About Me

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I am a Mom of two young lads, a fitness fanatic and wife to a die-hard Packers/Brewers fan. I worked in corporate america for 12 years. Now I am on a new adventure - raising my sons and working part-time in the fitness industry as a Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor. I hope you stop by and read my updates- family, fitness, or life related!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Santa Came to Town!

Well, the time has come. Our Christmas celebration has officially started. I'm on my fourth day of antibiotics for a sinus infection (sickness lasted about 20 days- yikes) and am thankful I feel better just in time!

Santa came to our house lastnight! He made a special trip so the boys could have Christmas at home and get to play with their stuff before we celebrate with the Hammonds over the holiday. Boy was Santa good this year! The highlight is a six-car race track so they can race their Hot Wheels!

What a fun year. Braden is really into Santa this year, leaving cookies, milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.  He came to wake us up at 6:45. He was sooooo excited when he saw the presents this morning. He was jumping for joy! Liam was running around trying to grab what he thought looked most interesting to him- toothbrushes and candy! What a fun morning we had. The boys are now wearing new PJs and watching Rio under a new Spiderman blanket- taking a slight break from car racing.

I hope you all have a blessed and wonderful Christmas with your families. I pray for all of those that are sick this holiday season, that they can feel good to celebrate with their loved ones. I pray for all of those that are without a loved one this season. I know how hard that is and may the warm memories comfort you in times of sadness and that you can lean on others for support. I pray for all of those that have loved ones fighting for our country and can't make it home for the holidays, that they stay safe and can return soon. I pray those without homes and food, can find shelter and meals this Christmas season. I am thankful for my wonderful family, our health and happiness and all the wonderful blessings in our lives. I know many get stressed out over the holidays, but truly just sit back and enjoy this time as it comes just once a year and the only thing to worry about is getting everyone together and celebrating the reason for the season!

Love from the Hammonds this holiday season!

Disclaimer: These pics are obviously not from today, but I'll post Christmas 2012 pics soon!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Snow, Packers and more snow!

 My first Packer game = snowiest game in 5 years (and 5 layers on top, 3 on bottom)

 Lambeau tree
Spot at the bar on game day- unheard of! (not if you get there 7 hours before the game though)
Every Sunday in this house, I hear the chant "Packer Sunday, Packer Sunday" from two excited guys in the house when they wake up and realize what day it is. Once the last guy can add more words to his vocabulary, it will become three chanters! Last weekend it was my turn to witness this excitement first hand at good ol' Lambeau Field.

Our original plan was to go to Joe's parents with the kids Saturday night, and get up in the morning and head to Green Bay. Since it was a Sunday night game, we figured we had plenty of time to get there as we'd only be three hours away. Mother Nature had different plans, so we hit the road Saturday night to the Green Bay area and left the kids to stay an extra night on their own with grandma and grandpa. It was a win-win situation, we beat driving in the storm (and got an extra night out) and grandma and grandpa got to have more quality time with the boys.

We stayed in Appleton, hitting some of the hot spots on the main college avenue in town for a night. Sunday we got down to Lambeau quite a bit early to beat the traffic. We lucked out and got a seat at the bar right across the street and got to take in some other Sunday afternoon games while the snow came down furiously outside. A couple hours before game time, we braved it and put the rest of our layers on and headed into the blustery night. The temperature was perfect for a winter night game in the Midwest- 35 degrees - however, the snow turned to water once it hit you so it got a little wet after a couple hours! I really wasn't cold until mid-third quarter when my feet got a little wet in the boots I had on. I was smart and had a padded jacket to put down on the medal bleacher seats to sit on. If you don't have warm feet, or a warm seat you are in big trouble! Anyway, I can't compare it to any other game- but the stadium was very cool at night brightly lit up and snowflakes coming down. The fans were nothing but energetic and fun. They packed 70,000 into the stadium that night. The outdoor tents were packed in the tailgating zone during pre-game time, comparable to St. Patty's Day here in St. Paul. It was not like any football game I have ever experienced. The weather did not turn anyone away, it made them even more excited! Brats, beer and of course cheese were everywhere! No joke.

We had a great time even with the crazy weather. The Pack won, we were stuck on the highway in bumper-to-bumper traffic getting back to our hotel not until 2am, so the day was a bit long....but it was all about the "full" experience. I don't have a "bucket list" officially. But, if I did a Packer game might be on it. Not sure if the snowiest game in 5 years would be on the list, ha, but needless to say it was a very fun experience and now I can totally understand what "Packer Sunday" officially means. It has a very different meaning in person than sitting at home watching it on T.V. If I go to another game, I may opt for a fall one- ha. One of the highlights was meeting a couple from San Diego that came back to a December game because the previous game they came to was 70 degrees and they were mad! They wante the true experience. I think they got it!

PS- I was forced to wear the beautiful jersey!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Liam: 15 months

Liam at 15 months is full of spunk and personality. He went from learning to walk to RUNNING. He cruises across the main level to get upstairs just as fast as any one of us now. I can't even tell who's pitter patter feet I hear running across the hardwood floor. Watch out, Liam is on the go!

