Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Day In My Life

Here is what a typical weekday looks like for me:

*This was my day Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2:50 a.m. - Finally roll out of bed after the fourth (yes, fourth) alarm goes off.  Get dressed, pack a lunch, grab breakfast.

3:11 a.m. - Head out the door for work!  

3:58 a.m. - Arrive at work and punch-in.

9:20-9:55 a.m. - "Lunch" break.

1:38 p.m. - Clock-out, grab a frozen pizza for the kids for dinner, stop for fuel on the way home.

2:45 p.m. - Arrive home, pass Jason on the front steps as he leaves for work.  I find one boy sleeping and the other in the basement playing trains.

2:45-4:00 p.m. - I shower, take out the recyclables, wipe the counters, sweep, vacuum bedrooms, do a quick wipe down of the bathroom (our little bathroom works hard for us 5!), dust etc.  *Amelia arrives home from school at 3:30

4:00 p.m. - Send the kids to the backyard to play.

4:10 p.m. - Amelia's teacher calls to let me know that Amelia and her friend, R, cut their hair at school...

4:15-5 p.m. - CHAOS ensues.  All three kids are in the house, Jackson is screaming/having a meltdown, Amelia somehow gets her math homework done during all of this.  I end up resorting to PBS to restore order and I sit with Jackson until he calms down.

5 p.m. - Throw in the kids' pizza, start a load of laundry, the kids watch "Martha Speaks."

5:30 a.m. - Eat dinner.  Pizza for kids, leftover tacos for me.  I do pack up their extra pizza for my lunch the following day though ;)

6:00 p.m. - The big kids head downstairs to play and I give Jackson a "fast bath" and get about ten minutes of one-on-one time with him before he is asking to go downstairs.

6:20 p.m. - We are all downstairs, I switch the laundry to the dryer and start another load.

Puzzles were our main activity of the night!

7:15 p.m. - Switch loads, head upstairs, the big kids get into pajamas, I fold and put away first load of laundry.

7:30 p.m. - We all sit down to watch a DVR'd "Little Charmers" episode before bed.  *Depending on the night and how I'm feeling/how rambunctious this kids are, we either read a few books or watch a show before bed.

8:00 p.m. - Kids get their teeth brushed and I get them all to bed.

8:20 p.m. - I'm alone and it's quiet!  I waste time on Facebook/Instagram.  *Again, depending on the night, I either read (currently I'm reading A Clash of Kings which is book two in the "Game of Thrones" series), surf the Internet or watch a little TV.

8:45 p.m. - I crawl into bed and, as usual, am out within minutes!

My days are long but my heart is FULL

This was a pretty normal day for us.  18 hour days are the norm.

Right now I am working 42 miles from our home.  Eventually I will be finding work closer to home but Jason just started a new job that has a 90-day trial period so until we know he officially has the job I am staying put!

This post might explain why it is so quiet here!  Busy, busy, busy.  As I've stated before, sometimes I think I should just throw in the towel with this blog but something stops me.  I keep thinking that one day I will find some time to share our adventures with the few people who check in on us here!  We'll see what happens!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Summer Snapshots

Tomorrow is the first day of school and just like that, our summer comes to a close.  I don't really like heat, more specifically humidity, so summer hasn't ever been my favorite season.  This year was different.  We got out.  We explored.  We relaxed.  We enjoyed summer.  I enjoyed summer.  Maybe it's the ages the kids are at or maybe it's the fact that we now have our own backyard? Whatever it was, I'm happy to have finally enjoyed summer, despite the heat ;)

I didn't get on the actual computer much this summer so here is a glimpse of our adventures the past few months!

Enjoying having our very own backyard!

Our private island in the Apple River!  Our elderly neighbor has been gracious enough to allow us to use his yard (which is riverfront property) to access this little island and explore whenever we want!

We went to three library programs this summer!  Touch-a-Truck, the MN ZOOmobile and "The Frog Guy!"

Boating on Pipe Lake!

Backyard camping over the fourth of July!


Hiking and exploring the falls at Willow River State Park!


Polk County Fair!

Polk County Fair!

Amelia LOVES catching all the critters she can find and I LOVE that about her :)

Shot for Hope and meeting/chatting with Donnie Vincent!!!

Minnesota State Fair
Minnesota State Fair

Minnesota State Fair

We enjoyed our summer but we are ready for fall!  We are ready to fall back into the routines that come with having a child in school.  We thrive on routine but it is just so darn hard for us to adhere to even a loose schedule during the summer!  Tomorrow the schedule returns and we will spend a few weeks figuring out our new routines for the academic year.  And I suppose it won't be long before we are all longing for summer 2016 to arrive :)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Life at 30

*This is the third time I have sat down over the past two weeks to write out this post...

So, I turned the big 3-0 last month.  Lots of people feel "old" when they reach this milestone but, for me, I am simply not 29 anymore.  It really wasn't a big deal!

I've been thinking a lot about my life this summer.  This time last year we were ready to move out west in search of adventure and the vast, great outdoors.  Instead, we purchased our first home about an hour away from where we grew up in a small, Wisconsin town of just under 3,000.  Instead of mountains, we have crop fields.  Instead of new, unknown adventures we have the familiarity of an area we know well.  I sometimes wonder - was it the right choice?

The short answer is - yes.  Yes, we made the right choice.  I grew up three states away from my entire extended family.  I saw them maybe twice a year.  Jason grew up near just about all of his family.  They were at every birthday party, every holiday and more.  We experienced opposite ends of the spectrum growing up.

When the idea came up to move across the country I was hesitant.  It sounded scary but, also, invigorating at the same time.  Growing up I never pictured myself sticking around Minnesota/Wisconsin for my whole life.  I wanted more.  Colorado seemed like the answer.  A few months into "planning" a move, we realized what felt right for us wasn't right for our family.  We had three kids to think about - not just ourselves!  So began the search for a home closer to home.

We found our modest home and, despite it not being "the dream", we went for it.  The longer we are here, the more we realize how much we love this house!  It isn't too big, we have a large yard (for in town) and it's ours.  It's a stepping stone to that dream cabin-home with acreage and water access.

I really do think I am happy with the choices that we have made this year but at the same time I find myself longing for "more".  Actually, I really just long for a different location and I realize that's silly.  "Home is where the heart is", right?  My heart is here, with my family, but there just seems to be a small piece of it that is trying to run off on an adventure.

Those adventures can wait.  Soon enough the kids will be older and we'll be off on family camping trips in the mountains or canoeing in the Boundary Waters.  In time, I will find all the adventure I seek.  I realize now, the best part will be experiencing it all with my family.  For now, we'll stick to our hiking trips at the state parks and exploring our backyard :)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Our New HOME!

After months of searching, denied offers and lots of discussion - we bought our first home!

We purchased a 3 bedroom, single bathroom home with a detached one car garage on a half an acre in the town of Amery, WI.  

This home wasn't exactly what we "saw" ourselves in but after a few months we realized that our dream (a cabin-like home with some acreage in the woods) was just beyond our reach.  We weighed our options and knew that apartment living just was not working for us any longer.  We wanted our own space!  

We were getting antsy because nothing new (that was livable) was popping up in our price range.  Then this little house did.  We looked at it two days after it went on the market, gave an offer that night and after a few days they accepted!  It all happened so fast!

My parents took our kids for three nights, starting the day we closed, and we were able to get some things done with the help of friends.  We painted the concrete walls in the basement with white DRYLOK paint, epoxied the basement floor in a grey color, shellacked the interior of the kitchen cabinets/drawers, moved all of our belongings and painted the three bedrooms!  Whew!  It was exhausting.

We decided right away that the main-level carpet had to go.  I'm weird about other people's carpet.  They had a dog, they weren't awesome housekeepers...enough said.  We just accepted an estimate to get the entire main-level flooring re-done (except the bathroom) and are hoping to be able to finally unpack very soon!  For now clothes are in wire cubes, kids' mattresses are on the floor and most everything else is in boxes in the basement!

I hope to be able to share more of our home as we unpack and make it our own - so stay tuned!  

Friday, April 10, 2015

Celebrating Autism

April is Autism Awareness Month and Friday, April 2nd was World Autism Awareness Day.

Where to begin...  I meant to write this last week sometime but, alas, life happens and I find myself on the computer less and less, hence, the blog silence...again.  

We've been on this autism journey with Amelia for almost three years now.  It all began with a hunch that she had autism, an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) evaluation that placed her a mere three points off the spectrum and attributed her ASD characteristics to a speech delay, intense (private and expensive) speech therapy to supplement the therapy provided by the school district and an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting this past January with her teachers and the school psychologist which led to a diagnosis of autism.

Amelia has caught up to age appropriate speech skills and has been discharged from speech at school and we are ending the private therapy next week.  It has been a lot of time, work and money but so, so worth it.  I met with her teachers and the school psychologist a few months ago for her annual IEP meeting.  Amelia is now on a consult basis for speech (it is hard to add it back on in the future if she falls behind again, hence, the "consult" status) and autism was brought to the table.  

The school psychologist (Mrs. R) has known Amelia three years now, she knows we've always felt she was different, she knows about her ASD evaluation and it's findings.  She feels what we feel - that Amelia has autism.  Her kindergarten teacher and special education teachers concurred.  We went through the formalities, did the checklist required to "label" her as having autism and you know what?  It felt good.  When we went to Fraser in Minneapolis for her initial ASD evaluation they stressed to us that the schools over label kids, they can label kids with little reason etc and getting a medical diagnosis is the better way to go.  Ok, fine.  We did that.  She tested slightly off the spectrum and they flat out told us that if we came back tomorrow she could test farther off or totally on.  In our opinion, they dismissed us too quickly.  I expressed all of the above to the faculty at the IEP meeting and Mrs. R looked at me and said, "I've known Amelia a long time now.  I see her on good days and I see her on bad days.  Fraser only saw her twice.  I know you were never satisfied with their results and I'm here to tell you I think you are right and I agree with you.  She has autism."  

Amelia has autism.  She's not autistic.  She's Amelia and she has autism.  I can't tell you how hard it is for me to not scream when people refer to her as autistic, like it defines her.  It doesn't.  It's just a part of who she is - not what she is.

It doesn't change anything.  She's been a challenging child most of her life.  She's beautiful.  She's very smart.  She's LOUD.  She's strong-willed.  She's funny.  She's an emotional roller coaster.  She's kind.  Basically, she's an awesome kid with a little extra AU-some (see what I did there? hehe).

Emotions are, by far, the biggest struggle we have with Amelia.  She is an extremely emotional child and she lets you know how she is feeling - loudly.  It is difficult to calm her because she can't hear you over her screaming/wailing/yelling.  As a result we started yelling to be heard over her and because of that our boys now yell to be heard.  We are just a loud, loud household.  That is something we are working on.  When she is in an emotional fit I just try and calmly say, over and over, "I can't understand you when you yell.  Please take a deep breath, calm down and try talking slowly."  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes I don't even try and, unfortunately, go straight to yelling.  We'll get there in time.  

Amelia has taught me the importance of patience and made me keenly aware of how very little I tend to have.  Patience is something that I work on every single day.  Some days I have an abundance of patience and some days I have next to none.  I've gone on an anti-depressant to, as the doctor put it, "lengthen my fuse just a little bit" and I can honestly say, it helps.  I don't like the fact that I have to take a pill every single day but when I forget to take it, it's obvious and quickly reminds me of why I was prescribed it in the first place. 

What now?  We are in the process of setting up a second ASD evaluation at Gillette Children's Hospital in St. Paul.  Maybe she'll test the same.  Maybe she won't.  Their findings aren't going to change the school's diagnosis.  I know, in my heart, that she has autism.  The medical diagnosis is just a formality at this point - just in case we would ever need it for any unforeseen reason in the future. 

So there you have it - my daughter has autism.  She is on the spectrum...

...and I couldn't be prouder of her and I know I am very, very lucky to get to be her mom. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Family Day at MOA

Amelia was off of school yesterday and I was off work so we had dad take the day off too so we could have some fun!

For Christmas we received passes to Sea Life aquarium and unlimited ride wristbands for Nickelodeon Universe.  So, a day at Mall of America was in order!

We only went into a three stores - The Disney Store, The Lego Store (3 times...) and Creative Kidstuff.  The kids all got something from Disney and Lego by trading us some of their "Target gift card money" for "mall money."

By packing a lunch, bringing snacks/water bottles and having the gift of pre-purchased tickets/ride wristbands this was a fairly low cost day for us!

The kids were just mystified that they could ride as many rides as they pleased.  Usually we let them each pick a ride to go on together and that is it as ride points are not cheap!  Being able to go on whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted blew their minds!

The little roller coaster was definitely their favorite - they rode it over and over and over again!

Yesterday is a perfect example of why gifts of experience are awesome!  The wonderful day that we had would have cost our family of five a fortune, however, through a Christmas gift we were able to have a ton of fun that I know Amelia and Joe will be talking about for awhile!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Holiday Happenings

Wow, 2014 is nearly over!  Here is a look at our holiday season!

I "did" Thanksgiving on two hours of sleep due to a Wednesday overnight shift that ran two hours longer than scheduled to prepare for Black Friday.

I still don't, and probably never will, understand why consumers "demand" retailers open earlier and earlier each year for Black Friday.  It's a vicious cycle of competition between retailers and it continues because people continue to show up regardless of if it cuts into their family time.  I could go on all day about this but I'll spare anyone who happens to be reading're welcome ;)

The first weekend in December Nana and Papa took everyone on the Polar Express North Pole Express in St. Paul!

We rode to the "North Pole" where Santa climbed on board to meet with all the kids and collect their letters!  It was a mostly fun night with stress levels rising as bedtime came and we still hadn't left Union Depot!  Everything gets harder when you have tired and crabby kids along...

The next morning we went to the tree farm with Jason's family to get his sister's tree!  *no pictures

Santa visited our library and brought along two of his reindeer!

Our friend, D, joined us!

Disney on Ice: Worlds of Fantasy

Amelia was sick for her kindergarten Christmas concert this year.  She was very upset so we had our own concert at home!  She got all dressed up:

She sang us her favorite song from the concert:

After she performed we had "pizza that comes hot to your door" (aka delivery) because that is what they were having at the concert as a fundraiser for the music department.  All in all, not the night we had planned but still a success!  

Christmas Eve I worked 9.5 hours, headed home, got ready and we left to start our Christmas celebrations.  We spend Christmas Eve with my family, sleep there and then spend Christmas Day with Jason's family.  Jason and I went extra casual this year at my parent's house:

Family "selfie"

*Christmas Day lacks pictures...but Santa came, kids woke up at 5 a.m., we played games, we went to Christmas with Jason's family and headed home in the evening - exhausted!  

We're looking forward to spending New Year's Eve at home tomorrow - with the exception of a chiropractor appointment late in the afternoon for Amelia!  We have frozen pizzas waiting, movies will be watched and I'm sure a game or two will be played!