Monday, June 29, 2015

That Time We Were Near a Tornado

Summer is a delightful time of year around here and June is generally the nicest month of summer with its endless high latitude daylight hours and the heat that we wait all winter to feel again.  It is also a time of regular storms and unstable weather patterns.  This weekend we were visiting Eastern ND and spent Saturday evening watching a continuous weather broadcast while funnel clouds and then tornadoes touched down all around us.  Eeek.  Storms with tornado potential are always unsettling and they used to scare the crap out of me as a child, especially when you could hear the emergency siren in town wailing at our farm three miles away from the actual siren. I only remember taking shelter in the basement twice in my life.  Once was when I was a teenager.  My brother and I were home alone while my parents were in Fargo and my sister was babysitting.  There was no tornado that time but there was a lot of tiny non damaging hail.  The other time was a few summers ago at my sister's house when the city sirens sounded in the middle of the night. 

The weather this weekend reminded me that we had our own bizarre weather event last weekend.  On Friday night I was outside talking to the neighbors while Ben and Tessa played with their grandchildren as the black clouds rolled in and the humidity became oppressive.  A few raindrops fell and half an our later we were standing at our window looking out at the city and seeing this:

Usually you can see for miles from this hill but we couldn't even see the other houses in the circle through the rain.  It was like someone was spraying our window with a fire hose.  We could feel the windowpanes rattling.  Well, it turns out we probably shouldn't have been standing in front of the windows because the wind gusted 82 miles an hour during that storm!  Ooops!  It turns out that there was destruction all over town, including this commercial building, which is about 20 blocks from our house. 
Dang!  There were also widespread power outages, shingles ripped off roofs and endless trees and branches snapped.  There were even trees completely uprooted.  Apparently it wasn't a tornado.  It was a very extreme downdraft...or something.  Something with straight line winds. 
That excitement moved into the past as everyone quickly cleaned up the mess and we headed to my parents' farm for the weekend.  On Friday I saw a graphic showing an elevated risk in Eastern ND and Western MN for severe storms but those are often overly cautious.  Well, my mom and I were cleaning their old house and dragging junk out when we saw the familiar black clouds hovering to the north and west.  That was always a creepy thing about the farm.  You never knew what was coming since bad weather almost always comes from those directions and farms are almost always barricaded to the north and west in order to protect the buildings from that weather.  We turned on the TV to find full local news coverage of storm chasers, funnel clouds, viewer photos of hail the size of baseballs and bright red radar images heading right for our area.  We watched clouds swirling around right above the house which is a sight so fascinating and scary it is hard to look away from it.  Meanwhile, Justin and my dad were out on the road away from the trees so they could get a good view and he took these pictures. 

Definitely menacing...probably time to head for shelter...

Ummm...that's dust being pulled up from the ground into the sky...might be time to head for a safe place...
Yesterday I saw this image from the National Weather service indicating that there was indeed an EF2 tornado that occurred in the area. 

The town is in the lower left hand corner and the farm is directly east along the bottom of the image, just cut off from the map, just to the east of the creek that you see snaking down the picture.  It was about 4.5 miles away.  Well, glad that's over and good thing it touched a field and not a farm because I know those people in those little clusters of trees! The people who live in the cluster north west of the tornado have a two year old.  My dad owns the grain bins at the edge of their yard.  As far as I know they are still intact!

Other than the storm, the weekend was a memorable one for me as I attempted to deal with years of childhood accumulation and made the hard decisions about what to keep and what to throw away.  I have been struggling with this process for months and I made major progress this weekend.  We had a bonfire and I threw in many bags of old possessions, including boxes of childhood birthday cards and notes passed between my friends at school, old clothes and...wiping tears...stuffed animals.  Many containers worth of possessions were saved, including favorite childhood books (I'm not parting with the Babysitter's Club or Anne of Green Gables or Ramona!) scrapbooks and homemade gifts.  It's still way too much but I did my best.  Also, and this is major, I saw a substantial expanse of attic floor for the first time ever. 

