Annabelle Lyn: 2.75 Years

5 Dec

I’m long overdue for an update on the girls here on the ole blog, so here’s an update on Annabelle at 32 months (almost 2.75 years old). Hopefully Emma’s 4.75-year update will be up in the next few weeks as well.IMG_4800IMG_4701Size

Annabelle is wearing some 2T clothes still, but is mostly in 3T. Annabelle is about the same height that Emma was at this age, but is thinner because she eats like a bird. She wears size 7 shoes, and we are moving her up to size 5 diapers (no, she isn’t potty trained yet). We’ll find out her weight and height at her 3-year visit.AB735C72-B05D-4F4E-8228-AC031EB1A182IMG_4798Eating

Like I said, Annabelle eats like a bird. She is a much pickier eater than Emma, but she does have some favorite foods. Right now, she loves yogurt, grapes, mandarin oranges, cheese, tortillas, and bagels. She will also usually eat any kind of fruit, baby carrots with dip, bacon, eggs, fish, chicken sausage, and spoonfuls of peanut butter. But with both girls, if anything even hints at being spicy, they won’t eat it.IMG_5047IMG_5144IMG_5520IMG_5776IMG_4957Sleeping

About a month ago, we moved Annabelle back into her own room so that we could put both girls down to bed at the same time without it being a disaster. Our plan as of right now is to buy Emma a twin “big girl” bed and move Annabelle from her mattress on the floor to the toddler bed Emma has been using. Then we won’t be able to lay by Annabelle while she falls asleep (because we literally won’t fit in the bed), so hopefully that’ll help us help Annabelle fall asleep on her own. We’re probably going to keep Annabelle in her own room until Jellybean comes along and needs a room of his own.

Annabelle mostly sleeps through the night, though has an uncanny habit of waking up at 6:15 (instead of her usual 7:15). I usually lay down with her to get her back to sleep, but since Annabelle is still napping too late in the day (usually from 2-4, my own fault), I think I’m going to start letting her stay up when she wakes up that early, and move her nap to coincide with the time she naps at daycare, which is 12-2. That seems more reasonable, and will hopefully help Annabelle fall asleep faster and earlier at night (right now it takes her around 30 minutes to fall asleep around 9:30).

We do occasionally have Annabelle skip her nap, and then she zonks out immediately around 6 pm, which is nice. But overall, she still needs that nap. And she is a beast if we wake her up before she’s ready, so we really try not to do that (though if she’s still napping at 4:30, we don’t really have a choice).IMG_4766IMG_5129IMG_5596Development

Annabelle is a little chatterbox and has reached the age where to us, she still seems like a baby but then she says stuff that makes her seem like such a big girl! The amount that she comprehends, and the number of words she knows, surprises us a lot. She can count to 13. She can sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Jingle Bells on her own. She can use a scissors now (and one day, decided to practice her skills on the dress Emma was wearing. Uff da!).

She loves jumping–on beds, trampolines, couches. She can be kind of a stinker and get into things that she shouldn’t, and has been known to destroy things for fun (she entertained herself ripping up styrofoam while we decorated the Christmas tree this year). Add in Emma, and the two of them together are Trouble.IMG_5255IMG_5108 She loves baby dolls, especially her Little Baby. While at my dad’s house for Thanksgiving, she found a little basket for Little Baby, and carried her around in that with Baby’s little blanket. So. Cute. She also loves pushing strollers around, and being pushed in them.IMG_4921IMG_4814Annabelle also LOVES shopping and running errands, both the real thing and pretending. She often asks to go shopping, and if she hears that I’m going shopping without her, has a total meltdown. Luckily, she’s a pretty good shopping buddy and is fine with riding in the cart 80% of the time (especially when Emma isn’t there). Get the two of them together, though, and it’s game over. IMG_4984Annabelle doesn’t really have the attention span or muse for coloring, though she does like painting and doodling. Her new thing (that she picked up from Emma a while ago) is playing restaurant–sitting down with a pencil and paper, and asking us “What would you like today?” (though it comes out more like “Wha ya like day?”) And she gets very upset if we don’t answer her immediately. And she LOVES Playdoh.IMG_3931I feel like we still don’t quite have a grasp on the things that Annabelle is truly interested in beyond baby dolls, shopping, and music (she loves singing!), because her most favorite thing to do is whatever Emma is doing. She goes along with Emma’s ideas 80% of the time, though there is still plenty of fighting over toys and “Annabelle isn’t doing x or y like I’m telling her to!” Overall, though, these sisters really love each other, and find some very creative things to do together.IMG_5261IMG_5312IMG_5320IMG_5617IMG_5797IMG_5813Annabelle has started to be a good helper with picking up toys and putting things where they go, especially when there’s an incentive to do so (like helping mommy bake something). Often when we ask her to do something like pick up or to stop doing something like throwing pencils on the floor, she’ll say, “Oooo-kaaaay.” It’s so stinkin’ cute!

