Saturday, May 31, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend 2014, Part Two

Okay, so picking up where I left off re: our Memorial Day fun this past weekend...

Last Sunday, Andi's sister Lindsay and her fiance Kyle joined us at the cabin for the day. That's one of my favorite things about our lake cabin and a big part of why Andi and I chose the location we did. It's 80 miles from the Twin Cities so it still feels "far enough" away from it all, but the cabin's also "close enough" for friends and family to visit for a day.

We spent most of our morning with Lindsay and Kyle sitting on the pontoon boat tied up right to the dock. You don't have to be boating to have fun on a boat; Andi got out Tory's pink fishing pole and Andi and Kyle took turns helping Tory reel in fish after fish from the lake below. Tory caught small-mouth bass, blue gill and sun fish and they were pretty big, too!


Later, we let Kyle and Lindsay take the Ranger ATV for a ride in the woods and then they returned the favor by watching the kids for us while Andi and I had a little date day together. The weather was warm but windy on Sunday, so Andi and I decided to take the Ranger for a "truck ride" instead of going for a sans-kids boat ride. We drove the ATV to the nearby town of Cumberland for gas and enjoyed the quiet wooded trails and scenery on the way back to the cabin. Having even one hour of quality time - just Andi and I - is so helpful in re-charging our spirits during a particularly busy travel time in Andi's calendar. We are so fortunate to have Andi's family live close to us and offer to watch our kids every once and a while.

A wild turkey crossing the trail road up ahead

Andi cooked a whole chicken on the rotisserie for dinner, then we spent our evening chatting around the bonfire after Tory and Aden were in bed. At some point, Lindsay and Kyle decided to sauna and jumped in the (chilly 50 degree!) lake afterwards to cool off. Of course, they double-dared Andi and I to do the same and we all know Andi's jumped in the water a million times this spring since the ice came off the lake. It was no big deal to him. I, however, haven't exactly been in the water yet and I wasn't too keen on jumping into the lake in the dark. But ... a dare's a dare so I ran in from the shore after Andi and I's turn in the sauna. The cool water did feel refreshing, but ... eek!

Memorial Day Monday was Lindsay's birthday, so our guests scooted off early morning to spend the rest of their day celebrating back in the Cities. Of course, Monday was the most beautiful weather day of the weekend and as the rest of the lake packed up their belongings to go home too, we stayed another day enjoying the sunshine. Andi and I took the kids for a nice boat ride on the lake. Tory and Andi fished and Aden slept peacefully (!!!) under the shade. It was a nice and relaxing morning.

Around dinnertime, it clouded over and eventually began to sprinkle so Andi and I loaded the kids into the car and went for a drive around the countryside. We stopped for Dairy Queen along the way and it felt so reminiscent to summertime memories of my childhood. Back to reality early Tuesday morning. We dropped Andi off at the airport for another leg of travel on our drive back into the Cities. I'm already counting the minutes until we're back at the cabin together again.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend 2014, Part One

Finally found time to write about our Memorial Day weekend at the lake cabin. Andi's busy travel schedule in May and June and non-stop solo parenting on my end means I haven't had a minute at the computer. I've got a bunch of blog posts floating around in my head, if only I had boatloads of alone time to draft them - ha! (Not happening.)

Anyway, in short, our four days at the lake cabin were absolutely perfect. Amazing, actually. The weather skipped straight to summertime here and I'm not complaining a bit. It turned out to be the most beautiful Memorial Day weekend I can remember. Somehow, it feels like the Universe's payback for such an incredibly long and brutal winter. This past weekend was also a break in work for Andi and some much-needed family time for the four of us. I'm crashing hard this week after spending such a fun few days together.

Last Friday's warm summer-like temperatures felt too good to be true so we seized the day and spent our entire afternoon outdoors. Andi power-washed and stained the backyard deck while I entertained the kids. I set up a "car wash station" on the patio for Tory with a soapy bucket of water and sponges and she kept busy for infinity in toddler-time, washing her pails, shovels, and tricycle. Keeping my fair-skinned baby in the shade while entertaining a toddler dying to play in the sunshine was a bit of a challenge, though. I tested out several ideas for Aden - including this pack n' play system with a sheet over the top - before the afternoon sun finally set behind a tree and allowed us to spread out a blanket on the grass. I gave myself a serious mama pat-on-the-back when the weekend was over and Aden remained as ghostly-white as ever.

