Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

The Vandermarks, Christmas 2008

We hope you and your family are having a wonderful Christmas this year.  We had a really nice one - although it certainly would have been better if a big issue at work hadn't kept me on the phone for more than half of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Oh well, sometimes work happens.  In any case, we were thankful for the time we did spend together and with my parents on both of those days, enjoying some wonderful meals and some fun times playing together.

This was the first year that Zach and Alex got the concept of Santa, so that was a lot of fun. They had gone to visit Santa at the mall a few times while there to play at the indoor play area, and they had asked him to bring them "dump trucks and Star Wars stuff." For the days and weeks after that, they'd remind us over and over that "Santa is going to bring us presents!"  And sure enough, he did.  They did indeed get some new dump trucks and some Star Wars figurines, but I think their favorite gifts are their very own flashlights, which also double as light sabers.  They carried them everywhere yesterday and today.  Some times it is the simplest things that bring the most joy...

It's taken me a while, but I've finally uploaded a bunch of pictures from November and December onto the site.  In the Nov-Dec 2008 album, you'll find photos chronicalling art projects and holiday decorating, as well as some fun in the snow.  In the Thanksgiving - Chicago album, we have pictures from our visit to celebrate the holidays with the Belousek family and with Great Grandma Jean (be sure to check out the video clip of the boys enjoying pie at GG's house - they were pretty excited about that pie :) ).  Now here's hoping it doesn't take me another month to get the Christmas pictures posted...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Because we love Christmas (and because I'm a complete nerd), has been "decorated" for the Holidays!  We wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and best wishes for whatever holidays you and your family celebrate.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Three Handy Mannys and a Roman Soldier

Our Handy Mannys
Our Handy Mannys
Cole the Roman Soldier

This year for Halloween, Zach and Alex dressed up as their favorite character, Handy Manny, complete with their own tools. They were so excited! To celebrate, we went down to Joe's office to join their Halloween party and then stopped by Grandma Pat's office to say hello before we picked up Cole on our way home.  After dinner, we went to visit Dar and Gary, Debbie's parents and two people that Z & A love to visit, for some Halloween treats.  Then Joe and Cole, who wore his Roman soldier costume from a couple years ago, took them out trick-or-treating for the first time; they didn't go to a lot of houses, but they had a lot of fun!

Check out all the great pics from when Z & A got their new toolboxes and from Halloween itself starting on page 4 of the Sept-Oct 2008 album.

In addition to those pictures, a ton of others from the past few months have been added, pictures that Debbie took with her own camera.  In the July-Aug 2008 album, you'll find a few trips that Debbie, Cole, Zach and Alex took to the pool, a trip they took to the Children's Museum, and a visit to a fire station with one of Debbie's sisters and nephews, as well as some just general playing-around pics.  In the Sept-Oct 2008 album, there are a couple trips to some parks, including a set that Debbie took as a photo shoot to make special Autumn/Halloween present for the boys' grandparents.  Those pictures are just adorable (OK, so I'm a little biased on the subject matter).

Congrats Angie and Josh!

Josh and Angie
Congratulations to Karen's cousin, Angie, and her new husband, Josh!  They got married on Oct 25 in the beautiful Valley of Fire State Park outside of Las Vegas.

Josh is a great match for Angie and fits really well into our family - although that may not be a good thing since we're all a little nuts! ;-) Welcome (officially) to the family, Josh and Aubrey!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A little weekend family fun

The boys pose with their pumpkins
The boys pose with their pumpkins
Last weekend we took the family to see the Shrine Circus. This was the first trip to the circus for Zach and Alex (although our house often feels like one).  They really enjoyed it; all week long they'd tell anyone they talked to all about the acrobats, clowns, elephants, the ringmaster, and their favorite part: the boom! (the crazy guy that shoots himself out of a cannon).

On the next day, the three boys had a ton of fun decorating their own pumpkins.  Zach and Alex each had their own little pumpkin that they colored with markers.  Cole carved his own Jack 'O Lantern all by himself after his brothers helped him clean out the "pumpkin guts." They all did a great job and were quite proud of their creations as you can see here. :)

Check out the pics from this weekend plus lots of other great ones from the last couple months in the Sept - Oct 2008 album.

Monday, October 6, 2008

"Mommy, I'm a big boy!!"

Our little strong-willed Zach has had no interest in using the potty.  We'd occasionally get him to sit on it, but he usually finds bathtime much more interesting and wants to go straight in.  Alex uses it every night before or after the bath and occasionally makes attempts during the day, but if you ask Zach if he wants to go, he replies with a resounding "No!"