She is still a cuddlebug, which I love (but could be problematic when baby brother comes along), and a sweetie. She loves cuddling when she wakes up, especially with her favorite blanket draped over your shoulder, and if you don’t go pick her up the minute she emerges from her room, she assumes the fetal position right in the middle of the floor, waiting for you to come pick her up. IMG_5719IMG_5549In general, she just likes climbing on people, and at night while she’s “falling asleep,” she’ll balance on her head and bounce her butt in the air, which inevitably leads to her falling over sideways into either the wall or your face.

But she has a fierce side too, which comes out when Daddy is rough-housing with her or Emma makes her mad. She bites, scratches, kicks, and jumps on you. Emma likes rough-housing too, though, and my sister-in-law remarked that they wrestled like two boys when we saw them at Thanksgiving. 😉

Annabelle has started to prefer to pick out her clothes on her own and put them on without help. She has a couple of different sweatshirts that she loves and wants to wear whenever she can, and loves to bundle up in the winter by wearing a hat and gloves (pretty much the opposite of Emma in that regard).IMG_5414Annabelle still loves being carried, and often says, “Carry me.” When I put her down after a while and say “I can’t carry you anymore; you’re too heavy!”, she responds, “No, I’m little! I’m little!”

Annabelle loves watching movies and YouTube–her favorite movie right now is Curious George’s Christmas and favorite show is Peppa Pig.IMG_3955 We’ve unfortunately fallen back into the habit of watching technology right when we wake up, but it gives me a chance to drink my coffee and wake up before they demand too much from me. Annabelle often says when she wakes up and I’m still sleeping, “Mom, it’s wake up time!”IMG_4836IMG_5177IMG_5566IMG_5579IMG_5622 cropIMG_5638And that’s Annabelle at 32 months!

Pregnancy #3: 22 Weeks

21 Nov

This pregnancy is flying by! I can’t believe that I’m over halfway already.

23722368_1675810179115964_8792944856374028945_nThere’s not a whole ton more to talk about in the past 4 weeks that I didn’t address in my first bump update but we did have our anatomy ultrasound at 20 weeks and found out that…

WE’RE HAVING A BOY!

We actually had the ultrasound technician write the gender down on a piece of paper without telling us what it was, then we gave it to our neighbor, Andrea, along with a black balloon and both blue and pink paint, and she filled the balloon for us. Then we pinned the filled balloon to a blank canvas and shot it with a shotgun (a little overkill?). The paint was blue! I posted the video on Instagram if you’re interested in watching (@specialkkluthe).

Travis is very excited about having a boy, and I am too, though ever the practical/responsible one, I’m also thinking through all the clothes, blankets, etc. that we’ll have to get for a boy, since all of our stuff after having two girls is pink and ruffles. But I’m trying to look at it as being exciting and not a chore. 😉

Annabelle had no reaction to the news that Jellybean is a boy, but Emma started sobbing over how she had wanted a sister (even though whenever we asked her before finding out, she said she wanted a brother). She’s not that sad anymore (though she still refers to the baby as a “she”), and I’m sure she’s going to have a blast with a little brother. I did remind her that I grew up with a younger brother, and I dressed him in dresses, put makeup on him, played Barbies with him–just because he’s a boy, doesn’t mean he won’t do stuff like that. But he’ll also think of fun games to play with Emma that she wouldn’t have thought of. And she likes rough-housing and getting dirty, so I’m guessing they’ll get along just fine.

Name

We had a boy’s name picked out for Annabelle (since we didn’t know what gender she was until she was born) so both Travis and I had assumed that we would just use that name, since we both still like it. But we apparently can’t agree on whether the full name would be what Jellybean goes by, or if he would go by a nickname. Travis says nickname, I say full name. I feel very strongly that we should name him what we want him to be called (that was the same case with Annabelle…she is not Anna or Belle, her name is Annabelle). So the jury is still out on the name.

Movement

I started feeling Jellybean kick around in my belly around 18 weeks. At first, it was just when I was lying down or being still, but now it’s pretty much all day long. It’ll be fun when his kicks are strong and consistent enough for the girls to feel them from the outside! (We took both of them to my 20-week ultrasound, thinking they’d find it interesting, but their attention span lasted about 5 minutes. Live and learn.)

Clothes

I’m pretty much fully in maternity clothes now. I still have some pre-pregnancy shirts that fit, but most mornings, it’s just easier to put on a maternity shirt, since I know it will fit. I bought a few more maternity shirts from Target, but they’re the kind without ruching on the sides, so I can wear them even after baby comes. 😉

I’m definitely needing more maternity pants, though. I lamented this when pregnant with Emma, and it’s still an issue–you would think that finding maternity pants that fit would be easier than finding regular pants because of the whole stretchy waistband thing, but nope, it’s just as hard. I looked at the limited stores around here with no luck, which is not surprising. I do love the jeans I bought from Old Navy a few months ago, and am probably going to just buy another pair since I know they fit well.

I also really want some maternity leggings and ordered some from Blanqi, but I tried them on and even though they were super comfy, they attracted dog hair like no tomorrow. So back they go. They’re not something I would wear to work, and if I can’t wear them around the house without being covered in dog hair, they are pretty much useless.

