Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pumpkin Patch

Today Allie's preschool class took a trip to a local farm/pumpkin patch. The great thing about this particular field trip is that moms and siblings are welcome! Yay!
It was a beautiful 70-degree fall day and when we arrived at about 9:20, the kids were already beyond excited to check out all the animals and pumpkins. Allie vaguely remembered this particular farm from last year, and although Zach was in attendance last year as well, most of it was completely new to him.
Of all of the pumpkin patches and farms we have visited as a family, the Eveland Family Farm in Andover ranks among one of my favorites. I love that the focus is on the farm and the animals and not on all the Halloween decor or other "commercialized" type stuff that really isn't farm-like at all.
After the kids had a snack, Allie's class was first in line for the hayride. The approximately 30-minute winding, bumpy, trailer-pulled-by-a-tractor hay ride (that unfortunately did not put me into labor) was great fun for the kids (and slightly painful for mommy). We got to see the majority of the farm and surrounding woods where we also spotted a family of wild turkeys!
Mr. Eveland (the farmer...I guess that would be the correct job title for him) then proceeded to show us around the animal portion of the farm where the kids met miniature ponies, cattle, llamas, pigs, chickens, goats, swans, ducks, etc.
The culmination of the field trip came with the kids picking their very own pumpkin from the farm's pumpkin patch. While Allie was searching for the largest pumpkin in the patch, Zach was intent on finding the smallest (mostly because I informed the kids that they would have to carry their own pumpkins back to the car and Zach apparently recognized "big" to be synonymous with "heavy" and had no desire to exert any more effort in carrying a pumpkin than what was absolutely necessary).

After our morning at the farm, I thought it would be fun to treat the kids to lunch at McDonald's. They were thrilled because we are not frequent visitors of McDonald's (mainly because mommy finds other fine dining establishments such as Wendy's and Subway far superior) and they couldn't wait to get their hands on their very own Happy Meals. And, even better, while we were eating, we had a surprise encounter with....Ronald McDonald himself!!

After lunch, Allie declared that this was the best day ever and there was no way that it could get any better. Then, we hit the grocery store on our way home where the woman at the bakery gave both Allie and Zach HUGE frosted sugar cookies (complete with fall leaf sprinkles which was definitely much better than the typical mini chocolate chip cookie that is handed out) and Allie looked at me in shock and exclaimed, "IT JUST GOT BETTER!"
And, then I realized that one of the best things about being a mom is reliving the days when a pumpkin, a visit from a red-headed clown, and a grocery store sugar cookie was all it took to have one of the best days of my life.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Quick Update

We've definitely been busy getting back into our Fall schedule, leaving little time or motivation left for my blogging. Thankfully, this week we're enjoying some beautiful Fall weather (as opposed to the chilly gloom and rain that plagued us last week), so as the kids are running around the backyard, I thought I'd do my best to provide a quick update.
This past weekend my sister and brother-in-law were visiting from Wisconsin. We don't get to see them often, so it was definitely nice to spend Saturday catching up in person. It was my sister's birthday last week, so the girls went out shopping for her birthday present while the boys held down the fort at our home. The kids were way excited to have some time with Aunt Stephanie and Uncle Chris B and I think it is fair to say that Allie and Zach did their best to wear them out.
The kids began Sunday School at church this week, which Allie has been especially looking forward to for well over a month. I'm always amazed at what both kids are able to retain after a short Sunday morning class and this week was no exception. I do, however, need to come up with a more consistent way and time to work on Allie and Zach's memory verses. Allie has weekly verses and Zach has monthly verses and I know if I was more diligent about that consistent daily time, the kids would have no problem learning them. Although I always love the Fall and getting back into routine, I always find that it can be difficult to fit everything in. I'm sure it doesn't get much better the older the kids get either....
And, since I am almost toward the end of this pregnancy (so therefore, it also appears that my calendar pretty much comes to a screeching halt with the label of "Olivia's Due Date"), I've also come to realize that there are other things I've sort of dropped the ball on. Like....totally forgetting to fill out every single required form for Allie's preschool....not staying on top of my meal planning so that it seems at least a few times a week at about 4 p.m. I'm frantically trying to rustle together enough ingredients to produce a semblance of a dinner....dusting (let's just say there are certain areas that are going to have to stay dust covered until I can either convince one of the kids to maneuver their way in with a swiffer or until Olivia has vacated the premises...Ben is a great helper around the house, but he draws the line at dusting, which is totally ok with me because I draw my line at snow blowing and it seems a pretty fair trade), and the biggie...researching kindergarten options for Allie. Yep. Apparently, even though Allie does not start kindergarten for another year, it seems it is time for me to be looking into our options and I can barely wrap my mind around that fact. Not to mention, that also means I need to make sure Zach is enrolled in preschool for next year. Crazy.
So, enough focus on all the things I haven't gotten to....definitely too depressing for such a beautiful day.
Pregnancy-wise, things are going great. I mean, I'm not feeling too great, but that's pretty much to be expected at this point. I am, however, surprised at the amount of contractions I've been experiencing (which basically have proven to be more annoying than anything...disrupting sleep and sometimes painful, but nothing to be overly concerned about). According to my 2nd due date, determined after Olivia measured small at my 20-week ultrasound, I am 34 weeks along (due 11/6), but I just do not remember having such strong and long periods of contractions until closer to 36-38 weeks with Zach (with Allie, I didn't even know what a contraction was until I went into actual labor). So, it has me questioning (and hoping) that the first due date of 10/26 may be more accurate than originally thought. Oh well...despite my thoughts, just my luck, Olivia won't make her appearance until mid-November. :)
Well, seeing as it is nearing 4:00 pm, I better wrap things up. Thankfully, I actually did plan dinner for tonight, so no panic there! Tomorrow, though....well, that's an entirely different story.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