Well, today he decided he needed to go #2, so I got him on the potty - and he actually went both #1 and #2!  We made such a big deal about it that I think Zach might actually be motivated to try that again. Here's hoping! :)

Yep, it's official - I'm a sappy mom who gets excited about poop - and the idea of not needing to buy diapers in bulk at Costco.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fun times with friends

The Vandermarks recently got some opportunities to get out and have some fun with some friends - Alex and Zach with neighbors Brooke and Stella, and Karen and Joe with friends (and Joe's co-worker) Phil and Heather.

Last weekend, Zach and Alex attended the birthday party of sisters Brooke (5) and Stella (3), and they had an absolute blast.  The birthday girls celebrated with pony rides and a little petting zoo complete with chickens, ducks, guinea pigs, rabbits, and a hedgehog.  The animals where huge hits with the kids, although Alex preferred to look from the outside and spent most of his time playing with the girls' toys.  Check out the pictures in Brooke and Stella's B-Day photo album.

Karen and Joe actually got a little playtime too recently when they joined friends Phil and Heather Rodemann on a trip out to Treasure Island to eat, drink, and laugh our booties off with comedian Ron White.  We spent a couple hours playing the tables (blackjack can be a mean, mean game...) and then went on the casino's dinner cruise for a nice relaxing dinner on the Mississippi River (check out our pictures).  To cap off the evening, we saw Ron White perform. He is one incredibly funny person, but I think the funniest parts where when he screwed up his jokes and then just went with it.   We all had a great time!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Welcome Cadence Joy

Cadence Joy

Congratulations to Karen's cousin, Sean, and his girlfriend as they welcomed their new daughter, Cadence Joy into the world on Sept 8!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Water and go-carts and trains, oh my!

A couple weeks ago, the 5 of us spent a week relaxing and playing at the Wisconsin Dells with Grandma Pat and Papa Bob. This year we stayed in a condo at the Chula Vista resort, which is located just a little north of downtown Dells right on the WI River. It was so nice to get away and spend time together as a family!

We had a fantastic time playing at the resort's indoor and outdoor waterparks, where they had all sorts of cool water slides for big and little kids. Unlike last year, Z&A were thrilled to play in the water - especially Alex, who seems to be a natural in the water (he was trying to swim on his own by walking on his hands). This made our time in the water a whole lot more fun. Cole really had a good time too - his favorite slide was the 8-story tall straight-drop body slide; he went on that over and over.

This year we also went on a tour with the Wis. Ducks, which takes you on a land and water tour in an old army vehicle called a Duck, drove go-carts at Riverview park, got in a little mini golf, and of course visited the Riverside & Great Northern Railway, where we got to visit with longtime family friends and train buffs, the Chmuras.

Check out the pictures from the trip in the Dells 2008 album in the Vacation gallery.

In unrelated news, check out the photos from a recent golf outing Joe went on for work. He and a couple co-workers decided to have some fun as a foursome and dressed up in costume. You can tell they had a great time. :-)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Fun new photos

For Papa's birthday, Zach and Alex took Daddy and Papa to the Minnesota Zoo. They all had a great time checking out the aquarium, the new bear exhibit called Russia's Grizzly Coast, and of course the farm.

This morning we took the boys to the Scott-Carver Thresher and Gas Engine Festival, where they had dozens and dozens of antique tractors plus lots of other antique farm equipment. The festival is put on by a non-profit group whose goal is to preserve agricultural heritage. When we got the flyer in the mail, we just knew we had to bring Zach and Alex there, what with their tractor obsession and all, so we enjoyed a pancake breakfast there and explored the grounds. The boys were truly in heaven! :-)

Pictures of these events plus a few other cute photos have been added to the Jul - Aug album. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A busy weekend for the Vandermarks

This past weekend was a busy one with lots of excitement for all the boys with a couple of truck rides and a couple of parades. Lots of fun! :-)

While I was working from home on Friday, the power company came by to let us know they needed to shut off our power to swap out the transformer across the street. They had a big truck with a crane to move the transformer (as well as a trailer carrying a digger, although they didn't need it for this job). Zach and Alex were beyond excited to see all that cool stuff right in front of the house, so we sat and watched. When the guys came by to tell us they were done, they got such a kick out of them, as Z & A couldn't stop talking (guy! truck! crane! digger!) - so they offered to give them a ride while they turned around in the cul de sac. How cool!

On Saturday we went to the Belle Plaine BBQ Days parade to watch all the trucks, cars, and tractors on display. We sat with Debbie's family, who lives near where the parade route ended this year, which was a lot of fun as all there were lots of kids to play with (big and little). Being at the end of the route really paid off this year, as we hit the motherload of candy because most of the floats still had a bunch left at the end. People would just dump their buckets right in front of us - it was better than Halloween! We had plans to go to the carnival after the boys' nap, but we got hit with a big rainstorm (1" of rain in an hour!) so we didn't make it back.

