Thursday, April 30, 2015

Life Before Blogging: How We Met

I came across some old photos, and thought it might be fun to write about my favorite memories in the days before Live Inside My Bubble blog. I can't count the number of times I've looked back in my archives to remember what I did for my birthday last year, or to relive amazing vacations of the past. I love how my blog is the living diary of our life -- from a newly engaged couple in 2009, to new parents in 2011, to a family of four in 2013. I have only my memories and a few books of photographs to help me recall the 20+ years of life before I started writing everything down. So like everything these days, I want to document those old memories here to 'preserve them' in diary form. My brain is fuzzy on many of the details, but time marches on and that won't get any better. If nothing else, trips down memory lane are fun to remember.

Here's the story of how Andi and I met:

It was 2004, and Andi and I both worked for the same energy drink company. He was a marketing manager in Minnesota, and I held the same position for North & South Dakota. We were both in our early 20's and living the dream really, with little responsibility and awesome (super easy!) careers to boot. At the time we thought parts of our jobs were tedious or difficult, but looking back OMG we had it made in the shade. Most of our co-workers were also in their 20's and 30's, and the company culture breathed excitement.

In August of that year, managers from our regional area traveled to Denver for business meetings. I was fairly new to the position and hadn't met many of the out-of-state managers yet. Andi introduced himself to me on the 16th Street trolley as we both rode the bus to our downtown Denver office. I'm not sure how he identified me as a manager in the company and not some random girl on a bus, but I do remember exactly what he was wearing (white button-down shirt, light wash boot-cut jeans) and how easy it was to talk with him. Of course, part of our conversation was about my then-boyfriend which Andi teases me about to this day. If only fate would've jumped out and slugged me in the arm when it was clear I'd be embarrassing my future self!

During those few days of meetings in Denver, I watched as Andi lead our peers through his presence. He was the first one to step up and take charge of any situation -- from coordinating taxis at dinner to herding our group through the airport. When Andi spoke, people listened. He was smart and witty and genuine. I make him sound like some sort of work celebrity, but he really was inspiring! I completely adored him from the beginning.

This is one of my most treasured photographs of Andi from the first time we met. Flip phone, crisp white shirt, crazy long (for Andi) hair -- I love it all. Is it strange I want to reach out and touch that man in the photo? He gives me instant butterflies with so much anticipation for the wonderful times ahead.

One of our first photos together - August 2004

Andi and I were friends, teaming up for occasionally projects and events as we managed territories in bordering states. About a year later in the summer of 2005, we co-hosted a team-builidng event for our employees in Stillwater, MN. I think it may have been my first time visiting the Twin Cities.

It's funny to think about a time we didn't snap a million photos of the training exercises, our group dinners, the parties after hours. I wish I'd done a better job of transferring files between work computers back then as there has to be more photographs of those times.

Anyway... late one night during that meeting in Stillwater, Andi and I sat in the hallway between our two hotel rooms and talked into the early morning hours. He told me years later that he'd liked me then and I teased him for not making a move. Of course, we were both in relationships with other people at the time. 

That meeting sparked a deeper relationship between Andi and I. He mailed me burned CDs of Gavin DeGraw and Jack Johnson music to listen to in my home office, and our work conversations over the phone quickly transpired into multiple-hour personal chats.

By Halloween, Andi broke up with his then-girlfriend and by Thanksgiving I'd dumped my then-boyfriend. We didn't immediately start dating each other, but deep down Andi and I both knew there was something special between us.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Letters to Aden: 17 Months

Aden Boy,

You're 17 months old now! Nearly half-way to two years and gah!, your babyhood is flying by far too quickly. Though as bittersweet as it is to see you grow up, it's incredibly fun to watch you become a little boy.

