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!

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 ❤

Seward (Day) Adventures

I’ve learned to pack some extras before going on a drive anywhere out of our city and this week I am very thankful for that predisposition. We loaded up yesterday morning to adventure down to Seward and the SeaLife Center for the day…and then come back home…right?!

Wrong! Can you hear Mother Nature laughing?! She likes to do that type of thing to us (aka triplets!…).

We started the day with quite a snowy and windy drive out of town. It was close to questionable if we should call it and head home, but our group is tough and headed along with eleven kids and five adults spanning three cars. We eventually made it to a wet and more breakup looking Seward- a TON of snacks were eaten and movie clips and songs played; we managed to get there without too much grumpiness. Having Grandma and/or Daddy in the very backseat, feeding the food into the tiny minions hands definitely helped.

We unloaded and hustled the kiddos through the wind and inside to see the sea lions! as the girls quoted the whole drive down. All the kids did great checking out the exhibits and actually returning when called. As you might imagine, it is not easy to smoothly move through anywhere with a headcount of ELEVEN kids under age eight…but hey, we like a challenge and it went really well! They really enjoyed the large sea lion exhibit, looking at the different types of fish and the temporary touch tank (since the normal one is under renovation). There were a lot of little hands touching the sea urchins and star fish with great enthusiasm as well as the comments about the cold water. The kids lasted a little longer than our visit last summer but we still went through the whole thing faster than preferable. Everyone picked out a stuffed animal at the gift shop (three black bear requestes were vetoed since we already have them!) and Emerie ended up leaving with a cute, green turtle, Harper grabbed a red octopus, and Reagan a spotted grey seal. Reagan keeps asking me to hold her seal so her sisters can’t take it. Silly kids.

Instead of sitting down at a restaurant and eating lunch, we dressed everyone in full snow gear and pushed them out of the vehicle to play at Seward’s awesome toddler park. It was windy and very icy and met with great enthusiasm from the whole bunch. I cannot wait for summer when we can visit again under more pleasant conditions. This outdoor activity inspired half the kids to demand use of the portable potty chair we brought and several clothing changes. By the third kid we were ready to load up and head back home.

I do have to mention one of my favorite moments from this adventure. Two of the kiddos in our group were chatting and one noted to the other that she was related to the triplets. She proceeded to say that she can’t tell them apart so she calls them Strawberry (Harper), Grape (Emerie) and Blueberry (Reagan). I love seeing how other kids view the girls when they indeed look identical unless you are constantly around them and can distinguish by personalities or small differential traits like chipped teeth. This makes me want to design them cute fruit shirts!!

The touch pool!

Cue a change in background music…because little did we know the real adventure for the day was just beginning. The roads appeared clearer than the way in, with the temperature finally above freezing and the roads more wet than icy, making us feel confident and optimistic on a faster drive home than that morning. This thought was shattered when our speed demon driver of the group, Heather, called about the time we arrived in Moose Pass with a warning the highway was closed from an avalanche, making the road impassable.

We managed to meet up at the pull off ahead of it with our whole kid entourage. More snacks were consumed and we made the executive decision to head to Kenai and see if the road would clear in a few hours. At this point I wasn’t sure how well the girls would do with more time in the car, especially after a busy morning and no one napping yet; overall they handled it really well. I should also mention avalanche news inspired us to open the wrapped presents from Cousin Jamie and crew, because why not? The singing baby sharks greatly assisted in keeping toddler moods pleasant as we detoured an unplanned direction.

Before everyone started running around.

After hitting up the Soldotna Fred Meyer for more snacks (of course), melatonin and changes of clothes for the rest of the group (we had enough for us due to our forethought!), we sat down for a nice dinner in the backroom of a restaurant in Kenai (the name is already escaping me). The whole evening adventure worked out well for two reasons, 1) we have a great group of kiddos and parents that help each other, and 2) the backroom allowed for said hyper children to run circles, snack on some dinner, run more circles, and repeat. By the time we finished dinner, it was already past the girls’ normal bedtime and yet we weren’t completely immersed in meltdowns. This was both surprising and glorious, and shows that when given the chance, kids can adapt to things. We haven’t tested this theory very much in the past three years, since the triplet bubble remains tight and regimented, so it is really great to know when a wrench gets thrown in your plans, it is survivable!

