There are three main hobbies that begin with the letter "T" that Sophia and Olivia have explored: table tennis, topiary, and travel.
On February 23, 2014, while we were staying in Ely, Minnesota, we had the opportunity to play table tennis. The girls had never played table tennis before, so it was fun teaching them how to play.
There aren't a lot of places where table tennis is played these days.
Seems like it was much more common 20 years ago or more.
The first time the girls saw topiaries was at a children's concert by the Ordway Theater in St. Paul. There were a variety of topiaries in the shapes of animals. The girls' favorite one was a horse.
The next time we saw topiaries was at the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island. This mansion had an extensive garden filled with flowers, trees, and topiaries.
September 5, 2011
It would be fun to create and have some topiaries around our farm. The animal ones that we saw in 2007 were so clever and the perfect size for children to interact with and enjoy.
The earliest travel that the girls did was throughout China when we adopted them. Sophia was adopted in November 2001; and we saw a lot of cultural and historic sites as well as art museums.
We saw beautiful sculptures - like this one at the White Swan Hotel that was carved from jade.
In November 2003, we returned to China to adopt Olivia. Sophia, Paige, and I walked on a section of the Great Wall.
The steps were different heights - some only a few inches high and others ones that she had to crawl up. She could have kept going, but the tour bus was leaving soon and we had to return.
We tried to show them as much as we could while we were there since neither had left the orphanage when they were there (Sophia was there until she was 11 months old and Olivia was at her orphanage until she was 10 months old).
We returned to some places we saw on the first trip - including the White Swan Hotel and the jade sculpture. This time we had both girls in the photo.
Many of the trips after that were relatively close to home. A favorite place to visit was Grand Marais. We would stay at various rental homes throughout the area. One of the most memorable one was Rosebushbacka. The girls were playing in a field of wildflowers and wild onions in the photo below.
June 16, 2006
Another time we traveled for an extended period of time as a family was due to water damage in our home and the wood floors needing to be re-done. Our insurance company covered the cost of staying in hotels while the five-day floor re-sanding and re-finishing process was being done.
On our trip, we went to Duluth. One of the places we visited was a train museum. Below, the girls explored an old mail train car.
September 2, 2008
In 2009, we began traveling with my parents. They used to take many trips. However, the last one they took was a challenging one because, unknown at the time, my dad had mid-stage Alzheimer's Disease. He struggled with reading a map and finding his way around the cities and towns they were exploring.
With my mom's low vision and inability to see signs and drive, they made a decision that it was safest to stay in areas that they knew rather than travel.
So, they offered to take us on driving trips to places they wanted to see and pay for all our expenses, if I would drive. It was a great arrangement.
Our first trip was to Pella, Iowa, to see the tulip festival. We stopped for a picnic in Albert Lea, Minnesota. It was a bit chilly that day. Yet, it was a nice stop.
April 29, 2009 - picnic in Albert Lea, Minnesota
Another trip that we went on was to Grand Marais. This one was my idea because my dad used to take Little Brothers (through the Big Brothers Little Brothers program) and lead Boy Scouts on canoeing and camping trips.
We stopped at a Bearskin Lodge on the way up the Gunflint Trail and saw a friendly chipmunk there. The girls fed it Pik-Nik potato snacks.
September 8, 2010
We continued up the Gunflint Trail to Chik-Wauk Museum on the shore of Lake Saganaga - a place my dad used to canoe on decades ago. We had a picnic there, went through the museum, and the girls, my dad, and I went on a hike. My mom stayed back due to mobility issues.
September 8, 2010
We have take numerous trips up north and have enjoyed the views of Lake Superior.
September 9, 2010
Many times we just enjoy the view. However, there have been times that the girls have waded into the frigid water.
Another trip that we took with my parents - the girls' grandparents - was to Wabasha to visit the National Eagle Center. We were able to see eagles up close.
We also went to Lark Toys and went on a carousel ride there. The girls rode different carved animals - like a unicorn that Sophia liked and otter that Olivia liked. My dad rode on a beautiful carved seat and would wave to my mom and me each time he passed by.
July 19, 2010
We continued to Winona and then into Wisconsin to visit the Shrine of Guadalupe. This is a place that my parents wanted to visit for many years. I was happy that we were able to go there along with a family friend who we have known since the 1960s.
July 20, 2010
One of the traditions that I did with the girls was take them on a "Not Back to School Trip" each September. It was a perfect time to travel because kids were back in school and things were quiet again at places we wanted to visit.
So, in early-September 2011, we went on a driving trip around the New England states. It was a wonderful way to explore six states and see a beautiful part of the country.
Below, we had a snack at the pagoda at the Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island.
September 5, 2011
We visited Ben & Jerry's in Vermont.
September 7, 2011
We took a tour of the Louisa May Alcott home in Massachusetts.
September 9, 2011
The first national monument that the girls went to was Pipestone National Monument in southwestern Minnesota. Below, they are sawing pipestone.
June 8, 2012
On that same trip, in addition to seeing the Corn Palace and Prehistoric Indian Village in Mitchell, South Dakota, we went camping at Lake Shetek State Park where there are pelicans. The girls enjoyed swimming in Lake Shetek since it was unseasonably hot that day.
June 9, 2012
The girls enjoyed reading books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. So, in 2012, we visited some places where Laura had lived and attended church. We went through Spring Grove where she went to church and then headed to Burr Oak, Iowa, where the Masters Hotel is located. It's one of the places where Laura lived.
We also went to Amish farms, businesses, and a farmers market. My mom went with us on this trip; and especially enjoyed visiting the Amish farms.
August 25, 2012
In June 2013, we visited a couple of state parks and did some camping. Below, Sophia is by some rocks at Banning State Park.
June 3, 2013
We traveled through Two Harbors and were able to watch some ships come close to the dock where we were standing.
June 4, 2013
In April 2014, Paige took the girls to California since he was receiving an award for radio promotions.
April 5, 2014
They saw the ocean and desert; and went horseback riding through a beautiful part of the desert.
April 8, 2014
A few months later, the girls and I went to Grand Marais. We all went horseback through the forests which was beautiful. Sophia and I went ziplining.
July 10, 2014
Olivia and I went rock climbing along the cliffs of Lake Superior. This was at Tettegouche State Park.
July 12, 2014
All of us went kayaking on Lake Superior by Split Rock Lighthouse. We were able to see the lighthouse from a new perspective as well as sea caves and a shipwreck.
July 12, 2014
July 2, 2017
We went to Saguaro National Park and saw the huge saguaro cacti.
July 4, 2017
July 5, 2017
We returned to Tucson after seeing many museums, historic sites, caves, and parks.
July 8, 2017
We met Sophia at the airport and took one last picture by the cacti. It's not something we see in Minnesota.