Thursday, April 30, 2009

Haley's 6th Birthday

Haley had a fun 6th birthday, despite being sick. Since she was home from school, her class called to sing "Happy Birthday" to her, and we spent most of the day relaxing together as a family. We watched her new Tinkerbell movie, decorated her Ariel cake, and by late afternoon Haley had the energy to open presents and enjoy her special birthday dinner and cake.
It's hard to believe how the years have flown by, and it's wonderful to watch our little girl learn and grow and become her own person. She has grown up so much this past year in kindergarten. Happy Birthday to our sweet Haley!

She opened her Tinkerbell movie early in the day so we could all watch it.

Ready to PARH-TAY!

Showing off her new Tinkerbell nightgown.

This is my favorite shot. Jake gave her a gumball machine - you can see how excited he was for her to open it!

Unwrapping with gusto.

Her new Tag reader from Grandma and Grandpa.

Jewelry box with dancing ballerina.

No one could have cake unless they were wearing their Ariel crowns - Jake and Rob gladly obliged in order to get cake.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I don't think a person can truly appreciate the miracle of Spring until they have lived in a climate as harsh as ours - at least I never did. Every year I find myself astonished that anything (including us) can survive the winters here. It seems a true miracle to see grass underneath the piles of melting snow and sand - the kids and I drive around town marveling at what the thawing has revealed. I'm not sure what we were really expecting - more snow, I guess. Or maybe Hell, frozen over.

I find myself thrilling at the flush of green on the lawns, the teeniest bit of swelling on the tree limbs. It will be several more weeks until the tulips and daffodils are in bloom, and more than a month before we can plant our full garden, but winter is finally over. I guess my whole point is that winters here give me a very different perspective. 30 degrees feels "warm," watching snow melt is "exciting," and watching the earth come back to life gives me an appreciation for the miracle of nature that I never experienced before living here.

So although tired from the move, we were sure to celebrate Easter and all the new life it represents. We dyed a beautiful batch of eggs ("eggies" as Jake calls them), hunted for jelly beans and Easter baskets, and enjoyed a traditional ham and potatoes dinner, courtesy of Rob. And most of all, we gave thanks for this season and the hope it provides. Happy Spring, everyone!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Not-So Not-So-Big House

Warning: long post/journal entry!
Rob and I have long been fans of the book The Not-So-Big House, by Sarah Susanka. We believe that a home can be beautiful, efficient, and functional without looking like a small skyline and taking up half an acre. We also admire the theories in the book Suburban Nation - we love the idea of living in mixed-use neighborhoods where residents are able to walk to work, parks, schools and grocery stores. That said, I don't believe either of those books were aimed at those of us who live with small children in a frigid climate.

The reality of life here on the northern Plains is that you spend a LOT of time inside, especially if you have young kids. You might envision a family cozily camped in front of the fireplace, playing games and drinking hot chocolate all winter long....and sure, that's fun the first fifty times. But eventually the game pieces get bumped or thrown or eaten by toddlers, the fire dies down, and you remember that hot chocolate really just fuels the children's pent-up energy. My whole point here is that when we started looking seriously at houses, it was all about the square footage. We decided we were actually paying for an indoor backyard. Can the kids pick up and maintain some serious speed? Are there lots of stairs for them to go up and down and up and down? Is there enough room for our various indoor toys (crafts, dollhouses, music gear, train tracks)? Check, check, and check. We are already so happy with our new home and the breathing room it affords us, and are keenly aware of how fortunate we are.

Two weeks after moving, the kids have yet to say that they miss the old place. Rob and I feel the same way. We loved that house and how "efficient" it was, but the only things we miss about it are the deck and the jetted tub - both of which are high on the list of projects at the new place. We've been fairly quick to unpack most of our things and it feels very much like home already (although Rob and I have both almost driven to the old house out of habit!). One unexpected bonus that thrills me is the views. After six years here it's easy to forget how incredibly flat it is the the Red River Valley. Aside from the bridges over the train tracks and the 4th-floor doctor's office, we are never up high. There is no "high" (which explains the kids' excitement over escalators in Chicago, poor country kids). To put it mildly, I love being able to see out over the trees to the east and west. We've witnessed stunning sunrises (thanks, Jake) and sunsets from the second-floor windows and I hope I never take them for granted. Overall, we feel so blessed to be in this home and feel like this is where we are supposed to be for the time being. We're looking forward to planting a garden and apple trees, spending many winter nights in front of the fire place, and welcoming Baby "Blizzard" to his first home.

One final note - another big THANK YOU to all our friends who helped with the move. We certainly couldn't have done it without you and we will be there to help when it's your turn!

We've been getting requests for some photos of the house with our stuff in are some pictures from the day of the move, and some recent ones. (Above - Jake and Haley had so much fun exploring the new house. They found a hiding place in the appliance garage on the kitchen counter. Sadly, it is now filled with the bread maker and Cuisinart. Also, the view from the second-floor landing.)

The last night in the old house - the kids fell asleep on the floor before we could get the air mattress blown up. We moved them later and spent a very "cozy" night with all 4 of us on a queen-sized air mattress.

Haley and Jake stand with the very last load of stuff before we head to closing.

Eat-in kitchen area.

Looking through the kitchen towards the Family Room.

Jake in the Family Room (we'd had a baby shower at the house that day). The little window lets you see through between the kitchen and Family Room - it also allows kids to climb between the rooms when parents aren't looking.

One of Rob's favorite features in the house, the wood-burning fireplace. We've already used it several times.

The Family Room, looking out to the front yard.

The master bedroom is comically larger than our old one. Before we could barely cram our furniture in; now we have some serious shopping and decorating to do so that it won't feel empty.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Chicago '09

Guest Blogger Haley writes: "We went to the Children's Museum at Navy Pier in Chicago! I just love Chicago! There is a big lake in Chicago, it is so big it looks like an ocean!!! My family likes to throw rocks into the lake."

That about sums up our recent trip to the windy city. We do love it and were so happy to spend 5 days there, taking a break from packing and moving worries. Rob of course was there to attend the Midwest Political Science Association conference, while the kids and I tagged along to soak up the museums, shopping, good food, and relatively milder spring weather (we left behind flooding rivers and a foot and a half of snow).

Haley and Jake have proven to be such great travelers and managed the planes, trains and miles of walking even better than I expected them to. We were fortunate enough to stay at the fabulous InterContinental Hotel right on the Magnificent Mile and loved the beautiful historical building as much as its proximity to world-class dining and shopping. We played for hours and hours at the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier before walking home in the rain at night, and explored such highlights on the Magnificent Mile as the Apple store and American Girl Doll store. The kids and I spent a morning at the Field Museum, followed by a leisurely walk along the lake shore. After enduring an especially long, cold winter it felt SO great to be outside and we tried to take advantage of it as much as possible. It might be a while before we're back in Chicago - I'm more than a little unsure about traveling with three (!) young kids - but I'm very glad we got to enjoy it this year.
We stopped a LOT on our walk back to run and climb and throw rocks into the lake.

Wow, I just couldn't get enough of the views! Gorgeous!

Jake takes in the skyline.

Haley and Jake had SO much fun at the Chicago Children's Museum. They were go-go-go the entire time.

The pool at our hotel was stunning. Built in the 1920's, it wasn't exactly kid-friendly but they had fun anyway.
I didn't bring my "fancy" camera on this trip so some of these are not the greatest shots, but at least the small camera allowed the kids to play around and take some shots of their own: