Friday, June 28, 2013

Miss Ella Turns Four

It's been a week of celebrating in our house! We began on Sunday with the Duluth celebration of Pete's residency graduation, which was promptly followed by a backyard picnic to ring in Ella's 4th birthday. Nana & Papa Olsen, Nana & Papa Scott, Auntie Kristin, Becky & the girls, and the Horns were all in attendance.

It was a pretty relaxed party, complete with a "cake" made of stacked donuts. What could be better for a birthday girl who absolutely adores such baked treats? 

Ella, Malena, and Maira enjoyed their picnic in the playhouse.

Nana & Papa Olsen with Sammy

Sammy got a wee crabby, but I love this photo
Becky & Maira

Of course, Ella was most excited about opening presents. They included a lot of princess goodness and pink. 

Mama was most excited about this present. I found this a couple months ago in a 'used stuff for kids' Facebook group. The bike was $15. A couple weeks later I found a matching helmet and bike bell on in the same group for $5. The helmet is a little too big still, but eventually we'll pull it out. Twenty bucks for the whole shebang. This mama scored.

When I look at this picture, the realization hits me that I just bought my little girl a bike for her birthday. She's not old enough for that, right? How is she already four? Whether she lets me say it or not, she'll always be my baby girl. She's the sweet little one who first made me a mama and took me through all the trials and errors of what it means to be a parent for the first time. I fully expect to become an expert on it eventually. (Hey, a mama can dream.)


Tuesday morning, June 25, I snuck into Ella's room to surprise her with a birthday donut. The night before, I decorated her door with pink and white ribbon, which she had to walk through to leave her room. She loved it.

you can't see her pinky, but she's holding up FOUR

Sammy was clearly more interested in the donut than taking a birthday photo...

...until Ella gave him snuggles. He loves Ella snuggles.

In case you didn't know, I have a girlie who loves to be dramatic. No joke. She's been dreaming of being on stage since she was little. If you question, just check out this photo. After spending years on stage, I am thrilled to have a little drama flowing through her long as the drama is more along the lines of cute facial expressions and made-up songs and not sassiness and tears. So far the balance is on the side of the silly songs, thank goodness.

Birthday breakfast leftovers.

Becky and the girls along with Krista and Caleb came over to play in the afternoon. We had planned to go to the zoo, but it was just too hot in the sun. I felt terrible even saying that since we had been waiting for a real summer day. We haven't had many up here by the lake. Alas, the kids would have scorched in the sun. The backyard is pretty shady in the afternoon. We'll hit the zoo another day.

After Pete got home from afternoon clinic, we packed up the stroller and headed to Canal Park. It's always gorgeous in Canal Park, but it's particularly so in the summer. The night could not have been prettier. We wandered down the Lake Walk, stopped at a little place with mini corndogs for Ella, and watched a gigantic ship come in through the canal. I will never grow tired of the ships in Duluth.

After the ship came and went, we strolled to the shore to throw rocks in the water, one of Ella's favorite activities.

We had a great time celebrating Ella's fourth birthday, but the partying is certainly not over! Saturday she's having her very first "friend" birthday party. She has lots of friends from school she wanted to invite, so we decided to have a party in addition to celebrating with family. I think I have everything we need for the ice cream theme Ella picked a couple months ago. (Okay, I may have coerced her a little bit. It's a great way to let the kids make something yummy while 1) not making a big cake, and 2) getting rid of a few of the many bottles of cake sprinkles I have. MOSTLY, it was her own choice. Have I ever mentioned how much I love planning parties? I do. A lot.)

Happy fourth birthday week to our Miss Ella!


* a little glimpse at the week that has passed *

Friday, June 21, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Coming Full Circle

I cannot believe we're getting so close to the end of Pete's three years of family medicine residency. We've been on this journey the entire time we've been together. We met nearly eight years ago when Pete was in the process of interviewing at a handful of medical schools. His hope was to be accepted at the University of Minnesota here in Duluth because of their unique focus on rural family medicine. He knew he wanted to go to the mission field, and Duluth would provide the best training for being in the middle of Africa with minimal resources. I remember when he received his letter of acceptance. We had been dating for about five months. I was in New York visiting one of my best friends, Jessica, just after graduating from college. He called me, we talked while I stood on the back porch of Jess's apartment in Brooklyn, and I cried. I cried because I knew what this meant for our future. We already knew we would be married, and I had longed my entire life to teach abroad. This was Jesus' way of leading both of us down the path of our necessary training so we could get to Africa. It all felt so right.

