Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Project Complete

So, we had these portraits taken of the kids and we loved them (the kids and the photos). We used photos from this session as presents for the grandmothers at Christmas. I even had canvases of these shots printed for our house... MONTHS ago. I FINALLY got around to hanging them in our library and can't say how pleased I am with them there. Love seeing our kids' smiling faces whenever we walk down our stairs into the library. <3 p="">

Monday, June 29, 2015

Camping at Bay View State Park

This weekend marked our family's first camping trip for the year and we really couldn't have picked a better weekend or location. We went to Bay View State Park, which is just a bit more than an hour north of us in Mount Vernon. Last year, we drove waaaaaay down to Battleground, WA for a one-night camping trip and that was too much time in the car for the amount of time we spent camping. For this year, we opted to camp a bit closer to home and it really worked out nicely.

As soon as we got to the park, we were informed that because of  the hot/dry weather, anticipated winds, and possible lightning in the forecast, there was a ban on camp fires. My first thought was, "That makes sense." My second thought was, "Glad we have the camp stove." My third thought was, "So glad we bothered to haul 5 bundles of firewood up here just to bring it back home tomorrow." Oh well... minor in the big scheme of things.

We wound our way through the park to our campsite (site 47), unloaded the van, and set up camp. The site that we called home for the weekend was lovely and perfectly secluded. When we go camping, we prefer avoiding the feeling of being on display for the other people driving past us to get to their sites. (Note to selves: If we ever go back and 47 isn't available, try for lot 40.)

Setting up our campsite went quite smoothly, but also left us feeling sticky, sweaty, and hot. (It was 80 degrees and the afternoon was just getting started.) So, we donned our swimsuits and sunblock and headed to the nearby beach to splash in the Puget Sound and try our hands at flying kites... mostly hoping to have more success in the kite department than we did last summer at Seaside. We were completely shocked by how warm the water felt and very happily spent quite some time in the (murky but warm) water.

Annika enjoying the bay

Eric happily shocked by how warm the water was

Conor, our little fish

My loves

After we felt sufficiently waterlogged, we pulled out  the kites and had immediate success. The kids were thrilled with the rate at which the kites took to great heights and happily watched them dance in the sky. We were definitely not lacking in the wind department ... in fact, Annika's kite made two successful getaways. Once, she didn't maintain a strong enough grip, which lead to her kite flying over the small bluff and landing in a bit of a lagoon/protected inlet. Eric got the "Dad of the Year" award for wading out about 50 yards in waist-deep water to retrieve it. The second of our kite getaways happened when the string attached to Annika's kite snapped and whoosh - bye bye kite. This time, I clamored over the  bluff and went wading for the kite. Fortunately, the kite's tails floated, so it was easy to see exactly where I needed to go to retrieve it.

Eric and Conor getting the kite flying started

Conor at the helm

Mama and Annika post-swimming

Conor showing off his kite flying skills

Annika's portrait of Daddy and Mama
(like her finger's photobomb?)

Our pop-up shade tent was a God send... it was so windy, however,
that we had to take it down each time we weren't sitting in it

Annika and Conor working on a sand castle

Captain Annika of Kite Flight No. 1 at your service

Eventually, we were beached out and ready to head back to our campsite and start prepping dinner. Because of the campfire ban, Eric got creative (thank you, Mr. Engineer!); he removed the camp stove's legs and put the stove over the fire pit. Voila!! We had a "not breaking the rules but still feel like we have a camp fire" camp fire. (I married a brilliant man, people!!)

We cooked hot dogs over the fire and roasted marshmallows for s'mores as our dessert. How much more camping can it get??

The one drawback of not having an actual camp fire was no smoke = lots more bugs. Fortunately, we packed our citronella candles and they definitely helped keep the bugs at bay. As the kids ran around the campsite playing, Eric and I were able to play cribbage and gin rummy without too much bug interference. We'll take that as a win.

Annika enjoying her s'mores

Eric, the king of marshmallow roasting

See how pretty it is??

S'more boy

Conor and Daddy .... master marshmallow roasters

We even had wildlife encounters... this little critter was very
grateful that we dropped a few chips during snack time
Before long, it was time to hit the hay and call it a day. We were warned of a local fireworks display by our camping neighbor, so we were a bit nervous that the noise would keep us up (flashback to our Battleground camping trip... ugh!) but that wasn't the case. We did hear a few distant "pops" but nothing that was intrusively loud. Whew! 

The next morning, we awoke to another gorgeous day. I was hit with a sinus headache during the night (forgot to pack my allergy meds), but it wasn't bad enough to do too much damage to the morning. I popped some ibus and called it good. 

Eric made a lovely breakfast of pancakes (for the kids), scrambled eggs (for Eric and me), sausage, and fried potatoes (they were supposed to be for dinner but we couldn't find them in the cooler and figured we'd left them at home by accident). My man is quite the camping master chef!

After we ate, the kids ran around the campsite playing tag and blowing bubbles while Eric and I cleaned up the site and prepped for our return to civilization. The day before, I promised Conor that we could play at the big field at the end of our lane. So, we walked the 2 minutes down the road and played tag and Marco Polo for a bit. We needed to pick up Buca at his doggy hotel by noon and get the kids to the swimming pool by 2 for diving/swimming lessons, so once we burned off a bit of energy, we hopped into the van and headed back home. 

Good bye Bay View State Park. Thanks for the fun weekend.

Hello home! Hello laundry! Hello showers!

Annika and her amazing bubble hands

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Fabulous Father's Day

Wow! What a day this year's Father's Day turned into ... fun, but non-stop!

