Table Mountain Hike

We’ve been having such gorgeous fall days that we decided to head up to Mt. Baker this past weekend to take advantage of probably one of the last rain-free weekends of the season!

It was actually the first time we had been up to the mountains this summer, which is pretty abnormal for our family, but between Artist Point being closed really late this summer and smoke, we really didn’t have a chance to go. We started the day pulling off at Picture Lake and walking around the quick half-mile loop. This trail is ADA accessible and fantastic for little hikers!

Trail around Picture Lake
So many wild blueberries!
Hiking with kids is often slooowwwww…but you definitely see a lot along the way!

We drove up to the Artist Point parking lot and debated whether or not to do a full hike. Our kids weigh about 35 pounds each and I didn’t want to end up carrying them really far. We started down the Table Mountain trail which is rocky and not too steep to begin with. The kids were doing awesome hiking so right before we got to the steep part of the trail, Seth ran back to the car to get our kid carriers and water/snacks.

The lower/flatter part of Table Mountain Trail

We went up Table Mountain two summers ago too but carried the kids 100% of the way (and they both weighed a lot less then!). Seth got back with all of the supplies fairly quickly and we loaded the kids up in the packs. This trail is NOT GOOD FOR LITTLE KIDS unless they are in a backpack! It is less than a mile from the parking lot to the top, but gains over 700 feet of elevation. There are pretty intense, rocky switchbacks right on top of each other for the last 1/8 mile or so.

You can see the top of Table Mountain in the upper left of this picture

We made it to the top with the kids and found a great place to have a snack. The views from the top are incredible! If you have kids that like to run away from you this might not be a good hike either because there are pretty significant drop-offs on the sides of Table Mountain. The top is relatively flat though!

Beautiful views at the top!

Artist Point is a beautiful place to visit even if you don’t do any hiking! We want to do some longer hikes, but we are trying to feel out how far our kids will be able/willing to go without being carried the whole way!

Eliza REALLY wanted to find snow because she remembered finding it last year…there was one very small patch still left next to the trail!

Easy At-Home Composting!

We compost all our food scraps, yard waste, etc. at our house! You don’t need to live on a big farm to effectively compost – our lot is about 10,000 sq feet (1/4 of an acre). We do have a garden that we put our compost in once it is ready, but you could also use the compost for flower beds!

Eliza taking out the compost bucket!

Composting is great because it reduces your carbon footprint (the trucks don’t have to use fuel to haul away the weight and it doesn’t take up space in the landfill), and it reduces or eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers in your garden.

I’m no composting expert, but I know composting can seem really overwhelming to start. This is what our family does and it is VERY simple:

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, I may earn a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase through these links

  1. We have this 0.8 gallon trash can with a removable insert in our kitchen right next to our garbage. We put any food scraps (watermelon rinds, moldy food from the fridge, apple cores, etc.) in it instead of the garbage. We don’t put any meat/bones/animal fat in – those go in the garbage. We empty this about every other day. We haven’t had any issues with it smelling bad because we empty it regularly and the lid actually seals really well! We also add yard leaves, grass clippings, etc. to the bin.
  2. We used to just have a big pile of compost in the corner of our yard but it smelled bad and attracted rodents. Growing up, I lived on 3 acres and we had an open-air compost pile that worked fine because it was far enough away from the house/where people hung out! This past year we invested in this stand-up compost bin with a lid! It is crazy how much faster the bin breaks down organic matter vs having it just sit in the open air.
  3. That bin has openings on the bottom that we can shovel the compost out once we need it! We add the compost to our garden in the spring before we plant. Now is a great time to start composting to get ready for spring gardening!
Kitchen compost bin
Outside compost bin

If you aren’t quite ready for a big huge bin, they have smaller and cheaper options like this one that would work too! You just might end up composting maybe half of your food waste instead of all of it.

You will want to have roughly the same amount of green (food) and brown (yard waste) materials in your compost pile. Sometimes you might need to add a little water, but we haven’t needed to in our compost pile. The EPA has a great beginner website for composting!