Pete began medical school in August of 2006. We were married a week after he finished his first year. One year later, we moved to southern Minnesota where he did RPAP, a program for medical students to get a taste of real life doctoring in a small town. I taught there for six months and Ella was born six days before we moved away. That's when we landed in Minneapolis for one year. The year was filled with interviews and dinners across Minnesota and Wisconsin as we attempted to narrow down our list of where he might want to do his three years of residency. Then, on March 17, 2010, during a "match day" ceremony, we received a letter telling us we would be moving back to Duluth for residency, exactly as we had hoped and prayed. It was in that very same room, pictured below, that Pete celebrated his graduation just two weeks ago. We were coming full circle. Three years had come and gone, and a whole lot of life had passed with it.

June 4, a Tuesday afternoon, we jumped on a giant coach bus headed for Minneapolis with the nine other graduating residents in Pete's program as well as a number of the faculty and staff who work with them. It was possibly the last time that some of us would hang out together. Many will be moving away in the next few months to start their first jobs as physicians. One will be in Colorado, one in Alaska, another in Idaho, a couple in Wisconsin, and a few in northern Minnesota. We will be staying in Duluth. I am beyond thrilled about that. Pete signed a two-year contract with a hospital emergency room in Cloquet, a small town about 20 minutes away from us. (The contract is a complete answer to prayer, no question. I'll have more about it in an upcoming post about where we're going from here. )

The graduation ceremony was lovely. Not too solemn or serious. In fact, there were some fairly humorous moments. We were served elaborate hours d'oeuvres and desserts just before it began, which makes any ceremony better. Wine and chocolate? Well, I could sit and listen to just about anything with that placed in front of me.

The event began with a few special awards. My dear friend, Jen, was given one, which made me so proud. She's third from the left in the photo below. Jen is not only a resident but also a wife and mama to two. Her baby girl isn't even a year yet. Amazing! Jen did residency near Minneapolis and will be staying there for her job following graduation. So glad, since I would hate for her to move away.

Here are a few of the residents from the Duluth program along with the program director at the podium. To introduce the Duluth residency, she listed off a number of pretty impressive stats from their three years together. I so wish I had jotted a few down. They were things like the number of marathons completed, number of countries visited, and number of babies born. This was a really great program to be a part of. Super ambitious and made babies like nobody's business. How is there even time for more babies during residency? Well, we certainly did our part to up those numbers, so I was actually very proud.

Doesn't Pete look handsome on stage in his suit?

Speaking of babies, here's little Tate who joined us for the trip! Tate is just a couple months old and was born to my doctor, Maria.

Maria was with me during my pregnancy and Sam's arrival. I had a rock star labor team between Maria and Pete, which gives me very, very good memories of his delivery. She will be moving to Colorado this winter and will be a fantastic doctor in a practice there.

Following the ceremony, each program was lined up for a photo in a back room. I tried to snap a few, but you know how it is when there's a professional photographer? It just feels a bit awkward, like I'm stealing his work. I didn't use my flash, but still. I did my best with these without stepping on his toes.

The faculty and staff joined in on this one.

Seriously, this is such a great group! I will be sad when everyone disburses. The close to a very good part of our lives is just around the corner.

As Pete and I walked out of the building following the festivities, it really hit me that we're nearly at the end of this part of our journey. We stood in the very same place three years ago while calling friends and family to let them know we'd be moving back to Duluth. I had to document it. From here, we move forward, another step toward the place where God has so clearly called our family. The thought of that brings so much joy. I cannot wait to see what is ahead. 

As of today, Pete has 41 days remaining of residency. He will finish the last day of July. He will then have the ENTIRE month of August off so we can relax and breathe as a family. We're currently planning a "staycation" with lots of fun things to do in Duluth. We'll also be visiting both sets of Nana & Papas as well as having a short stay at a resort near Brainerd. Fun things to come!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Daddy's Special Day

We had an absolutely fantastic time celebrating Father's Day this weekend! I had to be a bit strategic as to how we would actually get to do up the big day, but in the end, we made it happen. Pete was on call delivering babies all day on Sunday, so we did most of our celebrating on Saturday. I think it's fun that he was a part of giving a few dads a really great father's day.

