This past weekend we celebrated Brad and my anniversary.  We like to follow the traditional wedding gift ideas for anniversaries; this being our sixth meant it was candy!

We loaded up the kids and headed to one of Minnesota’s favorite getaway spots: Duluth!  Our first stop was the Great Lakes Aquarium.

The kids were so excited, Marshall couldn’t jump out of the car fast enough.  They really have a love of learning and animals so this was a perfect stop.

We did hit a minor snag when entering the building, though.

Meet the snag

Violet saw this giant hanging fish staring us down.  It’s hard to remember sometimes that she isn’t even two years old yet, but when this one year old saw the towering fish she slowly wilted until she was in a ball of tears.  Brad had to scoop her up and then she wanted to be carried the majority of the time.

It makes sense that the sea horses were Vi’s favorite. The daddy sea horses carry the babies until they’re ready to go out on their own.

We loved taking time to read the facts and learn more about the fish and other little creatures.

Violet had to yell “HI!!” to each tank, ya know, just so the fish knew we arrived.

I know it probably sounds ridiculous, but Franki is very observant for her age. She was absolutely enthralled with all the new sights and sounds.

Perfect capture of their personalities: Marshall reading the map and planning the best route, Vi being Ms. Social Butterfly and greeting the fish with a wave, and Franki quietly taking it all in like a little sponge.

I know this is a bit blurry but here’s another example of personalities shown in pictures. Vi loves me dearly but Lord help me if I get too close to Brad. In her mind, Brad is her’s and Franki is their baby.

If I had to venture a guess at the kids’ favorite exhibits it would probably be a toss-up between the Otter Den and petting the sturgeon.

I asked Marshall to peek out of the den for a picture but he was too busy watching the playful otters.

The otters were wrestling so Marshall decided they must be brother and sister.  Sounds about right.

“Come see this!”

My little otters

She was excited and intimidated all at the same time.

The sturgeons were amazing- they were like puppies, coming up to us and rolling over to have their bellies rubbed.

Sizing ourselves up

Cutest Sterlert around

What I like about the aquarium is that it has a bit of a Science Museum element to it as well.  Marshall loves math and science so he was all over the different experiments and had me reading all kinds of fresh water facts.

This boy will change the world someday, you watch.

If all the world’s water fit into 100 buckets, only 3 would be freshwater.

There are also plenty of wonderful walk out spots to view the iconic Aerial Lift Bridge.

Six years of marriage, ten years together. Always an adventure.

It was SO hard trying to get all five of us plus the bridge in the picture with my little t-rex arms

Before leaving we had to hit up the gift shop.  Whenever we go to a new place (city, museum, events, etc.) we buy a magnet.  It’s an inexpensive and practical way to commemorate the experience.  The kids love pointing out the various magnets on our fridge and talking about the memory behind it.  And I love having plenty of magnets to hold all the kids’ art and pictures.

Are you really tourists if you don’t take silly gift shop pictures?

Once we picked out our magnets, we headed to a classic candy shop: Fannie Rose.  Full of charm and artisanal chocolates, Fannie Rose was the perfect place to choose the candy for our candy-versary.

Sizing up the choices

Ordering their chocolate

Marshall was excited to pay (using dad’s wallet, of course)

We were trying to pace the sugar, so we each picked one piece. I chose a chocolate orange truffle, Brad chose a chocolate banana truffle, and the kids wanted chocolate covered Oreos.

It was lunch time so we headed to fill our tummies with old school diner classics.  There’s no better place than King of Creams; we headed to the brick and mortar restaurant but they also have food trucks and an ice cream cart.  Simple but satisfying, we absolutely loved the food.

Bring on the food!

When the food is so good, ya just gotta kiss somebody

Loving their hamburger and corn dog

Brad & I both got Philly cheesesteaks with fries. Not much to look at but seriously delicious!!

Having chocolate ice cream after finishing their meal

With full bellies, we headed to our favorite natural parenting store Little Neetcher’s.

Vi had to load up her cart with allll the goods

I love stores that have play centers for kids, it makes browsing so much more enjoyable

We adore books, so we couldn’t pass up a Minnesota board book.  Add that to our magnets (and a couple of bags of things from target…yea Target on our anniversary, I can’t help myself) and we were good on souvenirs.

With some time to spare before our cruise, we hit up Canal Park.  The kids had their snack (water and yogurt) and played on the equipment before running the trails.

It’s crazy to look at our three (3!) children; perfect combinations of Brad & I

Riding the rocking seahorse

Yelling “Yay!” As she rocked back and forth on the ship

Taking a break to smell the flowers (she went on to smell tall grass after this)


Before we knew it, it was time to board the pizza cruise!  It couldn’t come soon enough as Vi decided, while we were waiting in line surrounded by strangers, that touching butts was fun.  Yes.  Randomly, little Violet started trying (and sometimes successfully) touching random people’s bottoms- all while looking directly at Brad and I with the most mischievous grin.  Oy.  Vey.  This one will do us in, I swear.

Duluth, MN 2017

Mama and Franki, we love babywearing (pictured here wearing a Standard Tula in navigator print)

All aboard!

When it was time to board, we were greeted with leis.  The kids begged to go to the very top of the boat; the open deck.

Vi was so excited for her lei, Moana is a current favorite in our house so Vi was feeling like an island princess

I should mention this was a “Family Fun Cruise”, so kids were welcome in all areas of the ship

Family Fun Cruise ’17!

Baby’s first little cruise

Vi is convinced that Franki is her baby.

We quickly decided the second level was better suited for us.  There was still an open deck at the very front of the ship, but the cabin was covered and we could comfortably sit at the table for the kids to color, eat their pizza & ice cream, and dance.

On the front deck of the second level, enjoying the view with all my favorites.

It was fun getting to see iconic Duluth sites from a new view

Dancing to the Radio Disney music playing over the speakers

Big pizza smile (he was in total heaven)

On the front deck, waving to the crowd on the pier. They always love to wave to people when out and about, they’re convinced they are royalty.

Excited for dessert

Daddy with his daughters

Mom & Marshall fun on the first deck

Dad helping Franki get the best view. She loved it!

Striking a pose

Photo prop fun

Marshall competing in the limbo contest (all the kids were winners- Marshall picked out a pirate eyepatch from the prize box and Vi picked a mermaid sticker)

Vi timidly doing the limbo

He was proud of his tiki mask coloring skills. I love this boy so much.

A perfect end to a great day celebrating our family

After the cruise, we loaded up our three kids (as well as all that goes along with three kids) and started the journey home.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am when I look around at the family we created.  We aren’t perfect, but there’s no one I’d rather go through this adventure with.

All aboard the hot mess express!






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