Archive | December, 2015

Denver Christmas Trip 2015

28 Dec

The second week of December, Travis, Annabelle and I flew out to Denver for Travis’ work Christmas party — a major perk of working for a small company! The trip was a whirlwind — we flew out Thursday morning and back Friday night. Emma stayed with Travis’ parents at our house. We would’ve preferred to not have Annabelle tag along either but she won’t take a bottle so she goes where mommy goes for now.

We left early Thursday morning, arriving in Denver by around 10:30. It was my first time flying out of the airport in Brainerd and it was so much easier than going to the Cities! We had a little snafu checking in because the plane flying us from Brainerd to Minneapolis was so small that Annabelle could only be on the one side with child oxygen masks. It took a while to reassign our seats but we were thankful that the small airport meant they knew we were there and wouldn’t leave without us.

The flights and car rental went well (got upgraded to a fully loaded Town & Country, heck yeah!). We had lunch at Chipotle with our good friend Randy and drove past our old house before checking into our hotel. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Downtown and it was the first time I had ever used valet parking. I felt so fancy! We got a corner room and one whole wall was a floor to ceiling window. It was cool but kind of trippy.
Travis had a work meeting that afternoon so Annabelle and I just hung out in our room watching TV while I did my hair and makeup and set Annabelle’s rock n play up in the coat closet. It fit perfectly! (We left the door open most of the night, just shutting it when we used the bathroom or turned on the light.)
We made a quick trip to 7-Eleven and then it was time for the Christmas party. Travis’ boss’ 15- year-old daughter watched Annabelle in our hotel room during the party. We expected to get called back early but we didn’t!
The party was just a couple blocks away at Maggiano’s on the 16th Street Mall. The food was delicious, and it was great seeing Travis’ co-workers and spouses again. Since the whole company works from home in various states, this is one of just a few times each year the whole company is together at one time. I enjoyed my baby-free night with a couple glasses of chardonnay (though they gave me a headache the next day).
The next day, Travis had work meetings pretty much all day so Annabelle and I were on our own. I met up with my good friend Cathy for breakfast at Panera and then while Annabelle napped in the car, I drove up to Boulder to see the Flatirons. They’re so amazing.

After Annabelle’s nap, I nursed her and we stopped by my favorite consignment store for kids, called Kid to Kid in Arvada. I found matching black bows for Emma and Annabelle to wear in my brother-in-law’s wedding this weekend and a sleep sack for Annabelle.

I grabbed a quick bite to eat at Good Times (similar to Culver’s but Culver’s is far superior) and ate in the car on the way to my friend D’s father’s funeral down in Lakewood. It was a very nice service, and good to see my friend. I was glad that I just happened to be out there that day.

After the funeral, Annabelle and I went back to the hotel and packed up. Once Travis was done, we loaded up our stuff and headed back to the airport.

Our flights back went well. We got a row to ourselves both times and it was nice to spread out.

By the time we landed in Brainerd, it was 10:30 pm. We stopped at our house quick to pick up the dogs and Travis’ hunting stuff (he decided that he wanted to try muzzleloading this year) and drove the hour up to his parents’ house in Nevis. By the time we carried all our stuff in and got situated, it was almost 1 am!

Undaunted, Travis got up around 6:30 to go hunting. I was up around that time with Annabelle too — a doozy! It was a nice, relaxing day overall though. During Annabelle’s morning nap, I worked on a blog post. Travis got back from hunting around 10:30 and watched Annabelle while I designed and ordered our Christmas cards (which took a few hours so Annabelle went down for her afternoon nap before I finished). We also watched the first Lord of the Rings movie.

Travis went out for the afternoon hunt around 3 and Annabelle and I just chilled at the house, playing with toys and tidying up. Once Travis was back and showered, we went out to eat at the Iron Horse in Nevis. The BBQ there is amazing. The rest of the night was spent just hanging out at the house. We were exhausted from our trip!

Sunday morning, Travis hunted a few hours (with no luck) while I got us packed up. We left around 9 to drive down to St. Cloud to pick Emma up. She had gone down to the Cities for a Christmas party with extended family with Nana and Papa Saturday night.

