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!

2020 Recap… A Year in Review

2020 has been the year I don’t think any of us expected it to be. I certainly didn’t. We’re leaving 2020 behind, and I know many of us are eager for a new year and hopefully a fresh outlook.

The year started out with an abundance of visitors at The Lodge. It felt like we had a different family with us every weekend last winter. I just loved seeing all of the life and joy inside our house and having the opportunity to share our home with our friends and family.

Ben powered through his first year of ski school and absolutely loved it! By the end of the season he was comfortable taking the chairlift and was just starting to show us that he might be ready to ski more independently.

We spent as much time as possible in the mountains last winter. Since Ben was only in school three half days a week I’d usually take the kids up after he finished school on Thursdays and we’d return on Monday afternoons. It was so wonderful, but honestly, so freaking exhausting and just crazy.

It was very hard on us all to be changing houses every 3-4 days. We never felt settled. It felt so worth it, though, to be able to go break away from the darkest winter on record in Seattle and be in the snowy Cascade mountains. The winter was so, so, so, so good, but so, so draining and just tough, too.

Just after Valentine’s Day {Ben’s and my favorite holiday!} Alex’s family came for a visit. We had been SO excited to host our nephews, and of course Alex’s sister, our brother in-law and Alex’s parents, and have our first big family gathering with the kids. I have such fond memories of Ben, Nico and Hannah playing together.

We all know what came next. The pandemic. We live in Seattle, so we were a week or two ahead of much of the rest of the country in the start of the initial coronavirus scare. It was terrifying at the onset with how little we knew about the virus.

Alex’s family was still with us when the first coronavirus death was announced in Kirkland, Washington. Just a few days after they departed, overnight we decided to pull Ben out of school and hunker down in the mountains and ride things out there. Alex’s employer was one of the first major companies to announce work-from-home orders, which Alex is still under, so it seemed like the best choice was to get out of the city.

The kids and I had the absolute best time exploring in nature all spring. I vacillated between being quite anxious about the uncertainty of the pandemic to being so amazingly grateful for all that we have. We baked. The kids painted rainbows to hang in the window to remind us “everything will be okay.” Ben learned how to ride his two-wheeler. We did all the things. At home.

Every morning I took the kids for a walk. I’d share all the things I was feeling grateful for that morning. We’d pay attention to the branches of the trees and watch for buds or other signs of spring. For seven weeks the kids and I never got into a car.

Ben developed the sweetest, most profound love of widlflowers and nature this spring.

As the spring went on, my Achilles injury healed, Alex did physical therapy for his knee injury and we were able to get moving again. He bought a mountain bike and I made friends with a neighbor who happens to be a fantastic mountain running buddy.

The summer was spent outside. Once things started opening up in May we felt comfortable venturing out for little adventures here and there. We found new hiking trails, discovered off-the-beaten-path beaches, and started to really feel more like locals.

Around the time Ben turned four, Alex realized he needed to make a job change. He is still with his company and in the same role, just jumped over to a new team. The impact has been significant. Most days I find myself pausing to listen to my husband play with our children at a time when pre-pandemic he would have otherwise been at work. His present job has allowed him a much better balance of work and family life.

Most afternoons were spent in our yard, running through the sprinklers and the splash pad, picking cherry tomatoes for the lizard who lives near the swing set in our yard, watering the dahlia plants that never grew, or playing at “the beach” – the big sandy area near my garden. Mid-summer Hannah turned two and rounded out our last “quarantine birthday” for the family.

Alex’s parents came to stay for about five weeks at the tail end of our extended time at The Lodge. The time with them was so unbelievably special and I’m so fortunate for all of us that we had that amount of time together. We did so much hiking, had a ton of beach mornings and the kids had a chance to just play with their grandparents for weeks on end.

We took a few regional day-trips during the summer. During Ben’s birthday week we ventured out to Chelan and had a really fun beach day. For Hannah’s birthday we drove out to Winthrop and got to explore the charming town. To close out the summer we went to Whidbey Island so the kids could explore the ocean a bit.

September came and we moved back to Seattle so Ben could begin pre-kindergarten in person. We’re so unbelievably thankful he has been able to be at school in person this year. He absolutely loves school, his teacher and his friends. He’s also a pro at mask-wearing.

Hannah started co-op preschool online this fall. I was really skeptical about how it would work and, while it took a few weeks, she adores her school time too. It breaks my heart that she’s really never had in-person playtime with other kids, but I’m going to hold onto what she does have right now.

We spent as many weekends as possible at The Lodge this fall.

Given the circumstances, our fall has been pretty good. Hannah and I have been getting out more and more on little adventures locally and we’ve all settled into a routine. We’re continuing to feel claustrophobic and like we’re constantly tripping over each other at our house in Seattle.

The holidays have been filled with mixed emotions. This year one of the strongest emotions I’ve felt regularly is an overwhelming sense of gratitude. We’re missing our family and friends terribly, but finding creative ways to connect has brought us tremendous joy.

