Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rutabaga Fest 2014

This past weekend at the cabin was the annual Rutabaga Festival in nearby Cumberland. It's no secret I'm a sucker for small town celebrations, so I look forward to this weekend all year long.

Andi worked a long day Friday, so we got a late start out of the Cities. We've been spoiled this summer with Friday night dinners on the deck and sunset boat rides on the lake to wind down after a busy week. No such luck this weekend. Minutes after we rolled into the cabin around the kids' bedtimes, the cabin neighbor sent a text invitation to join everyone over at their place. What do responsible parents like And and I do? Load the kids into the car again and head on over! I was certain we'd combat tears and fussy bedtimes as a result, but surprisingly Aden and Tory were troopers. As soon as the kids saw all their favorite cabin friends, they were in great spirits. Tory and her little friend Hannah hadn't seen each other for three weeks, so they kept hugging and saying "I missed my friend." Completely adorable.

Bright and early Saturday morning, we packed up the family and headed into town for the Rutabaga Festival's 5K Fun Run. I had high hopes to run the race this year, but I'm just not there yet with my Couch to 5K training. Super disappointed in myself. But! There was a big group of cabin friends walking the race this year for various reasons, so Andi and I pushed Tory and Aden in the double stroller alongside Lisa, Oscar and Deanna pushing Hannah and Baby Kate, Morgan's boyfriend Nick, Brooke's boyfriend Anthony and others.

Aden and Tory, ready to race

Naturally, the race ends in a beer garden so we recapped the morning over beers with friends. Aden wanted down on the ground so badly, but the floor of a beer garden isn't exactly the more sanitary place for a baby. (It could be argued beer gardens aren't the best place for babies in general but, eh.) Anyway, I put him in the baby carrier and did what every good mother does - multi-tasked. 

After the Fun Run, Andi and I broke off from the group with our cabin friends Josh, Krista and their daughters Hannah and Kate. We walked the downtown streets and shopped at the local vendor stands set up along the way. Much to Andi's chagrin, I bought Aden his own little boy's apron to wear when he can start cooking in the kitchen with Tory and I. I also bought Aden a hand-sewn fox stocking hat to match the owl one we bought Tory a few years ago. Can't wait to see the kids wearing their hats and aprons together!

Andi stopped for cheese curds, of course, Krista and Josh split a pulled pork sandwich and I had a delicious custard-filled chocolate croissant along the way. Seriously cannot stop thinking about that croissant! We also stopped by the local firetrucks on display, and the little girls got plastic fire hats and Sparky stickers. What a fun morning!

I think almost everyone on the lake took naps Saturday afternoon to recuperate from the early wake-up for the race. Andi and I tossed around the idea of going back into town for carnival rides later in the day, but opted to stay at the lake and go for an afternoon boat ride. Summer is winding down and our boat rides around the lake are numbered so we decided to take advantage. For dinner, we joined the rest of the cabin crew for a BBQ and Oscar and Deanna's place. We grilled hamburgers and hobo potatoes, played lawn games in the yard and sat with the babies on a blanket in the grass. The perfect ending to a great day at the lake.

Hannah and Tory playing in the sand

Wine in a redneck wine glass!


Greg and Josh grilling up dinner

Hannah Banana

Next weekend's Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer. It's bittersweet to see such a fun summer coming to an end, but wonderful at the same time to reflect on all the fun memories we've shared with our friends at the lake.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cabin Renovations {Patio & Backyard Updates}

The first phase of renovations at our lake cabin are finished, so it's a good time to share the improvements Andi and I made to our favorite getaway place in the last year. Originally, I started writing this update to include everything we've done in the last 10 months but quickly realized we've made a lot of changes in (almost) a year's time. So, for ease and flow in reading along, I think I'll group the renovations by room.

First, to recap our cabin history / situation: Andi and I have been in our Wisconsin cabin for four years now -- the first year (2011) renting it with three other couples, the second year (2012) renting it with one other couple and last summer (2013) renting the cabin by ourselves. The lake cabin came fully furnished by the original owners (furniture, appliances, cooking utensils, dock in the lake; the works), so during the "renting years," we didn't add or change a thing. In October 2013, Andi and I purchased the lake cabin from the original owners and set forth plans immediately to make the place feel like ours.

