Surprise Adventures

The end of summer daycare closure inspired me to take the kids on an out of town adventure and give Craig one night and two days of working and relaxing in complete peace and quiet. Of course, I am not ready for a solo overnight trip with the kids yet, so Grandma Sue came up from Juneau to keep me company (and keep us all sane).

We got ready for the day, picked grandma up at the loading ramp at the airport, trekked over to harass State Trooper HQs and say goodbye to Daddy, and eventually loaded up into Craig’s Expedition, toting a lot of snacks, lunches packed by the girls, and backup clothes, stuffed animals and blankets.

Unlike our prior visit to the Kenai Peninsula, the girls actually napped on the drive down. Reagan drifted off to sleep by the time we hit the highway and Emerie not long after, while Harper spent more than 30 minutes chewing every little piece of food before succumbing to the sleepiness around the Portage Glacier pull-off.

We only needed one pit stop for the drive down, where we walked the boardwalk along the Kenai River, searched for big, wild mushrooms and other plants and berries, and checked out the shoreline. A nice lady took a photo of us just as the rain picked up again and we dashed back to the car.

The first night was actually quite mellow, with the girls content to play with toys at the house and color while the adults relaxed from the busy day. I wasn’t sure how the night would go, since it’s been about a year since I’ve had a solo night with the kids, when Craig traveled to Juneau last summer for a work trip. Since we’ve traveled to Becky’s before and it’s a familiar location, sleeping overnight seem to be much easier of an accomplishment than it is when we are at home. Becky read a fun bedtime story that distracted them enough from the thought Dad wasn’t there, and all three stretched out across the twin mattress with the second mattress pull out next to it, providing just enough space for everyone to shift around without awaking anyone. Other than a few moments of fussiness when each took a turn and then fell back asleep, the night went off without a hitch!

By the next morning I could already tell that the trip would be easier than our visit in June, unknowing that the girls would definitely prove their increased maturity by the end of the morning. After breakfast with Miss Becky and getting ready for the day, we loaded up into the car, anticipating a day trip to Homer. Of course by now I should be skilled at rolling with the unplanned surprises, and this day proved to be no different. As we pulled up to the first light after leaving Becky’s house, right as you enter Soldotna, and lightly hitting the break in anticipation of the red light before us, the back end of the whole vehicle slid out from behind us, almost like we hit a big patch of black ice and lost control. I fully admit I know nothing about the workings of or repairs needed for cars, and Craig is always great about keeping our maintained as needed for each season, and in that moment I immediately knew something was wrong.

With kids in the car I am far more paranoid of things happening, whether that’s checking if the other direction actually stopped at their red light before I go or to play it safe during a snow event, so on went the blinker and I eased into the left hand turn lane to pull into the O’Reilly’s service shop along the side of the road. Hitting the breaks a second time to wait to turn, the issue repeated itself. I couldn’t have more perfectly timed a major car malfunction than at a traffic light with an O’Reilly’s on one side and a Midas Auto Shop on the other; thank heavens it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, Alaska, like we were for most of the prior day’s drive down.

Grandma Sue, in her infinite wisdom, came out of the shop with an older gentleman, who kindly agreed to drive the car across the street to the Midas to see if he could pinpoint the issue, since our unskilled look at the back tires was fruitless. We unloaded the girls and they trekked across the parking lot to Fred Meyer, where the mid-morning excitement apparently inspired starvation and the need for a fancy Starbucks fruit drink while he drove across the street, noting something was definitely off and making it unsafe to drive.

Long story short, the whole thing still makes me chuckle. The kind folk at Midas determined the bolt holding the rear suspension together not only came loose, but fell out altogether; hence the feeling of the back sliding out of control. When I chatted with them on the phone later that day after that revelation, they noted the Expedition was unfit to drive until the part was found and installed, and that they didn’t recommend me taking it in that condition, NOT that I wanted to. The entire morning ended up working out relatively seamlessly, thanks to Becky, who bailed us out, helped me uninstall and reinstall three car seats into her SUV, and then hitched a ride back to her house so we could take the girls to the park.

