Monday, June 30, 2014

Cabin Hodge-Podge

A bit of a weird weekend at the lake cabin, thanks in large part to Mother Nature. The weather forecast threatened a wash-out all week and thankfully, Saturday and Sunday proved better than expected. No rain except for a torrential downpour Saturday night, but the wind -- the wind - was something fierce and made outdoor activities challenging, especially with little kids.

Also despite our best-laid plans not to be in construction mode at the cabin during the already-too-short summer months, there's inevitable spillover from projects seeping into our time there. Andi's spent a good chunk of every weekend staining decks, shoveling rock, seeding grass and tinkering with this or that. I think it's therapeutic for him, but the luster of entertaining the kids by my lonesome is fading (it's my M-F, after all, and I look to weekends to break the monotony).

That said, Andi's doing what he does best -- dreaming big, orchestrating, managing and delivering results -- we've made some beautiful updates to the cabin, including:

  • the addition of a new lower deck, sauna and outdoor shower
  • new stained concrete walk-out patio 
  • new dock
  • new stone fire pit 
  • newly landscaped stepping stone walk-way to the lake
  • new granite counter tops in kitchen and bar areas
  • new stainless steel appliances
  • new kitchen back splash
  • new stained concrete flooring in middle-level bar area
I continue to be amazed by Andi's ability to juggle so much; every week, I show up to the cabin and another project has been completed while my husband's managed seventy-billion contractors, electricians, painters, landscapers, handymen, etc. to get the job done. I am truly appreciative of his attention to detail; the cabin's slowly transforming into "ours" after renting it for the last three years.

All these cabin updates deserve its own blog post write-up with before/after photos, and I'll do just that after Phase 1 of our construction plans wrap up this summer.

Anyway, back to the weekend ...

Big highlights from Saturday were our first trip to the revamped Tower House Restaurant in Cumberland. Andi and I both really enjoyed it; food was excellent, full bar (I loved having a gin and tonic without the breastfeeding guilt - whoo!) and the ambiance inside the restaurant was very nice. We'll definitely be back again.   

After lunch, our little family of four went for a boat ride on the lake. We saw our friends Oscar, Deanna, Josh, Krista and their daughters/our kids' BFFs Hannah and Kate outside their cabin so we docked up for a beer. Somehow, a quick stop transpired into an all day affair. Andi, Josh, Krista and I left the "big kids" Tory and Hannah with Deanna and continued our boat ride with Aden and Kate along. Then, Andi and Josh took Tory and Hannah fishing for a bit while the rest of us stayed back and prepared dinner. By the end of the day, Tory was covered head-to-toe in sand and dirt -- a true sign of an awesome summer day for a kid.

Tory and Hannah shooting Oscar with a water gun

Tory and Hannah driving the boat with their dads

Aden cut his second tooth on Saturday, so he was all over the board with emotion. One minute he was my happy, go-lucky boy; the next, in a screaming fit with pain. Poor little dude.

Saturday concluded with hamburgers and brats at Oscar and Deanna's cabin. Just as the men started to grill dinner, the sky turned black and a huge thunderstorm rolled into the area. We watched as Andi and Josh loaded up the grill into the back of the Ranger ATV and zoomed it to the big garage in the backyard. Then, we all high-tailed through the downpour to Oscar's man-cave garage for the remainder of the evening. It was one of those super-fun, unplanned evenings that make cabin life so great. We're so lucky to have great lake friends to share our weekends memories.

Mouth full of watermelon

We've got big plans for fun on tap for Fourth of July week. I'm off to finish drafting my meal plans and stock up on groceries for the festivities. Can't wait!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Best Summer Nights

The best weekday nights happen when Andi sends a late afternoon text message to let me know he'll be home from work early. I'll have dinner ready when he walks in the door, or sometimes we'll put food on the back-burner and seize the last bits of evening light while we can. When the stars align just so, these are the perfect way to spend an evening together.

Yesterday was one of those glorious summer nights. Andi walked in the door around 5:45pm and said, "Let's do something fun." We wolfed down a meal of baked chicken, corn on the cob and mashed potatoes, then scurried out the door to Crystal Cove pool.

