Fine dining fun with five small children

As if heading to downtown Seattle the last weekend night before Christmas wasn’t ambitious enough for our little family, as our evening unfolded we found ourselves to be part of quite an adventure.

First, in order to get out of the parking garage, we waited what seemed like an eternity for the elevator that must be older than we are.

Then we walked up a few blocks to watch the fake snow fall in a mall atrium.  We waited for almost a half an hour looking upward.  When the snow came, it was actually some bubble foam sprayed from a few stories up.   It was cool enough for one time, but won’t make the cut next year.

By this time we were pretty hungry.  Kids have been in strollers or on backs.  It was crazy crowded so no running around was in order.

We head back to the other mall for food.  Despite the fact it is the weekend before Christmas, they were closing in 30 minutes.  We learned 3 years ago that when they close, even if you just got your food, they will stand around watching you as they ask you to leave your table and exit the area.  That was fun.

So we set out in a mainly retail area, to secure some food.  We burned through my well stocked snack bag quite quickly.  A pregnant sister, five little troopers whose patience was waning and no sign of a food source.  We were getting desperate.  We kept saying “One more block?”.  Every place we found was a super long wait.

My sister staked out an Italian restaurant that she thought was a low key pasta joint.  She glanced at the menu but only paid mind to the pizza prices.  She noticed that the guests were wearing slacks and dresses.   We were so in need of food at this point that the fact this was a high caliber Italian restaurant with rave reviews was quite impertinent.  We sat.  We ordered.  We waited.

“Would you like some wine with your ravioli?”  our waiter asks me.

My kidneys hate me I remind myself.  They are working overtime still trying to heal.  Alcohol is off limits but somehow I still manage to say “I shouldn’t but….yes, please.”

Sippy cups were thrown.   Bread came.  Bread was devoured.

We noted that this was not exactly family restaurant, a far cry from Red Robin indeed.  We definitely caught some glances at our table for TEN-five kids, five adults.

Audrey filled her diaper.  I went to change her.  I discovered that this kind of establishment does not cater to kids, thus had no changing table.  So I piled up 20 paper towels and laid her on the small bathroom counter.  I turned slightly red as woman after woman came to wash their hands while I was busy wiping a ghastly smelling diaper within arms reach.

We returned from said bathroom adventure to find antsy little people.  We inquired about crayons to do some drawing.

Instead of crayons they were pleased to offer us – SHARPIE permanent markers  “In all sorts of colors!” said the congenial waiter as he handed them to a three year old!

“Why does Audrey have a that-she can’t have that!?” said my curious husband.

“We are on the brink.  I’m not sure if you can feel it over there.  But we’re so close.  We are just trying to hang in till food comes okay?”  I replied.

Our food arrived, Rylee ate her fillet of grilled salmon in 3 minutes and promptly asked for another, I smiled and shook my head.  Caleb’s pizza was twice the size of his head.  My $20 plate of ravioli consisted of two giant pieces of pasta.  They were fantastic, I inhaled them in 5 minutes knowing Audrey was about to lose it.

I stood and grabbed Audrey ready to make a run for it.  I grabbed my glass of wine, quickly finished the glass.  Kyler joins me as we hightail it out of there.  We find wide open spaces and the two littles run free.

They watched a window washer through the beautiful glass window railing.  Then just as I snapped this photo…

…Kyler gets his head stuck on the other side as he peers down 2 stories.  He starts to panic and pull back and scream.  I hope I don’t rip his ears off as I pull him back through.  We find something a bit safer to do after I determine that Audrey’s head AND entire body would certainly fit through the opening.

We then ventured back to the carousel and end the evening riding horses together just as we (and my sister Danielle and her husband Todd) have done for the past 9 years in a row.  This year it was great fun to have our other sister, now graduated from nursing school, back home to join us as well.

