Sunday, August 22, 2010

The End of Summer is Near

The last week of August is almost upon us, and with it, in my mind, comes the unofficial last week of summer. Most years this fact would be a little depressing to me as it also inevitably means the imminent arrival of the-season-that-shall-not-be-named (you know, the one that begins with a 'w'). However, this year I'm actually looking forward to the end of summer.

Don't get me wrong, I've loved our care-free summer days, often completely schedule free, hours spent swimming at the pool or running about the backyard. I've also enjoyed our summer get aways and vacations, soaking up the sun and getting perhaps the best tan I've had since the year Ben and I took our honeymoon to Mexico. I look forward to evening walks and bike rides with Ben and the kids, enjoying the fact that it stays light out so much longer during the summer season.

But, this year, despite all the fun that comes along with one of the most laid back seasons of the year, I think I'm actually ready for Fall and the semblance of a schedule it brings. The school supply aisles at Target have me anticipating Allie's return to preschool and Zach's return to ECFE. I've been looking at mom's group brochures and MOPS information to see if there's a local group for me to join to get to know some other moms this year.

I'm definitely more than ready to say goodbye to this late August heat and humidity, to pack up the tank tops in exchange for some cozy sweat shirts that I can wear around a backyard campfire on a cool fall evening. My cravings for ice cream and fruit smoothies have slowly changed to an intense desire for all things pumpkin and apple. And, since Fall season also seems to be Birthday season in our home (actually, all 3 of our kids will have Fall birthdays in October and November), the anticipation over birthday celebrations has already begun.

I'm not sure the kids are as excited about Fall as I am. They have both already lamented over the closing of the public pool once the school year officially begins. Allie is a little hesitant of beginning preschool again, but I know she will quickly snap out of it as soon as we meet her teachers and see her classroom. Plus, both kids have noticed the days are already getting shorter. In fact, Allie was highly concerned last night that there were thunderstorms on the way since it was actually getting dark outside when she went to bed!

So, although we will all miss some things about summer, I am still anticipating the change that fall brings. We definitely have a lot of exciting things coming up for our family this fall and I'm more than ready to get the show on the road!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Teddy Bear Park

Yesterday we enjoyed the beautiful, sunny, almost-humidity-free day by venturing to a new-to-us park in downtown Stillwater: Teddy Bear Park. Why is it called Teddy Bear Park? Well, there were a bunch of informational signs that I failed to read (due to the fact that I was trying to keep an eye on two very excited kids running every which way and certainly not staying together), but I'm guessing it probably has something to do with all of the stone teddy bear statues situated throughout the park:
We packed a picnic lunch and met up with some friends for a fun morning of exploring, climbing, digging in the sand, running, sliding, and being as loud as we possibly could (the kids, that is...the moms enjoyed chatting, soaking up the warm sun, and making sure no one became permanently lost, injured, dehydrated, starved, or sunburnt).
I especially liked the park because it didn't consist of the typical run-of-the-mill plastic park toys. Instead, there were huge ships, a choo-choo train, a tree house, lots of larger than life teddy bears, and rock walls to climb on. Plus, all the toys were geared for ages 7 and under, so it was easy for us moms to chill out and relax a little more without having to worry about our kids falling or hurting themselves on large playground equipment because, unlike other local parks, the toys were designed for kids just their size. It was definitely a busy morning with lots of kids playing and I wouldn't say it is among the largest playgrounds we've ever been to, but the creative design made it well worth the trip. Plus, it was fun and refreshing to get together with good friends. I'm fairly positive we'll be heading back to Teddy Bear Park again soon!

(A rare photo where EVERY SINGLE child is looking at the camera! It's a miracle!)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Kid Art Work

I love kid art work. Granted, we have LOTS of it and while I am not always the greatest at keeping it or photographing it, the finished masterpieces that do find their way to prominence on the refrigerator door never fail to make me smile.