We'd not been to this pool before, but I'd heard good things about their zero-entry children's area. A bit pricey for a small window of evening swim time but, eh, nights like these don't come around very often. Tory was so excited to swim with Daddy - so excited - and splashed and played in the water with Andi while I sat poolside with Aden. I could've taken Aden swimming too, but sometimes it's nice to spend peaceful time snuggling my baby boy on the sidelines.

Not to be a creeper, but doesn't this little boy behind Tory look identical to a future Aden? Big blue eyes and bleach-blond hair. Adorable. I couldn't stop staring.

Tory requested ice cream on the drive home, and why not oblige? I'd just picked up the makings for root beer floats the day before, so Andi whipped up a few cups to share when we got home. Between bites of root beer-flavored ice cream Tory said, "Can I have more Minnesota, Dad? (She meant "soda" since that's what Andi called the root beer as he filled her glass). So sweet!

A not-so-ordinary summer night. Pool time + family time = a perfect time.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Breastfeeding Journey with Aden

Aden is 7 months and 5 days old, and today is the first day I haven't nursed him. It seems my body is telling me for the second time my breastfeeding journey is over. My personal breastfeeding goal with Aden was to make it past the point I stopped nursing Tory which was 7 months exactly. Ironically, I achieved my goal by four days.

When the kids and I were visiting my parents in Nebraska last month, my mom asked me how nursing was going with Aden. "Good," I responded. "He seems happy and satisfied after feedings. I think things are going well." The day after we returned from our trip, I came down with a case of the stomach flu. My milk supply took a major hit while I was sick and never rebounded. I drank tons of water, continued to take Fenugreek pills regularly and even started Domperidone to increase my milk production, but nothing worked. My supply was never the same.

A day or two later, I'd just finished a nursing session with Aden when I heard his tummy growl. "Is he still hungry?" I wondered. Eep. I prepared a bottle of frozen breast milk and Aden guzzled 6 ounces. (!!!) A lump formed in my throat because I knew in that moment we were on the downward spiral to being done with breastfeeding.

Over the next two weeks, I supplemented with frozen breast milk or soy formula after every nursing session and Aden drank anywhere from 2-6 ounces. It came to a point where he'd scream and arch his back every time I attempted to nurse him, but would slam a bottle of milk in record time. At 7 months and 4 days, I nursed Aden for the last time.


I doubt a grown-up Aden will care in the least bit about my nursing experience with him, but for my own memory I'd like to document this special time I shared with my boy.

From the beginning, breastfeeding came easy with Aden. After a bit of initial fumbling on both our parts, he latched well at birth and seemed to take to nursing well. Two days after Aden was born, a fill-in pediatrician suggested I supplement with formula after each nursing session to help him bounce back to his birth weight. I didn't let the doctor's advice shake me, though I didn't agree with it. I knew from experience with Tory that formula is just food so I wasn't against feeding it to him; I just had faith in my body and knew my milk supply would come through eventually. I did as the pediatrician recommended (kind of, for a few days) and as I watched Aden grow, I knew I was doing alright by him.

Being a stay-at-home-mom was my secret to success in nursing Aden. I was more relaxed about feeding times than I was when I nursed Tory and fed Aden on demand. This method worked well for us, and he usually ate every 2-3 hours. I never felt "tied down" to nursing, and really enjoyed our quiet moments together. With a rambunctious toddler at home, there weren't many times Aden and I were one-on-one, but so long as I was feeding him every few hours I always felt like he and I had quality time together.

I also pumped once daily to build a milk supply in the freezer. It wasn't much (compared to some women who have a freezer full of milk!), but it was a good achievement for me. It allowed me the freedom to leave Aden for a few hours with a babysitter when needed.

I promised myself I wouldn't be as neurotic about breastfeeding this time around. There were some high and low moments, but overall my feelings were fairly even-keeled this experience. I'm not sure if other breastfeeding mothers feel like this, but sometimes I worried I wasn't producing enough milk for Aden; feared I'd fail him as a provider. At one particular low point when I thought I wasn't producing enough milk, I visited a lactation consultant when Aden was about three months old. Unfortunately, the LC wasn't much assistance, but she did weigh Aden before and after a feeding so I had an idea how much he was eating. I found a quote online that I repeated to myself whenever I questioned my breastfeeding ability:


Sometimes, I just needed someone to tell my mind I was being crazy. This little graphic did the trick.

