Thankful

Thursday


Thankful.
This sight gets me a little emotional. Not because he's oh so cute (well...) but because during the holidays it seems to be my instinct to reflect. Like a migrating bird that flies to a new destination, my mind starts to take stock of our life.

It seems like yesterday we were trying to survive a year long layoff, before the flood of layoffs that occurred all over our country - we were one of the first. It felt so shameful and so hopeless at times. It's a feeling that will forever be etched on my heart, a feeling I wouldn't wish on anyone - the struggle, and with kids...during the holidays. Ugh.

So when I look at this little guy, wrapped in a cozy blanket I feel overwhelmed with gratitude. Our drafty windows are just a reminder that we have a home. Our shared bedrooms are one of the reasons our kids share an unspoken language. A whole chicken will forever look like dinner and soup the next day because I learned how to stretch every, single bit of food we had. And when the kids come to visit and innocently ask "where's all your stuff?"...it reminds me how truly thankful I am that we have all that we need.


There is always purpose...

Wednesday


All of the cliches about motherhood exist for one reason. Because they're true.
It is amazing and wonderful. 
It is also painfully redundant and many times unsatisfying.

I want a sign above my door that reads:

"Welcome to the Department of Redundancy Department"

The truth is that some days I wanna punch myself in the face. I want to wear my noise cancelling headphones throughout the ENTIRE day, and sometimes when I look at the clock in the morning my first thought is to calculate how much longer until they go back to bed. 

Don't judge me.

As fast as I write those painfully honest words (and expose myself to massive criticism), I smile thinking about the 20 minutes I spent sharpening pencils with my little man today. He probably peed his diaper when he heard the 'roar' of the pencil sharpener for the first time and I am proud to say that I am responsible for bringing that much excitement to his life.

We spent 20 minutes sharpening every last pencil in the tin for big brother and big sister. He was pumped. He was squealing, screaming, gasping with excitement and got quite bossy telling me that I could NOT help. 
"Mine. Yots and yots!"
(lots and lots of pencils)

So, I watched and took pictures to document his first ever pencil sharpening moment. It was fun, and sweet and reminded me that even in the smallest moments there is purpose for me being here. I am teaching him, encouraging him and stepping back to give him the independence he craves. We are together, and I am so very lucky to get to be with this sweet boy, kissing him and squeezing those chubby little legs every single day.

Even after 3 kids, I am reminded on days like these that although the "amazing moments" are usually outnumbered by "those other moments", there is still purpose. There will always be ridiculously simple moments like sharpening pencils, to remind me that there is purpose in what I'm doing here as a mom.

There is always purpose.

Daytripping: Red Top Lookout

Monday


As always, our day trip location was unplanned as we got onto I-90 but thanks to the WTA's amazing website search engine we found a really awesome spot: Red Top Lookout.

I checked the following boxes; kid friendly, less than 3 miles, Snoqualmie region.

Red Top Lookout is a fire lookout built in 1952, still operational with 360 degree views of the Stuart Range, Teanaway Ridge, Chelan and Entiat Mountains, Mount Rainier, and even Mount Adams on a clear daty. 

One of the coolest parts of this short 1.5 mile hike is that the lookout is within view from the very beginning! This was especially great for our kids because their excitement was at an all time high from the very start. They truly enjoy the journey every time we day trip, but this time they were high pitched, chatty-chatty the entire way up. I'm sure the wildlife heard us coming from far away. 
....yeah, this lasted about 2 minutes. Literally.

Honesty forces me to say that we are not avid hikers, expert hikers, experienced hikers or anything of the sort. We are two parents, three kids and we often joke that we're breaking down like 2 old jalopies in a junkyard, but are determined to rally (or fake it) for our kids sake. We were once athletic, so this helps. I only say this because after being in the car for an hour an half, the first 2 minutes of this hike felt like some sort of fitness assessment that I was failing miserably.

