Winter is Here!

This winter feels a little more precarious than our previous winters in the mountains. We are experiencing an El Nino weather pattern this winter. It’s been much warmer than usual, as it is in much of the U.S.

We’re really lucky in that we have had two big snowstorms at our house. Because of that, we’ve been able to maintain our snowpack base. I would be so bummed if we didn’t have any snow right now!

It seems like the theme for this winter might be “get it while you can” – we’ll really have to take advantage of good snow while it’s available.

Ben and Hannah were so excited for the first snowstorm, which came on December 2nd, and they played outside all day. I think they were in and out of their snow gear 8 times that day. It was so fun!

Hannah goes to school outside and has been coming home filled with joy from fun in the snow, and also soaked on the outside. {PSA – Reima has the best gear for kiddos! Their snowsuits and mittens are *amazing* and actually keep kiddos dry!}

Alex is training and preparing for a big backcountry ski hut trip in March and he’s been out ski touring a few times already. Ski touring involves sticking “skins” to the bottom of your skis and skiing in a zig-zag up a mountain, removing the skins and then skiing down. It’s a great way to explore new terrain and have a lot more solitude than the resort can provide.

We’ve all been out for several Nordic ski days – our local trail system has been amazing and is basically the only place with snow! We feel so lucky this winter.

Our neighbors requested permission from a few property owners and ended up cutting a trail right out in our field. It’s a short loop {about .7 miles}, but so much fun to be able to ski right from our house.

We have been out for our first few family downhill skiing days and had so much fun! Ben and Hannah have a deep love of downhill skiing and it brings Alex and me such joy watching them ski and seeing how much they enjoy something we love so much, too.

Alex prepped and filled the ice rink a few weeks ago now. We’re still waiting for it to freeze. Our temperatures haven’t been getting or staying below freezing consistently enough. We felt like we had to just go for it this year and now we’re playing the waiting game. Hopefully next week will be a little colder.

Our family thrives in the winter and absolutely loves snow sports and snow play. We’re so excited for our collective favorite season and all that comes with it.

Please join us in doing your snow dances!

Happy winter!!

Thanksgiving in Illinois!

Typically we stay home for Thanksgiving and do our own thing. Occasionally we’ll have a family member come and join us for the holiday, but it’s usually just our family of four. This year, realizing we would otherwise not see Alex’s sister and her kids all year, we opted to visit them for Thanksgiving in Illinois.

We flew into Chicago and stayed with Alex’s sister in their new house the first night. Ben and Hannah had never been to the city of Chicago before, so it was fun to give them a little taste of a major metropolitan city.

Our first full day we ventured out and explored the neighborhood and had lunch at a famous Chicago-style deep dish pizza place, Lou Malnati’s.

After lunch we packed up and headed for the western suburbs to Alex’s parents house, where we stayed for the rest of the week. Hannah had never been to their house before and Ben hadn’t been there since he was 5 months old {we typically visit them at their lake house in Wisconsin}.

The kids, particularly Hannah, loved one of the parks nearby Grammy and Papa’s house because it had a zip-line.

We ventured across the river to a nature center to go on a little nature expedition one afternoon.

Thanksgiving we were able to keep up our tradition of doing a turkey trot – the kids “ran” {i.e. rode in a wagon} for the kids mile, though our nephew Nico ran the whole thing! And Alex and I ran the 4-mile trot, along with seemingly everyone in the town. There were so many people!

Ben and Hannah went to their first movie {Trolls 3} and got to cap off the night with Chuck-E-Cheese, a true Midwest experience!

While they were out on their excursion, Alex and I joined Alina and Alberto at Top Golf.

We had a nice time catching up with everyone – the kids loved seeing their cousins!

Girls trip to Park City!

I am still playing catch-up with the blog, so, about 6 weeks ago I was able to go on a wonderful girls weekend to Park City, Utah with my friend Carrie. Carrie was one of my first friends in Seattle – we met the winter of 2008-2009 when we were volunteering as ski instructors for an adaptive ski program. We hit it off and so did our then boyfriends, now husbands, and became fast friends. Carrie and Patrick are some of our dearest friends and some of our favorite people to ski with.

Carrie and I became mothers within a month of each other and since then, it’s been harder to get together. Our distance doesn’t help, either – now we live about 2 hours apart. I’m so happy we were able to take our weekend trip to catch up!

Park City is one of my favorite ski towns – I’ve been there many times in the winter, but hadn’t been there at any other time of year. The town itself is filled with fantastic restaurants – we ate SO well and had incredibly nourishing food.

We went for several really beautiful hikes. I love the aspen trees in Park City and Deer Valley – they’re so abundant and even when they’re bare, they’re just so striking.

