Thursday, June 21, 2012

Are We There Yet?

Oh my, what a night last night, what a morning this morning.

Aida Carmen, I sure hope you like your birthday gift because goodness! your cousins had fun making it

even my amazingly fast shutter speed couldn't capture my whirlwind ballerina

but I think you get the idea

that tutu rested most comfortably above the belly, this may be a new trend in our house

"I'm a tired ballerina mama", I should hope so Ainsley girl

this is as minimal as it gets for us these days

After playing hard yesterday and packing all morning we are finally ready for our 10 day 22+ hour carride trip. The girls and I are giddy and though I know it will be hard to be the only parent and all of us away from our boy for that long I am so thankful for this trip, and thankful for my veteran solo trip traveling status with these two little bugs.  It's going to be an adventure!  It (thankfully) always is.

Have a great 10 days!  See you in July!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gearing Up

We're gearing up here in the Vaagenes household.  A 5 day conference for Ian in San Francisco seemed like the perfect excuse for the girls and I to head north.  I've learned that I can't tell the girls too far ahead that there is a trip in the future.  They get WAY too excited and impatient.

Mama, is TODAY Friday YET?!?!?!
No Ainsley girl.  Today is Wednesday.  We have two more days until we go to Minnesota.
Oh man!  But I've been waiting and waiting and waiting!
Me too Ainsley girl, me too.

As usual this trip couldn't be coming at a better time.  I am still feeling a bit off since Ragnar, unable to run much thanks to this CRAZY heat wave we've been having, and trying to settle into a new routine with the girls has made for an anxious restless mama.  It's really ridiculous how much my sanity needs to run.  I can't tell you how excited I am for the mere 84 degree high tomorrow.  Wooo hooo!!!!

The upside to my flurried mind and antsy body is that the girls and I have gotten lots done.  We've found our new favorite splash pad park (and drove by yet another today that we MUST try tomorrow according to Ainsley), braved the pool without daddy for the the first time this season (and Louise only ran away towards the deep end once...success!), started packing and cleaning for our trip (I know I know, I'm surprised I wasn't packed two weeks ago too!), and have been making LOTS of presents for loved ones born in July.

I wish I could share more photos of what we've been up to but almost all of them involve gifts that have yet to be given.   I'll do a more detailed post on 2012, the year of the handmade gift! but suffice it to say it's going really really well (despite a few last minute late nights on my part thanks to sorry time management, surprise surprise right?).

In other news, the girls continue to be ridiculously cute.  If I thought they were buds last month, oh boy, they are bffs now.  They hug and kiss goodnight without prompting and Ainsley is the first one to hear Louise up and runs to go jump with her in her crib.  Louise plays pretend with Ainsley so well now and they are getting much better about taking turns/sharing, or at least asking before grabbing something.  They still sing in their nonsense unison daily and are never without some elaborate play plan (for instance this afternoon Ainsley has informed me that we will be sewing lamby some footy jammies to match hers and Louise piped in good idee Acey!) And on that note, oh the talking Louise is doing.  I kind of forgot about this phase where one minute you're sure your child has turned the speech corner and then you're wowed all over again the next day by all the new things they're saying.

New notable phrases ala Louise::
I'm tirsty mama!
Yuce peez! (or milk peez!)
No no Acey, take turns!
Mo mo books peez mama!

And yes, everything is said WITH AN EXCLAMATION POINT!!!!  It's so fun to hear my girl's sweet little voice all day long.  Single clear words and long chatter chatter stories I can barely decipher.  She has so much to say.  Oh!  and that child draws elephants ALL DAY LONG.  They are clearly her favorite animal.

So we're pumped here and quite antsy.  Being cooped up in the ac most of the time isn't helping much.    Today I'm thankful for LOTS to do before our Friday am departure (even if it's aiding in my anxiety a bit), two happy loving girls, and a couple more evenings with my boy to bang out the last two episodes of boardwalk empire (can't wait!!!).

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day

We kind of had the best weekend ever.

After the disaster that mother's day turned out to be (again, no fault of Ian's) I was pretty determined to make father's day great.  Not only is Ian an amazing father and husband but he's been working his tail off lately, is notably stressed out (a rarity for him), and REALLY needed a day of extra love and fun.

The girls and I had been prepping all week.  Making cards and presents, talking about what we love about daddy, what fun food we could make (because we all know I show my love in pounds of butter), and how we could make the day special.

Ian woke up on father's day to a wonky wrapped gift and two handmade cards while Ainsley yelled "Happy Father's Day Daddy!" at the top of her lungs and Louise belted out the happy birthday song at the top of hers. Oh my, what a moment.

