Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wild Nights: NYE 2012.

Happy New Years to all of our dear friends and family.  We wish you a happy and healthy 2012!

As we ponder the New Years of old, we think of big parties, overflowing drinks, dancing and dawn-induced bedtimes.  That was all BC (before children).  Now we party hard from 4 pm - 7 pm (we can only last until Simone's bedtime).   We celebrated NYE with the Tobin family:  Tracy, Roxie, Livi and Parks.  We partied it up kiddie-style with sippy-cups and toys.  Don't worry, the adults did partake in whiskey and wine.  And after we got home (at 7 pm), Bob and Mimi even stopped down for an ice cold Stella.  Then, Dirk and I treated ourselves to steamed crab, asparagus and Stella.

Signing off at 10 pm.  Please keep the noise down :).  Happy 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Very Merry Christmas 2012

We had a wonderful Christmas.  We were able to celebrate with family, spend some quality time together and presents were aplenty!  We celebrated with the Swansons on 12.18.  Santa made a surprise visit to Bobby and Mimi's house.  Cullen answered the door, threw his arms in the air, and exclaimed "SANTA!!!".  Simone, on the other hand, wanted nothing do to with the man in red.  She was fine at the mall, but that Santa sat quietly on a chair as she approached.  This time, Santa came in shouting "HO, HO, HO" and ringing a bell.  Simone lost it every time we even moved 2 inches closer to Santa.  She was happiest sitting on Mimi's lap on the other side of the room. 

On Christmas Eve, Cullen had fun putting out carrots and Reindeer food and making Santa a plate of cookies (complete with a glass of milk).  On Christmas morning, the kids actually allowed Dirk and I to sleep until 6 am (that's late for us!).  And we spent the morning opening presents and playing with toys.  Santa brought Cullen a tool bench and a piano.  Simone received a doll stroller.  And Santa left a kid-sized tee-pee for both. Then, Grandpa Mark, Grandma Liz, Brigette and Mason ventured down for Christmas night.  We had a great time playing and teaching Mark and Liz how to use their new IPad!

Now it's operation, Where-do-we-put-all-of-these-toys?!  We are lucky and grateful to have had such a nice holiday.  Special thanks to Bob, Mimi, Grandpa Mark and Grandma Liz.  You are wonderful grandparents! 

Time for stringing lights and stitches?!

2 noteworthy things happened last week:  we decorated our house for Christmas and Cullen Robert Swanson got his second head laceration requiring stitches.  I will start first with the stringing of the lights.  We are big fans of getting a "real" tree.  We opted out of the tree farm experience this year as the kids are still so young and it just seemed like a lot of work.  Therefore, in the dark of night (7 pm), Cullen and Dirk set out to the lot next to the Kwik Trip gas station to pick out a tree.  When they got it home, Dirk and I noticed that it didn't look very symmetrical, but agreed it would be fine once the branches dropped.  After 24 hours, the tree didn't look any better.  We decided that every tree needs a little love (even the not-so-pretty ones).  We couldn't be happier with our Charlie Brown Christmas tree and realize that's what you get when you allow a three-year-old to pick out the tree at the lot next to the gas station in the dark! 

Now onto the stitches....  Cullen was playing outside on the playground equipment at the YMCA daycare.  There is a tire in the climbing wall, and Cullen hit his forehead just right on the frozen tire and suffered a pretty deep gash.  By the time I got to him, his teacher had stopped the bleeding; she gave Cullen a Popsicle; and we were off the the ER.  Cullen wasn't crying when I saw him, but he had a scared look on his face.  Once we got to the ER, his first question to the nurse was "are you going to give me a shot?"  (He is obviously traumatized from our flu shots earlier this fall.)  She told him "No" and he was at ease.   Dirk met us in the ER shortly after arrival and his first words were "this kid is going to look like a prize fighter!"  They put some numbing gel on the cut and then a very nice doctor came in and stitched him up.  Three stitches to be precise.  Cullen never even cried.  I think it may have been the promise of  lunch at "Old McDonald's" that helped him stay so calm.  After five days, he got those stitches out and he's looking a lot better. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Santa's Rap" - Starring Cullen.

"Jingle Bell Rock" - Starring Simone.

Holiday Cheer.

Cullen and Simone, along with cousins Jameson and Quinn, starred in the 2011 YMCA Daycare Holiday Show.  The long-awaited day arrived and the kids got dressed in their best Christmas clothes.  Quinn's class danced to "All I want for Christmas is a Hippopotamus".  Simone's performance came next - a rousing rendition of "Jingle Bell Rock."  Simone wasn't quite sure what to make of the crowded gym and rows of spectators.  She took her role very serious:  ringing bells and blowing on her kazoo.  Jameson marched in waving a holiday flag and sang "Jingle Bells".  Cullen's class sang two songs acapella "Santa Claus is Coming" and "Happy Holidays".  And the grand finale was "Sana's Rap".  Cullen mastered all the accompanying dance moves - complete with the crowd-pleasing booty shake.  I hope you enjoy the pics and videos as much as we enjoyed the live show!

