Wednesday, October 30, 2013

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Nature Walk

A couple of weeks ago the girls and I made a trip down to the Dodge Nature Center.  I tracked our walk on my phone, and both girls managed a mile and a half walking!  It was great leaving the stroller behind to explore.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Twosday Four

Fall Nature Walk Spots
  1. Dodge Nature Center
  2. North Valley Park in Inver Grove Heights

Fall Crafts Completed

  1. Candle Vase Project (Inspired by Katie)
  2. Leaf Wreath (Inspired by this pin)

No Sew Halloween Costumes Made Last Week

  1. Lion
  2. Bad Witch (Miss A wants to be very clear, she is not a good witch, she is a bad witch)
Parties Attended Last Saturday

  1. Halloween Party hosted by the C family.  The little ones ran around, played Halloween bingo, ate pizza went on a Trick or Treat Trail, collecting lots of candy.
  2. Masquerade Ball to celebrate our friends' 10th anniversary.  Nana and Papa were nice enough to join us for the Halloween Party, then take the kids home so E and I could go to the grown up party.  We changed in to fancy clothes, put on our masks and joined friends for drinks and dancing.

Favorite Songs We Danced To 
  1. What Does the Fox Say?  What can I say... I teach middle school.  Also, have you seen this funny shirt to go with the song?
  2. Don't Stop Believin' because really, who doesn't like a little Journey?

Other Fun Weekend Activities

  1. Picking out our pumpkins.
  2. Shopping trip to Ikea with my mom.

Ways I'm Trying to Keep Stress in Check

  1. Getting outside.  I'm trying to keep running even though the weather got a lot cooler last week.  On days I can't run, I'm trying to get outside with the girls, even if only for 10 minutes.
  2. Get my freggies.  My Ninja Ultima Blender has been SO helpful for this.  I've been taking a frozen green smoothie to work every day to have as a morning snack.  More to come on my Ninja soon!

Ways I Treated Myself Last Week

  1. McDonald's for lunch.  I know this seems to go against the last thing I mentioned, but I worked at McDonald's through high school, and it's serious comfort food.  One of my coworkers was having a rough day, and shares my fondness for McDonald's, so I made a quick trip during my prep to help us through the afternoon.
  2. Met a friend for coffee at Parka.  I hadn't seen this friend in a couple of months, so it was really nice to meet up and catch up.  It was also nice to sit and relax without my girls (I love them, but the break was good too).  Plus we got to check out Forage Modern Workshop, which was really cool.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sunday Run

I'm writing this Sunday night, at the end of a 4 day weekend.  I loved having 2 extra days off of work this week.  It really was great.  But even though I technically had 4 days off, I brought home a stack of papers to grade and new materials to read, I had 4 photo sessions (including a group of 16) and we had family in town.  So the 4 days were still full.  Yes, I got time to relax, but I also worked a lot.

So this evening, while E was headed out with the girls for a quick trip, I got ready to go for a run.  This was my first run in a week, so I was kind of anxious to get out, even though it was cold and wet.  As I ran a frequent 2 mile route, I was thinking about running.  About how, over the past year and half, I've made running a part of my routine.  How it has been great to help me get fit after having Little J, relieve stress during the school year and get my days off to a good start in the summer.  How, 2 years ago, there's no way you would have me outside in this weather, much less running.

My phone died as I was getting close to the house, but it wasn't a big deal because I was already over the 2 miles I had hoped to fit in.  My plan was to go home and start dinner so it would be ready when E and the girls got home.  But, as I got to the house, I found that the door I thought I had left unlocked was actually locked and the lock box we normally keep outside with an extra key was in the kitchen.  I was stuck.  No phone, no key in the cold and rain.

I could have gotten really cranky.  I could have let this problem add to the stress I was already feeling about Monday morning.  Instead, I made one healthy choice (thanks, Heather).  I knocked on the neighbor's door and borrowed their phone to call E and left a quick message letting him know what happened.  Then I headed back out to run.  I didn't run far, just a little over a mile (my best guess), but it was making a good choice.  A good choice for my body, and a good choice for my mind.  When I got home again, I wasn't cranky.  I was refreshed, and ready to tackle the rest of my Sunday night to do list.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Snapshot Two

I know I've mentioned it before, but Miss A has thought she's too old for naps since before she was two.  That's not to say she doesn't occasionally nap, it's just not a regular part of her day.  So I have a fondness for taking pictures of her while she sleeps.  Part because it doesn't happen very often, part because she tends to fall asleep in weird positions.  Like here, asleep on the couch after watching me play in the student-staff volleyball game at school.  She was awake and chatting on our way in to the house, but I only got one shoe off before crashing.