Now here I am, wrapping up my breastfeeding journey with Aden. There's lots of emotions flooding through me as this phase in his babyhood is completed. A part of me feels guilty for no longer having enough milk to supply my baby. A bigger, more rational part of me knows he'll continue growing just fine. And, as shameful as this is to admit, I'm excited to have my body back again after 15 months of pregnancy and nursing. Tonight, I think I'll drink two glasses of wine, pop some cold medicine and skip dinner just because I no longer have a growing baby boy's needs to consider over my own. 

Kidding! (Kind of.)

Life goes on, baby boy. Welcome to world of soy formula, bottles and smelly toots.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Weekend at the Cabin: Musky Fest; Lake Fun; Family Truck Ride

This past weekend will forever be remembered by Andi and I as the time Tory learned to jump into the lake. Our little girl, no fear at all, jumping off the dock like a big kid!

Andi was determined to teach Tory how to jump off the dock this summer and me, being the cautious mama I am, couldn't possible imagine Tory was ready for this. Andi: 1; Heather: 0; because, um, Tory nailed it! I think we have countless sessions of swimming lessons to thank as it's what Tory practices in the pool weekly. Jumping into the lake is a different environment though, and I wasn't sure how Tory would react. For one, the water isn't the balmy 85 degrees it is at the indoor swimming pool and it's also darker and filled with things like fish and weeds. This didn't stop Tory though. She wasn't nervous to jump into the water one bit. Andi eased her into things by catching her at first and in no time, Tory was jumping off the dock and swimming to the ladder on her own (with one of us nearby and ready to assist, of course). I couldn't be more proud of our little girl. Summer just got a lot more fun for this girl. We had the hardest time convincing her to get out of the lake this weekend after she felt the thrill of jumping in and swimming like a big kid.

Oh, and the fun didn't stop there...

Summer is officially here and we had a fabulous weekend to show it. The sound of Tory's bare feet pitter-pattering down the dock; squeals of delight as she jumped into the lake again and again; cruising around the lake on the pontoon boat with a warm breeze surrounding us; gobbling up juicy cheeseburgers fresh from the grill; the smell of a bonfire at the end of the night on our sun-kissed skin. When I think of summertime, this is it. THE BEST.

Friday night as I dressed Tory in pajamas she said, "Mommy, I had so much fun" (referencing her first experience jumping into the lake) and on our drive back to the Twin Cities Sunday evening she cried, "I miss my cabin." So do we, babe. So do we. It's such a gift to hear those heartfelt expressions come from a child's lips to her parent's ears. Our lake cabin will forever and always be a special place in Tory and Aden's hearts. Their best childhood memories happen there -- even the ones that have yet to take place. It's enough to bring tears to my eyes and exactly why Andi and I love that place so much, too.  

The kids were up early, early Saturday morning so Andi and I loaded everyone into the car and drove to Hayward, Wisconsin for their annual Musky Festival. We stumbled on this celebration last year during our RV adventure and had so much fun there; Andi and I knew we had to go back. We pulled into the town of Hayward just as Musky Fest was beginning and it was the perfect time to browse the vendor tables for kitchy cabin decorations and listen to music without the crowds of people. Tory participated in a kids' sack race and won a pineapple upside-down cake at a cake walk. ("I liked that cupcake game," she said later). We ate hand-dipped corn dogs and BBQ ribs and stopped for ice cream at West's Dairy. My favorite store was Tremblay's Sweet Shoppe - oh my goodness, it was amazing! Andi was in heaven (the man's never met a candy he didn't like) and Tory's eyes were the size of saucers as we watched employees make candy from scratch and picked out treats to buy from stacks and stacks of candies. I love nostalgic small towns like Hayward. What a great place for a family day of fun.

We spent the rest of the day on Saturday fishing, swimming and cruising around the lake on the pontoon boat. The weather was absolutely gorgeous - 80's and sunny. The perfect summer day.

Matching sun suits!

Bomb Pops by the lake

Little stinker got mama good!

