Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vacation Excitement

Well, we are approximately 4 days away from departure for our annual week long vacation in northern Wisconsin and I don't think there is anyone more excited about the trip than Zach. I'm not exactly sure he knows quite what to expect on vacation (in fact, we are a little concerned that he may be disappointed because the only vacation in his recent memory is our trip to Kalahari in Wisconsin Dells...and although the northwoods of Wisconsin are beautiful, it is not quite the same as a ginormous indoor waterpark resort), but he is excited nonetheless.
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In fact, for the past two days he has been packing and unpacking his backpack in preparation for vacation (or "macation" as he affectionately calls it). Although I cannot imagine packing, unpacking, and repacking (over and over again for sheer entertainment) all that we need for a family of four spending one week away from home, the task is quite simplified when your essentials only include Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and Lightening McQueen. Apparently, we are not that overly concerned with general cleanliness or hygiene.
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Anyway, he is also highly suspicious of ANYONE leaving the house, insisting that they must be going on vacation without him. For the past two days it has actually taken quite some time for me to convince him that Daddy is indeed at work and not on vacation without him. In addition, anytime we are putting on our shoes getting ready to head out the door, despite our already informing him of the destination, it is inevitable that we receive the question: "Are we going on macation yet?" I'm wondering when the time comes to actually leave for vacation and we answer his question with an enthusiastic "YES!" if he will even believe us after all the disappointing "Nos" we've been forced to deliver over the past few days.
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So, even though Zach's excitement over vacation is a bit more humorous than the rest of our family's vacation anticipation, I think we are all looking forward to the week away. We are definitely in need of some relaxation and are looking forward to time together as a family without the distraction of work, household chores, or other day-to-day responsibilities.
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Allie is geared up for tubing on Grandpa's boat in addition to lots of swimming and time to spend playing in the sand on the beach. She's also pretty excited to spend some time with Aunt Stephanie and Uncle Chris and has declared it a worldly injustice that we don't get to see them more often.
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Now...if only the next four days could pass at lightening speed...I'm pretty much ready for vacation to come now.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Father's Day

Well, tomorrow is Father's Day and I must shamefully admit that I haven't really planned anything special for this year. Usually I'm all about holidays and birthdays and big celebrations and I love planning all the little details, but pregnancy seems to sap all enthusiasm for such planning out of me. Thankfully, my mom swooped in to save the day and we will be spending tomorrow at my parents' house with smoked meat and potatoes...every father's wish come true.
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And, lest you think I'm a terrible wife, I actually mentioned to Ben that I was planning on making him some homemade chocolate chip cookies tonight (his favorite) because I hadn't really put together anything else for Father's Day. However, upon realization that I have no chocolate chips in the house and the fact that I feel totally and completely wiped out, the task was beginning to seem a bit overwhelming to me (silly, I know, it's like 1 batch of chocolate chip cookies that I'm stressing over...again, thank you pregnancy).
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So, anyway, Ben's response marks reason number 3,498 why I think my husband is the best husband in the world and why I am head over heals in love with him more and more every day: "Umm...let's just buy some cookies from the bakery...that's easier anyway...and then I don't have to help you wash and dry all the cookie sheets."
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I can completely handle a trip to the bakery and a few celebratory chocolate chip cookies.
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I don't know how I got so lucky to have the world's two best dads in my life, but I'm thankful: Happy Father's Day Dad and Ben--I love you!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer Outings

