Our First Summer in the Mountains

Now that we’re nearly to Halloween, I’ll backtrack to our first summer in the mountains. What a big summer we had. It was filled with change, family visitors, building a community and making new friends and exploring. There were oodles of highlights from our first summer as permanent mountain dwellers.

We started the summer with Alex’s parents being here for about a month as we celebrated Ben’s fifth birthday and got ourselves settled into our new life.

Once the summer solstice hit, the temps skyrocketed. The highest I saw was 113. The kids and I became so accustomed to days spent outside in 100+ degree heat that it became too chilly for us to swim outside if it was below 90-degrees. Ben’s lips literally turned blue one day in the pool when it was 88-degrees. Hah!

The kiddos both took swimming lessons all summer – Ben in group lessons, while Hannah preferred the 1:1 private lesson dynamic. By the end of the summer Ben could make it across the pool unassisted. It wasn’t pretty, but he could do it!

Just before the Fourth of July we made the difficult choice to say goodbye to our dog, Jackson. He had been suffering from a fast-growing carcinoma (cancer). It was a devastating loss for all of us.

The loss of Jackson rocked us, and our summer plans, so we decided to take a very spontaneous road trip to Jackson Hole, Jackson’s namesake. That was one of the biggest highlights of our summer. We spent a day in Yellowstone and loved the time we were in Jackson and Teton National Park. I hope to visit again!

{Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone}

Just after arriving back from our road trip, Alex drove down to Salem, Oregon and picked up our new puppy, Brooks. The turnaround time from losing Jackson to welcoming Brooks was quite quick – only two weeks. It’s actually been really great having that short gap. We didn’t go so long that we got out of the routine of having a dog.

Mid-summer days were largely spent in town at the pool. Here, we met *so* many other local families with kiddos.

We loved our once-a-week trip to the local ice cream shop, Whistlepunk.

Riding bikes this summer was SO fun for us all. Ben is a total pro on his little bike and Hannah really started charging it on her scoot bike. She’ll be ready for a two-wheeler in the spring, for sure!

After Alex’s parents monthlong trip and our return from Jackson, we had grandparent visitors sprinkled in every other week. The kids have been overjoyed to finally be able to see their grandparents more often.

As summer marched ahead we had to navigate a whole lot of wildfire smoke. It began in late-July and carried through until Labor Day or so. It felt like for a solid six weeks I was checking the air quality on a daily basis, then limiting our outside time very regularly. Most of our smoke was caused from the Nason Fire, a 100+ acre fire 15 minutes from our house.

I spent the summer in physical therapy for my hips. Long story short, I had an “injury” from lack of strength and stability. So, friends, keep up on your core strengthening exercises and don’t just do cardio like I did!

We celebrated Hannah’s third birthday mid-July. So far three has been SO fun with her.

My mom came for a visit over Hannah’s birthday. We had a beach day, pool day, cupcake day and bookmobile day.

Shortly after, my dad came to visit, too. We explored a couple new beaches and the kids even got him out on the trampoline!

We wrapped up August with one final grandparent visit. Alex’s mom came to help me with the kids for a few days while I pulled together an event for the Leavenworth Farmers Market.

Just before Labor Day I made a final trek out to Wenatchee for some apple and nectarine picking with the kids. It was one of those extra special days I will remember for a very long time.

That particular day ended with the loveliest dinner outside at a restaurant in a screened-in igloo, then a trip to the beach to watch the sun set. It was perfect.

This summer was so, so lovely. It was filled with a lot of unexpected happenings and a whole lot of fun and exploration. We’re absolutely loving our mountain life and feel extremely connected to the community here.

Soccer Season!

Ben recently wrapped up his first official soccer season! He played a quick six-week co-ed session in the local league and had a blast. It was really fun watching Ben and his team progress throughout the year.

Typically, Ben had one practice and two games each week. The games were really sweet to watch. It turns out it’s very entertaining watching a bunch of 4 and 5-year olds running around trying to figure out what to do with a soccer ball.

When Ben is focused on soccer he actually is quite good! Most of the time, though, his energy is centered on his friends, doing jumping jacks or making sure his light-up shoes are lighting up. Oh, and making sure someone’s parents remembered to bring snack.

Towards the very end of the season we noticed Ben’s attention shifted and when he was out on the field he really was getting after it.

All in all, Ben had a great time playing soccer. He loved making new friends with his teammates and looked forward to his practices and games, especially when they included a post-game juice box.

Brooks Update: Four Months Old!

We sure hit the jackpot with this puppy. He is *such* a great dog and a really lovely puppy. Everywhere we go, people’s comments are how fluffy he is and how surprisingly calm he is for a pup.

Brooks is about four and a half months old now and is growing rapidly! I’m really not sure how much he weighs. Probably close to 45 or 50 pounds, and we expect he’ll top out around 80.

At this point, we’ve settled into a really nice routine with Brooks. He sleeps until 6 or 6:30 and hangs out with us upstairs until we go down for the day, which is a much appreciated change from the initial early wakeups with him.

Brooks spends the day outside, off-leash, snoozing on the front steps. He gets quite a lot of exercise from being able to roam our yard during the day, on top of frequent walks. Alex takes him for a 20ish-minute walk in the mornings, then we take Brooks to drop Ben off at school, and sometimes he comes with on the pickup walk to get Ben, too.

Fetch is something we’re working on with Brooks. Alex is great at getting Brooks into it, but I have less finesse here. Basic training is going really well! He has good recall {coming when called} and knows some basic commands. He’s been really receptive to training.

Currently our biggest challenges with Brooks involve him jumping up either on people or putting his paws up on the counter {grrrrr!} trying to get food. It’s definitely getting better with training, but those are quite frustrating. He also goes after the kids stuffed animals, especially if the kids are holding them.

Brooks seems to really have an old soul – he’s like an old dog trapped in a puppy’s body! He reminds us so much of Jackson, which is really special for us to have those frequent memories of our beloved dog.

Don’t be mistaken, though, this has been far from easy to juggle young kiddos and a puppy. It was really prohibitive having a pup for the first 8-10 weeks or so. We could hardly bring him anywhere since he wasn’t fully vaccinated {against Parvo virus}, but we couldn’t leave him home for very long, and it was summer so we couldn’t leave him in the car either.

The middle of the night wake ups, plus the early mornings were really exhausting, especially since it coincided with a huge sleep regression with Hannah. It felt like once we finally got the kids to bed, we’d have to turn our attention to Brooks and get him worn out so he’d sleep well. That was no fun. Thankfully we’re past that now!

We’re so, so very excited to have Brooks in our lives. He is such a fantastic dog, and well worth the initial challenges. We’re really looking forward to more hiking with him, playing in the snow and having his companionship. Dogs are such incredible creatures!

Garage Update: Framing in Progress!

We broke ground on our garage and guesthouse project back in May. In case you missed it, we are building an oversized 3-car garage with a guesthouse on top. It’s been a slow process so far, but the last few weeks have provided significant progress and a whole lot of fun to watch!

Hannah’s birthday marked the day they started pouring the foundation!
Getting ready to pour the slab! The kiddos loved riding their scooters on the smooth surface before the framing began.
One carpenter was working solo here for a while. It’s amazing what one guy can do on his own!
This week the crane truck arrived to put three massive beams in place. The crew was cruising this week!

We have no estimated date of completion for the project – I’m guessing next summer, maybe late spring if we’re really lucky. We were told that the excavators can’t come back to dig to connect the garage to the main house’s septic tank until spring, so that will be a major holdup. There’s a backlog of everything right now, it seems. We’re not in a huge hurry, but it sure will be nice to be able to utilize the garage for storage!

Alpine Lakes High Camp Trip

I recently took a trip to Alpine Lakes High Camp, and boy was it a trip for the memory books. This was a trip I took with a girlfriend, Kirsten, and a few other gals from her bookclub who I had never met. High Camp is quite close to my house and I’ve heard incredible things about it so it was a trip I just couldn’t turn down.

Our trip started in a parking lot 15 minutes away from my house. We got picked up by our driver in his Land Rover, he threw our gear on the top of his truck, strapped it down and packed us in. He drove us 8.5 miles up a very, very rough road. We winded our way up the mountain to the Alpine Lakes High Camp, a series of small, rustic cabins set in literally the middle of nowhere.

High Camp is off-grid – no electricity and no running water in the cabins. We had a wood burning stove for heat and a propane cooktop to prepare food. Sleeping was bunk-style – we slept in our sleeping bags in the loft/attic of the A-frame cabin. I’d heard it referred to as “glamping” but there was definitely nothing glamorous here!

We did a hike every day, with the highlight being our 11.5 mile trek to Larch Lake. The hike was strenuous, with nearly 3,000 feet of elevation gain and lots of downed trees to shimmy over. The reward was high and so picturesque.

I’ve never seen anything like Larch Lake before. It felt like we were in the middle of a Dr Seuss book with twisty, spindly Larch trees surrounding us.

The scene at Larch Lake was so magical. It was just breathtaking.

Our hike was so enjoyable and was most certainly the highlight of the trip. We had the lake to ourselves upon arrival, though our visit was quite quick given how chilly and windy it was.