Needless to say, we did not make it to Homer that day, but we did have fun exploring a fabulous park along the river and walking all the boardwalks. The park was huge and Alaska themed, with whale tales and construction equipment and beautiful artwork along the climbers. All three were off exploring and shouting to one another at new spots were discovered and in true park visit style, everyone had a long turn on the swings and a bathroom visit. After a bit we walked down toward the boardwalk, pausing at each access point to the river to look at anything of interest, such as real life fisherman, seagulls (Emerie still calls them eagles!), rocks in the water and my personal favorite, the fact that a red apple was floating along the shoreline at random, which was far more interesting to the girls than anything else.

About a dozen or so fisherman were out as we walked along and the girls enjoyed pausing to see what each person was doing, standing out in the water. One nice group said they had caught a good number the day before, during the rainstorm we drove down in, and the current day was a bit slower but still a success. A nice gentleman brought their catch up so the girls could firsthand see it and poke the eye balls (sigh) to see if they were squishy. Next summer’s set netting adventure is almost a year away and I already can’t wait to go with them!

As we turned around to retrace our steps and grab some lunch, that same nice guy hollered up from the shoreline that one of his buddies caught one on his line. The girls leaned over the railing and watched him real it in, pull the hook out of the mouth, whack the sucker and hang it up with the rest of his catches. Emerie hollered a couple times she could see blood and all three watched the whole process with good interest. This was almost as exciting as seeing that damn red apple bobbing against the shoreline.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out at Becky’s, playing inside and out and filling a lot of tiny buckets with lake water out on the dock. Craig and William drove my car down after work that evening, with the plans to at least be able to get the girls back to Anchorage while the Expedition was fixed.

Lucky enough, Craig’s awesome cousin Jamie was able to swap vehicles with us so we could cram into her Suburban and do the day trip to Homer, much to my excitement. It took us a bit to get down there, between bathroom breaks, rainstorms, and installation of car seats, but we finally made it and it was so worth it. The girls immediately took to the beach adventure and the rain held out for the visit. Grandma picked up anything of interest and explained things to the girls while they collected pretty rocks and shells and splashed around.

We visit two beaches that day, first Bishop’s Beach as the tide rolled in and then walking along the spit through a few shops and watching all three collect dozens of shells and treasures. Emerie enjoyed finding feathers mixed into her shell collection, especially the big ones. Fearless Harper picked up the seaweed and other sufficiently wet things to show us. Reagan managed to immediately overflow her boots following William to the sand dunes before they re-submerged, which she eventually overcame to enjoy the sights.

At some point too many collectibles meant the hoodies came off and became bags tied around waists. Shell collection was certainly the highlight of the day. At one point our minions adamantly demanded Grandma walk out into the waves to select a specific shell, a couple of feet out. Under no circumstance were they going to take no for an answer. Little did they know that Grandma smartened up to this concept and packed her pockets with some shells that “she picked up” out there and handed off to unsuspecting and excited littles.

We definitely could have spent a weekend exploring the town, which I haven’t visited in so long and was much overdue to go to, but as the rain started back up we decided to head back to Sterling for Becky’s amazing brisket dinner, which we were super late for from the day’s adventure (and tasted as amazing as ever!). The Kenai Peninsula Fair was still going strong as we pulled up to Nikiski, so we took the opportunity and stopped for face painting (Mom, Dad and Grandma included), an ice cream treat and of course, a horse ride for each. Everyone wanted full unicorn faces, with each kiddo in her own color and with glitter. Craig received a brown bear on his cheek while I did a triple flower and Grandma Sue a fancy fireweed.

All three were happy to do a horse ride and climb into the saddles without too much assistance. The petting zoo part was also still open, with some young animals to love that were out of the rain. The girls all asked the nice lady with the two-day-old baby chickens a bunch of questions (as if we didn’t have baby chicks two months ago!) and learned that they hatch from eggs she had in a nearby carrier. That concept was quite interesting for all three and they asked a lot of questions. The other big hit was the three-legged goat, which Reagan excitedly told a couple of people about and continued to discuss on the way home. Very impactful stuff.