Monday, October 21, 2013

You Rock! Treats

I love Pinterest.  For years I was reading blogs and finding so many cool ideas, but didn’t have a great way to save those ideas for later use.  So Pinterest was a pretty perfect fit for me.  I love scrolling through beautiful photos with recipes, projects, decorating ideas, etc.  I have many, many boards with many, many ideas.  It’s a happy place for me.

I know for some people Pinterest can get a little overwhelming.  There are some super rock stars out there who create AMAZING recipes and projects and have decorated gorgeous homes.  It can feel like too much.

My goal is not to compete with the pins I see.  Instead I try to take the awesome ideas I pin and use them as inspiration for my own projects.  I’d rather do something than not try just because it won’t be perfect.

I’ve seen a lot of really cute printable tags to go along with candy. Like this.  I’m not a designer, so pretty printables are not something I’m going to do.  What I can do is use paper and ribbon to make handwritten tags to share a fun treat with some of my rock star co-workers in the middle of a long conference week.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Little Girls on the Farm

I'm not really a country girl.  Though I spend much of my life in a town of less than 1,000 people then moved to a college way out on the prairie, I am much more of a city girl.  I'm happy living in the middle of the Twin Cities.  And I enjoy raising my girls here.  We spent the summer visiting zoos, museums, pools and countless city parks.  It was great.  But it is also great to take the girls to visit E's family, where they can play in wide open spaces on the farm.  I mean, seriously, how cute is it to see two little girls pretending to drive a tractor?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Free to Breathe 5K

Last weekend I ran the Free to Breathe 5K in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  About a year and a half ago my grandma died of lung cancer.  She came to visit me in early December of 2011, just after Little J was born to help out while E was out of town for work.  She died just over 3 months later.  Everything progressed very quickly, and needless to say, it was really hard on my family.  My mom found this event in Milwaukee that happened to fall close to her little sister's 50th birthday.  My Aunt Kecka is a runner, so this seemed like a great way for our family to both celebrate her birthday and honor her mom.  In total there were 19 of us who were able to participate including E, the girls and me.

The full group!
Both E and I had planned to run the 5K, but he wasn't feeling the best and has a big week coming up at work, so he decided to do the walk.  I talked to Kecka on Friday night about what pace she was planning to run.  She said 9 minute miles.  I told her I was hoping to run closer to 8:30, so she said we could try to run it together.

I'll back up a bit here, and say I had a minor melt down on Wednesday night when I ran a 29:30 5K time, much slower than I had been running.  Luckily I have an amazing husband and friends who supported and encouraged me that Saturday would be better.

Back to the race.  Kecka and I started out together, and fought our way through the crowd at the start.  At the first half mile we were around 8:45, which felt pretty good.  Each half mile, Kecka ran a little faster, and at 1.5 miles she had the pace down to 8:18.  After a rough week training, and knowing that was faster than I'd ever finished 3.1, I let her go ahead.  My uncle Mike was standing around the 2 mile mark cheering us on, which was a big boost for me.  The last 1.1 miles were right along Lake Michigan.  It was really pretty, even though it was a little cold and windy.  I was still running at a good pace at 2.5 miles, so I picked up my speed a little, and when the finish line was in sight I ran as fast as I could.

3 Generations: My mom, Miss and and me!

The official time for the race had my at 26:38, a personal best itself, but the timing started everyone at the same time, not when I actually crossed the start line.  My timing of the race was 25:59!  When E asked me what time would make me ecstatic on Friday I said low 26s, so breaking 26 was absolutely amazing for me. I guess all those early mornings this summer paid off!  Kecka finished well in front of me, and finished 2nd in her age group!  

Overall I was really happy that we did this event as a family, and I ended up with a PR too!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Embrace the Camera

Looking for new sunglasses at Target.
Under the Sycamore is one of my very favorite blogs.  I love Ashley's photos so very much, as well as the stories she shares about her 5 little ones.  Last week Ashley posted about Embrace the Camera, a week long challenge to get in your family photos.  I decided I needed to take part.
Our funny faces, per Miss A's request
I take a lot of photos.  I mean really, a. lot. of. photos.  E jokes that there were more photos of A from her first 6 months than of him in 30 years.  He may be right about that.  I love photos.  I love that looking at old photos can take me back in time.  But as I look through the thousands of photos I have of the girls, I know there are many more photos with Daddy than with Mommy.  I try to remember to hand the camera over, but I like to take the photos.  And even when I do hand the camera over to E, I am critical of how I look.  Even though I know I'm being overly critical, I still do it.
Decorating cards with Miss A
Bedtime snuggles & stories
I saw a mime on Facebook a few months ago that said something like, "I wish I were as fat now as I was the first time I thought I was fat."  It made me laugh.  I can remember sitting at my mom's house with one of my best friends in middle school complaining about how big our thighs were.  Seriously.  We were tiny (and now I think we were crazy).  What were we thinking?
Getting ready for a family photo shoot

