Christmas card

By aaron.axvig, Thu, 12/28/2023 - 09:11

2023 was an exciting year.  First in our minds is the joy of watching Alice grow from a 2-month infant to a 14-month almost walker.  And Anna doubled-up on her stay-at-home-mom duties for the first couple months of the year by babysitting nephew Xander as well. 

Anna's grandpa in Minot passed away at the end of January so she spend almost a week in Minot spending time with far-flung relatives and planning the funeral.  Aaron went up a couple days later, having used his evenings alone at home to work feverishly on installing a new range hood.

Installed range hood

Next on the project list was installing radiators in the nursery and guest bedroom.  The baby was getting cold!  With that plumbing work done we were able to close up the wall in the dining room and mostly finish the built-in cabinet below and surrounding millwork. 

Louise on a pile of snow

It was a winter with a lot of snow!  We were very thankful to have a snowblower and completely filled the backyard with snow.  As a fun winter activity Aaron made an effort to make bread once or twice a week, and eventually found some good recipes.  Aaron also started some purple coneflower seedlings from seeds that Grandma Jean had picked.

Coneflower seedlings

In April we closed on the shared purchase with Aaron's parents of a 10 acre lot in south Bismarck.  Aaron's sister and parents simultaneously closed on an adjoining 5 acre lot.  Due to some complications this closing had been in process for exactly one year so it was a relief to finally have it done.  We hope to build a home there in about 5 years. 

In June Aaron traveled to Daytona to be best man in Simon and Madalyn's wedding.  The wedding of course was great and exciting, but also Aaron rented an electric car so had some fun with that new experience. 

Early summer saw a lot of changes to our front yard.  Aaron fixed many leaks on the sprinkler system and moved many sprinkler heads that the new (2-year-old!) fence interfered with.  Then he dug in landscaping edging for flower beds around all of the front yard fence and for mulch circles around a few trees.  New grass in the front yard sprouted nicely and now we finally have no dirt piles up there.  Eight new daylily varieties purchased at the annual Daylily Society auction went into the new flower beds along with some hostas, and then they were completely filled when the neighbor started thinning out her greenery and brought over ferns, irises, daisies, and many more.  The highlight of the flowers this year was trying dahlias for the first time.

The porch had one remaining project—the skirting.  Through July and August Aaron worked away on that and it turned out great.  So the porch is officially complete now. 

In the back yard, the eye-sore shed was torn down with Eliot's help when his family visited. But we didn't get that corner of the yard completely cleaned up yet...maybe next year!  Now with no shed, garage space is more valuable.  Aaron sold a motorcycle which helps with that. 

Anna met her friends from Minnesota and Colorado in Medora for a long girls' weekend and had a lot of fun.  We also went out on the pontoon a few times, including sandbar play time. 

Anna and Alice at the sandbar

We bought part of a tractor for use at the south Bismarck lots.  We planted some oak trees there and rigged up a watering trailer for the tractor.  Aaron moved his horseradish plant there and also started some rhubarb there which was donated by a neighbor. 

Dad on tractor with watering trailer

Over Labor Day we spent a full week visiting Eliot, Caroline, and Felix in the Boston area.  They were just moving into a new house, extensively renovated in the previous weeks with more to do.  So we had a lot of fun enjoying the new scenery and helping out with many projects and unpacking boxes.

Alice had a big birthday party in November and it was great to have so many friends and family join in the celebration.  Also Anna's grandma Isabell has been visiting frequently.  She comes from Minot on the senior bus with door-to-door service so it is very convenient. 

We had a great Thanksgiving in Rosemount, MN with Anna's family, and Christmas in Mandan was a lot of fun too. 

By aaron.axvig, Fri, 01/13/2023 - 19:24

AliceMy mom has not asked for me to write up a Christmas card section yet but I thought I would anyways.

We had a great time at our wedding to start out 2022!  I think most of January was just recovering from wedding things.  Anna stayed busy at home babysitting niece Brita and family friends' baby Roxy.

In February we went on a ski trip to Red Lodge.  And we found out we were pregnant, due November 9th.  Anna soon started working on tearing out the old carpet in the room which would be the future nursery.  I made several batches of deer jerky in our new dehydrator.  We went to a few concerts--Winger + Firehouse and Buckcherry + Alice Cooper.  I went to St. Louise and Cedar Rapids for work.

We went to the daylily society's spring auction of daylily plants and got seven new varieties.  People go crazy for some of them!  We enjoyed seeing the new flower types bloom later in the summer.  And our trees and other landscaping is coming along nicely.  A couple pepper plants grew large and produced a lot.  Our neighbor seemed to have a bottomless supply of cucumbers to leave for us.

We camped in Stanton with parents and sibling for Memorial Day.  Friends Jason and Bobbie visited for July 4th and we had a really good time.

Lots of home improvement activities again.  In winter, Aaron worked quite a bit on the basement.  New flooring and lighting really improved the feeling of the space and then he set up all sorts of desks and computer things.  He built a custom fit server rack under the stairs to hold equipment too.  Early in the spring Aaron and Randy spent a lot of time finishing the inside of the detached garage.  With pine carsiding walls, white metal ceiling, and lots of lights, it was a great improvement.  In early summer Aaron worked hard on the porch columns and roof, getting it closed in by July, painted by many helpful parents and siblings in August, and various other details until essentially complete in November.  September saw two weeks of activity as we hired the install of an air conditioning system.  We were able to use it for one hot day!  And squeezed in Aug-Oct Aaron gutted the nursery of plaster and lathe, insulated and sheetrocked, and trimmed it out.  Not quite done when baby arrived, but close enough!  And finally, all 400 feet of fence got painted over the course of the summer…little by little by little.

