Water Therapy

You’d think a trip to the beach and hiking in the woods would have been enough for one day, but we just couldn’t get enough of the sunshine here in Seattle last Sunday. So after Ellie’s nap I herded the kids into the backyard. I could tell Zoey was feeling a bit overstimulated from all the activity that day, as she kept asking for hugs and wanting to crawl into my lap for snuggles. It was an astonishing seventy degrees outside by then, so I hosed off and set up the kids’ water table for it’s first use of the year. Zoey has always found water to be calming, soothing, mesmerizing, and I was hoping that swirling her hands and toys around in it for awhile would chill her brain out a bit. It worked like a charm.

 

The simple act of pouring water works magic for this child.

The simple act of pouring water works magic for this child.

 

Concentrating. Focusing.

Concentrating. Focusing.

 

Goofball.

Goofball.

 

When I asked her to look at me for a picture here, she replied "I'm paying attention to what I'm doing. I have to focus."

When I asked her to look at me for a picture here, she replied “I’m paying attention to what I’m doing. I have to focus.”

 

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This is Zoey's "I've been way too overstimulated today and it is exhausting" face.

This is Zoey’s “I’ve been way too overstimulated today and it is exhausting” face.

 

This is Zoey's "Mommy somehow tricked/bribed me into smiling a bit" face.

This is Zoey’s “Mommy somehow tricked/bribed me into smiling a bit” face.

 

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Enjoying the water every bit as much as her sister.

Enjoying the water every bit as much as her sister.

 

Don't you dare drink that, Eleanor.

Don’t you dare drink that, Eleanor.

 

Eyelashes for dayyyyzzz.

Eyelashes for dayyyyzzz.

 

I think she may be a water baby too.

I think she may be a water baby too.

 

 

 

Take a Hike

The second half of our trip to Carkeek Park on Sunday was spent playing on the playground and going for a mini-hike. When you drive to Carkeek, one minute you’re in the suburbs of Seattle and the next you find yourself on a windy road in the middle of a lush forest. For five minutes you are surrounded by the gorgeous greenery of the Pacific Northwest, feeling as though you’ve suddenly been transported to the forests surrounding Mt. Rainier. When I drive through there, I’m suddenly flooded with dozens upon dozens of memories of driving through similar forests in a motor home with my mom and brother. Those frequent camping trips throughout Western Washington are some of the best memories of my childhood and I find myself often yearning to be surrounded by trees as I was then.

These forests surround and are a large part of Carkeek Park. Throughout them and many hiking trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. The girls and I took a hike through a short loop (they are still toddlers, after all) before ending our morning at the park. The tall trees, warm sun filtering through, smell of salt water from the Puget Sound and smiles on my daughters’ faces filled every corner of my soul with a deep happiness. Since I find it hard to express in words the beauty of that day, here are some more pictures for you. Even they don’t do it justice.

"Oh Mommy! I hear something in the woods!" (Something like a group of giggling five year olds).

“Oh Mommy! I hear something in the woods!” (Something like a group of giggling five year olds).

 

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"Mommy, YOU have to tiptoe so you don't scare away anything!"

“Mommy, YOU have to tiptoe so you don’t scare away anything!”

 

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Silly sisters

Silly sisters

Life’s A Day at the Beach

The forecast for Sunday was gorgeous. Zach needed to do some work – preferably uninterrupted – at home, so I loaded the kids into the van and headed off to the beach. The “beach” here, of course, is actually the rocky Puget Sound, accessed via Carkeek Park. It was an absolutely perfect day to be there. Temps in the mid-60′s, barely a wisp of clouds in the sky, crystal clear view of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains across the Sound…I was definitely in my happy place. So were the kids, I think.

Olympic Mountain Range, Puget Sound and happy sailboats

Olympic Mountain Range, Puget Sound and happy sailboats

We decided to head straight for the waterfront as soon as we got there. We brought along the girls’ rain boots, shovels and sand pails for collecting “treasures” on the beach. Right off the bat, Zoey found a bunch of driftwood that someone had piled up in a fort-like way.

