Driving the Alaskan Highway

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Driving the Alaskan Highway was quite an experience. After making the over 3,000 mile trek, Ben said that when we move back to the lower 48, we’re just getting rid of everything and flying back. But, honestly, I enjoyed the drive enough that I’d do it again next summer.

 

The final stats for our trip:

Springville, Utah–>Wasilla, Alaska

3,141 miles

5 days

72 1/2 hours spent in the car

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We’ve been incredibly grateful for the support we’ve gotten from family throughout this process. One huge thing was that Ben’s mom let us borrow her Suburban to take the trip up. Having us all fit in one vehicle saved us a ton of money.

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We rented a U-Haul trailer to take as much of our stuff as possible. We had to get rid of quite a bit, but stuff is just stuff. Another huge blessing was that my dad came with us for the drive! This was huge because I hate driving (I only drove one stretch that was 2 or 3 hours and that was enough for me) so Pa was able to swap back and forth with Ben which afforded all of us the opportunity to take naps when necessary and also let me spend lots of time sitting in the back with the girls.

Oh yeah, we drove that whole way with two babies under two! I really can’t take any of the credit. The girls did amazing.

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One of the biggest stressors for Ben was crossing the border into Canada.

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Ben was sweating bullets because we were carrying firearms in the trailer  (pun not intended but still found amusing;). Despite all his research regarding this and all his documentation, they still stopped us at the border and put up a stink. So we had to turn back to U.S. soil until Ben got ahold of someone who could legally ship his guns to him (the U.S. border patrol gave us a reference so it wasn’t difficult).

It set us back a bit, but we had a chance to reorganize the trailer to distribute the weight a little better (which enabled us to exceed the 65ish m.p.h we’d been attempting). Dropping the guns off ended up being a good thing. No longer carrying them made it possible to drive through a couple of Canada’s national parks.

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We drove through Banff and Jasper and I cannot tell you how gorgeous these places were! I think we hit it at just the right time. Everything was in bloom, the weather was perfect. It was amazing.

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Add a trip to Banff to your bucket list! We didn’t have much time to explore, but I think it’d be amazing to spend a few days hiking around. We asked the worker at the entrance what was a Don’t Miss Experience and he recommended the Columbia Icefield (technically in Jasper). I realize now that he might’ve just been trying to divert some traffic (it was crazy busy), but it was really incredible to see!

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That ended up being the perfect stop for us too. It was a short hike up to the glacier, but enough to get my heart pumping and my calves burning. It was a much needed break from sitting in the car for so long!

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We also stopped at a waterfall outlook. I don’t remember the name of it, but it was beautiful! The water in Banff/Jasper is the gorgeous clear, blue-green. I couldn’t get enough of it.

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I think the girls appreciated a little time out of their carseats as well.

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So, Canada is huge. We drove up through Alberta and seemed to be in Alberta for so long! We finally made it over British Columbia and upon doing so, we went to a Walmart and picked up a map of Canada in case our phones weren’t working at major junctions (a very real possibility). Right after entering B.C., we hit Dawson Creek (not the TV show), which is the official (I’m pretty sure) start of the Alaska Highway.

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It’s almost like you could feel the change which sounds cheesy but I’m totally serious.

It was like, “Adventure ahead!”

After Calgary, Alberta, we didn’t hit any cities, and definitely starting in Dawson Creek, towns become farther and farther apart. There are small towns and services about 100-150 miles apart, but mostly we just passed through beautiful mountainous countryside.

Since the Alaskan Highway is famous, there were several touristy type spots to stop along the way.

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This is the sign post forest in Watson Lake, B.C. We unfortunately didn’t get a chance to walk around, but there’s a pathway through it with signs on signs on signs from all over the world.

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So awesome. We were able to spot several signs from near where my dad grew up in Montana just from the road.

The scenery along the highway was stunning the whole way of our drive.

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There was a playground at one particular rest stop and as we were stretching our legs and letting Wendy run around, my dad noticed some wild raspberries growing. He also found some strawberries and edible puffball mushrooms. Many stops after that weren’t complete until Wendy had a fistful of raspberries.

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Another awesome thing about driving so far north and where there’s not a huge population is all the wildlife we saw. The above picture shows this huge herd of bison we passed.

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They were huge (even the babies were big!) and there were a ton of them.

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Here’s a couple of bighorn sheep that we saw (ha! I think that’s what they are…maybe goats?).

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My favorite to see were the bears! We saw a few other ones and I know they can kill you but I still think they’re really cute.

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We stayed our first night in a hotel, but after that we took advantage of the campgrounds that are along the highway. Again, it’s enough of a tourist destination that there were plenty of safe, affordable options. We camped two of the nights and one night we stayed in that cute little “lodge” pictured above. With camping, there is a little bit of a risk for bears, but such is the Yukon. The farther north we got, the more daylight we had. Until our last night on the road, we were pitching our tents at 11:30 with full daylight. It was a strange sensation.

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I had such a good time on this trip and I’m really glad we made the drive! Honestly, if you enjoy road trips and camping, I would highly recommend you make this trip (although I would personally only want to do it one way…turning right around to drive back sounds…awful).

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July

July, in short, was a wild ride. It was packed to the brim, not just with activities but also with emotions. It was crazy and definitely one for the books.

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Let’s start off at the end of July with some of our craziest happenings: We moved back to Alaska! Yes, this is as crazy and as unexpected as it sounds. It wasn’t even a full month ago that Ben interviewed and was offered a job up here. And, yet, I am writing this blog post from America’s 49th state. Life is like a box of chocolates.

If you want the whole spiel:

This whole year has been filled with uncertainty. When Ben wasn’t accepted into any of the programs to which he’d applied, it really threw off our balance. We’d discussed for so long whether or not we should have him do a PhD and it seemed so right. So as he applied, I think in the back of my head I knew that it was possible that he wouldn’t be accepted. But I also knew that having him apply felt right. It felt good. So as he applied, I thought, “just have faith and everything will work out.”

A couple months ago, in the midst of our trying to figure things out, Ben made the comment that faith is painted as this beautiful thing but that really faith is ugly. I think I know what he’s saying. When Ben applied for PhD programs, I thought I had faith that everything would work out. Looking back, I think I only had faith that he would get accepted. In my mind, him being accepted was the only way that “everything would work out.” There was no alternative option. But Ben was rejected and suddenly the thing I was supposed to have faith in (him being accepted) was no longer a reality. I felt frustrated mostly in myself. Why had I felt so strongly that this was the next step for us? And if I was wrong about that, how could I even trust myself to interpret the spirit correctly?

At this point, I felt like I had two ways to perceive my reality. I could say that I’d been wrong, the spirit hadn’t guided any of my decisions and wouldn’t be guiding any future decisions. Or that I had felt prompted to support Ben in applying for PhD programs for some reason and that Heavenly Father had a plan for us and that I just didn’t know what it was yet.

I decided to go with the latter, which isn’t to say that it was easy. In fact, it was really, really hard. I thought and hoped that our answer was right around the corner. Hey, so Ben’s about to graduate…maybe we could get some guidance over here? And Okay, well I’m sure you know that Ben graduated and the thing is we still have NO idea what we’re supposed to be doing. But explaining to Heavenly Father that I was past due on my expected timeline didn’t seem to make any sort of difference.

I feel like going so long without answers made me question my ability to interpret the spirit. I felt like I could justify any inkling that came into my brain and make it out to be divine intervention. It became a very real battle in my mind, trying to figure out what was inspiration given by the spirit and what was just me, making things sound better or worse than they were.

Over the course of many months, Ben applied to several jobs. He was offered a couple and even accepted one in Idaho but none of these came with any sort of spiritual confirmation. Of course, I would talk myself into any of the potential jobs and then work to convince myself that maybe I was listening to the spirit. But I think deep down I knew that it was a stretch and that what I really needed more work on was having patience.

Rewinding a bit, when we were still in Flagstaff, I encouraged Ben to apply for jobs in Alaska (can you imagine that this was my idea? Ha! It still seems crazy to me, but it’s true). In a complete reversal of roles, when I made this suggestion, Ben was not at all excited or motivated. But he found an expo for teachers in Alaska and dutifully sent in his resume.

After accepting the job in Idaho, Ben mentioned to me that he’d been emailed by a couple of school districts in Alaska. The fact that he was even telling me about this made me feel like it was something he was considering. Why mention it at all if he wasn’t? He hadn’t signed any contracts with the school district in Idaho so I told him that if he was interested in pursuing it, I supported him. We talked about what it would mean to move to Alaska. We considered what the rest of our summer would look like. Getting ready for bed that night I stopped to consider what a good day I’d had. In a rush, I realized that the goodness and happiness and light that I felt, that was the spirit. That’s what I had been waiting for.

Everything after that happened in a rush. The pieces of the puzzle started fitting together and before we knew it, Ben had a job offer. This time he accepted it and we both felt excited and happy.

The truth is that I don’t know why things had to play out how they did. I’m not sure why we had to wait so long to know where we were going. I don’t know why Heavenly Father let us struggle and question and hurt.

But.

I do know that we have a Heavenly Father and that he cares about what each of His children are doing. I know that He is invested in us, interested in our lives. He does have a plan for us. I also know that the spirit speaks to us in a specific way so that we can understand. I feel like this experience was important for me to realize that I can understand the spirit. I spent months wondering if what I was thinking was the spirit. But when it finally actually was the spirit, I knew.

My sister has this mantra that she says: “If it’s meant to be, it will work out perfectly.” And in our case, it was just so. Things fell right in to place as we planned our crazy move, even down to the girls’ birth certificates arriving the very day before we left. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.

The deets:

Ben got a job here as a high school Spanish teacher. The town we’re living in is about 40 minutes outside of Anchorage. I’ve been telling people, “Don’t worry, it’s on the road system,” which I’ve come to realize is completely meaningless to anyone who hasn’t experienced the Alaskan Bush. Basically, though our town is fairly small, we won’t have to go without any conveniences like we did when we lived in the Bush. We have schools, doctors offices, Walmart, Target, Panda Express, etc., etc., all within less than 10 miles of where we are living.

Since announcing our move, the number one question I’m asked is if I’m excited. I think people might have the idea that Ben drags me around to all these crazy places we’ve lived. While he usually can be pegged as the mastermind behind all of our exotic (it’s relative) moves, this time the blame is on me. As a result, I actually am really excited and happy to be up here.

The second most common question we get is how long we plan on staying. This is a question I feel incredibly ill prepared to answer because if life’s taught me anything it’s that you can’t plan on anything for certain. The most honest answer is that I think we’ll be staying at least for a few years. But we’ll see.

We drove up here (!!! if you can imagine!) and it was quite an adventure. I hope to do a separate post on the drive soon!

