Thursday, August 31, 2023

What We Read in August

August was a pretty good reading month. I read 8 books, 3 of which were very very good! 

Favorite Reads:

Tom Lake is Ann Patchett’s latest novel. It’s a quiet novel that is very much character driven. It is set during the pandemic but it’s not a prominent part of the storyline - it’s the reason the couple’s adult children are all home. The story is told in 2 time lines - 2020 and the summer the mom was an actor at a summer theater production of Our Town. The book made me want to read Our Town which is really saying something because I am NOT drawn to read plays. French Braid by Anne Tyler is also a quiet, character driven novel. It’s about the interconnected lives of siblings who live very different lives. I’ll save the best for last: Finding Me is an incredible memoir about everything Viola endured. It’s a brutal story of abuse and poverty so trigger warnings abound.

Good to pretty good:

The other 5 books were good to pretty good. Decent People is a mystery set in the 1960s in the south. 3 siblings have been killed. Racism and homophobia feature prominently in the story line. The ending of this book felt very sudden and abrupt. Last Night at the Telegraph Club is a coming of age story set in the Bay Area during the ‘red scare.’ I haven't read much about that time period so it was interesting. Central Places is also a coming of age story although the protagonist is in her late 20s. She has a messy relationship with her mom in particular and had a pretty rough high school experience. I could relate to her intense dislike of her home town/high school experience. Stiff is a non-fiction book I’ve been meaning to read for 10+ years. It examines how we use cadavers, from their use in med school to crash test dummies to ‘beating heart cadaver’ during the organ harvest progress. I have a pretty strong stomach and a pretty high threshold for being grossed out, but this book was tough to read at times. Let’s just say it’s not a book to read while eating lunch as I tried to do on a plane ride - especially the body decomposition chapter! Lastly, The Long Game was the book club book for the best of both worlds Patreon community. There were some good takeaways but I felt like it was more directed at entrepreneurs. 

Paul’s reads:

We had some great luck in August! Frog and Toad Together is such a childhood classic that can’t be missed. ‘The List’ is my favorite story in the collection. Toad losing his list, but he can't go look for his list because that wasn't on his list of things to do. How to Get Your Octopus to School was a cute ‘back to school’ kind of book that was silly and fun. The Rooster of Notre Dame is about the terrible Notre Dame fire and the rooster that was on top of the spire. The Cat Man of Aleppo is a heavier read that is based on a true story. It’s about a man who stays behind and takes care of abandoned cats during the Syrian Civil War. 

Did you read anything great in August?

Tuesday, August 29, 2023


This month, I recognized 10 years since my Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) diagnosis. It's obviously not a cause for celebration and is more of a marking of what all my body had been through and all I've learned over the last 10 years. For those newer to my blog, I found out I had RA in August 2013 when I was living in Charlotte (I was relocated for my job). I had been diagnosed with stress fractures that spring shortly after I relocated to Charlotte and then the pain kept extending to different areas of my body and it became more intense. I was in a walking boot for a stress fracture on one leg and then 3 months later, had pain in the other leg and the podiatrist thought I had a stress fracture in the other leg. I knew something wasn't right and had been to the doctor multiple times that summer. I sort of wrote the pain off as "getting older." But my parents were kind of alarmed when I stayed at their lake home in early August and needed my dad to carry my (small) carry-on suitcase upstairs. I wasn't physically able to do that which is odd for a healthy 32 year old woman. 

A blood panel and physical examination showed that I had RA. I happened to be in NYC visiting a friend when my primary care doctor called to tell me that my blood work showed that I likely had rheumatoid arthritis. I can still envision myself walking around Washington Square Park, crying, and trying to make sense of it all. It was probably best that I was visiting a friend that weekend because she was so kind and supportive. Otherwise I would have been alone in my apartment in Charlotte which was so not my happy place (long time readers will recall that my time in Charlotte was a very challenging time in my life). 

The last 10 years have been quite the journey. There have been times when my disease was well managed. In fact, when I moved to Minneapolis and established care with a new Rheumatologist, he commented that he wasn't sure that I actually had RA! Eventually I got a flare so it was evident I had it but I wanted to say - have you not looked at my medical records that were sent from Charlotte? I eventually changed doctors and found an amazing female rheumatologist. This spring I told her about my doubtful previous doctor and his doubt about my diagnosis and she was FLOORED by that encounter. 

