Thursday, November 24, 2011


Hi Friends--

Happy Thanksgiving to all! There are many days that I am tempted to complain about my life. We have no money, I don't want to go to work, I just need one more hour of sleep, etc. But whenever I start feeling that way, I try to think of how lucky I am to have what I have. There are always people worse off, right?

We don't have the money we used to have for things like vacations, concerts, and shopping sprees. But you know what? We have two cars and a nice house in a safe neighborhood for our son to grow up in. For that, I am thankful.

I make very little money. Like, very little. I'm not going to say exactly how little, but I doubt there are many college educated people who have been at the same job for 7 years that make as little as I do. But you know what? I don't dread going to work every morning. I make a difference in people's lives. For that, I am thankful.

I am working a second job to help pay for daycare. I don't want to work on Sundays. But you know what? It pays me too well to NOT do it, and there are a lot of people who don't have ANY jobs--and I have two. For that, I am thankful.

I used to go out with my friends two or three nights every week. We had so much fun. Now most of us see each other two or three times every year. But you know what? When we do see each other, it's like no time has passed. They are just as busy as me, and understand what my life is like, because they're living it too. For that, I am thankful.

The holidays can be extremely stressful, because my husband and I have four sets of parents to visit. We run around like crazy people trying to spend time with everyone. Sometimes I just want to stay home. But you know what? We have 4 different sets of grandparents to love our son (and babysit! :). We know we would never be without a place to go if we needed someone. All of our parents are healthy and living nearby. For that, I am thankful.

My husband and I used to go out on all kinds of dates. Twins games, Wild games, the Science Museum, movies, those dates are few and far between. But you know what? I have a husband who works hard for his family and tells me I'm beautiful every day. For that, I am thankful.

Two years ago on Thanksgiving morning, I woke up in the hospital for the 11th morning in a row, and walked down to the nursery to see my tiny little 4-pound baby. This morning, I woke up and walked down the hall to see my happy, healthy, active little two year old greet me with a big smile and a "love you, Mama". For that, I am so unbelievably thankful.

So whenever I start to think about how hard my life is, I tried to remember how much I have to be thankful for. Being young, working parents is difficult. But it is so worth it. I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving with all the important people in your lives! Take care.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Day in the Kitchen

It must be something about this chilly weather that is putting me in the mood to cook, bake, and store up for winter. I love to cook and to bake....when time permits. I will often talk about what I'm making for dinner or my love of crock pots on facebook, and a few people have recommended I share my recipes on my blog. I will try to find the time to do that when I come across a new recipe or make one of my favorites. Typing recipes can be time-consuming though!

Here is a time saving trick I figure out a couple weeks ago (genius, if I do say so myself) when I wanted to make Chicken Wild Rice Soup (I will share that recipe one of these days--so good!) and didn't have any left over chicken to use. I threw a few chicken breasts in the crock pot before leaving for work and then shredded it when I got home. There was more than I needed use for the soup, so I froze the rest. Hello??? Why haven't I been doing this for years? Putting chicken in the crock pot takes like 2 minutes, and I can have frozen, ready to use shredded chicken anytime I want it!

I already used those left overs, so I have more in the crock pot today. Here's what you do: Put as many chicken breasts as you want (today I put a whole bag of frozen chicken breasts in) in the crock pot. Pour a cup of chicken broth over them (to keep them from drying out) and cook on low 6-8 hours or until it falls apart with a fork. Shred it, let it cool, and then separate it into quart size freezer bags. Next time you want to make soup, enchiladas, casserole, bbq chicken sandwiches, etc., all you have to do is defrost a bag. Such a time saver!

I am also going to attempt to make and freeze my own hashbrowns today. The grocery stores often have BOGO deals on 5-pound bags of potatoes, but I have never taken advantage of the coupons because we can hardly get through one bag of potatoes before they rot. With prices as they are right now, I realized I should be taking advantage of those kinds of deals, so today I went for it---10 pounds of potatoes for $2.99 (BOGO coupon in the Cub coupon books--good through 9/24). I am going to peel and shred one of the five pound bags so we can have hashbrowns for the winter. Here are the directions I found online, so I'm hoping it will work!