Liam loves to play everything that Braden plays with now. He's into the Thomas The Trains, and pushes them around the wooden tracks, he likes to look at books, and of course he still loves to throw balls. He even helps me clean. Today he Swiffered and vacuumed. :) He can say, Momma, Dadda, Ball, Apple, Bubble, Blue (he is trying to say Balloon), and woo-woo for his favorite stuffed puppy. He also says "Wa" for water. I had to give Liam his first hair trim a couple of weeks ago, the top was sticking up way high. He has a nice colic that may need to be trimmed every other week. :) His hair is a lot lighter than Braden's and came in a lot earlier than Braden's did. Liam popped yet another tooth this week. He also understands everything we say, listening MOST of the time. He knows, it's bedtime, go get your shoes, etc...but when I say, "Please don't throw your bear in the toilet" or "Stop flushing the toilet" he doesn't seem to understand. :)

Liam is a smiley guy. He can be cuddly too, when he's not on the go! He is awesome at the stairs, so we took away the gate for the basement. He slides down on his belly in lightening speed. Wherever big brother is, Liam follows. They are two peas in a pod. He still is my hot-tempered guy, throwing himself on the floor, banging his head and feet when he is mad. I am hoping there are no future ER trips for these tantrums, they don't occur super often! He also runs into a lot of things, falls down a lot, and pulls things down on top of himself. He also climbs on things. He is my daredevil. He likes to stand up  in the bathtub and then flop down, which has resulted in a few flips underwater to scare him. Again, I really hope that I don't have to make an ER trip with this one, but I think he may be my adventurous and no-limits little boy.

Liam is smiling and laughing when he wakes up, and goes to bed laughing too. He loves his crib and his sleep. So does Mom! :) It's crazy to think about where we were a year ago with him and how big he is now. We can't wait to see what Liam will show us this holiday season, besides pulling off the ornaments and throwing them across the room. :) He is a joy and a blessing to our family! He completes the Hammond family. His spunk is refreshing to start out each day with.

Braden: 3 years + 3 months

Oh, our little Braden is growing up so fast that he feels like a little man. If I can't find something, he will go looking for it and bring it to me. He likes to dress himself now, but shirts are a bit tough. He is fully potty-trained- YEAH. He is still as active as ever- loves to run, throw, bike, swim, play just about anything and he is all over the games and movies lately. He even knows how to work the Ipad all by himself. He does puzzles, games and can watch Disney Junior shows.

Braden loves preschool. His weekly reports always say he was fun, patient, excited to learn and a very good helper. This year he is very into Christmas which is so fun. He yells when he sees all the lights outside, saying "Momma look, it's Christmas!" He helped me decorate the tree. He also sees all the decor around the house and tells me that it looks good and that I am a good decorator. Where does he come up with this stuff? One day my jaw dropped when he told me that I have really pretty hair. Remember when I said I was a little nervous at times to have just boys in the house (keeping up with laundry, food, being outnumbered, etc...) well, boys sure are sweet to their Mommas. I hope that stays! He is really excited for Santa Claus. He told me he will leave out carrots so the reindeer can lick them, and cookies for Santa. We go visit Santa this Friday, so that will be fun to see how he reacts.

It's fun to watch Braden grow as a big brother too. If Liam falls and hurts himself, he runs over and hugs and gives him a kiss. Today I heard the boys giggling around the corner together while I was making lunch. I asked Braden what they were doing and he said, "Just snuggling Mom." I turned the corner and Braden was laying on top of Liam with his head on his belly and they were just laughing. If ever I am headed out the door to go to the doctor or to Target all by myself, he usually asks to come with. I took him to a movie a few weeks ago, and Joe took him to SkyZone- so we try to do special one-on-one things with him which is a lot of fun. He can do big boy stuff now, crazy.

As Braden gets older, he is really turning into the social guy. I had some ladies over the other night, and he was so upset when it was time for him to go upstairs to bed because he wanted to hang out with everyone. He never wants to miss a thing and is always excited to have people over, or go to someone's house. This holiday season will be super fun. Three years old is a lot of fun and we can't wait to see what is in store next with Braden. Life is a lot of fun with Braden around.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Turkey Day 2012

We had a great Thanksgiving! I hope you all did too!

It started out as a 60 degree day so as soon as breakfast was over, we took a jog outside as a family. After everyone was showered and dressed, we packed up and headed an hour north into Wisconsin to my brother's cabin. The day was filled with sunshine, cousins playing, fantastic company and food and some great family pictures outside. We got out to play a little football for a few minutes and bam, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped about 25 degrees. Once it got dark, the rain started and it turned to snow. Pretty soon everyone was packing up and heading out to make sure we got home OK in the weather. It was a slower trip home, but we made it. The boys were tired from a fun day of playing and no naps, but stayed awake the entire ride home...except for Liam who crashed about 10 minutes from home. It was nice to be back home that night to get a few things done. Joe actually braved it and for the first time, did some Black Friday shopping. He got a bunch of things on our list, but said he would never brave those crazy crowds again. It was a bit chilly to wait in line outside too- brrrrr!

