Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Beyond the Pond (Video Link)

I have so much that I want to write, so much I want to say, so many things to catch up on but I just do not have the time (or more honestly, the energy) to devote to blog updating right now.  However, I do have a few spare moments to upload videos and share them here.  I'm hoping to do this more often, and I will be sure to categorize them under "videos" if you want to search for them in the future. These will be available on youtube as unlisted videos, which means you'll need the url to the link.

This first video shows off my amazing Kindergartner!  Charlie has done so well this year in school, and while I had no expectations of him learning to read-- he has transformed from non-reader to reader over the past few months.  On April 22nd, his school hosted author/ illustrator Joseph Kuefler.  Mr. Kuefler visited for the entire day-- holding multiple presentations, meeting with each classroom, signing books, and even sharing lunch with a lucky group of kids.  (Sadly, Charlie didn't win the drawing for this opportunity) After school that day, we had a chance to talk with Mr. Kuefler before he headed back home (he lives in St. Paul, MN).  And once we were home, Charlie read and re-read and re-re-read this book.  Enjoy!

April 22, 2016

Click below to see the video!

Charlie reading "Beyond the Pond"

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Spring Break, Finally!!

Spring break has come and gone, and I know you're still eagerly anticipating dozens of adorable photos of my adorable children during our perfect adorable Easter spring break trip.  But I hated to update the blog with a spring theme when we were still in the doldrums of winter!!  However, because you five readers have been so patient (and the weather is now sunny and warm.... and truthfully because Anna is taking a rare 2 hour nap because I gave her Benadryl after she was still fighting the nap at 1:30 so now I have time to update the blog....), I'll spare you my wordy anecdotes and just load this up with pics.

Favorite Outing: The Northwoods Children's Museum

Favorite Past time: Helping in the Kitchen

Favorite Adventure: The Front Yard

Can you spy Charlie? 

Favorite Activity: Eating

Favorite Special: Dyeing Easter eggs

Favorite Game: Battleship

Favorite Bribe  Store: Grandma's Toybox

Favorite morning:  Easter

And then we played with the face swap app when we got home and died laughing because we are so dang handsome/attractive/ adorable that it's hard to handle.

Ha!  Happy Spring y'all!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Spring Break: The Departure

The week before Easter, we carved out a little time in our week to squeeze in a trip to the cottage.  We didn't have too much time, but we had just enough to enjoy a few days in the Northwoods.  Naturally, I set my expectations very low, and therefore, was delighted with the way things turned out.  And even though we hit a few bumps along the way (or snowstorms, actually), everyone held it together and had a great time.  I'll share more pics in future posts.  For now, here's the departure info:

12:00 PM  Estimated Time of Departure.

12:02 PM:  I return from Parkersburg and make a quick stop at the library to pick up the following movies:  Lincoln, Blended, Draft Day, Guilt Trip, and and Labor Day.  My hopes are that we will get to watch half of one, but the reality is that we won't even have a chance to take them out of the case. Plus, they're free from the library so they're probably all scratched up anyway.

12: 07 pm:  Mason picks up Charlie from school.  He's missing lunch and the afternoon portion of school.  Mason surprises him with Subway in the van.  He is thrilled.

12:12 pm:  My day at work has been hectic and a little heavy.  I'm trying to decompress and tell Mason about it when he kind of walks away from me mid-sentence.  Now I'm pissed and not excited to drive 8+ hours with this guy.

12:13 pm:  Mason and I argue in a passive-agressive non-speaking sort of way.  We are very grown up.

12:15 pm:  I am rushing around looking for last minute things to throw into the van when I hear screaming from the garage.  I immediately assume Charlie is throwing a tantrum about his seatbelt being too tight or his shoes being too itchy or maybe something completely unrelated.  Mason goes out to check on him and discovers that he is just shouting, "Cold Cut Combo! Cold Cut Combo! Yes! Yes! Yes!  I love Subways!! Yeah Baby!!!"

12:17 pm: We pick Anna up from daycare and sprinkle magical sleeping powder all over her.

12:18 pm:  The sleeping powder has not kicked in so we give her a pretzel stick and she's happy.

12:19 pm:  Anna has fallen asleep with the pretzel stick in one hand and her binkie in the other.  She sleeps all the way to Dubuque.  Charlie is playing his Kindle and using the headphones, thank god.

2:30 pm:  We arrive in Dubuque and stop at Jeff's house to pick up a telescope that he wants kept at the cottage.  Mason admits that he's not sure he grabbed the right telescope because it was all set up for observation.  We hope it's the right one and jam it into the back of the van even though we are packed in tight.  It's just a telescope, after all.

2:37 pm:  I am driving through Dubuque over the Mississippi River toward Wisconsin now.  Anna is awake and I'm planning on Mason entertaining her so that I can drive in peace.  He is on his phone.  "Working".  Apparently we have different ideas on the role of the passenger.