We gave Ian a new pair of jammie pants we made together..well, you know I made them, but the girls helped measure and cut, rolled around in the soft flannel for a bit and took turns sitting on my lap while I sewed.

We then ate some baked french toast, applewood smoked bacon and farmer's market strawberries for breakfast.  With full bellies we headed off with Auntie Sonya to the arboretum.  We had fun exploring the new tree house tales exhibit and thanks to Auntie Sonya actually got a few photos with all 4 of us in the frame for the first time in a LONG time.

Then Ian and Sonya dropped us girls off while they went on a wild goose chase for some Vietnamese sandwiches downtown.  Two and a half hours later they returned!! And boy was that sandwich yummy. Then a tired daddy went down for a nap, but try as I might I couldn't keep his excited girls from him when the woke up.

So we moved the party downstairs for some rhubarb cake and ice cream for afternoon coffee.

Oh my, these two look so much alike to me sometimes.


We rounded out the afternoon with some backyard pool fun while Ian headed to the comic book store to pick out a few new books as part 2 of the present extravaganza.  We ate steak, asparagus and mushrooms for dinner and a little more cake for dessert.  Ainsley proudly gave Ian his last gift, a homemade bookmark and an embroidered drawing of her penguin on it.  It was really just such a great day.

I hope all the other dads out there felt loved and a bit spoiled yesterday.  Your job is tough and we sure appreciate you!  I can't wait to give my own dad a belated father's day hug when we're in town next week!

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Early Summer Days

It feels like I've been gone for at least a week, not just the 48 hours that Ragnar really was.  I swear the girls look bigger, act older, and this house, oh boy.  Despite my boy's best efforts, there was lots to do upon my return.  Mama snuggles to give and multitasking to be done.  It's nice to know I'm needed around here.

After the high of the great race has somewhat worn off I've found myself in a bit of a slump.  We're dealing with some heavy stuff in our house.  Heavy where do we see ourselves in 5/10/15 years how do we get there kind of stuff.  It's bizarre and wonderful to be finally exiting the tumultuous elastic years of early adulthood, entering fully into stability and longevity and long term stuff.  It's hard too, and a bit scary.

I look at those sweet faces of my girls and, if possible, more than ever I see how much they need me, how much they rely on us.  They don't just need my milk and my snuggles anymore, they seek guidance and boundaries and direction.  It can be a heavy load to bear when my own direction seems so weaving some days, but grounding too.

Take the past two days.  Faced with suddenly open mornings and long long unscheduled afternoons I'm taking a path that I tend to steer clear from.  I'm winging it.

Yesterday after laundry and lawn chores and big bowls of cereal we headed to the zoo.  We visited eight animals, spied on the baby buffalo while eating cheese sticks, played at the playground until it became overrun with rambunctious 12 year olds and then headed out.  I love our one hour zoo trips.

Louise enthralled with the "big birdie mama!", 
Ainsley recognized the "eagle!  just like at the cabin mom!"

We finally got to see the bears and wolves in relative peace.  
Ainsley spent 5 minutes analyzing the wolf's tail after we read a chart about what their tail behavior means
Louise growled at the polar bear and laughed when he pawed at the crowd

After a quick errand on the way home the girls konked in the car.  Despite my best efforts to make quiet hour happen it did not, so I plunked them in the stroller and let them snooze while I ran an easy 3 mile loop (well, relative to Ragnar of course).

This morning I woke up without a real plan again.  Well, MY plan was to knock off some of the many birthday gifts we plan to make for all our July birthdays, but the girls were not in the mood to oblige me.  So we spent the morning going through old clothes, bagging up outgrown duds, too soiled to save duds and duds to give away.  My girls LOVE going through clothes.  It's always fun to resurrect some forgotten favorites or see Ainsley desperate to squeeze into an 18month party dress (she usually can!)

When we'd had enough of the indoors we decided to head up to the tiny local market to grab some kool aid and salt for play dough making.  When that took almost no time at all we meandered to the bakery down the street where I indulged us all in sprinkled donuts and danish.  Just as we were about to get back in the car I saw the consignment shop across the street open up and we just had to duck in and see what we could find. Oh boy.

The sprinkliest sprinkle donuts

She really enjoyed it, I promise

 Yes, this was lunch.