I was quite out of my comfort zone being in such a remote location, essentially with strangers, but it’s those experiences that have a way of leaving a mark. Definitely a bit of type 2 fun!

Catching Up: Fall Hikes!

Oofta, I have had the hardest time keeping the blog up-to-date lately. It’s been quite tedious dealing with my photos on my computer and it’s been too time intensive for me to sit down and go through them all. Finally I’m feeling like I have a little more time to use to get some personal projects done!

Alas, I’ll be updating the blog from things I missed over the summer and catching up since I dropped off. I’ll start with some more recent happenings!

Fall is very much here in the mountains. We’re past the peak in the foliage in most places and it’s been dropping down into the upper 20s most nights recently. Drives along the river or on our windy mountain road are extra special this time of year.

I’ve been capitalizing on this and have gone for a number of hikes recently – some alone, some with Alex, others with friends and some with our whole family. It’s been such a special way to enjoy the season.

I wrapped up physical therapy for my hips a few weeks ago and am continuing to get stronger and regain mobility. It’s been a slow ramp up after spending most of the summer incapacitated. My first hike was the first day I dropped Hannah off at school in early September. Since then, I’ve hiked at least once a week.

Mid-September Alex took the week off and we were able to get out together for a tough 6-mile hike overlooking the town of Leavenworth {Icicle Ridge hike}. It was a beautiful bluebird day and I was so happy to have been physically able to do such a challenging hike.

We ended our day-date with a fresh and delicious lunch at Yodelin, where we got to look up at the ridge we had just hiked.

Late in September, I met my friend Joanna for a 7-mile hike to Lake Valhalla, near Stevens Pass, to enjoy the fall colors. It was stunning!

Mixed in there was a very special visit from my brother, John, and his girlfriend, Becky. They spent a weekend with us and we watched Ben’s soccer game, hiked Icicle Gorge and made homemade pasta.

Our family hikes have been relatively un-enjoyable for the most part this fall/late summer. One day we had just a horribly frustrating hike and Alex and I realized we needed to re-calibrate our expectations for family hikes. They need to be short. They need to be flat. We need to be able to carry the kids when they’re tired. And our goal needs to be to have fun, not to complete a certain distance.

We see so many other families with kids of a similar age to ours and the kids are doing 5+ mile hikes without being carried. We lost sight of the fact that just because other kids can do that, it doesn’t mean ours can or will. Ben notoriously has low stamina. His metabolism is lightning fast and his fuel tank goes from F to E really quickly. He’s certainly building endurance, but we have a ways to go.

I’ll do a separate post for my most recent hike, but I went on the most magical hike to Larch Lake last weekend. The scene around the lake feels like it’s out of a fairy tale. More to come soon!

Hello Preschool!

This week marks Hannah’s first day of preschool! This year Hannah will be attending a local forest preschool two days a week. She’s in a class with ten kiddos and they spend their days outdoors in the mountains!

Beginning preschool is a huge milestone for Hannah, as she’s never been in a school or childcare setting, and honestly hardly away from home or family. I was really, really uncertain how she would do at drop-off. We practiced and practiced and practiced for probably a month leading up to her first day.

The morning of her first day her excitement turned into nervousness and she was very apprehensive, even as we pulled in. I spent a few minutes with her at the gate and once it was time for me to go I said goodbye and she walked right in. She didn’t even say goodbye to me!

{Behind Hannah is the home base for her class. They meet here, have free play and then go out for a hike or an adventure somewhere else on the incredible property!}

I got a really encouraging report from her teacher from her first day and Hannah said she loved it. She even said it felt really quick when I came back to pick her up. I think she is going to really, really thrive here and I just cannot wait to see how her year goes.

Hello Kindergarten!

It’s official! We have a Kindergartener! Last week Ben had his first day of Kindergarten at his new school.

Ben will be going to our neighborhood school, classified as a “remote but necessary” schoolhouse. Literally it’s a two-room schoolhouse! The school has two teachers and two classrooms, one for K-1 and the other for 2-5, though there are only second and third graders there.

This school is quite unique and very, very special we have come to realize. They pride themselves on teaching in a rather hands-on, nature-based way. Ben’s first field trip will be going on a hike! That said, this will be our second year sending our child to school amidst a global pandemic. Covid cases are extremely high in our area right now and we’re so grateful that the school is requiring masks on kiddos and teachers, regardless of vaccination status. The school is working to mitigate some risk by spending as much time outside as possible, especially while the weather is nice.

We’re so fortunate we can walk {or bike!} through our field + our next-door neighbor’s, then about two more blocks. Easy peasy! I love hearing the school bell dinging during the day.

All of us ran through the gamut of emotions about Ben beginning Kindergarten. It happened so fast. How did he go from a 3 pound preemie to a Kindergartener already!?

He was so ready. SO ready. In so many ways. It’s the beginning of the rest of his life right now. In my mind, he just transitioned from a little kid to a big, school-age kid and that is a huge deal.

As a parent, I see everything on the horizon. I’m trying to focus on all of the wonderful, exciting things instead of the crazy scary things. New friendships, the opportunity to play sports {soccer started last week!}, learning to read, widening his mind and continued exploration. All the things.

With any transition there are bound to be challenges, so we’ll take them as they come. I’m just so excited for Ben and what lies ahead.

Meet Brooks!

It feels a little funny having such a quick turnaround from losing Jackson to welcoming a new puppy into our family, but we’re doing it! Let me introduce you to Brooks, the newest member of our little family.

My friend Kelsey was quick to say it’s never too soon to add more love in your life and she’s absolutely right. Our life with Jackson was so wonderful we just didn’t want to go another day without a dog.

It’s meant to be, said my friend Kailey, when I shared the news that the same breeder we got Jackson from had an available boy pup in less than two weeks. It sure feels like it, now that Brooks is home with us.

The kids are bonkers for him!

Both of them are great with Brooks in their own ways. It’s been really special to see this. I think five is a fantastic age for a puppy, actually.

Brooks is carrying out the ski theme we’ve chosen to name our dogs with. Brooks is the name of a chairlift and area at Stevens Pass, our local ski resort.

Brooks is SO sweet and surprisingly relaxed for a puppy. We are so, so happy to have him in our lives. We can’t wait for all the adventures he will be able to join us on… stay tuned!

Mountain Life: Spring/Summer Update

I’ve gotten quite behind on posting lately and am trying to catch up! Here’s another photo dump of what we’ve been up to since moving to the mountains.

We moved out here early May and we’re absolutely still getting settled. It feels like there is random stuff everywhere. Merging two houses into one is quite a task. Alex took on the brunt of the physical tasks, while also managing the start of building our garage + guesthouse project and working full-time. Needless to say, he was exhausted.

Our house in Seattle is officially sold and closed in early July. We’re so grateful for a quick turnaround so we can focus on this next chapter in the mountains. Alex and I went back before the closing to clear the last bits of our personal belongings out and say hi/bye to a few friends and neighbors.

Alex’s parents were here for quite a while just after we moved. We had such a lovely time with them and the kids made oodles of memories with their Grammy and Papa.

Alex’s sister joined us for Memorial Day weekend to celebrate Ben’s birthday, too! It feels extra special to be able to see family again.

We did all the things with family. Beach days, hikes, bike rides galore. So. Much. Fun.

Alex, the kids and I took a trip to Suncadia, a mountain resort south of us, for a week in early June. The kids loved swimming in the amazing pool!

Alex and I managed to sneak out for a couple days to an adults-only hotel in Leavenworth for a little mini-vacay, too! It was so nice to switch gears and change our focus and do some things we haven’t been able to do for a while with the kids. We had our first indoor dining experiences, got to enjoy the hotel’s seven steam rooms/saunas and take all the long walks we wanted.

Mountain biking has become quite a hobby of Alex’s this summer. It’s been a wonderful way for him to explore and stay active, and also spend time with some new friends.

I’ve been a little incapacitated this summer, unfortunately. I haven’t been able to run for several weeks and am doing some physical therapy right now to strengthen and rehabilitate my atrophying mombod. Hoping to be able to start running very short distances in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’ve been *loving* biking with Hannah in the little bike seat.

We broke ground on our garage + guesthouse project back in early June. It’s been sloooow going. When it’s complete, we’ll have an oversized 3-bay garage with a 1,200 square foot apartment above it. We’re SO excited.

It was SO HOT for a solid 10 days. We were extremely grateful for the kids to have swimming lessons during the heat wave. We managed to keep cool with lots of ice pops, slushies, a few ice cream cones and our air conditioning.

Lately, our days have been filled with a trip into town for swimming lessons most days. We’re surrounded by water here in the mountains, with some major rivers passing through, so building up my kiddos swimming strength is a top priority.

We’re also enjoying getting ice cream, mini golfing, riding bikes, going to the local farmers markets, spending the morning at the beach and riding bikes to the bookmobile. You can read about our big road trip to Jackson Hole here, too!

It’s been such a wonderful summer so far. We are SO, SO happy living in the mountains. The community here is so lovely and life feels so calm and peaceful. We absolutely love it.