Christmas Morning!

Now that I’m an adult, nothing is sweeter than getting to sleep in (and take a shower!) before starting Christmas Morning festivities. Compound that with a daughter who’s still a little confused about the time change and wants to wake up at 5:30am (oof!) and I couldn’t have been happier to take my time getting ready.

Spoiler alert, I wasn’t born in 1997. But my cute little sister was.

IMG_0396 IMG_0413Though I’ve gotten to see my family since, I haven’t been home in FOUR years. Oh this feels good to be back, and with my two favorite buddies. 
IMG_0432 IMG_0433 IMG_0451It doesn’t take much to make this girl’s day, but almond milk does it every time. And Santa. Santa and almond milk is killing it this month. IMG_0487IMG_0496IMG_0492 IMG_0498 IMG_0506

I can’t forget her new baby. She is such a mom to her. I being the awesome mom in this relationship already lost the doll’s bottle, so my parents swooped in and saved the day. 
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Merry Christmas you guys! I hope you had a beautiful morning, wherever you are. We’ll be enjoying presents, cheese ball + Joel the Lump of Coal till the sun goes down. Which is 2:43pm today, in case you were wondering.

xx

A Surprise Trip Home to Alaska

Surprise! We didn’t go to California for the holidays, and truth be told, that wasn’t ever the plan. The real plan I had to keep quiet for a few months now, with the help of my mom, to surprise my sisters and dad. Which was harder than I thought.

The closer the trip got I knew there was something we had to get through first — 6+ hours on the plane with our toddler. More than once I lamented the fact that I wasn’t still nursing. I mean, how easy would that be? It sure made flying with Paityn when she was 4 months easy. But I’m not, so this go round we had to get a little more creative, while still relying on food as a distraction. Obviously.

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What We Packed

I researched a bit online of tips and tricks and things that are OK to take on the plane with your toddler, and then relied on what we hoped Paityn would love to fill in the rest.

Knowing we’d need to pack winter clothes we checked two bags leaving room in our carry on to include only things we’d need as we traveled. We brought with us a backpack filled with snacks, a few baby food pouches that TSA thankfully cleared, an empty sippy cup, a book full of stickers and Skullcandy headphones that fit Paityn on the smallest setting and when worn backwards. We also downloaded a handful of Daniel Tiger episodes from iTunes to our phones — which is just her jam. Then in our hands we carried her favorite baby and stuffed bear, blanket and the Ergo.

Our Experience
Wednesday morning we woke early to get ready, grab last minute things and right before we left Landon gave Paityn a sweet blessing to help her be comfortable and calm as we traveled on one of the busiest days of the year. Then off we went to my aunt’s house who had saved the day earlier that week and offered to take us to the airport.

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From the start of our traveling experience till the end things went as ideal as I could’ve ever imagined. Getting through security was an absolute breeze — we didn’t even have to take our shoes off! We had the perfect amount of time to grab breakfast and some juice to fill up her cup. We resisted boarding early to minimize the time Paityn had to be stuck in a seat on the plane. When we did board we amazingly found that our trick of booking the window and aisle seat worked — no one had booked the seat in-between us. Do I get to call this a Christmas Miracle?

IMG_6672Our layover in Seattle was only an hour or so, but Paityn was spent, having not napped yet. She totally kept it together, but got a little weird. Running around with her tongue out and spinning in circles weird. We just went with it as best we could. Except for those few minutes where I was walking back to our terminal carrying lunch in my arms and she decided to sprawl out on the busy walkway floor and fuss. That was a little stressful.

Our Seattle to Fairbanks flight was my largest concern, it’s a solid 4 hours and even makes me antsy. Luckily Paityn passed out in Landon’s arms after take off (and after sticking stickers all up and down her arm) and stayed out for the next two hours. She spent the next two happily watching Daniel Tiger on our laps, having some snacks and just hanging out. Have I mentioned it just went ideal? We were so spoiled.

We touched down in Fairbanks a little before 4:30pm and were welcomed by pitch black outside and my mama waiting for us downstairs! On the short drive over we made a game plan of how to surprise my dad and sister — we decided on setting Paityn on our porch right outside the door, dinging the doorbell then running to hide. From around the corner we got to watch my dad turn on the porch light, open the door, and find Paityn just standing waiting on the other side. So sweet!

I can’t tell you how good it feels to be home. We’re enjoying an easy Christmas Eve all together, which is just what I hoped for. I’m calling this trip a success so far! But have to make this trip again in another 7 days, so if you have any extra tips, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!

xx

Day 8: A Few Hours Left in Fairbanks //

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“The sun hasn’t gone down once, how is this our last day already??” We said, on our last day in Fairbanks.

There were a few things left to do together as a family. Landon had been looking forward to the Alaskan garage sale phenomenon, I was ready to see the Farmer’s Market again and snag a hoodie, and we added in seeing the Alaskan Pipeline, a little dinner grocery shopping, a Beaver Sports huge sale, + two last squares of fudge.

