What We Did This Summer: June

Our summer is absolutely flying by. We have been super busy. Too busy to write as much as I’d like to, but I thought I should at least share our month-by-month highlights. I give you… June.

We worked on the deck….

DSC_4770And Alethea graduated from kindergarten…

DSC_4813We celebrated her graduation with a trip to Como Town for rides and cotton candy…

DSC_4863 DSC_4973And we worked on the deck…

DSC_4987Caleb turned one and we celebrated with a baseball party…

DSC_5780And in what might turn out to be the highlight of the entire summer, the girls and Caleb sat on the grass behind second base and ate cake with their bare hands to conclude his smash cake photoshoot…

DSC_5826And we worked on the deck…

DSC_5697We played in/on/near the water every single day it didn’t rain…

DSC_5675And made several trips to the library and various playgrounds…

DSC_5287We enjoyed hanging out (and being goofy) with our neighbors…

DSC_5391And we did some more work on the deck…

DSC_5681We met this guy at the nature center…

Snapping TurtleCaleb thought it would be a good idea to pet him…

DSC_5534The girls thought it was a better idea to stay a long way behind him…

DSC_5536After working on the deck some more, we planted a fairy garden…

DSC_5705And the girls looked to see if they could find any trace of tiny magical visitors…

DSC_5728Alethea took her very first ballet class…

DSC_5610And she loved every minute of it…

DSC_5611All that along with a couple parties, trips to the beach, hanging out with friends, and lots more working on the deck made for a busy, but good month. And spoiler alert for the “What We Did This Summer: July” post, the deck still isn’t done and we’re not exactly sure when it will be. It’s ended up being a beast of a project, but we keep telling ourselves, “It will be so nice when it’s done.”

Here’s hoping this finds you all sitting back, sipping lemonade, and enjoying the sun!

Spreadin’ the Love

Today was the first day of spring. Oh, I know it’s not official, and we may (probably do) have snow coming our way yet, but it was over 50 degrees here today and I wore flip-flops, so I’m calling it close enough. That’s why I’m putting up Easter decorations tomorrow. The weather is glorious, and I’m tired of looking at my Valentine’s decor, so why not, I ask you, why not?

But before I do, here’s this year’s February memory table, featuring photos of the girls from Valentine’s Days of years past, along with an arrow-pierced heart carved by my great grandfather, and some white tulips…

DSC_2185For the mantel, I did a quick and easy craft project that I whipped up after a trip to Michael’s. I was so inspired by their spring line, I had a hard time choosing just one project to make. And no, they didn’t pay me to say that. But seriously, four vintage-looking metal letters, a pre-made riveted burlap canvas, five minutes and a bit of super glue was all it took to make this little baby…

IMG_2015Which was inspired, of course, by the Robert Indiana “Love” statue in Philadelphia, ever of significance in our home because we were standing next to it when Peter proposed to me. (And it’s where we took Alethea on her first ever airplane trip in October of 2009.)

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I used this free printable as a guide for my chalkboard art. Then I added my five-minute canvas to the mantel with an assortment of other items I already had on hand and after a few shifts, tucks and tiny tweaks, I settled on this arrangement…

DSC_2694My best Valentine’s mantel ever! (Okay, so it’s only my second year doing one, but who’s counting? Not me!)

And now that you’re feeling all lovey-dovey inside, let’s move on to Easter, shall we? Hurray for SPRING!!!!

An Anniversary Message

Dear Peter,

You know, I used to think it was pretty silly when people would say things like, “I love my husband more than I did on the day we got married.” I mean, sure the way you love someone changes and evolves over time, but if you really love someone more later on, then maybe you just got married too soon or something. Right?

Well, we’ve been married eight years as of today. And it may be silly (and I know it’s a bit corny), but I just have to say… I love you even more than the day I married you.

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Because I knew that you were patient and steady, but I didn’t realize how you would always be able to talk me down off the proverbial ledge.

And I knew that you had a great sense of humor, but I didn’t realize how I would need you to make me laugh when I was feeling overwhelmed by life.

Wedding High-Res 020Because I knew that family was important to you, but I didn’t realize how grateful I would feel every time you make a decision to do what’s good for us, rather than what is easy or convenient at the time.

And I knew that you would be a good father, but it’s totally different when I see the depth of your love for our kids through the ups and downs of parenting.

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Because I knew that you were smart, but I didn’t know how proud I would feel when over and over I see others seeking out your thoughtful, well-reasoned advice, and as I came to depend on it myself.

And I knew that you were hard-working, but I didn’t realize that you would be so good at making sure that there was still time for me every day.

Wedding High-Res 015Because I knew that managing money well was important to you, but I didn’t realize that every time I’d suggest giving some of it away, you would name a higher number than the one in my head.

And I knew that you trusted me, but I didn’t know that you would give me the freedom to make so many decisions without second-guessing me, or requesting an accounting of dollars spent or time used.

Wedding High-Res 019Because I knew that you wanted to follow Jesus, but I didn’t realize that serving the church together would help align our priorities to such a great extent.

And because I knew that you loved me, but I didn’t realize that you would continue to look for ways to show me how important I am still, eight years, three children, and a mortgage later.

Happy anniversary and all my love,


24 Hour Update

Caleb is nearly 24 hours old now and I am completely in love with this little guy! Not only is he a total cutie, but thus far he’s been eating and sleeping like a champ.

DSC_0516He reserves crying for something really offensive like when he managed to scratch himself on the cheek, or when the doctor took of his clothes and he got cold. Other than that, he’s either eating, sleeping, or looking around with a slightly perplexed look on his face.

DSC_0839Big sister Alethea thinks Caleb is great. She’s only upset that I’m not coming home at night and bringing him with me. This morning she was crying because I’d decided to spend one more night in the hospital, so she declared she was going to stay overnight too. When I pointed out that there was only one bed, she decided that she was going home to get her sleeping bag and would camp out on the floor.

DSC_0606Lydia has been going back and forth on whether having Caleb around is a good thing. When she arrived to visit this morning, she ran right over to him, smiling and cooing. Then a little later she declared that she didn’t want to be his big sister. Then another while later, she was holding him and giving him kisses.

DSC_0631Regardless of Lydia’s wavering opinion, Peter and I agree that he’s a keeper!

DSC_0602We love every bit of his 20.5 inches…

DSC_0821Including his goofy faces…

DSC_0808We’ll be headed home tomorrow morning after we get through discharge. Alethea is so excited to surprise him by showing him his room! Hope he likes it!

A Birthday Baseball Game

Yesterday was Peter’s birthday, so we had people over for a joint Mother’s Day/Birthday celebration. It was a nice time spent with our families. However, since it’s a bummer to always share your birthday, we went to a Twins game last weekend, just the five of us (Bob was there too even if he couldn’t see what was going on), for a Birthday Only celebration.

The girls were really excited at the prospect of going to a game, and even reluctantly consented to wearing pants. (They almost always wear dresses or skirts, because they insist that’s what princesses wear.)

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It was a 1:10 game, so we got them a each a kids meal for lunch on our way in. The hot dog, chips and small drink bought us 2.5 innings in our seats.

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I knew the girls would be excited to see T.C. I was hoping he would show up on our side of the stadium about mid-game so we’d have a distraction to look forward to. Unfortunately he came at the bottom of the 1st, which means we spent eight innings answering the question, “Where did T.C. go?!?” We couldn’t have asked for better weather though. It was actually a little hot sitting in the sun.

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A bag of kettle corn bought us another inning and a half, after which we took the girls up to the concourse to get out of the sun and walk around a little bit. We spent several innings in the shade, during which time the girls found themselves in need of the family restroom multiple times. Twins runs scored when each parent was in the bathroom with the girls… Elise 4, Peter 0. Apparently me not seeing the good parts is key to the Twins winning. But at least they did win, and we were back in our seats to watch the fireworks go off.

