Ben is FIVE!

Ben turned five on Memorial Day! Everyone keeps commenting on how FIVE is “such a big age.” And at first I really didn’t think much of it, but I feel like it’s such a turning point in childhood. Our sweet boy has hit that milestone – he’s officially five years old!

Ben’s stats:

  • Weight: around 34 pounds {as of late August – 20-30th percentile}
  • Height: about 42 inches {as of a couple months ago – 50-60th percentile}
  • Clothing size: 5T
  • Shoe size: size 11 {officially in “little kid sizes!}
  • Favorite foods: crackers, pasta, any type of cheese
  • Favorite activities: playing outside, picking wildflowers, climbing, running, riding his bike and scooter, doing art projects, playing pretend, building with blocks, reading stories….

Ben spent his whole fifth year of life living in a pandemic and I am amazed at how well he navigated the challenges.

Ben’s personality is quite dynamic. He is truly as sweet as they come. If Ben is in a great mood, there’s no one I’d rather be around more. He is extremely loving, compassionate and empathetic.

He builds relationships with kids and adults very quickly and is always the first to say hello, whether to a neighbor across the way, a friend as they come into school together, or a total stranger on the sidewalk or at the beach. Ben’s pre-kindergarten teacher mentioned how much this set the tone for the camaraderie in his class this year.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Ben’s stuffy, Teddy, in this post. Teddy goes everywhere with Ben.

Ben is also quite mercurial, though his personality, as of late, seems to be leveling out a bit more. He really wears his heart out on his sleeve.

I still consider Ben to be the most physically active child I’ve ever encountered, though now meeting more friends in the mountains, it sounds like he’ll be in good company here. Ben needs to run. He needs to climb, he needs to wiggle and fidget and move.

One of Ben’s absolute favorite things continues to be riding his bike. He is FAST. This is a huge confidence booster for him, too.

Alex has been taking Ben mountain biking at Ski Hill as often as possible and that’s been a really special bonding time for the two of them.

Skiing is another major love of Ben’s. He’s mastered the art of going down as fast as he possibly can… buttttt…. he has not figured out how to stop! I guess we’ll table that for next winter.

Currently, Ben wants to be a meteorologist when he grows up. He is so fascinated by weather and asks all the questions about storms and clouds and just wants to know everything. The way he processes things and his general curiosity amazes me.

Another major interest of Ben’s continues to be flowers and nature. He has such a knack for picking the most beautiful bouquets of wildflowers. And his memory! I can’t believe how well he remembers the names of the wildflowers.

Speaking of Ben’s memory, it is sharp. Don’t ever try to slide one past him. He’ll remember. We’re curious if he has a photographic memory, actually. The level of detail he can recall is unbelievable.

I can’t believe our sweetest boy will be starting kindergarten in the fall. It’s impossible to think of his birthday and not remember back to how things started with our 3 pound 3 ounce preemie. He’s overcome so much in these five short years and I’m so excited to watch him as a five year old!

Ben is one

Ben is two

Ben is three

Ben is four

PNW Adventure: Daffodils & Camano Island

Spring in Washington state means flowers, flowers, flowers! We are so fortunate to have a bounty of daffodils and tulips up in the northwest corner of the state in a little area called Skagit Valley.

The tulip festival, usually in April, draws a massive crowd, so we got ahead of it by making the trek up north for the daffodils in March instead. {I know, I know, I’m so late posting this, but it was such a special day I wanted to share it and save it for myself.}

The daffodils were exceptional, and the weather held out for us too! By some miracle, my flower loving child managed to fully restrain himself from picking a single daffodil.

After our flower excursion, we grabbed lunch and went to meet some of our dearest friends at Iverson Preserve, one of the rare sandy beaches on Camano Island.

Our friends, Carrie and Patrick, were both fully vaccinated at the time and it was our first “normal” feeling social experience in the pandemic. Carrie and Patrick were among our first friends when we moved to Seattle – Carrie was one of my bridesmaids and we all quickly became ski buddies, spending our pre-kid winter weekends chasing Patrick down the mountains. Kiddos, distance {they now live on Camano Island} and the pandemic have forced us to spend far less time together these last couple years.

