Building Sandcastles

My tears surprise me almost as much as my view of the turquoise blue waters of the Pacific Ocean that continue on forever beyond the islands that dot the bay.

I try to keep my sobs buried inside, but as my hands dig deeper into the sand, my cries grow as my sandcastle turrets are formed.

I wipe my eyes with the back of my arms as my hands become caked with shells and wet sand. Salt coats my face from the tears, the water, and the wind at the beach. If someone comes upon me – my tears can easily be blamed on the beach conditions and not on mine.

Who cries on a beach in Costa Rica – a beach filled with sunshine, crushed shells, bronzed and happy vacationers, a melting pina colada resting in the sand near my hip, and an ocean that beckons happiness with waves that lap at my toes like a a playful tickle almost demanding complete bliss to anyone who comes near.

I do.

I spend hours on my creation. My crude castle is built with the only tools I have – my hands, some shells, my heart and soul, and the memories of the sandcastle that we built together last year on a beach about 80 kilometers south of where I now sit.

I dig deep to bring up the wet sand and I create large wells and moats around the buildings. My plan of one or two simple and quick buildings turns to eight and soon a small city. Some are taller than others, but all have the finishing touch that she taught me to add – rows of shells top the building like the frosting on a cake to declare the completion. I pick her favorite colored shells – in hues of yellow and orange as I play the child that I miss so much.

As I cry remembering her last lisped filled words before I flew to Costa Rica this time without her.

“Mommy, all I want you to do is build a sandcastle for me and send me a picture.”

The sand takes the imprint of my foot – my present, but leaves a deeper one of what I’ve left behind. Just months ago the waves crashed on 50 toes as five bodies browned in the hot sun. Three children’s gleeful voices rang loud at the sight of howling monkeys and horses on the beach. We ate outside as a family in the early dark nights listening to the waves and animals in the damp Costa Rican air together.

But now I’m alone.

Vacationing in a new place as a family is like sharing the very best secrets together. Memories and places and times and experiences that can be told to others but can never really be understood. We can share in great detail about our day riding horses through the jungles and galloping on the beach. But unless you were there, you will never know or remember the joy on our faces, the small moments of conversation and discoveries, the smell of the salt air mixed with the wet horse hair, or how the local lunch tasted of newness and goodness like no other lunch will ever taste. Like this is a secret society of discovery or a club that only allows you in half way without whispering the password of our family.

And now I feel like I am betraying our family trust by heading to our secret club without my people. Can I enjoy the beach and beauty of this country fully without whispering to them about my experiences. Am I cheating on our memories.

This is how it is within a family. Shared secrets and dances and lives all intertwined together with a lock to keep others out of our most sacred moments together.

And family travel builds this club house even stronger like the largest scavenger hunt where we all learn and win. Discovering new together is a bond that holds like no other. And why Costa Rica will always be “ours” and never just mine or theirs no matter how many times we go together or alone. And I know that many other places will be the same. From the corners of the Earth to the coffee shop we all share down the street.


So I don’t stop my tears as I step back and admire my love work in the sand. But I do smile as I kneel down to take the picture she requested. Making sure I include the ocean beyond the yellow colored shells that I so carefully picked out just for her.

And I close my eyes and easily bring back the memories of building sandcastles together where I can almost feel her small hands touching mine in the sand, and I know there are many more for us to build together.

Memories and sandcastles.



Family Running Fun And Color Vibe Run Giveaway by Tum-E Yummies!

(Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Tum-E Yummies(Tum-E Yummies are a fruit flavored drink, a great treat for kids!) Our favorite flavor is Greentastic Apple by the way…) – but all words and opinions are mine)


I’ve been running as exercise for about 23 years(I was 2 when I started obviously) – and during that time I’ve had years of running just for exercise, years of running and training for races, years of running while pregnant(10 miles the day I gave birth to my oldest), and a little time off here and there for recovery and injury.


But I am a runner. I own that.


And if you were to ask my kids what their mom does – or something about their mom – they would most likely say “My mom is a runner.”


Which is probably why – after stops and starts and tries with all three kids in different sports – baseball, soccer, and the like…they all have taken an interest in running. And I’m glad that my first baby gear purchase was  jogging stroller.


I love that running is an easy family activity -here are some tips on how and why you can get your family involved in running together!


1. Start immediately – buy that jogging stroller! You can buy new -but there are MANY to be found used online or at consignment shops. I bought a Kelty when our oldest was born and loved it. I started her in the stroller when she was about six months old and we ran happily until she started preschool. My next jogger was a B.O.B – which I adored and used with my youngest for about four years until I just sold it to my neighbor. Best investment ever!


2. Kids make the best spectators. Get their interest in running peaked by watching races together(even the races that you are not running) – watching the elite runners go by is nothing but mind-blowing and inspiring – and also cheering on those near the back of the pack – watching their will to finish is tear-jerking awesome. Who doesn’t want to run after watching a race. It’s pure emotion, adrenaline, and love for the human spirit.


3. Get those running shoes ready! Invest in good shoes for those little kid feet just like you do for yours! Take them shopping with you for running shoes and get them fitted too. Sure, shoes are not cheap – but compared to other sports – when pretty much shoes are your only ‘gear’ purchase – um – it’s a huge cost savings! My kids love to go running shoes shopping with me!


4. Make time to run with your kids. I mean sure – you need to get those eight miles of hills in, or that tempo run, or that 20 miler on a Saturday – and yes, you just want that time to be ALONE sometimes. So still do that! And then head back out on another run with your kids. I started doing this a few years ago with my oldest daughter – I’d wake her up after my run and we’d head out again together.


5. Explain the benefits are being healthy and moving your body and being strong. Running isn’t about weight – it’s about a healthy and strong lifestyle. Running as a family gives your kids the foundation of exercise and health they need to promote a lifelong healthy lifestyle. Make running and all exercise part of a just normal daily lifestyle!


