Monday, May 25, 2020

Dear Sarah

...Written May 25, 2015...

Dear Sarah,
Hey there, it's me... younger you. How's life treating you these days?

I hope you are happy.

I hope you are deliriously, blindly, can't-stop-smiling happy. I hope that you wake up each morning excited to face the day, and whatever it might hold.
I hope you look at your husband with the same appreciation, respect, love and desire that you have today. I hope the two of you have found time to appreciate each other more, because lately that opportunity has been scarce. I hope you still stare at him in adoration as he plays with your firstborn son.
I hope you have slowed down enough to appreciate and memorize all those important first moments with your little boy. He is six years old now, and before you know it he'll be a teenager, then a grown up. I hope he has a sibling who has made your family complete. I hope you soaked up that perfect little baby's cries and snuggles and gazes and cuddles like they were the last you'll ever experience. I hope you stare in amazement at your children as they play together, wondering at the perfect family you have created.
I hope you're not so tired.

I hope the Seahawks have won another Super Bowl title. And that maybe the NBA has finally returned to Seattle.
I hope that you've figured out how to balance your life better. To enjoy each and every activity and new memory, instead of just feeling relieved at crossing the next thing off your overwhelming list. I hope you've learned to prioritize your time, cultivating a few deep and meaningful friendships that will last a lifetime. I hope that you've continued to work at bridging the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you're going to need the people you knew when you were young.

I hope you have learned not to hold grudges, and have worked on your jealousy issues. Just let that stuff go. It doesn't serve you, or anyone else.
I hope, at 38, that you are happy with the way you look. I hope you take time to focus on yourself. I hope that you exercise consistently, and make healthy food choices. I hope that maintaining a thin, fit, healthy body is no longer a dreaded chore, but a normal part of your lifestyle. I hope your husband still thinks you're the hottest mom on the planet.
I hope that you read to your children every single night before bed.
I hope that the world is a better place. But if it's not, I hope that you have found some way to let go of the bitterness you sometimes feel and see the good in your own life, if nothing else.

I hope the laughter has outweighed the tears.
I hope that you have continued to cultivate strong adult relationships with your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. I hope that you are still incredibly close to your parents. I never truly realized how much respect and admiration they deserve until I became a parent myself. They are two of the most incredible people you will ever know.

I hope you have traveled the world with your family. I hope you have experienced adventures beyond your wildest dreams -- in exotic places far far away, as well as in your own backyard.

I hope you are happy.
Regardless, I'll stand by whoever you've become, and even if you are not who I imagine you will be, I'll support you. Because maybe who I'm imagining is someone else... And you're not someone else -- you're me.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

School Pictures | 2018-19

Ryder is attending Pre-Kindergarten at Faith Lutheran School this year. 

He attends Mrs. Mattingly's class on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and is seeming to really enjoy this new adventure!

Ryder originally started at another school, which we believed would offer him a high quality pre-kindergarten education. Unfortunately, we were wrong. The "exceptional academy" we selected turned out to be nothing more than a crappy daycare center, and Ryder spent less than two miserable weeks there before we pulled him out.

After a lot of research, a promising tour, and at the recommendation of many local friends, we enrolled Ryder at Faith Lutheran, where he almost immediately began to thrive.

Although Stewart and I are not religious, we feel so much better about this new school and all that it offers. Ryder gets to look forward to a fun year filled with new themes each week. He'll build pre-reading skills and math skills, have sensory time, and work on vocabulary/language building. This will all be accomplished in a fun atmosphere with toys, games and seated work. 

In the classroom, students focus on kindness, community and safety, which creates a caring environment for optimum learning and growing. Children are encouraged to use kind words, to listen to one another and to share. This is all done through positive reinforcement, modeling and redirection. 

We love that Faith Lutheran School has strong academics, small class sizes, and caring, loving certified teachers. Additionally, they also offer on-site childcare before and after school, which is great for us as full time working parents. At childcare, Ryder will continue to develop his social, emotional, cognitive, and physical skills. All of the childcare providers at Faith value play based learning, creativity, and curiosity. Every child is loved, accepted, and valued as an individual. 

