Transition to Spring

As with many places across the country, the transition to spring in the mountains is a bit fickle. Despite waking up multiple days recently to a fresh coating of snow, all of the snow in our yard has melted out at this point. Now comes the work! And a change in activities.

{April 14, 2022}

Our project list is massive this year. The biggest undertaking is finally tackling the cleanup of our forest. Half of our property is forest and it’s been unmaintained forever. We have a bunch of downed trees and piles of logs and old stumps, as well as several dead trees that we plan on cutting down.

Alex got a chainsaw {!} and sawed up the downed trees into manageable bits. Already it looks completely different in there. Next step: get all the logs hauled away and build some trails.

Alex’s parents spent a couple weeks with us recently and his dad helped with quite a few projects. The kids loved getting some special time with their grandparents.

The weather has been quite inconsistent, which has thrown our brains for a loop. We’re maximizing our ski passes and have been skiing on the weekends, but alas, the season is days away from ending.

At the start of the pandemic Alex got himself a mountain bike and quickly found a new passion. I’ve always been skeptical of my own interest in mountain biking – I figured I’d be too nervous about flying down a narrow trail over, sliding over roots and rocks with trees as my slalom course. I agreed to give it a shot since I figured if I didn’t, I’d quickly get left behind by my family.

Alex got me a mountain bike for my birthday and I’ve been out a few times now and really love it! I was really surprised how stable and in control I felt, for the most part. One of our rides was a little less comfortable for me, but it was on a very narrow and exposed trail.

The wildflowers are beginning to bloom here – oh how I love this time of year. Early spring is so magical. I take so much joy in seeing all the new life emerge in the springtime. Sure, you never really know what the weather is going to give you, but the beauty and growth and surprise of spring feels so special to me.

Just the other day, when asked what he wanted to do, Ben’s response was “I suggest we go down to the river and take a hike to look for wildflowers.” Over the next few weeks I’m hoping to see a whole host of new wildflowers emerge. We get a few early varieties scattered around our forest, then all summer long we get a rainbow of wildflowers on our little berm at the edge of our yard.

We’re excitedly awaiting some warmer weather and more days on the hiking and biking trails. We have so much to look forward to this spring and summer!

Two Years of Mountain Life

Time has passed in such a strange way these last two years. Our life in the mountains really began two years ago, just before Covid was declared a global pandemic. On a whim, we moved out to our then “mountain house,” to escape Seattle and Covid. I never thought we’d actually sell our house in Seattle and live out in the mountains full-time.

{March 2020}

We just love mountain life and living in our small, rural town. The community here is like nowhere else I’ve lived. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s a small town and you know your options are limited, but it feels like everyone is friendly and is just waiting to be your next best friend.

Having four distinct seasons is such a treat. We love the uniqueness that comes with each changing season. Our activities shift with the seasons and that keeps us on our toes and gives us enough variety to keep things interesting.

From the farmers markets to the ski hill to the community pool to soccer practice, I continue to marvel in how many families we have met and become friends with since moving here. We feel so fortunate to be a part of such a tight-knit, welcoming community.

The opportunities our kids are having in school are pretty incredible. When they’re in college or all grown up they can share stories of attending a two-room schoolhouse, or Hannah, attending an outdoor, nature-based preschool. Just last week Hannah went to school in her fleece-lined rain suit and got to build forts out of branches in the rain and watch the Monarch butterfly migration fly through.

Access to nature and the outdoors has been such gift for our family. Alex and I have surpassed 50 ski days this year and we feel it in our bodies and our minds. Getting out in nature and moving our bodies has proven to be paramount for all of us.

What we love the most; however, is the time we’re able to spend together as a family. We go on all sorts of family adventures, whether it’s to the local state park for a campfire and to roast sausages and S’mores, or a family ski day, a trip to the river, a hike or a mountain bike ride, we are relishing in this family time.

Surely there are some inconveniences and slight challenges in living in a rural area. It is a 25-minute drive into town to the main grocery stores, and there are really only a couple of restaurants within a short drive of us, so take-out is a rarity and not a service we can rely on. These challenges have made us so much more self-sufficient and mindful, which I have come to value.

Our move to the mountains has been a good one. We continue to dwell on how lovely this community is and how lucky we all are to be living here and raising our family in the mountains. Our life here feels so fulfilling and filled with joy.

Covid

Well, nearly two years into the pandemic and Covid finally got to us. Hannah tested positive first – she had a fever and went down hard and fast. It took a few days for the rest of us to test positive {I had symptoms on Sunday but it took until Thursday for my test to come back positive}, but we’ve all got it.

Our symptoms were all different and we’re all on the road to recovery now. There’s been some lasting fatigue and general loss of stamina, which has probably been the biggest challenge.

We’ve hunkered down at home and will continue to do so this week. Hannah can go back to school on Wednesday, and Ben on Friday, both after a full ten days of quarantine.

Our quarantine has been fine so far. It’s never fun being sick, nor is it fun to feel like you can’t go anywhere. We are so grateful for the sunshine, and for friends and family checking in on us, bringing/sending flowers, dropping off food and projects and books for the kiddos. Unsurprisingly, being in quarantine is quite isolating and it meant a *lot* having connections to the outside world. We can’t wait to re-join the world and have a few months where we don’t have to worry about Covid! Indoor dining here we come!

All the Skiing!

Skiing is such a pillar for our family and this winter has been the absolute best for family skiing. Both of the kids are obsessed with downhill skiing and they are both loving cross country. It has been a blast!

We have been making the rounds at our local resorts to get the kids as much downhill skiing as possible. They are *loving* it!

Friday nights at Ski Hill have been a huge motivator. A handful of Ben’s friends from school come hang out and ski. Ben has become completely independent on the rope tow and skiing down the hill {in control!} as a result.

Ben and his three buddies have named themselves “The Rads” and it is the cutest thing. They wait for each other at the top, then all ski down together, hooting and hollering, having the time of their lives.

Hannah has taken a lot of inspiration from this and has been gaining a lot of confidence and tremendous skills. She’s still on the ski ropes {she’s skiing but we’re holding onto her via a rope}, but that’s more for her own comfort. I literally don’t do anything. She’s got it figured out!

Ben joined the local Nordic ski team and has twice weekly practices. He absolutely loves it. The program is a really big deal in our small town. The coaches do an exceptional job of making it fun for the kids!

Recently he competed in his first race. This was a “lollipop race” – the course is short and you get a lollipop at the finish line. He loved it, but said he wished it was longer! The ambiance of the big race was really exciting for Ben, so we will be traveling to the final race of the season in a couple weeks so he can have another go at it – this time will be a 1 km.

When the kids are in school consistently I am able to sneak out on the trails, myself! I have been absolutely loving Nordic skiing – specifically skate skiing. Alex and I learned last winter and it has been a significant source of joy and exercise for us both.

The best days are when Alex and I can ski together or when I can meet up and ski with a friend.

I’ve been taking Hannah out cross country skiing at least two or three times a week. At this point we’re just out there to have fun and I am happy to utilize snowflake fruit snacks and my “special water bottle” as a motivator!

We’re inching toward the halfway point of ski season {maybe we’ve already passed it?} and are trying to get as many days in as we can while the snow is still flying. Let it snow!!!

All the Snow!!

What a week it’s been! It started snowing late in the afternoon Wednesday last week and started to let up, 50 inches later, on Friday morning. 50 inches of snow in 36 hours!! It’s still unbelievable that happened.

We knew a big snowstorm was coming Wednesday afternoon. All of a sudden the forecast changed and the estimates went through the roof. Our area was forecast to get between 28-42 inches.

Thursday morning we woke up and there were 23 inches covering the ground. It was crazy!!

We briefly lost power Thursday morning but it was restored within an hour. Once we saw the forecast had changed we prepared our house for a power outage. Our water comes from a well and when the power goes out, we lose our water, too. We pulled out our emergency water supply from the storage room, filled up some 5-gallon buckets to use to flush toilets and made candles, flashlights and lanterns more accessible.

The snow kept coming and coming and coming. It was just dumping snow all day long.

We took the kids out to play on the deck for a bit during the day. The snow was very light and fluffy, which made it easier to shovel, but because of the sheer volume of it, it was a little scary with the kids. Walking on the top of the snowpack was impossible – you just sink!

All the snow!!

It took Brooks a little while to adjust to all the snow, but once he did he loved bounding through it and rolling his face in it.

We woke up to another foot or more of snow on Friday morning. The power went out in the middle of the night. Our driveway hadn’t been plowed. We lost cell service that morning, too. There was just *s0* much snow and no sign of it ending. Friday was a lottt less fun – especially since our kids were up for the day at 3:30 when the power went out.

Finally, mid-morning, Kelly, our neighbor, showed up in his tractor to plow us out {we’ve hired him to regularly plow for us}! We whooped and cheered upon seeing the lights of his tractor and hearing the jangle of the chains on his wheels. He blasted through the deep snowpack like it was nothing!

Our driveway was so deeply covered in snow we couldn’t walk down it until it had gotten plowed. We didn’t have enough gas for the snowblower to keep up with it to clear our driveway. Alex strapped on his fat backcountry skis and was able to get around to go check on neighbors. It was exhausting and took him forever!

Once the driveway was clear, we took the kids out to survey the aftermath. And dig out the mailbox!

We’ve been very careful to avoid the areas where our roof will slide, shedding about 6 feet of snow. It’s almost all off now, thankfully!

The power was out on Friday for about 16 hours. We managed fine, but are hopeful a generator will be in our future!

We’re five days {and three school snow days!} into this and we’re still digging out. Alex managed to dig out the hot tub on Saturday and spent five hours clearing out the ice rink on Sunday. Oofta!

{this is our hot tub, buried under the snow}

{this is after the roof shed its snowpack – it’s like an avalanche!}

Normally I’m the one doing my snow dances all winter long, but I’m going to pause on them for a bit! We’re out of places to put the snow!!

2021 Recap… A Year in Review

As we’re closing the books on 2021, our second year living through a global pandemic, I’m looking on to 2022 with a really big handful of hope and a giant sprinkle of joy. Here’s a little look back on our year… it was a big one!

The winter was filled with so many family ski days. Alex and I were overwhelmed with delight watching our kiddos progress so much doing an activity that brings us so much joy.

Ben went to school, in-person all year; however, after every major school break the school switched to remote learning for a week. This meant that we had a whole bunch of extra time at The Lodge {we were still living in Seattle and going back and forth until May 2021}!

As winter turned into spring, life got a whole lot more challenging. Going back and forth between the two houses, yet knowing we were moving soon, was really difficult for all of us. It felt like limbo and we were royally unsettled. The kids felt it, Ben especially, and he really had a tough spring.

We planned a couple of regional day trips to break up the monotony during the weekends we spent in Seattle. One exceptionally rainy day we packed up the car, loaded it onto the ferry and headed over to Scenic Beach, which is on the Hood Canal in Puget Sound. Another spring-ish day we headed north for Skagit Valley and toured the daffodil festival and saw our dear friends on Camano Island.

Hannah and I made the most of our days together by going for runs, hanging out at the beach in the rain {hey! we had it to ourselves – no need to social distance or wear masks in the rain!} and taking nature walks through the neighborhood.

Afternoons in Seattle were often spent at the neighborhood park. It was quite a production getting all the things there. And the bathrooms were closed, due to Covid, so that made it interesting. It was a lot.

We got to be reunited with my dad in mid-April after over a year of not seeing him, due to the pandemic. He took a long road trip with several pit stops to ski along the way, then came to spend a while with us, enjoying spring in the mountains.

Late winter/early spring in Seattle seemed to last forever. Finally, we got to another long stint at The Lodge! Unexpectedly, most of April was spent in the mountains. Because our time there was so calm and so pleasant, we decided to bump up our move date by six weeks to early May. Hooray! {But also holy frantic!!}

Alex and I got our Covid vaccines and were fully vaccinated by early May! We felt like superheroes for a little while!

We slowly but surely got settled into our new life in the mountains.

Alex made an unbelievable amount of trips back to Seattle to finish packing everything up and get the house ready to sell. It was an unbelievable burden to essentially sell or donate the entire contents of a house we’d lived in for over a decade. On top of that, he had to get it spruced up and ready to sell after two little kids and a dog destroyed every surface. All while simultaneously working.

Mid-spring we broke ground on our garage & guesthouse!

Alex’s parents came out for the month of June, with Alina joining us for Ben’s birthday. We made so many memories with Grammy and Papa, after a long separation from the pandemic.

Ben turned five on Memorial Day. Since we had just moved and hadn’t really made friends here yet we had a quiet, family birthday.

Summer was hot, so wonderful and filled with days at the pool, oodles of memories, trips to the hidden beach, seeing family, making new friends and weekly visits to the farmers market. We ate all the ice cream, got to know every lifeguard by name and became accustom to the 100-degree days we enjoyed all season.

Early-July, our house in Seattle closed.

Shortly thereafter, we lost our beloved 8-year old dog, Jackson. He had been battling an aggressive cancer and we made the extremely difficult decision to say goodbye before things got any worse. Jackson was an incredible dog, despite being pretty high needs {he had epilepsy and severe anxiety} and we miss him dearly.

As a little nod to our late dog, we decided to take an extremely spontaneous road trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It turned out to be a fantastic decision. We stopped through Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Bozeman, Montana; Yellowstone and then ended up in Teton Village, Wyoming for a few nights. The trip was a major highlight of the year for all of us.

