Saturday, August 12, 2017

Duluth summer trip

We ventured north to Duluth last weekend, and decided to just keep on driving. It was a quick getaway, one that would be a surprise to the kiddos (mostly because we didn't want to listen to "when do we leave" for the 400th time), but also because impromptu family vacations are fun!

We clued them in a couple of days prior to leaving, so they could have a say in a little planning and allow some time to get excited to head out for a weekend in Duluth. Ryan had some ideas for what he wanted to accomplish (food, drinks and a stop at the UMD store), I had purchased tickets for Lincoln to ride Thomas the Train, and the girls were open to exploring! After taking some time to think about it, Ryan and I can't recall ever having taken a trip to the Duluth area in the summer. So we had a lot of plans in mind!

After a lunch stop at Gordy's High Hat in Cloquet (one of Ryan's choices), we headed to UMD where we spent far too much money before venturing further north to our first spot of exploration: Gooseberry Falls. As we drove, Ryan and I conversed about the last time we had been there, 19 years ago!, and how we hit a deer after having decapitating the poor deer. It's about all that I can remember from that trip to the Falls. Sad, right!?

check out those tree roots!

The falls didn't disappoint this time around. They sure weren't running nearly as full as in the pictures, but that allowed for some great memories watching the kiddos wade through ankle deep water. We were also able to get over to a few areas that we may have not been able to reach had they been flowing any faster.

We took our time checking out all the nooks and crannies, hiking down and around, finding bridges and stairs. I took what felt like hundreds of pictures to the rest of the family. They were clearly over my requests for pictures: I hollered down to 3 of them to turn around and smile; without skipping a beat, Sidney headed left, Lincoln headed right, and Ryan turned around to smile :) Hilariously perfect shot!

Eventually we climbed back into the truck and headed even further north! We looked at the map and realized we were only 7 miles from Split Rock Lighthouse. It was becoming too late into the day to actually tour the lighthouse, but that wasn't what we wanted to do anyway. We pulled off at a Lookout Point and headed down the path in search of Lake Superior, with hopes of finding the perfect location to view the lighthouse. After a 10 minute hike, we failed to find what we were looking for and opted to travel further north. Eventually, we found the right location, and headed out on a short hike. We passed by a sweet gentleman who pointed us in the exact direction we were hoping for: Split Rock Lighthouse. 

Turns out, this ended up being a favorite part of the trip for all of us. Unplanned, adventurous and beautiful. We were all in awe of the beauty in front of us. 
I couldn't help but think of my dad as we were joined by two men who were flying a pretty decked out drone all the way to the lighthouse and back. Lincoln was in love with watching their "copter". 

And then, it was time we headed back to Duluth's very own Canal Park to locate some late dinner. Thankfully I had a nice bag of road trip snacks packed for us to enjoy as we made our way back. Despite the late hour (it was nearly 7pm), we still had a 30 minute wait for our table. The kids took this moment to enjoy Lake Superior from Canal Park and attempted their hand at skipping rocks while Ryan enjoyed a beer from a local brewery. Win for everyone :)

After dinner we finally found our hotel and it was just a quick sleep before we were back in the city center for day two! The whole reason we decided on Duluth for our weekend getaway was because Thomas the Train was going to be at the Depot and we just knew Lincoln would love it. He picked me as his date for the day and we enjoyed some wonderful one on one time as he leaped around from activity to activity, train table to toys and finally heard the train whistle signifying our turn for the train ride.

While he and I had some much needed preschool fun, the girls and Ryan took a tour at Glensheen Mansion. They were so happy to have gone and truly enjoyed learning/seeing all the things the Mansion has to offer.

Another stop in Canal Park for yet more food, more exploring and we were ready to pack up and head home. We made a quick pit stop at another brewery for Ryan's sake before embarking on what would be a very  long (construction and traffic filled) drive back home: 4 hours long! As we drove, Ryan reminded me about a conversation we had not terribly long ago. We commented that there is so much to see in our very own state and we often think we need to get on an airplane to experience a vacation. We continue to learn that this is really not the case and are getting excited to plan another more-local, weekend getaway! Here's to more family time :)

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

I love you too!