6. Make the runs fun – or make a game out of it! “Hey, race you to the tree!” Or give them little fun goals or prizes – or even set-up a scavenger hunt during your run. Maybe treat them to a night run with glow sticks and flashlights one evening! Run trails in the woods instead of taking a hike. Change up your routes. Explore a new city! Running is fun!


7. Enter the kids in fun run or local kid events. Many marathons have family fun runs the day before the marathon. Go as a family and cheer them on!


8. Enter a race together! Some of the best races these days are races that involve COLOR! These races not only are fun to run – BUT are fun to prepare for. Have you heard of the Color Vibe Race? The Color VibeTM race brings you the ultimate experience in colorful family fun! The Color VibeTM is a color blast 5K that is all about having fun and getting covered from top to bottom with splashes of color as you race your way to the finish line.  The kids not only love to run an easy and colorful 5K – but they love to get prepared! We’ve purchased neon tutus, boas, headbands and fun laces to match so we are colorful even before we get splashed! I love the creative outfits at the run!


Do you have any other tips to get the whole family running together?


Leave your comment below for a chance to WIN TWO(2) tickets to our area Color Vibe run on September 13th! It’s happening in St. Cloud, MN! So comment to win your tickets(and remember kids 12 and under are free with an adult ticket – so your 2 free will get a family of 4 on the course!)

  • Tum-E Yummies will have a booth set up at the Color Vibe race where participants can try the different Tum-E Yummies flavors and get a free car seat protector to prevent any of the color from the race from transferring to the car. – this is awesome!
  • The winner of the giveaway will receive Tum-E Yummies in addition to the two tickets to the Color Vibe race!!!!

Tum-E Yummies

Come join us in a few weeks!


(Prize will be in the form of a coupon code for registration. Contest closes on 9/6.)


The Blank Page

I’ve started and deleted and stared for days now. Trying to document a conversation or something that happened or a funny story. Most of the time I get distracted by work emails or a snack that needs to be made or a hairball that our new cat coughed up. And the rest of the time I don’t even open my laptop. In fact this past weekend I left my laptop at home. Just like a did the weekend before. And the weekend before that I was at home – but never opened it.


I still enjoyed snippets of life and love and family and conversation on Facebook – but haven’t read blogs for weeks. And I’ve started feeling almost selfish for ‘making’ you read my stories, my conversations, my thoughts…because I’d rather you work on your tan or hit the beach or take a bike ride and not worry about me.

Family Picture - Watch out for the penguin.

Family Picture – Watch out for the penguin.

It’s weird how I can thrive off relationships but then get to a point of exhaustion when I just need to focus on what’s right here and touchable. My work is very busy – work that I LOVE and am more inspired by than ever before when I see the good this company does in the world. My kids are just the right kind of busy and I feel the need to be with them and near them, but just as an observer in a way as they play and enjoy a lazy summer together without early wake-ups or routines. My family room is filled with Calico Critters and My Little Ponys and Lego Friends and they play for hours. Or I find one of my girls reading alone on the porch. They’ve reached that age where they can run off down the block with friends, make their own lunches, and empty the dishwasher without a reminder.


I’m spending more time in a quiet and restful state when I’m home – and besides our family room – the house is clean and  I’ve read eight books since mid-June and delight in losing myself in a story almost feeling like I’m a high school girl again and I believe that fiction can come to life. And I’m running daily and using that time to push myself HARD and really feel what great things a body can do if you just don’t sit back and go with the flow.


I’m happy.


And I don’t want to do it all. My life is so beautifully boring right now and I’ve found no greater joy really. We’ve spent more time with family and we’ve laughed so hard.


Jed said to me last night when he made a joke and I laughed my deep laugh that actually makes me sound like my brother “There’s nothing hotter than listening to you laugh.”


Good things are coming – I can feel it. Until then and September and The Busy – I’m just going to work on what feels right, parallel my kids’ joy in the ordinary, and fill my bedside table with more books.


And of course run like the wind(my own definition of wind).


Linking up with Heather.


On Bicycles, Pajamas And #blogher14 #VOTY

I’ve spent four of the last seven days without even opening my computer. Any social media or chatting has been done from my phone, and I’d even say that my phone has been out less than usual.


I’m blaming this current freedom from electronics on the weather. We Minnesotans blame everything on the weather. Sometime we blame things on Republicans..but mainly we blame them on the weather. Or because I’m playing badminton in my backyard and I ROCK THAT SHIT! My kids have yet to beat me!


Because it’s beautiful outside this week – 70s and sunshine and there are even leaves on the trees.


My kids are overly busy with end of school activities, dance rehearsals, projects, play-dates. We’re busy shopping for summer wardrobes, putting screens in the windows, sweeping off the patio, and chasing the cat back into the house because even he wants the outside world.


And I don’t have a anti-glare screen thingy for my computer – so it’s useless to me outside.




And it’s where I want to be. I want to enjoy this time out with my kids before the heat of the summer arrives and the mosquitoes try to eat us alive. I want picnics and bike rides and naps in a chair outside.


Astrid and I took a long bike ride yesterday. She sings in the trailer as we ride along. But if she’s quiet – make sure not to talk to her because as she tells me “Don’t interrupt my thoughts.”


I am working with Pedal Minnesota as an Ambassador this summer to spread the love of biking to moms, parents and families – and to encourage everyone to go out enjoy the best there is to see and experience it on Two Wheels. I’m so excited to bring you information about biking and gear over the next few months!


Do you bike as a family? What are your biggest joys or challenges when riding as a family?


Astrid has Pajama Day at school today. I don’t understand pajama day. I don’t understand wearing pajamas out of the house. So yesterday we went to Target to buy new pajamas for today. Because NEW pjs are okay – used pjs that you’ve slept in, in your bed – not okay. It really skeeves me out and I thought that maybe I was alone in this thinking that pajama day in used pajamas is just gross – but it turns out I AM NOT ALONE with my thoughts. This Facebook discussion really surprised me.


