Those Who Can, DULUTH!

The cat’s slowly creeping out of the bag.  So much change in such a short amount of time.  I’m sorry that some of you are finding out this way.  It wasn’t something we publicized greatly once we really started to implement the final stages of our plan in late March.  I’m still nervous about sharing it since we haven’t officially closed on our house yet (passed inspection and set to close in late June), but yes, it’s happening!  We are FINALLY moving to Duluth!  And I’m so excited about how well it’s worked out so far that it is hard to keep to myself!

So… the obvious part… You all knew we wanted this.  It’s been anything but a secret.  No short term goal but something we’ve seemingly dragged out for almost a decade.  And the things that had to happen to get us to this point have certainly been stressful.  We’ve experienced ridiculous highs and scary lows.  Obnoxiously long story short, we accomplished this because we didn’t give up.  Everything fell into place because we worked so hard to do it right and time everything perfectly.  I still have trouble believing how easily this all went down which is why I’m so nervous it’s going to cave in at any moment.  To finally see all this begin to culminate… it’s almost unbelievable.  I still have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that it’s actually happening.  I think it’ll become more real when we sit down on our first night in our house.  Zo will be sleeping peacefully in her brand new, pink, gray and dragon themed bedroom (by request).  We will be surrounded by boxes.  I will be half way through my glass of one of the hundreds of delicious Duluth craft beers that I used to have to drive 2.5 hours to get.  I will most likely break down and cry.  I just can’t believe it.  I can’t even fathom how this is going to feel.  A home.  Finally.  Someone pinch me.

I had written a much longer post (it’s already long-winded, I know!) about why we’ve been so removed from everything, but I realized that it shouldn’t matter.  And it doesn’t matter.  All I can say is that we did what we needed to do to guard our goal from destruction.  From distractions.  We were so afraid to share what was going on because we were so afraid it wouldn’t happen.  We’ve accomplished what we once thought impossible and I can tell you that there were many nights when we felt like we just couldn’t keep going.  We’d sit on the couch feeling that malaise.  Should we just buy a house down here?  Keep Zo in her school?  But we always came back to the same conclusion.  We wouldn’t be happy.  The appeal of a new, flashy Prior Lake or Stillwater house would wear off in a few months and we’d just end up saying to ourselves, “I wish we lived in Duluth.”  Restless, again.  All the sacrifices we’ve made would have been for nothing.

In a nutshell, our plan went perfectly.  We are able to transfer our positions to our Duluth office and we were so fortunate to have an offer accepted on a house in our desired neighborhood with a view of the lake.  An impressive view, at that.  The interior is beautiful and I can’t wait to fix up the outside!  We were the first ones to see it and the first (of TEN) to offer.  Who knew the Duluth housing market would get so competitive? The sellers are transferring to the Twin Cities for work at the exact same time we need to move out of our townhouse so that couldn’t have worked out better.  Zo will be assigned to the grade school we desperately wanted her to go to.

So, why do I feel so scared when it is all going so well?!  Change is difficult; this is true.  But this is the change we’ve been working so hard for.  Perhaps, it’s that we will have accomplished that goal that we’ve spent the majority of our adult lives trying to achieve.  What’s next?  Should that be something I worry about?  I truly think that the beauty is, I can finally relax and take the time to exist.  No breadcrumb trail of consequences that could effect the outcome of our goal.  Just happy, windy, northern-cold existence.  I will have to relearn everything:  a commute-free schedule, a route to school, where to grocery shop, where to take Spliff to the vet, and mostly, just how to live without unyielding stress.  With this lack of stress… oooooh… I can’t even imagine the sleep I’m going to get!  Until then, we haven’t closed on the house so that is still our hanging chad.  I think I will have one ore two more sleepless nights.  I won’t feel like this is real until I have a house key in my hand.  I honestly couldn’t have done any of this without Ben.  He works so hard for our family and I would’ve given up on this craziness a long time ago if it hadn’t been for his persistent pep talks and positive attitude.  Ben tends to go unappreciated.  I want to put it out there, because it doesn’t get said enough… He’s amazing.  He is the reason we succeed.  He’s the rational voice in a crowd of crazy.  Love him.

frontdeck viewI hope that the next time I do a house update, it’ll be because we’ve successfully closed and moved in!  Wish us luck!  Thank you to everyone who had a hand in our success with all this.  It was so difficult and we are truly grateful for the love and support we’ve received!

