So long 2016

Tomorrow is the last day of the year and I for one am not sorry to say goodbye to 2016. It’s been a crazy year end for us filled with another trip to the ER for Michael, and a hit and run on our Acura. Thankfully, our trip to Iowa was a huge success but I’ll get to that later.

I’ve worked more in the month of December than I have any other month this year, by far. One of my last shifts at El Gaucho Bellevue turned out to be a really expensive shift to pick up. I had a really nice evening at work and was very happy to be leaving the restaurant at a reasonable hour, I was even hoping that I’d be home in time to see Michael before he headed to bed. Unfortunately, when I got to the car I noticed that it had a huge blue scratch on the front driver side. My stomach sank, I instantly felt horrible. Although it wasn’t my fault, I knew that it would make Michael upset and I hated to come home and drop bad news in his lap after barely seeing him for the past 2 days. Sometimes people suck, what do you do? We’ve already gotten an estimate to repair the damage and plan to get it done ASAP but it still makes me mad just thinking about it. The money I made that night doesn’t even cover half of what it will cost to fix the damage.

A few days later Michael came down with a nasty stomach bug. He took a few days off work and rested as much as possible but about 3 days into it he just couldn’t take it anymore and took himself to the ER in the middle of the night to get checked out. Thankfully they were able to give him some meds to help with the nausea and after another few days of rest he was feeling better. We did end up having to cancel our dinner party which was a bummer but we’re planning to host something in January to make up for it. It put a little bit of a damper on Laurel’s visit but we made the most of it and spent most of her visit at home which allowed us to have some good ole quality time together. Laurel and I had originally planned to get away together for a night out and maybe a bit of Christmas shopping but it didn’t happen and actually the weekend at home was just what I needed. We baked cookies with the girls, did a little shopping with the kids, had a movie night, took her rock hunting, and just enjoyed being together. I am so excited that she and her husband, Mark, are planning to move back to Seattle in the spring, there are sure to be many more weekends together in the coming year.

The day before our trip to Iowa we were visited by Santa. Michael was home from work for the day so we took the opportunity to celebrate and open presents from both my mom and Michael’s mom, as well as all the gifts we bought for the kids. It was of course a huge hit. It really doesn’t matter what the gift is, the kids get excited just to open up presents. Big or small, they appreciate them all and loved every minute of it. This year, Elise asked Santa for a helicopter, Ava asked for a purple giraffe (her favorite animal) with brown spots and Enzo wanted a fire truck. Santa came through and with the help of Amazon, he was able to deliver on each request. The rest of the day was spent preparing for our 8 day trip to Iowa. Generally I would already have all of our things packed and ready to go but because of our recent visitor and the fact that I have been working a lot, I didn’t pack a single item until the day before we left. That night at bedtime we dressed the kids in the clothes that they would need to wear the next day and got to bed as early as possible in preparation of our 4:30 am departure.

Aside from nearly missing our connecting flight in Denver due to a delayed take off in Seattle, it was a pretty easy trip. We did have to run from gate B42 to Gate B87 in 5 minutes but we managed and the flight was a breeze. We were all hangry (angry and hungry) when we arrived but Grandpa greeted us with nuggets and chicken sandwiches from Chik-fil-a so it didn’t take us long to bounce back from a long day of travel.

The week we spent in Iowa was all I wanted and more. The first day in town I was able to sneak away for almost 5 hours while Michael and my Dad took the kids sledding. My girlfriend, Liz, was in town from Dallas visiting family and drove an hour and a half to Cedar Rapids just to see me. I haven’t seen her since she visited San Diego the summer after Ava was born so there was no shortage of things to catch up on. It was such a wonderful afternoon. We stopped by the mall for a little last minute shopping and then had a nice long lunch at the restaurant we both worked at back in 2001. It’s true what they say that a good friendship is one that doesn’t fade with time. We could have stayed at lunch all day and just talked and talked. I got a little choked up when it was finally time to say goodbye but I know that we’ll see each other again when the timing is right. Meanwhile the kids had a great time playing in the snow with Dad and Grandpa. Actually, Ava had a good time playing in the snow. Elise took a spill her first time sledding down the hill and decided to take a nap in the car while Ava took advantage of what would be the only time they were able to play in the snow during our week long stay. That night we drove around the west side of town looking at Christmas lights. Driving around in search of lights has become a tradition for us and one of my favorites. It is no exaggeration when I say that we saw two houses that were by far my favorite christmas light displays ever. Its too bad that by this point all of the kids were sound asleep. One was a house that was totally decked out in lights and it was programmed to sing along with one of the local radio stations. We happened to drive up to the display and tune in just as they were playing a portion of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It’s by far my favorite holiday movie and one that my Dad and I used to watch together every year so it made seeing that house just at that moment all the more special. We were even greeted by the owner of the house who was outside handing out candy canes to all the cars driving up to see his house. This kind of thing only happens in Iowa, I swear. We chatted with him for a few minutes and he suggested we drive up around the corner to one of his neighbors houses to see another incredible display. We were not disappointed! The next house was covered in lights on all 4 sides including a tree in the front yard like I had never seen before. It was at least 30 feet tall and nearly every branch was wrapped in white lights. It honestly took your breath away at first sight. I have no idea how it was done but it was nothing short of spectacular.

The next day, Michael and I took the kids to an indoor play space and ran around for a few hours while Dad stayed home to prepare for the Rudd Christmas party that night. After playing games and running around for a few hours we headed over to my grandparents condo to see them for the first time. All of the kids loved seeing their condo, which is filled to the brim with breakables and all kinds of interesting things. The girls favorite part was sifting through my Grandma’s seashell collection and Enzo was instantly drawn to a wooden train that I remember playing with as a kid. It’s like a trip down memory lane walking into their condo for me. Looking around at all the artwork and knick knacks, each of which remind me of a certain time in my childhood. It was a nice visit and gave the kids a chance to get some one on one time with both my grandparents and Aunt Betsy. We weren’t able to stay long because we had a party that evening but it was nice to get some time in no matter how short.

That night was the annual Rudd Christmas party and of course it was a lot of fun. My Dad totally outdid himself making a delicious ham and beef tenderloin dinner and all the adults enjoyed a hilarious gift exchange. The weather turned nasty really quick that evening but thankfully it didn’t stop almost everyone from making it. It’s no surprise that we spent the entire evening crowded around the kitchen island laughing at each other and enjoying a few drinks. I am so thankful for the opportunity to see everyone, the kids had a blast climbing on Uncle Tracy and dragging any willing adult around the house. Michael and I had a great time listening to everyone tell stories about the year and generally poking fun at one another. After all the guests left we didn’t stop for the night. Michael, Dad, Chris and I stayed up until nearly 1:00 am sitting around the table talking. Words can not describe what nights like this mean to me. Quality time like that with my family is something that can’t be duplicated. Although my Dad and I talk on the phone weekly, nothing can replace a nice long conversation in person.

We were all pretty tired the next day so we laid low for the most part only getting out of the house to walk around the neighborhood for a bit. That night my Dad made us all my favorite Christmas Eve dinner, lobster corn chowder, and we were joined by Joel and Melanie who had recently returned from a 3 week trip to Malaysia. As is tradition in our family, the kids each get to open a present on Christmas Eve night. We bent to their pleas and allowed them to open more than one each but mostly because we wanted them to have a few things to occupy them for the evening so that the adults could get a little more time together without interruption. The meal did not disappoint, my Dad added crab for the first time and it was amazing. I remember having this on Christmas Eve years ago and it was better than I remembered. There was a lot to hear about regarding Joel and Melanie’s trip. None of us have ever been to that part of the world so it was fascinating to hear about their adventures. It was another late night spent around the kitchen table talking and one that I won’t soon forget. After they left we set out the remaining gifts from Santa, hung the stocking and headed off to bed in anticipation of an early morning.

Ava was the first one up on Christmas morning, which is no surprise since she is usually the first person to wake up. She came into our bedroom and said “Did Santa come last night? Can we open up presents?” By this time we were all up and headed upstairs to get grandma and grandpa up for the day. The kids started with the stockings and Elise was so cute, as she emptied out each item she yelled out with excitement “I got a candy! I got a car! I got socks!” It was adorable. The kids didn’t waste any time opening gifts, there was no waiting to see who got what, or taking turns. It was more like, “Which one says my name?” and then they would rip the paper off and move on to the next. There were a few times that we didn’t even know whose gift is was until it was opened. After all the boxes were unwrapped it looked like a bomb had gone off in the living room. We sat around and opened up each toy and piled a huge mound of cardboard into garbage bags. All of the adults were exhausted by this time and for the rest of the morning we just laid around and enjoyed the sound of the kids playing together. We were joined by all of Chris’s family that afternoon for an early dinner and another gift exchange. It was a great opportunity to get to know Chris’s family a bit better. Since I have lived so far away for all of my Dad and Chris’s relationship I have never really gotten the chance to spend time with her family. It was fun sitting around listening to their stories just like we had done with my own family. Once again my Dad totally outdid himself with all the food. He made what was probably the best turkey I have ever had. Wow was it good, so extremely juicy and slightly crispy on the outside, yum! After dinner I was definitely feeling like I was in a food coma and so was Michael because he fell asleep while sitting in the living room with everyone while they were doing their family gift exchange. Christmas was probably the only night we got to bed at a decent hour and skipped our nightly talk around the dinner table.

The next day we headed over to my grandparents condo for another Christmas party. My Aunt Betsy was thoughtful enough to coordinate a get together for us so that we could see all of my Mom’s family. We booked out the community room in the basement of their building and had everyone over for lunch. My grandma brought down her huge assortment of beads and Betsy and MaryJo set up a lunch buffet for us all. We sat around and talked and made beaded necklaces. The girls were both so incredibly proud of their creations and have worn them almost everyday since. I enjoyed sitting with my cousin Carissa and getting to know her a bit more while also making a necklace of my own, with a 3 picture locket on it. Although I don’t wear jewelry much this one is something that I will treasure. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy carefully selecting the perfect beads to make it, but I also had a great time sitting with Carissa while I beaded it. Michael enjoyed an afternoon of sitting with my uncles and grandpa, telling them mostly about the wonders that is Microsoft but also getting to know more about them as well. We get so little time with my family, and he has only been to Cedar Rapids 3 times now so every minute that we are there is special. By the end of the day we were pretty exhausted so we spent a nice relaxing night in at my Dad’s and ordered pizza. Michael and the kids went to bed early and my Dad and I stayed up late together watching a movie.

The next morning we packed up the van and headed out on a little road trip to Dubuque. My friend, Jodi and her family were also home for the holidays and since they were only 90 minutes away we wanted to take advantage of being so close to each other and spend the afternoon together. My went to her parents house for lunch and stayed to play for a few hours. She has two girls both close in age to Ava and Elise, last time we were in town they stayed the night at my Dads house and the kids really hit it off. This time was no different. Our kids made themselves at home as if they had visited there 100 times before and Jodi and I separated ourselves from the men a bit and were able to catch up on all sorts of things. I wish I had more time with Jodi, or that I had more friends like Jodi because it felt so great to be there with her. It was almost a bit therapeutic for me to spend time with her, she has such a calming, loving personality. I was completely bummed when I realized it was time to go. Time flew by while we were there and before I knew it, it was time to get back on the road.

The next day was our last day in town so we wanted to make it a full one. We got up and got ready and headed out to see my grandparents and Betsy one last time. It wasn’t a long visit but it was another opportunity for all of us to get in one more visit and for them to see the kids one more time. We hung out in their living room and played with the kids and Betsy totally had Enzo mesmerized with Nursery Rhymes. Humpty Dumpty to be exact. He has never heard the rhyme before and thought she was hysterical each time she repeated it to him. I was extremely grateful for this when on our last flight home he became horribly aggravated, I tried all sorts of things to calm him down and after about 10 minutes of no stop screaming I was able to keep him completely quiet by saying the Humpty Dumpty rhyme to him over and over. It worked like a charm. I was of course sad to say goodbye to them when it was time to go but we had plans to meet my Dad and Chris for lunch and then we were all headed to the Kids Museum in Iowa City for the afternoon. Leaving their house and not knowing when I will see any of the 3 of them again made me choke up. I did my best to see them as much as possible while we were in town but it doesn’t make things any easier. Seeing my Aunt and grandparents play with each of my children fills my heart with so much joy. The hardest part of living away from home is the time that you miss out on with your family. My kids will never know what it’s like to spend a sick day, home from school with one of their Aunts or grandparents. They’ll never get to go out on a random weekday movie date with their cousins, they won’t know what it’s like to have Christmas traditions with extended family every year. These are the things that fill my mind when I’m home visiting. These are the reasons Michael and I did our best to fill our 8 days in Iowa with family.

The rest of the afternoon was tons of fun, we had lunch at one of the coolest places in Cedar Rapids, The Black Sheep. Then we headed to Iowa City to the children’s museum. We all had a great time at the museum, it was definitely a good choice. Both kids and adults found an activity that caught their attention. I even noticed my Dad and Michael off together making and flying paper airplanes. The museum puts all of the kids attractions that we usually frequent to shame. We burned up nearly 3 hours of time in the blink of an eye. The highlight for all of us was easily the flight room. It was room filled with flight simulators, a giant slide, a fake, nearly full sized hot air balloon, several mini ride in planes, a network of air tubes that you could watch balls buzz around it and more. On our way out of the mall, grandma took the girls into Claire’s. They had been totally obsessed with jewelry since making their own beaded necklaces so she wanted to get them a few things to play with. It was the first time they have been taken into a store and told they could pick out whatever they wanted. I didn’t go in with them because I wanted it to be a special thing just with grandma. It was so adorable when they proudly showed us all of the treasure they had picked out for themselves. Its no surprise that since coming home these are the toys that they have clutched onto the most. What a special moment for them, no doubt. That night was a little bitter sweet, we were definitely all looking forward to being home, but we were not looking forward to leaving grandpa and grandma behind. I think Enzo has had the hardest time leaving grandpa behind. The two of them formed a bond on this trip unlike one I have yet seen with my kids. The has asked about grandpa almost hourly since leaving. Its both heartwarming and heart breaking at the same time. The joy that I get from seeing my baby boy and my Dad bond in unbelievable, the sadness that I feel knowing that we won’t be together again for several months is devastating.

2016 was not my favorite year by any means, but Christmas 2016 is one that I will never forget. I have only visited Iowa 4 times in 13 years. Two of those visits took place in 2016. This past week was everything that I wanted and more. My Dad and Chris worked their butts off in preparation for our stay. They opened up their home to mass chaos and did it happily. They hardly let us lift a finger for 8 days and when we did help they thanked us repeatedly. They hosted multiple gathering so that we would have quality time with all of our multiple family members. They provided us with an awesome “Pellegrini Suite” to stay in and made sure that we wanted for nothing. They didn’t bat an eye when one of the kids spilled or broke something and they never stopped being incredible hosts. All 5 of us had an awesome trip and we are so thankful that we were able to fill every minute of our trip with family. I love you both so very much, thank you for having us, we miss you already!

Playing at the park with Grandpa

Lunch at Biaggi’s with Liz

Daddy and Ava sledding at the YMCA

What a tree!

Staying warm with Enzo

Opening presents with Grandma

The girls posing in front of our beautiful tree

Who wants to race?

Lounging with Uncle Joel

Christmas morning

Our silly girls

Love you Dad

Elise getting ready to open her coloring book and crayons

Grandpa and his main man

Ava was so proud of the necklace she made

Visiting Jodi’s family in Dubuque

Hanging out with Great Grandpa Larry

A nice visit with Great Grandma Sherry

It’s Raining Bats and Dogs!

Halloween 2016 was a wet one. I don’t think it stayed completely dry for any of our October festivities, and there were a lot of them. We visited our first pumpkin patch for the season on October 3rd with our friends Solana, Ronan and Finn. It was a wet confusing mess for us all because the patch itself was only partially open for the month. We made the most of it and spent the majority of our time at the giant sand pit playing with trucks and racing tricycles on the hay rack race track. It was a great way to kick off the short season. All on all we ended up visiting 4 different patches and going a total of 6 times.

Our 4th trip to the patch for the month was a field trip with the girls pre-school. Both classes met together for a combined tour of our favorite pumpkin patch/farm. We dropped off Enzo beforehand so he could hang out with some guy friends for the afternoon 🙂 This made it easier for me to get down and dirty with the girls and their classmates. We made corn kernel angles in the corn bin, jumped on a bouncy, went up and down the large hay slides, pet the bunnies and goats, watched a pig show and duck race, and had creamsicles with their classmates. We even got our own private tractor ride around the pumpkin fields so that each child could find his or her perfect pumpkin. It was a great afternoon, I really loved the special time I got to have with them both and I know they felt the same way because it was the only trip to the patch this season that they thanked me for, several times.

We kicked off Halloween weekend of Friday by decorating our little pumpkins from the girls field trip. Elise wanted a cat and Ava a fish. We ended up with Stinky the cat, a baby pumpkin with painted black ears, green eyes and whiskers, and Sticky the fish, a purple fish silhouette with glitter scales, lashed eyes and a small smile. Both girls were incredibly proud of their little creations and had a hard time just leaving it on the front porch. Elise wanted to carry hers all over the house and play with it.

That night was our annual neighborhood pumpkin carving party. Our party loving neighbors Cara and Jim host this every year and we have been lucky enough to join them for 2 years now. Michael unfortunately had to work late so I took the kids over solo. I didn’t bring a pumpkin for our family to carve because I knew it would be too much for to take on 3 kids and a jack o lantern at once. This was the primary reason I suggested making pumpkins earlier that day. Ava still managed carve one of her own thanks to the help of Jim and she was so happy with herself when we carried it home and lit it up. She would have slept with it had I allowed it. Elise as planned was happy to hang out in the garage with all the big kids and compliment everyone else’s creations while showing off hers from earlier. Meanwhile Enzo hung out in the kitchen, near the food and the adults and was happy to be eating and dragging around an old monster truck that he spotted as soon as we arrived. They all had a great time and love being at Jim and Cara’s parties. We did leave the party a little early because Michael was just getting home and the kids wanted to tell him all about their day plus we had a big day planned for Saturday.

The next morning we got up and got going right away with breakfast and clothes and all the morning rituals. Normally on Saturdays we all take our time waking up and relaxing together at various times in the living room. But today we had a birthday party to get to at the zoo and everyone was dressing up in costumes for the occasion. We were originally planning on dressing Enzo up as a politician this year, thinking that it would be funny with the up coming election but it never came together the way were envisioning it so he was Batman. Not a very original idea but he was still super cute in a little black cape. It worked out better in the long run anyway, because our original idea included a suit for him and it was so rainy and miserable out that he spent most of his time in the stroller where you couldn’t really see what he was wearing. It was only because he had on a very recognizable costume that anyone knew what he was. Elise was Zuma, her favorite dog from paw patrol (a Nickelodeon show). Ava was Judy Hopps from Zootopia. I dressed up as well although truthfully it was a pretty lame attempt, I was a lumber jack. We met the birthday boy, Ronan and family at the zoo entrance and together a big group of us took on the rain. We had already planned on meeting up with Madi and Kristy at the zoo on Halloween weekend for their pumpkin bash so we combined the two and it was a sloppy, wet success. We spent nearly 3 hours wandering from one covered exhibit to the next. It was raining pretty hard the whole time but not one single kid complained, not once. They were too busy running around with each other, checking out all the costumes and decorations and eating lots of treats. I was super impressed with how our family handled the situation. We did finally reach our breaking point, once the adults were cold and uncomfortable enough we decided to have Madi and Kristy come over for lunch and more pumpkin decorating.

I headed home with all of the kids while Michael and Kristy stopped off at the grocery store for fried chicken and pumpkins. After lunch we set up shop in the garage, turned on a heater, some music, and got everyone situated with their prospective pumpkins. The adults carved out a group pumpkin and all the kids painted theirs. By the time we were all finished with our pumpkins the weather had finally cleared up so we got out the scooters and bikes and raced up and down the cul-de-sac for a bit. It was a fun, festive day and we were all wiped out by 6:00, so we spent the rest of the night relaxing.

Sunday night we attempted another Halloween activity but it was a bust. The church closest to our neighborhood hosted a party that we thought was going to be a Truck or Treat, similar to what we had visited there last year. In previous years, they had a huge indoor area filled up with cars that were all decked out, on the trunk end, with their own themes. This year was much different. It was called, I spy, and it was like a pokemon style hunt for specific costumed characters. They gave everyone a pamphlet when you walked in with all of the characters that you were supposed to find and have sign off on your sheet. You won prizes for the most people found. Im sure it was a lot of fun for the older kids but our kids were not interested in standing in line to get someone’s autograph to then turn in for potential prizes. They wanted candy and they were not afraid to say so. We did have a good time wandering around and seeing all of the costumes but the kids were a little disappointed in the lack of treats. Not to worry though, they bounced back quickly, and we ended spending the rest of the night at home with some Halloween movies and treats.

On Monday I had intended to take the kids to a pumpkin patch one last time but it was raining yet again and after the soggy weekend I just didn’t have it in me. The forecast for Monday evening was supposed to be light to no rain so I decided that I would take the kids to Mill Creek Town Center for a little pre-trick or treating before meeting up with Michael at home around 5:30 to head out in our neighborhood. We got to town center right when it started, because in our experience early to kids functions is always better. We hit our first store at 4:20, even though it wasn’t supposed to start until 4:30. We took our time walking our usual route through most of Main Street. The kids had a lot of fun seeing a place that we visit so frequently (this is where they have pre-school) so full of people, decorations, firemen and police! Its no surprise that they had the most fun doing some actual trick or treating and filling up their plastic pumpkins with candy! It took us about an hour to walk the length of Main Street, we stopped for a few candy breaks and one bathroom break but we also took our time walking slowly and chatting with kids and adults around us. The girls made sure to visit every store that was open and they stopped a few times along the way to say hi to other kids that liked their costumes or vice versa. Ava was loving all the attention and at one point turned to me with a huge smile and said “They all know me Mommy, I’m famous”, to be fair they knew who she was dressed up as, they did not recognize her. Elise got a kick out of all the other paw patrol costumes and would run up to a little kiddo dressed as Chase or Marshall and scream a version of “Im Zuma! Paw Patrol to the rescue”, It was hilarious and adorable.

By the time we were heading out, Town Center was packed full with families and just as we were packing up into the van the rain started to come down hard. We barely missed it. It was a very light drizzle for our walk along Main Street but by the time we got home you could say it was pouring. We came home and the kids had some dinner and once Michael got home we all bundled back up for some neighborhood trick or treating. Several of our neighbors round up their kids and head out in a large group for the night but most of their kids are quite a bit older than ours and they are a lot faster than we are so we were only able to keep up with them for a few house before we broke off one our own. Ava was pretty upset at first because she wanted to be “with our team”, but after we explained that Enzo wanted to walk door to door with both of the girls she conceded. It rained on us, pretty heavily for our entire trip around the neighborhood. We only visited about 15 houses but the kids were able to once again fill up their pumpkins with candy and they were more than happy to come home when Michael and I suggested it.

There wasn’t much time left in the night once we finished up trick or treating but we did manage to get in a Skype call with Rita for her birthday and then everyone headed off to their beds to either sleep or read. It was a rough morning on Tuesday for all 3 of the kids and I was definitely expecting it. They were all tired from the long fun fill weekend! I helped ease the kids out of the post Halloween blues by reminding them of all the great things to come in the month of November. Now we have officially switched gears and our focus is on Thanksgiving and Ava’s 5th birthday. We’ve got plans to spend both occasions with family and it is sure to be the topic of many conversations over the next 3 weeks. Now if we could only get a few days without any rain!

Bella Rudd

On September 24th, 2004, a litter of mixed pups was born at the Little Waif Shelter in Woodinville. I was called up about 2 weeks after they were born and told a little bit about them. I had been in communication with the lady that ran the shelter for a few weeks now and had been eagerly waiting for this call to come in. The mother of the pups had been abandoned and appeared to be a German Shepard mix. After seeing the puppies they concluded that they would be declared Labrador and German Shepard mix. There were 6 in the litter and all were healthy. I was going to be the first potential parent to meet the pups and I would get to select which one I wanted first.

