Late night (for me) check-in!

After an exciting return to the blog, the Saturday posts lasted two weeks! Typing this from my phone as I have no desire to get on my computer on the weekend after a long week at work. Anyone else get tension headaches from being on a laptop all day? I used to blame screens in general but I just don’t get the same headaches from staring at my phone! I think they’ve gotten worse now with breastfeeding and constantly having terrible posture/looking down at baby.

We’ve been hard at work this summer finishing our basement (Kevin has been the hardest worker but keeping the baby entertained while he works is a full time job as well!). My parents will be moving in with us in about a month! I haven’t talked about it much because they had been keeping it on the down low until it was really 100% decided and they had for sure plans to rent out their house. We are SO EXCITED to have them move in with us, especially after this crazy covid year (that is still ongoing).

When I moved to Utah five years ago it was no big deal because I could come back home anytime and I did make many trips, usually at least 2 per year, back to Oregon! Now, with the pandemic and a baby, it just does not seem worth it to risk the travel so I am really looking forward to having my parents and youngest brother here with us. If things get worse and we have to quarantine again, we will all be together!

Kevin finished painting the basement today so all we have left is flooring, baseboards and doors! And all the details here and there – outlet covers and blinds and light fixtures, but the big things are almost done! It’s been a stressful project and as first time homebuyers with a baby, it was a bit much to take on but we can finally see the finish line!

Hope to have my Saturdays freed up again soon, stay tuned!

Welcome Back!

I don’t know if I am welcoming myself back or welcoming you back as a reader, but either way – we are back!

2020 was an inconsistent year for Life After Oregon. My favorite thing to blog about is travel and after our trip to Europe in February, the pandemic hit, lockdown happened, and we got pregnant! We spent the rest of the year mostly not going anywhere — and if we did travel, I didn’t want to blog about it and give the wrong vibe that I was encouraging travel during such a scary time.

Now here we are with an eight month old baby and things are still not back to normal for us travel-wise, but Kevin has been trying to get me to take time for myself! I am at home with our daughter, Sophie, during the week while Kevin works. I still have some maternity leave time left so I am still working part-time, but it’s just the two of us alone all day until Kevin gets home in the evening. And the truth is that I really don’t want to be away from Sophie because I love her so damn much and I just sit around and watch videos of her when I am not with her.

But, I have been feeling burnt out and I need time alone to recharge and eat a sandwich in peace and do something for me. Unfortunately, Kevin also reminded me that I don’t have any hobbies and my idea of a nice afternoon to myself probably involves deep cleaning a bathroom. I was quick to remind him that while I do love to organize a space, no one really loves deep cleaning a bathroom.

One of my hobbies that I really used to enjoy was this blog! Until we had this whole pandemic and I was pregnant and I was either too tired to write about anything or I was afraid I was writing the wrong things and people were going to judge me horribly for it. Pregnancy was not a fun time for me, mainly due to the pandemic, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to make a name for myself by complaining about pregnancy.

I need a hobby and a reason to sip my coffee alone in my office, undisturbed, so the blog is back!

The one thing you can always count on here is chaos and unpredictability. I will likely not conform to any one, two, or three topics even though I will try to talk about traveling, being a mom, and traveling while being a mom (or something like that). I will also change the blog theme constantly and you will never know what this place is going to look like when you click on a link to a new blog post!

Just ask Kevin how many times I have rearranged the furniture in our living room this year.

I know this will be a “welcome back” to my loyal fans (aka dear friends and family, I love you all so much!) but if you are new here I did write a little about me blurb and I will tell you a bit about my current self here as well:

My name is Sami or Sam or Samantha depending on who you are and which name you’ve decided to call me! I really like all the names and I really don’t have a preference. But if you were to see me in public (unlikely) or try to find me in a crowd (highly unlikely) then your best bet is “Samantha” because I think everyone remembers their mom yelling their full name from the front porch when it was time to come inside for the night.

Kevin is my husband. We’ve been married for almost four years now, but we have known each other for literally my entire life (a story for another time). We both grew up in Oregon but have lived in Utah for five years now (hence this is now our Life After Oregon). Our daughter Sophie was born last November!

I have kept most of my old blog posts up if you have any interest in reading them. The travel ones are the best, but there are a lot of other fun ramblings! I will be posting something new every Saturday, hopefully, unless I have to rearrange all the furniture in my house again.

Feel free to check out the new (and old) posts and if you enjoy what you read, you can support my writing by buying me a coffee!

2020: A Year in Review

Well I had high hopes to write a Christmas letter and send a cute Christmas card this year, but then I had a baby and time became a construct that I no longer understand and the days all blur together and seem to both drag on and fly by simultaneously. Maybe next year. Or maybe I’ll send out a Christmas card in June to stay ahead of the game.