Nearly every night, I put Lincoln to bed. It's just our thing. And nearly every night, we have the same back and forth banter. Until tonight. 

A typical bedtime routine lasts 20+ minutes; some call me lucky, others say it's 18  minutes too long. Nonetheless, at the end of it all, when he's snuggled into his bed, I hold his hand for a few seconds and he tells me to go to bed and the same conversation happens. Every. Single. Night.
Lincoln: "go up there sleep"
Me: "after I do the laundry" (because who am I kidding, while I could sleep at 8:30, I shouldn't!)
Lincoln: "go up there sleep"
Me: "after I do the laundry"
(why we repeat this, I don't know, but we do. every. single. night)
I then have to give his 3 year old hand two tiny squeezes before letting go and it continues....
Me: "ok, go to sleep. I love you"
Lincoln: "NO!, I love YOU!"
Me: "ok"
Lincoln: "WHAT?!"
Me: "okkkaaayyy".

Every. Darn. Night! seriously, for at least the last 12 months, we have exchanged these words. Until tonight, when he had a smirk across his face while I said "I love you!" and he replied "wait....I love you too!".

As much as I loved his response (finally we can love each other!), I'm going to miss this cute banter :) Love my little boy!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Camp week

For many years now, Regan has embarked on a week of camp songs, s'mores, lake swimming and making new friendships (ok, by now she is also enjoying the old friendships too!). This year, she convinced Sidney to join her and let's just say, those two had more fun in that 1 week doing all things camp related. This isn't a "sports practice" type camp. Nope, this is the true deal. 
They even spend a hot summer night in a tent!! 

Although apprehensive at first, knowing not one other kid who was going to camp, Sidney cannot wait to return! I am so proud of her (and thankful for Regan's brave lead) as she took the leap and signed up for the full camp experience. She made some great friends and had the time of her life. 

So proud of our girls, and secretly super happy that they get their "sleeping in a tent" fix so that I don't have to climb into one for a restless night! 

Summer fun: family style

I'm only moderately embarrassed by the number of pictures on my iPhone. But what's worse, is that I am keeping all of these great moments locked up on my phone! Life has just been so full for us that I'm having a hard time finding a quiet moment to share our memories and photos. But here we go....

A few weeks back, I took a week off from work to spend gallivanting around this wonderful metropolis, having a grand time with the kiddos.We saw some things new, experienced some things old but most importantly, made memories to last a lifetime. I love making the most of our days! 

We spent some time on the renovated Old Cedar Avenue bridge, a place that only Lincoln and I had visited last fall during the grand opening. Turns out, it makes a great location for some great pictures. 

And because it feels a bit like a hidden gem, it's a nice open spot for Regan to race along on her hoover board. Talk about perfect location! 

I get so happy when my kiddos oblige and let me take photo after photo without complaining (too much). 

I was blessed with a visit from my BFF and her adorable kiddos, sadly this was the only photo I took! I'm going to say we were simply too wrapped up in conversation to think about taking photos. 

The kids ask every summer if we can rent bikes at Minihaha Falls. We adore the falls in any season, but in summer they rent out bikes for a whole family. Let's just say Regan and I got worked that morning as we pedaled around the falls :) 

We had some time before the rental place opened so we hiked down to the bottom of the falls and around one of my most favorite places in the middle of the city. 

We're finally at a point in life where I don't have to carry a small (or big!) child up those stairs. I'm both happy and sad about that fact....

It was H.O.T. that morning and we got a workout! But we got many laughs as well! Lincoln refused to sit up front with Sidney, thinking he could instead "drive". Thankfully Regan's steering wheel didn't actually control anything; but when he hopped on her lap to "drive", it rendered her virtually useless to pedal. Yea that didn't last very long as I tried to move that thing on my own. I may have also driven us into a few tree branches which created belly laughs for all of us. Oh, and Sidney is a little long to be sitting up front and we had to enlist the help of some passer-bys to help free her from her perch! 

I think I've mentioned before that we used to take the girls to Como Park/Zoo several times every year. And by the time Lincoln came along, they were over the excitement of that place and it often feels like I'm dragging them along. However, Como opens up their ride/amusement park in the summer and our kids still enjoy going on rides (Ryan included  though he had to work). I'm so happy the girls take a break from the sole roller coaster for a few kiddie rides with their little bro. 