Sunday was the day of the parade at the Hopkins Raspberry Festival, where Cole's mom is a participant as a member of the Hopkins Fire Department. For the second year she invited Joe, the boys, and me to join her and Cole in the parade to ride on the trucks, which just thrills Zach and Alex beyond belief. This year, Lisa drove one of the big ladder trucks, so Joe, Z & A, and I rode in front with her while Cole rode on the top. We all had a good time waving at the crowds on a beautiful sunny (but warm) day.

We were able to get a couple pictures of the power truck and fire truck rides (although we weren't able to get one of Cole on top of the truck before we had to start the parade); you'll find them in the Jul - Aug 2008 album.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Congrats to Cole and the Hopkins Co-op Dairy Cubs!

After finishing their regular season in second place with a great 11-5-2 record, Cole and the Cubs went undefeated in the playoffs, winning their season tournament. For the final game, they beat a tough Yankees team, the regular season winners. Great job, boys!! (Here's hoping that's an omen that the Major League Cubs will win their World Series too!)

Pictures from the trophy awards, as well as some general pictures of Cole and his little brothers, are in the new July - Aug 2008 photo album.

We have our own park!

Over the 4th of July weekend, Joe put up a playground for the boys with the tremendous help of Papa Bob and Uncle Bobby. Zach and Alex had so much fun watching their daddy, grandpa and godfather build (or rather, slave in the sticky heat) their new playground, and they are thrilled to have a "park" in their own backyard. It's an awesome playground with a tower fort, a slide, swings, monkey bars, a climbing wall and tunnel, and a sandbox. It even has a telescope and a steering wheel. The guys did a fantastic job! Check out the progress pictures in the July 4th Weekend photo album.

As you can see from some of the pictures, it wasn't all work that weekend. We had a great time on the evening of the 4th with Bobby and Kwo Ue, who came over for dinner and some boom booms. We shot a few of them off early so Z & A could see them - they totally loved it, especially Alex!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hooray Alex!

In a move that thrilled Mommy and Daddy beyond belief, Alex used the potty for the very first time today. We've been encouraging the boys to sit on the potty before bathtime, and for the first time, Alex actually went potty in it. He sure was proud of himself, especially when he got high-fives from Mommy, Daddy, and Cole. This was after asking to go to the potty during his bath yesterday and sitting there for long time to "work on poop"; Zach has done this a couple times too so he might be getting close too.

We know we've got a long way to go through this process, but we're thrilled that we're getting started on it with them. I wanted to get a picture, but Joe wouldn't let me embarrass him with that (he's no fun).

Part of me really feels silly for getting so excited about poop and going potty (ah, the simple joys of parenthood), but in addition to being excited about a new milestone in the boys' lives, it sure is nice to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel through the mounds and mounds of diapers! :-)

Monday, June 23, 2008

New pics added

I added some older pics off my mom's camera from when we celebrated my birthday to the Mar-Apr 2008 album. There are some cute ones of Papa Bob playing with Zach and Alex and some of my old toys, including one where Zach had a great time putting a Fisher Price person on the potty. :)

I've also added some recent ones to the May-June 2008 album. Some of these include celebrating Joe's birthday, Z&A hamming it up for the camera, Cole's recent baseball game, and a day at Grandma and Papa's where the big boys worked on a new deck and the little boys had fun playing inside and out.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Cole has 'fro!

Never thought I would be making fun of my son's hair like my dad did of mine...but Cole has a 'Fro!

Cole's Fro!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

New pics for May

Some new photos from the past month have been added to the May - June 2008 album. (And can I say for the record that it's really scary that the month of May is almost over already?!?). The last time Cole was here with us, he brought with him some hats and other toys that he used to play with that he thought his brothers would like. And boy, they sure did. We have pirates, cowboys, and firefighters running around here on a pretty regular basis now! Some other fun pictures include a day at the park with Debbie and her niece, Jordan, and our little chefs helping prepare a pizza dinner. Enjoy!

FYI, I never posted a note about it last month, but I did add quite a few pictures in April, so if you haven't seen them yet, be sure to check them out!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Celebrating 5 Years!

Today, Joe and I are celebrating five amazing years of marriage. It's incredible what can happen in just five years' time - we've built a big new home out in the country and filled it with a big family with lots of love and lots of energy. Even our employers have changed. But even with all the changes, one constant still holds true through it all - we still love each other as deeply and truly as the day we got married. Here's to many, many more.

Friday, March 28, 2008

New photos for March

Happy spring everyone! It may be spring, but that doesn't mean that snow season is over yet in Minnesota, as is evidenced in a number of pictures in the Mar-Apr 2008 album. Debbie and the boys went out and played in the snow one day about a week and a half ago, but it melted quickly that day - the big snowman was in pieces by the time I came home from work. The next day, they were out riding bikes in the beautiful weather. Two days later on Good Friday, we had 8 inches of snow fall, plus 2 more the next day. Days later, it's all gone again. Ya gotta love Minnesota weather...

