Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas traditions

Christmas is the holiday for family traditions. And Christmas has this talent for making me think in a rose-colored glasses sort of way. My mind drifts back to the traditions of the Christmas season that we celebrated when I was a small freckle-faced child growing up in rural Iowa.

Decorating the tree and the house to the sound of Alvin and the Chipmunks singing the holiday classics. (Yes, my mom did that by choice.)

The Christmas Eve church program we put on as Sunday school kids every single year. 

Driving around looking at lights with my Grandma Joyce and Grandpa Ronnie.

The holiday cookies and goodies that covered every surface of my mom's kitchen. 

Running excitedly down the stairs on Christmas morning to what felt like a mountain of presents under the tree.

They have this glossy feel that favorite childhood memories have. A feeling that everything was perfect and right in the world. There was a magical, special feeling to all the little things that happened during the month of December.

And I want my kids to have that feeling. To be able to look back fondly at special moments we celebrated as a family. Before December even arrives, I am already anticipating all kinds of magical Christmas-y activities. 
decorating the tree.
baking Christmas cookies.
looking at Christmas lights.
I smile thinking of how special it is going to be. 
The twinkling tree lights apparently affect my memory and dramatically increase my optimism. 

Before long reality sets in. 
Graham is taking ornaments and throwing them across the living room. 
Fights ensue over the set of pretend reindeer antlers. 
After 6 hours of Christmas baking, I am lacking the patience required to help preschoolers decorate cookies. Ten kinds of sprinkles?! What was I thinking?!
The hot chocolate we poured lovingly into sippy cups for the Christmas light viewing gets lost and rolls under a seat during the drive. 
Apparently the kids didn't get the memo: We're making magical memories, dammit!

Sometimes I see other families and the fun stuff they are doing this holiday season. I think, why aren't we doing that? Are we doing enough? Would our kids even behave enough for that?! Are our kids going to look back fondly at what we are doing? Are they going to remember me losing patience over the pound of sprinkles on the floor?

But the truth is, 
things weren't perfect when I was growing up either. 
In almost every picture in front of the tree on Christmas Eve, at least one of us kids is pouting or crying or crossing our arms in defiance. 
And yes, we looked at Christmas lights with my grandparents, but usually around 10 minutes in, we were more excited about the Pizza Hut they promised us than any nativity display.
I was a small child during the farm crisis of the 1980s when money was tight, and I am sure most of my presents were necessities - not the newest toy I thought I wanted.

But none of that distracts from the glowing feeling of my childhood Christmases. In the end what mattered was that my mom and dad were there on Christmas morning - Dad throwing balled up wads up paper at us, Mom in the kitchen baking turnovers for breakfast. 
Santa had showed up and there were gifts under our tree to unwrap in a wild frenzy.
Our grandparents wanted to spend time with us, even if we were just in it for the pizza.
We went as a family to Christmas Eve church and sang our little hearts out for everyone to hear.
Perfection isn't a requirement for cherished childhood memories.

Our kids are still little, and we are gradually adding to the traditions around here.

I don't put on the Chipmunks album, but we decorate together and jam to some other tunes. 


We bake cookies and try to contain the kids' enthusiasm for sprinkle throwing.


We load up and go looking at Christmas lights, hot chocolate filled sippies required.


We dress up in fancy clothes for the kids' Christmas program at church. 


They might not be storybook-quality moments, but hopefully our kids will look past the imperfections and see the love that went in to each day and every occasion - big and small - of the holiday season. Hopefully someday they will remember the rosiness of their childhood holidays just like I do. 



**And no, you didn't miscount kids. We are watching my cousin Alan's daughter Carlie while they are on vacation. So Carlie got to join in some Christmas light viewing with us. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Faves

1. Blankie has been found!
Hallelujah!
Praise the Lord!
all that.
He had been M.I.A. for the past four days. Things were getting serious. We last saw him (yes, the blanket is referred to as a person around these parts) on Sunday when Graham went down for a nap. And then that night he was no where to be found. 
We. tore. this. place. apart.
Nothing.

I was on the fence about full-on accusing Jared of taking care of him Chicago mob boss style. See, Jared started to despise Blankie about 6 months ago when Graham figured out how to tear tiny bits of the fleece/cotton/whatever mixture off of it and roll it into balls. It's like a weird OCD thing he does when he is falling asleep. Whatever. Point is, there are tiny blue clumps of cottony fabric all over his room. So there was possible motive there...