First Day of ECFE

Today was Zach's very first day of ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education--sponsored by our community's school district) class. He was incredibly excited and couldn't wait until 11:00 when it was time for his class to begin. Thankfully, we had a busy morning taking Allie to preschool, putting together a roast in the crockpot for dinner, and finishing up some other household chores before it was time to leave. And, Zach also managed to consume the biggest snack EVER (applesauce, string cheese, graham cracker, a whole banana, and 3 pieces of rolled up ham) prior to us taking his obligatory first-day-of-school pictures.
Those top two were the best ones I could get of him "smiling" (and that was after I practically begged him).

When I told him we were going to take pictures before his first day of ECFE, he insisted upon taking "grumpy" pictures. So, this is what we ended up with, for the most part (which, nowadays, the look depicted below is pretty close to the face I get whenever I ask him to do just about anything that he isn't in the "mood" to do....ahhh....the joys of an almost-3-year-old):
He informed me that this was his "meanest grump face" -
Yikes! Run, RUN for your lives before being attacked by the dinosaur-camo-clad scary preschooler!! In all sincerity, he was most proud of this photo when he got to see them all.

Anyway, Zach enjoyed his first day of class immensely, even suggesting to the teacher that we sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and "Three Little Fish, Swimming in a Dish" during circle time (two songs that we sang frequently at last year's ECFE class and I am still in shock that he remembered them because I don't ever recall him actually singing in circle time last year). He also had fun playing with play-doh and digging in the sand table that was filled with uncooked rice. They had a painting table set up, but he told me several times that he was just not "into" painting today, preferring to instead run around the classroom in pursuit of all the motor vehicles.

Although we have different teachers from last year, they were actually the same team of teachers that taught Zach and Allie's very first ECFE class two years ago. The teachers barely recognized Zach now that he is officially a little boy (and no longer that roly-poly, chubby, barely-crawling baby they remember from the last class) and seemed excited to have him back in class.

It should be a fun year in ECFE for Zach. He is already excited to go back again next week. There seems to be lots of boys around his age in the class, so I'm sure he will have a great time making new friends as well.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Apple Orchard

This past week seemed extra long. Not only were most of the days grey and cloudy, but Ben was out of town for work for a few days, leaving just the kids and I to hold down the fort here at home. Thankfully, we kept busy and the kids were actually really well-behaved (especially in the evening at bath time when I seem to feel the most worn obviously the kids are typically at their loudest and rowdiest), but we all still missed Daddy and were more than happy when he returned home.
Throughout the week, we were definitely looking forward to the weekend, not only anticipating time to spend with Daddy, but also a trip to a local apple orchard. I was a bit bummed when I watched the weather on Friday night and they were still predicting Saturday morning rain, but on our way to the orchard the grey clouds moved out, making way for the sun once again.
Although it was still quite cool (I think it barely made it to 60-degrees), with our sweatshirts and the sun shining we had a grand ole' time picking apples, petting the goats, eating caramel apples and apple cookies, drinking apple cider, and partaking in the hay ride. We met up with a few friends of ours and all the kids enjoyed playing together at the orchard and were happy to continue their shenanigans during and after lunch at our friend's home.
It was truly a perfect Fall day and a great end to our week!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First Day of Preschool

Today was Allie's first day of preschool. Since this marks the beginning of her second year of preschool, she wasn't really all that nervous or apprehensive. A few weeks ago she was a little concerned about not having the same teachers or the same friends, but by today all that concern had been replaced by sheer excitement.