So many all-boy characteristics are emerging, like your fascination with trucks and balls. Give you a truck and you're happy to push it around seemingly forever. You continue to love balls, and can spot one from any distance at the park or in those grocery store pens. "Ball! Ball!" you'll shout, until someone places it in your hards. You also love throwing things (balls, food; you name it) and say "throw" or "catch" before letting it fly.

You're quite the talker, and say about 20 words now. New words this month: catch, roll, eat, see, peek, Chlo (for Chloe the dog), poop, two, three, bubble and throw. Perhaps your favorite word these days is "see!" as you point to various objects. You love songs and sort-of hum the tunes to ABC's, the hello song from swimming class and Pat-A-Cake (that's where the word "roll" comes into play). You also love Tory's toy jukebox, and started dancing to the music by twisting from side to side. I'm afraid you may have inherited my (very uncoordinated) dance moves, buddy!

Still not officially walking, though you are becoming more confident in the skill. You're able to take 10-20 steps at a time when you want to, but would rather knee-walk from place to place as it's a safer and faster mode of transportation. I hope you start walking before summer or I'll need to purchase stock in pants and shoes! After an afternoon playing at the park, the knees of your pants and the tops of your shoes are super worn and dirty.

This month, you discovered how to climb things you shouldn't. Tory uses step stools and kid's chairs to reach items on the countertops, and you'll piggy-back onto her like a koala bear to get in on the action. You've also learned to pull yourself up onto the toilets and push the water spigot on the refrigerator door. Silly boy! Everyone tells me boys are more physical, so I'm certain this is only the beginning of your antics.

Lately, you've begun to express your opinion when something doesn't go your way (said otherwise, throw tantrums like it's your job!). You stiffen your body when you don't want to sit in your car seat, and do the body flop when I pull you away from somewhere you shouldn't be. It's hard not to laugh when you grunt like a bear with anger or frustration.

Never a dull moment with you, Aden. You hold the key to my heart and keep me on my toes. Love you with everything I've got.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Sunday Funday

What a fun, low-key weekend at the lake cabin. So very thankful for our family's little slice of paradise in Northwest Wisconsin.

Sunday was an especially lovely day as the sun shined brightly and temperatures warmed into the 60's. Andi completed several projects on our to-do list Saturday, so Sunday was all about family time.  After breakfast, the four of us hopped into the Ranger ATV for a long morning ride in the countryside. I suggested we scope out an area we don't normally explore near Horseshoe Lake, so that's just what we did. Andi spotted the most beautiful view of a bald eagle perched on top of a lone tree in the middle of a field. I teased him he wouldn't be able to capture the photo in an attempt to convince him to go back to the cabin and get the camera, but no such luck. It seems my reverse psychology tactics aren't as effective on my 34-year-old husband as they are on my three-year-old daughter.

Back at the cabin, Andi put the canoe in the lake for our inaugural ride of the season. The good news is, Aden is much more tolerant of his life jacket this year. The bad news is, he literally tried to jump out of the canoe and into the frigid lake water. The boy has no fear! When Aden discovered I wasn't going to let him plunge into the lake head-first, he screamed bloody murder all the way around the bay. I promptly asked Andi to drop Aden and I off at our dock, thankyouverymuch, while he and Tory enjoyed a nice, peaceful canoe ride around the lake.

I wanted to snap a photo of Aden throwing rocks off the dock while we waited for Andi and Tory to return, but I couldn't let go of his life jacket for even a second. He's going to be such a handful this summer. I'm counting down the days until the water's warm enough to let him play in it.

Thankfully, pontoon rides are much more enjoyable. The rails of the boat act like a pseudo-play pen for Aden. I have to be near him at all times, of course, but at least he's content to scope out the view and play captain on Andi's lap.

Tory's been a dream at the lake this spring. At 3 1/2, she's old enough to listen to and follow directions (like, staying clear of the water unless an adult is with her) and she's excited about anything and everything the season brings -- exploring the woods, first boat rides, hunting frogs, watering the grass, etc. She's going to have an awesome summer!

