Mortvedts Go to the Mountains!

We did it. We not only survived, but enjoyed, what I would consider to be, our first family road trip! We have made many weekend trips, and even a couple slightly longer trips to visit family, but I classify this as our first real road trip, because it was longer than a week and involved stops at several locations along the way.  Chloe drew this lovely “Map of Destinations.”  It’s not quite to scale, or geographically accurate, but you get the idea 🙂

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Our first overnight stop was in Kearney, NE. We were very excited to meet up with some friends that are like family and were so thankful to be able to stay with their grandma. Monday morning brought beautifully clear skies, which was a relief, because we were looking forward to viewing a total solar eclipse. The eclipse did not disappoint. Children and adults alike were enamored!

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On Tuesday, we made it to Estes Park, CO and were welcomed into the home of some long time friends. I met this wonderful family my senior year in high school, when they had a toddler and a baby. Years later, they have a senior in high school (oy! That did not help me feel youthful 😉 ), a third child, and I’ve gotten married and had a couple kids of my own. While our families have grown and changed, the hospitality they showed me and my family was the same as when they first welcomed me into their home years ago.

When we first started driving through the foothills, we suggested that the kids might want to stop playing on the iPads and look out their windows. They complied and spent the rest of the drive ooh-ing and aah-ing over the mountains. Devon stated, “Colorado is sooo cool! I wish we could live here!” We spent Wednesday and Thursday exploring the mountains, which only solidified the idea that Colorado is cool and my kiddos wouldn’t mind living there!

Wednesday, our friends took us on a hike to Gem Lake on Lumpy Ridge, part of Rocky Mountain National Park. The total distance was about 4 miles, but with the elevation change and higher altitude it was not easy for any of our family members. Thankfully, there were plenty of snacks, fun older kids and encouraging, experienced hikers with us, so we all made it!

 

On Wednesday afternoon, we took the Estes Park Aerial Tramway to the top of Prospect Mountain. Our kids were ready to explore more mountains, but couldn’t handle any more hiking. We were ready to enjoy some more beautiful views, but couldn’t handle any more whining 😉 This was the perfect solution!

 

Thursday morning, we headed into Rocky Mountain National Park. Again, we were thankful for our local friends who acted as our guides. They drove us up Old Fall River Road, the original automobile route through the park. It is a narrow one-way road up the mountain with lots of narrow switchbacks. It was a perfect slow journey, with beautiful views the entire way up – made more perfect, because neither Aaron nor I had to do the driving! We stopped off and explored Chasm Falls and found a small trail with some very friendly marmots.

 

At the top, we stopped off at the Alpine Visitor Center where we got some souvenirs and Junior Ranger workbooks for the kids. We took Trail Ridge Road down the mountain, which was paved and a little less precarious, but not any less exciting. We spotted Big Horn Sheep (!!) and stopped off to see Forest Canyon.

 

On our way out of the park, we stopped and got the kids’ Junior Ranger badges and got to see a really neat topographical map of the park, showing where we were, where we’d been and all of the places we’d have to come back and explore another day.

On Friday, we headed out of the mountains and visited the Denver Aquarium. There were sea creatures from all over the world – real and imaginary. Chloe’s favorite were the “adorable otters and bright colored tropical fish.” Devon really liked the sharks and sting rays and we all thought the mermaids were pretty impressive.

 

After the aquarium, we headed to a hotel in Loveland. With bunk beds in our room and a water slide in the pool, this was pretty much the best kid hotel – and perfect for the end of our trip! To add a little bit of normal to our lives, we found a local pizza joint and had Pizza (But No Movie) Night 🙂

Saturday was our last day in Colorado, so even though we weren’t really in the mountains anymore, we wanted to make sure we still got out to do some hiking and exploration. We headed over to Devil’s Backbone and took a 3-ish mile hike. It was much easier than our previous hiking, but it was a great fit for us on our own – and we didn’t have to bribe the kids with nearly as many snacks 🙂  Although the one time we found shade between a couple boulders, they did decide it was the perfect time for a snack break!

 

We decided to make the drive home in one day. Our maps program told us it was 9 hours and 46 minutes of driving time. With stops for lunch, dinner and gas, we had the lofty goal of making it home in 11 hours. Turns out, our kids are rock stars and we made it in just 10.5 hours!

Not only did our family make a lot of great memories on this trip, but it was a great introduction to longer-term traveling. The flexibility of being able to travel at our convenience is one of the many things I love about homeschooling and am hoping to take advantage of more in the future. On the way home, I may have even started planning another trip!

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Oh Heeyy!