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On a mission

On a mission

 

Zoey wasn’t the least bit intimidated by the “ocean” and marched right out into it. Eleanor, never one to miss an opportunity to be just like big sister, quickly followed suit.

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While Zoey was entranced by the waves and all the treasures hiding beneath them, I think Eleanor could have spent all day just digging in the rocks and sand.

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When we finally headed back up toward the playground and grassy fields, we found that “The Bubble Man” was all set up and ready to entertain the masses of children swarming about him.

Bubble Man

Baby, You’ve Come So Far

On Wednesday I took Zoey to her weekly OT appointment. This time around, I told the therapist I wanted to spend some time talking about our specific goals for Zoey. She enthusiastically agreed because, as she put it, Zoey was pretty much meeting all the goals she’d had for her. While getting Zoey to eat is still a bit of a process, she has come a long way. Six months ago, we often had to hand-feed her almost every bite of every meal. Now she does most of the work herself, and just needs frequent reminders to focus and remember to keep taking bites and keep eating.

Her motor planning skills have come a long way as well. Back in December when she was first evaluated, Zoey would rarely get out of her bed by herself in the morning and, if she did, she would be trapped in her room, unable to open her bedroom door herself. Attempts to teach her to open her door were mostly met with crying and frustrated meltdowns. Now, Zoey jumps out of bed, opens her door and tiptoes across the hall to Kelsie’s room, opens that door and crawls in bed with Auntie. On Saturday, she tiptoed quietly downstairs, past Eleanor’s crib, and into our room to climb in bed with us for the very first time. It was great! She has also learned to open the refrigerator (most of the time) and jump with both feet.

In fact, Zoey has made advancements in nearly every aspect of her daily life over the last six months. My conversations with her are noticeably less scripted and more spontaneous. She is beginning to think up her own games to play, with imaginative scenarios, rather than just continually recycling scenarios Zach and I have created for her. She’ll even sing and dance on occasion and the other day Zoey initiated playing with another a girl her age at the park. I can’t even begin to tell you how huge that is.

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In light of all of this, we have made the decision (with her therapist’s blessing) to stop Zoey’s weekly occupational therapy sessions. We’re going to continue working on a lot of things at home, like body awareness and coping with frustration when trying something new. Zoey will also continue preschool four days a week so that her social skills will (hopefully) continue to improve. My little girl has come so, so far, and I am so incredibly proud.

While we drove to and from a well-child exam for Eleanor on Friday, Zoey wanted to listen to the Frozen soundtrack. (Of course she did). It was a beautiful sunny day so I decided to roll down the windows and crank up “Let It Go” super loud. Usually, Zoey listens to music at a quiet-to-moderate level and wears a blank, almost grumpy, look on her face as she struggles to keep up with processing the music as she hears it. Music, of course, can be quite complex and there’s a lot to process at once. I thought the loud music might just be too much for her, but I wanted to try anyway. Just to see. You can imagine my surprise when Zoey’s face broke out in a huge smile – like she just couldn’t contain it – and she sang along to every single word of “Let It Go.” Loudly. Twice.

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I’ll tell you, this mama’s heart just about burst with pride and joy. My brave, sweet Zoey girl. How amazing you are.

Better Late Than Never

We recently went through a brief period of wondering if we were experiencing Birth Control Failure Number 3. My reaction was something along the lines of:  “oh my god I might be pregnant please tell me I’m not pregnant again right now waaaaahhhh” with brief moments of “BAAAAAAYYYYBEEEEE!!”

Zach and I both want to have a couple more kids, just not quite yet. Maybe soon (ish). But not now. We have plenty of reasons to wait awhile longer. For one, I’m enjoying having my body belong to just me for a change; no supporting of another life in utero or through breastfeeding. All the calories is mine nom nom nom. Also, next time I give birth I’d really like to try to aim for it to happen any time other than the freaking hottest days of the hottest month of the freaking year. Just, you know, ideally. 

