October 2014 Recap

October was super fun and crazy busy – funny how having kids means you suddenly have a very full social calendar even if it looks much different from what it used to. After watching Curious George’s No-Noggin Halloween special on repeat, Lena was sufficiently excited for all things pumpkin and costume. She insisted she wanted to be a lion for Halloween (what a surprise; the kid roars at me all day long) so I decided to attempt a homemade costume. My sewing skills are minimal but I at least know how to thread a bobbin so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. In case someone else is feeling inspired, here’s a quick rundown of how I turned my little munchkin into a ferocious lion.

I started with two faux fur shrugs that I found at a local store. They were about £8 each so not too bad.

IMG_1415

Then I measured Lena’s wrists and ankles (with boots on since they needed to fit over the boot). I added an inch to each and was lucky enough that I had the perfect amount of fabric.

IMG_1418

I then sewed two seams at my measurement markings so I could then cut in between and the faux fur wouldn’t unravel on me. Just a word of warning, faux fur likes to get everywhere – up your nose being a favorite spot – so just be prepared for that and don’t have a snack nearby unless you like your meals flavored with fur.

IMG_1419

After cutting in between my seams, I had two wrist pieces and two ankle pieces. I then sewed some velcro on each one and that was it! Pretty simple.

IMG_1421

For the head piece, I left the second shrug intact and just sewed a bit of velcro right under the chin so it could wrap around Lena’s face. Then we did half pigtails on top of her head to look like ears. Also, Lena likes to watch me put on make up so when I asked if we should paint her face, there were huge squeals of joy and she now asks if I’m turning myself into a lion anytime she sees me attempting to cover up my dark under eye circles.

IMG_1424

The tail was made from some extra scraps of stuff I had in my craft supplies. My aunt gave me a ton of random fabrics and accessories awhile back and I was really glad I had kept them as they were the perfect finishing touch.

IMG_1427

So there’s an easy way to make a lion costume!

IMG_1430

Lena’s preschool put on a great little Halloween party as a fundraiser so we all decided to dress up, much to my delight and Jason’s horror. His Michael Jackson Thriller costume is absolutely ridiculous and I could hardly look at him without almost peeing my pants in laughter. He’s like a Weird Al Yankovich version of MJ. I’m still dying looking back at these photos. We also had to walk through our village to get to the party and cars were actually stopping to admire our beautiful threads.

IMG_1431 IMG_1441 IMG_1437 IMG_1436

It was all worth it in the end though as Lena had a great time and both she and Jason brought home prizes for best costume. I had planned to be a fortune teller and paint my belly as a crystal ball but just ran out of time. So I looked like a gypsy but that works, too!

unnamed-1 unnamed

The next day, we joined Daddy at work to help him set up his office for a giant Trick-Or-Treat maze hosted by his squadron. There were inflatable pumpkins, spiders that jumped out at you and cobwebs galore. Lena didn’t seem phased by most of it (read: no tears of terror) which was great. She is a pretty brave and adventurous little lady which I love about her. There were also some games and coloring pages in one of the conference rooms plus more candy than I’ve ever seen in my life. I almost went into a sugar coma by association.

IMG_1445 IMG_1452 IMG_1458 IMG_1461

Later that week, we had a special Halloween ballet class where all the kids came dressed in costume. Ridiculous. The cuteness was just overwhelming and every parent went picture crazy. They had all the kids line up along the wall at the end and then they got to take home a little goodie bag with a few pieces of candy and a balloon. Lena’s ballet teacher is just incredible and so gifted with little ones. We love dance class and look forward to going each week though I have to say the costume theme was a highlight.

IMG_1468 IMG_1471 IMG_1475 IMG_1479

Finally, I helped plan and host a fall carnival in our village the day before Halloween. Wanting it to be family friendly, we stayed away from the scarier themes of ghosts and goblins. We had leaf matching, bobbing for apples, pumpkin balancing and lots of yummy food and drinks. In between running games, I was the designated picture taker for the photobooth and even got to pose in one photo with our neighbor who Lena adores.

IMG_1628 IMG_1577

By the time Halloween finally arrived, I was tapped out. So Lena and I gathered all the candy around the house and handed it out on the street in front of our house. The Brits were ecstatic to get American candy and I was happy to have it out of the house. Thankfully, Lena loves to share and had no problem giving everything away. I’m not sure we’ll be as lucky next year but we did mention that if she ate all the candy, she would get sick and die. Okay, so maybe not that dramatic but we did warn of a giant stomachache.

