Monday, June 5, 2023

Oskar Turns Nine

Dear Oskar,

Today you are 9. Another year older, another year of those long legs of yours getting even longer, another year of turning everything you touch to gold. It feels good to write these letters at the end of the school year, a look back into where you started and where you are now—always an unimaginable leap ahead in growth and learning. It truly feels like anything you set your mind to you excel at beyond our wildest expectations and we couldn’t be prouder of the human you're becoming.

You wake up at 6am like you always have with the routine of a CEO. We always have to laugh at your militant making of your bed, checking the weather, reading your book, and working on PowerPoint presentations, a true professional in the making before any of the rest of us make it out of bed at all. And then, true to form, you're militantly right back in bed by 8:30 every night, and not a minute later, with you starting to check the time around 7:30 to make sure the schedule stays right on track.

You love school and love to learn, so curious about life and about anything you can’t make sense of, needing to know how it works and why. We always say we need to get you a t-shirt that says, “WAIT, WHAT?”, because if you overhear a conversation or anything that doesn’t make sense to you, you pause everything around you to make sure you fully understand before the world keeps turning.

You’ve made such an amazing group of friends and you care about them all so much, always giving a hug or a high five to anyone you pass in or out of school. Many of them came to your birthday party a few days ago at a big wooden playground that you were so insistent upon. I warned that an outside birthday was always a weather risk, which you then took to Alexa and researched the weather on June 3rd for the last 25 years.  The odds were in your favor, so we rolled with it. Watching you so happy, wild, and free with 30 boys who were there to celebrate you made my heart so happy. You found your friends to love who all love you right back, and one could argue that there’s nothing more important than that.

You turned into a soccer star this year, playing on a travel team that went undefeated. You were a leading scorer and developed such an amazing strategic understanding of the game—positioning and passing and setting up plays with your other teammates. Your talent didn’t go unnoticed, because when taken to cup tryouts, you were selected after the first night—a true testament to your talent. Above all else, I’m just so glad you found your “thing”, something to continue to work and excel at with some of your best friends and teammates along for the ride.

You also started drum lessons not too long ago. Your math-mindedness has made you a natural, and even your teacher marvels at your patience and determination to get it just right. "I've never met an eight-year-old who has this level of focus", he told me one day. Us either.

In November you had a horrible break to your upper arm at school during recess, requiring a rushed trip to Children’s Hospital, a late night 3-hour surgery, and pins to set the bone in place. Watching you in so much pain was one of the single hardest things I’ve ever had to endure. The recovery was long and slow, and even after your cast came off you still required 7 weeks of physical therapy to regain your strength and mobility. You gave up a lot of what you loved for a long time, and I’m so thankful that the whole ordeal is now finally behind us. It made for a memory we’ll never forget.

Your favorite things are pizza, Green Day, and playing outside with your forever best friend and next-door neighbor Frederick. You started putting gel in your hair every morning before school, a tangible sign of getting older. You’re working your way through the Harry Potter series with your dad and the Mysterious Benedict Society with me.  Your birthday gifts are an assortment of various things we’ve picked up along the way that reminded us of you—a big comfy pillow, a concert t-shirt, a watch (since you always need to know the time), a music stand, some of your favorite books, a Pitt banner, and a Ratatouille pin to add to your Disney pin collection—your favorite ride from your favorite trip we took this year. We’re heading out again to Finland, the Åland Islands, and Scotland in a few short weeks, adding countries 6 and 7 to your passport. Traveling the world feels like my dream coming true every time we set off on another adventure together.

You’re a role model to August, a helper with Maren, and the kind of son that everybody dreams of having. You’re a leader, naturally gifted at everything you try, but also the kindest and most empathetic person who tells me all the time how lucky he is. We are pretty unbelievably lucky, too.

Happy birthday Oskar. We love you, we love you, we love you.



Wednesday, March 29, 2023

A Letter to August on his 7th Birthday

Dear August,

You're 7 years old today. Your birthdays are always so fun to celebrate because your excitement is so palpable. It builds up and bubbles over when the day finally arrives, one of your favorite days of the entire year. The morning started off with a bowl of ice cream and with the opening of a present, all before 7am--the most August beginning to the biggest day.

You’ve grown taller, taller, taller this year and your pediatrician said that you’re on track to be 6’3” as an adult if you continue your crazy growth curve that was explosively big from the very beginning. Your hair is still so blonde and your eyes the most beautiful blue-green. You’re growing in a front tooth which is so incredibly cute—the toothiest smile just right for a seven year old boy.

