JJ got MARRIED

Although I’d been in Washington for a long time, I had to make a quick trip up because my oldest nephew’s dad was getting married!

Before the wedding though, my mom and I had Friday to spend together. I needed new running shoes so I convinced her to drive up to the flagship REI in Seattle so I could have a nice big selection (and still earn a dividend). We had a lovely time shopping together (and she insisted on buying me the dress I wore to the wedding) and then for lunch, I took her to a little spot that a dear friend had shown me a few years ago.

My mom and I both love oysters, especially raw. As we settled into our table, she pointed at a map on the wall and said, “Now I like that map.” I, the map obsessed daughter, laughed, because the map showed Pacific Northwest oyster growing locations.

Midway through our first dozen, Mom declared that we would be getting another. I basically spent the entire meal giggling at how excited she was.

The next morning, Mom had some errands to run so I asked her to drop me off at a trail and I got in some (humid) miles before the wedding.

Although, around the ceremony, it was really hot the wedding was really wonderful. I got lots of Andrew hugs:

They did such a good job of including the kids (all four of them!) including having my sister come up for their parent-kid dance to dance with Drew:

I hate garter tosses and bouquet tosses but watching Andrew and Junior giggle together as they waited was pretty adorable:

Since there was music, there was my family dancing. No one should ever expect differently:

Congratulations JJ and Destiny! I’m so happy to have you both (and your whole crew of munchkins) in my life.

The whole darn family: Mom, me, Emily & Kevin, JJ & Destiny, and the whole troupe of kiddos.

Mt. Rainier National Park: Reflection Lake and Pinnacle Peak Trail

My sister and I had been scheming to get the boys out hiking during my trip home for months. When the day finally came around we had two of the three boys and got a much later start than we’d hoped but the webcams were showing absolutely gorgeous bluebird skies at Mount Rainier National Park so off we went.

Once we drove into the park, I woke up both boys from their naps so we could start looking at the views as we drove up to Reflection Lake. Will, the youngest, continually exclaimed “Look at the huge mountain!” This was not reserved for the grand dame, Rainier, but also bestowed on craggy Tatoosh Range peaks, and wooded unnamed peaks. His excitement was adorable and we all happily spilled out of the car and ate our sandwiches looking at Reflection Lake.

After a few photo opportunities, we headed up the Pinnacle Peak Trail. I never dreamed we’d make it to the saddle (okay, I dreamed about getting there and then ditching Emily and Kevin with the kids while I summited) but I was so impressed with the boys for making it almost a mile up the trail. 3 year old Will lead the charge up the hill on his first hike ever!

Rainier mostly was out of the clouds for us and it was pretty hard to not just stare instead of climbing. Thankfully, our whole (tired) way down, she was in our faces.

I waved at Pinnacle putting it aside for another day with different goals. Today was about being outside with family.

Kevin Jr. and I even got in some bonus “scrambling” while we waited for his younger brother to descend the trail.

After the hike, we headed to Paradise for a quick swing through the visitor center and gift shop. Settled back in the car, it was clear that all five of us had enjoyed our day. There was hand holding hiking, exclamations of joy, and laughter disproportionate to our less than two miles traveled.

Tacoma at Christmas: Sledding at Snoqualmie Pass

The day after Christmas, my sister and I decided to take all three of the boys up to Snoqualimie Pass to play in the snow. She said that Will and Kevin (the middle one and the little) didn’t really remember snow so we figured they’d like some sledding and playing in the fluffy white stuff.

They were a little rambunctious on the ride up (Will’s face just says it all about his older brothers…) but they were super excited when we hit snowline just outside of North Bend.

Kevin (aka Junior)’s excited face selfie:

I kind of sent the two older boys to the first pile of snow I saw and they promptly lost gloves and got buried in waste deep powder. Fortunately, Junior was wearing my GoPro and captured some of the carnage.

The sledding hill that was going on was a little bit intense. There was a giant bump in the middle that none of the adults appeared interested in addressing. Andrew and Junior both tried it a couple of times and then they were pretty done with it.

Andrew made friends with another little boy who had a shovel and he proceeded to spend the rest of his time in the snow making tunnels and forts.

Junior mostly belly crawled around in the powdery snow.

Will wasn’t totally sure about this whole snow thing but eventually he figured out that being pulled around in the sled was kind of fun.

We left with a very tired crew of boys who wrapped up the fun with some “Mick and Donalds” and headed back to Tacoma!

Tacoma at Christmas: Ice Skating

I landed in Seattle late on Tuesday night and got up on Wednesday morning and immediately launched into holiday festivities! My oldest nephew, Andrew, my mom, and I went to downtown Tacoma with my aunt and my cousin’s daughters. I had fun snapping photos of everyone (although a few turned out blurry they’re here anyway for fun), accepting my mom’s challenge to skate backwards, and scooping Andrew up off the ice.

