Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Stitch Fix Round-Up: #10 & #11

My wardrobe is in desperate need of new fall season items. I was a larger size this time last year, so nothing I wore then really fits anymore. Jeans, tops, dresses -- to consignment they went. Now, it's time to fill my closet again.

Stitch Fix is really the only way I shop for myself anymore. I can't beat the convenience, and my stylist is really starting to understand my style. Not that I have a lofty bank account to support buying all the clothes Stitch Fix sends me! I only keep the items I really, truly love. For this reason, I stopped buying clothes at Target and Gap and Old Navy. Nothing I ever buy there makes me feel as confident as SF's clothing.

My Stitch Fix boxes arrive so quickly now, I barely have a chance to blog about them before another one arrives! (Clearly, personal time to write has been hard to come by.) Anyway, here's some of my recent items:

AUGUST 2015 Fix #10

Mavi Freida Skinny Jeans in Navy

Stitch Fix's skinny jeans are my weakness - I simply can't say no! The fit is always spot on with my body type, no matter the brand. These jeans are soft and smooth, almost like velvet in a non-weird way. I love them! No question; KEPT.

RD Style Hollen Raglan Knit Top

I love the lightweight fabric of this sweater; it's perfect for fall. I've worn it with the red skinny jeans I received in my very first Fix, or regular denim jeans. My only gripe are the "holes" in the knit. Aden likes to dig his fingers into them when I carry him around so I'm not sure how long it'll last. KEPT.

Mo-Ka Simon Lightweight Jacket

Honestly, this is the one item from August Fix I would've sent back had it not been for the "buy all five" discount. It seems a little big, no? And, I have the Market & Spruce Chaplin Hooded Anorak Cargo Jacket from a previous Fix that I already own and LOVE. 

I joined one of those Facebook Stitch Fix Buy/Sell/Trade pages so maybe I'll try to sell it on there. KEPT (for the discount). 

Pixley Beaverton Crochet Split Back Knit Top

Love this light-weight top. Comfortable, easy to wear with jeans, and the back-detail gives it a fun flare. KEPT.

Loveappella Evie Draw String Funnel Neck Sweatshirt

Easy like Sunday morning ... this sweater is so comfortable to wear while still looking like I cared to get dressed in the morning. I like it with jeans, but also think it'd wear well with leggings. KEPT.


SEPTEMBER 2015 Fix #11

And, now I do that very time-consuming thing where I search Pinterest boards to find the names of all the clothing I sent back when an easier method would've been to save my style card. BAH. Bear with me.

Denim Boyfriend Jeans

Boyfriend jeans just .... aren't me. I know the fit is suppose to look baggy, but these didn't feel flattering. Like, if I wore them for more than an hour they'd stretch out and droop in the behind. SENT BACK.

Cotton Striped Top with Sleeve Detail 
(The official term)  

I hem-hawed about this shirt because it was really comfortable and easy to wear with jeans. Perfect for my stay-at-home-mom lifestyle. I liked how the lace sleeve detail really kicked things up a notch, and turned this average striped shirt into something fancier. But in the end, I couldn't justify the $50-ish price tag. SENT BACK.

Striped Henley

I really liked this top -- the colors and the pattern are so pretty for fall. I tried this top on over and over again ... and even modeled it for my mother-in-law for a second opinion. At the time, I thought it looked too big and figured if I was questioning the fit so deeply it should probably go. SENT BACK. (... but now I kinda wish I would've kept it!)

Off-White Colored Open Sweater Cardigan

I liked this one, too (and I still sorta do!) This open cardigan would be so easy to wear in the fall. When I tried this cardigan on, it looked too big. Like, I was swimming in it. Maybe that was the style? I asked my mother-in-law for her opinion and she didn't think the off-white color was my best color. SENT BACK.

Blue and Orange Striped Sweater

This sweater fits like a glove and is so, so soft to the touch. The weather hasn't been cool enough to wear it yet, so I'm excited to have the chance to try it. KEPT.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Aden's First Haircut

I promised the grandmas I'd let his hair grow until age two, but I just couldn't do it.

