November 6, 2008

Fall in the Rockies

Last month, we made a conscious attempt to get up to the mountains to enjoy fall in Colorado. Although I would have preferred a good, long hike, it didn't work out that way. By the time we were finally able to find a free weekend, it was late enough in the season that it was too cold up in the higher elevations. So we settled for a day in Estes Park. We were looking forward to seeing all kinds of animals, as Estes Park boasts of it's elk population. In fact, while we were there, they were preparing for the Elk celebration that would begin the next day. For those of you who haven't witnessed it, the elk roam freely through the town of Estes Park and are no uncommon sight right along the main drag through town!

We ended up seeing a pair just as we were pulling into town, but that turned out to be about the extent of our time. Tim had never been into Rocky Mountain National Park, and so we debated long and hard, and then decided to spend the exorbitant fee to get our van into the Park. We spent most of the day meandering through the Park, both in the van, and on foot.

We found one little trail that wound around Sprague Lake that was just over a half a mile long. (Or short maybe would be a better word.) But it was a perfect length for the kids, so we decided to give it a go. Although the day was overcast, it was still beautiful. Sophia walked, or more realistically ran (she claimed she was "taking some exercise) most of the way, and even Noah hoofed a good portion of the trail on his own.

A little dock on the Sprague Lake

Noah was so excited to climb over these rocks. Until he got stuck like this.

Sophia takes a little break from all her exercise.

Noah was very excited about all the water.

October 19, 2008

Tim Turns 30

Tim's birthday was last month. And it wasn't just any birthday; it's a big one. He officially became old. And I knew I needed a good plan. I really wanted to do something just for him and to surprise him. So it worked out perfectly that I got tickets to see the Twins (his all time favorite baseball team- sometimes I wonder if he loves them more than me :) In Florida. In the midst of a pennant race. Against the play-off bound Tampa Bay Rays. And I managed to keep it a surprise all the way until we left for the airport!

We got into FL without a lot of time to spare, and headed straight to Tampa Bay. We got there just in time for the game and quickly found our seats. Turns out, they were pretty decent for "cheap seats." Three rows up in right center field. It was a little crowded in our row, so we moved down to the wide open front row. We knew all along we were in perfect home run ball territory. Unfortunately, Tim had left his glove in the car, thinking it wasn't likely he was going to need it in our cheap seats! He hauled it all the way to FL, only to leave it in the car!

As it turns out, though, his glove probably would have cost him his moment of fame. In the 4th inning, the Twins were already down 6-0. It wasn't looking good. Carlos Pena came to the plate with two runners on. He hit a LONG fly-headed straight for Tim from time it left the bat. Tim stood up and cautiously put out his hands, after all, he didn't want to interfere with a play! The ball hit his hand with a SMACK- and bounced back down to the warning track. And in spite of Tim's conscientiousness, it was called an automatic ground rule double for fan interference.

Pandemonium broke out- amongst us, in the stadium, and the players. It wasn't long before the play was reviewed. For those of you that know anything about baseball, you know this is a new phenomenon, only a few weeks old. We've heard several times that deliberations lasted 4 minutes, 10 seconds. And the result was: Tim made MLB history!!! TRUE STORY! This was the first instant replay reversal in baseball. It was decided that Tim's thoughtfulness paid off, he never did cross over into the field of play and Carlos Pena was awarded a 3 run home run.

The story topped Sports Center news. Several of Tim's friends saw and recognized him on TV before he even had the chance to tell them. (Although several of them doubted what their eyes clearly told them was true. After all, they were convinced that if that fan sporting the Twins shirt really WAS Tim Nielson, surely he would have caught that ball!) Tim was interviewed by the St. Petersburg paper. We've seen the replay on several times. He's famous! And he's taken a lot of heckling for not catching the ball. But if he had, he wouldn't have gotten his time in the spotlight.

So as it turns out, Tim's had a pretty good birthday weekend.

Except that the Twins lost!

Tropicana Field

Enjoying the game, pre-fame status

All of us, post-fame

Enjoying a beautiful Florida day, near Eric's work

The crew

September 6, 2008

Sophia's Birthday Party

We had a VERY small party for Sophia's birthday, with just a few of her closest friends and their families. Summer birthdays are so easy (at least when the kids are this little) because we can play in the park right across the street, have dinner, have cupcakes, and splash in the pool to clean up when we are all done! So that is exactly what we did- with a carbon copy agenda from Sophia's party next year.

