Nerdy Date Night Ideas

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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.

Homeschool Preschool 2019/2020

We are just finishing up Eliza’s first year of homeschool preschool! We decided to homeschool preschool for a variety of reasons. One reason was because I spent the majority of 6 months away from Eliza during Oliver’s transplant in early 2019. Oliver was also severely immune compromised in 2019 so we did not want to risk Eliza bringing illnesses home from a preschool to Oliver.

Preschool (and school in general) looks so different family to family and year to year, but I thought I would share what worked for Eliza’s homeschool preschool this past year since there most likely will be more people homeschooling preschool this fall!

I don’t have a degree in education – I have a BA in English Literature and a BS in Dental Hygiene. I just couldn’t get enough of going to undergrad I guess! I was homeschooled for 4 years (3rd-6th) so I have some familiarity with what it involves.

When we started the preschool year, I bought the Playing Preschool curriculum from Busy Toddler. We did this for about 3 months but it ended up being much too easy for Eliza and too much prep for me. It actually would be perfect for Oliver this coming fall (he will be turning 3) but I don’t want to be doing two different curriculums at once for the kids.

I quickly realized that having a routine is the #1 thing that makes sure preschool runs smoothly in the mornings. Typically we do preschool from about 9:00-9:45am.

  1. Calendar Time: I have a Melissa & Doug Calendar and we discuss the month, date, day of the week, season, and temperature. We have songs that we sing for the months, days of the weeks, and the weather. Eliza & Oliver both participate with this.
  2. Picture Books: I have a goal of reading 1000 books to the kids this year. That averages out to only about 3 books a day and we are on track to make that goal! We have a big basket of library books in our living room at all times and the kids pick out between 3-5 books. I read out loud to them for about 20 minutes. Sometimes I’ll have them point out letters in the title or I’ll have Eliza sound out little words here and there.
  3. Writing: For the last 10-15 minutes Oliver does a coloring page while Eliza does two or three writing worksheets. I’ve loved the Big Preschool book and she has gone through a couple Kumon books.
Books from The Book Bundler when the library was closed for quarantine

That’s it! In the afternoon while Oliver takes his nap I do Eliza’s vision therapy exercises with her and then read a chapter out loud from a chapter book. We usually do this schedule 3 days a week since Seth works four 10 hour shifts and we don’t usually do preschool when he is home. I also work one day a week and it is hit and miss if we are able to get preschool done earlier in the morning. We continued this through the summer because it really helped the rhythm of the day go smoothly for our family.

We are VERY flexible with this schedule though – if we have doctor appointments or something else comes up we just don’t do it for the day! Eliza has one more year of preschool before starting kindergarten so I have different curriculum for Eliza this fall. We are hoping to eventually do a parent partnership program for kindergarten next fall!  

I know every family is so different in what works for them and there are many kids that don’t do preschool but this has worked really well for us! Hopefully this will give you some ideas for preschool at home this fall if that is what you have to do! I’d love to hear from any other families that have done parent partnership programs for elementary too because I don’t have any experience with participating in them!

Eliza learned how to write her name this year after working so hard at vision therapy!

Easy DIY Slip and Slide!

I don’t know what the deal is, but summer is finally here in the PNW and Slip and Slides (and kiddie pools for that matter) seem to be sold out everywhere! I looked at three different stores with zero luck this past week and the cheapest one I could find was either $50 or wouldn’t arrive until September!

This summer is so special because Oliver is FINALLY allowed to play in hose water and outside in the dirt after transplant. Last summer, he was able to go in the kiddie pool, but we had to hand fill it up bucket-by-bucket from our kitchen sink to make sure the water was filtered and drinkable. This summer we can turn on the sprinkler and let him run outside like a regular toddler! We still have to be really careful with keeping him out of the shade or with sunscreen on but other than that he is free to run!

After a quick google search, I realized we would be able to make a slip and slide ourselves for much cheaper than the ones I was finding online. We had attempted to use a blue camping tarp a month ago for a slip and slide and it was a huge fail. Even though we have a pretty decent size hill in our back yard, the tarp was way too textured and not slippery at all.

Here is what you need for a DIY slip and slide:

  • Plastic Painter’s Drop Cloth (I got a 3.5 mil thick 10x25ft one from Lowes)
  • Plastic Stakes
  • Pool Noodles (optional)
  • Metal Grommets (optional)
Slip and Slide Anchored In
8 pack of 8-inch plastic paver spikes
Grommets installed to preserve the plastic
Pool noodles installed at the top to create a border

I folded the plastic painter’s drop cloth in half so it was double- thick and spread it out down our hill. They sell plastic drop cloth that is thinner and cheaper but I would be worried about it ripping. The 3.5 mil we got seems really sturdy for our kids. It cost about $12 for the roll.

