Monday, August 20, 2018

the mountain is out

And by mountain, I could only be referring to Mt. Rainier. And actually the mountain isn't out today and hasn't been for quite a while thanks to all the haze and smoke from the wildfires in our corner of the country. But when Mt. Rainier is out on on those clear blue sky days, that's what you say. I have loved living with this stunning fixture on our horizon and some of the best unobstructed views are from the Army base. But it's a fickle mountain, and even on sunny days in our neighborhood, the mountain has it's own weather system and is often hidden. So when you hear people comment "the moutain is out", you know the weather is especially good that day! 

(the view from the commissary) 

(the view from our neighborhood) 

Shamefully, even though we've been out here for four years, I have only made the trip to explore the National Park one other time with T.J. and Tommy back in June. It's about an hour and half drive to the park entrance and then another half an hour up the mountain to Paradise and the visitor center so we often talk ourselves out of making the trek. Plus there are those unpredictable weather factors to consider. When we went back in June there were still buckets of snow up there which made hiking with Tommy a bit treacherous and you actually couldn't see the mountain even though we were standing on the mountain... but we ended up winding back down and pulling over at one of the many trailheads along the way instead which was still worth it.
When my parents came out last month we decided to make the trip with them so they could experience it up close and personal and I was excited to go up there again on a clearer day for better look myself. We brought a picnic lunch which we enjoyed at the Paradise visitor center before setting off on our hike.
It was definitely a lot hotter than our visit back in June, and there were quite a bit more mosquitos, but the view of the snow covered peak, and the lush meadow of wildflowers is unrivaled. Weighted down with my one year old, I was aware of just how out of shape I am but we hung in there for a mile or so up the trail before turning around, though my dad carried on a bit further until he reached the snowpack.  
Tommy was my sweaty little trooper and happily hung out on my back, even dozing off on the hike down. But before heading home we made one more stop at Reflection Lake, which, at the right time of day, reflects the image of the mountain. 
Tommy fully zonked out once we were back in the car and we spent the ride home marveling over our day on the mountain and scrolling through pictures that will never be able to fully do justice to the Lord's magnificent creation! 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

the break I didn't know I needed

I didn't think I was exhausted. I didn't feel like I needed time away. I wasn't desperate for a break. Why would I need a break from my dream life?  Because that's what being Tommy's mom is, my dream come true. And because we breastfeed (and maybe also because I'm not good at sharing), from the day he was born, no one else had gotten him up in the morning, no one else had put him down for a nap, and with the exception of a few date nights with a babysitter, no one else had rocked him to sleep. When I write it all down like that, I can sort of admit, that yes, a break was appreciated. So I spent every single day with my little one from the day he was born until the day I tagged along with T.J. on a work conference to Colorado and left him in the care of his Nana and Pawpaw.
My mom shared her insight that the build up to leaving would be much harder than the actual being gone and of course she was right. I worried and worried and pumped extra milk and snuggled him extra close the night before we left. And with just my purse, no diaper bag, and a suitcase packed for just me, we got in an uber early Wednesday morning while Tommy was still asleep. I was so nervous about how he would react with someone other than his mama getting him up in the morning but my parents texted me soon after we arrived at the airport that he was all smiles and already happily playing. I exhaled a bit then and realized I was looking at not just a few hours, but a few days of luxurious, wide open me time.  My middle seat on our 3 hour flight might as well have been on a private jet for how indulgent it felt to actually read a book and order a drink without having a wiggly one year old to wrestle on my lap the whole way.

We arrived in Denver, picked up our rental car and met T.J.'s coworker than drove another 3 hours down the road to Aspen/Snowmass for our baby-free vacation. Well... it was a vacation for me. T.J. still had to do actual adult things while we were there, like attend symposiums and give a presentation on something or other, but I had no such obligations and two free hands for the first time in a year. Our first morning there, T.J. headed out early to his first lecture while I slept in! Well, I slept as late as I could considering my body woke me up desperately needing to pump. After that I took my time getting ready, headed downstairs to grab something from Starbucks and then parked myself at the pool with my book for a few hours.
T.J. met me later in the day and then that evening we went to the rodeo put on specifically for the conference attendants. We had BBQ, I even had a cocktail, and of course I couldn't resist some cotton candy! 
The next day it poured rain for most of the day but I honestly didn't mind one bit because, again, I was footloose and fancy free. I ordered room service for breakfast and basically stayed in bed watching movies until lunch time when there was a break in the weather. T.J. and I hung out by the pool with his co-worker and her husband that afternoon, before doing a bit of exploring around Snowmass. We took the gondola down to the base village, picked up snacks, and then eventually grabbed an easy dinner in the hotel bar.
The only big thing we both really wanted to do was go on a hike together.  So on our last full day in Snowmass, T.J. finished early with his lectures and we drove into Aspen where you can take a shuttle to the amazing, beautiful, Maroon Bells in the White River National Forest. These two mountains are named the Maroon Bells for the reddish hue and their bell shape and pictures just don't do them justice. Personal vehicles are restricted from the park during the day in the summertime but the shuttle from Aspen drops you off right at Maroon Lake. From there we hiked a couple miles on an aspen tree lined trail up to a Crater Lake for an even closer look at these beautiful peaks.  
 