Slinging rocks into the lake with Dad -

Popsicles were a mandatory treat on such a warm spring day. Aden's cutting his top molars, so he especially loved the cold ice on his chompers. I had to laugh when the liquid stained his fair skin blue. 


It's increasingly difficult to drive home to the Twin Cities on Sunday afternoons. Love our little lake place so much, and counting down the days until we're back again.

Friday, April 24, 2015

16/52: A Weekly Photo Series

Spending time in the outdoor sauna at our lake cabin is one of Andi and I's favorite things to do on the weekends. It's our own special hiding spot away from the outside world, welcoming us to enter inside and melt away the stresses of the week gone by. We like to sneak out there at dusk, after the kids are snuggled into their beds, to relax and reconnect with one another. (We bring the video baby monitor with us, of course.)

At some point in the evening, usually during bedtime stories with the kids, Andi runs into the backyard and turns on the sauna. An electric stove heats it up and holds the temperature for the duration of the timer. The temperature climbs as high as 130 degrees during the Wisconsin winter and 170 degrees in the summer.

We scamper outside with bath towels wrapped around our bodies and leap into the steaming hot barrel, shutting the door quickly behind us. The sharp smell of cedar hits my nose instantly, and it might be my favorite part of the whole experience. The aroma gets into my hair and onto my skin. I could inhale it for hours afterwards, but usually shower it off because it's just before bedtime. There's an outdoor shower to the left to the sauna and in the summertime, there's nothing better than rinsing off with cool water underneath the starry sky.

It's customary to take a cold plunge after elevating the body's heat level in the sauna. Andi often takes a big scoop of snow and rubs it onto his face and body during the winter months. Now the ice is off the lake, he's started jumping right into the water. Following tradition or not, I think he's nuts! The lake temperature is around 53 degrees in April.

Sometimes we'll talk during a sauna session, or sit and read magazines in silence. Most of all, I love that it's something we enjoy doing together.

The outdoor sauna -- just another reason the lake cabin holds a special place in our hearts. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Earth Day 2015

Earth Day has been one of my favorite celebrations for as long as I can remember. I loved making (and eating!) Oreo dirt cake as a child, and now as an adult think it's more important than ever to take a day to reflect on our planet with promise of doing better. I'm not an expert on the matter by any means, but I do believe small actions can equal big change and we should all do our part to protect and improve the environment.

One of the greatest honors in parenting is the chance to teach kids about life -- how to properly function in society; how to treat others with compassion and respect; how to take care of the planet where we live. Earth Day's a great time to talk to kids about recycling, energy conservation and other ways they can contribute. Tory, Aden and I happened to have an empty calendar on Earth Day this year, so I planned a few educational activities for the three of us to do together.

First, I assembled a garden sensory tub including potting soil, rubber bugs, gardening tools and plastic fruits and vegetables from the kids' existing play kitchen. Tory was beside herself with excitement as she pretended to plant seeds and harvest crops of vegetables from the "garden." She's very interested in how plants grow these days, and loved the chance to get her hands into the soil. We had a nice conversation about the life cycle of plants and what types of foods we could expect to see growing in soil. Aden ate a few chunks of dirt (yes, of course he did!) and decided playing ball nearby was more exciting. Oh, well. Can't blame a mom for trying ...

Normally this activity would've been perfect outdoors, but our Minnesota weather wasn't permitting this week. I can't wait to involve Tory in planting flowers in the yard later this spring, but in the meantime this indoor sensory bin worked wonders in exposing her to gardening and opening the door to conversation about planting fruits and vegetables.

The kids and I also made noise makers using plastic bottles from the recycle bin. I pulled together items I already had in the cupboards such as brown rice, dry pasta noodles, M&Ms and jelly beans, and encouraged Tory and Aden to fill the plastic bottles. This turned out to be a little messier than I'd anticipated (maybe rice wasn't such a good idea ... ) but both Tory and Aden loved filling the bottles and shaking them afterwards.