Food & Cravings

I don’t really have that many cravings these days, though I have been loving raw veggies and dip, and spinach artichoke dip. My main challenge these days is that I’m so tired, and have been so busy (way, way too busy), and Travis has been traveling for work, so I haven’t been meal planning like usual. But after Thanksgiving, my schedule is a lot more open, and Travis is done traveling for a while, so I’m hoping to get back into the habit of actual dinners.

Exercise

This is also something that has suffered with Travis’ travel schedule. I just do not have the energy to work out and watch the kids at the same time, or get up early/stay up late to work out when they’re sleeping. And since I usually end up falling asleep with Annabelle for her nap, that time doesn’t work either. So I haven’t been working out really at all. With Travis back now, I’m hoping to start doing at least 1-2 days of Pilates, and walking on the treadmill or outside. The girls and I haven’t played outside in weeks! (yikes) We’re due.

Sleep

The last couple weeks of sleep have been less than stellar. I’m already sick of sleeping on my sides, but my belly is not really comfy anymore, and my back is only comfy for so long. But if this is the worst of my pregnancy woes, I’m still lucky.

And that’s about it for 22 weeks!

Confessions of a Deer-Hunting Widow

7 Nov

Ah, deer hunting season. How I hate thee.

I knew when I married my husband that he liked to hunt. He grew up hunting, almost his entire family hunts, it’s just their thing. But when we were dating, and then got married, Travis was at his all-time hunting low–as in, was doing the least amount of hunting in his life. (On the other hand, I was doing the most hunting of my life. One deer season. One day. HA!)

But it didn’t last long. The fall after we moved to Colorado in 2007 commenced Travis’ family’s annual week-long pilgrimage to the Rockies in search of the elusive elk. That pilgrimage remained a strong tradition until 2016, when Travis opted to hunt antelope in Wyoming instead, and then this year, opted to fish for a week in Canada instead of hunt out of state.

And that was just one season of hunting. Before we had kids, Travis hunted elk, deer, antelope, and ducks. All different seasons. All back to back during arguably the busiest time of year (fall and winter). One year, Travis shot FIVE animals: 1 elk, 2 deer, and 2 antelope. After butchering and vacuum-sealing meat for what seemed like two months straight, I told him he was never allowed to shoot that many animals again.

Then there was the time that Travis had been hunting a lot, and I jokingly (but not jokingly) lamented, “Hunting is taking over your life!” We laughed about that then, but somehow since having kids, that joke isn’t quite as funny anymore.

Because once you have kids, hunting is no longer just a hobby for one spouse. It’s a SACRIFICE for the other. (Unless both spouses like hunting, I guess, but from what I’ve seen, that’s a rarity.)

It’s taken me literally years to remember that hunting doesn’t involve just the time in the stand, or even the time at deer camp. It’s also setting stands. Brushing trails. Cleaning guns. Site-ing guns in. Assembling gear (which for the elk pilgrimage involved two pickup trucks completely bedded down with stuff, including a wall tent with wood stove). And then if the hunters are successful, retrieving the animal. Butchering meat. Grinding meat. Vacuum-sealing meat.

And one year, this process also involved Travis boiling an elk head and scraping out the brain cavity with a tiny wire in order to make a European mount of his bull rack, which we now have displayed in our living room. (He learned to have it done professionally the second time around, and that European mount is in the basement awaiting its placement.)

The hardest part about hunting for our family is that it always happens in the fall (with the exception of duck hunting). And ever since we’ve had kids, fall also happens to be the time of year when Travis’ job is the busiest, and requires the most travel. So it’s no wonder that every October and November, I find myself at my wit’s end. And actually, that’s a very mild way of describing it. Perhaps I should say, I find myself drowning?

Because that’s how it feels. Every moment, my body is consumed with a frantic panic similar to what I imagine a caged animal feels. No matter how much I dislike my circumstances, no matter how stressed out or overwhelmed I feel, I am stuck, spending what feels like endless days and nights by myself with little humans who do what I don’t want them to do, and won’t do what I do want them to. Little humans who refuse to go to bed without tantrums, or who get sick and won’t sleep, or who seemingly break out their most unruly behavior at the very moment I need them most–for my sanity’s sake–to behave. (Thank God for technology, or I would completely lose it for good.)

Then there are the annual marital fights over the H word: how much hunting costs, how much time it takes, how many seasons he should hunt, etc etc. Because Travis’ family’s “thing” is hunting, the amount of time we spend with each side of the family gets brought up defensively. Last year’s argument included my throwing a Camelbak water bottle, complete with expletive, at the wall, breaking the water bottle, and puncturing a hole in the sheetrock. (That happened after Travis said, “I really haven’t gone hunting that much.”)

After that shameful but ultimately productive incident, I was finally able to put words to my feelings and tell Travis, “I know you love hunting. And I want you to continue doing the things you love to do. And I want to be supportive of you doing them. But right now, I can’t be more supportive than simply telling you through gritted teeth that you can do them. I want to have a good attitude about all of it, but I just don’t. And I don’t have the emotional capacity to change that. Because I feel like I’m drowning. And I can’t do anything more right now than just survive.”

And that’s where I find myself again this hunting season, even though now I work two days a week (a change that was brought about by last year’s hunting season). Because Travis has traveled for work 4 out of the last 6 weeks, and is set to leave for another 5-day work trip on the last day of deer season.

