Friday, October 7, 2016

Family Photos: 2016

We had family pictures taken a few weeks ago. Christopher was not into it. He kept crying and was generally uncooperative. He had his precious My Little Pony with him, which was obviously a mistake on my part because he wanted it in all of the pictures. Our photographer, Britt, is a miracle worker, though. There are pictures of Christopher smiling! And the My Little Pony is nowhere to be seen.

The pictures were taken at Hidden Falls in St. Paul. A few of my favorites:

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


He did not want to pose for the picture, but he was having fun with his moose in the kitchen so I managed to snap this one. Is this the three-year-old stubbornness starting early?

Three. I am always surprised when another birthday comes around, yet here we are. I have to say, three was not a good age for Clare, so I am hoping for better with Christopher.

I think he has grown recently. He just looks like such a kid.

Lately, Christopher has been snuggling up against me and saying "I love you, Mama," several times a day. I, of course, eat that right up. He is such a sweet boy. He occasionally gives me grief by running away when I am trying to get him to do something, or throwing a temper tantrum, but he is really pretty good overall.

He loves to antagonize his sister, but he misses her when she's at school. He was so happy last week when he found out Clare was going to an ice cream social at his school. He thought that was quite special.

At the beginning of the month, we took away Christopher's diapers. He was so ready. I could just tell that if he wasn't forced into it, he wasn't going to volunteer to give them up anytime soon. It has been going well so far. I mean, he is far from perfect, but overall I'd say he's well on his way to being fully potty trained. (Knock on all the wood.)

We have a new routine now that Clare is back in school. We go to ECFE and music, both once a week. Christopher really likes both classes. I think he is probably ready for preschool, too, but we'll wait until next year for that. He has basically given up naps, which is sad, but maybe we'll go for an afternoon preschool program next year.

He loves trains, and his favorite place is Choo Choo Bob's.  He is also into dinosaurs and Star Wars. He is going to be a storm trooper for Halloween. (Clare is going as Darth Vader.) His favorite movie is "Frozen" and his favorite TV show is "Kate and Mim Mim." His favorite book is "The Tiger Who Came to Tea." He still likes Daniel Tiger and Sesame Street, especially Super Grover. He'll eat pretty much anything that I put in front of him, but he especially likes pizza and spaghetti. He still eats lots of fruit every day. Right now he is particularly into mandarin oranges, but really any fruit will do.

Christopher is still very attached to his blanket. It slowly becoming smaller as strips tear off bit by bit. I am hoping it will last until he is less dependent on it. He also loves his Anna doll (from "Frozen") and his My Little Pony. And whatever stuffed animal strikes his fancy that particular day.

He talks constantly. If I am gone for a few hours, he likes to tell me everything he did while I was gone. ("Mommy, we came home and it was dark out and we read books and we brushed teeth and then Daddy's phone rang, and it was YOU, Mommy, and now you're here.") He is in the stage of why. He asks why constantly, and also wants to know what everything is, especially when I am driving. (And while he is asking me to explain everything in the universe, Josie is yelling "What doing, Em-ly?" Car rides are not as quiet as they used to be.) He can be extremely serious when having a conversation, but also loves to make people laugh. When he does, his eyes light up and he'll keep doing whatever it what was that people found funny.

We are having a small family party for Christopher on Saturday. We are going to make a chocolate cake and grill brats. His two best friends, Josie and Clare, will be there, along with assorted other family members.

We went to Osceola, Wisconsin, on Saturday to ride take a train ride to look at fall colors. Christopher was in his element. We are looking forward to more fall fun this month, and to another year of snuggles with this sweet little guy. Happy birthday, Christopher. You are just the best.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

First Day of Kindergarten

In the weeks leading up to the first day of school, Clare kept insisting she didn't want to go back. She was not ready to leave summer behind. When we went to school on Tuesday to meet with her teacher and drop off her school supplies, she barely spoke to her teacher (who she had all of last year, so she is not a stranger) and told me when we left that she was not ready to go back. Well, fast forward to this morning when she was up and dressed well before she had to be out of bed, announced that she was too excited to sleep last night, and bounced around the house until the bus FINALLY came. She is ready.

She is in a combined pre-K/kindergarten class, and I think Clare will really enjoy helping the pre-K kids get adjusted. Since she'll be at school all day this year, she'll get to take music, art and gym as well, along with eating lunch at school. My picky eater will likely never take hot lunch, so I am going to have to get creative when packing lunches. Today I left her a note in her lunchbox, which I hope she can read.

