Friday, September 27, 2013

Making News!

This morning we had a little excitement in the house! The local news station WDIO Channel 10/13 sent a reporter & cameraman out to the house for a little interview as a part of their coverage of the Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk coming up this Sunday.

After we explained exactly what was going on and how things worked, Ella was thrilled to be a part of it.

We gathered in the living room to talk on camera about who we are, what we're doing as a family, and how our Sammy has changed our lives. We're always happy to talk about the amazing Down syndrome community here in Duluth and all the support we've received from other families and our church in the last 16 months.

Being in the spotlight can certainly tire a little guy out.

By the end of the interview, Ella had taken over.

You can click HERE to see the story on the WDIO website. When you get to the website, click the play button to start the video.


Sammy's 2nd Annual Superhero Yard Sale was a success! We held it on our front lawn last Saturday and were able to collect $458 for Sammy's team. Wohoo! If you weren't able to make it to the sale and would still like to donate, click here. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or email me at olsen.angela {at}

The night before the sale, the place looked a little, well, messy. But what's a mama to do when nothing can actually go out till morning? We had three other families donate to the sale, so we had a whole lot of treasures to prepare.

Bright and early Saturday morning, Pete & I started setting up, Ella began pulling out toys that were meant to be for sale, and our dear babysitter, Hannah arrived to keep the kids company so the sale could actually happen.

We filled the yard with lots & lots of stuff. (And you know what we didn't do before the sale? Mow the lawn! Oops! We completely forgot. Oh well. People still wanted to buy our goods, even if we did have crazy grass.)

It was chilly when we first started the sale, which worried us a bit since only a few shoppers decided to check us out. An hour after the sale began, though, the sun started to peek out and so did the shoppers.

Who can resist a little girl selling cookies?! Ella took her sales role very seriously and exclaimed each time a car stopped in front of our house, "Someone is here to buy cookies!" Never mind the treasures in the yard. She was determined to sell her treats.

A little hot chocolate break.

This guy was amazing during the sale. He completely took over the money table and made the sale very enjoyable for me. Like his money belt? Fashion statement, y'all.

While he manned the money table, I got to keep things organized. The plan was to lure in shoppers with an attractive front display table. I think it worked. 

Nearing the end of the sale, we simplified our displays and even cleared a few tables completely. It was a great sale. Glad we only did it for one day this year. I have big plans for the sale next year. We'll see what happens.


If you're in the area, I hope you can join us for the big walk on Sunday! Everything is happening down at the DECC at 12:30. See you there!!

Sammy Superhero party goodies were purchased here

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bayfield Vacation

Today I write from a little hotel in Bayfield, Wisconsin. I was almost afraid to pull out my computer when we got here. The last time I was sitting in this very place, I was writing and writing and writing, but the content was far different than this. It was here, all the way back in April, that I spent four consecutive days working on my grad thesis. This visit is far different.

While I was here, surrounded by mounds of snow in April, I chatted with the manager about why I was visiting. She mentioned it to the owner of the property who had spoken with Pete when he was here in March to study for his family medicine boards. Just before checking out, an envelope was delivered to my door with a certificate for two nights at the hotel in September. So now we're here, together, with the kids. It's a beautiful way to celebrate what we've accomplished in the last year.

We arrived in town late yesterday afternoon, just in time to fire up the grill to make burgers and yams. After the kids were tucked into bed, Pete and I stayed up late watching Netflix together, catching up on shows we haven't had a chance to see in a long time.

After a quiet morning, we headed into town to our favorite cafe here, Big Water Coffee Roasters. The shop is owned by friends of ours, Danielle & Jon Ewalt. It's been fun to see the shop grow and change over the last few years. They have such a great eye for quality and have beautiful character in their space. If you're ever in Bayfield, definitely stop in!

We have countless pictures with this little guy over the last seven or eight years.

We stopped in at the used book shop. I bought Ella the first chapter book we're going to read together - Little House on the Prairie. We read the first chapter before nap time this afternoon. We'll keep working on listening to a book without pictures. I like knowing it will help develop her imagination.