It is really interesting (and slightly gross) to open the compost bin and seeing how many different types of insects/worms/fungi are inside! The whole thing looks like it is alive with how much movement is going on in there!

I’d love to hear if you compost and what successes or failures you have had with composting!

Side taken off for easy shoveling access!
Can you see all the creepy crawlies in there?! (Especially visible along the black plastic)

“My Kid Won’t Let Me Brush Their Teeth!”

I’m a dental hygienist and I’ve heard this more than once from parents! I’m not trying to judge anyone, but it is extremely important that parents have tools and strategies for brushing their kids’ teeth because it is so important!

I brought Eliza to her 4 year well-visit with her pediatrician and they had me fill out one of those questionnaire forms to see if your child is on track developmentally. First of all, I understand they need to screen kids somehow, but those forms seem to just make parents of kids with any type of special needs feel bad…I wish they could have adjusted forms for us. Second of all, I was APPALLED when one of the questions asked, “Does your 4 year old brush their teeth by themselves?” I circled no and wrote a lengthy explanation of why (which I’m sure the nurse just rolled her eyes and entered “no” in the computer and shredded the form).

I was appalled because according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, parents should be brushing their kids’ teeth themselves or at least closely supervising until they are at least 6 years old. Some kids will need help longer!

Eliza says she is going to be a dental hygienist when she grows up.

You can start using a fluoride toothpaste when the first baby tooth comes out but you only use a teeny smear of toothpaste (think grain of rice). The toothpaste commercials showing 2″ of toothpaste are just trying to get you to use more than you need to at a time. Even for adults, a pea sized amount is plenty and a tube of toothpaste should last you a really long time!

A baby should go to the dentist when their first tooth comes through the gums (and then every 6 months after that). Age 1 is the latest a baby should have their first dental visit! You can go to either a pediatric dentist or a family dentist – a pediatric dentist may be a good choice if you think your child will have a difficult time keeping their mouth open or sitting still for a short exam.

Teeny little bit of toothpaste!

But what if my kid won’t let me brush their teeth? It is kind of like asking “what if your kid won’t let you buckle them in their car seat?” …you have to. Some people mistakenly think cavities in baby teeth aren’t a big deal since big teeth will just grow in but they are very important in maintaining space for adult teeth, helping your child learn to eat and speak, and decay can spread from one tooth to another (from baby to permanent teeth in the mouth).

Some tips to help:

  1. Start early! If a kid is used to having their teeth brushed from the time they are a couple months old, it will be less of a battle as they get older!
  2. Make it fun! Have a fun-tasting toothpaste (kept out of reach, obviously), a character on a toothbrush they like, or sing a fun song while you brush. Our kids have the Oral-B kids electric toothbrushes from Costco now that they are both 3 and older!
  3. Show them that you brush your teeth too, that it is a regular part of getting up in the morning and going to bed at night.
  4. Don’t ever threaten kids with “if you don’t brush your teeth, you will get a cavity and it will HURT” That is just totally setting you up for a meltdown disaster when you eventually need to take them to the dentist (or when they are an adult and are terrified to go in!)
  5. Brushing should be twice a day, but the most important time is before bed, because bacteria goes crazy at night when we are sleeping and not producing as much saliva!
  6. Brushing needs to be the LAST thing before going to bed. Absolutely no milk, bedtime snacks, etc. after teeth brushing. If our kids need another bedtime snack, we brush their teeth again. (An exception is nursing babies – just make sure their teeth are brushed and they don’t have any other snacks before bed/their long sleep stretch). No bottles or sippy cups with milk in bed or laying around the house during the day!

And just so you don’t think we have it all together…Oliver (who just turned 3) still HATES having his teeth brushed. He’s happy if we let him do it himself, but can’t stand when we do it for him (which we do). There are sometimes tears, but hopefully he will grow out of it soon!