I met them all a few weeks later for the first time. They were all of course, completely adorable and I had never before been so close to so many baby pups. I sat in the pen with them all for a while but I knew before too long which one was mine. She was the most beautiful of the bunch (hence her name) and she was both playful and independent. She also was the only dog that didn’t whine when you put her down. Something that I loved at the time and also something that she would be notorious for later.

Just before Thanksgiving I was able to pick her up. I was over the moon excited and remember driving there to get her and forgetting to bring a leash with me. I was forced to carry her to and from the shelter and my apartment and we got a lot of attention. She was so cute! The first few months were rough living in an apartment. We lived over the water and didn’t have much of a yard, plus, to get out you had to walk all the way around the first floor and back around the building to get to any grass. With a puppy that’s potty training, I soon decided it wasn’t going to work. I found myself moving to accommodate my dog and it started a shift in my life. I was taking care of someone other than myself, something that depended on me. I was finally growing up. I was 24.

On Thursday of last week she left us. She died at home. We are unsure as to the cause but believe that she ate and chocked on something that was not edible.

She was a great dog. Aside from the shedding and the peeing (yes both very annoying), she was awesome. She cleaned up anything that was dropped on the floor. She was gentle and patient with the kids. She always allowed poking, pulling and hitting as forms of endearment from the kids. She greeted you with enthusiasm EVERY time you walked in the door. If you were in the bathroom a long time you sometimes got the same greeting. She really didn’t require much. She just loved to hang out and sleep near you. She was annoyingly hyper when meeting someone, but after 10 minutes or less she was fine. She loved to play games, and by play, I mean destroy. We called her the fun hater because she wanted so desperately to play games with you that she would jump all over like a mad dog, squeaking and acting a fool. She always barked to let you know someone was coming but she never went overboard unless something was actually wrong. I always felt safe when Michael was away knowing that Bella was such a great watch dog. She was a lover and all she really ever wanted was a bite of whatever you were eating and to be near you. As near to you as you would allow her to be.

I am stunned at how much I miss her and how empty the house feels without her soft round self asleep on the rug. With her passing goes a chunk of my life, 1/3 of it actually. She watched me grow up, helped me too. She was by my side through 8 moves, countless roommates, boyfriends and jobs. She literally witnessed me fall in love with my husband. She came over to Michael’s apartment with me nearly every time I was there. She loved to sit by his sliding glass door and look out onto the backside of Queen Anne and watch the comings and goings of the Puget Sound. She rarely moved from her spot once she got settled.

In this pain is a sort of waiting for her; to hear her scratch at the back door. Remind me that I need to let her back inside with us all. I know she isn’t coming home again, it hasn’t completely set in though. I hear the neighbors dog bark and I instinctively want to call out, “Quiet, Bella.” I woke up this morning and thought, I wonder if Michael has fed the dog yet.

No pets are not humans; but they give and take love, and they are loyal friends. R.I.P. Bella. You were my first girl and I will never forget you.

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”
– Vicki Harrison

All’s well that ends well

That pretty much sums up our 6th anniversary. It wasn’t a pretty one but I’ll never forget it. We had a little fun in it’s wake and everything is fine now. It all started the afternoon before on Saturday, April 2nd.

We had a busy morning getting stuff done around the house and I stepped out at 2:00 to run a few errands by myself. I decided to pick up something from burger master on the way home, a burger for myself and shakes to share with everyone at home. Things were normal for the rest of the afternoon except I had a nagging stomach ache. I complained to Michael that it was probably the over indulgent lunch I had, only it didn’t go away and it wasn’t really a stomach ache. The best I could do to describe it was place my hand over my belly button and thats where the pain was. A constant ache, not a sharp one but more than just an annoying pain. I had a slight chill and had lost my appetite but had no other symptoms so I just thought that it was likely something that I could sleep off. Michael had a lot of work to get done so I assured him that I was fine and was going to put the kids down and relax in bed with my book. I did just that, but I couldn’t relax. At all. I could not find a position in which to get comfortable. After flouncing all around the bed with multiple pillows for 45 minutes I decided to try walking around the house. Still no better so I decided that it was probably best to go into the ER to see what was the matter.

The kids were nestled all snug in their beds so what were we to do? Under normal circumstances we would have called up any 3 or 4 of our neighbors to see if someone could come and hang out at the house while Michael and I went in to get checked out. The only problem was this weekend is spring break for all of the school kids around us and everyone was out of town. Everyone. Decision time, what do we do?. He wanted to wake everyone up and make a family ordeal out of taking Mommy to the ER. I did not want to drag everyone into the urgent care at 10 pm so we could all check out what I was sure was nothing serious. I did not want the kids all out of sorts and grumpy in the ER with the doctors poking at me. I really had no choice but to go alone. Michael felt horrible, I could easily tell he did not want to send me off alone, but there was no other choice. I was in no shape to drive so we called a taxi and I off I went to the ER.

I was checked in and within minutes was taken back to, the same room they saw Ava in only weeks before. I described the pain to the nurse, put on my hospital robe and was hooked up to all sorts of things right away. The whole thing was a bit of a whirl wind at first and then the waiting would soon start. A lot of waiting. I had a pelvic exam, and a CT scan right away and didn’t see the doc again for about 4 hours. When he finally came in to see me he got straight to the point, “It looks like your appendix is pretty swollen and we will need to remove it in the morning. We’re sending you off to Swedish Edmonds.”

I’ll admit that I am a bit of a novice when it comes to having organs removed and I was having narcotics fed to me via IV so I was not thinking clearly when I replied “Ok, that’s kind of what I figured it was. I need to coordinate things with my husband. When should I tell him to come and get me?” He started laughing immediately and actually took a minute to sit down next to me, “No one is picking you up except for an ambulance.”

Duh, I didn’t even think of that. It made me chuckle and the nurse as well and it lighten up the mood of my night for a while. The next hour at the the urgent care and the ride to the hospital were uneventful. It was my first ride in an ambulance and I was taken by two women both around my age for a 3am spin on the freeway. They told jokes and made me laugh the whole time, it felt like a normal drive with friends. They got me settled into my room and were truly the last people that made me feel good until I saw the doctor the next morning.

Thank goodness for cousin Kristy. She came to our rescue and arrived at our house at 5:00am so that Michael could be with me in the hospital. He did his best to make me feel good when he arrived around 5:45 in the morning. Just seeing him made me cry. It had been a truly exhausting night. I had not slept at all at this point, I was in constant pain and being poked at every 2 hours but not really being taken care of. Add to that the emotional pain of being alone in the hospital on my anniversary. I could tell I scared him and he felt helpless. After some serious coddling on Michael’s part, we both did our best to get comfortable and try to rest.

All I knew at this point is that I was to be seeing the doctor first thing in the morning with surgery soon to follow. Fast forward three more hours and I still hadn’t seen the doctor and we had only managed to sleep about 45 minutes. I hit a wall. A huge mental wall, I had a little breakdown. It’s never happened to me before. I went a little crazy. Michael is always calm and rational so he was good at trying to sooth me but for about 20 minutes (maybe more) I was a rambling, raving lunatic. All I wanted was to see the doctor and know that things were going to start moving forward. By this point I was more than happy to be having my appendix out, I wanted it out immediately. As soon as I spoke with the doctor I was much better. Things progressed from there with no incident and before I knew it I was waking up in the post op room.

I spent just a short time there before being wheeled up to my room. I ordered room service, called Michael and anxiously awaited the arrival of him and the kids. I was so excited to see the kids. I knew that they were probably having a hard time understanding why I wasn’t there when they woke up and I wanted to reassure them that I was doing ok. Plus I needed some hugs and kisses, badly.