I remember before becoming a parent I vowed to never, EVER display such tacky pieces of paper on my refrigerator. I actually am kind of anti-fridge decor, refusing to incorporate snapshots, Christmas cards, or the tacky yellowish magnet displaying poison control's emergency contact info as part of my fridge door experience.

Anyway, I know I very well may be starting an intense debate over something that is quite common in almost every household. In fact, I don't think I can even recall the last time I was over at a home where a personal fridge collage was absent (well...except my parent's home, but my mom and I are blood related and therefore share many of the same neurotic tendencies).

So, you can obviously chalk my plain fridge door preference up to another one of those Type A neurotic tendencies that is continually being challenged by motherhood as exemplified by the fact that my refrigerator door at present is displaying a meal planning diagram, shopping list, several magnets, a kid calendar, letter diagrams, two magnetic stuffed animals (how in the world those made the cut, I still do not know), a plastic hanging file filled with preschool and church info, and several pieces of kid art work.

Among the kid art work (which is definitely my favorite of the fridge vomit at the moment) displayed, you will find.....

A family portrait by Allie, complete with name labels:

The reason I like this picture so much is because I have been depicted with curly hair and no arms. I've always wanted voluminous curls and it looks like I've gotten my wish. I'm not sure why my daughter thinks I'm armless, but I think I'd take her depiction of my model-like flowing curls over the presence of arms any day.

Picture #2 is an authentic depiction of a beach by Zach:
Zach is not usually into artwork that much so I get super excited when he actually spends more than 2 seconds with paper and colors. He was particularly excited by the multiple array of colors he used and informed me that he even used the Green Bay Packers colors (oh, Ben would be proud.)
The last picture on display this week is a portrait of Zach by Allie:

I especially love this picture because Allie spent well over 2 hours completing it. She not only gave Zach superh. ero wings (like Buzz Lightyear), but also super hero spikes for hair. Zach was so honored to receive this portrait that it actually resided in his room on his night stand for three days before it made its way onto the fridge.
And, see that little head with two legs to the bottom left underneath the "Zach" label? Apparently that is the new baby who has been making an appearance in almost all of Allie's drawings lately. Apparently in addition to having no arms, unlike her mother with a head of flowing curls, she is unfortunately bald.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Better Than a Vacation

Wow. It is truly amazing the change in attitude, energy level, and patience that can take place after being away from your kids for a whole 48 hours.

First of all, know that I absolutely love my kids and am thankful that I get to be a stay at home mom. There really is no other thing that I'd rather be doing with my life right now. But, the past few weeks I have definitely felt a tad bit stressed and overwhelmed with everything. Whether it had something to do with being almost eight months preggo or having the heat indexes reach well into the one-hundreds or just growing weary of the never-ending pile of laundry, I felt mentally drained.

I was trying to relay to Ben how I felt the other week to which he suggested another family weekend away or some time to myself while he watched the kids, both good suggestions, but both didn't really seem to provide what I needed. In all actuality, the problem was I felt so worn out that I didn't even know what I needed.

Which is precisely the reason why I am so thankful for a mom who has always seemed to know exactly what I need, making it quite apparent to me that even almost 30 year olds still need their moms. Anyway, when my mom suggested that her and my dad take the kids for not only one night, but TWO nights, although I felt kind of guilty saying yes, I agreed without hesitation. And, I can honestly say that two nights without the kids was exactly the refresher I needed to lift my spirits.

By the end of the kids' time away, both Ben and I commented that we indeed missed having them around and were excited to see them again to hear all about their adventures with Grandma and Grandpa (which included a power outage, slushies, swimming, the best pizza they have ever eaten, and more Pez candy than should even be consumed by a grown adult). However, we took full advantage of having some much needed and refreshing time to ourselves.

Although I spent my first kid-free afternoon cleaning the house (exciting, I know...but, I will say I rather enjoyed the ease of cleaning the entire house when two if it's primary mess-makers were absent...not to mention, it actually STAYED clean for longer than 5 seconds), I didn't lift a finger to cook the entire time the kids were away. Ben and I went out for dinner followed by a little shopping and then a movie on the first evening. We felt like rebels, not returning home until well after 11:30 p.m. (on a Thursday night, no less!) and it felt heavenly to sleep in the next morning.