Rock Polishing At Home

It all started out with a free rock polishing kit. I’m part of a “Buy Nothing” Facebook group where people give things away they no longer want/need. The kit came with the tumbler and enough polishing powder for one batch of rocks. I polished my first batch of rocks over the course of about 7 days and they turned out pretty cool! The main downside was the polisher was extremely loud so we had to keep it in the garage.

My original free one. (You get what you pay for)

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, I may earn a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase through these links

I thought rock polishing would be such a fun preschool/homeschool activity for years to come, but I was out of polishing powder. I did some research online and ended up buying 4.5 pounds of rock polishing powder and ceramic pellets. I was set! Until the VERY next time I used the free rock polisher the rocks banged holes in the plastic and it leaked ALL over the place. (See the duct tape in the picture above). I tried to fix it with duct tape several times but it kept leaking.

Now I had over $20 of polishing powder but no rock tumbler…so I did more research online and ended up getting this National Geographic Hobby Rock Tumbler Kit. Now I’m really committed to rock polishing (haha!). The kit comes with some unpolished rocks and some polishing powder to start with. Here are pictures of the rocks that came with the kit:

Before
After!

The rocks included in the kit were obviously more colorful than the ones we find laying around our yard. I know you can buy more unpolished rocks from Amazon if you wanted to do more of those type of rocks. The main reason I wanted to get the polisher was to collect rocks when our family does trips! Hopefully as a family we will be able to learn more about the different rock types (and which ones polish better!)

Functional Rock Tumbler!

To polish the rocks we fill up the tumbler about 1/2 full of rocks, add about a tablespoon of polishing powder, then just cover the rocks with water. The tumbler spins them around for about a week, then we rinse out the rocks and add the next step of polishing powder. The grit goes from coarse to ultra-fine, finishing off with aluminum oxide.

Unpolished rocks
After Step 1 (The rocks are still slightly wet so they look shinier than they really are)
After Step 2
After Step 3
Final after step 4! Some got much more shiny than others. These are completely dry, so this is what they actually look like!

I’m interested to experiment to see if longer polishing time would lead to shinier rocks or if I need to put some sort of glaze on them? Either way, this is a fun project for homeschool kids!

Also just your friendly reminder that it is against the law to remove anything from National Parks. It comes with a hefty fine – so do your rock collecting outside the parks! 🙂

Vision Therapy Update

Eliza has been doing vision therapy for about 8 months now! She started going weekly for an hour each week from January through mid-March. We took about a 3-month break during COVID, then started going every other week for 30 minutes each time.

Just a little background refresher: Eliza was diagnosed with an optic glioma (tumor on the nerve going to her right eye) in September, 2018. She did a year of weekly chemo which shrunk the tumor but left her nearly blind in her right eye. She does have some vision in that eye, however, and with vision therapy we hoped to maintain/strengthen the vision in that eye and help her with balance and coordination.

I am 100% convinced that vision therapy has helped Eliza. We saw immediate improvements in her balance, ability to color inside lines, and significant improvement in being comfortable with wearing a patch. She doesn’t have enough functional vision to be able to be patched for 3-4 hours a day because she can’t see more than a few inches in front of her, but she is able to do vision therapy exercises for 15-20 minutes each day. We’ve also noticed that doing these exercises helps keep her right eye tracking with her left eye rather than turning in towards her nose and going cross-eyed.

Vision therapy is SO fascinating! Her vision therapist was amazing, and spent a lot of time teaching both me and Eliza different red/green activities (where her left eye can see only one color and her right eye can only see one color) to force both eyes to work together. She also did balance activities, peripheral vision activities, and patched activities.

I am so much more confident in what Eliza specifically can and cannot see with her right eye because of vision therapy. Her routine 3-month eye exams at the ophthalmologist are so quick, and usually happen when Eliza is already exhausted from the drive to Seattle and multiple other appointments. Last time her eye exam was an hour after waking up from anesthesia for her MRI…you can bet that eye exam wasn’t accurate! Her ophthalmologist isn’t really supportive of vision therapy, but I’m going with my mama gut on this one and pursuing this alternative therapy to give Eliza the maximum use of her vision that she can get!