We had all weekend to get our Christmas decor up and I did tons of cleaning, re-organizing and completed some projects around the house that needed to be done. With the chillier weather that took over, it was a perfect weekend to stay bundled inside and check things off the to-do list. I taught some classes as well, so it was fun to see people at the Y working off some of that holiday indulgence. Everyone was ready to work hard.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. I feel very fortunate to be able to see my family for the holidays, unlike families who can't travel or have someone in the military who they don't get to see. Although we rotate holidays- this year is Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with Joe's family, both sides are still close enough to get to see throughout the year. I pray for all of those that spent their first holiday without a loved one, or for those that are sick and spent the holiday in the hospital. I am thankful for good health in our family and pray that continues!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November- Sunshine, rides and Turkey!

 Boys conquering the park- the end of Nov and no jackets!
 Celebrating at the MOA!
Brothers sharing yogurt!
Well, here it is the day before Thanksgiving and it's 60 degrees here in MN. We were able to hit a park and run off some energy around the baseball field too. What a fantastic fall and start of winter we have had here. I know it will change quickly, so we are enjoying every minute of it! We are keeping as busy as ever! Braden is still doing pre-school one day a week, we also have a music class for all three of us on Mondays for an hour. Braden loves dancing, singing and playing the instruments. Liam likes to run around the room and play with the toys, not so much sit in the circle and when it's time to put the shakers away he throws tantrums as they are egg shape and look like "balls" - his favorite thing in the world. He doesn't want to give up his ball!

Early this month, we hit the MOA to celebrate Braden being potty-trained. It was a big day for him. We did unlimited rides, and he went on the rollercoaster about 3 times and a ton of other ones too. It was fun watching him get so excited and run from ride to ride.

Mid month, we had an unexpected trip to WI for Joe's aunt Connie's funeral- a very sad weekend for us and the rest of the family. It really forces you to appreciate the loved ones you have, and be thankful for each day here on earth. Things can change so fast, and we all need to slow down a bit in life and make sure we are happy, living life to the fullest and spending time with those we love. It was a flashback of what I experienced with my Mom when I was a young age of 20, losing her to cancer. I really can't describe in words how hard it is to go through that, but as the years have passed I realize how much I have learned. That experience has made me a stronger, more sensitive and compassionate person than I was before. Plus, I learned so much from her that really applies to my current stage in life, even though I still miss her everyday and wish that she was here.

Joe traveled to Miami for work over the weekend, so the boys and I did some fun things- movie night, hit the park and had Cherry Berry. Went to dinner, and they spent a day at my sister's house so I could run a bunch of errands (thank you, Shawn and Kurt) and have a little break from the fighting/whining that was wearing on me a bit after two weekends in a row and long weeks in between. :) I sure love these boys, but I need to make sure I give myself breaks here and there to be a better Mom and come back refreshed so I can tackle the next day again. At ages 3 and 1, it's a lot of work chasing, disciplining, feeding, dressing them and getting them to/from all these places on my own all day long. But, this time will go fast and I will be so thankful I had this time with them. I am already thankful. They change each and everyday.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. I truly am thankful for so many things this year: my wonderful husband and adorable two boys. Our health. Our home. My family and my in-laws. My friends- old and new. My job at the YMCA where I have met amazing people and have a community that welcomes me. I am thankful for the nice weather so we can get outside. I am thankful for the angel who is watching over me everyday (Mom)....and the list goes on. I hope everyone can take a moment and be thankful for the many blessings in your life, and if it's a hard year- may there be other blessings that can pull you through the tough times.

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Two Sons



On the 22nd of each month both Braden and Liam turn a month older. I always write a little update on my blog right around that time, hoping to stay pretty timely so I can have a personal record of what they are up to (think online baby book) and so family and friends who don't live close can get updates too. Well, here it's November 5th and I missed their October update. Oops. Braden was 3 years + 1 month, and Liam 14 months. In these updates, I often talk about each boy separate - Braden gets his own update and Liam gets his own. Today, however; I will talk about my boys together and how they have grown as brothers.

 Looking back, last fall and winter I was always pushing Liam in the stroller, feeding him a bottle or holding him while Braden ran around and was the active one. Fast forward a year, now Liam is upright and moving fast (zombie style) and can try to chase his brother, throws balls and runs in circles. Now they both sit down to play cars and push them down the ramp. They both eat the same things, at the same time. They nap at the same time (thankfully) and Liam goes to bed a little earlier than Braden, but they wake up around the same time. A year ago, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off- serving different foods, changing diapers at different times, trying to get one to stop crying and trying to play a game with the other one. I literally was running non-stop all day long as they were in such different stages. A year later, things are more align- although they may run at different speeds and in different directions they are doing much more of the same things these days. It's still busy and tiring, just in a little different way. :)