Little man is so cool in Daddy's shades. He fell asleep right after this. 

 We love any time we can get in Bayfield. It's especially nice right now since there aren't any crowds for Apple Fest or summer visitors. Town was pretty quiet today. Such a treat.


A few weeks ago, we went to the annual Johnson Family Pig Roast. I've lost track of how many years it's been since it started. More than 15. My aunt and uncle put it on at their house every August and invite friends and family to eat & swim & sing crazy karaoke. Here are a few pictures from the afternoon.

My mom with Sammy, the little water baby

Ella with my cousin Alex

Mr Blue Eyes

Ella really loves my grandma. That makes me very happy.


Today it's in the 50s. Fall is here!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Return of Sammy's Superheroes!

Lady-mens & Gentlemen! Boys & girls of all ages! Please welcome back...Sammy's Superheroes!

That's the way Ella announces herself on "stage," which is a small area of our living room. She's quite confident in her theatrical abilities. I love it.

I'm thrilled to announce that we will again be participating in the Step Up for Down Syndrome walk in Duluth on Sunday, September 29. Our little Sammy was only three months old last time but he showed he makes quite the impressive superhero. We'll all be dressing up again, which caught the attention of many at the walk last year. Click here for lots of great photos from last year.

We've been blessed tremendously by the Down syndrome community here in Duluth. Down Up North is a group of families that meets once a month for fellowship and education. Just a few weeks ago we were able to attend their summer picnic, which included a pretty fantastic puppet show and activities for the kids. Without a group like this, it would be harder to get a hold of valuable resources in the city or to find the answers to so many questions we have. That's why we want to support the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota through being a part of the walk. They are doing great things!

Sammy & his buddy Caleb

We'll be holding a yard & cupcake sale again this year to raise money for Sammy's Superheroes. That will be on Saturday, September 21 from 8am to 3pm in our very own yard. Mini cupcakes will be for sale for $6 a dozen. They sold like hot cakes last year, so be sure to stop by before noon if you want to score the (now fairly rare) Little Yellow Kitchen delights! If you would like the address of the sale, email me at olsen.angela {at}

If you are not able to make it to the yard sale and would like to donate to Sammy's team, please jump over to OUR DONATION PAGE. There you will find instructions on how to donate. Last year we raised $1,742. Let's see what we can do this year!

a big part of Sammy's team last year

Feel free to post questions below in the comments section or email them to me at olsen.angela {at} We'd love to have you join us!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A New Beginning for Miss Ella

My sweet Ella began another year of preschool yesterday. I fully admit it was nothing like it was last year, dropping her off and seeing her run into the classroom with all of her friends, completely familiar with the classroom and her teachers. It was old hat for her. Me too. We were both ready for it. Ella missed her friends and I think she probably missed the structure and challenge of school. The last two months have been great fun, but we've taken them as complete vacation. We both do better with structure.

Monday night we swung into Target to pick out her indoor shoes - shoes she keeps at school all year, putting them on each morning when arriving at school and leaving them behind at the end of the day. Yes, it was Monday night, the night before school, because why would I do our shopping before that? Keeping us on our toes here, people. Of course, the selected shoes happened to be pink with plenty of sparkles. I thought ballet flats would be comfy for classroom use, so I let her go with them. She was thrilled to have her photo taken in her new kicks before heading off for her first day.

Last night I couldn't resist going through photos from the first day of school a year ago. She was so little! My heart squeezes at the thought of all that she has experienced in the last year and the ways she has grown. An entire year of school, learning to be an incredible big sister, flying halfway around the world where I saw her bloom among new friends who may or may not have spoken her same language. She has become a compassionate, expressive four-year-old who goes out of her way to include others when playing and will do nearly anything to make a person smile. God is doing some amazing things in Ella. I am filled with joy and awe watching her grow into the little lady He has created her to be.