And then, just like that, we were pulling up to the airport.

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We were on the very first nonstop flight from Fairbanks to Portland, but I think we should always be handed a flower when boarding a plane. It was a nice touch. I got to have Paityn in the Ergo flying home; her extra body heat was enough to help me pass out that entire flight.

We saw a dark sky at night out our isle window for the first time in a week for just a few minutes as we were waking up coming into Portland, and then just like that it was sunny again. Back to California life for the summer. Alaska, we’ll miss you, you trippy place.

Savage Alpine Trail | Denali National Park

We paid our $20 fee inside the Visitor’s Center, stopped and asked for a hike recommendation from the ranger on duty, and set off for the path. Considering how little effort went into selecting it, we got pretty lucky. That plus everything in Denali seems to be gorgeous. Here are photos from our afternoon in Denali National Park on the Savage Alpine Rock Trail:
IMG_4041 IMG_4042 IMG_1962 IMG_4045   IMG_1967 IMG_1970 IMG_4140From the trailhead of the Salvage Alpine Trail the route climbs up to first some rocky outcroppings where we stopped to play for a bit + take some photos, before continuing up another mile up on the ridge. About half of the people we saw stopped at the top of the rocks then turned back around to their car. I’m so glad we kept going —  the ridge had such a beautiful view of Denali National Park! I could’ve stayed up there for hours taking it all in, but I’m weird like that in nature. Landon and I took turns having Paityn buckled in on us in the Ergo, which though a lifesaver, added some weight.

I was slowing down pretty terribly towards the top, silently considering calling it a day and turning around. Luckily Landon suggested to take her, and once we’d switched I was ready to hike Mt. Mckinley. We ran into a guy on top who was hiking around solo, so we took pictures for each other and headed back down while he continued on. The trail is a thru trail, instead of a loop, and though I’d like to say we turned around because it was getting dark, well, we both know that wasn’t the case. With the midnight sun, I can see us someday just going all through the night if they’d let us.

Back down at the car we packed back up, I nursed Paityn, toured around a bit more, then checked out Lynx Pizza for a dinner. [So good] With a two and half hour drive back home our Denali day ended up being a 12 hour day — left at 9am and returned just after 9pm.

IMG_4133   IMG_4130IMG_4135IMG_4136Denali

Denali National Park, Alaska

Friday morning Landon and I borrowed my parents’ RAV4 and ate homemade granola as we drove two hours south to Denali National Park. Does life get better?

This adventure, more than any other spot near my hometown, was what Landon was looking forward to seeing the most. I had grown up visiting Denali yearly with my family. As a family of 7, when the ticket lottery happened statistically once of us were bound to be drawn for a pass for all access into the park. During the busy summer season, from May til mid September, cars can only drive 15 miles into the park at which point you have to turn around, stop to play, or buy a ticket on a bus. But with our lottery ticket in hand, year after year we got to visit in mid September all the way to Wonder Lake, 85 miles in. As a young girl I dreamed of seeing giraffes, then once I got older I shot for just seeing a porcupine. I never understood the excitement my dad had for seeing wildlife. Now, knowing my grandpa more, I realize it runs in the family.

This visit, with Landon and Paityn, we chose to drive in the 15 miles and stop to play, or rather, hike. But let me back up.

IMG_3985 IMG_3986 IMG_1957Before you really enter the park there are beautiful hotels, small gift shops all in a row, and increasingly beautiful views. We grabbed a light lunch, let tourists snap pictures of Paityn, window shopped, then headed off to pay our entrance fee and get suggestions on what to hike that day.
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I did decide to split the two posts up so this one didn’t get too long, so follow along to part two HERE

Before I move on to the second half of the day, I wanted to end with saying how much I love Denali. There’s something special and exciting being up there. Though somethings have changed since I went as a young girl with my family, the memories are still beautiful to me. If you haven’t been, add Denali it to your bucket list for sure! Landon and I can’t wait to return to do + see more and more each time.

 


 

Day 4 & 5: Casual Days with the Family

We helped clean and organize a few rooms in parent’s house downstairs, no before/afters to post, next time! Explored Fairbanks more with Kyrsten: Riverboat, the -40°F chamber, Beaver Sports, && Take 5. Got falafel’s with my parent’s, and got to eat them in a cute hut outside in the rain. Grabbed drinks with Kyndra at CCH to talk, shopped with my parents, and played a new game all together once the girls were off work.

And then Thursday night Landon and I went for a date without Pait for the first time. Thanks Kyndra!We set off for a dinner date [a cute little cabin turned into restaurant] apparently too late. By the time we’d been seated and started off we were informed they were only serving desert at that point. So with desert as an appetizer we also checked out Boston’s for a cute sit-next-to-eachother cheese-free pizza date

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Casual + overcast, but not dark at night by a long shot. Even at 12:22 AM