California Vacation 2015

I estimate that it’s been at least 15 years since I’ve visited my home state of CA.  Ben, Zo, and I were eternally grateful when we found out my parents were treating us to a vacation in Palm Springs/ Rancho Mirage for a week!  I won’t bore you with drawn out details and explanations… let’s just hit the highlights!

Zo got searched by TSA.  Her primary concern was Toothless’ wellbeing.  He came through just fine… and they made her “officio” TSA… IMG_6454 IMG_6461 IMG_6472 IMG_6477 IMG_6480 IMG_6484 IMG_6486She flies like a boss.  Can’t complain one bit. When we arrived in Rancho Mirage, I couldn’t believe my eyes when we pulled up to the house… GORGEOUS. DSC_8171 DSC_8173 DSC_8168 DSC_8159 DSC_8177 DSC_8183 And the BOUGAINVILLIEA!!!  Breathtaking… and EVERYWHERE! DSC_7281 DSC_7278 DSC_7272 DSC_7269 DSC_7260 DSC_7256


We were in the pool most of the seven days that we were there!  Zo learned to swim under water and dive down to the bottom of the deep end of the pool!!!  We were honestly in awe.  She was a fish.  Even Auntie Carly, the swimmer of the family, was impressed!

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We went to the San Jacinto range and rode the tram to the top.  Again, breathtaking…

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Grandpa bought Zo a bag of rocks (she was geeked!) so we had to immediately investigate those (and all the others that she picked up on our hike) when we got home!

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We also commemorated the huge a** digger I took during our hike.  Nothing like a little snow rash from your desert vacation.  I amaze myself sometimes.


We took many walks in the gated community we were staying at… mostly so Zo could collect her rocks in her rock necklace on our “wock walks”…

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Ben was the grill master during our trip, and he didn’t mind, because he had help…

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Ben, Zo, and I headed to Joshua Tree for a day trip.  Again, I’ve never seen anything so breathtaking!  From the view of the San Andreas fault (geology geek in me was flipping out) to the bird watching, I was in heaven…

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Zo was completely in her element, being that we were surrounded by rocks (especially nose rock that you can see above in which she’s making a pig nose in front of).  She even completed a Junior Park Ranger course (had to complete and document activities during her time at the park).  She even had to take an oath to earn her badge and certificate.  I think this was the highlight of her trip.  She kept telling us she couldn’t believe “I’m an actual Power Ranger now!”  Although, her best quote came from one of her required activites.  She was required to think about what she smelled, saw and felt while at the park.  When Ben asked her what she smelled she quickly stated “I smell Joshua Trees!”  Since she did such a wonderful job completing her Junior Ranger workbook, we let her pick out a “guy”… she chose a Bighorn Sheep. She loves putting flowers behind his ear :).

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We had a lot of fun time with the Giesens.  It’s so sweet to see Graham and Zoey have some quality time together!  Cousins!

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And, of course, with Baby Jillian… Melt!

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We took a trip to The Living Desert Zoo and Arboretum with the entire group.  The landscape was stunning and impressive!

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Speaking of creatures, I was in bird nerd heaven!  So many new species to see!  And hummingbirds everywhere!

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And, we obviously have to mention that we were vacationing over the most epic of Pi Days.  3.14.15 at 9:26!!!  A sure cause for celebration!

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My Mom’s best friend and my Aunt Uncle ;), Carol, came to visit while we were there.  I was so glad she was able to come and stay.  Zo adores her!  We went out to dinner and witnessed a gorgeous sunset.  The best of the trip!

