Annika's first school year in a nutshell

Annika just finished up her last day of the first not quite daycare, not yet preschool school year in her hopefully very long educational career. At what age is it, by the way, kosher to start instilling your goals into the subconsciousness of your kids? Like when you say, you are going to be a doctor or a lawyer? Not that I do that or anything...
Seems like just yesterday I was an emotional wrack, writing this post about her first day.
This school year was great for so many reasons. The best part was when I would drop her off, come home, put Leo down for a nap and have me time. Every Thursday and Friday. For 2 whole hours. All the knowledge and skills Annika got come close second and I'm not even embarrassed to admit it:)
There were other moments worth mentioning too. Like the time Annika picked her nose throughout the entire Christmas performance (1 song), or when she inquired whether her teachers were wearing panties or not, or how she would refer to preschool as work for a while, or call her teachers Mrs. LaFountain and Mrs. LaDampsey all year long (it's just Mrs. Dampsey:)). I'm really going to miss hearing stories about her and having school-related conversations in the car after pick-up. It took her forever to start telling me what she did at school. For the longest time, school was, according to Annika, one big long snack break. But, oh, she would go into such detail about those snacks. Then gradually she started telling me more. First it was tattling (so-and-so pushed me!), then it was bragging (I pushed so-and-so), and then it was denying (I didn't push anybody. No one was even at school but me! We didn't read any books. We didn't sing any songs!). But the most fun part of it all was when out of the blue she would sing a song that I never heard before, or say a prayer that I didn't teach her, or tell me all about how Jonah was eaten by a big fish, or how firetrucks have a long metal ladder to help firefighters save people... It makes me so happy that my independent girl has her own little life that doesn't involve me and that she is happy. Just the best.
I can't believe how much she's grown in one year.

Happy 3rd Birthday, Annika!

Well, Annika's birthday week is finally over. I really wanted to NOT have a huge celebration this year , but ended up celebrating for almost a week. We had a small family dinner on her actual birthday, then she partied it up with her preschool friends with cupcakes and such (I'm sorry, parents, for the behavior of your children on that day!), and finally on Saturday we had a small gathering of friends over lunch and some finger foods. It was so much fun that we successfully forgot about opening gifts until everyone left. 
Thank you so much, everyone, for coming and celebrating our spunky, independent, hilarious little big girl with us:) She has grown so much since last year!
Check out some ridiculously cute kids below...

Indy Mini or a tail of a pseudo runner

Last Saturday I completed my 4th mini-marathon (Indy Mini). It's taken me a week to write about this because this is how long it takes to get over the pain that it generated.
But no, it was great. Yes, the pain was definitely there, both physical and emotional and my ankle is still paying for it, but I loved every minute of it. I think it was the first time when I didn't say "never again" upon crossing the finish line.
I trained for it. Some. I found a training plan that encouraged not to run longer than 30 minutes per day during the week and do long runs on weekends. I liked it, mostly the 30 minutes per day part. Long runs on weekends weren't that doable or desirable or anticipated. I attempted it 3 times, one of which was a total disaster and the other 2 successful. So I would say I was 2/3 ready for the race.
We drove to Indy Friday night and stayed at my sister-in-law's house. On Saturday morning our rockstar family friend Betty came to stay with that kids and Greg and I drove downtown. I started the race strong and was ready to rock. By mile 5, however, the heat was blasting and I was sweaty and already sufficiently tired. At mile 6 I may have asked myself "Why did I do this again?" a couple of hundred times. As we were leaving the Indy 500 track (it's about 2.5 miles and it's smack in the middle of the race... it's a fun little detail and I would have enjoyed it immensely if it wasn't for the heat radiating from the black pavement... geez!), I realized that if I didn't see a porta potty in the next 2 seconds I would pee my pants. Luckily I made it, but sadly lost a couple of minutes to that. Darn nature calls!
By mile 8 or 9 everything everywhere started hurting, burning and cramping and that's when I realized that I was in trouble. Up to that point I was jogging consistently, but now I had to walk a bit. For the next 4.1 miles it was an inner battle. I kept going from almost crying of pain but still jogging to succumbing to my baby-self and walking for a few seconds or stretching a bit. I was so preoccupied by that battle that I didn't hear or see Greg making a scene trying to get my attention somewhere along the road. But I finished, guys. I wanted to make it under 2:09 (which was my time last time 4 years ago), but ended up adding 4 minutes. I was disappointed at first, but I'm over it now and maybe next year I can beat myself:)  Yes, I think I'm going to do this again. Don't tell my ankle.
(* I ran into a friend before the race. *photo taken from here)

San Diego {according to my iPhone}

We've been back home a few days now, but I swear those 4 days in San Diego were enough to set us on the Pacific time. It's true when they say that one gets used to good stuff fast. Kiddies don't care though and it's 7 am wake up every day. Ek!
But below are a few more pictures from the trip. Since my big-girl camera weighs about 17 pounds, I sort of got over hauling it around San Diego and for the rest of the time my phone became my eye.
Our first day there was jam-packed with activity, but we made the rest of the time pretty laid back. On the second day we toured USS Midway, which is a huge aircraft carrier that was decommissioned from the Navy a few years ago. It was the biggest ship in the world until 1955 and it went through Vietnam war.  We spent about 3 hours on it with our audio guides. Later I also visited the rest of the Maritime Museum, while Greg was in meetings. I toured the Star of India, which is the oldest ship still sailing, Berkely (a really cool ferryboat),  and two submarines, a Russian one and an American one. The Russian one (B-39) was a beast! It's really long and has these round holes in place of doorways that make her even more claustrophobic. I almost had a panic attack, especially when I read that even the crew had trouble with being deep underwater in a long narrow iron tube. You know how they were supposed to deal with it? To shut up and get over it. After I read that, I zoomed towards the open thingie on top and climbed out. Spookie! 
We also spent a lot of time eating in the Gaslamp quarter, running along the harbor, drinking coffee and reading at coffee shops and just wondering around. 
We didn't have nearly enough time to see everything (like the much recommended La Jolla and The Coronado Island), but who knows, maybe one day we will be back? Maybe even with the kids when they are old enough to appreciate, say, one of the best zoos in the world:) 
It seriously was like a mini-honeymoon. It was so awesome to not have to split attention with the kids  and for once just enjoy each other's company without being pulled into a million directions. I would recommend trips like that to any married couple with kids. 
Sincerely, your marriage councilor:)
More photos below

