Wednesday, September 30, 2009

We're Still Here

Have no fear, the Gatzke's are still here! It's been an absolutely crazy week and yours truly is still trying to figure out how to balance work, family, and our newly added fall activities.

Steve treated me to a "Mental Health Day" on Monday to relieve some of the added stress and busy-ness of our week. He was slow at work, so he came home around 10am to pick me up, but Amaya and I were gone. Fortunately, due to my obsession to make lists, he saw my "to-do list" at my desk and tracked us down at the playground in the mall. After I got over the inital shock of seeing Steve at the mall, we decided to head down to Lanesboro for lunch at the Pedal Pusher Cafe and did a little shopping. It was a much needed distraction and we even found a table for our entryway! A little retail shopping, yummy food, and time spent with Steve and Amaya did this girl wonders! (Besides, I didn't really want to fold the laundry and clean anyway!)

Amaya has already had two sessions of her Toddler Gym Class and has loved it! The teacher - Mrs. Anderson - is absolutely wonderful with the kids and I was surprised that the class was more structured than I thought it was going to be. She gives them a few minutes right away for "free time" where they can play with balls, walk on the balance beams, or crawl over the foam cushions. They also get "free time" for the last 10 minutes of class and generally Amaya has wanted to play with the balls, but this week she surprised me and wanted to crawl over the foam cushions again and again. This week she played with hula hoops, bean bags, and a parachute and worked on some skills that she learned the first week (trapping a tennis ball in a plastic juice jug and marching to the beat of a drum). Overall, she's able to follow directions pretty well (with some encouragement from me). It's a great chance for her to get some of her energy expended and I get a little bit of a work out too! On Thursday, she starts her Swim Class, so we'll see how that goes...

I started my weekly Bible Study this week and it feels so go to be back with this amazing group of women. We're doing the Precepts study of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles and already I'm struggling to keep up with the lesson. Maybe I'm making it much harder than it really should be, but I've spent about 7 hours on the study and I'm still not done! One of the things I love about Precepts though is you really dig into the Word. There's a lot of highlighting key words and phrases, memorizing Scripture, obtaining historical background, creating charts and themes, etc. One of the things I don't like about Precepts is that it's difficult for me to find uninterrupted time to really focus on the study (and it's very CHALLENGING!). My other major stressor is that for some reason Amaya doesn't like the church nursery anymore. Maybe we've spoiled her by volunteering so much in the nursery this summer so she's gotten used to having us in there with her. Anyway, she lasted about an hour before they had to come and get me. (She also only lasted about a half an hour in church on Saturday night.) I can't quite figure it out because she does pretty well when we drop her off at the Healthy Living Center Daycare... maybe it'll just take her awhile to adjust to a new nursery. I remember going through this last fall, so hopefully it will get better. We'll see how tomorrow goes...

Speaking of the Healthy Living Center... WE LOVE IT! We've been going about 3-4 times a week - that's about as much as our schedule allows for. I was very sore after the first week when we did a Cable Class and a Cycling Class, so we've stuck to the machines - my favorite being the elliptical machine. The times flies by so quickly and we get a chance to watch TV! (We still don't have cable or rabbit ears and intend to keep it that way for awhile.)

But... we've started a tradition with Steve's mom and dad on Tuesday nights to watch Biggest Loser together! I still think the trainers are hard on the contestants and I'm definitely not a fan of the "game-playing" evidenced by last night's episode, but I still like watching the show. I started watching the show with my mom last year because Steve had school on Tuesdays and I was lonely, but since he has school on Thursdays this year, Steve and I can now watch it together. We also have a long standing tradition of going to my parents on Sunday afternoons - especially during football season and now that my parents have a HUGE TV! (See... we don't need TV when we've got family that we love spending time with!)

Steve continues to enjoy school, but he has quite a bit of reading and finding uninterrupted time is a challenge for him as well. He has a meeting coming up in the next month or so to discuss the third year of grad school in which he does an internship. His internship will be about 20 hours a week, so we're a little unsure if he will be able to cut back his hours at work or if he'll need to quit altogether. We're hoping he'll be able to get internship here in Rochester, but most likely it will be up in the cities. Still there's a lot of unknowns, but we can only plan so much and we leave the rest in God's hands.

October brings a very full month of birthdays and celebrations. Our nephew Miles turns 2, my mom has a birthday on the 16th, our niece Annika has a birthday on the 25th and we are also celebrating our engagement anniversary on the 6th. OH! And we're also heading down to Nebraska at the end of the month to visit my sister and celebrate our niece Hope's baptism. Busy, busy, busy!

With the crisp fall weather we're having, Steve and I have been trying to enjoy the weather before the snow flies. We've been able to get to the MN Zoo with Steve's mom and Aunt Janet, we've gone to Oxbow park with Steve's mom and this weekend were planning on going to the pumpkin patch with the Hulls. There are still so many things left on our "to-list" - go to the Zoo one more time with the Hulls, hit the apple orchard, plant my bulbs, play in the leaves (ours are just now beginning to fall), etc.

With our busy schedule, I'm often reminded to take one day at a time. It's just difficult to find balance... I need to devote time with God... time with Steve... time with Amaya... time with work... time with family... time to myself... I'm also reminded that a person is only as busy as they want to be. I set the schedule. I am (somewhat) in control of our calendar. I can say "no" or "maybe later." I can let the laundry sit for a day or two - it's not going anywhere, right?

So for now... we're still here...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Elmo's Powers

I wish I had Elmo's special powers. Amaya runs to the computer or the TV EVERY TIME she hears Elmo's voice. She snuggles with her Elmo doll EVERY TIME she sees him. When she hears MY voice, she usually runs the other way. When I ask her to snuggle, she says, "NO." What is it about Elmo and why can't I be more like him?

Friday, September 18, 2009

1-2-3

When Amaya doesn't obey, we'll give her a chance and say, "1....2....3!"Up until the last week or so, Steve and I haven't gotten much past the number 1 when she decides to obey. Now, when we get to the number 3, she runs away from us screaming. Fun, right?

So last night, I was working on a puzzle in the dining room and here's our conversation:

Amaya: "Mama! Play?"
Me: "Mama's going to put in a couple more pieces and then I'll come upstairs with you and play."
Amaya: "MAMA! PLAY!"
Me: "I'll be right there."
Amaya: "Come on! ...2...3!" (for whatever reason, she can't say the number 1).

I guess I wasn't obeying very well... Out of the mouth of babes....

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Temper Tantrums

I honestly thought that Steve and I would never have one of "those" children. You all know what I'm talking about. You're casually shopping at Target and you see this child kicking, screaming, and flailing their arms around because he didn't get want he wanted. Then you look over at the parents who are obviously humiliated and trying everything they can - often times including bribery - to calm their child down.

Welcome to our world. Our sweet, precious little girl is now one of "those" children who have meltdowns and temper tantrums at the drop of a hat when she doesn't get what she wants. Seriously, Steve and I weren't going to have one of those children. Amaya was going to be a perfect little angel sitting quietly in the grocery cart and when walking down the candy aisle, she would say, "No Mommy, I don't want any candy. I'd like to have some carrot sticks when we get home." And of course, she would eat those carrot sticks after washing her hands and all the while saying please and thank you. Good grief... What planet were we living on?

We've been trying to find a healthy balance between sticking to the rules and discipline while at the same time allowing her to express her frustrations, etc. For the most part, we ignore her temper tantrums and when she's calmed herself down acknowledge her feelings and TRY to redirect her. She's only had one major meltdown today - after I told her that we don't put toys in the potty... that was fun... So, is this the beginning of the "terrible twos" or does it get worse?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back to Reality...