Yeah for real all the floor you see there was stacked with boxes.  That's what happens when you have a house big enough to hide all your crap.  That is about 1/5 of the space up there.  There are four corners and a very scary overhang that has a very noticeable slant. I always wish for more storage in my house but maybe it's for the best that all we have is shelves in the garage and a crawl space under the stairs.  Attics like this are becoming relics that many people only see in movies or hear about in sentimental Christmas songs but the truth is they are not the most appealing places to be.  You can see there is no insulation so in the winter the temperature up there usually matches the temperature outside and in the summer, well, imagine a breezeless inferno much hotter than the temperature outside.  There is no air conditioning in the house so the nice thing about going in the attic is that when you come down the rest of the house feels cool for a minute even though it might be 80 degrees in there! 
Ok, I am going to try to block the sounds of my stuffed animals dying in the fire...actually, I feel like a fire is a respectful way to dispose of things you care about but can't keep. At least they won't be rotting in a dumpster and then a landfill. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

They Live!

It's been almost one month since I planted the flowers and I am thrilled to announce that last year is not repeating itself and they are not dead!  I check them all the time and whenever we have been gone for a night or two I always am worried they will all be withered when we get back.  But no!  They are looking very healthy and robust for the most part!  The problem last year must have been residual chemicals in the soil since we took it from a farm field or excessive fertilizer use when we were planting.

Speaking of fertilizer, I have administered some Miracle Gro and it is really making a difference.  I can't believe the blooms!  I am waiting to do another application but we have had a lot of rain lately so the pots have barely had a chance to dry.  You can see the rain in the gauge in this picture!

I don't remember what these little star shaped flowers are called but they are really thriving.  I am always looking for a flower that can tolerate full sun.  The color combination in this pot is very strange.  It was kind of the catch all pot for the last few plants I had left but I kind of like it now! 
Our garden is fine.  The tomato plants had grown three times their size while I was on my trip.  Last weekend I was up to my ankles in mud while trying to week the carrot rows.  They were being taken over by an evil weed.

This is purslane.  Purslane is relentless.  It has one deep and strong root that is very hard to pull without just breaking the top off the plant off which doesn't do much good.  From this root it grows out in a circle and spreads across the ground.  When I was researching the weed I learned that in addition to being a loathsome weed (the seeds can stay viable in soil for 40 years), it is also an edible plant that many people eat!  It is very healthy and full of nutrition and has the highest amount of omega-3 fats of any edible plant and also very high levels of antioxidants.  Now I am kind of tempted to eat it.  But not really. 

Here are a few pictures of the kids.  Tessa is having a rock phase right now.  Ben had one too. 

Here they are playing at the park last week. 

It looks like an old fashioned see-saw or teeter totter or whatever you may have called it in your town or at your school.  It is not.  It moves a few inches up and down in either direction.  That is fine for kids as young as Ben and Tessa but I can't help but feel sad for the older kids who are stick with this lame new playground equipment that is meant to prevent any and all risk of injuries.  They are just plain boring.  No wonder kids only want to play video games. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


OK, you all get to finally hear about my trip to Las Vegas. thought I might forget didn't you?  No worries.  You will hear all about it! 

I arrived Thursday evening just in time to have a late supper and hit the slot machines for awhile.  Everyone else had arrived earlier that day and spent time at the pool so everyone was tired, especially with the two hour time change.  I took the following picture up in the room I was sharing with my sister (we had one of those always fun rooms that connected to the room my two cousins were sharing).  Cell phone pictures never do justice but it is still nice.  That giant wheel was not there the last time I was in Vegas two years ago.  We didn't ride but it continually moves at a slow rate so riders can enjoy the views from an enclosed pod that holds up to 40 people.  Yes, it is huge up close. We walked under it.  If you are willing to shell out more cash you can get a pod with a fully operational portable bar in it. 

We were staying at Bally's, which you can see is in the picture.  It shows how huge these hotels are.  Bally's used to have a rather run down and dated walkway with fountains and landscaping that was kind of a waste of space and in the last two years it has turned into a fun outdoor shopping area which made the walk to the strip mush more enjoyable. 

On the first morning it was my grandma's 84th birthday.  She is still full of the energy required to walk around in Vegas.  At the airport TSA allows people older than 75 to keep their shoes on during the security check and when she walked through without removing her shoes they chased her down because they thought she was under 75.  WRONG! 

We young ladies were heading out shopping. 

That night we ate at the warm weather tourist hot spot "Carlos and Charlie's" and they had a balloon artist circulating.  We got them to make an "84" hat to bring to my grandma in the casino and a "30" for a college friend, my sister's former roommate, who joined us on Friday to celebrate her birthday.  Then she made one for everyone else too.  Can you tell what mine is?