You tried a rolodex of activities this year, from soccer to art to wrestling to guitar to tennis. A man of many hats, trying to see which one you fall in love with. So far, soccer seems to have taken the lead and is one of your favorite things to play outside in the front yard. You’re always in costume (“uniform”) in accordance with whatever it is you’re playing, always needing to look the part. You play football with Oskar and your dad strictly in head-to-toe Pitt or Steelers gear with a helmet, even if it’s a game of catch in the front yard.

You’ve done so well in school and true to your August self you chose a few friends and love them so hard. You’re becoming such a good reader and are working your way through your first chapter book. Your imagination still knows no bounds and you live and play in far away worlds. Catching glimpses of it is my favorite thing, me trying to watch you play without bringing you back to reality if we were to accidentally lock eyes.

You love figurines of any kind—recently army soldiers and knights—which are some of the last remaining “toys” in our home. Suddenly, we’re here, with boys that are so grown up. It makes my heart physically ache sometimes, how I can flash back to you as a 6-month-old in my mind and then look at how grown up you are now.

Your personality is so goofy and scatter-brained and we love to love you for it. You ask the most obvious or oblivious questions and then laugh at yourself when you realize it. Nothing has to be perfect in your world, leading you to be brave enough to draw or create without any of the self-critique. Everyone should be as fearless as you in this way. You love to sleep in and you’re my favorite because of it. My goodness did our house need a Type B personality, and you just make everything so fun. Don't ever let the world change you, because you know better than anyone I know that life should never be so serious. 

You’re still the middle child, through and through, never the one to cause conflict and always the first to forgive. You play so nicely with Maren, though I know these days of imagining together are slowly coming to an end as you get older. Oskar is your best friend, but also the yin to your yang, two completely opposing personalities coming together to play but then also clashing, the infinite cycle that knows no end. You’re growing up even faster because of a big brother and watch the same shows, play the same sports, and have many of the same friends, such a bonus of being just 1 grade apart in school.

You love nothing more than anything squishy, 1:1 time with mama or dada, a bowl of ice cream before bed, and relaxing at home, a home body forever and ever. Your birthday gifts are a hodge podge of sports uniforms and walkie talkies for your outside adventures, running around the neighborhood on your made-up missions.

To my empath, my boy with a heart of gold, my forever baby boy. Your silliness and your lighthearted approach to life is something the entire world could learn from you and has shifted my own perspective more than I can even count.

Your sports themed party will have all of your favorite people there to love you and to celebrate you, and I know you will soak up every single minute. I can’t wait to see your face and to hear your wish—guaranteed to make me laugh, I’m sure of it.

Happy birthday August James, my beautiful baby boy. Thank you for bringing so much laugher and happiness to our lives for seven whole years.




Saturday, March 11, 2023

A Letter to Maren on her 3rd Birthday

 Dear Maren,

You’re three years old today. With each milestone we reach, all of the collective moments from the time you were born feel like they flash in front of me. What words could possibly be enough to describe you just as you are, right now? The most magical age. So full of personality and full of life. The kind of little girl that, when I was pregnant with you, I would have said, “I hope I have a daughter just like her one day”.

Your hair is long and blonde and something you’re fiercely attached to now with your new discovery and love of Disney princesses. Flashes of mischievousness or twinkles of happiness radiate from your blue eyes, and I can’t help but laugh along with you when you giggle at something you find funny. Your favorite things are playing tea-party, restaurant, building magna-tiles, reading books, and painting. You say you want to be a soccer player when you grow up, and the suggestion of a ballet class led you to calmly explain that it would make you “way too dizzy”. Your vocabulary blows anyone away, but it always has. Years ahead of your time, you’re asking me how things are spelled, point out the color "indigo", and demand to do your own homework alongside of your brothers at the end of each school day. You can count to 30, have known your alphabet for about 2 years solid, know all of your shapes and colors, and point out letters and numbers. Potty training was the easiest one day exercise of putting all the diapers away when we came home from a trip to Finland and you never had an accident and you never looked back. When you introduce yourself to anyone you spell your name out for them: “it’s  M-A-R-E-N” you say, which is impossibly adorable. You asked about the “earthquake in Ukraine”, mixing up your news stories, and jam along to Oskar’s favorite song “Renegade” by drumming out the base line. You’re braver than your brothers were and fearlessly talk to strangers, rattling off stories about school or toys or TV shows as soon as you meet them.

