Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Four Years

Happy fourth anniversary to the love of my life, Andi.

Four years, look at us!

He's likely reading this blog post from an event site somewhere in Oregon as he's traveling for work this week. I would be more specific, but I honestly don't know any more detail than the fact he's in "Oregon." This a good example of the way our relationship works when he's on the road -- few details are shared about his work days until after he returns home and then I'm like, "Um, what! You were driving ATVs on the side of cliffs? Okay, glad you're home safe, honey."

The thing about Andi and I is this works for us. I don't need to know what's he's up all the time. We can even go for days without talking when he's on the road. It doesn't mean we don't love or miss each other. Quite the opposite, actually. Four years into marriage and almost eight years together, our relationship is filled with respect, admiration and trust. It's exactly what I hoped (and what I knew) our marriage would be. We give each other the space to be ourselves, to do the things that make us happy, while always being there (in physical or mental presence) with open arms and a listening ear.

Just because Andi's gone on our anniversary (or on any other day we're away from one another), doesn't mean I don't miss him like crazy. I love that man more today than the day I said "I do." My chest feels heavy when we're not together and I don't feel completely at ease again until we're reunited once more. We'll celebrate this anniversary with a date night out to dinner when he return from his work trip and it'll be just as special as if it were on our actual wedding anniversary date.

Last week, we continued our anniversary tradition of visiting Noerenberg Gardens. The first year we were married, Andi and I stood in the very spot we were married and recited our vows to one another. The next year (2nd anniversary), I was hugely pregnant with Tory and we visited the site, talked about our marriage and the way our family was about to change forever in just a few weeks time. Last year (3rd anniversary), we brought Tory to Noerenberg Gardens with us and marveled at how far we'd come together. This year (4th anniversary), we brought Tory to the gardens again and captured photos of our family of three, ready to embark on another baby adventure.

Four years!

The years have been good to Andi and I. We make a solid team together. I praise God everyday for pairing me with a man who's strong, funny, driven and irresistibly sexy. He's my soul mate and I'm so lucky to have him as mine.

Happy anniversary, my love!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Letters to Tory: 23 Months


Happy monthly birthday, beanie! Believe it or not, I actually love sitting down to write you these letters once a month because it gives me a chance to reflect on the person you're growing up to be. You are changing so much these days. If I didn't have the proof in words and pictures, the length of your hair or the wild expressions you make would float off into my distant memory. Call me a sap for re-reading and reminiscing about our memories, but I love to remember where we've been while celebrating the present day.

Take for example, your ever-evolving vocabulary. Just a few weeks ago, you'd respond with "um, sure!" every time we asked you a question. "Tory, do you want toast for breakfast?" "Um, sure" you'd respond and it was just the cutest thing ever. I told Daddy that I needed to capture you saying it on video because the tone of your high-pitched voice when you excitedly responded to my question made me laugh every time. Did I ever capture "um, sure!" on video? No, and one day you started to respond with "okay" instead. It broke my heart a little because I couldn't get you to say it again. Today, I can hear you speak those words in my mind, but one day that memory will fade. That's why I love these letters. I love our home videos. I love the thousands of photos we have of you on file because you change so quickly and while I love the person you're becoming, I miss who you were just yesterday.

If I had to sum of this month in a few words, it would be: LANGUAGE EXPLOSION. This month, you reached 100 words of audible vocabulary which I think is really exciting. You're now way past that number. You say so many things these days, I stopped recording your words because there's just too many to count. For the most part, you speak fairly clearly and most people can understand what you're communicating. Sometimes, there's a few words I don't quite understand and you just repeat them over and over like, "come on, mom, catch up already." Names were a big development this month -- you remember friends and family member's names and talk about them days after you've seen them last. Actually, I'm fairly impressed by your memory as a whole this month. We went to the zoo a few times and you were able to recite the animals you saw (giraffe, monkey, penguin, lion) to Daddy and Grandma several days after you visited there. We flew back to Nebraska this month for a quick family reunion and on the plane you held out your hand for a cookie as the flight attendant passed by with snacks and beverages. I had to laugh at this one because you remembered the flight attendant gives you biscotti cookies and you seemed so grown up asking for your own.

