A Year into the Pandemic

A year ago today our family packed up and headed east to hunker down and try to escape the craze surrounding us in Seattle. We had no idea, like anyone else, what we were in store for or how the pandemic would shape our lives.

Alex’s employer had just announced a two-week work-from-home order {which has now been extended to July 2021, 16 months later}. Everything around us was moving so fast. There was little information. People were dying. The virus was running rampant. So we got out of dodge and headed to the mountains and hoped the virus wouldn’t make its way there.

We spent a week at our mountain home, enjoying the great outdoors. We took the kids to the pump track, Lake Wenatchee State Park, and we even went skiing! Then, suddenly, everything closed. Everything. Even our beloved State Park. The kids and I didn’t get in the car for seven weeks.

I remember those first couple of months being ridden with anxiety. The information about the virus was so limited and it was all so terrifying. Everything happened so fast. I quickly found out that I needed to stop paying attention to the news for a while and just be.

Right from the onset I took the approach of gratitude. I buckled the kids in for their “stroller snack” every morning and we’d take a little nature walk and I’d rattle off everything I felt grateful for in those moments. The list was abundant. I had so much to be grateful for – nature, space, solace, good health, my family….

I remember making a tremendous effort from the beginning to check in with friends as often as I could. Certainly that’s waned as my energy level has waned and time has marched forward. These text chats made me feel so connected to my friends from around the country in a time of solitude.

Going to the grocery store in those first few months terrified me. I absolutely hated it. This was before masks. Eventually Alex took over the grocery shopping. He’d go every two weeks or so because I just couldn’t stand it.

Remember sanitizing all of the food when you’d get home?! I do NOT miss that. And the empty spots on the shelves? And the limits on pantry items and meat? Those are actually still in effect where we are, but thankfully it seems like most items are becoming more readily available.

I still can’t believe at one point we made it 18 days without getting groceries. I challenged myself to make our food last and to figure out how to shop so I’d still have fresh produce two weeks in. Sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, oranges and apples became staples. We rationed eggs, meat and bread.

Our love of pandemic baking is still running strong. We bake something at least once a week. One of my favorite baking memories was the first time we made focaccia. Not only was it fun to do with the kids, it tasted incredible.

Some of my fondest memories come from the earliest days of the pandemic. The kids and I had the best time. And Alex was home. The amount of time we spent outside was incredible. We all loved when Alex would join us every day for a picnic lunch on the deck.

In these early days Alex’s job was nuts. It was really stressful and just never ended. By late-July he moved to a different team and the stress level reduced tremendously, thankfully. Having Alex home has singlehandedly been the most impactful change in our family as a result of the pandemic. Family time is paramount to us.

These early days of the pandemic showed our family so much. They placed our priorities on center stage. We’re a year into the pandemic now and are in the process of making some significant life changes for our family, as a result of our experiences in those first few months.

We’re looking forward to sunnier days, figuratively and literally, and the days where we can hug our friends, walk into a store without double masking, eat in a restaurant, and finally, finally see our extended family again.

Snowy Winter Adventures

It’s hard to narrow down and pick a favorite season, but if I did have to, I’d probably say mine is winter. Even the kids have noticed that I get more excited than anyone else when it starts to snow. I just can’t get enough of the beauty of the pillowy white snow that collects on the trees and turns the land white as far as the eye can see.

I’m also pretty partial to winter sports and activities. This winter we’ve been able to spend a lot of time in the mountains. We capitalized on that and have gotten out on snowy adventures most days we’ve been in the Cascades.

Taking Ben and Hannah to Ski Hill to learn to ski has been one of the biggest highlights of the winter.

We’ve made so many memories at this sweet local ski spot. Hannah is learning to ski, Ben is becoming independent, hot chocolate tailgates, meeting up with friends and having some low-key fun in the snow have helped shape our winter of fun.

The kids also checked out the tubing hill, which honestly terrifies me. It is *so* fast and you’re going backwards. They’re braver than I am!

Alex and I have fallen in love with skate skiing, which we picked up around Christmastime.

We have yet to go skate skiing together, due to our lack of childcare and the pandemic, though we’re both really enjoying the ability to get some alone time and exercise in quite frequently.

I’ve recently completed my first two cross country ski races. I did a 12km and a 9km race called “Tour de Plain” {Plain is the little unincorporated mountain town our house is in}. It was really challenging and I pushed myself quite a bit and had a blast.

Around Christmastime I went for my snowiest, most adventurous run yet! My friend Joanna is a natural explorer and finds the most exciting runs. One morning with six inches of fresh, fluffy snow we ventured out for an 8-mile loop. It ended up being one of my favorite runs ever.

We’ve had many a sledding adventure this winter at various hills across the area. The best one is just down the street from us.

