Joe Bliven

A Second Chance at Fall

December 18th, 2023

Clara's first couple months in our family certainly haven't been boring for her. We quickly got to work showing her what life is like in our family. As always here is a gallery of all the photos I couldn't fit in this blog post.

Clara went to her first two street festivals at one week old: the Selby Ave Jazz Fest and James Jay Hill days. She slept through most of the music and fireworks. She sleeps really well and is overall a super chill baby. She's becoming very expressive. She loves smiling every day, even when she sleeps.

The fireworks at James J Hill Days

Fall started with Maya enrolled in several activities: ECFE once a week with two other days that were drop-in classes. We also enrolled her in preschool camp at Battle Creek Rec center again, because she had loved it so much last year. Unfortunately the first two months were cancelled due to low enrollment. When it finally started, Maya had a really hard time separating. She was also beginning to be resistant to separating for her tumbling class. We suspect that something having to do with the new baby dynamics caused Maya to have a lot more separation anxiety. We pared her schedule down to just the one day of ECFE and made sure to visit more storytimes. She seems to be doing better emotionally now. She's still a little clingier than she was pre-Clara. Maya is Elsa from Frozen many days of the week. She loves to scream the words to many Frozen songs, especially Let It Go.

Maya at storytime wearing her Elsa cape (a small tablecloth and a binder clip)

Elena started her final year of middle school this year. It's crazy how much this kid has packed into the year already, and it isn't even winter break yet. She started the year with her final season on the middle school tennis team. After the season ended we had her enrolled in an indoor tennis program through Saint Paul Urban Tennis, which would have gone through the winter. After a few weeks of the program she decided the timing was bad and she had other priorities for the winter. She's still in the extracurricular orchestra group called Stringsemble, which meets before school on Thursday and Friday. This year I'm giving two other students rides to Stringsemble so Elena has to be out the door at 7:25am. On Friday afternoon they performed a Christmas concert at the Mall of America. She also joined a children's theater production of Madeline's Christmas this fall, which just wrapped last weekend. The last two weeks leading up to the first performance, the actors were rehearsing from 6pm-9pm every weeknight. This was on top of basketball, which was also every weekday. This meant that each weekday she was leaving the house between 7:25-8:20am and finally getting home between 8:30-9:30pm. Usually I just had to bring a plate of dinner with me so that she could eat as I shuttled her from one activity to the next. Since the play is over and she doesn't have any more sports until spring, things should be slowing down quite a bit for a few months. She has expressed boredom with her newfound evening freedom. On top of all that she also managed weekly piano lessons, meeting with a children's choir in Minneapolis most Saturdays, participating in most of the school math team meets, and hanging out with friends online and AFK. When gaming she still mostly sticks to Roblox, though she's recently rediscovered Fortnite and has been playing that with some regularity.

Elena at her short lived indoor tennis program

A few of Elena's friends went to see the final performance of her play, two of her teachers did too!

Fall is always my favorite season, and this was a particularly good one. Having Amelia home for a couple months was really nice. Not only did we get to spend a bit more time together, I was also able to have more space to work on independent projects. One such project was an arcade cabinet that I've been customizing. This was a project that was always far off on the horizon for me, but in June the perfect project cabinet had appeared on Facebook marketplace. It just sat in the garage all summer, but when fall came around I started finding more time to work on it. The project is pretty close to finished. I'm betting that toward the end of winter I'll be able to find some time to finish it.

This thing was gutted, the side panels had sections sawed off of them, and the laminate was chipping and bubbling, Maya thought it was a good cafe though.

I still have a lot to do, but the cabinet is nearing its ultimate form

After a full year of carrying a game boy with me everywhere, I still have yet to complete the Pokemon Emerald Pokedex. The Gen III dex is a real doozy. I know I can do it but it won't be happening this year.

This year brought more success in our garden. Our potato harvest came in at 7 pounds. Our carrot harvest was over 9 pounds. Next year I'm hoping to grow at least twice as many potatoes. I also hope to have our first successful squash harvest. Wish us luck!

7 pounds of potatoes, 7 pounds of baby!

9.6 pounds of carrots, 10.6 pounds of baby!

We had a great spooky season. Elena wanted to do another Halloween costume party for her birthday this year. It was freezing cold but we got a bounce house and the kids used it. It snowed the night before Halloween, so trick or treating was slippery. Maya had planned on being Elmo for the second year in a row, but decided to pivot to ghost on Halloween Day. We made a quick ghost costume that she only wore for three houses before trick-or-treating as herself the rest of the night. We visited all of our friends and family on the west side and exchanged some of our carrot surplus for their candy surplus. Leading up to Halloween we read tons of Halloween books, watched spooky and/or scary movies, and went to a lot of fall festivals and Halloween events in various costumes. Amelia and Maya wound up on the evening news at one of these events. We're still buried in candy. I love Halloween and I'm glad my family does too.

A Halloween snow angel

Don't be too spooked, it's only Maya

I'm so thankful we got a second chance at fall after that Halloween cold spell. We were so busy leading up to Elena's birthday party and Halloween that it felt like we had hardly pumpkined or spiced. Luckily fall came back and has really stuck around. We got to play in the leaves, have bonfires, visit an apple orchard, and have some nice fall walks deep into November.

A lovely fall stroll to the neighborhood playground

My dad got me tickets to the ALDS games 3 and 4 at Target Field. My Uncle Mike who lives in Arizona came to game 4 also. It was a great experience in spite of the predictable outcome on the field. I've never seen Target Field that packed, the energy was incredible. These were my first MLB postseason games since my dad took me to the ALDS in 2002 at the Metrodome.

I brought my homer hanky from 2002. Despite this homer hanky likely being the reason we became the American League Central Division champs against the Moneyball A's team, it proved less helpful in the 2023 ALDS. We lost the series in 4 games. Check out this seat though! Thanks Dad!

A moment from game 4 when the whole crowd turned on their flashlights. What a fun series, off the field at least.

We spent a weekend at Great Wolf Lodge, a local hotel and indoor water park. We let Elena invite some friends to stay with us. It was a nice time for them, and especially for Maya who was just starting to really enjoy swimming toward the tail end of summer. She spent hours kicking around the 3 foot pool with her water wings on.

A major highlight of the fall was our road trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was perfect weather, if a little dreary at times (but good dreary, like a moody fall dreary). The trees were exploding with color. We spent most of the trip just walking through natural landmarks. We spent a day on Mackinac Island, where we met with Amelia's parents. They had gotten a room at the Grand Hotel. The island was so darling, as was the hotel. There were no cars on the island so everyone rode bikes and horses. We also stayed at some hotel rooms with pools, including one that had a little indoor waterpark. Maya loved swimming nearly every day of the trip. Clara took well to travelling, but when we returned home she had a marked improvement to her demeanor. I got some great photos on the trip, which deserve their own photo gallery.

Another fall highlight: Amelia's cousin's wedding in Iowa was a blast.

Amelia went back to work in November, but with limited hours. She has been taking her Master's program online.

It was a long busy fall, and I am eagerly anticipating a relaxing winter.