Monday, July 31, 2017

Bits and Pieces: July

Well, that was a whirlwind month. I kept thinking I should do an update, and then I didn't. Good story, right, Aunt Katie?

We started the month with our annual trip to my parents' house for the 4th of July. Robby, Andri and Bambos were there, and so were Katie, Andrew and Josie. It was great to have everyone together. We did our usual routine of race, parade, cookout (with flag cake), and fireworks. I ran the mile with Clare, and she beat me handily. She was barely winded, cheerfully telling my dad that "Mommy is way back there," when she ran by him. Ben ran the 10K, and came in second overall, first in his age group. The kids loved the parade, and came home with way more candy then any person needs. Ben and I went to the fireworks by ourselves, which was really fun. Evansville puts on a great show for a small town, and of course there was the beer tent. It's Wisconsin after all.

We spent the rest of the week at the pool, visiting my grandmothers in Oostburg and La Crosse, going to the zoo and just hanging out. My Aunt Karen came over for dinner one night. I also had dinner with my friend Christina, who I hadn't seen in months. Catching up with old friends over a nice glass of wine is just the best.

My brother and his family came back to the Twin Cities with us after the fourth. We had an early first birthday party for Bambos and an adults-only night out to Betty Danger's Country Club. The kids had a great time with their British cousin, especially Christopher. He was constantly trying to entertain Bambos.

The kids had swimming lessons this month as well. Christopher struggled, even though his class was in the kiddie pool and they just splashed and sang songs. The first week he wouldn't stay with his group, running back to check in with me. By the second week he was staying with his class, but refused to do most of the activities. He likes playing in the pool fine when he is on his own, so I am not quite sure what it was. Maybe the teachers' poor singing offended his musical sensibilities. Who knows. Needless to say he will be repeating that level next year. But Clare. Clare! The girl who just a few years ago was so scared of the big pool that she would cry before lessons. This girl went off the diving board! Multiple times! She can actually swim a bit now, goes underwater with abandon, and actually swims on her own underwater. She loved every minute of it. We went to a school friend's birthday party this past weekend at the pool, and she nearly cried when it was time to leave.

In mid-July we spent a long weekend at Itasca State Park with my in-laws. We stayed for two nights in the Itasca "suites" and one night in our tent. The suites are really nice - they look like a cabin on the outside but are more like a hotel on the inside. And it was good we were there on Friday, because after spending the morning at the Headwaters, Christopher spiked a fever and slept all afternoon. Then a severe storm rolled through, and we ended up losing power. I was grateful to have more shelter than a tent that night. Despite the illness and the storms, it was a nice trip. I went on two long walks by myself, which felt like a luxury. Ben's aunt and uncle were there one night, and it was fun to spend some time with them. On Saturday, we drove to Bemidji to visit "the giant Bunyan" (Christopher's name for Paul), play at the playground and have a beer at the brewery. The night we camped was beautiful. We made s'mores and watched the sun set over Lake Itasca. It is so refreshing to be in the north woods. We are going on one more camping trip in a few weeks.

Christopher has been having some separation anxiety. My friend Sarah picked up the kids to take them to the park while I recovered from a medical procedure, and she had to carry him away screaming. I felt bad, but I got a text a few minutes later saying he was totally fine. So out of sight, out of mind, but I thought he was too old for this. Maybe he is just finally being three.

Let's see, what else. We finally visited the newly reopened Children's Museum. I wasn't blown away. The kids missed some of their favorites from the old museum (especially the dreaded ant hill), and it seemed like there wasn't all that much there. The huge three-floor climbing thing was cool, but Christopher refused to do it. We'll see how it is when school starts and there is hardly anyone there. It was a madhouse last week.

Clare went to a performance at Circus Juventas with her grandparents. (A local youth circus, lots of acrobats, etc.) She loved it. I might send her to one of their camps next year. Christopher got to go to Menards with Ben and me. He wasn't thrilled, but he did get an ice cream cone at Izzy's and a trip to Choo Choo Bob's as a reward for behaving at Menards. (Which he mostly did. I only lost him once.)

Ben and I went to see the Minnesota United play at TCF Bank stadium. It was really fun! The stadium is nice, and we had great seats. And they actually won!

Oh! Christopher finally decided to start wearing summer clothes. Apparently July is the month summer officially starts for him.

There are five weeks until school starts. That seems like way too much time and not nearly enough.

Ready for the parade!

Small town Wisconsin means lots of tractors.

Pony Rides on the 4th.

He started yelling "Giddy Up!" The pony was not impressed.

There was also a water bounce house. They went down the slide about 1,543 times.

Flag cake.

Cousins at the Cuckoo House.

See if you can spot Christopher. He is wearing a blue hat.

They are best friends.

Yes, he ate this entire waffle cone.

Cousins at the Terrace.