One of my favorite parts of venturing down the road to go sledding is that we usually cross country ski to get there! I don’t know what it is but that really brings out some innate adventurous side in us. It makes it extra fun.

Our driveway at The Lodge is very long and we have pretty epic snowplow piles going on right now. Our neighbor, Kelly, plows for us and he’s seen the kids sliding down the piles so now he takes his tractor scoop and smooths them out to make a nicer sledding hill.

It’s perfect for the kids to slide down on their bums or saucers. When they are into it it’s the sweetest thing to watch Ben help Hannah climb up “snow mountain” and then they sort of fall onto each other in a heap and slide down together.

We’ve been slowly and sporadically able to see some friends and family {outside and masked}, in particular these last few months. It has been *so* special seeing my cousins and their kiddos + my aunt and uncle, making new friends and having some adult social time.

These snowy adventures are our favorite. Despite being in the middle of a global pandemic we have had a pretty fantastic winter so far.

Hannah is 2 1/2!

Our sweet, fiery girl is two and a half! Hannah brightens everyone’s day with her tender, nurturing heart; enthusiasm; sense of humor and positivity. She is absolutely hilarious and her little one liners are getting better and better every week.

Hannah’s 2 – 1/2 Stats:

  • Weight: 29.5 pounds {80th percentile, as of a while ago}
  • Length: 36-1/2″ {~86th percentile}
  • Clothing 3T
  • Shoe size: toddler size 7
  • Number of teeth: 20!!
  • Favorite foods: cookies, blackberries, apples, strawberries, basically any fruit, chickpeas, oatmeal
  • Least favorite foods: beef, chicken
  • Favorite things/activities: playing with her dollhouse, watching her Kindle {Daniel Tiger and Pinkalicious}, playing with her babies, reading books, running, dancing, riding her scooter, doing anything art-related
  • Least favorite things/activities: waiting, stopping doing something fun, leaving somewhere, not getting what she wants

Hannah’s personality is so much fun. Her kindness and compassion are overflowing – any time Ben gets hurt she’s the first to check on him, ask if he needs a sip of water to make him feel better, then promptly brings him a stuffie to cuddle. She is so nurturing, encouraging and supportive. She’s everyone’s biggest cheerleader – including herself. When she’s doing something challenging she’ll say out loud, to herself, “I can do it! I can do it!”

She is a ball of seemingly bottomless energy. I don’t know where it comes from or how it gets recharged. She doesn’t nap anymore and it feels like she hardly sleeps at night.

Hannah is our little entertainer. She loves to make people laugh and she sure puts on a good show. She’s beginning to be legitimately funny and come up with little one-liners. Hannah *loves* to dance, and dang, she is good at it!

It’s been especially fun to watch Hannah start to really get into pretend play the last few months. Any item, object or toy she picks up becomes Mama, Dada, Hannah and Ben, whether it’s her dollhouse dolls, toy animals or the beads on her necklace. If she finds four of something, it’s a guarantee that they’ll instantly become members of our family. She makes us hold hands, hug and take care of each other. It’s one of the most innocent and endearing sentiments to witness.

Hannah loves to make coffee or tea with her kitchen set and is absolutely enamored with her new dollhouse she got for Christmas. Her babies have taken a huge backseat to the dollhouse.

Something Hannah has always excelled at is doing shape sorters, stacking or the like. She still loves to build towers, stack or nest cups/cubes and play with different shape toys. Santa brought Ben a Tetris-like game for Christmas and Hannah’s taken it over and is unbelievably skilled at maneuvering the shapes to fit into a square.

Lately everything Hannah does she wants to do “myself.” It fills us all with tremendous pride watching her get dressed on her own, brush her own hair and really do whatever it is she wants to do.

In early-December Hannah graduated to a toddler bed! This was such a big milestone for her, and occasionally she’d ask for her crib again. It’s been a mixed bag since then and more often than not she will get up and wake up the whole house. She fought me good and hard on naps and after the first two days of going into her room to put her back to bed nearly 60 times, I recanted and said I was done doing the nap thing. Needless to say, this girl knows what she wants.

Hannah absolutely loves art. She could paint and color for hours. Sometimes she will color or paint on paper, most often, she prefers her body, the table, Ben, the wall…….. In her virtual preschool class her favorite part is always the art project.

Hannah took a long hiatus from being “potty trained” this fall and we’ve just kick started that back up again this week. She’s really been listening to her body and getting excited about being back in undies.

This winter has brought so much joy watching Hannah playing independently in the snow. She loves to climb “snow mountain” in our yard at The Lodge.

Hannah started skiing this winter. Her balance and stance are remarkable, given her age, and she is getting really comfortable going down the bunny hill on her own. I have a feeling she’s going to be a little ripper.