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It’s the sad truth that this is the longest amount of time I’ve spent with Zoey since my maternity leave with her four years ago.  I treasure every moment with my mini me.  She is a light in so many peoples’ lives… even those she’s just met.  I’m proud to call her my daughter.

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She appreciates things most adults take a lifetime to learn.  I’m grateful every day for her.

Speaking of grateful, a HUGE thank you to my parents, Wayne and Connie, for the trip of a lifetime!  You treated us to EVERYTHING and we are lucky to have you.  It was exactly what we needed.  We love you more than we can say, and a token of our appreciation for the trip (and, quite frankly, all that you do and have done for us) will be waiting when you get home.  :)  Thank you both!

46 Months

Things have been chaotic the past few weeks!  I was sick on March 4th and it was sub zero the rest of the week so we decided to wait until yesterday to take Zo’s monthly pictures.  She’s 46 weeks (if that’s relevant at this age LOL) and that means only 2 months away from being 4 years old!  How did that happen?!

She’s looking so grown up these days!

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The Dump

Partners in cheese-related crime.  Neither have met a cheese they didn’t covet…

buddiesReasons I love visiting Marisa:  beer, cheese, ridiculously delicious home made breakfast, Bacon (unrelated to breakfast)…

IMG_5368The only way we seem to be in pictures together…

IMG_5687Long day at the dog office…

IMG_5511A good brother humors his little sister.  Even if it means being completely encased in a fleece tent wearing the equivalent of a Polar Bear’s coat…

IMG_5411Love this picture Zo drew for my office… Us holding hands and Toothless flying in the sky:

IMG_5660And this one of her holding hands with Grandma…

IMG_5694Daredevil…  She tells us her spider name is “Spydon”

IMG_5564A girl after her parents’ hearts…

IMG_5488“I could stand out here forever, cuz the cold never bothered me anyway.”


45 Months

Don’t know what this kid’s been eating at school; she’s been growing like a weed the past month.  She’s up to my belly button now… over 40″ tall and barely fits in a 4 these days (like highwater pants).  Her feet have gone up at least one shoe size.  Poor thing has terrible growing pains in her knees (she has my genetics to thank for that) and we can always tell when a growth spurt is approaching because she has night terrors.  The other night I found her sitting up in bed facing the wall with her hands clasped together whining.  I asked her what was wrong and she told me that she needed me to give her a line.  I was very confused but she kept demanding that I draw her a line.  I drew a line with my finger down her hands and she went back to sleep immeditely.  Super weird, but pretty interesting what she comes up with in her sleep.

