How to Have a Lovely Evening in 7 Easy Steps

Step #1: Find a best buddy who is up for adventure. (It helps if they also happen to be very cute)

Step #2: Take your best buddy on a hike at a nearby park. Soak in the natural beauty of your surroundings, maybe explore off-trail a little. Make sure to bring a gallon or two of mosquito spray.


Step #3: Stop at the nearby play park. Run up and down and in and out and climb and jump and play ’til you’re red in the face. Spin around and round and round until you nearly barf. Giggle hysterically.


Step #4: If you weren’t dizzy enough from Step 3, find the only “hill” in west-central Minnesota and roll down it. Make sure to avoid any dog turds and patches of Canada thistle.

Step #5: Play in the mud by the river. Throw rocks into that river and comment on the awesome splashes they make. Discover a cool tree fort.

Step #6: Soak in the evening sunlight and enjoy the warm breeze while it lasts. Breathe in the smell of the freshly fallen leaves and watch the last sliver of sunset take the warmth with it over the horizon. Winter Is Coming…

Step #7: Relish every single moment of the lovely evening with your best buddy, who is little by little each day losing his baby look and morphing into a big kid. Memorize the sound of his delighted giggles as he runs too quickly down the hill and tumbles into a patch of soft leaves, then squeals with even more laughter. Appreciate his vivid imagination and share in his adventure, as he totes a big stick in one hand in case of a run in with “bad guys”…but still holds tight to your hand with his other.

That, my friends, is how you have yourself a perfect autumn evening. And hopefully the memory of it will hold you over through the cold, dark winter and long, lonely days until the sun shines warm again. The seasons, just like that best buddy, will move so quickly and onto the next one before you can blink. So hold tight to his little hand as you walk down the path together.


Finny Turns Four!

The last time I blogged was on the eve of my middle son’s 4th birthday. I remember very much wanting to post about his birthday, just as I had done every year for him up until then. But I also remember feeling wistful and a little sad about Noah turning four. Because he had very recently been promoted to “middle child” and was certainly no longer my baby – or a baby at all for that matter – he had rocketed into “big kid” territory and I was helpless to slow down time.

Perhaps it was a little bit of stubbornness, hoping that maybe if I didn’t write about it, he wouldn’t grow up so damn quickly, that it wouldn’t be as ‘real’. Or perhaps it was due to the fact that I had a newborn and 2 older kids and was getting about 3 hours of sleep per night and had no time to write let alone shower or eat. Or because I was in the midst of going overboard on an elaborate Ninja Turtle-themed 4th birthday party that we were about to host in our home. Well, whatever it was, I never did finish that birthday blog post and in fact never came back to post again…

Now today, nearly 4 years later, it is the eve of my youngest son’s 4th birthday. And I am suffering an even more desperate feeling of time slipping all too quickly through my fingers. My baby boy — my littlest, most charming, adorable, hilarious snuggle bug — will be FOUR tomorrow. You guys: HOW is this even possible?! 4 years ago on a frigid January night I met the best surprise of my life and I am forever changed by this sweet little soul.

Happy Birthday, Finny-Foo!
Happy Birthday, Finnegan!

Tonight I finished the far less involved (but still probably more than is considered reasonable for any normal human) Batman-themed birthday party planning. And so now I write. I haven’t written in so long, I fear I’ve lost my groove. I miss taking a little snapshot in history of our everyday life. Not that anyone else in the world needs to read about our not-entirely-that-enthralling life, but it’s so fun to look back on these posts from over the years. And I really truly do miss writing. But more on that later…perhaps in another post?! Ah, perhaps.

As with many youngest children, poor Finny has very few professional photos taken, very little in the way of scrapbooking/recording his history, and many of his milestones were half-assedly celebrated on the sidelines of an older sibling’s basketball game or soccer practice.  His “firsts” may not have been entirely new and novel to us as veteran parents, but for me, they had a different effect: his “firsts” were my “lasts”. My last baby starting solid foods. My last baby learning to walk. My last baby saying his first word.  But I am excited for my last baby to have his very first “friend party” tomorrow night. I don’t think he has a clue what to expect, but there will be pizza and cupcakes so I know he’s totally down for all that.

So here I am on the eve of my last baby’s fourth birthday feeling absurdly sentimental about his life on this planet. Finn is our Star Wars-loving, Brit-cartoon-obsessed, precocious, cheeky, lovey, lispy little sugar booger and I cannot imagine our life without him in it. What a cool little person he is becoming. So I may just go pour myself a glass of wine to celebrate. A toast: to our survival of another ‘threenager’, to a healthy & happy little boy, to our FOUR year old Finn Gunnar! We love you, little man!

The Return (cue the adventure-y music)

Hey y’all.  So…  Uh…

Been awhile. :)

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that our family got a little bit bigger a few weeks ago.  The Franzens are finally and officially “The Franzen Five”!  Finn Gunnar Franzen arrived on January 25th at 11:32pm, weighing 7 lbs 5 oz.  Our new bundle of joy may be small in size, but big on smiles — and he already has his entire family wrapped around his chubby little finger!


With the arrival of the little peanut, things have gotten exponentially crazier at our already nutty home.  But we wouldn’t have it any other way, now, would we!?

That's a lot of kids... the cat was actually on the pile too, but jumped off when Noah grabbed his tail...

That’s a lot of kids… the cat was actually on the pile too, but jumped off when Noah grabbed his tail…

Yes, I have been busy… busy relishing every single moment at home with my little punkin.  Between realizing that this is our last baby, and knowing how terrifyingly quickly these little people grow up, I have appreciated and savored every moment of my maternity leave so far.  It has been heavenly!  I don’t worry about how messy the house is (probably don’t drop in for a “surprise” visit, you will surely be horrified).  I’m not concerned about how I look (no makeup, yoga pants & a bi-weekly shower are sufficient, thankyouverymuch!).  And I can honestly say I haven’t thought about work at all since leaving it behind (I feel like my career can wait — my baby won’t be little forever!)  I could just stare at his adorable little face all day.  And sometimes I do only that!!

Adoring my newborn requires a lot of holding, rocking, snuggling, smooshing pudgy cheeks, and  even napping.  While I usually have my Surface handy to keep me occupied during those late night feedings, it is darn difficult to type blog posts one-handed on a touch screen while holding a newborn.

So I guess my blogging suffered a little.  And I’m perfectly okay with that.  He’s totally worth it…

Love this happy guy!!

Love this happy guy!!

I did, however, jot down some rough notes on my Surface (OneNote = awesomeness) from time to time, so I’ve fleshed out a few posts from those to try and ‘catch up’ a bit.  I also had a couple drafts started & never finished them before Finn was born, so I finished them now (better late than never, right?)  We’ll call them “back issues” of the FranzenFive. 🙂   I’ve backdated the posts so I can keep track of when things actually happened, since really the whole purpose of this blog is to keep track of our family’s happenin’s (sorta like a scrapbook, except without the whole “sitting unfinished in a box on the craft room shelf” thing)  Here they are in chronological order, if you care to go back and read them:

The Dinner Date

The Tooth Fairy Strikes Again

A Baby Story


One Month old!

Two months old!

Noah Goes to School



A favorite annual tradition – going to the circus!  Every year we head up to the dome, fight the crowds, and threaten the children within an inch of their lives to not beg for those expensive cheaply made circus toys to partake in the magic that is the circus.  Every single year we end up sitting next to the weirdest people imaginable.  Seriously, I think the crazies come out in full force at those things – it’s weirder than going to WalMart at midnight!

While the kiddos are always fascinated by the acrobats, elephants, and daredevils, I am far more riveted by watching them watch the circus!  Always hilarious.  Every year we have a few days post-circus where Asha dons her leotard and pretends to do tricks on the ‘tightrope’ and balance precariously on the dining room chairs.  This year, one of the acts was a couple Motorcross-X bikers doing jumps & tricks on a huge ramp.  Every time a guy launched through the air on his bike, Noah screamed – loudly – and laughed with sheer delight!  Jordan and I were giggling at his reaction, and soon the ladies sitting next to me caught on to his reaction as well…one was in tears she was laughing so hard!  He was quite a hoot.  Ah, to be that thrilled about anything in life!  It was baby Finn’s first trip to the circus, and he spent the majority of it asleep! :)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2 months old!

Hi Finny (this is what your big bro and sis have nicknamed you!),

My word you are getting cuter by the day, little man!  You have started smiling every time you wake up enough to see our faces.  *melt*  Your big bright eyes watch me constantly, and you seem to recognize your family members by giving us a huge chubby-cheeked grin whenever we hold you.  You continue to be such a good baby, I can scarcely believe my luck.  You love your swing and vibrating bouncy chair, and fall asleep pretty easily in either.  You also love it when I “wear” you with the Moby wrap and pass out instantly, which is awesome so I can get in some hands-free time to do what I need to do around the house.  You eat so well, every 2-3 hours during the day and enough to make you gain weight like a champ.  You’re right around 12.5 pounds already!!  You have developed a bit of a restless patch at about 9pm, but otherwise you have been pretty darn impressive with your ability to sleep!  Your 5 or 6 hour stretches at night have made your Mama one happy and well-rested lady!  Kudos, my man…

Sleepin' like a champ!
Sleepin’ like a champ!

Last week, we took you to your first “babysitter” — we started going to the gym a few nights a week and on weekend mornings, so we had the daycare center at the gym watch you kiddos so Daddy & I could get in a workout.  You did great, and the staff just loves you and fights over who gets to hold you when we come in!  And despite the fact that they have a huge indoor playground there, and a million other cool toys at the center, your big brother insists upon watching you and playing with you every second you’re at the center together.  I am amazed and impressed with his dedication to making sure you’re safe.  You are one lucky kid to have the siblings you have, my love… they both adore you to pieces and are pretty protective of their baby brother!

sibling love!
sibling love!
big sis loves taking care of you!
well on their way to becoming best friends for life

I am also having a hard time grasping the fact that you are already two months old!  I know this from having two older kids but it just feels ridiculous how quickly the time passes!  Flashing back to two months ago today, the incredible memories of your birth and of our time together in the hospital are starting to ‘dull around the edges’, though they will never fade away.  You are a strong, healthy, beautiful baby boy who has made our family complete!  We love you Finn Gunnar!

Finn - 2 months
Finn – 2 months

Noah Goes to School

Any parents of little kiddos who have read the David Shannon books might be familiar with the “David” character — the Charlie-Brown-alter-ego naughty little bald kid who gets into trouble in every single thing he does, yet manages to be adorable and earns the forgiveness of the adults in his life in spite of his shenanigans.  One of those books is titled “David Goes to School” wherein David is a rule-breaking little shit in school and has no idea what acceptable social boundaries are.  This, my friends, may just have been written specifically about our Noah.  For the most part, he is a very good boy, the type of kid who vies for attention with humor and thrives on positive feedback and who is an absolute hoot to be around.  But he is also incredibly imaginative and lives on his own little planet most of the time.  This leads to confusing “experiments” that he occasionally carries out… one part curiosity and one part mischievous… so he can be the naughtiest little turd one moment, and charm the pants off ya in the next.  Case in point:  last week, he got sent to the office at daycare for stuffing the toilet with paper towels and flooding it over.  When asked why he did it, he replied in astonishment, “cuz I thought it would be funny, but… it wasn’t funny.”  

This is totally going in his scrapbook.

The writeup from his little incident.  This is totally going in his scrapbook.

Ohhh, David!

*Sigh*.  I fear that with this child, we are most assuredly going to be spending a lot of time in principals’ offices throughout his school years, called in for some head-shaker or another.

So to try and diminish our time spent with and help give him a jump start on Kindergarten, we decided to send the little goober to the same preschool Asha attended when she was 3.  When we dropped him off the first day of classes in January, I felt a flood of thoughts and emotions ranging from “my baby is going to preschool!” to “I hope his teacher still speaks to me after today” to “”he’s a smart kid, he’ll be just fine” to “what if he hates me for just leaving him there!?”  It’s been a challenge not to compare him to his big sister (who at age three could quite likely have handled Kindergarten!) but he has actually done really well at preschool so far and really likes it.  Instead of “Mrs.”, he calls his teacher “Teacher Larson” and has no idea what the majority of his other classmates’ names are, but he loves going to school and is identifying letters, learning sight words,  and half-assing his coloring pages like an old pro (he seems to have his Dad’s penchant for all things artistic…which is to say “not interested”.)

Good job, David. 


His idea of posing… it’s like “The Thinker” meets Captain America.


“I’ll pretend to look off into the distance here. It’ll be all artsy and cool and someday you’ll thank me for screwing around in front of the door for 10 minutes trying to get this picture instead of just LISTENING for one second!”

One month old!

Oh, sweet baby boy.  Its been a full month since the night you were placed into my arms.  I still can scarcely believe you’re here, and you’re ours.

The memories of the long, frustrating, frightening, awful days and weeks leading up to your birth have long faded away now.  They have been replaced by sweet wonderful memories.  Memories of the night of your birth.  Of meeting your big brother and sister for the first time.  Of the day we brought you home.  Of watching your daddy smile at you.  Of watching your grandparents fawn over you.  Of the many hours spent snuggling and rocking and holding you and nuzzling your sweet soft head and kissing your pudgy cheeks.  Of staring for hours at your beautiful face.  Of falling completely in love with you.  Of this, the first month of your life.

And what a month it’s been!!  You are so precious, little man.

Finn - 1 month
Finn – 1 month


Dear Finn Gunnar,

That’s the first time I’ve ever said (err, written) your name!  Rolls right off the tongue like it’s the name you were most certainly destined to have.  Finn, meaning “fair” (by some definitions, also meaning “fair warrior”) and Gunnar, meaning “battle”.  And a fair warrior you are, son.

Finn Gunnar

Finn Gunnar Franzen

You’re only a few hours old and already I can’t imagine my life without you.  You are beautiful and precious, and thank God, perfectly healthy.  We worried so long that you would be born too early, or that you would have to be in the NICU like big brother.  Those last two months of my pregnancy were scary and uncertain, at times we were terrified we’d lose you.  But they are now already a very distant memory because you’re here and you’re okayYes, right here in my arms you are, the picture of health and adorable as can be, and how blessed I feel right now does not even scratch the surface.


We look pretty good together, no?  Pure joy!

I’m sitting here trying to type one-handed on my tablet because I know in a few months these memories will start to fade and also because I’m never, ever putting you down!  I’ve waited so long for you and gone through too much so I will not waste a moment — I’m going to spoil you, child!

Once Daddy and Grama & Grampa all went back home to get some sleep, the epidural wore off, and the adrenaline finally left my body, I sat and basked in the quiet night alone with you in our hospital room.   I know these hours will pass all too quickly, and in a day we will go home, where our crazy life with our now-bigger family will begin.   In those hours, it was just you and me.  From our 6th floor room, I looked out the big windows over the twinkling lights of this snow-covered city and fought back tears.  Then all at once I didn’t fight them anymore, I let those tears fall because I just felt so overwhelmingly happy. 


The hours right after your birth were a little bit magical, I think.  When I was in the hospital after having Asha, I was so excited, but terrified and had no clue what I was doing.  With Noah, he was so sick when he was born that I spent most of the night just sick with worry and fear.  But with you?  I just savored every single minute with you.  I was too wound up to sleep, and it was pretty late by the time you were born, so I spent most of the night snuggling you close to my chest and just staring at your beautiful face. I was blissfully soaking in each moment and feeling all kinds of emotion:  elation, exhaustion, pride, wonder and relief.  The joy that you have already brought into my life is immeasurable, little boy.  Our boy Our son.

You, little one, are a very special child.  We were surprised by you in so many ways. We didn’t know our family had room for another kid, but you know what?  We had plenty of space in our hearts, and it turned out to be just your size!  You have the advantage of being the youngest child – I have learned from my parenting mistakes with the other two, and yet, I will of course make other mistakes with you.  That’s just life.  But the one thing I will not make the mistake of is taking for granted any moment of your childhood.  Because as I learned (the hard way) from my prior parenting experience, time is a fleeting thing.  Kids grow up in the blink of an eye, and you too will be all grown up before I know it.  So with you, I get the advantage of carrying that bit of wisdom with me.  I’m not going to sweat the small stuff, not going to stress over being ‘perfect’.  I’m going to slow down and thoroughly enjoy being your Mommy!


As I look at your precious little face, I of course find myself wondering who you will be as you grow up.  Raising another boy will certainly be challenging and hilarious and crazy and fun, and I can’t wait to experience it with you.  I can’t believe how fortunate I am that I get to be your Mom.  You are going to be so tremendously loved by your big sister & brother – and all your extended family, for that matter – I can’t wait until they meet you!

Welcome to our world, my fair warrior.   Love you forever,


A Baby Story

It’s baby time!

38 weeks...and READY for this baby to get here!
38 weeks…and READY for this baby to get here!

After two days of “real” contractions, things finally kicked up pretty intensely and consistently by about 4pm on January 25, so I told Jord that we should probably get our backup plan ready for the kids.  He picked them up from daycare and grabbed some McDonalds for all of us, then I called the L&D nurses station at a little after 6pm and they said to come on in.  We took the kids over to Jerry & Monique’s house to spend the night there before we headed over to the hospital at 7:00pm.  I was so exhausted from laboring for 2 days, and was terrified that they were going to send me home so I was a bit of a nutcase when we got there!  I was put in triage right away and hooked up to the monitors.  The nurse came in to check me at about 7:30 and said I was at 6cm.  Since I had actually progressed 2cm since my appt. that morning, they admitted me and moved us to a private room within minutes.  I can’t even explain how happy I was to hear that we were staying to deliver that night!!  I looked at Jord as soon as they told me and we both had that look of relief/surprise/panic/excitement at what was about to happen!They placed an IV right away (I told them I wanted the epi NOW!) and started a jacuzzi bath for me while I got the IV fluids needed prior to getting the epidural done. The on-call midwife stopped in and said she wouldn’t go home cuz she just felt that I’d have this kiddo by midnight!  The contractions were hurting like hell, but the tub actually felt great and I spent about 30 mins in there before the nurse anesthetist arrived.  The epidural was in by 8:30 and I started feeling relief almost immediately.  HALLELUJAH!  For the first time in weeks, I wasn’t hurting!  Here is me, narrating the moment, possibly a little bit high:

The contractions slowed after the epi a bit, so the nurse tried some positioning to help the baby move down & keep things rolling.  At 9:30 I was at 8cm but things were slowing down so they started a a “whiff” of Pitocin in my IV, which pretty quickly made the contractions pick back up again.  This is about the time that Jordan decided to take a little catnap in the tiny hospital chair! (who can sleep at a time like this?!)

Napping Daddy

Napping Daddy

Midwife came back just after 11pm to check me, and decided it was go-time!   With each of my deliveries, I have loved that moment when things kick into high gear, and you know that you will very soon meet your precious little baby.  They setup the room for delivery (Jordan was awakened from his beauty sleep by the commotion!) and by 11:25 I was ready to start pushing.  The epidural was still going great, so I was very calm and collected.  Mymidwife was amazing, she was so composed and serene, she made the whole delivery seem like a breeze!  Jordan was so supportive, my rock and my center of focus as he held my hand and gently encouraged me.  I pushed through 2 contractions and the head was out — baby was already crying!  One more quick push and our little one was here.  The midwife immediately held him up to Jordan and asked, “what is it, Daddy?”  and he grinned the biggest, proudest grin and said, “It’s a BOY!”  A beautiful baby boy!  They put him on my chest right away and I instantly fell hopelessly in love with our new little man.

WP_20130125_002 (2)

Finn is here!

Finn Gunnar Franzen entered the world at 11:32pm (23:32!). He weighed 7lbs 5 oz and was 19.5 inches long.  He looks so much like his big brother!  He was screaming mad but was healthy and absolutely perfect.  We got to do some skin to skin contact right away for a bit before the nurses took him over to check him out.


Hi, I’m your Mommy!

He scored  perfectly on his tests, so they cleaned him up and handed him to Daddy (oh, my heart…I love that moment!)  and then he hogged our baby for like, 12 whole minutes!  CAN YOU BELIEVE THE NERVE!!!!


Daddy & Finn

About an hour after Finn arrived, Grandma & Grandpa came up to the hospital to see their newest grandbaby, whom they immediately started spoiling.

Then Mommy finally got to steal him back and vowed to never, ever, put him down again because he’s too cute and sweet and he’s going to grow up way too darn fast!


So when all was said and done, we were at the hospital a little more than four hours before Finn was born.  With the exception of the two-day laboring prior to our arrival at the hospital, it was actually a really “easy” birth!  The midwife said it was one of the most calm and peaceful births she had seen, and I think everyone in the room felt it was very special.  It really was beautiful.  Welcome to the world, precious little boy.  We’ve waited so long to meet you, and we’re so happy you’re finally here!

dsc_2936_0 dsc_2961\ dsc_2969_0

The Tooth Fairy Strikes Again

As we get closer and closer to our big life-changing event, it seems our older kiddos are doing their best to make it even harder for their mother to handle the emotional rollercoaster of watching her kids grow up so very quickly!! The other day I noticed that one of Asha’s bottom teeth looked a little crooked.  She wiggled it for me and the darn thing was nearly falling out of her head!  She instantly got excited, because thanks to her Grandpa’s storytelling and inflationary tactics, she now believes that losing her teeth is a goldmine.  Frankly, I’m a little surprised that she hasn’t knocked out some of her other teeth in order to cash in.

Now Asha has always been a pretty tough kid.  So much so, that she has earned the name “BadAsh” at our house.  But the way she has attacked the whole tooth loss thing has been nothing short of impressive!  She had no fear when popping out her first bottom tooth, and was blown away by the resulting hole in her mouth and tooth fairy booty.  I caught her second tooth loss on tape…gold.  She pulled out her first top front tooth just before last Thanksgiving one day at school, which proved to be so exciting that she cranked on her second one and pulled it out a week later, even though it was nowhere near ready to come out!  The “windfall” of cash apparently proved to be too enticing for her, as she has been anxiously watching her teeth for the slightest “wiggle”. So when her most recent (5th!) one came loose, she tugged and pulled but couldn’t quite get that bugger out of her head.  Ever impatient (where’s she get that from, huh Jordaaaaaan?) she enlisted the help of her Dad.  He cranked on it for a few minutes, but his stumpy fingers couldn’t get a good grip.  So in came Mommy To The Rescue!

And now she’s $5 richer!!  Lucrative business this tooth fairy is in…