Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dane turns three

We celebrated Dane's 3rd birthday at the Minneapolis Fireman's Museum.
If you ever have the chance, you must make the trip:

The museum itself was awesome.  Tons of old trucks, dress-up clothes, a firepole, old relics, pictures and toys.  The party host was an older man who Drew titles a "fire dork".  Just a regular civilian who writes a Minneapolis fire blog and holds the fire department in high regard.  He started off the party giving a fire safety intro to the young children (ages 3 - 6 years old).  He went in depth talking about children with sever burns "scalding flesh, burning"....  I think some of the young kids might have gone home suffering from nightmares, but on the other hand they may have been too young to understand how inappropriate the fire safety talk was!  The kids all had a blast.  Happy birthday Dane Joseph.  We can't believe you are three!!!!

The tale of Anna and the ninja

Halloween 2014 was a huge success.  Candy stashes were plentiful, pumpkins were carved and the costumes were great.  I attended Cathedral Elementary School's annual Halloween party.  Cullen and his buddies enjoyed arts and crafts, zombie tag, musical chairs, the great pumpkin race and spooky stories.  Then, we headed home for a quick dinner and trick-or-treating with the gang.  Our neighborhood is full of kids and as we venture down the street, everyone meets up.  Grown-ups enjoy cold beverages and the kids run like crazy from house to house.  Simone was dresses as Princess Anna from the movie Frozen (along with the other millions of little girls).  Cullen went for the ninja look.  Our sweet princess and strong protector had a great night.

the new white belt in town.

Simone has joined the karate dojo with her brother.  It's neat that Cullen and Simone can participate in an activity together.  Cullen is an advanced belts and stands in the front of the room, while Simone is in the back with the other white belts.  Simone was all smiles as we walked up to the front door, but when class started her nerves began getting the best of her.  As Dirk and I watched, we noticed that she was continuously twirling her her and had a glazed look in her eye.  Then, the teachers started working through some of the combinations.  She received a bit of extra attention from Mr. Curt Hickock and I am not sure if she was shy, intimated or just plain nervous.  The waterworks started and Cullen ran to her rescue.  Cullen just sat there hugging her in the front of the room.  In fact, Simone was crying so hard that she didn't receive her belt until the second day of class!  She now proudly sports her white belt and is earning her stripes.

Monday, November 10, 2014

BGC flag football 2014

Now into his second year of flag football, Cullen was the seasoned veteran. He was still fast as lightning but this year seemed to have a better grasp of the rules, the lineups, the positions and the plays.  In fact, the coaches even threw a few passes - and he actually caught a few!  Not only does Cullen have mad athletic ability, but he's also a great team player.  We stressed the importance of being a good sport, congratulating the opposing team and celebrating a good play with your fellow players.  He plays his heart out every play and always wears a smile.  There's nothing better than watching little kids run around the football field after a stressful day at work.

LaVigne's Unite for Joe and Kelly

The nuptuals of Joe and Kelly brought all of the crazy LaVigne's together again.  The perfect day for the perfect couple.  It was an awesome party!  Congrats Joe and Kelly!

Monday, November 3, 2014

high cliff park: part II

Cullen, Simone and I decided that we needed to take Dirk back to High Cliff Park in Galesville.  Here's our hike:  part II.

northside rules

In La Crosse, there's a big rivalry between the northside and southside.  The feelings run deep.  The Swanson family has a strong, proud legacy as northsiders. In my opinion, the 2 bet things about the northside are:  Nakomis Ave and the Octoberfest Torchlight Parade.

We currently reside on Nakomis Ave - the same street that Dirk grew up on.  This street also is home to several other second generation families (both parents and children own houses on the street).  It's such a great place to live that everyone seems to come right back.   Our kids are now participating in the same activities that Dirk did as a kid.  On a recent Saturday night, the Swanson, Griffith, Binsfeld and Erickson kids competed in a neighborhood kickball game.  Circle of life.

