Hot Air Balloon

My gorgeous mom turned sixty back in March. To celebrate, she wanted to go up in a hot air balloon. We’ve been attempting a sunrise excursion since March, but our reservations kept getting canceled due to weather (read: we live in western Washington. It rains a lot.)

The birthday girl

The birthday girl

Finally, our efforts were rewarded and on the morning of the summer solstice (read: the earliest freaking sunrise of the year) we finally got to have our adventure.

Inflating the balloon

Inflating the balloon

The balloon was HUGE. When we finally all climbed aboard and lifted off it was the gentlest feeling you could imagine. You hardly noticed as you drifted higher and higher up in the air. Since you float with the wind you barely notice a breeze. The air feels still and calm and utterly peaceful.

Looking up, inside the balloon

Looking up, inside the balloon

We drifted over the beautiful farmlands and marshlands of Northwestern Washington, spotted early morning fishers on a small boat, watched a swan swim gracefully around a pond and heron take flight over a gentle river.

boaters and swan

boaters and swan

We could see Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker, the Seattle city skyline and Everett. We sailed over the gorgeous Skylight Farms owned by my friend and fellow PEPS mom. A year ago we had camped out at the farm and watched hot air balloons float by in the early morning; now we got to see it from the other point of view.

Beautiful farmlands

Beautiful farmlands

 

our shadow

our shadow

 

20140621_063412

Camping at Iron Creek Campground

A few weekends ago we loaded up the minivan to the max with a tent, sleeping bags, cooler and way too many changes of toddler pants and set a course for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. My parents had taken their camper and we joined up with them at Iron Creek campground. It was the first time we’ve taken the girls camping, other than a couple of backyard adventures.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we spent our days skipping rocks on the river, gazing at an enormous bald eagle nest, and hiking trails through the beautiful forest along the riverbank. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows for s’mores over the campfire and the kids stayed up way too late each night. All in all, I’d say they definitely got the full “camping” experience. They were exhausted but happy by the time we packed up and headed home on the third day.

Nature lessons with Daddy

Nature lessons with Daddy

 

Stump Sisters

Stump Sisters

 

Buddies

Buddies

 

Goofballs

Goofballs

 

Sticks are amazing!!!!!

Sticks are amazing!!!!!

 

Give her a shovel and some sand and she's the happiest kid in the world

Give her a shovel and some sand and she’s the happiest kid in the world

 

IMG_0328

 

IMG_0331

 

Silly

Silly

 

Great balance

Great balance

Still working on balance

Still working on balance

 

Squishy face

Squishy face

 

My awesome parents and their enormous dog

My awesome parents and their enormous dog

 

Looking for pumice a.k.a. "floaters"

Looking for pumice a.k.a. “floaters”

 

IMG_0415

 

IMG_0426

 

loving the water

loving the water

 

Caught in the act of filling her shoes with sand.

Caught in the act of filling her shoes with sand.

Seasons: A Guest Post

Good Morning friends! Today’s post is one I’m really excited to share with you. It is written by my friend Christi, who has a beautiful daughter (whom she lovingly refers to as Squish) just a few months younger than Eleanor. Christi has the most beautiful way with words and a positively inspiring way of frequently remember to stop and honor all that is lovely and happy and good in life and motherhood. You know those people who you look forward to seeing pop up in your Facebook feed because they always have something positive or funny to say and it just makes your whole day better when you see it? Yeah, that’s Christi. So, without further ado, I give you this guest post by the very talented Mrs. Christi Payne:

Seasons

There are four beautiful seasons in Utah; fall, spring, summer and winter. Each season has the two counterparts, times when you’re absolutely overwhelmed by the magnificence of it all and times when you’re just overwhelmed. The summers get very hot and the winters get very cold and somewhere in between scraping the car with wet shoes and having a broken heater it’s easy to think, “I’m done with winter. I wish it was summer.” That’s the thing with the seasons; they are constantly changing and with each change there is new beauty and new challenges.

This is how I view motherhood except with one factor; you don’t get to go back next year and relive these lovely seasons, they’re gone. It’s like experiencing the magic of winter; the lights under the snow, the stillness, the silence, gloves, candles, visible breath, shivering, snowflakes and pink cheeks but you only get this once. That’s right, one magic season per child and then it’s done. On the sidelines you will have other mothers telling you how much you should dread the next season or how tired they are of the current season. You should ignore them. They’re missing it. They aren’t seeing the beauty of the ice crystalizing over the water in freezing temperatures. They aren’t seeing the sparkle.