You speak about yourself in third person (ie: Tory help) instead of saying "I" or "me" and you often use two-word phrases now. One of my proudest parenting moments happened this month when you regularly started to use "please" and "thank you. in context. You also told me the other day, "dude, don't make a mess" in toddler speak which seriously had me belly laughing. Not that I really want you calling me "dude," but I had to chuckle about the way you repeated one of my commonly-used phrases back at me. I guess now would be the time to start watching what we say around here!

More than anything, you're so fun these days. I adore your endearing personality and I'm so thrilled to spend every single day with you. Thank you for being YOU.


Monday, July 29, 2013

The Places I've Been Book Order

Remember the Places I've Been Book I made Tory a few months ago? No one is probably able to forget it since I bring it up every seventeen seconds. It's just ... I'm so proud of it! I love having one place to document Tory's first visit to new states in the U.S.

So far, Tory's been to nine different states in her young life and I'm both impressed and stunned by the number of family adventures Andi and I have carted her off to in the last 22 months. First flight at four weeks? A Key West, FL vacation at nine weeks? Such naive travel-bug parents we were, and probably still are. 

Actually, I hope Baby Aden has equally fun experiences to fill up his book which is why I'm writing this post. Several people expressed interest in having your own Places Book, so I thought I'd open it up to see if anyone else wants one when I place my order. It's not a money-making venture for me -- I'm just ordering one for Aden and a few extras to give as gifts and thought other people might like to get in on the action. Last time, one book cost me about $42 from Blurb (+ cost of shipping to those of you I can't deliver your book(s) in person).

I'm planning to place a Places book order by August 23 so I'll have the books back in time for Aden's arrival and the upcoming holidays. If you are interested, email me at and I'll share final cost details, answer questions, etc. before placing the final order.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day In The Life: Summer 2013

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tory is 22 months old
I am 24 weeks pregnant with Baby #2

I'm jolted awake by a painful charley horse in my left leg. Argh! I try to massage it out while laying in bed but it's only getting worse. I finally get up to walk around the house and stretch my leg muscles. In the process, I have a coughing attack (all three of us are sick with summer colds this week) and I wake Tory up from her sleep. Tory's crying wakes Andi up and now we're ALL UP at 4:00am. Good times.

I go into Tory's room to settle her back to sleep and cave by bringing her back to bed with me. This is a nasty habit we've been getting into lately when Tory wakes up early morning. I'm too tired to care at this point and honestly, she's only my baby for a little bit longer so I secretly cherish the snuggle time with her. BUT ... I quickly remember Tory is the worst bed-mate and her flailing around finally forces Andi out of bed all together.

7:00am - 8:45am
Tory's awake and demanding food, so I drag my tired butt out of bed and stammer to the kitchen. I see Andi asleep on the couch in the three-season porch which is very un-characteristic of him. He's usually at work by 6:00am, so I know he must not feel well.

Today's breakfast is an asiago cheese bagel with plain cream cheese, grapes and ice coffee for me; "bagel toast," banana Greek yogurt and grapes for Tory. My pregnancy craving for asiago bagels is still in high demand as I drove to FOUR DIFFERENT STORES on Monday and Tuesday to find them. (Seriously, Target, why are you always out of these?) In the meantime, Tory has developed a serious love for cream cheese and demands it every time I eat a bagel for breakfast. Except, a bagel is too difficult for her to chew so I started putting cream cheese on toast for her. Enter: bagel toast. It's her favorite.


Andi's sleeping in there ... somewhere

Tory's favorite meal time (aka: the one where my picky eater will eat the most food) is breakfast, so I let her take her time eating while I bust out a few household chores. I unload the dishwasher, clean up breakfast, sweep and mop the floor and wipe down counter tops. Tory finishes breakfast and I give her some Dr. Seuss cards to play with while I finish cleaning.

Meanwhile, Andi wakes up and hops in the shower. He comes into the kitchen to say good-bye to Tory and I. She is so surprised and excited to see him as he's usually gone by the time she wakes up in the morning. Andi asks what we're up to this morning and I say swimming class. Tory asks Andi, "come?" and I think he's going to burst into tears right there as I watch his heart break into a million pieces. "I have to go to work right now," he tells Tory, "but we'll swim at the lake this weekend, okay kiddo?"