Our little girl really is starting to grow up. Her hair is long enough for a braid, she’s refining her sass and she’s becoming more and more compassionate by the day. She warms my heart and makes me laugh every single day.

Happy New Year

With the start of 2021 comes a new set of intentions for me. I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of reflecting these last few weeks. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect 2020 to look and feel the way it did. I really feel like I’m coming out of the year a very different, and better, version of myself than I went into it.

That being said, I do have some goals and intentions for the upcoming year. After 2020 we all realized we can’t predict or control how things go, but, I am anticipating 2021 being filled with new beginnings for our family. A lot of my hopes for the year hinge on some changes we’re expecting to make.

A few of my intentions for 2021 include:

Self-Care/Personal

  • Schedule regular preventive medical appointments
  • Run or XC ski at least 2x per week
  • Run a 30K in the summer or fall
  • Incorporate yoga and/or Pilates at least 1x per week
  • Design, build and grow a garden
  • Read at least one book each month

Marriage

  • Weekly check-ins
  • Share in the planning of a weekly date night in

Family

  • Prioritize one-on-one time with the kids
  • Create a family charter and vision
  • Increase kids’ responsibilities

Food & Nutrition

  • “Eat the Rainbow” daily
  • Have at least two meatless days per week
  • Plan & prep meals each week

Organization

  • Minimize clothes, shoes and accessories
  • Do a major de-clutter
  • Work with local carpenter to build some storage solutions
  • Build a garage!

For the first time ever, to go along with my list of intentions, I created a list of action items to help me follow through on everything.

I do want to pat myself on the back for a few habits I got into this year. I’ve never run as much or as consistently in my life as I did in 2020. I ran 537 miles, climbed just shy of 30,000 feet and logged a hike, run or bike ride 121 days in 2020. I’m pretty proud of that.

In addition, I challenged myself to do with significantly less, grocery shop every two weeks, cook with what we had, and bake a tremendous amount of bread. I started a garden and was immediately humbled, but I did get a nice crop of herbs, greens and tomatoes.

Finally, I thrived in relentless parenting. I was not about to get bogged down by the increase in responsibilities the pandemic threw at me. I decided from the beginning that we were going to thrive, and by golly, that is what we did.

2020 was a heck of a year. 2021 is here, now, and I am so looking forward to seeing what’s in store. Wishing you a healthy and prosperous new year!

2020 Recap… A Year in Review

2020 has been the year I don’t think any of us expected it to be. I certainly didn’t. We’re leaving 2020 behind, and I know many of us are eager for a new year and hopefully a fresh outlook.

The year started out with an abundance of visitors at The Lodge. It felt like we had a different family with us every weekend last winter. I just loved seeing all of the life and joy inside our house and having the opportunity to share our home with our friends and family.

Ben powered through his first year of ski school and absolutely loved it! By the end of the season he was comfortable taking the chairlift and was just starting to show us that he might be ready to ski more independently.

We spent as much time as possible in the mountains last winter. Since Ben was only in school three half days a week I’d usually take the kids up after he finished school on Thursdays and we’d return on Monday afternoons. It was so wonderful, but honestly, so freaking exhausting and just crazy.

It was very hard on us all to be changing houses every 3-4 days. We never felt settled. It felt so worth it, though, to be able to go break away from the darkest winter on record in Seattle and be in the snowy Cascade mountains. The winter was so, so, so, so good, but so, so draining and just tough, too.

Just after Valentine’s Day {Ben’s and my favorite holiday!} Alex’s family came for a visit. We had been SO excited to host our nephews, and of course Alex’s sister, our brother in-law and Alex’s parents, and have our first big family gathering with the kids. I have such fond memories of Ben, Nico and Hannah playing together.

We all know what came next. The pandemic. We live in Seattle, so we were a week or two ahead of much of the rest of the country in the start of the initial coronavirus scare. It was terrifying at the onset with how little we knew about the virus.

Alex’s family was still with us when the first coronavirus death was announced in Kirkland, Washington. Just a few days after they departed, overnight we decided to pull Ben out of school and hunker down in the mountains and ride things out there. Alex’s employer was one of the first major companies to announce work-from-home orders, which Alex is still under, so it seemed like the best choice was to get out of the city.

The kids and I had the absolute best time exploring in nature all spring. I vacillated between being quite anxious about the uncertainty of the pandemic to being so amazingly grateful for all that we have. We baked. The kids painted rainbows to hang in the window to remind us “everything will be okay.” Ben learned how to ride his two-wheeler. We did all the things. At home.

Every morning I took the kids for a walk. I’d share all the things I was feeling grateful for that morning. We’d pay attention to the branches of the trees and watch for buds or other signs of spring. For seven weeks the kids and I never got into a car.