We managed to cram a family breakfast in before heading back home for the weekend, with Jaren and Savaya and Tyler joining us. I am loving having family only a few hours away and we were very blessed that the car situation was so manageable with a little help!

It was a great weekend overall. Excluding the car issue, the trip didn’t feel very stressful and all three were very well behaved and enthusiastic for every adventure we attempted. Each trip gets a bit easier and I find it so refreshing to get the new life perspective one only gets when leaving your house for a few days. It took about a week to get the part and fix Craig’s car; luckily the issue was relatively simplistic and therefore, not overly expensive, and the girls took it all in stride.

Now I’m ready for fall and another out of town adventure in the cold, fresh air. Bring on September!

Pre-K Start

First day of school jitters were much lower than I expected this week. The girls started in a new classroom for Pre-K, with a new teacher and across the building from their beloved Miss Tawni. Everyone spent much of last week visiting the new class and getting comfortable with routines standard to four-year-old instead of the three-year-olds, and even napped at the new location a time or two.

While all three claimed excitement to move up to the “big kids classroom,” they also shared the wish for Miss Tawni and a couple of classmates to join them. Realistically, most kids close in age planned to move up simultaneously, but not all and of course not their beloved teacher. Napping is no longer a requirement and more of a suggestion in this age group, with kiddos that wish (or need) to sleep receiving the opportunity to do so while others quietly play. I hope we still get school naps a bit longer; it’s easy to guess days they don’t all sleep, since that usually equals an extremely grumpy preschooler for the remainder of the evening.

Major highlights tied to the new classroom include the ability to freely use scissors and cut mounds of paper into tiny strips that get everywhere. Reagan spent an entire evening using a pair at home, after showing them to us in the room at pickup. She’s actually very skilled at cutting for her age.

Uncertain how the first day drop off would go, I opted to join Craig and brought Grandma Sue to join in on the fun. Fancy “girls night” dresses were selected for the big day as well as new, matching pig tail scrunchies, princess hoodies and lunch boxes. Thank heaven for Amazon Prime days, when back to school gear was more than 60% off!

Each kiddo happily snapped a few photos for me with the back-to-school bus board and their customized board. In honor of the milestone everyone was measured for updated height and weights:

Harper: 40.4 pounds / 3’7″

Emerie: 36.2 pounds / 3’6″

Reagan: 39.4 pounds / 3’7″

For the first time Harper and Reagan aren’t exactly the same on both height and weight, and clearly Emerie has had a growth spurt and nearly caught up to her sisters’ height.

On the drive home from the first day everyone gave me an update on their favorite parts of the day. All three answers were quite similar, with everyone stating that the best part of the day was playing with their friends and Mr. Ivan. Harper also noted being nice to her friends.

In addition to the report that everyone had a great first day- and Emerie chanting that to me a handful of times that evening- I was told the when asked who is who from a distance, Emerie shrugs and says she doesn’t know. So funny. Harper also informed me there is another Harper in her class…the first of many times that will happen in her life!

Cheers to a good first week!

Total Sassafrass

It’s been a bit since I posted a blog and thought I’d give a quick update and share some of the latest quirks the girls continue to share with us. Work continues to be incredibly busy for both Craig and I, him on the annual end of year closeout and me helping cover the rest of the grant season for airport development projects, in addition to my standard project management and job duties. We are both very thankful that the allergies and ear infections that hit mid-July last year have not yet reemerged and that the girls have been healthy and able to go to preschool continuously while we stay caught up on work.

As we start drifting toward end of summer activities, such as rain adventures, blueberry picking, and less outdoor water activities, the girls continue their current flower (bouquet) obsessions. Rose, daisy, and my poor front pansy plants now litter the living room and back deck; at least there are enthusiastic children happy to creatively play. Harper and Reagan enjoy picking raspberries from the backyard and eating them before returning inside; Emerie likes to taunt – ahem play – with the ever growing chickens, who now forcibly demand to explore the backyard, outside of their cage.