Eight year old boys will stick out their tongues in EVERY PHOTO if you’re not fast with the candid…

Andrew missed the memo to wear pink:

My mother, aka “Suzie Snowflake,” even got into the fun:

After ice skating, we grabbed pizza at Elemental Pizza before heading home.

Swan Creek Hiking & Salmon Spawning

One of my favorite phone calls of 2014 was one from my nephew, Andrew. I was just getting down from the mountains and had a message on my phone, “Hi, Aunty Beth. I was wondering if you could come over so we can go hiking.” I called him back and reminded him that I live in Colorado which is far away so I couldn’t come over today. He was very understanding and matter of factly said, “Okay, then we’ll go hiking next time you’re here, right?”

Andrew and I almost had conflicting travel schedules and only overlapped in Tacoma for one day so I was sure to follow up on my promise and get him outside. Andrew’s hiking requirements go as follows: “We get in the Jeep, drive to the woods, and hike.” (I found this out when I tried to convince four year old Drew that a walk in the neighborhood counted as a hike… he was not impressed.) Luckily for me, my mom lives near an awesome green space: Swan Creek Park.

I’ve taken Andrew hiking here several times now and he loves it. Its big enough and the woods are dense enough that it really feels like hiking even if you are a 5 minute drive from downtown Tacoma. This time, when we got out of the car, there were signs announcing that the annual salmon run was happening. I was skeptical about there being much to see until we made it to the creek—the smell of dead fish was unmistakable.

Andrew was totally fascinated with the dead fish (“Aunty Beth, all of their eyes are gone!!”) and almost as excited with the few live fish still working their way upstream. I mentally changed gears: I was pretty sure we weren’t going to actually go hiking that day but instead would spend the whole time watching the fish and learning about them.

Much to my surprise, after wandering back and forth in the same area of the creek, Andrew was still interested in going for a hike. As a matter of fact, after hearing that he’d already walked a mile according to the GPS on my phone, he declared he was going to hike five miles.

The trail was just muddy enough to be exciting but the sun was shining—an absolutely perfect day to be out in nature.

I’m so excited that he’s getting older. Even after learning about the salmon, he was still excited to learn about ferns and how they can help soothe stinging nettles.

We learned that this is called lichen:

We saw big stumps that showed evidence of springboard logging and talked about that. We even learned the importance of silly selfies:

We didn’t make it five miles but to my surprise, we did three miles—no crying, no whining, and all fun.

Andrew even had so much fun that he was sure to tell his brother Junior that next time he just has to come hiking with Aunty Beth.

Christmas In Tacoma

When my mom picked me up from the bus station, we headed over to my grandma’s where we helped her make final preparations for the Christmas Eve festivities. After a flurry of table leaf adding, chair moving, Christmas dish unearthing, and rullepolse eating, Mom and I headed home for a Christmas Eve Eve dinner. I pretty much ate yams and stuffing (known in our house as “dressing” to the confusion of my brother-in-law).

Middle Nephew was unsure of what to think of gjetost cheese. His dad basically made this exact face as did Littlest Nephew (but he warmed up more quickly and I didn’t get a photo!).

Christmas Eve morning I took over my dad’s “run all over Tacoma and procure all the seafood” duties. I even got to snap a selfie with this massive inflatable crab. What seafood store would be complete without one?

At home, Mom had been busy making kringle (which doesn’t seem to bake well at altitude, I failed at an attempt earlier in the month):

I had a snack of rullepolse and Norvegia cheese. I’ve always been all about the rullepolse and gjetost but when my brother-in-law suggested this combination I had to try it. Kevin, this is simply the best:

Nons’ house for Christmas Eve was full of all the fun traditions. There was plenty of Catch Phrase played and Times to Remember (Um. Hasboro, when you bought Milton Bradley, you were supposed to make an updated version of this for my family. How about a 1965-2014 version? Thank you very much. Love, the Rahm-Lakin-Gillis family.)

Santa made his annual appearance to the delight of all:

Will (Littlest Nephew) wasn’t so sure what to make of the big guy with the beard but Santa brought presents so he warmed up pretty quickly.

And for good measure, a Christmas Eve selfie:

Christmas morning, my sister and Kevin managed to hustle their boys out of the house before 10am. I was impressed. Clearly there had been promises of more presents on the way though, Junior (Middle Nephew) could hardly wait for coffee to be poured before tearing into this pile of presents. I had lots of help opening gifts this year.

Then it was on to Christmas Day festivities with my dad’s side of the family. Uncle Mo, as always, was an entertaining elf with assistance from Izzy and Emily.

After dinner and presents, we had two tables of 500 going on. I chose to be partners with my sister since I figured she’d give me the least hard time for being out of practice on the strategy. I’m not a card game fan but I love this funky euchre/hearts like game.

It was so so much fun to see everyone! I’m so lucky to have big extended families on both my mom and my dad’s side that are so supportive and loving. Thank you everyone for an awesome Christmas!