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In Other News…

As if this post isn’t long enough, here are a couple of other July happenings:

Wendy Bird has started talking a lot more and it has been so incredibly fun. Watching her progress brings so much joy and shameless mama pride. She started whipping out words and before we knew it she was forming itty two word sentences of things that were happening right in front of her (“Poppy shoe!” when Grandma’s dog, Poppy, started eating Wendy’s shoe 😂). But she’s started talking about things that aren’t right in front of her and we’ve been able to get a glimpse at how her little mind works (“Cheekies, Nana, nice.” And, “Connor, Becky, fun.” Reminiscing about the good times she’s had with family.). Of course her words aren’t perfect and there’s a certain amount of frustration for both of us when I don’t understand what she’s saying but it seriously just makes my day to hear her sweet little voice say things like, “thanks, mom.” ❤️

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Greta Bean has been growing so fast which has been a huge contrast to Wendy. She’s rolling both ways now and on our big long drive to Alaska, my dad couldn’t get over how sweet Greta was. And she is pure sweetness, hardly every complaining. I’m interested to see what personality traits stay with these babies of mine because right now Greta is pure patience through and through. She also loves snuggles and is actually very ticklish which is super fun.

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Family time: What a blessing that we were able to spend our last month in the lower 48 with family. Despite all the craziness everyone was handling, we were still able to enjoy quality time with our siblings and parents. We spent many a nights eating Chinese food and staying up way too late but looking back now, I’m sure glad I let that happen.

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June

To speak my truth: I don’t really love the GBOMB approach to monthly reviews.

There. I said it.

I love posting a monthly review. I love remembering the stuff I did that month. I love looking through the pictures.

But I hate having to think up stuff that fits in the “Bad” category. Life can totally suck sometimes. There are ups and downs. Most of the time, though, I forget the downs. Or I learn from them (or hope to someday learn from them). But with social media too often portraying the sparkly life we want people to see, I always think, “No, I need to be real and post genuine stuff, good and bad.” So I sit down at the computer and rack my brain for all the crappy stuff that’s happened in the last month aaaaaaand I hate it. And now I’m thinking it’s not very genuine at all because that’s not how my mind works most of the time.

So. For now, I’m hanging the old GBOMB up. Retiring it, if you will. Maybe not permanently. We’ll see if I can come up with something to replace it with (any ideas are more than welcome!).

But, for now, here are a few highlights from June:

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Oh, they say when you marry in June…: (Ten points to anyone who knows what that’s from;). Ben and I celebrated our 6 year wedding anniversary! I know there are billions of people who’ve been married longer than six years but I still feel very accomplished every time we hit another year. We drove up to Utah for that weekend and, while we didn’t do anything extravagant to celebrate, we did eat at the Happy Sumo as well as Leatherby’s so I’d definitely call that a success. The day after our anniversary we went to the Living Planet Aquarium and had to reminisce a bit because we did the very same the day after our wedding. Ha! It was fun.

I feel incredibly lucky to be married to Ben. I think I hardly knew what I was getting when I married him. But, lucky for me, he’s an infinitely better man than I had originally thought. I’m certainly grateful that he’s mine, that I get eternity with him. Being married to my best friend brings a happiness that can’t be found elsewhere. Our life’s not perfect but I love it.

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We left Flagstaff: Let me just say that moving has been on our minds for months now. We’ve weighed our options time and time again after every shift in our possible future. And honestly, we didn’t ever feel like we got any sort of strong answer about moving. But we did come to a point where we realized paying rent was draining our limited money faster than anything else, so why stay when Ben was done with school and, subsequently finished working at NAU? We decided to “move” (meaning store our stuff and live with Ben’s mom) and things moved incredibly quickly after that. Within a week we had our stuff in boxes, my mom and dad came down with a trailer, we loaded up, cleaned and pulled out of town. Leaving Flagstaff was difficult. Just looking at the above picture makes me teary eyed. We really love it there and will always have fond memories; that was where our two babies were born after all. But onward and upward, right?

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Job search update: So…I don’t feel quite ready to share everything about Ben’s job search just because things are still shifting and up in the air. But know that it’s going well and there are things in the works. All good things, all good things; )

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Summertime: This summer hasn’t gone at all as we had planned but I’m super grateful for the extra time we’ve had to spend with family. I got some bonus sister time when we went to Utah at the beginning of June. And in the few weeks we’ve been living with Ben’s mom we’ve been totally spoiled with good company. Things have been crazy and busy but we’ve been surrounded by loved ones and that has made the uncertainty so much more bearable.

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May Review

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May was totally packed. I think about Ben’s graduation (which happened in the middle of the month) and it feels like several months have passed. We’ve had some serious ongoing uncertainty but the month was filled with family and fun which has been an awesome distraction.

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Good

  • We’ve been with extended family basically the whole month of May which has been awesome. At the beginning of the month, Ben’s mom and nephew came out. They were joined by 3 of Ben’s sisters as well as my parents for graduation. It was an adventure fitting everyone into our tiny apartment but we had a blast!
  • Ben had several graduation parties/award ceremonies that we were able to attend. It just made me so grateful that he had the opportunity to be in this specific program. His cohort and his professors have been totally supportive and awesome. We feel really blessed.
  • Ben graduated!!! I think of where we were at when Ben started this program and it legit feels like a lifetime ago. Graduation day had me fighting off tears because I’m just so darn proud of my husband. Ben and I always joked that we were probably the only people in the program’s history who’ve had two kids in its duration. But even with all the changes and adjustments, Ben’s handled everything very well, graduating with distinction and making all of us very proud.
  • All of our visitors stuck in town a couple days after graduation and we were able to have a picnic in Sedona at Crescent Moon Ranch as well as have a day at the Out of Africa Wildlife Park. It was fun to take family to some of our favorite places around here.
  • We also had Greta’s baby blessing the same weekend (yeah, we were busy). We just did it at home so that Ben’s family could be there but it was very sweet and I’m grateful that family could be there for it.
  • Ben has had a couple of job interviews which has felt something like progression toward the next stage of life.
  • After those interviews, Ben and I headed up to Twin Falls to visit family. We had a water balloon fight, went to the parade of homes, attended a cousin reunion, ate at our favorite restaurant, and just spent time with everyone. It was wonderful.
  • Two years ago my family had a reunion in the mountains of Colorado and this year we were able to go to the same place. It was a miracle that everyone in the family was able to make it. And my parents went all out planning activities for the weekend. We had a tea party, a pioneer trek, four-wheeling, slideshows, games, hiking, delicious food and treats, and an awesome dance party. It was so fun watching Wendy interact with cousins who are her age (Greta made the 8th granddaughter in a row on my side-all ages two and under!).
  • Wendy had her LAST nutritionist appointment! They mostly ended it because Ben told them we’re moving (it’s true…we just don’t know when or where…) but they did say Wendy’s growth was doing well. I truthfully don’t know if they would have ever let us stop going if we were sticking in Flagstaff…