Two kids in the pool + one beer + my favorite book = a perfect day.

Two boys and a train.

Ben took Clare and Christopher to Highland Fest while I got my nails done. It was a good arrangement.


At Itasca.

The start of the Mississippi. We were here last year, too.

The giant Bunyan.

Someone is excited about the fire.

A beautiful sunset on Lake Itasca.

MLS at the Bank.

Clare learning Viking Martial Arts. Perhaps this skill will help in her Ninja Warrior training?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Bits and Pieces: June

Summer is in full swing. We've already gone to the Minnesota Zoo, spent a day at the beach at Lake Nakomis, checked out books from two different libraries (the Roseville Library is my new favorite: they have a Dunn Bros!), hit the indoor playground in New Brighton, visited the fish at the aquarium, and had friends here to play American doll gymnastics injury. There have also been trips to the park, mornings at the Y, and a late night drinking wine on a friend's patio for me.

Christopher has refused to transition to summer clothes, but since the weather has been relatively cool it has not been a problem for him. I was annoyed at first, but I decided to embrace it. He is getting plenty of sun protection, and it saves me time each morning. (Putting sunscreen on three kids and myself every day is one of my least favorite things about summer.)

I was a delegate at the St. Paul DFL City Convention in mid June. It was a long day, but very interesting. We arrived at 8 a.m. and left at 7:30 p.m. I was disappointed that we didn't endorse a candidate, and after seeing the whole process I can understand why a lot of people don't want to participate. It was frustrating in many ways. I was not bored, though. I am going to do some campaigning for my candidate and hope for a win in November.

We spent Father's Day with my in-laws at their new condo, which is just across the river from us. It is a nice place. I also made Ben a Bloody Mary and a raspberry rhubarb crostada. We gave him a Minnesota United hat and T-shirt. He is enjoying having an MLS team in town. He has been to a few games, and I am going to one with him at the end of July. His birthday is on Sunday, and it is always a challenge for me because it is so close to Father's Day. He is hard to buy for, because he never wants anything.

We had our annual friends camping trip last weekend. (40 x 40 goal - 2017 in the books!) We went back to Whitewater State Park, which is near Rochester. The weather was cool, but there were no bugs. The kids went to the beach despite the lower temperatures. The adults drank a lot of beer and Bullfrogs (Limeade and vodka). One fairly severe storm blew through. Clare was terrified and ran to the car. (I saw a bolt of lightening behind her, followed by an enormous clap of thunder. She was screaming.) Christopher slept through the entire thing in the tent. I was caught in the in the middle, because Ben was off doing dishes. I couldn't decide if I should bring Christopher into the car or Clare into the tent. Luckily, Ben came back right when it started hailing. I went to the car with Clare. A few minutes later, Ben appeared, holding my beer. Afterwards, when Clare told the other adults that her daddy brought her mommy her beer, everyone agreed it was true love. The kids also thought it was funny how all the grownups were running around in a panic, trying to secure everything before the storm got really bad. Despite all that, it was a great weekend. We are already looking forward to our fall trip.

Clare has been playing soccer on Tuesday nights, which she enjoys. Ben is her coach, which definitely increases her enjoyment. Both kids started gymnastics on Monday nights. Christopher is reluctant to go to his class. This past week, I saw him wiping tears from his eyes as he waited in line. Clare saw him in class though, and said he was having fun. I think he just turns on the tears for me. It is a bit heartbreaking, though. It is good practice for him, because he will be starting preschool in the fall.

Clare is practicing her reading a lot by reading to the other two kids. It frequently ends in a fight, but it is sweet until then. She is quite a good reader. She received a letter in the mail from her first grade teacher, which thrilled her to no end. She keeps reading it over and over.

She has also figured out how to do the jumping spider (an American Ninja Warrior obstacle) in our door frame. So she continues to work toward her goal of competing on that show. Jessie Graff is her idol. I am happy though, because she is awesome and a much better role model than, say, Barbie.

Christopher plays his guitar all day long and has quite a few new dance moves. He knows he is entertaining, so if he gets a laugh he does it over and over. And over.

We are getting ready for our annual small town 4th of July. I am very happy because my brother, sister-in-law and nephew will be joining us from London.

Happy 4th!

Swimming at Lake Nakomis.

Goofball at Hiawatha wading pool.

They tried to go to the Children's Museum while I was at the convention, but couldn't get in. Luckily there was a fun street party happening.

At the Zoo.

They watched the seals for a long time.

On Chimney Rock at Whitewater State Park.

Clare loves hiking.

This looks sweet, but Christopher was whining and crying.

Our friend Jason took this picture.  I love it!

Camping buddies. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Last Day and Birthday

I meant to write this post a week ago, but then we got swept up in the first week of summer. This year's transition has been much easier than past years, but it always takes a few weeks to find our new routine.