It's a striped cat...duh!
The rest of these are not in any particular order. 

Here is a different view of the wheel.  The street you see here used to be the location of the old Imperial Palace casino, which my grandparents used to visit and which many ND residents recognize as the casino owned by Ralph Engelstad.  A new hotel and shopping complex called The Linq is there now.  They also weren't here two years ago!  I can't believe how much changed in two years!

Here is the atrium at the Bellagio, which is filled with lavish plants and themed decorations which change throughout the year.  Currently, it is done in an ocean theme.  It was hard to get a good picture because there are people everywhere!  I don't want to know how many European and Asian tourists will be seeing my pregnant physique in the background of their vacation photos. 

And speaking of...

Here I am, the most sought after woman at the pool at Bally's, hiding out in the shade with my book and water. 

Here is another shot in The Linq alley.

My cousin and I.

It rained twice when we were there!  It was very strange.  On Sunday we were at the pool and some clouds rolled in and raindrops started falling and there was even some thunder and lightening so the pool had to close. Don't worry lifeguards, I was one of you, I understand. There is nothing more thrilling than an unexpected weather break for a lifeguard and I bet those in Vegas get one approximately never. 

More Bellagio ocean.

On Monday we all headed to the airport at different times and I headed to the airport last with my newly 30 year old friend Kari.  I was leaving at 2:00 and she at 4:00.  As I was sitting at the gate a look of dismay came over all the people staring at their phones as we all received a message from our Allegiant app at the same time.  The flight was delayed...until 9:00 PM!  So I would be leaving Las Vegas at 9, arriving in Minot around 1 AM and then driving to Bismarck and arriving home at 3 in the morning just in time for Justin to leave for a 5 am flight for work.  Ugh I was irritated.  I went and found Kari at her gate in another wing of the airport and just when we were about to part ways so she could go to her gate the even worse news came...flight CANCELLED.  I got back to my gate as fast as I could to be the last in line of several hundred people to get a hotel voucher and flight information for the next morning.  This of course caused endless irritation and upheaval back at home.   There was a flight to Billings, MT that was cancelled also and Justin found an article in the Billings newspaper about it this week which made it sound like the passengers were lucky to be "stranded in paradise".  Well, I saw them and I can say that none of us were happy about this.  Although I do love paying $4.00 for more airport bottles of water and soda and spending $12 for fast food meals, I and everyone else was ready to get back to regular life. 

I found my suitcase randomly circling on a carousel that said "Chicago" down in the baggage claim, got on the shuttle and headed to the hotel for the night which was a strange place near the Strip called the Alexis Park.  It was kind of like a Mexican resort. 

I thought it seemed OK until I found my room which didn't face the pool but was on the ground level of one of the buildings facing a parking lot and a chain link fence.  I don't like to live in fear but it was a bit unsettling!

Here is a map I found in the room.  You can see The Strip and the Alexis Park near the bottom right across from Hard Rock.  It could have been worse but it wasn't very much fun being in a non-casino hotel in Vegas.  The next morning I was happy to assemble a presentable outfit (the ONE TIME I manage not to excessively over pack is the time I wish I had more!) and get back to the airport.  I stopped on the way home and picked up Ben and Tessa, who were with a friend's mom who graciously took care of them at the last minute so Justin could go on his work trip.  I brought Ben a novelty tourist paperweight shaped like an airplane that is clear with little stars and dice and playing cards floating in it.  He played with something similar and a friend's house and loved it so I was glad I found one.  Tessa got a flamingo from the Flamingo hotel. She likes it! 

While I was gone they were kept busy by a visit from my dad.  They did all the essential summer activities around town, including the zoo, amusement park and swimming. 

Ben and Grandpa in the tiger observation dome. 

I think they were having fun?

Ferris wheel with Grandpa.

Super slide!

Until we meet again Vegas...I will look forward to the time I can visit you non pregnant!  I was last time I visited too! 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Baseball Ben

I am finally back from Vegas, which ended up being a long story, but as I was about to create a post I saw the pictures from right before I left and thought I better post about them first.  On Thursday morning before I left Ben had his first morning of baseball!  He is playing "Itty Bitty" baseball at the Y.  They have month long sessions of various sports for ages 3-5 who are too young for most organized sports.  I believe the Legion related t-ball that kids played in my hometown and that my brother used to coach is for kids already in Kindergarten but I can't remember.  He knows what baseball is when he sees it and he has a glove and a t-ball set and he loves to throw things but that is about the extent of it.  He was still excited though. 