  • I’m so proud of her when we are out shopping.  If anything is on the floor, no matter what store we’re in, she insists on putting it back where it belongs.  She isn’t satisfied until it’s back in its exact place.
  • She’s so emotional (in an adorable way).  She teared up during Katy Perry’s half time performance of Firework.  That made me tear up.  She just feels.
  • Sunday morning girls’ coffee is my favorite tradition that we’ve stuck to since moving to Apple Valley.  We do our grocery shopping for the week at Super Target while we both enjoy a Starbucks… she loves the kid’s hot chocolate.  She is an awesome helper.  I tell her what we need off the list and she helps me get it off the shelf and put it in the cart.  I think she feels grown up when she’s involved.  She is starting to remember where our usual items are and will bring them to me without me having to ask.
  • This is the age I was fearing when I became a mom.  The age where she starts to understand rejection and teasing.  Sometimes, the boys at school give her a hard time when she wears her Toothless shirt.  I try to explain to her that they are just jealous of her awesome t-shirt and that I love that she likes what she likes without feeling pressured to like what other little girls like, but she had a better explanation that was so adorably understanding:  “Sometimes, people will be not nice to you.  But that means that they are sad.  You can walk away and play with a different friend and then play with them again the next day when they don’t remember your Toothless shirt.  I just really like Toothless.”  If that isn’t the sweetest, most heartbreaking representation of a beautiful, empathetic heart, I don’t know what is.
  • Favorite toy:  TOOTHLESS (more than ever… he even has his own voice now and when bad behavior is displayed, “it was Toothless’s idea”).  She also loves all her How to Train Your Dragon action figures and her train table, which she’s turned into a zoo.
  • She LOVES to color/ draw/ write her name.  It’s all she wants to do right now.  Her drawings are changing drastically every day.  Her sunshines are my favorite.
  • Favorite Show/ Movie:  It’s all HTTYD, all the time.  We now own every episode of Defenders of Berk and Riders of Berk and we frequently watch HTTYD2.  She even remembers her favorite episodes by name and has legitimately memorized almost every breed of dragon in the shows/ movie.  This morning in the car on the way to school:  “Mommy, do you think you could do your best to find me the Smothering Smokebreath Dragon toy from the episode Breakneck Bog?”  Kid is specific.
  • She learned to skip almost overnight.  She’d been struggling in her dance class to catch on to skipping.  She had one leg down with the double hop, but would just put her other foot down and go right back to the foot she could skip with.  It was more of a gallop.  We were in the MOA the other night and, out of nowhere, she just skipped away from me.  She was so proud of herself and she now skips everywhere.
  • Favorite Color:  Pink, yellow, and black
  • Favorite/ Overused Saying:  “That’s a bummer!”
  • Favorite Food:  Dunkers and Tomato Soup (dunkers are a grilled cheese sandwich) and Red Noodles n’ Meat (that’s Ben’s spaghetti with ground turkey)
  • Favorite Song:  Where No One Goes from How to Train Your Dragon 2… song is really difficult to understand, but she knows every word
  • Favorite Book:  Book of Dragons (are you sick of me talking about dragons yet?)

So, several factors go into sabotaging Zo’s monthly pictures in the winter… The fact that it’s winter and we can’t go outside, the fact that the sun sets before we even get home from work, our townhouse has no overhead lighting (who designed this dang thing?!), the fact that our townhouse is only 1200 sq feet which leaves no square foot uncluttered and photo ready, and that our external flash batteries were dying and we had no spares!

But, fortunately for me, Zo loves having her picture taken so she always brings her A game!

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They’re Everywhere!

Dragons!  We’re infested with dragons!  We eat, sleep and breathe them (literally, since we have Toothless shaped mac n’ cheese and fruit snacks, we cover our cuts with special order HTTYD Bandaids, drink out of Toothless cups, eat off of Toothless plates, read Toothless books, and sleep in Toothless sheets).  Every single part of our lives revolve around dragons… specifically, Toothless and How to Train Your Dragon.  This is no secret to you.  You’ve known for a long time that Zo has a passion for this. We had to pull her off this dragon at the carousel at the Mall of America last weekend.  She just didn’t want to say goodbye.  Her love runs deep.

IMG_5288Heck, her last birthday party was all about Toothless and dragon training.  This passion grows by the day.  She has not grown tired of her precious “T”, as she calls him now.  He goes to school every day.  He comes to the mall with us.  He goes for coffee.  He watches her take a bath.

IMG_5227 IMG_5263We’re never without “regular T” (as opposed to Gigantic Toothless, BT (baby Toothless), BT2, Short T, Smelly Toothless, etc… who all sleep in her bed, by the way). Gotta love a little girl who sleeps with dragons, mutants and aliens…

IMG_5224 IMG_5273Now that she’s a bit older, we have had to branch out to all the other dragons from the movies and shows.  We have to have all the dragons so that “Toothless doesn’t get lonely.”  She’s determined to collect them all and knows everything about them from their names to what type of dragon class they belong to.  This keeps me busy trying to find toys that grow more sparse by the day (not as popular as one would think).  I’ve been stock piling a dragon package for Valentine’s Day so take these pictures lightly, as the collection will be growing in February.  :)  This photo shoot was Zoey conceived.  She asked us “Will you please take a picture of me in my Toothless costume with all my dragons?”

