June 10, 2014

Our Summer Adventure '14: The beginning

Justin has been coming Up North since he was young, some of his earliest and best memories were made here.  Through the years, we have made many of our own memories here as well.  It's a comforting feeling to be here, to feel at home here.

The weather is a refreshing 74 degrees and I can smell the pine and fresh cut grass (mainly because the clippings still linger on my shoes from this mornings weed whacking adventure). As I look out onto the lake; the water calm, the sky bright blue, a small cool breeze blows against my skin, making the hairs on my arm stand up, I can't help but think of the adventure we are embarking on.

Today we woke up in our temporary "hideout". I say that because the cabin is not ours', we are just lucky enough to be able to use it temporarily as a way to remove ourselves from the hassle of attempting to sell a home (in this market!) with 2 young kids and a dog.

We listed our house for sale in October 2013, shortly after finding out that Justin's job was changing and we would be able to move north.  We weren't sure what to expect those first couple of months, but if you have ever sold a house (especially with young kids) you know what I'm talking about when I say it's stressful and that may be putting it mildly.  If you have never sold a house, let me be the first to say it is not for the faint of heart, at least not in our situation.  Here are the highlights:

October 2013: Listed house
Nov-Dec 2013: Had a handful of showings, during the coldest winter in a long time, a few second showings, and a lot of getting our hopes up just to be left wondering what happened to those buyers....
Jan-Feb 2014: Showings decreased due to -40 below weather and lots of snow.
March-May 2014: Decreased price of home, had a few more showings.....still no offer.
June 2014: Decreased price once more (last time!) Had a solid showing the first week and are still left wondering what's going to happen....

Overall: 25+ showings, 5 second showings, 2 price drops, no offer to date.

As the months rolled on, I knew the process was wearing on me, but also on the kids.  Having packed away 1/2 of their belongings into totes and not being able to play or get things messy for the day/hours leading up to a house showing, those days/hours are often some of the hardest.  Trying to explain to kids that the house has to be in "show" condition is ridiculous and pointless.  They don't care, they are kids and they need to play and be messy and build pirate forts, etc.....

That is when we decided that we wanted time off.  Time off from selling a house.  Justin's parents graciously agreed to let us inhabit the cabin for the summer so we could put some normalcy back into our lives and the kids' lives.  Kids are resilient, of course this is true, but kids also need to be kids and after a while the meticulous cleaning, the sterile "show" worthy house, and the running around during showings, gets old.

So here we are.  Day 2 of our Summer Adventure.  Our new "normal".  Justin worked his first day today, with views of the lake and there is no doubt that this has solidified his desire to move north (not to mention the fact that working from home and having house showings do not go hand in hand!)  I would be lying if I woke up this morning and thought "this is just another typical Tuesday".  No, today was anything but typical (I had a beer at noon, because it feels like vacation still, in my mind!) and the kids were bouncing off the walls with excitement.

It's almost 4 pm though and Justin is done working, we both got a work out in, and the kids are settled in resting with a movie.  We have a house showing tomorrow night at 6pm, but instead of going into cleaning mode, we have fish waiting for us in the lake.

Yes, there is a fine line between work and play up here and I imagine I will get used to letting that line get blurry.

April 16, 2014

Jackson: 5 years old

Dear Jackson,

I knew this day was coming and yet, still, I'm surprised at how "old" 5 years seems.  You seem to be wise beyond your years, but realistically I know it's my vision of you as a toddler that makes you seem so old already.

I know I'm a little bias, but you are a smart kid. Your interests vary, but your passions are trains and dinosaurs.  You can tell us the names of more dinosaurs than any adult I know! You are fascinated by their bones and by what they eat and how they looked back then.  Your favorite dinosaur is the mighty Spinosauras, because he can even beat the T-Rex!

In school you are doing great! You are in 4K and your favorite part is recess :)  You are our social butterfly, so you have made many friends, a few that you invited to your birthday this year.  You can count to 100 and love to remind us that you can identify all the numbers on a measuring tape up to 300.

You are very curious about everything; you want to know the reasoning behind things, the meaning of words you don't know, practically everything new you want to know all about it.