During Aden's nap, Tory and I also made wind chimes using old tin cans. I knew my artistic little girl would love this activity as she begs to break out the paints most afternoons. We used washable paints with Q-tips and cotton balls to decorate the cans, then I had Andi drill a hole in the top of each one. I threaded a piece of twine through each hole and hung the cans on a hook outside our kitchen window. Recycled cans have never looked so adorable! I'm going to love looking at this masterpiece every day while I'm washing dishes.

While most of the Earth Day messaging was lost on Aden, I know Tory took away some meaningful pieces of information about recycling and conservation. She was also really impressed with my level of fun activities and said, "Whoa, Mom, you have lots of good ideas!" Some days, I win at parenting. Chalk one up for the home team.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Planting Daisies

Happy Earth Day!

Back in my working-out-of-the-home days, I dreamt of a time I'd be able to stay home with my kids and do fun crafts and projects with them on the regular. Then, I planned Earth Day events for thousands of college students across the country, but what I really wanted to be doing was teaching my own children what it meant to take care of our planet. And while I now know every single minute of stay-at-home-mom life isn't chocked full of educational experiences, I am truly living my dream by having the opportunity to be with Tory and Aden on a special day like today.

Lately, Tory's shown an interest in learning how plants grow. Her preschool class is covering this topic right now, and it's inspired all kinds of questions and dialogue for us at home. I can't wait to involve her in planting flowers in the yard later this spring, but in the meantime we decided to plant daisies indoors in one of those I Can Grow pots for kids.

The kit came with everything we needed for growing daisies, including potting soil and a packet of seeds. One afternoon last week, Tory and I set to work in planting her flowers. She was so excited!

First, we broke up the potting soil disk into chunks and moistened with water. Tory misunderstood my instruction to sprinkle droplets of water onto the disk and instead plopped the soil straight into the cup of water soaking it completely. Oops! Oh well, we had to do a little straining to recover the soil, but it all worked out in the end.

Once the soil was moistened, we loosely placed it back in the pot and planted the daisy seeds inside.

The instructions directed us to cover the pot with plastic wrap to create a greenhouse effect and help the seeds sprout. It should take about 3 weeks for the flowers to grow.

I have to admit, I'm a little nervous the daisies seeds won't transpire into flowers. Tory will be so heartbroken! It's already a test in patience as we wait for the seeds to sprout. "In three days I'll have daisies," Tory has said on more than one occasion. "In three weeks," I keep reminding her.

There's a neat tutorial I found online about watching seeds grow in a clear glass jar. I think we'll give that a try as well so Tory can watch the progress day by day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring Cleaning

Isn't it amazing how much stuff a person (or, in this case, a family) collects over time? I started my adult life 10+ years ago in a one-bedroom apartment with little more than a bedroom set and faux-leather couch. Andi and I joked when I moved into his town home a few years later that I only brought bath towels, a desk chair and Chloe the dog as my contributions. We moved into a duplex, got married and now reside in the four-bedroom home we share today. Somehow during that time together, we've collected a house full of things. Closets stuffed with clothes, beds reserved for visiting guests, and toys. Oh, the toys! Adding kids to our lives brought us to a whole new level of stuff.

Wintertime feels like a period of nesting, of burrowing in for the cold. The windows and doors are closed up tight, and not much "lightening the load" happens during those months. Add in the holidays with all the new clothing, toys and gifts we collected and suddenly I'm left feeling quite smothered.

I declared this cold-weather week one of mass purging after I learned of the current weather forecast. If the kids and I can't be at the park, we might as well be indoors cleaning up the place. Lord knows, we need it. I made a hit-list of the big things that've been driving me bananas lately and itemized them by day to keep me on track:

Closets: Well, the kids and I's closets. Andi's on his own as we see differently regarding things to discard, to keep or consign.

