older...wiser?

I've been a parent for almost 6 years. How I would self-describe myself as a parent has definitely changed a lot over the half decade (hellllooooo, minivan!). There are so many things I think about now that I never contemplated before having kids. And there are an equal number of things I used to worry about that no longer matter much to me. A lot of this is just life, I think. As we grow and evolve, we learn what is most important to us and what is not as important. Those priorities are always a moving target. No two days are ever exactly the same.

Since Zoë was born, I've become a lot more anxious as a parent. It might be that I have three little people to worry about and that's 33.3% harder than it was when I had just two little people. But, if I'm honest, I think it's more than that. I'm worrying about things with Zoë that I never worried about with Willa, and I only worried about a little with Cameron. 

I'm constantly worried about whether or not my phone is harming her growing brain and body. Six years ago, when Willa was born, we were all a bit less tied to or phones.

But then again, there have to be things I'm not worrying about, too. I am much less stressed about nap schedules. I breastfeed whenever and don't keep track of anything on an app. I know that everything is a phase and change is the only constant. 

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I remember feeling panicked when Willa cried in the car.  But if Zoë cries when we're driving, I don't worry too much. I just remind myself that this is life and her needs will be met when we get to where we are going.

There are a lot choking hazard toys in our house. I can already feel myself worrying about those a lot. 

I don't feel anxious to put Zoë down all the time. I know the time she wants to be held is finite, and it'll end sooner than I want it to. I also am trying not to mind when almost 30 pound Cameron wants to be carried all the time. His time, too, is finite. In the meantime, I'm building arm strength?

I'm not sure what my point is here. I'm so sleep deprived that I'm not exactly in a place for quality essay writing. But I am grateful for all the exhausting chaos in our life right now and I remind myself of that whenever the worries start to become overwhelming. 

 

brussels sprouts and sweet potato salad

Tonight, I had deep dish pizza for dinner. It was decadent.

Last night, however, we ate the much healthier but equally delicious meal of brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes. I posted a picture on Instagram and few people (ok, fine, just two) asked for the recipe. I'd made it up based on a few different recipes, so if I want to make it again, it'll be good to have it written out. Because, I don't know about you, but I can't remember anything off the top of my head these days. Thanks, sleep deprivation! (My sister pointed out that my habit of mixing together a few recipes to "make up" one was reminiscent of my mom's style of cooking. Like mother, like daughter!)

Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Balsamic Vinaigrette 

2 medium/large sweet potatoes, any variety
1-2lbs Brussels Sprouts, depending how much you love them
1/4 cup pecans, roasted
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper
1T balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. 

2. Cut sweet potatoes into 1/2- to 1-inch chunks. Place in a sheet pan and toss with olive oil and salt + pepper. (If you want the potatoes to crisp on the outside, make sure they aren't touching each other. If they are, they will steam instead of roast.) Cook in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until soft to a fork prick. 

3. While the potatoes are roasting, trim the ends off the brussels sprouts and slice in half lengthwise.

4. Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. 

5. Place brussels sprouts, cut side down, in the pan. Cook, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes or until they start to brown. Then toss in the pan with a spatula until they are cooked through. Cook them in batches so as not to crowd the pan. 

6. In a large serving bowl, combine sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts. Drizzle with olive oil if necessary (depends on how much you used to roast/cook the vegetables) and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle pecans over top.

a christmas of firsts

Since it's been over a month now, I wanted to share some of our pictures from Christmas. I didn't do the best job taking pictures this year...between all the kids' excitement and baby Zoë's needs, I guess I just had my hands full. Or I was completely in the moment. It was a bit of both, I'm sure.

It was our first Christmas in our new house. It was Zoë's first Christmas. It was the first year it felt like Willa and Cameron both "got it." It was our first time having Christmas dinner with friends.

It was a good Christmas. 

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^^christmas eve day. there were a lot of pairs of christmas jammies that needed to be worn.^^

^^ready for christmas eve dinner. willa's learning how to pose, for sure.^^

^^dan pulled together a fantastic christmas eve dinner. we bought trout and crab cakes from our local "gourmet" grocery store, and they were absolutely delicious. it felt fancy without being a ton of work. and the kids love seafood, so the whole family was happy!^^

^^the kids were predictably SUPER excited on christmas morning. they got up a little before 6, and i was (predictably) grumpy about getting out of bed that early after being up in the night with zoë. cameron had a superhero-themed christmas: he got a lot of batman and superman items. willa was delighted that santa brought her the unicorn ice cream maker of her dreams (the "unicone" if you want to get one...). she'd also asked for a "frozen ice castle," so dan and i got her the lego version. she embraced the challenge of following the directions and built it in just a few days. zoë slept through most of the festivities, but santa did bring her some new cloth diapers!^^

^^our good friends (who happened to have also moved from our old neighborhood to our new one around the same time!) generously invited us over for christmas dinner. they made paella, which i've never had for christmas before, but it seemed like a perfect choice. the kids had fun playing with their friends and sitting at a "kids' table" for dinner.^^

^^dan's coworker has been super kind and given zoë a bunch of stylish outfits (in stark contrast to the one-piece pajamas i always dress her in!). this christmas emsemble was so darn cute.^^

holiday fun

Between moving and having a baby and cold/flu season, we've been spending a lot of time at home in the past few months. As I mentioned in my last post, it's sometimes hard to shake the feeling that we're not "doing things." No point in dwelling on that though; all we can do is appreciate the things we do do, and keep living life. Right? Right.

For the past few years, I've planned out advent activities for our family. Starting December 1, each day the kids pull down a little paper off the wall that tells them an activity for the day. Some are bigger, lots are small. This year we cancelled a few (like seeing Santa at Union Station), but we pulled off several other fun activities together:

We decorated the house and the tree:

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We went to see Santa at our neighborhood coffee shop, and the kids actually talked to him and were willing to take a picture with him!

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We wrote letters to Santa:

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The "Elves" brought Cam and Willa holiday outfits, and lots of chocolate kisses throughout the month:

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We threw a holiday party:

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We went skating at Skyline Park and to the Christkindl Market:

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We cleaned up trash around our neighborhood:

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We went to Zoo Lights and everyone but me went to Blossoms of Light:

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We baked gingerbread cookies and went to a cookie decorating party:

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Cameron had his first holiday concert. He wore red suspenders and a bow tie.

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And throughout it all, we drank A LOT of eggnog. Morning Fresh Dairy makes the best one available in Denver, IMO:

 

 

how it's going with three

Since Zoë was born, the question I've been getting the most is: "So...how's it going with three?"

I know a lot of people with one or two kids...and it seems most are, understandably, curious what it's like when you add a third into the mix.

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I really don't feel qualified to answer that question, yet. I feel like I should defer to my friends with three kids whose youngest is at least a toddler. I know, from experience, that in many ways the baby stage is the easiest. So perhaps this is as good as it'll get? Kidding. I hope.

But nevertheless, we're almost three months in, and a few themes have become clear. Here are a few bullet points of how "it's going:"

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I am more forgetful. It's been a real challenge to keep track of everything we have going on. Or even just remembering to check my Google calendar. (Side note: trying to keep the radio waves away from Zoë's brain. It's hard, in our phone-addicted culture.) For Christmas, Santa brought us a dry erase calendar for the fridge. Here's to keeping the schedule in check in 2018!

It takes forever to get anywhere. I tend to be a punctual person. I err on the side of early to make sure I'm at least on time. With two kids, I think I was usually still on time. But getting all 4 or 5 of us out the door and to a destination has proven difficult. Someone inevitably has a meltdown (often me) or a blowout (not me)...and then somehow minutes have passed and we're late. Willa's school opens at 8, and you're not officially tardy until 8:15. Before the holiday break, we were creeping up on 8:10. Gotta get back to 7:55...

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Nobody gets a break. I remember, when Willa was little, Dan and I would "trade-off" parenting duties, so each of us would regularly get a break. Once Cameron was born, it took a bit longer to get to that point, but we got there. We'd each take the kids at different points so the other could have some down time. So far, with three, no one is getting a break unless you leave the house. It's more of an "all hands on deck" situation. I'm sure, in time, that'll change. But for now, parenting is what we are doing all the time.

We aren't sleeping through the night. Even if Zoë sleeps through the night, Dan and I likely don't. Someone is up for some reason. It's made the whole sleep deprivation stage a bit easier this time around, actually, because even before Z was born, I was used to being up at least once in the middle of the night.

I'm not getting much "done." Our society seems to focus a lot on productivity. It's shown that working towards a goal is a key to happiness. We tend to feel better about ourselves when we are accomplishing something. However, when you have a newborn, it's hard to get much "done" besides caring for said newborn. I have to remind myself that, regularly. If a day goes by and "all" I've done is gotten the kids where they need to be, fed them, kept them warm, and loved them, then I'm pretty much doing what I'm supposed to be doing. That's what needs to "get done" at this point in life.

Someone is pooping. Yep. As far as I can tell, dealing with this is a big part of parenting young children. Good times. 

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I'm not posting our adventures on Instagram. When we're out of the house, I'm too busy keeping my head on a swivel to document our adventures. But at home I like to get up in everyone's face. So lots of 'gramming from chez nous. We do leave the house...sometimes.

There's a lot of laundry. A lot. We use cloth diapers, so adding a baby to the mix creates a good deal more laundry. We're more exhausted at bedtime too, which means less monitoring of what goes in the laundry bin. Willa really needs to learn that wearing a skirt for 20 minutes does not make it dirty...

There is so much to carry. I've never been one to carry an infant car seat. There are a lot of reasons, but mostly it's just too damn heavy. I've also always been someone who aims for minimalism with baby stuff. Yet, still, I have so much to carry! SO MUCH. I got a fantastic new backpack for Christmas, but I'm not sure it's big enough. Something's gotta go...

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I'm learning to cut hair. Between the cost and logistics of getting the kids (not to mention myself) to a hair salon, it's just not happening. I've opted instead to grab a pair of kid scissors (they're sharper than they're supposed to be, I'd say) and take matters into my own hands. I've been trimming my own bangs for awhile now, so I started doing Willa's too. And more recently I tackled Cam's 'do. I didn't do the best job, but it's servicable. I'm sure there will be a day when I'll be spending plenty on hair cuts (Willa totally has that dirty blonde colored hair that will "need" highlights...) so for now I'll keep practicing my skills.

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There's a whole lot of love. Everyone wants a hug. Everyone needs a snuggle. Everyone wants to be carried. Cameron is crushing Zoë with his whole body. Willa is dressing Zoë in all pink. Willa is helping Cameron put on his shoes. Everyone is shouting. Everyone is crying. Everyone is laughing. It's a little bit "nutty" (as my friend and fellow mom-of-three Katie would say) but all in all it's pretty darn wonderful.

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Other baby-related posts:
The First Night Home with a Newborn
Baby Items You (I) Actually Need
Wastefulness in Parenting

moving + change

I've been thinking a lot about moving lately...not shocking since we, well, moved.

Whenever the topic of moving comes up in conversation, most often it is described as "hard." Or, perhaps, "the worst." Not only is the act of moving a logistical and organizational challenge, but uprooting your life and trying to resettle it in a new geographic locale is emotional. 

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Many of our moves, up until now, have been primarily characterized by a feeling of excitement. When we left Connecticut in 2008 to move to Seattle, we were giddy with anticipation of our new life. New apartments in the Emerald City brought cool new coffee shops and closer proximity to friends. Leaving Seattle, however, was very bittersweet. It took me a long time to overcome the emotions I had about that move. Not sure I ever totally will.

This most recent move has been a whole different ballgame. It's the first time moving has really had an impact on our kids. It's a move we chose to make; we didn't have to move. We loved our old house and our old neighborhood. We had a really fantastic life there. Nothing is ever just black or white.

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It's been hard, for sure. Change does not come easy. It's also really challenging to try to settle in to a new area when you barely feel like you can get off the couch. But we feel confident in our decision. Confident this was the right choice for our family.

Little by little we've been settling in to the new house and neighborhood. Last week, Dan made a swing on a tree in our backyard. This weekend, he put up our porch swing. The coffee shop down the street makes really, really good espresso. Our neighbors have been very welcoming. We put a scarecrow and pumpkins out as Halloween decorations. 

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Now we just need to bring the new baby into our new home. That's not going to add to anyone's adjustment woes, I'm sure...

almost there :: 38 weeks

The past month of pregnancy has felt the fastest of all. Most likely because we've been distracted by the craziness of moving. Moving at 35 weeks was definitely not ideal, but at least there were no question marks about how helpful I'd be lifting boxes. Unpacking has been a challenge; I empty one box and then feel completely spent. But we're making progress "nesting" in our new family home. It feels like a wonderful place to welcome home our third child. 

I've been feeling a few twinges of action in my belly, so maybe this baby will arrive before it's due date? Although if I were someone who bets, I wouldn't put money on it! 

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^^36 weeks + a really, really good breakfast burrito from dos santos^^

How far along? 
38 weeks.

How big is the baby?
The size of a leek, apparently. Not that easy to conceptualize. Hopefully it's at least 5 pounds. Maybe 6? 

Total weight gain/loss?
30 something pounds...I'm done paying attention! 

Maternity clothes?
Most of the clothing I have is too tight these days, but I'm making do with a few pairs of maternity pants and sweatpants. Thankfully it's gotten a bit cooler lately so I can enjoy leggings and sweaters instead of all dresses all the time.

Sleep?
It's pretty hard to get comfortable lately, but overall I've been sleeping ok. Of course there are an excessive number of bathroom trips each night. But it's all training for when the baby comes, right?

Best moment this week?
We met with our doula, Liv, today, which was great. This is my first time having a doula...I'm looking forward to having the extra support and attention. My second labor felt so much harder than the first, and so I anticipate this time being even more challenging. With everything we've had going on lately, I haven't been thinking about the upcoming excitement as much as I should, so meeting with Liv was very helpful. 

Symptoms?
Immobile is my primary feeling. It's so hard to get around; to bend over, to stand up, to pick up the kids, to fit through spaces. The nausea is thankfully 99% gone, but it still hits me at bedtime some nights. I've had lots of Braxton Hicks contractions and a few that felt slightly more painful. I have some back pain and a bizarre case of itchy skin on my shoulders. 

Food cravings?
I'm back to cravings sweets, for better or for worse. Real estate in my stomach is limited, so I can't eat too much at a time. 

Food aversions?
Nope. Back to enjoying all foods as usual! 

Gender?
Time will tell!  I didn't anticipate how much people would ask me about this since we decided not to find out the sex. But I get it. It's exciting. The kids are anxious to know too.

Bump?
Obviously. I felt huge at 20 weeks, but things have evened out a bit. I'm plenty big, but feel like I'll probably still get a bit bigger in the next week or so. 

Milestones?
Our new house is slowly but surely getting to a livable state, which is making me feel slightly more optimistic about our ability to handle the baby's impending arrival. The "nursery" is not at all "ready," but our room is only a bit cluttered with boxes/clothes and we know where the Pack 'n Play is.  

Mostly, I'm feeling pretty proud of myself for making it this far, and I plan to just try to embrace the last bit of time remaining. This pregnancy has been anything but easy for me (and all those around me!) but it always feels good to overcome a difficult time. Now it's time to face the challenge and excitement of labor!

 

anniversary in aspen

Last month, Dan and I celebrated our 10 YEAR anniversary in Aspen! 

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We knew we weren't going to make any huge plans for the occasion, given the baby in my belly and all the other things going on in our life this summer and fall...but heading to Aspen just the two of us seemed appropriately celebratory.

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We stayed at The Limelight right downtown, and relaxing there was pretty much all this pregnant gal wanted to do for our stay. It was so comfortable! From the room to the pool to the breakfast. So nice.

We did walk across the park from the hotel to enjoy a delightful (+ fancy!) dinner at Bosq. The crab dish shown above with hearts of palm, avocado, and jalapeño foam was truly remarkable. All the other dishes were very good. And they treated us to butterscotch pudding for dessert; always a plus. 

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It's been a wonderful 10 years of marriage. Many expected things came into our life and several unexpected as well. Here's to many new adventures for Dan and me when our third little one joins our crew. I love keeping up this blog to remember all the the things, big and small, that we're up to. Thanks for reading!

kindergarten

Today was the day. Willa's first day of kindergarten. 

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She went to school full-day last year, too, so I sort of thought this year might not feel so monumental. But it did. There's just something about kindergarten. Being five years old. It's the start of a new chapter and the end of an era. 

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Today felt big for all of us. As Willa cried at the breakfast table in her new classroom, and Cam wailed alongside her, a staff member from the school came up to check in with us. She commented that all the tears showed what a close-knit family we are. I liked that perspective.

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When it was time for us to leave, Willa took a big breath and told me she wanted to go see her teacher again. I walked her over to her new teacher, who then asked Willa if she wanted to be her helper. She took Willa's hand, and Willa looked at me with a look that said she was going to be okay. I was proud of her for suggesting something that would make her feel better.

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Willa's first day hit us all hard. But I know she's strong, brave, and very capable. I can't wait to go pick her up.

Iceland Trip :: Reykjavík

This is my final post about our trip to Iceland (promise!). I have to share some highlights from our final stop on our 10-day trip: Reykjavík.

We decided to end in the capital city since we figured we might have had enough countryside and waterfalls by the last few days. I'm not sure that was the case, but it was still great to check out the city and have some more urban adventures. 

We spent three nights and two days in the city, exploring on foot. We didn't take a stroller on the trip, so we could only cover so much ground, but Willa did a great job walking both days. Two days was plenty to take in the city, but at the same time, Reykjavík had a lovely relaxing atmosphere the we probably could have enjoyed for even longer. Some things we enjoyed most:

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Our Air BnB
We rented a loft quite close to the city center. The owners both work in the arts, and as a result the place had a very unique vibe. The kitchen was great for cooking, and there were plenty of toys for the kids to play with. The one negative was that it had several skylights with no shades, so sleep was a challenge. The kids were up until almost midnight most nights! 

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Bakeries
When researching restaurants in the city, I came across a blog post by David Leibowitz about bakeries in Reykjavík. I'm not sure there are many bloggers I'd trust more about baked goods, so we made plans to hit up several of the places he mentioned. They did not disappoint.

^^Our first stop was Bernhöfstbakarí. According to Leibowitz, this is the oldest bakery in Iceland. We were the only non-locals there for a time, and we (I) kind of froze when it was time to order. Everything looked so good! And everything we ordered was. The breads looked great, but we stuck to the pastries.^^

^^The next morning, we stopped in to Brauð og Co. on our way to the top of the hill to see Hallgrímskirkja church. You could tell just by walking by that this bakery was a place to be. There were both tourists and locals lined up out the door, and the smell was overwhelmingly delightful. Once inside, the combination of people and baking activity made it quite warm...I wished I wasn't wearing my coat. You could see the bakers working all around you, and clearly cinnamon rolls were the product of the moment. Dan ordered one, but I made the "mistake" of getting a pain au chocolat...it was excellent, but didn't rival the cinnamon roll, in my opinion. I was so remorseful that I'd "ordered wrong" that Dan stopped in the next day before our flight home to buy a few cinnamon rolls to go. Unfortunately, they weren't the same! The second day they were made out of a flaky croissant dough instead of the more bread-like dough shown above. Still good, but a reminder that sometimes moments cannot be recreated.^^

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Hljómskálagarður Park by Tjörnin Pond
Fueled by our Brauð go Co. pastries, we walked through a residential area of the city to make our way to a playground by Tjörnin Pond. The pond was beautiful and offered magnificent views of the city, and the playground was great fun for the kids. It was a fantastic place to pass an hour in the sunshine. This playground was like most we saw in Iceland: fenced in. It's nice for both parents and kids to have boundaries, right? 

Long story short: we had a great trip to Iceland. I highly recommend it as a family vacation spot.

Thanks for reading!

iceland trip :: heimaey island

While we were in Southern Iceland, we took a day trip to Heimaey Island, part of the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago (Westman Islands in English). I was so excited about the trip: to take the ferry, to look for puffins, and to just explore the small town on the edge of Heimaey. The island is perhaps most well-known for the lava flow that in 1973 destroyed half the town and closed the harbor. But it's also known for puffins! 

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^^willa and i got pretty seasick on the ferry ride over. but once we arrived, the fresh air and beauty of the harbor made us feel better quickly! willa was most enamored with the puffin statue that welcomed us!^^

^^our first order of business was to try to find puffins, so we set off on a walk to the shore. it was a bit of a hike, and once there it was clear we probably wouldn't see any puffins. but the coastline was absolutely magnificent, so we tried to focus on that positive.^^

^^as we walked back through town to look for lunch, i glanced up and saw the entrance to the local aquarium. i remembered reading that there was a puffin who lived there! we had time to stop in, and meeting toki the puffin was definitely the highlight of the day for the kids! maybe for me too. it was so interesting to see him up close. the colors on his beak were truly remarkable. animals in captivity always make me a touch sad, but he seemed very well-loved and cared for by his "family" at the aquarium.^^