Just before sunset, Andi and I took the kids for a truck ride in the Ranger ATV. We saw deer, turkeys and a turtle on our journey through the countryside. Andi and Tory go for rides all the time, but the conditions and time of day have to be just right for Aden (not too hot or cold; has to be napped and fed, etc. so he's not too cranky), so I was excited the four of us finally had a chance to go for a ride together. We might look like a hot mess after being outdoors all day, but I love this photo of our family so much.

Ah, this is cabin life.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Letters to Aden: Seven Months


You're seven months old now and my, how much you've grown in the last few weeks! It's as if you suddenly realized there's a big world out there and you're doing everything you can to be apart of it. I love seeing the person you are start to blossom as you do your best to communicate through sounds and movements.

You, Tory and I flew to Nebraska at the beginning of the month (your 3rd flight!) to visit family and on our first night there, I joked to Nana you're content to lay wherever I put you. Up to this point, you hadn't been one to scoot or roll, or even to reach for a toy too far out of reach. Why would you do that when you have a big sister to retrieve anything at your heart's desire? Anyway, of course you proved me wrong the minute I mentioned this to Nana and started scooting upward like a little turtle! You now scoot all over the place while lying on your back, using your feet to push you forward. I have to laugh because your pediatrician stresses the importance of "tummy time" saying kids can't learn to crawl from their backs, and you've figured out a way to move around doing just that. As I type this, I'm watching you on the baby monitor turn a full circle in your crib at nap time. Silly boy!

Lest you think I leave you laying on your back all day, we do practice "tummy time" regularly and this month you started to really push up on your arms from your belly. You'll also lay comfortably on your stomach which is not a position you loved to be in before now.

The introduction of food has been an interesting journey with you. Said plainly: you don't love it. I've tried a variety of things to gain appeal and honestly, I just don't think you're ready yet. During your first experience with food, I fed you rice cereal mixed with formula and you broke out with hives all over your face and neck. I quickly discovered you have an allergy to the protein found in milk (and reacted to the kind of formula I'd used). The pediatrician recommends you now drink breast milk or soy formula only.

I've slowly begun to offer you basic foods in both puree and mushed-up form, and none of it seems to float your boat. You've tried bananas, avocado, squash, sweet potatoes, apples, pears and peas. At first, the minute a bite of food hit your lips you'd immediately gag and begin to cry. So, I resorted back to the most bland food for babies - rice cereal - and this time, mixed the rice with breast milk. Now you will eat rice, although I wouldn't say you love it, and recently I began to mix purees into it. Slowly but surely we're getting there. Someday, I'll probably look back on this time and smile when you're a growing teenage boy eating us out of house and home!

I've recently noticed a drop in my milk supply, so I now offer you formula after every nursing session. You'll typically drink 3-6 ounces of formula each feeding. I know you must not be getting much milk from me because you're less and less interested in nursing and often pull away from me in frustration. Unfortunately I foresee our nursing relationship ending sooner than I'd like, but I find comfort knowing you're getting plenty to eat with the supplementation of formula and addition of solid food into your diet.

In other semi-related news, your first tooth popped into your mouth this month! Teething doesn't seem to affect you too badly thus far. Some days, you're extra drooly and I did notice a bit of diaper rash around the days your tooth came in, but you aren't particularly fussy.

A few other things of note: you've recently mastered the ability to pick up and put your pacifier in your mouth; you've discovered your toes and love to put them in your mouth; and, you've moved up a size in clothes (now wearing size 9-12 months) and diapers (now wearing 4's -- you and Tory wear the same size!).

Likes this month: the activity mat (we are getting some good use out of that toy with you!); pacifiers; taking a bottle (surprisingly, the transition to feedings with a bottle have been easy); your favorite blue blanket; teething toys; baths; and your sister, Tory.

Dislikes: having your clothes changed; tummy time; riding in the double stroller; going for boat rides at the lake cabin; wearing hats and a lifejacket.

You're really such a fun-loving little boy, Aden, and we love you very much. Excited to see what your eighth month brings!


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fun at the Park

I have a new favorite thing this summer: discovering awesome parks in the Twin Cities.

There's a park in our neighborhood we've frequented since Tory was old enough to crawl. It's great because we're within walking distance of our house should an emergency arise (like last week, when Aden had a poop-plosion out his shorts and up his entire back) and we can get there without much preparation. The one downside of our neighborhood park is it's hot -- there's zero trees and no shade, which is especially tough for Aden. I usually end up parking him in the stroller under one of the play structure's slides which does /or doesn't work depending on who else is there.