We had been round and round about what kind of party Sophia wanted this year. She started out wanting a "sheep cake," mostly because Noah had sheep cupcakes and she had those stuck in her brain. It wasn't my first choice, since it had already been done in our house, but if that's what she wanted, that's what we were going to do. Then we went to one of her friend's birthday parties with a ladybug theme, so that was her next plan. I didn't want to be a thief, so I tried talking her into something else. The next idea was a princess party. This would have fit her perfectly, but she has maybe more boy friends than girl, and how was that going to go over? I am sure they would not find it nearly as fun to be little princes as girls do to be princesses. So finally, I sat Sophia down with me to look online and get some ideas.

FINALLY, we came up with something I could work with. She saw Curious George party paraphenalia and was hooked! I was thrilled; it would be too easy.

I told Tim and he said, "Didn't she already have a Curious George party?" Way to rain on my parade. Yes, she did, but I thought that would be good; I thought I even had some of the supplies left over that we could just reuse! (Turns out, I think they were long gone, and I had to start all over from scratch.) But, Sophia was excited about it, I talked it up, and it all worked out very nicely! She had a GREAT time!

And she totally gets the fact that she is NOT 2 any more. She will be only too proud to tell you that she is "FREE!"

Now she is gearing up for Tim's big birthday later this month. She's packed presents for him already (a recycled gift bag from her party, full of baby's accessories and play kitchen utensils), and she keeps talking about how Daddy is going to be old this year!

Monkey cupcakes

Noah loves some sunglasses!

Chilling with the party favors
Will Ballard, Mia Heck, and Andy Robinson
(Sophia's best friends)

Ready for a party! How can you not love that face?

We play in the pool in our underwear around here
(Curious George underwear for this occasion!)

Always the princess, blowing out her candles

Opening presents

The shirt was her gift from Will. Does he know her well, or what? She has now taken to saying every time she wears the shirt, "Mommy, why I'm a chatterbox? Because I talk so much?"

Sophia's 3rd Birthday

Sophia's birthday happened to fall on a Friday this year, which is perfect because that is Tim's day off work. We had grand plans to take her swimming some where- either the local water park called Pirate's Cove or one of our local reservoirs (yes, folks, for all of you back in Minnesota, we do not have real lakes, we have two local reservoirs, which we generally avoid, but thought that Sophia would have a great time at the beach on her birthday). Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with our plans, and it was cold and rainy all day. And in all actuality, I think Sophia might just have pre-arranged that with God, anyway.

Since Noah's birthday is in the winter, we hosted his birthday party at a nearby bounce house. In the week prior to Sophia's special day, she had been telling me that she wanted to go to the "bouncy place" for her party just like Noah did. This was NOT the plan for her, but she kept talking about it. (How does she even remember these things, anyway?) I was convinced that the Bounce House was closed for the summer, but upon waking up to pouring rain on Sophia's birthday, a quick internet check proved me wrong. So Sophia's wish came true and we spent the morning at the Bounce House! (As did every one else in the city because of the rain :)

Sophia's 1st present of the day (hence the pajamas!)

Sophia's favorite present of the day- Sleeping Beauty dress and accessories.

Clearly Mom is not a natural cake decorator, but Sophia loved it!

My little princess is growing up too fast!

Ready for some cake- FINALLY!

August 16, 2008

Summer Travels, Part 4: Kansas

After being home just one day-long enough to unpack, do laundry, re-pack and make a quick dash to Target for last minute items for the last leg of our traveling- we met at church at 7am the next morning to head to Florence, Kansas. Or should we call it Middle-of-Nowhere-but-Cornfields, Kansas? This was a 9 hour drive that was the hardest part of our traveling.

This was a missions trip with several of our high schoolers from church. We had 3 vehicles, 3 drivers, 23 people, 2 small children and 17 high schoolers. Tim drove a 12 passenger van with a bunch of the boys, and I drove our van with our kids and several of the girls, whom Sophia now refers to as "my kids." Let me just say that I was TIRED at this point. We stopped 3 times during this 9 hours (yes, that's right, the high school kids require more stops than my toddlers!), and I was actually quite thankful for a each stop for the chance to stretch, get some fresh air and try to get refreshed for the next bit of driving.

The purpose of our trip was to partner with an organization called World Impact to run a camp for the kids from their ministries. World Impact is an organization that exists throughout several inner cities of the US to bring the love and hope of Jesus Christ to the people of the city. For those of you who think it sounds familiar, you may remember that the camp that I worked at for several summers, The Oaks, is also a World Impact camp. The connection is "coincidental" if you will, as Tim found this opportunity for this trip randomly online one day, but I was all too excited for the opportunity to tap into my past experience and passions.

The trip was nearly perfect in all ways. Our kids were impacted beyond what Tim had hoped for, the people we worked with at Morning Star Ranch left lasting impressions on us, we formed a connection and partnership with Tim and Kim who run the camp programs at the Ranch, and we were able to not only help their staff, but to also put on a great program for the campers.

We spent a couple of days at the camp training, preparing, and exploring Wichita, where many of the campers come from. And then on Monday, the campers arrived. They stayed until Friday, and once they left, we headed out for Hayes, KS where we spent a night in a hotel playing and debriefing.

Sophia and Noah were all too excited about the hotel. It was their first experience in a hotel and they had a hard time settling down to sleep for the night. Sophia, Noah, and I all stayed in one room, while Tim spent the night in a room with several of the high school boys. He says he felt bad that he couldn't be with us, but I think that he really took the easy route that provided sleep!! The three of us didn't sleep much that night, not for lack of tiredness or trying!!! We tried putting Noah's pack n play in the closet, only half of which fit. Sophia had her own bed, as did I. That only lasted until Noah woke up in the middle of the night crying (probably b/c he was somewhat stuffed in a closet!), and in turn woke Sophia, which caused me to crawl into bed with her so that Noah wouldn't hear her and remember that she was right there and want to play! So needless to say, we were up and at 'em early the next morning ready for a quick swim and hotel breakfast.

And that, FINALLY, brought us to the last 6 hours of our driving, from Hayes, KS to HOME SWEET HOME!!!!

Where we plan to stay for some time!!!!

Noah's new friend, Darail, who was one of the Ranch staff members. They became fast friends, and it was hard put to find Noah without Darail close behind!

Summer Travels, Part 3: Nebraska

The third part of our trip was a short stop, but we were thankful for it. We drove from Amy's family's house in Minneapolis to Tim's sister's house outside of Omaha, NE. This trip took us through Iowa, which is always the least favorite part of our trip. The dislike for this part of the trip was only compounded by the fact that most of I80 through Iowa was down to one lane, which was headed into the sun at this point in the day. The trip usually takes 6 hours, but I am sure that it was at least 7 hours this time, if not 7.5. We were only too glad to be done driving that day.

We arrived at Ty and Pam's in time for hamburgers, sweet corn, and peaches. Ty and Pam grow and sell various kinds of fresh produce, and it was so good to finally be able to see what they spend all their time doing!

In all the different things Sophia rode at the farm, I think her favorite was riding in the fork lift with Uncle Ty!!! She is still talking about it and can't wait to do it again!

Noah checks out the watermelon with Aunt Pam.

Summer Travels, Part 2: Minnesota

The second part of our traveling brought us to Minnesota. After Grandpa Walt's party, we left immediately for Amy's family in Minnesota. This was probably the easiest leg of our driving for two reasons. First, it was only 4 hours, and second, we were able to do this part of the drive while the kids were sleeping so that we didn't have to stop even once. Unfortunately, it was nearly midnight by the time we got there.

The timing for this trip was also excellent, as Amy's brother Eric and his wife Gretchen and their son, Titus were also in town from Florida. We got to spend the first day out on the lake with almost everyone, as has become somewhat of an annual tradition. After the lake, we headed back home for short naps and then out to Amy's brother's baseball game. Tim had been hoping he was going to be able to play on Ryan and Todd's team with them, but he ended up settling for a bleacher seat along with the rest of us.

Our second and last full day with the Ulferts family was a much more low key event. It included a trip to the park, skipping rocks in the Mighty Mississippi, a fateful empty stroller containing one cell phone crash into the River, lots of Cornhole (at which Tim and I continue our undefeated streak), notorious Lee-size steaks, motorcycle rides, and a bonfire complete with S'mores.

Playing with Cousin Titus at the lake

Riding in the boat with Mommy. Sophia is still not sure what she thinks of the boat. We had to coax her into it, and once she had done it, she said it was fun. BUT, now that we are home, she says the boat is kind of scary. She got to watch Tim ski a bit, and every time she saw him go down in the water (intentionally or not), she would get worried and cry.

I've decided that it would be much easier to learn to ski if I had the opportunity more than once a year. Although I'm hopeful that it'll get easier and easier each time, even if it is only once a year!!!

Reading Cinderella with Uncle Ryan

Summer Travels, Part 1: South Dakota

This summer brought LOTS of traveling for the Nielson family (hence the minivan!). And we will all agree that we were so thankful for the van, considering all the hours we spent in it over the last month! Within 3 weeks time period, we had spent 48 hours traveling in the van, not including local trips and outings at our various locations.

All said, the kids did far better in the van than we could have ever expected. There was hardly any crying, whining, requests to stop, emergency potty stops, or any of those things we expected. In the first 11 hours, we stopped only twice. Once for lunch and gas, and once for Tim to go to the bathroom!