So with October out of the way, we’re now on the countdown for Baby #2 to make it’s arrival. Lots of changes to come but we’re all getting excited!

IMG_1336 IMG_1342 IMG_1355 IMG_1371 IMG_1374 IMG_1397

Chester Zoo

As a belated third birthday celebration, we took Lena to the Chester Zoo in Northern England. They claim the title of Number 1 Zoo in the UK and there is also a BBC drama currently being filmed about the history of it’s founder, George Mottershead. Having an animal-obsessed toddler, you’d think we would visit zoos a lot more often. But I find them to be a bit depressing when you think about these poor animals spending their entire lives cooped up in a cage just for our viewing pleasure. However, the Chester Zoo was nothing of the sort. In short, this place was amazing. It was impeccably organized with beautifully designed signage, a great layout, and the best part was that the animals seemed genuinely content in their environments. The “zoo without bars” describes itself as follows:

“Our vision is for a diverse, thriving and sustainable natural world

Our mission is to be a major force in conserving biodiversity worldwide”

They fight to save species from extinction all while protecting the land the zoos sits upon. Basically, they walk the walk and talk the talk and we loved it. So here are an inappropriate number of photos of the beautiful animals we saw during our visit. And yes, several weeks later, Lena is still talking about all of them with elephants being a particular favorite.

IMG_1250 IMG_1247 IMG_1251 IMG_1248 IMG_1253 IMG_1252

I’ve always loved giraffes but after seeing this group, I was even more obsessed. The Rothschild giraffes are the second most endangered subspecies of their kind and there are likely just a few hundred left in the wild. They were just indescribably beautiful and my pregnancy hormones may have made me tear up and then pretend a bug flew in my eye. Go see a giraffe in person. The way they move and observe you is beyond description.

IMG_1268 IMG_1273 IMG_1277 IMG_1279 IMG_1274 IMG_1280 IMG_1278

In between visiting all the mammals, birds and amphibians, we stopped to let Lena run around one of the play structures and enjoy some pizza and pasta for lunch. Since we were road tripping, we didn’t bring a packed lunch and were happily surprised at the low cost and high quality of the food served at the zoo. This place can basically do no wrong in my eyes.

IMG_1254 IMG_1257 IMG_1265 IMG_1271 IMG_1285 IMG_1289 IMG_1282

After putting myself in a carb coma, we strolled through the rest of the exhibitions and then decided to take the Monorail back towards the entrance. For just a few extra pounds, you get a bird’s eye view of all the different habitats and a running commentary about which animals to look out for. Lena loved it, of course, and didn’t want to get off. There is also a Waterbus but the weather was starting to turn cold and rainy and I was feeling extra creaky in my bones so we decided to skip it.

IMG_1292 IMG_1293

I would definitely visit Chester Zoo again and would love to let Lena play Zoo Keeper for a day. Judging by the giant grin on her face followed by a 3 hour nap, I’d say she enjoyed it, too!

IMG_1298 IMG_1296

Chester

After being in the States the majority of the summer, the Sarge wanted to take a weekend vacation somewhere in England. Being 32+ weeks pregnant, I wasn’t quite as mobile as usual so we decided to make the three hour drive north to Chester and spend a couple days walking around the city. Chester sits right on the border to Wales and was originally formed as a Roman fort in the year 79. Seriously, I can barely wrap my brain around that.

IMG_1130 IMG_1136 IMG_1133

 

While most of the buildings look medieval in appearance, they are actually Victorian restorations. The black and white buildings make up The Row – shops, homes and offices at both street level and up and down various staircases. It was so pretty and very English.

IMG_1207 IMG_1131 IMG_1208

There is also a wall that surrounds the entire city and with the exception of a small, 100 meter section, it is entirely intact. I had wanted to walk part of it but my hips and back just weren’t having it. That whole altered center of gravity thing when you’re pregnant is no joke. You can see part of the wall extending over The Row here topped by an ornate clock. The amount of detail everywhere was just gorgeous.

IMG_1137 IMG_1209

We really had no plan for this trip except to see some pretty buildings, maybe pick up a few Christmas ornaments, and eat yummy food. So we wandered down the road towards St. John the Baptist church. It was originally founded in 689 (again, mind blown at the history in this country) and you could walk through the ruins of the northwest tower on the west side of the building. This part of the church was built in sandstone and had the prettiest terra cotta color. We also lucked out with gorgeous weather so there was beautiful light and a faint breeze. I could have stayed here all day but Lena made friends with some squirrels and we were then on a mission to give them some treats. And by treats, I mean berries that Jason plucked from a random tree. Hopefully they weren’t poisonous.

