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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

First Skating Party

We LOVE getting together with family and friends. If we could have it our way, we'd have people over everyday of the week! If only our house was bigger. But thank goodness for our big yard! In the spring, fall and summer we have as many bonfires as possible and now that we're full into the middle of winter we're now able to host SKATING PARTIES! Our first one included my mom, brother, sister and grandma. Complete with DCD White Chocolate Chicken Chili for lunch and of course hot cocoa!

Me, my husband, son and brother

My mama even got out there to skate!

My husband, son, brother and sister

It was pretty much the first time that my brother had been ice skating. He and my sister love to rollerblade so they picked up how to ice skate in no time! My brother even said "I could do this for hours!" It was so wonderful to watch them all enjoying themselves and then to be able to watch them from the comfort and warmth of our kitchen! It so beats going to the park to skate! And even though you really can't pick up speed on our rink at least you can practice going in circles :-D 


video




Thursday, January 21, 2016

Make Your Relationship a Priority.. Before It's Too Late

Anyone that's a parent knows how incredibly difficult it can be to put your relationship with your partner high on your priority list. When we got married we wrote our vows and part of our vows stated "... to make our relationship and date nights a priority." 

It wasn't until 16 weeks after our honeymoon that we had our next date night.. [some vows, huh?]

Days drag on but the weeks go by fast and with everything we've had going on in our life since our wedding it was honestly something I didn't notice until I REALLY started to notice. If we don't allot specific time to hang out and spend quality time together then it sadly just doesn't happen. Our days become so routine and predictable it's nearly boring. We go through every day practically on auto pilot. You know you're in need of quality time with your partner when you start to miss them while you're living under the same roof. 

A few weeks ago my mom asked if she could have the kids overnight that Saturday. Honestly, it was the best thing I've heard in months! Then, when she said she'd like to make a routine out of it (every other Saturday while my stepdad is gone overnight working) I just about cried tears of joy! 

Not only is it great for Andy and I to get that time together but I can't tell you how good it is for the kids. In our case, yes, it's quality time with their grandma but even if we take grandma out of the equation and just look at it as the kids taking time away from mom and dad it's incredibly beneficial (in my opinion). Rex has become super attached to me the last few months so this gives him practice with separating from me and will help him realize that he can be okay without me and even have fun while I'm away! It also shows our kids that we have a relationship outside of being their parent and it sets a good example for when they may be parents someday. I would hope that they would make their relationships a priority and do the same thing. 

Someday our kids will be moved out of our house and it will just be the two of us together. It will be a life we have never known before. But that's another reason why maintaining a healthy relationship (date nights, communication, etc) NOW is so important. It's setting the stage for the rest of our lives. 

How often do parents typically get out for a date without their kids? I bet the majority don't do it nearly as much as they should. 

I would LOVE to see more parents out there getting a sitter for their kids on a regular basis and going out on dates. Can't afford a sitter or don't trust one? Talk to a close friend about alternating babysitting duties! Every other week you can switch off watching each others kids so you can each get alone time with your partner. DO IT! AND PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDARS! MONTHS OUT! Make it a priority and don't feel bad about it! 

So, how often do YOU get out on a date with your partner? Do you feel it's enough? What are some things you like to do together? I'd love to know! 

Heading up to the cabin for a weekend away from the kids

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Our First Backyard Ice Rink

Back in November of 2015 I remember looking out at our backyard with Andy one night and saying "We should put an ice rink in our yard" and he was all for it! We (he more than I) did a bunch of research on it. He consulted with people who have done it themselves before, read things online and watched videos so we could try and do it "right" the first time. Well, no matter how much information you have, there's more than likely going to be a few bumps in the road and learning experiences along the way! 



Here Andy is working out the shape of the rink. We ended up expanding it into an 'L' shape instead of sticking with this smaller rectangle. We may or may not come to regret the shape change!


He ordered the rink liner from a local MN company out of Sauk Center. It was quite difficult to get the liner to lay flat because of the creases it came with. We were also putting the liner in on a breezy day.. not a good idea BUT it was either that or do it the next day when the bitter cold had set in. The day we started flooding it was a bit of a headache. We had to thaw out the faucet and completely take apart the spigot outside. The hose wasn't long enough to reach the other side of the rink so Andy had to go get another hose. And the biggest issue was that we realized the slope of the yard was a lot bigger than we planned for so we got an inch away from the frame with the water and the rink wasn't even half flooded. Whoops!