There have been times when my disease was not well-managed. Like during my pregnancies. I got so many steroid injections during my pregnancy with Paul that the PA drew a picture of my hands and would mark off where we had done an injection so I could keep track of when I might be able to get another injection (you need to wait at least 6 weeks before injecting a joint again). My pregnancy with Taco was so different as it all occurred during the pandemic when only essential staff was in clinic. So I was only able to get 2 steroid injections and had to get by with high doses of oral steroids otherwise. I had flares so many places - my hands, elbows, hips, knees, and even my jaw! 

My disease went back to not so well managed last fall but I think/hope we are getting back to a well managed point. It's required maxing out my dose to methotrexate (MTX), which is a chemotherapy drug, but I've tolerated it well overall. I switched over to an injectable form of the drug this week which means I have an injection weekly and every other week I have 2 injections - MTX and my super expensive Humira. I'm hopeful we can drop some of the other medications I'm on right now once we're sure the MTX is working so we can decrease my pill burden. I currently take 9 pills/day, split between morning and night, for my RA. It's a lot and every time I fill my days-of-the-week pillbox (with am and pm slots) I feel like such a senior citizen! No shade on senior citizens - it's just that it's not ideal to have so dang many pills to manage. 

When I was at my parents' lake home at the end of July, I had coffee with my cousin who is like a sister. She asked about my RA and shared a story about a time I shared a hotel room with her when I was home in the summer of 2013. It must have been the same trip that I stayed with my parents at their lake home. She said she vividly remembered that I could not open the door of the hotel room - the reason I couldn't open it is because I could not grasp anything since I had flares in my fingers and I didn't have the strength to pull the door open because of flares in my elbows. She said she was so terrified that something terrible was wrong with me. So I guess I am glad that my health issue was figureoutable and treatable and hasn't had long lasting effects. The amazing array of drug options have prevented permanent joint disfigurement.  

So I recognize this diagnosis anniversary with mixed emotions. On one hand, I am lucky to be as healthy and active as I am. But on the other hand, I'll always have to take my RA into consideration. That means prioritizing sleep and listening to my body when I am tired. That is something we all should do but if I don't, I will pay for it. I'm not operating on a level playing field for my peer group and I have to frequently remind myself of that when I'm overtired or getting a flare. I just hope and pray neither of my kids end up with this, or a different autoimmune disease, but time will tell. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Weekend recap + ready for a routine

Another weekend is in the books. We are in the ‘in between’ time now. Paul’s summer public school program ended last Wednesday and he starts Kindergarten on Thursday, Sept 7th (K starts 2 days after everyone else to give them a shorter week). We are all ready for this period to be over and to get back into a routine!! We are piecing together care for the 2 week gap between the summer program ending and school starting. Like me, Paul thrives on a routine, so it’s been a bit of a tough stretch already. Luckily my parents are watching him this week which is a HUGE help. 

Paul was home with me on Thursday and Friday. Friday was a quieter day at work and Phil was home, too, so it was more manageable. I knew it would likely be a quiet day so I got us tickets to the dolphin show at the zoo. Our zoo is taking care of dolphins from a zoo in IL during a renovation of their home habitat so they won’t be here much longer. The show wasn’t as quite as good as when we went with Kyria in February but it was still fun! Dolphins are sooo cute! I was planning to head out and get back to work after the show but it was quiet at work and Paul really wanted to see some animals so we did a loop of the zoo + a carousel ride. It was not a pleasant experience leaving the zoo as Paul got pretty overheated yet didn’t want to go home… 

Saying hi to our penguin friends!

The hot, humid temps broke on Friday night so I enjoyed a comfortable run on Saturday morning! Then the boys and I hit up a park before gymnastics. Paul and I were driving to my parents that afternoon so I wanted to burn off some of his energy. We hit the road after lunch and were at my parents by 3. Road trips with a 5yo are pretty easy! We stopped once and he was so entertained by his PBS kids games and the PBS shows I had downloaded that I was able to listen to an audiobook, ‘Finding Me’ by Viola Davis. I have been waiting for this road trip to borrow the audiobook as I had been told to listen to it. It is SOOOO good. But it is a very brutal story of abuse with strong language so do not listen to this around little ears (Paul couldn’t hear a thing since he was using headphones with his iPad, otherwise I would not have listened to it around him). 

