of flock-related violence. But chickens dislike cold feet. I'm not kidding. They won't walk on snow even to prevent poultricide.

So our solution is as follows. The warm, snuggly, "The Shining"-like rage-inducing coop will take up less than a quarter of the volume of the structure. The rest of it is a winter room. It is enclosed, but not insulated. The floor will be covered in sand. It is purely recreational, but very important. (Random aside: Nora's daycare has this indoor playground called a "muscle room." It exists for similar reasons. -30 temperatures aren't good for children and other living things. Who knew?)

So that's it. How I spent my week's vacation. Good times!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tall Ships, Part 3 (For Old Time's Sake)

Just for kicks, I thought I would post this little comparison shot.
Oh, how times change.

Before: May, 2008 (Fifteen months)

After: August. 2010 (3 1/2 years)

Tall Ships, Part 2 (Nana Version)

Yes, yes. I do have a child who occasionally makes it to the foreground of a picture. And I actually took some pictures of her and her cousin, Bella this weekend. I know- shocking.

They had a wonderful time at the Tall Ships Festival. The Tweed Museum of Art had set up a free craft area. Here they are working hard on some beading.

They also both climbed the rock wall.

When did Nora get old enough to do this? Also, please note that she is climbing a rock wall in a helmet, full body harness and sundress.

Here they are riding cement ponies while waiting in a long line to get onto the ships.

They were awesome and had an awesome time. Hooray, Tall Ships!

Tall Ships

This past weekend began with a frantic call from Eric, informing me that he and his mountain bike had parted ways at 20+ mph and he was headed to the emergency room. Luckily (and it is luck), he and the tree are both fine. The tree is finer, of course, not having ribs to break and elbows to bleed into.

In spite of that, the weekend turned out pretty okay. The Tall Ships came into Duluth and while Daddy was in a Vicodin-induced haze on the couch, Tammy and Bella joined us to tour the ships. Tammy was kind enough to allow me to use her camera, which is like mine only better. That's right. I'm officially coveting the newer model.
I, along with 200 000 other people who visited the event, got this requisite picture:

No, you're a dinghy!
Look closely at this next one. The name of the saltie is "American Integrity." Mmmm...delicious, delicious irony.
And, my personal favorite from the weekend:

And, yes, Mother. As soon as I post this one, there will be one chock-full of tasty children. I promise.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Nora made a new friend this weekend. He was hitch-hiking on some greens that I brought in from the garden and narrowly avoided being washed down the sink. She was tickled by him and his mode of locomotion. She also couldn't understand why something called a "pinchworm" wasn't hurting her.

After letting Nora torment the poor guy for about an hour, I made her release him back into the yard. She wanted to get pictures of him first, just like with Karist. I thought that sounded reasonable.

She begged me to print this picture out for her, so that she could show her friends at school. She also has an elaborate plan to put up pictures of various things (pinchworms, moths, seals, pandas) on her walls. I see a bulletin board in our future.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Edge of the World

I went to the Boundary Waters recently with a group of women. It was the first time I have ever vacationed without both my husband and child since they came into my life.

It. Was. Awesome.

It was so awesome, in fact, that I had time to take some pictures of things other than [cough] my husband and child. Looking those pictures over made me rethink my previous assertions that we don't in fact live on the verge of the tundra.

Exhibit A: A Plethora of Lichens

Exhibit B: Sunset through the Mossy Trees (at 10:00 pm)

Exhibit C: Moose Skull
Shall I go on?

OK, so maybe it is Canada's distal phalanx. But it's magical. And then, there is always this.
Go ahead. You know you want to click on it. (Thanks, Cindy!)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Northern Summer Begins

The summer has arrived! The Lauer family just returned from a camping, canoeing and fishing trip into the North woods with friends. It was a whole lot of good times. It was our first camping trip since Nora was born. In fact, it was our first camping trip since medical school. For those of you who are counting, that means it has been six years since I slept in a tent. Sad, but true.

Nora in particular was delighted to sleep in a tent, not take baths and play with leeches. There were also a number of other kids, far more seasoned in camping and fishing to teach her the ways of the woods.