Storage room: The mecca of baby-things totes, holiday decor and suitcases. This room is a catch-all for items I need to organize.

    • Specifically, baby clothes: I've kept every single piece of baby paraphernalia for both Tory and Aden including outfits I liked (and even those I disliked!), shoes, socks, snow suits, onesies and more. It's possibly worse than you'd imagine because I have a boy and girl, so double the things. Even if we do have another baby someday, some of this stuff has got to go.
    • Maternity clothes: And on that note, maternity clothes. I can't imagine I'll wear the same fashions from my 2010 pregnancy in a hypothetical future one, so this stash goes, too.    
    • Baby gear: I'll keep some of it, of course, but the Bumbo, the activity mat and the giant exerciser that neither of my kids liked anyway are on their way out.
Refrigerator / Freezer / Deep Freezer: Discard expired food items and clean shelving. Make organized list of items in deep freezer to stay on top of what's in there that needs to be used.

Toys: Keep the things Tory and Aden play with, and weed out the items they don't. Discard broken, trinkety junk.

Night-stand drawer: It's a mess with Tory's barrettes, yogurt tube tops (ew!), cords, chargers, and more.


Monday's closet raid was a success! It might not look like much, but I collected five bags of clothing and shoes to be donated or consigned.

There were whisker jeans with rhinestones and dresses I wore to my bridal showers that seemed like only yesterday (but wasn't; it was six years ago!). I won't miss the clothes. I've fluctuated sizes so much with pre- and post-pregnancies in the last four years, I'll never be the same shape even if I am the same number. Plus, styles change so it's out with the old and in with the new.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Stitch Fix #6

Another happy mail day this week as I received my sixth Stitch Fix shipment. This time, I scheduled a box just four weeks after my last one in an attempt to add more comfortable, stylish tops to my wardrobe for spring and summer and to take another crack at obtaining a classic colder-weather-turned-warmer layering piece.

Once again, I have to say how impressed I am with this company. My stylist nails my er, style preferences dead-on nearly every Fix. I either have a vision of a clothing item stuck in my mind (like these ponte pants or, spoiler alert, the cargo jacket I kept below) or pieces I didn't even know I wanted show up and I love them like I'd picked them out myself. Like the floral tank I received this time - it's cute, comfortable and looks so different than anything I've seen in stores and online.

By the way, I sing Stitch Fix's praises because I really do love this service and I'm not paid or rewarded for saying that (although wouldn't that be nice?). There is a referral program so if someone does sign up for a Fix using my code, I get a $25 credit. Several friends lately have asked me about taking the Stitch Fix plunge, and I always encourage them to do it. For the cost of the $20 styling fee, there's not much to lose.

Stitch Fix's clothes do cost a bit more than the t-shirt I occasionally throw in my cart at Target (my typical mom-iform), but every item I've received thus far has been of higher quality. My items have all been $50-$100 which I don't think is too terribly expensive for my clothing budget considering I don't really shop anywhere else. There is another women's clothing boutique in town I like, but I don't have a lot of free time to shop there without the kids in tow and the handful of times I do go there, I'm completely overwhelmed by choices. To me, Stitch Fix takes away all the pressure of picking out clothes by hand-delivering them to my doorstep. When I'm ready to send back any of the clothes I don't want, I just schedule a USPS pick-up with my regular mail delivery and I literally never have to leave the house!

Anyway, enough rambling and onto my shipment this month:

Market & Spruce Chaplin Hooded Anorak Cargo Jacket

Love this jacket. It's simple, neutral and versatile. I thought to myself recently, "I need a new spring jacket" after I saw a cute one my sister-in-law was wearing on Easter. Before, I only had a black trench I bought from Target years ago that has probably seen better days and a light-colored GAP jean jacket that is so old it's gone out and come back into style. So, new spring jacket procured. KEEP

This isn't exactly the "layering piece" I had in mind when I requested one in my Fix notes to my stylist (I was envisioning more of a vest? fitted jacket?), but truthfully this one will probably get more daily wear and last me several years.  