By the time dinner was over the highway was not yet clear and open. Instead of chancing driving that distance again and not getting through with very tired toddlers in the car, in the dark on icy road conditions, we opted to hit up a hotel for the night and take our chances with convincing the girls to sleep somewhere new.

Checking out the hotel potty

As we drove to the hotel, the toddler questions in the backseat eventually ended with a we are going on an “venture” and met with acceptance, even though they had no idea what that meant.

It was close to dark and way past standard bedtime by the time we made it back to Soldotna’s hotel and the girls (and adults) were definitely losing steam. First things first, everyone HAD to check out the bathroom, test to see if the potty is loud (which it wasn’t), open the mini fridge, push microwave buttons until it turned on, and jump on the beds. No pajamas meant the girls slept in their dresses from the day, but luckily had their normal bedtime stuffies and a single binkie we packed for each. Within an hour or so everyone was snuggled in a bed and asleep; Emerie snoring quietly next to me while holding her monkey, Harper cuddled with Craig on the second bed, and Reagan sound asleep next to Grandma Sue on the pull out sofa bed. And everyone slept WELL and extra pillows meant no one fell off the sides!

We made it!

There isn’t much to tell about the ride home, with the avalanche cleared and no snow falling or potty stops needed, but I will readily admit I am really excited for summer conditions to get here already so we can try out more planned out-of-town adventures. Three years mostly confined to this city is a long time and we are lucky to live in a central location with many fun places within a few, short hours. It is nice to know it might be doable to try new places out and let the girls see other parts of Alaska that we grew up enjoying. Things should go fine as long as there are enough snacks, an overnight bag in the car just in case, extra hands and lots of car ride activities!

Summer Adventures

The past weekend was chocked full of toddler adventuring and getting out of the house. We find that getting the girls out and about drastically helps with the grumpiness side effect of daycare transition and keeps our sanity intact, so we made plans to do our first real road trip and drive down to the Seward Sealife Center.

As usual, I was super over packed for a half day trip. Part of this is to ensure we have everything needed for whatever comes up, the other part knows if an accident shuts down the highway on our way home (which frequently happens), then we need to have enough supplies to survive a night in a hotel. Thank goodness we didn’t end up testing how that would go, but you never know and preparation is key (I am a planner, after all…)! So in addition to the snacks, lunch food, drinks and extra clothes and coats, I had everyone’s cuddle blanket, stuffed animals, binkies hidden away, and the bedtime book. This clearly tells me we need to purchase a camper so we can adventure for whole weekends and not just half days. Then I won’t feel so over packed!

Everyone was up and ready to go by 7:45, with our fellow triplet road trippers meeting up for the drive down. We anticipated the girls would not sleep on the way down, so Craig sat in the third row and helped entertain them (ahem…keep them from fighting…), supplied a constant stream of snacks, and kept us from a two hour scream fest. I enjoyed my coffee and the beautiful scenery from the driver’s seat.

We arrived right on time for our sealife center reservations. The girls were released from the strollers pretty early on; eventually it was seven toddlers running amuck toward each exhibit, someone always trying to herd them in the right direction as they excitedly screamed about the animals. The sea lions were a hit, especially when they were up close and appeared soooo big. Everyone touched the starfish and managed to get their hoodies all wet. Everyone threw fits going back into the strollers. It was a very pleasant, albeit FAST, visit that we will have to do again soon.

The over energized toddlers released a vast amount of energy at the park down the path along the water. The weather was cool with bits of sun and wind, but overall very pleasant for a (almost) fall day in our great state. The park was amazing, with only two entrances, allowing the parents to breathe a little that they wouldn’t immediately run out to the water. Lunch went much smoother for our fellow triplet friends than for mine. We didn’t bring the food from the car so they were less than thrilled at the thought of sitting for a few more snacks instead of real food; they wanted to run around and go back to the playground.

All in all, it may have been a busy, stimulating day, but also a good one. It was really nice to get out of Anchorage for a few hours and I look forward to longer trips like this next summer. The girls napped the whole way home; Emerie was out before we left city limits and Harper and Reagan chatted a little and pretty much fell asleep mid-sentence.

