Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Our little cherub.

Cullen preformed in the Cathedral School Christmas Program today.  The  32 adorable 4K students sang their hearts out!  The sweet kids walked onto the stage hands folded and huge smiles on their faces.  The songs performed included "The Friendly Beasts", "An Angel Came From Heaven", "Jesus Born in Bethlehem", "Santa's Helpers" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".  Cullen does not seem to lack in confidence and doesn't seem nervous in front of a crowd.  His face light up when he saw his fans in the audience:  Mom, Dad, Simone, Tracy, Jameson and Mimi.  He put his all into the performance and we couldn't be prouder.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Simone's Holiday Program

Simone starred (along with her 3-year-old preschool class) in the 2013 YMCA Holiday Show.  And this year, Cullen was along as a member of the audience.  After the babies made their cute entrance, Quinn shook bells and sang a nice rendition of Jingle Bells.  Then, Simone's class pranced in.  The 3-year-old class sang "Up on the Housetop", "Comin' down the chimney" and then danced to the "Santa Rap".  She sang her little heart out and did the corresponding actions.  When the "Santa Rap" started, her dancing feet got going.  Those little red sparkle shoes never stopped moving!  Finally, Jameson ended the program with "Jingle Bell Rock".  At the end, Santa made an appearance and this year, Simone was not scared.  Before the program, Simone asked if we thought Santa would think she was pretty in her new dress!  I believe he thought she as beautiful and quite the talent!

LaVigne Thanksgiving CF

What is a CF, you might ask?  Well, it's a clusterf#$%.  We celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with the LaVigne side of the family.  It was indeed a CF, but I mean that in the nicest sense of the word!  There were 40-some people (8 of whom were under the age of 5).  There was a mish-mash of food including 3 turkeys, 1 ham and plenty of fresh veggies from Beth's garden.  Tons of props to the Quirk Murphy clan from Key West.  Not only did they brave the cold temps, but they also flew up 30 lbs. of fresh seafood (grouper, lobster, shrimp and stone crab) for the day-after-Thanksgiving feast.  The food was great and the company was even better.  CF rules!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"And when it's over, I want everyone to remember that it all began with just one mouse." - W. Disney

We just disembarked from a 4 night Disney Cruise.  It was an absolute blast!  Dirk and I wanted a vacation that would capture the magic of Disney without the long lines and hectic pace of the theme parks.  And let's be honest, our little shorties are not tall enough to go on most of the rides anyway. The Disney cruise offers time and exposure to the Disney characters, great musical theater productions, fun-in-the-sun, water slides and swimming, easy room access for naps and downtime, and the  availability of adult beverages from multiple vantage points.  http://disneycruise.disney.go.com/ships-activities/ships/dream/

Cullen and Simone both enjoyed meeting their favorite characters from the Mickey Mouse gang.  Although Simone looked very stoic in all of the pictures, she smiled from ear to ear was we walked away.  And Cullen acted to-cool-for-school as we approached the characters, but as he came close he was the first one to run up with hugs.  On the ship, Simone enjoyed her first mani and pedi and swimming in the 2 1/2 feet deep Mickey shaped pool.  Cullen loved goofy golf, shuffleboard, the interactive detective game and the Aquaduck waterslide.  The theater shows at night were awesome. - musicals featuring stories and the best-of characters and songs.

The third night on board was "Pirate Night".  I had read about this in the itinerary, but was amazed at the lengths that the crew and some guests went to dressing the part.  As we came in from our swimming adventures, there were 4 Mickey Mouse bandanas on our bed.  And after Dirk came back to the room from an errand, he said "Boy there are a lot of people dressed like Pirates!".  So we decided that we had better put on our bandanas and head out.  The vibe on the ship was filled with such great energy.  Everyone was so excited.  The agenda featured a Pirate Party on the top deck at 6:45 pm (presumably for the young ones) and fireworks at 10:30 pm.  After dinner, we headed up to the early Pirate Party and a stage was set up.  Mickey and the gang came out singing and dancing.  They asked for some audience participation (dancing and singing).  Cullen and Simone were really into it and helped Mickey fend off Captain Hook.