My three week vacation sadly came to an end last week, and back to reality we go. Steve started his second year of graduate school last week and the homework has already started to pile up. I've been very busy at work and while I wish it wasn't so crazy, I'm definitely relieved for our increase in patient census. Amaya will be starting two classes this fall through our community education - a Toddler Gym class and Swimming class. The swimming class is on Thursday evenings, so this will give Amaya and I something to do while Steve's at school. My weekly Bible study also starts up again next week and I'm looking forward to meeting with everyone and studying God's word. We're going to have a very busy fall...

Amaya has done very well with potty training so far. She still doesn't tell me when she needs to go, so we've managed to take her at predicable times and every 1-2 hours after that. Out of the 10-12 times either Steve or I take her, she's able to go about 5 of those times. Training her hasn't been as stressful as I thought it was going to be despite the horror stories I've heard. It's probably helped that we got a good start on it when I was off from work and didn't have to worrying about any kind of schedule. It will be a little more challenging, especially when she's in the nursery for Bible Study and church and going to different classes, but we'll take one day at a time.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

HAPPY GRANDPARENT'S DAY!

Today is a very special today to celebrate 6 of my most favorite people in the world. My Great-Grandma Struckmann, my Great-Grandpa Struckmann, my Grandma Horning, my Grandpa Horning, my Grandma Gustafson, and Grandpa Gustafson. Mommy and Daddy tell me how blessed I am to have 3 sets of grandparents that live in the same town and how fortunate I am to be able to see them several times a week! I have to admit, I like being spoiled and getting lots of attention! So - HAPPY GRANDPARENT'S DAY! I love you all very much! - Amaya

Friday, September 11, 2009

Amaya and Grandma H.

This is right after Amaya's first bath around the last week of January 2008 - my (Steve's) mom is putting on Amaya's clothes.


video

Many more videos to come!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reptile Gardens and the Badlands

I'm anxious to blog about the other things going on in our life, so this is going to be a rather long post full of pictures of the rest of our trip to South Dakota.


I've been to Reptile Gardens several times, but this time I was a little disappointed because I thought there were more exhibits. Don't get me wrong, the crocodile "wrestling" was still impressive and made it worth the trip, I was just expecting more reptiles in the flesh. :-)


The gardens are absolutely beautiful. Amaya and I both enjoyed smelling the flowers and there were some that I have never seen before!



The crocodiles were amazing! At first, it looked like they were all sleeping, but from what we were told, unless there's eating to be done, the crocodiles lay around and don't expend much energy. I like this guy - he looks like he's smiling!


The crocodile wrestler asked if there was anyone in the audience that expected to see him chased by the crocs and wanted to see him get bit. We were all expecting a lot of action! He also asked if we wanted him to wrestle a big garor or a small one - a mean one or a nice one! He tried to find the biggest and meanest one for us. He carried around the large metal pole to poke the gators to find a feisty one.




Amaya was a little restless during the show, but really liked when the crocodiles got active!


Feeding time!


We couldn't leave Reptile Gardens without touching a snake! Amaya wasn't scared, but I certainly was.


A picture in front of a REALLY big snake - a cobra (I think...)


Aside from the crocodiles, this was my favorite part - the tortoises! The were very friendly and didn't move an inch. Amaya liked touching his shell.


The Badlands: On our way back home, we made a "quick" stop on the scenic highway through the Badlands. A mere 20 miles, took us over an hour and half or so. The scenery was awesome and we were fascinated at the different colored rock and deep valleys. You're right in the middle of flat land and all of a sudden there are huge rocks and valleys! Hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoyed the trip!


More snakes?




Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Devil's Tower - Wyoming

Since Devil's Tower is "close" to the Black Hills, we spent a day trekking out there (2 1/2 hours one way) and hiking around the tower. This picture is taken right before the entrance into the park at the gift shop.

On our way to to the visitor's center, there was an area to check out the prairie dogs. Amaya enjoyed watching them "pop up" every so often. (Much better than any zoo!)

A few impressive pictures of the tower. Of note, this was the first National Monument declared in 1906.

The park was in the middle of paving the trail all around the tower, but unfortunately they were only half-way through the project. It was a nice break for Steve to be able to push Amaya in the stroller instead of carrying on her shoulders. Along the trail, we saw several groups of people climbing. It was fun to watch them manage their way up the steep tower - and from what we were told, this was the "easy" side.