I’ll never look down to see my sweet Squish meeting my gaze, smiling and breastfeeding. I will never see her face after she walks for the first time, so proud and clapping. I will never ever see that again. Those times have passed and I’ll look upon them with such beauty I don’t think I’ll ever experience anything more sacred than those moments.

 We are in a new season now, toddlerhood! It comes with all of the unfairness of them being mobile, verbal and completely unreasonable. We’ve dubbed the most recent meltdown at Target a “squishmare.” It’s like a nightmare, only you’re awake, your toddler is screaming and everyone that can sees you swears they’ll never have a toddler like that (or ever). But I LOVE it. Walking out of the store thinking, “how would it feel to want something this bad?” It’s just incredible.

This is what I missed the first six months of her life; I was just waiting for the next season, the change, the BIG milestone that had to happen. I was too busy recovering from an emergency c-section, counting wet diapers, pumping, counting feeds, making doctors’ appointments, checking weights, checking temps that I missed it. I missed all the magic of her first few months. I have no memory of me sitting with her and smelling her little newborn feet or feeling her warm face on my chest. None. My chances to have those feeling and memories are zero. Gone, just like that, I missed the astonishment of my newborn season. Somewhere in between being a new mom and being fatigued I forgot to be amazed at the miracle of this little life. I was too focused on the hard, the other side. I messed up and that’s the piece of advice I would give all new mommies; don’t miss the magic. Once you find it, it’s absolutely enchanting, addicting and life changing. 

Cherry Blossom Trees

Keeping in line with “things I meant to blog about but didn’t,” I just came across this huge folder of pictures from April that I meant to share with ya’ll. The Quad on the University of Washington campus has some gorgeous cherry blossom trees and I took the girls over to see them one day. The blooms were at the tail end of their peak, but still beautiful. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get a whole lot of pictures of the pretty flowers. My kids were too busy being absolutely adorable and stealing all the attention away from nature’s beauty.

IMG_0101

IMG_0105

IMG_0114

IMG_0117

IMG_0148

IMG_0138

IMG_0130

IMG_0132

IMG_0121

Memorial Day 2014

So, yes, I do realize that Memorial Day was a full month ago. I kept meaning to share these pictures from the day and never got around to it until now. So I give you: belated family photos of fun with Grandparents. (How’s that for alliteration?) Enjoy!

 

Collecting "treasure"

Collecting “treasure”

 

So many rocks. And each and every one that made it into the bucket got deemed "speshul."

So many rocks. And each and every one that made it into the bucket got deemed “speshul.”

 

Swingin'

Swingin’

 

 

We decided the bean plant Zoey gave me for Mother's Day needed a permanent home. We didn't have a good spot at our house, so my mom graciously agreed to become foster-bean-mom.

We decided the bean plant Zoey gave me for Mother’s Day needed a permanent home. We didn’t have a good spot at our house, so my mom graciously agreed to become foster-bean-mom.

 

Caterpillar!!

Caterpillar!!

 

Peeking at birdies

Peeking at birdies

 

My beautiful mom

My beautiful mom

 

Up in the fort

Up in the fort

 

Wheee!!

Wheee!!

 

And then, apparently, the lack of a nap caught up with this one. She couldn't get in the van to "go home" so she just laid down right next to it. Sounds legit.

And then, apparently, the lack of a nap caught up with this one. She couldn’t get in the van to “go home” so she just laid down right next to it.

A Good Dad

What is it, exactly, that defines a “good Dad?” Is it his punny jokes? His overprotective streak? The amount of time he spends with his children?

In my experience, it is a lot of little and not-so-little things that all add up. My dad is the absolute King of Puns. Seriously. This is not an exaggeration. He’s also the driving force behind my insatiable hunger for reading. He’s the inspiration behind much of my passion for science, feeding me a diet of Robert Heinlein books as bedtime stories, old Sci-Fi movies on Friday nights while mom was at work (think Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Fly, Godzilla, etc), and many hours spent outside with a telescope trying to spot stars and planets between all the tall trees around our home.

IMG_0313

He’s the one who taught me that the “requirements” listed for any given school assignment were really just a suggested minimum – more was always better.  He’s the one who taught me how to type on a typewriter, find a book using a card catalog (the real kind, with cards), and look up facts in an encyclopedia.

xmas 2009

My dad is the one (despite obvious futility) who always encouraged me to try to learn to catch a baseball, to throw a football, to toss a basketball (Toss? Is that what you do with a basketball? Clearly his efforts were wasted on me, but I appreciate them all the same). My dad is the one who always pushed me to do better, achieve more, climb higher.