Another highlight was going to the waterparks and aquariums at Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Bahamas.  Even for a toddler, the waterpark was awesome!  And Dirk and I both found a few minutes to sneak away and try the super fast grownup slides.

My apologies for the large volume of pictures.  It was just so hard to edit!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Little Spitfire.

Simone has been busy with gymnastics, swimming (lessons through daycare at the Y) and soccer.  She was hit and miss with her love of soccer - sometimes preferring to pick up the orange cones and use them as hats instead of goal lines.  Gymnastics seemed to be more of a fit - what toddler doesn't like climbing, tumbling, jumping, etc. For some reason, there was only one other little one in Simone's gymnastics class so she hardly ever had to wait for the teacher for help in the various activities.

However, it seems that Simone's real love may be in the performing arts.  She is constantly singing - mostly made up songs and playing dress-up.  She also likes to give "concerts" to her family.  These concerts consist of watching Simone sing, dance and play various instruments (piano, harmonica, drums and guitar).  Stop by if you are in the neighborhood and I'm sure she will be glad to entertain you!

Little Hobgoblins

Happy Halloween!  Cullen celebrated this grand holiday dressed as Captain America and Simone dressed as Sweden's beloved Pippi Longstocking.  We extended the celebration by attending the local "Enchanted Forest" walk through the nature preserve the weekend before Halloween.  The day of the great pumpkin was capped off by school parties followed by neighborhood trick-or-treating.  Simone only made it to about 6 houses before she decided it was cold and she wanted to pass out candy instead.  Cullen ran 100 yards in front of the pack to lead his crew and parents around the neighborhood.  As Dirk and I try to phase out the candy (mainly so we don't eat it all!) the kids are already talking about what to be next year.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Two Yards and a Cloud of Dust

Cullen took his first steps towards Gridiron Great in his inaugural year of BGC Flag Football.  Grandpa Mark anointed himself the nickname "Flyer" back in his playing days, so we referred to Cullen as "Little Flyer."  Cullen was the youngest kid on the team and it took him a couple games to catch on.  His first two carries he took the handoff and sprinted straight out of bounds.   But with the help of some of his older teammates and alot of practice (after every game he would ask to go home and practice) he began living up to the nickname.  Cullen ended up scoring a few TDs, had some great runs, pulled a bunch of flags.  However, the best part was seeing the excitement on his face no matter what happened.  Whether he was jawing with kids on the other team, this part was hilarious, 5, 6 and 7 year olds giving each other earfuls.  Whether he was blocking. Whether he was fumbling.  He was always smiling, skipping, or cheering.  The best story that demonstrates this was during the second game.  Cullen took a handoff and fumbled.  The other team recovered and ran the ball into the endzone. Cullen's team huddled up and then broke away, he came out of the huddle skipping with his hands in the air, screaming "We are running the exact same play, We're running the exact same play."  It was just classic.  Needless to say the next play didn't go to far.  It was a fun and memorable season and Cullen is already talking about next year.

Sunday, October 6, 2013


We enjoyed this years Oktoberfest with a family-friendly parade party - followed by an adult night out at the fest grounds (thanks Mimi and Bobby).  The kids loved the parade, the bands, the candy and hanging out with their pals.  Dirk and I also celebrated our anniversary - 12 years ago at Oktoberfest we got together and have been inseparable ever since!

pizza party.

What do you do when you have to pinch hit for dinner?   Have the kids make their own english muffin pizzas - complete with veggies, meat, cheese and sauce.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Apple Orchard Field Trips

I was lucky enough to take 2 mornings off and accompany Cullen and Simone's classes on a field trip to Ferguson's apple orchard.  It's a great outing for the little kids.  Farmer Tom takes everyone on a tractor ride, teaches the kids a bit about apple trees and then urges everyone to find the perfect apple!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Go Bucky!!!

Note to self:  95 degree heat for a badger game can cause serious toddler melt-downs.   Now that we know that fact we will never go to another UW football game during a serious heat-wave!  