Anyway, Clare's birthday falling during the last week of school means there are is always a lot of excitement that week. This year, we also had kindergarten graduation on top of everything else. It was very sweet. I may have cried.  They also make a big deal at Clare's school about "stepping up" to the next grade. (Actually, the next three grades. She graduated from Children's House and is now in Elementary 1 or E1, where she will be with the same teacher for first, second and third grade. Luckily, we are absolutely thrilled with her new teacher. He was a semifinalist for Minnesota Teacher of the Year this year, and is just amazing. He is the teacher everyone wants, so I am feeling very lucky. But I digress.)

Clare had a good last day of school, and I know she is sad about leaving the teacher she's had for the past two years. She had a great year in kindergarten. She did well academically, and had a lot of lessons on how to get along with other kids. (I am actually relieved that none of the girls she was friends with are in her class next year. That sounds bad, but they were a lot of strong personalities that didn't seem to mesh well. I am disappointed that secret friend Will is not in her class, though. She does have two friends in her class that she knows from the bus, which is great, because they live in our neighborhood.)

We had two separate parties for Clare's birthday this year. The first one was at the American Girl Bistro at the Mall of America. Clare invited two friends, Nora and Henry. (Nora and Henry are siblings.) My mom, Katie, and my mother-in-law were also there. (Christopher didn't seem to notice or care that he wasn't included. Clare felt bad that he wasn't invited, which was sweet, but I just did not want to deal with him there.) We had a lunch, complete with cake and gift bags for the kids. Nora and Henry gave Clare the same presents I had given her, so she had fun choosing different gifts to exchange the originals for after the party. We also had all three dolls hair styled at the hair salon. The kids had a lot of fun. (I am close friends with Nora and Henry's mom, and we had a good laugh about how we picked the same two things out of the thousands of things at that store.)

After the American Girl extravaganza, we had a cookout at our house that included all four grandparents, Christopher, cousin Josie, Uncle Andy and Aunt Meg, and Great Aunt Sally. Ben's good friend Brian was also there for part of the fun. I made a homemade strawberry cake and we grilled brats. Clare opened her presents, which included lots of books and a gift certificate to the American Girl store, as well as some cash. She was pretty thrilled, especially once she added her money to her life savings and realized she has enough to buy a new American Girl doll. Which she did the next day.

It was a good start to the summer, and a good last week of school. Now we are moving full speed ahead with summer vacation, including Clare's first day of Summer Blast today and our first camping trip this weekend.

With Ms. Angela after kindergarten graduation. She had her for pre-k and kindergarten.

Can we take a normal picture?


The new first grader next to our peony, which blooms around Clare's birthday every year.

You can't tell here, but Henry's Samantha is missing all of her fingers on one hand.

Other special guests.

Birthday girl with her cake.

Watching the dolls get their hair styled. Clare's poor Samantha wasn't helped much. She can't help it, she is almost 30 years old.

Clare's new doll, Tenney. Her hair is much better, but I don't think that will last long.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


I don't look at Facebook much anymore, but I happened to log on a few weeks ago. I saw one of those posts where Facebook likes to remind you that you are getting old by showing you one of your previous posts. This one was a picture of Clare as a baby, fast asleep in my arms while we were at a Brewers' game. It made me sad to see it actually, because she is definitely no longer that little baby. Then I remembered what she is: a smart, funny, active KID. As much as I miss snuggling with that little baby sometimes, five has been so much better in so many ways.

And five really was a pretty good year. We had some moments, of course. She went through a stage where she would yell and me and give me grief quite frequently. That has stopped, though. We've been in a good place for awhile now. We can have conversations about so many different topics. Clare likes to plan, like me, so we have a lot of fun talking about what is coming up in our schedule. (Insert eye roll from Ben here.) After her swimming lessons, she and I would go to Starbucks for a treat and a chat. Clare always has lots to say. I love hearing her logical observations on the world. She has stumped me more times than I care to admit with her questions. Thank goodness for Google.

Clare has had a busy year, with kindergarten, gymnastics, swimming, soccer, running club, ice skating, and just being a kid and playing. She still loves being outside and being in the water. She has yet to go under, but I am hoping we'll finally reach that milestone this summer.

She has lots of friends, including her best friends from school, Chloe and Keira, her secret best friend Will, and outside of school friends Nora, Henry, Benjamin, James, Simon and Brendon.  (Clare told me that she and Will are secret best friends so that when the teacher says not to talk to your friends, they can still talk to each other. They are thinkers.)

Clare is still a picky eater, but she has expanded her horizons a bit. She is actually willing to eat spaghetti with sauce on it. She has also been willing to at least try things when I make something for dinner. Surprisingly, she was willing to eat hot lunch at school, but only if they were serving chicken nuggets, pasta or pancakes. Baby baby steps with the food.