Our Christmas was extra special and filled with love and memory making.

We’re closing out 2020 with a bunch of skiing! The kids are loving it, so excited and doing amazing at our local ski hill.

2020 has been a year to remember. It’s been a year filled with challenges for us all, my family is no different. It’s also been a year filled with hidden blessings. Alex being able to work remotely has been one of the biggest gifts to our family. It is so heartwarming, helpful and special to have him home and involved with the kids during the day. The family time we’ve had this last year has led to the sweetest, most loving bond between Ben and Hannah. 2020 will go down as the year we completely re-imagined our life, our family and our future. Happy New Year!!!

I LOVE going back to look at our previous year-end recaps. It’s funny how much I forget from year-to-year. It’s also fascinating to see the transition change from 2015 to 2016 when we started having kids. Man, these first few years of parenthood are filled with joy and are so brutally hard at the same time. All the feels.

Christmas 2020

As with much of the rest of the world, our Christmas was a bit quiet and low-key. Despite not being together in person with family or friends, our holiday was very, very special.

Ben and Hannah are at such a fun age for all of the holiday hoopla and were really into everything Christmas-related this year.

Knowing that our holiday would look different this year and that we wouldn’t be going out and doing Christmas things or baking a bunch of cookies put a bit of a damper on my enthusiasm this year. I just never felt fully in the Christmas spirit. Nevertheless, we had an absolutely lovely Christmas.

One of my favorite traditions, which I think will end this year, has been to cut down a tree from our forest to use as a Christmas tree. We don’t really want to be cutting down trees in forests anymore, so that’ll change next year. In any case, there was a beautiful 8-foot tree growing into our driveway that either had to move or come down. Alas, it became our Christmas tree!

Ben and Hannah were so into the process of retrieving the tree and Hannah was actually helpful in carrying it back down the driveway toward the house.

Ben’s time to shine came with the decorations. He was SO into it. So was Hannah. This was her first year really not being a baby and she was loving every second of every aspect of the Christmas season. Ben was a pro and knew just what to do.

It warms my heart opening up our boxes of Christmas decorations, particularly the ornaments. We’ve received so many memorable ornaments that have become extremely special throughout the years. My friend Carrie was shining so brightly in our decorations – since 2010 she’s been slowly adding to our collection, always complete with a note that takes me down memory lane.

One of my absolute favorite Christmas traditions is baking a tremendous, over-the-top number of cookies and bringing them to our neighbors and friends around the holidays. With the pandemic we decided to skip that this year. Instead of baking up a storm we whipped up a batch of M&M cookies and sugar cookies {I use this recipe for the cookies and this one for the frosting. You’re welcome.}.

{There is Hannah, just licking the powdered sugar off the counter and eating it….}

The kids had a really special time decorating their sugar cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve also marks our nephew, Nico’s birthday! This year he turned four. We had a virtual superhero birthday party with him to celebrate.

We are usually with Alex’s family for Christmas. Our brother-in law, Alberto, who grew up in Northern Italy, generally makes a massive pan of lasagna for Christmas Eve and Nico’s birthday. This year since we weren’t together I bravely asked for the recipe and decided to give it a go!

I think this might be the 9th Christmas that Alex has made cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. Occasionally we do orange rolls too, but this year we stuck with the classic. The kids love to help him. Hannie was instrumental in the frosting.

Christmas morning was oh-so-special with the kids. Seeing the magic and merriment through their eyes was just precious.

By some miracle the kids slept in until 5:30 – we were sure our eldest would be up no later than 3 a.m. and were pleasantly surprised to find out he slept until his normal wake-up time.

We loved watching them open their stockings and see the big gifts that we opted to not wrap {they both got big cozy chairs, Hannah got a doll house and Ben got a set of wooden castle building blocks}.

One of our goals with holiday gifts this year was to buy the kids just a few open-ended toys that fostered pretend play.

I think we hit the nail right square on the head. The absolute best part of Christmas for me was watching how independently they played with their new toys, and now, a week later, how they are still loving their toys and playing together with them. It has been so fun to see what they come up with.

A big gift for Alex and me this year was getting our Nordic skate skis a few weeks ago. My mom was kind enough to get me a lesson, which was so helpful in putting a few pieces together. I think Alex and I are going to absolutely *love* skate skiing. We’ve now been a few times, separately, and are finding our groove. Now it’ll be great once we can go together! {I don’t think either one of us is quite confident to pull the kids in the ski trailer while skate skiing quite yet, which would allow us to go simultaneously…. soon, though.}

{I was classic skiing with the kids here}

We’ve been sledding a few times, skiing as much as possible and just getting out to play in the snow whenever we can. The kids love shoveling the deck, following animal tracks in the fresh snow and Hannah is now a pro “mountain climber” on the plow piles in our yard.