I now totally get why people are so obsessed with Colorado. I've never been anywhere quite like it. It feels pristine, like you're back in some old frontier. It's simply awe inspiring and I just love how rugged and untouched the landscape has remained.  I loved getting to visit in the summer time as I am sure it's a completely different kind of beautiful in busier winter season. T.J. I both agreed that we will need to take future family ski trips out here. 
We were pretty exhausted and hungry by the time we got back to our hotel so we grabbed a beer and a snack at one of the restaurants before getting cleaned up and then heading out to dinner. Now normally, we if we were at home we'd be calling it a night about then, brushing our teeth and then falling asleep reading most likely. But since this was our last kid-free night we decided to live large and stay up past 9pm. We met up with a couple of T.J.'s friends for beer and bowling and pretended we weren't tired and for a little bit it felt reminiscent of our "younger" selves. 

Meanwhile back at home Tommy carried on with his usual happy routine, sleeping and eating and playing with my parents as well as he does when I'm home. I'm not saying it's the only reason, but I do believe that the consistency in his little world and the fact that I haven't been away from him before now is what has made him such a content little guy. Of course he missed me (he better have missed me!) but knowing he was having fun and being spoiled by his grandparents made it so much easier to be away. And more importantly, not feel guilty about it.

Getting to wake up and not have to be on immediately, staying up late with my boyfriend-bestfriend-husband, drinking as much diet coke as I wanted, reading a book during the daytime, and being able to breathe deep that mountain air, was just the refresh I needed before returning home to my sweet boy and our second year of motherhood.

Monday, August 13, 2018

a first birthday party

Let's see how many posts I can do about Tommy turning one... but of course I just have to write down the details of his little party so I always remember this special celebration of his very first year of life!
I had this picture in my head of what I wanted my baby boy's first birthday party to be like. I wanted it to be easy and fun, full of his favorite things. I pictured family and friends gathered around singing happy birthday with Tommy looking curious and excited. I know he's not going to remember his first birthday but I just wanted him to feel loved and special and I wanted to celebrate our first year as a family.
Sadly we live many miles away from most of our family and I was worried it wouldn't feel like a real party. I so wish we could have been with all his grandparents, aunts and uncles and great grandmas, but luckily my parents were able to be there and so were some of our neighbors and dear friends that we've made out here in Washington. It was a smaller get together but just right for our little birthday boy. I was worried he'd be overwhelmed by all the attention but to my great joy, he is a content and secure little guy and he happily partied the day away.
I didn't do a real "themey" theme, just kept it simple and boyish with lots of blues and gingham decor that I mostly ordered off amazon or etsy, and added in a couple DIY pieces as well.

We got Tommy a water table for his birthday which we set up in the backyard along with some of his other new birthday toys. He loved playing with his little friends and got totally soaked which was fine because we stripped him down to his diaper when it came time for the cake.

The party was at lunch time, after his morning nap. I made pulled pork sliders, cole slaw, pasta salad, pimento cheese, and I also ordered a tray of chicken nuggets from Chick-Fil-A which T.J. picked up before the party. Then I made yummy strawberry cupcakes with whipped cream frosting and I made a matching strawberry smash cake.
He looked around at everyone with a big smile as we sang to him but he was surprisingly restrained when it came to eating the cake. He was mostly interested in taking the strawberries off the top. Oh well- he has a lifetime to inherit his mama's sweet tooth. 
I love having a summer baby and so look forward to fun parties with a mess of little boys running around. I picture water balloons, squirt guns, a slip 'n' slide, sleepovers, capture the flag. Maybe we'll have the same strawberry cake every year. But this first sweet simple little birthday party for my first baby boy will always hold a special place in my heart. Now that I'm a mom I realize how my parents felt on my birthday and my sister's, how exciting a day it was for them as well. I spent the day feeling all the things, remembering the day he was born, sadness to say goodbye to the sweetest year with my baby, joy to celebrate the little boy he's becoming, and excitement to see what this next year will hold with my little wild man!