We had such a nice afternoon/evening with my parents! We sat on the patio, went for a pontoon ride, Paul got lots of swing rides and had a nice grilled dinner. Paul enjoyed having the swing to himself; both boys love this swing! It’s been a favorite of all my nephews and nieces and has gotten a lot of use over the years!! 

My parents have SO much beach due to back-to-back droughts. They usually have 1/3 this much beach.

I ran again on Sunday morning and then we went to church and out for lunch. Then it was lake and beach time. My parents pulled out an inner tube with a battery powered propeller that my oldest nephews used to use! And then there were sand cakes to enjoy. 

Then it was back to reality and my boys back home. I finished ‘Finding Me’ in the drive home and give it an enthusiastic 5 stars! 

Taco starts at his new daycare today. I anticipate a rough week but maybe I will be pleasantly surprised. But he will have the full and undivided attention of both parents - although I imagine he will miss Paul and ask where he is one thousand times!! Then Taco and I head back to the lake on Thursday night or Friday morning. Phil has a long day of work on Friday since it’s the first business day so he won’t be joining us. My AZ sister comes to my parents this week and we’ll attend my new nieces baptism on Saturday and soak up lots of cousin/family time! I will see 3 of my siblings and lots of nieces and nephews. But first, I need to tacks 4 pretty busy days at work before the fun can begin!

Are you doing anything for Labor Day weekend? We usually don’t come up to the lake since the holiday often falls during Phil’s busy time at work and traffic to/from Minneapolis is TERRIBLE. But we will suffer through traffic to see lots of family and meet my new niece! Fingers crossed Taco does well on the drives! He’s the wild card.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Kid Activities + Complicated Feelings About Sports

School is starting soon so the topic of "kid activities" is on the brain for me. Currently the boys just have gymnastics on Saturday mornings which is focused on gross motor development. It's been good for both of them as gross motor skills don't seem to come super naturally to either of them - probably because of me. 

You see, I am incredibly unathletic, at least in terms of how "athletic" was defined when I was a child. I run and strength train, but I am terrible at sports. I didn't find the sport of running until after I graduated from college. Because I grew up in a very rural area (population of 500, graduating class of 28), my sport options were softball in the summer, basketball in the fall, volleyball in the winter, and track and field in the spring. I was required to try all of these sports when I was young so I did t-ball/softball when I was in early elementary, basketball in 5th and 6th grade, volleyball in 7th and 8th grade, and track and field from grades 7-9. I also took swimming lessons and loved them but those lessons were about acquiring a life skill.

I know my parents wanted me to be healthy and active and to try new things. But to be honest, my involvement in sports was actually worse for my self esteem. I was terrible at all sports involving balls, and was just not great at the distances available to me in track and field (I think I would have loved cross country but that wasn't an option at my small school). And it is so very, very apparent when you are worse than your peers at sports. The only basket I made in basketball was FOR THE OTHER TEAM when I was in 5th grade. It was a completely different story for my husband who is very naturally athletic. He excelled at baseball and was a pitcher, is an excellent golfer, and I think he was probably always kind of "front of the pack" in terms of other sports he tried. I was so glad when I was able to put sports involvement behind me and could focus on things I had an affinity for, like speech, drama, band, choir, piano, math competitions, etc. I was a very busy, involved kid - but not on the sports front. Although I was the student manager for the girls basketball team and was a statistician for boys basketball and football. So I was "involved" but in a way that suited my talents. I don't fault my parents for encouraging me to participate in sports. It's good to try new things and they definitely were supportive of me focusing on activities that were a better fit.

As my kids start to try activities, I am watching closely to make sure they are having a positive experience in the activity. Paul tried soccer this summer and I kept asking - "are you having fun?" I don't know that he touched the ball in any of the 3-on-3 games they played but he was engaged and seemed to be having fun, so we'll do this soccer program again next year. But I'm going to keep asking if he is having fun. Of course there is a fine line to walk between making sure your kid perseveres/not letting them quit too soon and accepting that the activity is not the right one for them... I just don't want them to experience the hit to self esteem that I did when participating in sports. 

