Monday, July 20, 2015

First Family-of-Three Road Trip: Salmon Fishing on the Kenai!

Spontaneity. A word I've felt far removed from in becoming a parent and yet, with a little forethought and preparation, Ken, Baby and I - along with our rambunctious border collie, Penny - embarked on our first family road trip this weekend! We got wind that "the salmon were running" along the Kenai River and decided it'd be really fun (and potentially challenging with a baby in tow) to try our hand at fishing, specifically dip netting, which is open only to Alaska residents. In a spirit of adventure, Ken put in extra hours at work Monday through Thursday, and we hit the road roughly five hours later than planned on Friday morning. I mentioned that we were bringing our 3-month-old, right? We eased into the drive by grabbing our favorite Starbucks beverages (mine: a tall coconut-milk latte, Ken's: a tall Americano with room, despite the fact that he does not add anything extra into his cup), and filled up our gas tank. Our giant dip net and extension rod firmly tied to the roof of our car, along with countless baby supplies, sandwich fixins', and camping needs stuffed into our car, and we were ready to take on the road ahead. 

The mouth of the Kenai River where we planned to fish is about a three-hour drive from Anchorage with no traffic, and miraculously, baby girl slept the entire drive there, so we made it in about that time. Ironically, that same distance took us about six or seven hours on the way home, as Ruby did not sleep much nor did she enjoy being fastened in her car seat. To accommodate baby, we stopped along scenic lakes and took breaks as needed. 

While in Kenai, we were blessed to stay at our friend's parents' house. We relaxed each evening in the comfort of our room and cooked meals in their lovely kitchen. It felt like a home away from home. It's hard to imagine what it would've been like trying to camp on the beach after so much traveling and fishing, with a baby. Thank you again to our generous hosts! 

I had a blast watching Ken catch his first salmon in the Kenai River, and was equally impressed at his skill in cleaning and filleting the fish he caught. My Alaskan husband! Ruby was very proud of her daddy as well, and enjoyed the extra quality time we got as a family this weekend. Meanwhile, Penny's favorite part of the whole trip was most likely swimming in the lakes and catching sticks. She's easy to please in that regard.

Here are photos from our road trip! The views on this trip were breathtaking. 
(Click to enlarge)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

3 Month Mark!

Happy 3 Months, baby girl!

Ruby turned three months old last Friday and we marked the occasion by celebrating a friend's wedding. Baby girl is blossoming into quite the talker and on the way home from the wedding, she kept chatting - perhaps in an attempt to share how much she enjoyed herself! She is growing and developing dramatically these days. She loves to smile and clasp her hands and just last week, started giggling. I love her laugh! In the mornings, after her first diaper change, I like to blow raspberries on her belly. She gets such a kick out of that. Ruby has dimples just like her mama, and is growing into a bubbly and social little girl, very curious about the world around her. She also loves to put things in her mouth and suck on her hands, occasionally guiding my hands into her mouth as well. So funny. 

We are curious what color Ruby's eyes will be, as they have changed from blueish gray to a more pronounced green. Her hair has also lightened from medium brown to a light-brown-blonde. She is our little beauty!

Here's a video of Ruby's first father-daughter dance I posted on Vimeo. Click on the underlined link or go here ( and make sure that your volume is turned up. :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Lost Boy

Perspective. I can see how my perspective on parenting shifts in response to baby girl's changing needs each day. Oftentimes, something changes and doesn't look how I had planned. For example, consistent naps, a regular bedtime, and sleeping through the night, all seem illusive; particularly, right when I think that I have something 'figured' out.

Yesterday, was one of those days.

Baby girl woke up earlier than usual, ready for the day, cooing and babbling, with words that only she could understand. Bright-eyed and smiling, she fought to get out of her swaddle just after 7:30 a.m.  Her left arm, and then her right, emerged from her green apple-print summer swaddle - despite the velcro straps that presumably held her bound most of the night. Her cheeky grin informed me that she was ready to escape the clutches of yet another swaddle, should I try to re-swaddle her and go back to bed.

"Ok, let's start our day," I half-mumbled, as I relinquished my desire to climb in bed and under the covers.