Helps that we added a few friends to the mix at Como. Each girl had a buddy join us and it meant I had an adult to chat the day away! 

And it worked out well that everyone wanted to take a ride break and walk around the zoo, checking out all the lazy animals, many of who were taking their afternoon nap. Boo :( 

Of course, there was plenty of time spent swimming in the backyard, on one of (what feels like) 100 inflatables. Seriously, we are busting at the seams with inflatable toys around here! Our pool shed is filled to the max and they keep wanting to add more! 

Summer is never complete without a trip to Wild Rumpus bookstore. Even if we don't purchase anything, the experience alone is one to write about. It reminds me of the family-owned book store in the movie "You've Got Mail'....
only better. 
Because Wild Rumpus has animals. Cats, tarantulas, chickens, all roaming free around the place! Yes, it's incredible!
And this picture below is in the bathroom mirror. When the lights are off, it glows a real fish tank. Turn the lights on, and you're staring at your reflection in the mirror. 
The kids (and adults!) just love it! 

Lincoln's balance bike abilities have soared this summer. He's so good and really fun to watch. Toss in a little commentary from me: "not so fast!", "be careful!", "watch out!" and you've got yourself some entertainment too. (Click HERE for a short video). He brought the bike around the nearby lake when we went for a walk, errr, I ended up running along side him. He's that good!

 I took this photo of Regan because I have the same photo of her as a little girl. And I just can't believe how grown up she is already. 

7 years ago did that happen?!

We had an incredible 10 days together; memories to last a lifetime. These 3 are our entire world and I'm so happy to find new adventures with them!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

leaving a legacy

As I spend time reflecting on the last year with my dad, I can't help but come back to a few key themes. It seems that he may have had the foresight that his life was ending, and he spent the last 12 months ensuring that the legacy he left behind, would not only leave an imprint on me, but give me reminders on how to successfully parent our 3 children. It's as though he knew his days were numbered, though truly no one did, and let go of all the petty problems, and focused on what mattered most.

I can't begin to count the number of times he would send a message of true appreciation. Whether it be a 'thank you' for a gift, or a message to tell me how much he loved seeing us over a holiday, though possibly for just a few short hours. He knew the effort that we took to ensure we spent time with all sides of the family, and was sincerely appreciative. He didn't focus on what he didn't receive, but rather, was completely thankful for what he did, even if it was only a few hours. The first time I saw one of those text messages from him, Ryan and I both had a little bit of a blank stare. But they became more frequent and I sensed he simply wanted to share his gratitude. And looking back now, it meant the world to me that he shared those feelings with us.

I think every child grows up hoping to make their parents proud. I know I did. Throughout my upbringing, I got good grades, I hung out with the nice crowd, and I didn't get into (much) trouble. Sure my parents were proud of me. But over the last couple of years, dad really had a much more purposeful way of expressing this, particularly to me, with his words. He'd hear me talk about work, or watch me busily manage 3 kids and cook a meal (which sometimes feels like I'm standing on my head while juggling) and would comment "I'm proud of you". Just like that, he'd give me a simple reminder that what I was doing meant something, and he was proud to watch it all unfold.

Let me preface this by saying we weren't the super affectionate family that you see in Hallmark cards. But over the last year, there was a feeling of deep caring and love. A true love for not only his own (now adult) kids, but for his grand-kids as well. He loved spending time with them and seeing them grow.

Oh let's be real, dad was always one to try to get a laugh out of people. And with the advancements in technology, his methods simply changed. Instead of being face to face and telling a joke (and he had many of them...some far more inappropriate than others!), he LOVED to send the .gif via text messages to all of us. He knew some would get more of a laugh than others but we all know he had his favorite ones. And then there was his beloved YouTube videos that would make him get up and dance....or just sit in the recliner and dance! He sure was happy :)

At the end of the day, when I think back to the last year, I take comfort in knowing how grateful he was to have his family, how proud he was to be a part of it, how much he loved us all and in doing all of that, how happy it made him feel.
Miss him daily, think of him hourly. Love you dad. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Three year olds.

