Is This Blog Dead?

Growing Sound Roots. They've grown. After 8 years in Seattle area and 10 in the Pacific Northwest and outside of my native and beloved California, I think I'm planted. The whole idea behind this blog was to cover our journey as new Pacific Northwesterners living on the Puget Sound. The day to day lifestyle, the travel log, the journey of pregnancy and new parenthood. I loved every minute of this space for the first few years. Then I got side tracked by your wonderful comments that gave me hope. They gave me the desire to turn this into something bigger. To make a name for myself. To have more than the 15 minutes of fame I earned after meeting and almost stalking Young House Love. The blog post I did about that experience earned me an amazing and whopping ....thousand clicks and page views. I was obsessed. I am embarrassed to think of how many times I clicked refresh while viewing my stats. When really my intent for this space had nothing to do with the general public or stats or page views or clicks or advertisements.  

My initial intent was to follow in my Gramma June's and Papa Howards footsteps and document life and family. To be a way to process my life as I live it. To be a place that I could always return to as my memory failed me. My intent for this blog was to share with family and friends who live further away, yet want to know us and our little family and remain close to us. My passion has always been photography and has more recently become writing, so this space gives me an outlet and a place to practice and nurture myself. In Micah's first year and a half this blog gave me mental health and the baby book I never needed to make because it is all right here. But here I am now. A Kindergarten and First Grade Instructional Specialist. A mama of a three year old (almost three & a half year old) who mostly prefers his daddy. A wife to a full time college student. A girl who lives with her mother-in-law. A temple member. An essential oil lover and distributor. A podcast listener. A preschool parent. A long distance daughter and sister and sister-in-law. With all of these things I have become a little less outgoing, a little more cautious, a little more humble, and to be honest, a lot more unsure of myself. Am I living my life intentionally? Am I being too selfish? How am I serving others and making them feel important? What am I doing to rip down systems of unequity in public education? What am I doing to instill compassion and patience and a growth mindset in my son and in my teachers? What am I doing to listen to my faith and grow my spirituality? How am I taking risks and not just waiting on others? How am I not a hypocrite? The list of questions spinning around in my head during the last year have been endless. I've taken the time to filter my thoughts a little more than usual perhaps because I used to be confident in my actions and in teaching others and now I have more questions than lessons and answers.

Some of my questions involve this little blog. Should I continue this blog? Should I start a new one to share my random creative writing pieces? Should I instead create one about the education system or about early literacy? The thing that's tough is that I know that I'm not an expert on any of this. I'm a life long learner. I'm also not a very good questioner...yet. I'm practicing. So, after all that rambling. Stay tuned. There may be more. There may not be. There may be another blog. There may not be. I definitely won't stop writing. I am a writer. I am a photographer too, so there will still be photos. Whether I have a central focus has yet to be determined. Maybe I don't need one. Maybe I'm my own worst critic. If you are still reading this, I'd love to know...why (and thank you. thank you so very much for being a part of my life).

The Most Epic Two Week Road Trip

Is anyone else freezing and dreaming about summertime? Maybe you are like me and start planning your vacations now. If so, I've got just the trip for you.

This was the road trip of a life time. Seriously. Two families with two three year old boys. Seven of the most beautiful lakes with stellar beaches, green lush forests, cute nearby downtown's, and more. The kids gathered firewood, rode their bikes, ate ice cream, played with construction trucks in dirt and sand and water, and even got in some hiking. The mamas soaked up the sun and even got in some wine tasting and boutique shopping.  And the dads got in swimming, a few craft beers and a lot of coors light, plus an awesome ride in a Polaris and a canoe trip that almost trampled them (and our little ones) by a moose!

Somehow we convinced ourselves that a two week road trip would be no harder than two weeks at home with the kids. Luckily we were smart enough to realize that two full weeks camping in tents might be a little unrealistic and overambitious, so we created a hodge podge of camping and other lodging that could not have panned out better. We had great campsites, a nice airbnb, and an amazing stay at a friend's condo. We only ended up diverting from our planned itinerary in two places.

Our friends Krista and Peter were the best travel buddies and amazingly we were all able to co-parent the two kids, trade off cooking meals, make day to day decisions, and have a ton of fun successfully and without any major arguments, disagreements, or embarrassing moments! Phil & I had thought up the idea for the trip with most of the itinerary thought of way back in early April and when we brought it up to K & P, they were excited from the start and jumped right on board with it. We had two or three more in person planning sessions to nail down details. The rest of the planning we managed over a shared google doc (things like who was bringing what so we didn't end up with two of everything). We got great ideas on what to pack and menus to plan from pinterest.

Technology really did help make the drive times go by pretty smoothly for the little guys and it was more than compensated for with all the amazing outdoor experiences from the rest of the trip.

Day One: Seattle to Lake Chelan, Washington (through Leavenworth)
Day Two: Lake Chelan to Penticton, B.C.
Day Three: Penticton
Day Four: Penticton
Day Five: Penticton to Banff National Park (through Revelstoke and Lake Louise)
Day Six: Banff National Park (Johnston Canyon)
Day Seven: Banff National Park (Spring Canyon)
Day Eight: Banff to Sandpoint, Idaho
Day Nine: Sandpoint, Idaho (Schwietzer and Lake Pend Oreille)
Day Ten: Sandpoint, Idaho to Priest Lake, Idaho
Day Eleven: Priest Lake, Idaho to Lake Roosevelt, Washington (through Spokane)
Day Twelve: Lake Roosevelt back to Seattle

I'd love to write more about the trip and share more photos, but I want to know what questions you all have. What would you be curious to find out about? Actual to do's in each location? How to plan for this epic of a trip? How to pack for a two week road trip with kids? Must see and do's for each stop? Thanks and I'll do a round up of posts based on your responses!

Three Years Old!

loves living by Alki beach!
In the last sixth months our little toddler has turned into a full fledged little kid! There have been ups and downs, but overall Micah Howard has been funny and happy and pleasant to be with. The hardest thing has been his extreme desire to be with daddy and have daddy do everything for and with him (at the expense of Mommy), although it seems like we may be finally coming out of that phase (that lasted over a year!).

I wrote the following a few months ago. Micah:
  • held long conversations of his toys talking to each other
fun on Aunt Cassie's visit
  • Truly showed interest in organization.
  • said his goodnights, "goodnight daddy and gramma and no goodnight to mama....(no response from me). That's sad." Me: "what's sad?" Micah: "That's said I didn't say goodnight to mama" ensue laughter. This kid thinks he's pretty funny. Quiet the jokester.
  • sings songs. like really sings them himself. 
  • has been interacting and talking with kids around his age! He and our friend's kid, Isaac, actually are starting to have fun and play chase and play with toys together. 