After reworking the frame and building the sides up with snow and boards to keep the liner in place we were able to finally finish flooding the rink 6 days after we first started. 


What we will do different next year: 
  • Reposition the rink (which will mean moving the swing set over the summer)
  • Build up the boards a few feet taller
  • Install the liner on a calm day
  • Turn the water off to the outside faucet before it could freeze
Here's the 3 year old his first time on the ice this winter (when it was only half flooded).

We are very anxious for the temps to rise (it currently feels like -30 degrees F) so we can have friends and family over to skate in our backyard! It's going to be a fun winter at our house!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Review of The Night Circus



[For the record, I've never written a book review before. So, here goes nothing!]

I set a hefty goal for myself to read 40 books in 2016. I usually read about 5 books a year so that might put it into perspective how big of a goal this is. 

Book #1 - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This book came highly recommended to me by a few people so I was really excited to dive in and kick off the year with a great book! 

The Night Circus is about a circus unlike any other. It randomly pops up in different towns, never giving notice to where it will be and when. Along with that, it opens at sundown and closes at dawn. There's a competition happening during the circus between two young magicians, Celia and Marco. They've been training their whole life for this competition but they have no idea that the winner is declared when there's only one of them left standing.. literally. But then, they fall in love and throw the whole competition into a whirlwind of chaos. 

The author does a wonderful job of setting up every scene, giving a tremendous amount of detail. So much so that you feel as if you're right there in the circus experiencing it first hand. I love when books have that power to pull you into a different time and place, allowing you to easily escape reality.

I found that the author gave so much backstory and so much detail that it took hundreds (and hundreds) of pages to get to the part I was most anticipating.. the love story. To me, it moved far too slow. I never really felt hooked. I never felt like I couldn't put it down. In all honesty, I found I had to force myself to sit down and read it sometimes. I thought it would take me at most a week to finish (500+ pages) when it took me fourteen days! 

All in all, I loved the imagination of the author. This was a book unlike any other I had read before. The details given were fantastic. It was just too slow moving for me. 

I'll give it a 3/5. 






Wednesday, January 13, 2016

We fell in love with Puerto Rico

When we first started planning our wedding we didn't put any thought into a honeymoon. Neither of us thought it would even be financially possible. I crunched some numbers and thought, "We can make this work". Without talking to Andy about it I checked in with our moms to see if they would be able to care for the boys if we went somewhere. With the go ahead from them (and the encouragement from my mom to plan a honeymoon "because you'll never go on one otherwise") I surprised Andy on Fathers Day by telling him that I'm paying for us to go on a honeymoon to Florida. I thought for sure he'd try to talk me out of it because of money but he didn't question it and instead started doing some research and figured out we'd save a ton of money by going to Puerto Rico instead! So, Puerto Rico it was! We found an AMAZING hotel (La Concha) right on the beach in Condado (basically San Juan) and we were only gone three nights but we made the most of it and fell absolutely in love with the island!


The view from our room

Old San Juan

A castle in Old San Juan

There were a lot of stray cats!

The view from a tower in El Yunque Rainforest. The only rainforest in U.S. territory!

Waterfall in El Yunque Rainforest. The water was so cold!

View from one of three pools at La Concha.


I could go on and on and on about Puerto Rico and how much we loved it. We cannot wait to go back! But next time we'll stay on the other side of the island to surf, bring our kids with, stay for a week and maybe even scope out schools, jobs and neighborhoods to live in ;-)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Red Velvet Pancakes

These pancakes were easy to make and a huge hit with the entire family! I was able to freeze the leftovers and can pop them in the microwave for a super quick breakfast during the school week! 


Ingredients needed: 
1 3/4 cup Dove Chocolate Discoveries (DCD) Red Velvet Baking Mix
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

In a bowl, combine DCD baking mix, flour, milk, eggs, and butter until the batter is combined.



Do not over-mix.


Warm griddle over medium-low heat. Lightly grease griddle with nonstick cooking spray or butter. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto griddle for each pancake. Cook until bubbles form on top, and the batter begins to set. Flip pancake over and cook for an additional minute.


Top with your favorite pancake topping! 
[Cool Whip shown here] 


Enjoy! 

[To order the DCD Red Velvet Baking Mix click here]

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Winter Break FUN!