I loved Aden's blond curls as much as the next person, but the change of seasons and lack of humidity in the air turned his head of hair into a straggly mess. A few weeks ago, Aden was sick with an ear infection and he and I spent a lot of time snuggling in the rocking chair. His disheveled hair kept tickling my face as I held him and it was so annoying! A few days later at the park, I snapped a photo of Aden and didn't love what I saw on the back of my camera. It was time for a haircut.

Tory, Aden and I left the park right then and drove to the nearby kid's hair salon before I lost my nerve. I knew Aden was going to have a FIT when someone tried to cut his hair, so I threw the iPad and a couple of Dum Dum suckers into my purse for back-up.

Sure enough, Aden FREAKED OUT the minute I lifted him into the chair. I figured the stylist would be annoyed with us because the store was closing in 20 minutes, but she was very sweet with him. I comforted him / held him down in the seat while the stylist worked as quickly as she could.

I would've loved to take a few pictures with my real camera, but that wasn't going to happen. Too chaotic! So, I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a few one-handed photos like any loving mother would.

Aden was MAD, and continued to cry during the entire 20 minute appointment. Tory stood in front of him and tried to comfort her brother the best she could by holding his iPad in view and singing songs to him. Nothing worked; not Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, not a sucker, not a sweet big sister.

Later, I brought the kids home and tried to get a few "after" photos of Aden's hair to send to Andi who was traveling for work. Aden was completely against the idea, and cried every time I tried to remove him from my arms.

You'd think I made him eat Brussel sprouts. A haircut -- the horror!

Before / After

The cosmetologist styled Aden's hair into a faux-hawk at the appointment, but I haven't brushed it that way since. It's cute, but requires too much effort on my part in the mornings. Most days, he rocks a wake-up-and-wear-it hairstyle. 

I loved Aden's curls, but I also think his shorter hair is adorable. Andi wasn't a big fan of his longer hair in the first place, so he was thrilled. And, the grandmas are coming around ....

Friday, September 25, 2015

39/52: A Weekly Photo Series

The calendar has turned to fall, but it continues to feel like summer around here. At least, where the weather is concerned.

The kids and I met my friends Val, Erika and their kiddos for a playdate this week at Como Zoo. I can't say I remember visiting Como Zoo any time other than summer and let me just say -- IT. WAS. AWESOME. We practically had the place to ourselves, which meant the kids could get out of their strollers and run wild like animals.

See Tory practicing to be a monkey?

When we go to the zoo in the summer, it's constant kid pandemonium with big groups of day care tours and other families visiting the zoo. There's never time to do anything but see the animals, and I'm usually exhausted by the end after being on high parenting alert the whole time. On this day, we were able to meander along the path and let the kids play and climb all over the rocks and structures. We could stand and watch the animals for as long as we liked without worrying about blocking other people's view.

It was also really fun to see (Val's kids) Kasen, Linden and Tory have such a ball together. These three have known each other their entire lives, but this was the first time I've seen them truly pick up like old friends and play together. One more cool thing about having "big kids" -- their ability to develop real-life friendships with others.

What an unexpectedly relaxing and fun fall day at the zoo with friends!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Trip to the Apple Orchard

It's 1:00am, I'm awake and blogging. Not ideal, but I'm capitalizing on the quiet peacefulness while I've got it. I no longer have a babysitter for a few hours each week, and it's been difficult to find the time to do anything for myself -- blog, cut my fingernails, etc. Isn't that ridiculous? I enjoy my quality time with Tory and Aden as we dive into our new school-year routine, but mentally I seem to be searching for a few minutes alone ... even if I find them in the middle of the night.

Andi's traveling for work quite a bit this fall, and over several weekends which is unusual. I'm trying to take advantage of these rare weekends we're not at the cabin by making plans with friends we don't normally see on Saturdays and Sundays.

Tory, Aden and I met my friend Mirjam and her son Elia at the apple orchard last weekend. Mirjam is a relatively new friend of mine -- we struck up a conversation at the playground this summer and discovered we live about 2 minutes away from one another. Aden is three months older than Elia so it's nice to have a little friend for him and a fellow boy-mom for me.

Every year, Andi and I take the kids to a small apple orchard near the cabin, so last Sunday was my first time tackling a Twin Cities apple orchard on the weekend. I was really nervous to take both kids there by myself and battle the crowds of people. Sunday was the perfect fall day with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70's so I knew the orchard would be especially busy. But, Tory's been begging to go apple picking so what's a mama to do? Take her, of course!