We ate lunch at Chipotle and then headed over to spend the afternoon with our good friends, the Lonergans, who live in St. Cloud.

After a great time catching up, it was way past naptime and Annabelle had fallen asleep in Travis’ arms, so we hit the road back up to Brainerd. Emma fell asleep in less than 5 minutes.

Fun weekend but exhausting!

Merry Christmas!

25 Dec

May you and yours have a joyous day celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


Christmas Thoughts: On Memories

22 Dec


Some of the best memories I have from my childhood are from the Christmas season.

I went to a Lutheran school through 8th grade and each year, the school put on a Christmas program. Each class spent hours rehearsing songs and a verse to recite. Finally, the big night arrived. It was exciting to see my classmates arrive in our classroom, outside the context of class, all dressed up in their Christmas outfits and dresses. We marched into the packed gym single file and each sat in the chair we had been assigned several weeks earlier. For the first time, we saw the whole program come together with lights, acting and music — and we each did our part to make it magical.

On Christmas Eve, my parents, three brothers and I ate a special dinner, the highlight of which was almost always meat fondue. We each had our two color-coded skewers and we drank “cold duck” (sparkling juice) in the wine glasses with the gold rims and berry garland that we had accumulated with copious trips to Arby’s.

After dinner, we opened presents in the living room by the Christmas tree decorated with white lights and handmade, memory-filled ornaments. A model train encircled the bottom of the tree, whirring quietly past the dimly lit ceramic houses of Dickens Village. I don’t remember the gifts, or even what I wanted, but I remember being together.

After presents, we went to the 10 o’clock candlelight service at church. The snow and cold at such a late hour made the trek brutal, but none of us ever questioned it — because it was just what we did. The hall of the Sunday school rooms was lined with winter jackets, their arms stuffed with hats and mittens, and small puddles of melting snow as the women and kids exchanged snow boots for dress shoes, and the men removed their rubbers.

Most years, at least a few of us couldn’t help dozing off during the service because of the late hour and comforting atmosphere, but once they started lighting our individual candles, row by row, in anticipation of the last song “O Holy Night”, we shrugged off our sleepiness and sat up straight. We lifted our voices with the words of the classic hymn as the glow of hundreds of candles flickered on the red brick walls and stained glass windows.

Christmas Day, we often got together with my mom’s brother and his family who lived in our town. Sometimes we went to a movie, sometimes we just hung out with us kids playing.

After that, we drove up to my grandparents’ house in Ada, Minnesota. We always arrived at night but we still stumbled out of our conversion van half-awake to sit at the kitchen table for cookies. Grandma Dee always had cookies — Captain Crunch cereal and marshmallows covered in almond bark and peanut butter, and “macaroons” (the no-bake cookies made with cocoa) were our favorites. And in the morning, oh man, we ate slices of homemade cinnamon bread and strawberry jam. There was nothing else quite like it.

Being the only girl, I was spoiled with my own bedroom while my brothers had to fight over a single couch and the floor of the living room. My room had a single twin bed and a fiber-optic flower that slowly faded from one color to another, working its way through the rainbow.

Many years, for the Christmas celebration with my dad’s parents, I put together a short Christmas program that included readings from the gospel of Luke and a handful of my favorite Christmas hymns. Together, we focused on the true meaning of Christmas before opening presents.

The rest of our stay at Grandma Dee and Grandpa Norman’s house was spent playing video games, Rook and 3-13, pool tournaments on the table they had in their basement (until they replaced it with a ping-pong table after the flood), and hide and seek with a wheeple. My grandma also had a box of old clip-on earrings that I loved to play with.
At some point, we’d head over to my mom’s parents’ house in Hendrum to spend the day with them. My cousins from Rochester were often there and the minute we arrived, we’d race out of the van and bolt for “The Fort,” a small closet located in the wall on the second flight of stairs from the main level to upstairs. You could lock it from the inside, so whoever got there first could control who entered, and who didn’t. And you could only fit about 3 of us kids in there at a time so it was an elite group.