Alice Magdalena arrived a few days early on November 2nd, weighing 6 pounds 5 ounces.  She has been keeping us busy every since, healthy and growing, nearing 9.5 pounds for Christmas.  We spent a week in mid-December in Arizona so several relatives there could meet her and so we could escape winter for a bit.

By aaron.axvig, Fri, 01/14/2022 - 09:55

Here are the short and long versions that I wrote for my mom's "Christmas" letter which I guess will actually be sent out in mid- to late-January.

One paragraph version 

We bought a HUD house in Mandan in February and fixed it up while finishing the family condo renovation project, moving from the condo to the house two weeks before Easter when Anna's family visited us.  Anna worked January-May as the Assistant to the Chief Committee Clerk of the House for the ND Legislative Assembly.  Then she traveled to Virginia to get the last of our belongings off of the sailboat and returned for summer school to kick off her pursuit of a diagnostic medical sonography degree at BSC.  I built 400' of cedar picket fence so that Louise can enjoy our entire yard.  I built a wraparound porch on the front of the house—"just" the base, with the columns and roof to be completed in 2022.  Dad helped extensively on all these construction projects.  I left Cloverdale for a job at NISC, still doing network administration.  The sailboat almost sold, but then didn't.  Anna has been babysitting baby Brita every morning and continuing college classes.  We got married on New Years Eve! 

Long version

As 2021 opened we were hard at work remodeling Eve's old condo which we were living in.  For a while we had been doing dishes in the bathroom sink and living out of two small bedrooms, one as a bedroom and the other serving as office/living room/storage.  I think by January we had the kitchen and living room mostly back in order so life was good. 

I was settling in to my Network Administrator role at Cloverdale Foods which I had started in November 2020. Anna was working January-May as the Assistant to the Chief Committee Clerk of the House for the ND Legislative Assembly.  She worked with a lovely group of people there and really enjoyed it. 

We also spent January working on purchasing our own house in Mandan.  This was a HUD house that had been foreclosed on in November 2019 so vacant for over a year.  It had no power or heat so was very cold and unwelcoming to prospective purchasers such as ourselves.  One funny memory is of when we tracked snow in with our boots one day and then  a couple days later when we returned to look again the snow was still sitting there on the living room carpet.  But the house did have some cool features like cast iron radiators and stained glass windows, and living in 130 year old house seemed like something we should try, so we went for it. 

We closed on February 1st and promptly started trying to heat the place.  This was of course during a crazy cold snap of about two weeks constantly below 0 degrees F.  A small electric heater thawed out the utility room in the basement, but more was needed.  A large electric heater was procured and made it comfortable to work inside but also hurt on the electric bill--I figured something like $15 per day!  We started meeting with contractors, and after many appointments and disappointments decided that the only reasonable option was to get started on it ourselves. 

Usually I just remember it as, "yeah we fixed the pipes that were burst from freezing".  I think I have suppressed the detailed memories!  But if I really try, the memories flood back of my dad and I splitting every evening and weekend for at least a month between the condo and this house.  Almost every day included a trip to Menards.  Who would think there are so many different pipe…things.  Little by little we worked our way through the water pipes and hot water heating system: pressure test a section, cut open walls and ceilings to find the leak, fix it, repeat.  Getting one radiator working in the basement was a huge milestone.  Then one in the entry way, and another in the bathroom upstairs.  Finally a big one in the dining room.  Now it was pretty much spring so that was enough heat to live there until winter, though it wasn't exactly warm in the bedroom. 

Then about two weeks before Easter we started to move in for real.  Also we thought it would be a good idea to invite some of Anna's family to stay with us for Easter…what a rush!  They actually did help us with a sizable list of repairs and cleaning so it truly was a great holiday. 

I spent most of June and July building 400' of cedar picket fence around the yard.  That's turned out to be a lot of fence, and it was a crazy hot summer too.  But little by little it got done.  We had done the contractor courtship dance for the fence, and replacing the porch with roof, again on both not finding any reasonable options.  In August I started on the porch.  Just the learning and planning on this was an accomplishment.  I set about digging out the old piers and putting new ones in--a delightful way to entertain myself on more crazy hot days.  Oh yeah, our house doesn't have air conditioning so until we ramped up on window air conditioners the house would go from 90 during the day to 80 at night.  Soon beams and joists were going up, and then the supremely rewarding stage of putting on the deck boards.  My dad helped a lot on this too; it has been great to work on all these projects with him. 

As winter approached we started to get cold in the bedroom, so I finally got the radiator plumbed in up there.  Anna really got going on all the wedding planning details, and she started babysitting Britta for Laura and Brandon.  We had a great Thanksgiving with Eliot and Caroline visiting for a week.  Every evening we had a grand meal at a different sibling or parent's house--very busy but very fun!  Then we were off to the Twin Cities for Christmas with Anna's family and our wedding on New Years Eve. 

The wedding and celebration were amazing and a fitting way to cap a really great year.  Thank you to all who were there, and who have been there for us.  We are so happy to be back!