8:45am - 9:30am
Time has slipped away and we're suddenly running late to swimming class. Somehow, I always mis-judge free time in the mornings and am usually left rushing at the last minute. I hurry Tory into my room so she can monkey around in the bathroom while I pick out clothes to wear, style my hair and brush my teeth. Not much effort put forth today as I'll be in a pool in less than an hour.

Today: Gap Maternity Favorite Tee, Gap Maternity jeggings (so two years ago, but whatever) and flip flops)

I also get Tory dressed, brush her teeth and brush her hair (although I don't style it because she'll also be swimming soon). Tory makes a complete mess of the bathroom counter in the few quick seconds it takes me to complete those tasks, as per usual.

I quickly throw our swimming suits, two towels and baby soap into a tote and somewhere in there, I also make my bed for the day. On my bedside table this morning: Good Night Gorilla, Moo Baa La La La, Ladybug Girl Plays Dress Up, The Going To Bed Book and Barnyard Dance.

We're out the door to swimming at 9:21am (class starts at 9:30am and it's at least a ten minute drive away - yikes). 

9:30am - 10:30am
Yet somehow, we're not late. I pull into the parking lot, rush inside, change Tory and I into our swimming suits and high-tail it out to the pool. I think swimming class expects parents to run late and purposely sets their clocks slow. Knowing this fact does not help me make it to class on time each week.

Tory does a great job at swimming class today. When the teacher asks the kids to "hide their eyes in the water," Tory says "un, uh" -- like, are you crazy, man? She back floats with ease now and "zooms" under the water for six seconds, advancing to Baby float Baby Level 3 during her progress assessment.

After class, Tory and her little friend, Ashley, run full-speed into the neighboring Kohl's within the mall. They play peek-a-boo with each other and hide in the clothing racks while Ashley's mom, Lindsey, and I chat for a few minutes.

11:00am - 2:00pm
Tory and I drive home, then I set her up with some Dora while I quickly hop in the shower. She's always pretty zoned-out after swimming and usually needs a few minutes of rest in order to make it through until nap time. If I don't use this chance to take a shower, I'll smell like chlorine until mid-afternoon.

After my shower, I get dressed and brush my hair. Then, I grab Tory's hair stuff and style her hair for the day. I'm obsessed with the webbing technique my cousin Jen taught me while I was visiting her in Nebraska last week. As I'm sectioning and ponytail-ing Tory's hair, she takes the opportunity to dump all the little rubber bands out on my bed. Luckily, they're pink and show up easily against my white comforter.

Next, I make lunch for Tory and I. Today, she's having an egg and cheese burrito with ketchup for dipping and I warm up a bowl of Trader Joe's French Onion soup for me. While Tory eats her lunch, I take the opportunity to type up a quick blog post and check my email. I dump out most of my French onion soup as it tastes overly onion-y to me today. I pour myself a coconut water over ice instead to help with the charley horse leg cramps I've been getting lately.

Despite wearing a bib, Tory's covered in ketchup after lunch. I clean up the mess and change her clothes. She occupies herself in the bathroom with her potty chair and foam bath letters, so I take the opportunity to clean the bathroom while she's in there. We have a potty chair, but I haven't started potty-training Tory yet. Every time I ask if she wants to use the potty she says, "No. Diaper?" Fine with me, I guess. She sure likes sitting on it, though. 

"Help clean?" Tory asks. I give her a paper towel and she follows me to clean the second bathroom. This job is far overdue and my least favorite part of being a housewife. Oh, how miss the days of a cleaning lady!

While I'm cleaning the toilet, the lid drops and somehow Tory gets her fingers slammed. She cries loudly (poor girlie!) so I drop everything and decide it's time for nap. We cuddle up on my bed and I read stories to her while she snuggles into the crook of my arm. I nearly die from the cuteness when she rests her hand on top of my pregnant belly.

Chloe the Dog's there, too. She rarely gets any blog shout-outs these days, but she's always beside us during the day. I put Tory down for a nap at 2:00pm and she falls right to sleep.

2:00pm - 4:00pm
During nap time, I finish cleaning the bathrooms. Then, I throw in a load of laundry, wash bath toys in the dishwasher (while I was cleaning bathrooms earlier, I noticed how grimy the toys were) and bake the M&M cookie dough I made up yesterday. In between cookie batches, I work on pink elephant cupcake toppers for the baby shower I'm co-hosting for my cousin, Jes, next weekend.