Our time out here at The Lodge has been so dreamy. It’s going to be really hard to leave to go back to Seattle after being here for so long. We feel so, so unbelievably grateful to be settled here, enjoying winter in the mountains. Wishing you well as we ease into the new year!

Pandemic: Weeks 37, 38 & 39

It feels really strange to keep track of the pandemic “weeks” these days. It just feels like normal life at this point. Someday I’ll be curious to look back on this time and I’d love to remember how many weeks we were living in the middle of a pandemic. For now, I am struggling to keep up with all the things, but the blog is getting pushed further and further down the list.

In any case, Washington is still very much under lockdown. We feel so unbelievably fortunate to have our health right now and to be surrounded by the comfort our immediate family. We know so many families who are in different situations, and to you, we send our love.

The week before Thanksgiving was spent in Seattle. We have been finding it is only becoming more challenging to be in the city during the pandemic. Despite the difficulties, I’m getting into a groove with Hannah during the day and finding places I feel comfortable going with her.

Getting the kids outside every day is something that’s really important to me, so we started doing lantern walks in the evenings. Last winter I recalled “Christmas light walks” saved my sanity during these dark weeks. There’s really no agenda – we just get our flashlights and go for a walk in the neighborhood.

I got the kids rain pants this year, for the first time ever, so there’s virtually no excuse for not going outside. It’s remarkable how big of a difference being prepared for the weather can be. Having proper gear is a game changer.

I’m reading the book “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather” right now, which is a story of a Swedish woman raising her children in Indiana. She chronicles the vast differences and the importance to the Swedes of outdoor exploration time.

We’re also getting more comfortable this fall with being inside and staying home a bit more.

Hannah still has virtual preschool twice a week and she absolutely loves it. It’s a really special time for her and despite it being remote, I am so glad we stuck with it. She’s learning and she has the opportunity to connect with her teachers, see “her friends” and have someone else facilitating part of her day.

We’ve been doing quite a lot of art projects during Hannah’s school time and that translates into a request for more later on. It’s been fun to put my creativity to the test and see what we can come up with.

This year we spent the week of Thanksgiving at The Lodge, together as a family of four. We watched the snow fall, sat in front of many crackling fires, visited the horses across the street, walked around a deserted Leavenworth and read all the books and did all the puzzles.

Our relaxing week together as a family was so lovely. Alex took the week off and the kids were ecstatic.

The week was very low-key, though we did get out a bit. One quiet day I really was craving a “normal” feeling outing, so we popped into town on a Monday morning, only to find Leavenworth to be a ghost town {perfect!}. We ordered a coffee then were able to remove our masks to drink it and walk around town safely, without hardly even seeing another person. It was such a treat.

The playgrounds are open now in Leavenworth so we stopped there and had it all to ourselves. The kids had so much fun, and I think Alex had fun pretending to be a kid again too.

Alex and I had been chomping at the bit to try “skate” cross country skiing. There are two different styles of Nordic skiing – skate and classic. We’ve only ever done classic. We love it and we thought we might love skate skiing even more. Now we’re geared up and gave it a humble first attempt and I think we’ll be hooked!

One of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions is doing a turkey trot 5K run. This year, of course, there were no formally organized turkey trots, so we did our own! It was so, so very lovely. One of the highlights of my day.

I love cooking Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey and all the fixings. This year we had a pared down version. We did do a turkey but I took a few of my normal side dishes off the menu.

Our Thanksgiving Day was very quiet and while we were feeling quite sad to not be with extended family, it was a really lovely day just as a family of four. We found ways to make the day extra special for us all. I think Hannah’s favorite part was the pie!

Because Ben’s school was virtual the week following Thanksgiving we had some bonus time at The Lodge! His school opted to go virtual to add as a buffer for families traveling or gathering for the holiday.

As the week went on we were all less and less dedicated to the virtual meetings and the activities on Seesaw. It was so tricky to squeeze in play time, get outside and have meals and flexibility with all of the assignments. If I was ever a homeschool mom we wouldn’t ever get to any formal schooling!

Early in the week we just needed to get out of the house, so I took the kids to Lake Wenatchee State Park. We had the whole place to ourselves, as we often do this time of year.

That outing turned a rough-start-to-the-week into a fantastic rest-of-the-week.

All good things come to an end, just as our nearly two-week stint at The Lodge did. We spent an unusually sunny weekend in Seattle before Ben headed back to school on Monday.

The weekend was lovely and filled with fun family time outside – we made it to the zoo and had a couple of extra special family trips to the park in our neighborhood. We also got stuff done – I went to the doctor to get a skin check and we got new snow tires installed on my car, and of course, we decorated the house for Christmas.

In baking-related news, I started baking bread again. Alex requested white bread for his post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. I’m officially hooked on making sandwich loaves. Now I just need to experiment with some wheat bread variations. Oh, and we need to get my mixer fixed because the motor burned out making so much bread! Oops.

Here’s to another week….. we’re so close to the winter solstice and the days getting longer again!