IMG_1142 IMG_1143 IMG_1148 IMG_1147 IMG_1156 IMG_1162 IMG_1160

While my two animal lovers were busy chasing chipmunks, I walked around to the front of the church in search of a bathroom to relieve my perpetually-punched bladder. I snapped a few photos of the church interior – beautiful scaffolding on the ceiling and an impressive stained glass window. I’m sure you could spend hours here learning about the history of everything but I had an active toddler waiting for me outside.

IMG_1163 IMG_1164 IMG_1171 IMG_1167

The church sits just above the River Dee so we followed a walking trail down towards the Queens Park Bridge. As we looked around, Jason commented that yet again, we were the youngest visitors by about 30 years. We are apparently ready to join the AARP crowd as most of our vacations attract a much more mature age group than our own.

IMG_1173 IMG_1175 IMG_1188 IMG_1193 IMG_1195 IMG_1197 IMG_1198 IMG_1201 IMG_1204

We always like to have one special meal when we take a trip somewhere and this time, we decided on Upstairs at the Grill. I’m not sure why, but it took us an hour to find the place despite it being right on the street. I think we were just so hungry and tired that our brains weren’t functioning. Luckily, the staff took pity on us and we were still able to get a table in spite of being embarrassingly late for our reservation. I didn’t take any pictures but trust me that the food tasted just as delicious as it looked. The restaurant specializes in steaks and cocktails and now my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I am not a drinker, pregnant or not, so I figured I’d just enjoy a glass of water but the waitress showed me their list of fruit cocktails and I was hooked. Cranberry and grapefruit is a spectacular combination, in case you were wondering. They even treated us to some freshly made rolls with bone marrow infused butter served in a hollowed out bone.

We started with pea and ham soup which came out steaming hot and was the color of kermit the frog. Jason and I both ordered the Chateaubriand which is apparently from the head of the fillet and came carved by the chef with a side of Bearnaise sauce, and a grilled mushroom and tomato per tradition. Not knowing what Lena would actually eat, we also ordered garlic sweet potatoes and a tomato and onion side salad. After declaring everything to be “gross,” she finally agreed to take a bite of chicken (her term for any type of meat) and then proceeded to devour everything in front of her. I’m not sure if I should be happy that she has such a refined pallet or if we’re creating a culinary monster!

Jason ordered chocolate ice cream for dessert along with an espresso despite having no idea what he was asking for. He heard the man next to us order one and decided it sounded delicious so he went for it. When his tiny shot of black liquid came to the table, the look on his face was priceless. The man despises the taste of coffee and here, he had ordered it in it’s most potent form. He attempted to choke it down in between intensely whispering to me how it tasted like a dirty diaper. He had me laughing so hard that I was crying and when he announced we needed to leave right then and there because he needed to make a phone call (aka go to the bathroom), I was done. He will barely pee in public let alone any other business but I suspect that shot of espresso got the best of him. We’re so classy.

IMG_1205 IMG_1206 IMG_1212IMG_1220

The next day, we made a quick visit to the Chester Cathedral which was just as beautiful on the inside as the outside. I was in photography heaven with all the stained glass windows and mosaics but Jason and Lena were anxious to get to the zoo, so it was a quick trip. There was a beautiful enclosed garden and someone offered to take a family photo of us. We almost never have pictures with all three of us in them and I love this photo despite Lena yawning in my ear. Jason let her throw a coin into the fountain (no idea if she was supposed to or not) then it was on to the gift shop for a quick browse of their wares. We picked up a couple Christmas ornaments – I have a new obsession with collecting an ornament from each place we visit – and then it was off to the Chester Zoo!

IMG_1210 IMG_1222 IMG_1225 IMG_1226 IMG_1230 IMG_1233 IMG_1241 IMG_1244 IMG_1245 IMG_1246

Yellow and Grey Shower for Baby #2

I would just like to publicly profess (for the millionth time) that I have the best friends and family around. Right before heading back to England, my cousin, Laila Eva, hosted a baby shower for me and it was just perfect. Since we don’t know the gender of the bun in my belly, she used a grey and yellow color theme which I am now considering using all over my house as it was so pretty. A month or so prior, Laila Eva had created a Pinterest board and asked me to add anything I would like to see or do at my baby shower. She then somehow managed to include basically everything I had pinned while making it look completely effortless. Her attention to detail and thoughtfulness in planning the food definitely did not go unnoticed. I’m confident that at 21 years old, I would not have been able to pull off anything like this and as usual, I am just in awe of my beautiful, talented cousin.