Example of a red/green activity: Eliza wears these glasses
Eliza wears the glasses and puts the tokens of the corresponding color on the squares
One eye can see the RED and the green is cancelled out by the green shade
The other eye can only see the GREEN and the red is cancelled out by the red shade!

Eliza has started getting a little bit sneaky with her red/green activities by scrunching her nose up so she can see with her left eye for a millisecond to complete the activities faster. Her vision therapist said this is REALLY common with kids doing vision therapy her age. We want to keep vision therapy as light and fun, and not something she dreads SO…

We’re taking a 4-6 month break from going to vision therapy sessions (as recommended by her vision therapist) to focus on just doing patched activities at home to try to continue to strengthen/maintain her right eye. We will continue to do 15-20 minutes every day at home!

Vision therapy is pretty expensive ($90-120 per session, not covered by insurance because it is an “alternative medicine”) and her vision therapist knows we have plenty of patched activities we can do at home (pretty much any preschool-type sorting or matching games). We will go back in a few months to see if Eliza is ready to do red-green activities again! Eliza’s vision therapist said it is very common to do a few months on/a few months off as she grows up.

We have been so happy with doing vision therapy and I’ve heard from many other moms that it helped their kids with various vision-related issues too!

I’m so happy to answer any questions about vision therapy to the best of my ability!

Not vision therapy, but Eliza’s drawing and letter forming has improved significantly since doing vision therapy!

5 Day Car Camping Meal Plan

Camping food can be so delicious and it also can be a big disaster. We have car camped enough to have experienced both. We were really happy with our meals on our Teton trip so I thought I would share them to give you ideas for future car camping trips!

When I planned our Teton trip, I tried to choose meals with a minimum amount of refrigeration requirements. We have a big Yeti cooler which is great, but with the temperatures reaching 90+ outside, our cooler just baked inside the bear box and needed the ice refilled about every other day. I mainly wanted to use our cooler for the kids’ milk, eggs, and cheese sticks.

We’ve also tried cooking over the fire many times and have never had a lot of success. We finally bought a double-burner propane stove and it has been a GAME CHANGER for our camping meals! We also have a griddle that fits right on top of the two burners for pancakes, bacon, etc. Now we mostly just use the fire for s’mores after dinner is all cleaned up!

Breakfast was the same each day: a hard boiled egg for each person and a bowl of plain quick-cook oats sweetened with honey. Lunch was also the same every day: peanut butter and jam sandwiches, cheese sticks, and apples. We would pack our lunches as we were cleaning up breakfast to avoid hauling all our cooking supplies out again at lunch.

Dinners:

Day 1: Kodiak Cakes pancakes, bacon, and hash browns. This was the only meal we regretted a little because the bacon was SO greasy/messy and we had to be really careful how we cooked and cleaned up since there were bears in our camp twice while we were there. The Kodiak cakes are awesome because you just have to mix them with water and they have a decent amount of protein. Costco has awesome dehydrated hash brown cartons that you just add water and fry right up!

Day 2: Spaghetti and (pre-cooked) Sausage: I brought spaghetti noodles, a can of sauce, and pre-cooked sausage. If I made this at home, I would have just used regular sausage, but since we were camping I wanted already cooked sausage (kept in the cooler, of course) to add an extra layer of food safety.

Day 3: Quesadillas with chicken and black beans: These were SO easy, I actually make these at home for dinner sometimes (with freshly cooked chicken). I just mixed up canned chicken, black beans, cheddar cheese, and BBQ sauce and put it in a tortilla. I fried them dry on the griddle for about 2 minutes on each side! The kids had just plain quesadillas!

Day 4: Breakfast Burritos: I made scrambled eggs and we added cheese, the rest of the sausage from day 2, a new batch of hash browns, and salsa!