Since our gloomy and rainy (and also way too cool for June) beginning of the week finally gave way to sun and balmy temperatures yesterday afternoon (yes, in Minnesota, anything above 80 is classified as balmy), it was time for us to get ourselves out of the house and participate in some summery activities.
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Yesterday I took the kids swimming at the local pool. I was a little apprehensive about the endeavor, knowing that both kids had to stay close to me since neither one of them can truly swim (don't tell Allie that, though), but I was pleasantly surprised at how well they stayed with me and actually listened to my instructions for the majority of our time there. However, I should have anticipated that approximately 2.5 hours of non-stop flailing in the water under rays of sweltering sun would result in the kids' inability to mentally process any instruction from an adult (especially an adult that is their mother) without some type of complete rejection and a full-out emotional breakdown.
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So, after one such meltdown and Zach's accidental head first fall down the steps of the kiddie water slide, we called it a day. And, would you believe that I'm already contemplating going back tomorrow? Call me crazy, but we do have season passes, and where else can you completely wear your kids out to such an extent that they are actually begging to go to bed by 7:15 pm?
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Today, we took advantage of the great weather by heading out to Como Park and Zoo in St. Paul (where apparently everyone else in the greater Twin Cities area also decided to spend the day today). The kids were especially excited to see the new polar bear exhibit, but were disappointed to learn that there was no actual snow in the new polar bear habitat.
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We also waited approximately 37 minutes in mostly direct sunlight for the no more than 13 minute Sparky the Sea Lion show. While we munched away on the picnic lunch I packed, waiting patiently for Sparky to make her appearance, I was reminded just how miserable the combination of pregnancy and summer heat can be, but was thankful that the excess fluid usually retained in my ankles obviously made its way out of every pore of my body in the form of sweat.
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We had fun walking through the zoo and gardens, making sure to take a short break for some ICEEs to cool off. And...I actually managed to use my new mini-sized camera to snag the below pictures.
(Umm...can you tell from the above picture that Zach was not feeling especially photogenic today??)
(However, he didn't mind pointing out the fact that we have these petunias in our backyard!)

(Allie had absolutely no objections posing for a few glamour shots)


(The closest thing to a smile that I was able to capture from Zach...even though he actually had a fun time!)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Strawberry Pickin'

This past Saturday morning we braved the seasonally cool temps and grey cloud cover to go strawberry picking. It has been a rainy week here, so we were all excited to participate in an outside activity despite the less than ideal weather conditions (but, hey, at least it wasn't raining!).
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The last time we went strawberry picking was about three years ago when I was pregnant with Zach. It was SUPER hot and humid and I don't even remember it being that much fun. We didn't pick many berries (and the berries we did pick weren't all that great--I guess it was a bad year for strawberries because of a drought the year before...or something like that) due to an uninterested 1-year old Allie and a swollen pregnant momma.
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This year's experience was nothing like our first time. The cooler weather was actually ideal for strawberry picking and the strawberries were more plentiful and larger than I remember (much sweeter too!). I don't even think we picked very long (maybe 40-45 minutes at the most) before we filled up two large flats of strawberries. I was shocked to discover we actually picked over 15 lbs!
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Allie was much more interested in picking strawberries this time around and proved to be quite the helper:

However, I'm still unsure of the number of strawberries she picked that actually ended up in the flats because every time I saw her, she looked a little something like this: Zach, on the other hand, wasn't as enthusiastic about picking the berries as Allie. However, he was very proud of the 2 strawberries that he managed to pick when he wasn't running up and down the rows or trying to stomp on the berries that had already fallen off the plants. I was also surprised that he didn't eat ANY of the strawberries. He wouldn't even touch them until we got home and cut off the green tops. Silly guy.
So, what did we do with ALL these strawberries? Well, we spent the rest of the afternoon converting over half of them into strawberry jam. It was my first ever attempt at authentic canning (as opposed to freezer jam) and although it turned out a little sweeter and runnier than I anticipated, it was still a success.

We pureed a bunch of them in the blender (and then froze the mixture) in preparation to make homemade strawberry ice cream next weekend for Father's Day.

Ben used a bunch to make homemade strawberry milkshakes for everyone.

We ate way more strawberries than I ever thought humanly possible.

I made a batch of strawberry bread.

And, we still have a couple pints of strawberries leftover in the fridge.