Boy are they different though. Liam has the Irish temper, and Braden is stubborn. Liam is my instant gratification guy. He is hungry as soon as you mention food or he sees it. He eats faster than anyone in the house. Braden isn't a big eater, and takes forever at meals. Liam is the daredevil, Braden more catious. Liam throws tantrums when he doesn't get his way, Braden is pretty patient and might just say "bummer". Both are as active and as busy as can be.Braden can be shy in certain situations (meeting new people) and Liam is usually talking at the top of his lungs. Although different, they do have simularities too. Both are smiley and fun. Both boys love bath time, reading books, throwing the ball and playing cars. The dynamic duo also both have a sweet tooth (so do Mom and Dad) and are ticklish. They both can play on their own, but also crave that attention from whomever is in the room at the time. I see them fighting over toys, or hitting each other, but also hugging and kissing each other or sharing a toy. I see both of them smile when they see the other one wake-up in the morning. It's fun to not only watch your kids grow, but grow together. I love how Liam claps for Braden when he does something good, or how Braden gets excited when Liam achieves a new milestone like walking.

It's a busy time with these two little dudes, but it's a fun time too. Now that Liam is a good walker, we will venture out more places where both boys can play (and I don't have to do as much holding) like the Children's Museum or open gym time. As winter approaches, I am going to get creative on new things we can do together: story time and other field trips. One big win this week is one is out of diapers (except at night)! Woo-hoo! We also start a music class together today.

 It is so clear to me now why I was blessed with two boys. I was a little fearful at first- was I ready for a future of being outnumbered in the house, wrestling matches in the living room, playing cars, trucks and washing sweaty sports uniforms from here on out (half kidding, half serious here)? A world I am not as familiar with sounded frightening at times. I must say that has been a wonderful experience being a Mom of sons so far and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Although they are busy and active, they are very sweet and endearing.  They are full of life, spunk and love.

Brothers til the end.....people may come in and out of these boys' lives, but they will always be brothers. They will always have each other. They will be each other's rock. Each one of them is different and special, but together they make one dynamic duo: my two sons.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Fun.

Happy Halloween! Well the festivities are over. The Halloween celebration started over the weekend for us- with a little event at our neighborhood Community Center. Braden was excited to wear his Spiderman costume, and Liam was our little Bball player. Then on the official 31st, we started off with homemade pumpkin shaped pancakes (and orange colored too!) Braden had pre-school that day, so we got to go see him perform in a little concert. He was surprised with a visit from Dad who got off work early to come! We then had a neighborhood party with pizza, bonfire, and beverages for the adults. Trick-or-treating came later when the kids couldn't wait any longer. Braden ran from house to house with excitement. Liam went to a few houses and then came home. Both boys had a blast and it was super fun watching Braden really get into it this year. Next year will be Liam's time to shine! Was a super fun night for kids and adults. Our little celebration was even captured via the online newspaper here in Woodbury. Link is below:
I hope you all had a fabulous, fun and safe Halloween!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Walking Machine

You saw last week where Liam was taking a handful of steps and then would fall down. Today, it looks a little different. Watch out, I am in big trouble! Two dudes running in opposite directions. How will I keep up?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Boys Will Be Boys

We have been very busy lately. The boys are growing, learning and doing more things each day. Here are two examples:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Liam Jude: 1 year + 1 month

Yep, still a bit behind in blogging.

On Braden's third birthday, our littlest dude, Liam Jude (ha that rhymes) turned 13 months! Liam Jude is growing so darn fast. I lay him down in his crib and realize how much room he takes up compared to the first few days home from the hospital. Liam is our smiley guy. He is also full of emotion. If he is frustrated, he will scream or cry. If he is hungry or tired, he still will let us know. If I am in the kitchen just making dinner, he will express his hunger until I pick him up and get him in his highchair. I like a man that knows what he wants! If we are shopping, he will spot something in the cart that he wants and will cry until he gets it. It seems like I have this guy's needs figured out, but when he doesn't say more than a handful of words it sometimes takes a little bit to pinpoint what he may be expressing. Most of the time, I can narrow it down pretty fast though.

Liam is our risk taker. He turns around in the shopping cart at Target (even when strapped in) and stands up and bounces. He will climb, pull things down, and go down slides head first. He can take about seven steps on his own, but is still not comfortable walking. He runs with his push toy and chases his brother around. I know he is waiting until he can run before he starts walking 100%. Then I am BIG trouble. Braden did this exact same thing, they wait until they are perfectionists at walking. Wierd, wonder where they get that from (eh, Dad).

I feel so bad for Liam. In the past month, he has had an ear infection, a horrible allergic reaction to Amoxicillin, a cold and now the stomach flu. He is such a trooper. He may be the only one-year-old that gets sick to his stomach, then smiles at me. He also loves his Momma. Today he screamed for twenty minutes when I left the house, and then cried more when I wouldn't pick him up and hold him while I was making dinner. If he can see me, he wants to be close to me. I can't go upstairs where I am out of sight or he freaks out. I can't take a shower where there's a door seperating us, or he will get very upset and can't calm down. I am not sure if this is a stage, or perhaps he will always be a Mommy's little boy. Sometimes it's stressful, but I have to appreciate his love for me.