Saturday Night Live.

.The Swanson Family had one busy and exciting weekend.  Friends stopped over to Casa Swanson on Saturday afternoon for pizza and to prepare for the Badgers to take on Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship.  While the kids kept the noise levels elevated in the early part of the night, the adults took over later on.  

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lots of Turkey and Lots of LaVignes

We celebrated Thanksgiving weekend with the LaVigne clan.  Liz and Mark hosted 40 at their house and that includes 7 kids ages 3 years-old and under (Cullen 3, Mason 3, Sylvie 3, Simone 1, James 1, Rosie 6 weeks and Dane 3 weeks).  To allow my mom and dad a little peace and quiet for the big preparations, we stayed downtown Minneapolis at the Millenium Hotel on Wednesday night.  The kids loved the view from the 10th floor and the pool on the first floor.  Then, Thanksgiving day was full of the usual, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, the famous Angry Trout wild rice and pumpkin pie.  The main event on Friday was a LaVigne kickball game.  Even the littlest ones (Cullen, Mason and Simone) were on the field.  Then everyone headed back to Mark and Liz's for some dinner:  take out pizza and Indian food (ask Mark and Mike about Naan bread). 

Mary Quirk, who is always so poignant with words, said that the best part of being a LaVigne is that everyone matters.  A whole room of family will stop to honor even the youngest child's accomplishment.  We have a lot of differences in the group:  republicans, democrats, sport stars, academic geniuses, gray hairs, red hairs, brown hairs and dreads.  Being a LaVigne is what we have in common and we are all very proud of that!

Turkey Trottin' Boys

Cullen and Dirk both competed in the MPLS Lifetime Fitness Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day.  Dirk and his friend, Brian Brieske, ran a 5 K.  Cullen ran one entire lap around the indoor track in the Target Center Lifetime Fitness Club. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Smiling Faces

Both Cullen and Simone seem to have an aversion to smiling for the camera as of late.  Therefore, I took it upon myself to try to get as many smiling mug shots as I could for this post.  I succeeded in a few!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Welcome Baby Dane!

We are proud to announce the birth of Dane Joseph Feste.  Proud parents Annie and Drew can't seem to wipe the smiles from their faces.  Dane weighed in at 6 lbs. 14 oz. and was actually 3 weeks early. He is practically perfect in every way and absolutely adorable.  His thick head of black hair has Annie wondering if the old wives tail about heartburn linked to baby hair is true.  Simone loved meeting the baby, almost as much as she loved the licorice that Uncle Drew was feeding her.  Cullen thought he was very sweet.  Mason also like Dane, but wondered "how am I supposed to play with that baby, he doesn't have any hands?" (Mason was a bit confused as Dane's hands were tucked into the sleep sack!)   Dane is a wonderful addition to our family and we are can't wait to watch him grow.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or treat, smell my feet.

If you can't already tell from the pictures, Simone was a cupcake and Cullen actually had two costumes - a firefighter (like Uncle Drew) and Bucky Badger.  Cullen wore the firefighter costume to his school party, Bucky Badger to Grandma Ione's, the firefighter costume again for trick-or-treating and Bucky Badger as his Halloween PJs.  

For the past week, we have been teaching the kids proper Halloween etiquette:  "Trick or Treat" followed by "Thank you".  As we stopped at the various houses on our street, the kids were doing great.  That was, until we stopped at Mike and Jeanie Abraham's house.  Mike Abraham proceeded to tell Cullen the age-old rhyme "Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat".  Cullen laughed as if it was the funniest thing he had ever heard (and it actually might be).  After that, Cullen continued to repeat the silly rhyme and the etiquette went out the door!

Simone loved riding in the wagon for our trick-or-treating adventure.  Cullen started the night walking, but as his legs grew tired, he joined his sister in the wagon.  Simone loved accumulating candy.  I'm not sure she realized that all of the stuff people were giving her was edible.  Cullen also loved the candy.  He was good though, and didn't eat any until we got home.  I think the highlight of Cullen's night was actually answering the door as his cool older friends Julian, Jackson and Molly came by.  Sometimes, passing out candy is just as fun.

I would also like to give a shout-out to Mimi and Andy at the Onalaska fire department.  On Friday afternoon, Mimi picked up Cullen from school.  Since Cullen had his firefighter costume on, we lined up a visit to the fire department to see Firefighter Andy Barnhardt (our babysitter's husband).  Andy gave Cullen the royal treatment and he was voted an honorary firefighter for the day.  That's the perks when you are a super cute 3-year-old dressed in costume.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Everything is fun.

