Welcome Summer Break, We've Been Waiting for You

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It kind of felt like summer break was never going to come. I'm pretty sure we're the last to get out, as summer break usually varies a month from the east coast to west depending on weather. It took forrrrever! Anyway, yesterday it finally arrived! I really dream of days where I can sleep in, get coffee delivered to me in bed, and have sweet little children motivated for the day, but let's be real here. I wake up at 6am every day, like it or not. So I figured it was time we kick off our weekly hikes!

I love hiking and since having our baby girl last year, I missed out on a lot of summer hiking. This year, she's snug in my pack and we are planning to ease into kid-friendly hiking with three! We hit our local trails with some friends, and despite a few unsure turns, we had a really great time. We literally made lists of "don't forget" items and "this would be really helpful" as we continue hiking.

I plan to do an informal homeschool summer school this summer break, because there are simply things they don't learn in school anymore that are important to our family, plus, structure and routine are insanely beneficial for our household. In honor of that, I made hiking journals for the kiddos. I made adventure journals a few years ago when we explored and camped a local island. They were such a hit then, I figured that despite the fact that we weren't traveling far, we could still make this an interactive and fun experience. I was right!

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We're going to continue exploring kid-friendly hikes in the PNW this summer, especially as I build strength carrying a baby again, and our preparedness improves. Three hours is about the maximum time tolerance hiking with kids, but I'm thinking if we plan to have lunch on the trail and a solid break, we could stay a bit longer. Banner Forest is a really great starting point for us, as there isn't a huge elevation gain and the trails are clear and navigable. You can circle around making the hike longer, or cut through and make it shorter, but it's about a solid 4 miles.

Until next time...

Spring Garden Harvests and "OH NO's!"

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Our first spring at our Havenwood Garden has been a lesson and a treat! But aren't all the best gardening stories?! I mapped out the space, planted everything from seed, added two new garden beds and a cold frame as we've welcomed spring this year. At our previous home, I had my micro climate dialed to perfection, so I've been adjusting bit by bit as we figure out this new space this season.

As I got those first seeds in the ground as our last frost FINALLY got the hint and bid adieu, I meticulously followed my garden plan and "knew" where everything was. My little white plastic labels lasted all of five minutes, of course. Who knew permanent marker washes right off those little suckers during April showers? An Instagram friend mentioned using wax pencils instead, so I'll give that a try next. 

After what felt like FOREVER, the radishes were finally coming in! But much to my dismay, however, our free ranging chickens were scratching that freshly planted bed like crazy. Lesson learned: you cannot have free-ranging chickens even if you think you shoo them away frequently. It is still not enough. They do not learn. I turned to my husband and desperately pleaded for options. "What do I do?!" Well, for now they stay in the chicken run. They're safer from eagles that way, too. I digress. 

I planted what I though would be plenty of radishes to get us through most of spring, but that beautiful bowl full, plus a few strays, were all we managed. I'm still thrilled for them though, those are my first ever homegrown radishes! Spicy and perfect on salads and thrown in most every dinner along the way. In place of the radishes, it looks like I have broccoli raab coming in, so I'm not sure what's going on there. I didn't plant broccoli raab. I did put in regular broccoli on the far side of that bed, but again, I digress. This is an experiment year whether I like it or not, as much as I'd love it to be a full-fledge, perfect 12 months of harvesting garden, let's be realistic.

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Thanks to another Instagram friend, I planted a cut-and-come-again style lettuce bed. Giving plenty of space to full heads of lettuce, I wanted those early spring salads with tender young greens, and friends, it has not disappointed. More arugula popped up than anything else, and I was surprised by its strong fragrance and peppery flavor I've heard so much about. Still, my family of four (plus baby who is not yet eating salad greens) has had more than enough to enjoy day after day. If you've never tried this, it's worth it! Even if you have a container on your patio, a small garden bed in your backyard, it takes nothing to sprinkle some seeds in whenever you remember, throw some water on, and watch the magic happen! A real treat in early spring!

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Along with tasty radishes and abundant greens, chive blossoms are endless and herbs are filling in lusciously. If gardening is not yet your thing, do yourself the favor of picking up a few pots and planting some perennial herbs. The effort is almost none and they return year after year, supplying fresh and beautiful herbs. Just throw them in with your meals in place of dried spices and you'll never want to go back. I take a small bundle of each and make herbed biscuits, pure heaven! Even if you don't dry and store them over winter, they're attractive to flower and keep out for your viewing pleasure.

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Aside from the few spring harvests, we have strawberries growing like crazy (YES!), corn has popped up, squash, melons, tomatoes, garlic from last fall, kale, peas, greens, raspberries, blueberries, and carrots. I'm perpetually feeling like I'm behind, and failing for the season, but I don't let this feeling get the best of me, I just get outside the next day and plant what I can. 

This gardening journey has grown so much over the past six years and while I know I've learned so much, I still have a long way to go. It can be overwhelming, but the reward is so worth it to just start where you are with what you have. 

Happy spring and happy hardening!

Remembering to Honor the Fallen

Memorial Day, I've learned, is a grossly misunderstood day of remembrance. As veteran's, my husband and I receive countless messages thanking us for our service, but we always find ourselves confused. That's what Veteran's Day is for, not Memorial Day. For those that don't know, Memorial Day is meant to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. We celebrate their lives and remember with utmost clarity and sincerity, that freedom is not free, no, it cost their precious lives. Those brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, wives, and husbands kissed their loved ones goodbye, left home with hopes of returning, only to never grace their own doorway again. It's a sad truth, but one we must remember.

In our home, we take the time to remember out loud those we served alongside, those whom we left home with and came back home without. There are too many to count, but a few that we knew personally, and we ensure their memory lives on through us living our lives. After a few precious hours with fellow veterans and friends, watching our kids play and splash in the pool, we had a long drive home. As I found my way down the highway, racing the sunset, I was struck with how many years since my first battle buddy deployed and was KIA. PFC Avery was the first from our basic training unit to deploy from all of us at C-795, most of us who now have at least two deployments under our belt. He died only months into his time in theater, blown up by an IED. He was 18 years old. I was 18 years old. My heart sank as I realized in a brief instant, how much life I've lived since then. How much has happened, how much I've grown. That I've been able to see my parents grow old, create a family of my own, and experience life outside of the military. All the things that Avery would never get to do. 

I held back the tears as my husband and I talked over the next 90 minutes. I watched the sun set, sinking below the trees, carried my sleeping children to their beds and tucked them in, then lay down next to my husband and kissed him goodnight. I think of these things often, how these little snippets of time are what add up to the biggest ones in our lives. 

There are countless others I took the time to think of. Friends who are still suffering from the guilt of coming home, from surviving when their battle buddy next to them didn't. There are no words. And so, I choose to live for them. I will thank God for another sunrise and another sunset and remember that not all are so incredibly lucky. 

RIP

When Motherhood Breaks Your Heart

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Motherhood is not often as beautiful as our social media squares lead us to believe. I keep thinking, though, that I'm fortunate to have good kids, to be navigating all three ages with some semblance of grace. Until a day comes and it all feels like it's crashing down on you and you wonder if you've been wrong all along. Deep down we know that answer. It's not all your fault, mama. I graciously try to remind myself of that each moment I feel so unbearably overwhelmed and consumed.

Our current struggle has been those our children are choosing to surround themselves with at school. Today, I hit a point where I was ready to never take my child back there. I want to blame other parents, but I know that isn't fair. It can be frustrating though, to have the so much of his day more or less out of my hands. The solution is simple, right? Homeschooling is a valid option. I've been talking about it for so many years I've lost track. It's never been quite right, though, and so we've done our best to be involved and apart of the public school culture, and hopefully, the bigger influence in our children's lives. My husband reminded me of something we've always held value to in our parenting journey, as we were talking this morning, he said, "We just have to be the better example to those kids. We have to show them what good, involved parents looks like."

It's proven to not be enough for us with our oldest, and so we're navigating a new and difficult terrain. Motherhood is nothing, if not one GIANT lesson in life. I hope to find a smooth path as we continue figuring things out, but I just want to say -- you're not alone mama. We are all in this together and I promise, some days, weeks, months, even years, are hard for all of us.