Just after we returned from our road trip, we brought home our new puppy, Brooks! He has been the absolute best pup. He is extremely sweet and very mellow. And, he reminds us so very much of our last dog, Jackson. They have an uncannily similar personality.

Hannah turned 3 in the midst of summer.

Also after a year of being apart, my mom came for a visit, and to celebrate Hannah’s birthday. We enjoyed trips to the beach, bookmobile and pool.

We had such a lovely late summer and early fall. The weather couldn’t have been better. We were up to our eyeballs dealing with a little puppy and two rambunctious children. It sure was filled with challenges, but gosh it was the best.

The school year began with Ben starting Kindergarten and Hannah entering preschool. Ben attends school in a literal two-room schoolhouse and Hannah goes to an outdoor forest preschool. Both of their schools have a high focus on nature and being outside – they’re both learning so much about life in the mountains.

Fall is absolutely spectacular out here in the mountains. The weather holds until about mid-October or so. The fall colors seemed to last forever this year.

My brother, John, and his girlfriend, Becky, spent a weekend in September with us. It had been over two years since I had seen him – sweet Hannah was still a baby then.

Alex had so much fun mountain biking this summer and fall. He has a good mountain biking buddy and they checked everything off their list to explore this year.

Ben joined a local soccer team, made a lot of new friends and got to try something new. He loved playing and dancing on the sidelines and occasionally got really into the game.

I’ve been rehabbing my hips most of the year due to lack of strength and stability. Despite not being able to run at all this summer or fall, I got plenty of hiking in. All of the fall hikes were highlights for me this year.

I took a girls trip this fall to Alpine Lakes High Camp with a friend and her book club. We roughed it and had an incredible 10-mile hike to Larch Lake.

Shoulder season {the time between nice fall weather and winter weather} also seemed to last forever this year. We had to be a little creative to get out and have fun in between the seasons.

Once winter arrived it was here to stay! We received about 40 inches of snow in just over a week. Our trees have the most spectacular coating of snow that has seemed to last forever. It is magnificent.

Brooks is loving the snow! He is currently seven months old and has become quite a handful lately. We’ve got some big-time training to do and are counting down the days until he gets neutered.

So far this winter we’ve been doing all the snowy things! Alex built an ice skating rink, we started cross country skiing with the kids and we’ve been downhill skiing too. It’s one of my absolute favorite times of the year!

We’re ending the year with a fully-vaccinated 5-year old!

The holidays were filled with joy and warmth for us this year. We were fortunate to spend Christmas with Alex’s parents.

And that’s a wrap! We are sending our love and warm wishes for a happy start to 2022. My hope for the year is peace and joy, and that we can get out of this godforsaken pandemic.

Christmas 2021!

This is one of my favorite times of the whole year. I look forward to snow and winter and Christmas all year long. This year felt extra special. The snow has felt extra magical and spectacular. And Ben and Hannah are at such a fun age, especially to celebrate Christmas. We’re really focusing on family, gratitude and joy. All the things that matter most.

The last two Christmases have just been our little family, so it was also extra special to have Alex’s parents here to celebrate with us this year.

We’ve been ice skating most days. What a special way to enjoy the cold snap we’ve had this last week.

Just before Christmas we went out on a sleigh ride.

The kids had so much fun making sausage rolls and cookie dough with Grammy.

They just adore playtime with their grandparents.

One afternoon most of us ventured out to go cross country skiing. The moment we got our skis on it started snowing *so* hard. It was quite unexpected! We were not prepared for the wind or the snow. Needless to say it was a short ski!

Alex and I were able to get out and go skate skiing, just the two of us. We learned how to skate ski last winter but never had childcare. Finally, we got a chance to get out together!

And! We went downhill skiing together, too! Hurrah! Thanks, Grammy and Papa!

Christmas itself was so wonderful. Alex and I even got to enjoy a cup of coffee in front of the fire before Ben woke up around 5:30.

The kids made each other, and everyone else, pictures.

Santa and family members were abundantly generous this year.

Ben and Hannah had so much fun exploring and playing with their gifts all day long.

What a joy this season has been. I’m looking forward to a snowy, skiing-filled winter, finding joy and enjoying the things that matter most.

Kicking off The Holidays 2021

It’s undeniably one of my favorite times of the year right now – this sweet spot between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’re doing all the things and getting *so* excited for Santa.

Our Thanksgiving was lovely. It was very quiet – just the four of us – but we had a really great day. The kids were very excited to help prepare everything.