2:42 pm:  Anna is squawking so we break into the goldfish crackers and pass them back.  She's happier.  Charlie hasn't looked up from his Kindle.

3:10 pm:  Mason is playing peek-a-boo with Anna.  He pauses, smiles, and says, "only six more hours of Peek-a-boo left!"  We laugh.  Sort of.

4:15 pm:  We make it to Madison and stopped at a McDonald's to change Anna's diaper.  Mason buys a cheeseburger and fills up water bottles.  Charlie stays in the van with his Kindle.  He's a junkie and we're fueling his addiction because it makes traveling easier.

4:17 pm:  We are getting back in the van when Mason jumps in the driver's seat and I nearly kill him for doing so.  (I am wrongly assuming that he wants me to entertain Anna for the next 250 miles.) He hops out and lets me drive instead.  I am happy again.

4:20 pm: Madison traffic sucks.  There are so many cars and there is always road construction.  Since I am driving, I feel entitled to complain about the traffic.  I also feel compelled to argue with Mason about the population of Madison.  He googles it.  It turns out, he is correct. The population of Madison is under 250,000. This blows my mind.

5:00 pm:  It is raining and I'm eating Jolly Ranchers.  The temperature is 38 degrees.  Anna takes another nap.  Charlie's still absorbed with his Kindle.

5:30 pm:  The rain is turning to sleet.  The temperature is 34 degrees.  I hit a patch of slush while passing a vehicle and think we're going to die.  I start freaking out.  I am complaining about winter.

5:45 pm: The temperature is 33 degrees.  Everything is freezing and the road conditions are deteriorating.  I pull off at a rest stop so Mason can drive.  The exit ramp is completely snow covered. We pull a Chinese fire drill and Mason resumes driving.  After getting back on the interstate, he notices we're almost out of fuel.  Now I think we're going to get in an accident and run out of gas to heat our vehicle.  We are for sure dying.  At least we have our AAA Survival Kit under the seat (unless Mason took it out when he vacuumed the car last week....).

6:01 pm I am checking radar and there is a giant blue/white/purple monster blob covering the whole state of Wisconsin.  I see the words: **Winter Storm Warning**.  Crap.

6:05 pm:  I start looking at hotels near Steven's Point.  Mason is still not convinced we need to stop.  I can tell you this:  He's not winning this argument.

6:32 pm:  We stop at McDonald's in Plover.  Anna is super excited to eat again.  She whips out her binkie and tries to pull a high chair over to our booth.  We are looking all over the floor for the binkie that rolled five million miles in Mc Donald's.  Charlie is trying to open his happy meal toy that will break in about six seconds, but he's happy.

6:59 pm:  We have decided to stay put for the night.  We pull into the Country Inn & Suites in Steven's Point, WI.  The lady at the desk tells Mason that they are expected to get 8-13 inches of snow tonight.  I might mention something about how stupid it is that people live in this area.  There is a fireplace in the lobby with big cozy chairs-- these are obviously here for people without little children because people with little children know that there's no way their evening will allow for curling up by a fire in a cozy chair.

7:10 pm:  Mason brings in 90% of the things in our van.  We always overpack and this was no exception.  The kids are pretending to be bunnies, hopping back and forth in the hotel room and swinging their arms around.  They think this is awesome.  I"m wondering if Triggs delivers bottles of wine to hotel rooms....

7:30 pm:  We're all unpacked and ready to stay.  Charlie finds his swimming trunks in his suitcase and is naked before I know it.  Nobody else brought a suit so Mason must either skinny dip or go in his gym shorts.  He opts for the shorts, and all the hotel guests are grateful.

7:43 pm:  Anna and I decide to walk down the hallways.  She runs to a luggage dolly and climbs up. She points down the hall and says a word that only she understands.  I push her on the dolly to the pool to say goodnight to Daddy and Charlie.

7:44 pm:  We enter the pool area and Anna lunges out of my arms.  She sits on the deck, tugs on her onesie, and scoots toward the water. Mason and I shrug and let her swim in her diaper.  The water feels warm and I'm sad that I didn't bring my suit.  I remind myself to always pack an emergency swimsuit.

8:02 pm:  Charlie is swimming around in the shallow area and Anna keeps trying to put her face in the water and then chokes when she breathes it in.  Two ladies from an insurance company in town start talking to us about our cute kids and the weather.  They are staying the night so they can get to work tomorrow.  I tell them they are dedicated.  They chuckle and say they have a bottle of wine in their room.  I feel a twinge of jealousy.

8:30 pm:  We are all back in our hotel room and wondering how bedtime is going to go.  The lights are off and we're being quiet.  Anna is crying.

8:33 pm:  The lights are on, we're watching hockey on tv, Anna is hopping around like a bunny again.

