Saturday, May 30, 2015

Ryder's First Sounders Game

Clearly our child was destined to be a sports fan, and we've been working to expose him to professional sports in Seattle since before he was born. So we figured that a lovely spring evening was the perfect opportunity to bring him to his first Sounders game.
Our good friend Alissa offered us some tickets to join her in a killer suite at the end of CenturyLink field, up close to all the action. Ryder was super excited.
Ryder's buddy, Jackson, and his mom, Erin, were also at the game, which was fun for the boys (and nice for the mamas to do some catching up). We tried hard to make sure that the littles weren't being too annoying for the other fans in the box -- I hope they'll invite us back someday!
Although we did spend some time in our seats, it turned out that we were pretty lucky to be in the suite, because Ryder was very energetic and wanted to be up, exploring (and generally being a nuisance).
My late godfather, Steve, (Ryder's namesake) was a huge Sounders fan, so I always get a little nostalgic at Sounders games as I look over to the section where Steve held season tickets for many years.
Taking a toddler to a professional sporting event isn't the easiest thing in the world, but we had fun and I'm glad Ryder got to experience Sounders soccer for the first time.
Oh, and we won.
Go Sounders!
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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book Club: Lord John and the Private Matter

When I was in college, I discovered the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.
Given the choice between romantic historical fiction and textbooks, I chose the former, and got hooked immediately. My addiction quickly progressed to alarming levels -- skipping class, and staying up all night, turning down invitations for normal social interactions. I probably needed an intervention.
I tore through the first five books (each around 1,000 pages) in less than a year, somehow managing to simultaneously obtain decent grades, hold down a job, snag a boyfriend, and occasionally see my living, breathing friends and family members.
The series focuses on a 20th-century British nurse, Claire Randall, who time travels to 18th-century Scotland and finds adventure and romance with the dashing Highland warrior James Fraser. If you had a conversation with me during my junior or senior year of college, I probably referred to "Jamie and Claire" as if they were not only real people, but dear friends.
I've relaxed a little bit in the past 10 years, and actually haven't even read the final two books in the series yet. But recently I decided to pull another book off my shelf: Lord John and the Private Matter.
Lord John Grey is a recurring secondary character in the Outlander series. Secretly homosexual in a time when that particular predilection could get one hanged, Lord John has been called "one of the most complex and interesting" of the hundreds of characters in Gabaldon's Outlander novels.
Lord John and the Private Matter is the first full-length Lord John novel. Set in 1757 England, it follows Lord John's attempt to resolve a delicate situation involving his cousin's betrothed, while meanwhile searching for the murderer of a fellow soldier suspected of espionage and recovering missing military intelligence.
I know, it sounds boring, and definitely not like something I would typically read. But I swear, Gabaldon is a genius story teller! In this historical mystery, she really brings eighteenth-century London to life in a world of vibrant settings and unforgettable characters. I was pulled in immediately by the scandal, spies, murder and mystery, following the twists and turns of the story in anticipation until the very last page. And at less than 300 pages, Lord John and the Private Matter was much less of a commitment than a typical Outlander novel.
I quite enjoyed it.
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Monday, May 25, 2015

A letter to my future self...

{To be "opened" again on 05/25/20}
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.
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-- May 25, 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Club: The Time Machine

