Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yikes!

OKay, now that I'm "old" (had to put that in there for a couple of you, hahaha. You know I'm just kidding!) apparently I can't keep up with things! We have been super busy the last week and it's been really draining. Not only was it blazing hot, but I had tons of daycare kids each day last week, plans almost every night, plus Andy was gone each evening helping our friend with field work. So those things all added up to busy, busy, cranky and busy. Needless to say, my house was a mess and things got a little crazy. BUT, this week is going better. I have had time to think. I've had time to breathe. I've had time to clean up the house a bit. I read the entire Twilight series over the hot days and nights because it was too hot to go outside or even run around in the house. We spent a lot of time watching movies while laying still and I was reading. Very good.

Anyway, this is just a post to say that I'm still here. I have pictures and descriptions of what we've been up to but those will have to wait until tomorrow...my daycare kids are done with their snacks so I'm out of time! But I'll be back, I promise!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Today in History

1342: Bilbo Baggins returns to his home at Bag End, (Shire Reconning)
1633: Galileo Galilei forced to recant Earth orbits Sun by Pope (but on Oct 31, 1992, Vatican admits it was wrong)
1772: Slavery outlawed in England
1808: Zebulon Pike reaches his peak
1815: Napoleon abdicated his throne for the second time after his defeat at Waterloo.
1847: Doughnut created
1870: Congress creates Department of Justice
1939: Future Queen Elizabeth of England meets future husband Philip
1944: F.D.R. signs GI Bill
1970: President Nixon signs 26th amendment, voting age lowered to 18
1981: Mark David Chapman pleads guilty to killing John Lennon
1990: Florida passes a law that prohibits wearing a thong bathing suit (Amen...)

...and...

I was born! Yep, they say it's my birthday. 28 years ago today was the start of it all. My poor parents dealt with a crabby, finicky, colicky baby for quite some time. Then at age 6 months they had to put me on a diet because I was such a chunk. Eventually, I became happy, slimmed down and stopped being their source of worry and pain and instead became a perfect specimen of a daughter.

Okay, I'm done laughing now, so you can be done, too! Thanks for life, Mom and Dad!

Information found here and there.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mini Vacation '09

We took a mini vacation on Monday and Tuesday of this week. I took the days off from daycare and Andy took the days off from all his various work things. We made sure that people knew we were going so they wouldn't call and we had some great, uninterrupted family time. We were planning on camping originally, but ended up just coming home each night because of cool nighttime temps near Lake Superior and the ease of simply camping at home. So we pitched the tent in the backyard, roasted hot dogs over the campfire, and slept in the tent at home. The girls thought it was a blast and I have to admit, it was a lot easier on me packing-wise.

Monday morning we woke up bright and early from all the birds. We had a quick breakfast, then headed up to Duluth, MN. Our first stop for the day was actually about 30 miles north of Duluth. Gooseberry Falls State Park is a place that's very near and dear to my heart. As a child, my family would go there every summer at least once to do some hiking and just take in the area. This was the first time that Mikayla and Lilly were there, and only Alayna's second time, and I'm glad to say they loved it too! The only unfortunate part of Gooseberry was that because of our current drought-like conditions, the falls weren't as spectacular as they can be. But we still had a great hike and saw some beautiful sights!
Middle and Lower Falls
Andy and I were at Gooseberry in Sept 2007 after weeks of heavy rain.
Here is a comparison shot of the middle falls then, with the falls raging!
Mikayla enjoying her lunch
The rest of the fam with their lunch on the shore of the river
Hiking along the trails
Distant shot of the middle and lower falls from another angle
Upper Falls
Mikayla, Lilly & Alayna in a cave opening

From Gooseberry, we headed into Duluth. As we approached the city, we saw a ship coming in, so we went down to Canal Park to watch it come in to port. The Adam E Cornelius was coming in with a load of rock for unloading. The girls loved seeing the ship come in and revelled at the size. Lilly's favorite part was when the ship blew it's horn and the lift bridge responded.


After seeing the ship, we decided to eat an early dinner at Gramma's Restaurant, which is right in Canal Park. We had a fabulous meal and great service, as well as the privilege of seeing a ship leave port from the window near our table! Once we finished our meal, we went to tour the William A Irvin, a ship that is now docked in Duluth permanently as a floating museum. The Irvin was once the flagship of US Steel on the Great Lakes and was retired in the 1940s. It was so neat to tour the ship and see all the various cabins, dining rooms, control areas, etc. The cargo holds were probably the most amazing due to their sheer size! Unfortunately, I didn't get many pictures while the on the ship because by this point, Mikayla was becoming very tired and a bit cranky.
The engine room of the Irvin
Inside one of the crew cabins
Touring the deck. Mikayla was peeking back at me and happy!