The morning of the game, we arrived at Union South for the pep rally around 9:15 am.  This part of the day was awesome.  There was a live band, bounce houses, games, a Bloody Mary bar, a huge Bucky balloon and cotton candy.  At 10 am, the UW marching band and cheerleaders arrived to pump up the crowd.  It was a great time for kids of all ages!  But when game time arrived, the heat index kept climbing and it felt like 100 degrees (with no air circulation) inside the stadium.  The kids were hot, tired, whiney and crying for most of the 1st quarter.  We were forced to make the executive decision to call it good and embark on our 2 hour car ride home (translation:  2 hour nap time).  If you ask Cullen and Simone, they had a great time and loved seeing Bucky.  As we were walking into the stadium, a rowdy college kid pointed to Cullen and yelled "future Badger!".  I think it actually brought a tear to Dirk's eye!  

First Day of School: Cullen 4k

Cullen started the new school year with a transition to 4k and a new school.  He is attending Cathedral Catholic school (4k - 2nd grade).  It's a little school with small classes and welcoming community feel. The first day went fine for Cullen, but I was a bit sad (as I was across the ocean attending a work meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark).  Dirk gets 100% credit for all pictures and parental first week of school duties.  As Dirk describes it, the kids gathered in the gym on the first morning and when it was time to go to his classroom, Cullen followed his teacher and was 20 yards up the hallway before Dirk could even catch up to him.  So far, Cullen loves his teacher (Mrs. Sutton), library time, gym class, the ability to choose hot lunch or your own bag lunch (ask him about "beanie weenies" #not a fan), and going to a school with some of his older friends from the neighborhood.  He also doesn't mind wearing a uniform (white, red or navy polo and khaki or navy pants) and looks very handsome.

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!” 

“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” 
― Dr. SeussOh, the Places You'll Go!

Dear Summer, please don't end!

Tiny Dancer.

Simone recently attended her first non-family birthday party.  Sisters Alivia and Sofia Dickinson turned 5 and 3 this August and hosted a party at a local dance studio.  All attendees were welcomed to the party with a pink tutu (courtesy or Shonda).  The birthday group spent the first half of the party with a dance instructor learning a little number and then took a break for presents, cake and ice cream. Simone was hilarious.  Her energy level was extra high - due to a missed nap opportunity and the overall birthday excitement.  At the end of the party, when the little girls preformed their dance number for the parents, Simone seemed more into scooting across the floor on her belly (perhaps a genetic predisposition for the worm?).  At any rate, the party was a memorable one and Simone had a blast!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Giraffes and Big Fish.

We just got back from a fun weekend adventure starting with the Minnesota Zoo and ending with 3 nights at Big Fish Lake.  The kids had a blast feeding the giraffe, laughing at the monkeys and touching small sharks.  Then, the LaVigne clan gathered at Wowee's cabin on Big Fish Lake.  The kids had so much fun together:  baseball, swimming, smores and boat rides.  The four grandkids get along so well. With the big kids:  Cullen and Mason busy doing their thing, Simone has found a new partner in crime. Simone and Dane were best buds this vacation: playing, laughing, eating and even bathing together. We look forward to our summer weekend on Big Fish Lake every year and feel so lucky to have such a great cabin to use as our "get-away."


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Little Slugger.

The first season of Boys and Girls Club ball is in the books.  A couple of t-ball HRs, an unassisted double-play, and most important - Cullen always had a smile on his face!   This kid loves baseball. Ever since he could walk and swing a bat, he's been crazy about the sport.  Cullen was lucky enough to have his dad (along with Ryan Sauter) as a coach.  The season started out with what Dirk described as organized chaos.  No one knew which base to run to, which direction to throw the ball or whether they were technically playing offense or defense.  But as the season progressed, the kids started to throw the ball to first, run the bases in the correct order and many progressed from hitting off the tee to real, live coach pitch.  It was so fun to watch Cullen participate in an activity that he truly loves.  In fact, the week that temps hit 90 degrees we gave him the option of staying home if he thought it was too hot to play.  Of course, Cullen chose to play.  It's too bad that next season is 10 months away!

