Friday, March 27, 2009

Flood 2009 (Pre-Crest)

In case you haven't turned on the news lately, we are expecting record flood levels here in North Dakota this year along the Red River. As I write this, Fargo is scrambling to raise their earth-and-sandbag dikes in an effort to keep their record-breaking water levels out of the town. Several neighborhoods in Fargo have been evacuated as the crest makes its way upstream to us (yes, the river flows to the north). It is expected to crest here on Monday or Tuesday at around 53 feet - the walls and dikes that surround our town will protect us to 60 feet. They were built with federal funds after the devastating flood of 1997, which many long-timers are remembering all too vividly these days.

There seems to be a feeling of almost-confidence here (not smugness; North Dakotans are much too humble to be smug) as the surrounding areas scramble to protect homes and towns from the rising waters. While we could still experience some complications (ice dams, sump-pump failures, localized dike failure), we feel very grateful to be so well-protected...after all, our house is only 4 blocks from the river! Hopefully that confidence will be valid and we won't have any complications to report in the next week or two...
Today the kids and I drove downtown to get a look at the swollen Red. It's technically illegal to climb the dikes to look at the river so we parked on top of a parking garage, which gave us a great view:

This is the Sorlie Bridge, which connects Grand Forks, ND with East Grand Forks, MN. It has been closed due to the high water levels; there is currently only one bridge open connecting the 2 communities. In the foreground you can see where the earthen dike meets the flood wall. The opening is where the train tracks run through and go across the river into Minnesota. During a major flood they fill in the openings.

The kids had a great view from the hood of the car.

We enjoyed almost a week of "warm" temperatures before a big snowstorm hit. Almost all of the snow had melted, which obviously contributed to the river levels. Now we're back to temps in the teens and feet of snow piled up around town. Come ON already, Spring!

If you look really closely, you can see a tan-colored tower peeking out from the water over near the bridge. That is a monument built along the greenway showing the water levels from previous floods....the 1997 flood crested at 54 feet.

Cars are parked along the town side of the dike. On the other side is a greenway with paved trails and grass. It will be a big mess to clean up once the water recedes.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Raising a Reader

We have always tried to read a lot with our kids, and they love it. Haley especially was interested in letters from early on and was able to write her name by the time she was 2 1/2. When she started kindergarten this past fall she could sound out words and write notes to us (albeit with very creative spelling). We knew that she was ahead of the curve with the reading and writing, but were still surprised when sometime this winter she started reading "chapter books" on her own. She has discovered how useful it is to have a book on hand when we're running errands as a family and she's bored (Rob and I never go anywhere without a book). We've added a "quiet reading time" before bed for her, where she gets to go in and read on her own before we read to her. I'm still surprised sometimes that her comprehension is at that level, but since the stories hold her attention she must be understanding them.

At her latest parent/teacher conference her teacher told us she's reading at a 2nd-grade level. WOW! We are so proud of our little reader. She's been enjoying the Weather Fairies and Ramona series, but I think it's time to start on some classics like Secret Garden and Charlotte's Web. What were some of your favorite stories as a kid?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jake Turns Three!

Yesterday Jake finally turned three - he has been waiting for months for this day. He was so very excited to have his "Cars" birthday and celebrate in style. We had a fun day opening gifts, eating cupcakes, playing with the balloons and new toys, enjoying the "warm" weather outside, and having dinner at Space Aliens. Jake is very proud to be such a "big boy" and says that he's decided to have another birthday this week.

My baby boy is barely visible in the go-go-go 3-year-old that Jake has become. He still has the adorable round cheeks and perfect little mouth that he had as an infant, and during the rare times that he's asleep or holding still, I can still see the baby in him. At 3 years old, Jake is always on the go. From morning to night, he is always ready for fun, messes, adventures, teasing, playing, running, jumping, tumbling, dancing and any kind of sport you can think of. He is so much like his dad - funny, super smart, up for anything, and charming as all get out. It's so fun - and often exhausting - to watch him learn and grow and explore everything around him.