Tricycle car wash

A while later, our little family went for the first of many weekend boat rides around the lake. Two things were immediately obvious: 1) Toddler Two is the best age yet for boat rides. It seems like just yesterday infant Tory hated wearing a life jacket on the boat. Boat rides back then were always interrupted by baby screams and we never made a full loop around the lake. Ever. Last year, Age One was better, but I spent my summer with a constant hand on Tory's little body as we cruised around the lake. At least we MADE it around the lake, though. This year, Tory at Age Two is awesome. She had a blast blowing bubbles, eating snacks and waving to passing boats wherever we went. 2) And, REPEAT. Boat rides were short and sweet this past weekend as Aden firmly let us know he does not like wearing a life jacket and prefers being inside over the outdoors. Cue boat rides and baby screams. Ugh. At least we know this phase doesn't last forever.

We ran to town Saturday morning for some of those "cabin errands" we ritualistically do together on the weekends. The four of us stopped by Louie's for meat, the hardware store, Andi picked up bait for fishing, etc. Then, Saturday afternoon was basically the same as the day before. The one "bad" part about the first nice weather weekend at the cabin (if there's even fault in it) were all the "spring cleaning" chores to be completed. Everything outside was covered in a layer of grime from the winter. Andi did more deck power-washing and staining while Tory, Aden and I played outside again. This time, I set up the pack-n-play for Aden on the inside of the doorway and that seemed to be the best method in keeping him shaded while Tory played nearby on the patio.

After kid-naps on Saturday, we loaded up the car and trailered our new canoe to the natural scenic rice beds of the Apple River. Now, this is not the same section of river for which Wisconsin's Apple River is made famous. Nope, there isn't nasty water and party tubing here. The very beginning of the Apple River is just a few miles from our cabin and offers a beautifully untouched landscape of rice beds and wildlife. In all honesty, Andi and I weren't sure how our little canoeing adventure with a toddler and an infant would go, so I think we both had pretty low expectations. It took quite a bit to get us started (Andi and I hauling the canoe into the water, loading up the kids and getting them situated with snacks, life jackets, sunscreen, bug spray, etc.), not to mention there was a weird family of people standing on the bridge overhead who decided to watch us take off. But once we got settled, our canoe adventure was a lot of fun! Aden hated his life jacket of course, so I spent much of the time shushing and entertaining him with sounds and songs. Tory was a rock star and sat on the middle bench eating snacks and taking in the scenery and Andi did all the "heavy lifting" by navigating the route and keeping our canoe moving. I surprise even myself when I say I really love to go canoeing. There's something so amazing about the quiet calm of sailing along the river, admiring nature from a point of view not possible by any other mode of transportation. Though, after all the rigmarole of hauling the canoe to/from the river and keeping the kids busy with snacks, songs, etc., Andi and I joked we'd unlocked some sort of outdoor parenting badge. It's definitely easier to walk 50 feet out the cabin door and go for a pontoon ride around the lake instead. Life's all about the adventure, right?

Aden laying in a "nest" of blankets at my feet in the bow of the canoe

Tory the Explorer

Another evening pontoon boat ride after we returned to the cabin because, duh, then we invited our cabin friends Josh and Krista and their kids over for s'mores and a bonfire. Tory and her little friend, Hannah, loved having s'mores so much. I don't think Tory really grasped the concept of marshmallow, chocolate and graham crackers in sandwich form until she saw it all come together. Girlfriend wasn't complaining, that's for sure! Both girls were covered in a sticky chocolate mess by the end.

Tory and Hannah


Okay, going to have to break this post into two parts because we took entirely too many cute photos not to share and there was more fun had over the weekend ... but the kids are up from naps and hence, my free time is over. More of our Memorial Day fun at the cabin coming soon!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I am a Mom

A question on this blog prompt last week has been nagging me for days ...

Q: What are my hobbies?

A: Being a mom, blogging, traveling


I have to admit I was a little offended when I first read Andi's answer. Not by his words necessarily, but more the implication there's nothing more to me than "being a mom." (Well, and blogging and traveling which I do enjoy). Seriously, though? Being a mom is all there is to me these days? What happened to the old me?