The toddler cars also reemerged and our neighbors get the honor of enjoying the spectacle of our kids driving down the street and the parents trying to keep them from getting run over by real cars or running into parked ones. Emerie greatly improved on her steering skills this summer, but also forgets the pedal is to the metal and will drive forward while looking backwards or concentrating on something that isn’t driving the car. Harper and Reagan seem to have the steering skills down and both enjoy driving. This picture fully explains everyone’s enthusiasm, Emerie’s face and all!

After last month’s unfortunate pet events, we welcomed a new member into the household, a three month old kitten. Her name started out as Molly until Reagan convinced everyone a more fitting name was Sassafras, which stuck. She’s a wild little thing and demands our attention at two or three in the morning every night, unless we manage to wear her out in the evenings. Good thing our children prepared us for that habit to continue! She really enjoys sleeping on Craig’s pillow, C-PAP and all, but turns into a raging, playful maniac the moment the first kid wakes up mid night, which is usually Reagan. A few nights I’ve caught her cuddling and sleeping in bed with Harper or Emerie; a few other nights I’ve dragged said monster out of their bedroom before the toe biting and playful scratching occurs. Overall, Sassafras fully embraces the busy, kid oriented household that surrounds my life and loves to play with the girls and run around. The girls love using the toy wands and running away from her. The chickens don’t seem incredibly upset with her presence either and simply crowd around when she gets in “their” space; not sure if that means they want to eat her or hide from her. And what does our other kitty think of her? Well he’s not ready to forgive us yet for a new foreigner, hisses when his personal space is in question and will only cuddle with her if asleep and she creeps up and settles.

Age four of the triplet life we lead produces quite the crazy opinions some days, especially when it comes to Miss Harper Anne. Of the three, she often displays the most dramatics over completely irrelevant things and it can be quite hilarious, much to her dismay. For example, the other day she was furious with me at bedtime because the following day wasn’t Christmas, and that winter wasn’t here yet (since she knows Christmas is during the snow season). She huffed and puffed and laid in her bed, with a you’re not my mom anymore response…as if I can control time! One night at bedtime she claimed with a huff that she couldn’t go to bed because I – her loving mother – didn’t make HER bed up that day. And at dinner one night we had pasta and I noted the leftovers would be in their lunch the following day. Harper scolded me for not putting said pasta in her lunch from earlier that day, and insisted that issue should be fixed by yours truly. Time be damned, Mom, go back five hours and make my lunch with pasta like I want. Kids I tell you…

It’s not all chaos and dramatics…well I mean it mostly is, but other moments the girls dole out sound advice. After a preschool fire drill one afternoon, they all reminded me on the way home, don’t be scared, be prepared, and excitedly shared their experience for the day about fire. They also strongly noted their teacher keeps them safe and wouldn’t let fire hurt them, even if she needed a firefighter to help her. True words!

Reagan is on a cooking kick this month and I often find her playing by herself and cooking a pretend masterpiece meal or tea party for her sisters. One afternoon she asked, Mom, what is your favorite cake I can make you? My response, of course, was a homemade German chocolate cake, what Craig makes for me every year! She went into her kitchen and then was quietly repeating her recipe out loud to herself. Add a little German, add a little chocolate, and a little more German. Hahaha…it’s the thought that counts.

Emerie continues to live her best life and chase chickens, taunt the kitten, pick flowers whenever possible and avoid major rain puddles that her sisters splash her direction. We learned a couple weeks back that she needs another more significant eye surgery that will couple with adding new ear tubes back in, something planned for the end of this month. She continues to amaze me when you consider she tackles everything her sisters do, but with one eye significantly weaker and often when the strong eye is patched. She’s a rock star.

Next up? A two day preschool closure starting tomorrow and next week, aging up to the four year old classroom at school! I’m not sure who is having the hardest time with that thought, Miss Tawni, the girls, or me!

July Jolliness

And just like that, July is nearly over! The month passed quickly being out and about with friends, hitting work deadlines and visiting with both grandmas, Anne and Sue. On Grandma Sue’s last visit the girls talked her into purchasing their first, itty-bitty sized bras, ones that are actually meant for small, preteen girls. All three were exceptionally excited to wear them around the house one afternoon and agitated they couldn’t wear them to dinner in public! Who knew age four be the beginning of that argument?!

Our 4th of July was laid back, we skipped the parade and events around town and just hung out at home, enjoying the nice weekend. The girls played on the water slide, experimented with every form of water imaginable in the back yard, including ice cubes containing secret gems, and made a lot of flower soups. We all went shopping and one afternoon Grandma Sue and I trekked down to Girdwood for a solo afternoon with Harper, while the other two went with Craig on a park date. All the hang out time at home also allowed Craig to get the chicken coop built in the backyard; the girls even occasionally “helped” him build it.

The following weekend resulted in a couple park visits in between rain and some time spent on the Saturday Market rides. The girls all rode with Craig on the big ferris wheel (not my favorite thing to ride-aka heights), and while Reagan was the most nervous of the three, all shared big smiles as they went around. Emerie ended up yelling from the ground that she could see Craig’s leg tattoo when they were at the top, which she thought was exciting. Everyone enjoyed several carousel rides with Grandma Anne in tow and sucked down some shaved ice and lemonade. It will be fun to see how they do with the fair rides next month…I’m betting we will have to pry them off by the end of the day.

Girls night this month meant Grandma Anne creating a smorgasbord of food options and served the children as they demanded (asked?) for more of everything. Dinner and a show with fancy dresses, fancy hair and a picture! in true Douglet style, followed by sparkling apple juice, fruit, veggies and other delectables.

Emerie, Pella and a TBD named chicken

This month Emerie found a new bestie, whom she named Pella (NOT Bella, she insists), and she lives in the form of a chicken. She’s great at spotting her (lightest feathers) and loves to take the darn thing all over the yard, snuggle her in her dress, and scold her for pooping on the deck. She constantly expects this poor chicken to be obedient and listen to instruction. It’s hilarious to listen to a four-year-old complain that her beloved chicken won’t listen to me and inspires frustration….I wonder what that feels like!

Fourth of July fanciness

One afternoon at preschool pickup, I told the girls I wasn’t feeling well (air pressure change headache). On the drive home, all three informed me that I needed to drink more water, I needed a blanket on while I sit on the couch when we get home; then that I need to make them dinner and eat it. After that, I was told I’d feel better if I went to sleep in my bed and didn’t work the next day. Very specific, but well thought out steps from my four-year-old clan!

As the Facebook world already knows, our kitty cat Rafi was hit by a car in front of our house a couple days after the holiday. While this kind of thing happens in life, we weren’t quite ready to share the concept of death and heaven with the girls, opting to do just that after some discussion. Over the past two weeks we still receive the random questions, such as is the black kitty STILL dead? or does Rafi have to be in heaven?!, things of that nature as they try to work out the new concept in their heads. This whole event taught me a couple things as a parent: 1) the girls are resilient and can handle the truth on some, big life things, 2) they ask insightful questions as they learn something new about life, and 3) they can be very sweet when they want to and care for their animals.

Another insightful tip? Flower daisy bouquets are a HUGE hit in this house. The flowers were intended to be grave decorations, but never actually made it that far. Instead, the girls’ good intentions were side tracked by their creativity, taking their bouquets and creating play food, soups and everything you can imagine. I will definitely buy random bouquets in the future, just to take apart and play with.

Sleepyheads IN THEIR BEDS!!!

For the first time in almost 4 1/2 years, the girls ALL slept six nights in a row in their room, without climbing into my bed or the guest room. While six nights in a row doesn’t sound like a massive accomplishment (a thought I would have had pre-parenthood), it’s huge for this house. It’s about as big as a miracle. It’s been such a long time, with lack of consistent sleep a normal reality for the adults for years now. Harper continues as the rock star sleeper, not even batting an eye at six nights, while Emerie and Reagan remain the challenge to keep in their room, a challenge we are hopefully tackling.

The achievement of five days gained the girls an ice cream shop trip and a goodie! Everyone knew the treat came after school and constantly asked when we were going; Harper and Emerie opted for chocolate ice cream and Reagan wanted cotton candy…every wanted sprinkles.