Ben developed the sweetest, most profound love of widlflowers and nature this spring.

As the spring went on, my Achilles injury healed, Alex did physical therapy for his knee injury and we were able to get moving again. He bought a mountain bike and I made friends with a neighbor who happens to be a fantastic mountain running buddy.

The summer was spent outside. Once things started opening up in May we felt comfortable venturing out for little adventures here and there. We found new hiking trails, discovered off-the-beaten-path beaches, and started to really feel more like locals.

Around the time Ben turned four, Alex realized he needed to make a job change. He is still with his company and in the same role, just jumped over to a new team. The impact has been significant. Most days I find myself pausing to listen to my husband play with our children at a time when pre-pandemic he would have otherwise been at work. His present job has allowed him a much better balance of work and family life.

Most afternoons were spent in our yard, running through the sprinklers and the splash pad, picking cherry tomatoes for the lizard who lives near the swing set in our yard, watering the dahlia plants that never grew, or playing at “the beach” – the big sandy area near my garden. Mid-summer Hannah turned two and rounded out our last “quarantine birthday” for the family.

Alex’s parents came to stay for about five weeks at the tail end of our extended time at The Lodge. The time with them was so unbelievably special and I’m so fortunate for all of us that we had that amount of time together. We did so much hiking, had a ton of beach mornings and the kids had a chance to just play with their grandparents for weeks on end.

We took a few regional day-trips during the summer. During Ben’s birthday week we ventured out to Chelan and had a really fun beach day. For Hannah’s birthday we drove out to Winthrop and got to explore the charming town. To close out the summer we went to Whidbey Island so the kids could explore the ocean a bit.

September came and we moved back to Seattle so Ben could begin pre-kindergarten in person. We’re so unbelievably thankful he has been able to be at school in person this year. He absolutely loves school, his teacher and his friends. He’s also a pro at mask-wearing.

Hannah started co-op preschool online this fall. I was really skeptical about how it would work and, while it took a few weeks, she adores her school time too. It breaks my heart that she’s really never had in-person playtime with other kids, but I’m going to hold onto what she does have right now.

We spent as many weekends as possible at The Lodge this fall.

Given the circumstances, our fall has been pretty good. Hannah and I have been getting out more and more on little adventures locally and we’ve all settled into a routine. We’re continuing to feel claustrophobic and like we’re constantly tripping over each other at our house in Seattle.

The holidays have been filled with mixed emotions. This year one of the strongest emotions I’ve felt regularly is an overwhelming sense of gratitude. We’re missing our family and friends terribly, but finding creative ways to connect has brought us tremendous joy.

Our Christmas was extra special and filled with love and memory making.

We’re closing out 2020 with a bunch of skiing! The kids are loving it, so excited and doing amazing at our local ski hill.

2020 has been a year to remember. It’s been a year filled with challenges for us all, my family is no different. It’s also been a year filled with hidden blessings. Alex being able to work remotely has been one of the biggest gifts to our family. It is so heartwarming, helpful and special to have him home and involved with the kids during the day. The family time we’ve had this last year has led to the sweetest, most loving bond between Ben and Hannah. 2020 will go down as the year we completely re-imagined our life, our family and our future. Happy New Year!!!

I LOVE going back to look at our previous year-end recaps. It’s funny how much I forget from year-to-year. It’s also fascinating to see the transition change from 2015 to 2016 when we started having kids. Man, these first few years of parenthood are filled with joy and are so brutally hard at the same time. All the feels.

Christmas 2020

As with much of the rest of the world, our Christmas was a bit quiet and low-key. Despite not being together in person with family or friends, our holiday was very, very special.

Ben and Hannah are at such a fun age for all of the holiday hoopla and were really into everything Christmas-related this year.

Knowing that our holiday would look different this year and that we wouldn’t be going out and doing Christmas things or baking a bunch of cookies put a bit of a damper on my enthusiasm this year. I just never felt fully in the Christmas spirit. Nevertheless, we had an absolutely lovely Christmas.

One of my favorite traditions, which I think will end this year, has been to cut down a tree from our forest to use as a Christmas tree. We don’t really want to be cutting down trees in forests anymore, so that’ll change next year. In any case, there was a beautiful 8-foot tree growing into our driveway that either had to move or come down. Alas, it became our Christmas tree!

Ben and Hannah were so into the process of retrieving the tree and Hannah was actually helpful in carrying it back down the driveway toward the house.

Ben’s time to shine came with the decorations. He was SO into it. So was Hannah. This was her first year really not being a baby and she was loving every second of every aspect of the Christmas season. Ben was a pro and knew just what to do.