After transferring to Faith Lutheran, Ryder's behavior and mood almost immediately began to improve. He started laughing and singing again, he began to talk about friends and teachers, and each day he came home with adorable art projects, drawings, and stories. It was such a relief to see his happiness and ease as he settled into a loving environment where his well-being is clearly the priority of every adult who he interacts with.

Our sweet boy is growing up so fast, and we can't wait to see how much he learns and grows this year!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Ryder Starts Pre-K

Our sweet little boy started Pre-Kindergarten today at a brand new school in a brand new town, and it was a wonderful experience!

Ryder Steven Alway | First Day of Pre-K | September 5, 2018

Prior to our relocation to the Olympia area, I did a bunch of research on local preschools, and eventually found one that I thought would be the best fit for our little buddy's big personality. Cadence Academy Preschool gives children "an exceptional education every fun-filled day in a place as nurturing as home."

Although Ryder won't be hanging out on a farm like he did last year, he won't have a barnyard at elementary school either, so we're confident that his experience here will be an excellent transition to prepare him for Kindergarten. And in the meantime, we'll just have to plan extra trips to the zoo. 

Cadence Education schools use an expertly developed curriculum to give every student the skills and confidence for the next step in their life. "Kind Child" coursework emphasizes social skills, courtesy, and internal values, while "Kindergarten Club" prepares Pre-K students with key skills to excel in problem-solving, mathematics, reading/writing, social studies, and science. 

Everybody learns better when they're having fun, and Ryder jumped in immediately. The school has a large outdoor area filled with various equipment and activities, and hopefully we'll get a few more weeks of nice weather to take advantage of it. 

This year I was much more emotional than Ryder when I dropped him off. He gave me a lovely hug and kiss goodbye, but looked back for a second a little longingly before heading off to play with his new friends. It felt like a chunk broke off of my heart, and I expect to feel this way more and more as he continues to grow and gain his independence. But I also swelled with pride at his bravery during this new experience. And although he admitted that it was a long day (this year he's doing full days at school), he also came home with lots of stories about his fun-filled day. 

I can't wait to see how much he blossoms this year.

We love you so much, sweet Ryder Steven, and we're so proud of you!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

An Alway Family Easter | 2018

Happy Easter from our two silly wittle wabbits.

After quite a bit of effort, that's about the best family photo we could get. Why do photos with small children always have to be such an impossible battle?!?

We spent Easter this year at my parents' new house.

We headed down south on Saturday, because that evening Stew and I had a fancy night out planned to celebrate his Battalion Chief's retirement. It was fun to dress up and spend an evening together.

While we were gone, the kids dyed eggs with Auntie, Nana and Papa.

Ryder also helped Papa with the burn pile out back...

The kids were both thrilled with their Easter baskets from Nana and Papa, and Kiley discovered that she loves marshmallow chicks and rabbits (she is definitely her father's daughter).

AJ, Morgan and the cutest baby bunny ever also came over to celebrate.

Once Ryder discovered the colorful eggs hidden all over the house, he could hardly contain his joy and excitement. It was super fun to watch.

Kiley was her usual cranky self, but Nana diligently tried to cheer her up.

Matching spring flower outfits for Kiles and Auntie!

Ryder's school also hosted an elaborate Easter celebration where he got to dye eggs, participate in an egg hunt, and hang out with the animals. 

We hope that you had a wonderful Easter with your family. 

And here's hoping that Spring weather is right around the corner!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Lucky in Love... Year Six

Happy St. Paddy's Day, and Happy Anniversary to my love.

We have been married six whole years now. That seems like such a long time, but it's gone by in the blink of an eye. And it's been eleven whole years since that fateful day when we first met at Kells and set this whole crazy journey into motion.

Time flies when you're having fun, I guess.

This past year has definitely thrown us the most challenges, as having two children certainly isn't for the faint of heart. But we've also gazed in wonder at the little family we've created, marveling at our ability to turn mutual attraction and a shared love of green beer into a magical life together.