4:00pm - 5:00pm
When Tory wakes up from her nap, I give her a warm cookie as a snack and hurry to wrap up my crafts spread about the table. 

Tonight, Andi and I are visiting Noerenberg Gardens (the place where Andi and I were married four years ago next Wednesday). Every year, Andi and I re-visit the very spot we said our vows, take a few pictures and reflect on our life together. This is one of my favorite traditions we have as a couple. Since we're bringing Tory along with us, I decide to make a picnic dinner to eat there. I begin assembling the makings of Portobello Pita Pockets and a green salad for Andi and I, and toss an applesauce, Uncrustable sandwich and cheese and crackers in the picnic basket for Tory. Of course, Tory is still a bit sleepy and wants to be held during all of my preparations, so I cook and pack with her perched on my hip.

5:00pm - 6:00pm
Andi arrives home from work extra early (5:00pm!) for our date night. We change our clothes, pack the car and drive to Noerenberg Gardens.

6:00pm - 7:00pm
In all honesty, it's not the best night to visit Noerenberg. Andi, Tory and I all have colds and Andi's feeling super crappy - I can see it in his face. Neither one of us are feeling the extra "lovey dovey, let's celebrate our love" vibe, but life is busy and we've had this date night on the calendar so we're going. The drive to Noereberg is a quiet one; Andi and I briefly recap our days to one another and he stops by Wal-greens to pick up some cold medicine. 

Once we arrive at Noerenberg, we unload Tory and the bags and walk up to the place we said "I do." As I round the corner and see the pillars before me, something comes over me - a feeling - and I'm suddenly transported right back to our wedding. I look over at Andi and he feels it, too. We smile and talk about our wedding day, how perfect the ceremony was and how much we love each other. For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health. Our marriage isn't rainbows and butterflies every single day, yet we're still in love. Perhaps even more than we were that day.

Four years!

More on our visit to Noerenberg in a separate post. After our little photo shoot, we spread out a blanket overlooking Lake Minnetonka and had a picnic. Tory is the most well-behaved outdoor diner I've ever seen - she's growing up!


7:00pm - 8:00pm
We pack up our things and decide to stop by the mall on the way home so Andi can go to the Apple Store. While we wait, I take Tory to play in the kid's area. There is another little girl there, probably about three or four years old, and my little monkey follows the girl all around the play area, imitating every single thing the girl does. Tory climbs on top of the car, scurries up the slides and runs circles until she was ready to drop. About fifteen minutes later, Andi comes to get us and we drive home.

8:00pm - 9:00pm
Once at home, I change Tory into her pajamas and read a few bedtime stories. My Beanie is so tired she falls right to sleep when I lay her down in her crib. Andi and I are exhausted, too, and collapse into bed shortly afterwards. He's asleep within minutes while I read social media on my phone. Light's out at 9:00pm, just the way we like it.`

Tory wakes up screaming from her crib, so I go into her room to see what's the matter. It's either her summer cold throwing her for a loop, nightmares or SOMETHING. Girlfriend has not been sleeping well this week. Really, none of us have. I pick Tory up and snuggle her for a bit in the rocking chair before laying her back down in her crib again. Thankfully, she goes back to sleep and I stumble back into my own bed to do the same.

Click over to Navigating The Mothership's blog to read other Summer 2013 Day In The Life next week!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

7 Quick Takes: I Wrote this Post at 4:00am

1. I write the best blog posts in the middle of the night. Well, I can't say if this is "great blog post" worthy just yet because I haven't actually typed anything, but my brain seems to free-flow words when all is quiet and that's what I'm saying. At 3:30am this morning, I was jolted awake by a killer charley horse in my left leg. Anyone else get those when you're pregnant? THE WORST. I finally got out of bed to walk it off and had a major coughing attack in the process. My noise woke Tory up, which woke Andi up, and then we were all up from 4:00am - 6:00am. Fun times. The good news is, I thought about lots of things to blog about while I was snuggling Tory back to sleep.