While Ben stayed home to work on Friday, I ventured to the outlet mall to get a head start on the fall/winter clothes shopping for the kids. Although I enjoy shopping with Allie because she can be quite helpful picking out items and giving input, it is not fun taking Zach along. He hates any and all shopping with a passion (especially clothes shopping) and is not afraid to make his strong opinion known, mostly in the form of whining, complaining, fit-throwing, and picking on his sister.

Anyway, two and a half or so hours after arriving at the outlet mall, I had found some great deals, was not emotionally exhausted from refereeing the kids' arguments, and actually ate lunch all by myself at Subway in peace and quiet without having to cut anyone's food, refill drinks, or sop up spilled milk.

After arriving home, I was able to tackle the job of organizing the kids' closets, packing up the too-small clothes and making room for the purchases I had just made. When Ben was done with his work for the day, we had a few more errands to run before heading out for pizza and then to satisfy my most recent pregnancy craving: Cupcakes.
They were so good. And, although the above picture does not do them justice, they all looked like works of art. No, I'm not telling you how many I ate, but just know that I don't want another cupcake for a very. long. time.

We ended our evening with a trip to the grocery store. Normal, yes, but I actually cannot remember the last time just Ben and I went to the grocery store alone, so it was kind of nice and reminiscent of those days spent in our previous life before kids.

After another morning of sleeping in, we headed to my parents to pick up the kids. We were happy to see them and them us (well...I'm pretending they were happy to see us even though their reaction upon seeing us was something to the effect of, "NOOOOO! NOT MOM AND DAD! WE DON'T WANT TO GO YET!). If it is possible, I'm fairly sure they have both grown since I last saw them on Thursday.

I like that the house feels full again with them home and I haven't even minded the few spats that have broken out since they've returned (yes, I know that part won't last, but I'm enjoying the feeling while it's still present). I feel like I got a vacation without even leaving home and it has left me refreshed and ready to resume day to day life with a more positive outlook.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Preggo Update

18 weeks vs. 29 weeks

These pictures show approximately 11 weeks of preggo time gone by

and...

I only have 11 more weeks left to go!

I know this is my third and I'm fully aware of the fact that my stomach will expand even more, but I'm still finding it a little hard to believe.

Some fun 29 week facts:

I have been having a serious hankering for cupcakes. I have yet to indulge that craving, but am not sure how much longer I can hold out.

I made a lasagna last week when it was over 95 degrees outside because I couldn't imagine eating anything else for dinner but lasagna.

Our little girl's most active time of day, without a doubt, is whenever my head hits the pillow.

I am officially sporting alien-belly. You know, when the baby is moving and you can see your belly rolling all around.

I'm still walking...2 miles a day...braxton hicks contractions and all. Fun times. Fun times.

Although I've had a little more swelling over the past month, I'm still able to wear my wedding ring (and, by this time with both of my other pregnancies, I was forced to sport a bigger band size courtesy of Wal-Mart).

A lot of my "maternity" shirts are actually my old "before I lost over 60 lbs" shirts which makes me feel good (as in..."Wow! I'm almost 30 weeks preggo and am wearing clothes I wore when I wasn't preggo at all) and a little icky (as in..."seriously?! I'm almost 30 weeks preggo and am wearing these behemoth clothes again")

I actually told someone last week that I missed running. I'm still a little in shock myself that those words came out of my mouth.

I've officially entered the third trimester...which is the last trimester...which means we will be meeting our newest daughter soon! Yay!

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

When I grow up. . .

"I want to be a superhero because I want to have wings and fly like Buzz Lightyear. Or I can be a griller like Daddy."
Seriously, nothing says super-hero or BBQ grill master quite like a set of hot pink princess shades...