Fall family fun

We’ve enjoyed getting pumpkins and celebrating fall with my sister Danielle for several years (here is my post from last October)  and this year – for the first time – our other sister now graduated from college, was able to join us.  It was a muddy, perfect, beautiful, cold day.  Upon peeking outside at the weather, I grabbed my bulky old Minolta SLR for the adventure.  The pictures I get on that camera are always better than the ones from our little digital pocket camera so I decided it was worth the hassle for this lovely day:

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Auntie
Steph bike
DeeDee train
Steph train
rylee train
Caleb train
Jorg 3
Searching for pumpkins
Isaac and Audie
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Isaac
sisters

If you’ve made it this far, bravo!  Here are my top two reasons for busting out my old 35 mm camera:

Audie and Daddy

Those eyes melt my heart.  All four of them.

Mama and Kyler

I love this boy.

The 12th Man

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A week ago Friday was my birthday and I had the privilege of working an extra long day.  What made it a little bit easier to digest was the fact that I won two tickets to the Seahawk’s game against the St. Louis Rams from 710 ESPN Radio.  I flipped on the station and heard that they would be giving away tickets to game in fifteen minutes.  I thought, why not, and dialed the number at the right time.  After four busy signals I finally got through and to my surprise, I was the 12th caller and had won tickets to the game.  I was so surprised I had a little trouble giving them my name and then after I got off the phone I realized I didn’t know how many tickets I had won. Upon figuring out it was a pair of tickets, I asked Todd if he want to join me via text since he was teaching at the time.  He immediately responded with “Heck Yes.”

Tailgate

Sunday morning finally arrived and Todd and I headed down to the game to find a spot to set up our tailgate (Hyundai style).  We are not quite ready for the big boy tailgating as I was amazed at the set up that so many people had by their vehicles.  But, I was enjoying every moment of our little pregame set up with our boiled hot dogs, chips, cheese and crackers, and choice beverages.

We picked up our tickets in the Event Center and enjoyed a great showing of Seahawk dominance.  28-0 over the lowly Rams.  I had always heard about the influence of the 12th man, but being a part of it was a fun experience.  The first Ram’s offensive play of the day was blown dead for a false start penalty.  The crowd was really into the game the entire time, even when it got to be pretty clear the Hawks were going to blow them out.  I would like to go again some time and definitely recommend checking out a Seahawks game at least once in your life.  This game is definitely in my top ten sporting game experiences.

After the game, I began to think about what other sporting events I would like to attend.  I would love to go to some World Cup games, and would love to attend the Olympics at some point in my life.  If you could go to any sporting event, what would it be?

A weekend at the Nooksack

This last weekend was supposed to be a trip to Mt. Baker, to spend time together as a family with Nana, Papa, Auntie Stephie, Dee Dee, Buzz, and little Isaac…however, plans change.  As it turned out, I got to take the three big kids to Mt. Baker while Karissa and Audrey stayed home to rest and to work on other projects (blog post to come I am sure).

With Nana and Papa sharing their time share at Mt. Baker with the rest of the aforementioned family members, we were looking forward to some quality time staying right off the Mt. Baker Highway near the Nooksack River.  Karissa and I found a reasonably priced place to stay since our growing family no longer fits in the condo.  I was lucky enough to get off work early on Friday night, came home, packed up the van with our little family minus the two and headed North.

We got to our rustic cabin, moved in, and got ready for bed because we had a tremendous day ahead of us.  We were off to some breakfast with the family and then to hit up the Skyline Divide trail. This was an ambitious undertaking for our three little hikers, but they were up to the task, well, mostly anyway.  From the trail head, it is a two mile, 2150 ft elevation gain (steep for those counting at home) to a most beautiful North Cascades meadow with stunning views of the surrounding Cascades and Mt. Baker looming nearby enticing all climbers.  Our little group was not about to go one step further, so we enjoyed lunch in the glorious meadow resplendent with wildflowers.

You might be wondering why I was not wearing a shirt for some of those pictures.  It was not because I was trying to show off my manly physique, nor was it because I was too hot (it was a delightful temp), it had everything to do with the fact that Kyler had decided that a good way to thank his Daddy for carrying him all the way up the two mile trek on his back was to pee on him.  Yep, Kyler was in a ergo backpack, meaning that the only thing between me and him was his pants and my shirt.  So that wetness on my back that I thought was sweat, it turned out to be urine.  Nice.  So off went the shirt.  Of course both boys wanted to get in on the shirtless action.

A few other highlights were Nana singing “Climb every mountain” from the Sound of Music and of course Auntie Stephie getting knocked off the trail, down the hill, and onto a tree by a little horse fly.  You might want to ask her about that.  Once we figured out she was okay, we all shared a bit of a laugh.

Of course the hiking was Daddy’s highlight, but the highlight for the kiddos was the pool.  They just loved jumping in from the side, “swimming” over to the stairs to do it all over again.  Kyler must have jumped into my arms 200 times during the three times we went to the pool.  Time with their Auntie’s, Uncle, and cousin was treasured as well.  One of Caleb’s most treasured activities is throwing large things into the river.  Pictured above you can see him holding up quite a large tree that he found and proceeded to toss into the river.  It wound up getting stuck on rocks, but between throwing rocks at it, Papa going wading out in the water, and some enthusiastic cheers, that tree made it down the river (at least around the bend).

We missed Mama and Audrey, but we had a great weekend away.  We are so grateful that Nana and Papa have a little spot that is not too far away, perfect for a weekend getaway.  Much fun was had by all, and plenty of memories were made.

Another beautiful day

How could it not be beautiful when it started with donuts, followed by demolishing our hazardous back deck, coaching Rylee and Caleb’s first t-ball game, celebrating Stephanie’s graduation from nursing school, set up and played in the summer pool and ended with a roaring fire in our fire pit.  Of course, the fact that it was another glorious day in the Pacific Northwest did not hurt anything.

Our back deck was on it’s last legs.  Between the rotting wood and the insects that were eating their way through some of the posts, the deck was more hazard than benefit.  So, we decided it was time to do something about it.  Step one…take it down.  The kids were up early, as usual, and after some donuts, we decided that we could begin our demo at 9am.  Hopefully that was kosher with the neighbors.  Everyone pitched in and it was pretty much gone by noon.  Demo’ing  a deck is actually a lot of fun, hard work, but fun.  I probably should have prefunked with a little ibuprofen…

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After lunch, the kiddos grabbed a quick nap before shuffling out the door to their first t-ball game.  We had only one practice before this so we did not really know what to expect.  According to the YMCA rulebook, each kid at bat gets 3-4 coach pitch balls and then hits off the tee if they are not able to make contact with the coaches pitches.  We played three innings with each kid from each team getting one at-bat during the inning.  As the coach, I was definitely feeling the pressure to make sure each kid got a hit from my pitches instead of having to hit from the tee.  As it turned out all the kids did great.  Only one kiddo needed the tee each time.  Rylee and Caleb had a great time.  Caleb was totally into the game both on defense and up to bat.  Rylee was not as into it, but would tell you she really enjoyed it.  Karissa and I were unsure how Caleb was going to do in this organized team sport, since he did not make it past one practice with soccer.  He was amazing!  He had a smile on his face the whole time, got a couple really good hits, and even fielded some balls.  At one point in the game, Rylee had hit a ball and made her way to first (there are not outs in this league) and Caleb was up to bat.  He swung and hit a great shot past the short stop.  As he ran to first base, Rylee was not paying much attention and was there on first base still when Caleb arrived.  Rylee and Caleb gave each other a big hug before one of the parents encouraged her on to second base.  Priceless.

After the game, we loaded up the car and quickly went to Steph’s graduation open house.  We are all quite proud of her, you can read about it here.

We also set up the pool in the front yard for the first pool day of the year.  Sorry about the fuzzy pictures, but our sweet Kyler had grabbed the camera at some point during the day and took about 15 pictures.  He must have gotten his cute little fingers on the lens.

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A great day full of hard work and fun.  Now that we have demo’d the back deck, we actually have to do something about it.  We are currently looking into a small landing with perimeter stairs going down to the yard landing on a patio made from pavers.  If you have any creative ideas let us know!

To Nashville and back!

Many pages of my journals over the past 8 years hold tears as well as more than a few prayers that  include my little sister.  One of them from 6 years ago just after Rylee was born read “Somehow, someday I want her to be someone my kids can look up to.”