Tory playing at the park @ 13 months old

A few weeks ago when Andi was traveling for work and I was solo parenting for a gazillion days straight, I loaded the kids into the car and drove to French Regional Park near Medicine Lake. I had to get out of the house - had to - and I had blissful visions of Tory, Aden and I enjoying the gorgeous afternoon together, walking the wooded trails or going to the beach to play by the water. You see where this is going ... of course, our outing was basically a disaster. Aden had a major meltdown about 15 minutes into our park time and screamed the entire (long) walk back to the car. I must've looked pitiful because an elderly couple out for a stroll stopped and asked if I could use some help. YES! PLEASE! The woman pushed my Sit N' Stand double stroller (you know, the stroller my kids refuse to ride in) out of the park while I carried Aden in one arm and directed a very slow-moving Tory with the other. Thank goodness for people who offer to help! I learned two valuable lessons that day: never go for a walk without a pacifier clip (so you don't lose your baby's pacifier in public and have no way to shush him) and be careful what you roll into a gigantic park with (stroller; two kids, gear, etc.) because you'll inevitably be carrying it all back out.

Our school-year ECFE preschool class set up weekly play dates at various parks this summer and last week Tory, Aden and I joined up with the group at Plymouth Creek Park. This place is a hidden gem in Plymouth's park system. Plymouth Creek Park has several sets of playground equipment and swings to accommodate a large number of kids and a big sand box which Tory absolutely loved. There's a few trees for shade and even a picnic shelter. Awesome find! We've been back to this park a few times since then and I love how there's always other kids around to play with Tory.

Digging in the sand at Plymouth Creek Park

Next month, our ECFE group is meeting at a splash pad in Robbinsdale and I'm super jazzed to check this place out. I've always wanted to take Tory to a splash pad, which is basically like a giant sprinkler park. I think she'll love it, especially on a hot summer day. There's another splash pad in St. Louis Park on my bucket list to check out this summer, too.

Yesterday, the weather was 80 degrees and beautiful outdoors, so I decided it was the perfect day for a picnic at the park. I packed a lunch for Tory and I (which I've learned is key to keeping the fun times rolling and avoiding meltdown mania induced by hunger) and we set out for a fun morning. Picnics are one of Tory's favorite things to do this summer -- sometimes, I think she enjoys dining al fresco more than playing in the park itself. Last year, I purchased these Easy Lunchboxes and they're perfect for lunches on the go. Paired with my favorite JJ Cole park blanket and we've got ourselves a festive lunch outdoors. We had a ball at the new-to-us park by our house, which offered nice playground equipment, a sand box and big trees for shade. Extra bonus points in my book because it's set back from the road giving the park a nice, quiet woodsy feel.

I put together an essentials kit to keep in the back of my car, so we're always ready for fun wherever the summer may take us. The kit includes: sand buckets and shovels, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, a ball, picnic blanket, sunscreen and wet wipes. Having extra toys to play and share with new friends makes our weekly park adventures all the more fun.

Three cheers for summer - it's finally here!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day Weekend at the Cabin

Andi returned home late Thursday night after spending 22 straight days on the road for a business trip. To say we missed him is an understatement! He took the day off work Friday and we hopped in the car early morning to drive to the cabin. I was so excited for Tory, Aden and I to reconnect with Andi over a long weekend at our favorite place on the world.

Unfortunately, the kids and I woke up with colds on Friday morning so we all felt less than stellar. Nothing to put us to bed completely, but Aden slept pretty miserably the night before and poor Tory's eyes were so red and glassy. I dosed her with some allergy medicine to combat the itchy, watery eyes and constant sneezing, wished I could take something myself (darn breastfeeding!) and gave Aden lots of extra baby snuggles because there wasn't much I could do for him either.

Friday afternoon at the cabin was pretty low-key. It was an absolutely beautiful day outdoors, so after Andi and I put the kids down for naps (Dual sleeping! The unicorn of parenting!), we grabbed a drink and sat outside to soak up some sunshine on the pontoon boat tied to the dock. As we sat there, downloading about our past three weeks of life apart, a deer meandered out of the woods and into our backyard. The deer saw us and we saw her, but she didn't seem to mind an audience. Andi and I kept still and watched the animal munch on grass not 50 feet from us. Neat!