Those of us not in The Fort amused ourselves by playing card games and spying on the people down on the main level through a hole in the upstairs bedroom floor, meant for allowing heat to travel from there up into the room.

I don’t remember opening gifts there. That’s not to say we didn’t — I’m sure some gifts were exchanged. But it was never the focus — more of an afterthought. What mattered was being together.

All of my grandparents are gone now, and have been for several years. And with me and my brothers having spouses and our own children, Christmas looks quite a bit different than it used to. But we’re still making memories together, and I hope that my girls will look back one day and have just as many wonderful memories of Christmastime as I do.

Annabelle Lyn: 8 Months

12 Dec

Little Miss Annabelle was 8 months old back on Black Friday, November 27! I failed to take 8-month pictures of her that day because we were busy with preparations for my future sister-in-law’s bridal shower. Travis’ brother Matthew is getting married New Years Day!

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Even though this post is 2 weeks late, I wrote it on time so it’s an accurate description of Annabelle at 8 months. Here’s what Annabelle was up to:


Annabelle is still wearing size 3 diapers and 9-12 month clothes.

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Annabelle is still breastfeeding about 5 times a day and occasionally once at night (usually when she’s teething). She eats 1-2 meals of solid food a day but definitely isn’t as big a fan of it as her sister was at this age — which is unfortunate since she still won’t take a bottle and hasn’t gone for the sippy cups we’ve tried.

Annabelle now has four teeth (two on the bottom and two on top). The fourth popped through a few days before Thanksgiving.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Annabelle threw up for the first (and second, and third, and fourth) time. Emma threw up too so they must have caught a bug or something. But before that, Annabelle tried her first bites of pumpkin pie, watergate salad and mashed potatoes.

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Annabelle is a decent sleeper. From about 2.5 to 5.5 months, she slept a glorious 12 hours straight at night. Then she started teething and got some sniffles, and has only slept through the night a handful times since. Usually I’m up with her just once a night (the time of night varies quite a bit) but sometimes twice. I nurse her for 20 minutes and she’s right back to sleep.

Generally speaking, she naturally sticks to a schedule more than Emma ever did (though Emma has gotten better as she’s gotten older). Annabelle usually wakes up for the day around 7 am, takes her morning nap from 9-10, catnaps in the car around noon if we’re out somewhere (which we usually are since that’s when we run errands, have ECFE, or come back from MOPS), takes her afternoon nap from 1-3 pm, and goes to bed around 7. She wakes up to nurse between 3 and 5 am. I’m pretty much a zombie in the morning but I really can’t complain.

Unfortunately, she’s still sleeping exclusively in her swing. I will admit I’ve only made a few half-hearted attempts at transitioning her. My time is running out though because once she starts crawling, she’ll have to switch.

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Speaking of crawling, Annabelle has shown no interest or effort to become mobile. She hates tummy time, and now that she can sit up without help (though still tips over every once in a while), she no longer enjoys playing with toys on her back. She prefers to either sit up (on the floor or in a high chair) to play with toys or jump in her jumperoo. She also likes being carried around to see what’s going on.

20151123_070604 (Large)She sits up in the grocery cart now too!

20151101_185907 (Large)Annabelle is a very curious little girl — she always wants to see what’s going on and grabs for stuff faster than my mommy brain can register, leading to spills or hands in food.

For example, one afternoon this past month, me, Emma and Annabelle were out to lunch with Auntie Cari (Trav’s sister). As I was trying to get Annabelle out of her carseat, Emma spilled her full water glass all over the table and me. Then when our waitress brought our food out, Annabelle pulled her full container of baby food onto the floor. We were a hot mess.

Annabelle hasn’t started saying any “words” yet but she loves to squawk, squeal and screech, and blow bubbles with her tongue. She makes the funniest noises and loves it when we make the funny noises back to her.