But what can I do? I know for a fact that if I asked Travis not to hunt anymore this season (since he HAS already shot two does), he wouldn’t. He doesn’t blaze a hunting trail with no thought to his wife or kids. But if I do ask him not to hunt anymore, then I end up feeling like the needy, no-fun ball-and-chain who doesn’t let her husband do anything. And I honestly do want Travis to continue doing the things that he loves. So even though it’s hard, and I don’t have the attitude about it that I wish I did (because honestly, how can I?!?!), I will grit my teeth and tell Travis to go have fun while I change poopy diapers and wipe poopy butts, diffuse umpteen fights over toys, assemble meals that do not get eaten, and keep my girls from destroying my in-laws’ house.

There is no tidy wrap-up to this blog post because this is an issue that we are still working through, and I imagine will work through until the day our kids can take care of themselves, or go hunting themselves. Rather, I write this more to say that if you find yourself a hunting widow with young kids, and you’re having a hard time maintaining sanity, I understand. I’m there with you.

Pregnancy #3: First 4 Months

12 Oct

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve already seen our announcement about expecting Baby #3 (whom we’re calling Jellybean) around March 26 of 2018. If you don’t, surprise! We’re having another baby! My due date is the day before Annabelle turns 3 and two weeks before Emma turns 5, so Jellybean will also be enjoying shared birthday parties with the girls until they are old enough to plan their own.

IMG_2705

IMG_2708Finding Out

I found out I was pregnant on July 23. Travis requested to be the one to check the pee stick this time, so he could know for 5 seconds before me. I had a hunch I was pregnant before I even took the test because I was just feeling off. I had been taking birth control, but not consistently (I frequently forgot to take it on the days I worked). We knew getting pregnant was a possibility (but seriously, what are the odds?). I think deep down, we both wanted another biological child, even though we are now officially licensed for foster care and are just waiting for a call.

Spilling the Beans

The experience of our miscarriage back in January made me very cautious about telling people this time around—not because a miscarriage (if it were to happen again) is something to be hidden, but because I didn’t want to get really excited and talk with others about a pregnancy if it wasn’t going to work out (obviously nothing is a given, even after a good ultrasound, but the odds are better).

So after we had been able to hear the heartbeat at my first OB appointment around 10 weeks, we told my immediate family when we saw them for my oldest brother’s 40th birthday. I told the ladies in my Bible study around 11 weeks, when I was going to have family (and announcement) pictures taken by one of them. We also told Emma and Annabelle then (more on their reactions below).

At 12 weeks, I had an ultrasound for dating purposes (my cycles on BC were wonky because I had been so inconsistent with taking it, but I was pretty sure about the date we had conceived). The baby’s measurements were within a day of what we had thought, so my original estimated due date of March 26 was kept. We called Travis’ parents and told them the good news around 13 weeks—we wanted to tell them in person, but just couldn’t find a time when we were all together. We texted Travis’ siblings that same night. And then announced it on IG and FB the next day.

Emma & Annabelle’s Reaction

The girls are very excited about getting a new brother or sister, and regularly ask me if the baby is still in my belly (since I’m just starting to show). They also pretend that they have a baby in their bellies, especially if they just ate a lot. Both of them love little babies, and showered the foster child we had briefly with loads of affection and attention, so I know they’re going to be awesome big sisters. We’re going to bring them to my 20-week ultrasound. Annabelle might not get it, but I think Emma will be fascinated!

Pregnancy Symptoms

I’m now 16.5 weeks and so far, this pregnancy has been pretty much on par with my pregnancies with Emma and Annabelle. I didn’t have morning sickness—just more of a general icky, nauseous feeling all day. Coffee and most food sounded disgusting, and I was super tired (Every day I was like, “Can’t we just stay inside and watch a movie instead of playing outside all the time?!?!”).

The thing that has been the worst with this pregnancy is bloating and constipation. I tried prunes, fiber bars and cereal, Metamucil (yuck), stool softener, prenatal vitamins with no iron, salads, drinking more water, you name it. The only thing that worked consistently was choking down a cup of coffee right away in the morning on an empty stomach. And the bloating—at night, I look like I’m 5 months pregnant. In the morning, I’m back to “normal”. Thankfully, this isn’t so bad now that I’m farther along.

I’ve gained about 10 pounds so far. Baby is measuring at the expected size and has a strong heartbeat. We find out the gender on November 8! But Travis is convinced that we need to have the technician write it down and figure out a creative way to be surprised along with our family. So we’ll see. My initial idea is shooting either pink or blue paint balls at a target (he says we should have something that explodes). Men. 😉

Food & Cravings

Even though most food sounded gross for the first 6-8 weeks, I did have a few cravings things I was willing to eat:

  • Frozen pizza
  • Cucumbers dipped in French dressing
  • Cheesy eggs
  • Chai tea lattes
  • Bagels with cream cheese
  • French fries
  • Potato chips
  • Chicken nuggets

More recently, my cravings have been:

  • Caesar salad or salad with ranch dressing
  • Asian food
  • Soup with salty broth

Similar to my other pregnancies, I have barely any sweet tooth. Instead, all I want is salt, salt, salt. For a bedtime snack, I would much rather have a bowl of pretzels or chips over ice cream. Unfortunately, most salty things are not the healthiest. I’m trying to maintain my regular eating habits as much as I can during this pregnancy, because I know from my previous pregnancies that getting out of the habit of eating healthy and practicing moderation is REALLY hard to break later. It’s just so hard when you’re craving fast food, you’re tired, and your husband is out of town!