During La Crosse's world-famous Octoberfest celebration, the best parade is the small-scale torchlight parade.  The parade consists of bands and Festmasters.  That's it.  Short and sweet.  Both paraders and spectators adorn their outfits with glow sticks and jewelery.  Simone likes anything that "glows up" - who doesn't?!

our spitfire

Simone has been very busy with her very own fall activities:  gymnastics, soccer and spectating at her brother's sporting events.  Now a seasoned veteran at gymnastics we often see her practicing sommersaults, table top and the balance beam in our living room.  Simone also thinks its pretty cool that she plays soccer just like her brother and her aunt Brigette.  And while most younger siblings would complain while they are dragged from one game to the next to watch their older brother, Simone loves going along for the ride.  There's always another little brother or sister on the sidelines so she is never at a loss for playmates.  Our little spitfire is full of energy, imagination and affection for her family,

Thursday, September 4, 2014

goodbye summer / hello school

This summer, Cullen and Simone hung out with Emily.  From June - August, she drove them to tennis lessons, swimming lessons and library playtimes.  I think the three of them conquered all of the parks, pools and libraries in La Crosse.  The kids had a blast (and I hope Emily did too)!

Then, before we knew it, the school year was upon us.  Cullen is officially in Kindergarten.  He was familiar with his teacher (our neighbor Harry had her last year so Cullen new she was alright). I didn't really dwell on this fact before the first day.  But all of a sudden as I was saying goodbye, I almost broke down and cried.  Cullen is at the best age.  He loves his family (he thinks we are super cool and loves spending time with us).  He is so eager to learn, eager to explore and eager to show affection.  Sometimes Dirk and I wish we could freeze him at this age forever.  But alas, every age has it's high points and growing up is what we are meant to do.  Cullen Swanson was put on this Earth to be amazing.  And we are honored to support him on his journey.

Miss Simone starts 4-year-old preschool this year.  She is still at the YMCA daycare, but just moves onto the next room.  She has already been asking to practice writing her "S's" and is pumped that her new room has books on tape.  Cullen told her that her new teacher, "Miss Lisa", is groovy.  This little one is also ready to conquer the world!

say yes to facepainting

We have some friends in La Crosse whose 4-year-old son is battling cancer.  As a tribute to Will, we are involved in #actsofyes.  Basically, they are wishing for everyone to make the most out of the moments with our kids.  It's time to say Yes to the small requests:  ice cream before dinner, playing in the rain, fingerpainting, etc.  On the night of Cullen's Kindergarten open house, we decided to dine at the local root beer stand.  They had hired a face-painter to entertain the customers.  There was a small line and Dirk and I were wishing that we could just get home.  Simone and Cullen looked at us and said "PLEASE can we get our faces painted?!"  At that moment, Dirk looked at me and said "Say yes".  And I knew exactly what he meant.  Instead of rushing through life and letting the little things frustrate you.  It's time to live in the now and just say yes.  Will, we are thinking of you every day and hoping and praying that you will beat Cancer.  You are a tough kid, show 'em what you've got!

BFL 2014

Put another great Big Fish Lake vacation in the record books.  Just like last year, we hit the MN Zoo and then made the trek up to Cold Spring.  Everyone had fun - but especially the kids.  Cullen and Mason have always been best buds and now Simone and Dane are attached at the hip.  The highlight may have been the trip to the dollar store with grandma and grandpa.  Every little one picked out a prize that was uniquely them:  Mason - pirate costume set, Cullen - Nerf gun and darts, Simone - a princess wand and Dane - cars and trucks.

We feel so fortunate to have a lifetime of memories on Big Fish Lake.  It's a special place that we all love.

backyard tenting.

So after our sandbar camping debacle last summer, we decided that our kind of camping is backyard camping.  Therefore, we set up a tent in the backyard and roasted S'mores.  This type of camping is awesome!  The refrigerator keeps the beer cold, the bathroom is always clean and I can actually sleep in a bed while the braver family members lay in the tent.  This night brought its own challenges.  After skipping a nap, Simone was a bit testy.  She hauled off and hit her brother for no reason.  To make an example out of this action, we told her she was not allowed to sleep in the tent.  She cried for awhile, but still played in the tent decked our in her pjs.  Cullen, of course, was on cloud 9!  He loves the tent and thinks peeing outside is the best part!  At the close of the night (and maybe we allowed the kids to stay up too late), Simone and I went to bed and Cullen decided that the house was a better option.  No one actually slept in the tent.  But I guess it didn't matter.  The kids still think it was a great night!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fun in the Sun.