One of the biggest things this pregnancy scare (is that still what you call it when you’re married and already have two kids???) brought to light, however, is how much I really want to get my body in better shape before getting pregnant again. I had a really rough time of it with both pregnancies, and I’d like to try to do what I can to avoid that on the next go-’round. Numero uno on the list is improving my core strength (hopefully with the side effect of flattening the ol’ belly pooch a bit).

So I’m trying something I’ve never done before: exercising. (Commence snickering at my expense). I confess, I am downright lazy when it comes to exercise. While I never seem to sit down, either at work or home, I am also not one for physical exertion. I absolutely loathe sweating. It feels hot and prickly and stingy and all kinds of uncomfortable awfulness to me. I also cannot stand to be where anyone can watch me do any form of exercise. I can’t really explain why, other than that it makes me feel immensely self-conscious in a very bad way. I am uncoordinated, have never played a team sport in my life, don’t actually even know the rules to most sports, my arms are about as useful as a T-Rex’s, I have been known to sprain my ankles walking on flat pavement and my thighs burn just pushing the stroller up the moderately inclined single city block between our house and the donut shop. Exercise is not my friend.

But I’m doing it. I’m too late to catch the New Year’s Resolution bandwagon, but I’m jumping on anyway. I’m alternating what form of exercise I do each day in hopes that variety will help hold my interest and motivation. On Tuesday I did a relaxing home yoga routine. On Wednesday a pilates core strength dvd that kicked my butt and made everything hurt for days. On Saturday I went to a yoga class where 50 year old women were able to hold the poses with more grace and stamina than I could. But I’m still doing it. I’m aiming for every day, knowing that in reality that will (at best) equate to three or four days a week. Which is three or four days more per week than I’ve ever really done before, so I’m totally okay with that. I made myself a sticker reward calendar and everything. So pass the ibuprofen this way, because I’m totally doing this.

A Taste of Spring

A couple weeks ago, we got a brief preview of coming attractions from Mother Nature: a warm(ish) sunny afternoon. We answered the call and headed outside to play with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk Chalk

Sidewalk Chalk

Conspiring...

Conspiring…

"I found a snail friend!"

“I found a snail friend!”

Baby Snail

Baby Snail

"Cheeeeese!"

“Cheeeeese!”

This is what she does if I ask her to smile for a picture. I have no idea where she learned this one. It is pure Zoey.

This is what she does if I ask her to smile for a picture. I have no idea where she learned this one. It is pure Zoey.

"Look at my dance, mommy!"

“Look at my dance, mommy!”

She thinks she can do everything big sister does.

She thinks she can do everything big sister does.

Daddy is home from work!

Daddy is home from work!

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To My Mom On Her 60th Birthday

Dear Mom,

Today is your 60th birthday and I have a few things I wanted to tell you. Sit down first, because you’re getting kinda old and I don’t want any of this to shock you too much. (Yes, I can feel you glaring at me for that one, right through the computer. It was worth it.)

1) You are so much more beautiful than you know. I don’t know how you have looked in a mirror every day for sixty years and still don’t see what I do. I love it anytime anyone mentions that I resemble you in any way because you truly are  - and always have been – someone who turns heads when you walk into a room. You don’t notice, be we all do.

2) You are smart. Like really, super smart. You don’t seem to think so, but I don’t know many thirty year olds (much less sixty year olds) with the ability to look at a problem and see the solution as quickly as you do. Doesn’t matter what the problem is, you always know the answer. And you learn new things so fast, even though you seem to think you’re slowing down. Well mom, if you’re “slow” then the rest of us are barely moving. In fact, I think the only “dumb” thing I’ve ever heard you say is that you don’t consider yourself to be that smart.