Day 5: Chili: Towards the end of the week I really wasn’t wanting to rely on our cooler anymore, so we had a can of chili and added tortilla chips and cheddar cheese on top.

We also had two days worth of Mountain House meals on standby just in case one of the meals wouldn’t have worked out for some reason!

There was no dishwashing station at our campground so our dual dish containers were fantastic for doing dishes after eating! We boiled water in our kettle to have hot water for washing the dishes.

When I was researching camping meals, there were some crazy gourmet recipes out there that I wouldn’t even make at home – much less camping! We like to keep things pretty simple when we car camp! Let me know if you have any other easy go-to camping meals!

Our Homeschool Preschool Plans 2020-2021 (P3/P5)

We’re heading in to our second year of homeschool preschool with Eliza! We started last year with Playing Preschool curriculum, which gave me some great ideas, but we ended up modifying it quite a bit as the year went on. I thought I would list what we are planning on doing for this fall here!

Eliza will be 5 in December, so she will not start kindergarten until next year. When Eliza was born I always thought she would just go right in to public school in kindergarten but the closer we get and the more I realize how much I love teaching her at home. We are now hoping to do a hybrid public school/homeschool education for kindergarten next year. We’ll re-evaluate each year what is working for our family and for each kid.

I’m a HUGE fan of independent play, read-alouds, and exploring outside. Our “preschool” takes about an hour each day and I’m really flexible with what we get done. It just adds a lot of helpful structure to our day doing an hour of preschool each morning. Eliza loves doing it for the most part, which is why I feel like we will be able to do these different subjects! I’m trying to make this homeschool preschool fun and lighthearted so we will have a good routine and foundation as she gets older.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, I may earn a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase through these links

Reading: How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We have started this one twice and both times Eliza wasn’t quite ready for it. I’m very confident Eliza will learn to read when she is ready. We’ll start this one again in September and take it as slowly as she needs.

Handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears. Eliza has made leaps and bounds advancements in handwriting since starting vision therapy. This might be an area she needs extra help in due to only having functional vision in one eye. I’ve heard amazing things about this program!

Math: Abeka Numbers Skills K5. I was homeschooled for four years and used mostly Abeka curriculum. I chose this because I’m familiar with it and it claims to be equivalent to common core standards.

Bible: Long Story Short. This is a 10-minute daily devotional that involves actually reading out of the Bible plus discussion questions. This will be part of our “Calendar Time” in the morning.

Extras: We will do science and Spanish once a week. Eliza is really interested in names of bones/muscles/etc. The other day she said “I got some water down my trachea on accident” haha. We have this Human Anatomy Book for Kids. The Spanish book I chose is labeled for preschool through first grade. We’ll more likely use this for more than one year. We also have plenty of BOB/easy reader books and sight word flashcards to supplement!

We will continue to do our morning calendar time, picture books, read-aloud chapter books, playing outside, and lots of independent play time! Hopefully we will be able to have more play-dates too depending on what things are looking like! Eliza’s vision therapy exercises take about 20 minutes every afternoon too.

Oliver will mostly do coloring books/sticker books/play-doh type activities while Eliza does her workbooks. One book I love for his age is the Big Preschool Book. Eliza just finished going through this entire book and loved it. It is full-color and really engaging for preschoolers! It is so crazy to already see big differences in Eliza and Oliver’s learning interests and styles.

Every family is so different with their school choices, but I know many more families are forced into choosing at-home options this year. I’m really interested to see if hybrid models become more popular in the future as schools are quickly modifying now. I’m excited to have another year at home with Eliza after spending so much time apart from her during Oliver’s transplant.

Nerdy Date Night Ideas

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, I may earn a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase through these links.

Seth and I love quality time date nights instead of just watching a show for two reasons: 1. We are able to talk/communicate more and 2. We RARELY can agree on a show haha. If you know us in person, you know Seth and I are both kind of nerdy anyway and we’ve come up with some fun (for us!) and different date night ideas that don’t require a babysitter!

  1. Paint by numbers for adults: We discovered these when we were spending endless hours at the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle unable to go out in public because of Oliver. These things take forever and make you look like a decent artist (haha!). You get a lot of hours of entertainment out of a little money with these! We usually put a no-brainer show on in the background like Survivor. I personally wouldn’t ever hang one of these up in my house, but it is a really similar vibe of doing a puzzle.
Paint by number right out of the box
Halfway done

2. Sudoku Racing: I think this started on an airplane flight one time when Seth and I had those airline magazines with Sudoku in them. Since they were the same puzzle, we raced to see who could get it done the fastest. The fun part is that Seth and I are pretty equally matched so it is about 50/50 who wins each time. We buy matching Sudoku books from the dollar store and race to see who gets done first. You could also do this with crossword puzzles, word searches, etc.

3. Puzzles: These are a little trickier with little kids running around but is really similar to doing a paint-by-number. We have a big piece of plywood that we do the puzzle on so we can move it to a place the kids can’t reach during the day. We are able to talk to each other and usually have a no-brainer show on in the background. We did this National Park puzzle during quarantine (but PNW instead of California) and it was really fun! If you get REALLY into it, you can set a timer and see how fast you can complete a 1000 piece puzzle. We haven’t gotten quite that intense yet. 😉

4. Cribbage, Dutch Blitz, Code Names Duet and Qwixx: These are our go-to two-player card games. I’d say Seth beats me slightly more often at Cribbage and we had to take a break from Dutch Blitz for a while because I was beating Seth too often…they are both definitely worth learning for a date night!

5. Escape Room Board/Card Game: First of all, if you have never done an escape room, I HIGHLY recommend doing one. They are so much fun! Since so many places are shut down right now, the next best thing is to do an escape room board game. These obviously can only be played one time because once you play it, you know the answers to all the riddles, but a lot of them can be set up to be played again by someone else if you want to re-gift it. These can be fun for groups of 2 to 6!

7 years married!

7 Days in Grand Teton National Park!

First of all, I would HIGHLY recommend Grand Teton National Park for a family camping trip! It was gorgeous, not crowded, had perfect weather, and very few bugs! This was our first real family vacation since two years ago when the kids were diagnosed and it was basically everything we dreamed of!

The kids earned their Junior Ranger badges!

Day 1: We left at 8am Friday morning and drove 15 hours straight to Jenny Lake. Seth REALLY wanted to camp at Jenny Lake after doing extensive research on the park and learning that it was the most popular spot. The whole campground is first-come first-serve so he wanted to be first in line to get a spot. We lost an hour driving (due to time zone change) and spent a total of about 60 minutes stopping for gas/food/bathroom. Our kids did awesome in the car playing with dollar store toys that I got the day before. They had a total of about 2 hours of iPad time during the 15 hour drive.

We arrived at Jenny Lake at 2am Mountain Time and we were SECOND in line for a campsite which just completely blew my mind. Who are these people?? The next people pulled behind us in line at 2:45am! We slept in the car for about 5 hours and then at 8am got what I would argue to be the very best spot in the whole campground! (Spot #7)

This was the view from our campsite

Day 2: We were obviously pretty tired from our drive and short night. The people in spot 7 didn’t leave until their checkout time of 11am so we drove around getting a $12 permit for our inflatable raft and boat inspection and buying our National Park Pass since the booth was closed when we arrived at 2am. At 11am we set up camp and Oliver and I took an amazing 2 hours nap! Seth took Eliza swimming in Jenny lake which was about a 2 minute walk away from our campground.

Our wonderful campsite! Our tent is peeking through the trees and our eating area is to the right.

Day 3: We got up in the morning totally refreshed and went on a 16 mile bike ride. Grand Teton National Park has an amazing bike trail separate from the road that has incredible views. We got ice cream and headed back to the campsite. In the afternoon we took our inflatable raft across Jenny Lake and Eliza got to swim some more! A bear walked right through our campground!