But yesterday Bailey came running up the stairs yelling, "I found him! I found him!" The him, of course, being Blankie. The blanket had been stuffed into a small nightstand drawer in the spare bedroom. Clearly I owe Jared an apology. He did not shove him in the garbage and hustle it out to the curb Monday morning to cover his tracks.

Now that Blankie has returned, nap times are bound to go much more smoothly again.


2. Christmas decorations! 
We spent a large chunk of last Friday unpacking tub after tub of Christmas decor. 
The Pandora Christmas station was playing.
The tree went up.
Lights were hung.
Decorations are now in almost every room.

I particularly love our buffet in the dining room that helps spread more of the Christmas spirit around the house.

Jared even put up a couple strands of white lights on the girls' bunk beds. It's a fun substitute for a lamp for a few weeks, plus Bailey and Avery think it's pretty special.


3. And speaking of Christmas decorations, if you have a fake tree, you definitely need to purchase these bad boys.
Scentsicles. 
Jared hates that we have a fake tree. But I like to have the tree up for a month, plus live trees are more work, as well as being more costly since as we got a good after-Christmas deal on our fake one. Jared mostly misses the fresh tree scent.
So we bought some Scentsicles on Amazon.
Under 9 bucks. 
Problem solved. 
It makes the whole room smell amaaaazing!
Totally worth it to buy a pack every December.

4. The girls' school pictures came in yesterday. I tried to scan them, but it made the quality of the already not-exactly-high-quality photos even less. 
But I was pleasantly surprised with how they turned out. Bailey as always did fine. 
With Avery, I had to go in with her after school got out. Her teachers tried and tried during her scheduled time, but she refused and wouldn't stop crying/freaking out. In the end I had to jump around acting crazy while bouncing her Hello Kitty backpack above the photographer for her to grimace smile at the camera. So considering all that went into them, they work for me.

And $80 later we have two somewhat okay photos that we could have taken ourselves in our own living room. But it's like a childhood rite of passage, right? You need these sometimes-good/sometimes-extremely-awkward photos to fully commemorate your school experience. Or they are just good for a laugh when it comes to making fun of your grown siblings. Either way.
Fe - your 7th grade v-ball photo. 
Nuff said.
(And you're welcome for not posting that photo here!)


5. Tonight I get to hang out with Sarah, one of my oldest friends. We've been friends since 3rd grade. 
us, 15 years ago

She is definitely one of the few people who will tell it to me straight no matter what the consequences, and that is one of the things I appreciate most in a friend. I can't wait for the laughs and over-sharing that is about to occur in a few hours!


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Throwback Thursday

As most of you probably know, I started working out and tracking my calories back in April of this year. I don't write about it much because I don't want to bore people to tears, but it is definitely a big part of my life right now, so I thought a little update might be nice.

My weight loss has actually gone really well - despite my love for delicious and less-than-healthy foods at family get-togethers and holidays. I've lost 27 pounds at this point, surpassing my original goal of 20 a few months back. Starting around October I stopped being quite so rigid and am now satisfied losing a pound or (more typically) a half-pound a week. I work out about 5 days a week, sometimes for 30+ minutes and sometimes just for ten. I also have continued logging all my food on MyFitnessPal - something that I think has contributed greatly to my success thus far.

I was looking through photos over the past 12 months in order to make the calendars for family members, something I do every year at Christmas time. When you look at yourself in the mirror every single day, sometimes it is easy to not see progress. 
I couldn't resist a little side-by-side comparison, if only for my benefit.



I remember at the time thinking that that picture from 2013 was really flattering and made my face look thinner. Now I look at it and think, "Whoa, my face looked chubby!" 
And maybe it isn't a big difference at all to others looking at it, but it definitely is to me. 

Occasionally I wish I had taken a full body "before" photo like so many people do. At the time you definitely don't want photographic evidence of your starting point, but later on it would be nice to help you see just how far you have come. 

With the scale not moving as rapidly as it did in the beginning, I am happy to be noticing some non-scale victories lately.

  • Exercise pants I bought back in July are now so loose in the waist that I can't really do an involved workout while wearing my insulin pump because it makes them start to fall off.
  • I thought two pairs of workout/casual pants back in September. At the time I remember thinking, "Yeah they fit, but are they obnoxiously tight...? I will just wear them around the house." Now they are actually not fitted in the thighs anymore. That never happens!
  • I tried on dress pants that I used to wear to church in college. I remember wearing them for the last time on an interview for a nursing internship. That was 2007. Now not only do they fit, they are actually maybe too baggy to even look dressy anymore. 