Swanson family summer activities:
- Swimming off the Maui Mat
- Pontoon rides
- Learning the finer points of shoe tying
- Playing with Camp
- Swinging golf clubs
- Legos
- Swinging
- Dock jumps
- Cousin time

Birthday Olympics.

Cullen turned 6 on March 13th.  But let's be honest, the weather was horrible this winter and spring.  On March 13th, there was still snow and it was about 22 degrees.  So we convinced Cullen to wait for summer to celebrate his birthday with pals.  Cullen had lots of grandiose ideas when it came to his party:  football, swimming, water ballons, races, etc.  After hearing this, I came up with the idea of the birthday olympics:  obstacle course, water balloon toss, tug of war, dock jumps and three-legged race.  The obstacle course was hands-down the best event.  The course included:  hit the water balloon off the tee, potatoe sack, dizzy bat, jump over the Maui Mat, hop scotch, crawl through the tunnel, face squirt gun fire on the way to the finish line.  The kids loved it!  And the ones who were not racing loved barraging the racer with squirt gun fire.  we tracked times and wins on a scoreboard, and at the end everyone received a medal or two.  Happy almost 6 1/2 birthday Cullen!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

BGC Coach Pitch

Another season is in the books.  Cullen moved from T-Ball last year to Coach pitch this year.  Once again I coached his team and once again I showed the type of baseball acumen that is usually reserved for members of Cooperstown.  We had a blast.  The kids learned a ton.  Cullen had a great year.  The  year started with him wearing shorts and  t-shirt to the game.  By the end he had baseball pants and was wearing eye black.  He is a really good player and really has a passion for the game.  We would leave the field, hop in the car, and he would immediately ask if we could go home and play catch.  I was happy to oblige.  The season ended as good as it could.   Cullen was the last player to bat.  Bases were loaded.  He hit a rocket over the first baseman's head and he was off to the races.  There was a play at the plate, but he slid under Coach Sean's tag.  Grand Slam, season over.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Macation.

As Simone says, "we went on macation".  Our annual resort weekend with the Vogels.   Cullen, Jack, Stella and Simone had a blast swimming, roasting marshmallows, building sandcastles and just being kids.  The grownups had a great night out thanks to two local babysitters.  The best part for everyone is getting away from home and hanging out.  

High Cliff Park.

On a recent day off, the kids and I visited Red Cliff Park in Galesville.  We had an awesome adventure.  I'm not sure what was actually the best part:  the swing bridge, the cliffs, the waterfall or the picnic.   If anyone needs directions, give me a call - or just let me know when you want to go and we will join you!

Monday, July 7, 2014

No wake.

When the water is above flood stage, you are forced to find recreational activities on land.  No boating, no tubing, and not a lot of swimming to be had.  Therefore, we've been spending our time biking, playing baseball, shooting squirt guns and hanging with the neighbors.

Ondov-LaVigne family bonding

The La Vigne and Ondov families have been the best of friends since the early 1980's.  Thanks to Libby and Brooks, we were recently able to get together with the next generation.  We laughed a lot, played a lot, drank a lot and ate a lot.  We were almost complete - just missing Brigette, Mason, Dirk and Drew.  Therefore, I think we need to give it another try!

Wowee's Babies

My dear grandmother, Marie Moore aka Wowee, is now an angel watching over us.  She graced the Earth with her presence for 94 years.  We have so many memories cataloged of this sweet and sassy lady.  She loved life, art, sports and most of all, her family.  Even at the end, her eyes always lit up whenever there was a baby around.  It was so great to see all of her grandchildren and most importantly, her great-grandchildren playing together after the funeral.  I know she was looking down on us with a huge smile - completely overjoyed at the family she created.  We love you and will miss you forever Wowee.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

6326 3rd Ave. S.

My parents have closed the door to the 38 years at 6326 3rd Ave. South.  Now onto new adventures, new memories and a new house!

a tiny turtle

soccer and soccer.