Each girl had a whistle to blow in case they got lost in the woods around camp, saw something dangerous or fell in the lake. The adults tried valiantly to explain this concept to Nora.

Adult: Would you blow your whistle if you are hungry?
Nora: No.
Adult: Would you blow your whistle if you get bitten by a bug?
Nora: No.
Adult: When would you blow your whistle?
Nora: If I see a panda bear!
Adult: Ummm, no.

We tried to educate Nora on the natural history of the panda. No luck.

We tried to tell her about the lack of large bamboo forests in Northern Minnesota. She was skeptical.

We tried to compromise and teach her about black bears, a reasonable alternative that does actually live near there. Nope.

We finally gave up and told her that if she sees any big, scary animal, she should blow her whistle.

The one time that she probably thought she should be blowing the darn thing was right before we left and it was nowhere to be found. This event was captured in the following picture, involved a large amount of shrieking and will henceforth only be referred to as The Great Poop Incident of 2010. (There was another picture of this, but it would get me kicked off of Blogspot.)

They did make up once Nora was in warm, dry, clean clothes and in her car seat. She got nice and sleepy on the way home and right before she dropped off to sleep, I looked back and she was contentedly looking out at the forest and lakes going by outside. It was a gorgeously clear day, I was with my family and we were headed back to a home we love. Suddenly, Nora sat straight up and said...

"I see a panda! Where's my whistle?!?"

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Amity Creek

Today, we decided that we were not going to let the late snow (Three inches! Really?) stop us from getting outside. It's May and even if we aren't getting a tan and playing beach volleyball, we aren't staying inside. So we bundled up and went for a hike at Amity Creek.

It's good that we didn't let the weather stop us. The snow was gone by the time we hit the trail and it magically looked like spring again. We started out in coats, hats and boots, but by the end of the day, even I had shed a few layers.

At the end of the day, Nora turned to me initiated this conversation.

Nora: You know what's awesome?

Me: What?

Nora: You.

Me: Awwwww...I think that just made my day.

Nora: Yeah. You know what else is awesome?

Me: What?

Nora: The counter.

Me: Oh.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hey, chickie!

Duluth is a cool city. I know I've mentioned this before, but seriously, how many U.S. towns do you know that have specifically made a point to write legislation allowing up to five chickens on any given residential city lot? So, a lot of my friends have chickens. My friend Tracy does not live within city limits, so doesn't have to abide by the five hen rule. A couple of weeks ago, she accepted delivery of 32 baby chicks. That's right. Thirty two fuzzy adorable balls of peeping fluff. How do you not take your kid to see that?

She did get to hold and pet the chicks. And we had to work hard on being gentle. No, gentle! Gentle!

She also got to collect eggs and bring them home and eat them. We've been eating a lot of eggs since then. I haven't had the heart to tell her that the eggs she collected were gone the first morning.

And then there is this.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Last August, Nora and her daddy went to the Minnesota State Fair. For $6, they bought a caterpillar in a plastic house. They were told that it would spin a cocoon and then overwinter before hatching. It did spin its cocoon and Nora talked about the sleeping caterpillar all winter.

When April rolled around, I began to have my doubts as to whether it would ever actually become the luna moth that had been predicted. I brought a lot of cocoons inside as a kid, none of which ever amounted to anything (probably because I had found them on the ground...).

Eric and Nora never lost faith and moved the moth house into our kitchen so that they wouldn't miss seeing their friend emerge. This morning, I heard a shriek from the kitchen and, you guessed it, the moth had hatched. We watched him hang upside down in his house, drying off his wings for about 45 minutes. Then, Eric moved him outside to acclimate.

A few hours later, we released him. But not before checking him out thoroughly. Nora decided that his name is Karist and that he is her new friend.

Here she is getting a closer look.