Tove shower invite IMG_0923 IMG_0921 IMG_0926 IMG_0924 IMG_0927 IMG_0925 Untitled-1

In between all the mingling and hilarious birth talk happening around the house (ahem, Molly, Kristi, Liv and Kim!), the kids discovered a frog outside which was basically more exciting than Santa Clause himself. There was squealing, jumping and feeble attempts at holding the absolutely terrified little amphibian. I love Boden’s excited face – so dang cute!

IMG_0941 IMG_0942 IMG_0944 IMG_0929 IMG_0930 IMG_0931 IMG_0936 IMG_0938

We played just one game which I found absolutely hilarious. Everyone had to draw a picture of a baby while holding the paper to their forehead. Humans are so weird sometimes especially if you just step back and look at the things we do. Everyone was a good sport and I loved that it wasn’t your typical baby shower game (you nailed it again, Laila Eva).

IMG_0950 IMG_0952 IMG_0954

Lena was my little helper; opening all the presents and inspecting everything carefully. She was even gifted a few things which I thought was really sweet and thoughtful.

IMG_0945 IMG_0947 IMG_0960 IMG_0963 IMG_0964 IMG_0969

My dad’s sister, Sheryl, brought one of the most sentimental gifts and totally made me do an ugly cry in front of everyone. Basically, any sort of crying in front of a group horrifies me so a full blown ugly cry is my worst nightmare. As soon as I saw the picture frame, I realized Sheryl had given me some of my grandma’s cross stitch pieces. I remember staring at them as a little girl and thinking they looked like watercolor paintings. There were three pieces depicting a little boy and girl playing at the beach – exactly what my brother and I did every time we went to Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Raft Island. Cue torrential tears. Now the pieces are proudly displayed in Lena’s room; making me smile every time I see them.

IMG_0981 IMG_0988 IMG_0989

A big, giant thank you to everyone who came to the shower and for all the thoughtful gifts. I could not be more blessed!

IMG_1001 IMG_1012 IMG_1024 IMG_1037 IMG_1044 IMG_1051 IMG_1059 IMG_8753 IMG_8773 IMG_0919

Maternity Photos

Before I forget to post them, here are some maternity photos that my cousin, Laila Eva, took while I was home. I was about 22 weeks here so basically double the belly size and you can get a sense of what I look like now! She is so talented and I am in love with these photos. The outdoor ones were taken behind my parents’ house where I spent many days playing as a kid. How she managed to make it look so pretty is beyond me because it’s basically a gravel path with a bunch of weeds. And the indoor photos were taken at her parent’s house in front of the closet. We were just having fun joking around and thankfully, she didn’t provide the outtakes of me pretending to be in a Cover Girl commercial and looking like a completely nerd. Laila Eva, I love you and these pictures, too. Thank you so much for making magic yet again!

IMG_7083 IMG_7116 IMG_7591 IMG_7612 IMG_7615 IMG_7616 IMG_7625 IMG_7631 IMG_7643

Highlight Reel of Memories

This little life we have is good. Visiting with friends I’ve known for over twenty years. Watching them play with their children. Watching them play with my child. Seeing our little ones form friendships just a few years shy of when we all met. The gratitude can be overwhelming.

IMG_0842 IMG_0840 IMG_0836 IMG_0835 IMG_0834 IMG_0833

Drawing hopskotch squares for my daughter on the same cement where I have jumped a million times. Watching my dad mow the lawn in the same meticulous pattern he’s followed for 30 years. Retracing PopPop’s footsteps through the freshly cut grass – that smell and the feel of soft earth under my feet can take me back in a second.

IMG_0848 IMG_0844 IMG_0861 IMG_0862IMG_0847 IMG_0845 IMG_0857IMG_0868IMG_0867 IMG_0865

Adding new traditions we never even knew as my life unfolds in a different country and becomes my daughter’s new normal. Homemade scones and clotted cream for a British tea party in America. Listening to my baby reminisce about her time with Mormor and realizing these are her precious memories of time with her grandma. Not so different from my own yet a generation of separation.

IMG_0876 IMG_0880 IMG_0871 IMG_0872 IMG_0873 IMG_0874

Practicing soccer and softball in the side yard with Mama’s old sports equipment. Same soccer mates. Same old man pitching the ball. Fresh faced little girl just beginning to learn new skills.