The theme for my book club in May was "Classics," so I decided to knock out a book that's been on my shelves at home for quite a while -- The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.
The definition of a "classic" can be a hotly debated topic. So at our meeting we spent quite a bit of time discussing the question: What is a "classic" in the context of books and literature? Research and discussion dictated that:
  • A classic usually expresses some artistic quality -- an expression of life, truth, and beauty.
  • A classic stands the test of time. The work is usually considered to be a representation of the period in which it was written, and the work merits lasting recognition. In other words, if the book was published in the recent past, the work is not a classic.
  • A classic has certain universal appeal. Great works of literature touch our very core beings -- partly because they integrate themes that are understood by readers from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience. Themes of love, hate, death, life, and faith touch upon some of our most basic emotional responses.
  • A classic makes connections. You can study a classic and discover influences from other writers and other great works of literature. Of course, this is partly related to the universal appeal of a classic. But, the classic also is informed by the history of ideas and literature -- whether unconsciously or specifically worked into the plot of the text.
So, now that we have some background as to how a classic is defined, does The Time Machine fall correctly into this category?
Let's see...
The Time Machine is a science fiction novel published in 1895. Wells is generally credited with the popularization of the concept of time travel by using a vehicle, and he coined the term "time machine." 
An English scientist, aka "the Time Traveler," travels to A.D. 802,701 where he meets the Eloi, a society of small, elegant, childlike adults. They live in small communities within large, futuristic, but slowly decaying cities. They are lazy but happy, and the Time Traveler speculates that they are the result of humanity conquering nature with technology, and subsequently evolving to adapt to an environment in which strength and intellect are no longer advantageous to survival.
In search of his time machine (which has gone missing), he also encounters the Morlocks, an ape-like ancestral subspecies who live underground in darkness. Their machinery and industry make the above-ground paradise of the Eloi possible.
The Time Traveler speculates that the human race has evolved into two species: The leisured classes have become the ineffectual Eloi, and the downtrodden working classes have become the brutish, light-fearing Morlocks. He is subsequently horrified to discover that the Morlocks actually feed on the Eloi -- This is not a world of lords and servants, but livestock and ranchers.
 The Time Traveler's adventures continue as he explores the world of the future. I actually enjoyed this book far more than I expected to. If I hadn't known that it was published in the late 1800s, I probably would have assumed it to be a modern novel. The book is short enough to read in one sitting and it's really a page turner until the end, and it really leaves the reader pondering our current society and the potential future of humanity.
The Time Machine is an early example of the "Dying Earth" subgenre. It reflects Wells' own socialist political views, his view on life and abundance, and the contemporary angst about industrial relations. Significant scholarly commentary on the book began in the 1960s related to studies of utopias/dystopias in science fiction. A study guide for advanced academics at Masters and PhD level was published in 2004. Considering these factors, I can definitely see why The Time Machine is considered a classic.
 I thought it was fantastic!
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Sunday, May 10, 2015

On Holiday

The following outlines how to become nerdy tourists for a few days in order to show your English cousins a good time.
Did you know that Stewart is a British citizen? His mom was born in the U.K. and grew up just outside of London. She met and married Stew's dad while working in Washington D.C. when she was in her early 20s, and the rest is history.
Being a dual citizen has definitely had its perks for Stew. When traveling internationally he switches seamlessly between his British and American passports (according to whichever customs lines are shorter). He is able to live and work in the U.K. whenever it strikes his fancy (and has done so for extended periods before). And when we travel to England we always have loads of family members eager to see us and spend time with us.
Stew's cousin, Simon, and his wife, Lisa, came all the way across the pond a few years ago to Seattle for our wedding. It was a quick trip, but they still got to do a few fun activities in between wedding festivities. And they liked the States so much that they were anxious to come back as soon as possible.
We met up with them in Las Vegas a couple years ago, but missed them last year when they hit Sin City again shortly after Ryder's birth. So we were super excited when we found out that they were planning a West Coast road trip this year, beginning in Seattle for a visit with our family.
Stew and I immediately began planning out activities, including a bunch of "nerdy tourist" things we've always wanted to do ourselves...

Photo op at Kerry Park, on the south slope of Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. The breathtaking view shows downtown Seattle, Elliott Bay, the West Seattle peninsula, Bainbridge Island, and Mount Rainier.
Ride the Ducks is a popular Seattle land and water tour stretching nearly 20 miles from Seattle Center, historical Pioneer Square, quirky Fremont, and Lake Union.
Riding the Duck is pretty much one of the nerdiest Seattle tourism activities you can find. The Captain's commentary was packed with local folklore, historical information, jokes and music. We all loved it, especially Ryder. My favorite part was the Lake Union tour, which included breathtaking views of the Seattle skyline and Gasworks Park, as well as the floating home featured in Sleepless in Seattle.
Honestly, there's really not a better way to get a whirlwind tour of Seattle in just 90 minutes.
Of course, the iconic Space Needle was also on our list.

We rode the elevator up 520 feet for lunch at the revolving SkyCity Restaurant, featuring 360-degree views of Seattle, Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains, and Mount Rainier.

Thanks to Executive Chef Jeff Maxfield, the food was absolutely delicious!

For a little culture, we got tickets to The Phantom of the Opera, which was showing at the Paramount Theatre (listed on the National Register of Historic Places and an official City of Seattle landmark). 
Stew and I first saw Phantom in London about five years ago and hadn't seen it since, so we were super excited to see the show again and definitely weren't disappointed!
We did have some fun outside the big city as well. We hosted a backyard barbeque so Simon and Lisa had a chance to hang out with Stew's brothers and some friends, and the next day we showed them some of Snoqualmie's amazing outdoor attractions.
Snoqualmie Falls, just a few miles from our house, is one of Washington state's most popular scenic attractions featuring a two-acre park, gift shop, observation deck, the Salish Lodge and the famous 270-foot waterfall. 
We tried to cram in as much as we could during the short 48 hour visit, and I think we did a pretty good job. Of course the Pacific Northwest features bazillions of other activities that would have been equally fun, but we'll have to save those for another trip.
Traveling in style, Simon and Lisa departed Seattle in "the only acceptable way to take a road trip" -- a Mustang convertible. Their two-week adventure included various stops throughout Washington, Oregon, and California before heading home to England.