It warms my heart opening up our boxes of Christmas decorations, particularly the ornaments. We’ve received so many memorable ornaments that have become extremely special throughout the years. My friend Carrie was shining so brightly in our decorations – since 2010 she’s been slowly adding to our collection, always complete with a note that takes me down memory lane.

One of my absolute favorite Christmas traditions is baking a tremendous, over-the-top number of cookies and bringing them to our neighbors and friends around the holidays. With the pandemic we decided to skip that this year. Instead of baking up a storm we whipped up a batch of M&M cookies and sugar cookies {I use this recipe for the cookies and this one for the frosting. You’re welcome.}.

{There is Hannah, just licking the powdered sugar off the counter and eating it….}

The kids had a really special time decorating their sugar cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve also marks our nephew, Nico’s birthday! This year he turned four. We had a virtual superhero birthday party with him to celebrate.

We are usually with Alex’s family for Christmas. Our brother-in law, Alberto, who grew up in Northern Italy, generally makes a massive pan of lasagna for Christmas Eve and Nico’s birthday. This year since we weren’t together I bravely asked for the recipe and decided to give it a go!

I think this might be the 9th Christmas that Alex has made cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. Occasionally we do orange rolls too, but this year we stuck with the classic. The kids love to help him. Hannie was instrumental in the frosting.

Christmas morning was oh-so-special with the kids. Seeing the magic and merriment through their eyes was just precious.

By some miracle the kids slept in until 5:30 – we were sure our eldest would be up no later than 3 a.m. and were pleasantly surprised to find out he slept until his normal wake-up time.

We loved watching them open their stockings and see the big gifts that we opted to not wrap {they both got big cozy chairs, Hannah got a doll house and Ben got a set of wooden castle building blocks}.

One of our goals with holiday gifts this year was to buy the kids just a few open-ended toys that fostered pretend play.

I think we hit the nail right square on the head. The absolute best part of Christmas for me was watching how independently they played with their new toys, and now, a week later, how they are still loving their toys and playing together with them. It has been so fun to see what they come up with.

A big gift for Alex and me this year was getting our Nordic skate skis a few weeks ago. My mom was kind enough to get me a lesson, which was so helpful in putting a few pieces together. I think Alex and I are going to absolutely *love* skate skiing. We’ve now been a few times, separately, and are finding our groove. Now it’ll be great once we can go together! {I don’t think either one of us is quite confident to pull the kids in the ski trailer while skate skiing quite yet, which would allow us to go simultaneously…. soon, though.}

{I was classic skiing with the kids here}

We’ve been sledding a few times, skiing as much as possible and just getting out to play in the snow whenever we can. The kids love shoveling the deck, following animal tracks in the fresh snow and Hannah is now a pro “mountain climber” on the plow piles in our yard.

Our time out here at The Lodge has been so dreamy. It’s going to be really hard to leave to go back to Seattle after being here for so long. We feel so, so unbelievably grateful to be settled here, enjoying winter in the mountains. Wishing you well as we ease into the new year!

Pandemic: Weeks 37, 38 & 39

It feels really strange to keep track of the pandemic “weeks” these days. It just feels like normal life at this point. Someday I’ll be curious to look back on this time and I’d love to remember how many weeks we were living in the middle of a pandemic. For now, I am struggling to keep up with all the things, but the blog is getting pushed further and further down the list.

In any case, Washington is still very much under lockdown. We feel so unbelievably fortunate to have our health right now and to be surrounded by the comfort our immediate family. We know so many families who are in different situations, and to you, we send our love.

The week before Thanksgiving was spent in Seattle. We have been finding it is only becoming more challenging to be in the city during the pandemic. Despite the difficulties, I’m getting into a groove with Hannah during the day and finding places I feel comfortable going with her.

Getting the kids outside every day is something that’s really important to me, so we started doing lantern walks in the evenings. Last winter I recalled “Christmas light walks” saved my sanity during these dark weeks. There’s really no agenda – we just get our flashlights and go for a walk in the neighborhood.

I got the kids rain pants this year, for the first time ever, so there’s virtually no excuse for not going outside. It’s remarkable how big of a difference being prepared for the weather can be. Having proper gear is a game changer.

I’m reading the book “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather” right now, which is a story of a Swedish woman raising her children in Indiana. She chronicles the vast differences and the importance to the Swedes of outdoor exploration time.

We’re also getting more comfortable this fall with being inside and staying home a bit more.

Hannah still has virtual preschool twice a week and she absolutely loves it. It’s a really special time for her and despite it being remote, I am so glad we stuck with it. She’s learning and she has the opportunity to connect with her teachers, see “her friends” and have someone else facilitating part of her day.