We arrived at the orchard as soon as the gates opened and already there was a line of cars and people. Parking and admission were fairly organized though, so logistics were surprisingly easy. There were lots of activities for the kids to do once we entered -- a wooden train to climb on, a corn crib slide, a petting zoo, a mountain made of hay bails and an apple express train pulled by a farmer on an ATV. Mirjam and I let the kids run between each station and play for a solid hour or so.

Tory and Aden were thrilled with the apple express train which was free as part of admission. I was certain Aden would freak out when he noticed the train pulling away from me, but he didn't -- he loved it!

The petting zoo was met with little enthusiasm by my kids. Perhaps I've overexposed them to animals through other activities -- at the cabin? the zoo? -- because Tory and Aden were all, like, "Eh, a pair a llamas. So what? Let's climb the giant hay mountain!"

The heart wants what the heart wants.

With time (and nearing afternoon naps) in mind, Mirjam and I decided to take the kids on a hay ride around the apple orchard. For the record, it's "hay rack rides" to me, and I have the hardest time conforming to Minnesota's "hay ride" terminology. Anyway, we waited in line for our turn on the hay ride for 15 minutes or so and at this point, I felt a little jaded by the quaint feeling and no lines at the small orchard we typically visit. Though I will say, this orchard had four tractors with hay rides running (that I saw) so they were doing their best to accommodate the large crowd of people.

My feelings of distaste quickly faded once we piled on the trailer and rode through the beautiful trails of mature trees. Soon, we pulled up to rows and rows of apple trees. Tory couldn't wait to start picking and marched right up to the farm stand saying, "We'll take two bags, please." Ahem, two pecks for $20 each, that is. That's a lot of apples for this solo-parenting mama to carry home! I politely revised Tory's order down to one bag of SweeTango apples, paid the worker and we set off for picking.

This part of the orchard was fabulous! There were hardly any people in the area, so we practically had the rows of apples to ourselves. The kids ran wild picking apples to fill up our bag. Even Aden was able to reach some of the low hanging fruit and steal a few for himself.

We caught the hay ride back to the main area and bellied up to a picnic table for lunch. Mirjam and I packed lunches for the kids which seemed much easier than waiting in line for hot dogs and hamburgers at the grill station. The kids played on a nearby display tractor before we called it a day.

It really was one of those picture-perfect fall days, far exceeding my expectations. Both kids were fast asleep in their car seats before we pulled out of the parking lot, so it's safe to say they had a blast.    

Monday, September 21, 2015

Letters to Aden: 22 Months


You're 22 months old now! We have officially reached the stage when it becomes conversationally awkward to refer to your age by months.

Stranger: "Oh! How old is your [adorable] boy?"

Me: "He's twenty-two ... he'll be two in November."

Even I'm starting to forget the number of months you are!

You definitely act like an almost two-year-old. I was making lunch the other day and turned around to find you already sitting in your free-standing high chair. Somehow, you found a way to climb up there all by yourself. I walk by the bathroom at least 10 times a day and find water running from the faucet of the sink. A classic sign: "Aden was here." You're also tall enough now to open most of the doors in our house (stupid lever handles!) which means we have to keep the locks to outside engaged at all times. At the cabin, you can even push open the sliding glass doors if they aren't locked. You are observant and curious -- it's my job to make sure those qualities don't land you in trouble!

Speaking of climbing, you're also working hard this month to master the stairs. You're not interested in sitting or scooting down them any longer, but prefer to hold onto the railing and walk up and down. Sweetly, you started giving me kisses this month and also love handing out high-fives and "knucks" to others.

It was a month of several "firsts" and "lasts" for you. I stopped feeding you toddler formula with baby bottles this month, and now you're exclusively drinking soy milk via sippy cups. I thought the transition would be more difficult, but you only cried for a "baa baa" at one nap time, and then never asked for it again. You haven't been sleeping the greatest this month anyway, so I figured now was as good as a time as any to switch up your routine.