It feels strange walking into the nursery each morning for school, since I’m so used to creeping around the house with one still asleep in my bed, usually Reagan. I’m holding my breath this trend will continue and that we are slowly getting out of the baby/toddler loop of assisted sleeping arrangements.

Another exciting milestone occurred this month…soccer!! The girls started preschool soccer this week for the first time. This month’s torrential downpour paused for the first night of fun and overall the 45 minutes went about as expected. They all participated in the first five minutes of stretching and it went a bit downhill from there. It is quite cute watching them do jumping jacks!

Harper had her good moments of listening and running back-and-forth, Reagan had her good moments of the same, and Emerie was by far the least excited to participate and opted to stay sitting at Craig‘s feet for most of the session. She found entertainment in wearing all of the portable chair bags rather than running around with a soccer ball like the other kids. At one point she was jumping on top of her soccer ball and falling as it slid out from under her, laughing from the ground. Luckily she found her groove the second night and really enjoyed it.

It’s still a mystery who will want to pursue the sport, but I hope at least one or two of them find a love for it like I did as a child (and adult). Not only is it less expensive than dance and hockey, but it’s a great sport to learn, promotes healthy movement and fun with friends, and one that Craig or I could help coach in the future. Harper has a love of running and speeding anywhere, making her an easy fit to play forward or midfield as she gets older and into a more organized version of it. Reagan had some fun moments kicking her ball and might be able to find her niche too; the jury is still out on Miss Emerie.

Other notables this month include walks in the (never ending) rain, playing outside with umbrellas, ice cream truck visits, picking fresh raspberries, and painting! Once the weather improves a bit, we will get out and about for fireweed picking, blueberry picking and other late summer outdoor adventures. And we all know fall is around the corner…I will try to hold onto one more month of summer before I get excited for the season change!

Whirlwind Week with Family

It’s been six years since I last saw my brother and his family, who live down in Washington. Six years is quite a long time, especially considering four additional kids were added between the two families since we last saw one another, several job changes and a lot more grey hair (or just less hair in general?!). To make up for lost time and no major traveling during the pandemic, we crammed a TON of things into the past week during their Alaska visit; equally quite a whirlwind of fun.

I’ve looked forward to this week for ages. I love that Craig’s family is not only large and full of a lot of spirit (you know who you are), but also the fact that they are close by in other cities in Alaska, and often travel to or through Anchorage so the girls really know their extended family, cousins, grandparents, and so on. My side of the family is not only significantly smaller in comparison, but the few members I do have are far away or have chosen to live their lives apart from ours and not know the girls. It’s never bothered me to have a small family (one brother versus Craig’s seven siblings), because close friends who love you as part of their family is all that’s really needed and we have many of them! It is also a marriage perk to be brought into a big family dynamic. This week definitely warmed my heart, seeing my brother and sis-in-law and nephews, watching all the kiddos interact and get to know one another, and spending time with my side of the family after so long and introducing them to some of Craig’s side.

After throwing the kids together into forced friendship and insisting everyone are cousins, we stopped off at the park to get some energy out and let the bonding begin, then loaded up into two vehicles to venture out to the reindeer farm for an afternoon of exploration. The weather turned out perfectly, not too hot or cold with sun by the end, some snacks (for the kids and the reindeer) and fireweed ice cream (hated by the boys but enjoyed by the girls), and horse rides! The kiddos especially liked feeding the reindeer, more so this year because of the fence buffer that kept pushy animals from force feeding themselves. Last year the girls were less than impressed at the frenzy of reindeer excitement around them and more concerned about their safety.

While feeding the moose and reindeer were enjoyable and produced lots of preschool conversations and questions; the big, afternoon hit revolved around horseback rides for all, playing in the big sandbox filled with sand toys and dinosaurs, and climbing in the giant tubing and rolling back and forth. The latter was especially fun for Aunt Jenny, who ended up rolling around with a couple kids in tow and a lot of giggling. Reagan enjoyed the horse rides the least of the group for some reason, especially since she was so excited to do it upon arrival. Everyone else was all smiles, waiting for their turns. I am also happy to report we wrangled a driving nap out of four of the five kiddos on the way home.