Exercise

I’ve been running here and there, not for any distance or speed, but just to get out and enjoy it while I can. I have noticed a few aches and pains already, so I plan to start doing Pilates or yoga more consistently. We bought a treadmill last winter, so I am planning on putting that to good use for walking when it gets too cold or icky outside.

Sleep

Sleep has been pretty normal so far. I have been sleeping on my belly still quite a bit, soaking it up before it’s over for far too long. I’ve also been enjoying near-daily naps (on the days I don’t work) and usually fall asleep in the girls’ room around 9 PM while Annabelle is rolling around, fighting sleep. I have managed to get up around 6 or 6:30 quite a few mornings, which is nice. I’m a much happier person when I get some quiet time to drink coffee and read the Bible before having to interact with anyone (besides God).

Maternity Clothes

I put off wearing maternity clothes as long as I possibly could this pregnancy, and I’m still not wearing maternity shirts (though I do have a few tanks that are technically maternity, but I love them so much that I wear them regularly even when not pregnant). I just know that by the end, I get so sick of the limited wardrobe I have to wear that I’m really trying to not dip into them until I absolutely have to. And over the past couple of years, I have accumulated quite a few shirts that are longer and looser, so they actually work fairly well in these early days of “Is she pregnant or just gaining weight?”.

I have a couple pairs of non-maternity pants that still fit, but most of my pants give me major muffin top action (and are frankly no longer comfy) so I have mostly switched over to maternity pants, just in the past week or so. I bought a couple new pairs of skinny maternity pants (dark denim and black) from Old Navy, and plan to buy 3 plain t-shirts (black, gray and olive green) that I can pair with cardigan sweaters and scarves. Even though I still have my previous maternity clothes and the seasons are the same this time as before, my style has changed over the past 5 years.

And that’s the first 4 months! Like my pregnancy with Annabelle, I plan to only do monthly updates instead of weekly ones. We’ll see if I can even get that done. 😉

Emma Grace: 4.25 Years

30 Aug

Emma was 4.25 years old on July 7 (so now she’s just a little over a month shy of being 4.5 years). Like I did with Annabelle, I forgot about/didn’t make time for an update on her birthday (April 7). This year has been kind of crazy.IMG_4305IMG_4193Size

At her 4-year well-child checkup, Emma weighed 37 lb 12 oz (72%) and was 41.5” tall (85%). She is starting to outgrow her 4T pants, though she is so thin with no butt that she can wear Annabelle’s 2T shirts and shorts if we’re in a pinch (or if Daddy isn’t paying attention to whose clothes are whose).IMG_4447IMG_4383Eating

Emma’s eating habits are pretty much the same as they were in her last update at 3.75 Years. She has started recognizing the foods that she doesn’t like, however, like pepperoni on pizza (“too spicy”) and mustard on burgers (at McDonald’s, “Mommy, the adults put mustard on my burger again. Hmph.”)IMG_5053IMG_5020IMG_3707IMG_4226Sleeping

Emma is almost officially done with naps. Most days, she just has “quiet time” in Annabelle’s old room for 20-30 minutes (which is just her playing with toys in the room by herself), and then watches iPad for another 30-45 minutes. That way, I get at least a small break to read a book or lay down. She still does nap some days, though – if she’s particularly crabby that day or I’m particularly wiped, I’ll make her lay down in my bed with me for 20 minutes. That’s usually long enough that she ends up falling asleep (with minimal fight because she’s not “taking a nap,” she’s just “lying down for a bit.”)

During the summer, we have been staying outside after dinner to enjoy the extended daylight so the girls don’t usually get to bed until between 9:30 and 10:30. It’s so hard to not burn the candle at both ends in the summer when you live in Minnesota! During the school year, we try to get the girls to bed between 8:30 and 9. Emma usually wakes up around 7:30.IMG_3451IMG_4149IMG_5108Development

Emma is finally, officially, 100%, day and night, #1 and #2 potty trained (and has been pretty much since my last update in March). Only took us about a year. She still dislikes going potty before bedtime or trips (when she doesn’t think she has to go) but she has had hardly any daytime accidents (though there was a short period of time where she was waiting too long and did have a few accidents).

Her main challenge right now is that she is so out of it when she wakes up in the middle of the night to go potty that she doesn’t fully remember what to do. She’ll stumble to the bathroom, but then just stand there and pee on the floor. Or she’ll get out of bed but not open her bedroom door, so she ends up peeing on the carpet. My favorite was a morning when we were in Michigan on vacation, she stumbled out of bed, down the hall to the room she had been sleeping in the previous night, and into the closet. Luckily, I had followed her, realized that she wasn’t totally with it, and got her to the bathroom in time.IMG_4431IMG_4374IMG_4244As far as “academic learning,” Emma can recognize almost all the letters of the alphabet and loves to spell words as we read books; she can count to 20 and recognize numbers 1-9 (for the most part); she can memorize the words to her favorite songs and sing them all by herself; and she has gotten really good at coloring within the lines and cutting shapes out with scissors.

