Trip to Seabrook, WA

This year we splurged and took the kids on a trip for each of their birthdays. Hannah’s birthday trip was to Seabrook, which is a little town on the Washington coast.

We had been to Seabrook when Ben was 13-months old, so it was really special coming back again, and this time with Hannah, as well as Alex’s parents.

Seabrook is unbelievably charming. The town is completely manufactured to be darling and just oozes with coastal character. The town is set up on a bluff overlooking an endless beach. It truly looks like it goes on forever.

The weather leaves much to be desired, though. We had one gorgeous full day while we were there, otherwise it was mostly cloudy, foggy and it felt just plain cold.

We spent a lot of time down on the beach. Despite the fog and chilly temperatures, the kids built a monumental sand castle and loved crashing into the waves or trying out a skim board.

One of the days we drove up the coast into Olympic National Park. It was perfect beach weather that day and we spent a few hours at Beach #4 on the coast.

The kids loved climbing the rock walls, building sand castles, checking out the tide pools and exploring a new beach.

We made a quick stop for a very short hike in the Quinault Rainforest and visited the world’s largest spruce tree.

Hannah’s birthday was in the middle of our trip. We celebrated her with a big strawberry cake, a new doll and lots of beach time. Coincidentally, there was a huge celebration going on in Seabrook, so Hannah enjoyed getting her face painted, eating kettle corn and jumping in the bouncy house. Perfect for a four-year old!

Brooks seemed quite happy to tag along on the trip! He experienced salt water and a big beach for the first time, and was delighted to do so.

All in all, we had a lovely time exploring the town of Seabrook. It is so charming. If I had the guarantee of good weather, I would definitely go back!

Hannah is FOUR!

Back in July we celebrated Hannah’s fourth birthday! We took her to the beach for a big birthday trip and she had the best time. It was so fun celebrating our girl!

Hannah’s four year stats:

  • Weight: 38 pounds
  • Height: 41″
  • Clothing 4/5
  • Shoe size: toddler size 9
  • Favorite foods: watermelon, ICE CREAM, blackberries, strawberries, basically anything sweet
  • Least favorite foods: beef, chicken, most vegetables, anything I serve for dinner
  • Favorite things/activities: playing with her dollhouse, watching her Kindle, playing with her little ones, reading books, running, dancing, riding her bike, painting
  • Least favorite things/activities: waiting, stopping doing something fun, leaving somewhere, not getting what she wants

It was funny to read back on my post “Hannah is three” because I could literally copy and paste it to “Hannah is four” – this girl is fiercely herself. Certainly she’s grown up a bit since she turned three, but she’s still that same girl she’s always been. Hannah has always been so confident – she knows what she wants and she knows when she’s ready to do something.

This spring, Hannah was extremely insistent she wanted to learn to ride her two-wheel pedal bike. We really were not quite ready to go there, but because she was so determined we gave it a shot. Literally 20 minutes after she got stung by a bee she wanted to try riding her pedal bike. I sure wasn’t going to say no, and thank goodness I didn’t, because she figured it out right away! As she always does, she knew she was ready.

One big thing we’ve noticed is that Hannah is really coming out of her shell around other people. We really credit this to her experience going to school this year. She sure knows when she is ready to warm up to new people or a new situation, and she seems to be a great judge of character.

Being a little one at the start of the pandemic sure has brought challenges for most kiddos, but finally, now that Hannah is in school she is making her own friends. It warms our hearts hearing her talk about school and her friends and her teachers. We just love that she has her own life outside our family.

Hannah has such a natural maternal instinct. It is so sweet to watch her “make a family” out of four of any objects {but they have to be the same or within the same genre} and she will take care of them as though she’s the mama. The family is always mommy, daddy, Ben and Hannah. She just loves her baby dolls, too.

The relationship between Ben and Hannah has grown tremendously in the last year or so. They are the very best of friends.

Hannah is very quick to lose her temper, and heaven help you if you get caught in her wrath. Have I mentioned this girl is fierce? We’re continuing to work with Hannah to use kind words and for strategies on how to chill out. Sometimes it works!

