Finding the good books is a process. Finding the books that we are willing to read over and over and over again. Finding the books that have good messages, great pictures, are enjoyable (for us) to read outloud and that are loved by M, is actually a harder task than you might think. The library is filled with awful children’s books. It is truly astounding.
Anyway – I really want to share our favourites. We have a few, so I will start with just 4.
I say these are books for a 3 year old, but really we have been reading them since she was 2 and I imagine they will stick around for a long while yet. If you are looking for new books, I can NOT recommend these books enough.
The Lion in The Meadow
A little boy sees a lion in the meadow but his mother doesn’t believe him. The pictures in this book are so great, I remember being read this when I was little. The fine line between reality and imagination is blurred – making this book feel magical and sweet.
The Worst Princess
I’m not sure if M fully understands this book yet, but she still loves to hear it read (it rhymes). It is about a princess who is rescued by a prince and then when she realises she is about to be forced into a traditional fairytale (dresses and castles) when she would rather be riding horses and doing ‘fun stuff’ she befriends a dragon who helps her get rid of the prince. It’s cute.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea
Another magical book that plays with reality/imagination. A tiger comes to tea and eats everything in the house! So when Daddy comes home from work there is nothing left to eat, but Daddy has a good idea and takes everyone out for ice-cream and sausages and chips. I love the way that no-body seems very stressed out about the fact that a tiger just cleaned out their home. Both the mama and daddy are very calm and sweet and the images throughout the book reflect that.
Jesse Bear, What Will you Wear?
Oh this book brought me back to my childhood. We go through Jesse Bear’s day with interesting rhythm and rhyme asking each time ‘what will you wear?’ M knows most of it by heart now, which makes it such an easy and delightful read.
I was sick in bed and I woke up at midday. I checked my phone to see a bunch of missed calls and some text messages saying ‘they just tested the house, it’s all lead’. And just like that it felt like our lives got thrown into a big whirlpool.
Our landlord had been doing a bunch of (illegal) paint work to the house and had power-blasted lead paint chips and dust into our gardens, through our windows, onto our driveway, our front and back porch and all through our lawns. He got fined by the state, and then we started to see what sort of legal action we could take but the system and processes are overwhelming to say the least and after a few days of headaches and phone-calls and doctors visits, we decided that for the safety of M and baby we would just need to move house.
So I was sick in bed and was advised by my doctor that considering I am pregnant, I should get out of the house as fast as possible. We spent 2 weeks crashing at our friend’s (amazing) house and I have no idea what we would have done without them. But although I was trying very hard to count our blessings, we were crashing with no real idea of what would come next. The uncertainty is something that might have excited me a few years ago, but being pregnant and with a 3.5 year old, I felt overwhelmed, frustrated and super depressed. It was a very hard mindset to pull myself out of. I felt like we were at an extremely low point and I knew that this was the time I needed to be the strongest. It so easy to be strong when things are going well but I knew that a true test of character is always when things are hard – but that didn’t make it any easier.
We really thought that our time in America was up. The cost of renting something else in the area was outrageous. Outrageous. We would have been in a much better position if we could buy a house here (we can’t) – the rental market is so expensive. We weighed up our options of moving back to NZ. Of moving to Mexico. Of moving to Canada. And all the while I was thinking ‘what if this was happening in November? What if was about to go into labour any day?’ I guess life doesn’t consider convenient timing. It just happens.
And then, as if by some crazy stars-aligning act-of-god miracle we ended up finding a home we could afford. It started with a phone call and through friends of friends and chance encounters ended up with us signing a lease within days.
We started packing (with help from the most amazing friends) and driving and unpacking and a part of me relishes the cleansing feeling that comes from sorting and packing and giving away. Trying to make sure that we always have just the right amount of stuff and never more, is a task that I take great pleasure in.
And there is still some sorting that needs to be done but we are more or less settled into our new home.
I am meant to be 30 weeks pregnant today but things are not going so well. There is a hospital visit scheduled for this coming Wednesday but that is another story in itself.
It was been such a challenging month and I wanted to write this down to remind myself. I’ve felt less present, less happy, less me than I have felt in a very long time. But I keep reminding myself that I already have so much. I want to remember that I felt so awful so I can know to keep moving through each day and seeing the great things and people in our lives. Light always wins over darkness right?
“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” – Eckhart Tolle
“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Mary Engelbreit
The lights in my life.
So I was bout to call it quits on the blog. I finally got around to setting up a better photography site and sorta felt as though this blog has no more purpose.
And then I was inspired by a friend to finally get around to printing a ‘my first year’ book for M and found myself spending hours reading through old posts and looking through old photographs to transfer to a physical book and decided that even though I might not write so much anymore, it might still be worth keeping this blog alive.
So I am 28 weeks pregnant today. For the first few weeks I felt miserably sick but now I am feeling wonderful despite being tired quite a lot. Like ‘they’ say, this pregnancy has gone by a lot faster and i find myself spending a lot less time on babycenter.com and watching birthing videos than when i was pregnant with m. I am still running, which is something I stopped at about 16 weeks last time (i was sure only crazy people run when they are pregnant). I say running, but really I am doing something quicker than a walk at a measly 10 minute mile pace, but it still feels pretty good.
The bump has been slow to grow and only lately have I started to show a bit more. Admittedly my midwives are a little curious about my dates and might move my due date by a week or two to accommodate my small measurements. As long as baby is healthy and strong, I don’t mind when he or she comes out. The longer the better really, I’m already a bit emotional about expanding our little family of three.
M is more excited about the baby than we could hope for. She talks to my belly and tells us all the things she will do when the baby arrives (‘i’m gonna change it’s diaper! and rock it to sleep! and share my toys! and sing songs!’). It’s terrifying to imagine how our lives are gonna change again (the naiveté of first time parenthood is a beautiful thing), but this is also probably going to be the last time we have a newborn and knowing all too well how fast time flies, I can savor it all the more.
We left on a Sunday and spent 5 nights exploring the Olympic Peninsula. We had sort of intended to spend 7 nights but with Friday being the 4th and all, it was a little not-our-style to be in a packed out campground and the idea of driving home in the soft rain seemed much more appealing than setting up a tent.
Before our trip I did extensive googling on ‘exploring the olympic peninsula with toddlers’ and ‘family activities in the olympic peninsula’ and such. The biggest advice I got was DON’T GO ON LONG HIKES and CHECK OUT THE EXCITING MARINE LIFE AT LOW TIDES. Both great advice. And so here is our version of a family camping trip in the Olympic Peninsula.
Our first decision we made was that we were going to do the trip in a clockwise direction. Most advice online suggests doing the trip in a counter-clockwise direction but the dates we wanted to book at Hobuck didn’t line up so well if we did the trip that way.
So our first destination was Lake Quinault.
We packed up the car like expert Tetris players (something I find so strangely satisfying) and made a quick stop at Fremont Market for some lunch before making the 3 hour drive all the way to Lake Quinault.
What we packed for Mika
3 books, bubbles, a box of chalk, her blankie and 2 of her tiny dolls (Mimi and Lulu). We also packed the iPad in my bag but to our actual huge surprise, we didn’t use the iPad ONCE, until she discovered it by accident on our last day. Somehow she managed the 600 miles or so of driving with just this awesome music CD (found on Spotify) and small talk with her imaginary friends Snake and Monkey.
Lake Quinault is gorgeous. We set up a tent at Falls Creek (no reservation needed) for $20 a night and almost had the entire place to ourselves. The water was swimmable and we cooked some veggies with pasta for dinner and had hot cocoa before sleep.
The next morning we did some little hikes opposite the campground. There are many tiny trails of less than a mile each that you can kind of join together to make your own distance. Mika walked for 1.4 miles of trail and then we carried her for another .6. Super great family spot that was definitely not too busy on a Sunday afternoon.
Our second night we spent at Kalaloch which did NOT live up to the hype. It is one of the only campgrounds in the peninsula where you really need to reserve a site and we managed to grab one a week before we left. The campsites are all on gravel, so it feels sort of like you are tenting in a parking lot. And the ocean view is nice I suppose, but it’s pretty windy and once you make it down to the beach it is quite spectacular but not we-should-spend-the-whole-day-here-building-sand-castles sort of lovely, more like this-would-be-a-romantic-windy-wild-beach-walk sort of lovely which, of course, we were not able to really make the most of. So Kalaloch was meh.
From Kalaloch we drove up the coast to Mora Campground via Ruby Beach which is wow beautiful and perfect for a half-full day excursion with toddlers. We walked to little rock pools and saw huge starfish and beautiful colors.