One of the many benefits of traveling during a shoulder season {the time between the peak seasons} is that there are fewer people there and you often get little perks here and there. Shorter lines at the cafe, more desirable dinner times, and upgrades and reduced rates at the hotel were a few that we enjoyed. Our afternoon tea service was such a special treat.

The time together with Carrie was so special. It’s not that often I’m able to have several hours, let alone several days, to really, really connect with a girlfriend. We had so many deep and engaging conversations and also were able to revive some of our “glory day” memories and make new ones.

And we marked the trip by buying matching outfits. {Pro tip: the ribbed leggings from Athleta are *amazing*!}

I had been a bit worried about how I would do with the altitude, since it really affected me in Colorado. The week leading up to our Park City trip I cut back on my daily coffee intake, drank 2 gallons of water a day and tried to eat iron-rich foods. Some element of that helped – I continued to drink 2 gallons of water every day during the trip and I didn’t drink alcohol, and the altitude didn’t bother me at all! I felt amazing, actually, the whole trip.

Park City makes for a wonderful weekend away, and catching up with a very old friend is just the best.

Halloween 2023

This last Halloween was probably my favorite one yet! We truly had the best time. Our town goes all-out for Halloween and it is just SO fun.

Ben and Hannah are at such fun ages for all the kid stuff – it’s just the best. This summer we grew our own pumpkins that the kids got to carve into jack-o-lanterns.

I couldn’t resist baking up a batch of my favorite sugar cookies for Halloween. We have so much fun decorating and eating them!

It’s been a few years since Alex and I really dressed up in anything more creative than a witch hat. This year we got into it and dressed up as Waldo and Wenda from the “Where’s Waldo” books. We spent the evening walking around having people come up to us saying “I found you!”

Sweet Ben wanted to dress up this year as a jack-o-lantern and Hannah went as a fairy. We made her crown and her wand together – Ben was instrumental in the vision for the crown.

The businesses in our downtown participate in a collective trick-or-treat, which is really just so fun. All the kids come into town and get to do their first round of trick-or-treating together in an almost car-free zone.

From there, we met up with 5 or 6 families and took over an amazing local Mexican restaurant. The kids had so much fun – we got a kids table for them and both Ben and Hannah’s really good friends were there, so they had a blast.

We ended the evening with trick-or-treating in the neighborhood in our town. Many of the houses are completely decked out for Halloween and I think that adds to the vibe of the night.

Our group ebbed and flowed throughout the evening and the kids had so much fun and ended up with a mountain of candy. It was a really special and super fun Halloween this year!

Girls trip to Colorado Springs

Back in early October I took a trip with three of my closest girlfriends from high school. We all traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado for a long weekend. One of the girls was attending a medical conference there and invited us to join her. It was really easy for us all to say yes!

The four of us have a combined 10 children ranging in age from 3 to 11, and it’s been years since we’ve all had an uninterrupted conversation together in person. Not to mention they all live in Minnesota and I’m out here in Washington.

We packed our days pretty full of adventures and started off the trip by taking the cog railway up to the top of Pikes Peak.

The train ride was beautiful – the views were endless.

This was the first time I can remember being above 14,000 feet and boy did I feel the altitude! The gal from the mountains {that would be me} ended up having the hardest time with the altitude – I really struggled with it the whole trip, unfortunately.

We ended the day with a climb up 220ish stairs to Seven Falls, followed by our collective favorite dinner at the Seven Falls restaurant.

Another highlight of our trip was our visit to Garden of the Gods, a public park with majestic sandstone formations popping out of the earth.

Sprinkled into the rest of the trip was a lot of coffee, laughing, so much chatting, hiking and time re-connecting. It was really special. I’m so happy we were able to make this trip happen and I hope we can do another girls trip soon!

Fall 2023!

We’ve reached the time of the year where fall and winter seem to be overlapping. We are anxiously awaiting our first snowfall and are preparing to get our ice skating rink up and running. In the meantime, I’d love to share some highlights from this year’s fall – it’s been a truly wonderful season for our family.

The fall color this year was spectacular. The colors were so vivid and they seemed to last for weeks and weeks.

Our fall was dominated by Ben’s soccer schedule and Hannah’s broken leg.

We were able to throw some hiking into the mix, too, despite Hannah’s leg – just a few days before she got her cast off she ended up doing a bit of a trail run. In her cast. Yes, you read that right.

This was the first season that Ben played on a traveling soccer team. He absolutely loved it, and it turns out, when he’s focused and into it, he’s a really good soccer player!