What I've thought about when reflecting on my childhood is - what if being talented in math was held to the same standard as talent in sports/athletics ? Imagine a kid who struggles with math but keeps having to do things like public math problems and fails over and over and over? And yet, doing this public math was really important and valued so even though you are terrible at it and you kept publicly failing, the idea is that you keep doing it. I was good at math so having math held to the same standard/level of importance as sports would have been amazing for me. And yes, I recognize that math is a major area of focus in schools but it seems like we kind of accept that some kids struggle with math whereas everyone is supposed to like participating in sports. Bottom line, I don't want my kids' self-esteem to take a regular and consistent hit just for the sake of having them in activities that many kids enjoy. Luckily my boys will have access to WAY more options since we live in a major metropolitan area. And Phil and I are both active people (I run and strength train, Phil swims, runs, golfs and strength trains) so we'll always model having an active lifestyle. 

As we figure out the right mix of activities, I'm aiming to expose my boys to lots of different things to make sure they find something they love like I love running. Paul is going to check out Karate this fall as we feel like it will help with building confidence and discipline and - most importantly - he's interested in giving it a try. I'm also hoping to get him in swimming lessons... in the summer of 2021 he refused to get in the pool (it was the first time he was old enough for classes without a parent and we'd had a long gap from mom/baby classes during the pandemic) so we've been hesitant to re-enroll him but we are doing a trial lesson tomorrow. He'll continue to go to gymnastics on Saturdays and he is enrolled in a Spanish language program 2 days a week that is part of his after school program. So it should shake out to Karate on Mondays (we're starting him later this fall after he's adjusted to school starting), Spanish on Tues/Thur (at his school so this doesn't add any drop-offs/parent involvement - he would be there anyways so I don't know that this really counts as an activity from a bandwidth/scheduling perspective), gymnastics on Saturday morning and then maybe swimming lessons on Sunday.

Maybe one of my boys will get more of Phil's genetics and be the sportiest person ever - there's probably a 50/50 chance! I'm just keeping an open mind about what their activity participation will look like as they get older. 

Were you an athletic kid? Does any one else have complicated feelings about the emphasis that is put on sports?

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Weekend recap

We had a pretty good weekend all in all! Dare I say solo parenting is getting a bit easier/more manageable?

- Friday started bright and early with Paul’s tube removal. Both boys had ear tubes put in due to chronic ear infections - Paul at 9 months and Taco at 13 months.With Paul, he was too young for us to have the option to go back to the OR for the putting under part; I could have gone back with Taco but my nurse anesthetist cousin advised me to not go back because it can be upsetting to feel your kid go limp in your arms. Those procedures were leaps and bounds EASIER than Friday’s procedure (which was necessary since the tubes were stuck in the wax in his ears - eventually the foreign object will cause infections). The children’s hospital was amazing, of course. They had a person come in to talk about the process of putting him to sleep - they showed him the mask and some pictures. The woman did her best but Paul was incredibly terrified of getting put to sleep. There was no way he was going back there without me. So I carried him back to the OR as he was loudly protesting having to go through this and then I held him while he was put under. I knew what to expect so it wasn’t upsetting for me - it was just a stressful experience. This is where having been raised by a mom who was a nurse helps, I think. I do not get scared by medical procedures and am just generally a very pragmatic person (very much a T in the Myers Briggs paradigm). He was back in the room 15 minutes later and we were home by 9:15 and he was completely back to normal!

Ear procedure side-by-side: Paul at 9 months v Paul at 5.5 years! 

- We went to orientation at Taco’s new daycare. We got to see Taco’s room and met one of his teachers. He starts there a week from today. We feel good about this decision.

- Afterwards we had an impromptu park playdate that turned into getting takeout at our friend’s house. Hanging out with friends makes solo parenting far easier! 

- You’d think with the long day we had on Friday that Paul would sleep in? But no. He was up at 5:40 on Saturday morning. Yawn. Saturday was full of our usual library and gymnastics combo. They played around the house and did a ‘Dino dig’ with eggs they had gotten for Easter from my MIL. It was MESSY but entertained them. 

You soak the eggs in water and then chip away the material to find the dinosaur.

- Also messy is the way Taco plays with his construction equipment/cars. He has started to fill them with cherrios from his snack cup. I am trying to put an end to this as I hate food waste and messes! 

He looks a bit guilty after emptying one truck into another. 

- After nap/quiet time, I made the most putsy banana bread recipe ever from the ATK GF cookbook. It involves microwaving very brown bananas to get the juice out of them which you then boil down into a syrup. It’s worth all the effort as it tastes SO GOOD. I realized I was a little short on my GF flour mix (which I make myself using a recipe from that cookbook), but I thought of Nicole (HI NICOLE) and subbed in some almond flour. Usually running out of something would have paralyzed me and I would have not made the bread. What can I say - flexible is not a word used to describe me! Phil loves banana bread so this is kind of a birthday acts of service. 

- Then it was time for haircuts! We have started to cut their hair super short to cut down on the frequency of appointments. Now we go every 3 months instead of every 2. 

- Paul was up at 5:40 on Sunday again! Groan. We hit up the farmer’s market and park. The boys got cookies since the donut stand wasn’t there. And then I observed my biggest park pet peeve - big kids that seem completely unsupervised playing on little kid park equipment. I’m talking about things like climbing up slides while little 2-3 year old kids are trying to go down. I get that kids need less supervision as they get older but I think parents should be observant enough to notice when their kids are being pests. Instead I had to intervene and tell the kids to knock it off. Phil was home by the time we got back and we greeted him with open arms!!

- To cap off the weekend, we went to a pool party at Phil’s college friend’s house. Our contribution was a DQ birthday cake. Check out how they spelled Phil’s name! Last year my parents got him a DQ cake and they spelled his name ‘Phill’ so when I called in my order I spelled it out to avoid the double L situation. At least the cat is cute?

The birthday boy who turned 42, not 3!

And then we all collapsed into bed after baths. What a full weekend! 

How was your weekend? Is your name often misspelled? My name isn’t misspelled but oddly I’ve been mistakenly called Liz? Like a person will respond to an email with Lisa in my signature line and say, ‘Hi Liz’. 

Friday, August 18, 2023

5 Things Friday

It's Friday but a weird Friday since Paul has his procedure today to remove his ear tubes - which is basically a very expensive ear cleaning. Send me all the good vibes. Paul has decided he does not want to be "put to sleep" (even though I've explained it's just a brief snooze and will be over before he knows it) so I fear it's going to be a rough morning. The surgery is at our Children's Hospital so surely they are good with, um, patients with strong emotions/feelings. We have to be at the hospital at 6:15am so I'm hoping for a nap later today! Will only has a half day so I kept him home for the day and my mom's watching him this morning. Here's 5 things on my mind today. 

1. I feel like I've found my groove in terms of a workout plan. I run on Saturday and Sunday and do strength training workouts on Mondays and Fridays when I work from home. I was trying different things for my strength training workouts but have settled into the Caroline Girvan Epic Heat program. There are "30 minute" workouts but really they are about 36-37 minutes with explanations at the start and the cool down. I really like them! I find myself dripping with sweat at the end of the workout, especially lower body ones! I see there are some HIIT workouts in the program so I may skip those since I'm getting my cardio from running but we'll see. Since I can only do 2/week, it's going to take me 5-6 months to get through the program but so be it. I just don't have the motivation and energy to get up at like 5 to workout before work and nighttime workouts amp me up so much and make it hard to fall asleep. But 4 workouts/week seems reasonable for a working mom with 2 young kids. I think.  

So. Much. Sweat.

2. I used to be terrible at setting boundaries but that is one thing I worked on when I was in therapy in 2020 - because the pandemic was a CRASH COURSE in setting boundaries and I was not prepared. It is still not easy for me to set boundaries (and not feel guilty about setting those boundaries) but work seems to give me plenty of opportunities to practice. Would you believe I received 3 requests to travel during the first week of September? My new hire starts on Tuesday of that week, we don't really have child care for Paul on Tuesday and Wednesday of that week (my MIL will watch him during the day but we will try to not make those days super long for her since she is 80), and Paul starts Kindergarten on Thursday. People were mostly understanding when I explained that my son starts K that week. That is back-to-school week for most schools in Minnesota but I suppose for much of the country, their kids  have been back in school for weeks so September 7th is just an ordinary Thursday. NOT FOR US! 

3. Elisabeth is often sharing great consignment store finds so it's my turn! I took a bin of clothing to the local consignment store last month and looked around while they decided what to keep. I found a brand new pair of Athleta pants - with the tag still on! Granted they were not nearly as cheap as the things Elisabeth finds but they were a fraction of what I'd pay for them at an Athleta store so I'm calling this a win. They are on the more casual side but they have a cute belted/ruffled waist that sort of elevates them/makes them appropriate for work, I think.

Crappy bathroom selfie!

4. The boys had dentist appointments this week. When I got the reminder call the day before the appointment, the person informed me that our pediatric dentist had suddenly died. SHE WAS ONLY 50 YEARS OLD. She had just gotten remarried in the last couple of years and has twin teens. We only saw her twice a year for the last 3 years but she was such a delightful person to work with and I marveled at the fact that she CHOSE to work as a pediatric dentist. This news really hit me even though we barely know this person. But it's so sad to hear of a person's life being cut so incredibly short. We were the only patients at the practice on Wednesday so I fear it will close. She was the sole proprietor so I imagine it will be a mess to figure out what to do with the practice. 

Paul getting his teeth cleaned. The practice is so cutely set up to distract kids. There is a big tree in the middle of the room with different animals carrying toothbrushes, etc and the walls are all painted with a woodland type of scene.

5. Let's close with something happier. Phil went swimming on Tuesday night at swim club so the boys and I hung out in the backyard. I thought they'd want to play with toys while I swept up acorns - but nope. They were more entertained by helping with that chore! Will in particular LOVES to be given a "job." 

And of course I can't close this post without saying happy birthday to Phil!! I can't imagine a better person to navigate the ups and downs of life. He is definitely the fun/funny one in our relationship and helps me to not take life too seriously. And he handles all the gross stuff involved with fishing - because I am certainly not touching worms or fish! I'm glad he gets some much-deserved time away this weekend with his college friends! We'll belatedly celebrate his birthday on Sunday when he's back!! Taco and Phil share a dislike for pictures so nearly all of my pictures of Phil are candids/photos I've sneakily taken. ;) 

How was your week? Are you good at setting boundaries?

Monday, August 14, 2023

Back to normal

I had Friday off so had a very gentle return to normalcy. I came back from my trip really invigorated and refreshed so I decided to use a chunk of Friday to go through things I had set aside to donate to goodwill. It felt so good to get rid of things! We passed on a big box of clothes to some other families at daycare, too. We have benefited from a lot of hand me downs so it is nice to pay it forward! A big storm moved through on Friday night - we all marveled at the beautiful rainbow that came after the storm! 

Saturday morning was my usual routine of my run, followed by the library and gymnastics. When I was talking about my weekends with my friend Amber, she commented on how much of a weekend routine we have. I can’t imagine it any other way, though! As I’ve mentioned before, we do divide and conquer quite a bit but we are out of the house 10 or more hours/day when we are in the office so that requires us to kind of time block/divide and conquer during our weekend to get the stuff of life done. And, for me, it’s easier to divide and conquer when we have some set plans for part of the weekend day. 

On Saturday afternoon, we had my annual lake get together with my college friends. My friend’s FIL lives on a lake in the area (Lake Minnetonka) and he graciously hosts all of our families each summer! There was a lake and sand toys and such but my boys were most interested in rolling down the hill and blowing bubbles for my friend’s dog and then running away as he tried to eat the bubbles. They thought this was HILARIOUS. But I was happy to see that my kids are warming up to dogs. They used to be terrified of dogs but have really made progress on getting comfortable around dogs!

All that fresh air meant the boys slept in until almost 7 on Sunday!!! I slept until 6:50 which felt so good! I enjoyed some cooler temps on my run that morning. 

It was a beautiful, calm morning!

Then Paul and I hit up Target for school supplies which I was WAY MORE excited about. But he did enjoy the one-on-one time! He just doesn’t quite understand the allure of new pencils and such. He did get excited to pick out a pencil box, though.

Then it was off to a lunch-time party for a friend in the neighborhood who was turning 5. Paul enjoyed the bounce house and Taco enjoyed the snacks. He did not enjoy having his picture taken!

So. Much. Sass. 

And wonder of wonders, Taco took a 2+ hour nap when we got home! I napped, too. I didn’t sleep all that well on vacation so my body must be catching up. 

It rained on and off for the rest of the day so we laid low. I made picadillo for dinner and assembled some Greek ground turkey burgers that we will grill tonight. 