Oh my goodness did we score big.  The store was having it's seasonal clean out sale and I was finally able to snag a few things I've been eyeing now that they were %50 off.

an old school Hanna cotton pullover

As of yesterday NONE of Louise's size 6 shoes fit her and we apparently skipped size 7 for Ainsley so we were in a bit of a pickle.  Thankfully shoes were on sale too and double thankfully?  I found a pair of mint minnetonka moccasins and robeez sneakers.  I had to pry the moccasins off Louise for nap time.  Oh, and I bought them an accordion.  Ian's going to LOVE me tonight.

 Gymboree hoodie set in a size 5, it almost fits Ainsley already!  She's getting way too big.

Shopping for Ainsley WITH Ainsley is always and adventure, but I've learned ways to convince her of my choices.  One is to let her pick out my outfit as a compromise when she's unhappy with my choice for her.  It's hilarious.  She always gives me two options and they're ALWAYS dresses or skirts.  Today I sported a maxi dress I bought when I was pregnant with Louise.  Ainsley was pleased and informed me "you look pretty in your dress mama, and I like your sweater on top, but I like your hair down better, it's not so pretty when it's up like that."  I may never get used to the brutal honesty of a 3 year old.

see my ragnar injury?  my toenail has all but fallen off...delightful.

Ahh, so this summer thing is going well.  I'm thankful for the cooler weather these past two days, for fun little adventures.  For LOTS of projects on the docket and the excitement of father's day ahead.  (Oh goodness, if we follow Ainsley's every wish for how to celebrate it will be QUITE an interesting day).  And this afternoon? I'm really hoping I'm still thankful for that accordion, my girls sure are!

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Meal Plan 6-10

It's been a bit since I posted about food.  I guess I kind of got tired of all the chicken, beef and pork in my freezer.  Though we definitely ended up saving some money (and muscles) by shopping bulk at the beginning of the month I found I longed for the freedom to create more spur of the moment meals when I wanted to.  So this week after using up the last of the frozen meat I'm back to my old $150 a week shopping plan and excited!

Bronzed Sea Bass with Lemon Shallot Butter, the best mashed potatoes ever, and green beans
Zucchini Fritters and chicken sausages
Birds Nests and roasted broccoli
Leftover bun brats, potato salad and watermelon (from our post ragnar feast)
Huevos Rancheros
Butter Chicken (or chicken curry, we haven't quite decided yet)
Turkey Paninis

Total: $130, which is kind of amazing considering that delicious (and expensive) piece of sea bass

mmmm, can't wait for the meals this week!

Sunday, June 10, 2012


I should probably wait to do this post.  You know, let it all sink in a bit, absorb, reflect.  But seeing as it's been 48 hours since the whole ordeal began and I've gone through every emotion I can think of in that time span, and it seems impossible that it's only been 48 hours, I'm ready.

Everything started off without a hitch.  Everyone got into town safely, the 12 passenger van was picked up, delicious jimmy johns was consumed.  I kissed the girls and Ian goodbye and we headed up to Madison.  It was a great night.  My mom, dad and little sister met us at the hotel.  We walked across the square to a very Madisonian dinner experience ($12 pitchers of beer and the most delicious cheese curds ever).  We walked up and down state street and then called it a night early, tired already from the travel and the knowledge of what tomorrow would bring.

Julie trying out the nighttime running gear

@ the old fashioned

 it was Lia's birthday!  and she got to try her first cheese curd, on her BIRTHDAY!!! she of course loved it.

 Sean and Lia, the two rockstar vets of our van (Julie too!)

We awoke around 5, everyone antsy and ready.  We picked up our amazing team shirts and made our way to the starting line.

Mine said "This is going to give me so many blisters...THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!!!"

I was in van 2 with my two sisters, brother in law, and two of Julie's friends from Boston.  We watched the 6:45am crew take off, cheered our van 1 teammate on, then made our plan for the next 5 hours, until it was our turn to run.

We ate breakfast in town then loaded up the van and headed east.  We stocked up at a grocery store and hung out at the first big exchange between van 1 and van 2.  As the time got closer to our start I was nervous.  Jenny, a member from van 1 had to run a 10.9 mile leg in crazy heat and sun.  As we watched the amazingly strong runners start to peel in and hand off their electric orange slap bracelets my stomach was in knots, but mostly I was SO excited.

warehouse bathroom in Wisconsin, we got used to peeing in weird places
(the rest of the photos are from Kelly's camera, I took NONE after the first leg...whoops!)

But it was hot.  Like REALLY hot.  The temps were in the mid 80's but with the clear skies and strong summer sun the heat index was over 100.  We could feel that it was hot, but there was a breeze and in the shade it wasnt too bad.  In short, I was compeltely unprepared.