The bike path was so pretty!

Day 4: We headed out in the morning for a hike around Moose Pond. This hike was 4.5 miles total which was a little more than our kids could handle in 85 degree weather and we were running out of water so when we got to a parking lot area around mile 3.5, Seth ran back to the campsite and got the car to bail us out for the last mile. They hiked almost all of the first 3.5 miles though! In the afternoon we relaxed at the campsite.

Moose Pond Trail

Day 5: We took our boat down the Snake river! There are multiple sections of varying difficulty and we did the “beginner” which moved at about the pace of a lazy river. Seth locked his bike at the exit area so when we were done rafting he biked back to get the car from the start to pick us up. Both kids fell asleep in the raft and we were able to see lots of fish and birds from our boat! It took about 3.5 hours to go 5 miles down the river. After the river we stopped at Mormon Row which is a collection of historic houses and barns. We saw prairie dogs and even bison off in the distance.

View from Snake River
Mormon Row

Day 6: This was probably my favorite day! We took the boat out to String and Leigh Lake. String Lake is only about 4 feet deep all the way across so the water is really warm and totally clear! The water is fed through a stream and drains to another lake so it wasn’t murky and gross or anything. Eliza swam and swam in String Lake and jumped off boulders. Seth paddled a total of about 9 miles. We portaged our raft about 100 yards between String and Leigh Lake. There was almost no one out on Leigh Lake, it was so peaceful!

The water in String Lake is really warm because it is only about 4ft deep the whole way across and the water is really clear!

Day 7: Our last full day we headed to Jackson Hole, WY which has similar vibes to Whistler, BC. We went up the gondola and did a 1.5 mile loop hike at the top of the ridge. The wildflowers were unbelievable. Eliza “ran out of energy” on her way up the 650 feet of elevation gain so Seth carried her a bit on the way up. Oliver was getting really close to nap time by the time we headed down so I carried him for the descent. Other than that the kids hiked on their own the whole way!

We gained 650 feet of elevation on this trail. We were so proud of the kids!

Day 8: We packed up camp and headed out by 9am. We drove through Yellowstone on our way out and we were SO glad we decided not to stay in Yellowstone. It was PACKED like Disneyland packed with people. The parking lot of Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Springs were both insane. We stopped briefly at Old Faithful to use the bathroom, but left once we saw how crazy it was. We did stop at Biscuit Basin, which was similar to Grand Prismatic Spring, but had way fewer people. Eliza was thrilled that she thought she got to see a “real volcano” when a geyser erupted. We drove about 11 hours today and stayed in a hotel in Missoula, MT.

Quick stop in Yellowstone!

Day 9: We would have just driven all the way home in one day, but Eliza had to have a COVID swab done in Seattle on Saturday afternoon so we drove from Missoula to Seattle for the swab and then back home to Bellingham! We were home by 4pm and almost all the way unpacked by 10pm!

The kids were FILTHY after not bathing for a week. This was only day 4 haha!

I’m going to write later about our meal plan for the trip, more tips for camping/hiking with kids, etc. but I think this is enough for now! I feel like the Grand Tetons get overshadowed a bit from being so close to Yellowstone but if you are headed that direction, definitely don’t skip over it! I just can’t recommend this national park enough!

On Anxiety

I’ve been debating about whether or not to write on this topic for months because I’m not an expert in the field of mental health or theology, but I am an expert in my own experience so I can at least write about that! I just finished reading a wonderful book about anxiety called “Raising Worry-Free Girls” by Sissy Goff which I would highly recommend to anyone who has struggled with anxiety or anyone that has kids.