(P.S. I know Andi didn't mean it offensively. He was a) taking time out of his busy work day to answer a silly blog questionnaire upon my request and b) answering the question with likely the first thought that popped into his head. No hard feelings.)

But his answer left me reflecting about myself. First of all, the statement isn't completely accurate. I do have hobbies -- I like to garden, be crafty, scrapbook, blog, go for walks, drink wine (I'm calling that a hobby), travel, plan parties, (am learning to) sew, cook and bake in the kitchen, boat, take photographs, try new restaurants and spend every minute I can with Andi, Tory and Aden. 

Second, it's not that being a mom is all there is to me these days ... it's that being a mom is where I choose to devote 99.9% of my energy and focus. I love my kids more than anything else in the world and while I could be lining up babysitters so I can garden, craft, etc., I'm living my dream by spending (nearly) every single moment of my life with my family. I love taking the kids to swimming and music classes, participating in Tory's preschool classroom, making handmade crafts and cards with Tory, helping Aden practice the skill of sitting up, taking my kids to the zoo on a whim ... and the list goes on. Yes, I am a mom and tons of my favorite "hobbies" are rolled into this one incredible job.

Sometimes I feel like choosing to stay at home to raise my children full-time clouded the definition of who I am. When I worked outside the home and people asked me what I did, it was easy to define myself as A Marketer. Oh, I work here and this is what I do. Being a mom and a homemaker were things I was already doing, sort of like always having brown hair and green eyes, so those jobs described more who I was than what I did. Does that make sense? Now 1 1/2 years later, I still cower a bit when people ask me what I do for a living, like being a stay-at-home parent isn't enough to be recognized. Which is DUMB. I work my tail off every. single. day. 24/7. This is a real job and I should proudly let it sum up who I am.  

I think I'll have time again one day to make my other "hobbies" more of a priority, but Tory and Aden will only be this young for a short while. Today, I choose to put my family first. The other parts of me can wait.


P.P.S - There's a reason I use the blog label "being a mom" on almost every post I write.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

First Food

Baby's first food: it was all fun and games until my little guy broke out in hives.


Nearing Aden's half-birthday, I grew anxious to start him on solid food. Not that I was particularly excited about introducing another thing to do at meal times, but it's a big milestone for Aden and I wanted to experience it with him. Actually, I wanted our whole family celebrate the moment, so I tried my best to plan Aden's first taste of real food on a day Andi would be home from work at a reasonable time. (Easier said than done during his busiest time of the year.) I also wanted Andi to photograph Aden while I fed him so we could properly document his first! taste! of! food!

Finally one night last week I realized the stars were never going to align. I sent Andi a text to ask if he'd be okay with me feeding Aden some food that evening without him. I'd figure out how to feed him and take photographs myself.

I made dinner for Tory, then whipped together a small bowl of rice cereal for Aden with 2oz. formula mixed into the flakes. I struggled a bit going through the motions (it's been two years since I ventured down the 'first foods' road), but it all came back to me. Aden was in good spirits as he waited patiently in his high chair.

I fed Aden his first spoonful of rice cereal, then quickly grabbed my camera to capture his reaction ...

Skeptical, for sure.

Another spoonful ...

Decidedly not a fan as he spit out rice cereal as fast as I fed it to him.

Over as fast as it began. At this point, I felt a little guilty snapping photos of him crying, so I threw in the towel on Operation: First Food. Aden was not a fan of rice cereal in the least bit. In fact, he was down-right angry by the end of our two-minute feeding session.

Maybe he was tired, I thought. Perhaps dinner wasn't the best time of day to introduce something new to the routine. I wiped Aden's face and cleaned up the high chair. Aden started to rub his face into my shoulder and I said something like, "I know you're tired, buddy. I'm sorry." I glanced at him and audibly gasped as I noticed bright redness and hives had developed all over Aden's cheeks, chin and neck.


Thankfully I had hydrocortisone cream and infant Benedryl on hand for Aden's skin irritation flare-ups. I quickly dosed him with both and the hives and redness were gone within 20 minutes. Aden seemed to feel better but I did not, however. Even though I couldn't have predicted the outcome, I still felt like a horrible mother for "inducing" unpleasantness on my child. Afterwards, I connected the dots to two recent instances when Aden's chin was red and splotchy after I fed him a formula bottle. Initially, I thought the redness was due to teething, but now my gut tells me he had an allergic reaction to the formula.