So last week was a start.  I intentionally got in photos each day.  Even when I didn't love how I looked.  Even when I had crazy hair.  Even when I was tired.  Every day I was in (mostly selfie) photos of with my girls.  Most that I wouldn't have taken, and definitely wouldn't have posted if it weren't for Embrace the Camera.  So ladies... especially moms... get yourself in some family photos!  Now!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fall Cleaning 2013

I remember when E and I first started our house search.  We were living in a tiny one bedroom apartment at the time, so everything we saw seemed big.  The kitchens seemed to have so many cabinets.  There were so many rooms.  So many closets.  So much space.

When we moved in to our "big" house, we didn't even use the second floor.  We had our bedroom and office on the main floor, so unless we had visitors, we didn't really need the space.  Now, 6 years, 1 wedding and 2 kids later, our house is not feeling so big.  I feel like there is so. much. stuff.  Everywhere.  

So I'm working on fall cleaning here. I sat down with my home binder and some pretty lined paper to make a list.  I like a list.  A plan.  Something to show my progress.  My original plan was to do one item each day in October.  Then I got realistic and Little J's birthday would be a better deadline.  I feel like I should set some sort of reward for the end, but I'm not sure what that will be yet.

My list... yes, I do call one basement room the scary room.
Looking at my list, I have 3 areas I'm focusing on

Get ready for winter: As much as I hate to think about it, cold weather is coming.  And I'd rather get things put away in the fall like temperatures than wait until snow is falling.  So I'll be cleaning out the garage and cars, getting toys and outdoor furniture put away and cleaning up the yard.

Clean Out:  Donate or otherwise get rid of what we don't want/need/use.  We have so much.  E and I have a big closet full of clothes and shoes that we need to go through to figure out what fits, what we like/don't like, etc.  Same for the girls (though most of their clothes will need to be sorted and stored for later use).

Organize:  E and my mom would probably laugh, because this is my favorite thing.  I want everything to have a place (then we can work on getting things back to their places).

Monday, October 7, 2013

3 and a Half

Last week we celebrated Miss A's half birthday.  As it worked out, E had a late work meeting on her actual half birthday, so he wasn't going to be home for dinner.  But, E works with Miss A's friend Miss E's daddy, so we invited Miss E (with Mom and baby bro) over for dinner.  We had pizza and cupcakes, and the girls had so much fun running around dressed up like princesses!
Miss A wasn't up for any pictures on the 25th, but I convinced her to take a few pictures at her cousin's birthday party over the weekend.  She's tall and lean with a bunch of crazy curls (her dress is 5T... and looks short on her!).  She talks constantly, and asks so many questions.  She likes to sing songs she knows, and she likes to make up her own.  She's stubborn.  She will only do things when she's ready.  She's wary to try new things, but opens up to new people quickly.  She constantly has a new "best" friend.  She doesn't like it when people are sad, even/especially Little J ("Are you okay, baby? is a common question).  She's still Daddy's girl most of all.
Now that Miss A is a little older, I thought I would ask her a few questions to go along with my thoughts.  So, here's her take at 3 and a half.

Favorite Show: Doc (Doc McStuffins)
Favorite Food: Marshmallows
Favorite Color: Purple and Pink
Favorite Game: Smashy (No idea what that is.)
Favorite Book: A is for Annabelle
Favorite Toy: Books
Favorite Thing To Do: Play
What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up: A Painter, An Artist
This is her happy place.  Jumping, jumping, jumping.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Snapshot One

As I mentioned in my last Twosday post, I want to start a series of quick posts with a picture (or few pictures) and short story behind the pictures.  Today the pictures are of one of the happiest times of day at our house, the time when Daddy gets home.  Almost every day when Daddy walks in, two squealing, happy girls run to give him hugs.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