It’s been a while since I updated. I’ve just been over here having someone else’s baby. No big deal 😉 Ok, that’s a lie. It was a big deal, but I’ve been hesitant to share a whole lot of information like I did with my own kids (here and here) because parts of this experience feel like they aren’t really mine to share. However, this has been a big part of my life and my family’s for over a year, so I wanted to share an update.

Just over a month ago, I very quickly delivered my surro-baby (this is a popular term for a baby you have delivered via a surrogacy.) I had attended my prenatal swimming class as usual, but when I got home at about 7:30, I felt like I was having more frequent contractions. They didn’t hurt, but they were coming more often than my Braxton Hicks normally did. I sat down to rest for a while to see if they’d space out, and when they didn’t, we decided to go to the hospital to get checked out. About 45 minutes after arriving at the hospital (the hospital that is a half mile from my house) the baby was born and placed in the arms of his parents.

From the first time I thought, “Hmmm…Is something happening here?” to the time the baby was born was only a few hours long. Only about the last half hour was painful – although wo-man was it painful to go from 6cm to a baby being born in 45 minutes. The short duration was probably the only thing that allowed me to do another med-free birth, but I did it!

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With 3 of us hanging out in my hospital bed post-delivery, I decided to leave the hospital after less than 24 hours so we could hang out in a bigger bed!

The most frequent question I heard during and after this pregnancy was: Won’t it be hard (wasn’t it hard) to give up the baby? But here’s the thing – this was never my baby to give up. This baby was his parents’ from the start. I was just babysitting. So the official answer: No. 🙂

The last month or so, a lot of people have asked: What’s it like to come home without a baby? or What is postpartum like without a newborn at home? The official answer here: It’s different. It’s hard to classify it as harder or easier, because it’s just different. Yes, there isn’t another little life to care for. That’s certainly easier. But my body still had to recover, physically, from growing another little human and delivering him into the world and there are still crazy hormones to deal with. That’s a constant. I’m pumping every few hours and waking up once overnight to pump, and there’s no cute baby to snuggle to go with all the work. I won’t say that makes it harder, but it’s certainly a challenge.

And speaking of pumping and breastmilk… After I started pumping, the parents decided they didn’t want to use my breastmilk, so our freezer looks like this.

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This is just over a week’s worth of milk. I’ve given the rest away to local moms. According to the app I use to track my output, I’ve spent over 130 hours pumping and gotten over 17 gallons of milk. That’s over a day a week spent pumping and about 4 gallons a week. I feel a bit like a cow 😛

 

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And Just Like That, She’s 8

Oh, my. Every year I’m taken aback by all the feels on my kiddos’ birthdays. I so enjoy watching them grow and change, but I’m not quite ready for the getting older part that comes with it!

My little girl (she’s still little – okay?!?) is in limbo these days – wanting to be treated like a “big kid” and enjoy all the perks that come with being big, but still not quite ready for all the responsibilities that come with it. Being in this limbo comes with a lot of big emotions – that we’re all learning to deal with.

These days, Chloe is most passionate about art, cooking and baking. Pretending to cook and bake, as well as playing outside (when it’s warm – she totally gets that from me!) and reading are also high on the list. She loves time with friends and enjoys playing with her little brother, about 75% of the time 🙂  When we have littles over to our house, she is nurturing, loving and entertaining. When we have bigs over, she is full of energy and loves to play elaborate games.

While she sometimes has lofty goals, she still loves the little things in life. Today, she loved the candle in her biscuits and gravy at breakfast. We had lunch at Daddy’s work, and stretching out in a lounge chair was one of her favorite parts. On the way home, I stopped at Caribou on campus and she was thrilled to get her very own hot chocolate. Her presents from us included an outdoor rocking chair and a toothbrush that lights up for 2 minutes. They were both on her list of 8 things for her 8th birthday and she was ecstatic. We finished the day by celebrating with some of her friends at Hickory Park. Her favorite part was making up names for her french fries before eating them.

I am thrilled to have such a wonderful, smart, silly girl to be raising. Listed below are the answers to the 20 questions we ask every year – more silliness and simplicity.