3) You are unfailingly brave. I have never once, in my entire life, heard you say you thought there was something you couldn’t do. You’re never afraid to try new things (except maybe Indian food, but maybe that’s more of an educated decision than a fear). You took a sledgehammer to the kitchen walls and started remodeling days after having surgery. You’ve relentlessly landscaped every last inch of your one acre yard for three decades  - hauling rock, soil and beauty bark, downing trees, building fences and arbors – all without ever hiring a single worker. You walk into the rooms of your ICU patients and, no matter how dire the situation, your words, your stature, and your mannerisms convey a level of confidence and competence to patients, families and other nurses that is truly inspiring. You have saved more lives in your lifetime than anyone could possibly count or keep track of. I know the number must be in the thousands.

4) Speaking of inspiration, you have been mine for every day of my thirty years. Not only are you beautiful and smart and brave, but you are kind. You believe in putting good out into the world. You believe in making it a better place through your own actions and decisions. You have so much compassion for others, a level of empathy that so few have. You do not pity, you care and you help. And above all, you believe in others. You have believed in me every moment, and because of that, I learned to believe in myself. I have never doubted I could do anything I wanted to, be anyone I wanted to be, because you never doubted it.

So, these are just a few things I wanted to make sure you knew. Because, for every ounce of belief you have in me, I believe in you just as much. You are the person who taught me to be who I am and I am so grateful for that. I love you Mom. Happy Birthday.

(Now go blow out your candle so I can have some cake!)

90 Years

Today is my Grandma’s 90th birthday.

90th bday cake

She is the reason I spent the weekend in California, as we held a party in her honor on Sunday.

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Dorothy has raised three children, and now has eight grandchildren and has been blessed with eleven great-grandchildren (and one more currently cooking. No it’s not mine.) She has traveled all over the world and had amazing adventures. She has made sure that she has truly lived every day of the last ninety years, never letting anything get in the way of her zest for life. Here’s to you Grandma, and all the life you still have yet to live.

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A Taste of Freedom

Aaaaaaaand we’re back. Hello there. How are you? Yes, it has been over a month since I last posted anything. No, that was not intentional. Honestly? I was just plum tuckered out. Exhausted. And the first brain cells to give up the ghost are always the creative ones. (Not that I have many of those to begin with.) There was nothing particularly different or more demanding of my time going on, other than a few back to back colds, but I found myself just struggling to keep up with basic life each day. Maybe it’s this whole “endless winter” that has been sucking the life out of our entire country. Who knows? The important thing is that I am currently undergoing the perfect treatment. 

That’s right. As I type this (which is actually two days before you could be reading this. Hellloooo future!!) I am sitting in sunny Long Beach, California. Without kids. Yep, you read that right. For the first time ever, since becoming pregnant with Zoey, I am away on vacation without my children. And it rocks. 

Don’t get me wrong; I love my children dearly. They are my world, as anyone who reads this blog is well aware. But in almost four years (longer if you count pregnancy) I have never slept one single night away from them. I was overdue for a break. And, by default, that means Zach has never had to be the sole caregiver for even a twenty-four hour period. Ever. Now he has both kids, all to himself, for a little over forty-eight hours. And of course, he happened to acquire a cold at the same time. 

I almost feel sorry for him. Almost. But the excess Vitamin D I’m absorbing is making it hard for me to feel anything but deliriously happy. A lot of people told me I was going to miss the kids like crazy and not be able to sleep for worrying about how everything at home is going. Guess what? I slept great. I miss giving them a kiss at night and each morning, but I know I it’s a short trip. And I’m not worried in the slightest about how they will fare without me. Zach is an excellent father. He’s not “stepping into my shoes” while I’m gone. He has his own footprint on their lives and he’s very good at it. He’s their father, not a babysitter, and while the girls may miss me a bit, I’m sure they will be easily consoled and distracted by their Daddy. 

So thank you, honey, for giving me the gift of this much-needed break. Thank you for being our rock, for taking this on without so much as a blink of the eye.  You’re amazing. I’ll have (yet another) glass of wine in your honor. Cheers!