...and a red jingle-bell necklace.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Update on Life

We've now been at the indoor air conditioned play park for two hours and the kids are showing no sign of wanting to leave...which is a good thing because while our van is in the shop, we are unofficially stranded here without a vehicle until Ben picks us up after his work meeting. We just enjoyed a nutritious snack of popcorn, Skittles, and M&M's which seems to have energized my already energetic children even more. I'm thinking if this heat lasts, we will more than likely be back later on this week. I have contemplated a trip to the pool, but my only fear is that not even the lukewarm pool water will be able to keep the heat, sweating, and swelling at bay. So, while the heat index is in the 100's, I think we will be spending most of our time in air conditioned buildings.
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So, since it has been a while since I last blogged, I'll try to do a quick run-down on the happenings at our house.
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Let's see....
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This is week two of Allie's second and last session of swim lessons for the summer. This time she only has two other girls in her class and seems to be relishing the extra attention the teacher can give her because of the smaller class size. Today she even floated on her stomach for 20 seconds with her face in the water....a feat I once thought impossible due to the fact that she literally cannot go without speaking for 20 seconds, let alone hold her breath and float in water for that amount of time. She has also been learning how to combine her feet and arms together to actually swim, which is definitely a sight to behold.
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My well-intentioned husband has fully convinced Zach that he must "pee like a man." So, as a result, Zach has no desire to sit on the potty anymore, insists on standing, and I now have to clean the bathroom on a bi-hourly basis. I don't understand how Zach seems fully capable of aiming for Ben, but when I'm at home with him, he apparently has no problem letting it go where it will. Ugh. I will never understand the fascination with standing and peeing, but apparently to Zach it is one of the highlights of his day.
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I am well on my way to having our newest little girl's room ready. The girly pictures are hung, the name letters are painted and arranged on the wall, and all the teeny clothes are clean and folded in the drawers and closets. I'm so thankful to my friend from college (who also has two little girls of her own...and a little boy) who has loaned me a TON of girl baby clothes. We absolutely do not need anything else to clothe this newest member of our family. In fact, I will be surprised if she even wears anything twice!
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And, now the waiting begins...3 more months....12 more weeks. Yikes. When I put it that way, it still seems kind of far away. And, honestly, the heat doesn't help at all because it just makes me want Fall to be here sooner. I'm hoping the time will go by quickly...at least the 90-degree days!
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The only good thing about the heat is that it makes me much less hungry and then I don't eat as much, meaning I don't gain as much. Yes, I'm still having a bit of an issue with the whole pregnancy weight-gain, mostly because I was anticipating gaining a certain amount of weight, but my body seems to have a much different idea of how much it needs to weigh (despite daily exercise and a concerted effort to watch what goes into my mouth). So...oh well. What can I do? I guess it means the reprisal of Weight Loss Wednesday very soon after this little one's arrival.
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I think that about covers it for now. Despite my lack of reporting our life events, as you can see, not much has happened! We are enjoying our "lazy days" of summer with a passion. And, now I must figure out why my daughter is squealing at the top of her lungs and why Zach is apparently stuck in a big plastic tube.

Duluth Weekend Trip

Since it has been well over a month since we returned from our trip to Duluth...and since I am also sitting in an air conditioned indoor play park with free wi-fi while the kids run and play and scream to their heart's desire (as opposed to their running, screaming, and playing in the backyard while we all suffer experience record breaking heat and humidity which is officially making one preggo woman, in particular, a lot more swollen and a lot a little more crabby than normal) while Ben is at a meeting for work and our van is in the shop getting some hole in some type of hose repaired, I thought I would finally take the opportunity to share a long overdue update encompassing our spontaneous weekend away.
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So....since those who know me also know that I am anything but spontaneous, it goes without saying that deciding to book a hotel and pack everyone's bags literally two hours before heading on the road to Duluth absolutely does not fall into the realm of normal behavior for me. But, after seeing the weather report for the "Northwoods" and realizing that it was forecasted to be in the 80's and since we were planning on making a trip up there this summer anyways (and also because I couldn't ever recall being in Duluth when it wasn't jeans and sweatshirt weather), I called Ben at work to see if he would be up for going. He most definitely was and in record time, we were on our way!
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We made it to our hotel by about 8:00 that evening and after a SEVERE meltdown by both kids over something so trivial that I cannot even recall what it was over, Ben and I looked at each other with wide eyes and both silently wondered if we'd made a mistake. I mean, seriously, how can we expect natural spontaneity in the offspring of two people who are so the opposite of the word?
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Fortunately, a good night's sleep seemed to do the trick and everyone was excited the next morning for a full day's worth of Duluth activities. Before setting out for lunch, we decided to spend a couple hours swimming in our hotel's indoor water park. Although the water park facilities were nothing compared to those we've encountered in Wisconsin Dells, the kids still had a blast going down water slides and splashing in the pool.