Liam is learning more and more each day. He has so much fun at the zoo and shakes when he sees the animals and laughs. He loves being outside- he chases bugs and looks for birds. He can hold his own too. If Braden takes his toy away, he will smack him or pull it back. Liam is a lot of fun, he belly laughs when I chase him around the house. He loves balls, cars and he goes right to the big boy toys now- playing trains, putting cars down ramps- as he's been watching big brother do that for months!

Liam is our spunky little guy. He has lighter brownish-blonde hair. Braden at this age was bald, and Liam has a decent amount of hair with some little whisps sticking up on top. It's fun to see him getting his own look the older he gets. Here's hoping Liam doesn't have to experience anymore sickness in 2012. He is full of life, energy, spunk and we can't get enough of that smile and belly laugh!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Braden John: The big THREE!

Our little Hobo
Fun at the Zoo
Candle blowing!
The Thomas cake he's had his eyes on for months!
Mean, lean football machine.
I'm a little behind in blogging. Life gets the best of us sometimes- this month was busy with pre-school starting, a one-year-old with a horrible reaction to Amoxicillin (lasting 8 days), a Duathlon for me, and last but not least a three year old birthday!

Yes, Braden turned three this past weekend on Saturday. The birthday festivities actually started on Wednesday at his school. They threw him a little party and he brought cupcakes for everyone. He got to bring home a giant birthday bag- inside was a book and stuffed turtle that he could keep for a week, along with a new matchbox car, crayons and a birthday ribbon that he got to keep. What an amazing pre-school teacher he has. Miss Deanna made him feel so special. Thursday I took the boys to Como Zoo. It was a beautiful fall day. We took in all the animals and then stopped for an ice cream cone on the way home. Friday we had a mini-party. Braden had a few little dude friends over for some pinata fun and then pizza followed by cake and ice cream. Then on Saturday, the birthday boy woke up and opened his presents. Then we headed to Target for a donut and chocolate milk (yes, his breakfast choice) and then we went to the Jackson Street Roundhouse train museum in St. Paul for their family day. We toured old trains. We took a train ride. We roasted Smore's outside. Braden got his face painted and played with the train tables. It was a great day for the birthday boy- he had a smile on his face the entire time, especially on the train ride. Liam enjoyed it too. That night Joe had an event to head to, so I let Braden pick whatever he wanted to do. So, we had a movie marathon. We watched two movies, ate snacks and cuddled on the couch together. He was in heaven. Turning three is a lot of fun. I had fun celebrating with him, although on Sunday I was a little tired!

As my oldest son turns three, these thoughts come to mind:
Just over three years ago, we had no idea what parenthood was about and we hadn't met you yet. When you joined our family, our lives changed drastically. We never new a love like that existed. We watched you grow and change from a baby into a toddler so quickly. Now, at three you feel like a little man to us. You go to pre-school. You use big words like "actually". You say funny things like, "is this a good idea Mom?" You love trains, baseball, climbing, books, playing with friends, going places, building forts, riding your bike, and watching movies. I love how excited you get when you can do something new- today you climbed to the top of a jungle gym and you got the biggest smile and said "I did it Mom." You are laid-back and easy-going, always up for anything. You ask to try everything on your own. You are outgoing, social and love to be around other kids and people. I love when I walk into your room in the morning and you greet me with a "Hey Mom". While we watched a movie the other night, you turned to me and said "I really love you Mom" and it melted my heart. I am so proud of the kind, sweet, caring, loving, funny, smart, adventurous, happy and creative boy you are. I love that your reports from school always say you were happy, loved whatever the project of the day was, and that you always help clean up. I get a smile on my face when you hug your little brother when you don't think I'm watching. I could go on and on about all the things you do that make me so proud. I know this time goes so fast. I am taking a step back to soak it all in and enjoy it while it is here. I love these fall days when we head outside after nap and don't come back until dinner time- taking in the scenery, talking and playing together. I learn so much from you. Your view of the world helps keep things into perspective for me. I try to keep a balance of letting you be independent and figure things out, but yet being here if you need me and teaching you things.

Braden, you turned three and you seem like a little man but you are still my little boy. I peek in at night and watch you sleep peacefully. You are an amazing little guy, and I can't even imagine how proud I will be of you as years grow by. I know you will go places with your can-do attitude and your sunny disposition.  You are loved in so many ways by so many people and I hope you never forget that. You put smiles on others faces- from strangers you pass, to family and friends. You have touched us in so many ways in just these three years, we are so looking forward to all that is to come!

Happy third birthday, sweet Braden.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Best running partners/coaches

I'm a pretty lucky lady to have these two smiley guys to keep me company on my runs. A couple of times during the week, we head out right after breakfast and hit the trails of Woodbury. We always have the following in tow: hats, sunscreen, water, toys and only two-thirds of us wear shoes! Some days are hot and we hit a few sprinklers, some days are chilly and we put blankets on little legs.