Eric suggested that we take the kids to the new Pixar movie "Inside Out" as part of our weekend plans. Great! We figured getting to the first show of the day made the most sense and getting there 25 minutes before the start time would be plenty of time ... we were so wrong! We wound up sitting in the 4th row of the theater, which was MUCH closer than we normally sit. Fortunately, it all worked out and we all enjoyed the movie. It was funny, touching, goofy, and insightful... what more can you expect from a Pixar movie??

After the movie, we went home for lunch, caught our breath for a few minutes, and then high tailed it to the pool for Annika's diving class and then swimming lessons for both kiddos. As soon as the kids were done with their lessons, we bolted for the family changing room, where we had the kids quickly shower and get dressed to have dinner at my brother's house. WHEW!!

Because there were MANY moving parts to the day (including our nephew and brother-in-law going to the Mariners game and my sister/nieces driving back from a wedding in Pullman), we initially weren't sure if the timing to have dinner together would work out, but it did! Everyone arrived within 20-ish minutes of each other. In fact, my sister and nieces pulled up to my brother's house just as we did. An added motivation to make the dinner plans work out was me being able to retrieve my car from my sister. Bonus. :)

We had a lovely and very relaxed dinner as an extended family. It gave my heart such joy to see our kids playing with so many of their cousins. I can't help but wonder if any of the day will stick with our kids as long-term memories, but I truly hope it does. As my parents' grandchildren grow into more and more independent people, getting everyone together will become increasingly difficult. We know they love our kids and vice versa, but having the ability to share air and take up the same space is the icing on top of the proverbial cake.

Troy, Emily, and Eric ... the guys are sharing a beer that Emily
brought home from her recent 3-month stint in Europe

Conor and Eric getting in a little frisbee time

Mama and Annika

Conor and Emily

Annika getting a big hug from Uncle Randy


Apparently, Robert still isn't too big to sit on his big sister's lap

Suzanne and Randy chillaxing

Mellow Anna sporting her dad's hat

Howdy, Kat!

"Conor, what're you doing?"
"Oh, just hangin' around with big cousin Robert."

Before I close this post, I am going to take a moment to tip my hat (please assume I'm wearing one) to my amazing partner in crime and a truly magnificent father. From the moment we found out that Annika was on her way into our lives, he has worn the "dad" badge with honor, integrity, and a wonderful sense of humor.

I couldn't ask for a better man to teach us what it means to be a dad and act as a role model for what a truly caring, responsible, fun, and loving man can and should be. Knowing that Conor has Eric to look up to as he grows into a man in his own right gives me great hope for his future. Likewise, having Eric show Annika what it means to be a reliable, loving, father and husband on a daily basis gives me courage as she develops into a woman who will (one day looooooooooong from now) will look at potential life partners of her own.

Our children are incredibly blessed to have Eric as their dad, and I feel beyond fortunate to share the journey of parenthood with him by my side.

Eric and newborn Annika

Eric and newborn Conor

Annika and Daddy... he'll always be there to lift her up

Daddy = Horse

Eric teaching Annika life skills

Daddy is so much fun

My favorite trio in the whole world

Daddy smootches

Daddy teaching Annika more life skills (aka beer brewing)

"Once more around the lake, Daddy!"

Monday, June 22, 2015

Annika's First Diving Class

As I've mentioned before, our kids are basically fish. They absolutely LOVE the water, as do their parents. The kids have been taking swimming lessons practically since birth and continue to grow as swimmers. One of Annika's favorite things to do is jump off of the diving board, which is a treat usually reserved for the last day of a swim lesson session ... basically every 5-6 weeks. Not nearly enough for our girl!

A couple of weeks ago, we discovered that the swimming pool where Annika and Conor take their swim lessons also has a weekly drop-in dive class. Once Annika heard that, she was raring to go! We had a scheduling conflict last weekend, so she couldn't go until yesterday and it is safe to say, that the girl is sold on diving!

The class is taught by a volunteer diving coach and he gives each participant one-on-one instruction. He tells them what to do when they're at the end of the diving board ready to jump in and then gives additional instruction after they've completed their task.

For Annika's first turn, the instructor had her simply jump in feet first, nothing fancy. No problem!

Feet first .... or is she surrendering??

The instructor then had Annika start going in head first and taught her how to bend at the waist, keep her arms straight, and have her hands together above her head.  He also taught her how to move her arms to gain as much momentum as possible before diving into the pool. Again, she was all in!

When the kids had their third go, the instructor stood on the diving board with them and gave more detailed instruction on how to position themselves before and as they enter the water.
Being coached on the diving board

In she goes!

He then went back to the side of the pool to watch how the students were implementing his instruction and then gave further feedback after each child entered the water. What really impressed me is how much Annika paid attention and hung on his every word. She was hungry to eat up all wisdom and suggestions he shared with her.




For her last dive of the day (it was time for her regular swim class to begin), the coach had Annika try a backward dive. Again, she had no qualms about giving it a try and happily backed her way into the pool. When she got out, the instructor was gushing about how great she did and said the only thing she didn't do that he told her to do was jump before diving... instead, she sort of fell backward from the diving board. Annika told him next time, she'll remember to jump!

First backward dive
(She's actually diving from the diving board, not the starting blocks)


The coach gave Annika a fist bump and lots of praise for her efforts during the class. She deserved them... she listened, tried hard, and willingly attempted new feats. We are so proud of our girl and look forward to her next diving class! As for Annika, she is practically counting the minutes until next week's class. If things keep going this well, we might register her for the registration-only diving class that takes place just before the drop-in class once the next session of classes begins. Our little fish is a happy girl ... and Conor can hardly wait to be big enough to join his sister in the diving classes!