Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bucket List #11 | Mount Rainier National Park

Ok, I'll just say it:
You know how sometimes, you have something pictured in your head, and it's amazing, and then you get there and it's just not quite what you thought it would be? This was not one of those times. Mount Rainier National Park did not disappoint. It was definitely one of my favorite things we've done here in Seattle. It looks like every beautiful postcard you've ever seen - and then some.
This was a fairly spontaneous trip - we booked our campsite Monday and left on Thursday morning. We kept going back and forth about whether we were going to go. I was worried about the weather in September, and we weren't sure we should spend the money right now. But at the end of the day, we decided that we have never once regretted going on a trip. Besides, Landon is (hopefully - knock on wood) about halfway done with his PhD program, and we still have a lot of things we'd like to see here in the PNW! So off we went.
We were blessed with INCREDIBLE weather. They typically say that in Seattle, you get gorgeous days between the 4th of July and Labor Day. Aside from that, it's pretty much gloomy and rainy all the time. It was a risk, going the second week in September, but it was in the 70s and just beautiful the whole time. Good thing, too, because we were camping with a 3-month-old baby!
My Geologist husband was basically in heaven...
The park is divided up into 5 main areas - Paradise, Longmire, Ohanapecosh, Sunrise, and Carbon River. We managed to hit 4 of these in one trip. We drove the long way around, to the Paradise entrance - this is the "Old Faithful" of Mount Rainier - the most touristy place of the park. There's a reason for this:
It is breathtakingly beautiful. You can drive right up onto the side of the mountain and just enjoy. We ate lunch here the first day, and hiked up a ways. We could have spent our whole trip here, really, but we had more to see!

The next day we spent mostly at Longmire - you would't really need a whole day here, but we let Walt do a hike all on his own this day, and it took awhile. :)
PS, best $4 I have ever spent:
He love to look at everything through his binoculars. I have a feeling these will accompany us on many more adventures!
Our campsite was outside the park (because when you're spontaneous you don't get premium accommodations!) This was hands down Walt's favorite park about our trip. He could have done without all of the walking and the picture-taking, but the CAMPING - that he loved. In fact, the first day after our lunch and hike, Walt announced to the whole visitor's center: "Goodbye! We're going CAMPING!"
For the record, Walt thinks roasting a perfectly good marshmallow is just nuts.
Zuzu was wrapped up in a long-sleeved onesie, regular PJs, fleece PJs, a hat, and sleepsack, and two blankets at night. Paranoid mother much? She did great.

At Ohanapecosh, we hit up "The Grove of the Patriarchs," which is an easy trail that looks like this:
Just incredibly beautiful old-growth forest (some of the oldest trees in the US!)
Super fun. :)

Last but not least, we drove out the Sunrise exit, where we were treating to sweeping views of the mountain, and a piece of one of the actual glaciers!
...And there's always a chance that I might make my family haul matching outfits up the mountain so we can take a photo...
But only a crazy person would do that.
We loved Mt. Rainier! I wish I could say I know we'll be back, but truthfully, even camping takes a chunk of our budget, and we still have so many places to see - I hope that we'll get another chance, but I'm so happy we went now, just in case. :)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pinterest Playdate

While Landon was off traveling in Switzerland a couple of weeks ago, I tried to keep myself and the kids busy so that we wouldn't go crazy on our own! I decided that maybe it was time to try all of those Pinterest activities that I spend half of my free time looking at and NEVER do. So we I invited some of our good friends over and we had a little "Pinterest Playdate!"
The first thing we tried was "magic" squeezable chalk. (idea from here)

This was basically food coloring, baking soda, and cornstarch mixed into condiment bottles. According to the website I found this on, you can use any squeezable bottles, but since the kids were so little, I felt like the see-through bottles really added to this activity. So that's the only thing I bought for the day. I think they were worth it.
Verdict? The boys LOVED this one. They squeezed all of the colors out all over our parking lot. They didn't actually "draw" much, but that wasn't really the point. When they were done, we let them squirt vinegar on top of their "art." They were thrilled with the bubbles that appeared. The only downside was that this activity didn't last very long - they had all of the bottles emptied out within maybe ten minutes at the most. I'd definitely do this again, but I think I'll try to collect a few more bottles so we can have more colors and it will last longer next time.