Cullen and Simone each completed their spring soccer seasons.  Simone played parent/child soccer through the Y.  It was set up as drills and playtime.  She was a great listener and loved her coaches.  Simone also enjoyed practicing her skills in the backyard with her brother.

Cullen joined the Coulee Region Soccer Association (CRUSA).  This league is coached through the TetraBrazil program - his coaches were actually here with work visas straight from the home of the World Cup!  The season ended with a Friday night tournament.  He played four games back-to-back.  For the first game, only Cullen and two other kids showed up.  The awesome threesome played their hearts out and actually won the game.  Then the reinforcements showed up (some of the younger kids who would rather pick dandelions than kick the ball).  At this point, you could hear coach Elton yell "Dribble Cullen", "Pass the ball to Cullen", "Shoot Cullen", "Score Cullen"!  I'm not actually sure if his team won any games after the first one, but our little man played his heart out.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Frozen Fete.

Simone hosted her first "friend" birthday party.  The Disney cartoon Frozen is the hottest thing on the planet.  I am guessing that every little girl from 4 - 14 is singing the songs and playing Anna and Elsa.  Even Cullen loves Olaf the snowman!  I will credit Dirk with the idea to have Queen Elsa visit the party.  But as we contemplated, it had to be someone that Simone didn't already know.  On a whim, I contacted my co-workers daughter, Camille.  She's 19, has a background in performing arts and also loves Frozen.  To top it off, Camille has long blonde hair and actually looks the part!  

8 little girls were invited to the house for a breakfast birthday party:  pancakes, bacon, doughnuts and fruit (the easiest party meal to prepare!).  For the special occasion, I found an Anna costume for Simone to wear and she was pretty pumped. The girls got here and played for about 20 minutes and then, Elsa arrived.  Camille did great!  She entered the backyard and the girls were in awe.....  Elsa then took over the party.  She read a book, played musical chairs and sang songs.  When breakfast was served, she sat with the little ones and answered a million questions:  "What does Olaf the snowman eat at your castle?"  "How did you get here?" "Do you like summer or winter better?"

I have never seen smiles so big on little ones.  These are the years to capture the magic of their  imaginations.  Mission accomplished.

Fabulously Four!

Simone Elizabeth is now 4 years-old.  The last few years have gone by in the blink of an eye.  Simone is sassy, sweet, smart, silly and stylish.  She is not afraid to say how she feels (either smiling from ear to ear or crying).  She loves Frozen and Doc Mcstuffins, soccer, singing, her puppy dog and her aunties.  This little one is very girly, yet not afraid to touch a worm or pick up a turtle crossing the street.  We capped off the birthday celebration with a family BBQ.  Grandpa Mark, Grandma Liz, Annie, Dane, Tracy, Jameson, Quinn, Mimi, Bobby and Jason's Mom and Grandmother visiting from Oklahoma.  We played with pop-its and a pinata and ate a deliciously decorated pink cake.  Grandma Liz and Cullen wowed the crowd with their hula hooping skills.

Happy birthday sweet girl.  We love you to the moon and back!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day Hikes

Brigette and Mason paid us a visit this Mother's Day weekend.  We had a great hike at Perrot State Park overlooking the mighty Miss.  Cullen, Mason and Simone started out running straight up the bluff and we had to remind them that it was a long hike - not a race!  When we reached one of the higher lookouts, the rain clouds opened up.  The cool water actually felt good, but made the trail a bit slick (that's when Dirk decided to hoist Simone onto his shoulders).  On Mother's Day, we had a delicious brunch at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe - which also included a hike on the trails.  The best part of the weekend was just spending time with the kids.  Not only do they keep us on our toes,  but they make us smile, induce belly laughs, and tire us out completely.  And I wouldn't change any of it!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The best clown ever.

Cullen recently performed as a clown in the Cathedral School 4K Circus Concert.  The various kids in 4k were given roles specific to the circus:  acrobats, tigers, monkeys, ponies, and clowns.  The best part was that Cullen actually wore the costume Dirk's Aunt Linda made for him when we was little!  Cullen, never shy in front of a crowd, dazzled us with his singing, tumbling and cart driving.  And for the finale, he was shot out of a cannon.  This was a circus not to be missed!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Black Belt.