To continue the weekend adventures, we went down to the Kincaid beach the following day. This includes walking down a massive paved trail until you break off toward the beach (and unfortunately walking back up it later), dragging strollers down a path not meant for them, and having to pull said gear back up that steep path at the end of the trek.

We succeeded at this with about twelves kiddos and only four strollers, lots of snacks and fun beach gear. The girls did GREAT. They didn’t explore more than 20′ away from us the whole time we were down there, they played with their shovels and buckets and walked around with the sand in their toes. Luckily the sun stayed out for most of it and it wasn’t too cold…Alaska beaches aren’t warm and we were ready for that.

The most exciting part of the morning was getting stuck on the beach side of the trail due to a mama and baby moose blocking our way. The girls kept pointing and yelling moose from the stroller. At least 20 people were held up by these creatures, who assumed we would patiently wait for them to have their lunch before we walked by. Other hikers went through the brush around them, something you cannot do with a double chariot and a ton of loud, little people. Eventually they moved far enough that we could walk quickly by and go up the huge hill that took us toward the car. It was another great morning, although it took a good hour into nap time for Emerie and Harper to drift off to sleep. This will definitely be a spot to do again; this time we will warn our friends to wear hiking shoes and bring better gear…which we did not do this time around (oops Megan!).

One of the most adventure packed weekends we’ve had in a while- in a good way- hopefully the rest of fall can proceed in a similar fashion.

I find myself angry…

It is a struggle to accurately convey my feelings over the past month into words on a page (or screen). I’ve never been great at displaying emotion, especially extremely fresh ones, but find myself wanting to get my thoughts out in an attempt to understand and comprehend those feelings.

Craig’s older brother Chris passed away in a motorcycle accident the night as Emerie’s eye surgery. This prompted an unplanned family trip to Juneau, an emotional week for all of us, our first plane ride with the kids, and a big shift in our strict daily routine. Not a lot of time was left for processing it all once we decided to make the trip south, but we are glad we could celebrate Chris’ life and spend time with family.

Quick visit when the girls were about 7 months old and still fit in one lap!

I find myself angry at this turn of events, because life can be really unfair sometimes. While this is not the first time I’ve felt angry with death, with someone being taken away from this world much sooner than they should have, it still provides a similar sting and ache in my heart. There’s never a good explanation for why these things happen, and I think that makes it even harder to process. I also know that if I’m feeling this way, there are many more family members and close friends that feel this ache even more deeply, and I try to stay mindful of that.

My anger is a little different since having the girls. I feel like so many amazing, future stories and memories were stolen from us in one, terrible moment. The girls absolutely adored their uncle; it was plain as day each time he visited or even through a Face Time call. He could get them to giggle and laugh and smile, crossing the bridge from “that uncle that lives out of town” into “the favorite uncle” in a matter of seconds. In fact, when he visit last March, about a week before the girls’ first birthday, he won over all three so quickly that they refused to let him get up off the floor and insisted on immediate baby wrestling and playtime, for a good hour!

Not everyone is a baby whisperer, but I can confidently say both Douglas boys certainly maintain the skill. It is always wonderful to witness, whether it is with my kiddos or someone else’s!

Hawaiian dresses from Uncle Chris’ trip to Hawaii earlier that year. He found three matching ones in their colors ❤

I find myself angry that the girls won’t get to know their Uncle Chris, see their Dad and Uncle’s playful banter when working on a house project, won’t get to ride four wheelers or dirt bikes and get into (monitored) shenanigans with him as they grow older. It surprised me how much impact this thought had on me, because I always counted on the fact it would happen. It never crossed my mind that it wouldn’t, and so much has changed the past month.

What can we do about it? While the ache remains and will for a while for everyone, we can remind the girls as they grow about their uncle, and how much he loved them as well as his family, friends and community. I see how strong my husband is each day, dealing with his sadness while continuing to get up and go to work, raise three growing babies, and make a positive daily impact on all our lives, even when it’s really hard and you just want to give up.

We can tell the girls stories, and boy, there are so many stories! I like to think if you compared the girls’ personalities to Chris and Craig’s childhood shenanigans (the ones that I know about anyway), Emerie would be the troublemaker (Chris!) and Reagan the behaved kiddo (Craig), with Harper more-or-less a combination of the two- willing to get into trouble but also willing to let her sister(s) go down for it (hehe).