Everything is fun:
A map.
A wastepaper basket.
Couch cushions.
Trikes and bikes.
A kazoo.
Crazy chicken hat.


We call is soccer.  Other countries call it futball.   Whichever word you choose - it's a fun sport!  We signed Cullen up for YMCA youth/parent soccer.  Just like his t-ball experience, it wasn't really a team - there were no official soccer games played.  The kids worked with two coaches who led us through fun games and drills.  Cullen learned to dribble, pass, shoot and score.  He loved running around the soccer field with his buddy Parks.  The most important rule was remembering "no hands".  And the coaches did a great job of mixing games like Freeze Tag and "What Time Is It Mr. Fox?" in with the learning drills.

The program not only teaches sports, but also the YMCA's core values:  respect, honesty, responsibility and caring.  At the end of every drill, the coaches will spend 5 minutes talking about the importance of the key values.  When Coach Sam asked the kids to give an example of what "caring" means, Cullen piped in and told her "don't carry the ball with your hands."  He was right, but not quite....


Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall Fun.

What have Cullen and Simone been up to - you might ask?  The answer is:  fall fun.  The pics speak for themselves.  Enjoy.

Friday, September 23, 2011


This weekend Dirk competed in a race:  Tri-Quest (  Tri-Quest consists of a 5K run, followed by a 33k bike and 18 holes of golf (no cart).  Dirk competed as a 2-person team with his friend Charlie Nelson.  Kari Nelson, Cullen, Simone and I drove out to the race to cheer the guys on.  I am proud to announce that Dirk and Charlie finished first in the 2-person-team men's 30-39 year-old division.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Goodnight cookie-cookie-banana-pants!

Goodnight cookie-cookie-banana-pants is how Cullen signed off tonight.  He is in a silly stage and loves making up crazy words and rhymes that sound funny.  It's such a sweet and innocent time, some days I want to trap him at this age forever.  Other days, not some much - like when we have to negotiate which shoes he is going to wear for 10 minutes when we are already running late in the morning.  The other day, a little girl at school told Cullen that he was her boyfriend.  Not really understanding the true definition of the word, he corrected her and told her that he couldn't be her boyfriend because he was already "daddy's buddy".  Cullen also started in a new classroom at school:  the 3-year-old room with Miss Jenny and Miss Rachel.  This year the focus is on independent activities, basic learning (numbers, letters, colors, etc.) and continuing to develop social skills.  So far, his favorite activities have been cutting paper with the safety scissors, swim lessons and feeding the classroom's pet fish.

Simone continues to amaze us with how much she actually understands.  I can tell her it's bath time, and she will run right for the tub.  She has also become a little gopher (no pun intended!) and will fetch certain items at our request.  When we were up at Big Fish Lake, Grandma Liz asked Simone to pick up her glasses.  Overhearing the conversation, Mason ran over to the glasses, picked them up and handed them to her.  Then, he told Grandma Liz that "Simone doesn't speak English".  While this is partly true, she sure does understand a lot and is learning more and more English vocabulary each week.  Simone is now proficient at "quacking" whenever she sees a duck.  When we pick her up from school, she greets us with a big grin, puts her arms up and after we scoop her up, she turns to her teachers and friends and says "Ba-Bye" (translation:  I'm outta here!).  Last weekend, I put Simone's hair in pig-tails.  It was a mullet looking hairdo (bald on top and party in the back), but it really was cute. 

Finally, we had a much needed parents' night out with the Swanson clan to celebrate Bob and Mimi's anniversary.  It was nice to sit around and chat without the distraction of our crazy little rugrats!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Big Fish Lake Weekend 2011

The LaVigne clan headed up to Wowee's cabin on Big Fish Lake for Labor Day Weekend.  The weather wasn't all that great (cool and super windy), but we still had a great time.  Cullen and Mason loved riding bikes, collecting rocks, playing beach ball soccer and just hangin' out.  Simone loved getting into all of the knick-knacks (which were breakable of course), playing with her grandma and grandpa and eating (she loves to eat and is always down for a meal or a snack).  My cousins MaryBeth and Martha, who go to college at St. Ben's, stopped over for a home-cooked meal on Saturday night.  It's so nice to have this great cabin in the family.  We have so many memories here as kids, and it's fun to allow our kids the opportunity to create theirs. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

There's nothing better than the Sweet Shop.

There's an adorable little ice cream shop about a mile from our house called the Sweet Shop.  Cullen is a big fan of their Blue Moon ice cream.  I tend to go for chocolate chip.  Dirk prefers a chocolate/banana malt.  And Simone, she just takes bites from everyone else!  To make ourselves feel better about the treat, Dirk and I will bike or run there with the kids.  At least we get a workout before and after stuffing our faces with ice cream.  On the way home tonight, Cullen got out of the buggy a few houses away because also wanted to run.  Unfortunately, his shorts were too baggy and kept falling down.  So he just took off his shorts and finished the run in his polo shirt and underwear (always a good look!). 