Allie has officially graduated to the Blue Class which is made up of kids that are either 5 already or will be turning 5 this Fall and have not yet started kindergarten. I'm already in LOVE with her teachers who are incredibly organized and send weekly e-mails with complete lesson plans!
One of the biggest changes with preschool this year is that Allie will be eating her lunch with her class every Tuesday and Thursday. Apparently there was a little mishap and there may have been an entire glass of milk spilled at lunch today, but Allie assured me that it was only an accident and the helper was only a little upset, but that she was going to be more careful next time.
I've also been told that they have a really cool fairy book that she can't wait to read again on Thursday and her favorite part of the day was when they ate pudding and animal crackers for snack. Allie was also happy to report that another little girl had the exact same applesauce as she did for lunch and that she was the best scooter rider out of her entire class on the playground.
Zach was definitely a little out of sorts with Allie's absence, not quite remembering how to play by himself and wandering around the house a little aimlessly...I'm sure it will just take him a few weeks to adjust.
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He accompanied me to Target where I treated him to an Icee and he proceeded to talk and sing the entire time we were in the store. We came home and read some books and then I took him out for a Mommy and Zach date to Panera for lunch. Afterwards, we headed to the party store to pick out decorations for his upcoming 3-year old birthday celebration. Although I'm fairly certain he enjoyed himself, he was more than happy when I announced it was time to go and pick up Allie.
This afternoon, after preschool, Allie took her first nap in ages! She was going to spend quiet time reading books on her bed, but it seems the excitement of preschool can be wearing and when I went to check on her, she was out like a light. However, she's already looking forward to going back on Thursday!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Officially Announcing...

No, our newest daughter has not arrived yet...even though I am definitely more than ready to meet her (and the last trimester discomforts of pregnancy are definitely wearing thin!), even I recognize it is a wee early for her safe and healthy arrival. But, I decided it was time to officially announce her name.

The main reason I have been holding out on the name announcement is because I have come to the realization that even though Ben and I love her name, not everyone else does. In fact, it even took us a couple weeks to sell Allie on her name. Anyway, it seems lots of people also have opinions about it and are not afraid to share. And, seeing as I'm probably a tad bit more sensitive (ahem...and...hormonal at the time), I was not in the mood to respond to comments such as "Do you realize how popular that name is right now?" or "Oh, I knew someone with that name and I couldn't stand them!" etc, ad naseum...

But, now that all of our close friends and family know her by name and we pretty much all refer to her by her name, it seems odd to write about her and not use her name.

So, without further adieu, our newest daughter's name:

I thought I would also take this opportunity to show you around Olivia's new room. We've used the same nursery and safari theme for all three of our kids. Since they are so close in age, it hardly seems necessary to repaint and redecorate every 2 years! So, whether boy or girl I try to add some gender specific touches.

Here is the view from the door, facing to the right of the room:
Facing left, directly behind the door, is her closet....full of itty bitty pink clothes!
Here is the view of the remainder of the room from the glider:
As you can see, we are officially ready to welcome Olivia home!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I Love Weekends

It's Sunday night and I am bummed that the weekend is already coming to an end. Although we had a pretty low-key, average Saturday and Sunday, it was fun and relaxing all at the same time. Plus, I had been feeling pretty crummy on Friday (no real reason other than lots of contractions and being exhausted), so I was thankful to wake up on Saturday morning at 7:38 am (YES! The kids actually slept in!! WAHOO!) after a great night's sleep, feeling a TON better.

We lazed around on Saturday morning before deciding that we should take advantage of the picture perfect Fall-like weather by taking a windows-down ride in the truck. The kids absolutely LOVE riding in the truck because, of course, there is nothing quite as exciting as the wind whipping through your while hollering at the top of your lungs as you cruise down the interstate.