The original owners built the cabin in stages over the years. In the early 1980's, they bought the lake shore, cleared the trees on the land and built a garage and small cabin (what we now call "the middle-level") which included a kitchen, living area and two small bedrooms. About 10 or 15 years later (in the late 1990's), the owners constructed an upper level and basement addition onto the existing footprint of the cabin, so the original small cabin and garage became the "middle level" of one lake home. The new upstairs addition included a kitchen, master bedroom, dining area, bathroom and living room. The basement added another living room, bedroom, laundry/utility room and second bathroom.

Since originally we rented, and at times shared the place with other couples, Andi and I never made any updates to the cabin during our first three years. Dozens of fond memories happened there, but nothing inside the cabin itself truly felt like "ours." The cabin style and decor was dated having been constructed in the 1980's/1990's and all the furnishings were left behind by the original owners. In some ways, it was awesome because the cabin was completely functional as it was. Turn key! Yet, Andi and I were chomping at the bit to put our own spin on the place.

A friend referred to the 1990's era of decor as "glass and brass" and the cabin totally was (glass closet doors, brass handles on doors and cabinets, off-white appliances). It was all in great condition, but ... 90's. Every inch of the walls and ceilings were knotty-pine wood which definitely gave it a "cabin" feel, but the monotone color seemed overwhelming to Andi and I. So! Much! Wood! All of the same color! To top it off, every spot there had been a picture frame, shelf or animal mount from the previous owners left behind a faded sunspot on the knotty-pine. Said differently, the exact shape of past decor was forever outlined on the walls. Some sunspots had been exposed for the entire four years we'd rented the cabin and were still as visible as ever. Andi and I knew part of our renovation plans needed to include a solution to cover as many sunspots as possible.

Our first changes happened to the outdoor patio area soon after we purchased the cabin in fall 2013. Previously, there were two patio doors connecting the middle-level of the cabin to the backyard: Patio #1 was a walk-out door onto a concrete slab; Patio #2 was a second door that opened onto an old low-platform deck. Patio #1 was most used as our entrance and exit point from the cabin, so Patio #2's door which led onto the low deck acted more like a window as it was rarely used by anyone.


Our main objective was to unify the outdoor patio space as one and add a barrel sauna and outdoor shower to the backyard. We hired a contractor to build a new low-platform deck in place of the overgrown garden. He also built the outdoor shower and we purchased the sauna from a local company. Andi and I used the sauna all winter long, but the outdoor shower had yet to be wired due to the cold outdoor temperatures.


New barrel sauna, outdoor shower and low-platform deck

In spring 2014, we hired a contractor to remove the old, unused low-platform deck of Patio #2 and replace it with a large stained-concrete patio to tie the two areas together. 

New stained-concrete patio

Andi set to work seeding and re-growing grass for seemingly the entire summer. Luckily, it was a rainier-than-normal June and July to help water the grass on days we weren't at the cabin. The yard still needs some work, but it's in much better shape than it was early summer.

The old cabin owners took their dock as part of the sale, so we purchased a new roll-in dock to the lake. It doesn't look like much, but it was an expensive add to the cabin. Andi splurged for dock lights and a new ladder which have been so nice to have this summer. And, I finally got my flag pole! Remember, I bought Andi a custom flag two years ago for Father's Day, but we lost our flag pole to the original owners. For Father's Day this year, I bought Andi a flag pole that mounts directly to the dock. Watching our family's flag fly here makes me so happy.

And finally this summer, Andi stained the new low-platform deck and outdoor shower a teak color to match the barrel sauna.

Summer 2013

Summer 2014

We've used the outdoor shower a ton this summer. There's something special about standing under the open sky, washing the sand off from a fun day at the lake. (Also, something humorous about a frog jumping in for a splash and nearly scaring you half to death mid-shower). Ah, life in the woods.