We had a fun visit last weekend with our neighbors, Justin and Lindsay Pretasky.  Justin (who Cullen refers to as "Big Cracker") introduced Cullen to his first He-Man cartoon.  Now Cullen has been running around yelling "I have the power!"  Simone thought their house was pretty cool and loved looking at all of the dead animals on the wall (also referred to as taxidermy). 

We have been reminded lately that kids say the darndest things.  There's a new song by Adele titled "Rumor has it".  For some reason, Cullen hasn't been able to make out the phrase "rumor has it", so instead he sings "Goo-ga-heady".  It's hilarious to hear him in the back seat belting out this nonsense word.  Brigette and I used to do the same thing when we were little and didn't understand all of the words - so I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  Simone has been trying to expand her vocabulary.  It's sometimes hard to make out what she is saying, but puppy, baby, cup and di-down (sit down) are some of her new words.  She is also mastering sign language (please, more and all done). 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

look who's biking!

Dirk spent about 10 minutes helping Cullen.  And then, the little man just took off!

look who's walking!

We noticed on Sunday, Simone just began choosing to walk over crawl.  Just like that.  At 14 months, she just decided it was time!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Door County or Bust.

The Grizwalds embarked on their first family trip.  Door County, WI was the destination.  Grandma Liz and Grandpa Mark also joined in on the fun.  We stayed at the Landmark Resort in Egg Harbor.  It was the perfect place with two little ones.  We had 3 bedrooms, a kitchen and were in close proximity to the pool.  On Saturday night, Dirk and I ventured to the Gordon Lodge for Brian Planey and Megan Dyer's wedding.  Cullen and Simone stayed back with Grandma and Grandpa.  My mom and dad served as our tour guides - they are experienced Door County visitors, while it was our first adventure.  I have attached links to the fun list of activities:  swimming, a petting zoo, PC Junction train stop, the Cookery, etc.  We had a blast and have vowed to go back.

Salt Lake City Kid

Cullen and Simone had a recent playdate with Rune Sterbenz.  He was visiting family in La Crosse with his mom, Lisa (Nordeen) Sterbenz.  He's quite the handsome lad and his mom and dad have already approved of his romance with an "older" woman.  Simone is thrilled!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


The heat is on....

It's too hot to do anything outside except for playing in the water.  On Sunday, we set up a slip and slide and the kids had a blast.  Then on both Monday and Tuesday nights, we had a swim party with the Erickson kids (Julian, Molly, Jackson and Ava).   It's an awesome perk to live on the river during a heat wave.

Chance as good as the lottery....

When trying to take a picture of 2 toddlers and 2 babies, the chance that you will have all 4 looking and smiling is basically as good as purchasing a winning lottery ticket.  I tried my luck at a photo session with the Swanson cousins:  Cullen 3, Jameson 2, Simone 1 and Quinn 3 months.  As you can see, it's a one in a million chance that one perfect pic will turn out.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Little Triathlete

Cullen participated in his first triathlon on Saturday.  The events for the 3 - 4 year-old division were as follows:  swim 20 yards, bike 1/4 mile and run 0.1 miles.  The triathlon was not timed, the goal was merely to finish and have fun while doing so.  Dirk completed the tri alongside Cullen.  Dirk participated in his first sprint triathlon this spring, so he had lots of pointers for the little man.   Cullen opted to swim with the help of Dad, his water belt and the noodle.  As he transitioned out of the pool, his cheering section was there to keep him motivated  (Mom, Simone, Jason, Tracy, Jameson and Quinn).  Dirk was so concerned with getting Cullen ready for the bike that you will notice he neglected to put shoes on his own feet.  This became a bit painful when he and Cullen finished the run in a field of sand burrs.  Cullen attributes his performance to his balance bike and his "fast shoes".   He finished the tri with flying colors and received a medal at the end.  And in his mind, the grand prize was the bounce house at the end of the finish line.  We asked if he would like to do it again next year and he said yes.   We are very proud of our little triathlete. 

Little Chairs

Simone is obsessed with little chairs.  Basically anything that is her "size".  She constantly crawls into Cullen's room where we find her sitting at his table and chairs playing.  We recently moved her rocking chair from the bedroom to our family room.  She loves to sit and rock back and forth and back and forth....

Simone is now taking a few steps on her own.  We have caught her taking as many as 6 at a time.  She still prefers to crawl - because she can get from point A to point B pretty fast that way - but the walking will be here in no time.  Because she is always on her knees, we have been sending her to school everyday with a dress and leggings.  We make sure to put leggings on to protect her little knees when she plays outdoors.  We know that once she is walking she is no longer a baby and will no longer need the leggings.  Until then, she can remain our baby.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

picnics, skinned knees, baseball, sunrises and sunsets....