The first leg of our journeys took us to visit Tim's family in South Dakota (an 11 hour drive from our home in Colorado). We spent several days there on the farm with all kinds of new things to explore and play. We played in Grandma's little pool, helped feed calves, played on Grandpa's big sand pile, chased kitties, rode all around in Grandma's little truck (or "little tractor" as Sophia calls it), and even went for a few rides in the big tractor with Daddy.

This trip was special for a couple of other reasons. Tim's sister Julie and her triplets we were at the farm for this trip, so we got to spend lots of special time playing with the cousins. Sophia is fascinated with her cousins, and talks about them all the time and was SO excited to actually get to play with them. They are obviously used to having other kids around all the time, so I don't think she made quite as big of an impact on them!

Tim's Grandpa celebrated his 80th birthday while we were there, which was actually the reason for the timing of our trip, and we were so glad to get to be a part of that. It gave us the opportunity to see lots of family members that we don't always connect with on our other trips, and to even meet some new members of the Nielson clan.

For us, the most exciting part of this trip was probably Noah's discovery of his feet. FINALLY!!!! Most people tell me to enjoy the time before my children learn to walk, but most people don't realize that because my kids have both learned to walk so late, I am more than ready for the monumental event when it finally comes. Noah is definitely old enough that he understands boundaries and the word NO, so I don't have to chase him and keep him out of quite as many things as maybe I would if he learned to walk at a younger age.

Anyway, we were at Grandpa Walt's big party and Noah was playing on the floor with his Aunt Pam. He turned and saw me sitting behind him, and took a few faltering steps in my direction. You could see the realization on his face that he had done it all by himself, and he was only to excited and proud to show us that it was no fluke; he couldn't wait to do it again. He turned around and walked back to Aunt Pam. This continued for several laps, and each time, he would add more and more steps and Pam and I would stretch the distance a little longer. Noah was SO excited about his new skill. He temporarily stole the spotlight and ventured out all over the room to explore the territory- on his feet! FINALLY!!!

This was probably only hour 4 in the van- after I had crawled in the back to
entertain Noah for a bit.

Petting the kitty with Grandma

Playing in the sand with Leona, Gabe, and Sam.

Riding in Grandpa's tractor with Daddy

Come to Mommy!

June 4, 2008

Breakfast prep

We're very fortunate that Tim's job allows him to leave a lot later in the mornings than many other husbands we know. This means that more often than not, we have breakfast together as a family. For me, it also has the added blessing that if I am on the ball enough to get up early enough, I am able to get out of the house to workout or run in the mornings before Tim leaves for work. Sometimes, when this happens, I am not back before the kids are ready to get out of bed. Without complaint, Tim gets them up and going and started on breakfast before I get home. This was the case the other day, and when I finally did get home, Tim had some pictures of the breakfast preparations to share with me. So I thought I would include them all for your viewing pleasure. Needless to say, they are not quite what I was expecting! But it did explain why there was Tupperware all over my kitchen floor when I came in!

Apparently Noah wanted to help with breakfast this morning. So he climbed himself all the way INSIDE the cupboard, and proceeded to kick out ALL of the Tupperware and containers he found inside!

He was very proud of his accomplishment! And it was all fun and games until Sophia decided to shut Noah in the cupboard, and then he came tumbling out once he managed to push the door open from the inside!

Chalk one more up for the obvious differences between boys and girls! Although Sophia loved playing with these kinds of containers when she was Noah's age, she would have never thought to actually climb into the cupboard. Somehow, I think this kid's going to be into everything once he figures out how to walk!

New Addition to the Family

We did it. We bit the bullet and became the true "All American Family." A girl, a boy and a mini-van. What more could you dream of? Tim and I always said that we would NEVER drive a mini van. Well folks, never has become now! And as much as we wanted to fight it, there was no way around it. Once we opened the door to the possibility of becoming a van family, there was really just no way around it. If we had enough money to buy a big SUV upfront, it would have done nothing more than sit in our driveway. At nearly $4.00 a gallon, a trip to the grocery store might have broke our bank! And once we got over that, we started realizing that really, a mini van is the most practical. They have the most storage space behind the backseat for all the junk the kids insist on hauling back to the Midwest when we go visit. They are the easiest to get multiple kids in and out of. Etc, etc, etc. the reasons were too many to ignore, and so here we are. Proud owners of our first mini van! Yes, I did even say proud owners. We LOVE our van! And I do mean WE- everyone of us. I think the kids would be happy to say in there all day and night. They love to climb around and explore in it. We don't even have to go anywhere; they're just happy to have it in our driveway with the doors open, climbing around. Sophia especially talks about the van all the time. Her famous, definitive quote on the subject:
"This is NOT a car. This is a BAN!" (Which she very definitely corrected me on at one point when I said something about putting my seatbelt on in the car. Oops, silly me!)