Three and a half. 
It's a tough age. 
Sometimes, Lincoln reminds me of this blurb I recently read: "...They behave like the drunk guy at the party: spilling shit everywhere, yelling belligerent nonsense at everyone in sight, and then passing out in the middle of the floor."
Yep, that about sums up Lincoln. 

But then, each  morning, I wake up as he wraps his arm around my neck and exclaims "I jus wuv you mommy". And my heart instantly melts. And all of those awful behaviors from the day prior are washed away. It gets better, after I tell him how much I love him too,  he then asks me "will you be my bes fweind?". Oh my goodness. I can't even stand it! I love this little boy so much! 

I do remember the girls at this stage, Sidney in particular, Regan was never much of a snuggler. But Sidney would give the best hugs on the planet! Somehow she lost that trait and now hers sadly match her older sisters most days. Lincoln still asks me to sit by him on the couch, "cwoser!", and will lay his head on my shoulder or hold my hand as we watch a show together. Yes, I'd be more productive if I were doing laundry or cleaning the bathroom, but I abide by his requests and take a seat next to my "bes fweind", because I know this stage won't last forever. And I sure love it (most of the time!)

Sunday, July 09, 2017

State softball 2017

As we hang up the softball cleats (sort of) for a few weeks before fall ball starts, let's take a peak at this weekend's amazing state experience. Both girls entered their tournaments with their heads held high, ready to play hard. Unfortunately, they played 40 minutes apart from each other, which meant a lot of back and forth or missed games as we tried our darndest to make it to as many of the games as possible. 

Lincoln spent his 12 hours on Saturday and another 6 hours on Sunday playing catch with me, drinking Gatorade, making new friends and playing with his cars.
Bless his heart for hanging in there with me (Ryan helps coach Sidney so it's just me and my buddy; thankfully toss in a little Grandma Jan for help!). Sunday as I packed up after Sidney's last game to finally head home for good, he joyfully asked "are we go back to Regan's ball game?"...seemingly ready for another round! 

Regan's team worked hard all day on Saturday, winning game after game. She played catcher and third for most of the games; they were short on players but thankfully we didn't have any injuries. 

I adore how these girls bond together each season. We happen to play for an association who places girls on teams not by school, but rather by another method. Which means, we get to make a lot of new friends each year. For example, Regan doesn't go to school with any of these girls in this photo but you wouldn't know they just met each other a few months ago! 

After a couple of losses on Sunday, they walked away with 3rd place! Regan made me immensely proud when she excitedly told me just how proud she was of her team. This sport is so much a team effort and she gets that. Her and another girl were able to get an opposing girl out during a 'hot-box' between home and third base; the excitement in the face of the entire team was picture worthy! They were so proud! 
I love how hard they play and how much they cheer each other on!

Following Regan's 3rd place, we raced down to watch Sidney also play for the third place win. 8U is run a bit differently so the winner of Sidney's game would earn 3rd place. We drove as fast as we could through the terribly-timed Minneapolis construction and made it just as the game began. Sidney had an incredible  tournament and I was so happy to be able to catch a few glimpses each day. That girl ripped more doubles than I can count! Those batting cages sure paid off (even though she will disagree after taking a wild batting cage pitch to the thigh recently). 

Her tiny 8U team stood tall and proud after pulling in 3rd place! These girls are a very young team and many girls are still learning the fundamentals of the game. Only a few are actually old enough to be moving up to 10U in the fall (Sidney being one of them). 

Sidney and her idol-Lexi (an older sister of a teammate); she plays for the 12A team who are super fun to watch because they win almost every game! 
And Sidney adores her like none other. 

Grandma Jan couldn't get enough ball on Saturday, and although certainly didn't plan on coming to all the games Sunday, couldn't pull herself away and found herself right back at all of the fields again. 
(I know she loves it just as much as I do; we had one of Regan's game that went into International Rules and was so intense we couldn't even sit down!).

Sidney and Coach Daddy, errr, I mean Coach Ryan :) He put on his patience hat 4 days/week with this team as he helped them all season long. 

These two are my most favorite ball players to watch. I love that they have so much fun on and off the field!
---and giggled like mad as I tried to take a decent picture of them---
Here's to another super fun softball season!