When Emma is interested in something and asks me how it works/why it happens, we often look up an educational YouTube video about it. I think Emma is a visual learner, and the videos usually have a better explanation than I would anyway.

Emma is a born leader, and when her and Annabelle play together, Emma is almost always calling the shots. Luckily Annabelle has a very easygoing personality, especially when it comes to playing with big sister, or they would butt heads a lot. Emma just needs to work on letting other kids (and her little sister) contribute their own ideas to playing, and not needing her ideas to be the only ones.IMG_3931IMG_3955IMG_3860Emma’s favorite things to do lately have been:

  • Coloring, crafts, painting – This girl loves creating. Puffy paint and glitter are definitely favorites.IMG_4147IMG_3910
  • Getting messy – Sand, mud, water, paint, soap, food, marker, shaving cream – you name it, Emma has probably made a mess with it.IMG_4443IMG_3561
  • Playdoh – Emma is obsessed with YouTube videos about playdoh creations, and also really enjoys playing with playdoh herself.
  • Picking flowers and raspberries in our backyardIMG_4701IMG_4245
  • Checking the mailbox for mail – Emma is now tall enough that she can check for mail by herself, so she loves doing it.
  • Parking all of her riding toys down by the lower garage – Somehow, they’re only good for the ride down there, and then she’s over it.
  • Finding treasures outside, imagining them to be the ingredients of a cake or something – We got a free kitchen playset from one of Travis’ uncles. Since we already have one inside, we leave that one outside on our porch, and the girls love playing with it using real water and their “ingredients” like grass clippings, pine cones, green berries from a tree, moss, leaves, etc.
  • Barbies – Emma has really started to enjoy imaginative play the past year, and then we went over to a friend’s house who had Barbies (!). Emma fell in love, so we bought her some from the thrift store. She has really enjoyed them! She even chose a Barbie backpack for preschool.
  • Water – always and forever, this girl loves water. When we were up at Travis’ parents’ cabin for the weekend of the Fourth, Emma would play in the water until she was shivering and her teeth were chattering (because the water temp was only about 68 degrees), then she’d get changed into dry clothes, and go back in the water…in her clothes.IMG_4727IMG_4830IMG_3810IMG_3582
  • Boat rides – Emma has waffled back and forth between loving and hating boat rides. At the beginning of this year, Emma was still slightly terrified at being on a boat and made Travis drive at trolling speed when we went out, but now, she’s warmed up to the idea and loves “going fast.”IMG_4023
  • Getting “beautiful” and “fancy” – “Mommy, I need fancy hair, a necklace, earrings, and lip gloss” is what she tells me when we’re getting ready to go somewhere. She also loves putting on my makeup, though sometimes she ends up looking strange instead of beautiful because she puts dark eyeshadow on her cheeks or eyebrows. Emma also still loves skirts and dresses, and thankfully we have found a new favorite dress to replace the horribly faded and stained Striped Dress.IMG_4857IMG_4800IMG_4074IMG_4060IMG_4084IMG_3850
  • Baking – Emma loves helping in the kitchen, and one day out of the blue, she asked to make “watermelon cookies.” Not knowing what in the world she was talking about, I googled it and turns out, they are a thing! So we bought the ingredients and made them (they’re just sugar cookies dyed green with pink frosting and chocolate chips).IMG_3815And that’s Emma at almost 4.5 years!

Race Recap: 2017 Northwoods Triathlon

23 Aug

Back in January, I signed up for the Northwoods Triathlon in Nevis, MN, on August 12 this year. I had good intentions of following a training plan — I downloaded Hal Higdon’s, made some edits in an Excel spreadsheet, printed it out, and hung it up. But then life happened and I didn’t do a single workout from that plan.

Instead, I winged it. I swam, biked, and ran about once a week each, working up to peak distances of swimming 600 yards, biking 18 miles, and running 4.5 miles. I did a few brick workouts, where I’d run half a mile to a mile after biking, and one Saturday, I did a mini tri where I swam laps at the Y, biked half an hour on the stationary bike, and then ran 4.5 miles.

So even though I didn’t follow a training plan, and didn’t train a whole ton, by race day I felt like I had definitely trained enough to do the triathlon. Whether or not I would beat my 2015 time of 1:39:05 was another matter. (The differences between my times are in parentheses below with my 2017 times.)

PRE-RACE

Travis and I got up on race day around 6 AM to make it to the transition area by about 6:45. The race started at 8, and I still had to pick up my packet (but that’s the glorious thing about small races: packet pickup is a breeze!). I made a bagel with cream cheese and ate half (I ate the other half about 30 minutes before the race started), a cup of coffee (which I would later regret), and we headed out.