2. Did I mention all three of us are sick this week? I'd like to say Tory and I caught a summer cold from my little niece, Brooke, last week (because she had a cold and repeatedly kept drinking out of my water bottle despite my requests for her not to do so), but honestly we could've picked up a bug from a variety of places including the germy airport, a restaurant, or from someone else. I started to feel crummy last Saturday at the cabin while Andi's sister and her boyfriend were visiting and I felt super guilty for being a lousy host but I just did not feel up to extra cooking, cleaning up, bonfires, etc. Judging by Tory's constant meltdowns, insistence on me carrying her at all times and her poor sleep, she obviously wasn't feeling up to snuff either. There's nothing worse than being sick when you're pregnant - nothing. (Ok, well maybe those charley horses....) Andi came down with the same cold on Monday and well, it's no barrel of monkeys when we're all sick.

3. I'm 24 weeks pregnant this week which is just crazy to me. SIX MONTHS PREGNANT?! When did that happen? Aside from the leg cramps and occasional heartburn, I'm feeling pretty good lately. Baby Boy is moving around more everyday and it's comforting to know he's doing okay in there. Hard to believe he'll be here in 16-ish more weeks.

4. Six months pregnant must be the beginning of the nesting phase. I've been on a mission this week to start the big "play musical chairs with all the rooms in our house" project which eventually equals the completion of Aden's nursery. First up, our home office which we hardly ever use is getting the boot and will become the kids new playroom. Once the new playroom is complete, I can move all the toys to that room which will empty our current play room (which is Aden's future nursery) and then I can start decorating his room. Andi and I decided to use our existing crib and changing table/dresser for Aden which means Tory will need a new big girl bed in her room. She's about two shakes away from learning how to climb out of her crib, so this change is inevitable but I'm dreading it nonetheless. I am 100% confident we'll have a difficult time keeping her in bed as the girl climbs EVERYTHING. She can climb in and out of our fairly-high queen-size bed with no issue whatsoever.

So, in simple terms: home office become future play room // old play room become future nursery with Tory's baby furniture // Tory moves to a big girl bedroom set. That should be no problem to knock out in the next 16 weeks, right?

5. Andi and I have been going back and forth about what type of bedroom furniture to get for Tory. Toddler bed or twin? That is the question. A toddler bed is obviously the cheaper option, but Tory will only be able to use it for a short time. A cheap toddler bed doesn't include a dresser, so we'll have to pick up one of those as well or move all her things inside the closet. On the other hand, it might make more sense to just buy her a twin bed with rails that includes a dresser and night stand. I like the looks of those options better than the cheap toddler beds. Plus, let's face it, there will be many solo parenting nights ahead where I'm putting Tory to bed with a newborn in my arms so it'd be convenient to lay down with her to read stories, etc. We have a few more weeks to decide, I guess.

6. I made this trail mix for the cabin a few weeks ago, and it was so tasty and easy. I love that you just toss various items together without any real baking and there's something for everyone (salty and sweet) included. I'm planning to make it again for this weekend at the cabin when my best friends Ashley, Val and their families come to visit.

7. Our fourth wedding anniversary is next Wednesday and Andi's going to be out of town for it. I bounce between feeling super bummed he'll be out of town on our anniversary and completely understanding he has to work. Gone are the days we jet-setted to Vancouver or Vail, right? We're a grown-up old married couple now. We are planning to go out to dinner somewhere here in town in mid-August to celebrate and visiting the gardens where we were married. Guess we'll have to save up all our adventurous juices for the big FIVE next year.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

First 100 Words

This will be of no interest to anyone but myself, but for documentation purposes I wanted to record Tory's first 100 words. My little Bean hit a big growth spurt in language this past month and has skyrocketed from 64 recognizable words to 100+. I'm glad I took the time to write down each word as she began to say it because I found it both interesting to see what she said and when she said it, and I'd also have guessed she spoke far fewer words than she really does.

So, without further adieu ... Tory's first 100 words:

1. Hi --at 9 months of age--
2. Uh oh
3. There (as in, there she/he/it is)
4.  Mama
5. Dada
6. Up
7. Here
8. Cheese
9. Beep beep
10. Off
11. Brrrr (to indicate coldness)
12. Ho ho ho (for Santa Claus)
13. Papa --at 16 months of age--
14.  Woof (for dog)
15. Baa (for sheep)
16. Meow (for cat)
17. Neigh (for horse)
18. Sssss (for snake)
19. Moo (for cow)
20. Quack (for duck)
21. Hop
22. Ball
23. Blue
25. Balloon
26. Bubble
27. Pop (as in, a bubble popping - not the soda)
28. Hide
29. Night night --at 18 months--
30. Nana
31. Yeah --at 19 months--
32. Shoe
33. Dog
34. Duck
35. Black
36. Whoa --at 20 months--
37. Go
38. Knock knock
39. Fall
40. Pink
41. Truck
42. Backpack
43. Baby
44. Big
45. Boat
46. Hot
47. Yay!
48. Ouch/Owie (pronounced "owbie")
49. Bath
50. Knee --at 21 months--
51. Down
52. Toes
53. Nose
54. Green
55. Hat
56. Two
57. Orange
58. More
59. Ear
60. Three
61. Towel
62. Horse
63. Help
64. Bag
65. Worm --at 22 months--
66. Beach
67. Minnie (for Minnie Mouse)
68. Sure
69. Pillow
70. Four
71. Five
72. Mess
73. Hair
74. Hello
75. Mommy
76. Cheers
77. Six
78. Drink
79. Aden (for baby brother)
80. Elmo
81. White
82. Thank you
83. Okay
84. Deer
85. Loon
86. Toys
87. Kiss
88. Neeley (for cousin)
89. Brooke (for cousin)
90. Clap
91. Stuck
92. Purple (pronounced "pur-til")
93. Necklace
94. Tiger
95. Hippo
96. Penguin
97. Chloe (for dog)
98. Diaper
99. Sit
100. Clean

... and there's more including "pants," "shirt," "brown" and "Tory" to name a few. I think I'll stop documenting her words now that they're flowing so frequently. There's so many new everyday, it's difficult to keep up! Tory now repeats almost everything we say including fairly complicated words like "Chuggington" (her favorite train television show) and Spaghetti-Os. I'm actually quite impressed how clearly she speaks and is understood by others outside our family. Someday, I'm sure I'll be wishing for a few minutes of peace and quiet but for now, it's wonderful to hear my little girl communicating with us in her own voice.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Family Reunion

A few weeks ago, my cousin Tara (who lives in Lausanne, Switzerland) emailed my extended family to say she'd be making a last-minute trip back to our Nebraska hometown in July. I haven't seen Tara in two years, so I immediately scrambled to find a way home to visit too. Unfortunately since her trip was short-notice, Andi and I had already planned a getaway over the same time for our wedding anniversary and I have an already-booked flight home to Nebraska in early August for other family events. On top of that, flights to Lincoln and Omaha are crazy-expensive last minute, so flying was likely out of the question. There was really no way I could go back home while Tara was visiting unless Andi and I cancelled our plans and I made the 7+ hour drive home (that's with no stopping for toddler breaks) solo with Tory. Driving that far alone with a one-year-old isn't exactly high on my bucket list, but I was willing to do it if it meant seeing Tara and her little boys.

Last weekend, I asked Andi to check flights to Nebraska just in case. It turned out, there was one flight Monday - Thursday this week for a reasonable amount of frequent flyer miles. My generous husband booked the flight for Tory and I and we were set. I felt guilty using all his hard-earned frequent flyer miles on trips to Nebraska, but that's what love is all about, right?

Tory and I flew into Lincoln on Monday afternoon and once again, my little Bean was a great little girl on the short one-hour flight. This was the second-to-last time she'll fly as a lap child and as well behaved as she was on the plane, I'm ready for her to have her own seat soon. Between her wiggles and my growing belly, we're definitely running out of space. I had to laugh when the flight attendant came by with snacks and drinks mid-flight. Tory looked up from her episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the iPad and held out her hand for a biscotti cookie. Think my little one-year-old travel buddy flies much? Ha.

My sister and her girls picked Tory and I up from the airport Monday and we immediately drove over to my cousin Jen's house in Lincoln to see everyone. It was blissful chaos from the moment we arrived to the moment we left for home on Thursday. There's seven cousins in my family, five of us are girls, and between us girls there's seven little kids age six years to six weeks. Really, my niece Brooke is the only six year old and everyone else is age two and under.

Our entire week consisted of a variation of this: kid and toy mayhem. It was seriously wonderful.

I don't think there will ever be another time in our lives where nearly all my cousins will have the opportunity to spend four non-stop days together. It felt like we were on vacation in our own hometown. My sister, Tara and I are both stay-at-home moms right now, Jen is on maternity leave after having Reese in June, and Jes took a few days off work to spend time together.