Finally, Cullen's group of die-hard fans also deserve a shout-out:  Simone, Mom, Mimi, Bobby, Grandpa Mark, Grandma Liz and Mason.  Thanks for the support!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Half Ironman

This spring my buddy Charlie signed up for a Half Ironman triathlon.  He asked me to join him, but I was hesitant.  I had done Sprint Tris, but the Half Ironman is a 1.2mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run. Being I had never even ran a half marathon this was quite a step up.  I went back and forth and then one day I was sitting at my computer and just thought the hell with it and signed up .  Twenty weeks later I crossed the finish line at the Ironman 70.3 miles in Racine.  The following is a recap of my race last weekend.

We arrived in Racine on Saturday for the Sunday race.  We had to get registered and our bikes checked into transition by 5pm.   We drove to the lakefront area where everything was located and I was immediately in awe of the size of the transition area.  The largest tri I had done up until then had had roughly 1000 participants.  This race would have over 2200 people in it.  Some recon was going to have to be done to find the most efficient routes in and out of the transition area.   We then headed on to the registration at the expo center.  The Ironman branded races are more expensive, but you see where the money goes.  Everything was done well, from registration, to support staff, on through the race.  Just great.  After registration we hopped in Lake Michigan and took a quick swim to accustom ourselves with the temperature and waves.  At this point the waves were roughly 2ft.  A little bigger than I was used to, but doable.  We then headed out to dinner and home to bed.

Sunday morning came quickly.  The alarm went off at 4am, but I really had been in and out of sleep since 2.  We arrived at the lakefront and the transition area was abuzz.  I headed in and got my stuff setup.  At this point my nerves are on overdrive and I'm ready to go. 

Swim.. We walked the mile from the transition to the swim start and I stared in disbelief at the size of the waves.  The two foot waves in Lake Michigan the day before had increased to between 3 and 4ft overnight.  Very intimidating, but weather conditions are a part of these races that you have to overcome.  This was just one more obstacle.   We were in the 18th wave, so we got to spend an hour watching the previous waves go off and see people start congregating at the buoys and grabbing on to support staff out as they were unable to deal with the waves.  This was a bit unnerving, however that is part of the challenge.  Wave 18 is called to check in.  We head over and then march through to the swim start.    Head to the waters edge and the horn sounds.  The first 200yds are directly into the break.  Very difficult.  Got to the turn and then it was a mile parallel to the shore.  Still difficult, but I really found a rhythm.  Got pushed off course a couple of times but was able to navigate back before missing any buoys.  I was swimming strong and relaxed and began seeing the caps of people who went off in the waves before us, which felt great.  Got to the turn back into shore and my thoughts were alright now I have the waves with me, should go faster.  Well that didn't happen.  Would get a rise when the waves went up and then dropped and the feeling of being pushed back with the break.   I felt like I was in a washing machine.  Swam as far in as I could.  Then had about 30-40 yrds of wading up to the beach.  Had a goal of 38 minutes and finished in 36:19.  

Bike-  The bike started out alright.  There is a rather steep hill right at the beginning and I had already adjusted my chain to a gear where I would be able easily pedal up the hill.  Many others did not and were walking their bikes up the hill.  Advantage Swanson, hehehe.   However as I rode away from the top of the hill, some issues arose.  I looked down at my Garmin Bike Computer.  Hmmm,  that can't be right, I'm definitely going faster than 5 mph.  My computer had shit the bed on me.  Disadvantage Swanson!  The GPS on the computer was so screwed up, that at mile 40 of the bike it had shown that I had only ridden 5 miles.  The lack of a computer was a bit of a pain in the ass. After training with this thing for the past 3 months and having a strategy in terms of speed and cadence for the race, I now would be going on feel.  But, that's part of these races.  Things happen and you adapt.  The course was a bumpy one and I worried about flatting for a good portion of the race.  I kept telling myself to just deal with it if it happened, but the constant jarring served as a reminder. The constant jarring also did not help my full bladder.  One of the things I had been told was that you're going to have to pee at some point in the race if you are properly hydrating.  When this happens you just have to "let it fly."   Well after drinking a good portion of Lake Michigan on the swim, coupled with my hydration plan the urge to "let it fly" had presented itself.  My problem was that there was no flying, just alot of backing up.  No matter how hard I tried to take a leak, I could get no movement.  I blame this on potty training kids the last four years.  All those times of getting upset at my blessed children for having accidents, it was now subconsciously prohibiting me from peeing myself.   Talk about a backfire.  Even with the broken computer, the bumpy road and full bladder, I felt strong.  This in conjunction with starting in one of the later waves, led to me passing alot of people, which always feels good and pushes me harder.   I ended up finishing in 2:40, 5 min ahead of my goal.