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Then there was taking the obligatory down-by-the-field photo. (They are smiling so nicely because a lady heard me trying to coax them to smile and told them that she bet their Mommy would give them a dollar if they smiled. Clearly she doesn’t know their Mommy.)


Since it was kids day, they were invited onto the field to run the bases. They were excited about it at first, but much less so when they realized they weren’t going to be allowed to run all over the grass.

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Then it was time for the long walk back to the parking garage, which proved to be a bit too long for one little fan.


But that’s okay. With no major melt-downs we are calling the outing a success.

Happy birthday, Peter! There’s no one with whom I’d rather spend my all my Twins games (which roughly translated means, I love you very very much!)


Sorry for the long silence. March came in like a lion in more ways than one around here. Not only was the weather horrible, but all four of us managed to come down with Influenza A during week one of March. Week two found Peter and the girls feeling better, but the flu morphed into a sinus infection and bronchitis for me. The coughing and headaches might have even been worse than the initial flu. So forgive me for not posting. I’ve been in a bit of a fog.

The good news is March week three brought much improvement to my heath and more interestingly, our family’s spring break vacation to Wisconsin Dells, Waterpark Capital of the World. We enjoyed a three night stay at the Wilderness Resort, which boasts four indoor waterparks, plus a variety of other attractions.

I didn’t get a ton of pictures (because water and cameras don’t mix and because Peter and I were too busy just trying to keep up with the girls), but here are my best shots:

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We spent the majority of our time exploring the different waterparks, but we squeezed in a trip downtown to eat at MACS Macaroni and Cheese Shop, which I have to mention because it was sensationally good. Why aren’t there more restaurants whose entire menu is gourmet variations on mac and cheese? One of life’s mysteries, I suppose.

We also spent one evening chilling in our suite, watching Disney’s Frozen and eating popcorn:DSC_8348

Both girls seemed particularly intrigued by the sisterly storyline. After the movie, Alethea was overheard saying to Lydia, “Don’t worry, you won’t turn to ice. You’ll be my sister forever!”

And then there was swimming and more swimming (and lots of water slide riding, of which I could not for the life of me get a decent picture).

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Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Ken-Ducky Derby. Every morning at 8:30am they race rubber duckies down the lazy river. We went two mornings and somehow Lydia’s ducks managed to win both mornings, so she ended up with a duck whistle and a water bottle. Alethea’s ducks weren’t quite as fast, but I was super proud of her for being happy just getting to keep the ducks. She was quite cheerful about it and is already talking about doing more duck races “when we go back”.

DSC_8341So that’s where we’ve been. My plan for this coming week is to attempt to get back to a normal schedule. Here’s hoping March week 4 is in fact like a lamb. Come on spring!

Christmas Traditions

Hi everyone! Hope you all had a very merry Christmas and are gearing up for a fantastic New Year! Around here, we’re also gearing up for a very special birthday party, because someone in our family is turning THREE YEARS OLD in just over a week.

But before we get too far past Christmas, I thought I’d share about some of our family’s Christmas traditions, because I love Christmas, and I love traditions, and I love hearing about other people’s traditions so I can steal adopt them for our family! So many good ideas out there. Here are a few of ours:

Every year our family, including my parents and sometimes other members from my side of the family, goes to a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm to pick out our tree. Sometimes it’s great fun, sometimes it’s freezing cold and the kids are miserable, but whatever the case, we always take a photo in front of our selected tree.