Part of me wanted to wait to try more solid foods until Aden's six month well-child visit this week, but the other part of me is sure the formula's the culprit. Since the rice cereal incident, I've fed Aden pureed sweet potatoes and bananas and neither caused a reaction. Though so far, he is not a big fan of purees and usually cries after a few minutes of "eating" them. My mama instinct is telling me to hold off on solid foods until Aden is more ready.

It's so interesting how different kids are, from first-born to second (and beyond). With Tory, experiences like "first baby food" were textbook. I fed her pureed sweet potatoes, she gobbled them up gleefully, we took a gazillion photos of her doing so ... DONE. I now see with Aden how experiences are truly based on the individual. There are so many ways my children are similar (and the more so as Aden grows), yet so many differences between the two of them. Parenting always keeps me on my toes.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Letters to Aden: Six Months

Hello my baby boy,

You are six months old today! With you in our lives, every day seems better than the last. It is crazy how quickly the last six months have flown by. Seriously, where has the time gone?

You are such a delightful child; always happy, smiling, babbling and cooing. At six months old, you weigh 16.5 pounds (32%) and 26 inches tall (20%), wear size 6-9 month clothing and size 3 diapers. It finally seems like you're slowing down in the growth department. For a while there, you were blowing through newborn, 0-3 and then 3-6 month clothing at warp speed. Everyone always comments what a big boy you are, but in reality you're on the smaller side of the growth scale in both weight and height. You're now very similar in size to Tory at age six months. One thing's for certain: I would've never dreamed I'd have a blue-eyed, blond-haired little boy (you look like a little baldy in photos, but there's really a covering of blond, peach-fuzz hair on top of your head). I'm not sure if your looks will change over time. Some days, I think your hair is turning light brown to match the color of Tory's and other days it looks as blond as ever. Your eyes continue to be a solid blue color, and I'd be surprised if they change to anything different.

During the daytime, you're now sleeping about an hour in the morning (9:00am - 10:00am), two hours in the afternoon (usually 12:30pm - 2:30pm) and a quick 20-minute snooze around 5:30pm. At night, you're going to bed around 7:30pm with wake-ups every 2-4 hours (usually around 9:000pm/10:00pm, Midnight/1:00am and 2:00am/3:00am). I did a quick comparison to Tory's sleeping habits at this age and ironically, she was waking in the night at exactly the same times.

It's been a big month of milestones for you. At 24 weeks old, you started sitting with some support from a pillow or someone behind you. You love to look around the room and be part of playtime with Tory. When you're not practicing your new found skill of sitting, you're bouncing (bouncing, bouncing, bouncing...) in your Johnny Jump-Up toy. It took you a few weeks to learn how this baby gadget worked and now that you've got it, you catch some air! It's so fun to watch you squeak and squeal as you jump with a big smile plastered across your face. I should also mention you *can* roll over from tummy to back now. You're not a big fan of lying on your stomach (even though we practice "tummy time" daily) and if you get mad enough, you will roll from belly to back again. I've never seen you even attempt to roll from back to stomach - ha! When you're laying flat, you're usually very content to stay there.

Sitting solo (and turning six months old) means you're old enough for solid food now. You've tried rice cereal, sweet potatoes and bananas so far, and you aren't a big fan at all. You don't seem skilled enough to eat mushed up "real food" just yet, so I may back off a bit and re-visit solid foods in a few weeks when you seem more interested.

This month's "likes" include: the baby swing and activity mat, taking baths in the plastic pink tub, your favorite blue blanket and pacifier, bouncy balls, "playing" with Tory and anything to chew on, especially those five-point rubber teethers. You "dislike" having your clothes changed, laying on your stomach, wearing hats, baby food purees and having your fingernails trimmed. 

A quick story about your love for 'bouncy balls.' Last weekend, Tory and I were rolling a big plastic ball back and forth to one another and you were sitting on my lap. I have never seen you as excited about anything in your short life than you were about that ball. You reached your hands out to grasp the ball and squealed with delight whenever it rolled your way. I thought you were going to leap out of my lap to catch it!

Many "firsts" this month as well. Our family made road trips to Nebraska for Easter and Iowa over Mother's Day weekend. You swam in a swimming pool for the first time (you loved it!) and went for your first pontoon boat ride around Pipe Lake (you cried most of the time!). You're so chatty this month, always jabbering away and making ba-ba and ma-ma sounds. You still growl like a little lion cub when you're mad and it really is the cutest thing ever.