To freeze potatoes for hash browns, shred potatoes; hold in a bowl of cold water until all potatoes are shredded. Drain and blanch in boiling water about 3 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, drain again and pat dry. Pack into freezer containers or resealable bags. Store in the freezer for up to 1 year. Use frozen in favorite dishes calling for frozen hash brown potatoes.

I have also taken advantage of seasonal prices by freezing blueberries (for muffins) and corn when corn on the cob is cheap--just boil it for a few minutes so it is slightly cooked, cut it off the cob, cool, and put into freezer bags. Then you can just steam or boil it like store bought frozen veggies).

My other kitchen project today: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (my favorites!)

Here's what you need:
-1 cup margarine or butter
-1 cup peanut butter
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 cup brown sugar
-2 eggs
-1 tsp. vanilla
-2 1/2 cups flour
-2 tsp baking powder
-1 cup oats
-1 cup chocolate chips
-1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Drop teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with a fork, making a criss-cross pattern. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Makes about 5-6 dozen cookies!

That is what I'm up to today. I love learning time and money saving tips, so feel free to share yours with me!

On a personal note, day care is going well for the Con-man. He has adjusted beautifully and is already so much more comfortable around other kids--one of the main reasons I wanted to send him. He has a little friend named Nate who is about a year older than him. It is so cute the way Connor looks up to him. He seems like a nice boy, and so far Connor hasn't picked up anything TOO naughty from him. Hope all is well for everyone out there!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011


This week, every soul in the Larsen house has had to endure some changes in routine. My going back to school marked the end of a summer full of trips to the park, playing in the sprinkler, snuggling on the couch, and the realization that maybe I would like to be a stay-at-home mom if I could.

My last blog post was about how nervous I was about sending Connor to daycare. It has been easier than I anticipated (which is the way it always is--that child constantly surprises me with his adaptability). The very first two-hour trial run, he cried for the first half hour, but then had so much fun chasing their dog around the backyard that I had trouble getting him to leave! The second trial-run, he only cried for five minutes. Yesterday, Daddy had to start dropping him off, and it was difficult. It is so hard when your child is crying and saying "NO NO, Dada!!", but Mikey followed my instructions and left right away anyway. Connor recovered much more quickly than Daddy :) Today, his second full day, Connor barely acknowledged me when I walked in to pick him up, and I once again had to convince him to leave. By George, I think he likes it!!

I of course had all kinds of expectations and fears going into this change, but there is one feeling I have experienced that I wasn't expecting. Even though I have always worked, I really feel like a working mother for the first time. In the past, I have just driven straight home from work, where Connor and my sister-in-law were waiting for me. Now, I have to actually stop and pick him up. It is a minor thing, but the feeling is really different and has caught me off guard.

I opened this post by saying EVERY soul in the house has experienced change, so we can't forget about Bauer! The poor dog has been used to having someone home during the day for most of his life. In fact, the last time he was regularly home alone all day was fall of 2009, when he was not even a year old and confined to a kennel. One of many perks of having Jackie here during the day was that Bauer wouldn't be alone. Today was only day two of Bauer's "confinement", and I came home to find some things out of place. In fact, a towel made it all the way from the basement to the third level of the house. Naughty puppy! Hopefully he will adjust as well, and we will just have to be better about getting him out to walk/play in the evening.

Even though this quote doesn't have much to do with the topic of daycare, I came across this in a book I was reading and found it to be very true:
"Is this parenting? Longing for your children to grow and then feeling aching sadness when they do?"
This puts in to words exactly what I have felt many times throughout Connor's life. Especially with him being a preemie, I have always worried that he isn't doing what he's "supposed" to be doing. I couldn't wait for him to reach all his milestones....but once he did, I would mourn the loss of the stage that just ended. I know there will be many more moments like this in his life. Why can't time just slow down????

Well, we made it through the hardest days of our transition with only one casualty...the napkin Bauer ripped up. I think we're doing okay. Thanks for reading! Take care!

xoxo, Julie

Monday, August 8, 2011

Daycare :(

Wow, I can't believe how long it's been since I posted! This summer is just flying by. I haven't even begun counting the days until school starts again, but I know I really only have a couple weeks left.
This year, it is going to be exceptionally hard to go back to school...for a few reasons. First of all, the summer has just gone quickly and I haven't even had a chance to miss school yet. Secondly, Connor is at such a fun age and we (most days) have been having a blast together. Finally (and most importantly), it is going to be hard to go back because Connor will be going to daycare for the first time.