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Blah

  • Driving around town is totally fine but for long road trips we have definitely outgrown our car. Someday we’ll be able to afford something bigger…but for now we’ve had to rent. We rented a RAV 4 for the weeks we were out of town. While it was nice having extra space and working air conditioning, it makes me see red every time I think of how expensive it was. Bleh.
  • Mingling with so many kiddos makes it difficult to walk away unscathed. Wendy got sick the last day of our reunion. She was up most of the night with a fever and a cold. And just wanted to be held all day. Ben and I got sick too. Luckily the worst of it was short lived.
  • Ben raced some of my brothers on a three-wheeler, ended up falling off and getting into some stinging nettle and sustaining some pretty nasty bruises. Not to worry-his main bruise gave him a softball sized lump on his lower back which provided lots of entertainment when coming up with late night charade topics.
  • I mentioned Ben had some job interviews…we haven’t officially heard back from either of them. All the waiting and not knowing and not being able to decide anything has been very stressful. Not a fave.
  • Colorado was super fun buuuuuut with so many of the kids being so young it was hard to feel like I got all the one on one time I wanted with my siblings and their spouses. During the day, much of our time was spent entertaining and keeping an eye on the little girlies. Luckily, the cabin we were in has a huge separate space where we were able to meet at night after the kids had gone to bed. We spent that time playing games, chatting and drinking delicious mocktails.

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On My Brain

  • I always think that during the summer, I’m going to start cranking out beaucoup blog posts. But in reality, it is the time where blogging gets set to the side. So forgive me if blogging is spotty this summer.
  • Obviously something that has been on my mind a ton is what our next step is. I always think I’m a pretty patient person but then something happens or I get placed somewhere where I realize I’m terribly impatient. This is one of those times. But someday we will have a plan and a place to go. Meanwhile…
  • I’ve started watching This Is Us and I really love it. Pretty much every episode makes me feel like I’m about to cry. But I like how the show gives me things to think about. It makes me consider how I’d respond if I was in a similar situation.
  • While I haven’t started actually packing, I have thought lots about it. You’d think with how many times we’ve moved in our marriage that I’d be a pro…but I’m still trying to figure out what the best way is.

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Sew Together Bag

Hey! I actually sewed something!

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I’ve had a heck of a time getting my act together on any and all crafting projects lately. Part of it has to do with my unpredictable newborn schedule…and part of it has to do with the fact that we cleaned everything up for guests to come and I’m not quite sure I’m ready to bust out all my sewing supplies yet (madness and messiness will certainly ensue).

But before guests came, I had the pressure of coming up with a Mother’s Day gift for my mom which lead me to finally sewing this bag that I’ve had my eye on for quite awhile.

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I don’t remember where I first saw this bag, but the moment I saw it I knew it would be perfect for toting around the pieces to my La Passacaglia English Paper Piecing Project. It’s been in the back of my mind ever since.

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See? It has so many pockets! Perfect for all the teeny pieces associated with EPP! The bag is called the “Sew Together Bag,” and I got my pattern here from Craftsy.

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This was my first time making any sort of bag so I was a little bit nervous. The pattern instructions themselves were mostly pretty good. Some of the steps were a bit confusing. But luckily someone in the reviews had commented that there is a step by step sew along on the Quilt Barn Blog (find the sew along here) which helped a TON because it has pictures!

I made this particular bag for my mom for Mother’s Day (she’s not doing the La Passacaglia, but she has some other EPP projects going on) but I’m really excited to make one for myself! It didn’t take too long to complete and I really love how it turned out. If only every sewing project only took me two evenings to complete…

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Books Lately

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The Broken Road by Richard Paul Evans

This Book: chronicles the life of a man named Charles who, despite growing up surrounded by poverty, finds overwhelming financial success. He’s discovered this success comes at a price and, after a series of disturbing events, Charles finds himself wondering what it would be like to get a second chance. (It’s based on a true story).

What I Thought: 

  • I really liked this book. I’ve never read Richard Paul Evans before but his writing style is really easy and enjoyable. It’s obvious he writes to portray a message but the story was interesting in and of itself as well. It was also refreshing to read something that was totally clean.
  • This book is just the first in a trilogy (and book #2 doesn’t come out until May). I didn’t realize this when I started reading so I was frustrated at the abrupt ending. Just be warned, if you do read it, that the ending leaves you wanting to know more!

Should You Read It?: I would recommend this without reservations.

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Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

This Book: begins with a private jet falling into the ocean. The only survivors are a 4 year old son of a millionaire and a nobody struggling painter. What happened in the moments before the crash? Was it an innocent accident? Or was something more sinister at work?