Needless to say, we all like to soak up the fresh air, sunshine, and whatever scenery we happen to see that particular morning. Sometimes it's birds, kites, kids going to school, buses, construction trucks or horses.

In preperation for my first duathlon next weekend, I've been trying to log a few extra miles these past few weeks. I have to thank my running partners/coaches- they keep me company, give me motivation and are pretty good sports- coming with me without much fuss!

Even though it's hard work pushing an extra, who knows, 70 lbs. let's say- I'll be sad when the winter arrives and I'll have to protect my little running partners/coaches by keeping them indoors instead! Until then, I'm going to keep enjoying these wonderful running mornings.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Braden John: 2 years 11 months

 My train loving guy!
 Vacation smile.
 Fun at the zoo.
He "lights" up when he gets to play with his flashlight.

Braden is very, very close to turning three! On Liam's birthday, he turned 2.11. I like to do these monthly updates so I can keep track of what my boys are up to at all ages and stages. Of course it's a great way to share pictures to relatives and friends who don't get to see them often. Double whammy!

What is Braden up to at 2.11? He is quite the young man. He knows his directions- where people live, where we go to the dentist, where to turn to get to the YMCA, etc. If you take the wrong way, he will let you know. I often get told, "You are going the wrong way" or "We need to go this way".  Braden is starting pre-school next week, just on Wednesdays. I figure starting him with one day will be good since he is eager, social and learns fast. He will have three years of pre-school with his fall birthday, so this year he can do one day, next year two and the following three. Today we went to the orientation. He got to see where he is going to hang his backpack, he met his new friends, got to play trains and eat a snack there. Needless to say, he didn't want to leave. I think he is going to love it! I am so proud of this guy- wearing his backpack that's as big as his body almost. :)

Braden is still as active as ever. He spends a lot of time riding his bike (the kind with training wheels), playing baseball and running the bases. He still loves anything to do with water- swimming, splashing, fishing, etc... He had a blast on our vacation in early August- running around with cousins, swimming in the lake, fishing with grandpa, and the list goes on. We are still working on potty training with him, it has it's up and downs. Maybe around his birthday we will have more progress.

His favorite toys are Thomas the Trains, cars, and his baseball and bat of course. He loves movies and building forts. We go to Skyzone and he jumps until he is blue in the face (so does mom). He is really into imaginary play. He still takes a 3 hour nap- woo-hoo! He isn't the best eater- he eats a good breakfast and lunch but he doesn't eat much for dinner. This has been a real struggle lately, but I am learning to just give him a couple of things I know he will eat and then chalk it up to a lost cause. If someone isn't hungry, you can't force them. Braden is still my laid-back little dude, up for whatever, whenever- but is also starting to show a little attitude and sass at times. There are a lot of "No, I will do it myself'" being yelled at me too. Terrible three's are approaching, so I figured this is inevitable. He still is very sweet- jumping up and down for me when I pick him up at the YMCA daycare with a big grin and saying "Hi Mom". He told me that my hair looked pretty the other day and that my shirt looked nice- it melted my heart. He is always full of energy. He loves playing with other kids and has no problems going to people's houses or trying new things (well, besides new foods). He took his first roller coaster ride and loved it. He is getting taller and taller- growing out of his clothes. His questions are getting harder for me to answer. He never misses a beat, he has a steel trap memory and he is constantly keeping me on my toes. Just like his Dad, he will notice if you move something in the house or if you got a haircut. He's my detail-oriented boy!

This year will be an exciting one for Braden- he starts school, he will meet new friends and he turns three in just a couple of weeks! We are so lucky and proud to have this guy in our lives everyday. It's crazy to think he's only been in our family for three years (meaning I don't remember life without him hardly) and at the same time I can't believe three years has flown so fast and how much he has grown! He makes us smile constantly and we laugh every night at the things he says. Life with Braden is never dull, and always fun.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Summer is rolling by.....

Big bad B got to ride his first roller coaster this weekend. My in-laws were here this weekend so we headed up to our town's annual festival to hit the rides and walk around for a couple of hours. Braden also took his first Ferris Wheel ride. I sat across from him wondering if he would like it or not, but he said he wanted to try it. His face turned a bit white when he realize how high we were going. He held onto the rails behind his head. He told me he didn't like it as soon as we got to the top. I tried distracting him by pointing out things we could see like a fire engine parked below. The ride happened to stop when we were at the way tip top. Our bucket was rocking back and forth. He nervously asked me why we stopped. I was praying it was to drop off another rider at the bottom. Thank goodness it was, and we started up again. Then when he got off he said it was fun but it made his belly drop. I am not sure he will choose to go on it again! :)  How fun when kids are able to go on their first "big" rides (somewhat). Liam had fun on the merry-go-round sitting on a horse for the first time. Braden seems to like rides, but Liam may be our thrill-seeker. We'll see.

We are trying to fit as much fun into this summer before the cooler weather arrives. Braden starts preschool next week- just one day a week. Where does the time go (days and years fly by)?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

It's the little things...