I could hear them as soon as they stepped off the elevator. Both of the girls were excited and chatting back and forth about finding mommy. They came bursting into my room and it was as if they were visiting me at a friends house. Aside from them being extra cautious when sitting on the hospital bed they were completely normal. They weren’t bothered by being in the hospital or seeing me laid up in bed. They were curious about what I had been doing and how I was feeling. We had a great visit but had to keep it short because it was hard to keep everyone contained in such a small hospital room. Enzo wanted to grab at all the cords connected to the bed or the IV in my arm. The girls were getting a little hyper after being there for a bit so I say good bye and sent them on their way. The girls did not want to leave without me and I felt terrible having to send Michael off alone with them when I knew it was going to be an emotional day and night for them. I was pretty bummed after they left too, so I ate dinner and did my best to go to sleep. The night was restless but I felt so much better than the night before so my spirits were up and I knew I’d be home before long. As soon as I was released by my doctor I called Michael to share the news and he and the gang came to pick me up.

It was the official start of our first family spring break. It wasn’t exactly how we would plan things if given the opportunity but we were going to make the best of it. I wasn’t going to be able to take care of the kids on my own for the week so Michael was forced to take a week off. He was an awesome stay at home Dad for the week. He took care of everything that I normally do and more. I was no help at all for the first few days and then only a little help, we were lucky enough to have a group of friends and family help out with dinners for the week so at least there was something that we didn’t have to think about for a few nights. It was extremely helpful and very much appreciated.

The kids didn’t know what to think about all of the extra time with Dad and were loving every minute. They went out on several little adventures throughout the week. One rainy day was spent at home playing play doh and a dancing game on the xbox. We all took a short trip to the mall one afternoon when it wasn’t nice enough to be out side. I desperately needed to get a little change of scenery from our bedroom and a little bit of walking. When the sun came out Michael took the kids to a few different parks. Once I was feeling up to it we all went down to the waterfront in Edmonds for fish and chips and a little time on the beach. The kids and Michael headed back to the beach the next day for a play date with one of our stay-at-home Dad friends and I treated myself to a mani/ pedi. By the time the weekend came around we were actually sad about it. I was feeling almost back to normal and we were having such a good time with all of this unexpected family time that no one actually wanted to weekend to come, we didn’t want the week to end. Michael and I decided to make a tradition of this when possible. Apart from the organ removal, we want to do it all over again next year. We’re planning another family staycation for spring break 2017.

The only good thing about the weekend coming was that we were finally going to get an opportunity to celebrate our anniversary. We had tickets to a swing dance on the Victoria V, an old, stationary ship in Lake Union. Before the dance we headed out to dinner at a sushi restaurant in Pike Place Market. Our good friend is the manager and we’ve been wanting to check it out since it opened a few months ago. The highlight of the restaurant is it’s owner, Shiro. He is a legend in the Seattle sushi scene and his previous restaurant is well know all throughout Japan. We both had the Chef’s dinner and it was extremely enjoyable. We had a similar dinner at Shiro’s old restaurant on our 4th anniversary so this felt nostalgic in a way. After dinner we stopped in to say “hi” to another old friend that bartends in the market. He and Michael have not seen each other in a few years so it was a great stop to make. We had a few cocktails and shared an amazing homemade ice cream sandwich. after drinks we cruised around the city for a bit before heading to the boat. We knew that we wouldn’t actually be doing any dancing but figured it would still be worth it to go. We have never gone to an event like this before and bought tickets weeks ago on a whim when we were searching for something new to do in the city. It’s a shame that we weren’t able to dance because we would have liked to brush up on our moves together and even try to learn some new ones. We would have needed it too because the event was filled with mostly people that knew how to swing dance well. This was not an amateur event. In fact, we were nearly the only ones not dressed in period specific clothing. Even though we didn’t step out onto the dance floor we still had a good time enjoying the live jazz band and watching the other people dance. It was a really windy night out but it was still warm enough to sit out on the front of the boat and watch the lake. It was another symbolic place for us since we were sitting in the same lake that we got married in. We hung out on the boat for a bit and before long we were ready to go home. We didn’t even make it to midnight but it was a great evening.

That Monday morning was rough. It was my first time in over a week alone with the kids and they were not happy that Daddy had to return to work. I still couldn’t lift Elise, so consoling her was more difficult. Ava even went so far as to ask me to be sick some more so that Daddy could stay home. It was all to be expected. I knew that it was going to be a tough start to the week and I was ready for it. We spent most all of Monday in our pjs and had a movie marathon in the morning and a dinosaur and mermaid playathon in the afternoon. It ended much better than it started but we were all very happy to see Michael after work. Each day got easier and easier and by the end of the week I was feeling back to normal and even adventurous. Grandma was coming to visit on Friday so we decided to coordinate the airport pick up with a visit to the Spring Fair. I have never been to a state fair and I wasn’t sure what the heck to expect but I knew it would have to be a pretty miserable fair to not impress my kids. They will get enthusiastic about almost anything.

The fair did not let us down. It was a beautiful, clear, warm day. We arrived just as the doors were opening so aside from waiting in line to get in we had to do very little waiting. There were tons of things to do and see and of course ride on. It’s no surprise that Ava enjoyed the rides most of all but Elise had a ton of fun as well. The worst part about it was that we had to cut it short in order to pick up Grandma from the airport. I think the girls could have gone all day but after two and a half hours both Enzo and I were tired. I am so glad to have had a great reason to make the kids leave as well because it took some coaxing to get them to agree to it. No one can resist Grandma though, so we packed up and headed out towards the airport. They were all passed out before I hit the freeway and it was a nice quite ride almost all the way home.

Since grandma got here we’ve been to the Tulip Festival and to the beach. It was nearly 80 degrees here today and we are going to pretend that it’s summer for as long as we can. I am feeling completely back to normal and go to the doctor on Wednesday to make sure he agrees. It was a miserable anniversary night with many, many great days afterward. All’s well that ends well.

Playing our new dancing game on Xbox Kinect

Hanging out at the park

Our little monkey

Weese loves picking flowers

Hoodie in the sun

Fun on the slide

Can you see me?

Enjoying a nice day at the park

At the Tulip Festival with the girls

I’m on a boat! Happy 6th anniversary.

Alone in the ER

It’s all about the kids

Now I remember why I do not make New Years resolutions. I declared writing a post a month as my pseudo resolution and it is now March 10th and I neglected to write anything for February. I would like to say that it is because last month was so incredibly busy that there was just not enough time. The truth is last month was very mellow for us; in a good way. I’m just not that good at taking the time to sit down and type something out. Its too hard for me to sit at the computer and turn everything off enough to concentrate on forming more than a few sentences. It’s the same with returning emails and phones calls. I always have great intentions but I let the kids get in the way and I need to take more opportunities to step out of the room a bit more or find time to myself. I always go back to a quote from Ava’s first pediatrician when I’m feeling like time is slipping away. When you have small kids, he said, “the days seem to drag on but the months fly by.” As soon as he said it, it rang true and I come back to it all the time.

I thought I would write about something a bit different for this post. I want to take some time to preserve the kids, as they are right now. Things move by so quickly and I find myself forgetting the small day to day kidisms; the funny things they say and do. Preserve them for how they really are now. Truthfully.

I’ll start with Ava, because that seems to be the natural place to start since she is the oldest. Even if she were not the oldest just being Ava is likely enough to make her the starting point. She is literally the reason that I get up everyday. I have no need for an alarm clock, unless I should need to wake before the sun (like Michael). Without fail Ava wakes up every morning at or before 7:15. She starts each morning off with a demand for her choice of drink and breakfast. After about 30-45 minutes of waking up time she does not loose steam or slow down until its bedtime. She is a natural leader and does not back down for any of her peers or me. She is becoming a teachers pet at school, I have been told that she loves to remind her classmates of the rules of the class when they forget or act out. Her status within our house has lead her to believe that she is the boss of most any child she comes into contact with. The other day at the gym as we were leaving she says “good bye friend, now its time for you to play what you want.” It’s not uncommon for her to answer for either of her siblings when they are asked a question. She is constantly trying to delegate what little work or responsibility she may have, “Elise, come and pick up these toys now please,” after I have just asked her to pick up the toys and Elise is in the other room. She wants to do everything first and believes that everything belongs to her. She is also an eternal optimist, with undying enthusiasm. She takes great pleasure in encouraging her siblings in whatever they do, be it good behavior or bad. She has a burning desire to help you do anything possible. Mommy can I help you sweep, do dishes, brush Bella, get a diaper, etc. It comes in extremely handy in a lot of situations but it can cause problems at times as well. Envision two little hands trying to reach in to help you wipe up a dirty but.

