JK had his first day back at work today after eight glorious weeks of paternity leave. The house feels sort of empty and weird without him now, but Nora and I fell right back into our old groove and had a really sweet day together.

Paternity Leave

It’s much worse for JK, who has to go out and actually be productive and bring home the facon instead of hanging out with his best girl all day (then again his first day back included a party and an exclusive Macklemore concert, so I don’t feel that bad for him).

Paternity Leave

If Nora wasn’t a daddy’s girl before, she definitely is now. She got to go on all sorts of adventures to shop for manly things. Power tools! Booze!

Paternity Leave Paternity Leave

But we spent most of these eight weeks as a family, from Norway to Italy and back to Seattle again, from mountains to the ocean to the local playground.

Paternity Leave

Paternity Leave

This photo is from the trail in the Dolomites where Nora said “pappa” for the very first time.

Paternity Leave

She has since switched to calling us both “mamma”. All adults, actually. And some animals. When we saw a rabbit on the trail today, she pointed to it and said “Woof! Mamma!”, so yeah, no.

Paternity Leave Paternity Leave
Paternity Leave Paternity Leave

I’m so glad JK and Nora got to spend this time together. Maternity leave is hard enough to come by here in the U.S. – paternity leave is almost unheard of. We lucked out, big time.

Paternity Leave

Hiking, Hiking with baby, Mount Rainier

Fremont Lookout

Back in June, before our trip to Europe, we decided that we needed a really good mountain hike to see us off. Mount Rainier never disappoints, and the trails around Sunrise had melted out early this year, so off to Fremont Lookout we went.

Mama n' Norbert

A miracle occurred on the way to the mountain – Nora slept! In the car!(!!) For over an hour! This was an excellent start to our day since it meant that she was awake and in a fantastic mood for the entire hike – and, importantly, awake for her first marmot sighting!

We had no close encounters of the furry kind this time, but two sentinel whistlepigs, perched high upon their rocks like corpulent gargoyles, watched over us as we made our way toward Frozen Lake.

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Last time I hiked this trail was almost exactly a month before Nora was born:

34 weeks down, sixish to go!

As much as I loved being pregnant, I must say I prefer carrying her on the outside. Same spot, now with a nine-month old on my back:

Fremont Lookout 026

It was a warm day, but since we were above 7000 feet, there was a definite chill whenever a gust of wind came our way. Along the Lord-of-the-Ringsian traverse to the lookout, we were pummeled by a particularly biting wind. Sometimes I feel like we’re overdressing Nora for hikes, but this time we definitely made the right choice by having her in her elf suit and a fleece hat.

Fremont Lookout

At last we made it across the traverse to Mordor I mean Fremont!

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Another hike, another gorgeous nursing view. I really should compile a photo book. Udderly Beautiful Lactation Locations? Hmm, I’ll work on the name.

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We all enjoyed avocado sandwiches while watching tiny little human ants climbing up the Inter Glacier on their way to summit Mount Rainier.

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Nora discovered ground squirrels and was mesmerized.

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Before we turned around and hiked back to Sunrise, she even got to try her hand as a fire lookout.

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One thing I’ll always remember about this trip is that Nora cut her 8th tooth while we were on trail. I knew her left central incisor was about to come through, so I checked to see if it was there before we left the car, but nope, nothing. However, when we were back in the car post-hike, there it was! So cute, even though it meant the end of her adorable wonkytoothed phase. These days she’s looking all grown up with her big, toothy grin. Sniff sniff. She’ll be off to college before I know it.

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– Fremont Lookout | 6 miles | 800 feet elevation gain –

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The blahs

I’m having a hard time settling back into normal life after our long vacation. Actually, it’s not even “normal life” since JK is still on parental leave, which makes it even more annoying – instead of simply enjoying all this time we have together, I find myself stressing out about having to be productive and getting all the things done, and then I don’t get anything done at all because I’m exhausted. This is part of a more systemic case of the blahs that started while we were in Italy, fueled by insomnia and insecurity, and I want it to end as soon as possible. Like now, preferably, before it morphs into something more sinister.

Whenever I start feeling like this, I find that it’s helpful to set some personal goals. Any goals. Teeny tiny goals. Something that will give me a sense of purpose and structure during the time it takes me to get back on my feet. Feeling like I was working towards something was hugely helpful when I was depressed, and it’s a good way to nip blahs like these in the bud. I’ll have to sit down and decide what the specifics should be, but I’m thinking it would be smart to start training for Beat the Blerch (well that’s appropriate), which I’ll be running in September, and, once again, cutting down on the sugar, because I brought quite the spare tire home from Norway. If you haven’t tried Norwegian chocolate, you’re missing out (but then you’re probably also at a normal body weight, so there’s that).