Gosh this girl is such a light in our lives. We just adore her. She is growing into quite the little lady.

Hannah’s Fourth Birthday

We had so much fun celebrating Hannah’s birthday this year. I’m quite late in reporting about her birthday, as it was already two months ago! It was extra special because she has never had a birthday party before. Hannah’s birthday celebration turned into a week of festivities honoring her fourth birthday.

{This girl has always known what she wants. She saw someone with an open cup + whipped cream, and from that moment on, she only orders her milk with whipped cream and no lid.}

We kicked off her birthday week with a special mama-Hannah trip to the salon for her first official haircut and mani/pedi. Hannah felt SO special – Jenn, our stylist, went above and beyond to make sure Hannah was pampered to the nines.

Because our girl loves watermelon we chose it as the theme for her birthday party! I found everything watermelon and we met some friends down at a beach along the river. It was perfect!

Several of Hannah’s classmates from school were able to join us, along with some of our other family friends. It was a gorgeous day and she had so much fun!

Despite the watermelon theme, Hannah requested strawberry cupcakes. I found a wonderful recipe and they were amazingly delicious!

For Hannah’s actual birthday we took a trip to Seabrook, which is on the Washington coast. It’s a very charming town right on the ocean. The beach is absolutely massive.

Hannah is a little beach babe – she just loves playing in the sand. She can spend hours and hours creating things or just scooping sand into buckets. This was the perfect place for her birthday this year.

For a few years now Hannah has loved playing with babies. This year for her birthday she got a new Wellie Wishers doll named Camille. Wellie Wishers is a line within American Girl Dolls and you can get all kinds of accessories for these dolls. Hannah has spent hours and hours playing with her new doll and all that goes along with her.

It was so fun celebrating our sweet girl turning four. She is so much fun and such a delight and we just loved having a special week for her.

Back to School!

With how busy our summer was, it’s no surprise I’ve fallen quite behind on posting on the blog. I have some posts in progress and will catch up over the next few weeks. For now, I’m happy to report that Ben and Hannah are back to school and our family is really, really thriving!

Our school year is off to a terrific start. It is feeling so lovely to be back into a routine. The kids are both really enjoying school and making new friends. I just love hearing bits and pieces of their days.

Both kids have made some major transitions this year with school. Ben moved to a new school and Hannah is going to the same school, but four days a week instead of two.

Alex and I spent much of the summer mulling over the decision to have Ben repeat Kindergarten, and ended up deciding to go that route. There were a number of factors, as I’m sure one would imagine, and the biggest being Ben’s age. He has a late May birthday, so he’s on the very young end of the spectrum. One of the many Covid implications of childhood is that there were a lot of kids held back from Kindergarten in the 2020-2021 school year, so now the class that is entering first grade this year is SO OLD, which makes Ben extra young.

In any case, we wanted to make sure his foundation was solid and set him up for success, rather than move him into first grade if he wasn’t ready. So, here we are, back in Kindergarten! Ben is totally on board with the decision and was happy to have the opportunity to play more in his class – as it turns out, there’s not much playtime in school once you leave Kindergarten.

As a family, we are loving his new school. It’s just a “normal” public school, but it is a much better fit for our family. Ben is making so many new friends, comes home speaking in Spanish {there are a lot of Spanish-speaking kids at his school and he’s picking it up from them} and is so willing to share about his day and seems to be fitting right in. We’re so happy.

Hannah had a harder transition to school than we expected, given she’s in the same school and has the same teachers. She’s really missing her special “mama/Hannah time,” so I’m working really hard to make sure that we have an extra special Friday together. During the school week I’m making a big effort to spend one-on-one time with both kids, though it’s really tricky.

When she’s at school, though, she is thriving and she just loves it. She’s making new friends and enjoying further cultivating friendships from the last school year. This girl is so excited for snow – she’s going to have the best winter. Hannah goes to an outdoor forest school. They’re outside rain, sun or snow!

For me, I am feeling such a sense of calm and routine and predictability that I’ve lacked probably for the last 6.5+ years. I am finally feeling like I’m not frantically trying to squeeze in my most basic weekly tasks and am able to dive deeper into projects and relationships and spend some time with myself.