You surprise us alot these days.  You have always been cautious, not timid, but you like to think things through first. So when we took a trip to the Dells and you headed down your first water slide by yourself, without hesitation, I was shocked.  Again, I was in awe of you when you came down after the 10th time with the biggest grin on your face, you were so happy and I was so very proud of you.

Your sister is your constant companion.  She really misses having you around, on days when you are in school until 3pm.  She has adjusted well, but I can tell it is still hard on her to have you gone all day.  You include her in most things you do and only rarely does she get on your nerves ;)  You have aloud her to take the trundle bed in your room for the past year; it's like the sleep-over-that-never-ends.  It helps that you both go to bed at 8pm and have stopped coming into our room at night, but I think you would sleep alot longer (longer than 5:30am!) if you didn't wake each other up in the morning.

We are still trying to get you to keep a pull up dry over night.  20% of the time you do, but we just aren't there yet.  You'll get there :)

Your special bond with Hannah warms my heart.  If it is the one thing I was put on this Earth to do, I will continue to encourage you both to appreciate the bond that you share throughout the years.  Society is changing and so the adolescence I remember is no longer reality. It will be important to have a friend like your sister, someone that knows and loves you unconditionally.  Someone to watch over you and for you to watch over. Someone to confide in-although I hope I, too, can be that person. I hope your friendship with Hannah only continues to grow in the future.

Nighttime is one of my favorite times.  After brushing teeth to the Thomas the Train song, flossing with dinosaur floss, it is finally time to rest our heads.  You sleep in socks, no matter the weather.  You have a few friends that you adore, Swoop (the pterodactyl), Tiny (the elephant), and George (the giraffe). We say our prayers together and then sing requested Johnny Cash songs.  Your favorite is "taillights from the beginning to the end". After our songs, we say, what has now become tradition, "I love you more than....all the stars in the sky" to which you reply "I love you all the way to the farthest planet and back" then you wait for me to say "you win!" which makes you smile every time.  You started rubbing in your kisses when we kissed you good night.  When we asked you why, you told us "so that I can keep them forever."  It has know become part of our bedtime ritual to rub in our kisses and hugs.

I love to watch you interact with other people.  You always have a story to tell, much like your father, and people are captivated by you.  You talk with your hands and have so many amazing facial expressions and they can hear the excitement in your voice, all of that combined leads to a priceless moment.  This trait will surely take you far in the future.

The word we most use to describe you has always been easygoing.  Its a fabulous trait to possess baby boy.  never lose that.

Jackson's Favorites at 5 year old:
Food: Strawberries and waffles
Drink: lemonade and OJ
Sport: Soccer
Game: Sorry!
Animal: Dinosaurs
What do you want to be when you grow up: a train engineer and dinosaur expert
Where are you going to live when you grow up: Rhinelander
Book: Dinosaur, train and truck books
Bestfriend: Hannah and school friends
Color: Blue
Season: Winter

love you baby boy, to the moon and back....

October 31, 2013

Halloween 2013

Halloween has never been my favorite holiday.  I don't decorate much for Halloween, because that would mean disturbing my Fall decor and I LOVE my Fall decorations, so Halloween always is an afterthought.  

This year though, with you both being so eager for Trick or Treating and so involved in your choice of costume, I did find myself getting into Halloween a little more than usual.  

We baked cookies and took them into Jackson's 4k class.  We made our first Boo-Tree from an old piece of drift wood that we found at the cabin a few years back.  That piece of wood has been sitting in our garage for years, but I never had a purpose for it until now.  It was just too neat to let it sit in the woods or in the lake.  We spray painted it black and got a few little ornaments for it and lights and it is now my favorite Halloween decoration!  You both took turns making sure the lights were turned on the tree every day and rearranging the ornaments.
Jackson and Hannah, you both had Halloween programs at school this year.  I came early to dress you in your costumes and then you processed into the auditorium with your classes.  