When I was little my parents would buy me a Christmas ornament every year. Peter’s parents did the same thing, so it only seemed fitting that we carry on the family tradition from both sides. Every year the girls each get a new ornament for the tree that will go with them when they move out into their own houses. Some years I pick them out. Other times we let them choose their own. When it’s my turn, I try to find things that remind me of them in some way. This year Alethea got a Clifford ornament I scored on eBay. And since both girls are currently obsessed with ducks, Lydia got this cutie:

Our second ornament tradition is that whenever Peter and I take a vacation (with or without the girls), we buy three souvenirs: something small for the house, a charm for my charm bracelet and an ornament for the Christmas tree. We actually managed to start this tradition on our honeymoon with a blown glass Canadian flag and have continued it ever since. This year we went to San Francisco and after much searching, located this one:

I love our ornaments because very year decorating the tree is like unpacking a box of memories. A bit of our childhoods, mixed with great travel, and a dose of “oh my goodness, our children are growing up too fast”!

Two years ago I was trying to figure out how to make Jesus’ birth more central to our Christmas celebration when I stumbled on this magnetic advent calendar. It was a bit more than I was hoping to spend, but it’s been totally worth it. The girls look forward to pulling out a new character every day leading up to Christmas. Truth be told, I think they were just as disappointed to find out on December 26th that there wasn’t a door to open on the calendar as they were when I told them there wouldn’t be any more presents that day either. Most importantly, it has inspired conversations, both spiritual and otherwise, about the nativity and Jesus’ birth.

Favorite advent calendar moments from 2013:

Lydia rearranging the figures, when Alethea looks over and says, “Lydia, you have to leave ONE of the angels in the stable because SOMEONE has to say, ‘Do not be afraid’!”

Alethea constantly calling the “innkeeper” the “lightkeeper”. Thank you summer camping trip in Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.

This is one of our more unique traditions, so it deserves a brief explanation of its origins. Many years ago, Peter’s grandfather and his siblings owned and ran a hardware store and by the time they closed up shop on Christmas Eve, nobody wanted to cook and the only place open to eat was the Chinese restaurant. Although the hardware store has long been out of business, the family tradition continued and evolved in Peter’s father’s generation to become a formal sit-down chow mein dinner. In keeping with Peter’s heritage, every year on Christmas Eve, we go to church and then come home to eat Chinese take-out with our friends and family. And because family traditions should evolve, we order a variety of other dishes in addition to the usual chow mein.

This tradition is a favorite with me because it combines everything I love about entertaining… the decorating, the formality, using my china and crystal, and having good conversations over a meal, while eliminating the thing I dislike most… cooking for a crowd.

Here’s a tradition that came along as a bit of a practicality. We are very fortunate that we get a lot of gently used hand-me-down clothes for the girls from some of our church friends. For whatever reason though, we always seem to still need more pajamas. Thus the beginnings of our “wear new pajamas to bed on Christmas Eve” tradition. Here’s Alethea modeling hers Christmas morning 2009:

Alright, I know this is getting long, so last one… a tradition I stole from one of the designers on HGTV. (I think it was Genevieve Gorder, but don’t quote me on that.) Every Christmas morning the kiddos are required to stop on their way down the stairs and let me take their picture before they get to open presents.




Our stairwell is completely devoid of natural light, so I know this will never be the world’s best photograph, but it does mean I get at least one shot of the kids together in their jammies on Christmas morning.

So there you go. A few of our family Christmas traditions. Now it’s your turn. What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Any that our family should try out? Please do share!

What We Did This Summer

I can’t believe it’s October already. Where did the warm weather go? Just today Alethea asked if we could go back to the beginning of the summer and start over. I told her that no, unfortunately we’ve got to wait for summer to come back around again. I can’t blame her though, because while there were plenty of unexciting days, we squeezed in quite a bit of fun too, including:

A petting zoo and pony rides…Attending three weddings…Visiting Grandma Ruth and Grandpa Jim in Iowa and going to their local waterpark….

The county fair and what I think was the girls’ first ever carousel ride…

A whole weekend of boating, jetskiing, swimming and fishing…

As well as several days at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park for camping, hiking, lighthouse touring and hanging out with my side of the family…

Nope, we can’t go back and do it all again, but nothing to stop us from enjoying the photos and memories.

So long summer!