This is not an overview of my 2020 goals and what I accomplished, and I have no 2021 goals. I have a laundry list of things I’d like to do but they are not confined to the year 2021. I’m not really sure what a laundry list is but if it’s a metaphor for a list that’s never-ending because once you have a newborn the laundry is never-ending, then it is an on-point phrase and I love it.

I’m not sure how all of these phrases came to be anyway. An announcer on the basketball game we were watching the other night said something about “having your p’s and q’s” and I asked Kevin what it meant (assuming it related somehow to basketball) and we went down the google rabbit hole and it turns out no one knows for sure what it means.

Back to 2020, the year started out with a few winter trips. Kevin and I drove hundreds of miles around Arizona in a single weekend. We both thought that we had MLK day off so we’d have a three day weekend but it turned out neither of us had the day off so we ended up having about 2 and a half days to drive from Utah to Petrified Forest National Park and the Grand Canyon and back.

I also went off birth control in January. We decided to “start trying” and I thought maybe we’d be pregnant by June.

In February, we went on our first trip to Europe! On a whirlwind two week trip, we flew to London, Paris and Dublin and by the time we flew home, covid was almost in full swing and we were slightly worried we weren’t going to get to fly home. Thankfully we did not get stranded in London, although that might have been fun!

In March, right before everyone was officially quarantined, my mom and youngest brother came to visit us and we made a trip to Moab and took them to a few of our favorite national and state parks. We also found out in March that we were pregnant! A complete surprise, we didn’t expect it to happen in the first try.

In April, we quarantined, started working from home, and ate a lot of takeout. I didn’t have morning sickness really, just a general lack of appetite, so we ate whatever sounded good to me at the moment — a lot of Panda Express. I got to see our baby for the first time on an ultrasound and Kevin didn’t get to come to the appointment due to covid restrictions.

Sometime in either April or May (I honestly can’t remember), we bought an Airstream. The Utah dealership was having a big sale, and I kind of panicked about the idea of not being able to travel due to covid. Being stuck in the apartment was not appealing to me and Kevin and I had been talking for a few years about buying a camping trailer. So, we thought why the fuck not and that seemed to become the theme of the year. Shortly after we bought the Airstream, Kevin took our truck (a Toyota Tacoma) in for a “routine maintenance appointment” and came back with a Toyota Tundra (quite the upgrade). Yes, there were some brief conversations about it but that’s basically how it happened. Not a planned upgrade but it does tow the airstream better and there’s a lot more room. It’s Kevin’s thing.

We took the airstream and tundra on their maiden voyage to Capitol Reef for Memorial Day weekend, thinking it would be quiet and we’d be able to effectively get outside while social distancing. It was not quiet and we had to get up super early in order to hike on trails without tons of other people around. But I’m glad we went because we were starting to go crazy in the apartment.

Oh, and somewhere in here Kevin started school at UVU to finish his degree!

In June, we surprised my mom for her birthday by driving to Oregon to celebrate with her. It was her 50th birthday and birthdays are kind of her thing, so we got all of her friends and family to send us happy birthday videos and we played them all for her since we couldn’t do a big birthday party. My brother came home with us to Utah and moved in for the summer (and is still here!).

In July, I told Kevin that maybe we should start looking at houses so maybe we could buy one next year. Well, it so happens that Kevin has wanted to buy a house for a very long time and apparently I was the only thing standing in the way. So once he got me on board, we ended up buying a house within 30 days! We went on a family camping trip to Glacier national park (in retrospect, a terribly anxiety-inducing experience in light of covid but we were able to be relatively safe) and announced to them the news of our house purchase and the fact that we were having a baby girl!

In August, we moved out of our apartment and into our new home! Which was a fantastic choice with a baby in the way and three people working from home. I felt bored thought and decided to start an MBA program at UVU. See, the why the fuck not theme continues.

In September, we went on our last trip of the year to take my brother Alex to see Moab and all of our favorite places. With the airstream, we didn’t have to use a public restroom the entire trip! We were able to eat some takeout food and still support the local restaurants while staying away from town and the crowds. It was a super stressful trip as many people were not wearing masks, but I’m glad we went and spent most of our days lounging by the river completely isolated.

In October, I spent almost the entire month trying to get this baby out of me. My due date was November 6th so by mid-October it was like okay any day now. Kevin went elk hunting in a unit super close to home and saw a ton of elk, but didn’t get anything because he had a spike-only tag. We celebrated Alex’s birthday and waited for the baby to come.

In November, we really tried everything to induce labor. But Sophie was not ready to come out and I ended up getting induced on November 13th (which I’d you know my mom, she really wanted her to be born on the 13th because it’s her favorite number) and she was born on the 14th after 18 hours of labor (but only 30 minutes of pushing, thank the sweet baby Jesus). Both Kevin and Alex were able to be in the delivery room and the nurses said it was a rare thing to see two men in the delivery room!