^^next was hot dogs and skyr yogurts before getting the ferry back to the mainland. hot dogs in iceland were indeed delicious. great sauces and onions!^^

^^the ferry ride home was much smoother (and i took more for my motion sickness! i love these natural pills.) so we were able to enjoy the ride and the beautiful sights we spotted along the way. the islands were so impressive from the water. a few smaller islands had just one house built on them with sheep roaming the hills. i have to admit, i kept wondering if any of them ever fall into the water!?^^

Tips for exploring Heimaey:

  • Reserve your ferry ticket in advance, even if you're not taking a car. The day we'd originally planned to go on was sold out, so we had to move our trip to the next day.
  • The town is an easy walk from the ferry, but to see more of the island it'd be helpful to have a car or hire a ride. We saw a good amount by taking a long walk, but there was so much more we could have explored if we'd had a car!
  • Puffins are best seen during the summer months but only during the morning or evening. It's much harder to spot them midday.

 

rounding third...

I'm interrupting the regularly scheduled programming of Iceland pictures (Sorry! You're welcome!) for a quick pregnancy update.

Yesterday morning I received a BabyCenter email: "Welcome to the Third Trimester!" To be honest, despite this being my third pregnancy, I couldn't quite remember when the last trimester technically started. So, thanks, BabyCenter. 

How far along? 
28 weeks and 1 day. 

How big is the baby?
The size of a large eggplant. Wow.

Total weight gain/loss?
About 20 pounds. 

Maternity clothes?
Most of the maternity clothes I bought earlier in pregnancy have gotten too tight...bleh. So I'm wearing lots of maxi dresses and sweatpants. I'm tempted to buy a few new things, but at the same time it seems silly for just 12 more weeks. But tight clothes are the worst. 

Sleep?
I've been sleeping ok...some nights I wake up with back pain, but overall I'm doing okay. When we went camping last weekend I was delighted to have our air mattress. A few years ago I tried to tough it out and sleep on the ground, and that was NOT a good idea.

Best moment this week?
It's not completely related to the baby, but Willa and Cameron have been really sweet to each other the past few days. We just went to pick Willa up from her morning at arts camp, and she kept giving Cam hugs and saying "I love you, Cammer." When the two of them are being sweet siblings it makes me feel like bringing a third one into the mix will actually be doable. I'm sure there will be just as many moments when it feels completely overwhelming, but take what you can get, right?

Symptoms?
People often ask me, "How are you feeling?" and I'm never sure how honest to be when I answer. My immediate reaction to that question is, "big." Close second is, "hot." Overall, I'm feeling good. I'm tired and emotional and sick of not feeling like my non-pregnant self, but I don't have any real physical complaints (knock on wood). I got diagnosed with anemia this week so I started on an iron supplement. I had it when I was pregnant with Willa too. The good news is they suggested I take the iron with grapefruit juice. I love grapefruit juice.

Food cravings?
Nothing too specific. I'm definitely still pretty hungry all the time, and sweets are more appealing than they used to be. But I'm getting to the point where I have to be careful not to eat too much or I'll feel super full. That large eggplant is making my stomach space smaller!

Food aversions?
I'm not as interested in spicy food as normal...

Gender?
Not sure...I think we'll be surprised if it's a girl, but if it's a boy, we'll be like "ok, yep."

Milestones?
Our recent adventures in Iceland and camping were both moments I felt proud of. It felt good to be able to do those things and have fun even while being pregnant. Honestly, they were good distractions. But both trips were pretty tiring, too!

Bump?
Bigger by the day. I'm definitely bigger than I was the last two pregnancies. We'll see where I end up though!

iceland trip :: chasing waterfalls

In the past, when we've taken trips, I've summarized them in just one or two blog posts. That is not going to be possible for Iceland. It is an extremely photogenic place. I literally wanted to take a photo every minute. Amazingly, there were innumerable sights that I did not photograph, but I still came home with over 1,000 pictures.