We stayed at Ruby Beach until we were hungry for lunch. Our next stop: the Hoh Rainforest. The Hoh Rainforest is pretty spectacular and we happened to be there on the hottest day of the week (92F/33C). We hung out in the visitor centre for a while, mainly for the air conditioning, and then set out to do the Hall of Mosses trail. The trail is easy, Mika walked 3/4 of it, but despite the beautiful moss and trees and nature, I was being followed by some nasty stinging flies/bees that would NOT leave me alone. We had left the bug spray in the car so I sort of just swatted and walk/ran most of the trail and felt flustered and hot by the end of it.
Back in the car, we stopped at Forks (Twilight famous) for some supplies and continued to Mora Campground. We found the best camp spot in Loop E (closest to the river) and set up our tent nestled amongst huge trees.
You can’t walk to the river because apparently it’s moved over the years and so we had to hop back in the car and drive to the beach (4 minutes). The beach was Rialto beach and it is covered in gorgeous drift wood and amazing rocks (not much sand).
We did the hike to the hole in the rock – we strapped Mika in the Ergo with the intention of making it a good-paced trip, but with mistiming the tides and and walking mostly on piles of sinking rocks (not packed sand) it turned out to be about 3.5 hours round trip. The wild coast is so beautiful and towards the end of the walk Mika fell asleep on Ivan’s back so the whole thing felt sort of magical.
For dinners at Mora we had hummus sandwiches one night and the best ever easy-to-make bean burgers the next night.
From here we were joined by some friends and we made the 2 hour drive to Hobuck Beach Resort. We had booked a cabin for a night which didn’t have ocean views but was a 2 minute stroll to the beach. The vibe of the place is very Indian Reservation as opposed to hot tourist spot and it was definitely one of our favourite places so far. It reminded us a lot of the top of the north island in New Zealand (like a much bigger version of Spirit Bay).
We swam in the ocean, played frisbee and buried the girls. We took our first shower in a week and felt so fancy and clean that we decided to go out for dinner. The sun was low and hot and we drove to Neah Bay and found what seemed to be the only dining spot in town and right on the water. It was almost suitably named Warm House Restaurant.
If you are ever up that way and you get the urge to dine out – DON’T. Steph and I shared a seafood platter and there wasn’t anything on our plate that wasn’t deep fried in the most repulsive batter you can imagine. The place is really just a small town Denny’s or a glorified seafood version of KFC. It’s not worth it.
The next morning we drove out to Cape Flattery and told the girls they would need to walk the whole thing. I actually had no idea what the walk would be like or how long it was, but the girls managed marvelously and the trail itself is extremely toddler fun/friendly. The views at the most northwestern point of the contiguous United States aren’t overly spectacular, but it’s more just the sort of feeling one gets when standing at a point that is the ‘most’ of anything. (Glorious).
From here we headed back down through Neah Bay and stopped at Pat’s Place for some Indian Tacos which is something I WOULD recommend because the place is small and run by Pat herself and the food must be bad for you but is delicious.
And this is where we made the decision to head straight home instead of trying to set up a tent at Lake Crescent. It started raining lightly and we decided we would stop at Sol Duc hot springs so we could swim in the rain and then drive back to Seattle.
Sol Duc Hot Springs is nice but not really the greatest place for a 3 year old. There are 3 small thermal pools, more just like hot tubs, and only one of them allows toddlers. There is also a big non-thermal swimming pool that is ‘warm’ but definitely not toddler warm and so at 4pm when they closed the toddler-friendly pool for an hour for cleaning/resting, M really had nothing to do. So she and Ivan went inside to get a beer and I swam for another 15 minutes in the colder pool before hopping out.
There is supposedly a lot of great hikes around the hot springs and so I think the ideal thing to do would be to stay in a cabin next to the hot springs, sans toddlers, hike all day and relax in the hot springs in the afternoon before dinner.
So that was the whole trip. Camping with a toddler was, in our case, easy and enjoyable. We had such a good experience and we can’t wait to do more. On the way home M asked us when we would go camping again and we told her that we plan to do it as MUCH as possible before her little sibling arrives at the end of summer.
We bought a car. It’s definitely nothing special, but it is a car. We have managed for 2 years without one and if we are to be honest, the last few months have not so much been ‘managing’ without one as opposed to spending too much money on alternatives (Uber and car2go) and relying on the kindness of our friends.
And then we went to REI in our new car and spent all the rest of our money that we don’t have. And now we are WELL EQUIPPED to explore Washington proper.