I anchored the top with pool noodles on each side and put the plastic stakes through them. It would be great to have pool noodles all the way down on both sides but they were $1.75 at Lowes and I know you can get them from the dollar store so I wasn’t willing to buy more than two for right now.

Seth installed metal grommets where the stakes went in so the plastic will not rip and we can use the slip and slide over and over again!

If you have a flat yard you could just add a squirt of soap to make the slide more slippery! Our kids tend to be more timid than daredevils so they didn’t want the slide too slippery. Haha! We put the sprinkler on low right at the top of the hill and it was the perfect amount of water!

Let me know if you end up making one of your own slip and slides! I just love summer!  

Marine Drive to Hovander Park Trail – EASY

I searched all over google for the correct name for this trail. “Nooksack River Trail,” “River Dike Trail,” and “Tennant Lake to Marine Drive Trail” were all different names that came up. The parking lots on both Marine Dr. and Slater Rd. didn’t have names on them either. No matter the name, the trail was a beautiful, flat trail along Nooksack River!

Marine Drive Parking Lot

The trail is about 4 miles each direction going all the way from Marine Dr. to Hovander Park, but you could easily start at the Slater Rd. parking lot and go to Hovander Park for a 2-mile round trip. Slater Rd. to Hovander Park is much wider of a trail than between Marine Dr. and Slater Rd. The entrance on Marine Dr. is a little tricky to find. Going west on Marine Drive, it is on the right side of the road right after the bridge for Silver Creek and right before the bridge for the Nooksack River.

Beginning of the trail at Marine Drive

My sister and her 1-year-old came with us so we had Eliza ride on an awesome tag-along bike I got free on Facebook! Oliver and his cousin rode in the bike trailer. Eliza is not even close to being able to ride a bike with no training wheels, but she easily stayed on the tag-along bike for the ride! The only downside is that Eliza weighs 35 pounds and the tag-along weighs probably 30 pounds so it was a lot of extra weight for me to carry. Seth is used to towing the bike trailer with almost 100 pounds when fully loaded with kids and supplies!

A lot of the trail is shaded!

The trail is great for both biking and hiking, but the trail between Marine Dr. and Slater Rd. is pretty skinny (singletrack) so Seth was towing the trailer with both wheels on grass. Once we got to Hovander Park, we biked to downtown Ferndale for ice cream. Round-trip it was about 10 miles total – perfect for an afternoon bike ride!

Narrower part of the trail (between Marine Dr. and Slater Rd)

The trail was not too busy, and it is plenty wide enough to social-distance. Nearly every walker we passed either had masks on or put them on when we went by.

There were plenty of places you could access little beaches along the river on the trail too which would be fun for a stop for a snack or picnic if you were walking.

You can see the river most of the way!

One thing to note is that the parking lots at both Marine Drive and Slater Road had signs that you needed a Discover pass. We (for the 3rd time this year) forgot our Discover Pass in the other car than the one we brought and we risked it and did not get ticketed. I wish they would just give you two passes with one spot to write the license plate instead of one pass with two places for license plates! If you do not have a Discover Pass you could park for free at Hovander Park and do the trail the opposite direction!

Made it to Hovander Park!
Ice Cream after 5 miles!

I’d love to know of any other hidden gems in Whatcom/Skagit County! We usually go to Canada for our outdoor family adventures, but it looks like that won’t be happening this year. Happy hiking!

Update on Oliver: July 1, 2020

I’ve hesitated whether or not to write a post with an update on Oliver since there isn’t really anything “new” to update and things can change so quickly, BUT I’ve also had pretty close friends and family ask what is going on with Oliver right now so I’m going to write a quick summary and update!

Oliver had his bone marrow transplant December 22, 2018 (about a year and a half ago). He has done really well since then, but in October, 2019 Oliver’s labs showed that his donor bone marrow cells were going away and his old cells were coming back. Almost always with JMML or a transplant, old cells coming back means the cancer is coming back…except that isn’t what has happened with Oliver. They tried to give him “boosts” of his transplant cells to try to save the transplant, but it didn’t work. At his last check, he only had 16% of transplant cells left.

Oliver wasn’t allowed to touch sand/dirt/ocean for a year after transplant. He LOVES getting to dig his toes in the sand now.

Somehow his old cells seem to be coming back with no sign of cancer. Our doctors have told us they know of 3 other cases where this has happened – the child had old cells take over the transplant and they didn’t have cancer come back. My mind can’t fathom how rare Oliver’s case is. His type of cancer already only occurs in 1 in 1 million kids…and then to have this happen is even more rare.

He is currently getting monthly lab draws and bone marrow biopsies every 3 months. When they do the bone marrow biopsies, they send the cells to UCSF in San Francisco, California for genetic analysis to check for any cancer mutations. Our doctors tell us the longer he goes without the cancer coming back, the more likely it is that it will not come back. So far his monthly labs have looked normal.

Waiting for monthly labs

Unfortunately, because Oliver had a transplant, he is at a much higher risk of other types of leukemia and other cancers down the road. He will need regular monitoring for his whole life. If Oliver did show any sign of relapse, he would immediately head in to a second transplant.

It is such a strange place to be in…Oliver seems just like a “normal kid” right now for the most part, but we always have this shadow hanging over our heads. He only takes 1 medicine to help protect him against viruses.

Oliver and Eliza have such a special relationship

Oliver did really well through all of transplant. I follow two other children who got bone marrow transplants at Seattle Children’s right around the same time as Oliver and BOTH kids had inpatient stays this past week from massive complications from transplant. I am fully, fully aware of the huge blessing it is to have Oliver home in Bellingham with us.

We just try to live each day praising God for the gift of Oliver and hoping for the best while knowing life on Earth is often broken and imperfect. Of course I worry about Oliver – are the bruises on his legs normal toddler bruises or something else? Is he napping longer than a normal toddler? Is he eating enough? Is he eating healthy enough? Most of the time I’m able to put these thoughts away and just be thankful for Oliver. We are SO incredibly thankful that Oliver is pain-free, nearly medicine-free, tube-free, and full of so much life.

One question we get asked every so often is if Oliver is immune-compromised. He is and he isn’t…the common cold shouldn’t be deadly to him anymore like it could have been right after transplant, BUT cells do weird things sometimes after transplant and we are never 100% sure if his immune system is totally functioning normally. We still try to be fairly careful with germs (and so many other people are now too with COVID!).

We are so thankful for everyone who has faithfully prayed for Oliver and our family! I wish I could express my gratitude in a better way but I don’t know what else to say other than thank you!

Oliver in March, 2019
Oliver in June, 2020!

Squires Lake Hike

We hiked another beautiful Pacific Northwest trail this past weekend! Squires Lake is located on Highway 99. It is just a couple minutes off Exit 242 on I-5. There is a small parking lot and additional parking on the wide gravel shoulder of the road. The parking lot also has a large, wheelchair-accessible port-a-potty. The trail is not wheelchair or even stroller friendly though!

I’ve seen mixed labels of how long this hike is. Washington Trails Association says it is 2.0 miles roundtrip with 200 feet of elevation. Alltrails says it is 1.4 miles with 350 feet of elevation. Seth had Strava going during the whole hike and it said that the trail was 2.5 miles roundtrip with 350 feet of elevation gain so I’m guessing that is the most close to accurate!

The first ¼ mile is uphill with switchbacks. Our kids (2 and 4) were able to go all the way up by themselves no problem though! Once we reached the lake it is a mostly flat trail around the lake. There is one decently sized hill up and down during the loop that our kids both wanted to be carried on towards the end.

There were streams, waterfalls, a few bridges, and lots of wildlife to see! The trail is dog-friendly and connects to several other trails if you wanted to make it a longer hike or a bigger loop.  Various places have benches at outlooks along the way. There were not many other people on the trail, even for a sunny Sunday afternoon!

Oliver’s fanny pack filled with snacks!

I hope no one thinks that we have perfect children that always happily hike along with us. At one point on the hill, Eliza just plopped down and said, “I ran out of energy.” Overall, they are really good troopers, and the more we get out with them, the more used to it they will be! We are hoping to work up to longer and longer hikes so we can eventually go backpacking with them (without needing to carry them)!

Eliza is very confident she will catch a fish one of these days with the sticks she finds along the trails.

This trail was a bit muddy in spots so Oliver’s Nike’s were not the best shoes for this trail. Eliza has amazing waterproof Keen hiking shoes that I bought used for $20 but I’m not willing to fork over $55 for the same shoes for Oliver since he seems to outgrow his shoes every 3 months! I have a great pair of Keen hiking boots that I got last year to replace the exact same old Keens that had lasted about 10 years! Seth wore his Chacos for this hike, which also worked great for the distance.