It's steep. It's steep, but short, and once we stretched our legs everything was fine. The wind did howl like mad and if you have long hair I'd advise you put that under a hat or something. The rocky switchbacks are gravelly but certainly wide enough to be safe with kids in tow.
(the wind I mentioned earlier...it was no joke)
(cutest little cliffside crapper we've ever seen - poor little guy thought it was a house)
The views were absolutely out of this world. On this particular day the clouds were here and there and it had rained part of our drive, then it was sunny and that weather was playing out in the distance as we watched from the top of the trail. At the lookout, the landscape was pretty unforgiving with sharp cliff edges, so my eyes were transfixed on my kids quite honestly. I was nervous at the top. Sadly, the lookout was closed (it was a holiday) so the closest we could get was the stairs...but even so, all the effort was well worth it. There really aren't words to describe such beauty.
On the other side is a CLIFF. I am still dying to see the inside, another day.
That's my family, not ants.
I never, ever, want to see him that high, next to a cliff, ever again.

I think our kids thought they were on top of the world. It felt so high, and so amazing.

(*disclaimer* not a cliff, not even close, just my camera position.)
The sun rays in the picture above were very real - no trickery there. The weather on this day was completely nuts, sunny then cloudy, then sun rays the entire hike. It was heavenly.

Here's my 2 cents if you decide to go on this adventure:
The drive, while sort of long from the Seattle area, was very pretty. I-90 has many things to see that entertain even the tiniest of passengers such as, waterfalls, reservoirs, animal overpasses and underpasses, fields of farm animals, trains and plenty more.
As always I recommend the Snoqualmie Summit as the last really decent bathroom stop, seriously.
Because cell service is no guarantee, I always take snapshots with my phone of all the directions and trail info from the WTA site just in case, and in many cases, this has saved us! I can rely on photos or paper...never cell service.
Keep a close eye for the tiny brown fire service road sign...its small and off of a very fast 2 lane highway. Once you exit the highway be prepared for a scenic, bumpy, sometimes narrow, safe...then scary...then safe drive up to the top. There's a vault toilet at the parking lot (doesn't look like a parking lot but pretty obvious that's where you park) which is better than no toilet, but refer back to my first advice...Snoqualmie Summit. Once you start the hike there is a very cute "cliffside crapper" if you get desperate. And that's about it. Dress warm, because it was sunny when we started and much colder once we got moving - remember you will be at 5360 ft elevation.

WTA website: www.wta.org

*Side note* at the end of our hike we did see fairly fresh bear poop at the adjoining trail so we booked it to the car. I know this doesn't frighten some people but our 2 year old is an absolute gong show and most always sounds like some sort of faulty siren - I'd rather not startle a bear and be forced to decide which child I like the best if you know what I mean.

Getting back to basics

Monday


This summer I feel like I'm constantly battling my kids about screen time. I find myself calling them to a meeting point and just staring at them with my arms out to my sides with the look that says:

"what is up with you guys?" 

They of course think I am:
* Nuts
* Mean
* Old

Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. Maybe, I want my kids to be creative and not just little iBrats. (sorry Apple) So, I challenged them. Figure out something to do, something that doesn't require batteries or electricity.

(*sigh*)
Finally. They just needed a towel and a little imagination.

Does anyone else feel this way? Somebody asked me the other day what were the essential things that made a great summer from my childhood. My answer was:
* a hose
* a rope
* a bike
* a skateboard
* a popsicle

We were the generation that watched MacGyver. That guy could make a bomb out of a tampon and some chewing gum and never mess up his mullet. If we couldn't figure out how to have fun in the summertime...there was something wrong with us. We just didn't have elaborate needs.

All I hear around here in whiny desperate voices is "where's my charger?"
I wanna hand them a glass of orange juice and respond 'charge up baby, because I'm kicking you outside'.

MacGyver. Channel your inner MacGyver. Who's with me?

Wild and Free

Monday


One would think he had been caged up for the last week the way he tore down the beach with an endless amount of energy, wild and free! I would love to know what was playing in his mind - or maybe it was nothing at all. Maybe the unbridled joy of having such an immense amount of space to be free was the fuel that propelled him one mile down and one mile back screaming with delight.