Cullen Swanson is now a Little Warrior level Black Belt!  He's been in karate for about 18 months and has passed through 7 belt levels.  This was also the first session that Jameson joined him.  The cousins will now be defending the universe from any evil with their jab-punch-sidekick-starblock set combos.  Keep it up buddy - we are proud of you!

Life moves pretty fast.

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."  - Ferris Bueller

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Luck of the Irish

Good Times Park

Good Times Park is AWESOME!  This indoor wonderland has playground equipment, a trampoline, a soccer field, a basketball court and lots of kids.  If you or your kiddos need to burn some energy, go over the Eagan and check it out.

Super Cool 6!

Cullen Robert Swanson is  years old.  My how time flies when you are having fun!  We had a week of birthday festivities.  The weekend before Cullen's birthday we celebrated March birthdays with the LaVigne clan:  Grandma Liz's birthday on 3.6 and Cullen's birthday on 3.13.  Then Cullen brought birthday treats to school on Wednesday:  popcorn and Rice Krispie bars.  On his birthday, Cullen played hooky from school and spent the day with Mimi and Jameson.  He was also lucky enough to meet his Godparents (George and Joanie) and Godsisters (Maddie and Sophia) for pizza.  The birthday finale was capped off with a fun dinner starring the Swanson family.  What a lucky kid!

Cullen is such a great kid.  He has an easy-going, fun-loving attitude.  He makes friends easily.  Cullen is very generous.  Oftentimes, he allows Simone to pick the first cartoon in the morning and has no problem sharing toys with others. He's always quick to give a hug and say "I love you".  Sports have always been and continue to be his passion:  skiing, football, baseball, basketball, biking, karate and golf - to name a few.  Cullen also likes school and is always eager to share an answer - sometimes even forgetting to raise his hand.  Dirk and I love that he still loves to hang out with us and we are continuing to savor every moment we have with this cool kid!

Monday, February 24, 2014

And just like that, the tooth was gone.

Cullen was knocked in the mouth by the teeter-totter at our local park about two years ago.  Then, this winter he took a nasty spill on the ski hill and hit his mouth again.  These two incidents, caused a bruising of his front baby tooth, which caused a chronic infection.  In order to ensure that the permanent tooth did not suffer any damage, our dentist, Dr. Funk, recommended that he baby tooth be pulled.  On the way to the appointment, Dirk and I had butterflies.  We were hoping that the tooth pulling process would not be traumatic for our little guy.  For Cullen, ignorance was bliss.  He was excited to get the tooth yanked so that he could have bragging rights among his cousins and classmates.  When we arrived at the dentist office, the assistant said that they would take Cullen back and let us know if we were needed.  I was a little unsettled not to be by his side, but off he went.  25 minutes later Cullen came back minus a front tooth.  The novocane and gas worked wonders and he didn't feel a thing.  He looks great, but a year or two older.  The reality is setting in that our baby is growing up and there's not much I can do to stop it.  Sniff, sniff.

Our funny valentines.

Cullen and Simone love Valentine's Day.  Whether the process of writing notes to their classmates, waking up to treats from Mom and Dad or the party at school - what's not to love?!  On Valentine's morning Cullen asked me how to spell "love" and then proceeded to go into his bedroom asking that we not disturb him. He came out with a valentine for each of us and enclosed in that Valentine was a dollar from his hard earned piggy bank.  What a sweet and generous kid!  Simone then went to the pile of saved art projects and gave Cullen a Christmas Tree from last December.  I suppose it's the thought that counts - right?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Builder, Architect and Engineer.

Cullen's favorite toy of the moment:  Magnatiles.  These super cool tiles fit together with magnets to allow for some inventive creations.  Cullen builds garages for his monster trucks, an airplane hanger for his planes and towers taller than his five-year-old body.  Simone sometimes joins him and screams can be heard if she "knocks down his work".  I'm not sure what this kid will be when he grows up, but he sure seems to like building, creating and inventing.