Here's an update on our summer happenings:
- Grandma Liz and Grandpa Mark brought down Cullen and Simone's Christmas present:  a pint-sized picnic table.  The kids love to sit together and eat their treats outside.
- Simone's favorite new activity involves climbing inside her to table to play.
- Cullen's favorite new activity involves playing educational games on Mom's ipad. 
- We went to dinner last Friday at the scenic Trempeleau Hotel.  The restaurant was a bit stuffy for the kids, but they had a blast playing in the yard.  Cullen fell down a few times and skinned his knee, but Dr. Dad was able to make it all better. 
- Simone's hair is starting to come in.  She has just one little curl behind her right ear.
- We took in a La Crosse Loggers baseball game with Tracy, Jason and Jameson.  Cullen, Jameson and Simone spent more time playing and exploring than watching the game.  But that's to be expected - right?!
-  Finally, Dirk captured an awesome sunrise one morning.  The amazing view never gets old.


Cullen is quite the daredevil on his balance bike.  For those who have never seen a balance bike, it's a small bike with no pedals and no training wheels.  The purpose is to teach kids to balance on two wheels from the start so they will make a quicker transition to a two wheel bike with pedals.  As you can see, we think Cullen ma be on that pedal bike sooner than later.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Let the games begin.

While Summer has yet to arrive, Cullen has just finished his inaugural T-Ball "season." The season consisted of 5 weeks of drills:  throwing, hitting, fielding and running the bases.  While Cullen was moderately interested in the throwing and fielding parts, games of catch would usually end with him running in circles or commenting on the guys playing softball on the opposite field.
Cullen:  Dad, those guys have numbers on their back!
Dad:  Yes they do, now go back over and throw the ball to me.
Cullen:  Why do they have numbers on their back?
Dad:  Ah, because that's what they use to tell the players apart.
Cullen:  Why?
Dad:  How the hell should I know, now get your ass back over there and throw me the  #*&#$!ball.
*The last statement was the authors thoughts and not verbalized.

When the hitting drills began, Cullen was all focus and having a blast.  At home he has always gripped the bat as a lefty so we went with that.  I think Grandpa Mark might be behind this, but he does a really good job making contact for a three year old and knocks it all over the field.

Base running ended up being Cullen's biggest joy.  This had little to do with the actual running of bases, as he would usually end of running for home plate when he was halfway between second and third.  The real excitement of base running was that all of his "teammates" would line up by home plate and slap five as he ran towards home.

Simone was content eating cheerios on the sideline (one of her favorite past-times).

Cullen certainly has a love for sports an we can't wait to see how far he takes it!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

hot. hot. hot.

The summer heat has turned up!  So with the heat comes the fun backyard activities.  Cullen and Jameson had their 2011 fishing expedition.  They both caught some huge sunfish (huge to a 3-year-old) with the help of their fathers.  Cullen's fishing luck was due to his new Buzz Lightyear pole, while Batman brought Jameson his.  We also set up the 2011 Swanson family pool straight outta the box.  Cullen didn't mind the freezing water from the hose - he just kept running from the far end of the yard to see how big of a splash he could make.  Simone loved the water table.  She just enjoys standing next to anything that is her "size".  She is still close to walking but not taking any steps on her own yet.  Dirk and I just enjoyed sitting on the patio, cocktails in hand, watching the kids!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

TGIS: thank God it's summer.

Summer "officially" kicked off this past weekend.  With the long winter and non-existent spring, we are due for a good summer and Monday didn't disappoint.  We spent the day hanging around a friend's pool with a cast of characters including: George, Joanie, Maddie, Dennis, Kari, Jack, Stella, Joe and Julia.   Both of the kids loved it.  Cullen has always been a water bug and Simone is taking after her brother.   Cullen loved jumping - or "diving" as he called it into the water.  Simone was content hanging in the baby floater trying to drink the pool water. 

Lisa and I are really looking forward to summer and watching the kiddos continue to grow.  Simone is now close to walking and is saying Momma and Dadda fairly easily.  In the last few days she has also began giving kisses.  They are a bit slobbery but I'll take them.

Cullen is getting more independent and daring each day.  He has begun to push the limits on his balance bike.  His new thing is riding down the driveway and into our neighbors yard .  He does this with his feet lifted - totally balancing on his own.  I was amazed the first time I saw him do it.  I was busy talking to someone, when I glanced back towards the house and saw Cullen:  feet in the air, flying down our driveway.  My heart was in my throat as I thought he was going to crash, but no sir.  He safely steered himself until the bike came to a stop in the neighbor's grass.  We'll try to post a video soon - it's hilarious.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A party @ Choo Choo Bob's.