New running shoes make me very happy. My feet feel so cushioned, so fast and so comfortable. I feel like I am floating when I hit the pavement. Because of my high arches, I need extra support in my running shoes so I  get the same brand every time. The nice part is I can order online since I know what I need. The bad part is they happen to be pretty spendy (of course). I can usually find older models that are less expensive, but this year I had to splurge and get some fun colors. Afterall, I am partaking in some races and need to feel and look "fast". Ha.

Besides the obvious like family, friends, etc...some other things that make me happy are: chai tea in the morning, getting my haircut, the pitter patter of little feet down the hallway, my boys' smiles, baby feet, McDonald's cones, a good workout, going out of the way to help someone out or make their day, when my US Weekly arrives in the mail (yes, lame I know), taking a jog to explore a new city, a good song on the radio, a clean house, a made bed, Gerber daisies, butterflies and cardinals, boat rides on my Dad's pontoon, date night, a glass of wine out to dinner, a hug from my hubby when he gets home from work, pumpkin spice lattes (speaking of this, fall season is approaching), and the list goes on. What little things make you happy? It's always fun to learn what little things make someone happy. Sometimes life gets heavy and stressful and we need to take a step back and look at the little things that make us happy and get our fill of them.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Liam Jude: One Year Celebration

Today was a big day. Our little man, Liam Jude, turned one. The day started off with filling his crib with balloons and singing "Happy Birthday". We then had donuts and blew out a candle. We played outside with Liam's new water table (he was shaking he was so excited). We headed to Como Zoo- Mom, Braden and Liam. We are sorry that Dad had to work and miss out on the fun. We took in rides and animals. Liam rode his first ride, and then he took in a total of four. Braden rode about six total, going on a few big rides solo. We watched the polar bear swim, the monkeys swing, and the sea lions jump and dive. We ended the adventure with a ride on the carousel. We piled in the car, and before we pulled away our birthday boy was out cold. Big brother didn't make it all the way home either, zonked. Both boys woke when the car pulled in the garage. We said the heck with naps and played with the water table again and chased balloons around the house. The rain came down, so we started a movie. Then it was dinner and cake smashing time. Dad was home to join in the festivities. Liam dug right in. He may be the first one year old to eat the most cake. :) Oh what fun turning one is! . To end it, Liam took his first THREE steps alone. What a memorable day.

Liam, as you turn one I want to write you a letter straight from the heart. I want to take a step back and capture this past year and all that it has meant to me.

A year ago today, you joined our family of three and we became a family of four. As soon as you were there, it felt like you had always been there. You seem to balance us out. Yes, we are all family but we are all different in our own ways. You bring energy, spunk, emotion and silliness to our family. You are very expressive. One minute you have the biggest smile I have ever seen on a one-year-old and it melts my heart. The next minute your pouty lip, crocodile tears and loud shriek show me that you have a sensitive side too. I have learned what makes you belly laugh - tickle spots, games that you think are funny. I also know what makes you mad or sad - getting a toy taken away from you, or me leaving the room where you can't see me. I know what makes you happy- your bottle, seeing your stuffed puppy when you are tired. I love that special time with you each night I put you to bed- we sing, rock and snuggle. I give you butterfly kisses and you laugh and put your head closer for more.

I love the excitement you show when you see dogs or animals at the zoo. I love the fuzzy, wispy hair on the top of your head. I love your cute feet and the folds in your thighs. I love watching you push cars around the house or chase balls. I adore the way you look at your big brother- staring at him in your car seat to see what he's doing. I love your babble talk, always chatting away or pointing at things. I can't wait to show you more things and make more fun memories with you and our family of four.

You are the piece of the puzzle that makes our family whole. You are so loved and I hope you always know that. I want you to grow up always feeling loved, appreciated and special. I know the time will go so fast and you will grow up right before our eyes. I am trying to appreciate your every stage of growth and soak it all up since it's already going quickly. I relish my time with you, and the nights where I can put you to sleep and give you butterfly kisses (I am sure there will be a day where you refuse butterfly kisses- ha). I am proud of what you have become already at one, I can't imagine how proud I will be at your high school graduation. :) Just in the last two weeks I have watched you change and grow. Our days are busy and go quickly, but I want to make sure I relish all of your milestones.

You are so fun at one, and I can't wait to see what you surprise us with each day from here on out. Your smile and energy are contagious. You make me feel young. I am going to have to stay young to keep up with you as you grow. You are our baby, our youngest son, our Liam Jude. You are amazing. We are so lucky to have you in our family. We are blessed to have you as ours. Happy Birthday.
Love you more each and every day, your Momma.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Annual letter to Mom - 16 years

Dear Mom (a.k.a Juts, Nana Judy),

Today is the 16th anniversary of your journey to Heaven. As I type that, 16 feels like forever. Other times, I feel like you were just taking me school shopping, calling me your “Pina Colada” or singing “Wake up, wake up” as you entered my room in the morning.