Nowadays, our oldest kiddos are a month apart in age, and their youngest is a year younger than Hannah. It was so special to get them together again and watch them run around at the beach.

One of Ben’s absolute favorite places is the beach, so combine that with flowers and it is a perfect day for our sweet boy. He really needed that win!

Hannah was really getting after it at the beach, too. She and Roslyn were tossing rocks into the approaching tide and trying very hard to keep their pant legs dry!

We finished our beach day with a bike ride/walk through the Hobbit Trail.

It was so fun – there were overgrown branches that created an almost tunnel-like fortress. People have left little gnomes and trolls along the trail, hidden for little eyes to discover.

We had such a special day seeing flowers, the beach, and most of all, our friends.

PNW Adventure: Scenic Beach

Mid-March I was ready to lose my mind with pandemic boredom and monotony. We spent most of the month of March in Seattle, so we planned a big/little day trip over to Hood Canal!

Our trip started with the kiddos first big ferry ride. This time we got to get out of the car and go inside the ferry. We took the ferry from downtown Seattle over to Bainbridge Island.

We made a quick stop in Bainbridge Island to pick up some always needed coffee and some delicious sandwiches at Hitchcock Deli.

Of course being March in the Pacific Northwest we knew the odds were against a perfectly sunny day {though it was the day before} and we prepared for rain. And rain is what we got.

Despite the wet weather we had a blast. The beach was perfect. And the rain kept everyone else away.

I couldn’t believe how many oyster shells we found. They were spectacularly beautiful and provided such a lovely variety.

The kids absolutely loved Scenic Beach and really just had the time of their lives. They couldn’t care less it was pouring and we were soaked {even though they were in full rain suits!}

We’d love to go back on a clear day to see what’s beyond the fog.

April in The Mountains

Unexpectedly, we ended up spending almost the entire month of April in the mountains at our home outside of Leavenworth. I couldn’t have asked for a better time or better weather. We had the absolute best time watching late winter turn into spring in the mountains.

We arrived at the end of March to celebrate my birthday. Gosh, what a wonderful day it was. I got to enjoy coffee on the deck while the littles played outside, then we ventured into town for the most amazing hike.

I had never hiked up For the Boys at Ski Hill before, but it’s a legitimate hike {and mountain bike trail!} and it was perfect! We enjoyed the wildflowers, compliant children with hiking stamina and incredible views from the top.

Ben and Hannah were really into Easter this year. One of my favorite things we did was decorate eggs with homemade dye.

The snow still blanketed our yard the first week of April, but that didn’t stop us from pulling out the water table and ordering a trampoline for the kids.

Quickly after the snow melted, Ben’s blue truck became the focus of many adventures for Ben and Hannah. It’s no secret I loathed that truck last year, but now that Hannah is older and not terrified of it I adore it. It has been absolutely adorable watching those two sweeties go for rides together – Ben will pull up, open Hannah’s door for her and help her in, then take her for a ride. It’s like they’re playing “grown up.”

Alex took the week off for Ben’s spring break, which was such a treat to have a little more flexibility with his schedule {he did end up having a few obligations and had to make a trip back into Seattle one day} and more time with the kids during the day.

One of my favorite days during spring break was our trip into town. We took the kids to the pump track at Enchantment Park, then walked into town for lunch at Munchen Haus and ice cream from Whistlepunk.

Miraculously, both Alex and I were able to get our Covid-19 vaccines in early April. He opted for Moderna and I got Johnson & Johnson. We’re feeling so grateful to be fully-vaccinated.

Mid-way through our stint in the mountains my dad came for a visit!

It was extra special getting to see him after nearly a year and a half of going without. The kids adored spending time with him and we made so many memories.

After spending almost a month in the mountains, we only made it a couple days back in Seattle before deciding to take the plunge to make the move a bit sooner!

Hannah is 2-3/4!

Hannie girl is really rounding the corner on turning 3! I’m over a month late in posting this, so she’s really going on 2.85. She’s the sweetest most nurturing little girl, yet so tenacious and full of fire and force. It has been so much fun watching her come into herself. What a personality she has!