Run-  The run is where I'm strongest and I was happy as hell to get my sore ass off the bike and onto this section of the race.  My inability to "let if fly" had resulted in an extremely full bladder and finally at Mile 1 I said enough and hit a port-a-potty.  My gosh, what a relief.  It probably took me a full minute to get everything out and  I would have been a very effective tool for dealing with a wild fire if I had been standing in a helicopter.  I hopped out of the port a potty and away I went.
Miles 1-3:  I feel great.  My pace is roughly 7:40, right where I want to be.  I'm feeling strong and relaxed.  I got this
Mile 4:  Hmm, my left foot is beginning to become quite sore.  My pace has slowed to 8:00.  No problem, just hold it here.  
Mile 5:  Ugh, my foot is real sore and so are my hips.  My pace has slowed to 8:15/mile.  I know, I'll just walk a tad bit of this hydration station.  That should get me back on track.  
Mile 6:  What have I gotten myself into here?...  You got this!  Stop being such a wuss!..... What have I gotten myself into?..... You got this!  Stop being such a wuss!  This is the ping pong battle currently ongoing in my head.  
Mile 6.5:  Hey there's Lisa.  I give her two thumbs up.  I am lying. 
Mile 7:  Ughh...a hill.  The hell with it I'm walking this thing.  I am also now walking through the entire hydration station.     
Mile 8:  Hey there's Charlie straight ahead.  
Mile 8.5:  I catch up to Charlie, he's in worse shape than me.  I'm happy,  misery loves company.
Mile 9:  Charlie and I are now jogging between the hydration stations (every mile) and then walking through the hydration station.
Mile 10:  I'm beginning to feel a second wind come on.  The lady at this hydration station offers some flat Coke.  "Caffeine" she says.  That sounds wonderful.  I drink it.  I'm ready to go again.  Charlie is not.  
Miles 10-12:  Charlie and I run together.  He's having a tough go.  Cramping real bad.  I stick with him, offering words of encouragement.  We are now running between aid stations and walking at the aid station.  
Mile 12:  One mile to go.  Thank the Lord.  I tell Charlie that I'm going to finish strong and take off.  A half a mile later, I begin to hear the sounds of the PA announcer.  Another wave of energy hits me and I pick up the pace.  I come around a corner and am greeted with the finish line.  200yrds, both sides lined with thousands of screaming, cowbell-ringing people.  I pickup the pace more, until I hear "Dirk Swanson, LaCrosse"  and I cross the finish line.  I finished the half marathon in 1:58.  Eight minutes behind my goal. My total time was, 5:20:24.  Goal was 5:20.  Funny how those things work out.   

All in all, I was very happy with my performance and happy I did it.  The feeling of euphoria as I approached and crossed the finish line was unreal.  Months of training and 5+ hours of racing all captured in that moment.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Simone was so excited before our trip that she let everyone know at school that she was going on "macation".  This summer's macation took us to Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, WI.  http://www.osthoff.com/  We travelled with the Vogel family whose kids, Jack and Stella, are the same ages as Cullen and Simone.  So, as you can imagine, we are very compatible travelling companions.  