Another very special experience Ella had was one month ago today. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon. Pete was at work, Sam was napping. Ella came upstairs to find me picking up a few things in her room. She came in and said, "Mama, I want to have Jesus in my heart." I was caught by surprise at her request, as I didn't know what sparked it. I would have typically thought she had talked about it at church over the weekend, but I was her fill-in teacher and knew that we hadn't specifically talked about it. The two of us sat down on the stairs together and talked about what it means to have Jesus in her heart. When I asked if she wanted to pray and ask Him to be in her life forever, she enthusiastically said yes and prayed all on her own. What a moment that was.

As a mama doing my best to follow after Jesus and show my family the example of Jesus' love and compassion, I would love for my own littles to find that same path of joy and unconditional love. I had been wondering for the last few years what it would look like when and if Ella made the decision to ask Jesus in her own life. I knew I didn't want it to be something that I initiated, since I believe the Holy Spirit does that work in  a person's heart. I wanted it to be completely on her own. And it was. She really does have a heart full of love and compassion, and I'm excited to see how it is further expressed in the years ahead.


This year, Miss Ella also go to play tennis! Last year when we would drive or walk past the courts just a few blocks from our house, she would say that when she was four, she could take lessons. I'm not sure where the whole "when I'm four" thing came from, but it sounded reasonable, so we went with it. For two weeks in August, we walked to the courts for a daily half-hour lesson. She was in love. Pete & I were both captains or our high school tennis teams, so it's pretty excited to see her so thrilled to play. I think we'll be doing it again next summer!

Little kids playing sports are one of the cutest things.


If your littles are back in school like Ella, I hope all is going well! I do so enjoy having quite time in the morning. I'm certainly hoping Sam holds onto these morning naps for a good while.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Into the Woods

Before our month of vacationing and family time comes to a close today, we were able to squeeze in one last adventure away. Late Friday afternoon, after a 34-hour shift in the ER, we packed up our camping gear and headed up the shore to Tettegouche State Park. Three years ago we made the same journey when Ella was just 15 months old. I realized that this time around, Sam is that exact age. It was a sweet few days away in a woodsy cabin, tucked in the forest along an inland lake, with meals over the fire and plenty of fresh, summer air.

We arrived at the park just after dark, but we weren't at all concerned since we'd made the trek before. Tettegouche has a set of four cabins, but a good hike in is required to reach them. On our own, the hike would be simple, but journeying with kids and the equipment they require certainly ups the load. Once we strapped on headlamps and got Sam settled in the off-road stroller, we were set. Ella led the way for a good part of the hike, taking us up and down some pretty steep hills for the 1.7 miles in to the cabin. Once we arrived, we pulled out our sleeping bags and hit the hay.

Shortly after breakfast on Saturday morning, our dear friends, the Veseleys, joined us! Having them with us made the weekend even better. Ella & Liam are just a few months apart and get along like brother and sister (loving on each other one moment & arguing the next), while Julianna & Sam are also really close in age. I've known Mike since high school and met Jen when she was in med school with Pete. We love their family! Jen & I shared my camera over the weekend, so lots of the following pics are credited to her.

Ella, the fearless water bug. She's not used to actually being able to swim in a lake since Lake Superior is so cold!


Hanging out with Sammy on the dock.

Miss Julianna turns one later this month & is walking all over already! How cute is she?!


The dads taking the older kids canoeing. 

When I first met Mike like 15 years ago, he was in a punk rock band. He's passing on his ways to his son.

Rock star dads.

Cuddles with my little loves. (Sam was a little confused by the flash on my iPhone.)

Yesterday morning we packed up and hiked back out. The trip was short, but it was probably just right for the kids. Well, parents, too, since naps didn't really exist out there. How long can we go without naps? I'd rather not find out. 

Carrying a pack and two four-year-olds is no big deal, especially for a guy who just completed his first Olympic-distance triathlon. Nice work, Mike.

It was a pretty quiet drive back down the shore. The kids didn't last long before they were sleeping in the cool, air-conditioning of the Jeep. We tried to make a stop for lunch at Betty's Pies (a classic place to stop along the shore) but it was far too busy for our hungry kiddos. Dairy Queen in Two Harbors offered a quick meal..and some Sammy/Daddy cuddles. 

Such a perfect trip to wrap up an amazing month.



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