It was so much fun having them visit, and we hope to travel to the U.K. to see the whole family this spring (and get Ryder his British citizenship while we're there).

It's going to be brilliant.
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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Dear Ryder... Twelve Months

Dear Ryder,

"The days are long, but the years are short..." 

I don't think anything could capture this time in our lives more perfectly.

As I look back over the past year, I'm baffled by how quickly it's gone. You have accomplished so much in such a short time!

You hardly eat baby food at all anymore. Instead, you prefer to feed yourself "big boy" foods. Blueberries have continued to be a favorite, but you enjoy most kinds of fruit. You also like avocado, cheese, and chicken, along with snacky things like puffs, which we try to limit as much as we can.

We spend a lot of time at the huge park across the street from our house. You love swinging and going down the slide. We try to go over there as a family almost every day when I get home from work, as well as on the weekends. It's such a beautiful place and we're so lucky that it's just steps from our front door! It's always full of other families, so I'm sure you'll make some friends here as you get older.

You have eleventy billion toys, yet you usually prefer to play with other odd things...

Inside your upside down car seat.

Underneath a bucket that's meant to hold beach toys.

In the refrigerator. This one is pretty much your all-time favorite. You can hear the fridge door open from almost anywhere downstairs, and when you even sense an opportunity, you drop what you're doing and come running. I have no idea why you like it so much in there. Strange, kid.

You are definitely your mother's child, because you LOVE books! If you had your way, we'd sit and read to you all day long. We occasionally have to resort to hiding your books from you, because if we don't you follow us around the house whining and throwing board books at us until someone sits down to read to you. I'd love to spend all day exploring literature with you, but Momma's gotta get stuff done sometimes, kiddo!

You took your first real steps on Easter Sunday and never looked back. Once you realized you could walk, you didn't really bother with crawling anymore (not that I blame you). Nana and Papa decided this meant that you were ready for your first pair of real shoes. They promptly took you to the mall for a stylish pair of Sambas.

You visit Nana and Papa all the time, and they absolutely love seeing you. I'm sure they spoil you rotten, but I'm just going to turn a blind eye to that reality. That's what grandparents are for, right?

We are still struggling with sleep issues, and now it's officially been an entire year since any of us have slept through the night. I'm ready for this stage to end, little devil angel. Aren't you tired?? You've been getting cow's milk mixed with breast milk for a while now, and I decided that as of your first birthday I was going to stop pumping at work. That means soon we're going to stop nursing all together, and I'm hoping that maybe this transition will mean a shift toward more sleep. Pretty please?

That being said, at least you're sleeping (for the most part) in your crib in your own room. And now that you're older we've started letting you have blankets and lovies in there, which I thought might help you feel a little more cozy and comfortable. Sometimes I feel like a crazy person though, because although I'm usually desperate to get you to sleep, I also miss you when you're sleeping, and look forward to the next time you'll wake up so we can cuddle.

You get lots of cuddles from Daddy, too.

I'll really miss the Duck Bath you got from your cousins, but it was time  for you to graduate to the Big Boy Bath. You hardly knew what to do with all the space and new bath toys!

You are wearing 12mo - 18mo clothing, for the most part, although some 9mo pants still fit you (shortie). My amazing friend Lindsee was nice enough to hand down to you this HUGE bag of clothes from her son Jackson. You're really going to be stylin' now, and you're set for about the next two years! You continue to have tiny feet (like your father) and almost fit into a size four, but even those are a little big. Don't worry, you'll grow into them!
You passed your routine one-year checkup with flying colors! You are 29.72 inches tall (40th percentile) and weigh 21 lb 6 oz (49th percentile). Your head size continues to be in the 99th percentile (obviously because your brain is so big and you're so smart!)

The doctor noted that you are developmentally right on track with walking, throwing balls, high-fiving, clapping, attempting to handle cups and silverware at mealtimes, feeding yourself with your fingers, saying "mama" and "dada" and responding to your name.

You had a big round of immunizations, including measles and chicken pox, which I had been waiting anxiously (measles has been on the rise since you were born). It's so odd to me that children are immunized against chicken pox now. When Daddy and I were kids it was considered kind of a rite of passage! But I'm glad that it's just one more thing I'm able to shield you from in life.

We splurged on a super cool child carrier so that we can take you on lots of hikes this summer. We tried it out for the first time on a beautiful May afternoon at Rattlesnake Ledge just a few miles from our house. You weren't thrilled about it at first, but eventually you settled in and enjoyed the ride.