Your days start with the sun in a new big girl bed of which you’re incredibly proud. Still a 6am riser, but with your growing independence and your biggest brother’s exact same sleep schedule, the two of you have become two peas in a pod. Oskar and you creep your way downstairs in the mornings to wait for us to drag ourselves out of bed.  Most days you’re in school and complain about having to go but then always report that you had a good day. You play house and babies with your friends and somehow always make everyone else be the dad or the dog, demanding to be the mom in charge. You’re a strong personality with your peers, always wanting to be the boss and not always loving to share. You tell me “I’m a big strong girl”—something I hope you always feel, though it wouldn’t kill you to fork over the toys to your friends every now and then. We’re the luckiest to be in a neighborhood full of kids and being able to grow up with the little girls around you will make for the best childhood memories--running from yard to yard and playing imaginative games--the way every childhood should be. You’re still a good eater for a 3 year old and love oatmeal, mashed potatoes, salmon, carrots, and any kind of soup. You’re always willing to try something new and love to share whatever we’re eating. You love Peppa Pig and frequently tell me you’re “going on holiday” or that your pretend restaurant meals cost “6 pounds” or that you need to wear your “swimming costume” for the pool. You’re also able to rattle off Minecraft characters and know about every show your brothers watch, not to be left behind for even a second. August is on the precipice of outgrowing the things that unite you, but for now, your combined imagination and make-believe games are what I’ll look back on and remember most of all at this age. The both of you in costume or playing with your kitchen, emersed in a world far, far away, I’ll hold in my heart forever.

The last remaining trace of your baby years is the way you soothe yourself, by twirling and intertwining your fingers into my necklace while I hold you. Your two fingers on your left hand get popped into your mouth simultaneously and you’re instantly calmed—the magic my chain holds over you. You’ve demanded for your stuffed animal elephant to wear a gold necklace to bed too, an instant middle-of-the-night way to get yourself back to sleep.

This birthday is a traditionally tough one for me. Three whole years, a baby no more. It’s especially hard with our last and final; our miracle girl who completed our family. As sad as it is to have this time slip so quickly through my fingers, what an absolute joy it is to have the most brilliant and beautiful child. A healthy and vibrant girl who learns and plays and grows and is becoming a little person who continues to bring the most joy to our family. I always ask you before bed, “Do you know how much I love you?” and you tell me, “So much!”. To the moon and stars, kiddo. Happy 3rd birthday.



Friday, February 3, 2023

The Laura Blog's Favorite Things from 2022

My yearly favorite things list for 2022, hot off the press in February 😏. This is the stuff that REALLY sticks out thinking back on what I bought and loved last year and what I still reach for almost every day. If you're in a shopping mood, you can't go wrong with anything here. 

1. Leggings and Top: This matching set is an exact dupe for Lululemon. I'm convinced they're made by the same manufacturer and tagged differently. Buttery soft, flattering, and absolutely perfect to work out or lounge in. This is my number one for a reason.

2. Blazer: I love this blazer over a bodysuit with high waisted denim. Found a picture of my mom wearing closely the same thing in the early 90s, so how the turn tables.

3. Hair Mask: This transformed my hair over the last few months and came recommended by my fairy godfather of a hairdresser.

4. Vitamin C Capsules: I have freckles and sun spots and have noticed a serious difference with the use of this vitamin C. After lots of time researching and listening to cosmetic scientists, this product is the best you can get for a really reasonable price tag.

5. Perfume: The most addicting scent. I typically don't wear perfume, but I just can't get enough of this one.

6. Earrings: My every day go-tos, giving the illusion of a double pieced ear.

7. Lip Gloss: The best low-budget gloss that you can afford to have in all purses and middle consoles. A great nude that isn't sticky or goo-ey, but gives just the right amount of color to feel a little more put together.

8. Atomic Habits: A ground breaking book to get yourself motivated to do that thing you've been putting off for too long.

9. Clogs: So comfortable, so cute. Classics never die.

10. Hair Growth Serum: I had so much breakage of my hair around the crown of my face, and with this growth serum, I've noticed a crazy difference in just 9 weeks. The best part is that the serum doesn't make your hair oily or greasy, so I can still wash only a few times a week.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

2022 Gift Guide for Her

Ho ho ho! I'm almost done with Christmas shopping already and really kept it all easy and light this year. Saving for future vacations in lieu of stuff has become the name of the game in this house and I love it. This said, I did round up some of my favorite purchases from this year for myself if you're looking for some inspiration. Here we go!

One: Guys, I LIVE FOR THESE. The comfiest, coziest set of pajamas that I've ever owned, and I have higher-end pajamas as well (think LAKE). 

Two: A spendier gift but just so worth it. I finally got myself one after a promotion this year and use it all the time. Every cook should have one.

Three: My go-to favorite shoe. Easy on, easy off, and look good with anything you wear.

Four: the cutest stinking cocktail glasses. I'll be gifting these this year.

Five: The WAY I LOVE THIS PERFUME. I was influenced by Mikayla on TikTok who said that the underlying tones of mango were amazing, and the girl did not lie.

Six: the perfect red lip for winter

Seven: cutie little sherpa belt bag. I got the ivory which is sold out, but keep an eye out for restocks.

Eight: little samples of Drunk Elephant products for anyone who appreciates skin care

Nine: best quality polishes for the holidays

Ten: A hair mask that has worked wonders for my hair over the last year

Eleven: I love these earrings. The look of a double piercing with just a touch of sparkle.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Boo Baskets

Happy October, happy fall! We're all settled into our school year and sports routines and are looking forward to one of our favorite times of year. The boys have ended up "themed" for costumes since they were very little--pig and wolf, Peter Pan and Smee, Iron Man and Batman, and a plethora of Star Wars characters the last few years that I know nothing about. This year, they ended up choosing professional soccer and professional football players--synced as could be until Maren came along. NO to baseball, YES to The Little Mermaid. If you see us in ref and soccer mom outfits and uniforms with a mermaid toddling behind, #itme. 

I like to give them each a little "boo basket" mid-October with a few fun fall things tucked inside. Adding some of the finds I grabbed, below. Favorites of ours that we already have are The Witches book (an absolute must read for Halloween!), the Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza game that has become a night time ritual, and cat ears for cute sibling Halloween pictures outside in the colorful leaves. Soaking up these last few weeks of sunlight--I'll be back with Christmas updates before we know it. Until then!

1. The Witches

2. Cat Goat Cheese Pizza

3. Fake Snake

4. Cat Ears

5. Squishmallow

6. Halloween Pajamas

7. Hair Color

8. Bath Bombs

9. Halloween LEGO

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Oslo, Norway with Kids

Hi everybody! We're back from our travels and I'm finally able to summarize and re-live some of our favorite memories from Oslo as I sit here with a sick and feverish Maren next to me. This year's international travel was one of our longest trips to date at over 3 weeks long, and I have so many pictures to look back through. I'm always looking to others posts about where they've traveled to and what they recommend doing there, so I like to do the same. You can see some of my previous posts about travel with kids to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Helsinki linked here.

We arrived in Oslo on a Wednesday afternoon, a short skip and hop over from Helsinki where we had been the previous 2+ weeks. Why all these Scandinavian, Nordic cities, you ask? Because they're so dang easy (relatively) to navigate with kids. Ours were 8, 6, and 2 this time, and we're just not up for the overwhelming Romes, Barcelonas, or Parises of the world with our trio quite yet. We took a train from the airport directly to city center and walked to our hotel from there--a quick 10 minutes if you're not dragging copious amounts of luggage behind you like Matt was. I'd highly recommend Hotell Bondeheimen for accommodation. For about $230 a night, we had the ENTIRE TOP FLOOR of the hotel, including a balcony, and some of the most delicious breakfast food included (including every kind of smoked or baked salmon under the sun) to feed our family of 5. A huge bonus in an otherwise very pricey city. The location was central and we could walk to nearly everywhere we wanted to go.

After settling in, we decided to jump on a tram to the Vigeland Sculpture Park--unique and weird, for sure, featuring 212 sculptures of naked humans that REALLY got the boys giggling and yelling "butt" and "balls" about every 5 seconds. So much for culture, but otherwise, a truly beautiful walk on the most gorgeous, sunshine filled day. Right inside the park is Frogner playground which was absolutely enormous and got out the travel day wiggles from all 3. They played, played, played, until it was time to head back and figure out dinner, which we ended up eating in Aker Brygge right on the water. The views are unbeatable, and restaurants on the water all have blankets for guests to use as the evenings on the water tend to get chillier. We finally headed back to our hotel rest up and figure out our Thursday agenda.