Since he was born, we have been very fortunate to have my sister-in-law, Connor's Aunt Jackie, nanny for Connor. It was so much easier leaving Connor knowing he was with someone who loves him, in his own home, with one-on-one attention. I really admire and feel for those parents who have to bring their helpless newborns to a stranger at 6-12 weeks old. I don't know if I could have done it.

One positive to starting them young, though, is that newborns aren't really aware of where they are--or who is watching them--as long as their needs are met. I am really starting to dread and feel guilty about leaving Connor with a stranger, in a strange house, at an age where he is very much aware. Will he be scared? Will he think we are abandoning him? Will he be able to eat? Sleep? Will he get enough attention? Will he cry for hours on end? If he hates it the first few times, will he throw a fit every time we drive up to the house? How long will it take him to adjust?

Up until about a week ago (I think the calender flipping to August is making it too real for me...), I was doing really well with the idea. My education training and the logical part of my brain are telling me it's the right thing to do. Connor needs to start socializing with other kids. He is getting bored at home--being in the same house with the same toys all the time. I feel that his language will develop faster being around other/older kids. I know he will be okay. I also know that he will really only be there about 6 hours a day, 4 days a week (he goes to Grammy's house on Wednesdays). Mike and I will still be raising our own child.

But the first-time mother, emotional side of me is having a really hard time. I can't even type this without crying. He has never been left with anyone but family. We are so fortunate to have so many grandparents around who are willing to watch him. Everyone knows him and what he wants. His language is not very developed, but he has his own way of communicating. The daycare lady won't know what he wants! He is used to being the king of the castle--if he wants to "reeeead", we read! The daycare lady won't always be able to drop everything and read when he wants to (again, the logical part of me knows that this will be a good life lesson, but will his little feelings be hurt??).

The daycare lady and I have talked about doing a trial run or two in the next couple weeks--I'll go over with Connor and hang out for a little bit, and then leave for an hour or two. I am hopeful that this will help him get to know her and her home a little bit before being left there all day. We went over there together a few weeks ago, and Connor just dug right into the toys and didn't pay any attention to me whatsoever. The daycare lady thought that was a good sign, as did I. She said a lot of kids who come for interviews or visits cling to their parent's leg the whole time, so she was impressed that he would leave my side. We'll see how it goes when I tell him I'm leaving, though!

Thanks for letting me vent. I'll let you all know how things turn out. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Today was about as close to perfect as a summer day can get. When I sat in my classroom dreaming of summer vacation, today is what I imagined. Connor and I started the day by going to the zoo with my good friend Sarah and her two little ones. The weather was perfect, the adult conversation is just what I needed, and both one and half year old boys behaved perfectly (how often does that happen??). When we got home, Connor napped and I cleaned our bedroom closet--which was much overdue. We spent the afternoon running through the sprinkler, blowing bubbles, and playing at the park. A taco dinner with my hubby and son rounded out the perfect day.
It is days like today that remind me just how blessed I am. Being a teacher is truly my calling, and I love my job. Not only do I get to be inspired by young people at work, I also have a schedule that allows me to feel as though I am raising my own child. Even during the school year, Connor is only without a parent for about 6 hours a day. I am home by 3:00 most days and have so many days off. It doesn't get much better.
With the cost of daycare (and LIVING right now....), I have seriously thought a lot about other job options. Teachers don't get paid very well, and Catholic school teachers get paid even less (after 7 years I am finally making what I would have made my first year in a public school). I have considered just staying home and getting a part-time evening job, applying at public schools, doing daycare, or looking at a different field altogether. But I don't want to. I love what I do and I think that is worth SO MUCH.
I wish I could bottle up today and save it for days that money stress starts getting me down. It was seriously perfection.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Wow, it's been a while since I've posted. The end of the school year is always pure craziness...but now school is out for the summer and I get my reprieve! Thanks to Connor being an excellent napper now, I'll have a couple hours everyday to myself :) Whoo Hoo!
Motivation has never been one of my strong points, especially when it comes to exercising. I am not really an athlete, and working out isn't something I necessarily enjoy. Like most people, when I actually make myself do it, I feel good. It's the MAKING myself do it part that is hard for me.
When I was a freshman in high school, I decided to go out for the Cross Country team. My brother was on the team, and I was new to the school and thought it would be a good way to meet people. I had never really run more than a mile (required during the Presidential Fitness unit in gym class). Surprisingly, I was a natural runner. I ran varsity most of the season, and was the first alternate when the girls team went to state that year (luckily, I didn't have to run...I would have been eaten alive!). I also went out for track that year and HATED it. Running 8 laps around the hot track was nothing like running through wooded parks, as we had in cross country. Unfortunately, track turned me off to running, and I never went out for cross country again (sticking with things is another one of my weaknesses...).
So, this winter when I realized that I hadn't lost ANY "baby weight" since the initial 10 pounds I lost when Connor was born, I decided I needed to do something. When your child is 18 months old, you can hardly use pregnancy as an excuse anymore. I also have the big 3-0 vastly approaching, and think it's really time to start taking care of myself. So, my sister and I decided we would sign up for a 5k in July. That will be my motivation.
When school was still in session, it was very hard for me to get out for a run. The best time for me to work is out is first thing in the morning. The problem: I already get up at 5:30 every day as it is, and my motivation issues prevent me from being willing to get up any earlier. I have been very good about running on weekends, and plan on making it 5 times a week now that school is out. I am only up to about 1.5 miles at a time, so I have some work to do before July. But, considering I haven't run in 15 years, I feel pretty good about it. It still does come pretty naturally to me.
When I am out running, seeing other runners really helps motivate me. I don't want to look like an idiot, huffing and puffing and dragging my feet in front of them, so I glide on and gasp "good morning", like I am part of their club. This morning, I passed a girl who instead of saying "good morning", said "good job". Whether she says this to everyone or she could see through my facade, I will never know. What I do know is, it really gave me some motivation. Even if I am huffing and puffing and can only go a mile and a half, I am out there and that is what's important. I think I am doing a good job. So, to the "good job" girl, I say thank you. You were the motivation I needed this morning.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

18 months

Today, my son turned 18 months. I can't believe it's be a whole year and a half, and I can't believe it's been ONLY a year and a half. Having a child completely changes one's life, and sometimes it's hard to remember what life was like before, so even though time is flying by, it also feels like a lifetime since I became a mother.
My baby is no longer a baby. Kids technically become toddlers on their first birthday, but it wasn't until recently that I have really considered Connor to be one. Besides the usual physical changes and milestones, there have been other incidents lately that have really made me realize he is growing up. For example, on Friday night, he showed embarrassment for the first time. We were over at my mom's house for dinner, along with another couple, and Connor was trying to be a good boy and put his cup back up on the counter when he was done with it (he has a strong sense of order and doesn't like to just throw it on the floor), but he couldn't quite reach. Every time he lifted the cup in an attempt to set it up there, water would splash out onto his face. I finally said, "Grammy, Connor is trying to get his cup back on the counter and it keeps splashing him in the face". Once the cup was finally in place, thanks to Grammy's help, he turned around and his face was covered in drips of water. We all laughed, and Connor started crying and buried his head in his daddy's lap. He was embarrassed that we laughed at him! What a big boy.
He also has started to play innocent after doing something naughty. On Wednesday, again at Grammy's house, he was playing with the buttons on the stereo (which he knows not to do), when he accidentally turned the stereo off. When Grammy started to scold him, he meandered away, looking down, muttering to himself, as if to say "la de da, nothing to see here!" How do kids learn to do that??? What a big boy.
Today was another time when I realized just how far we've come. For the first 5 months or so of life, Connor had really bad reflux, which made sleeping and napping difficult. In fact, until about 13 months, he was the worst napper of all time. If I finally got him to sleep, I would run around like a crazy woman getting as much done as I could in 20 minutes, because that was about all the time I could count on him sleeping. Anything beyond a half hour was bonus time. A few months ago, Connor just decided for himself to go down to one nap, and it's a long one--2 to 3 hours usually. So, today while Connor was napping, I brought the monitor outside and potted my plants and weeded and mulched the garden. Last year at this time I would have been nervous about running out to get the mail while he was sleeping. I guess we've both come a long way.
The past 18 months have been a time of change (and stress!), but the most fulfilling 18 months of my life. I am so proud of my son, and I can't wait to watch him grow for the rest of my life. I am blessed.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Doing Dishes