With this being the first big break with both of my boys since I quit my job I really wanted to make the most of it! 

It seems as if we had TOO much fun because I almost literally had to drag Levi out of his bed yesterday morning and all the way to school (perks of working your own hours include being able to drive your kids to school whenever you want!). 

We had a blast going to Maple Maze (a huge indoor playground) to play and then swam at their pool, drove around at night and looked at holiday light displays, visited Santa, celebrated Christmas four times with different sides of our families, went sledding, my mom took Levi to Rollergarden to roller skate, we had family over for a NYE party and of course had a couple lazy days in there as well! 

I really couldn’t be happier with my decision to switch gears and take on a business that I can work around my life. A lot of these amazing memories we’ve created would not have happened otherwise. I feel incredibly blessed! 


Monday, January 4, 2016

Making My Mental Health a Priority

I’m one of those people that stresses out far too much and puts too much pressure on themselves.  

I need to find ways to slow down and relax. 

It’s my hope that daily reading, meditating and journaling will make a huge difference in my life. 

Is it possible as a mom with two kids (a house and a business) to take enough time for themselves every day? 

I guess I’ll soon find out. 


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Raising Brothers

While Levi was on winter break I watched the relationship between him and Rex evolve into a bond and friendship I’ve never seen between them before. 

Now that Rex is older (nearly 3.5 years) they’re able to play and communicate in a whole ‘nother way. 

Some of their favorite activities together include nerf gun battles, hide and seek, chasing each other through the house, and playing in blanket forts. 

It has taken some getting used to for Andy and I. At first I found that we were hindering their play by telling Levi to be careful all of the time with Rex. We wouldn’t want him to get hurt! But then we really started to take a step back and just let them do their thing. Are they getting along? Are they laughing? Is what they’re doing REALLY a risk to their safety? If my answers are yes, yes and no then hell, go ahead and run through the house falling over and tickling each other! Yes, one of you could totally run into something and get hurt or get a head to the nose (like last night) but on the flip side, you could both come out of this just fine and then have this awesome memory of the time mom and dad let you run laps through the house and you ended up laughing so hard you could barely breathe! 

It’s one of my biggest goals as their mom to foster a great, lifelong relationship between the two of them. 

And when at the dinner table last night Levi asked Rex, “Do you want to live with me when we move out of mom and dads house?” it brought me more joy than you could imagine! 


So boys, I hope you continue to run through the house, build blanket forts and have nerf gun battles for many more years to come! It’s what best friends are made from. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Goodbye 2015 - Hello 2016!

Reflecting on 2015 brings me more negative feelings than positive ones. 

What stands out: the stress of opening and operating a home daycare, the stress of planning our wedding, both of Andy’s sisters had babies (within 5 weeks of each other, one boy and one girl - YAY!) and 3 close family members suddenly passing away within 6 weeks of each other with our wedding smack dab in the middle of it all. One of those passings included my paternal grandfather at the age of 69 from a massive stroke. He’s the first grandparent of mine to pass away. It’s still incredibly difficult to wrap my head around (which is why there isn’t a big long blog post on him yet..) 

[sigh]

So many changes. TOO many changes. 

Though when I separate all of the huge, life changing, dramatic moments from 2015 what I’m left with are the memories of an incredible 6 months of cabin season. April-October we spent more time up north than we ever had in a cabin season before. With the addition of our trailer this year we longed to be up there and escape reality as much as possible. There’s a happiness we feel at our cabin that we just don’t feel when we’re anywhere else. I can’t describe it. It’s simply our most favorite place on earth. 

Looking ahead at 2016 - 

Last week my best friends, Bobbi and Chelsea and I were group texting (like we do pretty much every day) and the topic of our “Word for 2016” came up. I didn’t even know that was a thing! I didn’t give it much thought until it was NYE and Bobbi asked me “Em, did you decide on a word or resolution?” I wasn’t very clear in the head (thank you tequila and pinot) to think about it on NYE but when I woke up on NYD the first thing to pop into my head was ‘persist’. I thought about sitting down and making a list (I love lists) of all of the words that came to mind and make a better decision about it but when I just tried to make a mental list the ONLY word I could think of was ‘persist’. 


Persist - verb - continue firmly or obstinately in an opinion or a course of action in spite of difficulty, opposition, or failure.