San Diego, day I

When a few months ago hubby announced that we were going to San Diego, i was all 'oooo, it borders Tijuana, Mexico, that's cool'. I swear, this proximity to the scariest place (in my mind) was the only thing I knew to be interesting about San Diego.
Boy, was I wrong!
Just our hotel alone has more going on around it than out little village at home has in a year. For starters, it's one of the biggest waterfront hotels on the west coast. There is a tower on top of it which offers views of Mexico. There is the Kansas City Barbecue right across the street, where Top Gun was filmed, there's the little courtyard that used to be a police station in the 30s-40s and still has some original sells for public viewing. From our room we can see USS Midway and that famous WWII statue of a sailor kissing a nurse. 
On our first day, after a delicious breakfast at Brickyard Coffee&Tea. 
Then we did a city tour that included a ride along the harbor. Turns out military is the number 1 industry in San Diego, with the city housing 40% of all US Navy.
We made a quick trip to Balboa Park, which is home to a lot of museums and is a certified botanical garden. Lot's of history in this place. During the war it was overtaken by military. There is this beautiful reflecting pool there, that not only served for physical therapy during the war, but was also used to teach some marines how to swim (yep:)). There are also lots of Spanish style Baroque building that originally weren't meant to be permanent, but were reconstructed to last, because the locals were so enamored with them they wouldn't let them be demolished:)
We then headed to Old Town for lunch at an adorable Mexican restaurant called Casa Guadalajara. So good, oh my goodness. After lunch, instead of returning to our hotel with the buses, we decided to stay and walk around Old Town a little bit longer. A few blisters and some blood on my feet, we took a trolley back to the hotel happy to have gleaned a little history of San Diego.

We ended the day with a waterfront dinner at The Fish Market.
All of a sudden, proximity to the drug cartels of Tijuana is forgotten and I'm so in love with this city, I know I will want to be back. 

a weekend for the win(n)

Last weekend was sort of extraordinary. The weather alone was just the finest, but we also had so much activity that it feels like we can now go another year filled with leisurely weekends, where the only productive thing is to get dressed to go to church:) I'm not complaining, I love those types of weekends too.
For starters, I woke up Saturday morning, swallowed a banana and set of for my long run. 8 miles. In the books. Impressive for me, but not really considering that I have 2 weeks left till my mini-marathon and I'm only at 8 miles. But I think I can, I think I can:)
Right around lunch time, we loaded the kiddos in our bike trailer and went on our first of many bike rides as a family of 4. Annika and Leo entertained each other well. There was this one moment when I looked inside the buggy and saw Annika holding Leo's hand and they were looking at each other and grinning. My heart just about soared off my bike. We had lunch in our little village, rode by the lake, saw lots of people we knew, and visited with friends. Leo successfully passed out on the way home.
After the kids were put down for naps, I made a run to the store, made a salad and a cheesecake for dinner with friends (who, me???) and started painting our front door. It's mint now. In love.
Then we had an awesome dinner on our friends' porch and after that I painted some more, while Greg planted new trees around our house.
I guess I should say it was an extraordinary Saturday, because on Sunday we didn't even get to church. It was a rainy day and all of us had a cozy day inside, complete with chicken noodle soup, whole-wheat biscuits and even a board game.
(photos from last Friday, because I forgot I had a camera during the weekend:))

Easter Sunday

I always remember Easter to be a gorgeous, sunny day. All of my childhood memories of Easter are just like that. I'm not sure if all the 30+ Easters were like that, but I guess that's what I chose to remember. There was this one time I remember in particular. I'm sitting on a bench by my apartment building in Russia. It's early in the morning, but the sun is shining so brightly. I'm wearing a white dress, and happily dangling my feet in the air, waiting for my family. People, wearing beautiful dresses, are hurrying by with their families to catch a bus to wherever they were going. I've come down early because I was too excited to stand in the hallway of our apartment waiting for everybody. And all we were doing that day, was going to the cemetery. That was the Easter tradition in Russia (perhaps still is:)). I'm not quite sure what that means, but I remember enjoying myself.
Just as I expected, Easter this year fell on one of those gorgeous days, without a cloud in the sky. Leo was sick all weekend so I stayed home with him, while Greg and Annika went to church with Oma and Opa. Then everybody came home, we had a delicious lunch with yummy ham and let Annika hunt for eggs in the backyard. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting out of that, but the little candy-obsessed lady would pick up an egg and before you could even blink, open it up and stuff its contents into her mouth. 
Now that I think of it, that is exactly what I expected.
All week I was trying to talk to Annika about Jesus and the meaning of Easter. Once she asked me, "Where is Jesus?". After I said "everywhere", she goes, "Wow, that is a lot of where!"
Yes it is, dear, and it is GOOD! 
We are so thankful for the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Thankful for the Resurrection and the promise of eternal life.