Monday, June 29, 2015

Letters to Aden: 19 Months

Hello Aden Boy,

You're 19 months old now! Fully embracing your toddler status, you're quite the handful these days. Of course, I wouldn't have it any other way -- it's fun to watch you discover the world around you, even if it means I can't take my eyes off you for even a second.

This month, you started climbing things like a monkey. I turn around for an instant to find you sitting on top of the dining room table, or sitting on Tory's bed. You've figured out how to use your arms to pull your body up onto things -- like the toilet, for example. Once you're there, you'll pull up onto the bathroom countertop in the same manner and turn on the faucet to play in the water. Telling you "no!" or "stop!" only excites you; you'll simply flash me a smile and laugh, and climb up all over again the second I put you down on the ground. Since hiding the dining room chairs or the toilet isn't an option, I'm stuck in the stage of watching you like a hawk and helping you back to the ground when you need it.

Now that it's summer, you're also quite the gymnast at the playground. You're not afraid of anything and will climb up the highest set of stairs or walk right off a platform if I'm not one step behind you. I'm delighted you're walking on two feet now and able to play at the park with all the rest of the kids, but it sure is exhausting following you around all day. No wonder you've been taking such great naps and sleeping in so late in the mornings! You must be tired from all the sunshine and fresh air, too.

Did I mention you're sleeping through the night consistently now? A few weeks ago, I implemented "Operation Cry It Out" to nip your habit of waking up several times a night in the bud. It took a few weeks, but it finally worked and now you're typically sleeping from 7:30pm to 7:00am most nights with a few occasions of sleeping in even later in the morning. You're down to one nap a day and it's usually a long one from 1pm - 4pm. I love that you're a good sleeper, and I never take for granted how wonderful it is to lay you down in your crib and walk away without hearing much fuss. (Ahem, your sister was never that way.) Twenty gold stars for you, my boy!

You're a little fish, Aden -- you absolutely love the water. This summer, you're enrolled in Baby Backfloat swimming lessons and are the shining star of the class. You love to float on your back and will do it for 1-2 minutes at a time. You don't mind submerging your face underwater and will willingly jump into the water from the side of the pool. You even started diving underwater for rings on a platform the other day! You're a big fan of playing on the beach at the lake cabin as well, and like to throw rocks into the water and dig and scoop in the sand.

A few other favorites of yours this month are books (especially "lift the flap" and "touch and feel" ones) and your blanket and pacifier. You've started verbally saying "blanket" and also call for your "pa" (pacifier). You're still drinking a bottle of soy formula twice a day as well, once before nap time and once again before bedtime. I thought you were weaning yourself off the bottle around 18 months, but then we traveled to Nebraska for two weeks and it seemed like you needed/wanted it more than ever.

I'm amazed by how much you're really beginning to talk now. I counted the other day and you can say about 45 words (the newest words being wa-wa (water), cracker, dog, uppa (up), beep, apple, night night and potty to name a few). This month, you even began saying two word sentences like "peek boo," "thank you" and "oh baby" (what you say when you give one of Tory's baby dolls a hug). I'd forgotten how wonderful of an age this is, watching the lightbulb turn 'on' in the eyes of a toddler. Of course, I knew you were always listening and learning but it's awesome to hear the words actually coming from your mouth as you communicate.

Along the lines of talking, you also love singing and music in general. I'm so surprised by this as I wouldn't call anyone in our family especially musical. Often, you can be heard singing the ABC's, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. That's right, you actually sing those songs! I hardly believe it myself. Of course, you can't say all the words perfectly but the tune of the song is clear enough to understand what you're saying. I find it interesting to see the benefits of having an older sibling in tangible form. Tory and I sing a lot of songs throughout the day and you've obviously picked up them while we do so. I wonder how much of your love of songs is due to exposure, and how much of it is your nature tendency. Will you be especially drawn to music all your life? Only time will tell.