Guess what she thinks of her dad for orchestrating this whole experience.
Yeah, we'll do that again next winter.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Springtime in Paris

There's a saying up this way that Duluth is the Paris of the North. If you ask me, it's probably because the weather in both places is worse than you expect it to be. This spring has certainly put the lie to that. It hasn't snowed in months, the weather has hit the sixties a couple of times and my neighbor even has crocuses in his yard. He waxed philosophical over wine this weekend that he hasn't actually gotten to see crocuses for many years. Usually, the deer eat them the first day they bloom. This spring, there's more food, so the crocuses got a call from the governor.

I'm starting to see the provinciality of the area. It has been made clear to me that I'll never be "from here." For example, before the winter, everyone I met would say, "Oh, you like it here? Well, you haven't been through the winter yet." Now, that line has been taken away and replaced with, "Oh, you like it here? Well, you haven't been through a REAL winter yet."


Nora is enjoying the warmer weather. We've been logging a lot of time on her tricycle, walking and playing at parks. This weekend, I asked her what she wanted to do. She thought for a minute and answered "I want to go to the pond and feed the ducks. Then, I want to go to the other pond and feed the ducks. Then, I want to go to the Big Lake and look at boats." So, we did.

It turns out that there are only two ducks that have returned so far this spring. When they got tired of being harassed and flew away from the first pond, we went to the second pond. I'm pretty sure that the two ducks we found there were the same two. And they were really tired of stale hamburger buns.
What has returned are the "salties." That's what they call the massive ocean-going tankers that ship iron ore from our harbor through the Great Lakes to the St. Lawrence and the Atlantic. We got to see one of these maneuver through the canal, under the aerial lift bridge and into the harbor. This thing was about three stories tall and actually longer than the length of the canal. We were right on the edge of the canal when it came through and a woman from the Visitor Center was on the loud speaker giving information about the ship, cargo, captain, etc. Eric said it was the coolest thing he had seen for a long time. Nora was beside herself.
Here is an incredibly tiny picture of what we saw from the Army Corps of Engineers website. (Sorry. My options were apparently tiny or enormous.) I have to say that I would highly recommend that outing to anyone with, say, pre-school or school-age children interested in fun mechanical things. Not that I'm hinting that people should come visit us in Duluth. Not at all.
But we do have a very nice guest bedroom.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nora's Big Birthday

Where did my baby go? The big girl running around our house these days bears little resemblance to the lump of passive baby flesh that she was three years ago. In fact, she now has Opinions.

Recently, we had a birthday party for Nora which in her words was "awesome."
We asked her what she wanted on her cake. I personally expected her to say either Elmo or Cookie Monster. Maybe, if she was feeling kicky, Big Bird. Instead, she thought for a while and then said, "Cows."

Nanna Lauer, being a good sport, managed to find Nora a farm-themed cake. Nanna Lauer, being Nanna Lauer, decided it wasn't bovine enough and managed to really cow it up post-production. None of those generic cow cakes for us! No, sirree.

If you have any doubt whether this made Nora's day, week or potentially year, take a look at her reaction to the thoroughly Holstein-ed confection.

I think we can safely call that a win for Nanna.

Nora thought that opening presents was pretty much the best thing since, well, cow-themed cake. A particular favorite was this little girl, shown here being dressed in clothes made for her Cabbage Patch Kid.

Nana MJ and Nana Tina hit the bull's eye on this, apparently. After the party, I asked Nora about her new doll. She told me that she likes her because she's a big girl, like Nora. The doll also just turned three and her name (I kid you not) is Big Lilly Two. And woe betide you if you don't say the whole name every time. Because then, you might mistake her for her friend, whose name is now Real Lilly in Pennsylvania. It has become very difficult to keep a straight face at our house.

Unless, of course, you are Nora. Then, everything is serious, serious work. Especially her new maracas. Those are serious maracas. You can tell by the pink paint.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

This is why we teach them to talk.

This is the conversation that transpired while we were washing dishes tonight.

Nora: What are those?

Mommy: Those are hemostats. They're Daddy's. Don't touch them.

Nora: Those are Daddy's peni-sacks?

Mommy: Hemostats.

Nora: Peni-sacks.

Mommy: Hemostats.

Nora: Peni-sacks?

Mommy: Hemostats.

Nora: Peni-stacks? Are they scissors?

Mommy: Yes. Yes, they are scissors.