We ate pumpkin waffles together for breakfast. Well, I ate while she watched me from the comfort of her cheerful red monkey chair, rattling and clanking her plastic toys. When she started to fuss, I sang to her and danced around the monkey chair. It made her happy again, and I assumed that it'd be a good day, where I could tackle the laundry, pay bills, or at the very least, tidy up the kitchen a bit.

By 9:30 a.m., Ruby's demeanor became much more tender. She didn't want me to put her down at all, and after a longish nursing session, she wasn't interested in nap time. Prone to tears, Ruby wanted to stay close to me, so I decided we should go for a walk. The fresh summer air would do us some good. Feeling adventurous, I harnessed Penny, our energetic 18-month-old pup, and decided to take her along as well.

Nearing the high '50s, the cool air invigorated me and I sensed my mind relaxing. Lately, I've grappled with bouts of anxiety, triggered by the challenges of parenting a newborn.

A few minutes into our walk, I decided to go straight thru the main thoroughfare instead of looping along the wooded trail. I wanted to walk around the neighborhoods adjacent to the park, opposite our house, and check out the pretty gardens lining the sidewalk.

Suddenly, a woman, most likely in her mid-thirties, approached me from the right. "Excuse me! Excuse me, have you seen a little boy?"

"Um, what did you say?" I quickly replied, unsure if I had heard her correctly.

"I can't find my toddler! He's 3! He ran off, can you please help me look for him?!" Her winded, frantic tone amplified her breathless speech. She seemed increasingly desperate. There was no one else around.

"You must think I'm an awful parent!" she continued, her face wrought with anxiety. "He just ran off and I haven't been able to find him!"

Unsure of how to respond in that moment, I asked for the boy's name and said that I'd love to help. We split up to cover more ground. I half-ran, half-jogged toward the eastern edge of the park, calling for the little boy, peering through the woods and along the bordering sidewalks.

No sign of the boy.

10 minutes passed and the lady of the missing boy met me back at our starting point, the playground. We decided to cover opposite ends of the park and split up yet again. As I sped up my pace - my red and black jogging stroller's maiden run - Ruby's eyes grew big, as if she sensed my mounting fears about how this story would end. Penny happily jogged alongside us, not a care in the world. Deep down, I couldn't shake the lingering uneasiness. What if this was my baby girl who was lost? How would I feel? What if we can't find this boy - when do I call the police?

Just the other day, I woke up in a panic thinking that I had lost baby Ruby. But she was safe and sound, nestled in her crib, sleeping soundly. It was only a dream. My baby girl's life is so precious. A child's life is so precious. You never want to lose your child.

We curved around overgrown hedges and under towering spruce trees. "Little boy! Little boy! Where are you?" I yelled, as I couldn't recall his name - a name I had never heard before.

The creek. Oh, God, I hope he's not in the creek, I thought to myself, as I ran parallel the water's edge, checking for any sign of a three-year-old.

Still no little boy.

I raced back to my initial point of contact with the mother of the missing boy. Another 20 minutes had passed at this point. She resurfaced shortly after, baby boy in tow.

"A biker picked him up farther down the trail," she smiled, looking both elated and downtrodden at the same time. She continued to say how horrible she felt about the whole experience. "He probably really wanted attention," she said.

"Praise God you found him," I said, and wished her well as we parted ways. In that moment, I wanted to hug this lady that I had only just met. Somehow though, I sensed her incredible guilt over the situation and pulled away, quietly. She wanted space, I reasoned.

In retrospect, I wish that I had hugged her, or at the very least, I wish that I could've responded quicker to her initial comment, which felt more like a question or a bid for affirmation. I would've said, "No, I don't think you're a horrible person. I'm not judging you right now. I'm so sorry that you're going through this awful experience."

Words of grace.

Honestly, this is what I wish I could hear more of, especially on days when I feel like I'm failing as a parent, a wife, a writer, or a small business owner. These are the things I need to remind myself of: I'm not a failure or a horrible person. I'm human, and I'm trying my best.

And by the grace of God, I can get through days when baby girl won't stop crying unless she is attached to me in some fashion. When I need to surrender my expectations for how many house projects I'll accomplish and instead focus on the simple task of feeding and caring for my child. In the end, she is so much more important.

