Summer Skin

9 Aug

We’re now in the twilight of summer vacation and the start of school is just on the horizon, but there’s a sign of summer that will linger for months to come.


It’s these lovely tan lines my beautiful daughters sport every year. Thanks to months in the pool for swim team and two weeks spent on Minnesota lakes, my girls have some mighty deep and dark lines criss crossing their bodies. They’re lines I look at with admiration and envy. I know even if I spent twice as much time outside and slathered on baby oil (like I did back in high school), instead of SPF 50 sunscreen, I wouldn’t even get close to them.  I am and will always be a very white chick. I’ve got two shades. White and red.

I remember spending an obscene amount of time laying out on my best friend’s floating dock in high school, and at the end of the day, the two of us comparing tans in her dad’s mirrored closet doors. Since we’re similar shades of whiteness, it was always a toss up who would come out on top.

These days I’m much more inclined to seek the shade instead of the sun. While I do envy my daughters’ Cambodian skin coloring, the fear of skin cancer, wrinkles, and age spots keeps me out of the spotlight. It’s another reason why aging sucks.

The lines also serve as a litmus test of sorts. They prove they jumped into pools, jumped into lakes, and did some of the exact same things I did as a kid. For all the complaints and consternation that kids today don’t have the freedom like I did back in the 70’s and 80’s, these lines show otherwise, and for that I’m smiling big- laugh lines and all.

7 and Sensational

16 Apr Off and Running

Happy 7th Birthday, Carrie!

There’s no way I could ever forget today is your birthday and it’s not just because I gave birth to you. Nope. You’ve been counting down to this day for the last 47 days. That’s quite the countdown. I hope no matter your age, even when you’re as old as I am, you’ll always find joy in your birthday.

Off and Running

Off and Running

You’ve got a way of not only finding joy in the little things, but making that joy contagious. Seeing how excited you’ve been marking off the days until your birthday gave me a smile each and every night. Thank goodness, after a brief disappearance, the birthday countdown magically reappeared.

You can be fiercely independent, spending hours by yourself watching some terrible YouTube videos, but at least for now, you spend your weekends sleeping in the same bed as Erin. Sometimes you want to be as far away as possible as your sisters, but it truly is a sight to see the two of you curled up next to each other. How you two bed hogs manage to sleep an entire night without getting banged and bruised I’ll never know, but please don’t stop.

As loving as you can be with both of your sisters, you’ve got a temper on you, and you’re not afraid to let it loose. When you lose it, it’s a sight to see and hear. You scream. You cry. You throw things. When you’re mad at your sisters, you call them poopy heads. I hope that’s the worst you’ll call them, but I’ve got a feeling as you get older, the choice of words will change.

Last year, you struggled with reading in English. You’ve gone from getting frustrated as you worked on sounding out the words, to actually looking forward to reading to me at night. Your favorite books right now are the A to Z Mystery Series.


For many kids, the rainbow loom phase has come and gone. Not you, though. You’ve not only mastered the basic bracelet, you’re stepping it up by making everything from soda bottles to super heroes. The only problem? We’ve got tiny rubber brands all over the house. I find them in the strangest of places.

You’re one creative, smart, and charming kid. I’ve seen you grow and learn things at an amazing speed in this last year. You’ve surprised me in so many ways this year. I’m looking forward to seeing how you surprise me in your 7th year.


I love you kiddo!


Happy Birthday to a (Mostly) Terrific 12 Year Old

2 Apr IMG_4208-2

Happy 12th Birthday Olivia!

I know I say this every birthday, but this year I really can’t believe how quickly you’ve gone from a tiny baby to a beautiful ‘tween. Sure, some days when you’re rolling your eyes, slamming your bedroom door, and terrorizing your little sisters, time can’t move fast enough for me (and probably you too), but as I sit here writing your birthday blog, it does feel like like you’ve grown in an instant. You’ve grown in size too, although you have not yet passed me up, but I’m expecting it to happen in any moment.

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As fast as this year has flown by, you’ve accomplished some pretty amazing things. First and foremost, you’re no longer an elementary school student. You made it to middle school!

You not only made it, you’re thriving. From running cross country and playing soccer, to getting elected to student council, you are a kid who’s a doer.


If given the choice, you’d participate in even more activities. Dad and I don’t give you that choice, not just because we’re worried about you wearing yourself out, we’re worried about wearing ourselves out.

You did manage to wear us down when it came to getting your own bedroom. You begged and begged for months. Your Dad and I finally relented when you came home with all A’s on your report card your first trimester of 6th grade. That proves hard work can bring you big rewards.

You’ve also entered the world of a texting ‘tween. It drives me nuts, but I do see the use in it, and there’s no shortage of amusement at some of the funny texts you send me. From misuse of know vs. now, to writing in emoticons, I will admit the texts do put a smile on my face. Plus, it’s a way to keep tabs on you, even if you’d rather be Miss Independent.

For all that independence, I see glimmers of altruistic acts of love towards your little sisters.


You carry them when needed and feed them with any number of your culinary creations. You’ve got a good heart, even with your sisters. You may not show it all the time, but it’s there. I know it. Your sisters know it too. Why else, when given the choice, do they always choose you to babysit them?

This year hasn’t always been easy. We’ve had our differences and we’ve had our fights, but when all is said and done at the end of the night, there’s nothing more I love to do than tiptoe into your room and see you sleeping so peacefully. It takes me back to your newborn days. Days that are long since gone, but feel like they could have just happened.

I know you’re growing up, but try not to grow up too fast kiddo. You’ve got a unique and special sense of childlike wonderment. Try not to lose it. It’s a pretty great quality to have.

So on your 12th birthday, I have many wishes for you. I wish you lots of joy and happiness, but most of all, I wish for you to stay true to yourself. You’re an amazing person. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


I love you!


Happy 9th Birthday Erin!

25 Jan

Happy, Happy, HAPPY Birthday Erin!

I know. I know. It’s your birthday, and I’m not at home to help you celebrate. For that, I feel terrible, but please know that I’ll be thinking about you all day. I hate missing your birthday and I know you do too. One of the many, many things I love about you is  you’re not afraid to say how you feel, and when I told you I’d be out of town on the day you turn nine, you made sure I knew how upset you were. I don’t blame you one bit.

While I may not be with you today, you can’t imagine the joy I’ve had seeing you grow, learn, and explore the world this last year. And what a year it has been!

This was the year you traveled outside the country for the first time, not once but twice!


Sure, Cambodia couldn’t be more different than Switzerland and France, but you made sure to show your style in both regions. I don’t know anyone who can rock hats better than you. On both trips, we rarely saw you without the fedora or the beanie. You’ve also proved to be one awesome traveler…. with one exception. When jet lag sets in for you, it really sets in, and you want to sleep. Not even food can rouse you from a deep slumber.

Sleeping through a french meal and oblivious to the woman sitting behind you with the big bouffant hair.

Sleeping through a french meal and oblivious to the woman sitting behind you with the big bouffant hair.

Last year, you talked about traveling the world. This year, you can officially say you’re a world traveler. Now you’ve got bigger goals. You want to see the 7 wonders of the world. Will you take me with you when you go?

Speaking of goals….. you still love playing soccer, but now you’ve added another sport. Softball.

A true Diamond Diva

A true Diamond Diva

I love watching you take the field, playing just about every position, except pitcher or catcher. You’ve got a team spirit attitude and are not a kid who likes being the center of attention. That will serve you well in sports and in life.

You’ve been a pretty decent swimmer for the last couple of years, but in 2014 I forced you to do something you really, really, really didn’t want to do: join the swim team. I’m still not really sure why, but you tried with all your might to get out of it. You can be a stubborn kid, but I’ve got you beat. We eventually made a deal. You had to go to swim team practices, but I wouldn’t make you compete in any of the meets. You stuck to your guns, even when you saw how much fun your friends had swimming in the meets. But by the time of the last meet, guess who had enough of sitting on the pool deck? You!

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I was one proud Momma watching you face whatever fears you had about competing. Six months later, I don’t remember where you placed in your races, but I do remember the huge grin you had after you climbed out of the pool. I hope you’ll remember that as well.

Your dedication to doing well in school has not changed at all since last year. If anything, you’ve become even more motivated. You’re not satisfied to simply be at a 3rd grade reading level…. or 4th grade reading level….. or 5.6 grade reading level…. which is where you’re at right now. No siree… You want to be at a 6th grade reading level. I’m sure that has nothing to do with your big sister being in 6th grade, does it?

3rd grade is also where you start working on your times tables. I never liked being tested on this, but not you. You thrive under the pressure of me yelling out multiplication problems at you like a drill sergeant. I love watching you do the calculations in your head as you try and come up with the answer as quick as you can.

From experience, I know it’s not always easy being the middle child. At any given time, you may get left out. That’s why I was so excited that you and I got to go on a special trip to San Diego this summer for ComicCon.

This was not just a trip for fun. Nope. I put you to work to help promote Batkid Begins.


Without a ton of complaints, you handed out what felt like thousands of postcards to anyone who would take one. Luckily, it was not all work and no play. You did get a chance to meet some cool characters and put your Lego skills to use.

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You have had quite the year, kiddo. Quite the year. And in the last 365 days, there hasn’t been one day that you haven’t done something that has made me laugh, smile, or sometimes shake my head in disbelief. I love you!



Skiing in Switzerland

18 Jan photo 2

Leading up to our trip to the Swiss Alps, we had one sick kid on our hands, but I was hoping it was a case of food poisoning, not a stomach bug. By the time we left for Klosters, Carrie was feeling much better. Did we dodge the sickness bullet? I had my fingers and toes crossed that we did.

We arrived around noon and so far so good. We got checked into the hotel and the girls were ready to play in the snow. We lucked out and the snow had just started falling a day earlier. Klosters is a really cute mountain town, small enough that you can walk to the gondola, but big enough to find places to eat.


Our hotel, the Piz Buin, worked perfectly for us. There was a long balcony outside our rooms and the girls promptly got to work trying to build a snowman. Unfortunately, they couldn’t cobble together quite enough for their vision of a snowman.

We then had to rent our ski equipment and get the kids and husband signed up for lessons. At this point, still no sign of sickness. Score. We had a couple of hours before dinner, so we started up a game of Scrabble. While some of us where scoring  big points in the game, it soon became apparent we were not going to escape another bout of sickness. This time it was Olivia’s turn. Just like Carrie, when it hit her, it hit her hard. Perfect timing for it to hit her, right after we bought her lesson, lift ticket, and ski rentals. I hoped for a miraculous recovery so she could ski the next day, but it was not meant to be, so she stayed with Auntie while the rest of us ventured out into the snowy conditions.

While the snow was much-needed and helpful, it made visibility a challenge.

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I promise. The Swiss Alps are somewhere behind me

The weather challenge also meant Carrie and Erin didn’t get as much out of their lessons as I would have liked. They stayed on the baby hill in the kids ski school all day and didn’t get to experience the gondola or trekking from the gondola to the ski runs. After  one day, Carrie decided she didn’t want to go for a second day.

The stomach bug that invaded Olivia’s immune system left after 24 hours, allowing her to at least ski for one day. As she said. “It would have really sucked to have come all the way to Switzerland and not be able to ski.” I couldn’t agree more. It also allowed Erin to get in another day of skiing and take a ride on the gondola.

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The smiles show how much they enjoyed their day on the mountain, but alas all good things must come to an end, and this photo meant the end to our time in the Alps.

The snow storm that blanketed the Alps also hit my sister-in-law’s town of Zug. It didn’t make walking to the bus station easy, but for 3 California kids, they were in snow angel heaven.


Up ’til this point, we had not yet indulged in the best known Swiss cuisine, fondue. We saved it for our final night in Switzerland.  I had forgotten that one of the ingredients in fondue was wine, and at least at the restaurant we were at, they didn’t hold back  the booze. While it was fine for me and the husband, it was too boozy for the kids.


This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip and I’m so thankful we were able to share it with the kids. We’ve been so fortunate to be able to travel the world with the kids and I’ve got a feeling it will instill a lifelong love of travel in them. Erin has already said she wants to be able to see all 7 wonders of the world. I told her to start saving now for those trips….. and save enough to bring me along for the ride.

The Great European Vacation

3 Jan

Having family live in far away places has its benefits. Namely, breaking the travel budget to visit them and explore some really beautiful places. My sister-in-law’s stint in Switzerland will be winding down in the coming months, so it was now or never if we wanted to take advantage of seeing her and taking a side trip to France and the Swiss Alps.

We’re fortunate enough that the kids are old enough to stay relatively entertained by watching movies on the long flights. I definitely feel for the parents of young babies and toddlers walking up and down the aisles trying to calm their crying kids, while less sympathetic passengers give them the evil eye.

We arrived in Zurich, sleep deprived but excited. My sister-in-law met us at the airport and half of us drove back with her to her apartment, while the others took the first of many train rides.

On our first first full day in Switzerland, we traveled to Lucerne, which is about a 20 to 30 minute train ride from my sister-in-law’s town. It’s a beautiful town along the Reuss River, known for its covered bridges.

Chapel Bridge

Chapel Bridge

We strolled along the the river taking in the beautiful sights, while also trying to coax a certain 8-year-old out of her foul mood. Between the jet lag and being forced to wear a winter coat in December in Switzerland, this kid was not happy.

Not all smiles

Not all smiles


Luckily, her mood improved after a Swiss inspired mac and cheese lunch, a trip to the Dying Lion Monument, and the neighboring Glacier Garden.

The Dying Lion honors the Swiss Guards killed in the French Revolution

The Dying Lion honors the Swiss Guards killed in the French Revolution

The Glacier Garden was just what we needed for the kids. It’s a park and museum, which allowed the kids to burn off some of their excess energy and put the middle child into a happy place.


While the museum was cool, we all really loved the house of mirrors, even when all three kids bonked their heads by walking into mirrors.

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Lucerne was a great introduction to the beauty that is Switzerland and got us excited for our excursion to Paris the next day.

We took a 4 1/2 hour train ride to Paris, which was great, although the husband would argue that I spent most of the time looking at the French countryside with my eyes closed. He may have been right.

We began our tour of Paris with a trip to Notre Dame. It’s everything you’d expect. Massive, beautiful, and of course filled with kids who like posing in front of the historic church.

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We opted to wait in a long line to climb up lots of stairs to see the gargoyles. We bided our time by eating crepes and drinking hot chocolate. The wait was worth it, allowing us to see some stunning views of the city, even with the overcast sky.

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After this excursion, jet lag really set in and the two younger girls barely made it through dinner.


They rallied the following day for the trek to the Eiffel Tower and climbing the nearly 700 steps for the first two levels. These kids were determined and step by step, they made it, with little complaint.

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All this climbing and walking made us hungry and thanks to a recommendation from the Rick Steves guidebook, we had what would be arguably our best meal of the trip. A dessert drenched in hot fudge can’t hurt either.


We capped off this day with a visit to the Musee D’Orsay. I’m not much of an art aficionado, but this museum blew me away. I loved seeing all of the impressionist art. Plus, we went near closing time so the crowds were at a minimum. A bare minimum.

That definitely wasn’t the case when we headed to the Louvre the following day. We waited almost an hour just to buy the tickets, and once inside, it was packed. Jammed packed. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many people this place can hold, and as you can imagine, the biggest crowds clamored to take selfies with the Mona Lisa.

Selfies with the Mona Lisa

Selfies with the Mona Lisa

It’s true what a lot of people say about the famous portrait. It’s a lot smaller in person and not nearly as impressive as I would imagine. Still, the Louvre is a must do when you’re in Paris, so we were pleased we could check it off our to-do list.

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On our final full day in Paris, we spent time strolling along the Champs Elysees and doing a little shopping. Don’t make me try and pronounce it. My French is horrible. First off, we braved Paris traffic to take the perfect photo of the kids in front of the Arc de Triomphe.


If we were to do holiday cards this year, (which we’re not) this would be on it.

We capped off our final night in Paris with another lovely dinner…. one which poor Erin didn’t quite finish.


Surprisingly enough, Carrie chowed down at this meal, and at about 4 a.m. it all came back up when she got the stomach flu. Not the best way to end a trip to Paris, but pretty much something you should expect when traveling with family. Luckily, it was a 24 hour flu, so she rebounded pretty well for our final leg of the trip to the Swiss Alps. Unfortunately, she also passed it onto her older sister.

That part of the trip will be saved for the next blog.

Adventures in Oregon

20 Jun

As summer vacations go, you can’t get much better than a road trip from Northern California to Oregon. Truth be told, when we planned this vacation with another family, I didn’t really know where we were going, other than Oregon. Two days before we left I figured I should probably take a look at where we were actually going. Our first stop on our road trip was to Crater Lake. Another admission. I thought Crater Lake was in California. I was wrong. It’s about 65 miles north of the border, smack dab in the mountains of south central Oregon. It’s also cold.  Cold enough that there’s still snow on the ground in mid June. For some people, like my family in Minnesota who endured more than their fair share of snow this winter, that’s just cruel and unusual punishment. For my kids and our friends’ kids? Pure heaven.

Snow fun at Crater Lake

Snow fun at Crater Lake

Yes, my middle child is sliding down the snow in a t-shirt and cowboy hat. If you look closely, you’ll also see she’s wearing Keens sans socks. Don’t ask. Sometimes it’s not worth the fight to try to get a kid to throw on a sweatshirt and socks. This was one of those times. She insisted she wasn’t at all cold, even if she tucked her arms in her sleeves during one of our hikes.

If you’ve never been to Crater Lake, I highly recommend it. I won’t get all Cliff Clavin on you, but I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version of  this natural phenomenon. Crater Lake was created about 7700 years ago when a volcanic eruption collapsed Mt. Manzama, which turned into Crater Lake.  The result is a sight to behold and photos don’t do it justice, not even panoramic ones taken with my iPhone.

Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Crater Lake and Wizard Island

I swear, I really didn’t photo shop the photo seen above here. It really is that blue, dare I say even bluer than Lake Tahoe.

As beautiful as Crater Lake is, it’s one of those places where you hike to the rim, look at the pretty scenery and then get out of dodge. At least that’s what we did. We had some serious vacationing to do in central Oregon, specifically in the town of Sunriver. Wikipedia calls Sunriver “a planned residential and resort community,” and it is all of that, but it suited our two families perfectly. Sure it’s a bit like living in Pleasantville, but given that we’re here on vacation, it doesn’t bother me. With the miles upon miles of bike paths, water park, horse stables, and marina, I’ll take it.

While you don’t have to leave the Sunriver compound, we did, and no, not just for the breweries in Bend, although I have to say we went to a couple of breweries with the kids for dinner, and the beer is not only great, but the outdoor atmosphere is a haven for kids and dogs.

The weather was less than stellar the first two days in Sunriver, with temperatures never getting out of the 50’s and a fair amount of rain and hail, so we explored downtown Bend, watched a movie, and hunkered down in the rental house. By the third day,  the sun returned and the temperature shot up into the 70’s, which was perfect timing, because we booked a mountain bike ride with The Paulina Plunge Mountain Bike Tour.

This by far was one of the best parts of the trip. (Big props once again go out to our friends who found this tour and booked it.) The tour company makes it easy. They drive you up the mountain, and with the exception of the “Minute of Misery” you coast down 6 miles, stopping for nature treks to waterfalls and lunch.

Waterfall stop on the mountain bike tour

Waterfall stop on the mountain bike tour


The girls loved it, and a fall early on didn’t stop Erin.

It's just a flesh wound

It’s just a flesh wound

Full disclosure time. Yes, Erin and Olivia powered through the mountain bike. Carrie? She was attached to the husband’s bike.



I’m quite certain had she been forced to power her bike on her own, I would have had a much different opinion of this adventure. Even so, after she went down one of the “natural waterfalls” which entailed her going briefly underwater, the child melted down. I went down first and realized the force of the water pushing her underwater might freak her out. I waited while she went down the rock formation. At first she was all giggles, then she went underwater. When she popped back up and I grabbed her, all I saw were her huge brown eyes looking scared out of her mind. It took only a few seconds before she started crying. This was the point where we were so thankful she didn’t have to ride a bike on her own. I guarantee she wouldn’t have made it.

Erin, that’s an entirely different story. She was all about the adventure. She not only went down that waterside, but also opted to step it up a notch and go down a steeper slide.

It looks scarier in slow motion. Really it does. I thought about going down this one too, but then wisely chose not to after seeing another adult looking pretty beat up after he finished. I already have plenty of bruises and can only imagine how many more I’d have on my bum if I would have followed my 8-year-old.

Plus, I was starting to dry off a little bit and didn’t want to be soaked for the final 3 miles of the ride.  The wet jean shorts and t-shirt didn’t seem to bother Erin or Olivia too much. They finished up the ride like true pros. While it was downhill, it wasn’t necessarily easy. They still had to stay upright on the bicycles while braking and navigating over sand and gravel. You know it’s a good trip when the girls ask when we can go mountain biking at home. I had to break it to them that at home we won’t have a bus to carry us to the top of the hill.

We still have another day here and are going to try a water activity, maybe kayaking or white water rafting. This vacation is a far cry from Disney, but one I’d do again in a heart beat.


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