What I Thought:

  • After reading so many YA books, this one definitely had a more mature voice and that was a nice change! And I liked how the book was written. Interspersed throughout the book were chapters talking about each of the people who had been on the plane, their personal histories and any clues about what happened leading up to the crash.
  • This book would probably be considered a thriller but in my opinion it was a pretty tame thriller. Meaning, my postpartum, anxiety-ridden mind was able to read it and still fall asleep at night. I was grateful for that.
  • I truthfully really enjoyed this book BUT I was pretty disappointed in the ending. It was the kind of ending where I guessed it right off but immediately thought, “That’s too obvious, it’ll be something more crazy.” But no, it was just kind of a boring ending. Having said that, I still really enjoyed it.

Should You Read It? I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys thrillers but is kind of a wimp (just me?).

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Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

This Book: was written by Gilbert, in a way, as a means for healing. Following a drawn out divorce and a painful broken heart, Gilbert is determined to fight through her depression and find peace. So she takes a year long trip spending 4 months in Italy (eat), 4 months in India (pray), and 4 months in Indonesia (love).

What I Thought:

  • I know I’m late to the party (like, waaaaay late), but I can see why this book has gotten so much attention. It’s very well written and I could see how it’d be really easy to relate to.
  • This book was definitely meant to be a sort of journal of spiritual discovery. Honestly (and not trying to sound superior in any way), I’m pretty comfortable with where I’m at spiritually so more than anything I enjoyed it mostly for the travelogue. It got me seriously craving some Italian food (can you crave something you’ve never eaten?). And I loved reading about the herbal healing in Bali.
  • I thought the section on India was boring and seriously lacking. I mean, I enjoy yoga quite a bit but I’m not a huge fan of meditating (at least not in the sitting cross-legged and humming sense)…so I guess it makes sense that I wouldn’t want to read chapters upon chapters about someone else meditating for hours on end. Blech. Boring.
  • This point contains a spoiler, so skip it if you don’t want to be spoiled;). As part of her year of self discovery, Gilbert commits to avoiding romantic relationships during this time. She says she wants to, for once, just let herself be without the influence of a partner. And she spends a sufficient amount of time whining about how difficult this is. But then she ends the book with her hooking up with–and eventually falling for–some gorgeous Brazilian man whom she meets in Bali, but don’t worry, reader!-it’s on her terms! As if, obviously, the pinnacle of any year long spiritual journey would/should be a romantic relationship. Meh. Lame ending, in my opinion.

Should You Read It? I think a lot of people would really enjoy this book and even maybe learn from it. The book has been referred to as priv-lit (can’t argue that…I mean, who has the means to quit life for a year so they can aimlessly go travel?), so if that kind of staged-means-for-a-book bothers you, then definitely steer clear. Otherwise I’d say it’s worth giving it a try.

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Entwined by Heather Dixon

This Book: is a retelling of the fairytale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. In this version, Azalea and her 11 younger sisters lose their mother to illness, and in having to comply with mourning rules, are unable to do the one thing they feel honors their mother’s memory: dance. But the castle in which they live is enchanted and one evening they find a secret passageway that leads them to a magicked pavilion. The Keeper there invites them to come back every night…but soon he starts asking favors of them…ones they’re not sure they can keep.

What I Thought:

  • Overall I liked this book. It wasn’t my favorite in this genre, but it was definitely unique and enjoyable.
  • I did think that it moved a little slowly at some points. And I kind of got bored of all the dancing (I skimmed lots of the technical terms). I almost stopped reading it towards the beginning because nothing was happening, but it picked up right after that.
  • I thought the villain was extra creepy. Like too creepy…? But I admit to being a wimp.
  • I did really love all the relationships in this book. I thought all the characters stayed true to their personalities, which I appreciate. And the romances were sweet and believable and not overwhelming.

Should You Read It? This book, with it’s magic and princesses, definitely has a particular audience. If you’re a fan of the genre, I’d say it’s, again, not my favorite, but still pretty good.

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What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

This Book: starts off with Alice waking up from a serious fall at the gym. The most recent things she can remember-buying a fixer upper home with her husband, learning she was pregnant with their first child-apparently happened 10 years ago. A lot has changed in 10 years and 39 year old Alice starts putting together the pieces of her life that lead her to this place the 29 year old Alice never imagined she’d be.

What I Thought:

  • With how often I read, it is a surprisingly rare occurrence that I read a book I’m completely in love with. So let it be known that I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. I seriously loved it. I thought it was unique, fast paced, intriguing. I loved the questions it brought up. I loved the ending. The last chapter was so good. To me, it had a clear message and it made me cry. Loved it.
  • I don’t have any real complaints about this book. I will say that I thought the Frannie storyline was unnecessary but I didn’t hate it.
  • My first Liane Moriarty book was Big Little Lies which I totally loved. I wanted to read any Liane Moriarty books I could get my hands on! But I read Truly Madly Guilty and The Husband’s Secret and was decidedly disappointed. The writing was still good and the storyline intriguing, but they just didn’t hold my attention in quite the same way. I’m so glad I gave What Alice Forgot a try and although it wasn’t nearly as juicy as Big Little Lies I think I liked it more!

Should You Read It?: I’d happily recommend it (although it does have swearing).

5 Things Friday: Favorite Baby Items 12-18 Months

These posts always take a bit of brainstorming and I think it’s just because lots of my favorite things are used so routinely that I don’t stop to think how useful they are! Here’s my five favorite things from the past six months:

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  • Gap/Old Navy Socks: We’ve been really lucky with Wendy’s wardrobe in that she has a several cousins/friends/neighbors who’ve given her their old clothes so we’ve rarely had to buy anything (seriously it’s been so nice…especially since we are definitely getting our use of them with baby girl #2). Anyway, we were given many pairs of socks but it didn’t take long for me to zero in on the ones from Gap. They are thick and well made and actually stay on the baby’s foot! Miracles! Ha! When Wendy grew out of the ones we were given, I was looking into buying more. I realized that (since Gap and Old Navy are affiliated) the Old Navy socks are the exact same and, if you watch, you can get them for waaaaaay cheap on clearance. They are THE BEST and awesome for any size!
  • Fisher-Price Sit, Stride & Ride Lion: I’ve heard different things about whether or not baby walkers actually help a baby to learn how to walk, but in Wendy’s case I really think having a walker is what finally got her walking on her own (obviously, I don’t attribute all the credit to the Lion, but I think it helped with that final push). It aided her walking when she was still a little tipsy but she’s still loving it. This particular walker has a TON of different phrases and songs (so you still get obnoxious stuff stuck in your head, but at least you get a variety of obnoxious stuff;) and Wendy has yet to get sick of it. I will say you have to adjust it to switch from riding to walking and that’s kind of annoying, but other than that it’s been a hit!
  • North Face Jacket: Like I said, we’ve rarely had to buy Wendy’s clothes and as a result, most of our favorite clothing items have been given to us. One such item is our North Face coat. It’s size is 3 months but Wendy is still wearing it-ha! And even if your babies grow faster than Wendy, I think they purposefully run big so that you can get more wear out of your coat. This particular coat is reversible and the quality is awesome. If you live where it gets cold, I’d highly recommend something similar, just because you can trust the brand is keeping your baby warm. When Wendy wears hers I know that she’s either a good temperature or too hot which is awesome for someone like me who insists we go for a walk even if it’s snowing. (I’ve seen North Face Jackets at Ross for half price!)
  • Munchkin Weighted Flexi Straw Trainer Cup: Munchkin, can you do no wrong? Everything I’ve bought from them is great quality and totally ingenious. This particular cup has a straw with a weight at the bottom, so no matter which way baby tilts the cup, the weight will fall where the liquid is and baby can drink. So smart! This is definitely not a “need” item but Wendy loves it. And when Ben is downing a beverage and Wendy wants NEEDS a sip, we just fill this guy with water and she feels like she’s getting the real deal, cause, hey! she has a straw too!
  • Kid’s Folding Camp Chair: I’d love to have one of those nice little toddler chairs that looks like a miniature recliner someday, but being on a budget and with limited space, we bought Wendy a folding camp chair at Walmart for like 6 dollars. And it is a HUGE hit. She loves having her own spot to sit. Plus the little cup holder is basically the coolest thing ever in the eyes of 1 year old.

April 2018

This has been one FULL month! I even hesitate to do a GBOMB because how can anything be better than having a fresh, new baby to snuggle. And how can anything be truly Blah when I’ve been blessed with this beautiful little family of mine? Just know that having a baby makes me feel ALL the feels…but the strongest is definitely gratitude. Also…I have a feeling this will be a long post.

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Good

  • I know I talked a bit about this, and it technically happened in March, but labor went so well (mostly)! Here we are, weeks later, and Ben and I are still talking about how blessed we were throughout this labor.  I cannot tell you how stressed I was about going into labor without having family close by to watch Wendy. It was nothing short of a miracle that Ben’s mom was in town when I started having contractions. We were able to head to the hospital with next to no worries, knowing Wendy was in the good hands of her grandma. And, while I was totally mentally prepared for another C-Section, I felt super lucky that I was able to have Greta naturally.
  • Ben’s mom was in town because she had brought a bunch of the grandkids down during their spring break. So Greta had lots of visitors at the hospital which was so fun.
  • After having Greta, we only had to stay at the hospital a little over 24 hours. It was nice to be able to get home so quickly.
  • My mom drove to Flagstaff the day Greta was born and stayed for a week. What a blessing she was to us!Wendy loved playing with Grandma. Greta loved snuggling Grandma. And I loved that Grandma made it possible for me to sleep in!
  • I love conference and this conference was wonderful.
  • I was a little worried with how Wendy was going to respond to a new baby but she has just been awesome. I mean, I still get a little worried because Wendy doesn’t quite know how to be as careful as I want her to be, but mostly she has been so sweet. She’ll copy us when we say Greta. She’ll independently go up to the bassinet and say, “Awww!” She’ll also stand by Greta and do her version of baby talk (it is seriously hilarious). And just today she wanted Greta to be sitting on her lap (and once Greta was on her lap, Wendy proceeded to jab her face). It’s definitely a learning process (for all of us) but it’s going better than I imagined.
  • Recovery this time around has been soooo much easier. After I had my C-Section I felt like recovery was not bad. BUT having had the VBAC I can say that this recovery has been loads easier. And I’m sorry but it is so nice not being pregnant.
  • Mental recovery has been so much better as well. I don’t know if hormones have just been kinder or if it’s just one of the benefits of this being my second child, but I’ve been feeling a fraction of the anxiety I felt after I had Wendy. Everything seems so much more doable and so much less worrisome.
  • Ben has been so helpful. Not only does he wake up with Wendy in the mornings and offer to make dinner, he also just gives me so much sanity in the moments when I am worrying about stupid things. Thank heavens for him.

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Blah

  • Apparently I’m allergic to something at the hospital. When I had my C-Section, I got a huge rash surrounding the incision, and this time I got a huge rash on my back (where I got an epidural). I don’t even know exactly what it is that’s causing the reaction (some people say surgical tape, some people say anesthesia). But the rash is big, itchy and it spreads like crazy. The first time I got it, I was prescribed some medication that took it away pretty quickly. This time, the medication didn’t work as well and the rash stayed much longer than preferred!
  • I can’t complain too much about lack of sleep because I know lots of moms who have it much worse with their new baby. But there is something about getting inconsistent sleep that really makes your brain just a little off. And that’s what I’m suffering from. Foggy brain. Which makes me just a little bit slower and a little bit less eloquent. Perhaps this will be an intermittent problem for the next 18 years 😉
  • At Greta’s 2 week appointment, she hadn’t gotten back up to her birth weight. Ugh. Anyone who’s been following my blog knows that Wendy’s had weight issues as well. It’s definitely not the worst problem ever, but something that still stresses me out. But Greta had a weight check yesterday and she’s finally passed her birth weight and looking good!
  • So…news…Ben has officially heard back from the schools he applied to and…(this is in the blah section, people)…he wasn’t accepted into any of them. After waiting so long to hear back we suspected as much. I think there is a bit of relief at being rejected, just in knowing that grad school isn’t an option at this particular time (one less thing to have to decide on). So the question we get asked all the time: What will you do now??? My answer: Cry. Just kidding! (Kind of;). Ben has started looking for and applying to jobs. We might stay here in Flagstaff, but he’s looking in different places as well. I think the most frustrating thing for me is that we have more waiting! It gets really frustrating not knowing what our next step is, especially since Ben is graduating and DONE with everything in less than a month! It’s crazy and a little scary but we really do have faith that everything will work out. Meanwhile…should I start packing???

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On My Brain

  • Social media has been in my brain as of late. I feel like I keep seeing things on social media and on the news where I just think, “Man, is everyone blind to the impact social media has on people?” But then I have experiences where it’s obvious I’m blind to it as well! Before I had Greta, I was scrolling through Instagram aimlessly. I came across something (I don’t even remember what it was) that made me feel very anxious and worried. I thought, “Ugh. I am feeling SO anxious. I need to pay more attention so I can find out what’s triggering this anxiety.” Then, as I went to put my phone down, I realized how dumb I was being! I didn’t need to “figure out” what was triggering the anxiety. It was right in front of me! I don’t think all social media is bad and I think everyone has to figure out their own limits. I’m not on Facebook because I hate it (okay, I hate how it makes me feel). I like Instagram a lot, but I’ve realized I have to give myself boundaries. Browsing in search is fun (and a great way to pass the time when you are nursing at 3 a.m.) but if I stumble onto a post (even if it’s uplifting) about anything regarding death or major illness, I fall into this pit of anxiety and worry that has zero purpose. So I try to keep my browsing to cake decorating and wedding pictures. I just think learning to manage our social media exposure is super important for our own mental health and it’s important so that we can teach our kids, or the next generation, healthy habits. End soap box 🙂
  • We’ve kind of gotten back into a routine in the last couple weeks but it’s not really something that’s set in stone. And as a result, I’ve had several days where both the girls are napping and I’m finding myself with nothing to do. Ha! I’d love to jump back into some sewing projects but I’m hesitant since that free time sometimes only lasts 5 minutes…and that’s hardly enough time for me to pull out my sewing stuff. Eh. I’ll get back into sewing eventually…

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Extras

  • I have many questions for you all! Please help! Do any of you have great activities for your little kiddos while you are nursing??? Putting on a movie always works but I wish we had some other options that would keep Wendy occupied for a bit of time while I feed Greta.
  • I’ve been plowing through books since I had Greta. Any favorites you’d recommend?
  • Finally, please send me your favorite crockpot recipes! That’s the only kind of meal I seem motivated to make lately…

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Books Lately

I meant to have this posted before I had my baby…but she came early so I didn’t get a chance to finish this until now! I tend to read books a bit obsessively, in quantity and in genre. My last books post had only non-fiction. This time around the theme is YA (although not all the books are YA). The last few weeks of pregnancy had me reading quite a bit and now that I’ve begun round-the-clock nursing, I’ve been busting through about a book every other day (yikes!). What I’m trying to say is, I’m sorry that you might be seeing an excess of book review posts over the next little bit. I’ll get back to crafting eventually. On a totally related note, if any of you have book recommendations, send them my way! Here’s some of what I read:

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The Diplomat’s Daughter by Karin Tanabe

This Book: is about Emi Kato, daughter of a Japanese diplomat during the height of WWII. Before the war, while living in Austria, Emi falls in love with Leo, who, because he is a Jew, must flee with his family to China. After several years and a move to the United States, Emi still thinks she’ll never love again until she meets Christian in an internment camp in Texas.

What I Thought:

  • I think my favorite part of the book was just how many different settings there were, and how unique each setting was. Instead of just seeing how the war affected the United States, you also get a glimpse into how it affected parts of China and Japan, as well as internment camps in the U.S., and I thought that was really interesting.
  • I’m just going to be straight and say that I didn’t really love this book. I felt like the author threw in enough adult content to have it sell as an adult book, but it really felt YA to me. Which that in and of itself doesn’t bother me at all (I love YA books, as you’ll notice below), but I just felt like the book lacked the depth it could have had.
  • I read this book without reading the jacket blurb. But I read the blurb after and…um…am I the only one who noticed that it tells you everything that happens in the book? Like, LITERALLY tells you EVERYTHING that happens in the book. Like, for real. I can’t get over it. The only thing it doesn’t tell is how it ends.
  • Which, it does have a good ending, so that’s nice.

Should You Read It? I’d honestly tell you to pass on this one, although I think lots of people would probably enjoy it.

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Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

This Book: is about a girl named Maddy who is basically allergic to the world. She’s never stepped foot outside her clinically sterile home, to avoid contact with germs that could potentially kill her. But then a boy moves in next door and he and Maddy strike up a friendship through their bedroom windows.