One major implication for us all is the amount of driving we’re doing. I’m driving nearly 100 miles a day, shuttling the kids to and from school. I wasn’t sure what that would feel like, and it is definitely exhausting, but I’m building up stamina for it. We’re only three weeks in and I am happy to report that I’m really enjoying the drives. It helps that our drive is so gorgeous, especially with the changing colors. I have found some incredible kids podcasts, and I’ve been enjoying my own podcasts and I just love listening to books on Audible. I don’t have cell service for the middle part of my drive, so I can tell you I’m not filling my time up with conversations with friends or family!

My fingers are crossed that things continue to feel settled as the school year chugs along. We’ll see how my feelings about the drive change as the snow starts flying……. Thank goodness for good winter tires, which I’ll be putting on in a few weeks!

Trip to Bend, Oregon

After a wonderful school-free week in Leavenworth we packed up the old Subaru and headed south to Bend, Oregon! Bend has been on our list for a while, especially hearing from so many friends how much they love the town. Bend is known for its mountain biking trails and easy access to the outdoors. It’s located almost in the dead center of the state, just on the east edge of the Willamette National Forest.

We really didn’t know what to expect from our trip or Bend. The city reminded us so much of a flatter, more friendly Seattle, but mixed with a little bit of Minneapolis and midwest lake culture.

The Deschutes River runs right through the middle of the city and provided a lovely lazy river type afternoon activity for us to beat the heat. We rented kayaks and had a blast exploring.

Ohhh the food in Bend. Our good friend Lauren absolutely adores Bend and she sent us so many of her favorite spots. Her recommendations left nothing to be desired and we ate SO well.

We had expected this to be a very active trip for us. Our first night away Ben got sick and we weren’t sure if it was a stomach bug or something he had eaten. Whatever it was zapped his energy for the duration of the trip and he just didn’t have much stamina, making it tricky to walk or bike very far. {Now that we’ve all gotten the stomach bug, we know that’s what it was….}

Alex got out for a long 34-mile ride and I took Brooks on two really lovely runs by the river.

As a family, we went out and biked a fun trail together. It was a nice mix of some rolling hills and a great introduction to biking over rocks. Ben really pushed through and did awesome, despite lacking a ton of energy. Alex used the tow strap to pull him up the trail and then he really sent it on his own back down. Hannah was the absolute best cheerleader!

We also hit the pump track one day – I had never biked a pump track before and it was quite fun!

Our biggest adventure for the trip was heading to Crater Lake National Park. It was incredible. Crater Lake is nearly 2,000 feet deep and is the site of a collapsed volcano.

The lake itself is so incredibly blue. It is breathtaking.

We had hoped to do some hiking nearby, but it was still so snow-covered that almost no trails were open yet. So, we drove around about 1/4 of the rim drive, got some great views and visited the gift shop and then headed back to Bend.

Mount Bachelor is a hop, skip and a jump away from Bend. We made a quick trip over there for lunch one day.

It was so fun to take the kids on a scenic summer chair lift ride. We couldn’t believe how much snow there still was at Mt. Bachelor.

The views of all of the volcanoes were magnificent!

Another big highlight for our trip was our visit to the High Desert Museum. It was so well done.

The raptor show was incredible. We saw hawks, turkey vultures and falcons free flying – literally right over our heads. They were so close we had to duck or they would have flown into us. Ben and Hannah were so mesmerized – Hannah especially loved it.

We really enjoyed hanging out in Bend. It was fun to be able to walk and bike to a wide variety of restaurants and cafes and just to explore a new city. The best part was just being together as a family and having a new adventure.

Seattle Day!

The kids and I hadn’t been back to Seattle since we moved away last summer. During our first week of summer vacation we made the pilgrimage back to the Emerald City to visit our old stomping grounds.

I have been having some significant issues with my car lately, including a recall for an airbag issue, and was able to drop it off at the dealer while we were in Seattle. After we got my car sorted out, we headed straight for the zoo! Despite being tremendously patient at the car dealership, that is not an adjective I’d use to describe them at the zoo. I’m not quite sure what was going on, but overall, the zoo was surprisingly not a highlight!