On Tuesday, my sister invited us all over to her house to have lunch and play in the kiddie pool. It was hot, hot, hot outside, so we spent the day cooling off inside and outside playing in the pool and sprinkler. Brooke (age 6) and Henry (age 2 1/2) were instant best buddies and spent their time cruising around Ashley's front yard in the Barbie mustang.

I felt like we were constantly "kid counting" outside to make sure all the little ones were accounted for in the swimming pool and playing in the yard. They didn't seem to mind one bit that there were six kids playing in the tiny pool.

My mom had everyone over for pizza Tuesday night. We sang Happy Birthday to little Henry who's birthday is in August when he's back in Switzerland and of course, all the little kids wanted a turn at blowing out the candles afterwards. Many turns at candle blowing = spit cake, but we all ate it and it was still delicious.

We took a group shot of all the kiddo lined up by age. Surprisingly, they all stayed still and looked at the camera thanks to lots of clapping and chirping aunts, uncles and cousins behind the lens.

L to R: Brooke, Henry, Lauren, Tory, Thomas, Neeley, Reese

On Wednesday, we took the kids to the Children's Zoo in Lincoln. It was the perfect size zoo for little kids with little walking, lots of shade and not many people. We rode the red engine train around the park at the end and all the kids were in seventh heaven.

Our big group

Tory feeding the goats

Tory and Brooke in the barnyard exhibit

Henry and Tory outside the butterfly pavillion

Adorable Thomas


Playing on the jungle gym egg

Lauren and Brooke checking out the otters

Tory and I on the train

Brooke and Henry having the time of their lives

Our big group on the train

I left town Thursday feeling so blessed to have these amazing ladies and their kiddos to call as family. We've all been so close growing up in the same hometown together and now it's the best experience to see our children growing up together, too. I'm already looking forward to the next visit we all have together again. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Strawberry Picking, Rodeo and Lake Time

Good weekend at the cabin, as usual.

My friend Jodi and her littles came up for Friday night - Saturday. It was fun having a girlfriend up at the cabin; different than normal weekends up there with Andi and I or some of our couple friends. Andi  kept himself busy with man-things like replacing his chainsaw blade and chopping firewood. I didn't hate watching him do that out of the corner of my eye. *wink*

Minnesota weather has been so fickle this year. On Saturday, it was surprisingly windy and cloudy for mid-July - too cold to play in the lake or go for a boat ride - so we decided to take the kids to the strawberry patch. Andi, Tory and I went last weekend and I was glad to squeeze in another visit before the patch closes for the season this week. The kids had a great time and were covered head to toe in strawberry juice by the end. Just the way it should be!

Allie, Tory and Jake

After lunch and naps, Jodi and her kids left for home. Andi and I decided to take Tory to the Spooner Rodeo about 20 miles away from the cabin. I've heard fun things about the Spooner Rodeo from lots of cabin neighbors, so I was excited to check it out. And, the rodeo didn't disappoint; there were cowboy hats and boots as far as the eye could see, several mullet spottings, beer sold by the six-pack and fun events for kids like the Nickel Scramble you'd only find at places like this. We decided to eat dinner at the rodeo and had two Sloppy Joe's, chips, a lemonade and nachos for $11. Gotta love small towns! 

My girl sporting her pink cowboy boots

Andi bought a Sno Cone and shared bites with Tory. Girlfriend was on a gigantic sugar high afterwards and bounced all around the bleachers around us. We stayed for the first half hour of the rodeo, which was honestly the perfect amount of time for Tory and left before big-time-crash met way-past-bedtime.

We woke up Sunday morning to more clouds and cooler temperatures, so Andi decided we should all go for a Ranger ATV ride around the cabin area. I would've never believed it about myself, but the nature and wildlife is one of my favorite parts about the cabin. We saw dozens of deer on our cruise, birds, and critters. Tory loved it all and said "deer! deer!" wherever we saw one.

The sun came out as soon as we arrived back at the cabin, so we ate lunch and played in the lake for the remainder of the afternoon. As we floated around on rafts in the lake, Tory fell asleep on me so Andi and I carried her to the shade and let her sleep outdoors. She woke up a while later and crawled into my lap and snoozed some more. It was one of those days as a parent that unexpectedly becomes a favorite family memory. We had so much fun, the three of us together. I love the way our cabin brings us so close as a family.