After our time on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, we drove south to Hella, which served as our home base for exploring southern Iceland. Hella is a small town 58 miles east of Reykjavik. We rented an Air BnB and our hosts warmly greeted us soon after we arrived. They had two young children as well (one just a week old!). It was really nice to chat with them. They highly recommended the local swimming pool, so we decided to check it out right away. We were all a bit restless after our day of sitting in the car.

It was in the 50s and rainy, but that didn't seem to stop the locals, so we donned our suits and hit up the heated pools. They had the temperatures listed next to each pool, and even had a hot tub for kids at a lower temperature with floating toys. Our family LOVED the water slides: Willa went down the blue one several times alone (big step for her!) and I enjoyed the exciting speed of the green slide! We went to the pool twice during our three days in Hella, and the days we swam were the nights the kids slept the best. Sleep was no easy feat, considering it never gets dark during the summer months.

In between pool visits and cooking meals at our Air BnB house, we mostly looked at waterfalls. There are TONS of waterfalls in Iceland, and two of the well-known ones were on our drive from Hella to another destination I really wanted to see: the Dyrhólaey peninsula. Thanks to the weather, the waterfalls ended up out shadowing the sights on the peninsula, but we were still able to get a sense of the dramatic coastline of southern Iceland and the black sand beaches of Dyrhólaey and Vík. 

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Seljalandsfoss
We decided to prioritize Seljalandsfoss as our first stop because I'd read that you could walk behind the waterfall. That sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing, right? When we arrived mid-morning, it was pouring rain, but tourists were out in full force. We put on all the rain gear we'd brought on the trip, and headed out ourselves. (It was at this moment I realized I didn't have any rain gear for my camera!) The walk behind the waterfall was relatively easy; no where near as treacherous as I was worried it might be with the slippery rocks etc. The force of the water was astounding. You definitely felt the spray as the water went overhead. Cameron clung to Dan's back in the Ergo, but Willa was so excited to see the waterfall. Remarkably, none of us even minded how wet we got. 

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Dyrhólaey Peninsula + Vík
After we were soaked to the bone by Seljalandsfoss, we piled back into the car and drove south toward Vík. That morning was our rainiest of the whole trip, and when we arrived at the parking area on the peninsula, it was a complete downpour accompanied by thick fog. Instead of unloading everyone and putting all our wet gear back on, we decided to eat our picnic lunch in the car while we took turns exploring. Willa was game to join the adventure, too. I'm sure the area would have been much more impressive in better weather with more visibility, but I was still glad to have had a chance to see the unique geography and rock formations of the area!

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Skógafoss
On our drive back to Hella, the rain cleared a bit, so we decided to quickly drive into the entrance to Skógafoss. Our intention wasn't to get out of the car, but once parked, we took a family vote, and everyone seemed game to check out one more waterfall. At Skógafoss, they've built three hundred and some stairs (321?) that take you to the top of the waterfall. We kept asking Willa if she was sure she wanted to do it, and she insisted she was! We totally lucked out with the weather: the rain finally cleared as we hiked up the steps. I got so hot in all my rain layers! The view from the top was remarkable: very impressive but also a bit unnerving. I couldn't go all the way out on the grated observation deck...it was scary! 

I'm not sure which waterfall I'd recommend if you could only visit one...they were both so impressive and walking behind one and on top of the other were both very memorable experiences. The views of the coast from above Skógafoss were fantastic, and apparently there's a hike you can take from the waterfall even farther up into the hills. 

Most important thing to remember is: take rain gear! Even on a nicer day, the waterfalls will splash you! 

iceland trip :: Snæfellsnes Peninsula

When telling people about our recent trip to Iceland, one of the most common question I've been asked is "why did you choose Iceland?" There are lots of answers: direct flight that wasn't too pricey, no Zika risk, good spot in June. But the main reason, I think, was that we felt like Iceland would be a destination that would offer a sense of adventure and excitement while still feeling relatively low-key and relaxing. It definitely delivered on both these points. We stayed for 9 nights, and spent 3 in 3 different places. We wanted to make sure we got to see a few different parts of the island, but we didn't think we had it in us to drive the entire ring road that circles the island.

Our first stop was the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Don't ask me how to pronounce it. (When we were going though customs on arrival, I turned to Dan and said, "I sure hope they don't ask me where our first destination is!") This peninsula in western Iceland is sometimes called "Little Iceland" because it offers a chance to see almost everything Iceland is known for in just one small area.