Until my cousin Jonathan {and baby Ray!} showed up, that is! He snapped these kids out of their funk and we had a great time. He is just the best – we all adore him. We rode the carousel, the kids got to pick out new stuffies {a giant tiger for Ben and another flamingo for Hannah – her other flamingo needed a brother} and enjoyed the butterfly exhibit. It was really fun being tourists at the zoo.

Next up on our Seattle list was Madison Park Beach. I swung through my favorite cafe nearby for some much needed lunch and coffee before we set up shop on the beach. The kids were in their element having some free-play in the sand.

I couldn’t believe it when Ben called out “this is teacher Shannon’s school!” – he went there as a one and two-year old. Hannah did online preschool with Teacher Shannon, but never got to go in person due to Covid.

Our last stops were in our old neighborhood. We drove past our old house – the kids were so happy to be on our old street. The new owners swapped out the front door – it’s now yellow, and the yard has become quite overgrown.

We were all ready for some ice cream. It was so fun to visit our old favorite ice cream window in our old neighborhood. Molly Moons is just delicious.

On our walk to the park we passed by Ben’s old Montessori school from when he was three. He just loved that school.

I had arranged with some of our good friends who live in our old neighborhood to stop by the park while we were there. Ben and his friend Ali are just the sweetest – they ran so hard and gave each other the biggest of hugs when we arrived. Sadly I didn’t get any pictures of Ben and his friends.

We had a really nice time catching up with old friends, having a picnic in the park with food from one of our absolute favorite Seattle restaurants and enjoying the Seattle sunshine.

We had a wonderful day visiting some of our favorite spots from when we lived in the city. That said, I don’t miss living in Seattle with kids one tiny little bit. I was quickly reminded of the everyday stressors of city living and am so, so, so very happy that we ditched the city. But – I’ll always be happy to visit! 🙂

Ben is SIX!

And just like that, he is SIX years old! What an absolute blast these last six years have been. Ben is such a remarkable kiddo and it has been so fun celebrating him. {NOTE: oops! I scheduled this incorrectly and it looks like it never published! Ben’s birthday was just over a month ago.}

Ben’s stats:

  • Weight: 43 pounds {33rd percentile}
  • Height: about 45.5 inches {50th percentile}
  • Clothing size: kids small (6/7)
  • Shoe size: kids 12
  • Number of teeth lost: 0
  • Favorite foods: crackers, pasta, cheese sticks, artichokes, ramen, tomato soup
  • Favorite activities: playing outside, picking wildflowers, climbing, running, riding his bike and scooter, doing art projects, skiing, spending time with friends/family, jumping on the trampoline

This has been such a big year for Ben! He started kindergarten and officially moved to a new town and had to make all new friends. It was no sweat off his back – he is so loving and warm and makes friends everywhere he goes.

As with every year, Ben has really grown up tremendously. He’s starting to take on new responsibilities and be legitimately helpful, he’s learning to read, and he has become so independent.

Kindergarten has been such a mixed bag this year. He loves school and has made some wonderful friendships.

Ben’s love of wildflowers is still running strong. He just loves nature. We love to watch and feed the birds, go for hikes and bike rides and simply be outside. He’s been so involved in the creation of our garden.

Recently Ben got a new 20″ mountain bike. He was very intimidated by its large size and hated that it was gray (instead of pink, his favorite color). It took him a while to get over both elements, but now he’s crushing it. This summer, Ben is signed up for a few weeks of mountain bike camp and we plan on doing quite a lot of family rides.

Ben is still the super active kiddo he has always been. He’s turned into quite the swimmer, loves to bounce on the trampoline and practice front flips or do the monkey bars over and over again.

Biking and skiing, though, are at the top of his list. It was such a joy to watch his growth in skiing this year. He tried cross country skiing for the first time and ended up joining the local team. Downhill skiing became a true passion for him. He loves sneaking off the main run and ducking into the trees. Skiing is extra fun for him when he is doing it with friends.

He has the whole summer to look forward to and ride his bike. This year the Stevens Pass Bike Park is opening, so he’ll get to check that out for the first time. I think this is going to be a big year for athletics for him.