You were sick quite a bit this month, and that could've been to blame for your poor sleep. Daddy and I left you with a babysitter overnight for the first time in August while we went on a fishing trip in Canada. During that time, you came down with a case of the flu. Of course, you were alright but I felt terrible afterwards when I learned you'd been sick. You caught your first ear infection a few weeks later. You were MISERABLE for several days until the antibodics kicked in. Very little sleep and lots of fussing on your part this month. It's safe to say, you've been stuck to me like bees on honey.

Another big milestone this month was your first haircut! I was absolutely in love with your long blond curls this summer, but they seemed to disappear with the change in seasons and absence of humidity in the air. Suddenly, those precious tresses turned straggly-looking and I decided it was time for a trim. You were NOT PLEASED about getitng a haircut, but the end result is really too cute for words. I love how grown up you look now, and can't believe how much you resemble Tory now with shorter hair.

Finally, let me put on my proud mama hat and say how amazed I am by your intelligence. Your favorite book right now is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and you chant the words to the book along with me as I read it to you. Of course, it's a bit difficult to actually understand the words you're saying, but the rhythmic tone is there. You can also count 1-10 and have started increasing to 11, 12, 13 on occasion. I attribute this skill to Tory who constantly seems to be counting something. Apparently, you're listening and learning right along with her.

There is a huge soft-spot in my heart for you, Aden Boy. I love you so much. Thank you for being YOU!


Friday, September 18, 2015

38/52: A Weekly Photo Series

I started this weekly photo challenge to learn how to use our Canon 7D DSLR camera. It's been nine months since I began, and I think I've successfully achieved my goal to at least learn the basics of photography. I still have a long way to go, but am more interested than ever to continue onward.

In the fall, I usually hire a professional photographer to take pictures of Tory and Aden around their birthdays, and to capture a family portrait for our holiday cards. But in the last few years, I haven't been overly pleased with the photographs we've received. That, and taking staged family photographs is a stressful task! All that effort put into outfit coordination and location identification with the smallest glimmer of hope that at least one photo will turn out. I started to think Andi and I could take equally good (if not better photos!) of the kids by ourselves. Taking our own family photographs also gives us the flexibility to snap as many photos as we like in the relaxed environment of our family's own time. Since we already own all the camera equipment, the only cost is my personal effort in taking and editing photos.

With that in mind, I typically carry my DSLR camera everywhere I go. See what I mean about me being an amateur photographer? I don't wait until the light is just right or for the perfect scene -- I simply capture the moment at hand.

Tory, Aden and I had a free morning today, so I decided to take them to a local park just down the road from our house. We don't usually visit this park because it's playground equipment is too advanced for toddlers, but it contains beautiful wooded trails and a lake / beach. Tory looked so cute today in her pink tutu dress today and Aden, too, in his new khaki overalls. The air just felt like 'fall' today, so I thought it'd be a good time to take some fall season photos. At the last minute, I tossed the FarmAll tractor that was my grandpa's into the back of the SUV ... just in case I spotted a good place to take pictures.  

I think we had the entire park to ourselves on this chilly, partly cloudy morning. I found a grassy spot by the lake and let Tory and Aden loose to run free. And while they did, I stood back and snapped away with my camera.

Together, they watched flocks of geese fly over head ...

And, Tory demonstrated her best ballerina twirls ... 

Seriously, could they be any more adorable?

We had a really fun, relaxing morning taking photographs -- just the three of us.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Labor Day Weekend 2015: Summer's Last Hurrah

Memorial Day weekend brings the promise of warm weather days at the lake while Labor Day weekend signals the end of summer fun. Superficially speaking, of course. It's not like we won't have more happy memories at the cabin this year, but nothing compares to the absolute joy of summer. It's our family's favorite time of the year.

Fortunately, we were able to sneak in one last summer hurrah over Labor Day weekend when my parents, my sister and my brother traveled from Nebraska for a visit. It was their best trip to our Wisconsin cabin to date. I've been trying to pin-point exactly what made their visit so wonderful, and I think it might've been because there were no other celebrations happening that weekend to steal our focus. Together we ate, drank, relaxed and socialized for three days. It was lovely.

My sister Ashley, her husband Jason, and their daughters Brooke and Neeley were first to arrive to the cabin on Friday afternoon. The weather was warm and sunny, so we spent the evening outdoors where the kiddos ran wild. There really is something special about family, isn't there? Even when these cousins don't see each other for months at a time, they all pick up right where they left off.