It has hard to believe my little girl is in kindergarten. I know she is going to do great. And we all needed to get back into a routine; things were falling apart at the seams here at the end of summer. Christopher cried when Clare got on the bus (mostly because he wanted to get on the bus, too), but he is happily playing now.

Here's to a great school year!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Bits and Pieces: August

Well, that's August done. Summer has felt long in many ways, but now that it is nearly over, it doesn't seem like it has been long enough. Isn't that always the way?

We started the month with a group camping trip at Lake Rebecca. It was fun, but the mosquitoes were terrible. Poor Christopher looked like he had the measles when we came home.

I took Clare and Christopher to visit my parents during the second weekend of August. We went to the pool and to Clare's favorite restaurant, The Night Owl. (Yes, it's a bar. It's Wisconsin, what can you do?) Then we came back to the Twin Cities to say goodbye to Uncle Andy (Ben's brother), who moved to Walla Walla, Washington. We already didn't see much of Andy and his wife Meg, and now we'll see even less. We'll just have to make the time we do have together count!

Clare had her last gymnastics class a few weeks ago, and was thrilled when she moved up to the next level. (The next Simone Biles, she is not. She has fun, though, and that's all that really matters at this age.) Now she is deciding between gymnastics and ballet, because her mean mom doesn't want her to  be overscheduled.

We took our annual family camping trip in mid-August. This year we made the drive to Itasca State Park in northwest Minnesota. It was beautiful. The mosquitoes were terrible, but it was a beautiful place. One day, we drove north of Bemidji to The Lost 40, which is a tract of land that was never logged. The trees are nearly 400 years old. It is an incredible forest, filled with old growth. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the U.S. It was really cool to step back in time to see what we could have if we hadn't cut it all down. We also went to Bemidji to see the Paul Bunyan statue. The kids thought it was great. For some reason I thought it was much taller than it is, so  I was disappointed. My dad always talked about going to Bemidji when we were kids (mostly jokingly), so it was fun to actually get there.

Itasca is home to the headwaters of the Mississippi, and we spent quite a bit of time there. Clare loved scrambling across the rocks, while Christopher was more comfortable wading in the water. We also took several hikes, spent some time at the beach, and had a campfire every night. Ben and I actually got to spend sometime by ourselves at the fire after the kids went to bed, which we haven't been able to do in the past. Camping is a lot of work, and sometimes I think it is not worth it, but after our trip I am always glad we went.

We went to the Fair on Sunday. Clare is begging to go back, she had so much fun. Christopher was asking to leave after we'd been there for about an hour, so I don't think he'll be in a hurry to go back. We did all of the usual things: animal barns, fire tower, crop art, rides. Clare and I rode on the Sky Ride that goes across the fair, which I've never done before. It was a neat way to see the fair. And Clare is a ride junkie, so she was really into it. It's funny to me, because she is so fearful some of the time, but she has no fear on rides. She was disappointed that she wasn't tall enough for some of the bigger rides. Next year!

We've also squeezed in many trips to parks and beaches with friends. We discovered Nokomis Beach last week, and my friends and I were all wondering why we'd never gone there before. It is clean, there is a playground on the beach, and it is close to our houses. We're making a final trip there this Friday.

Next week: kindergarten! Yikes!

Ice cream in the Wisconsin countryside.

A 400-year-old pine tree. We couldn't reach each other when I put my arms around the other side.

Mr. Bunyan.

At the headwaters of the Mississippi.

Walking across the Mississippi!

After we waded across the Mississippi.

Christopher and Daddy at the headwaters.

Christopher developed his own way of roasting hot dogs. Why hold onto it yourself when your chair can do it for you?

Warm oatmeal on a cold morning.

Storms damaged many trees in Itasca this summer, including this one that was completely uprooted.

Clare lost another tooth on our way home from our camping trip. She'll have no teeth left soon!

Mini-donuts at the Fair.

I think we take this same picture every year.

Bumper boats!

Ready to fly.

Little farm hands.

Clare in the Sky Ride.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Bits and Piece: July

The biggest, most exciting news this month is the birth of my nephew! He was just born last week, and I am so excited to be an aunt again. I am sad that I won't be able to snuggle with him until January, because of the small fact of a large ocean separating us, but I can't wait. I know my brother and sister-in-law are going to be fantastic parents.