After a rousing game of "Red Light, Green Light", which he has never played before (and which is an awesome game...why haven't I thought to play that?) the kids practiced stepping and throwing to the coaches (teenagers and college students).  It was mostly chaos.  There were five year olds mixed with three year olds and you can definitely tell the difference when it comes to focus and listening skills with each passing year. 

Then the good part that all the kids had been waiting for came.  The buckets of bats came out and they got to take turns at the tees.  Fortunately, Ben got to be in the first group of batters.  If he hadn't been he would have been off trying to climb over the pile of tractor tires the Y keeps out there for personal training sessions. 

Tomorrow is the second session of baseball.  I feel like I have entered the gateway to years of kids activities.  I wonder what the future will hold? 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Great Strides

On Saturday we headed to SD to walk in the Great Strides walk which benefits Cystic Fibrosis.  We walked in honor of our nephew who is Ben's age.  I was glad to finally make it for the first time because it is the third walk!  Justin and Ben made it two years ago and last year we missed it.   After thinking about it I think this is the first time I have done a walk like this since I was really young and my town had a bike-a-thon for diabetes.  During the years that happened, me and my brother and sister all won the kids division during our qualifying years and we all won a red Radio Flyer wagon.  So we had three Radio Flyers when I was a kid! 
The route for the walk was three miles.  I think I am in good shape because I go to the gym and everything but apparently my regimen isn't very tough because I got sore from this walk.  I will blame it on the extra weight of pregnancy.  Yep, that's why. When I was studying abroad my classmates and I didn't have any cars and our school was a mile from our dorm so we walked at least two miles a day and almost always more because we did other things besides go to school.  My legs were hard as rocks when I got home from that trip.  Maybe I should consider becoming a mall walker.  They get teased but I think they are on to something. 
The walk was a festive occasion.  There was a short downpour that left everyone kind of wet but the wind dried us off pretty quick.  There were lots of kids strolling along with the group and to my relief ours were happy to ride and not run all over like maniacs. 
After the walk we all hung out in the park.  As you can see the sun came out. 

The older kids rode their bikes along the route and Tessa was really interested in "riding" her cousin's bike after we were done. 

Hopefully we can make it again next year! 

We drove home that afternoon and on Sunday we continued with our landscaping project.  On Friday before we left for South Dakota I went to Justin's co-worker's house to obtain some new day lilies for our yard.  We had some at our old house and they seem to be un-killable which is good.  We (Justin) planted them in the flower beds around the house. 

This is the side of the house before, with scraggly and unattractive bushes and lots of volunteer sapling bushes along the foundation. 

Here is the after photo. 
Those are lilies.  They don't look very happy but hopefully they will make it through the summer.  The woman who gave them to us said they might not look very healthy this year and most likely they won't bloom but they should be nice for next summer. 
Here is the front of the house which I shared last week with newly planted lilies.  I really wish they would bloom this year since we received a fun variety in addition to the very common yellow flowers. 

Disclaimer:  These following photos are from the internet, not our yard.  That is why they are all wacky sizes.  I tried to fix it but I couldn't.  This one is called "Root Beer". 

This one is called "Strutter's Ball".

This one is called "James Marsh".

And my favorite, "Kitten's Paw"!

There are 11 different types so no two will be the same. 

It has been really hot today and yesterday (real hot, 90's, not the 75 that feels hot after ND spring) and I am glad to say that the planters of annuals are still looking healthy after 1.5 weeks.  I'm still nervous but

Thursday, June 4, 2015


When I posted about our recent yard work and spring flower planting a few days ago I left out my favorite flowers in the yard right now.  Those would be the irises.  We had some fabulous solid purple irises in front of our old house and we tried to move part of one over here in a pot but it didn't survive the winter.  Last summer we obtained some new plants from Justin's botanist coworker.  We never saw their blooms but we knew what colors were in the mix and planted them in the order we wanted. 
We have purple and white bi-color,

light purple,

and, my favorite!  I am in love with these!
We weren't sure if they would bloom this year either but they did!  Next year there will be many flowers.  They are so tall already. 
They are up to Ben's waist!  I don't know how it is possible that both my children seem oblivious to the pain of crawling and walking around barefoot on beds of rock.  It's very strange.