Jackson, your T-Rex costume, was by far, the most unique :)  Except it was a tad big, like T-rex's tend to be, and your chompers didn't seem to want to stay put and your big tail kept getting in your way when you sat down!  You took it all in stride though and it didn't keep you from enjoying yourself and signing along with your class.  

Hannah, you truely are your own person.  It didn't surprise me one bit when you asked to be Cubby (the pirate) for Halloween this year.  You adore your friend Cubby and you looked adorable in your costume!  I couldn't help but smile when you came out with your class, of all girls, and you were the only one NOT wearing a dress.  Talk about a leader.  You, my baby girl, are already setting your own trends!  


October 11, 2013

Hannah: 3 years

Dear Hannah,

Today is your birthday, your 3rd birthday, and I woke up this morning and reminisced about your abrupt entrance into our lives.  It was fitting for you to enter the world the way you did, quickly, without warning. You have spent the last three years growing up way too fast, being little miss independent, having a mind of your own and doing things on your terms.  I am proud of you baby girl, so very very proud.

Your days start, typically, by climbing into bed with me...snuggling for awhile and then making just enough noise to make sure I get out of bed. You still love Jake and the Neverland Pirates and watch them most mornings.  You still watch Minnie Mouse, but I would have to say your love of Minnie has dissipated significantly. Breakfast isn't really your cup of tea, you tend to ask for fruit snacks. On occasion though, you ask for oatmeal with Mommy and Daddy and a banana.  You love toast with PB&J and yogurt.  You aren't afraid to try new things, you have always been a jump first-think later type of girl.  We laugh about it now, but it does make me a little more worried about what we are in for in the future.

You just had your 3rd birthday party last weekend and while planning, you decided you wanted a Thomas the Train party.  We had your party at Marathon Park, so we could ride the train and play in the splash pad! You did humor me and wore a Tutu that I made in Thomas Red, Blue and White. You looked beautiful :)

You entered 3K the day after you turned 3.  You went right into class, that first day, you didn't say much, but you followed instructions from the teacher, you played in the kitchen set area with other kids, and you sat at the table and did puzzles.  You were all smiles, ear to ear, you exclaimed that you LOVED school and it melted my heart.  You are sure growing up. 

School drop off is M and W at 1215 and you stay until 2:15, you run up to me when I pick you up with a big "Mamaaaaaa" and wrap your arms around my neck.  This is one of the best parts of my whole day.

You know your colors and can identify your name.  I would say you could spell your name, on occasion you do, but most of the time you say H-A-N-N-H.  Just about there :)  You can count to 12, you and your brother both skip 13 for some reason, we are working on it.

We took a cabin vacation recently and it was so much fun.  You are at a great age.  We went Kayaking for the first time with you and Jackson and you rode with Daddy all the way to our little island picnic.  At the Island you and Jackson set off for the perfect spot to have our snack, you called it your ADVENTURE! After our adventure, you decided the October weather was nice enough for a little dip in the lake.  There was a shallow path between the island and the shore, the water came up to your thighs and you thought every minute of it was fantastic.  You were having the time of your life going back and forth from island to shore (up until you fell and scrapped your leg on a rock).  You ended up wet from head to toe and rode home in my kayak with Daddy's extra tshirt and long socks under your life vest! Your innocence and playfulness is something that as we grow up, we sometimes loose.  I hope you never loose your love for life and your playful carefree attitude.  You have taught me so much about myself along the way these last few years and that day you taught me that getting your feet wet is better than sitting on the shore and watching....even if it means falling and scrapping your leg....because despite the pain of that fall, you made an amazing memory that day.  We all did.

August 29, 2013

My Ode to Summer 2013

Each and every year, warm summer days knock at our door and I don't necessarily welcome them in with open arms.  Despite my reluctant attitude towards summer, it always has a way of saying "hey, there is more to me than sweating your butt off and mosquito's"  (even though I'm pretty certain it's 90% sweat and biting bugs!) 

Summer 2013 was filled with.....

 eating more ice cream than we should have :)

 the kids using their first slip-n-slide
 Celebrating Independence day.
 Spending my 29th birthday at the Henry Villas Zoo and the kids tasting cotton candy for the first time.
 Riding trains....zoo trains, diesel trains, visiting trains....trains!trains!trains!