By some parenting miracle Alex and I managed to use the secret parent code to plan a mountain bike ride juuuuust in case the stars aligned and neither one of our kids got sick on Indigenous Peoples Day, which they had school and Alex had off. Amazingly, no one was sick and we got our ride in – and we had the best time.

I’m a beginner and Alex is very much not. This trail was significantly more challenging than any ride I’ve ever done, mostly with the uphill {over 1,000 feet of climbing}. It was so, so fun, and the fall colors were magnificent.

The two of us also managed to get out for an absolutely incredible run to a not-so-hidden-anymore gem called Carne Mountain to relish in the beauty of the larch trees at their peak!

We had the best time and the views were out-of-this world – it truly feels other-worldly. Larch trees feel like something out of a Dr Seuss book – their spindles and unusual burnt-orange color. It was breathtaking being surrounded by thousands of larch trees.

My dad came for a visit in late-September and we had a wonderful time. We created our own Oktoberfest, watched Ben play soccer, took a chairlift ride up the mountain at Stevens Pass and enjoyed the natural wonders around us. My dad helped us buy and plant 19 new deciduous, native trees on our property, too. We are so excited to watch them grow!

Mid-October Alex’s parents came for a visit, as well. I was able to take them out on a big hike to Lake Valhalla, Stan helped Alex with a bunch of get-ready-for-winter projects, of course they played with the kids and Donna and Stan celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary.

We’ve gotten into such a wonderful cyclical seasonal rhythm in our mountain life, now that we’re feeling pretty settled here. I love so much about autumn, and one beautiful and natural element to me is putting everything to bed. Clearing out the garden, blowing out the irrigation lines, burning the last of the wood and pine needles and just getting ready to hunker down for our favorite time of the year. Winter – we’re ready for you!!

Hannah’s Broken Leg

Our summer came to what felt like an abrupt end when Hannah broke her leg.

She broke her tibia {shin bone} and it was a “spiral fracture” which is common among children under 6 years old. We had some friends over and another little girl accidentally did a cartwheel into Hannah and that’s how she broke her leg.

It’s been about 6 weeks since it happened and she is in the homestretch of life with a broken leg. Hooray!

The first ten days were incredibly difficult. Hannah was in tremendous pain for the first 24 hours and it felt like all of a sudden, with no warning, we brought home a new baby. No one was sleeping, she was crying, she was essentially helpless, we had a jealous older brother and a whole slew of medical appointments and our life was upended on a dime.

Little by little, especially with the help of her cast, we all adjusted to the new temporary normal. Once Hannah was able to walk with her cast on things turned around dramatically.

School has been an interesting experiment for Hannah in a variety of ways. It’s forced her to advocate for herself a little bit, which is hard for her to do outside of our family, and she’s had to really be adaptable and figure out how to do things differently.

We’ve been quite creative in order to allow her to go to school while keeping her cast clean and dry. I bought a set of 7 pairs of adult rainbow socks and those slip on over her cast to keep the cast and her toes clean. She has a little “walking shoe” that helps protect the bottom of the cast. Microfiber towels are also amazing for either wrapping her leg or allowing her to sit on a clean surface to keep her cast clean. And for baths, we got a plastic cast cover, so it’s been a somewhat smooth process to bathe her.

As I’m writing this, Hannah is two weeks into her shorter cast and is able to run, hop, very carefully jump in puddles and she’s even slowly ridden her scooter. She’s officially at the top of my list of most resilient people I know.

This girl is unstoppable and so inspiring. She has complained a total of zero times about how she had to miss out on the first 6 weeks of ballet or that she had to completely miss soccer season, both of which she was so looking forward to. There were plenty of opportunities for her to complain about how annoying having a cast is or that she wishes she didn’t have it on or any number of other things to complain about when you have a broken leg, but she hasn’t. At all. It’s remarkable.

I want to end by extending my gratitude to so, so very many people who were there to support us in the beginning. It truly felt like we had entered into a new ring of hell for a bit there, and I’m so happy to say we’re very far removed from that. Every text or phone call checking in, the play dates for Ben, the meal delivery, flowers and the thoughtful cards and gifts for Hannah {and Ben!} really brightened our spirits. We felt so supported and like we really had our village to lean on. Thank you!

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” —Leo Buscaglia

Back to School

Ben had his first day of first grade last week. He was so ready! Going into his first day, he knew about half of the kids in his class, and that included several of his really good friends.

I expected his first week back to be a little rocky, to be honest, and I’m really happy to report I was quite mistaken. It was super smooth! He’s off to a great start!

School for Hannah will be a little different this year. She’s going to the same school, but it’s a different program with different teachers and a totally different location. Her school will be 100% outside – the mornings will be a mix of preschoolers plus 5 and 6-year olds. At lunchtime, the little kiddos go home and then Hannah and the older kids stay for a more big-kid focused afternoon time.

It’s going to be a little tricky for the first month with her broken leg. I’m overjoyed to report that the transition is going SO smoothly and that her teachers are making incredible accommodations for her to ensure she is included and able to participate. She is really enjoying her new program and loves the afternoons with the big kids!

So far we are off to a GREAT start! Yay!!

The Enchantments!

After years of dreaming about getting out into The Enchantments, Alex and I finally checked it off the list! The Enchantments are a protected area in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington state. We’ve been planning and training for the thru-run for the last year and we were finally able to make it happen.

There are a few ways you can get into The Enchantments and none of them are easy. We opted to do the thru-run. The thru-run {or hike} is done in one day. The only other way to see all of the Enchantments is to win the lottery for a backpacking permit to camp, or do an out-and-back hike in one day.

The route we took was 20 miles with 5500+ feet of elevation gain and 7200 feet of elevation loss. This includes climbing up the notorious Aasgard Pass, which is basically a rocky minefield. I expected that Aasgard Pass would be challenging. It was brutal.

We started at the Stuart Lake Trailhead at 5:40 a.m. and made our way up to Colchuck Lake quickly. We’ve run to Colchuck before, so we knew what to expect for that segment of the run.

Once we got to Colchuck we were in uncharted territory – we had never gone further than the first iconic lake and we were almost to Aasgard Pass.

Thank heavens we were able to make it to the top of Aasgard Pass before the sun rose up that high so we could remain in the shade.

Alex loved the rocky scramble up the famed pass. I, on the other hand, did not. Sure, it felt very victorious making it up to the top, but it was grueling and trashed my hip flexors. There is just no easy way up. Not even close.

We saw a mama mountain goat and her baby! {They blend into the granite in the photo below – can you spot them?}

Once we summited Aasgard Pass we reached the gateway to the core of The Enchantments!

It felt as though we had climbed up a mountain pass and landed on another planet. It truly felt other-worldly.

The sheer beauty and the magnitude and the incredible uniqueness of the terrain and landscape are breathtaking and absolutely magnificent.

Once we were in the core, which is what everyone comes for, it was all relatively downhill or flat-ish. We followed the carins {little rock piles that mark the trail} and did our best to take it all in.

I love being up in the alpine. It was so worth the climb up Aasgard to be able to admire the calm beauty of the alpine lakes and the craggy mountains and the twisty, Dr Seuss-like larch trees.

Through The Enchantment core we passed several main lakes, each one as pristine and aquamarine as the last. We stopped a lot to refill water bottles as the temperature rose, and we managed to eat on-the-go. And of course we took all the pictures. Still, though, our mission that day was speed, for no other reason than we knew it was going to be extremely hot!

Alex took a dip in Snow Lake, which was the final lake, and we both fully refilled our water bottles, knowing we had a bit to go before the end.

The final descent to the car was both easier and harder than I expected. It was a really gradual loss of 7200 feet and it was runnable almost the entire way. We were planning for 18 miles and it ended up being 20 miles and also 102 degrees, almost fully sun exposed. It felt like it took forever. But, we did it!! It took us 6.5 hours of moving time and just over 8 hours of actual elapsed time.

I have a feeling we will be back one day to do it again one day! Hopefully our kids will join us at some point, too 🙂 Here’s to our next adventure!

Summer Garden

One of my personal joys of this summer has been our family garden. Last summer we Alex put in all the hard work to create the garden beds, install irrigation and build a fence to keep out the critters. This summer, we got to relish in amending the soil and planting our starts. The hardest part was constructing the trellising systems.

We learned quite a lot last year. One of our biggest lessons was to plant things we love to eat and focus our energy there. So, that’s exactly what we did. I planted a larger crop of tomatoes, tons of green beans, more pumpkins {for fun, not food}, and added lettuce and cucumbers to the mix.

Last summer we started with eight strawberry plants. Since then, they have spread so, so much and produced pint after pint of juicy berries early in the summer. Now that we’re to August the berries have relinquished quite a bit, but we’ve been delighted to notice they’re making quite the resurgence lately.

I spent some time amending the soil in our two garden boxes before planting our flowers this spring and we’re really reaping the rewards. One of the flower boxes is filled with flowers that attract pollinators, like bee balm. The kids love to say hello to our bee friends! We have zinnias galore, wispy cosmos and dwarf sunflowers that brighten everything up.

My most favorite part of the garden is going out together as a family and watching the kids enjoy the space, notice the growth, talk to the plants and harvest them. The absolute best, though, was Ben falling in love with the strawberries this summer.

We’re loving the bounty of this incredible experiment!