To celebrate our anniversary this year, we decided to run the St. Patrick's Day Dash in Seattle. 
We have done it twice before, but the first time Stew pushed me through in a stroller due to an unfortunate snowboarding accident, and the second time we had Ryder in a stroller so we mainly walked. This time I was determined to run the whole thing if it killed me! I hate running.

Somehow, by the luck of the Irish, I managed to get through the whole race without walking!

My Aunt Karen raced with us this year, and I have to give credit to poor Stew for tolerating our extremely slow pace. He probably could have completed it in half the time, but instead he stayed nearby and cheered us on.

I love the energy that the Dash pumps into Seattle Center. After crossing the finish line, we headed into the pavilion for some well-deserved Irish beers. The whole place was filled with green-clad runners who went to work building giant towers out of their rapidly emptying plastic beer cups. Not long afterward, the live band and the Irish jigs started.

After hanging out for a few hours, Stew and I headed back to the hotel and prepared to go out on the town. My mom and sister were watching the kids for the night so we could spend an evening alone.

First off was lunch with my dear friend Heather, obviously including beer and whiskey.

Afterward, Stew and I excitedly headed down to Kells, because we thought it would be fun to reminisce back where it all began...

Unfortunately it turns out that my 25-year-old self had a lot more stamina... this time around I had myself back at the hotel and in bed by about 6 p.m. It was a long day! We did go downstairs around 11 p.m. for a nice dinner in the hotel lobby, and although we were disappointed that we didn't end up partying like the rock stars we once were, it was nice to wake up refreshed the next morning and head home to our kiddos.

Of course they dressed up for the occasion as well!

Happy Anniversary Stewie. You've still got whatever it is.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Kiley's First Birthday

Our little girl is one year old!

It's hard to believe that an entire year has passed since we first heard her sweet little cries and felt the desperate grip of her tiny little fingers. I held her on my chest and she calmed immediately as we stared into each other's eyes and tears of joy streamed quietly down my face. 

The past year has seen many more tears for both of us, but our family has also grown exponentially with love since Kiley joined it a year ago.

Happy First Birthday, Kiley Patricia!

We threw her (and ourselves) a little party to celebrate with family and some of our closest friends.

Big Brother Ryder was super excited to help Kiley celebrate her birthday. All week long he helped me pull together craft projects, shop for food, and decorate the house for his favorite little sis.

We were very much looking forward to a traditional first birthday Cake Smash. Unfortunately, Kiley wasn't particularly thrilled by the situation (although the balloons were a hit).

Happy birthday, dear Kiley, happy birthday to you!

With a little coaxing from Daddy and Ryder, we were finally able to convince her to try some cake.

Kiley also received mountains of wonderful, generous gifts!

She was thrilled with the colorful wrapping paper just as much as with the presents.

Due in large part to my Maternity Mommy Group, Kiley actually has a decent group of friends who are around her own age. It was difficult to get them all organized into a photo together, but we tried!

Having kids is an adventure that you should never embark upon alone. 

Besides having an extremely supportive and understanding spouse, I highly recommend surrounding yourself with good friends who are also in the same stage of life. We've been extremely fortunate in this regard, and I really don't know how we would have gotten through this past year without the support of our many friends.

And of course we have been entirely spoiled by our family members, who are in love with our kids and are always more than willing to lend an ear, or a helping hand. They are basically the reason our marriage is still standing after the last crazy, sleep-deprived 365 days.

Nana with her fourth of five grandchildren!
Kiley's Uncle AJ, Aunt Morgan, and Cousin Kinley. The girls are only six months apart, and I hope destined to be the best of friends.

Patty and Grandpa Russ, who is especially thrilled by having another Alway girl around.

It was so fun to spend the day doting on our little princess.

It's hard to explain how I feel about my second child turning one. She's still and will always be my baby, but she's also turning into a big girl before our eyes.

The party was a huge success, filled with grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends. Sweet Kiley is definitely very loved. 

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to everyone who has been a part of our lives this past year — we couldn't have done it without you!