Saturday, January 31, 2015


The Dry Tortugas are incredible. Jim and I were talking tonight about our National Park adventures. We discussed which parks surprised us, which ones we'd return to in a heartbeat, and which ones we don't feel a need to revisit. I have to say this one surprised me. I love love loved it. Going into it all I really hoped for was to see a sea turtle (we didn't) but it ended up being mesmerizing.

This is not a park that many people visit (relatively speaking) because of the difficulty in getting there. It's the most southern point in the USA - outside of Hawaii that is. I don't even think you can call it part of the contiguous US since it is an island, though it is part of Florida so that kind of becomes an issue of semantics.

Gosh, I love this man. We have so much fun and go on the best adventures.

Squirt had a bit of a rough time on the boat. We were prepared and took Dramamine beforehand but it still shook her up a little. She loves being big enough to reach things now and wanted to stand even though it was a bit of an awkward grab for her.

The boys passed the travel time quite efficiently.

I didn't know anything about Fort Jefferson before this. On the ride over, the guides shared a bit of information and showed some informative films which was really helpful. What impressed me the most was how utterly enormous it is. That, and the gorgeous water. I was in awe of the water.

The lighthouse on top of the fort was really charming.

Inside the fort it is easy to be impressed with the masonry. It seems that a building of this size that needed all the building materials transported in by boat and took thirty years to build would justify basic, quickly built designs. Instead there were innovative features (for the time) incredible arches, and an absolutely astonishing number of bricks (16+ million). I wouldn't doubt that many of the builders spent the better part of their lives on this one project.

The canons have been restored with cradles built to replicate the originals that had been sold and removed from the key shortly after the Fort stopped being used. The only reason the canons remained behind was that their sheer size and weight made transporting them impossible. Even the restoration team employed by the park service struggled with how to move them.

I really wanted to explore the lighthouse and it was the last thing on our agenda before we were going to get gear and go snorkeling. Aeryn just wanted to go snorkeling and found the historical appeal to be lacking. She tried to be patient in {mostly} good spirit, but by this point just wanted to be done. I found it hilarious and took a picture. In other words, I was totally a mom right here.

Once again I made her wait. Jim and Aeryn took off to go snorkeling and I yelled after them to wait until I took their picture first. That's the price of having me in your family... As a result they gave me their most patient faces.

Meanwhile, Tate was in the middle of a faceplant and greeted me with squeals of disappointment and discomfort. White coral sands may be beautiful, but they are not soft. Once again I made him wait until I took a picture before I rinsed him off in the ocean, which was also super {not} fun for him.

I had told Aeryn that the Atlantic is super warm compared to the Pacific - completely forgetting that it's actually still January and the water would not be the delightful hot tub I'd prepared her for. It's still warmer than the Oregon coast so she endured it well. Jim helped her know what to do snorkeling and she saw angel fish, needle fish, a gray fish with black dots that we have not identified. Jim and I later found conch too, but she was done by that time and stayed on the shore.

Evidently snorkeling is hard work. Lucky for Tate as her siesta provided the jungle gym he was looking for.

Old iron shutters at the canon openings are expanding and causing the brick to crumble. Extensive restoration is ongoing, but frankly I like seeing it weathering and wearing just the way it is. The post-restoration areas feel more like a museum than a historical site to me. It's got to be a difficult decision when to restore and when to let things age naturally.

This was a spectacular day. As we were returning on the boat I lamented the fact that I took hardly any photos. Then when I imported images there were actually 186 of them. I suppose I was on top of things after all.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Squirt's Inauguration

The Young Women came and grabbed Aeryn from her Sunday school class when it was time to go to YW and dolled her up. They tied ribbons correlating to the YW value colors into her hair. One of the leaders sent me this pic in the middle of Relief Society and I'm so glad she did. 

The Girly was so excited. She was not, however, super excited to recite an article of faith from the podium in sacrament meeting though. She tends to get really nervous in front of people and I was worried for her, but she marched up to the front confidently and said her piece then marched back to her seat with her head held high. Only after I hugged her and told her how proud I was of her did she let the anxiety pour out and she started sobbing in relief. This sweet girl gets so very nervous and anxious. It made me teary to see the confirmation of exactly how hard that small task had been for her, which in turn made me even more proud. 

There was a fireside in the evening and she attempted to leave the ribbons in until then, with mixed results. Some fell out on their own. 

At first I expected this change to be hard. I thought it would make me sad that she is growing up and not a kid anymore. That I would miss being the confidante and favorite person. That it would be hard when she didn't want to hang out with me. Instead I'm finding myself really happy about the change. She is ready for it. She needs to be around older kids and learn how capable and strong she is. She will benefit from relationships with amazing leaders- leaders who I admire and wish I could be more like. She is ready for the adventures and primping and little secrets. She needs a life that is separate from me. 

I thought that would be hard, but it's so so fun to watch. I'm thankful to be here, more so than I ever expected. 