Another activity of the week, planned since the canceled 2020 trip, was family photos. My excitement for this has spanned two years and is probably more realistic now that the girls are four. Ate age two, it very very difficult to contain the wildness, let alone get them to focus on a camera and smile. So with five kids under eight, four adults, a lot of mosquitoes, and a million promises of Swedish fish gummies and ice cream bites in return for smiles, we managed to get some good ones.

Family photos are always chaotic, but the end product is absolutely worth the behind-the-scenes effort. It is no small task to match multiple kids, redo hair and clothing, and strive to keep them clean until picture time. This is the first time we didn’t drive out to the valley for our summer session, which was a lot simpler logistically! I also realized after our session that we forgot to do a couple with just the girls together and then just the boys together, but in the chaos of it all, our photographer did a great job capturing some precious moments between our families and even pulled some smiles out of the boys.

If you are curious about our amazing photographer, his website is here!

After pictures Jenny and I took the kids over to the jump park, as promised to the boys for a good photo session; after about thirty minutes the girls were completely over the busy day and maniacs from exhaustion. We ended up going home with everyone crying and doing a quick dinner from Taco King and letting everyone calm down. Busy, busy day!

The next afternoon Craig and I ambitiously trekked down to the Kenai Peninsula sans any other adult entertainers (that sounds wrong!), i.e. Grandma Sue, which greatly helped our survival last summer. We now know the key to prepping and packing for a trip is to drop the girls off at preschool for the morning and packing and loading the car while they burn energy at school. This genius plan allowed us to get everything ready to go, the house cleaned and yard trimmed and watered, and on the road by 1:30 in the afternoon. This, however, did not result in a nap on the drive down. It did result in a LOT of snacks and a movie, and we made it all the way into Sterling without stopping.

While my children are definitely bigger sassers and back-talkers than when we did this trip last year, they are also a bit more responsible than their three-year-old selves, making hanging out much easier than last summer. Even in the midst of the “full moon attitude” never ending this month, they are more content running around the yard, playing with buckets of water and nets on the dock, and even minimal movement activities like coloring at the kitchen counter. It is definitely more manageable now to be away from home for a few days, and really great when additional family members are in tow. It is also a breath of fresh air after some previously difficult outings when they were younger and nice to feel a bit more normal.

We spent an exuberant amount of time playing out on the lake and enjoying the sun, riding the jet-skis and getting pulled behind it on the triple-seated float. The girls started out a little tense and nervous on the first ride with me, but by the end of the day were pros and all asking to ride it again and again. It was quite hilarious to hear their shrieks of joy from all the way across the lake, that turned from fear to bliss throughout the day. The boy cousins joined in too and the adults took turns riding in the float while Craig or Miss Becky drove.

Most of the first day was spent outside before the girls actually went into the cold water; in fact, cousins Corbin and Elliot, who don’t live in Alaska, jumped off the dock long before the girls even dipped their feet in. By the end of the afternoon everyone was walking around in it, with Elliot running in circles and jumping off the dock. Harper was quite content reorganizing the rope on the dock and tying knots around things while Reagan and Emerie filled buckets of water from the lake and played with the mesh nets. Cousin Corbin mastered catching the tiny fish around the dock and showing them to everyone before re-submerging them; Elliot was happily jumping off the dock into the water on repeat. Aunt Jenny showed everyone how to direct the kayak (with a rope connected so the water didn’t take anyone way!) and the adults even managed some relaxation while the kids played. It was a really nice, normal afternoon that resulted in tired and tanned kiddos!

Everyone then hung out for family dinner at Jaren and Savaya’s house down the road. The kids mostly played around the yard or demanded to run circles around the fire pit…at least until Emerie fell into it. All in all, it was a wonderful, fun filled day, catching up with family and enjoying the midnight sun.

Our only hiccup that night was Reagan’s puffy eye, which resulted from her full on crash into the bathroom doorknob. It probably deserved some icing, but it happened right as everyone was headed to bed and we didn’t realize it was such a hit until the next morning. That or she just wanted to match Emerie’s left eye, which is still slightly droopy from her May surgery.