33 Before 33

After attending HLS, I added The Brody Chronicles to my Feedly.  Last week I saw Tara post about her 33 before 33.  After I saw her list, I decided to make my own, and share it here in hopes that sharing will hold me accountable for really doing it!  Some of my things to do are small and relatively easy, while some will take more work.  Some I quantified, while others are more open ended.  All will help me be more happy and healthy at 32.
  1. Eat more freggies
  2. Run a race
  3. Go to a fitness class
  4. Go to dermatologist
  5. Volunteer
  6. Donate blood
  7. Donate clothes and household items
  8. Give 12 gifts
  9. Send mail to 20 people
  10. Read 10 books
  11. Read a book just for work
  12. 12 photo sessions
  13. Make something with my sewing machine
  14. Create 2012 and 2013 photo books
  15. Create wedding photo book
  16. Complete 10 Pinterest inspired projects
  17. Create and share 10 projects
  18. Blog at least 5 times each month
  19. Complete a house tour on the blog
  20. Add a new header to my blog
  21. Clean up social media
  22. 12 social media free days
  23. Take a trip with the kids
  24. Take a trip without the kids
  25. Host people at our house 12 times
  26. 12 dates with E
  27. 6 Mommy/daughter dates with each girl
  28. 8 days/nights out with friends
  29. Visit 10 new MSP places
  30. Plant and take care of our garden
  31. Finish fixing our yard
  32. Try 10 new foods
  33. A secret

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Twosday 32

My very favorite picture of me and my girls, taken on my birthday last year.
It's hard for me to believe I'm turning 32 today.  In the past week I've caught myself thinking I was turning both 31 and 33.  Apparently I've reached an age where I can no longer remember exactly how old I am.  For today, I want to reflect a little on the past year and plan for the coming year.

Two highlights from 31...
1.  Going to Germany.  It was really good for E and I to get away.  To have some time together.  Last school year was rough on me.  The whole summer was refreshing, but especially our trip.  And it was good for the kids too.  The girls got to spend some quality time with my family.  Miss A still talks about some of their little adventures with Nana, Papa, Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle B and Aunt S.
2.  I got to see Heather and go to HLS13.  It had been far too long since I'd seen Heather.  It made my heart feel good to have some quality time with my BFF while she was here last month.

Two things I'm loving right now...
1.  BAMR Bands.  I came home from HLS13 with one, and already ordered (and received!) the All Dressed Up: Black Glitzy Band.  I exercise a lot in the middle of the day, and I love having these to cute bands to help keep my hair under control for the afternoon.
2.  Thirty One Bags.  I currently only have one, and I'm resisting the urge to buy anything else... for now.  I have the Organizing Utility Tote (in Party Punch) and I use it every day.  It was perfect for taking with on our adventures this summer, and now that I'm back to work I use it to carry my lunch, workout clothes and other essentials to school every day.  I love all the pockets.  And they have great customer service.  I had a small issue with my first bag, and my consultant took care of everything.  I had my new bag quickly, and returning the first one was really easy.

Two things I'm looking forward to this month...
1.  Free to Breathe 5K.  My grandma died of lung cancer about a year and a half ago.  I was really hard on my family to loose her.  In memory of Grandma, and to celebrate my aunt's 50th birthday, my family is doing the walk/run together.  E and I are both doing the run, and someone who is walking is going to push the girls.  If you're interested, you can donate here.
2.  Halloween.  Halloween might be my favorite holiday.  I love the costumes.  I love candy.  I love not having to worry about gifts.  I love Halloween parties with lots of cute little ones.  Miss A has decided she is going to be a witch this year, and I'm thinking Little J might be a lion.  I'll be practicing my no-sew version of DIY costumes.  Wish me luck.

Two things to work on at 32...
1.  Patience.  I live with two small children.  Baby J turns 2 next month, and for 4 months I will have a 2 year old and a 3 year old.  Both girls are wonderful, of course, but I think to get through the winter I will need large reserves of patience.
2.  Simplify.  Sometimes I feel like our house is overflowing with stuff.  I read this article by a mom who took all of her kids' toys away, and while I know I won't do anything as extreme, it did motivate me to go through the toys we have and reorganize them a bit.  It makes me feel more calm.  There are many more areas of the house that need a good clean out.

Two blog projects...
1.  House tour.  E and I have talked about moving, and while it's not going to happen immediately, it's in our future plans.  This is our first house, where we were living when we got married and brought our babies home.  E would probably point out that I've painted most rooms twice, so I'm behind on documenting, but I'd like to remember what our home looks like now, and all we've put in to it.
2.  Snapshots.  Jenna has been posting a One Quick Take series on her blog.  I like the idea.  I'm going to try to take time to post the stories that go along with photos from time to time.  Especially some of the funny moments I catch on my phone.  Our house feels crazy sometimes, so I want to slow down and remember some of the small moments (so I can read them and remember my sweet little girls when they turn in to teenagers).