What’s your say – do you like pj day? Do you buy your kids new pjs to participate? Do you think I’m weird and need counseling?


And finally – this has been on my plate to talk about for weeks – but I’ve barely been on the computer, so I’m finally announcing it. But one of my pieces was selected as a BlogHer Voices Of The Year. 


Only 100 pieces were picked for VOTY out of thousands that were nominated. I am frankly overwhelmed. BlogHer is my favorite conference each year(one of my BlogHer Recaps here) – it’s inspiring and fabulous – but sadly I cannot attend this year – but the VOTY reception and reading is the highlight of the weekend. So many of my friends were also chosen and I cannot wait to see the videos of their readings.
I was selected for VOTY/PhOTY 2015
Anyway – click over to see them all – and then click over to read them all, because the talent and beauty from this blogging community  just continues to astound me.


Now go back out and enjoy this beautiful weather. Have a great weekend my friends.




How To Be A Flower Girl In 10 Easy Steps

Our daughters were completely over the moon excited to be included in their cousin’s wedding this past weekend. Being a flower girl is a very special honor and I know my girls will remember that day for the rest of their lives.


I was a flower girl in my aunt’s wedding. I had a yellow dress – which at three years old – wasn’t awesome – because everything had to be PINK for me at the time. PINK! But I remember standing in front of the church with my other aunts and feeling how special it was to be included, to be in a fancy dress just like the ladies, and to witness the wedding from the best seats in the house. And some 41 years later I still get to see my aunt and uncle as adorable together as they were when they were really still just kids themselves.


And now I like yellow.


Is your daughter going to be a flower girl soon? Wondering about all the details that need to be done before and during the big day? You’re in luck – here is How To Be A Flower Girl in Ten Easy Steps…


1. Buy dress. Not just any dress – but THE dress. This shopping experience will be something simpler than looking for your own wedding dress – but slightly harder than shopping for your prom dress. It will hopefully also be cheaper than both. Key things you need to shop for the dresses – parameters from bride, time, patient kids, a sense of humor, and a budget. Luckily, my girls love trying on dresses and we had a ball going to several bridal shops to try them all on. Also, the bride was easy and wanted something very traditional and simple – and the dress was found quickly. Furthermore, going to bridal stores is fun for the girls as we got to see so many excited brides as they found their own dresses. Honestly, we are ready to dress shop again. Bring on PROM in 2019!


2. The dress is just the start – now go shop for shoes and tights that work with the dress and match the wedding party. Remember to find shoes that match, that work with the bridal party, and that are COMFORTABLE and FIT. No one wants to see a Flower Girl literally go down while going down the aisle. Since we had flower girls that lived in different parts of the country – I suggest using a retailer that is nationwide to make this job easier. Zappos, Amazon, Macy’s and Nordstrom are great choices. We found our shoes and tights at Nordstrom. We also bought other more comfortable shoes for dancing!


3. Be prepared to WAIT. Once the girls are dressed – you will still need to wait for the bride, for pictures, for logistics, and for transportation. However, you cannot just throw Doritos at them and put them in front of the TV and let them roll around on the floor. Also, you don’t want them running around in halls or streets because tripping and bloody boo-boos are not so awesome just before the wedding and pictures. So prepare your kids for waiting and arm them with things to do that are clean, fun and relatively wrinkle-proof. We had some coloring tablets(NO MARKERS), brought books, watched movies, and of course chatted and played some games. Try to avoid the boredom. There will be boredom.


4. Don’t send them into battle hungry! Feed them before even if it seems weird to have a sandwich at 10am. Odds are if they have to be ready and dressed by 11am -another meal is not coming their way until after the ceremony and pictures – so in like FOREVER. And bring ‘clean’ snacks like crackers(non-cheesy), fruit snacks, and some nuts. I may have also fed them M&Ms one by one like they were little baby birds. Also – water only because nobody wants a fruit punch spill down the front of a dress right before it’s time to walk down the aisle.


5. Remind them that even though they are the CUTEST thing to ever walk the Earth – and sure quite possibly your four year old will steal the show – this day is still ALL ABOUT THE BRIDE. You will listen to the bride, you will not make this about you, you will let it be about the bride, you will love the bride, one day YOU will be the bride, you are there in service on the bride, you will not upstage the bride, etc all about the bride. And just watch their sweet faces as the bride enters the room in her dress and veil.


6. Plan for what to do at the church. Will it be a short ceremony and the Flower Girls will stand the whole, short time? Will they sit in the front row? Will the service be long? Make sure they know what the expectations are and prepare.


7. Prepare to be royalty – from Limo rides, to fancy dresses, and EVERYONE noticing YOU, and pictures like we are the paparazzi, and fancy drinks FINALLY at the end – ENJOY it. It’s like being a fairy princess for a day and maybe you won’t want to ever take that dress off!


8. Pictures! There will be PICTURES. So many pictures – from getting dressed, to seeing the bride, and the ceremony, and formal bridal party pictures, dancing pictures, reception pictures, staged pictures and casual moments captured. Prepare to be in hundreds of pictures. Enjoy it. Smile. I’ll feed you more M&Ms if you remember to smile and be an easy participant.


9. Be ready to PARTY! Maybe take a nap if possible(this goes for moms too), because the party will go late. Kick off your dressy shoes and DANCE ALL NIGHT. This is the part of the day you will remember. That day you got to down 10 Shirley Temples and dance for hours because everyone wants to dance with you. Conga lines and the Electric Slide will become part of your make-up during this special night. And just try to ignore all of the adults who’ve drank a wee bit of champagne and get a little too crazy during Shout!


10. Be thankful and be grateful. Being asked to be a Flower Girl is truly an honor and amazing gift. Save lots of kisses, hugs and thank yous for the couple that asked you to be part of their special day. They love you so much. Know that. Remember that. Remember this day. The day you were a princess. Forever.



Have you ever been a Flower Girl?


Our Flower Girl ‘What They Wore’ information – Flower Girl Dress in Ivory from US Angels, Kenneth Cole Shoes from Nordstrom, Tights from Nordstrom, sashes were custom made.


About That Blogging Every Day

In case you missed it. I did not blog this weekend. And here after I promised you that I would blog each and every day in 2014.


our house

But here’s the thing. Esther turned nine on Friday and the thought of burying her birthday, her face, her joyful jumps and a celebration of her just seemed so wrong.


And while we did fun things and had a lovely weekend – there was nothing I wanted to write or post or capture that trumped our celebration of Esther.


How could I bury this on my little blog? And yes friends in Florida, this is the road in front of our home from November til March. Pavement is an urban legend.


So I did not write this weekend. I wanted Esther front and center for as long as possible. It seemed like the right thing to do.


I’ve enjoyed blogging every day for the past two months. And yes, I made it for exactly two months. It’s given me the motivation to really write every day, to get my camera out more, and to dig deeper for stories for share. The exercise of blogging every day has been amazing.


But it’s also hurt me. Because of the burying of posts. Some posts, some writing, some photos – but most importantly – some people deserve a heck of a lot more than 24 hours.


So as I sat down to write on Saturday, all I did instead was stare at Esther’s sweet and joyful face at the top of the page, and I stopped typing and just took her in. And let her stay there. She needed a longer celebration and nothing I would write could outweigh her coming into our lives nine years ago. A three week early surprise of laboring all night, a placental abruption, an emergency ride to the hospital, to a c-section before I could barely get undressed, to a chubby and healthy baby girl in my arms.


And with Esther, and then Astrid’s miraculous arrival almost five years later making us the family that we are… well keeping my computer closed and just enjoying the five of us in our house during this(hopefully) very very cold last weekend of below zero temperature seemed like the right thing to do.


Blogging every day has given me the discipline to write more and realize that I do have stories worth telling. But living every day has given me the grace to know when it’s better to just let our stories happen while keeping my hands busy wrapped around my children instead of typing on a page.



Doing Good Together

I haven’t had time to write today because…

-Astrid made me take a nap with her

-I finally finished season 2 of House Of Cards.

-So I had Robin Wright dreams whilst I napped

-Astrid also made me watch The Red Balloon for the 4356th time ..and it was still SO good

-And I had to play with Pillow Pets. We have 13 Pillow Pets in the house. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN!

-I also window shopped online at JCrew and 6pm

-And then I spent four hours at school with my kids Doing Good Together


Every February our school turns into assembly lines of love as we put together care packages for the elderly, sandwiches for the homeless, laundry packages for women in shelters seeking safety, dog food packets for the animal shelters, blanket for kids needing some extra warmth, and hats for newborns in the hospital…and the list goes on.


We do not have a rich school. We have an intercity public school  that we adore where not even 20% of the kids are white and over half live below the poverty level..and everyone was there helping. As they always are.  Our community is amazing.


I love watching my children help others and learn that you need to serve – not just one day a year when we all pitch-in, or not via poverty tourism, but every day in many little and big ways. Helping neighbors, friends and strangers.


The best part of the night was driving home as they all talked about their favorite station and how they helped and asked if we could find something more that we could do weekly.


I know they will do great things.


Because we can do big things – and good things together.


Happy Thursday night my friends.


I’m going to bed happy.


this is me…

this is me…


-my body is strong from hard work


but still


-my belly is soft as it keeps a warm reminder of holding seven babies - of which three land in my arms each day


-my arms are long and lean and admittedly weak but strong enough to hold me up each day


-my tattoos are like memories etched into my body forever. of a certain place. or time. or man. and i treasure them as marks made of a life well lived


-my hips are wide and my torso is short, inherited from my mother’s side – maybe not my favorite trait – but i see my body in my mom’s and in her sister’s and it reminds me of where my inner strength comes from each day


-my face is angular with high-cheekbones that remind me of the distant Native American heritage passed down through my father. along with my dark eyes that mirror his. his eyes are deep, quiet and kind and i treasure having the same


-my legs are long and travel great distances just like my paternal grandmother did as she exercised each day and showed her beautiful legs off well into her 70s


-my fingernails are ragged and unkept because my hands are always busy and it show the real me. just like my brows will always be wild and not in fashion and my hair needing a trim because i believe there are more important matters to attend to


-my hair is thin and sparse like my maternal grandmothers, so i think of her each morning as i brush my hair with a daily reminder of my loved ones gone like silver flashes of light through the clouds on a dreary day


-my hair is also gray and this week, after months without a color appointment, I smile at as the top of my head shows a new hue publicly. and i’m okay with that


-my face is serious and lined with experience, heartache, bravery, and calm from a life so full that it allows the bad in because without it, the good would not feel so fresh and unexpected


-my laugh matches my brother’s, as it should because no one can mirror your childhood like your sibling


-my body has taken me far and it knows the journey is still in its infancy


-my body is mine, and the finest thing i own. from the first touch by my parents on the day i was born, from holding my new babies on my stomach, to today as i reflect at the middle-aged woman i’ve become – this is me


-my body has beauty and faults and it encompasses my whole life and where i came from – giving me pieces of ancestry like little gifts that i appreciate each day when i catch the reflection of my true self. my beautiful self


-my body is sexy and perfect and strong – no matter the tiny imperfections that only i really see


-my body is a reflection of my life lived. a house of memories that no one else has




this is me



For #ThroughTheLensThursday with the prompt Reflection


Doing As Little As Possible

I had my pajamas on before 3pm yesterday. There aren’t many days that I feel just ‘done’ but yesterday it felt good just to give in to the comfort of fleece pants, fuzzy slippers and bad TV.


The big girls were off skiing with Jed while I stayed home with an Astrid who decided that it was too cold for her. My first thought was that we ‘had’ to find something active to do – whether physical or intellectual – because we MUST as we skipped skiing.


Instead we watched some brain-numbing cartoons, ate cereal for dinner, had jammies on by 3pm, and snuggled for hours.


None of it active, none of it intellectual, but all of it meaningful. And simple. And together. We try to communicate the beautiful, simple and small things with our children – sometimes we need to remember that simple is best for us too.  I admit that sometimes I hate the question “So what did you do today?” Because sometimes the right answer really is “As little as humanly possible.”


I can be busy tomorrow.


And when Astrid went off to bed by 7:30 and my plan was two hours of peace to write – I instead poured a cup of tea, layered on three blankets over me, ignored my laptop, and watched an incredibly lame chick flick. It was truly the best therapy of the week.


I also had a cat on my lap and ate a WHOLE DARK CHOCOLATE BAR THAT I DID NOT HAVE TO SHARE.

(and my friend Ann reminded me of one of the best Everybody Loves Raymond episodes of all time – the PMS episode – drop what you are doing HUSBANDS and watch this. Best 20 minutes you’ll spend this month…)


I bought a 2014 calendar finally. Also, they are ON SALE when we buy them so late. A little money saving tip for you – procrastinate calendar buying and save $10 or so – I mean sure you might miss a few critical early January appointments – but $10 off people! Of course you could be all savvy and just use your iPhone as your calendar – but I am 45 going on 95.


I was planning to make a hair appointment now that I have a calendar. I do need to get in there over the next few weeks – because THE GRAY OF 45 – but I’d rather fold laundry and clean-up Play-Doh than sit in a salon chair at this point. Am I the only one who views a salon appointment as NOT relaxing – but as stressful and work..mainly because schedules and time.


And then I will spend hours filling in the kid schedules – dance, school, appointments, and critical due dates. Sometimes I wonder if our lives will change and get so big that we will need one of those HUGE WALL FAMILY calendars that take up the whole kitchen wall. And then I’m grateful we don’t have a kitchen big enough for big walls. Because a big calendar would not make me happy.


We have nothing big planned for this holiday weekend. Esther heads to a hockey game with my dad tonight, Eloise is getting together with a friend to finish a school project, and tomorrow we are bowling with some of my favorite people on the planet.


This light schedule makes me very, very happy – as I still sit here very late into the morning hours in my fleece pajama bottoms.


What do you have planned for this weekend? And are you a ‘digital calendar’ person or ‘paper’ calendar person?


Back In The Saddle

I haven’t skied since before I was pregnant with Eloise. In case math is not your forte – that is 12 winters ago. And it makes me want to hang my head in shame in front of my proud skiing friends.


I learned to ski when I was five. And while I did not ski a ton – growing up in Indiana did not help my cause- I did ski at least every year. My dad lived in Montana since I was about 14, I would also ski while on trips to visit family in Minnesota, and on spring breaks trips to Colorado during school.


Jed is an amazing skier and we took ski trips together each year from the time we met until children entered our lives. And we did take one trip to Colorado skiing five years ago with Esther and Eloise. But I was pregnant again and chose not to ski.


So in the basement for 12 years, my skis and poles and boots and 1989 ski jacket that should really never see the light of day again, have collected dust.


And I’ve been okay with that.


There are many things we do as a family that have taken priority with our time  and our money.


And I don’t consider my children as the reason we gave up skiing. I consider it just a coincidence of priorities.(And maybe because my dad moved back here from Montana). And honestly I don’t think I’ve given up anything for motherhood. I’ve only gained more while some things may get pushed to the wayside to be brought forth again for us to enjoy. After we blow off the dust.


So skiing.


While my friends out west may think our Minnesota “mountains” as small(they are) – well they are just perfect and HERE, and our fair state delivers many Olympic champions.


And as of last week we now have all three kids up a skis. I’ve forgotten how fearless a four year old can be as they fly down the hill when they don’t have far to fall, and how joyful it is for an eight year old(who skied all last year too), that I now don’t even see during the evening as she’s off with friends, and how nice it is for a tentative 11 year old who finally finds her rhythm and lets herself relax and actually enjoys herself.


And now back to that mom with the dusty skis and out of fashion jacket – well she’s getting back on the hill too. She has three kids to show-up on the slopes you know, so she needs to get out there and practice.


Because she’s finally cannot use pregnancy as an excuse.


Do you have an activity you feel you’ve given up for motherhood?


Staying Warm #AskWisestKid

It’s supposed to get down to -16 tonight. In case you are wondering what running looks like after running in below zero temps…it looks like this…


Also, I borrowed my daughter’s face mask as mine was still frozen from yesterday.


And I dare say that I don’t look as adorable as this sweet ‘snowman building’ cutie. Maybe I need an owl hat.


Because here’s the thing. As much as we’d love to just hibernate inside during the cold winter, the cold winter months go on for about five months in Minnesota. So we just dress warmly and throw the kids outside to play. Sometimes I join them and sometimes I admit to sipping my hot tea and waving to them from the kitchen window as they play outside and become partially frozen in the snow.


Oh that is so not true and I admit I LOVE winter. I love skating and skiing and sledding and building snowmen. Also I do like hot tea.


We even spent the day on Christmas tubing with the kids. I want our kids to enjoy the cold and snow just as much as they love running around in the grass barefoot in the summer. Snow and cold is our reality here in Minnesota – so dang if we won’t get out there and enjoy it.


Now our living room and entry way looks like an outdoor store blew-up because of the mountains of gear – but it’s totally worth the fuss to help us enjoy the cold.


But probably nobody is enjoying -16. Except crazy runners like myself.


The one thing we can all agree on during the cold winter months though is having something hot and filling to eat once we come inside!


What’s your favorite meal to curl up with on a cold, snowy day? The Wisest Kid knows that kids across the country appreciate a steaming bowl of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup and love dipping their favorite dunkables. What snack do your kids like to pair with their soup? Crackers? Pretzels? Or the classic grilled cheese?

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Holiday Hosting Tips By Hampton And A Giveaway! #HamptonHoliday

The holiday season is HERE. Oh my gosh – did I say that too loudly? I have so much to do it seems between school parties and activities, shopping, cooking. cleaning, wrapping and just making sure it all gets done! Not to mention guests and the actual holiday!


I remember being little and going to Christmas at my grandparent’s house and having dozens and dozens of people in their home. And not enough bathrooms… And now when we visit relatives for the holidays I admit I like my own space – and with three kids let’s be honest, sometimes it’s nice to have a good nights sleep somewhere else besides on a blow-up air mattress in the living room. I love my relatives – but seeing them at 5:30am in their robes a few days in a row just doesn’t say Happy Holidays to me.


So, we typically book a hotel when we travel now for the Holidays. And a simple night in a hotel room feels like a HUGE vacation for a little kid – so it’s really a win/win for all of us.


This year, Hampton has partnered with Jenny Steffens Hobick to give some amazing Holiday Hosting Tips!

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Letting Go

I’m writing this at 11pm because we got home so late from Starbucks. I brought all three kids to Starbucks at 9:30pm for hot cocoa and croissants. And maybe a Cranberry Bliss Bar for me to go with my non-fat latte with an extra shot of espresso. Does anyone else want to spell ‘espresso’ with an ‘x’ – ‘expresso!’


This may also explain why I’m not tired.


I wondered how many people looked at us and thought “WTF” as we entered the coffee shop. This mom taking her kids…including a FOUR YEAR OLD…out for cocoa this late. Two hours past their bedtime. And trust me, not too many years ago I’d be giving you the nasty glance over my grande latte for doing something like this with your kids.




Because I need to let things go.


We’re having a crazy weekend as are you I’m sure. From plays to programs to shopping to parties to baking to wrapping to trying to shovel up and out all of the stuff that accumulates with the holiday season. So I’m doing things that I’d never do – like taking kids for cocoa at 9:30pm and last night at 10:30pm you would’ve seen me at the grocery store buying cupcake ingredients with Eloise. Eloise even said “Whoa grocery stores are kind of spooky this late at time!”


Then I had to stay up late dealing with an issue over some panda stuffed animals that arrived wrong for Eloise’s birthday party this weekend…which of course cannot be fixed at midnight or within 24 hours…so I woke the kids by 6:30 this morning so we could run to the mall by 8am to buy PANDAS. ALLTHEPANDAS. Even though we probably could’ve just skipped the pandas.


BUT WE CANNOT SKIP THE PANDAS! The birthday party would suck without pandas(in my mind).


And we still haven’t gotten our tree. I played a joke on the kids and bought a $4 tabletop pink tree and told them that this was really our tree this year and I think I made them cry. And I was totally kidding. So we must get a tree this week. Kids crying over a tree does not smell of Christmas cheer. We tried today – but somehow a time never stuck for all five of us to go. Maybe we are reaching the point in our lives that it’s okay to just go with three or four people to grab a tree. Tomorrow maybe? But first we have to frost the cupcakes and have Eloise’s birthday party. And I like to clean before the tree comes in.


Do I have time to clean tomorrow?


I’m finding right now that I cannot plan for anything. Maybe I just need to let go and breathe in and let things fall as they will.


Like seeing Santa without planning on it. We walked by the Jolly Old Elf at the mall on Friday. We were at the mall because we needed so many things for this weekend and for gifts that needed to be shipped to arrive before Christmas. When we saw him Astrid immediately said “I’d like to talk to him.” So she did. She gave him a hug and chatted with him for quite awhile.


Astrid is interesting that way – last year she would not even step in the room where Santa sat. This year she needed to talk to him. That’s the thing about Astrid – the girl knows what she wants and when she wants and when she makes up her mind about something – it will not be changed.


Also she still wants a talking scale.


And we’ve crossed something off our lists.


Our holiday cards have arrived. Need to buy stamps – now on my to-do list.


Jed is home and is okay. Tired. Concerned. But okay. Thank you for your kind words from the interwebs.


Life is uncertain – from wanting to see Santa, a visit to the ER, an impromptu trip to Starbucks, or whether your kids will get your jokes. I need to remember this lesson of living with the beauty of an uncertain yet still very blessed life. Because while I cannot control what will happen each day, I can remember to just let the moments take us where they may.


And be comforted by the small moments of each crazy day that make cocoa at 9:30pm sometimes feel like the most normal thing we can do at the time.



It’s feeling strange yet comforting to write tonight. I’m doing this in list form because it will be easier to put my thoughts on paper that way.


1. We still don’t have a tree. Or stockings up. Or presents bought. Or a plan for Christmas. Or clean socks. We’re out of milk too. That’s totally my fault though.


2. My blog is broken. It’s all squishy or something. The type is so small that I cannot read it. It’s given me the sadz. Someone said it’s a php issue. OMG I have no idea what that means. So get your reading glasses out to read my blog until forever because I don’t know how to fix it. Ever. PHP sounds like an issue with yeast or something – maybe caused by 14 straight days in a bikini in Costa Rica.


3. I cleaned out the basement this week. Our basement is empty. Like let’s have a dance party empty. I found Truffle cat just sitting in the middle of the floor looking very confused because all the stuff was gone. It was freeing to just get rid of stuff. I love our empty basement. Now the goal is to not put anything ever again in the empty basement. I cleaned out the basement because we are probably putting our house on the market because….


3. We made an offer on a house this week! YAY – we were so excited about it. More space. Less taxes. Great schools. FOUR bathrooms. Not really totally the suburbs. It was quite perfect. But they rejected our offer. So foolish. It was a great offer. Oh well. I’m trying not to be sad about it. I know there will be another house in the area we are looking. I’m also having pains about totally leaving the city…but…but. I don’t know – it’s such a balance between being a sell-out and wanting a good neighborhood elementary school.


4. I’m not a big believer in the god stuff but I do believe things happen for a reason. And I believe we didn’t get the house because Jed is now, currently in the hospital with something potentially wrong with his heart. This is how our texts/calls go when Jed needs to go to the hospital...and we live in American and are self-employed and have private, high-deductible insurance..yet still have a sense of humor.


Jed: Um I’m at my doctors appointment for my physical and they are making me go to the ER because my heart rate is extremely high. So high they are worried I’m having a stroke or something.

Me: Yeah, all the veggies, no mayo or oil, wheat bread…oh sorry Jed, not you, I’m at Subway getting a quick dinner for the kids before dance. So what do you need?
Jed: They said I can’t drive myself but no way am I paying for an ambulance. Maybe I’ll call a cab or someone.

Me: I agree. We don’t have the budget for an ambulance. I think you should chance it.

Jed: Yeah, I’ll just drive there because I don’t want to pay for a cab either. You know a hospital stay is going to be crazy expensive and we don’t have it right now. It’s going to float us right up to our high-deductible. Maybe I should just come home and take my chances.

Me: No, you need to go. Maybe I’ll skip the chips at Subway then…. Hey, if you go to the hospital and get this fixed then maybe I can squeeze in my ablation by year end! I think we should all get medical procedures for Christmas since we’ll hit our crazy-high deductible. This is a much better idea than American Girl dolls. See, this is why we haven’t decorate for Christmas yet – we’ll be spending it at the hospital.

Jed: Well I will text you when I get to the hospital.

Me: Do you want anything from Subway? Kidding. Oh, and are you okay?


So all kidding aside – Jed’s in the hospital and has officially been admitted for heart trouble that is concerning. We will know more in the morning if he’s having surgery tomorrow or what’s going on. Would appreciate some positive thoughts for Jed, for meeting our insurance deductible, and for the fact that the plumber is coming tomorrow to work on our broken bathroom and we might be without water indefinitely. Also, we need milk.




In The Nick Of Time

It’s December 10th really and we haven’t even put our tree up. I was at Target today and saw a pinkish fake tree on one sale for $69 and I was ‘this’ close to buying it but pictured Jed giving me a ‘whatthewhat’ look when he came home to the homage to Avon sitting in the middle of our living room. Living with four women is pink enough.


But my dream is to own a true vintage pink flocked tree. Let me know if you’re getting rid of one.


In the meantime we will still buy a real tree – typically we go out and cut down a Christmas tree when it’s about 25 below zero – because that’s a fun holiday tradition with three kids.


But no matter if we cut down a tree or talk Jed into a pink one – a tree has yet to enter our living room. Nor any decorations and the elf will not move this year…because he’s tired of this job.


I also haven’t started Christmas shopping and honestly just realized that Christmas is just two weeks away.


And it’s not like I’m not in the Holiday Spirit. I am. I just don’t have time for the extra things – decorating, shopping, baking cookies, hanging mistletoe. And I wonder if we could push it all out until January.


The weird thing though is that my kids haven’t even asked about the tree – if or when we are getting one – or even about decorating and baking.


It’s strange when your kids get bigger and they have other things going on  – school, dance, sports, friends, homework, etc…and they don’t just sit at home begging for Christmas crafts and activities(thank god).


Their Christmas lists remain empty(except for the talking scale). So daily I pester them to give me which they reply “Meh, I’m good.”


So instead I’m planning a shopping trip for all of us for Toys For Tots this weekend and I’m thankful this season that there’s not one thing in a catalog they are asking for this year.


I think of simple days – of one or two gifts – not the tens that kids can get today – or the hundreds of dollars spent.


I love my friends who do four gifts for each child – “Something she wants, something she needs, something to wear and something to read” – and I know my girls would love this idea.




Simple like a pink aluminum tree on sale at Target right now.


Now I just need to convince Jed that I haven’t lost my mind.


Just write.


I Believe In Magic

“Mommy, I think I’m ready to talk to Santa this year.” Astrid says very quietly one evening after dinner when all of us still gather around the dining room table doing homework, writing, paying bills, and if you are only four years old – coloring.


“I mean, I will talk to him – but I’ll be standing next to him. Not on his lap. I don’t want to touch him. But I’ll say hi maybe and tell him my name. I want to tell him that I only want a talking scale this year just like the one in Costa Rica so it will yell out “31.2 pounds” all day every day if I want it to. I need to tell him about the scale so I get it. That’s the only thing on my list.”


“Maybe it’s a good idea for all three of you to get your Santa lists ready!” I suggest after Astrid’s announcement that she is “Santa-talk ready” this year. “I’ll make reservations for us to visit him this Saturday.


Eloise looks up from her algebra – stopping mid-problem that has something to do with coefficients and rises and runs and things I no longer understand – and says “Yeah okay Mom, let me get right on that. Ha!”


“Ha!?!” I stand and hold my hands up to my heart as if shot and take a deep breath in before responding with a “Santa is watching and he heard what you just said!”


“Oh, okay Mom. Let me just get right to that list after I finish my algebra and type-up my endangered animal study paper….”


I look to Astrid and Esther who have already gotten out plain paper, red markers and stickers and are happily making Santa Lists.


And I sit back down hard as I realize she no longer believes. And the hurt takes me by surprise.


I mean she’s 11 and all – and maybe you’re thinking “Geesh, it’s about time!” Because maybe that’s what I was thinking a few years back when at eight and nine she still did believe while I figured the whole ‘Santa’ thing out by the time I was five.