My sister kelly was the first runner in our van. She took off well and we took off to the next exchange.  By this time I was SO nervous.  I just wanted to get running.  Soon enough I was.  My first hand off went smoothly and I was ready.

My leg was beautiful.  Country roads through farms.  Sounds picturesque right?  Well I hardly noticed the scenery thanks to the burning sun in my face and the breath-sucking heat.  It was hands down the worst run I've ever had.

I would have been disappointed that I had to walk some on my first leg, but there was no room for that.  I could barely jog to the finish line.  I had absolutely nothing left in my body to give.  Who can be disappointed with giving their all?  Not this girl.

the face of a survivor

two of our loyal cheerleaders

re-salting the body

Julie getting ready for her first leg

The rest of the afternoon I felt terrible.  I simply could not get enough fluid in my body and my stomach was a wreck.  In retrospect I'm fairly certain I was suffering from some form of heat sickness, but thankfully after a delicious panera run after our first legs were finished I was revitalized and pumped up for the night run.

chicken orzo soup and a turkey panini have never tasted so good 
(apparently Julie's tasted pretty good too)

We tried to get a little shut eye before our night runs.  It felt nice to lay down and have a real bathroom to use.
camping out at the second major exchange

No sleep was had at this point, but no bother.  We were pretty pumped for the night runs.  Cooler temps and no sun?  YES!!! But I was still nervous.  After such a horrible first run a lot was riding on this night leg for me.

I needn't have worried.  The moment my big sister slapped that bracelet on me I was off.  I don't think I ran all that fast, but I felt so good.  I passed 4 people, a big deal at this point of the race for me.  I didn't stop once.  My legs felt amazing my lungs felt good.  I was flying high.  When I saw the one mile left marker I picked it up and gave it all I had.  It felt good.  SOOO good.

Shortly after my night leg I crashed.  We finished around 3 am and desperately needed sleep.  After arriving at the next big exchange and while the other van ran we slept.  In the van, on the ground.  We slept.  Two hours of sleep never felt so good.

But Saturday was even hotter than Friday.  And we were tired and sore to boot.  Sleep helped but we all had no appetites and needed food.  It was weird to shove a quarter of a peanut butter dipped bagel in my mouth, absolutely hating every bite, but knowing my body needed it.  That's when it really hit me how hard our bodies were working and how much in survival mode they already were.

last morning, post 2 hour of sleep

running casulties, Sean, you're a BEAST for running with this blister

pumping up for the final leg, Joe's concerned face and my neck ice pack say it all

We welcomed our van1 runner with pizazz and Lia took off on her last leg.  I think at this point we were all kind of in survival mode.  Lia had suffered from heat exhaustion and it was really super human of her to run at all that morning, but she did and I think it all gave us the boost we needed.

My last leg was 5.9 miles.  I was pretty worried but also pumped.  If I could survive that horrendous 6.6 the day before surely I could do this.  And I did.  I started off slow and steady, trying to get into my mental grove as fast as I could.  It so helped that I had some shade, a water soaked hat, and support along the way.  This time I was prepared.

I didn't break any time barriers but I did it and I finished strong.  It felt pretty amazing.  I got to hand off to Julie and support the rest of my team through the grueling heat of the afternoon.  Kelly ran 2 extra miles to help Lia with her leg and Sean ran a ridiculous 8.2 down the hot beach to the finish line. I serioulsy don't know how they did it.  It was brutal.

van nap crash post 3rd leg

catching the girls and Ian in their cheerleader shirts at the finish line

crossing the line as a team

medals and popsicles and glory!!!

There were many points along the way that were extremely hard.  There were moments I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it.  There were LOTS of moments that Julie reminded us "I know it's hard, but fun, right?!"  And you know what? It was.  LOTS of fun.  So much fun that it feels weird to not be in a van right now, weird to be bathed and have clean non workout clothes on.  So much fun that as soon as my thighs stop burning and I can walk like a normal human being I can't wait to get my shoes laced and get out there and run. It was an incredibly inspiring, motivating weekend, especially considering the long road it took me to get here.

I can vividly recall the first time I ran after Louise was born.  I waited the recommended 6 weeks, sure that it was enough rest to have a successful short jog.  It was horrendous.  It took me months to even be able to run at all without incredible pain.

To be here, able to do what I just did is something I am so incredibly thankful for.  I don't take this body for granted for one second and I aim to push it to it's limits and respect what it allows me to do.  I am just brimming.  Not so much with pride but with appreciation, for hard work, for motivators, for an amazing support system (namely an incredibly understanding rockstar husband).  I am just so lucky.

Thanks team!  and Ragnar of course.  Until we meet again...