I saw his little body slow down to a stop as he began to take notice of his surroundings. I saw him huff and puff and take in big, deep breaths of ocean air. He followed the flight of the birds around him and eventually came down to earth as he realized the sound of the waves crashing beside him.


We probably all need this kind of morning. A vast space of calm to be alone in before the world wakes up and our minds take over. Despite our age or our positions in life, we all deserve to run wild, to explore the world around us and to preserve the balance in our lives. 


Beach combing at low tide

Saturday

Do you think they were having fun? People probably thought this was their first time at a beach...especially wearing their BOGS boots - but it was one of our low tide days on the Puget Sound and barnacles can be sharp!

Watching these two time their jumps and help one another across slippery barnacled rocks at low tide made me feel hopeful. The night before had been rough with fighting and misunderstandings. We decided that it was time for a little love and respect refresher for our kiddos who used to roll around on the ground together giggling uncontrollably. 

Today was one of a few low tide days of -.7 (not as remarkable as -2 or -3 but still a great day to explore). We spent the day at the Mukilteo Lighthouse Beach, carefully lifting rocks to see who was living beneath. Today's treasures included multiple sea anenome, star fish, crabs, hermit crabs, fish and some 'unknowns". These three were having a serious meeting of the minds over something that had attached itself to a rock and kind of looked like a prehistoric bug.  In the little tide pool we found some hermit crabs, one of which was so tiny I mistook it for a pebble!

With the ferry terminal just north of the beach there was a consistent set of waves to splash around in. It was absolutely serene. Today was so easy to pack and plan for - SPF 50 (it was 90 degrees), a few towels, a tidal pool field guide and shoes that could go in the water. We limited ourselves to 3 hours to avoid any toddler meltdowns and kept everyone hydrated. It was so easy.


I can't lie, getting these guys out of the water and off the beach to go home was pretty rough. 
This day is going to be a hard one to beat!

Useful links to plan a beach combing day like this:

Tide chart for Puget Sound:
http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/noaatidepredictions/NOAATidesFacade.jsp?Stationid=9447130

Download a tidal pool field guide here:



Have fun!

Alone time & "keepers"

Wednesday


Alone time. We all need it, regardless of our age, our circumstance or our station in life.
For me, this week has been testing my patience at every front. Our toddler has a virus that is kicking his little buns, our older kids are having school fatigue that manifests itself in bickering and snotty looks, our house is torn apart as we try to find a flooring solution (a whole 'nother story no thanks to toxic wood from an unnamed massive wood flooring supplier) and the hubs and I are just worn down.

Today, though challenged again, I am grateful that I was able to take off last night for some much needed alone time. I grabbed a coffee, good music and drove to the salt water. Salt water cures all I swear. I can still smell it. I was lucky to get to enjoy an amazing PNW sunset, alone with my (uninterrupted) thoughts at the Mukilteo Ferry Docks.


As I walked back to my car to start heading home, this sign on the keepers house struck me.
It's not as if its unique in any way - anybody whose seen a lighthouse has seen the 'keepers house', but when I saw it it made me smirk and I heard myself say "hmph - aren't we all" (you know like a crazy person).


I regained my composure (silencing the crazy), but then I started to think on that somewhat sarcastic sentiment, and you know what? We are all "keepers". It resonated with me because I have children and as any parent knows, we are keepers - we are responsible for their safety, their health, their bright shining souls - just as a keeper of a lighthouse.

And, while I say that as a parent it resonated, I thought further on that, and as school has been nearing an end I have had an overwhelming emotion that I'm trying to figure out how to express for our teachers. We (my husband and I) are super blessed to have our kids being taught and cared for by some of the most thoughtful, compassionate and truly wonderful people. We are all "keepers".

Who else (if there's anybody out there :) do you consider to be a "keeper"? 
Or what do you consider yourself to be a "keeper" of?





PNW Family Adventure : Mirror Lake

Monday


The results are back from my informal poll and hands down, this has been voted our favorite family hike yet! Destination: Mirror Lake, (Washington).

Almost every weekend we head out on an adventure - not always knowing where, just packed and ready for anything. I am usually riding shotgun with a coffee and scrolling through the 
Washington Trails Association website for somewhere new to us. 