We have a bit of a weird week coming up. Phil leaves for his guys golf trip on Thursday and Paul has a minor surgery to remove his ear tubes which have been in for almost 5 years - it’s basically an ear cleaning while he is gently put under. He would not tolerate the ENT NP using tweezers to get them out of his ears (they are stuck in a bunch of wax in his ear canal). It’s not ideal to go into the OR but so it goes! They have to come out or they will start causing problems. It was the only date that would work for us this month so my mom is coming on Thursday so she can watch Taco on Friday when we are at Paul’s procedure. Friday is also Phil’s birthday! We will belatedly celebrate when he is back.  I know he is excited for some golf and time with his college friends! 

Speaking of birthdays, today is my mom’s 75th!! Happy birthday to my mom! I really hope I look this good at 75!!

I probably have more gray hair at age 42 than my mom does at 75!! Oh to be a blond - they seem to age extra well!

How was your weekend?

Friday, August 11, 2023

Lake Louise + Canmore: days 4 + 5

And just like that, my trip is over! I’m writing this post as I wait to board my flight from Calgary to Minneapolis. Here’s how we spent our final days! 

Day 4: Lake Louise

When I thought about the Banff area, I always thought about Lake Louise. My paternal grandparents had visited this area on a trip when I was a child and had said the area was so gorgeous. So a visit to this area was must. All the online research we did said to get there early! So we left our condo at 6am, made a pit stop in Banff for Starbucks and gas and arrived at the parking lot for Lake Louise around 7:45. We easily got a spot so our early departure was worth it! The parking lot does fill up fast! 

The views were stunning! There is another gorgeous Fairmount hotel that faces this view - I think I might prefer this one over the Banff one since there is so much hiking steps from the hotel!

Arriving early paid off as the board walk in front of the lake was very quiet. So we snapped some pics before heading out to do the Lake Agnes and Little Beehive Trails. One review describes this hike as ‘the Disneyland of hikes.’ That wasn’t really our experience but it had started to lightly rain at the start and the rain came down progressively harder so that probably deterred people from the hike. But even when we thought it might be mobbed with people, we were still willing to do it because it’s obviously busy for a reason! I love quieter, less busy hikes but I wanted to see these views. 

The Lake Agnes hike is about 3km and ends at a tea house. The tea house is only accessible by this trail so the workers all hike everything up each day!! It’s a pretty strenuous hike - not the hardest I’ve done but not a causal stroll either. The views on the way up were gorgeous!!

Mirror lake actually looks better in photos than in person. After seeing Lake Louise, it looked like a pond but the reflections off the lake were beautiful - hence the name Mirror Lake!  

We stopped for tea and treats before continuing onto Little Beehive. The tea house had lots of GF options for me! 

Little Beehive was about 1.5km further. The views were stunning. Pictures do not do this area justice. 

You can see the Fairmount on the left side of this photo. Our parking lot was just behind it so it gives you perspective on how far we had hiked! 

The hike down went much faster but it was steadily raining so we had to be careful with our footing to avoid falling! The hike was 6 miles round trip and took 2.5 hours. I was so glad to have my nice rain jacket! While the rain kept some tourists away, the rain clouds obstructed our views but so it goes! 

We stopped in Banff for lunch at a brewery before returning to Canmore. We were so very tired and opted to lay down when we got back. We had been gone for 8 hours at that point and had 3 busy, active days so rest was what we needed. At the start of the day, we had grand illusions of doing a sunset hike… but we were just so tired from all the hiking and biking. So we ate leftovers and called it an early night. We sure are fun, huh? But Amber (and all the girls I’ve met through blogging and traveled with) and I are so compatible - we prefer early mornings and early evenings! 

Day 5: Leaving Canmore

We were up early so had a light breakfast and then headed out for a short, easy ‘hike’ to a viewing point of the three sisters mountain peaks. I use hike lightly because it was more of a stroll/scramble on a rocky path. We meandered along and found a nice bench to sit on and chatted while taking in the views. You’d think we would have run out of things to talk about after talking for probably 10 hours/day the last 3 days - but nope! 

Three sisters reflection

Wearing my new Banff sweatshirt. It was a chilly morning!

It was so quiet and peaceful out there so was the perfect end to our lovely getaway. 

We grabbed brunch on our way back to the Calgary airport and then it was time to say goodbye! :(  We vowed to not let 6 go by again and will aim for seeing each other every other year! 

