Monday, September 25, 2017

1 Family x 12 (September)

We had a crazy weekend.....the bookends were NOT awesome but the middle...the middle part was perfect.  So, for now, we're going to focus on that middle like the frosting in the Oreo.  It's the only part that REALLY matters anyways.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ritterbusch Family Camping Trip

A few weeks ago my parents decided to join the family of camper owners!!!  They bought a great little hard sided camper that's slightly smaller but significantly nicer and newer than ours!  We've been toying with the idea of a camper upgrade for next year and hanging out in theirs this weekend sealed the deal for me!

So, since they had a new camper, and we all wanted to check it out, we planned a last minute family camping trip to the Mississippi Palisades this past weekend.  The location worked out great...about half way for all three of the families and just over a 2 hour drive for us.  We've been doing a LOT of camping and traveling this summer (we always do!) so having a shorter than normal drive was such a nice treat.  We should probably camp there more often.  The camp ground was pretty empty on Friday night but filled in a little more on Saturday but we had a great set of sites, near the end of a road so the kids would walk/play/run between our sites and we weren't too worried about them being in the way.

Joey and Andy came out on Saturday early afternoon after Kayden's soccer game and we spent the afternoon lounging by the campers and just relaxing.  We'd planned to hike, but it was HOT and we quickly lost most of the motivation to carry the kids around on our backs so we opted for the easier route of driving to the lookouts,taking the quick hike out to the areas where you could see and then jumping back in the cars to see the next one.  HA!  We were lazy, that's for sure.

Mom had a cute little fall project for the girls, making squirrels, which they loved. And she planned an amazing charcuterie tray for the adults.  Guys, believe me when I tell you, it was so good!  Mom, I'll be wanting one of those whenever we come home (hint hint)!  That's the problem with being good at something, then everyone wants you to do it over and over again.

We ate too much, drank too much and had a great time.  As one does, when camping.  We can't wait to do more family trips now that we're all sleeping in beds off the ground, with air conditioning and all the modern amenities of home. HA!  Some of you are probably thinking, why don't you just stay at home then?!  But, the truth is, there's something about camping that forces you to put your phones down, sit by the fire and just talk with the people you are with.  We had a great time and we can't wait to make more memories like this one!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Abby's 5th Birthday

Another birthday (and party) in the books!!  This year was a big one...Abby turned 5 meaning its off to kindergarten.  I keep thinking Abby will want to do a fun little kid party with all her friends from daycare and school but when I tried to schedule her a chocolate making party in downtown Huntley she let me know that she had other plans.

In fact, she had very specific plans.  She told me all she wanted for her birthday this year was "to have all her friends and family at our house for a pool party, and for Auntie to make her a cake with her WHOLE name on it....and to have a pinata".

So, basically she wanted to repeat every party we've ever done for her with a few minor tweaks...specifically cake related.  Last year Erin went to a cake decorating class the morning of Abby's party so she decided to decorate the practice cake she made with an "A" for Abby's party.  Well, I'm sorry to say it Erin, but I think you've started a 'thing" now.  Get those cake making skills ready for a yearly birthday cake.

The theme this year was Ninja Turtles which was actually a strong contender for LAST years party but Dory won last year.  I was pretty sure Trolls would win the theme for this year but those turtles have staying power.  Ellyn got Abby her birthday cupcake (another tradition that Abby loves) and it was decorated with a cute ninja turtle to match the theme.  I didn't get a good picture of it unfortunately, but you can sort of see it in the cake pictures above.

The kids loved the pinata and Kayden and Parker were the big hitters this year (we weren't surprised!).  I think Parker was the one to actually crack it open, though a few of the kids got some good swings in to help.

Abby's favorite part of the entire party is the Birthday song.  It's not even presents...though that's probably a pretty close second.  She just loves looking around at everyone there while they sign and takes it all in.  She's the sweetest little girl!

All in all, we had another successful party!  Somehow we always luck out with great weather for these family parties. I'm sure I just jinx'd it for next year.  Thanks to everyone who made the drive, we know Marengo isn't close for most of you...but Abby loves seeing everyone and we're so thankful for all the love you show our kiddos!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

1 Family x 12 (August)

Want to know what's great about this picture?  It's almost EXACTLY the same picture we took last year when we were Cousins Camping (see here).  The only difference...the kids are older and I look skinnier so I'll take it!!!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Abby's First Day of Kindergarten

Can you believe it's here?  The first day of Kindergarten??  I certainly can NOT!

Let me tell ya, first time Mommies...the whole first day of school thing is uncharted territory.  I feel like I'm missing about 90% of the information 100% of the time...but somehow we made it on the bus (on time) on the first day of school and this little kiddo could not be more excited.

Last night we had the school open house where we met her teacher, found her desk, put away all her school supplies and found out the bus schedule.  We must have asked Abby a few too many times if she was excited because she finally said "Can you stop asking me if I'm excited because it gets stuck in my head" which I think meant, "Stop dwelling on it...I'm getting nervous and I can't stop thinking about it".

I was ALWAYS super nervous about the first day of school so I totally get the feeling!

Today she seemed much more excited about it then she was last night.  Especially the bus!  We walked down to the end of the driveway together and waited for about 5 minutes and let me tell you, was she ever excited when she saw the bus stopping a few houses away.  There is a video at the bottom of check it out!

I didn't cry a single tear until the bus door closed and pulled away.  Then it hit me...she's a big kid now!  But, two tears and I was done.  This is what we raise them for, right?  To go out into the world and learn and grow and be good people!  Fly my little!

PS:  Sign credit to talented Auntie Erin.  Isn't it awesome!!  She's starting her first day of school next week...on her way to be a graphic designer.  Thanks Auntie!!!

We asked Abby these same questions last year.  Click  here to see how she answered last year.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dear Abby (age 5)

Dear Abby ~

Five!  Since when does five years fly by in the blink of an eye?  But, here we are.  You were my first baby.  The one that made me a Mommy and taught me how to love with my entire being.  You are the sweetest little girl with a heart of gold. You are kind and gentle most of the time, but lately, I've been seeing your 5 year old bossy side coming out. It's hard when I hear you use my words/tone back at me or your sister so I try to remember to have patience and to model good behavior.  

This year, instead of me answering the questions for you, I decided to let you answer in your cute adorable 5 year old way.  Year over year, I ask the same questions so we can see how you change over time.

Favorite Color: "Blue".  This has been true since you were first able to express your favorite've loved blue forever and forever and I'm pretty sure this one is here to stay.  Though sometimes you'll answer "blue and pink and black".  I'm not sure where that comes from...HA!

Favorite Foods: "Butter Noodles, juice and milk and water."

A silly answer though mostly true.  You DO love Butter Noodles so much that I had to make a rule where you are only allowed to have them once a week.  You've been doing so much better in the last 6 months of eating new things and branching out.  Back in March I put the whole family on a diet and decided I was done cooking more than one meal a night.  I was tired of making one thing for me and Daddy and another meal for you and Hazel so we just put our foot down and didn't give in even when you didn't eat a single bite for dinner.  We stayed strong and you realized you were stuck with what was on your plate.  You aren't always happy about it, and a few nights a week I DO still make a second meal for you and Hazel, but all in all, I think we've come pretty far on this front since last year and the days of Mac & Cheese, Chicken Nuggets and Butter Noodles.  Here's to being adventurous, trying veggies and eating things you've never tasted before.

Favorite Outfit: "Princess Elena PJs from Bubby. Go Pack Go shirt and dance outfits."

You sure were in a silly mood last night when I asked you these questions but this is pretty accurate as well.  You love your new Disney Princess PJ dresses and you've always been my little Go Pack Go girl....since the beginning (more on that later).  I'd say that as you're getting older you are starting to voice your opinions on what you wear more often but you are still pretty easy going.  Some mornings you'll let me pick but others you are determined to make us late by changing out of whatever I've already picked to put on your own choice.  You like dresses and anything blue.  But the first thing you pull out of the drawer after laundry day is ALWAYS your Ninja Turtle T-shirt (pictured below).

You are a teeny girl and still wear size 2t-3t undies and you fit in size 3t shorts better than any size.  But, for jeans, you are all the way in 5t's which means the fall off your teeny tiny waist so we're going to have to start feeding you milk shakes and ice cream every night to fatten you up!  Don't get me wrong, it's been great on the clothes budget to have you wearing the same size for nearly 2 years but we've definitely seen a growth spurt in the last few months and I have a feeling you'll be needing a whole new wardrobe here for the fall.

Favorite Toy: "Sky High Bridge Jump and my kitties."

Sky High Bridge jump was a Santa gift that was reinvigorated by an expansion pack from Auntie Erin for your birthday. It's current reassembled in the basement and taking up at least 30 square feet of floor space.  And three Beanie Baby kitties have become your favorite friends to bring to daycare.  It used to be all Owie all the time, and he (well, they...there are 4 of them) are still in full on rotation and a requirement at bed time but lately you've been really into these kitties.

Height/Weight: I'm bummed I didn't think to ask you this question because I have no doubt your answer would have been entertaining....oh well, next year.  Instead, I'll take the answer straight from your 5 year check up.  You are 42.5 inches tall (3 feet 6.5 inches and weigh 34.2 lbs.  That puts you in the 60th% for height and 17th% for weight.  It's a big jump since last year when you were in the 16% and 11% respectively.  See...a growth spurt for sure!

Favorite TV Show: "Thomas and Friends and Mickey's Halloween Adventure."

I'm not totally sure I agree with your answers to this one. These are just the latest movies you were eyeing downstairs when I was asking you the questions.  Your favorite shows are on Disney Jr.  Mostly because it's all we let you watch at I was answering for you I'd say Elena, Sofia the First, Mickey and PJ Masks are among your favorites.

Bears or Packers?: "The Bears AND the Packers."

It's true, this IS what you always say.  You know that Daddy and I are split on who we like and you really would like to play the middle ground on this one.  If we ask, you always say that you like them both the same and you are always trying to get Daddy and I to agree that we like to "other team" just a little bit.  It's a hard sell for us to agree but you can keep liking whomever you like little peanut (though...lets keep cheering for those Packers, ok?).

Fears: "Spiders."

I know exactly where you got this were asking me if you could watch Charlotte's Web when we were doing this so I'd have to say that this is not true at all.  I mean, you don't love bugs...that's true but it's not really your biggest fear.  I'd say that you don't like thunder, though you're doing better now that I told you it was just God bowling in Heaven.  You sometimes wake me up in the middle of the night saying that you are "a little nervous in your room because it's dark" but I don't really think you're afraid of the dark either.  You like to sleep with a little lantern or flash light most nights but you don't always have them on and you are fine sleeping other places without a night lights so I wouldn't totally count this one as a full on fear either.

Favorite Movies: "Trolls and Charlotte's Web."

HA!  See, I told you that's why you said Spiders were your biggest fear - Charlotte's Web.  I do have to agree that Trolls is your number one favorite movie right now.  You love the music (which Daddy and I don't mind either) and you request it often.  We tease you about being a Bergen which you hate...but Trolls is definately on repeat at our house these days.  We have to try really hard to convince you to try watching anything else.  But, Moana and Sign are new recent ones working their way up into the favorite spot.  I'm interested to see how this answer changes when we go to Disney this fall and get to see the characters in real life!

Happy Birthday my little peanut!  Here's to watching you grow and become the sweetest little lady we know!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Family Bike Ride

Last weekend my dad coordinated a family bike ride near New Glarus, Wisconsin.  So, we loaded up the kids, a cooler, all of our bikes, and the burleys for the kids (man it takes a LOT of stuff to move 10 people!) and we headed out on a family bike ride.  The ride itself wasn't too long or too hard.  About 11 miles on one of the Wisconsin Rails to Trails bike routes. But, probably the coolest (literally and figuratively) part of the ride was that we got to go through an old train tunnel about half way through the ride.

It was completely dark inside so we had flashlights to help guide the way.  The temperature inside was maybe 20 degrees cooler than the outside air temp so it was a welcome site when we came back through the tunnel on the way back to our cars.

All in all, it was a great day with family and I'm so glad I brought along my real camera and made everyone stop for two seconds to take some pictures.  It always seems like such a hassle in the moment to grab big group photos but I NEVER regret it later.  Thanks for putting up with me guys!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Day Out with Thomas

Did you know we live within 5 miles of a local train museum?  I guess they are widespread across the country and can be pretty big attractions in and of themselves, but by far the most exciting thing that happens at ours is Thomas coming to town.  We pass this spot every single day on our way to and from daycare and last year right around Abby's birthday we noticed Percy (from the Thomas the Train show) sitting right there on the tracks.  We hadn't lived her for more than about a month yet so we had no idea what it was all about, but it sure didn't take us long to figure it out.

For literally an entire year Abby would ask me over and over again when she could go see Thomas and we went through listing all of the holidays that would need to happen before he would be back again and we could go see him.  Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter, Hazel's Birthday and then THOMAS!

Guys, you think I'm kidding, but Abby has the memory of an elephant!  I'm serious.  A holiday would pass and Abby would go back to the list and start counting down the holidays until Thomas would be back.  So, I knew we needed to get tickets, no matter the cost this year.

Jamie and Zach joined us and we had a great time!  We picked the earliest train ride possible and bought tickets literally the day they went on sale (I plan everything pretty far in advance) and we're so glad we made the choices we did.  We arrived about an hour before, just as the park opened and the day was still cool enough that we could squeeze in all the activities before nap time/swimming pool time.

If you have kids this age, and live anywhere near us, I'd recommend it!  It was a little pricey, but what isn't these days.  Hazel and Lucy got in free which year, we'll be on the hook for all 4 tickets but maybe Abby will be out of this stage by then?

All the other kids were terrified of Sir. TopumHat and you can tell even Abby wasn't getting too close, but all in all, we had a great time.  Around 10 am we all loaded up on the train (pulled by Thomas) and we went on a quick little ride down the tracks.  I think the whole ride lasted only 20 minutes and that's one thing I wish they'd have extended but the day was getting warmer and we were all about ready to get in the pool.

We stopped at a few more booths so the kids could finish up their little stamp collecting maps and get their prize and we were on our way back home.  Well, not before scoring two corn dogs...I mean, when in Rome!

All in all, I'd do it again.  So, if you live close, check the website in the spring and grab some tickets...then come stop by the's just down the road :)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hazel's Birthday (at the lake)

Well, Hazel may not have gotten a big birthday bash this year, but she sure made out regardless.  She somehow managed to get THREE parties instead of just one.  Ha!  I'm going to try that out myself next year :)

As always, Ellen worked with a small little bakery in Geneva to make a custom cupcake for the birthday girl.  This year Hazel's cupcake was a picture of her little "Dollie", her most prized possession and the one thing she just can't leave home without.  Erin got this cute little raccoon doll for Abby when she was just a tiny baby and for some reason Hazel has adopted her as her own.  Erin got her a second, similar, raccoon doll for Christmas this year, but Hazel really loves the original best (of course).  So, it seemed fitting that her cupcake this year should sport her favorite thing in all the land....her Dollie!

I'm sure the number of pictures in this post is gratuitous, but some of them were just too cute not to share so prepare yourself for a full on slide show of the festivities.  Hazel's favorite part, by far, was the signing and the cupcake but the family pulled out all the stops and stocked her up on presents and fun summer things.

I mean, look at that face!!!  That's Erin's present, new clothes for her Dollie which she desperately needed!!  Now Dollie is all cleaned up (mostly) with a fresh new jumper (with hole for her tail) and a cute little red overcoat that Hazel just LOVES to put on and off.  Good choice, Auntie...good choice!

Oh yeah, and a Bears t-shirt (yuck).  No wonder I blocked that memory from my mind :)  All in all, she is one loved little girl and we're so thankful for everyone who helped to make her second birthday so special!!!

Couldn't resist take it...I'm posting it :)