This is also the sixth year that I have written an anniversary letter to you- to keep your spirit alive and to help me feel close to you. Each year I had new news to tell you- meeting Joe, getting engaged, getting married, being pregnant, having our first son, moving and becoming pregnant for the second time…well this year is yet another big one- our second son was born last August just a few weeks after my last letter. I know you were with me the day Liam was born, helping me once again welcome him into the world. His middle name is Jude, after you. He is full of spunk and personality. He is an amazing addition to our family. This is your tenth grandchild! I see traits of you in both my sons- Braden is fun, sensitive, laid-back and excited about everything. Liam is full of spunk, energy and loves to laugh.

In my last letter, I expressed concern for becoming a Mom of two- how would I spread out my love and give both kids my heart equally? Well, once Liam was born it really wasn’t a question. There’s always room in a Mom’s heart for her children and you never feel that you are slighting the other one. You were an amazing role model to me in our 21 years together. There are days where Shawn and I talk about what our lives would be like if you were here. We talk about how unfair it is, but we also try to guess what you would be doing- retired (but still volunteering in the medical world), living somewhere fun and close to us with maybe another place on the lake or somewhere warm for us to visit. You would travel and spend a lot of time with our families. Nana Judy would be the top of everyone’s minds and hearts. Even though my kids haven’t met you in the physical sense they talk about you and know you. I make sure to show them lots of pictures, talk about memories and visit your gravesite with them. Nobody can replace you, but I am thankful for the relationship that Dad (Bapa) has with the grandkids, and for amazing in-laws who are very involved in Braden and Liam’s lives just like you would have been.

Although I still feel your void significantly, I do feel your presence daily. My next door neighbor’s name is Judy, the only other Judy I have known. I think perhaps you chose this house so that I could know another Judy. J Now, for your love of running- I remember you going for your six mile runs and thinking that you were gone a “really long time.” Now if the boys are on a jog in the stroller with me Braden sometimes says, “Mom this takes a really long time (even if it’s a 3-miler).” That makes me laugh. I feel close to you when I am out jogging. I can see why you liked it so much. It is very peaceful in the morning when I go. It is time for me to clear my head, not be interrupted with modern technology and I can lose myself in nature and my breathing. Many people practice yoga to feel centered, but running really helps me feel centered. Thank you for showing me that running is a great healthy hobby. It makes me feel refreshed and focused!

Not only have I learned so much from you as a Mother, but I learned a ton about being a strong and independent woman. I learned that although family is the most important thing, you also need to have goals, hobbies and friends to be an even better Mom. Well, this fall I will do my first Duathlon. I also started teaching a new class at the Y the beginning of this year. I went on a girls’ trip to Chicago to visit a friend. I make plans to see my old friends. I also try to meet new friends who I have similar interests with. I know you would be so proud that although family is my first priority, I also try to make time for outside interests and goals. I am sure once the kids get a little older, I will come up with a new set of goals for myself. It’s fun being able to pick some things to focus on each year and work towards accomplishing them. I know I get that motivation and strength from you! Thank you.

In last year’s letter, I also told you that we moved closer to Stillwater. I also said that living closer to where I grew up, makes you feel closer. It’s strange because the first couple of years after you were taken from us, I didn’t want to go back because it brought back so many hard and painful memories of when you were sick. I am sure this was partially because I was only 21. All of my memories of home were of you. I was in my last year of college, so a very pivotal time in life. After graduation, I felt a bit lost without you there to give me advice, wisdom and most of all a Mother’s love. Well, after a couple of years the bad memories faded to the back of my memory, and moved to the front of my memory were all the happy memories. I really like returning to Stillwater now, showing Joe and the boys all the fun things that I did growing up. I know that you helped me to move on from the more painful memories. Thank you again.

I’d like to share one final thing in my letter this year- a bittersweet memory. There was a surgery you had around Easter time 16 ½ years ago. I was in the recovery room by myself waiting for you to wake up from the anesthesia and rubbing your hand. Before you opened your eyes you said, “I knew that was you”. This moment comes to my mind so often. I think it’s because I now understand how powerful and comforting a child’s touch is to a Mom. (So, that is the sweet part of the memory.) The bitter part is the actual surgery itself. This final surgery was the one that would tell us the true direction your cancer was heading and how much time you had left with us. It was the surgery that forced me to come to terms with your illness because I knew how bad it had gotten. Prior to that, I stayed on the positive route (with you) and didn’t let one bad thought enter my mind. I try to put this memory to the very back of my mind, but I recently had some friends experience a hard time (involving a surgery) and this memory has come flooding back. When we go through hard times we are so mad, and in time we realize maybe why we had to go through them. Well, now I know why this memory comes flooding back so easily- so I can stay sensitive to others going through hard times. I am able to sympathize in a deeper way now. I know you would want me to turn this memory into something good, so thank you for that!

Ok, I think that is my longest letter to date so far. I never know what I am going to say when I first sit down to write this annual letter, but when I start the words just flow. 16 years later, you are never far from my mind and I continue to learn and grow from you. I am blessed.   

Love, Your Pina Colada