Dirk and Charlie took Cullen on his first ice fishing expedition.  Cullen called it a "wild goose chase" as there weren't any fish biting that day.  They'll get 'em next time....

Cullen and Dirk also have a new obsession with the Wii game Mario Kart.  While not a huge fan of video games, this winter has left us no choice!  It's actually been really fun to see the boys race each other and then team up together to try to beat the game characters.  If you are up for some competition, stop by!

Doc Simone

There's a new cartoon on the Disney Channel called "Doc McStuffins" about a little girl who takes care of all of her sick toys and makes them better.  Simone loves Doc and is frequently using her doctor tools to diagnose our family's ailments.  Sometimes, I actually think she enjoys giving us shots!  Hopefully her desire to help others will stay with her for the long haul.

Simone is quite the spitfire.  She is very dramatic.  Highs are high and lows are low.  Crying comes easily when frustrated or told "no", but she seems to recover just as fast.  Simone loves pretend play:  dolls, doctor, store, etc.  Ever since she was a baby, she can often be found in a corner with books.  She actually thinks she can read and tells elaborate stories to go along with her pictures.  She is very much a momma's girl.  Only I can read her books at night (if I am out of the house, Dad will do!). However, she demands that after books, her dad cuddle with her in bed.  Simone still adores Cullen, whom she refers to as "brother".  She is often his best friend and worst annoyance all at the same time.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Showing off their skillz.

Enjoy the videos of both kiddos in their skiing greatness.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ski bums.

The Swanson Family has been putting on a lot of miles at Mount La Crosse this winter.  Not only is it a great, family friendly ski hill, but the St. Bernard room provides an awesome apres ski atmosphere!  Dirk and I both grew up skiing and it's been a special experience teaching our kids how to ski.  In fact, they both love it.  This year, Cullen has been into skiing jumps (a small one at the base of the hill) and the tree paths carved along the edge of the hill.  I have a feeling this kid is going to be a serious dare devil.  Simone loves to ski, but at the start of the season would only do so if we were skiing behind her, holding her under the arms.  After her 6th time out to the hill, I am happy to report that she will now ski 5 yards in front of me on the green Apple Bottom run.  Her progress this year has been amazing.  While they both still need plenty of parental support (especially on the chairlifts!), we don't mind because it gives us a new challenge on the small ski hill.  Our hope is that family ski vacations will become a routine vacation plan in the future.  (Note:  Grandpa Mike:  we may be visiting you to ski Lutsen before you know it!).

Cold Daze.

It's been years since the schools actually closed due to cold weather instead of snow.  Lately I've been  seriously doubting the theory of global warming.  As the cold weather rolled in, we did art projects, baked cookies, played games, watched movies and did played with just about every toy in the house!  On the warmer winter days, we've enjoyed sledding, skiing and visiting the La Crosse Rotary lights.  Even though we try to make the best of winter, Cullen recently confessed that summer is his favorite season!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Christmas Spirit is Alive.

Our holiday weekend began with a visit from Santa Claus.  The Clarks and Sauters were over for pizza and all of a sudden the man in red walked up to the door.  The kids were beyond excited. Cullen asked for "a race car track" while Simone asked for "a rainbow and a gingerbread man".   As Santa left, Cullen slipped his official wish list in Santa's bag.  It's probably good that Simone's list didn't make it in his bag.  As I was the scribe for her letter, it went something like this: "Dear Santa, How are you?  How is your wife?  Is she pregnant?".   I couldn't help but laugh out loud as she talked!

 The rest of the Christmas holiday was full of excitement, over-the-moon kids and the magic of Christmas.  Going to a Catholic grade school, Cullen is also very aware that the real reason for Christmas is the birth of baby Jesus.  In fact, both kids have a new fascination with religious Christmas songs: "Away in the Manger", "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Silent Night".  And both little ones sang their hearts out at the Christmas candlelight mass.  In fact, they also both managed minor injuries due to wax burns on the fingertips.  We had a wonderful Christmas day, just the four of us.  We hung out and played with toys from 6 am - 7:30 pm.   We had great Christmas celebrations with the Swanson and LaVigne families.  We are truly blessed.