We’ve been doing quite a lot of art projects during Hannah’s school time and that translates into a request for more later on. It’s been fun to put my creativity to the test and see what we can come up with.

This year we spent the week of Thanksgiving at The Lodge, together as a family of four. We watched the snow fall, sat in front of many crackling fires, visited the horses across the street, walked around a deserted Leavenworth and read all the books and did all the puzzles.

Our relaxing week together as a family was so lovely. Alex took the week off and the kids were ecstatic.

The week was very low-key, though we did get out a bit. One quiet day I really was craving a “normal” feeling outing, so we popped into town on a Monday morning, only to find Leavenworth to be a ghost town {perfect!}. We ordered a coffee then were able to remove our masks to drink it and walk around town safely, without hardly even seeing another person. It was such a treat.

The playgrounds are open now in Leavenworth so we stopped there and had it all to ourselves. The kids had so much fun, and I think Alex had fun pretending to be a kid again too.

Alex and I had been chomping at the bit to try “skate” cross country skiing. There are two different styles of Nordic skiing – skate and classic. We’ve only ever done classic. We love it and we thought we might love skate skiing even more. Now we’re geared up and gave it a humble first attempt and I think we’ll be hooked!

One of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions is doing a turkey trot 5K run. This year, of course, there were no formally organized turkey trots, so we did our own! It was so, so very lovely. One of the highlights of my day.

I love cooking Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey and all the fixings. This year we had a pared down version. We did do a turkey but I took a few of my normal side dishes off the menu.

Our Thanksgiving Day was very quiet and while we were feeling quite sad to not be with extended family, it was a really lovely day just as a family of four. We found ways to make the day extra special for us all. I think Hannah’s favorite part was the pie!

Because Ben’s school was virtual the week following Thanksgiving we had some bonus time at The Lodge! His school opted to go virtual to add as a buffer for families traveling or gathering for the holiday.

As the week went on we were all less and less dedicated to the virtual meetings and the activities on Seesaw. It was so tricky to squeeze in play time, get outside and have meals and flexibility with all of the assignments. If I was ever a homeschool mom we wouldn’t ever get to any formal schooling!

Early in the week we just needed to get out of the house, so I took the kids to Lake Wenatchee State Park. We had the whole place to ourselves, as we often do this time of year.

That outing turned a rough-start-to-the-week into a fantastic rest-of-the-week.

All good things come to an end, just as our nearly two-week stint at The Lodge did. We spent an unusually sunny weekend in Seattle before Ben headed back to school on Monday.

The weekend was lovely and filled with fun family time outside – we made it to the zoo and had a couple of extra special family trips to the park in our neighborhood. We also got stuff done – I went to the doctor to get a skin check and we got new snow tires installed on my car, and of course, we decorated the house for Christmas.

In baking-related news, I started baking bread again. Alex requested white bread for his post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. I’m officially hooked on making sandwich loaves. Now I just need to experiment with some wheat bread variations. Oh, and we need to get my mixer fixed because the motor burned out making so much bread! Oops.

Here’s to another week….. we’re so close to the winter solstice and the days getting longer again!

Ben is 4-1/2!

Four has been such a fun year with Ben so far, and we’re only halfway through it! As with any age progression, Ben has grown up tremendously these last six months since I’ve done a big update on him. He started pre-kindergarten, can get himself dressed to go play in the snow and can make himself toast or a sandwich.

Ben’s stats:

  • Weight: around 34 pounds {as of late August – 20-30th percentile}
  • Height: about 42 inches {50-60th percentile}
  • Clothing size: 4T
  • Shoe size: size 10 toddler
  • Favorite foods: crackers, pasta, any type of cheese, most meats, roasted chickpeas
  • Favorite activities: playing outside, picking wildflowers, climbing, running, riding his bike and scooter, doing art projects, playing pretend, building with blocks, reading stories….

I haven’t done an update since Ben turned four, so a lot has happened! Ben had a magical summer. Aside from the fact that social time was quite limited, I think this summer was what dreams are made of for kids. Ben just got to be a kid. He fell in love with nature this last spring and summer. One of his favorite summer activities was picking wildflowers and making the most precious bouquets for us.

Hiking adventures were aplenty this last summer, often with Ben taking the lead. His stamina grew quite a bit over the summer; however, now that we’re not hiking as much it’s petered out a bit.

If I had to pick Ben’s absolute favorite summer activity, it would have been riding his bike. He has progressed tremendously since he got his new 16″ bike mid-way through the summer. Alex took Ben to some gentle mountain bike trails at Ski Hill and he absolutely crushed it. His confidence is unstoppable when he’s on his bike!

It was so unbelievably special for Ben to spend more than a month with his grandparents this August. Ben’s love for his family runs deep and he absolutely adores his relationships with his family. It has been really hard for him to not see family with the pandemic, so the time we were able to spend together in August was extra meaningful.

