Thursday, January 2, 2014

Our New Blog Is Up!

It's true! The new blog - The Mango Memoirs - has launched! I'm incredibly excited to share it with you. Simply click on over to to continue following us on our journey to Africa.

See you there!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Farewell to 2013

Happy New Year's Eve! I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating, however you like to celebrate it best. I've rung in the new year so many different ways. When I was in junior high, I would spend it babysitting my cousins. In high school, we were usually at someone's house watching movies or snowshoeing. To ring in 2000, the big Y2K year, I was attending a wedding at midnight! I've spent many years quietly journaling alone, which I completely enjoy. This year I'm beyond excited to get to celebrate it with my man not at the hospital. The first two years of Pete's residency, I went to be with him at the hospital while he was on call. (perk: he got to deliver the New Year's babies!) Last year we almost got to be together, but he was called in for an emergency 20 minutes before midnight. Twenty minutes! So close!

This year, there will be no call. We thought there would be no babysitter, but my amazing sister offered to throw a little New Year's slumber party for her kids and ours, so Pete and I actually get to celebrate in style! I am so excited. Yesterday I bought new make up and tried a few new styles on my hair. Today I had my nails done and bought false lashes. Yes, it's that serious, people. At midnight I plan to be locking lips with my man in a crowded martini bar downtown. It's going to be like the movies. And even if it's not, it will be perfect because I'll be with the handsomest guy ever as 2014 rings in. I can't think of any place I'd rather be.

A few days ago, I discovered Flipagram, a fun app for creating slideshows. The slideshow for the first half of the year was my first project, which is why it is in a backward order and has no music. Sorry. I would go back and make it again, but I'm going to spend the time cuddling on the couch with my Ella instead while dreaming of the year to come.

Farewell, 2013!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas at Home

One week ago right now I was preparing dinner for our Christmas Eve feast. We hosted, and I wanted to try something new, which I did and it just happened to turn out beautifully. But those details will be posted soon. That's right, Christmas dinner gets her very own post, she was that special. That was one week ago, and I feel like I'm sitting comfortably in solitude for the first time since that night. It may not be actual truth, but it feels like it. I do love the holidays, but it's amazing how busy things can get.

The Sunday before Christmas, we took our sweet Ella to her very first live stage production. I was wiping away tears as the curtain rose and Ella watched the dancers of The Minnesota Ballet's The Nutcracker began to dance across the stage. I couldn't believe that I was really attending a live show with my very own daughter. It was a complete surprise to her, which looking back, was maybe not the best idea on my part. Immediately following the first piece, Ella excitedly turned to me and asked, "Mama! Is it my turn? When can I dance on the stage?" Oh. I hadn't thought ahead that it would have been a good idea to explain that this was a performance we were watching, not participating in. My darling just couldn't understand why she wasn't allowed on stage. Can I blame her? It's in our blood! I love being on stage and always have. Pete and I gently explained between every single dance piece that we were only going to watch. She did, however, make it through the entire show, which made us very proud. As the curtain went down, though, big tears started to flow. The show was finished? There would be no more dancing?! Poor Ella cried all the way to the car. Next time I'll make sure to explain the entire process of watching a performance before we attend. She did love it, though!

I love sending out our annual Christmas card and letter. I so enjoy watching a Christmas movie while writing all the addresses on the envelopes and then carefully putting each one together in a little assembly line. This year didn't go quite that smoothly, though. The primary problem was that I forgot to actually order the cards until somewhere around December 10, when we had already accumulated a decent stack of cards from friends who were far more on top of it than I. So there I sat, anxiously waiting for Scott, our mail carrier, to deliver our box of cards on Monday. Yup, last Monday. Like the day before Christmas Eve. My plan was to write them all and send them off that same day by 5pm. Oh, friends, I tried! There's just something about taking care of two wee children at the same time. It nearly happened, but in the end, I didn't quite make it. Due to the hubbub of preparing to host on Christmas Eve, the cards finally made it to the post office the day after Christmas. Most of them, anyway. There are still some in transit. Sorry if yours is late this year. Doesn't Christmas technically last until Epiphany on January 6?