2006 Honda Odyssey

Off for a ride in the new "ban".

P.S. Let me just dispel any rumors before they even begin. One of our friends, upon learning of our new acquisition promptly asked, "When are you expecting?" The answer, my friends and family, is WE'RE NOT! The van truly is the new addition to the family!

May 31, 2008

The Bolder Boulder

Bolder, Colorado, which is about 45 miles northwest of where we live, is home to one of the largest running races in the world. I am not a runner, and I certainly wasn't in any hopes of winning the purse for this race (which happens to be one of the largest non-marathon purses for runners), but every year since we've lived here, I've talked about doing the race and seeing what all the hype is about. EVERYONE in Colorado knows about the Bolder, Boulder. It takes place every Memorial Day (since 1979), and it's up to about 50,000 participants each year!

So this year was finally my year. I decided to bite the bullet, pay a ridiculous entry fee to run 6.2 miles, and join in the fun. There were something like 29 bands along the route, people with the slip n slides out on the front lawn if you wanted a brief detour, and even people with a "kegs and eggs" stand on the front lawn! The last short leg of the race takes you into Folsom Field (where the CU Buffaloes play), and it's a great way to finish up a race. There is a stadium full of strangers there to cheer you on and give you that last little bit of adrenaline. What a great way to finish. Needless to say, this "race" is much more of an event than a run! It was fun, it was definitely worth it to experience it myself finally, and I learned a few things. Running with that many people is more of a constant game of dodging the people slower than you! Next time, I'll make sure I'm placed in a wave that starts earlier so that most of the people around me are actually running!

This is our one very lame shot of me in the "action"!

Sophia waiting very patiently to see Mommy running

After the race

I'm pretty sure she was more tired than me!

May 29, 2008

Castlewood Canyon

By now, you would think we would know that our hiking adventures NEVER go as planned. It's just a general, customary rule that Tim and Amy should always have a plan B if the days activity involves hiking. After 6 years of living in Colorado, and adding two children to our adventures, I think we are just finally beginning to accept this! In our latest hiking adventure, we had planned to conquer Devil's Head, which is a favorite, well known, local hike. Amazingly enough, we had never been there before. But because it's so well-known, we didn't realize quite what we were getting into, and that popularity doesn't always mean simplicity. Neither Tim or I realized the elevation of this hike (which wasn't much for Colorado). But, given the amount of snow we've had and the earliness of the season, it should have occurred to us to check out the conditions before we left home. We're not that smart. Our second clue should have been the road closed sign that we passed approximately 10 miles before the trail head. Unfortunately, neither of us realized this was a one way road to nowhere with no other options. So we continued to drive the 10 mile mountain-like pass, and reach the trail head only to confirm that yes, indeed the trail was closed because of SNOW!!! Silly us. So plan B, this time, involved driving 25 miles in the opposite direction to Franktown and one of Colorado's many state parks: Castlewood Canyon.

Turns out, Castlewood Canyon was a great place for the kids. Sophia loved riding in the backpack, Noah loved everyone else's dogs, and we even got to splash a little bit in the "river" that runs through the canyon. The only problem was that there really wasn't that much hiking involved! It was paved trails most of the way into the park!

Sophia's got her baby in the "pack-pack" for to go "biking"! (Sophia's ridden in here before, but it's been so long that she doesn't remember. She was fascinated with the thing and couldn't wait to get in and try it out. We kept telling her we were going hiking, and I'm still not sure she ever distinguished that we were saying HIKING-not biking!)

Riding with Daddy

Riding with Mommy- we need a pack pack for this kid, too!

Sophia was dying to get her feet in the water- until her toes touched
and she realized how cold it was !

Looking for rocks to splash.

May 27, 2008

Mother's Day Pictures

You'll probably look at these pictures and think that I had a brainstorm for some great kind of Father's Day gift for Tim (if you know Tim at all and know about his love for baseball, that is). But just to prove that Tim's mind really can be one-tracked sometimes, the truth of the matter is that HE is the one who took these pictures to use for a Mother's Day card for me! And, some of them are pretty cute, especially for the guy who is NOT the photographer of this family!

"Play Ball!"

"Are we done yet, Daddy?"

"Do we HAVE to do this?"

Don't let her fool you, she may be cute, but she has NO idea what she's doing
with that bat in her hands!

Proof of the real culprit behind this photo shoot!

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