I had the great idea to head to Sonic for lunch so we could extend our enjoyment of the windows-down truck ride experience. I have many nostalgic memories of going to Sonic when I was a kid growing up in Oklahoma. I'm fairly certain it was one of my favorite places to eat out because besides being able to eat in the comfort of your own vehicle, if you ordered a cheeseburger, it would come with a frilly toothpick and a peppermint. Plus, I recall them having pretty tasty slushies that my parents were occasionally brave enough to order us.

So, anyway, the whole way to Sonic, I'm talking up all of my grande ole' memories of this establishment and how excited I am to be going there again after a twenty-some year hiatus (Sonic is sorta new to us northerners). Ben, looking at me kind of puzzled, is not quite sharing in my enthusiasm. And, when we got there and received our food, I can also say that my enthusiasm quickly waned.

After attempting to hand out cheeseburgers to the kids in the truck, while also trying to balance drinks and fries and tator tots, meeting requests for ketchup, handing out countless napkins, dealing with spilled drinks and fries, and also managing to somehow get a bite or two of my own food, it occurred to me that my parents were probably not as much in love with Sonic as I was as a kid.

But, we did still receive our peppermints (however, the frilly toothpick was absent), so that did make me feel a little better. I'm thinking, though, that in the future, if a beloved childhood restaurant does make it's sudden appearance in the northern lands (ie--Whataburger!), I may think twice before visiting for fear that my memories will not live up to the present experience.

After the Sonic disappointment (which seriously was only a disappointment to me because the kids thought it was the next best thing to the wind whipping through their hair with the truck windows rolled down), we happened across a county park along the Mississippi River. We had a great time exploring the beautiful park. See...

We ended the day with more playing outside in the backyard followed by breakfast for dinner.

Today was a pretty normal day, lunch, afternoon walk, some catching up on household chores, grilled steak for dinner. Oh, yes, and there was football. Blech. However, I always enjoy when the Packers win because it means Ben is in a particularly good mood. It's even better if the Packers win and the Vikings lose...which happened this week! That's about as excited as you will see me get over football, EVER.
Here's hoping this week goes by quickly...because I'm already anticipating next weekend!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fall, State Fair Follow-Up, and Nesting

It is hard to believe that only one week ago we were soaking up some of the last rays of summer at the outdoor pool while today we are playing in the backyard with our jeans and sweatshirts on while the kids point out the few brown and golden leaves that are already making their appearance on our lawn. I'm definitely NOT complaining, bearing in mind that my 32 week pregnant body oh-so-prefers the milder temps, I just think it is weird how quickly the weather can change at this time of year.
Not only does it force me to be much more aware of the weather forecast (so that my kids aren't dressed in tank tops and shorts when it is 60 degrees outside...or bundled up in sweaters when it is 80 degrees), but it seems to provide some additional morning confusion for the kids as well. Especially the almost-3-year-old one who really doesn't remember the last time he had to cover his bare legs and arms with clothing and subsequently finds it completely uncomfortable.
Anyway, I'm sure we still have some more warm summer-like days to come this month, but for now I am enjoying the crisp air that reminds me Fall is just around the corner. In fact, I even had Allie help me set out the Fall decorations today (yes, I do realize it is a tad bit early, but I was feelin' the Fall vibe today in addition to having the motivation needed to locate the Fall decor box and lug it up the basement steps). She was more than willing to help me find adequate locations for the few pumpkins, fall candles, and leaf garlands I seem to have accumulated over the years. To complete the experience, we did partake in eating some candy corn...of which Zach was not privy to...seeing as he spent the entire decor-arranging time playing with Thomas and his train set with not even an ounce of interest in what the women-folk were up to in the living room.
I also think it is safe to say that I've fully recovered from the State Fair. I know I didn't mention it in my previous post, but the day after the Fair, I woke up with incredibly sore hips and aching knees which I'm sure can be attributed to waltzing around the Fair all day in my favorite pair of sneakers that, upon further inspection, are pretty much worn out.
In other news, I've become a manic list maker. I am, by nature, a list-maker, but lately it has ramped up to a whole new level. I even have a list for things that I need to make lists for. Yep. It is that bad. Apparently, I have little to no motivation to get anything done on those lists, but it makes me feel better to know that I don't have to think about getting it done (or keep remembering it, so I don't forget to get it done) because it is in ink on a piece of paper somewhere. I keep waiting for my "nesting" instincts to kick in, but have come to the realization that I must be a mid-pregnancy nester. I always seem to get the most accomplished between 22-28 weeks of pregnancy and spend the last 10-12 weeks completely prepared, but also completely exhausted. Which isn't so bad...because I really have nothing left to be too stressed over.
So, I think that is all for today...I'm fairly certain I have bored you all long enough with my rambling. Plus, I think it is about time for some more candy corn...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