Towel hooks on the side of the shower
Next up, a recap of renovations thus far inside the cabin. Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Our Weekend at the Cabin: A Farewell to Friends

Summer is flying by. Just flying. This time of year always tugs at my heart strings because I fondly remember my last days of pregnancy with Tory -- the Minnesota State Fair, back-to-school time. We've had so many fun get-togethers planned at the cabin in the last few months, and now there's only two more "official summer" weekends left on the calendar. *tear*

My good friend Lindsey and her family joined us at the cabin last weekend, and I'd been looking forward to their visit all summer. Lindsey and Dan moved to the Twin Cities three years ago, but had yet to experience the true beauty of an "up North" summer. I really wanted to share the magic of cabin life with them -- boating, bonfires, swimming in the lake -- before they move their family once again later this fall.

We all arrived to the cabin Friday night around the same time, started the cocktails flowing and headed out for a boat ride on the lake. It was the perfect start to a great weekend as we watched the sun set over the lake. Lindsey and Dan's girls are quite traveled for being so young, so I was surprised to learn this was their first boat ride! Glad they were able to share it with us.

Captain Tory

All the kids
Tory (2), Ashley (2), Taylor (1) and Aden (8 months)

Dan and Ashley

Tory Girl

Sunset boat ride
Lindsey and I holding Tory and Aden

Lindsey, Dan, Andi and I stayed up far too late Friday night sitting by the fire, drinking and talking. It was so fun to laugh and spend time with our friends. Our Saturday morning started early with chipper kids ready to play. I think it's safe to say all four of us adults were hurting a bit.

Andi took Dan, Ashley and Tory for a long truck ride in the Ranger ATV Saturday morning while Lindsey and I stayed back at the cabin with Aden and Tory. When they came back, we all headed outside for a boat ride around the lake and some beach time.

Dan and Ashley

Playing at the beach

Andi and Aden

Ashley jumping off the dock for the first time

Tory swimming in the lake

Tory jumping off the dock

More fun times playing at the beach ...

Searching for buried treasure

The girls feeding fish with their dads

Aden Bear

Paddle boat rides

Best friends

I'd arranged for a babysitter Saturday night but she had to cancel last-minute, so we ended up hanging around the cabin. Dan grilled a steak dinner for all of us, the kids played and we enjoyed our time together.

I couldn't help but think over the weekend how this would likely be the last weekend Lindsey and Dan spend with us at the lake cabin. Soon, they'll be moving their family across the U.S. and our time together will be few and far between. It makes me so sad! Very thankful for their friendship and so glad we were able to share a great weekend at the cabin together.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Letters to Aden: Nine Months


My little buddy, you are growing up so quickly. Today, you turn nine months old! Nine months (plus six extra days) inside my belly preparing for life; nine months outside in this great big world of ours. How does time move so incredible fast?

This was another big milestone month for you. Suddenly you seem like such a big boy to me - more resemblance to a toddler than a newborn - with every look and every action. Your face shape is elongating and blond hair now covers your head entirely. I find myself snuggling your sleepy body for a few extra minutes at night and kissing your pale, soft skin more often during the day because I know these moments of babyhood are fleeting. You are growing up!

Physically, you've busted out of 6-9 month clothes and officially moved into 9-12 month sizes. Last month, there were a few clothing items still making the cut, but now I'm officially retiring another set of outfits you've worn and I've loved. I feel like this every time you move up a size, but I'm having such a difficult time accepting how quickly you're changing. This month, I dressed you in the same onesies and outfits you've been wearing all summer and then I'd laugh out loud because you seriously looked like a "fat guy in a little shirt" -- your adorably round Buddha belly stretching the shirt's fabric tightly.

Love going for walks in the stroller

You don't have your official nine month check-up for another two weeks (I'm waiting to gang up your doctor's visit with Tory's appointment after her 3rd birthday), but unofficially I record you weighing in at 19 pounds. You are all boy, so solid and sturdy. This month, we moved you from an infant car seat to a convertible car seat because you were seriously so hefty for me to lug around. I worried you wouldn't be as comfortable or take as many naps in the car but, eh, you're so go-with-the-flow. Your new car seat suits you just fine with no complains. With much sadness, I also retired your beloved baby swing this past month. Believe me, if I could've kept that big ol' thing in our living room for the rest of your lifetime I would've because it was a treasured piece of baby gear in your early months of life. You loved your swing. Loved it. You enjoyed many, many naps in there and on the fussiest of nights I'd lay you in the swing and you've sleep the longest stretches you've ever slept. But, you were starting to look a bit ridiculous; your head was higher than the cute bunny-ears cushion and your feet dangled far past the swing's seat. #RIPswing This mama will miss you dearly.