Closer to home, Clare has made two major decisions about her future. One, she will not have children. Two, she will compete on American Ninja Warrior. American Ninja Warrior is her favorite show. In fact, she has been begging to go to a "Ninja Gym." I'll have to see if I can find one for her.

July has been busy, as summer always is. At the beginning of the month, Ben and I took a trip to Chicago. By ourselves. Without our kids. It was so nice. I wish we had stayed longer, but Ben wanted to be back in Evansville in time to participate in our usual July 4th festivities there.  It was so nice to go places without children in tow, though. It was so relaxing. So easy. We drove down on Friday and had lunch at a Mexican restaurant with our friend Brian. We went out to eat at a delicious restaurant Friday night (Boho Bohemian House), went to the Field Museum and walked along the lake on Saturday, and then went to a show at The Second City. We had a blast at the comedy club - the show was funny and the beers were cold. Oh, and did I mentioned there were no children with us? Heaven. I think we will try to take a trip without kids again soon. Our last one was before we had kids, so we were due.

The fourth in Evansville is always a good time. Clare ran in the 1-mile fun run (I ran with her!) and she was awesome. She ran the whole way. She was very proud of her medal. (I didn't get a medal.) Ben did, though, because he came in third in his age group in the 10K. He was fifth overall. Because he is a crazy person, he was disappointed that he only ran it in 42 minutes. I'll do the math for you: that's sub-seven minute miles. I think that's pretty good. He really wants to break 40, though.

We kept our fun traditions of the parade followed by a late afternoon cookout and flag cake at my parents' house. Then came the mistake: we attempted to take Clare to the fireworks. She was so excited, and I thought, well, she's five, she'll have fun. Right? No. Even with the noise cancelling headphones, she. lost. her. mind. I had to carry her, screaming, back to the car. I felt bad that she was so scared. I managed to calm her down, though, and told her she could just let me know when she was ready to try fireworks again. She thought maybe she'd be ready at age 10 or so.

We spent a day at the lake at Ben's uncle's cabin. We had a great time swimming off the pontoon and grilling out. We've had a few other BBQs and picnics with friends, too, which are pretty much my favorite things to do in the summer.

Both kids are in swimming lessons right now, and doing well. It has been a long process getting Clare used to the water, but now she is a fish. A fish that won't go under, but still. It is hard to get her out of the pool. The screaming fits of fear are gone. Christopher is still not sure. He loves the wading pool, but clings to me in the big pool. He enjoys the songs, though. One more week to go, so maybe he'll loosen up a bit.

Clare also took ballet for a week this month, and is still in gymnastics. She really enjoys both, but I am going to make her choose one for the fall. She'll also do soccer, and I don't want her to be too over-scheduled. She is only a kindergartner, after all.  It's crazy that she already has swimming, ballet, gymnastics and soccer, isn't it? And in a year or two she'll start piano. And maybe Girl Scouts.

We ran into Clare's teacher in the neighborhood a few weeks ago, and Clare barely spoke to her. As soon as we biked away, though, she asked if she could invite Ms. Angela over for dinner. I think she'll be ready for school when the first day comes, and I know I'll be ready. In the meantime, I am trying to enjoy our time together. It can be challenging, especially now that Clare has decided to become a full time back seat driver. YOU'RE FIVE. YOU DON'T KNOW THE RULES OF THE ROAD. Anyway. Little things. The big things are that she is funny and sweet and still wants to play with me.

Christopher wants to do everything, and I mean everything, that Clare is doing. He even repeats the words she is saying. If she is wearing her hat, he'll wear his. Otherwise, forget it. He is so happy when she plays with him, and crushed when she (understandably) wants some time to herself.  I was hoping to potty train him this summer, but so far it has not happened. I know forcing him into won't work, so I am trying to be patient.

Christopher is so verbal, and I love talking to him. His little gravelly voice and his serious face when he is trying to tell me about the water he got in his eye are both so endearing. That is one great thing about this age - they can finally tell you want they want, and it is so fun to hear his opinions on things. On the downside, he doesn't always use these words, and instead throws massive tantrums. The smallest (and strangest) things will set him off. For example, this morning he became enraged when Clare put her hand in her cereal bowl to flatten out the cereal. Like, out of control screaming on the floor. I just shook my head and left the room, because what? I don't get it.

I think I will have one very sad boy on my hands when Clare goes back to school. It's hard to believe that summer is already more than half over! I am looking forward to August, though. We are going camping (twice) and planning to hit the State Fair. Christopher hated it last year, but maybe some mini donuts and a Pronto pup will change his mind.