Brixon Ivy Priya Abstract Floral Print Knit Back Tank

I really like this top. It's not something I wouldn't ever been drawn to pull off a shelf myself, but the fit is flattering and comfortable, the fabric is soft and I could easily wear for a day of stay-at-home-mom life or dress it up for date night. Andi wasn't a big fan of this one, but he can't win at everything. KEEP

Liverpool Nik Skinny Jean

These jeans weren't my favorite. I think I'm dropping down a pant size, so the fit was loose. They felt wide in the lap portion of my front legs (does that make sense?) / hung down too far between my legs. My stylist noted light wash jeans are on trend for the season, but that type of thing doesn't whoo me too much one way or another. SENT BACK 

Peppercorn Chaz Henley Knit Top

One of my personal Stitch Fix goals is to add more tops to my wardrobe, and I'm succeeding in doing just that. I like this top; it's comfortable, cute and a bit nautical which I thought was fun. I paired it with dark-wash skinny jeans and my Minnetonka Moccasins, and wore it under the tan cargo jacket during my weekly babysitter time last week and felt perfectly stylish. KEEP 

Tart Edie Wrap Dress

I've got a love/hate relationship with wrap dresses. Sometimes, they look nice on my shape and other times they're too revealing in the bust. In the three minutes I wore this dress while trying it on, I adjusted the fabric over my chest 17 times. It also felt too short in length. I own about five other wrap dresses in various prints so I didn't feel like I was losing out by returning this one. SENT BACK 

Total kept: 3 out of 5 pieces
My next shipment is scheduled to arrive mid-May, and I've requested capris /or shorts for summer. Excited to see what my stylist finds for me!

Friday, April 17, 2015

15/52 (A Weekly Photo Series)

This week in one word: the PARK!

(Other alternatives: Sunshine! Spring! Fresh air! Many, many firsts!)

The weather this week was beautiful, and the kids and I took full advantage. First, I busted out the pair of roller skates my parents gave Tory for Christmas. They outfitted her with Barbie adjustable skates (think: old-school 1980's Fisher Price skates; I didn't even know they made those anymore!), a helmet, kneepads, elbow pads and protective gloves which were both functional and absolutely adorable. Tory didn't want to take the pads off and even wore them to swimming class. (Not in the pool, of course.)

We took Tory's new skates out for a spin Monday afternoon on our way to the neighborhood park. The skates fit over her tennis shoes and have adjustable training wheels to either keep the wheels locked (stage 1), locked in a forward motion (stage 2) or roll backwards and forwards like regular roller skates (stage 3). I began Tory in the stage 1/locked position and she did awesome! First time on roller skates was a success.

It's always fun to see how much the kids have grown / advanced in skill compared to the last season. We've been visiting our neighborhood park since Tory was a baby, and she's gone from crawling around the baby slides to mastering the whole park! On this day in particular, Tory figured out how to navigate across the moving pedestals. She was so proud of herself, and I was too!

When you can't walk on your feet, wood chips collect on your pants wherever you go. #toddlerproblems Aden is going to wear through his pants fast this summer with all this knee-walking business.

Tory, Aden and I visited the new Plymouth Creek Park several afternoons this week. We discovered this park mid-summer last year, and Tory really liked it for its big sandbox. The park was sadly destroyed by vandals last fall, but it's since been completely re-built and now has so many fun and different playground structures for kids of all ages. I'm obsessed with the green Astro-Turf around the toddler equipment because it's soft and easy for Aden to get around. Tory loves the merry-go-round, the swings and still enjoys digging in the sand.

Spring, we love you!

*I didn't lug the big ol' Canon 7D to the park with us this week -- I've already got my hands full watching these two goof-balls! So, these photographs were taken with our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 point-and-shoot camera.