  • What is your favorite color? Purple
  • What is your favorite toy?  Kitchen stuff
  • What is your favorite fruit?  Bananas
  • What is your favorite TV show?  Odd Squad
  • What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?  Leftover Pizza
  • What is your favorite outfit? Dresses
  • What is your favorite game?  Clue
  • What is your favorite snack?  Cheese and crackers
  • What is your favorite animal?  Dog
  •  What is your favorite song? Shake if Off – sang by Rosita and Gunther in Sing
  • What is your favorite book? Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew
  • Who is your best friend? Nya
  • What is your favorite movie? Sing
  • What is your favorite thing to do outside?  “Play cooking things in the sand”
  • What is your favorite drink? Lemonade
  • What is your favorite holiday?  Halloween
  • What do you like to take to bed with you at night?  Tangled blanket, George and Monkey
  • What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?  Biscuits and gravy
  • What do you want for dinner on your birthday?  “Maybe breakfast if we weren’t going to Hickory Park.’
  • What do you want to be when you grow up? A cook 

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The Sixth Love Language

When we got married over a decade ago, we were given a copy of “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts.” If you haven’t read the book, what it boils down to is that if you know your love language, and the love language of your spouse (or whomever you’re trying to show love – child, family member or friend) that you can more effectively connect. These are the categories that the book lays out:

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According to the quiz you can take on their website, my love language is Acts of Service.

“For these people, actions speak louder than words.”

And while I would say that is fairly accurate, I feel like really there should just be a 6th love language: food. If i think about it, the act of receiving or giving food to others, could be considered an act of service. For me though, the act of providing or being provided food definitely ranks higher than other actions.

When I’m happy or sad, when there’s something to celebrate or someone needs cheering up, food is my answer. It’s my birthday – let’s eat all the best foods! You’ve had a baby – let me bring you food. You’re sick – let me send you a gift card to your favorite restaurant. You’ve had a rough day – let me find a bakery who will deliver!

Luckily, my husband and kiddos know this about me. So yesterday, on Mother’s Day, we didn’t have any big, elaborate plans, but we did have lots of amazing food. Breakfast was crepes, both savory and sweet. If you know me at all, you won’t be surprised to find out we had s’mores crepes!  Lunch was KFC with my mom, which is (disgustingly) delicious and brings back memories from childhood, when we’d have KFC at my grandma’s every year on Mother’s Day. The only thing that would have made it better would have been a turtle ice cream pie from Baskin Robbins, another tradition from Grammie’s house. Unfortunately, there isn’t a Baskin Robbins in town, so we had to made due without. In the afternoon, we visited my mother-in-law and had strawberry shortcake. We finished off the day with homemade deep dish pizza, that my kids and hubby started prep work for on Saturday.

There were gifts as well, both store bought and homemade. And they were great. But something about the food made me feel really loved and appreciated! So just know, if you ever receive food from me, chances are I’m trying to show you I care!

If you were to create a 6th love language that best described you, what would it be?

 

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Spring and other things…

Right now, my kids are in the backyard playing. They’re wearing bicycle helmets and are alternately battling each other with giant sticks or sliding down the slide head first, upside down and every which way. (They’ve done both of these activities before and I’ve thought about stopping them, but they’re wearing helmets and haven’t sustained any major injuries, so they continue!) They are barefoot and D has taken his shirt off, because he was just soooo hot. It’s 59 degrees and gloriously sunny.

At this time yesterday, my kiddos were sitting at the kitchen table drawing pictures and making books. They asked for hot chocolate and were wearing their slippers. It was raining, windy and the real feel was in the 30’s. We’d had at least 4 days in a row with the same, dreary weather.

This is springtime in Iowa, or maybe just Iowa weather in general 😉  At times, I find it to be almost more trying than winter, and I hate winter! It’s always tough when you get a taste of something great – sunshine and wonderful, warm weather – only to go back to something less desirable – the cold, rainy weather. My kids certainly don’t like the days when I insist that they wear socks and shoes, after running around barefoot the days before.

However, I try to keep reminding myself that spring is a sign that summer, and all the things we love about summer are on their way. Soon, we’ll be able to have playdates at the park and spend hours at the pool. We will be able to enjoy picnics, evening walks and bike rides on a regular basis. As the weather improves, we happen to be finishing up some of the curriculum we chose for this year, so we’ll be able to wind down and spend less time on schoolwork – which means more time playing!

I’m so very thankful for days like today that remind me that the sun will come out again, regardless of how many cloudy days we have in a row. And in case you missed it, I’m not just talking about the weather. There’s a deeper meaning to all this too 🙂

Although, seriously, I much prefer the sunshine! Oh, and I’m also singing “Tomorrow” from Annie – the 1980’s version…

On a side note: I’m also so very thankful that summer is on its way, because summer is flip-flop season and baby-time! At almost 34 weeks, I’m just done tying shoes. Even boots that I have to pull on are just too much some days. And 34 weeks means that in a month or two, this baby will get to be in its parent’s arms. How awesome is that?!?

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Being a Mom is Hard

Being a Mom is hard. There’s no way around it. I’m not whining, just putting it out there.

For me, being a stay-at-h0me-mom (SAHM) is really, really hard. Working moms certainly have their own challenges, and I remember that being really, really hard at times. But I honestly never thought I’d be a SAHM. I always just assumed I’d work. And I did for almost the first 5 years of my momming career. Sometimes it’s still hard to wrap my mind around my stay-at-home, homeschooling mom life.