Family runners! (I am not a runner.)

Ready for the parade!

Proud of the flag cake she made with Meema.

Cuddle time, with a look at the nasty bruise he got at the park.
My mom came back with me after our July visit, and took Josie and Christopher to look at the animals at the zoo while I took Clare on the rides at Como Town. We had so much fun together, and even went on the huge pirate ship ride.

This picture is not great, but we went to the top of the Highland Park Water Tower during Highland Fest. It was awesome to see the Cities from up there!

Flying high at Highland Fest.

Christopher is about asleep here.

My little ballerina.

Waiting in the air conditioned car for Clare to finish ballet.
Fun with friends in the pool.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


It feels like the world needs a reset button. Can we just Ctrl-Alt-Delete this whole thing and start over?

I've spent the last few weeks trying to write about the confused,hurt, sad and worried feelings I've had the last few weeks, and I am struggling. I look at my children sleeping peacefully at night, and I feel overwhelmed - both with love for them and worry for the world they are going to grow up in. And it seems like there is just one hit after another. These horrible things that keep happening don't even include my usual fear. (Climate change, in case you are wondering.) There is just too much.

What do we do? Where do we even start? I don't have any answers, except perhaps to be kind and try to teach my kids how to be kind. Teach them to understand that everyone's situation is different, that people may be suffering in ways you can't imagine. Be empathetic. Help where you can. The number one rule in our house is be safe, be kind and be responsible. I think there are many people in this world who could benefit from following that rule.

On Saturday, though, I went to a birthday party for a friend. We all talked about how bad things seem right now, of course. Then I found out that another friend is pregnant with identical twin girls (!). And my friend Jessica (not pregnant) and I realized we have been friends for 18 years. When I drove home and checked on those peacefully sleeping kids, I felt hopeful. Hope for new babies and birthday parties and friendships that have lasted half my life. I know not everyone has the privilege of focusing on those things, but as cliche as it is, those small things can bring me some peace. Maybe the small things can bring peace to others, too.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bits and Pieces: June

We've been having a pretty good summer so far. I can't complain about the weather, and we have settled into a routine. There are plenty things I could complain about (whiny kids, kids fighting, etc.), but I won't. Christopher just threw his arms around me and said "I love you SO much." And moments like that make all of those other things seem insignificant, even if I am pulling my hair out at the time. 

Ben has nicknamed the children Captain Literal and Captain Obvious. When speaking to Captain Literal, also known as Clare, you must be very precise. When we talked about it being summer, she was adamant that no, it was in fact still spring. I explained to her that most people say it is summer once school is out, even though it is not technically summer. We had this conversation several times, until I finally remembered to say "summer vacation" rather than "summer." I was very happy when it was finally, officially, summer.

Captain Obvious likes to narrate his life. The other day, Christopher and I were playing in the gym next door to Clare's gymnastics class. He would throw his ball and chase after it. Then he'd run back to me and announce "I throw ball. I run." Then he sat down to drink his water. "I drink water." He coughed. "I cough. I not throw up." Thanks for sharing, Captain Obvious.

Clare lost her third tooth last week, one on top. The Tooth Fairy forgot to come. Way to go, Tooth Fairy! We tried again the second night and the Tooth Fairy was not too busy to stop by, thank goodness. At the rate she is going, she's not going to have any teeth left!

We had a few Josie free days this month, so I took the opportunity to take the kids to the Minnesota Zoo. Clare and Christopher and I had a blast. I brought a picnic lunch. We played on the playground, saw a few animals, and then went to the dinosaur exhibit. Clare loved it. Christopher was less enthused, but that was partly because he fell on his face at the entrance. We ended the day with ice cream and the splash pad. A perfect summer day, even though it wasn't technically summer yet. 

We went on our annual friends' camping trip last weekend. (Note: one of my 40 x 40 goals was to continue this yearly tradition. 2016 is in the books!) We camped at Whitewater State Park, which is in the southeastern part of the state. It was really, really fun.  We arrived Friday night and roasted hot dogs over the fire. The night was clear, and we could see millions of stars. There were lightning bugs everywhere, but very few mosquitoes. We spent most of Saturday at the beach. Christopher took a nap on a towel for about two hours. The kids, all boys except Clare, ran themselves ragged. We roasted marshmallows for s'mores and drank a lot of beer and wine. A perfect summer weekend, and it was actually summer!

In the hammock we bought Ben for Father's Day. They've spent more time in it than he has.

Another tooth gone.

At the Zoo.