Bright and early Saturday morning, Ella and I woke Pete with a very special superhero-theme card, giving him the option of three different Duluth locations for breakfast. He selected New London Cafe, a place we've been for their very yummy three-cheese grilled sandwiches and sweet potato fries for lunch, but this was our first time swinging by for breakfast.

Miss Maira accompanied us, since she had spent the night while her big sister was in the hospital. (check out the update at the end of this post)

Sammy just adores his daddy.

This is one way the little guy gives kisses. Super cute, though it may need to change now that he's popped a tooth. A very sharp tooth, at that. With more on the way, it could turn into a dangerous little kiss. 

Once our tummies were filled with French toast and eggs, we headed back home where we were joined by our friends, Interna and Lindsay.  The two of them drove all the way up from the Cities to help construct Ella and Sam's brand new, crazy complex swing set. Three boxes of lumber, a whole lotta nuts and bolts, and a 42-page instruction guide made for a work-filled day. I primarily stuck to taking care of the kids while they put the entire thing together.


Eventually, Eli joined the action, too. This was quite the project!

At one point during the early stages of work, Pete asked if we had any snacks. Did we have snacks? Oh yes! Along with our superhero Father's Day theme, I had put together this bucket of treats using a free printable party package I found while searching through Pinterest.

It was fun coming up with titles for some of Pete's favorite treats. 

Look at that superhero of a dad! And yes, every superhero needs a bottle of muscle milk. And a mask. Pretty sure it's required. 

I snapped photos throughout the day of the construction progress.


Eventually it was time for another snack, so Ella and I whipped up a batch of cupcakes.

She decorated a special one just for Daddy. 

She had also made a plate for him a few days earlier, so we presented that to him with his cupcake (which may have landed on the grass before this photo was taken).

 I've been dreaming of having a playhouse for Ella and Sam for about the last year. A nice wooden playhouse that would stay in the yard for years, not a little plastic one. I had not even been dreaming, however, that it would also include a slide and swings. This play set was a complete surprise!

A couple weeks ago, Pete's parents told us they would like to get the kids a swing set for their birthdays this year. How absolutely thrilled was I?! Pete did a little shopping with them and told me that they found a great one. I didn't get to see it until they started to put it together Saturday morning. This is far beyond what I had imagined. Such a very special surprise!

At last, after hours and hours of work and two trips to the hardware store, all was complete. We let Ella stay up so she could play on it as soon as it was ready. And because it was getting dark, I wrapped a string of big bulbs around it, a touch that I think perfectly completed it. We hadn't told Ella what was being built during the day, so she slowly watched it going together. The first time she climbed up the ladder, she stood in the tree house and said, over and over, "I love it! I love it!" 

It seemed like the perfect project on Father's Day. Thank you so much to Interna and Lindsay for the incredible help putting it all together. It definitely wouldn't have happened without you!

Countless hours of play time await!

We did eventually get Ella into bed Saturday night, though it took some convincing. The very first thing she said when she woke on Sunday? "I have a new swing!" in a rather sleepy voice. What a doll.

As I mentioned, Pete was on call all day on Sunday. I took the kids to church in the morning before swinging up to the OB unit to surprise Daddy. Ella brought him a balloon she picked out on her own at the grocery store along with a big bag of cashews, a Pete favorite.

This little sign was Sam's gift to his daddy. 

Daddy and his boy. Such a special bond between these two.

We had a great time celebrating Pete's special day this year. He's an incredible father. Even when he's at his busiest, he never loses his focus on being a dad. He has extra long cuddles on the couch with Sam and takes Ella on weekly dates for donuts or ice cream. As the mama, I'm so very blessed to know and see that my little ones are being loved on by a strong, confident man who does not shy away from being gentle and sensitive. I know that his bond with each of them will greatly impact their lives. How blessed we all are by that.

Happy Father's Day, my love.


Malena update:
As I wrote on Friday, my niece Malena was in the hospital following seizure-like activity, a result of a mass in her brain. Tests were done on Saturday before she was discharged. No answers were provided as to what was causing the activity, so she'll have more testing done soon at Amplatz Childrens Hospital in Minneapolis. She's had many appointments there already over the last few months. We're praying for more answers on what the mass is (cancer was ruled out in March) and what can be done to deal with the side effects. I will continue to update as time progresses. Your continued prayers are greatly appreciated.


 I leave you with these fantastic Sammy swing reactions.

I think he's a fan.

I love his joy. 


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