Nearly two weeks ago now Anderson hit the final month of his first year. Tear. He’s full of funny faces and expressions of both happiness and displeasure at being denied his wants.

11 months 5

11 months 1

11 months 2

11 months 3

He weighs 23 lbs and is about 29.5 inches long. His growth has definitely started to level off but his development has not.

This month it seems like all the sudden he’s a little person. Not that he hasn’t always been a person, but he’s so aware of his surroundings and very interactive. He observes the world around it often pointing (still with his whole hand) and grunts until we tell him what it is or let him touch it.

He has clapping down and can even do it on cue.

He seeks out laughter and once he realizes something gets a laugh, he’ll continue to do it. He laughs all the time and squeals with delight.

Watermelon face

He babbles constantly. He has down mama, dada, Ella and ba. We’re not quite sure what ba is for but he says it a lot.

He’s on the move constantly whether it be crawling or cruising. He’s thisclose to walking. Any day now I suspect. It’s no wonder he’s finally sleeping well. He naps for 2-3 hours every afternoon and most nights if he wakes up, it’s just for a quick milk fix and then right back to sleep until 8 am or so. It’s been so nice!

This month we went to Nebraska to celebrate the Fourth.

Anderson 4th of July

Anderson went on a boat for the first time.

Anderson boating

He was more interested in nursing and trying to figure out how he could get out of his life vest.

While we were back we also went up to the Van Kirk family farm. We had three generations of Van Kirk men together which was pretty special.

Four Generations

He also got to see his first fireworks show courtesy of his cousins and uncles. There was no way he was going to bed with all that noise going on.

He was pretty amazed and just sat staring at the sky with his mouth agape.

I’m sure that is how I look when I watch him lately. It seems like he was my little baby just yesterday and here we are just a few weeks from his birthday!

AJ's favorite spot


Ella turned three back on the 3rd.

Ella birthday

How it is possible that she is three already is a mystery. I just brought her home from the hospital yesterday right? This girl.

Ella 3yo 5

Ella 3yo 4

Ella 3yo 3

Ella 3yo 1

She is a whopping 26 lbs and about 35 inches tall. She has a head full of untamed curls and finally all the teeth she should by now. Those two year molars were almost three year molars.

Over the past year Ella has turned into such a kid. She’s not a toddler, she is full on preschooler now, going on 16. Fiercely independent, the most common phrase at our house is “I’ll do it all by myself.” This includes everything from picking out her clothes and getting dressed to getting her own cereal and milk and putting herself to bed at nap time. The only time she wants help is when she gets frustrated (i.e. throws a tantrum) and finally asks for help once she calms down.

She offers to help all the time. She often helps me make meals in any way she can. She sets the table for dinner and is in charge of feeding Lucky (her request). I think it’s great that she is starting to want to take on chores and is enjoying them. I didn’t expect that for several more years.

Tantrums have hit and they’ve hit hard. 95% of them are due to frustration. We’ve been working hard on using words to express emotion rather than tantrums. When she’s overtired, there is no help for any of us. We have to just let her calm down on her own. These are my least favorite part of this age.

Outside of the tantrums, she is very sweet. She’s quick to say I love you, give hugs and asks for cuddles. When I recently fell and skinned my elbow on a run (side note, I’m sure I looked like a total idiot) she gave it a kiss and immediately went to the bathroom for a band-aid, which she applied and asked if I needed ice. She then gave it another kiss and said “I’m so sorry you fell down and got hurt mommy. It will feel better soon because you have a band-aid and kisses.”

She is all about being a mommy right now. She carries her doll everywhere. She tells me often that when she’s a big kid (i.e. adult) that she is going to get married (sometimes it’s to daddy and sometimes Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid), and have two babies. When she goes to work she will pump so that she can leave mommy milk for her babies while they’re at school.

ella nursing

Yep, she even nurses her baby. Mimicking behavior and language is going strong, which means we have to really make sure we’re not doing/saying anything we don’t want her to do.

She has developed strong emotional relationships with people other than us and isn’t shy about showing preferences. She is really loving Peter and Rachel who we see every weekend now that we live here. She adores her cousins and actually get excited to see family members. She loves making friends, but like me, feels shy initially and tends to quietly standby and watch kids play if she’s feeling excluded. It’s interesting seeing traits we’ve passed on in her.

Her communication skills are off the charts. I tried to get her on video telling you about herself but all I got was this:

We have clear, lengthy conversations with her – often that she’s started. People who aren’t around her often laugh at what comes out of her mouth. We were out and had to wait in line for a bathroom a few months ago, she calmly said “Mommy, the bathroom is occupied so we have to wait in line.” The woman in front of me turned around and said she’d never heard a toddler speak like that. She absorbs words and phrases like a sponge. It’s pretty amazing.

We’re now singing as well, especially songs from Frozen.

Of course she tells us that we are not allowed to sing the songs unless we’re wearing a skirt or dress. She likes to listen to the same songs over and over to learn the words. When we’re in the car she will tell us to turn up songs she likes (Katy Perry, Paramore, and Iggy Azalea are favorites at the moment) and off songs she doesn’t. Oh Ella.

We’ve been completely potty trained for about seven/eight months. After months with no accidents, we did see a spike when we moved. I think it was just a slight regression due to all the change. Outside of development some of her favorite things include: pink – still loving pink (so she’s really excited about her new room at our house), babies and princesses, skirts, dresses, tiaras – all princess, all the time.

Ella sunglasses

She also loves swimming, running, parks, playing with friends and her cousins, Anderson, and coloring. She will color for hours. She’s gotten pretty good and even stays in the lines for the most part. She is a character.

She’s grown and learned so much in the past six months since her last update I feel like I could write a book. I just cannot believe she is three years old!

Racing is expensive. For that reason I don’t often do many outside of a marathon or half marathon every year. The running group I joined posted some information about the Rice Lake Classic in Maple Grove on its Facebook page. I was intrigued and decided to check out the webpage. Turns out it only cost $10 for entry, plus a t-shirt. Ten Dollars! Obviously I had to register.

This morning I met up with some of the mother runners to run the 3.7 mile race around Rice Lake.

Moms Run This Town - Rice Lake Classic

The race was small – limited to 350 entries. When we lined up at the start, it was kind of unclear where the actual start was. Amy, who I’ve had the pleasure of running with on several occasions and I loved the older man that blew his whistle to start the race. It was so small town and fun. We started on grass which was wet from the rain we’ve had the past few days…again. Fear of sliding and falling did help prevent me from sprinting out too fast.

Rice Lake is a new trail for me so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Around a quarter mile in we hit the first of many hills. It was short and steep which seemed like no big deal. What I didn’t realize is that there were several of these short steep hills with a few longer ones in between. My first mile was great. I felt good and was pushing myself just enough that I was slightly uncomfortable. I finished it in 7:44.

After that I started to succumb to the humidity. It was only about 70-75 degrees outside but it was so humid you could see the moisture in the air. I was really hoping it would start raining on us. Alas, it did not. I slowed a bit at mile two – 8:01. I decided to skip the water stop because I didn’t want to lose any more momentum.

Shortly thereafter, on the longest hill of the course, I lost my momentum. I took a brief walk break about mile 2.5. The humidity was getting to me and I was overheating. I picked it back up again running through to the 5k mark. I set a new 5k PR of 24:12 (7:47 pace!). I kept trying to push through but around mile 3.25 I took one more short break.

Of course to finish the race there was one more short hill to conquer before sprinting through the grass to the finish line. When I finished I felt like I was going to vomit. I was completely overheated and worn out. It’s amazing how short races can take it out of you and 10 miles can feel like nothing. I was supposed to run 10 total today but just could not handle the weather. I decided that I could probably just do my long run tomorrow.

My watch said I had finished 3.72 miles in 29:26 which was about a 7:54 average pace. With no chip timing and no clear start point, I wasn’t sure how accurate my Garmin time was. I was going to head home but got caught up talking to the ladies and decided I may as well stay for the age group awards.

As we listened to the names being called for the 30-39 age group and I heard the finish times of the 2nd and 3rd place women, I realized I won my age group! I collected my metal and headed back to the group. Amy’s name was called for winning her age group right after me! Then her mom for the 60+ group. Her reaction was the best. She screamed. I loved it.

Rice Lake Classic Age Group Winners

We were happy runners!

When I got home I received my official results. I have to say it was the fastest turnaround on results I’ve ever gotten.

Congratulations JESSICA VAN KIRK on finishing the Rice Lake 3.7 Mile!
Your Time of 29:28 with a pace of  7:58 per mile, put you in 49th Overall!
In your Division of F30-39 your Division Place was 1 out of 55 .
Your Gender Place was 5 out of 142 .

I think this may just become my new favorite annual race.

Our exploration of Minnesota continues. A few weeks ago when we were talking about the fall it occurred to me that there is probably good apple picking here. When I did a quick Google search I found there are way more pick your own fruit options, including fresh strawberries. Last week marked the start of strawberry picking season and we were ready to get our hands dirty.

Instead of heading North like we normally do, we picked a farm about 45 minutes south of Minnetonka near Northfield. It wasn’t until we arrived that we realized they probably only took cash. Of course we had none, so we drove to Northfield which had a super cute downtown. When we have more time we will visit again and walk around the area, grab some lunch.

northfield minnesota 550p jpg


Cash in hand, kids awake from their short naps, we were ready to pick. We were given a box and walked to our row and started picking.

strawberry picking farm

strawberry picking 2

It only took about 10 minutes for Anderson to decide he wanted out of the carrier to get in on the action. He was a strawberry fiend.

strawberry picking 1

strawberry picking 3

strawberry picking 4

We spent about an hour and half picking and eating berries before we decided our box was full enough.

strawberry picking 7

strawberry picking 8

Nearly 12 lbs of strawberries, 12 pounds!


We’re working our way through them. I made a pie and picked up an Angel food cake at the store. We eat them with breakfast, lunch and dinner. What we don’t eat will go into the freezer. It’s really too bad that all of our canning stuff is in our moving truck.

Something us prime for picking – our new house!

new house

We are officially under contract on a house. Unfortunately the current owners are building a new house and would not budge on closing before the end of August. We feel like it was worth the wait. Come Labor Day weekend, we’ll be ready for visitors! Well that is as long as you don’t mind a partially empty house. We’ve definitely upgraded a bit and need to buy quite a bit of new furniture.

I’ve never seen myself as a stay-at-home mom. Not because I didn’t feel it would be rewarding or because I don’t love my children dearly, I just was unable to imagine not getting up and going to an office every day. Plus, I worried that I’d stunt the kids development and they’d fall behind their peers. Those reasons and the fact that I worked really hard to put myself through college, I continued working after having the kids.

With this move came the opportunity for me to be a full-time mom, with the bonus of working 10-15 hours a week from home. I jumped on it, excited to spend the summer with the kids. I also decided it would help everyone through the transition of being in a new place if I were home. Change is hard for everyone, especially kids who thrive on a routine.


Garden of the Gods Bears

So how’s it been going?

We are just about settled into a routine. What we do within the span of a week changes, but I try to stick to a schedule with lunch and naptime. One of my first goals was to find parks within walking distance. This allows us to take Lucky for a walk but also find fun playgrounds where there will also be other kids (hopefully). We have a few great parks within a couple miles of us that we go to at least once a week.

When we arrived here, one of Ella’s first questions was when she was going to meet new friends. It broke my heart a little bit when she added that she misses her friends. We do not want to put her into preschool just yet because we’re not in our new house, which could be in one of three cities we’re currently looking in. I noticed the city was offering a free playground class for three year olds. I jumped on it and so for 45 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday we go to the park to where the camp leaders take the kids and play with them on the playground. As a bonus for me, I met two great moms who I get to chit chat with. I crave the adult conversation.

We’ve been trying out a few other kid friendly events and activities. The favorite by far is storytime at the library where they sing and dance in addition to reading. They both also really like the indoor play area at the rec center and of course, Shady Oak Lake.

As for me, I love getting to do all these fun things with the kids and spend my days outside in the sun. I love seeing them grow and especially Anderson develop new skills. I’m not missing a moment of it. That being said, some days are amazing other days, really hard.

birthday with the kids

It seems the terrible threes have arrived at our house. I’m trying to be as understanding as possible when Ella has tantrums because she wants to be independent but still needs help, plus not being in a place of her own, is hard. There are times though that I have to leave her in her room throwing a tantrum and walk away because I start to lose my cool. Those are the days I miss having a nice break.

As for what I’m missing, adult interaction. I was lucky to work with some really great people and I miss just shooting the breeze and bouncing ideas off of them. I work when the kids nap which is a hit or miss. Ella will nap every day, but Anderson may or may not nap at the same time. I get up about 5 am to get work in just in case they do not nap. If they do, it’s a bonus and I’ll let myself sleep in a bit later at the end of the week.

I’d say the transition has been easier than I thought. There are moments of loneliness that lead to homesickness. I look forward to Josh coming home every night almost equally for the conversation and the extra set of hands.

I don’t see myself staying home until the kids go off to school, but at least until we buy a house and find good, quality childcare.



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