Activity number 2 was "apple boats." (idea from here)

I mostly did this one because it was incredibly easy and the little boy we invited over is obsessed with apples, so I knew he'd like it. I didn't bother with the foam, just cut squares of paper for "sails."
Verdict? The boys liked this ok...Walt played with his apple for a few minutes. I tried to get him to blow on the sail and make it move, but he wasn't really getting it. He just liked splashing in the water. As predicted, Walt's friend was just excited to have an apple, and quickly ate it up! I probably won't do this again, or at least not until Walt is a lot older. I think bath toys outside would have been just as fun for the two toddlers. This might also be better in a yard with a bigger pool.

The last thing we did was come inside and "paint" popcorn. (idea from here)

Again, super easy. (are you sensing a theme here? I picked the easy ones. :)) Just mix food coloring with milk, pop some popcorn and throw in some marshmallows. Again, all things I had on hand.

Verdict? The boys really liked it. Walt wouldn't have anything to do with the popcorn really but he enjoyed dunking the marshmallows into the colored milk and then eating them. His friend did the same with the popcorn, but wasn't into the marshmallows. So it was kind of perfect that way. It was also surprisingly not that messy! I will definitely do this again - I think it'd be a perfect transition activity for preschool. But for younger kids, I think I'll maybe skip the paintbrushes all together. And if it were just Walt, I'd get bigger marshmallows and stick with that. Or maybe try some other light colored foods that I know he likes.

I think the kids both had a lot of fun, and I felt strangely satisfied when it was over. It was nice to feel like all of those hours I spend browsing Pinterest accomplished something! I want to do another indoor Pinterest Playdate with more friends when the rain comes. It's a great way to give the kids an outlet and get to spend some bonus time with my favorite people!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's Been HOW Many Years?

It's not really a secret that I had a blast in high school. I wasn't the most popular kid there, but Landon and I both had a lot of amazing friends and made some good memories. It's fun being from the same graduating class, because you can carry on inside jokes that should have been dead a decade ago, and they're still funny. :)
So Landon and I both wanted to go to our ten-year reunion, and when the dates worked out, we went for it!
It was great to see a lot of old faces, meet their families, see what everyone has been up to, and, ok, brag a little bit about ourselves...;)
Andrea (Anderson) Gibson
Matt Davis
Natalie (Clifford) and John Blackburn - one of the other couples who ended up together!
Max Davis

My favorite part was the awards they did for things like "traveled the furthest" "has the most kids" "most gray hair" etc. It was a fun way to see what everyone has been up to. Landon won the prize for being the oldest graduate there (by five days!):
We also played some "minute to win it" games, which I am terrible at, but it was still fun.
Most of my closest friends didn't come. (Preston, you are LAME!) But I talk to all of them and see them occasionally, so I wasn't too sad about that. It was great to see people I hung out with then, but didn't stay in contact with. 

I was especially excited to meet up with these girls:
Amy (Neiderer) Raymond and Andrea (Anderson) Gibson

We were good friends back in the day, and ended up going to Europe together in college. I hadn't even realized how much I missed them before I saw them again! Hopefully we can meet up more often, since both of them still live in the area.

Then there was this stud:
Jason Christman

Jason was definitely in my top ten best friends list by the end of senior year. We've known each other since the third grade! We've kept in touch pretty well, but seeing him was just that much better! He's almost done with optometry school and has joined the army. We made plans to conquer the world from Germany together when Jason is posted there and Landon does his post-doc. So you know, imaginary plans, but we are hoping they might come true!

And of course, these dudes:
Landon, Charles Tietjen, Fred Eaton, Troy Parson

Almost all of Landon's old crew was there. He was so looking forward to this. These three still live in Rexburg and get to hang out a lot, but obviously we don't. Landon was happy to be part of the group again. We are hoping to plan a quick get-together over Christmas, and maybe a camping trip next summer. Keeping connections takes work, but we learn more every single year how valuable those friendships are and how little we want to lose them.

Fred is one of my best friends as well. We hung out a lot in high school, and the first year after we graduated and Landon was on his mission, Fred was my lifeline. 
He's such a great guy and the most loyal person in the entire world. I'm not at all exaggerating to say that neither Landon or I would be the same people today if we didn't know Fred. We might not even be married.  Sidenote: when we were in high school, Fred promised not to grow a beard as long as I didn't cut my hair. How people change! :)

Anyway, we had a great time and it was a nice reminder of where we came from. We have both changed a lot since we graduated from high school, but I hope we never totally lose sight of the fun people we were then! All of the people I went to school with mean a lot to me, and I'll always be grateful for those experiences. 