While our trip caused a major disrupt in our daily routine, it was great to see everyone as well as extended family I hadn’t met yet! We packed up (a LOT of stuff) and made the trek down to Juneau with the girls and my Mom in tow, knowing the trip would be equally as hard as it would be emotional; both which proved true. Craig’s parents were right- babies do help heal wounds, especially ones wide open, deep, fresh and heartfelt. Hugging on a cuddly Harper, a tiny Emerie or a giggling Reagan certainly helped me heal a bit, and I know I’m not the only one.

We had a couple of fun adventures during the visit, but otherwise laid pretty low (if anything with three toddlers can be considered “laying low”). With Aunt Tami’s and Papa Cliff’s help we explored the local indoor water park, with a short walk over from our residence for the week, and played in the warm water with the girls and their cousins Gabe and Chatum. It was a nice break to have a little fun for an hour.

It was also entertaining to see the boys trying to push the triple stroller down the sidewalk. It is pretty big, especially when full of three wiggling toddlers, and that caused a little problem driving straight, but the boys figured it out!

The girls greatly enjoyed the water and it was the perfect setting for them to do a little walking around as well as floating with us around the lazy river. Because the adults outnumbered the kids for once, we didn’t put life jackets on anyone: having two arms per kid is pretty useful! Everyone thought the slide was exciting, even though they sometimes looked less than thrilled about it, as well as the small kid-sized water works and fountains. This experience also taught me my phone is waterproof, as I went down the slide with it in my shorts. Even fully submerged, it came out okay. Whew!

In true kid style, we made it all the way through the water park without any mishaps or incidences, until of course, we rinsed them off without their swim diapers on…I will leave that one up to your imaginations (refer to a couple blogs back if you are unclear…).

We also took the girls to a cute park, that wasn’t completely toddler friendly, but still workable with three adults to herd them around. The whole trip was so hot, in Alaska standards anyway, so we kept the midday outings for the fair skinned kiddos to a minimum. Realistically, I think the adults were just as hot!

We barbecued at Papa Cliff’s house a couple times, with the girls (and myself!) meeting extended family up visiting from down south, the kids and their friends, a big group! We also made it out to dinner with the family as well and they behaved perfectly, other than the major mess of rice left on the restaurant floor. They certainly enjoyed being passed around and mingling with everyone.

The girls especially loved Papa Cliff’s entryway closet doors. Who knew mirrors could be so very fun and bring some smiles to the room. Here’s a video to bring a smile to your face too 🙂

Giving kisses to the mirrors

Chris’ celebration of life was our last night in town and held at the beach. I’d never visited Auke Rec in Juneau before, and it was a great place to reminisce. What a beautiful view, even with the forest fire smoke in the distance. So many people showed up and it was really a testimony to how many lives Chris touched. He certainly impacted ours! Craig and I handed the kids off to many different people to say hello. It was their first visit to the beach and first time trying Rhonda’s delicious scones.I’m pretty sure they were mostly excited about eating the seashells- not so much the cold water, although Emerie didn’t seem to mind it so much.

As the days continue to pass, I am constantly reminded of Chris’ impact on our lives; in fact, it is all over my house! The windows, my beautiful, rounded third story loft window that the boys gave me so much grief over, the new pantry he installed on his spring visit to Anchorage, even all the tools used by the boys in the garage over the years. It still makes me smile that he shot a hole in one of the heater pipes, putting up trim in the family room, and yet when we discovered it and called and told him later that week, he blamed it on me because I wanted to paint and have new trim! Fair enough. While the reminders bring a sense of sadness with them, they also bring good memories. Chris and I became friends through these projects, as they often brought him up to visit us, and I remember the brothers hard at work for a weekend, arguing about trim cutting and decor…and just being brothers.

In closing, a quote I heard that seems appropriate:

A family is a circle of love, not broken by a loss, but made stronger by the memories.

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So please, I ask all of you reading this that knew Chris- please continue to tell us, and the girls as they get older, stories of all the shenanigans the Douglas boys got themselves into! I only know a drop in the bucket of all the good ones…and sharing these memories will help the girls know their uncle.

Chris teaching Harper to hold her bottle with a great photo of him and Craig on the table next to him.