I easily found a spot near the Bike Out to rack my bike and set up my gear while Travis chatted with a friend from high school (Travis grew up in Nevis). After my stuff was all set up, I went to pick up my packet and get bodymarked. Once that was done, all I had left to do was use the bathroom and wait. Travis left around 7 to go pick up his parents and the girls. I used the portapotty twice and ran a few hundred feet in my flipflops for my warmup. My approach to this race was very laidback, can you tell?IMG_4989IMG_5007SWIM

I got in the water about 10 minutes before the race started. The air was about 60 degrees, and the water was about 73, so it felt pretty good! My wave was the 5th to go (pink caps). When we were on deck and waiting for the countdown, I put my face in the water and tried spitting in my goggles so that they wouldn’t fog up (which they do every single time I swim, but thankfully they didn’t this time!). Finally it was time to go!

I started out a little too fast with the people around me, so I had a hard time catching my breath for the first 150 meters or so (of 400). I was also trapped in a group of swimmers until about the first buoy, so it was hard to find my stride. And I was swimming on the inside lane (closest to the buoys) so both times around the buoys, I had to doggie paddle because all the swimmers who had been in the middle or outside took the corner sharp and cut me off. Needless to say, it wasn’t my best swim and I was relieved when it was over.

I stood up when the water was about thigh-deep and walked/jogged up the hill to the transition area.

OFFICIAL SWIM TIME: 12:05 (+1:12)

T1

Once I arrived at my stuff, I toweled off as best as I could, rinsed my feet off, and put on my socks, shoes, race belt, helmet and sunglasses.

I had set up my stuff on the wrong side of my bike so when I took my bike off the rack, I was on the right side of it, instead of the left side. So I had to get on the other side, and while doing so, it almost fell over. I was so flustered from that, that I almost mounted my bike right in the transition area instead of walking it to the Bike Out. Oy. You’d think I’d never done one of these things before.90C721D1-D8F1-4D3F-9475-0817C677AAADOFFICIAL T1 TIME: 3:15 (+0:32)

BIKE

The bike portion would’ve gone really well except that starting at Mile 5, I had to pee really bad. It was horribly uncomfortable. There were no portapotties out on the 14-mile course, so I could either hold it or hop off into the woods. I seriously contemplated going in the woods, and even now, I think that’s probably what I should’ve done, but I just feel weird about that. So in the end, I held it for the whole bike, which really slowed my speed down between miles 8 and 12. Ugh, it was brutal. I probably drank too much coffee too little time before the race. What is this, amateur hour?

Otherwise, I felt like I handled all the rolling hills decently well. My legs actually felt great (or maybe I just didn’t notice them being tired because of how bad I had to use the bathroom).

OFFICIAL BIKE TIME: 54:22 (15.7 mph) (+1:58)

T2

Immediately when I got into the transition area, I leaned my bike against the portapotties and used one. Better.

Then I racked my bike, took off my sunglasses and helmet, put on my hat, grabbed a Gu, and headed out on the run.

OFFICIAL T2 TIME: 2:24 (+1:16)

RUN

I used the same strategy during this run as I did in 2015–just settle into a comfortable pace and don’t worry about how fast or slow I’m running. So I did just that, though finding a “comfortable pace” was a little harder this time than last time. The run portion was when I could really tell that I hadn’t trained as much for this race as I have for other races.

I ate my Gu right before the water station near the turnaround, got cups of water both times through, and walked while I drank them. Otherwise, I ran the whole distance, albeit slowly. By Mile 2, my legs were really starting to feel tired, but I muscled through. Finally, the finish line was in sight! I gave high-fives to Emma and Annabelle, and crossed the finish line.

OFFICIAL RUN TIME: 35:54 (11:35/mile) (+3:56)

OFFICIAL RACE TIME: 1:47:57 (+8:52)IMG_5005So I didn’t even come close to my 2015 time, but all things considered, I think this race went as well as I could realistically expect. I knew going into it that I hadn’t trained as well as past races, so I just focused on enjoying myself and gaining the feeling of accomplishment that I had completed another sprint triathlon.

We hung around after the race for the kids’ races. Emma ran in the 3- and 4-year-old race. She got hung up behind a few kids that collided and fell over, so she didn’t win, but she had fun, which is all that matters!IMG_5006 She got a rainbow-colored ribbon for participating and a coupon for a freezee pop from the grocery store/cafe in town, but the line to redeem the coupon was super long, so we were going to buy Emma something else, but she had seen rainbow ice cream in the cafe where the line was, so we ended up leaving without anything, carrying Emma kicking and screaming. She fell asleep on the ride back to Travis’ parents’ house, so I think being tired had something to do with her meltdown.

And that’s that!

Our Trip to Michigan 2017

2 Aug

Back in June, Travis, Emma, Annabelle, and I vacationed in Holland, Michigan, with almost my whole family—my dad, 2 of 3 brothers, 2 of 3 sisters-in-law, and the 2 nephews on my side (to be joined by 2 nieces by the end of the year!). We were the first to arrive on Saturday. We flew from Brainerd to Grand Rapids (with a layover in MSP), rented a car, and drove an hour to Holland.IMG_4540IMG_0297 (Large)IMG_0298 (Large)IMG_4541The beach house we rented through Airbnb was in a small community of private owners, right next to the mouth of Lake Macatawa, and had its own private beach, which was super nice. Would definitely recommend this area!IMG_0435 (Large)IMG_0431 (Large)IMG_0317 (Large)We didn’t know it at the time, but the day we arrived was one of the nicest days we had there. The girls were so excited to be at the beach that we dropped our stuff in the house, got suits on, and headed out. It wasn’t extremely warm, especially for being at the beach, but it was warm enough to enjoy being out there, even in water that was only 68 degrees.