We adore you so much, Aden. Happy half-birthday to you!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mr. Live Inside My Bubble

A few weeks ago, my longtime friend Katie let her hubby loose on her blog for a Q & A session. It was so charming to read, I knew I had to steal the idea for myself. So, ...

Meet Mr. Live Inside My Bubble // aka: Andi // aka: Daddy-O (as Tory calls him)

Seriously difficult to find a photograph of the two of us / without a kid(s) in our arms

Andi's not like other guys, and that's exactly why I married him. I knew there was something special about him the minute we met on Denver's 16th Street Mall. He's smart, driven, charismatic and the only person in the world who thinks I'm funny. We're alike in many ways (especially where it counts: raising kids, how we want to live, decorating sense, etc.), and complimentary in so many others (i.e. money: he spends it; I don't).

Never in a million years did I think Andi would have the time in his busy running-a-successful-business daily life to answer questions for my little ol' blog. Nevertheless, I copied Katie's blog Q & A (with a few tweaks) and e-mailed the questionnaire to Andi. A few days later, Andi sent me back his answers. (Did I ever think he'd let me down?)

Let's hear what Andi had to say:

Q: What is the name of my blog?
A: liveinsidemybubble

Q: What do I typically write about?
A: Documenting the life of our family and internal thoughts of what's "in the bubble"

Q: How would you describe my style?
A: Pinterest meets SAHM meets suburban princess

(um, princess?)

Q: Where's my favorite place to shop?
A: Target

Q: What do you know about Pinterest?
A: I know that you get more repins than I do, style must be better

Q: What do you and I like to do together?
A: Laugh, travel, adventure

Q: Am I good at staying on a budget?
A: Yes, except when you go to Target

(Which is, like, everyday.)

Q: What do women keep in their purse?
A: You gave up purses the day Tory was born #diaperbaglife

Q: What do I do in my free time?
A: Ha, what free time?

Q: And what do you do in your free time?
A: ...... same as above. When we do have time we love to spend it at our cabin.

Q: What is your favorite thing about me?
A: That you roll with the punches.

Q: Least favorite?
A: I thought it took you a long time to get ready pre-kids, now add the kid multiple

(It should be noted I'm not the one who poops their pants the minute we're ready to walk out the door. Not that it's Andi who does either ... aka: it's the kids' fault!)

Q: What's my favorite accessory?
A: iPhone

Q: What's an acceptable amount to spend on a beauty item?
A: Let me check my AMEX statement ... well at least it's way less than you spend on kids stuff.

(Truth. $7 drugstore mascara for me; ALL. THE. DOLLARS on cute clothes for my kids.)

Q: What are my hobbies?
A: Being a Mom, blogging, traveling.

(This question made me realize I need to get some hobbies. Who am I anymore?)

Q: What's your favorite memory of us together?
A: Too many to count, more favorite memories based in life phases. I am happy to spend any extra minutes with you.

Q: What jewelry do I wear everyday?
A: Baby slime

(Ha! Sad, but true. Maybe you should change that Mr. Live Inside My Bubble and buy me some bling.)

Q: What's my favorite TV show?
A: Revenge now to replace How I Met

(He only knows this because I've been watching DVR'd episodes of Revenge in 8 minute increments while he puts Tory to sleep at night. Sadly, it's my own kid-free time of the day.)

Q: What's your favorite thing about being a dad?
A: Having those times when nothing is more important than the person you're holding.


I found it interesting to hear Andi's responses to a few of the questions since I'm not a typical make-up / jewelry / fashion girlie-girl. I used to be, but I've really transformed into Sporty-Spice / Outdoorsy Girl since Andi came into my life. Though, I'm not surprised by the answers Andi gave either. They're exactly like him: cute, witty and to the point. 

A big thank-you to my husband for playing along! 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Aden Sits!

Announcing Aden's latest achievement -- sitting!

At 24 weeks (which, technically, was last week), Aden started to sit "supported;" meaning, I wouldn't confidently plop him down on the floor and walk away, but he is now able to sit un-assisted with supervision. There's still plenty of instances he throws himself backwards unexpectedly, like babies tend to do at this age, so he's sporting the Boppy pillow around his middle for safe measure. 