The morning of Christmas Eve we were prepared for our guests, all of the Scott family. Ella just couldn't wait for her cousins to arrive. She stacked her gifts for them and waited as patiently as she could.

After our Christmas meal at noon, the kids finally got the okay to share their presents. Wyatt was very excited to give Sam a gift he had helped pick out.

Miss Maira discovered princess Jelly Belly's in one of her packages.

Boxes are the best!

Sammy loves getting time with his aunties & uncles.

After a late round of cookies and pie, we all packed up to attend one of the Christmas Eve services at our church. It was a very cozy, traditional service. A couple of the worship leaders shared their stories of "coming home," we sang carols, and one of the pastors gave a beautiful message. Ella and her cousins even had a birthday party for Jesus in children's church! I love being a part of an incredible church family, especially at Christmas.

After church, we all headed back to our house and stayed up late talking before everyone left to get home before Santa. It was the perfect end to my favorite Christmas Eve in a long time.

The last few years, Pete and I have developed some of our own Christmas traditions. We somehow managed to be alone as a family on Christmas day every year through residency. After three years, we've adopted that as one of our favorite new traditions. We wake, peek in stockings, eat kringle (a Danish pastry Pete grew up with every Christmas), put on new jammies, and very slowly open presents throughout the day.

Ella got a sled from Santa! (I suppose this is where I insert my extreme gratitude to Walgreen's for having such a sled on Christmas Eve. That very morning I realized Santa had not yet actually picked up gifts for the two Olsen children. Santa jumped in the sleigh and sped to Walgreen's just before the Christmas Eve service and, after sending an employee out to the storage shed for the last available sled, purchased this beauty along with a musical toy for the wee lad of the family. All was right in the end. Thank you, Walgreen's and/or Santa!)

We've always kept our gifts to the kids very simple. Part of the reason is that we know they get things from most other family members, so we don't need to overload them with more things. The other more important reason for us is that we want them to appreciate what they receive. This year we got them each a gift and then one gift to share. The wood blocks is the gift the shared. They've already played with them for hours!

We hope you had a very happy Christmas!


 I have now seen the final draft of the new blog! I'm continuing to work with a designer and a tech person to get it polish and posted so we can launch. It really could be any moment. I cannot wait to share it with you!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Very Family Thanksgiving

For months before Thanksgiving this year, we had planned that we would spend a quiet day with turkey & cranberries at home because of Pete's work schedule. However, just a few days before the day actually arrived, Pete's schedule got a bit busier, so I decided to take the kids to see the families! It meant a lot of time in the car, but that was excused by all the cuddles and play time with aunts & uncles. I'm so very glad we got to soak in the holiday!

On Wednesday afternoon, we drove to the middle of Wisconsin to visit Pete's parents and sisters. The trip has great potential to take just four hours, but it somehow stretches to nearly five when the kids are along! We used to be able to make it through with one short stop at the halfway point, but such is no longer the case. It's partly my fault, I admit. If I simply made one stop at a fast food place, we could probably get going a lot faster. Instead, I tend to stop at a big store where we end up buying things we forgot and walking down isles looking at things we don't need. This time, however, we had cash registers malfunction, a diaper overflow, and to top it off, a snide comment from a woman on our way out of the bathroom. With Sam in one arm, a bag tucked under the other and Ella's hand in mine, I wanted to sit on a bench and cry. Instead, we made it to the car, buckled in, flipped on a movie for Ella and public radio for me, and we were headed once again down the highway. Eight minutes later, just as I was settling into the flow of the road and sipping a coffee, the gas light turned on. Ugh. We did eventually make it, though, and Sam was ready for his Papa time.

Auntie Kristin was there and so was Auntie Kat. Kat flew in all the way from the East Coast, so I'm especially glad we were able to make it for Thanksgiving.