Closing thoughts:

This trip was exactly what I needed. It reminded me of who I was before I became a mom. Of course I am still myself as a mom, but some of your wants and desires are sacrificed when raising children, especially when they are young. It was really nice to do something for me! I recognize the privilege I have in being able to go away for 4 nights/5 days. Having a supportive husband who is willing to do more solo parenting is something I will never take for granted. But he will get his time away soon as he’s going on a guys golf weekend in northern Minnesota next weekend! 

10/10 I would recommend coming to this region and I hope to return here with Phil some day! And maybe the kids when they are hearty enough for some hiking! Luckily it’s a short 2.5 hour flight from Minneapolis so very accessible! We only scratched the surface in terms of things to do in this region but since we both have very young kids, 4 days away was as much time as we could swing. You could easily spend a week plus in this region of Canada. 

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Banff: Day 3

I’m back with the next part of what’s been an amazing trip to Alberta, Canada! TL;DR - it’s been the best getaway I could have hoped for! Be prepared for LOTS of photos. I can’t get enough of these gorgeous mountain views! 

Day 3: Biking to Banff

A friend of Amber’s recommended that we bike from Canmore to Banff as there is a dedicated bike trail. So we got to the bike rental place when it opened at 9 on Tuesday and were on our way. It’s about 15 miles each way and the views are stunning! 

We stopped a number of times to take pictures and exchange ‘can you believe these views??’ comments! 

Amber caught some photos of me on my bike!

About 2 hours later, we biked into Banff! We obviously were not looking to set a record in terms of pace. ;) 

Biking into Banff! 

Banff is probably the busiest ‘mountain town’ I’ve been to. But the central area is closed to vehicles which really helps as it would be even more congested otherwise! One super cool thing is that they have a free bike valet! You just drop your bike off and they give you a tag to pick it up. We were supposed to get a bike lock with our rental but at about the halfway point of our bike ride to Banff, we realized the guys at the rental place didn’t give it to us! 

We were pretty famished so got on the wait list for a spot with a 45 minute wait and swung by a cafe with GF goodies for something to tide us over until we sat down for lunch. Oddly my stomach has been off while traveling lately. I’ve getting nauseated quite often. This happened in California, too. I think it’s a combo of dehydration and not eating regularly enough? My body is so used to eating like every 3 hours (toast for breakfast, yogurt and berries 2 hours later, then lunch 2 hours later, then popcorn a few hours later, etc). So I’ve been trying to drink water more often and have food on me at all times on this trip so I can eat more frequently. 

After a yummy brunch meal, we shopped for a bit for our families and I snagged a cute hooded sweatshirt for only $30 Canadian for myself! I really only have 2 hooded sweatshirts and could use another. Kae and Kyria, I thought of you and your love of sweatshirts when deciding to buy it. I pretty much heard you ladies say: buy the sweatshirt, Lisa! So yes that means I am having imaginary conversations with blog friends in my head! Ha!

Next we hopped on our bikes to bike along the Bow River and up to the bougie Fairmount hotel which has a rate of $1,600CAN/night! The water in this mountainous region of Alberta totally reminds me of New Zealand. I spent a week on the South Island of NZ when I studied abroad in Australia in 2002. The Banff area is the only comparable area that I’ve visited. I’ve never seen water this color anywhere else besides NZ and on this trip! The blue/green color is so stunning! I’ve done a lot of hiking in Colorado and haven’t seen anything like this in that region of the Rockies - which don’t get me wrong is also gorgeous! 

We biked up to the Fairmount hotel and Amber asked a valet person if we could look around. I fully expected to be told NO but the guy was so nice and even offered to store our bikes while we had a look around. We grabbed a snack at an on-site cafe and sat out on the patio to rest our legs for a bit. Then it was back on our bikes for the bike back to Canmore! 

Heading back to Canmore

At about the halfway point it started to POUR! I was glad I had purchased and packed a nice rain jacket for this trip (I got a great deal on a Gortex rain jacket at REI last week). It got quite a bit of use! The bike ride back was slightly down hill and we biked quite fast once it started raining so it only took 1.5 hours to get back. 

We were pretty spent by the time we got home so we showered and grabbed some take-out pizza. We had plans to leave the Airbnb by 6 the next morning so we could get to Lake Louise before it got crowded. So we called it an early night!