Later that evening, we enjoyed another campfire roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sylvan Lake

When planning our vacation, I didn't want us to be racing from one thing to the next, so I had only planned for us to do one thing a day so we could RELAX. What we found is that most of the things we wanted to do only took a few hours in the morning and we would relax in the evening back at the ranch, so our afternoons wound up being free. One afternoon, we ended up driving Needles Highway again but from the other direction and made an unexpected but totally worth it stop! This is Sylvan Lake (near the trailhead to Harney Peak - the highest point in South Dakota).

There were several hiking trails and also places where you can climb. We spotted a few braves souls rock climbing.

For those of you who have seen National Treasure 2 starring Nicholas Cage, parts of the movie were filmed here. We hiked for about an hour or so but would have liked to stay longer because there were so many interesting areas to explore behind the rocks.

Amaya loved riding on Steve's shoulders and had a great time exploring with us.

Once again, it was absolutely breathtaking!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Storybook Island

Once Amaya's fever broke, she was ready for some serious playing! We decided that Storybook Island in Rapid City would be the perfect way for her to run off some steam and it's FREE! The weather was great and we even had a chance to have a picnic in the park. Amaya enjoyed exploring all the houses, going down the slides, and running around. Here's a picture of her and Steve on the pirate ship.

Amaya has a few Dr. Suess books and she recognized the Cat in the Hat.

Amaya and I on Noah's Ark. She liked going around the boat and pointing out the animals she knew and tried to make the sounds of each animal. She can now growl like a bear!

Raggedy Ann and Andy - again, I think there is a picture of my parents in this!

No trip to Storybook Island would be complete without a picture of Yogi Bear!

Our friend, Jen grew up in Rapid City and recommended that we find Fjord's ice cream shop for the BEST ice cream. Unfortunately, we couldn't find it and when we asked at the gas station, we were told that it closed a month ago. Too bad... We settled for ice cream back at the ranch (which was pretty yummy!)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Restaurants in the Black Hills

We ate out more than I had originally planned on while in the Black Hills. My parents bought Steve a camp stove several years ago, so I've become somewhat proficient at using it. We brought it along "just in case" I had a strong desire to cook, but ended up going out most of the time.

The first restaurant we went to was in Hill City called, Desparados. It was a cowboy style restaurant with real live cowboys with spurs and guns! It was pretty neat to see them dressed up, however Amaya was a little scared by them. We enjoyed our supper - Steve had Fettucine Alfredo, I had ribs, and Amaya had a grilled cheese sandwich. What absolutely FLOORED us, was when I looked to the next table across from us and, I SAW MY OLD BIBLE STUDY LEADER FROM CHURCH! WHAT?!? What a small world! I wish I could have captured the expression on her face when I went over to say hi! She was flabbergasted! Steve and I run into people we know all the time in Rochester, but in the Black Hills?!? Amazing...

The second restaurant we tried in Hill City was called, "The Bumpin' Buffalo." We actually liked this restaurant so much, we went back twice. The food was incredible, the atmosphere was great, and it wasn't too expensive.

On our way back from the Black Hills, we stopped in Murdo, only to find that they didn't have much of a restaurant selection. We ended up going to a "mom and pop diner" called, "The Diner." The food was great and we met some interesting characters. You just never know who you're going to run into on vacation...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Needles Highway

Shortly after leaving Mount Rushmore, we decided since we had already eaten and it was close to Amaya's nap time, we'd take the scenic route back to our cabin and take Needles Highway. This was Steve's FAVORITE part of the vacation. We even did it twice (on separate days) - going both ways! Steve especially enjoyed the pigtail wooden bridges through Iron Mountain Road. We enjoyed taking the drive through Custer State Park - the scenery was awesome! Steve and I both kept saying, "Wow!" and Amaya would mimic us. We were really hoping to see at least one buffalo and we we in for a treat! There was a picnic area shortly after the entrance to Custer State Park and there were tons of buffalo everywhere! Amaya can now say "buffalo" very well and likes to look for them in Rochester.




I'm glad Steve was comfortable driving because there were many sharp curves, steep drop-offs, and very few guard rails. It wasn't the scariest driving Steve has done - the Smokies were a lot worse, but I was hanging on pretty tight. There were times Steve could only drive 5 miles per hour because the curves were so sharp. We snapped several pictures at the scenic overlooks and were absolutely astounded by God's creations! These next two pictures are taken in front of the Cathedral Spires.



These pictures were taken right by the "Needle" Rock Formation.


Very impressive scenery!



This tunnel was about 8 1/2 feet wide!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Joshua!

Today is my oldest nephew, Joshua's birthday! Happy 12th Birthday! I remember the day he was born very well... I was a sophomore in college and my mom called me that morning and said Carol was going into labor. I called my the professors from my two classes that day and asked if I would be missing much if I stayed at the dorm to wait for my sister's call. They gave me the go ahead and I camped out ALL DAY waiting for the phone to ring. And of course, every time it rang, I'd get so excited and it would be one of my friends asking if the baby was here yet. The agony of waiting was beyond measure!! My friends brought me lunch from the cafeteria and then supper... UGH! When was my precious little niece or nephew going to get here?!? After pacing the halls, and playing a million rounds of Dutch Blitz with my friends, Dan FINALLY called later that evening. I remember him saying, "It's a baby!" A BABY WHAT?!? (Dan likes to tease me - and I try to handle it with grace, but come on Dan! Seriously... it's my first nephew!) Joshua Paul Springer was born that day 12 years ago. Unfortunately, because I was in Chicago and school had just started and they were in Nebraska, I had to wait until Thanksgiving break before I finally laid eyes on my precious little nephew with the most gorgeous red hair and cubby cheeks! It was love at first sight. We love you so much, Joshua! Have a great day!

Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center

Steve and I recently joined the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center (DAHLC) - aka Mayo's athletic club. I've wanted to join an athletic club for awhile, but figured it wouldn't be worth it to try to find a babysitter, try to figure out when to go around our busy schedule, etc. Steve checked into the DAHLC, and found that they had childcare available on site for up to two hours! We will have to do some creative scheduling when Steve goes back to school so we can go together, but it should work out. And, he found out that the more we go, the cheaper it is! PERFECT!

Yesterday, we took a Cable class. It's a combination of aerobics and strength training with weights. I was anticipating a good work-out, but I didn't expect to be sore the next day! Tonight, we going to take an Introducing to Studio Cycling (otherwise known as spinning). I'm not sure what to expect from tonight's class. I'm hoping we're a little more prepared for this one since we've been biking quite a bit this summer.

What shocked both of us was how much Amaya LOVES the nursery! When we pick her up, she is literally kicking and screaming when we have to go. This is quite a change from last year when I'd drop her off in the church nursery and get paged several times! This will make it really easy to go work out and will give us one less excuse to use.

Mount Rushmore

Is it possible to visit the Black Hills without making a stop at Mount Rushmore? Each time we've gone, it's been more and more impressive.

Can you tell Amaya is having a great time?

There's a small hike - maybe 1 mile or so that lets you get a closer view of "the faces", but because we didn't have a backpack to put Amaya in and the trail was only paved so far - Amaya walked for some of it and for the rest rode on Steve's shoulders.

A close up view of Mount Rushmore. We heard that they are working on a new project of creating more trails throughout the park. We'll be excited to see the changes when we go back.

We took my dad up on the suggestion to go back to watch the lighting of Mount Rushmore. One of the rangers gave a small talk, then we watched a movie about the history of the presidents, and then the ranger had all of the veterans come up on stage to retire the flag for the evening. There were about 100-125 veterans up on stage and the ranger said this was the most they've had all summer. The lighting of Mount Rushmore was awesome and we're glad we decided to go back. Thanks Dad for the suggestion!