I’ve never really considered myself a chronically anxious person. I’ve usually been able to sleep well, have faith in God, and feel like I’m usually level-headed. Until Oliver got leukemia. I felt like I was in fight-or-flight survival mode all through treatment. Doctors would tell us exactly what to do, exactly what appointments to go to, what medications to give. I was exhausted going through the motions of taking care of him and lost 17 pounds while living in Seattle because of the stress. Even then I never really felt chronic “anxiety.” Once we came home things changed though, especially when they told us there was a good chance Oliver could be relapsing. I worried that Eliza would go blind, that there would be no treatment options for Oliver, etc. I would wake up with nightmares that Oliver had died; sometimes I felt like it was difficult to take a full breath and felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I was less kind to others when I was feeling this anxiety.  

Ironically (divinely?) the Bible verse we chose for Oliver’s baby dedication way before he was diagnosed was Matthew 6:25-32:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Oliver as a baby

The thing is, fear and anxiety are NOT from God. The Bible says over and over again not to fear, not to worry. God fills us with peace, self-control, patience, and love. Go on social media for about 2 seconds and you see fear and anxiety everywhere. Conspiracy theories abound. People are putting way too much faith and trust in an incredibly broken political system. There are never-ending reasons to worry – we are in a world full of really scary broken things. BUT we have hope. We have hope for right now and we have hope for our future!

I went and saw a counselor (who I honestly felt like wasn’t 100% helpful…he seemed really flabbergasted by our family’s whole story and then told me I needed to spend more time being sad. I DO think that counseling would be really beneficial if you find the right personality fit and I’m sure I will seek out counseling again if Oliver does end up relapsing or we spend a significant amount of time inpatient again). One thing the counselor said that was helpful though was recognizing anxiety or anxious thoughts for what they were.

We made a few changes. Seth offered to take Oliver to his monthly cancer appointments instead of me since that massively helped. I also mentioned to a friend that someone told me that sugar causes cancer so I would worry and feel guilty that maybe I was causing Oliver to relapse. That friend called me out and said “that is NOT from God. If you think you can control what happens to Oliver, then you are living with the view that you are in control, not God.” She was totally right. It helps to constantly remind myself that God has all of Oliver’s days planned out already. Of course I will still take care of him to the best of my ability and feed him healthy foods, take him to his appointments, and make the healthiest choices possible for him. But I don’t want those feelings of guilt and anxiety to creep in, because they are not from God.

Seth taking Oliver to one of his oncology appointments

The thing is, by trusting God, I’m not saying that nothing bad will happen. I know it very well could, but I’m trusting that God controls the outcomes right now and in the future. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t deeply grieve for the bad things that happen in our world, of course I do. I will never be ok with kids (or anyone) getting cancer, injustice, racism, etc. but I will have deep peace while fighting for health, justice, and peace.

The book I mentioned at the beginning had a great quote:

“As believers, we often think life is a formula, that two plus two always equals four, that following Jesus equals happiness. I would love nothing more than for that to be the case. My life has hope because I follow Jesus. However, I don’t believe that makes my life happy. Or that the happiness stays for long. I don’t believe it’s what Jesus promised either. Two plus two sometimes equals five. Your spouse dies unexpectedly just when you’re starting a family. Your career never takes off in the way you imagine. Two kind parents don’t necessarily make for a kind, easy child. Still, I believe God never makes mistakes. There is good and life and light this side of heaven. And yes, there’s also trouble.” – Sissy Goff “Raising Worry Free Girls” p. 170

Sissy Goff “Raising Worry Free Girls” p. 170

I’m not saying I will never worry or even that I don’t worry or. I have been able to have the feeling go away of an elephant sitting on my chest or thinking about what-ifs with Oliver as I’m falling asleep. I’m saying that I recognize my worry as not from God and if you are struggling with worry or anxiety, that isn’t the way our bodies or brains are meant to function. Recognize when your thoughts keep repeating what-ifs. Remember the many times we are told not to fear in the Bible. Sissy Goff’s book had some great anxiety-reducing strategies, reach out to a friend, or one of the many pastors and counselors out there that can help as well. Be kind and give grace to others because so many struggle.

Forever thankful for these blessings.