One extra fun addition that we just started using for the kids is the addition of a kid-size fanny pack. We only have one right now for Eliza but we will probably get one for Oliver too. This lets them have quick access to their snacks or works for collecting little pebbles along the way. It is a lot easier for them to use than an entire backpack for right now!

Happy Hiking!

Point Whitehorn Hike

Sunday afternoon was perfect PNW weather! We had originally planned to hike the Rock Trail, but read online that the road to the trailhead is closed due to landslide risk. Instead, we headed north to Point Whitehorn which we had been meaning to do for a long time!

Point Whitehorn is a perfect hike for little kids! It is ADA accessible for the entire 0.75 mile trail. You could easily bring a stroller if you aren’t wanting to go down to the beach. Once you get to the end of the completely flat, winding path through the forest, there is a short steeper area that heads down to the beach. It wasn’t too steep for our kids (ages 2 and 4) to be able to do it on their own, but it might be too steep for a stroller without a brake! The very last section is a staircase that leads down to the rocky beach.

Steps to the beach!

The beach was almost completely deserted which was surprising for a beautiful Sunday afternoon! There was one other family way down the beach flying a kite and that was it! There were quite a few little driftwood house structures other people had set up and lots of seashells and small sea animals for the kids to look at. The beach is full of large round rocks so I would definitely encourage wearing sturdy water-type shoes like Chacos. The kids had their cheap Target water shoes on and Oliver ended up skinning his knees a few times. I wish I would have put their Keens on instead!

There are no bikes or dogs allowed on the trail and the only bathroom is a port-a-potty in the parking lot. There are quite a few little boardwalks/bridges on the trail and both of our kids loved running across them! Even if you don’t take the steps down to the beach there are several viewpoints with benches towards the end of the trail. This is such an easy, flat hike that I would totally recommend!

Our 3 Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes

If you know me at all, you know I LOVE my chocolate chip cookies. I’m also SUPER picky about my cookies. I’m not a fan of sugar cookies, Oreos, or pretty much any store-bought cookies…if it isn’t perfect, it isn’t worth the calories in my opinion!

I have three different cookie recipes that I make and keep in the freezer: my original most delicious (and most unhealthy) ones, Seth’s favorite oatmeal ones, and my recently discovered brown butter chocolate chip cookies!

Top: Oatmeal (#2), Bottom left: Brown Butter (#3), Bottom Right: Original (#1)

Recipe #1: The Original

I don’t have a source for this recipe – my mom makes them, my grandma makes them. I think it was maybe from the Toll House chocolate chip bag years and years ago?? The secret of these is the Crisco AND Margarine. Not healthy, but SO good. I make myself feel slightly better about making these by knowing that all the store-bought cookies have at least this or worse in them…probably.

  • 1 Stick Margarine (1/2 C), softened
  • 1 Cup Crisco
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Cup White Sugar
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

Mix with hand mixer or stand mixer then add and stir by hand:

  • 3 Cups Flour (minus about 1 tablespoon for a less cakey cookie)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Bake at 375 for 9-10 minutes until golden brown around the edges

Recipe #2: Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Seth didn’t love seeing all the margarine and Crisco going in to the cookies in our lunches and requested something slightly healthier. I modified my original chocolate chip cookie recipe to make Seth’s favorite oatmeal cookies!

  • 1 Cup Butter, softened
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

Mix with hand mixer or stand mixer then add by hand:

  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Cups Old Fashioned Oats (I prefer not instant)
  • 1.5 Cups Chocolate Chips

Bake at 375 for 9-10 minutes until golden brown around the edges

Recipe #3: Everyday Chocolate Chip Cookie

This recipe isn’t mine but I linked it right here! I have never made a Baker By Nature recipe that I didn’t love. This one is a little more work because you have to boil the butter ahead of time to give them a browned-butter flavor but they are delicious and do not go stale too fast!

I always freeze the cookies I bake within 2 hours of baking them. They are great to grab for lunches or when you last-minute need to bring a dessert somewhere!

I would love to know if you try any of these recipes! Happy Baking!

Step 1: Prepped for electric mixing
Electric mixing done!
Dry ingredients added!
Left to right: Brown Butter, Oatmeal, Original
Left to right: Original, Oatmeal, Brown Butter