One-on-one time with a dedicated adult is extremely important to Ben, as I’m sure it is to all kids. He thrives in situations where he’s getting special undivided attention from someone he loves. Some of my favorite one-on-one moments with Ben are the time we spend chatting before bed or on a long car ride, bringing Ben to school or when we pop out for a quick errand.

This fall Ben started pre-kindergarten at a school near our house. As of today, his school is still in person, by some miracle. It is astonishing how much Ben has learned and grown up since starting school. His perspectives are wider, he has a new-found way to play with words and make up little rhymes, he randomly sings songs in French, and best of all, he gets to play with other children right now.

Ben’s teacher at school is remarkable, and perhaps the most empathetic adult I’ve ever known. Ben adores his teacher, his friends and going to school. We couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to elementary school.

The relationship that Ben has formed with his little sister is endearing and heartwarming. These two little loves adore each other in the sweetest way I could have ever imagined. They were each other’s only friend for about six months, and you can really tell. Their hugs goodbye or “I love yous” goodnight melt my heart. Hannah drives Ben absolutely crazy but you can tell just how much he loves her.

Since turning four I’ve seen Ben’s personality level out quite a bit. When Ben is in a great mood, which is most of the time, there’s no one I’d rather be around. His sweetness and unconditional love is overflowing. He has a natural curiosity and love of nature.

Ben can be quite mercurial at times and is working hard on calming down after being upset. He gets attached to little things – a caterpillar he found on a hike, or a random stick in the yard, and even a little cat toy – and depending on his mood, it can be very hard to say goodbye to those little items.

We have a brand new “feel good chart” to help channel his big emotions into something positive. We’re working on executive functioning skills, physical awareness and resilience.

Ben has gotten rather into building with different blocks lately. He can be extremely focused and wildly creative with his structures.

One of my favorites is to make block towns or mess around with the rainbow arches to see what we can make.

Lately Ben has become enamored with random art supplies. Give him a handful of pipe cleaners and he can create just about anything. His painting and drawing abilities have changed and developed tremendously these last few months.

Ben is honing in on his passions and I’d say nature is at the tippy top of his list. He loves playing outside, foraging in the forest, looking for and learning about wildflowers and helping in my garden during the growing season. We have a fun winter ahead of us and I am so excited to see Ben on skis this year!

It’s been such a pleasure watching Ben grow into the sweet four-and-a-half-year-old he is today. He melts our hearts with sweetness and love, makes us laugh and keeps us on our toes.

Ali’s Favorite Things 2020

I love putting together this post each year. It’s a compilation of several of my favorite random things. It gets harder and harder each year, though, because so many of my favorite things are the items I’ve already shared!

Personal items

Daily Planner page – I use this every day {and have for years!} to help keep me organized. I just love it.

Weekly Planner page – this is a new favorite for me and it helps give me a full picture of my week and all that I need to do.

Mom bag – I just *love* my Freshly Picked backpack for keeping all of my kids stuff with me and organized. We’re not really going anywhere these days, but when we do, I adore this bag.

Household items

Black & Decker mini vacuum – this little vacuum saves my sanity. It’s teeny tiny and oh so powerful. It can suck all the Cheddar Bunnies right out of a car seat or pick up the tumbleweeds of dog hair that get caught in the corner of the room.

Nespresso – I’ve loved this as long as we’ve had it, but in the middle of a pandemic, my goodness it doesn’t get much better or easier than this. Nespresso makes a darn good cup of coffee {Italian brother-in law approved!!!} and I quickly converted to Nespresso from the coffee shop. Be sure to get a milk frother too! This is the machine we have.

Masks

Primary.com masks – I find these are the only ones that feel really snug on my face. They’re the only ones I’ve had that fit my 2 and 4-year old well, too. Bonus: they come with filters.

Clothes

Zella high waisted 7/8 leggings – this one is on my list every year. Each year Zella re-designs their “Live In Leggings” and this year they feel like a second skin. Gosh I love these and especially this year I do feel like I live in them!

Athleta Coaster Luxe sweatshirt – it feels like I’m wearing a cozy layer of butter when I have this on. Pair it with some leggings and I’m golden!

Nordstrom PJs – I’d happily wear these all night and all day. They just released a few new colors, too.

Ugg slippers – in keeping up with the comfy cozy theme, I would be remiss to not include my new favorite slippers. I love them in gray.

LL Bean pullover – I’ve had this one for a few years and I just love it and practically live in it. I have a couple colors. They’re definitely starting to show some wear, but it’s an absolute favorite.