Kids on Stairs

After his exploration of the hose, Taters discovered that he could climb the stairs outside our building. We are on the bottom so stairs are pretty much a non-issue, or at least they were before they became a play thing.

Squirt stayed with him on the steps, which was really helpful since I was standing on the ground shooting through the railing.

By himself, Tate looks really big. Next to Aeryn, he looks really small - or maybe she just looks really big. Either way, it's crazy and awesome to see them together.

Seriously, that face. If I were 10 years younger I'd be tempted to have twenty more.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Happy with a Hose

The other day I looked across the common area and realized that I probably ought to actually winterize my garden, you know, now that winter is a third over. I didn't do much, but I figured I could at least bring in the hose and the tomato cages. Tate thought the hose was pretty intriguing.

I started crawling around on the ground to get a better angle, and boy am I glad I did. These are so much better. I know they are all fairly similar, but as a mom I just couldn't choose a favorite.

My brussels sprouts are still alive and attempting to produce. Not too shabby since I started them from seed about 9 months ago. Every year I attempt to garden and every year I fail miserably at it. One of these days I'll figure it out.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Somehow this happened. 

She turned twelve. 

She asked for chocolate pie instead of cake. Not just any chocolate pie, a fantastic bittersweet pie topped with whipped creme fraiche.

This girls loves chocolate pie.

She was spoiled by many people. Among her treasures were birthstone jewelry from grandparents that she said was her very favorite thing.

The young women from church "kidnapped" her that night for an ice cream party. She had a blast and is so very excited to not be a part of the kids group anymore. It's always been my rule that makeup and heels had to wait until age 12, so this feels like a serious growing up milestone for her. She wore mascara to school on her birthday and felt so grown up. It's so fun to see her this excited. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Baby loves the swing. We headed outside on his birthday to play. Ellie wanted to gallivant around and look for friends, while Aeryn just wanted to sit with her Percy Jackson book. It's interesting how their interests are becoming so different now. I suppose it isn't surprising with the four year age difference, but it is a rather new change. Tate keeps both of their interest however and still gives them something to compete for. 

I'm glad Ellie is willing to be in pictures still. It makes me happy to have pictures of her with Tate. He really started laughing at her antics during this visit and I think they are developing a great little bond.

In this first picture I think she looks like her mom, but in the second she looks more like her dad. It's crazy how kids can look like both or none of their parents all at one time. 

She has gone home to Cali now but we will be seeing her again in a few weeks. Our tiny apartment bursts at the seams when we are all together, but it's totally worth it. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Old Friends

When in Utah we were able to meet up with some old grad school friends. It was bittersweet. We loved seeing them, but for me it reminded me how much I miss them and made me feel a tiny bit lonely. It's been so neat to see how student housing has shaped us and introduced us to the most remarkable people. We had planned to meet up with a couple more families also, but illness and family plans made for last minute changes. It was really fun to see my Asher - known in intimate circles as the boy half of the little people duo who inspired me to have a baby (matched only in girly cuteness by our niece, Tori).

Our little Whippy is not so little anymore. She also didn't want to be called "Whippy." Sad times.

One of the great things about making friends with people who have roots in similar geographic places is knowing that we will all be in a similar place at another time in the future.

Tate the Great Turns One

I confess, it was not my favorite day. At least, it wasn't my favorite day until cake time. I'm such a sappy sentimental person and I love to over dream and stress myself out trying to make things perfect. For numerous reason I left this day simple, the least of which was survival. I just have so many things to juggle in my brain right now and didn't have energy left to dedicate to the crafty things I wanted for his birthday. There was no little banner to hang from his chair, no photo backdrop, no sparkly twinkle twinkle little star garland, and no party hat. I felt like a failure of a mother.

I made a new recipe and didn't get the layers split as evenly as I hoped. The cake was overdone and the icing didn't set the way I thought it was supposed to. The first set of star picks somehow vanished and it felt really hurried. Disappointment was rampant.

I didn't know what to expect, and then he tasted the frosting...

That was it. I was giddy and excited and all the worry about what didn't happen faded to the background.

Gosh I love this little face.

I think it's safe to say he liked it. Happy Birthday, little buddy! What an awesome year it has been.

Friday, January 2, 2015

TaterTot in Pics

It is so fun to be somewhere that actually gets natural light. My camera and I are really enjoying how much easier it is to get presentable images. I can't get pictures half this lovely at home (in the winter at least) no matter how I adjust my settings. 

He had so much fun exploring the homes of his grandparents and finding all the little things that he shouldn't be getting into. He's made some major strides this past couple weeks. 

Key things he's learned on this vacation:
  • how to go down stairs feet first
  • food is fantastic (namely refried beans, berries, cheese, hamburgers, and biscuits & gravy)
  • if wrapping paper should be torn, then all other paper must be free to be torn as well
  • snow is cold, but intriguing
  • when he hears his name it means someone is probably taking a picture and he should take off in the opposite direction
  • he is perfectly capable of walking, but just doesn't really want to