Osthoff's was awesome.  There was so much to do:  3 pools, a sandy beach in a spring-fed lake, golf, art classes for kids, smores by bonfire, a park, a lakefront bar, paddleboards, paddleboats and fishing (just to name a few).  We were also able to line up babysitters (thanks to a connection of Dennis) for an adult night out.  We may have been over-served at the local tiki bar, but sometimes that happens!  It was just awesome to go to a place where a 3 year-old and a 30-something can have an equally enjoyable time.  

Happy Birthday America!

We spent our 4th of July afternoon at Crater Island beach.  It takes about 30 minutes by boat to make it from our dock to the Crater Island.  We brought our impressionable young kids to the party cove where bikini-clad girls and beer bonging boys were listening to loud music and hanging out in the summer sun.  And the kids loved every minute of it.  I don't even think they paid much attention to the party scene as they were too busy playing with their cousins and friends.  Cullen and his buddy Logan loved running up and down the sand dunes, while Simone just floated in the water.   Happy birthday America!

Summer Fun

We've been busy with the typical summer activities: paddle boarding, jumping off the dock, running through the sprinkler, getting bug bites and golfing.   And it feels like we are all making the most out of this awesome, short-lived season.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Megan McB

This weekend we attended a Tugboat Christening for the J.F. Brennen Co.'s newest vessel named after our friend Megan.  The "Megan McB" was built specifically for harbor service operations.  Typically, these vessels are assigned a single port and operate 24 hours per day, 7 days per week performing barge switching, fleeting and lock assists.  J.F. Brennen is a family business (founded in the Binsfeld family in 1919) and has a history of naming vessels in its fleet after family members and employees.  Megan (wife of Matt Binsfeld) was honored as the newest namesake to grace the side of a boat.  It was explained at the christening that due to turbulent conditions, unpredictable weather and the ferocity of the seas, many companies and individuals have taken to christening their vessels.  Note that the Titanic was never christened.  Congrats on this great honor Megan!

Game of Thrones

We were invited to Justin and Lindsay Pretasky's house for a party celebrating the Game of Thrones season finale.  I've never really been into the medieval genre - dragons, wizards, castles, etc.  But this show is full of drama, intrigue, sex, scandal and dragons (which I have decided are super cool)!.

Summers span decades. Winters can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne begins - stretching from the south, where heat breeds plots, lusts and intrigues; to the vast and savage eastern lands; all the way to the frozen north, where an 800-foot wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond. Kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars, lords and honest men...all will play the 'Game of Thrones.'

Has Summer Finally Arrived?

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Preschool Graduate

Today we celebrated Cullen's preschool graduation with a small ceremony.  The preschool class of 2013 marched in complete with caps and tassels.  They preformed three songs and then were called on stage to receive their diplomas.  It's so fun to see the change and the learning that has taken place within the last five years.  Dream big Cullen!  Set your sights high.  You can be whatever you want to be!

Duck Duck Grey Duck or Duck Duck Goose?

If you are from Minnesota, it's "Duck Duck Grey Duck".  If you are from Wisconsin or anywhere else in the country, it's "Duck Duck Goose."  You say tom-A-toe and I say tom-aa-toe.

The other day we spotted a mama duck on our bank protecting a flock of new babies.  She sat on the bank for quite a while as the babies would slowly peek out from beneath her.  Finally, the daddy duck swam up and, just like that, they all swam off.  Cullen and Simone were so excited.  At one point, Cullen looked at his sister and exclaimed "Simone, can you believe what we are seeing?!"

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

SuperSimone Turns Three!

Our little baby is officially three-years-old!  Simone Elizabeth had a superhero birthday complete with her favorite cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpa.  The mandatory dress code included capes, masks and other superhero gear.  The weather was perfect, Dirk's smoked ribs were delicious and the kids had a blast.  Simone told us that her favorite part of the party was when everyone sang "happy birthday" in her honor.  This is a child who definitely does not shy away from the limelight.  

Simone's big gift was a new playhouse for the yard.  Dirk and his foreman, Tim, spent 3 hours swearing and re-drilling key holes in order to put the playhouse together.  I was sent on the mission for balloons, a birthday sign and flowers for the tiny planters.  When Dirk brought Simone home from school, she skipped into the yard yelling "a playhouse, a playhouse, it's my birthday!"  Needless to say, the playhouse is a big hit.