I feel like I could ramble on for days about all the new things you're doing these days, but I'll stop for now and close by saying what an absolute joy you are in our lives. Aden, you hold a very special place in my heart. Sometimes, it feels like my heart might burst I love you so much.

XOXO, baby boy.


Friday, June 26, 2015

25/52: A Weekly Photo Series

This boy.

That hair.

Always smiling.

And, clinging tightly to his vices -- his beloved blankies and his "pa" (pacifier).

Oh, how I love him so!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Father's Day Gift Idea for the Fishing Enthusiast

If there were a prize awarded to the most difficult person to buy for, my husband would win in a heartbeat. I saw so many "Father's Day Gift Ideas" floating around the Internet in the weeks leading up to the holiday, and not one of them fit the bill for my favorite guy.

See, the problem with Andi is that he buys everything he wants before I have the chance to give it to him. He's a man of instant gratification. Most dads wear clothing and other favorites until there's no life left in them, but not Andi. Chances are, he's moved onto the next best thing. I'm not necessarily complaining as he keeps me outfitted with the latest and greatest as well but come holiday-time, he can be difficult to buy for.

Andi's taken interest in fishing recently, so I decided to make "fishing" my Father's Day theme this year. First, I did what I do best: craft something special for him. Tory and I made a Happy Father's Day banner to hang at the lake cabin as decoration. I printed this free printable from Pinterest (seriously, what did moms do before Pinterest existed?!) and mounted the circle banner to cut-out pieces of construction paper fish to tie in with the theme. This was a nice activity for Tory to practice her cutting skills while I sat idly by and silenced my inner voice of perfectionism.

I also whipped up some chalkboard art at the cabin featuring this cute little saying I found online: "DAD -- a son's first HERO -- a daughter's first LOVE." Kind-of cheesy, but so true. I thought it was perfect for Father's Day.

Then Tory, Aden and I made a handprint craft for Andi featuring a fishing poem I found online. Handprint crafts are next to impossible with toddlers, so I ended up tracing Aden's hand on a different sheet of paper, then re-drawing his print onto the fishing poem. His love/tolerance for crafting isn't as strong as Tory and I's, unfortunately. (And since it might be difficult to read the text in the photo, I'll type it out here as well):

"Daddy, it's my greatest wish that my little hands will catch big fish. That'll I'll be there fishing with you, I know you'll teach me just what to do. You'll show me how to bait my hook, when we fish the lake and brook. And, how to find the fishing hole; the way to cast my fishing pole. Daddy, I know you're dreaming too, of the special times I spend with you." -- Author Unknown

For Andi's Father's Day gift, I picked up a styrofoam cooler from a local convenience store and filled it with fishing-related items. Contents of the cooler included: a bottle of Four Roses bourbon (which has nothing to do with fishing, but I know Andi likes it), a Tervis tumbler, Swedish fish and gummy worms candies, dried fruit, a fish-shaped stainless steel bar of soap that eliminates odors left on hands, a floatable minnow scoop to replace the one Aden chucked into the lake a few weeks ago, liquid fish attractant and a fishing utility tool. I printed this adorable free printable I found online that reads "O-fish-ally the Best Dad" and mounted it to the outside of the styrofoam fishing cooler. (It's also the place I originally saw this idea for a Father's Day gift).

Andi seemed pleased with his gift, and I hope he'll be able to use all the items I selected especially for him. Only 362 more days to think of something to buy him for Father's Day 2016!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Father's Day 2015

We enjoyed a lovely Father's Day at the lake cabin last weekend. Time with our favorite "dad" was even more cherished this holiday as Andi's been traveling nearly non-stop for the last six weeks. The kids and I have barely seen him, so you better believe we clung to him like glue all weekend long. Hope Andi felt the love!

Andi wasn't scheduled to arrive home until Friday evening, so I took Tory and Aden to the lake by myself on Thursday afternoon. I'm not sure the kids and I have ever been to the cabin without Andi before (and it did feel a little strange to be there without him. Aden kept walking around the house yelling "Dad? Dad!"), but we quickly settled in and enjoyed a wonderful long weekend at the lake.