Hannah’s 2 – 3/4 stats:

  • Weight: I have no idea
  • Length: 37.5″ {90th percentile}
  • Clothing 4T
  • Shoe size: toddler size 7
  • Number of teeth: 20
  • Favorite foods: pickles, cookies, blackberries, strawberries, chickpeas, oatmeal
  • Least favorite foods: beef, most vegetables
  • Favorite things/activities: playing with her dollhouse, watching her Kindle, playing with her “kiddos,” 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 is extremely strong-willed and fiercely independent and has figured out how to express herself quite well. She wants to do *everything* “my own self” and is quite persistent in figuring things out.

Since she was a baby, Hannah has been quite timid and angsty. She’s never really warmed up to really anyone outside our immediate household. I can see she’s starting to turn the corner ever so slightly. We’ve had some new relationships recently and as time marches on, Hannah has begun becoming a little more comfortable with other adults and kids.

Lately Hannah has been getting very into music. She loves to watch different kids singing shows on her Kindle and will randomly break into song – usually The Wheels on the Bus or Baa Baa Black Sheep. She loves Skinnamarink and listening to her playlist in the car.

Hannah is our little “mini mama” and continues to be exceptionally nurturing. She loves taking care of her “kiddos,” which can be anything from her dolls to her stuffs, to a rock to a sticker. She’s quick to check on someone who is feeling upset and offer a “ohh, I’m sorry you’re upset!”

She also loves to be my helper. She’s always the first to jump in and ask if she can help bake or cook something and prefers to be the one to operate the washing machine. Hannah has figured out how to hang up shirts on a hanger and loves to have her own responsibilities.

Our girl is turning into quite the athlete. She absolutely loves skiing and is a terrific and spirited dancer and little gymnast. We recently got a trampoline and it’s been a blast watching her figure that out. She has impressive climbing skills and really enjoyed playing t-ball and soccer. She hasn’t had a ton of scooter or bike time lately, so I’m hoping to change that as spring weather is here to stay.

Watching Hannah’s relationship with her brother bloom has been one of the sweetest parts of parenting lately. These two sweet peas are the best of friends. Hannah misses her brother tremendously when he’s at school and rushes to give him a hug at pickup.

The toddler years with Hannah have been an absolute joy so far. Hannah is tremendously expressive, sweet and loving and I can hardly believe she’ll be turning three before we know it!

We Moved to the Mountains!

I can’t imagine this will come as too much of a surprise to anyone, but we moved to our mountain house! With everything going on, plus getting a new computer I haven’t figured out yet, I haven’t stayed on top of the blog. Here’s my attempt at catching up!

Long story short, the kids and I are getting settled out here in the mountains and Alex is doing a bit of back and forth to Seattle. He’s at the tail end of clearing out the house and getting it ready to sell in early June.

We realized quite quickly after we had spent six months in the mountains at the beginning of the pandemic then transitioned back to Seattle that we all were significantly happier in the mountains.

We’ve been planning the move for several months now and held off until spring so Ben could (almost) finish out his school year in Seattle. We were all beyond ready to make the move so we pulled the plug and bumped our move date up by about six weeks.

It’s a little funny moving to a house we already “live” in. Our mountain house, now our home, was set up from day one to be lived in.

Over the last five or six months we’ve been going through our Seattle house and eliminating as much as we possibly. It’s been no easy feat. The merging of two houses worth of stuff is mind boggling. Our closets are bursting at the seams.

Conveniently, we’re days (weeks?) away from breaking ground on a garage with a guesthouse. We’re able to bring all of our kitchen utensils and supplies and we’ll have plenty of storage once the garage is finished.

All four of us are over the moon about starting our new, permanent life here in our mountain paradise.

Our home is located in an unincorporated town outside of Leavenworth, Washington. Leavenworth is an unbelievably charming Bavarian-themed town, nestled in the Cascade Mountains. We’re quite removed from the tourism and are quietly surrounded by ponderosa pines, epic views and a close-knit community of around 1,000 people.

The nearest major grocery store is in town (Leavenworth), about 25 minutes away. Costco and Target are about an hour away. Ben will begin Kindergarten this fall in a literal two-room schoolhouse. It’s going to be quite a change, but one we’re mostly used to at this point.

The mountains have been at the center of our life since we moved out to Seattle in 2008. I just never expected it would be possible to settle or find work here, nor did I imagine how at home it would feel. It’s absolutely perfect.

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!