She is tough as nails and plays rough. Constantly jumping all over the furniture even though its not allowed. Running from room to room, and spinning. There is a lot of spinning these days. She dishes out I love yous and kisses all day long. When I say “Ava, I love you to the moon.” She says “Mommy, I love you to the sun.” The first time she said it to me, I said, “well, that’s a lot farther. I like that.” her reply “yep, it’s a lot more”. She is learning to write and we have started to talk about sounds and letters a lot more. Her new favorite thing to do is to list off words and ask what letters they start with and what words have the same first letter. She wears her rain boots 6 out of 7 days of the week. She can not pass by a puddle without jumping in. At 4 years old I am still carrying around extra pants for her because of this habit. She is obsessed with Dinosaurs, Octonauts and sparkles. She answers to Aves, Goose and Ava P. Her favorite color is purple and she like to wear her hair in a braid like Elsa. She is a fierce little lady and an awesome big sister.

Thank goodness for our sweet Elise or Weese as we say most of the time. I know that all throughout our lives Elise will be the sweet, loving and nurturing daughter. She loves to be held and hugged and kissed. All the time. Every morning she needs to be carried to the couch or my bed to lay for a little bit while she wakes up. If you do not pick her up and carry her you run the risk of ruining everyones entire day. She is extremely sensitive and emotional these days. When she is having a rough day we all pay for it. She does not want to do anything or go anywhere, she’ll walk around the house “I’m sad, Mom. I feel really sad.” She’ll sulk away to a corner or her room for some private time. If she really wants you to come and get her she will sit and yell at you and cry and cry and cry until you pick her up and fix her. To fix her, she usually only requires a good squeeze and to be held. When she does smile she has the cutest little dimple and as Michael likes to call them little picket fence teeth. Her baby, Pippo is like a 5th limb. She does not go anywhere without him and is always very aware of how others are treating him. She frequently makes me give him kisses or hold him while she is busy with something else. She follows her big sister around like she is a goddess and is infatuated with anything that Ava likes. You’ll usually find her carrying multiple toys at once (generally about 3 more than she can handle), my theory is that she is afraid that Ava will take them if she is not holding them. Sharing is a big issue, daily. She is the most adventurous eater of the 3 kids and likes to try whatever is on Mom or Dads plate. She will not drink milk unless you call it chocolate milk. It does not necessarily need to contain chocolate. She loves to sit in my lap, or most anyones lap. She thinks all babies and “so sweet and adorable.” She loves tigers and cats and her favorite color is orange (we may need to keep a watch on her, for fear of her developing into a crazy cat lady). We’ve been taking a lot of walks while Ava is at school the past month and Elise loves to takes her time and listen to the birds, search for a perfect stick, skip and hop and swerve all over the side walk. When she doesn’t have her older sister to follow after she is usually pretty quiet and a stop and smell the roses sort of person. The other day I asked her to quickly get her shoes on so we could go, her reply “I’m finding my perfect, favorite, most special shoes, just a minute Mommy.”

Then there’s Enzo. Oh my goodness, he has already forced me to turn up my “mom game” on many levels. This kid is into everything. We’ve always kept the main cabinets and drawers in each room baby proofed but never all of the cabinets and drawers. He has managed to figure out which ones he has access too and on the daily empties out all the contents. It’s maddening. Should someone put him on our bed, he first move is to push any electronics off of Michael’s bed side table and sit on the table. The good thing about this situation is that once he’s sitting on the table, he’s stuck. He can’t get off by himself. Now that I have figured this out. I first clear off the table then I let him think he’d doing something he’s not supposed and put him on the bed. A few times in a row now it has bought me enough time to quickly get dressed and ready. He’ll tire of this game soon I’m sure. He’s loud, really loud. Sometimes for no reason at all he’ll just give a quick few screams. In the middle of the night his cry still freaks me out. I have no idea how the girls sleep through his cry at night but thankfully they do. He is an extremely light sleeper, but only in the morning and while napping not at night. He loves to be chased around the house, I’ll say “I’m gonna get you” and he takes off running and laughing. He likes to play hide and seek with the girls too. Both girls are horrible at hiding so much so that Enzo has no problem walking in to a room and spotting them right away. He loves it, he thinks he’s a big shot when he walks over to their hiding place and removes the cover. Its amazing to watch too because every time they go to hide it sets of spurts of uncontrollable giggles and they roll around laughing with each round for several minutes at a time. Enzo thinks it’s so funny to stand back and watch them. He has a fascination with balls and cars, go figure, it seems to be such a typical boy thing. He loves to take one or two cars at a time and carry them from room to room rolling them over the different floors. He has recently attached to a lovie of sorts, we call her Foxy, it’s a pacifier with a baby fox hanging from it. It took him a lot longer to attach to something than it did either of the girls. I have my reservations about him using a binkie but it does the job in helping to soothe him so thats what we were hoping for. He’s a sweet, adventurous little boy. He still loves to put his head in the crook of my neck when he’s tired or rub his face with a soft blanket. He likes belly and cheek kisses. He does a great job keeping up with his sisters but every so often he’ll wander off and play on his own. I assume thats his way of taking a break and I get it.

They are all changing before my eyes daily. Toady this is how they are, tomorrow will no doubt bring something new.

January- By Jessica

January has been all about re connecting for me and its sort of become a resolution for the year. I say sort of because I don’t really do resolutions. Until this year I guess because I’m holding myself to it. I don’t normally write on the site, my contributions come in the form of pictures. I may not always get credit but about 98% of the pictures are the product of my day to day trigger happy finger. I’m writing now as another way to reach out to those of you that read along but also so the kids can hear my voice as well, because they were the reason the blog was created in the first place. I’ll do my best to write a post a month, this one is late because I have just stepped out of a Quarantine Zone and I didn’t have my laptop with me. Back to that later.

This whole idea about reconnecting came to be on the 2nd day of our trip home to Iowa. I have only been home a few times since I moved away in 2003. The last time when my grandmother passed away in March of 2009. It’s been a really long time and I was filled with emotions about the weekend. The fist night back we had a casual dinner at my Dad’s house with my Mom and Tom, and Joel and Melanie, it was our last little Christmas celebration for the kids. Grandma Chris couldn’t help herself and went totally over board on toys. One in particular had to be left behind because Ava and Elise could not agree on who he belonged to. The kids had a blast celebrating Christmas again, and Ava is convinced that we have Christmas all the time now because we had several celebrations this year. It was great to have everyone back home even if for only a night.

The next day was filled with a first class tour of Cedar Rapids, and an afternoon back at home with our friends! My girlfriend, Jodi and her two girls came to stay at my Dad’s. They got there early that afternoon giving us lots of time to catch up and for the kids to get to know each other. Its funny how similar our kids are; Jodi’s oldest and Ava are both bold and strong willed, while her youngest and Elise are both sweet and tender. it didn’t take the kids long before they were all running mad around the house as if we meet up here all the time. Meanwhile, Jodi and myself were sitting comfortably drinking wine. It was the perfect night in for me and the kids, while Micheal hit the town hard with my brother and Melanie. He did not enjoy pancakes and bacon the next morning quite and much as the rest of us but he never complained. During and after breakfast the house filled with more friends and family of friends. We laughed at old pictures and had coffee while the kids continued to fight, (but still play nicely) over the same dang toy. The morning came and went fast and before you knew it we were heading over to my Uncle Devin’s house. Devin had put out an open invitation to everyone on my mom’s side of the family to come over for football and food. We have not all been together for nearly 13 years so this was long over due.

Being together with my family as if no time had passed was amazing. I really had no idea what to expect and I think that everyone went into it with a positive attitude and it showed. The kids had a great time because the man cave we were in is more like a funtorium. I had a great time because it helped me, and all of my family move forward. In that respect it changed my life. I will make sure that I make the effort to see my family more. I will keep the past in the past. Leaving the party that afternoon I actually felt sad, not to say good bye, (although there were some people I barely got to see) sad because I let so much time go by without having most of these people in my life. Sad that for the most part they don’t know me and they’ve never been given the chance to know my family. For the first time I really felt the loss. It hurt,a lot, but it also fueled a fire to do things better.