We had two full days there, and explored pretty much the whole peninsula. Our home base was the ^^Traðir Guesthouse^^, which I recommend highly for location and breakfast, but probably not for the value. (But then again there's such limited accommodations in Iceland, especially in the more remote areas, that everything is a bit expensive.) There is always more to see, of course, but I was really happy with how much we were able to take in during our two days on Snæfellsnes.

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Ytri Tunga Beach ("Seal Beach")
This was quite close to our guesthouse so we got there early in the morning and beat the tour buses. After being aggressively warned by an Arctic Tern that her eggs were nearby, we were able to walk out on the rocks and watch some seals laze and swim. If we'd had time, it would have been interesting to come back at low tide to see the difference in the shore.

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Búðir Black Church
I must admit I didn't fully internalize the historical significance of this church, but it was quite beautiful. Also, the settlement of Búðir was one of the first on the peninsula. 

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Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge
One of the blogs I read commented that this was a "hidden" or "secret" spot to visit. Not so much. There were several other people there when we arrived, but it's wasn't surprising that the word was out about it. It was spectacular! From the parking lot, you hike up a short hill into the center of the gorge. There is water falling from the rocks higher up, so to climb into the gorge, you have to navigate a small stream. Willa had been snoozing in the car when we arrived, and was initially grumpy at the prospect of climbing up the "huge mountain" in front of her. But as soon as she got going, she was taken in by the natural beauty. It was so wonderful to watch her challenge herself. Successfully climbing into the center of the gorge ended up being one of her highlights of the whole trip! 

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Arnarstapi
One place I was most excited to visit was this small fishing village. The coastline there is absolutely breathtaking; jagged rock cliffs with beautiful teal blue waves crashing in. The kids unfortunately hit a bit of a low point when we got to the town. They were sick of putting all their layers on and they were just ready for lunch. The walk along the cliffs scared Willa. We were always a safe distance from the shore and cliffs (except when I ventured alone out onto the land bridge!), but the view was pretty intense. As for Cam, he fell asleep. We cut the walk a little shorter than I would have liked to have fish and chips for lunch. Despite the $20+ price tag for one order, they hit the spot on a chilly day.

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Lóndrangar Basalt Cliffs
There were so many opportunities to get in and out of the car to see sights, and a couple of times Dan and I opted to take turns instead of unloading the whole team. Dan ran from the parking lot to the lookout point to admire these cliffs. I got a few glimpses while we were driving; they seemed mighty impressive. 

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Ölkelda natural soda water
When I read you could get natural soda water right from the ground, I immediately added it to our itinerary. We filled up our bottles for a small donation to the farm housing the springs, and did our best to drink it. It was incredibly mineral-y! But really fun to try.

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Mt. Kirkjufell + Waterfall
Apparently this is the most photographed spot in Iceland, and understandably so. It was gorgeous. We had trouble finding an open spot in the parking lot, and got a friendly (?) reminder by a policeman patrolling the area NOT to park on the side of the road. They take that rule very seriously in Iceland, which I appreciate. However, it seems with the ever-increasing popularity of tourism on the island, they may need to find new ways to accommodate all the cars, buses, and RVs. 

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Stykkishólmur
I'd read that this small town of just about 1,000 people was an idyllic spot with colorful houses and a bustling harbor. It was, indeed, all that. However, it was also where we were when we found out our dog Bryna had gastric dilatation and volvulus (bloat) and needed emergency surgery. We had lunch at a quaint restaurant by the port while we awaited what was ultimately bad news. Needless to say, it was a very sad day. But the town was quite picturesque...

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Lýsuhólslaug Geothermal Pool
This was our last stop on the peninsula and our first hot springs experience in Iceland. It is definitely worth a visit. We almost didn't go, given what happened with Bryna, but we decided it would be better than sitting around our guesthouse with two rambunctious kids. Given all the emotions, we were a bit disorganized: I managed to forget Willa's bathing suit. But she, thankfully, made no fuss about just wearing Cam's swim diaper. Ha! The locals might have thought we had a bit odd in swimming attire choices, but oh well!

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If you only have time to go to once place in Iceland, I would definitely recommend Snæfellsnes. I was so impressed with all the things were were able to see in such a small area. There was much more to explore too, including volcanos, lava fields, glaciers and caves!