BucaDiBeppo

He is also the one who taught me to never take myself too seriously, to always be able to laugh at myself. He’s the one who made me understand you can never have too many Husky sweatshirts. A good Mariner’s t-shirt and Seahawks jersey are also absolutely necessary wardrobe inclusions.

dad zoey xmas

He’s been a pinch-hit babysitter so many times when I needed to take myself to a doctor visit, making the one hour drive (each way) to our house without complaint. My dad was the one person I trusted to take care of Zoey for three days while I was in labor with Eleanor. He’s the guy who makes my eyes tear up when I witness the remarkable bond he and Zoey still share as a result of those three days.

IMG_0224

Dad, I want you to know: you did a good job. A great job, really. I don’t measure that by my own success or achievement. I measure it by all the things I remember you doing with me as a child that I now find myself reliving with my own children. I measure it by my love for you. I measure it by the knowledge that, never for one moment in my life have I ever doubted your love for me.

IMG_0113

Thanks for being you, Dad.

 

Flowers and Fruit

Last Thursday was our fourth anniversary. We like to celebrate each year by giving the “traditional” wedding gifts: paper the first year, cotton the second, leather the third. This year was fruit and/or flowers. I have to tell you, I have been waiting for this year. Seriously. I adore receiving flowers as a gift. Zach, however, is not overly fond of giving them. I think he just doesn’t see the point. They don’t last long, he says. To me, that kind of is the point. Their brevity makes them even more beautiful.

After racking my brain a bit, I got Zach a blueberry bush (already full of green little berries that we’ll get to eat this summer) and a book about growing fruit trees (something he has mentioned he would like to do).

While our anniversary was Thursday, our work schedules were such that we didn’t even get to see each other that day and we decided to celebrate on Friday. (In hindsight, it was an excellent decision, as I work at Seattle’s only level 1 trauma center and I was in a decidedly non-celebratory mood by the time I got home at midnight).

When Zach got home from work on Friday, he walked in with an enormous, gorgeous bouquet of flowers from Pike’s Place Market (my absolute favorite source of flowers).

Stargazer Lilies and Brown-Eyed Susans

Stargazer Lilies and Brown-Eyed Susans

 

I was thrilled with my gift. I was also further surprised when, half an hour later, Zach suddenly reappeared from another room with another bouquet of sweet peas.

Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas

They smelled heavenly! Little did I know that, half an hour later, yet another enormous bouquet would be presented to me, and a fourth bouquet half an hour after that.

White Irises and Snapdragons

White Irises and Snapdragons

 

Peonies and Cala Lilies

Peonies and Cala Lilies

Four big, beautiful, sweet-smelling, colorful bouquets. One for each year of our marriage.

Four years, four beautiful bouquets.

Four years, four beautiful bouquets.

I seriously married the best man in the world. Truly.

We set out for dinner at Palisade, one of the best restaurants in Seattle. After walking across an bridge over and indoor stream, we were seated by a window with a fantastic view of the Seattle city skyline, Mt. Rainier, the Puget Sound, Alki, the Olympic Mountain Range and various sailboats and ferries out on the water. It was breathtaking. Our table was sprinkled with red rose petals and there was a hand written card from the management, wishing us a happy anniversary.

Seattle skyline and Mt. Rainier

Seattle skyline and Mt. Rainier

We decided to splurge and order lobster, something we had only had once before on our honeymoon in Maui, at Mama’s Fish Shack. It. Was. Heavenly. Sooooooooo goood. We shared an entire bottle of wine, as well as manila clams, seared scallops, king salmon and, of course, the lobster.

Lobster. Om nom nom.

Lobster. Om nom nom.

I didn’t know what Zach had planned for after our luxurious dinner, just that it was a surprise. I knew the area he was taking me to (lower Queen Anne/Seattle Center) and wondered if we were headed to the Pacific Northwest Ballet or a movie showing for the Seattle International Film Festival. As it turned out, he took us to the Melting Pot for a dessert of chocolate fondue. Get it? Fruit? It was freaking delicious.

Every year my husband completely overwhelms me with the thoughtfulness and love he puts into our anniversary. It’s no wonder that, every year, I find I am ever more head-over-heels in love with him.