Once we left the Irvin, we did some shopping in Superior before heading home for the night. Mikayla was asleep before we were out of Superior proper, and Lilly was asleep only a few miles out. Alayna managed to stay awake for the entire drive, but she was lagging by the time we pulled into the driveway shortly after 8 pm. All the girls (Andy and I, too!) slept really well after so much walking and fresh air.

Tuesday morning we had a yummy breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and hash browns, then headed out for a day of fishing. We borrowed Gramma and Grampa's boat and went to an area lake. The girls had so much fun! We didn't catch anything huge, or even big, but we caught almost 100 fish in the 4-5 hours we were on the lake. The girls had so much fun catching fish after fish after fish. They didn't care how big they were and that's what's so exciting. As long as you're catching fish, it's fun and keeps them interested.
Mikayla "driving" the boat
I caught the first fish of the day, but here's the first "kid" fish, caught by Lilly
One of the bass I caught
Alayna with one of her catches
Lilly with a lunker she caught!
Both the girls caught a fish at the same time, but Alayna's
was bigger and covered up Lilly's for the picture. :-(
There really are 2 fish there. (If you click on the pic and look closely...)
Mikayla got tired of fishing and coloring and took a nap
I have some video that I'll attempt to upload (Blogger doesn't always cooperate) and put in a post after this one. We had a great mini vacation and are ready to go back to the grind!

Fishing Videos

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Miss Karli

Little Miss Karli is now home from the hospital! They were all so excited to be home and in their own beds last night. We haven't seen them, as I'm fighting a cold at the moment, but we can't wait to bring them dinner some night and visit a bit.

Karli was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, which is apparently quite curable, especially in children her age. It will be a long road of treatments and appointments and extra care, but she should be just fine. Thank you all for your prayers and if you think of it, keep them coming. She'll need them for quite some time.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Please Pray for Karli

I have been incredibly blessed in my life. I have a wonderful family, an incredible friend network, and so many other blessings. We have all been blessed with safety and good health, for the most part. In my life, I have known people who had cancer, but it was always an acquaintance, a friend's relative or a relative's friend. It has never been my relative or friend.

Yesterday that changed. Karli is a precious 3 1/2 year old little girl with big eyes and curly hair. Her parents, Chris and Beth, are very good friends of ours and we do many, many things together. The guys play softball while us wives and kids watch, we get together for game nights and scrapbooking and nights on the town and Bunco. They are our close friends. They are also our relatives. Chris and Andy are cousins. So besides doing things as friends, we also see each other for holidays and birthday parties and family celebrations. To say we spend a lot of time together is a bit of an understatement.

Karli woke up with a fever yesterday and Beth brought her into the doctor. After determining the cause of the fever was a bladder infection, the doc decided to check her blood to make sure the infection hadn't gone to her kidneys as well. That's when they discovered that her white blood cells and platelets were very low. A call to Children's Hospital soon had them on their way to the Twin Cities for further testing. Last night it was confirmed that she has leukemia and today they'll continue testing to determine what type and how advanced it is.

Please pray for sweet, active, funny little Karli, her parents Chris and Beth, her older sister Kaitlin and her younger brother Brett. They need all the prayers they can get and I know it will mean the world to them. Thank you.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Where's Summer?

I love living in Wisconsin. I really do. But sometimes, I just want to kick her in the pants. Actually, it's not even Wisconsin's fault, it's more Mother Nature. Regardless, we've been feeling some pains here. Why, you ask? Because it's been cold. And it's supposed to be summer.

The last week has been highs of 55-60, dipping into the low 40s at night. Our average high for this time of year is upper 70s. See an issue here? It's ridiculous. Our furnace has even been kicking on here and there. In June. So wrong. Thankfully, they are forecasting more normal temps this coming weekend and week. I really hope so, because the family and I are planning a camping trip Sunday-Tuesday. It would not be fun to tent camp on the shores of Lake Superior in 40 degree weather. Wish us luck and we'll hopefully have tons of pictures and stories to share later next week! (and we'll also all hopefully be healthy--3 of us are fighting colds!)

*In other news, thanks for letting me know who all is out there! I know of a few other people who either don't know how to comment or maybe haven't seen the post, but do read. It just gave me a little idea of who's reading. And no need to apologize about not leaving a comment or whatever. That's fine! I was just curious!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Healthy Habits

A friend of mine recently asked me what I/we do as a family to eat and be healthy. It was kind of ironic, because another friend and I recently e-mailed about this topic as well. Now I do not claim to be a health-nut or know all the ins and outs of healthy eating and lifestyles. We all have our downfalls. I just know that what we are doing seems to be working for our family, as we're all staying active and healthy and not gaining weight. So I thought I'd put some of the things we do out there for the world to see. Maybe I'll inspire you. Maybe I won't. But if I can help one person make just one tiny, healthy change, that would be worth it.

We like our food. A lot. I tend to cook a lot of "comfort foods" that make people think of Grammas and pot lucks and hearty treats--lasagna, enchiladas, casseroles, creamy soups, etc. But I balance them out by using low or fat-free ingredients, loading up the veggies in them or serving a veggie or two on the side, and limiting the salt content. And I don't cook these things every night. I may make a "heavy" dish 2-3 times a week and the other nights are things like grilled chicken, chef salads, light pasta dishes, etc. I also still allow treats, but in moderation. I make brownies and cookies (with butter, no less!) but I limit them to one brownie a day, or 1 small cookie after each lunch and dinner. If I make a light-colored cake or cupcakes (white or yellow mix) I substitute sugar-free applesauce for the oil. Then I encourage Andy to take a big bag of treats to work to share with his co-workers, or I bring a plate to a friend's house, or whatever. If they're here, I end up eating them because I'm the one home. And I don't need all of that.

Okay, so here are some of the things that work for us:
  • I use Olive Oil instead of vegetable oil or butter when I saute veggies. Olive Oil is a healthier fat.
  • We drink 1% milk instead of whole or 2%. Sure, we could go even further and drink skim, but honestly I don't like the taste and with Andy growing up on a dairy farm, he feels like skim is the devil. Just saying.
  • I try to buy most things low or fat free. Sure, some things just don't taste the same. But often the change in taste is so minuscule and the healthy benefits so large! Whenever possible I buy low or fat free salad dressings, soups (like cream of mushroom or chicken), sour cream, cheese, etc.
  • I seldom ever make "prepared meals." I'm talking things like Hamburger Helper, Rice-a-Roni, etc (the occasional box of mac-n-cheese not included). Not only do these types of things often have serious amounts of salt, but usually you can make something very similar for the same amount of time and money, and they are often healthier and better tasting!
  • We always have fruits and veggies available for snacks and as a side for a meal. My kids LOVE notoriously non-kid foods like peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, avocado, peas, etc. My mom once gave Lilly a can of peas and a carton of cherry tomatoes for her birthday and Lilly was SOOOO excited.
  • When I buy canned veggies, I always make sure to buy the cans that are low or free of salt. With fruit, I make sure that they are canned in natural juices not syrups. But whenever possible, I buy them flash frozen or fresh. And frozen is usually the same price or even cheaper, too!
  • We seldom have soda in the house and when we do, it's for a treat. The kids in particular don't have one just for something to drink. They may get one to share as a treat while watching a movie or playing a board game. But it's always caffeine-free and often low-sugar.
  • Two drinks that are a staple in our house: milk and water. As a rule, those are the 2 drinks we encourage. Like I said above, there is the occasional soda or lemonade thrown in there as well. But the overall majority (I'm talking probably 95%) is either milk or water.
  • We have chips in the house on occasion, but in general we don't allow them as a snack. They may be a side to a meal as a treat, but you won't see any of us sit down with a bowl of chips as a snack. If you do, it's tortilla chips with salsa or guacamole, or a special treat.
  • We try to get outside every day. Sometimes it's to play on the swings and slides in the backyard, sometimes it's riding bike out front, sometimes it's just going for a walk or coloring with sidewalk chalk in the driveway. But as long as the weather is mostly dry you'll find us outside at some point in the day.
  • We all get plenty of sleep. The girls are all in bed by 8 each night during the week unless there is some circumstances that don't allow that (like a late softball game) We make sure that everyone gets enough sleep not only for our sanity, but for our health.

I hope that I'm not coming across as preachy or holier than thou. That's certainly not my intention. I know there are lots of ways that we could continue to improve our habits (and I haven't listed everything here, either) and be healthier. We also still indulge with treats and other things, but with moderation we keep things in check. As a whole, I think we are doing quite well. And if I inspired any of you to make one tiny little change, then yay!