For Halloween this year, we went to the Pillager Fun Fest with Annabelle dressed up as Snow White (her costume from our Disney-themed family reunion this past summer) and Emma as a fairy (though the wings lasted a good 5 minutes before she wanted them off… of course). I dressed in 80s garb and Travis was a dad. (ha)

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We also made a trip down to Cabela’s in Rogers a weekend in November for Travis to buy a muzzleloader. Emma had fun seeing all the (stuffed) animals and fish. Annabelle was a trouper, as always.

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And that’s Annabelle at 8 months!

Christmas Thoughts: On What’s Important

6 Dec

One of my favorite things to do during the Christmas season is watch cheesy Christmas movies. Lifetime and the Hallmark channels are gold mines for these, but we don’t have cable. Luckily, Netflix has quite a few of these movies too – and most of them, I haven’t seen before.

Like all cheesy movies, the plot lines for each movie are pretty similar. There’s the guy or girl who has gotten sucked into living for fame, money, or success, and lost sight of what truly matters (friends, family, true love). They end up having an experience that lasts only a few days (whether it’s going to their hometown, seeing an old flame, spending time with someone they wouldn’t normally talk to) and it reminds them of all that they’ve forgotten. They have a change of heart, make things right, and the movie ends. Aw, so happy.

I think the reason why stories like that appeal to me is because at my core, what I really want is to slow down and connect in meaningful ways with those around me.

Instead, I far too often prioritize the things I can check off my to-do list or the things our society says are valuable.

The Christmas season is full of fun activities — baking cookies, mailing and receiving cards, singing in or attending concerts, buying and wrapping presents, decorating the tree and home, and viewing light displays. And there’s this notion that enjoying the season to the full means Doing Stuff.

Doing Stuff at Christmas time is fun, but not when it comes at the price of your sanity, health or relationships. How many years have I let my to-do list and grand plans of festivities set the agenda and stress me out? Too many.

So the past couple of years, I have been earnestly trying to let go of my perfect plans for the holidays — even the spiritual ones like our Jesse Tree — and instead focus on walking in step with God. This means a few things for me practically:

1) I declare that nothing is necessary.

I don’t have to bake cookies. We don’t have to put lights up outside. We don’t have to attend a holiday concert, lights show or go sledding.

If we have the time and desire to bake cookies, great. If we forget the dough has to be refrigerated after being made and then we try to speed things up by freezing it which just makes the cookies impossible to roll out for cookie cutters, we can just bake them normally.

Or if we plan on tromping out into the middle of the woods to cut down our own Christmas tree but everyone gets the flu Thanksgiving weekend so we end up buying one from Menards again, that’s ok.

When inconveniences and setbacks happen, I take them as hints from God to slow down and look around, and to remind myself, “Embrace slowing down. Embrace doing less. Embrace life as it really is.” Christmas festivities are fun, but what really matters is who you do them with.

2) I say no when I need to.

It’s hard for me to say no to fun things. Especially around the holidays. Especially when a bunch of my friends are going. I was invited to a cookie exchange this year but I know that making that many cookies will stress me out. So I declined.

I also have “said no” to social media for the months of November and December this year. I plan to do a separate post on this in January but for now, I will say that it has been so. refreshing. to just BE with my family instead of being distracted by notifications of what others have posted, or by what moments in my day are “worthy” of social media. I am most likely going to return to Facebook and Instagram in January, but my involvement will be very decreased from before.

3) I prioritize the right things.

My three most important roles in this season of life are, in order: follower of Christ, wife, mom. I am a firm believer that when I spend time with God in the morning, play with my girls instead of just moving them from babysitter to babysitter while I get stuff done and connect with my husband at night instead of getting stuff done or going straight to bed, I am a happier person. My to-do list has to include quality time with those I love, not just tasks I accomplish in a flurry of activity.

But this is real life so do I always prioritize quality time like I should? No. I get sucked into what I call “task mode.” I hate quitting a project in the middle so I stay up too late, or let the girls fend for themselves (with supervision). But I don’t beat myself up for failing; I just begin again. Everyday, every moment is a chance to do things right, to live how I really want to live.

Swimming against the tide, of both society and my natural tendencies, will require a concerted effort. But it’s worth it. Because just like those cheesy Christmas movies show, we lose out on life when we lose sight of what’s most important.