My goals are constantly changing. 
At first all I really wanted was to lose 15 pounds and get back to my pre-baby weight. At the time I thought, I would give anything to weigh that amount again.
But once I reached that weight I figured I'd try to get to the weight I was on my wedding day. I'm now 7 pounds past that goal. 
My current goal is to reach a healthy weight, which means I still have 8-13 pounds left to lose. Losing 13 more pounds would put me at a healthy BMI - something I haven't been since I was a senior in high school 12 years ago!


I have other non-scale related goals too.
I want to increase my physical strength and stamina for completing workouts.
I'd like to run a 5k next year sometime.
And I am thinking maaaybe even purchase (even wear?) a 2-piece bathing suit next summer...  (Jared is totally rolling his eyes and saying "Reeeeally?" to that one.)  But hey, ya gotta have something to work toward, right?   :)


So if anyone reading this is on a similar weight loss journey, feel free to comment and/or add me on MyFitnessPal. I can always use more inspiration and people to hold me accountable!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Graham's 2nd birthday party - Thanksgiving style

Graham turned 2 years old last week and the celebration on his actual birthday was pretty simple. 
It was a Tuesday after all. 
And he's two. 
So we gave him a brownie with some ice cream, and he was a happy camper.
He got both candles on the first attempt.

Aunt Justy came over for supper because she was going to be out of town for the week and would miss Thanksgiving and his birthday party. She bought him a CAT digger set. 

You can't tell that he is excited about it at all, can you?
And as a disclaimer, I want to state that I do attempt to clothe this child. 
They don't seem to stay on. 
Or stay clean.
#toddlerprobs


We continued the birthday celebrating this past Saturday. We had our "real" Thanksgiving meal with just my parents and two out of three (ain't bad, says Meat Loaf) sisters and my mom's parents. 
(We had a soup dinner on Thanksgiving Day, but it just ain't Thanksgiving without a turkey and some mashed taters and gravy, folks!)
As far as celebrations go, this was the lowest that low-key can get. I didn't do any decorating other than the cake. We spent the entire day eating basically. 

But of course there was present opening. And as far as gifts go, Graham received:

  • a car carrier,
  • a skidloader,
  • a tractor,
  • a Gator utility vehicle,
  • a digger,
  • a lawnmower,
  • a Batman motorcycle...
  • and some pajamas.

Noticing a trend? Minus the PJs of course.

Little Man loves his wheels.


 Forget the cake! There are fake hay bales to haul!

And lest I forget, I finally lifted the shoe-buying embargo on Aunt Fe, and she bought her little G a sweet pair of new kicks. 
And while I am at it, is "kicks" even culturally relevant anymore? 
I am totally sounding like a 30 year-old, aren't I?


We eventually drug Graham away from loading hay and pallets with Papa Jeff long enough to sing a quick Happy Birthday and let him blow out some candles on the tractor cake that his parents lovingly decorated and he barely noticed. 

Believe me, he sure liked to eat it though!
But he needed a glass of milk to go with his chocolate cake - just like Papa.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

ah, screw it. Let it snow! Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

I am usually one to always wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas. It might be the day after Thanksgiving, but it is after Thanksgiving. 

But all this snow in November?
I am mentally giving in. 
Christmas could be tomorrow and I'd believe it.

So I'm all in.
Let it snow.
Crank that Christmas music. (Wait, what? It's been on the radio for weeks? Oh yeah...)
Bring on the mountain of green and red storage totes and let's decorate this place up. 

If it looks like Christmas outside, 
it might as well look like it in our living room too!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Two, Dude

Almost exactly two years ago to the hour, I was holding our son in my arms for the first time.
My son.
The reality was finally sinking in, and I think I cried like twenty times that day. 


And much later, after the worst of the sleep deprivation was over,
we realized just how complete our family felt with this little man in it.



I just finished tucking in our now 2 year-old baby for his daily nap. 
He grabbed my face in his chubby hands and pulled me in for a big kiss on the lips. He smiled and said, "I yuhv you" before turning over on bed, snuggling in to sleep.

It melts my heart every time. 
He might not technically be a baby anymore, but he is still my baby.
Although if you ask him, he will proudly let you know that he is "two, dude."