Playing at the park by our house

You're sleeping *pretty good* in your crib these days, taking two naps every day from 9:00am - 10:30am and 1:00pm - 3:00pm and sleeping at night from 7:30pm - 6:00am with one (or two) wake-ups usually around Midnight. I'm not very good at letting your cry it out, mostly because you continue to scratch your face and head something fierce when you're frustrated and/or tired. No matter how well maintained I keep your fingernails, you manage to scrape your face with your hands or pull on your ear lopes until they bleed. Poor guy! Why do you do this to yourself? Putting mittens on your hands no longer works as you've figured out how to bite off one glove with your mouth and pull the other off with the free hand. So, I don't leave you alone long to soothe yourself back to sleep. I don't mind waking up with you once or twice in the night because you'll go right back to sleep after I feed you a bottle.

Other sleep notes -- I'd officially call you a side-sleeper as the minute I lay you in your crib, you'll roll to your left side and go to sleep. Or, if you're awake in your crib, you'll contently lay there and play with your feet or roll around until you fall asleep on your own. One tell-tale sign you're putting yourself to sleep is the way you rock your head back and forth (as if you were motioning no-no-no) until you find a comfy spot to settle into a slumber. In the last 10 days or so, you've been waking up for the morning around 5:00am which is way, way too early. You're happy about being awake and would occupy yourself in your crib until I came to retrieve you, but you're also so noisy squeaking and squawking, I don't want you to wake up the whole house. I think the disruption in your (fairly consistent until now) sleep schedule is all the physical developments you're learning as of late.

For one, you're rolling over like crazy these days. Any time I set you on the floor in a sitting position, you immediately flop onto your belly. You want to spend so much time on your tummy now and are constantly practicing how to push up on your arms and get your belly up off the floor. You're not crawling just yet, but I know you will be soon. If I put you in a crawling position on your hands and knees, you can stay there for a bit and rock back and forth trying to gain forward momentum. For now, rolling seems to be your preferred method of moving from place to place. You'll roll over to where Tory is so you can play along with her, too.

You've learned to wave "hi" to people (you do this by feverishly waving both arms up and down) and giving "high-fives," from swimming class where the instructor prompts the children to give high-fives when class is completed. Speaking of swimming class, you love, love, love the water and are so excited to swim each week. All the parents and the swim teacher chuckle because you're so content to float in the water. Last week during back-floats the instructor joked, "Now don't fall asleep, Aden!" because you'll float on your back forever it seems. You don't even mind having your face submerged in the water during "zooms" or when we're doing "Humpty Dumpty's" off the side of the pool ledge. This month, we took you swimming in the lake at the cabin for the first time as well. The water has finally warmed up to about 80 degrees so we put you in one of those baby floaties and you contently floated there all afternoon. You had a great time.

You grow more interested in eating solid foods with every passing day and prefer to feed yourself over me feeding you with a spoon (though you do eat purees 3x a day). This month, I discovered you have food sensitivities to avocados and all milk products. You ate about a 1/4 of an avocado and instantly broke out in hives on your face and upper body within minutes of eating it. I also gave you a few pieces of Tory's frozen waffle one morning (which I now realize contains milk) without much thought and you immediately reacted. I've since become very diligent at reading labels and avoid feeding you anything that contains dairy. Foods you enjoy feeding yourself (with no reaction thus far) are: zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans, squash, cucumbers, peaches, watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries, toast with dairy-free butter and chicken. Your favorite food, by far, is pureed peas. You can't get your mouth open fast enough to eat them!