I read this article the other day and it really hit home. This paragraph, specifically, really struck a chord:

“The times that I’ve felt most alone and unhappy as a SAHM were the times that I felt as though all I was doing for my family was completely overlooked or taken for granted. It’s not that I don’t have a kind and loving family—it’s just that so much of the work of a SAHM is the kind of thing that only gets noticed if it doesn’t get done.”

I’ll be completely honest. I’m not good at the “housewife” part of being a SAHM. At least once a week, there’s probably a full load of dishes ready for the dishwasher before it gets emptied of the clean dishes. There’s almost always an unfolded basket of laundry (or two or three…) sitting in my room. And my house still hasn’t been fully dusted from our drywalling experience a few weeks ago. When the house is a mess, it feels like I’m failing.

Then there’s the momming part of being a SAHM. (Wo)man. It exhausts me to constantly shape these little people. And let’s be honest, most of the time, it doesn’t feel like lifelong important shaping of their lives. Most of the time it feels like refereeing a fight between two monkeys or trying to reason with a dog barking at a squirrel on a power line in your backyard. (I’m speaking from experience on this one. Georges is ridiculous.) When I run out of patience and lose my cool, it feels like I’m failing.

Oy. Then comes the isolation. So many days go by where all my adult interaction comes during preschool drop off (D’s teacher must think I’m super chatty and outgoing!) and after 5PM when Aaron gets home from work. By then, I’m low on patience, and not always super chatty. It’s awful. When I’m miserable from lack of relationships, but I don’t have the energy for my most important relationships, it feels like I’m failing. 

So what’s the solution? Well, I’m well aware there isn’t a perfect solution. I can work on moving things in the right direction though.

Here’s what I think. I need is a tribe. I happened to read an article on that recently as well.

“We cannot do it alone.  We need a squad.   A tribe.  A village.

We have a deep need for community and relationships.  It’s in our XX DNA.

 What if you don’t have a village?  Well you need one.”

I need a squad, a tribe, a village – I don’t care what you call it. I need friends and fellow moms I can turn to when I need a break, when everything is going wrong and even when everything is going right and we just want friends to celebrate life with. But how do I find my tribe?!?

I’ve been staying home for almost 3 years now and I still struggle with this. I certainly have friends, but it seems like everyone is busy. It’s difficult to make real connections on a regular basis. I’m a huge “what-if” type of person, so I constantly wonder – would things be different if I’d been staying home since day 1? What if we went to a different church? Maybe if we didn’t homeschool I’d have more connections? Do I need to put myself out there more, make myself vulnerable and be more outgoing?

I don’t know what the answer is. But I’m not willing to give up. I’m going to keep trying, and hopefully some day (s00n) I’ll have my squad.

Although I’m sure, even then, being a mom will still be hard.

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Another Day, Another Mess

When my children are at their most creative, and generally getting along the best, they are also at their messiest. Sometimes, it seems as though the contents of an entire room have been rearranged or moved to another room for the sake of their game.

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The kitchen of their tiny house, aka – the living room.

The problem is, when I ask them to clean up said mess, you would think I asked them to eat liver and onions while standing on their heads. I’ve learned that there’s a little less resistance if they’re given plenty of warning, but even still, it is a painful experience. C has to examine each individual item very carefully before putting it away. Sometimes, she has to reorganize everything before she can start putting anything away. And D, he just shoves things away. When cleaning out his bookshelf, I found dirty socks, dog toys  and used tissues shoved onto the shelves.

Additionally, D loves to keep everything he ever touches. Or sees. He might need it some day, you know, for an art project. To give the boy credit, he does like to create using boxes, empty bottles, cardboard tubes and tape. Lots of tape. And I love that about him. But, that doesn’t mean he needs to keep the plastic ring from a Cool Whip container or every single toilet paper tube that’s ever been in our house. Good luck trying to convince him of that though. Here’s what I hauled off the top of his bookshelf and the floor in front of it today:

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Now, I’m trying to figure out how to keep everything in balance. I’m not a neat freak by any means, but I’d like to have some semblance of order in my house, without having to do all the work myself. This seems reasonable with a 7 and 5 year old – at least more so than a few years ago! And I’d prefer if my son didn’t end up on an episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive some day. They’re good about helping with specifics jobs, such as laundry, dishes or even scrubbing toilets. Putting things away and knowing what’s important enough to keep are the things we struggle with. So, my question is, how do you teach your kids to keep a (reasonably) neat house, without nagging or stifling their creativity? 

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