Later that day, my dad, and the 4 Js (Jeremy, Jen, Jensen and Jackson) arrived. Brian and Jill arrived the following night. Chris and Meg were unfortunately unable to come because of last-minute complications with selling their condo and building a new house.

Most days were a combination of hanging out in the house doing puzzles or watching movies, kids playing on the beach or in the water, chilling, drinking, playing Kubb (which Brian introduced us to), and going on some kind of outing.IMG_0319 (Large)IMG_0335 (Large)IMG_4615IMG_4631IMG_4592IMG_4562IMG_0373 (Large)IMG_0375 (Large)IMG_0437 (Large)Sunday, we had planning to go on a hike in a state forest but turned out it was only a random trail through the woods. So instead we went to the Lake Macatawa State Park, which was where the public beach was located. We ate ice cream, watched kite flying, walked out on the break water, and played on the playground. The funny thing was, it was literally just on the opposite side of the red lighthouse and mouth of Lake Macatawa as our beach house–but it took us about 30 minutes to drive there. After seeing all the people on the public beach, we were grateful for our private one. IMG_4586IMG_4573IMG_4576Monday, Jen and I went to a used book sale at the local library while Brian and my dad bought groceries. Then we visited the Windmill Island Gardens, and learned a little about Dutch culture. We took a tour of the working windmill and learned how they grind flour and cornmeal, which was really interesting. The kids rode the carousel a couple of times, we listened to an antique Amsterdam street organ, and bought some yummy Dutch treats in the gift shop.IMG_4603IMG_4642IMG_4609IMG_4602Tuesday, Annabelle got sick. 😦 Poor little girl didn’t have much of a fever, but she got a ton of mucus buildup, so she had a hard time sleeping and just wanted to cuddle all day. That evening, the four of us did a little shopping downtown while others went grocery shopping and then we all went out to eat at New Holland Brewing, where the food was delicious (and I heard the beer was too, but I am not a beer drinker).IMG_4620Wednesday, we finally had a day that wasn’t super windy so we spent most of it on the beach. Annabelle still wasn’t feeling well, but she enjoyed snuggling on the beach and listening to the white noise of the waves.IMG_4630Thursday, Annabelle was starting to feel better, but still wanted to be carried most of the time. We debated about whether we should have her out and about, but after much hemming and hawing, we decided to go for it. We went on a Saugatuck Dune Ride and a hike at Sand Dunes State Park. The dune ride was awesome. Our girls loved it, putting their arms up in the air and squealing whenever we went around a fast turn or down a steep hill. Jensen and Jackson were a little apprehensive about the ride at times though. I don’t like rollercoasters whatsoever, but this ride was tame enough for me (while still being fun for others with stronger stomachs). Our guide, Joey, was very friendly and told us some of the history of the sand dunes.IMG_0405 (Large)IMG_0409 (Large)IMG_0390 (Large)IMG_0387 (Large)IMG_0383 (Large) Afterward, we ate ice cream, then went on a short, easy hike in the state park, which ended at the beach, where Emma and Jensen proceeded to go swimming fully clothed.IMG_0411 (Large)IMG_0415 (Large)Friday, we went to the Outdoor Discovery Center, which was a great find. There was a nature center with some impressive taxidermied animals, a kid-size zipline, a bunch of walking trails, and a birds of prey center, where we saw bald eagles, hawks, owls, and more who had all been rehabilitated from an injury and could no longer survive in the wild. Oh, and we also lost Emma on the never-ending maze of trails for a good 10 minutes.IMG_4664IMG_4647 We also stopped by the fishing pond, where Jensen and Travis both caught a few fish.IMG_0426 (Large)Saturday, it was time to pack up, tidy the beach house, and head south to South Haven to see Jeremy race in the National Auto Sport Association (the J’s had driven there the night before). We got there right as Jeremy was on the track for the Qualifier, and got to see him drive by a couple of times. Then there was a break for his class/division (whatever you call it), so we got to chat with him, see their car trailer/RV rig, and eat lunch. Right after lunch, Jeremy had his big race of the day so we all made our way up to the big spectator hill. Unfortunately, Jeremy only made it around the track a couple times before his car had a major malfunction and he was forced to exit the race, and also be done for the weekend. Such is the life of a race car driver.IMG_4666We left soon afterward for the airport in Grand Rapids. Because Travis has often flown Delta for work, and we made two separate itineraries for this trip in order to use mileage points, he and Emma were TSA Pre-check and got upgraded to first class seats on the way back, while Annabelle and I were all the way back in Row 24. Honestly, it wasn’t bad at all. I just love giving him crap about it. 😉

And that was our trip! We would definitely love to go back!