We celebrated Mason's 3rd birthday at Choo Choo Bob's last weekend.  It's the kinda place that kids love; but as an adult, it kinda creeped me out! The store is for train enthusiasts - a definition of which Mason fits.  The front of the store is all about model trains for the adult collector (think Peter Pan Syndrome) complete with grown-up men dressed in costumes (weird) and the back of the store is a train play-land for kids.  Mason loved having his favorite cousins and friends together to play trains and eat cake.  What more could you ask for on your 3rd birthday?  Mason, Cullen, Abbie, Sylvie, Simone, James and Ray were all busy with the Thomas-the-Train tracks while the adults hung back and watched.  Mason wasn't too keen on having his picture taken and scolded Brigette when she asked him to pose (note the pictorial evidence).   It was a really fun party - and quite fitting for Conductor Mason.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

One Year Ago Today

Well, as of 6:17am this morning, little Simone has been with us one year.  Hard to believe, it seems like yesterday that I was looking into those beautiful little eyes for the first time and saying to myself,  "I will not let a boy near you until your 18."  It has been a year full of memories and laughter as we have watched this little princess grow.  Time flies when you are having fun.  As you can see Simone has taken after her Mom and Grandmothers and decided that one birthday celebration is not enough, making it a birthweek celebration.  Whatever makes her happy.  


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

April showers and all around crappy weather better bring May flowers!

Due to horrible weather, we've spent more time indoors than outdoors this spring.  Here's a few stories to catch you up to speed:
                Simone continues to push the bounds of her mobility by getting into things (the wine rack and Camp's dog food to be exact).  She loves pulling herself to standing and then walking around furniture.  I think she is only a few weeks from walking.  Get ready world!  Simone continues to be a good eater.  One of her favorite foods is blueberries.  It has good nutritional value, but also holds the ability to stain a baby's bottom if ingested in large quantities.  I know this because I got a call from daycare checking to see if Simone had a bruise on her bottom or if she had been eating blueberries lately.   She has mastered waving and even says an clearly defined "bah-bye".  On April 19th, Simone went through a minor surgery for tubes in her ears.  After her 4th ear infection this winter, we decided it was time to stop the antibiotics and get tubes.  Dr. Overholt said that Simone had quite a bit of fluid behind her eardrum and was probably uncomfortable.  Simone has been an even happier baby ever since.
                 Cullen continues to amaze us with his vocabulary and knack for coming up with ideas all on his own.   One morning, he looked at me and said "I know what we can do Mommy!  Maybe you, me, Dad and Simone can all go to Old McDonald's for lunch?!"  (aka McDonalds).  Cullen loves reading a nursery rhyme book at bedtime and insists that we sing all of the rhymes.  Dirk and I are constantly making up stupid, off-key melodies to fit the old-fashioned rhymes.  Neither of us holds much talent as a vocalist, but I guess Cullen doesn't know the difference.  Finally, one night Simone was up at 3 am with teething discomfort and Dirk and I decided she might need to cry herself back to sleep.  After about 5 minutes of some very loud crying, we heard a door open and another one shut.  Puzzled, we both got out of bed to find Cullen reaching his hand through the crib, rubbing Simone's back and saying "It's ok Simone."   He is such a loving boy and a very good big brother.  Dirk admitted that he would have just let his sister cry it out.  I guess Cullen could teach his old man a few things! 

Fun with friends.

Cullen and Simone recently had a fun evening playing with the Vogel and Dickinson kids.  Cullen, Jack and Alivia were all born in 2008; while Simone, Stella and Sofia were all 2010 babies.  It's funny how our Saturday nights have turned from beers and bar time to sippy cups and sun down.

We also recently met a new friend.  Adema Van Rooyen finally came home to La Crosse from Ethiopia.  He is a very sweet boy and is adjusting well to life in his new home.  Congrats to Randy, Kelly and Anders on the new addition to your family!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hippity. Hoppity.

Kiddie Riders.

We took in a morning of amusement park fun with Brigette and Mason at the Mall of America.  Cullen loved seeing has favorite cartoon characters:  Dora, Diego, and Blue.  The first ride that Cullen and Dirk went on was a little scary for Mr. Cullen.  I think he cried the entire time, while Dirk had a smile on his face.  Swiper's Car went a bit too fast around the corners!  But once we got to Blue, Cullen was much more at ease and actually enjoyed himself.  The fun continued on trains, big rigs and merry-go-rounds.  Dirk had the brilliant idea to put $1 in a little dime-store, 3-seat merry-go-round and Cullen, Mason and even Simone all got in on the action.  Cullen told us this was his favorite ride.  Funny how that works!  The simple rides are still the best. 

Welcome baby Quinn!

On Monday, April 11th, we welcomed a new member to the Swanson/Clark extended family:  Quinn Michael Clark.  Quinn weighed in at a whopping 9 lbs. 7.8 oz. and measured 22 inches long.  Cullen seemed confused as to why Jameson would have a baby brother when he had a baby sister.  He actually thought the baby's name should be Simone Quinn.  When Cullen finally met the adorable babe, he instantly wanted to kiss him and help take care of him.  Simone only could think about the pacifier in Quinn's mouth.  Congratulations to proud parents Tracy and Jason and to big brother Jameson.  We are looking forward to the fun times ahead!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Grocery store escapades and more.