Living in the mountains in a winter wonderland, especially with a downtown that is so magical, still feels like such a dream. We’ve driven into town a few nights to enjoy the all of the spectacular Christmas lights.

I’ve been rather reserved in cookie baking this year. The kids helped make sugar cookies {with this frosting}, Christmas M&M cookies, and ginger molasses cookies, as well as peppermint bark. One day I decided to bake by myself and made some candied pecans and Mexican wedding cookies.

It’s always a special day when we put up the Christmas tree. This year’s came from our property. We knew it would be a tricky year to have a Christmas tree with a puppy, so we chose a small one and set it up in our loft.

The kids, especially Ben, get so into decorating the tree and the house.

This year I decided to make a gingerbread house totally from scratch. Probably won’t happen again, but it was worth the experience. Ben and Hannah loved decorating it.

We’re loving all of the holiday greeting cards that have been arriving this season. Thank you *so* much to everyone who has taken the time to send us one. We display them all and take so much joy in receiving them.

Happy holidays!

Winter is Here!

It feels like the seasons changed all at once a couple weeks ago. The ground and the trees are covered in white pillows, cross country skiing opened, downhill skiing opened and the kids all of a sudden are playing in the snow every day. Shoulder season is over!

It’s so hard to pick a favorite season. I just love them all. There is something so magical about winter, though. It’s definitely a top contender for my number one.

We have been absolutely *loving* pulling Ben {and sometimes Hannah!} on the sled to and from school. Mountain living right there!

Ben, and all the other students at his little school, are allowed to borrow a pair of XC ski boots and skis for the winter to use during recess and their exercise time.

Last week I took Ben and Hannah cross country skiing on the trails near our house for the first time ever! We got to take Ben’s school skis and boots home for winter break and we rented some gear for Hannah.

Ben loved Nordic skiing so much that we ended up signing him up for the local Nordic ski team. It is such a pillar of our little mountain community. He is so excited.

The kiddos had their first downhill ski day of the season, and Alex just had his, as well. We had such a fun time at Leavenworth Ski Hill. It’s the perfect place for little kids.

Our skating rink has been getting a ton of action the last few days. What a dream it is to be able to go ice skating in our yard! We can’t wait to continue to host our friends and neighbors for skating parties.

It has been hilarious watching all of the gear accumulate in our mud room. We have so many hooks and cubbies and hangers and they’re just perpetually full. As is the floor. I try to keep it organized, and I really do love looking at the pile of stuff with a really full heart and a smile. It’s such a privilege and a joy to be able to enjoy all of these activities.

So far this winter is shaping up to be a great one! Keep the snow coming, Mother Nature!

Backyard Skating Rink!

In early November we took the kids to Wenatchee, an hour away, to go ice skating in their indoor rink. We all had such a fun time! The next day we learned that the ice rink that often operates near our home won’t be happening again this year. So, we took matters into our own hands and decided to build our own ice skating rink.

Our friend Ross came over with his tractor one day and helped us level out the area and remove rocks and pokey bits from the ground.

The people at the hardware store thought Alex was crazy when he went in to purchase 2 x 12s for an ice rink. But, he did it anyway, and built the frame for the rink.

We had some unseasonably warm weather in late November and early December, followed by a cold snap and a ton of snow. Before we could proceed, we had to clear the snow out of the inside of the frame.

Earlier on in the fall Alex purchased a snow blower. After a whole giant and frustrating mess of rebuilding and fixing the snow blower, it worked like a dream and got the job done.

Next step: add the liner! Alex was able to order essentially a gigantic sheet of white plastic to drape over the frame and use as a base to hold the water.

Now we fill and wait. There was one corner that was a lot higher than the others and of course we didn’t realize this until we started filling. It ended up taking a full 48 hours to fill the rink with water.

Literally within the first minutes after Alex pulled the hoses out, our pup decided to go for a swim. Cute, right? Not so much when he tore the liner and Alex had to get in the icy bath and patch it up.

We spent the better part of the next five days watching it freeze. We got around 30 inches of snow during the week we filled the rink up and were letting it freeze. This made it take a little longer to freeze. But alas! It froze!

Now Alex’s new hobby is walking around the ice rink shoveling or with his cool resurfacing tool that our neighbor happened to have because he, too, had previously built a backyard ice rink {he stopped after 3 years because it is so much work!}.

And now, we skate.

This ice rink has brought us so much joy. I grew up ice skating on my backyard pond in Minnesota and have so, so many fond memories of this pastime. It is such a privilege to be able to recreate this for our kids and our little mountain town.