I was super proud of us for making it all the way up as a family -- two miles round trip and you were such a trooper!

I think you were more tuckered out than Mom and Dad...

Let's not forget about the main event this month... your first birthday! We celebrated your Cinco de Mayo birthday with a fiesta-themed party at our house. All your favorite people were there including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and good friends. I may have gone a little overboard with everything, but it's not every day your firstborn child turns one!

Shockingly, you weren't super interested in eating the cake. You found it much more thrilling to smash it all over your highchair and yourself. Good thing it was a beautiful sunny day and we could bring out the hose for cleanup.

You ended your first year of life the exact same way you started it -- cradled in Mommy's arms.

It seems like just yesterday I stared in wonder at you for the very first time.

And I still stare in wonder at you every single day.

The past year has been an incredible adventure, and now that you're in our lives I can't imagine going forward without your chubby little hand clutched firmly in mine.

You are my joy, my world, my everything.

Being your Mommy is the most incredible thing I have ever done. Each new challenge is worth every amazing reward. I can't wait to see what the years ahead hold for us.

Please, don't ever forget the important words that I said to you that very first day when I found out that I was pregnant:

"We wanted you, wished for you, hoped for you... Imagined the joy of loving you. You were loved before you even existed. This is what I hope you will always remember. You are wanted and loved, always."

No one will ever know the strength of my love for you. After all, you're the only one who knows what my heart sounds like from the inside.

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Book Club: The Girl on the Train

Gosh, I have been reading some good books this year! Mostly thanks to my Aunt Elaine, who recommended this gem to me.
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, is a psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people's lives. It debuted at number one on the New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2015 list, and remained in the top position for 13 consecutive weeks. In my opinion it certainly earned its high standings.
The novel follows Rachel as she takes the same commuter train every morning. Each day she rattles down the track, flashing past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at a signal that allows her to watch the same couple enjoying breakfast on their deck. Staring at them each day, Rachel has even started to feel like she knows them. Their life seems perfect; not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved.
I think this is probably the most addicting book I've read since Gone Girl. It's about intersecting, overlapping, not-quite-what-they-seem lives. Jealousies, betrayals and wounded hearts. From the opening line, you get a sense of what you're in for: “She’s buried beneath a silver birch tree, down towards the old train tracks…” But Hawkins takes her time laying the groundwork of the mystery, and as I became sucked into the fascinating, dark, haunting plot I frustratingly tried to piece together what "really" happened. I loved every minute of it.
Hawkins is a brilliant story teller, and I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Definitely put it on your list of summer beach/travel reads.
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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Ryder's First Birthday

My little baby boy is a year old!
How did this happen??
It seems like just yesterday I was staring into his perfectly clear, blue eyes for the first time, saying "Hi... hi... hi!" as tears streamed down my face.
It has been the longest, hardest, most magical year of my entire life.
We threw Ryder (and ourselves) a big Cinco de Mayo birthday fiesta to celebrate, with family and some of our closest friends.
Happy First Birthday, Ryder Steven!
Fiesta-themed decorations. Thanks, Pinterest.

Ryder had a blast playing with his cousins and BFFs.

We had a piñata and a taco bar to go along with the theme. Gosh, I love a good theme party!
Having his birthday lunch (attempting to get something nutritious into him before the inevitable birthday cake sugar rush).

Everyone was so excited to spend time with spoil the birthday boy.

As expected, Ryder was much more impressed with paper and bows than he was with his actual presents.

But he loved all his gifts, especially the pushcar from Nana and Grandpa, which was one of his absolute favorites! Later in the day he spent hours in it getting pushed around the backyard (mostly by cousins Sophia and Aubs).
Mommy had to open most of the gifts, since the party and all the guests were a little too exciting for the birthday boy.
Piñata time! We started out with a kids' plastic bat, and all the kiddos got a turn.

Then it was time to bring in reinforcements -- a full size bat (and assistance from Daddies).

Ryder didn't waste any time getting in there and grabbing his fair share of candy. Son, you are your father's child...

We got super lucky with the weather -- it was a gorgeous day for a party on the patio!
Here we go with the birthday cake! Ryder didn't waste any time digging in...

He was a little tentative at first...
But once he got his hands into that wonderful, ooey-gooey frosting, he really went for it.

Surprisingly, he was much less interested in eating the cake then he was in playing with it.

Daddy wasn't about to let birthday cake go to waste though! He was quick to lend a hand...

The aftermath. Thank god it was a nice day and we could use the hose...

It's hard to explain how I feel about my baby turning one. Ryder seems like such a big boy now, but he's still my little baby at the same time.
 The party itself was a huge success. Grandparents, great grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends... Our child is very loved.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of our lives this past year -- we couldn't have done it without you!!
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