With a smile on my face, I can tell you she is.  My littlest sister has overcome great challenges and some unusually, exceptionally hard times.  But this past weekend, our family had the privilege of watching her walk across the stage as she wore the trademark cap and gown and received her college diploma.  There is something even more sweet about this accomplishment for someone who worked this hard, waited this long and wanted it this much.

The night before graduation, those graduating in nursing from Belmont University take part in a special pinning ceremony.  They receive a nurses pin and can choose someone significant in their life to pin them.  Stephanie chose our grandmother Jeanne and our mother Pat, both of whom happen to be nurses themselves.  Below is Stephanie getting her pin.  It is perhaps one of my favorite photos of her of all time.  Can you see the grin on her face?  Her whole body is smiling!

close up of pinning

During pinning, I followed a super busy Audrey around as she drew all sorts of attention in her sweet little outfit (thanks Kristin!).  No matter where I put her, she found her way to the center aisle or to the stairs.  What’s not to love about those little feet?

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After the pinning we headed to Steph’s apartment for an open house/goodbye/graduation party.  It was really fun to meet her Nashville friends and especially the Dean of Nursing who has been incredible to Stephanie these past two years.

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My cousin Reed may not describe himself as a ‘baby person’ and he may indeed describe me as ‘prolific’ with all my four children.  Either way he has quite the fan in Audrey.  She was happy as a clam to snuggle in next to him on the couch and chill for a while.   They make quite the pair and are in many ways the antithesis of each other.

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Friends of my sister babysat Audrey and Isaac while we attended graduation.  Rylee totally ‘got’ the importance of it all.  It was precious having her there with us.  After all the grads entered, Steph turned and looked at us.  Can you find her?

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That night we ate at Monell’s.  I can easily say I’ve never had a dinner like that in my life.  Family style, southern food.  Consumed in amounts I can’t admit to here.  It was a lovely place with flowers everywhere and a pond where the kids were happy to have some fresh air.

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Congratulations Steph, you’ve heard it a million times this week, but we’re proud of you and we are SO glad you are home!

Not quite to Lake 22

What a great way to spend Sunday morning!  We woke up and began to get ready for the adventure of the week – a hike with the Jorgenson’s to Lake 22.  Unfortunately the night before, Audrey and Kyler came down with the flu so Karissa and the sick ones needed to take it easy and stay home.  Thanks to Mama for letting the three of us head out on what proved to be quite the adventure.

We got to the trail head just after ten and were the 2nd and 3rd cars to arrive, so we basically had the place to ourselves on the way up.  Caleb and Rylee were real troopers as we set out on a fairly steep trail looking to gain 1300ft or so on our way up 2.7 miles to the lake.  We started off with a brisk  pace as each of the kids were eager to go hiking.  Once the trail got a bit steeper, the pace slowed up a bit, but still moving quite well.  Instead of stopping for breaks, the kids munched on snacks lovingly prepared by their mama and sipping on water that Daddy carried for them.  Without any backpacks, they were moving along quite well.  We got to a bridge that overlooked a cool waterfall and stopped for some photo ops. All the while Isaac was doing great as Todd carried him in the ergo backpack.

We continued on our way and shortly found ourselves navigating some snow on the trail.  The kids loved it, and Maggie even preferred the snow to the previous loose rock.  With snow, followed by loose jagged rock, followed by more snow, and an increasingly steep grade, the trail began to get a bit treacherous.  Somewhere along the lines Isaac got a bit fussy, but all he needed was to be in the ergo with his mama so he could play with her hair.  I didn’t get a picture of it, but it was pretty cute watching a little hand sneak up from the depths of the ergo to grab his mama’s hair.  We finally reached a place that not only was a good stopping place for lunch with a great view, but it really was about as far as the little ones could go.  I figured we went just over 2 miles on the trail…pretty close to the top, but still had some killer views of the surrounding Creation!

Lunch was interesting.  Caleb decided that his tummy was not feeling well (he was the first one to go down with the flu, but he had been feeling better up until this moment) so he chose not to eat his sandwich and only picked out the cheese.  Karissa had made amazing sandwiches with pickles, cheese, mayo, mustard, pepper, turkey, and other yummies.  The other fun part of our break was when Maggie decided to lay down on her back to cool off and began to slide down the hill.  She went about 12 feet gaining pretty good speed before she realized what was happening and began to dig in with her claws to arrest her fall.  She has her own built in set of ice axes which is pretty cool.  She promptly came back up the hill only to do it a few more times while Rylee and Caleb giggled almost uncontrollably.

All in all it was a great time on the trail.  I can’t wait to go next weekend if possible, this time with the whole family.  There are plenty of great trails off the mountain loop highway up past Granite Falls if you are interested.  Enjoy the pictures below for a taste of our adventure.

Welcome back Junior!

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Along with thousands of other raving Mariner fans, I had the privilege of welcoming Ken Griffey Jr. back to Safeco Field for the first time as a Mariner since the 1999 season.  What a great day for baseball!  We could not have asked for anything better (except for parking).  Arriving at the ball park only a few minutes after it opened up was a bit of a mistake.  After driving around for a significant amount of time, we ended up paying to park in one of the lots close to the field.  Can you say opportunistic?  Wow.  Once we got into Safeco though, everything was forgotten and once again we were thrust into the gem that is baseball.  The sights, sounds, and smells were great to take in as we meandered around the park.  I stopped into the team store to price a Griffey jersey…yikes!  Not only were the prices outrageous but the lines were even worse.  Then we went down to the field to watch some bp and sat around throughout the opening day festivities.  When they announced #24 the crowd went bananas, this was only to be topped by his first at bat of the night, a line drive single hit in the right field gap.

A great night had by all.  We were treated to blue skies, sunshine, good baseball, Jr’s return, extra innings,  a mariners win, and memories to cherish.  From a fan that grew up watching you, thanks Jr.  How about the next time you are in town, we grab some Starbucks, my treat.

If you are interested in the game and Griffey’s comments regarding his return, read this story. Oh and thanks to FSN for the picture.

Won’t you be my neighbor?

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Karissa and I have loved our neighborhood from the moment we moved in.  Today was one more reminder of why.  After getting along great in the snow with our van the last week or so, today’s melt became a problem.  We went from having compact snow and ice in our cul-de-sac to 8 inches of slushy swamp.  In fact, our little neighborhood claimed more abandoned vehicles today than in the past two weeks of this snow combined.  This afternoon when Karissa wanted to head to the mall, we became one of these victims.  Luckily we didn’t get very far, we were simply in the middle of our cul-de-sac.  To our rescue came our next door neighbor and his son.  With a little shovel here and an extra nudge there we made it safely to the side of the road.  However, once we got our van out of the way, four of us neighbors got our shovels out and began to clear the gutters to get the water flowing down into the sewers for our entire cul-de-sac.  If you have not done this, this is not only a great neighborhood team builder, but it is vital to help make sure nothing gets flooded while all this snow melts away.  Once again, I am feeling quite grateful for our neighbors.  Not only did my neighbor help get our van unstuck, but his wife graciously offered to take Karissa, Rylee, Audrey, and Mackenna to the mall (in their 4×4).  Lift a glass with me to  good neighbors, safe travels, and no flooding in your crawlspace and mine!

-Chris

What did you do on your snow day?

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The snow day crew

After having another large dumping of snow we decided throw the chains on the van and head on over to Uncle Buzz’s pretty sweet sledding spot by their house.  After about 5 runs on the sled, Kyler was done.  The pose you see him in the pictures below was pretty much the pose he had for another hour or so while Caleb, Rylee, and friends continued sledding.  We then trudged (literally) all the way back to Isaac, Dee Dee, and Buzz’s house with our faces in the pouring snow for some lunch, hot cocoa, and cookies.  It is great having them so close for days like today.  Here are a few pics to get an idea of our day:

Here are the three troopers...Audrey and Isaac were not quite up for the sled.
Here are the three troopers...Audrey and Isaac were not quite up for the sled.
Kyler had enough of the sledding after a few runs
Kyler had enough of the sledding after a few runs
This one was intense
This one was intense
Nice hat!  Oh, and nice baby too!
Lovely hat! Oh, and lovely baby too!
Can you say Christmas card?
Can you say Christmas card?