Thursday afternoon, the kids and I played at the beach for a few hours. It seemed like we had the whole lake to ourselves with no other sounds than the birds chirping, bull frogs croaking and my children laughing filling the air. Tory wanted to take the pontoon boat out for a spin on the lake, but I told her we'd better wait for Andi to arrive. "I know how to drive it," she told me, "I can show you, Mom." I bet she could have, that little stinker.

Later that evening, I packed up the kids and took them to dinner at The County Line Tavern. Having dinner at CLT is one of Tory's favorite things to do at the lake these days. I'm not exactly sure why, but I think the Shirley Temple drinks loaded with six maraschino cherries on top might have something to do with it. I did catch a few surprised looks from other restaurant patrons as I wrangled two little kids at dinner, but I didn't care. It was worth it times one million to see the look of pure delight on Tory's face. She thanked me about a dozen times for taking her to dinner and said I was the "best mom ever." Of course, that filled my love bucket right up!

Friday, the kids and I played outside again and ran a few errands in town while we waited for Andi to arrive. Once he did, we hit the lake for a quick boat ride. Andi was exhausted after a long week of work travel, so we kept things low-key.

It rained most of the day on Saturday, so Andi and I took the kids to breakfast at the Red Brick Cafe in Barronett, then laid around the cabin for the afternoon. The skies cleared around dinnertime so the four of us were able to play in the lake for a bit.

Saturday was Aden's first time jumping into the lake from the dock! Our little dare devil isn't afraid of anything, and willingly jumped right into Andi's arms. He wasn't as confident swimming in the lake though (the water temperature is about 70 degrees now), and kept chanting "uppa! uppa!" as Andi helped him climb up the ladder.

Tory isn't as excited about jumping into the lake this summer. I think she's been spoiled by the comfort of the heated swimming pool at her weekly lessons. With a little coaxing, Andi was able to convince Tory to swim out to our new floating swim platform where the kids played and jumped around with him.

Later that evening, our cabin friends Oscar and Deanna stopped over for a bonfire. It was the perfect night to sit around the campfire and eat s'mores.

I woke up early on Sunday morning (Father's Day) to make breakfast for everyone, but much to my surprise Andi, Tory and Aden all slept in late. Tory woke up around 8:00am and helped me put the finishing touches on breakfast, but Aden slept in until 9:30am. Guess I'm doing a good job of tiring his little body out this summer! I'd planned a breakfast menu to-go thinking we'd eat on the pontoon during a morning boat ride, but Aden's long slumber foiled my plans. So, Tory, Andi and I enjoyed breakfast on the deck overlooking the lake instead.

Andi's parents Janie and Jim joined us at the lake cabin mid-morning on Sunday, so we celebrated Father's Day with them by going for a pontoon boat ride, opening presents and playing in the lake.

We capped off Father's Day with a gourmet dinner on the deck. I overnighted ribs from Charles Vergo's Rendezvous Charcoal Ribs and Janie brought various dinner sides to accompany them. Andi and I'd had Rendezvous's famous ribs once before following a work trip to Memphis Andi had, and they were some of the best-tasting ribs I've ever eaten. Andi was pleasantly surprised I'd ordered them for his special Father's Day meal.          

I'm thankful daily for the thoughtful, silly and devoted husband / father Andi is to Tory, Aden and I, and I'm so glad we were able to celebrate our favorite guy together on Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

24/52: A Weekly Photo Series

The summer days are flying by, aren't they? I've been busy soaking up every minute with Tory and Aden, and blogging's gotten away from me a little bit. No regrets here, though; Minnesota summers are over with the blink of an eye so we're living in the moment.

Semi-related: This weekly photo project has really changed the way I interact with my iPhone and social media on a daily basis. Since I'm now more inclined to grab my "real camera" versus my iPhone to capture a moment during the day, I find myself less connected to my phone and social media in general. Sure, I'm behind the lens of a camera and not fully engaged with my kids for a brief second, but I find myself picking up my cell phone (and its camera) less often, therefore am more engaged with Tory and Aden overall. Anyway - it's just interesting to me. Cutting back on screen time wasn't something I set out to do when I decided to teach myself how to use a dSLR, but I don't mind the side-effect it's having on my daily life.  