He also:
  • loved it when we rolled lavender on him at night or diffused it in his bedroom at bedtime.
  • went through HUGE Daddy phases (the "I'm cool with Mommy" phases lasted a few days at a time if I was lucky, until the last month, which has been pretty even...FINALLY!). :-) 
  • did a ton of traveling! Planes, trains, and automobiles galore. 
First trip to Disneyland!
Banff National Park with the Richardsons
San Carlos Hometown Days with friends
UCSD's Alumni weekend with Mommy's friends in San Diego
So fun seeing the next generation of UCSD kids! ;-) 
  • even let Nana and Papa take him on a vacation by themselves to the San Juan Islands for three nights!
Fun before their big trip to Decatur Island
  • did AMAZING on a two week road trip to Chelan, Penticton, Banff, Sandpoint, Priest Lake, and Lake Roosevelt
loved helping with the wood pile while camping
this kid! Oh the cutest!
Big boy with big boy toys in Sandpoint, Idaho
his more sweet and grown up side
  • got big boy underwear (Lego & Paw Patrol themed) and said bye bye to diapers after our big summer road trip!!! He was not really interested at all before we left for the trip, but the combination of observing his friend Isaac (9 months older) and being able to go out in the bushes helped get him excited about the process. We have been so impressed at how well he has done! He has permission to just go to his little potty or use the step stool for the big one or to go in a designated spot in our backyard whenever he needs to without telling us. He likes his privacy too. Sometimes he reads books while going (I mean...who doesn't?). ;-) 
  • loved digging
Digging on Easter Sunday
So excited for new tools!
  • got a lot of time bonding with cousins and extended family
Lewins & Strauss' Picnic in the Park
Fun with second cousins & Aunt Leslie in Mill Valley
Fun in Michigan with his Cleveland/Chicago cousins
The whole big group of family on our Michigan trip
The Pacific Northwest family at the Giants/Mariners game
San Diego cousin time!
Quickest cousin meet up ever at the Giants/Mariners game!
The Hedlund family on the Oregon Coast
Celebrating Caden's Bar Mitzvah weekend
Finally hanging with his cousins Max & Marcus
  • became more confident in the water (with his life jacket) and loved playing in the pool and in lakes.
Swimming in Michigan
  • showed that he was able to recite back almost entire books to us (like Ten Little Dinosaurs, the Little Blue Truck, and other rhyming stories) and was really good at cloze reading when we paused in places he could fill in the blank.
retelling the Big Red Barn with toys
  • is super helpful. He throws away trash when he sees it wether it was his or not. He usually cleans up when asked and even sometimes puts his plate or bowl in the sink after a meal. 
you can tell this was months ago by the diaper!
  • he got super good at riding his balance bike (thanks to our big road trip with Isaac this summer).
So speedy!
  • got his first bee sting (while at Aunt Leslie & Uncle Will's house playing with cousins in their water fountain).
  • dropped nap time (after a period of a couple weeks of hours long bedtime stalling, mom and dad decided it was time). Once he stopped napping, bedtime became so much easier!
This box lived in our house for months!
  • still has a love for trains, but he really spent hours with legos (Duplo and the little ones that Daddy saved from his childhood) and hours playing with construction toys (excavators, dump trucks, bulldozers, etc).
Dad built Micah this gravel pit in the backyard when we got back from vacation!
  • discovered the joy of fireflies (at the same time Mommy discovered them too)!
  • found favorite movies while on road trips (Bambi & Stellaluna were each watched at least 10 times each or more even though there were lots of other choices).
  • entered a bit more shy phase again with phrases like "You tell Mommy", "You say it Daddy".
  • has also pretty much given up stroller riding. Now on our family walks he either walks with us or rides his bike and he can keep a good pace for good ol' Charlie to get some exercise. 
  • goes in and out of phases of interested in eating lots (and new things) or not much at all. We are letting him even eat things like popcorn now, but still waiting on letting him eat gum which is probably one of his biggest life goals right now.
  • got way more comfortable with being dirty.
  • Had some two year old moments 
mostly directed at me, his mom. 
  • Had the best time being living day to day life the four of us (plus Charlie)
Our family of four in Oregon

You Will Never See a Picture Perfect Kids Room in My House

"It's just a room," someone will say.

Just four walls, a window, a closet and a doorway. Just soft subtle grey walls.

Yet it will always be more. It's giggles and "Don't go yet Mommy." It's "play with me Daddy" and jump on the bed. It's youth and energy.

It's tantrums and uh-ohs and tears. It's holding the door shut and "feel free to come out when"'s.
Those subtle grey walls whisper Mickey and bird posters. Pete the Cat. Cars and trucks. They are baseball and the alphabet. They are pictures of family and friends.

Those posters will evolve before my eyes. Someday I will remember when I used to have to tape each item up for him. When he wasn't tall enough and I didn't quiet trust him with the tape anyways. Each piece on those plain walls adds to independence and builds character. I will see my boy turn from a baby to a toddler to a kid to a teen within those walls. I will watch as those scribbles and sticker collections and smeared-half-hazard-drive-by paintings become deliberate thoughtful stories and drawings. Then of course I will watch the inevitable shift as his own artwork and school work fades into pop culture; movies, bands, video games, ...girls!

Someday that "get over it lady" look will creep across someone's face. A sentimental sap he will think. It might even be him. He won't remember, can't remember the way he grinned up at me prouder than a lion over the whole savanna (and stalling bedtime better than a car driven by a teenage girl driving a stick), "I wanna read you a book now, Mommy!" He won't see the hours of snuggles, the thousands of diaper changes.

They are just plain grey walls.
And they are "I did its!" and "I'm ok, Mom"'s. They help to grow his sense of individuality. They give him a slice of control over his world.

Those walls give me insight into my child's inner world. His likes and dislikes. His maturation. His style. When other parents complain someday of their child being sucked away into social media or teenagerdom, I'll have those walls. He'll have those walls.
Those walls are the unspoken understanding. The "I don't have to tell you, Mom"'s. The "you already know, Mom"'s. His identity will grow and flourish and I will not have stood in his way.

Those plain, subtle grey walls. Those four walls. Whispered memories of phases and characters bygone. Conveying character, personality, individuality.

I should know. My parents had those walls too: