Looking Back Fondly

I had yet another amazing weekend! This summer seems to have been filled with amazing days, nights and weekends. I wonder why that is…could it be an outlook change?

The weekend started with a bang! I brought my best friend to the Taylor Swift concert in Minneapolis Friday night. It was my fifth TS concert, her fourth. We went to the first 3 together. She had lost interest after high school, but I remained a loyal Swiftie. I didn’t have to do much convincing to get her to go with me because the memories were already a part of our relationship. It would’ve felt wrong going with anyone else.

The thing about this concert, though, was that I felt like it was really aimed at the nostalgic fans who had been there since the beginning. So even though my BFF hadn’t listened to any of the current music, she was still able to sing along with a lot of the songs and we were still able to reminisce about the last time we’d heard the songs live.

I am not a dancer. (Probably for good reason.) But I was dancing and screaming and eating up all of “this is the best crowd” lines! I was so in the moment and I just couldn’t believe that that many people liked Taylor at least as much as I did. I’m surrounded by people who pride themselves on not liking mainstream music, so I often feel like a loser or a chump for liking it. So it was really, really nice to be surrounded by that many like-minded people.

But every song had a memory attached and that’s what really sent me over the top. This time I realized that she has memories attached to every song, too. I remember after seeing One Direction in Chicago years ago, I was really disappointed to realize that they were just 5 teenage boys. But every time I see Taylor Swift live, I’m so relieved to see that she’s just another twenty-something trying to figure everything out.

Okay, fangirling over. It was a magical night for me, but the best was yet to come.

Friday was also my brother’s fifth wedding anniversary and they threw a huge “dream reception” in the prettiest park around on Sunday. Family was trickling in all week, but our houseguests arrived Saturday. We brought them to a new little speakeasy in town (hello, girls’ nights!), got milkshakes at the cute, little 50s diner, took a little riverfront walk and picked up some gourmet popcorn before heading home. They joined us for church the next morning and we managed to fit in a little bit of shopping before party prep started. I love showing off our town and I love having the extended family around!

We got to the park hours before the party started to help with anything and everything. I was, of course, in charge of the kids (who hadn’t had naps…). It was really nice to have some quality time with them before the crowd came, though. I traded off kid duty with my dad and my sister-in-law’s mom all night so my brother and sister-in-law could enjoy their guests.

After getting family and group pictures, my brother gathered everyone together and thanked them for coming and being a part of their marriage. Then he said he wanted to thank a few people who they could not have lived without these past 5 years. Guess who the first thank you was…

Me.

He thanked me and his wife’s brother for always being willing to drop everything and help them with anything. And then he asked everyone to give us a round of applause.

I swear I almost cried.

Selfishly I’ve always really wanted that validation that they appreciate what I do. But getting it was just so much better than I ever imagined.

They both pulled me aside later and thanked me again for being such a big help.

Gah.

There are circumstances in our family’s history that have made our relationship awkward at times, but it felt so good to be so loved and appreciated by my brother. I realized that he’s not going anywhere. He’s not going to give up on me. And I’m not going to give up on him, either. We’ve got each other for life.

That was kind of the theme of the summer. I realized who was really there for me and who wasn’t. I really learned to appreciate who and what I have. I will always look back fondly at the summer of 2018.

But I’m so ready for fall!!

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October

I know I say this every month, but I cannot believe it’s October already. Today is the first really chilly day of the season. I can’t say cold, because compared to the temperatures we will be experiencing by Thanksgiving, this is just barely chilly.

We’ve been really busy these past few weeks! We’ve had birthdays upon birthdays upon birthdays. It was my mom’s birthday on the first Football Sunday, so of course she wanted to go on a historic homes tour during the game! But we won and she had fun, so it was a win-win! Then it was my brother’s birthday, which frankly, got skipped over and probably will be skipped over for the next 20 or so years because his daughter’s birthday is one week after his.

And boy did that girl celebrate.

They had a family birthday party at their house the weekend before her birthday and everyone loved it! It was only 10 of us and we all have great relationships with the birthday girl, so it was fun for everyone! Unlike last year, J knew exactly what was going on! She had farm balloons to show everyone as they walked in the door, she handed out napkins and cups (also farm themed) as people sat down in the living room, she entertained us as we waited for dinner, she was beaming when we sang “Happy Birthday” to her, she tried to blow out her candle, she scooped the cream out of her cream puff and wiped it all around her mouth and then posed for pictures, and she was fully aware of who all of the presents were from and for and how to open them! It was such a fun afternoon!

And then we got to watch her on her actual birthday, which her parents weren’t planning on playing up. But we were! We saved some of the presents for her to open and keep here. Her balance bike is her new favorite outdoor toy, her potty book is her favorite book to read and her magnetic blocks are her favorite indoor toys! We also took her shopping for some new fall clothes, let her run wild at a fun park designed for little kids in Stillwater, and let her eat french fries and a chocolate raspberry milkshake for lunch at a little 50’s-style diner near the river! We were all pooped when we got home, but it was, without a doubt, one of my favorite days with her!

(I also caught her singing “Happy Birthday Ju-ana” the other day! I think she likes her birthday!)

It’s so hard to believe that we’ve known her for two years already! It seems like forever ago and yesterday at the same time! And I really can’t believe that next year (literally by January) she will be a big sister! Watching a child grow really is one of the most amazing experiences. She is pretty much talking in sentences now. She is starting to try to say “Carrie” more. She says “I love you.”

All she was doing two years ago was sleeping on me. I can’t even remember how little she was. I’m so excited to experience all of that again and really soak it up more with her little brother, but I’m also really really loving this new stage with Juliana.

Being an aunt is the best thing that ever happened to me.

And October will always be the month that brought that to me.

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July

Sorry for the delay this month! But isn’t July always the busiest month of the year?

The first two or three weeks (so basically the whole month!) are always packed for us. It starts off with the 4th (which we actually mostly celebrated on the 1st this year) and then it moves right on in to party season.

We usually have our big family party near the middle of July, which means we start prepping promptly on the 1st of the month. We just finalized the menu this past weekend and figured out the arrangements for the bouncy house last night!

I really loved our 4th on the 1st celebration this year. The little girl was visiting one of her other families, so without her running around we could stay busy all day. I started power washing a big white fence and then got to create an edible masterpiece for my parents, their best friends and my best friend. We had shrimp tacos and grilled peaches with fresh raspberry sauce! So good! Then we all went out to burn down our massive brush pile! My kind of 4th!

Anyway, the real reason for this post is this:

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Throwback to her first July in January.

I was a little bit disappointed with the amount and quality of the pictures I got of her in Hawaii this year. So instead of going for the best pictures, I chose some that I thought best represented her stay with us. They spent their first three days on the island with us and then moved on to spend a week with the in-laws. They apologized for giving us the short end of the stick–they were all still adjusting to the time and weather during their few short days with us.

But Juliana loves looking at this month when she’s sitting on the “pah-ee!” She loves the picture of her and her daddy by the water (her first ocean experience!). She likes to say “me!” to the picture on the left and “silly” to the picture on the right!

She wore the outfit on the left the other day and it’s amazing how fast she grows out of clothes! I remember we went out to breakfast at our favorite breakfast place the morning the picture was taken and the skirt kept falling down to her thighs! Now it looks like it actually fits! She’s outgrown the shirt, though.

And the shoes she’s wearing in the picture on the right were not easy to find. We spent most of the week before they came looking for little baby water shoes. All the stores had bigger kid water shoes, but not little baby ones. So we got the smallest ones we could find! And they still fit her! Score! That picture was taken right after we went down to the pool where my favorite Juliana/Papa picture was taken:

 

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We wanted to go down and see if she had any interest in the water before we put her swimsuit on and brought all of her stuff down. Naturally, Papa was the only person who could get her in the water! He is without a doubt her favorite (non-mommy or daddy) person in the world.

(She made up a “Happy Papa” song this morning!)

I think she enjoyed her first Hawaiian vacation! Her mommy and daddy definitely saw the perks of our timeshare with a little one!

I don’t think they’ll be joining us next year…Her mommy and daddy will have their hands full!

Next month is my birthday, so the calendar is all about my favorites!

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May

It’s May! Yay!

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This girl has been at our house all month! Okay, so it’s only May 2nd. But she did have another AWESOME sleepover here last night!

I hope this becomes a semi-regular thing, because I FREAKING LOVE IT. I’m actually less stressed about all things baby today than I am when we only have her for the day. I think we kind of get in a groove.

This is actually a perfect tie-in, because the weather is just starting to really take a permanent turn towards summer (I hope) and the caption on the calendar this month is “It’s almost Summer!” Juju is wanting to spend almost all of her time here outside, and I don’t blame her.

This girl loves dresses. And she loves to go outside and play in her dresses. Well, this is dress season. (She also loves pulling her dress up and showing off her belly!)

Unlike her daddy, she actually didn’t mind grass from the first time we set her down in it. Last year, before she was really mobile, she actually seemed to prefer laying on the grass instead of a blanket. This year, she’s all about cleaning the grass. She collects twigs and dandelions. Her car is getting a little full.

And she is the ultimate water baby. She LOVES getting wet. She especially loves getting her clothes wet! A swimsuit is fun, (and usually means swimming in the big person pool!) but it means business. Getting her clothes wet means it was more spontaneous.

This year she is much more adventurous with the “toys” around the yard. She has a biiiig slide and a baby slide, a baby swing and a large disc swing, a water table, wind chimes, a shovel, two ladders, a pogo stick, a big fence, a garden cart, a baby car, a baby tractor, and two golf carts. And she loves them all. And wants to go outside and do each activity every day.

And in about a month she’ll also have a baby pool and a big person pool to swim in. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

But it makes her happy.

I’ll try to get everything organized and actually write a post about our little sleepover last night, because it’s worth sharing. Everything actually went extremely smoothly. So far.

Check back next month for another page from the calendar! Hint: it has to do with the person (person, not animal) she talks about most (behind mommy and daddy, of course!).

Happy Monday and Happy May!

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Read a Book With Silly Rhymes

We only had one day with the babe last week, but it was a good one!

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After her nap, she was in a reading mood. She brought her three new favorite books over to grandpa, got her sippy and her puffs, and climbed up on the couch next to him.

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I have never seen her so patient. Usually she’ll bring you a book, sit in your lap, let you read three pages and then she’ll leave to find the next one.

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She actually let grandpa read the whole book each time.

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“MORE!”
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“Seriously, grandpa. Read it again!”

She even asked for more Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. She loves the “OH, NO!”

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She’s starting to warm up to The Tickle Monster. It’s still not a book that she’ll completely sit through, but there are times when it’s the best thing ever. This was somewhere in the middle.

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“Llama needs his fuzzy near…”
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“But, FUZZY LLAMA ISN’T HERE!” (To which she usually responds “Oh, no!”)

She also loves her Llama Llama books. She hadn’t seemed very interested in this book, so I was (pleasantly) surprised when she handed it to grandpa! She really likes to read Llama Llama Nighty Night before she goes to sleep (“…read a book with silly rhymes…”).

And how can I not share these adorable pictures (even if they’re unrelated)? She loves her rainboots! She wanted to wear them pretty much all day!

Ugh, she’s such a little sweetheart! And I get to have another sleepover with her this week! Yay!

Happy Monday, everyone!

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Stop Growing!

Being an only child and the youngest cousin, I often looked to friends’ families for my baby-time. One of my best friends from grade school got a little sister while we were still in the prime of our Barbie phase.

I remember getting the call from my friend when her sister was born asking which of the two names they were going between I would prefer. I remember meeting her the day she came home from the hospital. I remember playing with her in the car on the way home from school. I remember holding and snuggling her every chance I got. I remember babysitting her throughout the years.

She’s 12 now.

I feel so old.

She didn’t have school on Friday, so she texted me asking if she could come over and play with Juliana.

It was so surreal to see the baby I snuggled at that age playing with my niece (which was also hard to imagine 12 years ago)!

Juliana loved having a new friend to play with! She wanted to go outside and show off her swings and her climbing abilities and her llamas. She wanted to show off all of her toys, favorite hiding spots, multitude of books (short attention span when asked if she wanted to read one of the books), and her most recent charm: saying “Oh no!”

We were all a little sad when JuJu’s new best friend had to go home, but it was time for a nap!

After the nap, grandma let her play in the water and, surprise surprise, her clothes got a little wet. We changed her shirt and tried to put pants on her, but she did NOT want them. And when we were sorting her clothes, we came across some flip flops from last summer and she wanted to wear those for the rest of the day!

She’s such a silly girl!

This is the outfit she greeted her second new best friend in! A friend that I hadn’t seen in a while came by later in the day and Juliana greeted her at the door and pretty much walked right into her arms. I was very pleasantly surprised with that greeting–she usually clings and gets really shy when she’s meeting someone new.

It was a perfect–perfect–day! Both of my “babies” did some major growing up. Now they can stop!

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Our Very Bubbly Easter

This year we were chosen to host my brother’s family for Easter. Which meant that we were actually going to have some plans for the day. We usually go to church, have hard-boiled eggs and ham, and have an evening bonfire with some friends. But nothing is structured and it usually turns into all of us kind of going our own separate ways until bonfire time.

A few weeks ago, my brother approached me with the idea of making it a “Kids Cook Easter.” My parents were not to prepare any part of the meal. It was all on us. Which, honestly, didn’t seem like too big of a challenge to me. I mean, there’s nothing complicated about ham and scalloped potatoes.

It turned into him making the “dinner” and me making everything else (brunch and dessert). And I must say, I think my contributions outshined his. I made my now-famous caramel rolls for brunch (served with hard-boiled eggs) and this masterpiece. Speckled Malted Coconut Cake. I am seriously proud of this. My mom was really bragging it up!

(One recipe note: the frosting was giving us all sugar rushes–almost one whole bag of powdered sugar is too much.)

Aside from the food, of course, the main focus of the day was Juliana. She got another day with all of her (hopefully!) favorite people and animals, so she was having a ball. Until she ran right through nap time and finally ended up falling asleep almost 10 hours after she had woken up.

But while she was still up and running, she continued to decorate the windows.

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She also got some presents. First came grandma’s.

My mom saw this while she was killing time between meetings a few days ago and couldn’t pass it up. This girl is a foodie, so it was a slam dunk. She hadn’t opened any presents since Christmas, so she needed a little reminding about how to do it. Once she figured out how the velcro worked, she just sat there and put the candle on the cake and then pulled it off about 20 times.

Then her parents pulled out their present for her.

None of us had any idea how much she would love the bubbles. She started out just wanting to catch them.

Then she wanted to blow her own bubbles!

I don’t know, do you think she liked them? You never know how this girl is feeling…

She loved her “bubbas!”

While she slept, my parents decided to light the fire. I volunteered to stay inside and wait for the girl to wake up. So I watched the fire from inside.

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We don’t do small when it comes to bonfires. (We are very responsible about it, though.)

It was cloudy all day and then, miraculously, the sun came out just in time for the sunset. Those are always the best sunsets. (This was after the peak.)

I hope all who celebrated had a happy Easter!

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