Sitting might be one of my very favorite baby milestones. It's so helpful when Aden can balance in a sitting position while I dress / undress him and I love how he's able to "hold his own" a bit more when sitting beside Tory. Sitting also brings additional milestones - like sitting in a high chair at meal times. I haven't fed Aden any baby food yet, but he's now able to hold himself upright in the high chair without slumping over to one side. He even joined Tory and I at the breakfast table this morning and soon, he'll be eating food right along with us.  

It's crazy to believe my baby boy is old enough to be doing all these things, but I also kind-of love it. Newborns are wonderful for all their tiny baby grunts and squishiness, but infancy is much more fun (in my opinion) when their personalities start to flourish. I love how Aden now responds to conversation with coo's, follows me around the room with his eyes and gets insanely excited when he sees someone he loves. His new achievement of sitting solo means Aden's able to engage with us even more than before. Welcome to the [sitting] club, buddy!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Currently ...

... still in my pajamas (well, I was until about 11:00 this morning). I'm loving our new, not-so-busy schedule. Tory's Tuesday preschool class is finished, Wednesdays are typically my "housework" day of the week, and I'm keeping Fridays open this summer so we can scoot off to the cabin as early as possible. Today is a slow-moving day and we haven't accomplished much more than meals, books and snuggles. Love days where there's nothing pressing on the calendar. It's one of my favorite things about being a stay-at-home mom.

Morning coloring session

... thinking about tackling the massive pile of dirty clothes in the laundry room. I swear, every week I devote so much time and effort to sorting, soaking stains, washing, drying, folding and putting away everyone's laundry and the next thing I know, it's all right back where it started. Ugh. A full suitcase from our weekend getaway to Des Moines + two suitcases of Andi's dirty clothes from his work trip last week => means I should be doing laundry instead of sitting here writing this blog post.

... wishing it would warm up enough to play outdoors. It was so, so beautiful in Des Moines over the weekend and now back in the Twin Cities, it's gloomy and cold(er). Springtime is such a tease. The kids have so many cute, springy outfits I'm dying for them to wear if the weather would ever consistently stay over 60 degrees.

... loving the spring blooms on trees and flowers in my yard. After all the rain we've had lately, our grass is bright green and there's new sprouts of leaves on the bushes that separate our backyard from the nosiest neighbors on the planet. (YES!) Grow, plants, grow, and block out all the chaos happening just over the fence.

... dreaming of remodeling ideas for our lake cabin. It seems like cabin remodeling projects are all Andi and I talk about these days and it's so fun to brainstorm, imagine and see our ideas come to life. Turns out, we're heading to the lake this weekend after all, and I am dying to see our new granite counter tops, flooring and outdoor patio in person.

... gearing up for a long stretch of solo parenting. Sunday, Andi leaves for several weeks of photo shoots and I'm mentally preparing myself for being "on" 24/7. He'll be back Memorial Day weekend, which is nice, but [understandably] will be exhausted from working so many grueling hours on the road. More photo shoots and solo parenting stretches resume in June. I suppose I don't mind doing everything on my own if I have to (though, I'd obviously rather Andi were here). The hardest part is gearing up to do everything myself / doing it all solo / and then learning to let go when Andi returns home as he re-acclimates into our home life. It's always a bit of an adjustment on both sides of the departure and return.

... feeling the itch to be crafty. My fingers are twitching to create something -- like cute summertime decorations for the cabin, re-painting our dining / living room walls at home (though, this is too big of a project to tackle by myself so I'll just dream about it), starting to plan Tory's 3rd birthday party, or pulling together ideas for the family wedding shower I'd like to host for my sister-in-law Lindsay. To Pinterest I go for inspiration!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day Weekend 2014

Another awesome weekend in the books ... and can you believe we didn't spend it at the cabin? For Mother's Day this year, my wish was to travel to Des Moines, Iowa for a mini vaca with my Nebraska family. (Des Moines is the half-way point between the Twin Cities and the Nebraska towns where my extended family resides). It was so much fun to get away for the weekend and the weather was absolutely gorgeous -- perfect for a day at Des Moines' Blank Park Zoo and an evening of swimming at our hotel's indoor water park.