My brother and his girlfriend Carley arrived a bit later Friday evening. We realized it was the first time in our adult lives the three of us - Ashley, Adam and I - had spent time together without our parents. We had to laugh because it felt like we were getting away with something!

That night, we all ate dinner together and the boys may have had a few too more cocktails. Ha! We let the girls stay up way past their bedtimes and then Andi decided to take them "froggin'" in the backyard of the cabin. They caught four frogs and toads using nets and flashlights, and the rest of us listened as Brooke, Neeley and Tory squealed with glee. They were having the time of their lives.

One of the tree frogs clung to the sliding glass door, and then Andi brought it into the cabin so the girls could each hold it in the light. Of course, the creature jumped away from one of them and all the guys proceeded to chase it around the living room. Finally, Jason lifted up the sofa and Andi snagged it with a net - phew!

Early Saturday morning, Ashley and I woke up before the rest of the crew and decided to take our coffee to-go on a paddle boat ride around the bay. It was so nice to spend quality un-interrupted time with my sister. We're used to talking on the phone, FaceTime-ing or sending text messages, so having the opportunity to sit next to one another and chat was priceless.

After breakfast, everyone piled into the pontoon for a trip around the lake. Boat rides are old hat for Tory and Aden, so it was fun to see Brooke and Neeley's faces light up with excitement. Like most kids, they loved having the chance to drive the boat and eat unlimited snacks.

My parents arrived to the cabin early Saturday afternoon, and together we all spent the afternoon soaking up the (partly cloudy) sunshine. The lake water temperature is already pretty cold -- too chilly for me to swim any longer! -- but the kids didn't seem to mind.

Fishing was a big hit with the adults and kids alike. My sister spent most of the afternoon in the paddle boat with one or more kids in tow, fishing around the bay.

My brother's girlfriend, Carley, brought her hammock to the cabin, and Andi hung his in the trees next to hers. Both Brooke and Tory were enamored with hammocking all weekend and could often be found lounging in one or both of them. It was too cute!

Sunday morning, we woke up to rainy weather so everyone lounged around indoors. Adam and Ashley brought their birthday gifts for Tory, so she opened those and then the kids played with the new toys. Ashley gave Tory two new Barbies and a Barbie car, and Adam gave Tory a Connect Four game and a make-your-own-puppet set. I turned one of the dining room table benches on its side and the kids used it as a stage for their puppet show.

To kill time and appease my sister, we all ventured to the Cheese Factory down the road from the cabin to shop around. When we returned to the cabin, the rain had stopped. The air temperature was actually really warm and humid despite it being cloudy outdoors. We played in the lake for the rest of the afternoon.

Tory and her best buddy, Adam.

Lisa and Morgan (our cabin neighbors) dropped by on their jet ski and Lisa offered to take Tory and Brookie for a ride around the lake. The girls were so excited!

We ordered broasted chicken to-go from The County Line Tavern for dinner, and Andi and my dad went to pick it up at dinnertime. While we waited for the food to arrive, Carley and Aden started dancing around the living room to music playing in the background. Soon, all the kids started dancing with them and eventually the rest of us joined too. My family is not a group of dancers AT ALL, so it was all very strange but also really fun.

After dinner, we put the kids to bed and then my sister and her husband, my brother and his girlfriend, and Andi and I scooted out to The County Line for their annual Labor Day weekend party. The bar hired a band for the evening and we continued the dance party there. It was SO MUCH FUN. One of the highlights of my summer, for sure.

Bright and early Monday morning, my family packed up their cars and headed back to Nebraska. Andi and I were each nursing a pair of hangovers or suffering from weekend exhaustion, if nothing else. We stayed up too late the night before! So, Andi and I did what we always do at the lake -- we loaded Tory and Aden onto the pontoon boat with snacks and juice boxes and took a long, leisurely boat ride around the lake. There had to be one hundred seagulls on the lake that Labor Day Monday. I'd never seen so many on the water. The four of us had a fun time watching them all fly around. 

More hammock-lounging later that day ...

And, Tory and I snuck in a few dozen rounds of Connect Four lake-side that afternoon.

My heart felt heavy saying good-bye to summer, but it sure when out with a bang. What a wonderful Labor Day holiday weekend at the lake.