Europe, Norway, These days, Travel

These Days

These days, we are settling back into normalcy after five weeks of vacation. JK saved his parental leave for this summer so we could go on a grand adventure with Nora – visiting Norway (to show off lil’ Norbert to friends and family) and Italy (to attend a wedding).

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Nora experienced so many firsts! First flight (transatlantic, no less), first seven-course meal, first boat ride, first swim.

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In Italy, she visited the Dolomites, swam in the Adriatic Sea, and ate impressive amounts of pizza.

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In Norway, she stayed at my parents’ summer house, explored the outdoor playground of my childhood, and picked chanterelles almost every day.

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Back here in Seattle, she is already over her jetlag while her parents, old as the hills and apparently no longer adjusting easily, are still exhausted (I’ve been up since 2:30, ugh ugh ugh). I had grand plans for this week, but just…no. The couch is where I’m at, chugging coffee and finally catching up on Orange is the New Black. JK still has two weeks of leave left, so hopefully we’ll be back in the swing of things soon, ready to take on our normal summer here in Washington.

Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Hiking, Hiking with baby, Top Trips

Nora the Explorer

Our year of introducing Nora to our favorite trails and places continues! When it comes to Melakwa, it’s definitely more of a favorite place than a favorite trail. I usually visit these lakes when I do the Tuscohatchie loop, so I can’t even remember the last time I hiked the trail back down. It’s pretty rocky and kind of sucks, especially when you’ve become used to the soft, rolling, luxurious trails of the Issaquah Alps. But the destination more than makes up for it – upper Melakwa Lake is one of my Official Happy Places.

Melakwa Lake

The last time I was here, it was just me and Wellie running the Tuscohatchie Loop. I was doing a lot of soul searching, trying to come to terms with the possibility that I might not ever become pregnant. The mountains, the lakes, the sun, the tiger lilies, and one loud marmot were my therapists that day (and on so many others). By the end of my run, I was so high on endorphins that I knew I would be able to handle whatever the universe sent my way.

Melakwa Lake

Thankfully, the mountain gods chose to send us this wonderful little creature. I can’t quite describe the feelings I experience when I return to a place like this with Nora in tow. “All the feels” will have to suffice.

Melakwa Lake

Normally I wouldn’t even be able to get to Melakwa in May (without an ice axe and a sizable pair of ‘nads), but thanks to the low snow this year, it looks like mid-July up there. The parking lot was overflowing by the time we reached the trailhead at 9, but the trail is long enough that it didn’t feel crowded, especially once were past the Slippery Slab which is the destination for most of the families with older kids. That’ll be us in a couple of years, but for now we’re enjoying being able to do regular hikes with a non-ambulatory baby on our backs.

Melakwa Lake

Once we popped out of the woods, we just got roasted in the sun. We worried that Nora would be too hot, but the thin wool layer she was wearing seemed to keep her pretty comfortable. I’m definitely on the lookout for a thin, breezy set of hiking clothes for her for the summer though, something that will protect her from the sun and bugs but still keep her coolish on sweltering days.

Melakwa Lake

She woke up a little while before we got to the lake, and was very…vocal about not wanting to be in her carrier anymore. Luckily she cheered up once we got to the lake, and after eating lunch and getting a fresh diaper, she turned into the happiest baby ever.

Melakwa Lake

Nora <3 Wellie

Melakwa Lake

Whenever we hike with Nora, I go into it with low expectations of how much time we’ll actually get to spend at our destination, but she was happy as a clam hanging out by the lake. I think she likes watching the water. This bodes well for the summer ahead.

Melakwa Lake

Most people seemed to stop at the first lake, so my favorite best-seat-in-the-house rock was available for lunch and playtime. I even got some relaxing done, once I was able to stop manically taking photos of Nora whenever she did something adorable.

Melakwa Lake Melakwa Lake

Once Nora started showing some sleep cues (she always begins by subtly grabbing her ear, which quickly escalates to rubbing her eyes and yawning), we packed up and headed back down so she could nap in the carrier. We put in headphones so we could listen to music while she slept, then hiked back to the trailhead, all smiles (except for intermittent grumbles from me whenever I would trip over a rock and curse the fact that I hadn’t brought hiking poles).

Best baby hike yet, rocks and all.

Melakwa Lake

– Melakwa Lake | 9 miles | 2500 feet elevation gain –

Melakwa Lake