 We found this special place, the splash pad, and visited it often this summer.  For 50 cents a day you can't beat the heat any better way.

 We, of course, spent time with Gma Mary and Papa Grizz Up North. We took the big boat out, had a picnic dinner on an island with friends one night and Jackson and Hannah got lessons in driving the boat.

 We ate s'mores by the campfire :)
 and BOY did we SWIM!!  Whether it was at The Lake or at Grandma's Pool the kids loved it!

 The Summer of 2013 was a summer full of time spent together, a time with family and friends, it was a Summer of reconnecting with the things that are most important to us. 
It was Summer and, somehow, it made me fall in love with it. 

April 16, 2013

Jackson: 4 years old

Dear Jackson,

Four years ago, God granted us the amazing gift of a child.  He trusted your Daddy and me with a precious gift and we knew, from the moment we held you, that you would change our lives forever.

It is harder now, than I ever imagined it would be, to remember those sleepless nights in your nursery or the feeding sessions that seemed to never end.  Those first years when you were this tiny, cooing, baby were hectic and I often times felt I didn't know what I was doing, but we survived and we grew together. Our family grew.  Together.

This past year you have grown out of the toddler stage.  You are a week away from finishing 3K.  You are a week away from starting your first team sport, soccer.  Yes, baby boy, your toddler years are definitely behind you and you are a big boy.

With school, came the new experience of making friends.  Since you never attended daycare, your classmates became your first playmates outside of your sister and cousins.  You have a few good friends in school; Mason and Ruby came to your birthday party this year and it was neat for me to see you interacting with them outside of the walls of your classroom.

In school, your teacher once described you as "serious, like a grown up".  Although it didn't come close to fully describing who you are, she was spot on.  You have a serious side, you are a thinker, you like to take everything in and process it.  You have a humorous side also, although it is humor that is thought out in advance, not off the cuff.  You have recently started quoting movie lines, which goes to show that men start quoting movies at a very young age :)  School has given you the chance to, not only, meet new friends, but also it has you learning to sing and memorize songs.  Listening to you sing along with Thomas and Friends, never fails to make me smile, because your face lights up and your smile is so genuine.

Oh the trains!  Thomas and Friends will be a part of our home for a long time.  Even after you are too old to play with trains, I'm going to pack them up and keep them safe for you to some day take out and remember how much a part of your life these little guys are.  For your birthday, the 4 of us went shopping and you got to spend your birthday money on whatever you wanted and, of course, you picked trains.  At four, you don't argue with us on a lot of things.  You get upset, of course, but the majority of the time, if we explain to you why you can't do something and you are able to understand the reason behind it, you accept it.  There are times, the whiny times, that your emotions are too much for you to handle.  In these moments, I have to get past the breakdown and remember that you are only 4 and you shouldn't control your emotions like your an adult.  In these moments I often tell you that it's okay to be sad and when you are done crying we can talk.  To which, your response, is often "I can't stop crying".  Which reminds me just how little you still are.

Your attitude towards others is one of kindness and curiosity.  You observe the way others play, the way they act, and imitation is something we have had to talk about recently.  We have witnessed you many times get upset and try to hit your sister.  It isn't pretty and we have explained it to you over and over.

Jackson, at 4 yrs old I can't imagine what goes through your head every second of the day.  You have so many questions these days.  Why did the dinosaurs die?  Why can't we ride a steam train?  Your questions are endless and I hope you never stop asking them.  Talking to you makes me realize how lucky I am to be your Mom.  You are smart, funny, kind, cautious, and you love us.

I love your questions.  I love your passion for trains.  I love the way you memorize Johnny Cash songs that your Dad sings at bedtime.  Your excitement when you talk about something that amazes you.  I will miss the nights when you ask me to lay with you for a little while longer.  You are growing up and next year you will be in school for a full day 3 days a week.  Those days will surely be tough on me, I will miss you and worry about you, but I also look forward to you coming home and telling me all about your day.  You are growing up and I never knew how difficult that was going to be.

I love you little bear.