I was reminded of that yesterday. In those 30 minutes, when a little boy went missing and I was there to help look for him, my perspective shifted. One of my worst fears came true for a woman I had just met - the fear of losing one's child, and it helped me to see how truly thankful I am for my own baby girl, and how important it is to live out grace - for myself and others, when things don't go as planned. Or worse, when we lose something precious, if even for a moment.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

On a day marked by overcast skies, the slight drip-dripping of rain, and a modest summer temperature hovering around 60 degrees, our family of three (four, counting Penny, our pup) celebrated our nation's independence. I often forget the many freedoms that Americans are privileged to live out in a relatively safe environment, and yet today, as I pondered graphic news headlines - brimming with violence (both near and far) set against the gray clouds overhead, a sort of juxtaposition of sea/sky, freedom/slavery, light/dark came to mind. We are so privileged to live in the United States, to have access to clean water, to have rights as citizens to vote, to work for a better life, to do business in a free market economy, to eat good food (or not so good food), and to be safe. Perhaps in theory all of these things are black and white, and how each person is able to live out these freedoms lies in shades of gray. 

Regardless, I believe that I am truly blessed to be an American citizen, to live in a country that was founded on great ideas. A country that many soldiers have risked their lives defending. A country that still allows religious freedom, for the most part. So many people around the world are fighting to survive - not just thrive, as I consider myself able to do as an American citizen. Today, as I enjoyed a lovely brunch with my sweet family, and then a long walk along the inlet, I was reminded of what a blessing it is to be free.  

I've always loved this song, as it reminds me of the freedom we have. Praise God.

"America the Beautiful" by Katharine Lee Bates
United Methodist Hymnal, 1989

O beautiful for spacious skies,
for amber waves of grain;
for purple mountain majesties
above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
and crown thy good with brotherhood
from sea to shining sea.

O beautiful for heroes proved
in liberating strife,
who more than self their country loved,
and mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
till all success be nobleness,
and every gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream
that sees beyond the years
thine alabaster cities gleam,
undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control,
thy liberty in law.

Friday, July 3, 2015

My New Favorite Dress

I bought it. I broke down and bought it - the beautiful dress I swooned over while in the dressing room at Anthropologie during our visit to Seattle a few weeks ago. Here is a little peek at the pretty pattern on this textured polyester knit dress from designer Maeve, which I plan on wearing to my friend's outdoor wedding one week from today. It's hard for me to pay full-price on items at Anthropologie but after nearly two weeks of thinking about this dress, I decided to use my clothes savings and go for it. And surprisingly, when I called customer service last Friday to place my order, I was able to score a friendly discount and free shipping, thanks to the sweet sales rep I spoke with. What a blessing! Now, if only I could find a miniature version of this dress for Ruby, so that we can match...

Ken, Ruby, and I are settling back into our routine post-trip. Baby girl is gradually sleeping more. We've had a couple great nights in the last two weeks; overall, it's been fairly challenging, as I came down with a horrible cold this week which coincided with a possible growth spurt for baby girl (translate: extra nightly feedings and less sleeping.) Juggling kleenex in one hand and a water glass in the other, I focused on keeping my germs away from Ruby as much as possible while nursing. 

Baby girl recently had her two-month baby wellness exam and she is now about 13 lbs and 24 inches long. Our pediatrician said that Ruby is very healthy and growing strong. She loves to smile, hold her head up, and steady her gaze on bright lights, colors, and faces she recognizes. Cooing and babbling, Ruby excitedly tries to talk on a regular basis. At the prompting of articles on child development, I now focus on reading to Ruby as often as possible. Anything from newspaper feature stories to magazine clippings to contemporary novels, as well as morning Bible readings. She gets a kick out of the many stories I make up for her, and recite aloud, particularly those about a little girl, ironically also named Ruby.  

Baby girl has such a happy and joyful demeanor, especially after good food and good sleep. She's just like her mama. 