Doing dishes used to be a chore I abhorred. I am tired by the end of the day. Making dinner is enough of a hassle, and then I have to do the dishes AFTER dinner? I know that in some households, the person who makes dinner is excused from washing the dishes. Sounds fair. I, however, usually make dinner AND do the dishes. Don't think poorly of the hubby, though. He is willing and would do them if I asked--he even offers sometimes. But, I usually prefer to do them myself. At first, my reason for this was because I am quicker, more efficient, and use less soap :) Since becoming a mom, though, my reasons for wanting to do the dishes have changed. First of all, if I am doing the dishes, Mike takes care of Connor, giving me a much needed break from him. I love my son, but by dinner time, I am usually ready to let Daddy take over. Lately, I have realized that doing dishes helps me unwind, and gives me a little "me" time. Even more recently, I have found yet ANOTHER reason to like doing the dishes....listening to the two loves of my life playing together. I usually have dinner ready and waiting when Mike gets home from work, which means that after dinner is prime father-son play time. While I stand in the kitchen unwinding, I can choose to tune into the sounds of this play time happening downstairs. I am so proud of the father that my husband has become, and listening to him and Connor scream and laugh together brings joy to my heart. So, doing dishes has morphed from an abhorred chore into a time of reflection for me. I am blessed. Now, if only cleaning the bathroom had the same effect....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Men and Sports

One of life's great least in my opinion. My husband just shaved off his hockey "play-off beard". What kind of team is he on, you ask? He isn't on a team. It wasn't even for the team he coaches. It was for the North Dakota Fighting Sioux. One of my favorite things to do with Mike is attend sporting events. We love going to Twins games and Fighting Sioux games whenever the pocketbook allows. I like the atmosphere, the food, the people watching, and sharing in one of my husband's passions. But I will never understand why men think that what jersey THEY wear to the game will affect the outcome. And how does my husband's facial hair possibly impact a team on which he knows no one? For that matter, how does the players' facial hair impact their game? WHAT DOES FACIAL HAIR HAVE TO DO WITH ANYTHING?!?! (Sorry about that little rant, I just really don't understand...) Mike had a play-off beard the night I met him (actually, it was a well-groomed goatee that year....good thing, because if it was a full-on neck beard like this year, I don't think we'd be where we are today...), so his devotion to sports shouldn't be a surprise to me. I guess we'll just chalk it up to one of the differences between men and women. Or maybe I'm just jealous of that passion. All I know is that every year, probably for as long as we both shall live, I will have a hairy husband in the month of March. And I guess I'm okay with that.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


This is my first-ever blog post. I have been thinking about blogging for a while, just because I like to write. When you are in school, you have plenty of opportunities to write....many of which I put off, complained about, etc. But, once you're done with school, when do you have the opportunity? Writing is something that has always come pretty naturally to me, so I feel as though I am wasting a talent if I don't use it. And I don't have so many talents that I can afford to waste a single one. I don't know if anyone will ever read this blog, but aren't most blogs a selfish thing? What can be more self-centered than thinking your life is so interesting people will want to read about it?

Deciding the topic for my first-ever blog post was a challenge. When I become an award-winning blogger, people will want to see how it all started! Such pressure!

I decided I should probably start by writing about who I am, and that got me thinking about identity. How should I describe myself? I'm Mike's wife, Connor's mom, a middle school teacher. But people always say you should really know yourself....not as someone's daughter, wife, or mother....but the REAL you. What if being a daughter, wife, mother, and teacher IS the real me? I wouldn't be ME if it weren't for all those roles.

People started telling me I should be a teacher when I was 8 years old and doing flashcards with my sister and the other daycare kids. I tried to rebel and pick a different major when I was a freshman, but it didn't stick. I knew what my calling was (as did everyone else, apparently). SO, isn't being a teacher part of me? In high school, my best friend was afraid to tell me when she got her tongue pierced. In college, some of my roomies affectionately (??) called me "mom". SO, isn't being a mom just naturally part of who I am?

I don't know if I buy into that philosophy that you shouldn't be defined by your roles. I am proud of my roles. I feel as if I was meant to fill all of those roles. So...who am I? Just a Midwestern wife, mother, daughter, and teacher who likes to write. Welcome to my blog.