After the kids woke up from naps, we hopped in the pontoon and took a boat ride around the lake. Tory happily munched on snacks, Aden was fairly content playing toys and Andi and I soaked up the sunshine. We stopped by the swimming beach per Tory's request, but there wasn't much beach there because the lake's water level is so high right now.

We grilled steak kabobs with rice for dinner, al fresco on our patio picnic table for the first time this season. Too tired to parent the last few hours of the evening (me feeling under the weather; Andi exhausted from working grueling hours for the last month), we loaded the kids into the car to went for a drive. We ended up in town and picked up some groceries, bought bait, etc. -- the regular cabin errands we usually save for Saturday mornings. Despite not feeling the best, Friday was a great day for our family to align back to center.

Andi let Aden and I sleep in Saturday morning and took Tory out for a morning Ranger "truck ride" through the wooded trees by the cabin. Andi said Tory had a blast eating chocolate donuts and drinking apple juice while they saw deer, cows, donkeys and turtles on their morning adventure. Never mind they were both still in their pajamas!

Checking out a snapping turtle on the road

The weather wasn't as nice Saturday - windy and in the low 60's with a chance of rain - so after Andi and Tory returned from their truck ride, we loaded the kids into the car and drove to town in hopes of catching the tail end of the farmer's market. It wasn't taking place, but we did stumble upon the Cumberland Arts Fair near the banks of Beaver Dam Lake. We stopped to browse the vendor tables and grab a piece of pie from the elderly church ladies selling slices for $.50. These little fairs are my favorite -- there's something so nostalgic about them.

Playing at the park near Beaver Dam Lake

Andi's parents joined us at the cabin Saturday afternoon to spend the remainder of Father's Day weekend with us. We did more lounging around the cabin, playing with the kids indoors (too windy and cool to have much fun outside) and ate a tasty lunch of grilled brats, pasta salads, chips/dip and fruit. Andi took his dad fishing on the lake for a bit while Tory and I made homemade bird feeders from pine cones we collected in the backyard. (This was one of those crafty Pinterest ideas I thought Tory would love ... and in reality, she wanted nothing to do with the project and I ended up making them myself. She did have fun collecting pine cones, I guess.) For dinner, we grilled cedar plank salmon with broccoli and mushrooms and it was delicious. Love that we're in the season where nearly every meal is made on the grill.

Andi's parents offered to babysit Saturday night, so Andi and I snuck away after dinner for a fun evening at our cabin neighbors Oscar and Deanna's place on the lake. The weather was chilly and threatened rain but we didn't care because we were kid-free! Deanna and Oscar and their adult kids - including our best cabin friends Krista and Josh - sat around the bonfire, laughed and passed around moonshine cherries Andi'd brought back from a Tennessee photo shoot. Soon it began to thunder and lightening, sprinkle and then rain; yet, we all bundled up and stayed sitting around the fire. Everyone was soaking wet and having so much fun. Later, we moved the party into Oscar's garage when the lightening became a little too close for comfort.

The weather was even worse Sunday (Father's Day) when we woke up in the morning. It was pouring rain, windy and cold, so we stayed inside the cabin. Andi slept in late while Janie, Jim and I played with the kids. Janie made everyone French toast for breakfast, Andi took another mid-morning nap with Aden while the rest of us sat around and waited for the weather to clear up. We were going pretty stir-crazy by the time Noon rolled around. Around that time, Andi's sister Lindsay and her fiancé, Kyle, arrived to the cabin and the weather finally turned sunny. We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon outdoors.

Andi cooked rotisserie chicken and pineapple on the grill and we ate a late lunch outside on the backyard deck. Then, we spent the remainder of the day fishing off the dock with Tory and taking a nice, long boat ride around the lake with Lindsay and Kyle.

The weather redeemed itself and Sunday turned out to be a pretty nice day. We had a nice time celebrating two special fathers in our lives -- especially this one who Tory, Aden and I are so lucky to call ours. Happy Father's Day!

A picture I framed and gave Andi as a Father's Day present