What I Thought:

  • This is a Young Adult novel and it is bursting with all things YA-doodles, drawings, instant messaging. I thought it was totally light and fun and it was a really quick read.
  • I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was unique (I mean, it’s a girl meets boy story, which are all pretty sameish, but it definitely had its own voice) and unpredictable.
  • There were parts of this book where I was like, “Seriously? That would never happen. He/she wouldn’t do this/that because x/y/z.” But then I thought, “Eh, teenagers are dumb so maybe he/she would do this/that.” (No offense intended. I was a dumb teenager once too.) Even with some of the unrealistic stuff, it was still a good and, honestly, fairly believable read.

Should You Read It? I really enjoyed it and would therefore recommend it (but it does have some mature content, so read at your own risk).

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To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (the trilogy) by Jenny Han

This Book: is about Lara Jean, a hopelessly romantic teenager who has written letters to all the boys she’s ever loved and stored them in her mother’s old hatbox. But at the start of her Junior year in high school, she realizes that somehow those letters have actually been mailed. To avoid making things awkward with her current crush, she makes up a boyfriend and (it’s high school) things get kinda crazy.

What I Thought:

  • Sooooooooo, I read this book because another blogger had said that it was in the top 10 books she’d read all year (and she’d read over 100!). And, I’m not going to lie. When I finished the first book I was like, “Seriously? Top 10? Bleh.” But apparently I have no self respect (or maybe self control?) because I went and checked out books #2 and #3 and I actually ended up really enjoying them (not Top 10 status…but fun nonetheless).
  • The thing that bothered me most was just the writing. It is so juvenile. I mean, the main character is 16 and calls her dad “Daddy.” So that was kind of annoying but it gets better and by the third book she really isn’t so annoying anymore (which who’s to say whether the writing matured or if I just got used to it?).
  • This book is pure FLUFF. Don’t expect any major happenings, twists or lessons. It’s just a sweet simple high school romance with quirky, believable characters.

Should You Read It? If you’re looking for a fairly mindless, fluffy YA read, these books would be right up your alley!

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Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery

This Book: Is about two sisters: Harper, a single mom attempting to be a flawless domestic goddess while getting her own business off the ground and running; and Stacey, a career driven scientist who needs to figure out how to tell her mother she’s 6 months pregnant and then figure out how to be a mother herself.

What I Thought:

  • I read Mallery’s “The Friends We Keep” and I really enjoyed it. It had fun characters and problems that made me think about how I would respond in similar settings. I was looking forward to this hoping for the same light but thoughtful read, but I feel like it really fell short. It wasn’t quite as thought provoking and seemed a lot more patchy? Like she had to kind of scramble to make it a complete book.
  • Getting more into specifics: I really liked Lucas’ relationship with Becca. I think that his parenting style is totally awesome. But I failed to see where he was romantically appealing. Like, in that area he seemed like a big old D-bag (sorrynotsorry). Whatevs. To each their own.
  • I was also really confused by Stacey. Mostly, I really loved her character. But half the time she seemed like a fairly normal career driven woman and the other half of the time she seemed like she had some social disorder…like maybe a mild form of autism? I was reading someone’s review of the book (is goodreads addicting to anyone else?) who said that if a character has a disability that it should be explicitly stated. I disagree with that, but I do think that a character’s personality ought to at least be consistent. And Stacey’s personality, to me, was not.
  • Truthfully, I had enough issues with this book that it made me think I’ll probably never read Susan Mallery again.

Should You Read It? I personally didn’t care for it, so I wouldn’t recommend it.

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

This Book: is about a wealthy family who spends their summers on their private island near Martha’s Vineyard. But that’s not really what it’s about at all. It’s about Cadence…and something that happened one summer…but she can’t quite remember what. And nobody’s telling her the truth.

What I Thought:

  • How does one review a book like this without giving anything away? The story was good and intriguing and difficult to put down. It had me guessing the whole time and I finished it really quickly because I just wanted to find out what happened.
  • So. The ending. When I finished the book I was so conflicted with the ending. After giving it some time I think that the ending was appropriate. It was totally unpredictable and it also (in my opinion) was means of getting a theme across. I will say that I’ve read lots of reviews where the reader was left bawling and in an emotional funk for days after finishing the book. I did not have this reaction…but beware, I guess.
  • Well I’m going to be totally vague here but the thing bothered me most was that something that was totally avoidable lead to this other thing that was totally crazy. And while the totally crazy event was acknowledged and discussed, nobody said anything about how it could’ve likely been avoided if that one thing hadn’t been going on. (I feel like Angela from The Office: Certain events have transpired. And I’ve thought about certain things. And I’m sorry for how those certain events transpired).

Should You Read It? When a book is this short and reads this fast, even if I’m not totally in love with it, I have a hard time saying don’t bother. The tone is a bit subdued and melancholy and the whole story is fixated on remembering what happened. But, overall, I enjoyed it (even if it was just to figure out what happened).

She’s Here!

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She’s here! Our sweet little baby number 2 is here and we are in love!

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We named her Greta Jean. We had a hard time choosing a name this time around but Greta was a name that we kept coming back to and, when she was born, we knew it fit. And Jean is after Ben’s sweet Grandma Brown (seriously, one of the sweetest ladies ever).

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Somehow, this girl had the exact same measurements as her sister: 6 lbs 14 oz and 18 1/2 inches tall.

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Greta came 9 days early and her timing could not have been better. Ben’s mom was miraculously in town when I went into labor so she was able to to watch Wendy when we headed to the hospital. And my mom came soon after and stayed for a week to help out.

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And I was able to have a VBAC! It was seriously such a crazy experience! And I didn’t think my C-Section was bad at all but retrospectively, this has been a MUCH easier recovery and I’m so grateful for that.

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Life with 2 kids is definitely different than life with one and we are all still learning and adjusting. But I’m definitely trying to enjoy every moment because babies grow too fast.