I realize that the 'no plan', plan, doesn't work for everyone, but with the WTA website search capabilities it has worked really well for us.
*disclaimer: this no plan thing doesn't always sit well with the hubs, but I muster up a nice smile and whisper "just roll with it, honey" and wink - most of the time it works.


As you can see from the picture above, we indeed have a toddler in tow. 

He's only 2. 

This makes it a little more challenging to find a suitable place where the 'bigs' can have fun and the little guy can still hang. Because of the fact that he's the size of a four year old, we too, always have to keep in mind that we will undoubtedly have to carry him in, or out...and at 40lbs...that's a burner for anyone.

Mirror Lake was a perfect hike for us because it is only 2+ miles. It's located off of I-90 just after Snoqualmie Pass at exit 62. You can find more information at this link:

Here's our real world summary of this outting;
Once we exited I-90 and turned onto the dirt road, we were a little surprised at how long the additional 6 mile drive felt. I knew our friends who were following were cursing my name (heehee #sorrynotsorry). 

To only say that it is a dirt road is comical! 
It's a rough, bouncy, dirty, dusty, drive SLOW, drive next to what seems like a cliff to me, scare the **** out of your kiddo on the cliffside window, 6 miles.

The major tease, was when we passed "Lost Lake" boat launch and thought we had arrived! Ha!
This moment was only topped by the realization that the .5 mile, steep rocky road to the trailhead was in fact, wayyyy harder than the actual hike in total. Just our 2 cents. 

The hike however was a blast. Our toddler hiked just fine in his little canvas tennis shoes the entire way without any help (except to climb over big downed trees and over the small river/creek for safety). Our big kids had a great time spotting wildlife, taking pictures and inspecting all of the trees, twisted roots & dirt layers exposed on the side of the trail. They also felt pretty cool crossing over "the river" in the first picture above.  

The last push to the lake was a little steep, but their young legs handled it just fine, and at the end we all had the ultimate reward. Mirror Lake did not disappoint! It was heavenly.


Even though we were unprepared for swimming, we couldn't resist! The water was pretty cold but felt absolutely amazing. What a memory maker for our families. If you haven't been here yet, put it on your list. 

What to bring:
Snacks of course, plenty of water, a hiking stick if you have sore knees and a towel for sure just in case. SPF is always a good idea, however the trail is actually well shaded in most areas.


It was hard to tell who was having the better time. I looked around and truly could not tell. Our 11 year old's were chatting away and daring each other to jump in and our toddler was tearing his shirt and shoes off grunting and pointing to the water. I can't lie, I didn't want to leave.

There was a lot of whining and begging when we announced it was time to go. I think they could've stayed there all day and night. Maybe we'll have to camp out next time.

If you're trying to find an outdoor adventure for yourself or your family, the WTA website offers a great advanced searching option that makes it easy to find what works for your situation, even for wheelchair accessibility which doubles as a perfect option for new walkers too! 


The FLU

Monday


We got the flu this week, together.
It was a week from hell... you can imagine.

As we nursed each other through painful coughing fits, sweat drenched fevers and overall body breaking aches, we learned some things about one another.

We learned that we are both afraid of being sick because we both hate feeling out of control.
We each tried to hide this little fact...until we couldn't.
We both have a hard time letting others help us, even our own mom.
We are both embarrassed of showing fear because we think fear is weakness.
We trust each other.
We are more gentle than people think, especially with one another.


This week, she trusted me to take care of her through the flu, again.
This week, I had to let her take care of me too.

I looked back at this experience, shaking my head at all the madness and chaos and asked myself what in the world could the silver lining be of this week?

I had my answer as soon as I asked the question.
Our young family pulled together like a tightly wound team of champion sled dogs.
We have a "village" that made sure we had everything we needed.
We have health insurance and prescription medicine just a pharmacy visit away.


For me, personally, what I discovered is that I am grateful for this brave and gentle little girl.
I am so glad this horrible week is over, but mostly, I am happy that we are even closer than we were before. And that is surely a silver lining.
by mlekoshi