I continue to sit quietly at the table and glance over my coffee and then I meet Eloise’s eyes. She gives me a quick, small knowing smile and wink before getting back to her work.


And I cannot help from almost crying as our eyes meet because I know she gets it. Because even though she may no longer believe in the actual Big Man himself, she still gets the magic of the season and the importance to not give her new found knowledge away to her little sisters.


Later that night she hands me her Santa List – which even starts with “Dear, Santa” and ends with “Love, Eloise” – and as she hands it over to me she says “You know just in case you’d like to know what’s on my list too.”


I smile as she walks away and heads up to bed.  I carefully unfold her letter and read the first two items on her list…


-I would like to raise at least $100 to adopt a Panda from WWF to help stop their endangerment.

-I would like Astrid to get the talking scale she wants


And I know that she still believes in magic because she continues to wish for very good things.



Do you have a Holiday outfit planned for your little girl for Christmas? I was thrilled to receive the Twinkle Party Dress and matching dress for Bitty Baby from American Girl to review.  Astrid pretty much doesn’t go anywhere without her ‘Baby Anna’ and now they can match when we have breakfast with Santa this weekend. And they can ask for the scale together! In fact Astrid has refused to take her party dress off for the past three days because she feels like a ‘special princess’ and has told me that ‘Baby Anna’ will never wear anything BUT her fancy red dress. So there you go. They love their matching dresses and I about died from the cute. I think Santa will be equally impressed this weekend and now we don’t have to stress about what to wear on Christmas eve.


If you haven’t purchased your Holiday Dress yet and you have a little one who loves AG – I for sure recommend these cute sets! I am a HUGE fan of American Girl as you know – for celebrating girls and sending a positive message to our kids…so having these special dresses for Astrid and ‘Baby Anna’ is just a bit of sweet icing on the cake for us.


Renting A House In Nosara Costa Rica

We’ve always done an all-inclusive vacation when we’ve traveled to the beach. It’s just made things easier as a family as we have small children. An all-inclusive resort gives you food ALL DAY LONG, a clean room everyday, no need to carry money, daily activities, no need for a car, and pretty much you can check you brain at the airport and just enjoy a stress-free week of fun and sun and no worries. Which is why we’ve always done all-inclusive vacations. Who wants to think about allthethings on vacation??? Also, who wants to COOK? Or do laundry? Or clean? Or grocery shop? Or find SNACKS??


Well we decided to rent a house instead during our vacation to Costa Rica - and I’ll admit I was a little leery about our choice. Because cooking. And laundry. And mama wasn’t about to lose beach time to head back to the house to strap on an apron to fry-up anything in a pan!


We found our rental house through – we had great luck with ‘Vacation Rentals By Owner” before for a trip to New York City and South Padre Island – so I did a search and found what I knew would be the perfect place for us.


We rented a ‘multi-unit’ house in Playa Guiones called Villa Belitza. It is amazing. It sleeps 12(in my opinion 10 privately and comfortably) and has three separate units for more privacy and peace if some like to go to bed a bit earlier(or if you have little kids). My parents joined us, so the set-up was perfect. The house has an amazing and private pool in the back set right into the jungle and we spent our afternoons lounging here. There is tons of seating outside and we took every meal outdoors. There’s a grill and bar area and the grounds are immaculate. The house amenities give you all the comforts of home – well appointed kitchens, comfortable king-sized beds, modern bathrooms and everything is so clean and new! The owner and the caretaker were very responsive to all emails and inquiries and so easy to work with too.


The best part is that the house is ‘beach-front’ with a private path through the jungle to the waves, which is nearly impossible to find in the Nosara area. One things we loved the most about the Nosara area is that there are no high-rises, major developments, and there is no building allowed within 200 meters of the beach. When you are on the beach you look back and see just sand and jungle. It’s so quiet and peaceful here with just a few families, surfers and yoga-lovers. It doesn’t have the crazy pace of some of the more popular spots in Costa Rica. It’s still so natural and laid back.


But the best part – as the one who cooks and does the majority of the cleaning typically – the house rental includes twice weekly cleaning and bed changing AND you can hire a cook for about $10 a meal – who will also do your grocery shopping. UM YES! Maria was fabulous and I wish we could’ve had her cook every night. It was such a treat to not have to worry about cooking and she made us a feast of local favorites each night she joined us. It felt like such a splurge – but it wasn’t – and it was so worth it.


The house we rented in the Nosara area was also made more affordable because we rented it during a ‘shoulder season.’ Peak season in the area – which is the dry season – starts the last week of November and goes until April. So we rented in what is still considered ‘value season’ which is the end of the wet season. Therefore our rental cost was less than HALF what you would pay in peak season. Our risk of paying less for maybe some rain really paid off as we had very little rain while we were there.


I’m not sure I would do an all-inclusive resort again after renting a house. Even after renting a car, buying groceries and having to do a bit of cooking ourselves, we spent much less in two weeks than we have for a one week vacation to Mexico to an all-inclusive, and MUCH less than we would’ve spent at Disney for just 5-7 days…and we did so much more! And because we had to shop and explore more – we experienced so much more culture and visited more local places. I’m not sure I could just hang at a resort for seven days again.


If you head to Nosara, Costa Rica – check out a house rental(especially Villa Belitza) – but give us first dibs as we are for sure heading back!


Do you prefer all-inclusive resorts or do you love to rent a house and explore on your own?


I promise I only have ONE more post about our trip to Costa Rica…and then I will retire as a travel blogger and go back to talking about boring stuff like motherhood and shopping. And my cat. …In the meantime you can read more about our trip to Costa Rica by clicking on the links below…

The animals of Costa Rica and ENTER TO WIN a year subscription to National Geographic Kids Magazine!


Just The Beginning


Me learning to surf


Kids Learning To Surf


Why we chose Costa Rica


Nosara Canopy Zip Line Tour


Days 1/2

Days 3/4

Transitioning Home