The next day, we set out to find Europe's best cup of coffee at Tim Wendelboe, a coffee house credited for starting the coffee craze across all of Scandinavia. We stumbled across the coolest, modern playground next to a waterfall in the middle of the city on our way, which the kids STILL say was their favorite part of the trip. On this note, playgrounds are frequent, abundant, all all so unique across the entire city. They are everywhere, making walking throughout the city with kids a breeze with a playground bribe just around every corner. Tim Wendelboe was the experience I had imagined it would be, with cold brew served in a wine glass and our initial thoughts of a take-away or to-go mug quickly squashed to death. This was an *EXPERIENCE*, with every drop meant to be savored. 

Afterwards, we grabbed a quick lunch and went to watch the changing of the guard at the Royal Palace, which happens every day at 1:30pm. The kids were way more intrigued by The Princess Ingrid Alexandra Sculpture Park, which contains sculptures by--and for--children. The sculpture park was established between 2016 and 2019 as the result of a nationwide competition among 5th and 6th graders, and you're able to see the drawn up submission as well as the sculpture that was brought to life as a result. August, our artist at heart, gulped it all up.

To cap off the day, we headed to Oslo's opera house, near the top of every tourist guide. This architectural masterpiece allows you to climb up the side of the building to the roof, where you're able to catch some beautiful 360 views of the city. The kids had a blast climbing and riding make shift slides down the outside of the opera house.  The views were stunning and a reminder of how Scandinavia does summer. It seemed like the whole city was out on the small beach that the opera overlooked, sun bathing, sailing, and paddle boarding. We finally wandered over to Operastranda for dinner where they have a big line up of food stands. The kids ate a pizza while we had the best fresh fish and chips of our lives as we sat and soaked up the sun. We ended the day with ice cream and the prettiest playground overlooking the sea (duh).

The next day was my BIRTHDAY (!!!) and we did it right. A must-do in Oslo is sailing the fjords, so sail the fjords we did. A little lesson on glaciers and how the water inlets were formed really peaked Oskar's interest, and it truly was fascinating, and SO BEAUTIFUL, to sail through them all. We were about ready to sell all of our things and to live in one of the cabins by the sea forever by the end of it until we learned their price tags. 

We then made our way to Oslo's most famous shopping street, Karl Johan, where I picked up a Norwegian must-have as a birthday gift to myself: a Helly Hansen sweatshirt that's waiting to be worn once our roasting Pittsburgh summer comes to an end. I also wanted to take a stroll to Damstredet--a charming and picturesque part of central Oslo with well-preserved wooden houses from the late 1700s and the 1800s. These are the colorful houses you think of when you think of Norway. We found a famous food hall called Mathallen, where you can find produce, fish, meat, and any kind of lunch option you can think up, but we, of course, ended up with gelato. We took that gelato and walked a scenic walk to Aker Brygge for dinner, probably the prettiest part of the entire city, and ate all the birthday salmon as a night cap.

The next and final day we ventured by train to Frederikstad, which is truly like going back in time. The ride was just over an hour, making it manageable back and forth to Oslo in a day. The old city is just spilling over with charm, full of wooden buildings, quaint shops, playgrounds, and outdoor restaurants. We walked and shopped, played at a playground with roaming GOATS, and sipped some ice cold Ringnes on a cobble stone street. Highly recommend. After getting back to Oslo, we squeezed in a trip to the Munch museum. It's huge, and we could have spent hours there, but with 3 already tired kids we spent about just about 90 minutes. Enough to soak in some of his most famous works, including The Scream. The kids found yet another too-good-to-pass-up playground next to a Poke bowl restaurant, so that was pretty win-win and we all ended the night on a really happy note.

Overall, I think we could have used just one more day in Oslo, as I would have loved to go to the open air museum and to have done some island hopping by ferry. The city really was a perfect one with kids, and the weather showed up for us 100%. Everyone told me to enjoy my notoriously rainy time in Norway, but not a drop was to be found while we were there. This said, if you go, make sure you pack ponchos and rain gear just in case. Next on our lists: Bergen, Norway, which looks like an absolute dream. I wanted Maren to be a little bit older and out of a stroller so we can tackle the mountains and fjords without one. Until then. 

If you're planning any travel and have any other questions about the city, shoot me a message on Instagram @thelaurablog1 and I'll get back to you! Sometimes it's easiest to talk to someone who's been there, and I think we got a really good feel for everything that Oslo holds. Ha det, for now, Norway. We will definitely see you soon!

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