Happy Birthday little G.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tra-Law

Last night was another conversion van ride (through snow-covered roads) to a concert. It's the third one this year - we road tripped to a random concert last February and then to Cher this summer. 
Truly, the 1995 Econoline just sets the mood for a fun time. 




It was a Tracy Lawrence concert. You might remember him if you listened to country back when country was awesome - aka the 1990s.

But you can't tell we are going to a country concert, can you?
Look at all that plaid...

When we heard earlier this year that Tracy Lawrence was coming to Iowa, we definitely wanted to get tickets. For one, they are cheap as hell. Fifteen dollars? Sign me up.
Reason #2:
The year was 1994 and our grandma Connie never knew what to buy us girls for Christmas. So she goes into WalMart and informs the sales clerk that her granddaughters like country westuurn (how G-Con says it) music and she needs help picking something out. The lady proceeds to come back with VHS tapes of Tracy Lawrence and John Michael Montgomery. She assures my grandma we will love them. And we did - mostly because we thought it was so cool to watch the same music videos over and over again. 
My mom heard "Sticks & Stones" so many times that she probably wanted to take a stick to her eardrums. 

Cut to 20 years later, we buy 3rd row tickets to his concert.


And just like the last time at this venue, we headed for the front of the stage and stayed there. 


We had a good time - we always do together - and when the concert was over we headed to the casino floor.

I am not a huge gambler. Jared and I go maybe two or three times a year, and it is usually because we are in a group like this. But I haven't spent any of my birthday money yet, so I brought along a couple of twenties. My parents like to gamble now and again so I found a seat next to my dad and Beaner and started playing a quarter slot. A few minutes later he wanted to change locations, so I cashed out and followed them. We ended up in the high stakes room. 

And since this is small-town Iowa, the high stakes slots start at a whole dollar. 
I have never played a dollar machine - I am way too much of a tight-ass - but I figured hey, whatever, it's my birthday money. Also, I had a few drinks at the concert and was really going with the flow at this point. I pick a machine, put in the $13 I have left from my twenty, and hit the big red BET button. 
Seven dollars in and my machine starts going nuts.
My brain is working a little more slowly than normal thanks to that Captain and Coke, but the constantly increasing numbers is getting me excited. I yell for my dad that I think I might be winning some real money. 
The machine stops on 480 credits. 
I process for a second. 
Wait, this is a dollar machine! 
A credit is a dollar.

I won $480?!

Night made.

I wish I could show the snapchat video my sister took of me immediately after. I am totally tipsy and fanning myself with my hand because I can't believe I actually won money.

Now, you would think I would be the big winner for the night, right?
Nope.
Justy's boyfriend Zac put 20 bucks in another machine in this same room and hit $770. And he had never been there before and hardly ever gambled in his life.

We later tried to celebrate our winnings by purchasing some late night McDonald's, but the van window wouldn't roll down in the cold (How could you let us down, Vandie?!) and by the time Jared got out and hit it into working again, it was a minute past midnight and the lady in the drive-thru wouldn't take our order.
Fast Food Fail.

But don't worry, I comforted myself with my winnings.  ;)

Friday, November 14, 2014

There's just been so much cake...

Well, it's been about an eon. I swear I don't ever mean to take a 3 week blogging vacation, but it happens. Life got busy. Blogging was at the bottom of my list and apparently being a sick person was at the top. For weeks.

So let's recap.

We came back from our Colorado vacation and that next Tuesday was my birthday. 
I'm 30 now, y'all, in case you missed it.
So that week went quickly because I was busy eating cake and stuff.

Flash forward to that Friday night. 
My sisters had long planned to take Jared and I out for an evening to celebrate. We planned to meet at my parents' house and when we were chauffeured there, we were greeted by a joint surprise party. And trust and believe - we were surprised.
We celebrated with {more} cake and some adult beverages.

Jared's dad and step-mom came from Kansas and his mom even drove from Colorado after just seeing us the week before. I was shocked.
So a quiet weekend at home turned into two days of fun entertaining family that we don't get to see very often.

Literally the day we said sayonara to our visiting family, the kids got sick. Sinus infections, waking every hour all night long, generalized whininess... the whole nine yards. They missed school all week and basically drove me up the wall. We toughed it out for approximately 9 days before I had enough. (That's what you get when both your parents are nurses!) Then we spent a couple days going to doctor appointments. 