Happy 3rd Birthday Simone Elizabeth, our little spitfire.  We love you to the moon and back!

Sunday, May 12, 2013


"Motherhood is still the biggest gamble in the world.  It is the glorious life force.  It's huge and scary - yet it's an act of infinite optimism."  - Gilda Radner

I am honored and privileged to wear the badge of motherhood.  Cullen and Simone are truly my greatest works.   If I can be only half the mother that Liz LaVigne has taught me to be, I think they'll turn out alright!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Karate Champ.

Cullen competed in a local karate tournament this weekend and placed 4th in board breaking and 1st in forms - earning his first hardware.

His first event was the board breaking competition.  The 4-6 year old Little Warriors took turns kicking plastic karate boards.  The white board was easy to break, while the subsequent boards were stiffer.  If a competitor was unable to break a board, they had to sit down until the last person was standing.  After the board breaking was finished, Cullen received a piece of paper with his name and placement and was instructed to go to the trophy table to collect his prize.  He came back with a 4th place trophy and a huge grin on his face.

Cullen's second competitive event was karate forms.  He was set to perform the Starblock Set (a short routine performed with the left hand, the right hand, both hands and then backwards - see the video from his birthday for a demo).  There were five 5 year-olds in his ring.  To compete in the the karate forms event, the competitors must stand, bow, walk to the judges and say the following "My name is Cullen Swanson.  I am from H&H Karate.  I will be doing the Starblock Set."  Then, the judges grant permission, the competitor performs and then waits for their score.  Dirk and I were both so nervous that we had butterflies.  Cullen, on the other hand, was calm and confident.  He walked right up to the judges, spoke clearly and then performed the Starblock Set loudly and with great ease.  As each competitor received their scores, Dirk and I could tell that Cullen's score was the highest.  After all competitors were finished, they walked to the front of the mat and the winners were announced:  5th place, 4th place, 3rd place, 2nd place, and 1st place "Cullen Swanson".  When Cullen received his placement card he started for the trophy table and the judges sweetly told him to wait for the final instructions and respectful bow.  When he was given the OK, he made a bee-line for his hardware.

Cullen and his trophies have been inseparable ever since.  The trophies have journeyed to the neighbor's house, a restaurant, school and karate class.  I think they may even share his pillow at night.  Congrats karate champ!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Where is spring?!

We had a busy weekend with our neighbor, Alex Roupe's First Communion and a 2nd birthday party for Quinn.  We were thankful to have a packed agenda, since the weather was horrible.  I know, I know, everyone is miserable.  I am positive that global warming is a farce.  Let's think positive thoughts and maybe we will see 60 degree temps by May.....

LaVigne's Unite.

This time we united for Aunt Gerrie.  A celebration of her life was planned so that everyone could come together to tell stories, laugh, and just be together.  It's hard to put into words what it's like to be a LaVigne - as Marybeth tried to explain to her boyfriend, Little Jake, "we are going to my aunt and uncles and there could be anywhere from 10 to 40 people there".  It's a loud and loving family.  The volume would have been just as loud if there were 10 members of the family present, but as it turned out, we were closer to the 40 number (a small, intimate gathering).   Everyone wants to be in the same room and many times there are bodies stacked shoulder to shoulder just so no one misses out on anything.  Many stories and fabrications are told and retold and those stories only get better with time.  One key thing to remember is to never show your soft underbelly - any vulnerability will be exposed and the twins will be sure to needle you mercilessly.  And any newbie is sure to leave their first encounter with a nickname and a fair amount of teasing.  It's quite the scene when we all come together, I think we all just wish it happened more often!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Hoppy Easter.