There are so many things I could picture Ben doing as an adult. He is so passionate about so much. One of his current passions is art – he loves to utilize the creative side of his brain. He’s so athletic and adventurous I could see him doing something with that, too.

The way Ben processes information and the connections he makes in life continue to blow my mind. He is a very deep thinker. The questions he asks are so thoughtful. Just recently he asked “why does the sky change colors for the sunrise and sunset, but not in the middle of the day?”

Ben is an exceptionally kind and thoughtful child. He’s very affectionate and is such a hugger. His relationships with friends and family members are extremely important to him. He loves to make cards for people and always wants his friends and family to feel special.

This last year has been a favorite for me. Five has been such a fun age for Ben. I have loved watching him grow up and become a bigger kid. I am so excited to see all the things he learns and figures out and becomes able to do this year as a six year old.

Our Garden!

For years and years I’ve wanted to plant a garden and grow flowers and produce. When we lived in Seattle we always knew that our house was temporary, so I never invested the time to make it happen. Now, we’re firmly planted and have plenty of space to work with for a garden.

As we’ve been living through a pandemic now for over two years it’s come to light that Alex and I really value self-sufficiency. It sure was tricky navigating those first months of Covid times, not knowing if there would be any flour or bananas at the store, and trying to stretch our groceries two weeks or more.

We learned a lot about our capabilities and creativities living through that and it’s been inspirational in planning this garden.

I have a lot of goals and hopes for the garden. I’m hopeful my kids will be invested in it, learn from it and take a lot of joy and pride from the work we put into it. I also hope that it’s a productive garden. I’m sure there will be some epic flops and we will learn a ton.

We aren’t set up to do this yet, but ultimately, I’d love to have some fruit trees and be able to freeze fruits and vegetables for the winter. Hannah asked me recently if we could make jam sometime – a resounding yes! was the answer.

I envision this year as a massive trial. We wanted to see how the space and size of the garden worked out and make sure we can maintain everything okay. Eventually I’d love to expand on it and maybe one day add some chickens. We’ve already learned so much from the process and it’s not even fully done yet. Close!

This year we’re growing some random produce – I ordered plant starts through Azure Standard, which is a bulk food delivery service we participate in. If you live in a rural community, this is a godsend. We planted a couple varieties of strawberries, bell peppers, tomatoes, squash and peas, along with green beans, watermelon and pumpkins.

During the beginning of the pandemic we built a couple of garden boxes, which we’ve now relocated into the garden enclosure. Those will be our flower boxes. We have tons of zinnias and dahlias, mixed with some lavender and other flowers to attract pollinators.

The creation of the garden has been a massive investment in time and a labor of love. It has been so much work. Alex and I both had our own parts in the process and it’s been really fun to execute on such a big project together.

Hannah, especially, has been eager to help out and be extremely involved. I think once it comes time to harvest, Ben will be right there. Hopefully waiting until everything is actually ready to be harvested, though! So far it’s been a wonderful family project and I’m hoping it will stay that way for years to come.

We have everything in the ground {!!!}, the irrigation is hooked up and working and all of the trellises are up and ready to support the plants as they need it. Now, we wait!

San Juan Island Camping Trip

Our summer schedule is in full swing and we’ve crossed another trip off our list already! Recently we went on our first family camping trip. The last time we camped was when Ben had just turned two and I was about 35 or 36 weeks pregnant with Hannah. Needless to say, we were not in a hurry to get back into a tent again.

This camping trip started as a school trip. Ben’s whole school was invited to go camping for three days on San Juan Island together. Our family rallied and geared up to attend. Early the morning of the trip, we were informed that it had officially been canceled due to the teachers testing positive for Covid. After taking our own Covid tests and connecting with some other families, we decided to move forward with the trip as it was originally planned.

Our travels took us over the mountains and right by a mama bear and her cub – our first sightings of the year!

About an hour into the drive Hannah got car sick. With nowhere to pull over immediately, we found ourselves with quite a mess to clean up. That was no fun! Pro tip: a gas station poncho works really well as a barrier between a kid and a wet car seat!