We've had a few adventures in the past week including:  playtime at the park, a trip to Sawyer Cirone's hockey game, dinner with the Erickson's, a visit from cousins Lindsay and John Pihaly and an ordinary trip to the grocery store.  Cullen and Simone both seem to find fun in anything they do. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


potty-training and patience.

Weekend play time, weekend sick time.

It seems that everyone inside the Swanson house (with the exception of Dirk and Camp) has battled a horrible cold in the past week. I even took a sick day for myself last week - which is totally unheard of these days! Cullen and Simone suffered fevers on and off all weekend along with sniffles and coughs. That meant that we all stayed pretty close to home and the kids spent time playing together. As you can see, Simone likes to be wherever her brother is. Cullen is also working on his potty training skills. He wears "big boy underwear" at all times - unless he is sleeping. He does pretty well. Some days are better than others and sometimes he doesn't quite make it to the potty, but we are not turning back!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Frosting rules.

Cullen Robert Swanson is now 3 years old! We had a wonderful birthday weekend. On Friday, Cullen took treats to his friends at school. He decided popcorn and pudding were the perfect birthday treat combo. His teachers helped to open the pudding and then Cullen delivered each one to his patiently-waiting friends. Saturday was the big birthday bash! Cullen's guest arrived around 4 pm. Included in the bunch were: Mason, Jameson, Maddie, Jack and Stella. Cullen and the gang ran around the house, danced, jumped on the bed, opened gifts and ate pizza. Finally, Cullen's favorite part: birthday cake. He loves the everything about birthday cake: the happy birthday song, the candles, and the frosting. Cullen dug right in - face first. He really does have decent table manners and is great with a fork and spoon. But he was so excited to eat the cake that he just went in head first! The next day, Dirk and I gave him his birthday presents: a bike and a scooter. He loved them! Cullen's birthday comes at a great time of year, just as spring fever hits and it's time for outside play. He will be logging many hours on his new wheels this summer.

At the end of his birthday, I asked him what his favorite part of the weekend was and he replied "frosting."

Simone @ 9 Months.

Simone has hit the nine month mark and with that comes some new milestones:
- Simone is now crawling. Officially crawling. Not just rolling over and lunging. We have had to keep an eye on her as she now makes a bee-line for the dog-food dish (or whatever is inappropriate for a baby to play with/eat). And with crawling comes a few bumps and bruises. It's just a part of the phase.
- Simone's top 2 front teeth have poked through. The new teeth have come in handy with her experimenting palate. She loves to try new foods: avocado, blueberries, strawberries, fried rice, banana bread, pickles, pancakes, sausage and green beans to name a few. If you are willing to share, Simone is willing to try it!
- Dirk and Cullen worked together to lower her crib. Her new mobility had us concerned and we knew she needed a high gate to keep her safe at night.
- Simone has been busy playing with her friends. She recently spent time with Emma Reuter and Stella Vogel. She and Emma made each other laugh. Emma kept laughing and screaming as if Simone was the most hilarious person she had ever met. And Simone seemed quite jealous of Stella's hair. I guess when you have none, it's easy to envy someone else!
- Simone loves shoes. (Watch out Kick, here we come!) She is constantly crawling toward the door to find them. But it's not so sanitary when she puts them in her mouth. We have now taken to putting all shoes away in the closet.
- Simone continues to be a laid-back happy baby. She's an absolute joy to be around! We all adore her - especially her big brother!

Bi-Winning = Fresh Powder and Blue Skies.

Dirk and I were lucky enough to get away for a ski trip to Lake Tahoe. We went with our neighbors and good friends Roxie and Tracy Tobin and Matt and Megan Binsfeld. Thanks again to Mimi, Bob, Grandma Liz and Grandpa Mark for taking such good care of the kiddos (a.k.a spoiling) while we were away. Lake Tahoe was beautiful. We skied Sierra, Kirkwood, Heavenly and Squaw Valley. Whew! We were tired by day four, but had a great time! To quote the great Charlie Sheen, "Bi-winning" was the 18" of powder and blue skies at Kirkwood.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy 6.0.

We pulled off the greatest feat last weekend: a surprise 60th birthday party for Liz. She is a super-sleuth who never let anything go while we were in high school, but her guard must have been down as of late. And kudos to Mark for not spilling the beans! We had a big group (over 50 people) poised for the surprise at The Local in downtown MPLS. Everyone from her high school friends to tennis pals and family gathered to help us celebrate. We also need to thank Debbie and John Ondov for making up a fabulous lie/fake plans in order to get her out of the house. Everyone had a ton of fun celebrating the woman who doesn't look a day over 29!