IMG_5327 IMG_5326She plans to frame it.  I will most definitely oblige.

IMG_5323 IMG_5325 DSC_6292 DSC_627820140508-110400.jpg 20140508-105827.jpg 20140508-105915.jpgI know you’ve heard me say this a million times, but I just find a little girl in all black with dragon shoes so endearing.  She is so unique.  She’s herself.  She goes where no one goes.  I wouldn’t trade any one of her dragons for a pink tutu or purple glitter pony.  Sure, we like Frozen and The Little Mermaid… but you can never take… OUR DRAGONS!

(Please tell me you caught the movie quote there LOL)

44 Months

Ben, Zo, and I were sitting on the floor the other day watching How to Train Your Dragon 2 for the tenth time this past week.  Zo in Ben’s lap, and Spliff in mine.  I looked over at her and she heard the music at the beginning of the movie when Toothless and Hiccup appear for the first time.  She had the biggest smirk on her face.  At this moment, I had one of those moments of TRUE happiness; the kind you can’t explain or really even understand.  I don’t know why my brain picked that moment to feel it, but it was everything about everything.  The music, all of us on our tiny living room floor, her smirk, the tangled ponytail of bedhead hair, Nutella stained pajamas, and Spliff looking over his shoulder at me.  In that moment, I was the happiest I’d been in a long time.  It’s been this thing for me lately… I just have that overwhelming feeling of love and explosiveness that you can’t create no matter how hard you try.  It just has to happen on its own and it comes from all over inside of me.  See… you can’t even explain it.  It sounds all wrong.  The one that makes you want to happy cry because it feels so much bigger than anything inside you.  I know I’m sounding dumb, but it’s so different than anything I’ve felt in a long time.  Nothing in particular happened.

I love Zo because she sees the beauty in these moments too, and for a 3 year old to grasp that… it’s beyond my comprehension.  I see her tearing up when she hugs Ben or kissing Peen on the cheek when she thinks no one is looking.  She tells her Toothless that she’ll always be there for him.  I love her excitement and passion.  When we ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she tells us a Dragon Rider.  She also wants to be an astronaut and play the fluta (she only refers to the flute in Spanish for some reason).  The past few weeks have really brought on major changes.  She’s on a whole new level with her vocabulary and conversational skills.  Just the other day she told me that she wanted to be an only child.  I asked her if she’d be lonely and she sighed, cocked her head to the side and said “Yeah, I would be, but I think I can handle it.”  And, one of my favorite conversations between Ben and Zo this past month…

Ben:  Raise your hand if you love Zoey!
Zo shoots both hands up into the air quickly.  We both start laughing.
Zo:  You should really love yourself.

  • Favorite Color:  Pink and Black
  • Favorite Food:  Green Beans, Donuts and Mac and Cheese
  • Favorite Movie:  How to Train Your Dragon 1 and 2, Bedknobs and Broomsticks
  • Favorite Show:  Riders of Berk, UmiZoomi, TMNT and Wallykazam
  • Favorite Song:  From HTTYD2

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“The Biggest Tree We Ever Seen!”

I’m a little late in posting this one!  We went down to Red Wing in early December to see the Minnesota tree on its way to the Washington DC!  Zo loved every second of our evening with Grandpa and Grandma.  She even signed her name on the side of the truck (below the Duluth Lift Bridge of course!) and drew a huge line through someone’s message… so sorry Pam, Paul and Mork!   Such an awesome memory for her to have.  And, we even got to say hello to Santa and Mrs. Claus!

DSC_4720 DSC_4727 DSC_4731 DSC_4733 DSC_4734 DSC_4742 DSC_4746 DSC_4747 DSC_4763And this kid is braver than I.  She thought it was super funny to “be under the tree truck”…