See you all in another ten years!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ida-home

Warning: Super long post!

My oldest niece turned 8 this year. (which I totally can't believe!) I have been looking forward to attending her baptism since pretty much forever - and when we found out our 10 year high school reunion was the very next weekend we decided to take our brand new baby and our three-year-old on a crazy 10-day vacation home to Idaho.

We ended up leaving a day early, because we wanted Walt to be able to enjoy some time with his cousins. We had been on the road for around 3 hours when this happened:
We decided to stop off and get gas and Dr. Pepper in Yakima, WA. As we pulled off the freeway, we heard a grinding noise, which only got worse as we made our way to the gas station. We decided to have it checked out quick, and ended up with new brakes on all four tires, and completely new back tires. There were so many tender mercies in this situation: that we stopped when we did (there isn't much civilization between Yakima and Boise), that there was a Les Schwab very close, that we arrived there about 20 minutes before they closed for the night, that they had crayons for Walt and there was both a restaurant and grocery store within walking distance. The guys who fixed our car told us they'd never seen brakes on a Ford that worn. We could have lost control of our car on the freeway and had a much more serious problem. We are eternally grateful to the techs at Les Schwab who stayed 2 hours past closing so that we could get back on the road and not have to stay the night in Yakima.

About three hours and a LOT of money later, we headed to Boise. We got there at around 2am, and Walt was still awake. It was not a great night, but we were so glad we left when we did, and that we could wake up the next morning to this:
Walt adores these girls so much - he wants to do everything just like them. It was totally worth the long and stressful journey for him to have the day to play hard with his cousins.

The next day, Stella was baptized by her dad into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
You wish your sister was as pretty and talented as mine. :)

We were so proud of Stella! She's a bright, happy, and incredibly generous little girl. It was also a great opportunity to teach Walt about the gospel. The Monday before we left, we had a family home evening lesson all about baptism and told him what to expect and what it all meant. He loved it, and kept talking about the baptism for days. I'm very grateful for the gospel, for the way it helps me lead my life and guide my children, and for eternal families.
The day after the baptism, we headed out with my parents for Rexburg. My Dad is a really slow driver, so we stopped off a few times to let them catch up. :)
I love random "historical sites" on roadtrips. This one was Register Rock, where a bunch of pioneers carved their names on the Oregon Trail.

We had so much fun with my parents for a few days. Walt's favorites were playing with Mr. Potato Head, eating ice cream out of homemade waffles cones (my Mom is amazing), and jumping on the tramp.
I loved just hanging out with my Mom, and getting in the hot tub! It was super relaxing.

Halfway through the week, we changed venues to the Burgeners house. Since they didn't come to the blessing, this was the first time most of them had met Zuzu.
 Grandpa was pretty smitten.
These photos are actually at my parent's house - they were so excited to meet our baby girl, so my mom was nice enough to share both her home and some of her time with us. Thanks, Mom!

Landon's brothers were awesome enough to come up from Utah so we could all be together for a few days. It turned into a Burgener Family reunion.
Walt's favorite thing was meeting his cousin Brigham for the first time.
Mom, I have TWO babies!!
We also went hiking, swimming (Isannah's first time!), slept out on the tramp (just the boys, Walt's first time!) and took some family photos.
Landon's parents recently started construction on their dream home in a different part of Rexburg. So this trip was the last time Landon will ever be in his childhood home. He doesn't seem too sad, but I think I'd be emotional about it! Anyway, we took some photos in front of the home before everyone left.
Isannah also got to meet her Great-Grandparents on the Wilkes side:
It was great to have a fun filled few days with the Burgeners! 

That same day, we went to our high school reunion (which I'll blog about separately, this is too long already!). Then, we headed home bright and early Sunday morning so that Landon could get back for a meeting on Monday. We've never done the Rexburg/Seattle drive in one day before. I have to say, it was pretty brutal. I much prefer going through Boise and hanging out with my sister first. But, since we didn't have a choice, we went the northern way and had some fun and spectacular views:
Sadly, I got a bit excited about a scenic loop and we got lost and home an hour later than we should've. By the end of the day, we were so done!

We never, ever regret the effort, money, and craziness that it takes to go home for a visit. Sometimes it takes me a few days to recover from the drive home, but I always look back so fondly on the memories we're able to create. It's really important to me that Walt and Zuzu have a good relationship with our extended family, and especially with their grandparents. I guess it's working, because Walt keeps asking me when we're going back to Idaho! We can't wait for Christmas. :)