In other camera-related news, Andi surprised me to a new Canon EOS-M camera last week which is sort-of a cross between a point-and-shoot camera and a dSLR. It has a smaller body than our Canon 7d, for example, but it still uses all the same lens. I love how lightweight my new camera is to carry, so it's been even easier to snap pictures of the kids during our daily adventures to the park, summer concerts and swimming lessons.

I have several groups of photos from last week, but decided to share Tory and Aden's first day of summer swimming lessons. The first day of swimming is always one of my favorite moments to photograph. It never ceases to amaze me how much the kids grow over the course of a season in both physical looks and skill set. I like comparing photos from the beginning of lessons to the end to see the changes.

Now that Aden's mobile on two feet, he does nothing but RUN all the time so I had a difficult time capturing a photo of him doing something other than trying to nose-dive into the pool. I finally trapped him in a shower stall long enough to snap a photo of him. Aden's getting so big these days, I can hardly believe my eyes. I'd forgotten how fun (and exhausting!) 1-1/2 year olds are.

I have no other swimming photos of Aden because I'm in the pool with him during his lesson. This summer, I took a leap of faith and booked Tory and Aden's lessons back-to-back on the same day without any other adult help. Aden and I swim together first while Tory sits on the side of the pool with her iPad, some snacks and an activity workbook. So far my rule-follower of a 3-1/2 year old is perfectly well behaved while I'm in the pool with her younger brother.

Aden's a rockstar in his Baby Backfloat swimming class. He super comfortable in the water and jumps off the side of the pool, swims underwater and floats on his back like it's no big deal. He both scares and excites me because, seriously, the boy has no fear.

Tory has lessons immediately following Aden's class. This summer, she's advanced to the Little 2's level, which is definitely a stretch for her. Swimming doesn't come naturally to Tory (ahem, just like her mother) so while she's not afraid of the water per se, she's also not sure about putting her face underwater. She does it ... but she doesn't like it, and I don't blame her one bit (I don't like it either). I have to hand it to her though, she never stops trying. She listens to the instructor well, and gives me the cutest thumbs up on the side-lines when she accomplishes a task. I couldn't be more proud of my little girl if I tried.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer Bucket List: Visit a Nature Center

Tory, Aden and I crossed off the first item on our Summer Bucket List this week by visiting the Westwood Hills Nature Center.

When my friend Sarah asked us to meet for a playdate the other day, I thought Westwood Hills would be the perfect location. Tory's preschool recommended it for a fun summer activity for kids but short of "nature center" and "free," I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

Getting there was a bit confusing. The nature center is situated in the middle in a neighborhood, so I wondered if my phone GPS was leading me astray. The entrance to the nature center wasn't clearly marked either, but I finally found it after circling around a bit. Once we pulled into the parking lot, I was pleasantly surprised to find beautifully wooded trees and paths, plus a playground structure and picnic tables. There wasn't anyone working at the building pavilion so I wished I'd have downloaded a map from the nature center's website beforehand. My friend Sarah and I weren't sure if the paths looped and connected together and there'd be nothing worse than being stuck in the woods with screaming kids and no clue how to get out! In the end, we figured out the main path made a loop around Westwood Lake with some picturesque views along the way.

As we walked, Sarah, the kids and I came upon a turtle pond where we spotted one lonely turtle in a sea of mossy green water. We also came across an apiary, known also as a bee yard. Sarah is a former elementary school teacher and luckily knew a (surprising!) amount of information about honey bees. Enough to answer Tory and her little friend Charlie's questions, at least. Informational signage about the bees would've been nice, but that's probably my marketing brain at work.