Ella performed a little interpretive ballet for everyone.

The kids adore visiting Nana & Papa "without the puppies" as Ella calls them. I love visiting, too. The kids get lots of play time with their aunties and cuddles with their grandparents. I even get to sleep in, which is absolutely dreamy.

Friday afternoon we packed in the car and headed back to Duluth. Guess what? It took us just four hours with only one short stop at a gas station. Happens every time when we're headed home. Pete was working over night, but we all met for breakfast in the morning before the kids and I drove to central Minnesota to my parents' house. The entire family was there!

Sam got some cuddle time with Uncle Jake...

and Wyatt...

...and Maira! The boy is fairly irresistible.

Then he was ready to eat!

So were the little girls at the kids' table. Good thing Great Grandma was there to keep and eye on all their shenanigans.

Happy Thanksgiving, Malena!

Maira eventually ditched the kids' table to catch dessert with the adults.

My beautiful sister, Jenny, and her sweet Wyatt. I love these two!

Meet Adam, Becky's new boyfriend. He seemed to fit in well with our crazy family antics. We really like him!

Jenny's boyfriend, Jason, also braved the wild Scott holiday. My brother Mike's girlfiend, Cara, was also in attendance, but I somehow didn't catch their picture. It was a full house, which felt quite perfect!

After dinner, Uncle Mike pulled out balloons and recruited our dad to make a few balloon animals for the kiddos. Remember I recently mentioned my dad used to be a professional clown?

We still occasionally beg him to bust out his skills for a few jokes or balloon critters. How many families can say that?!

Silly boy.

I just love this family!

I know we're well into the Christmas season, but after an entire month without posting, I had to get these up. We'll now be moving into the wintery loveliness!

Speaking of posting, we're getting really close to being ready to launch the new blog! I've taken the last month to slow things down a bit because once the new blog is up, I'll be writing multiple times each week. I just saw the first draft of the new design and am super excited to share it with you. It will be up before the New Year, so be sure to check back!


I leave you with this - Pete's beard from No Shave November. He grew it out for the entire month, which is a unique way raise cancer awareness. I don't know about you, but I prefer the beard. Pete thinks it's more professional to shave for work, though. I just love that mountain man look!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Photo Friday

 Every Saturday morning, we take Ella to her creative movement class at The Minnesota Ballet downtown. I love walking into the building to be surrounded by all of its art and artists. The Ballet is located in a few studio rooms in the basement while the stage is on the main level. I once did a show there with one of Duluth's theatre companies, The Duluth Playhouse, while I was in college. Such good memories. Now, being there with Ella, make my heart sing. 

After ballet, Ella and I went on a date. We began at the public library. How great are these books painted on an enormous pillar outside the building?

Cuddles with Daddy after a morning of playing at church. 

Shortly after church, we went to lunch with my sister & her girls. Sam was sporting his new shirt from the National Down Syndrome Society. It was designed by Kelle Hampton, the mama I wrote about in this post a couple weeks ago.

This is what happens when you're off playing and fill your diaper, which then also covers your clothes and mama doesn't have extras. Nakedness!

Ella's new school picture! Isn't she beautiful?!

Ella didn't have school Thursday or Friday this week, so she accompanied us to Sam's OT and PT appointments. She is such a good big sister.

It's getting chilly here! Winter is certainly on its way.


This last one is a picture I posted on Instagram this week while shopping. I shared some real feelings when I posted it, so I'll copy what I wrote with the photo since it's something I'm working on daily.

I went to buy a needed pair of jeans today & was not impressed with the experience. I've struggle to get back in pre-Sammy, healthy shape, but I'm taking steps to change that. I realized, standing in the fitting room, that I was able to make a choice. I'm so happy to say that I chose to be confident & happy, even if I have a fitness journey ahead. I'm incredibly thankful for other mamas who have set a strong example of real beauty & to be the a child of a King who adores me. 

Have a wonderful weekend, friends.


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