Their noses crusted up long enough for us to dress them up to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. Yep, we probably spread around colds to the entire neighborhood. My bad.

Please take note of Picture #1...
...and Picture #2.

Graham was not tolerating an actual costume. We listened to about five whole minutes of pitiful crying and screaming and tearing at the hood of his costume before we gave up and let him win. Jared ransacked his dresser upstairs and came up with this outfit. 
His costume? 
We're calling it Dapper Toddler.


It was another weeks of colds (after kicking the sinus infections) and then we loaded up for a weekend trip to Fremont, Nebraska. The girls were to be flower girls in Jodie and Keith's wedding on Saturday. Jodie has been Fe's best friend for the past ten years, and in that time she has come on vacations with us, attended our kids' birthday parties, been around for holidays - you name it. She is family. There was no way we were missing that wedding!

Aunt Beaner was the bride's personal attendant.

Aunt Fe was the Maid of Honor.

Now, I partied with Fe and Jodie and their friends back in college, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. But throw in Keith's friends? The beer was flowing and the party was on. 

This picture was taken about two hours in to the dance, so please excuse my sweaty face and ramshackle hair. 
There was a lot of dancing going on people!

I love weddings. I love the opportunity for an open bar, a festive mood, and great music. There was all of those things and more. (The more being the father of the bride down on the floor slapping around doing the dance to "Taking Care of Business.")  

I also love that at weddings my husband turns into this guy:

Some people don't get to see this particular side of Jared, but my husband is F-U-N. When the drinks are flowing and there is a good time to be had, Jared is there building the beer can pyramid and singing to Backstreet Boys' songs with the best of them. We don't get out much together, and when we do, usually someone has to stay in control. But that night there was a shuttle taking us to our hotel so it was game on. I am positive we both were displaying some pretty awesome dance moves for most of the night.


This past week we finally got out to my parents' farm for our annual combine rides. The kids are still small enough that I could fit in there with all three of them and my dad. It was interesting at times - there was always one child trying to yank on the steering wheel - but they loved it. Hopefully next year we won't be sick all month long and they can go out and spend part of a day riding in the buddy seat with my dad.

 Combine selfie!


So that's it. The past three weeks summed up in a few pictures.

Tomorrow night my sisters and I are attending a Tracy Lawrence concert. Like Tracy Lawrence that was on the country charts in the 1990s. Or as we like to call him, Tra-Law. 
Because we have names for everyone. 

So come 9 PM tomorrow night, I am going to be singing "Texas Tornado" like it's 1994. 
You best bring it, Tra-Law!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

30 Things

So earlier this week I turned the big 3-0.

Not nearly as intimidating and horrifyingly old as my 16 year-old self imagined. Life is good, even if I am now old...

I thought I might make a list of 30 random facts about me to commemorate my 30 years of age.


Here we go.

1. Favorite foods: (of course that is plural - I love food.)
Bacon. 
Skippy creamy peanut butter.
My mother-in-law Cathy's chicken salad.
German chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.
Reese's peanut butter pumpkins/trees/hearts/eggs.

2. I was voted "most opinionated" by my high school class. 
"I was so surprised," said no one.

3. I like gross stuff. Probably goes with the nursing territory. Gnarly wounds. Pimples that need squeezed. Remember that YouTube video of the guy that had a zit-looking thing popped on his back and it basically erupted like Old Faithful for for five minutes straight? Yeah, fascinating to me.

4. I love to recycle.

5. My favorite date with Jared was a random, unplanned one. We went to a hole-in-the-wall bar on a random Sunday night. We ordered bar food and a pitcher of beer. Karaoke started and we ended up being asked to sing a song. We apparently livened up this dive bar so much that suddenly drink after drink was arriving at the table - on the house, which of course fueled our fabulous singing. What was supposed to be a quick supper turned into 6 hours spent singing with strangers.

6. I mow the lawn while singing loudly. I pray my neighbors can't hear me over the noise of the mower. And sometimes I forget to stop after I cut the engine. Whoops.

7. I still wear a t-shirt that I got in 6th grade. 
 Tri-County All-stars. 
I am not sure I will ever get rid of it.

8. My sisters jokingly call me The English Teacher because I love to proofread and edit things. 

9. I hate learning new technology-related things. (I know, I am so deserving of old person jokes.) I don't want to learn a new program to upload photos to the computer. I don't want a new keyboard on my phone for texting. I am becoming a geezer. And while I'm at it, get off of my lawn!

10. My sisters are my best friends. Seriously, what do women do without sisters? No one else would put up with my shit, I swear. 
There's that All Stars t-shirt again...
11. Aforementioned sisters and I are considering getting (small) matching tattoos. None of us know what it will even consist of, but we are currently in talks.

12. My dream vacation is going to Europe with Jared. True, I have already been, but I look forward to seeing it with Jared. And I am sure the experience would be completely different, especially since I wouldn't be 17 years old and in pizza-at-least-once-a-day carb coma.

13. I once fought back against a bully by punching him in the face. 
I was in 5th grade. 
He deserved it.
Most fulfilling detention ever.

14. If you are one of those people who constantly misuses your/you're, their/there/they're, to/too/two, etc and shows no interest in learning the difference, we probably can't be friends. At least not friends that write things to each other. And don't get me started on people who write entire blog posts using zero capitalization... Ugh!
The two on my left are still two of my besties even now, 25 years later...

15. I like the F word way more than is socially acceptable.

16. When reading a magazine or newspaper in a waiting room, I always flip to the advice sections first. 
Dear Abby. 
Emily Post.
"Can this marriage be saved?" 
All that stuff. 
It's my inner therapist.

17. I am a total night owl. But oddly, I am still way more of a morning person than my husband ever will be. 

18. When a person tells me that freckles are "angel kisses", I do not hold in my eye roll. Ever. 
(The take-away here: please don't ever utter that corny crap in my presence.)
19. I love fall. 
The weather, pretty trees, autumn-scented candles... but Halloween is just not my fave. I know I should care about costumes and dressing-up my kids, but I just kinda don't. Like I mean, I am always going to do it, but I never ever ever going to be a mom who sews costumes or throws down $150 (or more) to outfit my three kids for one night. (Because I think that is redic.) 
And I come by this honestly - my mom never gave a crap about Halloween either. I had last second costumes, and I am pretty sure every year Mom just said, "Go find something in the Halloween tub." It's fine though. Farm kids are basically used to raising themselves during the month of October.

20. I have become a crier. Since having kids, something snapped in the emotions department. Daily I am crying at something, whether it is a sweet commercial or the Today Show.

21. I notice eyebrows. Some people notice teeth (Fe, Jared, my friend Kate). Some notice eye color. Some notice clothes. I notice eyebrows. And if you're one of those people who over-tweezes and has barely half an eyebrow left, that is the first thing my brain is gonna notice.

22.  I was a huge perfectionist in high school when it came to grades. One time I got a B+ and it ruined my 4.0 GPA. When my mom tried to assure me that a B was still a good grade, I shouted in all my teenage, overdramatic angst, "B's are the devil!" All three of my sisters witnessed it, and trust me, they will never let me live it down. 

23. Both Jared and I want to live on an acreage. Annnnnd here we are living on Main Street. *sigh* Someday...

24. I am an insulin-dependent diabetic. Yeah, yeah, it sucks, but I am used to it, so whatever. Please take note of these tips so you don't piss off a Type 1 diabetic in your life. 

25. I had a pet pig growing up. Not like a guinea pig - we are talking a full grown hog. His name was Percy and he was a straight up pet. He knew the sound of my voice. He liked head scratches. I bawled nightly for 2 weeks after he went to slaughter. And this is yet another story that my sisters harass me for. (They're so mean, right?!)

26. I always wanted a nickname. My sisters all have at least one. 
Felicia = Fe, FeFe, FeDogg (cuz she was a ghetto wannabe back in the day)
Catrina = Beaner, Beans
Justina = Justy, Buggy
And then there is me. Vanessa
Bah....
27. I can quote word-for-word the entire movie Billy Madison.

28. I watch too many TV shows. And I have way too many favorites. Game of Thrones, The Blacklist, Breaking BadModern Family, Masters of Sex, Outlander, Elementary, Downton Abbey... The internet has made it way too easy for us to binge watch tons of shows and then get addicted.

29. I am a card sender. I pride myself on remembering people's birthdays and sending a card. There is just something special about getting real mail these days.

30. I am fashion challenged. I never know what looks good, and we don't have the money for me to purchase lots of pieces to spice up my wardrobe. So I basically end up wearing lots of solid colors (ie: boring) and throwing on some jewelry to spice it up. And at home I live in workout pants and t-shirts, but at least it is a small upgrade from the nursing tanks I lived in up until 6 months ago. 


So that's it. Thirty items about my thirty year-old self. 
Many thanks if you made it this far.
You know you're thrilled that you now know the name of my childhood pet pig.

Monday, October 20, 2014

32 hours in the car and well worth it

We spent the entirety of last week on vacation. We loaded up the van early Sunday morning and started on the road to Colorado for {almost} a week with Cathy (Jared's mom) in Estes Park. 

It took eight hours, but we finally hit the sweet spot.
Yep, that's right. All three kids asleep at once. It was like Jesus himself came and blessed our Chrysler and all its occupants.

They did great until about 10 hours in. Then they got a little stir-crazy. And cranky. As did their parents. We reached a desperation level and I documented it with a Snapchat: a photo highlighting the fact that Alvin and the Chipmunks was currently playing on the Sirius XM in our car. And we didn't change the channel. 
Whatever it takes, right?
We arrived at Cathy's house in Loveland just a few minutes shy of 12 hours on the road. Despite some episodes of heavy threats ("Don't make me pull this car over!") and one episode of carsickness puking (Graham), the all-in-one-day trip was not nearly as painful as I had imagined.

Cathy rented a house on a mountainside in Estes Park, Colorado, complete with awesome views.
Everyone was just a little excited to finally be there!

The house slept a ridiculous amount of people and was probably bigger than we needed. In short, it was amazing. There was tons of room for the kids to run and play with toys and lots of adult space too, namely the pool table, sauna, and hot tub. There was also a big fake bear in the house, and you know we had to get some pictures with Smoky!



The view was pretty spectacular too. 
This Iowa girl isn't used to waking up to mountains every morning.

We did the traditional touristy thing on day one - browsing downtown, purchasing t-shirts for us and jammies for the kids, eating fudge and ice cream cones.
But the rest of our days were pretty packed with all things mountains.

We had a couple hiking guides and we researched a bit. We needed paths that were smoother and handicap accessible since we would be pushing a large double stroller. We bought admittance to the Rocky Mountain National Park and there were many trails to choose from. We spent the first day walking around Lily Lake and just driving through the park, getting higher and higher and enjoying all the views. 
The kids quite obviously liked climbing every chance they got.
We stopped for a picnic when we got hungry. And as usually happens with our middle child, nature called at an inconvenient time.

The next day we set out on another adventure in the Rockies. We intended to go on a short walk around another lake, but on the drive there Cathy spotted a waterfall off in the distance. When we arrived at the parking lot, we had the option of a hike up to Alberta Falls. So off to the falls we went. 

We took lots of pictures. 
Some not so great. 
I find that with three kids it is almost always an action shot of some kind.

It was a nice hike. Since both girls refused to ride in the stroller, we went at a slower pace. Major props to Jared for pushing the stroller for well over a mile up the side of a mountain! 
Both girls loved the stepping stones through a small creek on the walk.

And the view once we got there was well worth all the effort.









The following hike around Bear Lake was beautiful too. 

We let the kids loose to burn off some energy.
Graham particularly loved his freedom.

Rocks had to be climbed and water had to be watched.

We finished up the day with a slightly terrifying drive up Trail Ridge Road. Both Cathy and Jared thought it was a must-see kind of thing, so up the mountain we went. Now heights themselves don't really bother me. Driving on a road where zero shoulder exists and the only view is one straight down: that bothers me. Especially when I was riding in the passenger seat.

And man, was it windy up there! 
And cold. 
If you can't tell, I am freezing and about to blow away.

We got to the highest point and at Bailey's insistence, got out so she could throw a snowball.
And I didn't think it possible, but the drive down was worse than the drive up. I was extremely relieved when we reached somewhat level ground again and I could stop envisioning how many times the van would roll on its way to the bottom of the mountain after we careened off the road in some bizarre elk/deer/chipmunk accident.

We spent our last day being lazy. We hung out at the house, playing pool while the girls watched some Disney channel and Graham played with his old-school cowboys and Indians. We snacked on more food and took some short walks on the paths near the house.

And later on I did some more of this, which I am pretty darn good at when I want to be. Vacations deserve wine, that I am sure of.

So if you can't tell from all of the above wonderfulness, we had a fantastic time in Colorado. We all got uninterrupted quality time with Cathy and experienced fun new things together. It went way too fast, and we are a little bummed it is over. It is back to reality this week!