MN State Fair

We decided to begin the long Labor Day weekend a little early this year with a trip to the MN State Fair on Friday. Although we've gone to the MN State Fair every year since we have been married (the only exception being the year I was pregnant with Zach), we weren't quite sure we'd make it to the event this year.
Since I heard that this August had been the 3rd hottest (and most humid) on record, I was more than ok with keeping my pregnant self in the air conditioned comfort of my own home and allow thousands of other Minnesotans to sweat it out at the fair. Sure, I'd miss my must-have corn dog and mini-donuts, but I hardly thought it worthwhile to indulge my fair cravings if it also meant feeling like I would pass out at any moment due to the heat. However, when the coolest weather since May was fore casted to arrive on Friday (I don't even think the high temp broke 65...and it was cloudy and VERY windy all day long...perfect fair weather for the preggo mommy!), Ben and I were thrilled to make last minute plans for our family to attend the Great Minnesota Get-Together.
We always arrive at the fairgrounds early, anticipating that the kids are going to be crabby by early afternoon, to take full advantage of everything there is to do in the morning hours when the kids are at their best and the crowds aren't quite as large. Friday was no exception. We arrived by city bus (which was one of the highlights of the fair experience for Zach) by 8:30 and by 9:00, we had already hit the mini donut stand, took the kids on their first giant slide ride, and stopped by to get Ben his yearly tub of Sweet Martha's Cookies.
Both kids (and Ben) LOVED their very first giant slide ride. In fact, I was a little bummed that I wasn't able to participate this year. The only complaint was how cold and windy it was at the top of the giant slide.

And, just in case you are wondering, Ben did let all of us help him finish his cookies. He's pretty good at sharing.

Most of the rest of the morning was spent perusing the animal barns. The kids were the most excited this year to see all the animals.

Zach spent most of his time viewing the animals from the comfort of the wagon...
And, no trip to the fair would be complete without viewing the State's largest pig and acquiring our oink booth pig ears.
After the animals, we decided to waltz around the fairgrounds, but the mist/sprinkling rain and wind drove us to take shelter in the coliseum where we ate a delectable corn dog lunch and viewed the Western Horse Show. While Zach wasn't as thrilled about the horse show viewing, Allie was completely absorbed the entire time. We are kind of waiting for her to request her very own horse and elegant riding attire.
After the horse show, Ben and I were shocked to discover that it was well past 1:00 and the kids had not had one single melt down. In fact, there was no whining, complaining, or fighting. So, we hit up the kiddie midway for a few rides after which we stumbled upon the afternoon parade.
Then, we made our way to the large tractors and John Deere farm equipment after having stopped by the Golden Plump Chicken booth where the kids won free chicken hats. Zach was very attached to his chicken hat and refused to take it off for the remainder of the afternoon.
Although Zach was starting to display some pre-meltdown signs, we decided to test our luck and visit the kids' educational farm. Allie and Zach both had fun performing farming tasks such as feeding chickens, driving tractors, planting seeds, picking apples, and milking cows.
Can't you just see the the inevitability of a melt down at any moment in his face??
After the farm, we happened on some free samples of ice cream and when Zach started crying (and this would be the melt down we had been waiting for) because he didn't know how to eat the ice cream, we realized it was finally time to call it a day.
We loaded the kids in the wagon and walked as quickly as possible through the large afternoon crowds (stopping only for a quick snack of some Australian Battered Potatoes....a new to us fair treat this year that was super yummy....but yet, anything that is battered and deep fried and covered with nacho cheese is destined to be super yummy) and made our way to the bus.
We didn't leave until 4:00 which marks the LONGEST day we've ever been able to spend at the State Fair with the kids. And, both Ben and I agreed it was one of the best times we've had at the Fair. I'm not sure why the kids decided to exchange their whining and complaining for positive attitudes and impeccable listening, but whatever the reason, it was truly an awesome day and a great way to officially end the summer.