We had a lot of fun on Easter this year. The Easter bunny left gifts for the little guys, Cole and Joe made a fantastic breakfast for us all, and we had fun playing with all sorts of eggs. Two of my favorite new words were invented on this day: cup-ets and bunny beans. "Cup-ets" was Alex's attempt to say buckets, which was what the Easter bunny left their goodies in. He was so cute as he tried so hard to say it right. "Bunny beans" are more commonly known as jelly beans, but I think we'll be forever calling them bunny beans now thanks to both Zach and Alex. Check out the pictures in the Easter 2008 album.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Uh oh - Cole is a teenager!

In a move that freaked Joe out quite a bit, Cole turned 13 on February 17th. While Joe is still trying to figure out how his first son could possibly be that old, we celebrated the milestone birthday that day with Grandma Pat and Papa Bob.

The highlight of the day was a surprise for Cole that had him laughing so hard he cried. You see, a few weeks earlier while we celebrated Z & A's birthday, we asked Cole what kind of cake he wanted. He didn't have much of an opinion, so a Barbie cake was suggested. Cole said yes, never dreaming we'd actually get one. He now knows that he must be careful about what he wishes for - he just might get it!

Check out the great pics in the "Cole Turns 13" photo album.

On separate note, new pics have also been added to the Jan - Feb 2008 album, including a couple craft projects, fun at a local pool, and making brownies with Daddy.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Zach and Alex are Two!

I still can't believe it, but on Jan 29, Zach and Alex turned 2! They did really well at their two-year check-up. They're still skinny, of course - Zach almost made it on the charts at 23 lb, but is still in the 0 percentile, while Alex at a "beefy" 23 lb 10 oz is actually in the 6th percentile for the first time. For height, Zach was measured at 34" (44th percentile) and Alex was measured at 34.5" (60th percentile). The great news is, they are very healthy and are developing quite well. They were so excited to see the doctor, having seen some in books and TV, and went running down the hall looking for her: "Doctor! Doctor!"

For their birthday, we had a little celebration on the actual day with some special treats and some fun, but we really celebrated that weekend with the help of Cole, Grandma Pat and Papa Bob, opening presents and enjoying a special cake. Check out the pictures in the Z & A Birthday album.

There are also lots of new pictures in the Jan-Feb 2008 family album, including a peak at Cole after his band concert, a day at the Children's Museum, and a glimpse at Zach and Alex as they play and explore.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

New album for 2008

It's hard to believe we're this far into the new year already to have enough pictures to start the 2008 Family album, but here we are.

The first batch of pictures include little glimpses at just how much Zach and Alex have grown in the last year. They are able to feed themselves with forks and spoons - and doing it quite well most of the time. They'll sit down with a book on their own and look at all the pictures, naming the objects and colors they know (which grows by the day, it seems). And they love to do art projects - coloring, painting and more. It's amazing how much they can do now!

Some favorite pictures, though, are from just a couple days ago where the boys were hanging out in their Halloween costumes, dressed as Pooh Bear and Eeyore. They loved wearing them and looked so darn cute! Particularly funny was the fact that Zach absolutely HAD to have the hood up - any time it slipped off, he came running to ask for help putting it back on.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Happy 2008!

Happy New Year to all! We hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas.

Lots of new pictures have been added to the Photo Gallery. Finishing out the 2007 Family album are some new photos in the Nov-Dec 2007 album, including a few in early December that were hiding on one of our digital cameras of Z & A enjoying an early Christmas present from Papa and Grandma Pat - a new play table. Also included are a gift of Buzz and Woody from Debbie and fun for the whole family with wooden blocks from Grandpa Dan and Grandma Marilyn.

Debbie and I took the boys to visit Santa. They were really excited about Santa - right up until it was time to actually meet him. Alex had a death grip on me, while Zach was wary of this strange man and found that exploring the area was more interesting. Debbie captured a picture of a struggle to keep the boys still enough to get that split-second portrait. Once we left, they got excited about Santa again. What can you do? :-)

In the Christmas 2007 album, we have pictures from our mid-December trip to celebrate Christmas with family and friends in Chicago - we had such a great time visiting everyone! For Christmas, we opened all our family gifts on the 23rd so we could take our time and enjoy everything with Cole. On Christmas Eve, we made the trek up to Grandma Pat and Papa's house and spent the day with them; we also were invited to invade the Aberle's holiday celebration to spend a little time with them.

Christmas Day brought a visit from Santa (fortunately for the boys, while they were still sleeping) and a fantastic meal with some dishes that have become holiday traditions for us - a roast duck with apple and prune stuffing that is to die for, the Vandermark traditional Green Death (lime Jello salad with cream cheese and pears - yum!), and a new butternut squash risotto that was a lot of work but was wonderful with the duck.