P.S. A special shout out to Corky Veker who professed to be the's biggest fan!

Kids at Play

Here's a few pics depicting a "day in the life". Cullen and Simone both sit at the table to eat breakfast. Cullen has a breakfast bar, fruit and milk, while Simone munches on Cheerios. Sometimes Cullen insists on bringing a "friend" to the table - note the toy frog. A special thanks to Jess for the pink tutu. It was just the perfect outfit dress-up play. Cullen told Simone that she looked nice in her "princess dress." Finally, more snow. Cullen and Dirk played out side for over an hour, but Simone and I were back in the house after 10 minutes. Cullen loves helping Dirk shovel and we're hoping this (along with mowing the lawn) continues to fall on his list of favorite activities when he is 16.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Love in the Dominican Republic

We were honored to help our good friends Mike and Robbi celebrate their wedding in the Dominican Republic. Thanks to Mimi and Bobby for taking care of Cullen and to Grandma Liz and Grandpa Mark for taking care of Simone! We did miss the kids, but we new they were in good hands. Our friends Mark and Esti brought their daughter, Reece, so we were able to get some baby smiles when we needed them. We had a ton of fun in the sun, drinks were plenty and the wedding was awesome. It was pretty much your typical warm weather vacation: pool time, snorkeling, pool volleyball and tropical drinks. It was just perfect!

Winter Randoms

Here's a few random pics so all of our fans can keep up with the kids.  Simone continues to sport just the two bottom teeth.  And Cullen...  Well, he's fast like lightening, so it's hard to catch him for a photo op.  They are both delightful and so much fun.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday Jameson!

We honored to help Jameson celebrate his 2nd birthday.  The Dickinson clans, the Swanson clans and the Clark clan partied hard for about 2 hours (all the kids could take).  I don't know who was more exhausted at the end - the kids or their parents!  

Simone and Cullen took their first bath together.  Cullen was very chill in the bath (foregoing the usual splash party).  Simone just loved sitting the the tub with her brother.  This new step will be a time-saver for us during the bedtime routines.  And if the kids enjoy it, it's a win-win for everyone! 


Thursday, January 27, 2011

8 is great.

Simone is now eight months old and Cullen is 34 months old.  Simone is using her fingers to bring puffs and cheerios to her mouth - and she loves them.  She is also starting to scoot backwards.  We realize that her "immobile" phase will soon be coming to an end.  It's another sign that she won't be our baby forever. Cullen is truly a little man with thoughts and ideas all his own.  When we were on our way to the coffee shop, Dirk asked Cullen what kind of doughnut he wanted and Cullen replied "a circle doughnut".  When I was putting him to bed last night, he stared at me with a puzzled look and said "why did you take down the Christmas tree?".   And on New Years Eve, Tracy asked Cullen what color sprinkles he wanted on his cupcake and he replied "lots".  Fair enough.

Cullen and Simone are really beginning to interact with one another.  In fact, we often find them playing with the same toys.  However, big brother does get a little territorial and sometimes informs us that "Simone isn't playing with a baby toy - tell her to play with the baby toys."   Next lesson:  sharing.

Monday, January 17, 2011

January Fun

First off my apologies to you the loyal readers of Team Swanson, it's been too long and you deserve better than that.  Things are well around the Swanson household.  Simone was struck with a nasty little stomach bug last week, but she has cleaned that out and is now squawking happily again.  Simone is as content as a baby can be.  The only time she seems to get frazzled is when she is hungry.  Other than that, she usually has a huge smile on her face and is fine just sitting around and sticking whatever object is nearest her in her mouth.  She does seem to be getting closer to crawling, as she recently as started getting on her hands and knees and sliding backwards. 

Cullen has been as entertaining as ever.  Each morning Lisa and I wait in anticipation for the beginning of "Little Einsteins", because as soon as the opening credits start rolling Cullen jumps up from where ever he is sitting and sings dances to the opening song.  It is hilarious and a great start to my day.  Cullen is also quite creative, each day when we pick him up from daycare he has to show us the artwork that he has done that day.  However, he saves most of his creative juices for thinking up ways to avoid going to bed.   Each night, after we have finished books and turned out his lights, we will hear the click of his door knob.  I'll look around the corner and see this two year old walking on his toes, "neaking" as he likes to refer to it.  I'll ask him what is up and he will respond that "he needs a nack" or "I can't find Mickey."  He has figured out that these reponses will end up with him going straight back to bed.  This is where his ingenious little mind takes off.  He now "neaks" out and informs me that he has to go potty.  Damnit!  He has figured out I can't say no to that.  So off we go to the bathroom where he sits and talks for 10 minutes, until finally two drops of pee fall into his little potty bowl.  Gotta love it. 

As you can see in the pictures, Cullen had his first ski lesson.   He loved it.