A definite highlight of our travel day was the ferry ride. It was a BLAST. We saw a bunch of their friends and they got to pal around with them while we enjoyed the ride.

The kids had the best time running around for hours and hours at the campsite as all the parents got set up. They made themselves at home in the campground and palled around with all the other kids.

Ben and Hannah stayed up extremely late both nights. It would have been impossible to get them to sleep on time with how light it was and the fact that kids were running around all over the place. Once it was finally dark, the kids curled up in their sleeping bags and were out like a light. They slept SO well. We all did, thankfully!

We really only had one full day on the island and it was chock full of adventures. Our first stop was the whale museum, where the school had organized a tour for us.

Next on the list was Lime Kiln Point State Park.We primarily stuck close to the coast and the lighthouse and tried to keep Ben from running on the rocks and falling off a cliff. Luckily, we were successful in that endeavor!

Ben and Hannah loved getting close to the waters edge and checking out the scenery. They found all sorts of crabs and barnacles and little sea creatures.

By this point, we were looking to find some space for the kids to run around, unrestricted and in a safer environment. It turned out, the perfect place exists: South Beach! South Beach is around two miles of costal shoreline and was just what we were looking for.

While I am so disappointed for the kids who were unable to come on the trip due to the cancelation, Alex and I were really happy that because of the cancelation, we could be more autonomous and didn’t have to stick to the schedule or with the group the whole time.

We had so much fun relaxing on the beach and letting the kids roam and play. They were both in their element and I think they really enjoyed the down time.

While we were at South Beach it was just our family. We enjoyed having some time and space to be on our own and catch up with the kids. As it turned out, about a dozen other families came on the trip, which I believe is close to half the number who were initially planning on attending.

We ended our day on the complete opposite end of the island in Roche Harbor at the sculpture park.

The sculpture park exceeded my expectations. It was expansive {over 20 acres!} and wild and engaging and whimsical.

Our trip came to a close officially the next morning when we packed up and headed home. It was so so lovely getting to see Ben and his classmates mixing it up and playing in a completely unstructured environment. Alex and I really enjoyed spending time with other families in the school.

Winthrop Trip!

This year we celebrated Ben’s birthday in Winthrop, which is a small mountain town in the Methow Valley, Washington. It’s located in the North Cascade mountains.

Winthrop is the Mecca for cross country skiing in the state. Their Nordic trails span the whole valley. I believe over 175 private land owners have agreed to have the trails cut through their property. These ski trails turn into biking/hiking trails in the summer. It’s absolutely incredible and unparalleled in Washington state.

We rented a charming cabin through Airbnb. Initially Ben kept saying how “boring” it was, but he quickly warmed to the quaint character of the small cabin and ended up loving it.

One major highlight of the trip for us was exploring the trails.

Alex and his friend Jeff went for a long, challenging ride one day. The rest of the time we did family rides on the flatter trails.

Each morning Alex and I traded off taking Brooks for a trail run, right from our front door. We have both been doing a lot of trail running lately and are really enjoying it.

Hannah is loving her pedal bike, but also takes a lot of joy in riding on the “shotgun” seat on Alex’s bike.

Our family bike rides were so, so lovely. We meandered through lush forests and along the Methow River, and wound our way through open ranch land with horses, deer and turkeys alongside us.

We ended up seeing three other families we’re very good friends with – two of whom live in Seattle and the other lives just down the road from us. It was such a treat for us to catch up with our Seattle friends – they are both families that were in our parent support group, PEPS, when Ben was born.

{Ben and Ian, his friend from school}
{Ben and Maya!}
{The kids and Cora! Ben and Cora’s late older brother, Finn, were in PEPS together. We were so happy to meet their new baby and see their new home in Winthrop on our trip!}

Our trip ended with the celebration of Ben’s sixth birthday!

We had the sweetest family day and enjoyed biking the pump track, going for a bike ride, eating cake and spending time outside together.

It certainly felt funny trading our touristy mountain town for another touristy mountain town in the same state. We sure did have a great time exploring, though. The region is absolutely stunning and I can’t wait to visit in the winter sometime.