Last week I was at the mall and must have been rather hormonal. As we walked around I started noticing all the different men passing by and kept wondering what they were like as little boys. Were they really cute at one time instead of hairy and rotund? Were they happy and curious intead of crusty and anti-social? I got very emotional thinking about how my beautiful little boy could someday turn into one of those brooding teenagers or grumpy old men. Fortunately it will be a while before that's a possibility. For now he is still my sweet boy.

We are all so happy to have Jake as a part of our family. He adds an energy and humor that I never could have imagined. He is Haley's best friend, Daddy's "buddy," and my Snugglebug. I can't wait to see all that he becomes and accomplishes in his life. Happy Birthday, Jake!

Friday, March 13, 2009

And Baby #3 Is A...

...BOY! We had our ultrasound on Friday and were so excited to find out that we'll be welcoming a baby brother to our family this summer. As you can see from the pictures below, there is NO question about the sex - we are 100% sure that it's a boy. He was very cooperative for the tech and she gave us a lot of pictures to take home. He was also incredibly active; she kept laughing and saying that we should be ready for an energetic baby ("Another one?!?", we thought to ourselves). Everything looked great though, and I'm impatient to get to meet this little guy.

Jake was very excited to know that he'll have a baby brother; Haley was a little disappointed. She really wanted a baby sister but knows that we didn't get to choose. I'm sure she'll come around and love him just as much as she does Jacob.
As for names, we have a few ideas but can't come to an agreement on any of them. Rob keeps calling him "Dave", while Jake has dubbed him "Blizzard." Any suggestions?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Cure For the Winter/Pregnancy Blues

Have you been feeling a little blue lately? Do you feel like the winter will never end? Are you trapped in your house in sub-zero weather while your kids literally run in circles around you? Are you less than half-way through a pregnancy that feels never-ending? I have the solution for you! Simply follow these steps and before you know it you'll be holding a sweet new baby on a sunny summer day:

1: After countless "discussions" with your husband, come to the gut-wrenching conclusion that it doesn't make sense to try to move out of your arctic-climate-yet-blessed-with-a-great-economy small town. After all, you want to be closer to family, but not living in their basement.

2: Decide that as long as you're going to be here for a few more years, you might as well casually investigate buying a bigger house in order to make aforementioned winters and children more bearable. But just look for the fun of it, and not because you're all that serious.

3: Start to visit open houses around town, just because it's fun; compare nearby ones to your own, find a few that look interesting, and drool over several that are clearly out of your price range. However, don't think that you'll actually end up moving, because that would be crazy.

4: Find a house that you love in a great neighborhood; make a low-ball offer, get it rejected even though it's overpriced and has been on the market for 18 months, and decide to not pursue it any further. In the meantime, start finishing up all the remodeling projects in your own house that have been 90% done for 3 years. Love your own house more and more with each project that gets finished.

5: One Thursday, hear about a fantastic house that the owners are "desperate" to sell. Make an offer that night, hear back that they will only accept the offer once your house is officially on the market. FREAK OUT.
6: Spend that weekend frantically finishing up all projects - base and crown in the basement, tile floors in the entry and bath, painting and caulking and touching-up all the little areas that need it. Also de-clutter, deep clean, pack half your belongings, and stage every room to perfection. You've watched enough HGTV to practically have a degree in staging and selling a house and you know what needs to be done.

7: Feel your stomach flop over and tears come to your eyes as you get home from the store on Monday and see the "For Sale" sign in your yard - in front of the house that you brought your daughter to as a 6-month-old and your son home to as a newborn. Take a deep breath and go drive by the new house; instantly feel better.

8: Rejoice as agents call all week to schedule showings, even though you haven't had any open houses yet. Get ecstatic as 2 offers come in on the same day. Accept one of them and sit back, amazed at how all of this has happened in less than a week!
9: Realize that "all of a sudden" you are already halfway through your pregnancy and there are only a few weeks until Thaw. Look forward to moving and getting settled just in time for the new baby to arrive. Relax!
Since some of you have asked for pictures:
Little House on the Prairie (Sold):

Big House on the Prairie (Bought):