Other things about you at this age I don't want to forget: the way you talk to us by growling in a low voice; your latest trick of smacking your lips together to make noise; your constant smiles and gorgeous ice-blue eyes; how eager you are to put everything in your mouth (pacifiers, toys, remote controls, telephones, sand - yuck!); your love for balls, teething toys and your favorite blue blanket; the way you idolize Tory and absolutely light up when you see her; your clammy feet, pudgy belly and skin as pale and soft as milk; and, how go-with-the-flow you are about anything and everything.

You are one of my greatest blessings in life, Aden. I love you more than you'll ever know. Happy nine months!


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Our Week in a Nutshell

Phew! It's been a loooong week. Andi traveled for work early Sunday morning to Wednesday evening. Typically, solo parenting doesn't bother me -- doing most of the meal prep and clean up, sleep routines and kid entertaining falls on my plate most days anyway -- but once in a while his trips seem to take forever and this was one of them. I must've been low on energy and patience this week because there were several instances I glanced at the clock and thought, "Good lord, it's only 9:30am?" So, I filled our days with as many activities as I could manage ...

Sunday, I carted the kids to Target to pick up bread, butter, yogurt, fruit, baby food and baby water. Basically, the essentials for a functional life with Tory and Aden. Taking two monkeys into Target on a Sunday (okay, one monkey and one nicely behaved boy) was just as much fun as it sounds. We booked it out of the store as fast as possible and made a pit-stop by a local park on the way home because Monkey #1 desperately needed to burn off some energy. We picked up pizza for dinner Sunday night which is usually on the list of things to do when Andi's out of town because A) no cooking = no brainer and B) Andi doesn't like pizza so it's the only time I get to eat it. Anyway, on our drive home from the pizza place, Tory was rambling on in the backseat about something and my nerves were five o'clock frazzled. I can't remember what she was asking me but I said, "Sure, knock yourself out." Tory stopped talking mid-sentence and said in a puzzled voice, "Huh? Knock yourself out?" Ha. Hahahahahaha. I nearly died laughing. Leave it to Tory to lighten the mood. We both laughed and laughed about that one.

Monday, we played in the backyard and I let Tory eat a Popsicle before dinnertime. What's summertime as a kid if you can't sit on the deck and eat a frozen treat in your underwear?

Or, sit in a pool without water because your mother is too lazy to fill it?

Don't let his cute smile fool you -- Aden is suddenly afraid of loud noises and screamed with fear every time an airplane flew overhead or the neighbor tore through his yard on a riding lawnmower ... which, in the case of our neighbor, happens a lot.

Tuesday was our neighborhood's annual kids parade. I like participating in this event because it's a nice way to bring our neighborhood together. It always amazes me how many children live within a few miles of our house, though I never see one of them playing outside on any other day. I wonder where these kids are to befriend Tory and Aden? It's a suburb fantasy of mine to have friends in the neighborhood with whom we get together for barbecues and sit on each other decks and drink wine while our kids play in the backyard. And, okay, it'd be nice to have friends in close proximity to get together for playdates if for no other reason. So, I help organize the annual parade each year and hope to hit it off with some nice mom just like me ... but it has yet to happen. There's other nice moms in the neighborhood; just no one I click with on a "let's hang out" level.

Anyway, the kid's parade was fun. I let Tory wear her favorite princess dress and decorated the wagon to look like a royal carriage. I zip-tied the top half of Aden's baby activity mat to the wagon and tied pink tulle to the bars. Tory was super excited about her princess wheels and we made signs together that said "Princess Tory" and "Prince Aden" for the sides of the wagon. We didn't win the costume contest (seriously, a girl who decorated her bike with tree branches took first place) but Tory, Aden and I still had a nice time walking in the parade together. Wish Andi would've been in town to go with us.

Wednesday morning, I packed a picnic lunch and took Tory and Aden to a free Alphabits kid's concert in a nearby park. It was HOT yesterday, we had to park a mile away and there were definite moments when I cursed myself for dragging the kids there ... but once we arrived and settled onto our picnic blanket, I was so glad we went.

Tory and Aden loved the music and Tory's favorite thing in the whole world are picnics in the park. We ate and danced to Old MacDonald and the Hokey Pokey. Afterwards, we played on the playground equipment for a while. It was one of those moments where I said a little prayer of thanks for having the opportunity to stay home with my kids and do fun things like this during the week.