Next up....raspberry picking...in our own backyard! And, now that I have this whole canning thing down, I'm thinking there will also be some raspberry jam in our near future.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My Birthday

This past Friday I celebrated my 29th birthday. I can barely believe I'm just 1 short year away from turning 30. There is just something about that number 30 that seems so surreal to me. I can still remember when my mom turned 30 and it didn't seem possible to me that I would ever be that old, especially since it had already taken forever for me to reach double age digits.
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But, somehow, those days that seemed to pass so slowly as a kid suddenly sped up and melted into months which morphed into years which oddly turned into decades, and now, within just a blink of an eye, I'm suddenly on the verge of beginning my third decade of life. I know it probably seems silly to think of 30 as old, (especially since I'm sure that when I actually do get old I will be reminiscing about my younger days when I was 30), but it feels old to me all the same, and so for that reason I am just going to table the whole turning 30 discussion until I actually do turn 30...which is still a year away.
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Anyway, my 29th birthday was great! It began with breakfast and presents with Ben and the kids. I was first given a Princess Tiana birthday card (complete with music upon opening).

I also opened a variety of bubble baths and a brand new camera. Although I love our current camera, it is large and cumbersome to carry on our many outings, so I often leave it behind and do not take any pictures of our adventures. This new camera is much smaller (it can actually fit in my pocket) and it will definitely be easier to use when I'm out and about with the kids. Plus, it also fits nicely in the new purse that my parents, brother, and sister and brother in law got for me (yes, this purse is still large enough to house a small canine, but is much easier on the eyes than my old monstrosity of a bag I purchased a few months ago at Kohl's for $10, but is already worn out).

The kids were more than happy to spend my birthday with me:

We ran a few errands (Target and grocery store) and they even went out for lunch with me at Panera (because the birthday mom really did not feel like preparing any food whatsoever on her birthday).

I also received another pleasant birthday surprise:

Both kids actually SLEPT during rest time on Friday! The kids are finally to the age where they rarely sleep during nap time, so I was especially thankful for a longer and more quiet afternoon than normal.
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After Ben got home from work, we met my mom, dad, and brother for pizza at Boston's. We also indulged in one of my favorite desserts: Boston Cream Pie. Yum!
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It was definitely a fun birthday, but then again, birthdays are always fun (even if they do mark your 30th one)!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Our 7 Year Anniversary

This Monday Ben and I celebrated our 7-year wedding anniversary. We enjoyed a great night out and at 6:00 p.m., the exact same time we were declared husband and wife 7 years ago to the day, we were sitting alone together in a beautiful Victorian House in downtown St. Paul overlooking a spectacular view of a neighborhood park and relishing the fact that we just ate an entire dinner uninterrupted by requests for milk refills and the task of cutting food into minuscule bite-size pieces. Having just devoured a decadent French-style dinner, the waitress presented us with an array of dessert specials and we delightfully placed our order of banana cream pie and fresh blueberry crisp with vanilla ice cream. If 7 years of marriage has taught us anything, it is that dessert is just not one of those things meant for us to share.
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The other night Ben asked me if this is where I thought we'd be after 7 years of marriage...which at first struck me as an odd question because I'm not sure anyone can honestly say they are exactly where they thought they wanted to be 7 years ago. Even though I had always thought it would be nice to be done having our babies by the time I was thirty, it never really occurred to me that such a goal would also mean my having 3 kids before our 8th wedding anniversary...mostly because when we got married, having babies and starting a family was pretty much the last thing on my mind.
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As a newly married 22 year old, I definitely had my own idea of how I thought our lives should unfold, making plans for lives and careers that really did not make time for 3 babies and a family. But, somewhere along the line God truly changed my heart and perspective. And even though I'm quite sure my 22 year old self would look upon the life my 29 year old self is leading with disappointment and a bit of arrogance at the fact that her life would turn out much differently, I am confident that my 29 year old self really wouldn't care.
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Sometimes I wish I could go back and tell that naive 22 year old how happy she was going to be in 7 years despite all the twists and turns her life would take. I wish I could tell her to relax when things didn't quite go her way because, more than likely, God had something much better in store for her. In fact, there are so many things I'd like to tell her about growing up and having a family and true dependence upon God...about finding joys in the most unexpected of places and learning to appreciate the things that matter most. However, I know my 22 year old self pretty well and I'm fairly sure she wouldn't listen to me.
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So, to answer Ben's question: No, this is not at all where I thought we'd be in 7 years when we first got married. But, I can say without a doubt that there is no other place I'd rather be. I'm thankful that God knew my heart all along, even before I did, and gave me what I needed instead of what I thought I wanted.

Monday, June 7, 2010

20 Weeks

***UPDATE***
Well, the big ultrasound proved that our 3rd baby most definitely takes after Allie. Apparently, he or she did not want his/her gender revealed and kept his/her legs tightly crossed throughout the entire time (despite mom's eating french toast with maple syrup for breakfast!). Also, although everything the ultrasound tech could see appeared healthy, there was a lot she was not able to see because of the baby's position and because the baby might be a little younger than we originally thought (hmmm...we might have a November baby as opposed to an October baby). So, we will be headed back in a month for another peak and we are hoping he/she will be a little more cooperative this time around!
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***ORIGINAL POST BELOW***
This week finally marks week 20 of my third pregnancy! Wahoo! Half-way there! Here's a pic of my growing belly: It is really no secret to anyone that knows me well that I don't necessarily love being pregnant. Sure, there are always joys (like feeling our baby kick, hearing our baby's heartbeat, seeing our baby on the ultrasound, meeting our baby for the first time), but I guess you can say that I've never quite felt that pregnancy "glow." In fact, this time around with all the extra oil I seem to be producing on my face and in my hair, I have more of a glossy sheen to my physical appearance rather than anything resembling a maternal glow.
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Anyway, despite the inevitable discomforts that come along with any and every pregnancy, I really have nothing to complain about. And, since I'm sure you didn't click over to my blog to read about sciatic nerve pain and the irritation of awakening every three hours to pee all night long, I'll spare you the details (and if you were looking for a little preggo venting, I'm sure as I near that 40 week mark, I'll definitely be feeling the need to do a little therapeutic venting myself, so stay tuned, I'm fairly sure I will not let you down).
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So far this pregnancy has been completely uneventful, free of complications, and in many ways a heck of a lot better than my previous two. It seems that losing 65 pounds before gaining 30-40 is definitely the way to go.
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I have yet to experience any noticeable swelling in my legs and feet despite our hotter (and more humid) than normal weather. Although I am definitely tired by the end of the day, I don't feel so exhausted that I am unable to go on walks with the kids or play outside or go swimming. Any nausea that I experienced earlier is now completely gone, but has been unfortunately replaced by an insatiable appetite for anything sweet with tons of carbs (pair this with the fact that I just discovered a wonderful bakery down the street that makes the BEST homemade doughnuts and you definitely have a recipe for disaster).
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So, all in all, 20 weeks finds me in the middle of the best part of pregnancy. I'm not so huge that I am exhausted all the time or unable to go anywhere because I have to pee every two seconds and can't find one article of clothing that adequately covers my belly, but instead I get to enjoy congratulatory comments from random strangers who observe my preggo belly and utilize the extra energy that I will be completely sapped of in another few short months.
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I have also been feeling the baby move for the past month or so (mostly at night and in the mornings) and I'm especially looking forward to the kids and Ben feeling those kicks from the outside as well (Allie is particularly excited and enamored by this little detail).
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This week also marks our big ultrasound...you know...the one where we finally get to find out if the babe is a boy or a girl! I'm so excited that I can barely wait. Plus, finding out his/her gender means that I will finally be able to get around to setting up the baby's nursery. And, since that whole nesting instinct seems to be a part of my normal personality (it just gets quite magnified when preggo...like the time I thought it was absolutely necessary to clear everything out of the bathroom and completely clean out each drawer, cabinet, and crevice in the bathroom when I was 38 weeks pregnant with Zach), I'm actually more than ready to tackle the baby's room.
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Plus, if the baby is a boy, I think we will definitely need the next 20 weeks to prepare Allie for another brother. She is still convinced God has given her a baby sister and has already begun compiling a mental list of why our family does not need any more boys...the latest entry: boy poop stinks much more than girl poop so we do not need any more boy poop in our family.
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I'm not quite sure what to say in response to that....other than the fact that both Allie and Zach's poopy diapers were equally rancid and disgusting.
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I'll be sure to let you know later this week what we find out!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Summer Swimming