IMG_0893 IMG_0896 IMG_0897 IMG_0902 IMG_0904 IMG_0908 IMG_0909 IMG_0914

These are the times; these are the snapshots I hope she will remember.

Portlandia

At some point in my life, I will live in Portland, Oregon. Every time I visit, I find new things with which to fall in love. It doesn’t hurt that I have some amazing family in Portland who always show us a great time whenever we’re in town.

Lena and I hopped on the train from Tacoma and made the beautiful trek down the coast to the heart of all things weird: Portlandia. The cuzzies (as we call them) were excited to see my little munchkin and marveled that she could speak. The last time we saw them, her vocal repertoire consisted mostly of loud screaming so this was an exciting discovery for them. The Northwest has had an unusually warm summer so we thought some time in the water and sunshine would be perfect. As usual, Liv knew just where to go (seriously, you should be a travel guide or something, woman!) and we were off with our wild crew of kiddos.

IMG_0751 IMG_0774 IMG_0768 IMG_0760 IMG_0757 IMG_0752

We packed snacks, suits and some spray tubes then sent the kids into the wading pool while we lounged in the grass. The kids took a few random breaks to enjoy their lunches and warm up on their towels. Espen even treated us to some signature moves that were highly reminiscent of something his grandma and great-aunts would have done. Those Caspersen genes are dominant.

Untitled-1

The kids were supposed to change into dry clothes once we got home but Lena couldn’t really be bothered to put on anything other than these monster legs. She and the twins then performed an impromptu dance show which almost made me pee my pants. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Liv’s house where there hasn’t been at least one naked kid running around. Luckily, they’re now all old enough that we don’t have to worry about finding a puddle of pee though it certainly adds to the excitement of Naked Time.

IMG_0776

It was decided that we absolutely HAD to have burgers and a shake for dinner but could not seem to find exactly what we were looking for. I should mention that Liv and I are both pregnant and actually due just a week apart so this was a serious predicament we found ourselves in. Liv is acting as a surrogate and carrying twin girls so between us, there was a triple threat of pregnancy cravings for juicy burgers and icy blended goodness. We ended up driving to three different locations before finding what we were looking for and by that point, we were so ravenously hungry that we may have ordered like cavewomen. Also, I now want a burger really bad…

IMG_0813

The next day we got a little one-on-one time with Kaeden, had a lunch date at Nordstroms per family tradition, and strolled through a bookstore. Basically my perfect day. My other cousins came over that night for a barbecue and the typical sarcastic banter that comes with any family get together. We have six kids between us now and it was so fun to watch them all play together in the back yard. I got a little nostalgic wishing that this was Lena’s normal but who knows where life will take us in the future.

IMG_0785 IMG_0810 IMG_0808 IMG_0807 IMG_0806 IMG_0805 IMG_0802 IMG_0801 IMG_0799 IMG_0796 IMG_0793 IMG_0788

As usual, all the kids gravitated towards Uncle Leif as he’s basically the coolest big kid in the world. Even Lena, who is generally suspicious of adult men, latched on to Leif immediately, giggling hysterically at everything he did.

IMG_0812 IMG_0828 IMG_0830 IMG_0819

Our final day with the Portland cuzzies was spent melting at Oaks Amusement Park. I’m sure we were a sight to behold – two pregnant women, one carrying twins, with a trio of boys and one lone, blonde girl. We had promised the kids a big adventure and when we pulled up to the park in the full-to-capacity minivan, there were some seriously excited squeals from the backseat. Since neither Liv not myself were in any position to go on rides, Kaeden stepped up to the plate and was an amazing big brother to the three younger ones. He helped Lena climb all the stairs, went down the giant slide with her and always made sure she was buckled in and knew where to hold on. True to form, my little daredevil went on every ride she could without a hint of fear.

IMG_6099 IMG_6102 IMG_6104 IMG_6108 IMG_6112

All four kids gravitated toward one particular roller coaster and ended up choosing that as their favorite. I was slightly concerned about whiplash and brain injuries but they seemed to love it. And no one puked the entire day so that was a success. We did one final train ride before strapping the kids into the carseats to pass out and then headed back to Liv’s before Lena and I caught the train back to Tacoma. A big thank you to our ever-generous hosts, the Cruse Crew, and to the rest of the family for making time to hang out. We love you guys and are really looking forward to the day when we live close enough to mock each other on a daily basis!

IMG_6111 IMG_6110