Reagan’s fancy eye and ice cream face!
Flowers for her Tyler

The next day we adventured over to a beach in Kenai to play with sand and collect pretty rocks, which were plentiful. The boys wandered down the coastline without a care in the world, checking things out and living the dream. Eventually Keegan ended up catching up to them to bring them back while Jenny and I found some really cool looking rocks. Since the fishing trip was a no go this year and we spent most of our time on the beach least year with great, family survival rates, we made sure to visit at least once over the weekend. Turns out it wasn’t sunny across the peninsula like at our weekend home base, and the girls weren’t quite as thrilled to play in the blowing wind and cold. After additional layers of hoodies and pants from the car, they collected pretty rocks and buckets of sand, flew kites, and picked the wildflowers. Emerie even picked a beautiful purple bouquet for Tyler.

Harper and the squeegee

After the beach adventure, lunch and some chocolate ice cream from the place with the giant cone that we kept driving by, the kids and I loaded into the boat and took a few turns around the lake with our host Joe. Elliot insisted he was having fun as long as he had a strong, death grip on both of my hands and I didn’t move. The highlight on the excursion, which likely looked ridiculous from the shore, was spinning in a few circles, trying to grab a squeegee that fell into the water. No children were injured in its retrieval and the girls thought it was hilarious when it took multiple tries to grab it. Harper then gave it a bunch of licks afterwards and “washed” the front windows as we rode back to the dock. Gross.

Through my normal torture methods, we ended our weekend adventure forcing the family into matching family T-shirts. Becky humored me and snapped some photos with her nice camera and after a week, I finally figured out a bribery candy the boys actually like…gummy worms!

It felt amazing to get out of town and a break from the mundane for a few days. It was also a much overdo family hang out with almost all of the girls’ cousins; we were missing cousin Chatum! The trip demonstrated that each year traveling gets much easier and less stressful than prior years. It’s about damn time!


We ended our vacation week at the Scottish Highland Games festival out in Palmer. Spending nearly six hours out in the sun, it is definitely our longest festival time since the girls were born and getting much easier to explore, entertain and contain the littles without complete parental burnout by the end of the excursion.

The girls sampled half the food at the event, eating dipping dots ice cream, several shaved ice flavors, hot dogs and French fries, and a ton of lemonade. They walked around the entire event, since we didn’t bring the wagon, and were quite the hit in their kilts, which matched Craig’s. We stopped at the bathroom about a thousand times, taking those kilts on and off and on and off. At one point I even dropped my phone in the toilet; after giving it (and my hands) a solid soap scrub, Emerie made sure to announce to the entire festival my mishap. Silly girl.

Harper and Emerie put a fire out at the fire truck with Dad while Reagan watched and all three climbed into the truck, asking the firefighter a ton of questions about switches and buttons inside the rig. I had to force them back out; they didn’t want to get down. We checked out the ax throwing booth, Craig’s favorite, and the girls looked at all the custom made axes. We watched the local dance groups for a few minutes, something that brought out major excitement in Harper, who asked the rest of the afternoon to go back and see them.

The musical entertainment that afternoon consisted of two sets of unrelated twins: the Harptwins and the Volfgang Twins. It was so random! We wandered over to the stadium before the show and took a photo of everyone- the girls were shy and unsure about adults that look identical. I’m not sure I’ve ever met identical adults that dressed the same and it was a fun experience. I mean come on, how cute is this picture!

After spending the whole afternoon in direct sunlight, the girls didn’t fight sitting and watching the Harptwins’ show. Camille and Kennerly, on their second visit to the Highland Games, had a set full of twin jokes and sarcasm that was quite entertaining. They joked they mixed up who stood where on the set and that the audience didn’t appreciate all that effort…since you clearly can’t tell them apart. Harper was happy to sit on my lap and watch them in action on their harps; Emerie and Reagan eventually wandered off for another potty break and then face painting.

It was the first time I sat through any type of show since becoming a mom and much overdue and welcomed. The Volfgang Twins came out for the last several songs and the girls made it back with fancy face paint to watch them play on the big drums. By the end of the show we were all tired and loaded up and went home.

All in all, a great week of memories with family, friends, and adventure ❤