Monday, June 8, 2009

School's Out for Summer!

(are you all reading that title and singing it in your head like I am?)

Alayna is done with school for the summer. She's excited and sad. She loves school and learning, as well as spending time with her friends, but she anxious to have time off and be outside, go camping, ride bike, etc.

Ready for her last day of 2nd grade!

Second Grade was a great year for Alayna. She did really well in her classes and started to soar with her math skills. Remember when I commented that she was done with the addition fast facts? She ended the school year on level R of subtraction facts, well beyond what was recommended for her grade level. She also has been continuing to read and comprehend above her grade level. She loves to sit and read a good book, just like her Mom. Her penmanship is still in need of some work, but she's doing well and taking her time to write neater. It's come a long way since the beginning of the year!


Thursday was her last day and we went out to celebrate! Daddy and the little girls were down in the cities helping his cousin re-shingle his house, so Alayna and I had some much-needed one on one time (that she lacks while in school and her sisters have me all the time) We went to dinner, cheered on our church softball team at their league game (3-0 record!!), spotted a few bears on the way home and watched them for awhile, played a few games at home, then snuggled and went to bed. After the daycare kids left on Friday, we headed down to the cities as well.
About to head to dinner

It was a gorgeous day, so we ate on the patio.
Alayna thought it was so neat!
One of the 2 bears we watched for about 5 mins.
They were maybe a mile from the house.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hello?

Hey, you out there! Yeah, you! Yep, the person sitting at their computer, reading this post...

Okay ladies and gents, here's the deal. I know that I get 15-30 hits each day on my blog, but I only get 1-3 comments on each post and I don't post daily. Hmmm...So I'm just curious who you all are! Don't be shy, I'm really a pretty easy person to get along with (as long as you aren't a cotton-ball loving June Bug farmer that dresses as a clown and only eats soggy food...then I don't like you. At all.)

So here's the deal--leave a comment on this post just to let me know who all is reading! If you aren't a member of blogger, you don't need an account to comment. Just comment as anonymous but leave your name. That's all. No biggie, no tracking of your e-mail or sending spam. I'm just curious who's out there. Even if I don't know you but read regularly thanks to a mutual friend's blog, let me know! I like "meeting" new people.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Weekend Update

We had a really good weekend full of some quality family time that was very-much needed. We started out with dinner and a pontoon ride with our good friends on Friday night. Dinner was simple but good, the company was great and the ride was our first time on the water this year. It was a nice evening, so a slow drive around the lake was perfect! Thanks again, guys!

Saturday morning we headed to the Twin Cities for a picnic lunch and trip to Como Zoo! Alayna's been learning about zoos and their various aspects (the animals, zookeeper responsibilities, etc) at school, so this was a great place for her at this time! The day was beautiful and while Como is little, it's a great zoo with lots of exotic animals and it's also free-will donation for admission. Can't beat that.

Mom & Baby Orangutan
I think this is a spider monkey
We all love the giraffes and this baby is too cute!
In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lions sleep...
The tiger was right by the glass, which the girls thought was awesome!
The zoo is attached to the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory, so we went in to look at all the plants and flowers, too! The girls were in awe of the exotic plants and flowers that were there. They wanted to touch and smell everything!
Lilly by some lillies
Looking at the fish in the pond
Family pic in one of the many indoor gardens
Later that night, I had the pleasure of meeting my friend Laura! We met on BabyCenter several years ago and have kept in touch via e-mail and FaceBook over the years. She was in town with some girlfriends and we all met up for supper. It was so great to finally "meet" her and she and her friends were all so wonderful. Thanks for letting me join you girls!


After a late night home on Saturday/Sunday morning, we all slept in and then spent the day working in the yard. Just when we went outside, we saw something that seemed to be falling from the sky. We went over to see what it was and this is what we found...

I have no idea what kind of moth that is, but that thing is huge. Look at it's size compared to Andy's hat (which is his nasty work hat, LOL) It was really neat but really kinda creepy, too. The body was the size of my pinkie and he was all hairy. But he was pretty. We put him on a tree branch so we wouldn't run him over with the mower, and he hung out there for the majority of the morning. When we checked after lunch, he was gone.
We ended the weekend with a BBQ. My parents, Andy's parents and sister, and his cousin all came over for dinner. We grilled steak, chicken, burgers and brats, made oven fries, and sauteed green beans with some garlic and EVOO. Yum, what a good, summery meal. Then for dessert we had brownie sundaes. What a great ending to a great weekend!