Boots

Sorel Out & About Plus Tall boot – this is tied for my favorite slip-on boot ever {sadly the other fave isn’t made anymore – but still proudly worn by yours truly!}. It’s a brand new favorite for me. This is a lovely boot option for popping on to run an errand or go for a walk in chilly/snowy weather. I do prefer my Joan of Arctic {mine is probably ~8 years old} for playing in the snow with my kids – they’re a little taller.

Sorel Out & About Plus boot – these boots are quite versatile. I can wear them in the rain or the snow and they’re great for walking or driving. I love how cozy they are.

Cozy

Organic waffle knit blanket – this is a major splurge. I just adore this blanket. It has such a nice weight to it, in my opinion, and makes me feel so warm and cozy at night. Not to mention it is absolutely beautiful. I love Coyuchi.

Cozy leggings – I have last year’s version of the Rainier Tight – these are a lined legging and they are SO cozy and warm.

Running Gear

Athleta running tights – these are a brand new favorite, but dang these are awesome. These leggings don’t fall down while I’m running!

Nuun – have you tried this? I love adding one into my running water.

Clif Bloks – nutrition + hydration (+ stretching & training) is one of the ways I can run farther than 5 miles. These are a nutrition fave of mine.

Kitchen

Two Peas & Their Pod cookbook – one of my all-time favorites and most used cookbooks! It’s so versatile and everything is delicious. Her chocolate chip cookie recipe is phenomenal.

2019 Favorites

Pandemic: Week 36

Washington is officially locked back down. No indoor gatherings with people outside your household. Indoor dining is closed at restaurants. Outdoor gathering is limited to five people outside your household. Grocery stores and essential services are limited to 25% capacity. I am so hopeful with these new regulations we can get things under control again.

Alex and I had been chatting about tacking on an extra week after Ben’s holiday breaks coming up, as a way to buffer ourselves with other families traveling or gathering together. Ben’s school ended up taking the same approach and announced that the week following Thanksgiving and winter breaks will be virtual-only.

Starting on November 1st we have been doing “Thankful Turkeys.” Each day the kids tell me what they’re thankful for and I write it up on a little feather that we stick on their turkeys.

I wasn’t sure how this would go, but it’s the sweetest thing. I love hearing what they come up with each day. Last weekend Ben did say he was thankful that we didn’t have our thankful turkeys at the mountain house. Hah.

One morning I had the warm fuzzies all over the place and was feeling a sense of overwhelming gratitude for the extra time we’ve been so fortunate to have with Alex home. Before the pandemic Alex was rarely home for any meals, and now we eat together as a family for breakfast, lunch {minus Ben} and dinner.

Alex gets one-on-one play time with both kids pretty much every day, especially Hannah, while I’m taking Ben to school. Watching him playing with Hannah the other day and realizing what a gift this time has been made me feel so grateful.

Veteran’s Day was a holiday for Ben, so he was home with Hannah and me. He used paint sticks to draw the sweetest flag in honor of the holiday. We spent quite a bit of time discussing what a veteran is that day.

Hannah and I had a really fun little date on Friday. We went over to Madison Park and did some scooter riding and played on the playground a little bit. It was extremely windy and that kept most people home, it seemed.

Eventually we warmed up with a steamed milk and a coffee and took them down to the beach to drink. I just love my time with my girl.

The kids have been having so much fun playing independently and with each other lately. It’s so, so fun to see what they come up with.

Our weekend in the mountains was so lovely and snowy. It gets harder and harder to leave the mountains every time we go up. The weekends go by so fast and once we’re back in Seattle we all just count down the days until we can return.

I think it snowed probably close to a foot at our mountain house on Friday and Saturday. It was magnificent. Waking up to a fresh layer of snow covering the trees is one of my favorite things.

Naturally, the kids couldn’t wait to get out and play in the snow. Ben is known for throwing his boots on as soon as the sun comes up and racing out onto the deck.

After Saturday pancakes we bundled up and made our way out for some playtime in the snow.

Of course, the kids had a blast.

We were graciously invited over to our next door neighbor’s house to come chat and hang out by their campfire on Saturday evening. {Of course we were responsibly distanced and the kids were wearing masks. Why the kids? Sometimes they forget how far away they need to be.}

We have a family with a 5 and 7-year old two houses away from us in the mountains. On Sunday we stopped over to do a little sledding on their “dirt pile hill” and the kids had so much fun. Their kiddos are totally virtual and they literally have no social time in person with other kids, unless they play with Ben and Hannah. So, the masks came on and we went sledding.

Our weekend ended with a haircut for Alex! Woohoo! It was long overdue. I think I actually did a pretty good job!?

As we’re heading into the week before Thanksgiving, we hope this finds you well. The holidays will be different for many of us this year. Stay well!