She still plans to be on American Ninja Warrior when she grows up. She is begging me to take her to a Ninja gym as soon as possible (you have to be 6). She has also been watching a lot of My Little Pony. I dragged me feet on My Little Pony for a long time, but it is actually not that bad. Her other favorite show is Elena of Avalor. Her latest favorite movies are Trolls and Moana. She has declared Cinderella and Tangled to be "boring." She still gets her princess fix from Frozen.  She and Christopher both love Mary Poppins, but they do not love it when I recite all of the dialogue and sing along to the songs.

She is reading on her own, and doing well with it. She can read short chapter books. I am looking forward to reading to her a bit more this summer. We are currently reading Beezus and Ramona. It is so fun to read her the books I loved as a kid.

Clare has started playing Minecraft and is SUPER into it. This is not something I can relate to, so I am glad I married a techie type person. She also still likes Legos, and will be getting several new sets for her birthday. She does not build creatively, though. She follows the directions precisely.

Clare knows the value of money, and has not been shy about asking family members to give her gift cards to the American Girl Doll Store for her birthday.  She asked my mom specifically for a $60 gift card, so we had a little chat about why that is not polite. (She is trying to save $60 for a Bitty Baby doll from the store. My suggestion that she could buy a much cheaper baby doll at Target fell on deaf ears.)

She is still my little rule follower. We went to Will's birthday party at Pump it Up last weekend, and during the safety video the kids were told to cross their arms as they slid down the inflatable slide. I glanced at Clare. She was practicing. And she followed the rules each and every time she went down the slide. (You can imagine what all of the other kids were doing. Yes, there was more than one bleeding child by the end of the party.)

A few other favorite things: art projects, especially clay and paint, swinging at the park (which she can finally do by herself), riding her bike (a two wheeler, no training wheels), gardening with Ben, making pancakes with Ben, and spending time with her grandparents.

We are going to Snuffy's Malt Shop for her birthday dinner, where she wants to order a lime-flavored shake. My guess is she will not like it, but it is her birthday, so it is her choice.

Six! Wow. And with kindergarten almost finished, a first grader.

Happy birthday to my best girl!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Bits and Pieces: May

This month has been busy with lots of end of the year stuff at school. Also: two cases of the stomach flu, one fever, and one trip to urgent care with a ruptured ear drum. Luckily, everyone is now on the mend.

Clare has less than two weeks left of kindergarten. She'll find out who her first grade teacher is on Friday. Next week will be filled with lots of fun year end things, including her kindergarten graduation and her birthday. This month, she had several field trips and a fun fair at school. I chaperoned one trip, to Gibbs Farm, and helped supervise other kids while my own child barely said two words and dragged herself from exhibit to exhibit. It turns out our first case of the stomach flu was about to arrive.

Christopher and I had our last day of ECFE for the year this week. He will miss his favorite teacher, Ugo, and I will miss my chance to have a break from the kids for an hour.

Christopher is once again refusing to transition to summer clothes. Luckily for him, it has been a cool spring. I am sure we will have some battles over that in the coming weeks.

Christopher cleaned out his piggy bank and used the money to buy a toy guitar. (Or ta-gar, as he says.) He loves it. He has been playing music and dancing for days on end.

Clare started soccer. Ben is her coach, which she loves. I haven't made it to a game yet because they have all been late, so I need to be home with Christopher. She'll start gymnastics soon, and will also do swimming lessons this summer. She is also participating in a few summer camps. The best thing, though, is Summer Blast, which is through the Parks and Rec department. It is FREE. She can go every afternoon from 1 to 4 and play games and do crafts. It is a drop-in program, so we'll go as our schedule allows. Many of her friends have signed up, too. I just wish I could also send Josie and Christopher.

I joined the YMCA, and they have childcare, so I am hoping to finally get into a workout routine. I have not been good about self care lately, and it is time to start thinking about that again.

We spent Memorial Day weekend at my parents' house. Ben stayed here to help his parents with their move (to a condo right across the river from us) and do some house projects. My sister and Josie came with us, which was nice for the drive. Christopher was sick (ruptured ear drum) so neither of us got much sleep. Clare had fun, though. She got to go swimming and out for ice cream, which is all she really needs in life. We came back just in time for our friends' annual Memorial Day BBQ, where I promptly drank way to much beer after dealing with a very whiny and sick kid on my own all weekend.

The next two weeks are busy, and then on to summer.

Lost another tooth!

The first lemonade stand of the season. Clare paid Christopher one quarter to help her.

I tried to take him to the Children's Museum at the Mall of America, but it is gone. We went on rides instead.

And had lunch at Rain Forest Cafe.
With his ta-gar.

Clare trying to defeat Darth Vadar at the Fun Fair.

Clare and I did the photo booth. We did not follow the directions, so some of our photos are a little wonky.


Ice cream in Evansville.