In our kids' opinions, one of the best things about summertime is swimming. Whether it be in one of the 3 back yard swimming apparatuses we have acquired over the past four and a half years (ummm...still not quite sure how that happened; however, it probably has something to do with us thinking the pools had leaks or holes in them), in Grandma and Grandpa's private neighborhood swimming pool, in the lake, at the splash pad, at one of several chlorinated sandy beach swim ponds we have in our area, or the public pool just down the street, both kids never seem to tire of frolicking the day away in the water.
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Over the Memorial Day weekend we set up the blow up pools for the first time this season and spent all day long splashing and relaxing in our very own backyard. The kids could not have been happier...
zooming down the slide and splashing into the water below,
chillin' out and cooling off in the water spray,
and splashing one another (and sometimes Mom and Dad--fortunately, Ben and I were armed with squirt guns for retaliation in such instances...although, I quickly switched to a sand pail that I filled to the brim with water and dumped on any child who splashed me above the knees).
Do not be fooled by Zach's less-than-enthusiastic expression. He actually had a great time, but was adamant about not wanting his picture taken and refused to crack even the smallest of grins if the camera was pointed even remotely in his direction.
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I'm sure this was just the first of many days this summer we will spend soaking up the sun and splashing in our own backyard.
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Special thanks to Daddy who manned the air pump and backyard garden hose.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Remembering Allie's First Year of Preschool

That's right...we've officially made it through the first week of summer vacation sans preschool unscathed. And, although the absence of her twice a week mornings away from home proved somewhat difficult for Allie's outgoing and social personality, a trip to the indoor play ground where she instantly made two new friends on a gloomy Wednesday (followed by a lunch date with Zach and Mom at Mickey D's for Happy Meals) and an impromptu play date with one of Allie's gal pals at a park on a sunny Thursday seemed to satisfy her desire for out of the house entertainment and socialization.
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We are still lamenting and working through the emotional turmoil that comes along with a 4-year old's sadness over the fact that her beloved Mrs. Karin (below)....

...and Mrs. Jody (below)
are no longer her teachers as she has graduated from the Green Class and will be a student in the Blue Class beginning in September.
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Allie will always remember her first year of preschool fondly, whether it be by recounting her adventures with her "best friend" Josh (a cute little blond-haired five year old that was completely smitten by Allie), by paging through her folder of art projects and worksheets she completed throughout the year, or by singing one of several songs taught to her by her teachers.
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Thankfully for us, not one single lyric or hand motion from all the preschool songs that have been packed into her little brain over the course of the past nine months will be forgotten. In fact, even though the following pictures were taken during Allie's last day of preschool musical program, some of the same images can be spotted at the dinner table almost nightly (and Zach already has a jump start on his preschool career as Allie has taught him each and every song too).

So, although endings can be sad at times as we remember all the fun times we had--knowing that things will never quite be the same again--we still must say goodbye to our first year of preschool, happily anticipating a summer full of adventures and a new preschool year to begin in the Fall.
(As a side note...I'm thinking it might be a tad bit more difficult to see Allie graduate preschool next year...I mean, I can completely handle Allie being done with one year of preschool and progressing to another, but KINDERGARTEN?! Let's just not go there yet....)