8:50 pm:  Mason and Charlie head to the lobby to enjoy the fire and the cozy chairs and read a Magic Treehouse book.  Anna and I re-do the bedtime routine and try again.  She cries but I hang out in the bathroom with Instagram while she falls asleep.

9:40 pm:  Everyone's back in the room and pretty quiet.  Charlie is snoring softly and Anna's making little kitty sounds in her sleep.  Tomorrow's another day.  I cannot wait to see our frozen lake, smell the lodgepole pines, and feel the energy that is only found in the Northwoods.   I fall asleep giving thanks for the safety of this hotel room and the heartbeats it protects, while a beautiful winter storm roars around us.

Monday, March 21, 2016


I learned to Rollerblade in high school.  Spring of my senior year, to be exact.  I'm not sure why I never learned as a kid (maybe I couldn't put down the latest "Babysitter's Club" book or maybe I had to practice the piano, or maybe I was just too chicken shit...) but I knew I couldn't attend college in the 90's without Rollerblades.  So I headed out to Dunham's and used a friend's employee discount to purchase my sweet new wheels.  Then, I strapped them on and went searching for a place to learn-- this before "recreation trails" were found criss-crossing most towns.  I wound up at our town cemetery where smooth concrete paths and small gradual hills created the perfect place for me to practice my new hobby.

I always parked my Reliant near my grandpa's headstone and thought of him as I buckled up my blades.   While I'm still not sold on the idea of an afterlife (and wasn't back then either), I've always believed in a continued energy that extends beyond us when life ends.  I always felt my grandfather's presence during those times and as I skated around the park, I enjoyed the peace that seemed to have settled all around me.  Perhaps it was the result of the smooth and methodic sound of my wheels gliding against the pavement, or the slightly meditative state that comes from performing repetitive and comforting movements.  Or maybe that peace came from the energy of the souls laid to rest in the park.

As I glided through the cemetery paths, I often wondered about the people who had gone before me-- I studied their names and reflected on their birth and death dates.  I noted special symbols, pictures, or tidbits engraved on the headstones-- and wondered what specifically influenced their survivors to choose them.  Angels and puppies, butterflies and flowers, golf courses and even college mascots.  They all told a story, did they not?  Even now, when I visit a cemetery I find myself wondering, who were these people?  What was their story? Why did they die so young?  How did they live so long?  What happened that they died so close together?  How did they touch other lives?   Who did they leave behind?  Were they happy? Were they lonely?  And how is this world different because they were here?

Last week, we returned from the funeral of my aunt and uncle.  They died suddenly as the result of a tragic and senseless car accident. And while people are killed in auto accidents every day, a person never really believes it is going to affect them.  Rationally, I understand that my tribe is just as vulnerable to accidents as yours, but nothing prepared me for the shock of hearing this news.

In 2015, we said goodbye to my grandma Viv on Charlie's birthday.  We mourned her death, but truly celebrated her long 92 year life.  We shared stories about her life, reminisced about the wisdom and truth she brought to us, and felt grateful to have had her in our lives so long.  Later that year, my uncle died suddenly from an aggressive form of cancer.  We were shocked and stunned.  We mourned his death but couldn't quite celebrate-- as it didn't seem fair for someone to have been taken from us so quickly and without reason.  My heart broke for my cousins-- all of whom are my age-- with young children who now were missing their grandfather.  Now, with the deaths of Mary and Mike, my heart feels like it has been broken wide open again.  This time, I'm mourning for them, but more so because of the pain my cousins must be feeling.

I wish there was a way to carry their pain, to ease the weight upon their shoulders for just a few moments.  Long enough for them to play with their children, eat a nice dinner, or get a full night's sleep, without remembering the nightmare that has become reality right now.  But of course, this is not possible-- as much as we wish it could be.  So instead, I remember these people we've lost and answer those questions about the life they lived:

* Mary & Mike were amazing people, who really connected with their family, friends, and community.
* Their story is decades old-- a love story, a family story, an Iowa State Cyclones story, a community-volunteers story, a 'faith-filled' people story, a 'people you want to know' story.
* They were taken suddenly in a tragic accident
* This couple that seldom left each other's side also died side-by-side
* They touched many other lives-- probably more so than they ever even knew-- lives of their children, their grandchildren, siblings and nieces and nephews, friends, students, and community members
* They leave all these people behind, mourning their absence but remembering their presence
* This world is different because they were here.  They connected to people, they found time for others.  They truly said 'yes' to the life they were living

We all know how fragile life is, but when we are dealt cards like this, it's impossible not to think about our own mortality, the choices we're making, the life we're living, at this moment.  And as we grieve those we've lost, we discover gems of comfort by taking time to remember stories and anecdotes, and honor the legacy that they leave behind.