After we were thoroughly pruny, we headed into downtown Duluth to scope out the train museum, buy tickets for an afternoon train excursion, and finally find some lunch. We ended up walking several blocks to a pizza place and the kids had fun pointing out all the buildings, water fountains, and city sites along the way (in between complaining about the heat, the sun in their eyes, and their legs hurting because they had to walk soooooo long....hey, I'm just sharing the whole story here).

The highlight of our weekend was definitely the train museum. I knew the kids would like the museum, but I was surprised at how much they enjoyed climbing in and out of all the trains and ultimately riding on one themselves. Please ignore all "grumpy" looks Zach seems to have in the following pictures. He is still going through the don't-take-any-pictures-of-me-and-if-you-even-point-the-camera-in-my-direction-I-will-give-you-the-ugliest-look-I-can-muster phase of childhood (which we evidently did not experience with Allie at all, but are experiencing to the fullest with Zach).

All of the trains seemed to resemble a train character from Zach's favorite show and books (Thomas the Tank Engine), so Zach had a great time running around applying the correct name to all the engines.
Allie even had a great time climbing up and down the ladders and peaking into the different engines and cars. At times like these, I am so thankful that Allie has a brother because I am fairly certain that if it wasn't for Zach, Allie would have little to no interest in trains. And, she would seriously be missing out! It's fun to see how both Allie and Zach have developed different interests because of what the other is into at the moment. Granted, Ben does become a little concerned when he comes home from work to his son wearing a princess tiara, tutu, and pink sunglasses, but I'm not concerned.
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Anyway, back to trains....
It was a pretty hot day, so we all looked a little flushed climbing in and out of the cars.

There were also some old-time wagons and cars in the museum that the kids enjoyed climbing in as well.
While Allie expressed intense boredom throughout our actual ride on the train, Zach could not have been more thrilled! Every time the train whistled, a huge grin emerged on his face. He literally could not contain his excitement. There were several cars and throughout the hour and a half ride we were able to walk freely between them all. However, we did hang out in the air conditioned car the longest. The view along Lake Superior was beautiful and there was never a shortage of things to look at (although, Allie would tell you a very different story).

Outside the train station, we were surprised to see a mural of one of Zach's other favorite book characters: Tootle the Train! We definitely had to snap a picture with this celebrity.
Along with our train museum tickets, we also had free admission to the Duluth Children's Museum and Art Museum. We stayed and looked around for a while until it was obvious that the kids were severely in need of rest. Then, we headed back to the van where less than 5 minutes on the road both kids were fast asleep. So, Ben and I took the opportunity to drive around Duluth. We enjoyed the quiet and interruption-free conversation for over an hour before deciding to stop at a restaurant for dinner.
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That evening, the scene around the hotel room before bedtime pretty much looked like this:
They were watching a "Scooby-Doo" marathon, by the way.
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The next morning we enjoyed some more time at the pool before heading home.

We definitely had a whirlwind of a weekend, but we also enjoyed a lot of fun! Although you will probably never label me a "spontaneous" person, I'm glad to have embraced spontaneity for at least one weekend--it was definitely worth it.