Among other news, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook our house quite vigorously two Wednesdays ago. I'm becoming familiar with these ground tremblings, since Alaska experiences quakes often. Although, I can't say that I like them. When the house first began to wobble, I instinctively grabbed baby girl and ducked under our sturdy dining room table. This was shortly after my late lunch that afternoon. Ruby didn't seem to notice as I continued nursing her from the comfort of the hard, cold tile floor beneath us. In conjunction with my new surroundings, this was the perfect opportunity for me to notice the cobwebs and hairballs gathering under the table. Happily, the earthquake ended quickly and we were able to return to the comfort of our living room recliner. 

Here is a photo of the two of us cuddling back on the couch, safe and sound following the earthquake. 

As we approach the three-month mark in parenting, I feel abundantly blessed by the community of friends and family who have surrounded us in this season, particularly those who have supported us in prayer and through meal delivery, childcare, care packages and words of love and affirmation. Thank you so much! Ken and I are smitten with this sweet, gentle, curious, observant, and kind young lady who graced our lives nearly three months ago. God is revealing to me an even richer understanding of His grace and goodness, as Ken and I journey through parenthood. I had no idea how much I would love becoming a mom. It truly is a gift that I accept with reverence, recognizing the weight of this blessing.

I look forward to sharing more updates and pics with you soon!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Baby on Board: Our Seattle Adventures!


Last week, we flew from Anchorage to Seattle to visit our dear friends and family who live in the area. This was baby girl's first plane ride and after scouring the internet for all traveling-with-baby checklists, I felt ready to take on this trip. Ruby did great on the flight over (it was a red-eye) and she slept the bulk of it. Our flight home, on the other hand, was pretty challenging. Ruby scream-cried multiple times, and I almost cried, as I couldn't figure out how to console her. Ken and I alternated between circuits of bouncing her up and down, nursing, coddling, and encouraging naps. Thankfully, the passengers around us had children of varying ages, and seemed to understand. Honestly, this first big trip with baby felt sort of like a hazing experience. Traveling with a newborn is not glamorous but I can now say with confidence that I learned valuable lessons. One of which, is that taking a baby out of their routine can result in loss of sleep for one or more parents and/or children. It is best to know this going in to things, and I hope to be more realistic about expectations in the future.

All that to say, we had a wonderful time seeing my cousin Isaac and his wife, Kristina, my Aunt Linda and Aunt Joy, along with our close friends who live in Seattle. As we were flying over the city, preparing to land, I caught myself breathing out the words, "I'm home" and experienced a moment of intense joy and nostalgia, realizing quickly that Seattle still holds a special place in my heart. This is the city where Ken and I lived when we were dating. We shared our first apartment together on Capitol Hill after we got married, and then moved to the U-District when Ken got into the University of Washington. He and I biked all around the city, hiked and camped in the surrounding wilderness, and enjoyed so many great meals at local eateries. We built intentional community with our neighbors, friends, and church through weekly gatherings, game nights, dinner parties, and rendezvous at the park. Jumping off the dock at Lake Washington, playing late-night boardgames with friends, taking long walks through downtown - these are some of my best memories from our time living there. I feel so blessed to have spent a good part of my twenties in Seattle.

Perhaps this trip to Seattle instigated the conversation that Ken and I now find ourselves pursuing: Do we want to move back to the Pacific Northwest? And if so, would it be a year from now? Two years, or more? Ken has always had such a heart for building relationship and living close to dear friends. This is a vision that I've shared with him, but I never thought that it would potentially look like a move to Spokane, Washington, where my cousins live. Until now, that is. As we prayerfully consider if this might become a reality for us in the coming year(s), both of us want to take our time in landing on a decision. It gets us excited, though, at the thought of living near Isaac and Kristina and raising our children together, and also being close to Seattle and all our friends there. Also, flights from Seattle are much cheaper than flights from Anchorage, and that is another plus as we consider how we might continue to visit family in Alaska and Hawaii on a regular basis.

Alaska is still our home for now, and we are thankful for this gift of being near Ken's family. We look forward to continuing to share our adventures as we live in this grand state, and travel outside of it from time to time. Here are some photos of our recent trip to Seattle. Thank you so much to our friends and family who hosted and hung out with us!