Andi and I packed up the kids and drove to Iowa bright and early Saturday morning (after stopping by the bakery for coffee and donuts, of course). The drive went fairly smoothly; Tory watched some television shows on the iPad and Aden slept a good chunk of the way. Four hours to Des Moines is so manageable; 7+ hours to my parent's hometown in Nebraska is brutal. Trimming a few hours off the journey makes all the difference when traveling with kids. We rolled into town and headed straight for the zoo where we met my sister Ashley and her girls Brooke and Neeley, my Aunt Cheri and Uncle Norman, their girls (and my cousins) Jen, Jes and their families. My parents decided not to come on this trip -- we sure missed them!

I worried the zoo would be crazy-busy considering it was Mother's Day weekend and beautiful weather, but surprisingly it wasn't busy at all. We practically had the place to ourselves which was so nice to let the kids run and explore. The Des Moines zoo is on the smaller side (similar to the Twin Cities' Como Zoo) and I much prefer places like that for little kids. We saw giraffes, camels, a tiger, fish, monkeys, farm animals, seals and more. Our group of kids (ages 6 to 5 months) were thrilled.

Cousins Tory (age 2 1/2) and Brooke (age 6)

Neeley (age 21 months)

Tory and Brooke - so happy to be reunited

Jes, Nate and Finleigh (8 months)

My sissy Ashley and Aden (5 months)

So fun seeing my sister and her girls

Tory and Andi

I'd venture to say, dads are much more daring than moms (at least in our family). Before I realized what was happening, Andi paid for Tory to ride on the back of a camel at the zoo. There my baby girl went, hoisted up high between one of the camel's humps. Ahh! I could barely contain my nerves as I watched with my hands half-covering my eyes. Alas, all was fine and Tory (and Brookie) had a blast riding "Holly" the Camel. The girls weren't scared a bit.  

We stopped for lunch at one of the zoo's food stands and ate outdoors in a shaded picnic area. It felt so wonderful to be outdoors without coats, hats, boots ... or snow! Tory and Lauren had Popsicles for dessert and watching them devour their treats lick by lick was so cute.

Tory and Lauren (3 1/2 years)

Love this one of Lauren's tongue ready to slurp!

After a fun few hours at the zoo, we checked into our hotel which included an indoor water park. All the kids were chomping at the bit to get their swimming suits on and hit the pool. I remember feeling the same way as a kid -- begging my parents to hurry up! so we could swim the night away. I have many fond memories of swimming in hotel pools with the very same cousins on this Des Moines vacation. It's crazy to think we're the parents now with kids of our own.

It was a bit stressful being accountable for so many little kids in the pool. I felt like I was constantly counting heads!

Brother's first time in a swimming pool - he loved it!


Tory going down the slides ... x1000

My girl - so happy!

Brooke and Tory going down the slide together

Being an indoor water park, the hotel was setup nicely to handle lots of kids/parents with tables and chairs and a restaurant / bar attached to the pool area. We ordered pizzas for dinner and swam up until the minute it was time to eat. After dinner, we dried off and continued to hang out in our hotel room for another hour or two. The kids were wiped (and truthfully, so were the adults) from such a busy and fun day.

Lauren diving into a slice of pizza at dinner - too cute!

My sister Ashley and her girls

All the kids together. Of course, it's impossible to get them all looking toward the camera at once.
(Aden [asleep in his car seat], Neeley, Reese, Tory, Brooke, Lauren, and Finleigh)

Sunday (Mother's Day), Tory, Aden, Brooke and Neeley woke up early, so Andi, Ashley and I got dressed and went to breakfast at the hotel's restaurant. Moms ate free at the restaurant which was a nice surprise! We were going to stick around for a morning swim session with the rest of the crew, but we decided to scoot back to Minneapolis so we could spend the remainder of the day with Andi's family. The kids were well behaved again on the drive home and Andi and I had lots of time to talk. Once we arrived in the Twin Cities, Andi, Tory, Aden and I stopped by Andi's parents house to wish his mom a Happy Mother's Day and visit with Lindsay and Kyle who just returned from their recent trip to Europe.

A busy, fun-filled Mother's Day weekend! I commented to Andi on Sunday that this Mother's Day felt even more special than my birthday. It felt nice to be recognized for all the hard (often, thankless) work I do everyday for the kids. I love being a mom more than anything in the world and I'm blessed beyond measure to have these two kiddos in my life.

My baby boy and I

and the beautiful girl who made me a mama