We had a great Easter holiday weekend.  The kids went on 2013's first bike ride (Cullen on his new bike and Simone on the Strider balance bike).  They decorated eggs, played with toys, went swimming at the Y's indoor pool and awaited a visit from their favorite bunny.  On Easter morning, Cullen woke up at the crack of dawn to find his basket.  We coaxed him to cuddle in bed with us until Simone woke up.  Then, it was off on the hunt.  We instructed the kids to find a basket that belonged to them with a "C" or and "S".  Cullen spied his sister's basket before she did and was sweet enough to keep walking - allowing her the glory.  That tricky rabbit  hid Cullen's basket in the bathtub - which he thought was hilarious!  We then went to mass and onto Bob and Mimi's for brunch.  We had a few special additions:  Kari, Charlie and Claire Nelson and Marilyn Kennedy.   Everyone had a hoppy Easter!

We are ready for the renewal that spring brings:  melting snow, fresh flowers, green grass and the ability to play outside! 


Celebrating Irish-ness.

Dirk and I drank irish beer.  Simone and Cullen wore green and played with toys.  We all celebrated our Irish-ness!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fabulous Five.

Cullen Robert Swanson is officially five years old.  Like the old saying goes, time flies when you are having fun!  He celebrated with a karate party at H&H.  His friends loved learning the karate birthday kicks and playing games.  At the end of the party, Mr. Hickcock asked Cullen to demonstrate the Starblock set in front of his friends.  Without hesitation, showing no signs of nervousness, he performed in front of his friends. It was pretty impressive.  We then celebrated on his actual birthday with pizza and a superhero cake.  His big present was a new bike - complete with kickstand and revving noise-maker.  Now we just need to temps to rise so he can enjoy his new birthday prize.  Happy birthday Cullen, we love you to the moon and back!

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Simone is turning into quite the girlie girl.  It's funny to see the difference between girls and boys.  We didn't even have dolls in the house until about a year ago, but we finally noticed that our sweet girl loves to play caretaker.  When we can't find her, Simone is usually in her room playing with dolls or reading her favorite Ladybug Girl books.  She loves her dog, her brother, her Dad, her friend Macie and her Mama.  Simone just attended her first theatrical production - a play at the La Crosse Community Theatre based off the book Pinkalicious.  This book has now become required reading in the Swanson household.

Green Belt.

Cullen has passed the rigors of the white, yellow and orange and has just earned his green belt.  He recently certified in a gym with about 100 spectators.  The instructors asked the Little Warrior class a few questions and Cullen promptly raised his hand to give an answer.  Usually, like a typical four-year-old, he just rattles off some funny response off the top of his head.  But when Mr. Hickock asked the kids who could recite the fundamental moves this session, Cullen answered correctly telling the audience the series of five moves that they had been working on.  We were all very impressed.  Simone enjoyed climbing the bleachers, running up and down the hallway and eating cookies at the commencement.  Congrats on your Green Belt buddy!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Jameson's 4th Birthday.

Jameson Clark is now 4!  We were invited to an action-packed pirate birthday party.  The kids bobbed for apples, went on a treasure hunt and took turns hitting a pinata.  Tracy was busy being a hostess, so I was asked to take on photography duties.  Happy birthday Jameson - and a thank you to your parents for throwing such a fun party!

January Hijinx.

January seems to have come and gone.  We've gotten into a winter rhythm:  work, school and play.  Work and school are dull.  It's the playtime that brings the good stories.  Cullen is loving karate and is very into his Beyblades.  For those who are not familiar, Beyblades are sophisticated spinning tops that battle to see who can spin longest in the stadium.  Every Friday, Cullen is allowed to bring a "home toy" to share with his classmates.  Every little boy in his 4k class brings in their Beyblades - and the boys resemble a bunch of old man shooting dice at the park.   Simone is having a blast in her Music Together class.  Whenever we are in the car, she insists that we listen to her music class CD so she can sing along.  Our little girl is also into dressing up:  boots, jewelery, hats, etc.  Thankfully, the kids also have a blast playing together.  It makes for cheap entertainment on cold winter days and very happy parents!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Bathtime and Bubbles

New Years Noise Makers

Thankfully there is no volume on this post!  Dirk and I welcomed 2013 at a part with friends.  Cullen and Simone celebrated the night with our favorite babysitters Nikki and Jake and called it a night at 8 pm.  Cheers to 2013!