The anniversary party the next day went off perfectly. We took a 1,000 family photos before hand and those of us that were feeling any nerves got a chance to see the room set up and practice a bit. The place was a perfect venue for such an event. For starters the heated parking garage was lovely. It was a blistery 2 degrees out so not having to step foot outside was very much appreciated. The venue, opened up to a grand entry way with a huge christmas tree (it was only Jan 10th) and a lovely chandelier. Our space in the grand ballroom had a 3 piece band set up, a small stage, food and dessert tables, sign in table, bar, kids area and 10 large round tables. We had an estimated 125 guests attend from all different phases of my grandparents life. I truthfully only recognized about 30% of the people there, but my grandparents were buzzing from group to group the whole time and it was obvious to see that they were enjoying every minute.

My Grandfather had the whole room laughing during the ceremony over a joke about a would be girlfriend named Laila. My uncle had us all crying as he opened up with a speech about what it was like to grow up in this family, and how far we have all come. My Grandma read a beautiful poem for her vows and my Grandpa flew from the hip. They were both extremely toughing. Sadly, most of my time and hard work was thrown out the door when my Grandpa got trigger happy with the secret ring. He pulled it out of his pocket early and cut me off. It went as it should though. It was funny, touching, memorable, and a really cool collaborative effort. I loved having this little project of sorts to give me extra reason to think about my family, I’m sad that its over. My Grandparents truly are and have something to admire. In order for Michael and I to celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary we will have to live to be 90 years old. Wow.

The rest of our trip was filled with either nights out or nights in, both with large groups of loved ones. Some related, some not technically so. I didn’t realize how much I needed this trip until I was living it. I know we won’t be able to fit another trip in for a few years, maybe 2 or 3, but it won’t be too long and I already look forward to it.

The weekend following our trip to Iowa, my friend Laurel and her boyfriend, Mark, flew in for a week long trip. We hosted a family taco night the first weekend and I think everyone had a good time, kids included. We all hung out till much later than I think anyone expected, but time just slipped by and no one seemed to notice (maybe the men noticed a bit). The following weekend I went out for my first downtown overnight, first without Michael that is. I met up with Laurel and Solana and we hit the town for a late dinner at one of Laurel and I’s favorite spots, Matt’s at the Market. We stopped at a few places along the way, my favorite being Radiator Whiskey. An old friend of mine works there and its directly across from our dinner spot so it was a given that we go. Its a really cool, small, prohibition style saloon. I’d love to go check out dinner there at some point but there never seems to be enough time. After dinner we stopped into Gaucho for a drink then wandered around Belltown for a bit before ending the night with a few dances and beers at Kells in Post Alley. The ladies and I had a very memorable night and I think it’s safe to say that recovery was harder than we’d like to admit.

We only had one normal week in between visits before my Mom arrived for Enzo’s birthday. Rita followed a few days later. We hosted his party at a bowling alley strangely enough. It wasn’t your typical first birthday but I think we all had fun. Everyone but Elise got out and bowled at least once. Michael even took Enzo out so he could push a ball down the ramp for a frame. The rest of the time the birthday boy was happy to wander around the arcade or spy on other partiers. Elise found a spot right next to the cheese fires and chicken tenders and exclaimed to more than one person “I’m having fun at the Bowling Alley”. She just enjoys seeing all of our family and friends, and eating of course. No surprise at all that Ava was a total champ. She got right in there and bowled a whole 10 frames with everyone. She seemed to love being a part of everything but I don’t think she understood the object of the game. I didn’t get a chance to bowl a whole game but the few attempts that I made were solid. Surprisingly so. Hands down though, the best part of the party was the cake. First birthdays are always fun when its cake time but its not so often that you put the kid and their cake right in the middle of the bowling alley. I laid out a disposable table cloth on top of the bar top separating the lanes from the food area. This meant he was sitting up on a pedestal of sorts in the midst of all the bowling chaos, he seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. He sat nice and still eating a mini green monster cake. He took his time and made sure to smear it all over himself. Just like his dad, he ate slowly and got a little messy. A lot messy. We had to rinse him off in the bathroom sink afterward and send the poor kid back out to say good bye to everyone with no pants on.

It was our first time having a birthday party outside of the house and I’m sure that more and more of them will be at new venues as well. It was nice to have minimal set up and no clean up. It was nice to have an activity that everyone, young and old, could enjoy. It lacked the personal touches of homemade ravioli and cake around the table. Enzo doesn’t know the difference and will likely be the kind of kid that doesn’t care one way or another. I’m just a little sad that the last of our first birthdays is over and my baby boy is already running and talking. We survived a year as a family of five and dang, it went by fast. Without these blogs to look back on I can barely remember it all. He’s turning into an adventurous, outspoken, fun loving little boy and he definitely completes our family.

I had planned to publish this post the last day of the month but the night after Enzo’s party the house became a Quarantine Zone and we all suffered from the Black Plague, Grandma and Nana included. It was a miserable several days as we passed the bug around the house and no one quite recovered before they felt sick with chills and nausea all over again. I can honestly say that for a whole day while I lie in bed I thought to myself “This is worse than recovery from natural child birth, much worse”. We are only just now barely coming out to see the light. Both Grandma and Nanna got home safely and probably fell into a deep sleep. Now we’re just trying to get back to a normal routine.

Ava’s Birthday Weekend

This weekend was a big weekend for little miss Ava. Saturday we celebrated her 3rd birthday with a party at the house and Sunday she attended her first show with Grandma and myself.

Saturday’s Thomas the Train party was a ton of fun for us all. We sent most of the night Friday getting things ready. Michael cooked chili while Tom and I decorated the whole first floor of the house with streamers, balloons, Thomas pictures and I even made two little box trains for the kids to play with. All the while, Grandma kept the girls busy upstairs so that they wouldn’t get in the way or sabotage our progress. It was a total group effort and things turned out great. Ava woke up the next morning completely surprised and was anxious all day to get the party started. She could hardly contain her excitement all morning and ran around the house asking when she could go to her party and when could she open up presents.

Saturday morning we still had quite a bit to finish up in order to be fully ready for all of our guests. Grandma and I baked brownie bites, Tom picked up the cake, Michael cleaned up the girls and helped keep them occupied and we all kept busy up until our first guests, Madi and Kristi arrived just before noon. Most everyone else followed closely behind and by 12:30 we had a house full of family and friends.

It’s fair to say that this was the first year that Ava truly understood what was going on and that all the “fuss” was in her honor. She hammed it up all day long entertaining the guests with her usual antics and was a total hoot while opening presents. She wanted to play or wear each gift immediately after opening it. One gift we even went so far as to hide it after she unwrapped it. Every present was followed by some kind joyful exclamation. Lots of wows, and cutie! She had the whole room laughing a few times. After presents we got the cake out and sang Happy Birthday and shortly thereafter the party started to fizzle out. Besides eating way too much sugar and causing kind of a rough night, the party was a huge success. Things wrapped up around 4:00 and after a bit of clean up by Michael and Grandma we spent the rest of the night relaxing in our PJs. Thank you to everyone that came over to celebrate with us. We are so lucky to have so many wonderful friends and family. I love hosting birthday parties and am excited at the thought of throwing 3 parties every year now.

The next day we had another special event planned. Grandma and I took Ava out to lunch and then to see Disney on Ice. Grandma even bought Ava a special Minni Mouse dress complete with red sparkly shoes for the occasion. She looked completely adorable and you could tell she was very happy in her pretty dress. I have never been to an ice skating show before and was excited myself, but no one was looking forward to it as much as Ava. I purposefully didn’t tell her much about the show before the day of because I knew that she would get overly excited about going and would hound me with questions and continuous nagging to get going. True to form, all morning long she continued to let us know that she was ready to go see Mickey and Minni and continued to ask when were we leaving. The show wasn’t until 1:00 so she was a little wound up about things by the time we left. I was worried that lunch might be a bit of a struggle because of her extreme excitement but she did amazingly well and got lots of extra attention because of her cute outfit and attitude.