As we continued down the trail, we asked a lady walking by how long it took to loop around. She said about a 1/2 hour, and ha hahahha ... that may be the case without eight little legs tagging along. Total time around took us about 2 hours. The walk was absolutely beautiful though, with lots of shade along the wood chips, boardwalks and hard surface paths. It was very manageable pushing a stroller.

It was only the last stretch of trail that the kids began to fuss a bit, so Sarah and I piled them all in the strollers and pushed through as quickly as we could. We didn't see many animals along our walk, but it was still a nice change of pace from typical playdates to the playground. We'll definitely go back to Westwood Hills again, and next time I'll build in extra time for a picnic lunch and play time on the playground equipment too. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

8 Tips for Boating with Kids

Our family loves going for pontoon boat rides at the lake cabin. That's a pretty obvious statement, but I'll go a bit further in saying Andi and I'd boat all day long if our kids would allow it. You see, boating (and fishing / tubing / day drinking / etc.) is boatloads of fun - ha! - until you've got a screaming baby on board, or a preschooler who desperately needs to use the restroom.

We've learned some tips over the years to make trips around the lake more fun for everyone involved. Here's my best advice on boating with small children:

If you only remember one thing -- don't forget the snacks. Cookies, crackers, dry cereal, fruit snacks and Popsicles go along way in keeping little kids occupied on a boat. I fill a gallon-size Ziploc bag full of treats, then use the same bag to collect and keep the empty wrappers from blowing around in the wind once they're gone.

Outdoor Necessities
Along the same line of thought, I keep antibacterial hand wipes, diaper wipes, bug spray and sunscreen in a gallon-size Ziploc bag on the boat. Snacks = messy hands, plus it's always good to have extra sunscreen and bug spray along.

Sunrise Cruise
Sunset cruises are fun, but our family likes to take sunRISE cruises together. The kids are happier in the morning and let's be honest, we're awake in the early hours anyway. Many weekends, Andi and I will grab a few handheld breakfast foods (think: yogurt tubes, applesauce squeeze packs, fruit) and coffees to-go for us, and head straight to the boat in our pajamas. The best part is, we usually have the entire lake to ourselves and the water's so peaceful and serene.

In the warmer months when we're wearing swimming suits, I bring sand pails, shovels and watering cans for the kids to play with on the pontoon. I fill pails with water (usually about 1/3 full) and let the kids scoop and dump water between the toys. Of course water spills out, but we're on a boat - who cares! If the buckets run out of water, I reach over the side of the boat and scoop up some more from the lake. This activity keeps Tory and Aden occupied for a really long time.    

Make sure it floats
A good rule of thumb with small kids -- if you bring it on the boat, make sure it floats. Aden is notorious for throwing things overboard; Andi's lost two minnow scoops already this year. I never bring my iPhone on the boat for this reason (Andi's much braver than I am!). Did you know Ziploc bags filled with snacks will float?! We learned that one the hard way a few weeks ago. Sand pails and water toys are usually safe bets, too.

Potty chair
We keep a potty chair on board for a certain three-year-old to use. One's first thought is that kids can relieve themselves in the lake or it's easy to stop on shore to use a restroom when needed, but the logistics of that aren't as simple. Sometimes we're on one side of the lake (the complete opposite side from our lake cabin) and Tory will proclaim she has to use the restroom IMMEDIATELY. It's faster to use the potty chair on the boat than speed across the lake in a panic. The other option -going to the bathroom in the lake - only makes sense when the water temperatures are warm enough to do so. That's typically only in July and August for us in Wisconsin. (Let's not go into the method of explaining to a preschooler HOW to go to the bathroom in the lake!)

Life jackets
For our kids, life jackets are mandatory whenever they're by the water or on a boat. It's a good habit to get the kids used to wearing them all the time. Tory and Aden practically live in life jackets all weekend long without any complaints. They don't know life at the lake differently.

Be Real
Finally, it's a good idea to have a sense of humor and low expectations when boating with kids. Andi and I have circled the lake many, many times with a screaming kid on board, and I'm sure we've got a few more trips in our future. Sometimes, kids freak out and you're forced to end the boat ride unexpectedly. It's the nature of doing anything with little kids. And sometimes, like last weekend, Andi and I high-five at the small success of circling the lake TWO TIMES IN A ROW! Dreams really do come true.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Stitch Fix #7

A few weeks ago around Aden's 18 month birthday, I realized something: it takes my body a year and a half to return to its "normal" after pregnancy. That's nine months of pregnancy plus 18 months afterward for a total of 27 months of transition time beginning to end!

Applying that realization to the last four years of my life:

November 2010 - August 2011: Pregnant with Tory (9 months)
September 2011 - January 2013: Postpartum (17 months)
Pregnant again!
February 2013 - November 2013: Pregnant with Aden (9 months)
December 2013 - May 2015: Postpartum (18 months)
Not pregnant! No announcement here!

So, this is basically the first time I've had my body back to my "normal" since 2010 -- and guess what? I like it! Of course, I wouldn't trade those baby-making years for all the money in the world, but I'll admit it is nice to feel like myself again after all this time.

After being a few different shapes and sizes in the past four years, it's time to rejuvenate my closet with items that fit my body now and make me feel beautiful. To assist in doing so, I recently upped my Stitch Fix subscription to receive a shipment once a month (vs. every other month like I'd received before). I need some new clothes that fit my stay-at-home-mom life today and more specifically, pants that don't fall off my waist the second I pull them on.

I was nervous about adjusting sizes in my Stitch Fix style profile because what if they only ship me teeny tiny clothes that I'll have to return! but once again, my stylist Lisa killed it. In my note to her, I explained I was transitioning down a pant size and asked her to send me some new skinny jeans. I also requested some cute tops for summer.

Here's what I received in my 7th Stitch Fix subscription box:

Just Black Jimmy Ankle Length Skinny Jeans

Immediately upon opening the box, I bee-lined straight to this pair of jeans to see if my stylist delivered on my request. And - ding, ding, ding! I slipped on the Just Black Jimmy Ankle Length Skinny Jeans and nearly cried tears of joy over the absolutely perfect fit of these jeans. I'd spent the past two months wearing too-big jeans that I had to hike up over my hips a bazillion times a day. Now, jeans that fit! Heaven! I loved the stretch material and the way they hugged tight in all the right places. Plus, the ankle length is perfect for summer.

*I'm finally getting around to reviewing my Stitch Fix shipment three weeks after its arrival and I have to say, these jeans are my favorite things EVER. I wear them almost every day, and I love the way they make me feel.

Daniel Rainn Tolley Crochet Panel Top

I loved this top initially. It's floral pattern and crochet detail were sweet and romantic, but real talk: it took me a solid three minutes to pull this top over my head. Seriously, getting dressed shouldn't be so difficult! The top included an attached camisole underneath the lightweight fabric which was great -- but I couldn't get the two straightened out and over my head together for the life of me.

In all seriousness, I debated keeping this top because it really was so pretty, but it felt too delicate for my daily stay-at-home-mom life. I liked it, but I didn't love it ... so back it went.

VERDICT: Sent back

Liverpool Maddie Straight Leg Jeans

I slipped on the second pair of jeans in this Fix and loved them too. These straight-leg jeans weren't a grand slam like the ankle-length skinny jeans, but I did like how they fit (seriously, how does Stitch Fix manage to send jeans that fit so perfectly?) and I needed a second pair of jeans that fit my new waist size in a major way.


Ark n Co Quane Embroidered Split Back Top

I wasn't a fan of this top at all. It hit my waist in a higher spot than I thought it should, and I didn't like the split / open back. Unlike the previous crochet top, it did not include a camisole underneath. I added my own, and was just meh about it.

VERDICT: Sent back

Fun2Fun Abriel Crochet Detail Blouse

Loved this top the minute I laid eyes on it. I would have never picked this fun, flirty pattern off the shelves myself, but I think it's great how my stylist pushed me out of my comfort zone to try it. It's one of the best assets of Stitch Fix, in my opinion. This top is summer-y and fun, and exactly what I was hoping for when I asked for more tops to wear during the warmer months. I loved the crochet detail on the shoulders, too!


In all, I kept three out of five items in my 7th Stitch Fix box, and I really liked everything but the one white top with the open back. It's been a few weeks since I received this Fix, and I've already worn each item several times. Success!

Want to try Stitch Fix for yourself? It's super fun!

  • Go to stitch and complete a style profile. Please use my referral code!
  • A Stitch Fix stylist picks out five items for you based on your style preferences, and ships them directly to your doorstep. You pay a $20 styling fee for the service.
  • Try the items on in the comfort of your own bedroom with the convenience of having your own shoes, clothing and accessories to coordinate.
  • Check-out online at and leave feedback on each item for your stylist. 
  • Mail back any items you don't want in the pre-paid envelope. USPS will pick up the envelope right from your doorstep -- just schedule a pick-up online at 
  • If you keep all five items in your Fix, you get 25% off your order!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

23/52: A Weekly Photo Series

Tory, Aden and I are back home after two fun-filled weeks in Nebraska visiting my family. Well, I say "home," but we were really there for only one night (Thursday) before heading to the lake cabin on Friday afternoon. If there's one thing my kids are good at, it's adjusting to new places. We're never sleeping in the same bed for long it seems.

Our little family of four is reunited once again, if only for a short time. Andi picked the kids and I up from the airport on Thursday afternoon and on Sunday, I'll drop Andi off at the airport again for a week-long work trip to Louisiana and Tennessee.  

So, this view is short-lived but comforting nonetheless:

Sunset cocktails on the dock in our very favorite place on Earth -- the lake cabin. Better together, and always happy to be home. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

For the Love of Cousins

One of the best parts of our time in Nebraska the last two weeks was spending time with my nieces Brooke and Neeley. Growing up, my cousins were as close as siblings and we remain close to one another this day. I'd love nothing more for Tory and Aden to develop the same kind of love for their cousins.

After my Pennsylvania and Texas relatives left town last week, Tory, Aden and I spent the remainder of our days in Nebraska with my parents, my sister Ashley and her family. It was back to work as usual for the adults, so I offered to babysit my nieces Brooke and Neeley in the mornings while my sister worked. I felt a bit limited what I could do with four kids (ages 7, 3, 2, and 1) because I couldn't fit enough car seats into my car to drive anywhere, but we managed to fill our time with walkable trips to the park and playtime at my parent's house. Let me say this; walking four little kids (namely, a toddler and preschooler with short, little legs) to the closest playground was a bit like herding cats down the sidewalk. We ate lots of snacks along the way and played many games of "I Spy" to keep the group moving along.

The playground we visited each morning was actually my childhood elementary school and not surprisingly, hadn't changed in the 30 years since I was enrolled there. It seemed like yesterday I was cruising around those slides and monkey bars, which felt nostalgically impossible now as a grown adult. Super surreal seeing my own kids and nieces climbing around the same spots now.  

In the afternoons, the kids and I headed to my sister's house to play there after she got off of work. We'd put Aden and Neeley down for naps and let Tory and Brooke run through the sprinkler while my sister Ashley and I sat in lawn chairs in the drive-way. 

Tory was pretty unsure about running through the sprinkler, not ever wanting water on her face, but Brooke was able to prod her into participating. The hot afternoon sunshine solidified the official start of summertime.  

One day after nap time, Aden and Neeley joined the big kids in the sprinkler. Neeley wasn't so sure about it until we turned the sprinkler down low, but Aden was a huge fan of the sprays of water. He'd walk right into the water and stand there while it pelted him in the face. Wet hair, don't care!

Daily freezie popsicles to beat the heat were mandatory, obvs. 

Sometimes these cousins tend to butt heads after spending too much time together (especially Tory and Neeley, being just a year apart in age) but overall they played so well together during this visit. It's fun to see their relationships with one another grow stronger. I know Tory will be talking about memories made for months to come.