The show itself did not disappoint. We arrived early so that there would be plenty of time for bathroom breaks and walking around. I was expecting that there would be lots of swag for purchase but I was a little overwhelmed with everything. Disney certainly knows how to market to kids. I fully expected Ava to want everything in site but to my surprise she just wanted to walk around and take it all in. She didn’t ask for a single thing. It may have helped that I encouraged her to bring her own Mickey and Minni dolls to the show but it’s possible that she too was overwhelmed and didn’t know what to ask for. We were fortunate enough to have great seats, right on the aisle and just behind a section break, which meant that we weren’t sitting right on top of the people in front of us and had a bar for Ava to stand up against. He barely sat down the entire time. All throughout the show she waved to each character while jumping up and down or clapping and made sure to point out all of her favorites. Watching her get so excited actually made me choke up a bit. I was such a precious site. I am definitely planning on making it a yearly tradition and next year look forward to taking both of the girls.

It was a fun filled weekend and the festivities are not over yet. On Tuesday we plan to go out to dinner as a family with both sets of Grandparents that are in town for Thanksgiving. We’re going to head to Boston’s for one more birthday celebration and then start getting things ready for the next holiday; Thanksgiving. It’s sure to be a great week.

My new ride

We have known for a while now that we would need to replace our SUV. As a family of 5 with 3 members needing car seats for the next several years, we figured a mini van was our only choice. We considered a lot of different options from old VW Vanagons (definitely the coolest option in my opinion) to Toyota Siennas. In the end we settled on a used Honda Odyssey. The Odyssey has been the #1 selling mini van for a long time running now and I believe that they have also been the highest rated in safety. After looking at all of our options it really did seem like a no brainer. Once we decided that we were definitely interested in a Honda it didn’t take long to find one that we liked. We looked at lots on line but in the end we only went to 2 different dealerships before we found the right one. It was the right price and had all of my must have items so we said yes on the spot. They detailed it the next day and picked Michael and the girls from our house after work on Friday night (I was at work) to take them to the dealership to pick it up.

As much as I hate to admit it, it truly is the nicest car I have ever owned. So far the girls seem to approve, Ava especially loves to ride in the new van. I am personally enjoying the automatic sliding doors more than I ever expected and the spaciousness for both the driver and passengers. I didn’t really love the idea at first, the feeling of morphing into the typical soccer mom frightens me. The more I thought about it the more comfortable I became with the idea. Soccer moms aren’t so bad; I like soccer. The truth is I think I like mini vans too.

We have been doing our best to enjoy these last few moments of summer. The girls and I have taken as many impromptu park outing as possible. We spent a day at the beach last week and visited the Olympic sculpture park in downtown Seattle a few weeks back. We’ve been to the petting zoo, the splash pad, had friends over to play a few times and rode bikes in our cul de sac. We have been getting to know many of our neighbors better in the past few weeks as well. We had the family next door to us over for a BBQ this past weekend and then joined them for dinner at their house earlier this week. They are a great family and are close friends with many of the other families on our street. I feel very fortunate to have several great neighbors and look forward to getting to know everyone better. Our next event is a Seahawks game day party with the whole block in a few weeks, and another weeknight dinner, probably next week, with just our next door friends. We’ve even confirmed a camping trip next year to Lake Chelan with a few families. Our new neighborhood really is the prefect place for us with so many great people near by tons of kid friendly things to in the area.

We will have some exciting baby news to share soon. I have my first ultrasound scheduled for Monday, September 15th. They will be checking for a number of different things at the appointment but the most exciting is the sex of the baby. We will of course spread the news as quickly as possible. I was able to hear the heart beat at my mid wife appointment this week and have been feeling a lot more movement at night. This is the point for me when things start to become a little more real because you can finally feel the baby. I’m really looking forward to getting to see him or her at our ultrasound, finding out the sex and deciding on a name. Although this pregnancy is proving to be much more difficult than the first two, I’m doing my best to stay positive and enjoy the little things. After all, this is the last time I will get the pleasure of being pregnant.

We’re hoping to get out and do something fun this weekend since we will all have Sunday and Monday off together for the holiday weekend. We haven’t made any plans but talked about a possible trip to Whidbey and going out for pizza (my current craving). I’m sure the weather will dictate how much fun we have, we’ll see.

Party’s Over

Happy (early) Birthday, Baby Girl! We just said goodbye to the last of Elise’s party guests. It was a great 1st birthday party. We put together a little summer BBQ, complete with Hamburgers, brats, snacks, fresh summer fruit, cold drinks and of course birthday cake. We decorated the house with streamers and balloons and got 2 cakes, one for Elise and one for everyone else. Ava ended up diving right into Elise’s cake as well and even helped feed cake to her. It was a really cute moment.

It’s been hot all day so we stayed mostly inside to keep cool. Michael made lunch to order and we enjoyed cake immediately after. Elise was adorable while we sang Happy Birthday to her, she just sat quietly in her chair looking around at everyone with a half surprised look on her face. I know that we will have tons of pics to post later. It’s no surprise that she seemed to thoroughly enjoy the cake. She actually ate more than I would have expected. She went about it in a much more subdued way than Ava did. Elise chose to sit and eat her cake slowly, enjoying as much as she could. Much like the way her Dad eats. It still managed to get all over her face, arms, hair and torso but it was another memorable moment and totally worth it.

Both of the girls had a great time seeing all of our family. Elise was loving Uncle Jim and stayed right by his side most afternoon. Ava kept busy dragging various adults all around the house and yard. Playing with bubbles, eating cookies, and being a complete ham. She was in her element all day long. Thank you, Aunt Brenda for indulging her so much.

It was our first official party in the new house and I’m so glad that it was Elise’s 1st birthday party. It was a day that I won’t forget. What an awesome way to “break in” the house. We been keeping busy with various house projects and today it was nice to enjoy all of our work. I found myself getting chocked up a few times throughout the day, just thinking about her growing up so fast makes me sad. I want to keep her way forever. It’s true what you hear being said over and over again. They really do grow up fast. I have to constantly, stop, and remind myself to savor the moment because it won’t come again.

Elise is One. She is talking. Minor words like mama, dada, and bye bye. Waving. Signing. She is standing up without assistance, a lot. She seems to have mastered stairs. Both going up and down. When she wants something; she is faster and more determined than you can probably imagine. It takes 5 hands to change her diaper, and another hand to apply the continuous diaper cream. She refuses to keep anything on her feet. She thinks Bella is the funniest member of our family. She is finally sleeping through the night! She is tough as nails and is barely phased by falling down stairs or rolling off beds. She is bothered by almost nothing. She is a great baby. We are so very lucky she is ours. Happy Birthday Elise. We love you so much.

Thank you, also to everyone that came over to celebrate with us. We love having you all over and look forward to the next party.

Happy Father’s Day

Yesterday wasn’t exactly what I would call a good Father’s Day for Michael but I think that he would spin it more positively. He did not get to sleep in, or get breakfast in bed. He was not taken out to a nice brunch or even given a card. Instead he got up with the girls and I, too early for a Sunday, got dressed and headed to Costco. We bought steaks for dinner and ate hotdogs for lunch. He came home and spent the next 4 hours (maybe more) doing yard work in drizzly weather.

The night picked up a bit for us all and we had a great dinner and watched the Spurs crush the Heat in the Final basketball game of the season. The game was a great way to end the day but even that was a little bitter sweet for Michael because he hates this time of year when sports are in a lull until the end of the baseball season.

I felt bad all day that he wasn’t celebrated properly on this one day. He is always doing so much for our family and rarely takes time out to do something just for himself.

When I met Michael almost 7 years ago, I could never have imagined the man and the father that he would become. He has surpassed all of my expectations and has been the most patient and selfless partner. He works hard for all of our futures and is always there to offer love and support. I am incredibly blessed to have him by my side, and the girls and I, are so lucky and proud that he is “ours.” Happy father’s Day Michael. We love you so much.

To all of the Dads in my life (especially my own) thank you for your love and support. I am thankful for you today and every day.