And of course we can’t forget Kevin’s birthday (except I did when I first posted this and I’m surprised he didn’t notice when he read it, but I’m posting an edit just for him — he loves his birthday)! Just five days after Sophie’s. I got the whole family to help chip in to buy him a brand new set of golf clubs, which I had repeatedly told him I would not be buying for him because he’d have no time to play golf with a newborn baby so he was very surprised!

We spent the rest of November and December figuring out how to live with a newborn! My friend Stephanie told me the first few weeks are a mix of euphoria and panic and that description could not have been more accurate. We had a few people come help us — my dearest friend Katie, my parents and youngest brother — and I am so grateful they were able to be here to help us survive those first few weeks and meet Sophie!

I am still on new parent leave with Sophie and will be for a few more weeks before going back to work (remotely). I have some additional leave that I will take later (because I hear there are fun things like teething and sleep regressions coming!). Sophie is by far the best thing to happen to us in 2020 (and really ever) and we could not be happier and we’re so in love with her.

Kevin will read this post and tell me about all of the important things I missed but that was the gist of it, at least the important and interesting things! Thanks for following our adventures! I will try and post more frequently in 2021 to keep you all updated as we navigate life as new parents and have adventures with Sophie!

Why Am I Scrolling? An Inner Monologue on Social Media

I just had a baby about six weeks ago, and I am breastfeeding — which means I now spend a large portion of my day sitting on my couch with only one hand free. In fact, I am currently typing this with only one hand, really one thumb. When you only have one hand free, you’re very limited in what you can hold: your phone, the tv remote, a cup of coffee, a water bottle, or the baby’s hand (pick one).

So you can see where this post is going. Naturally I started spending more time on my phone because I literally had nothing else to do. Sophie usually falls asleep after she finishes nursing and she is so precious and cute that I have no desire to get up and move her, so I commit to 2-3 hour shifts on the couch. I’ve always spent a lot of time on my phone. I don’t check the screen time tracker but my weekly screen time notification is usually upwards of 3-4 hours per day (of mostly social media — and mostly Instagram since I deleted my Facebook a year ago).

Suddenly I had all this time to spend scrolling mindlessly through social media and really not feel bad about it, but that’s not what happened.

First, I immediately started getting headaches from looking down so much (not even at my phone, at the baby) and from so much screen time (phone and tv). And probably also from dehydration. I stopped watching tv and turned on Pandora music instead. I set a one hour time limit for Instagram and Twitter (combined) per day. I figured that would be tough to stick to but the first day that I hit my one-hour limit (at about 2pm) I felt such a huge sense of relief.

Sidebar: I have managed to shift my left arm enough without bothering Sophie (who is asleep) that I can now use both hands to type so maybe this won’t take ten hours now.

Anyway, the one hour limit was a piece of cake and it actually made me feel better! I have only hit the limit and/or received the 5 minute warning about three times total. And it is plenty of time! I am still scrolling aimlessly through tons of content and sending hilarious tweets to my ten followers while I’m going to the bathroom.

Another sidebar: Since imposing (is this even the right word?) the social media limit I have read five books on my kindle app on my phone.

So because I was still on the couch with all this time I started thinking deeply about a lot of things. Staring at Sophie’s cute face and thinking about the future and what I want for her and what I want for myself and all of those important things that new parents start kind of panicking about. And what happened was that I started thinking how weird it is that we scroll mindlessly on social media or post our own stuff. I got a MySpace when I was in middle school and I probably had a hundred friends and they were all kids I went to school with and I hung out with about five of them. The other 95 were kids I knew and wanted them to think I was super cool (also it was just the thing to do — friend request everyone who you knew within yours or the neighboring school districts). But geographically and age-wise these were kids who were also in middle school who lived in my town.

Now the majority of people I follow, I don’t even know personally. Which is fine of course, because I want to expand my network and be exposed to a more diverse set of people. Particularly now that I have realized that my hometown is very very white. I also probably follow too many people to even read every single thing they post. I have tried to keep it at 400 or less (people I follow) but even that is too many.

And I salute the people who are making a career out of social media because I could not do it. I think it’s a great place for aspiring entrepreneurs and I think influencers are pretty awesome for the most part. But isn’t it weird that the rest of us are doing it for free? Especially if you’re putting in a lot of hours sharing your life on a daily basis. And why do we feel the need to share the things we do?

I’m not even going to get into the activism and politics side of social media. It is great especially if you have a large platform and a lot of followers but it is not for me. I do not have many people following me and most of them share the same political beliefs so we’re all reading and circulating the same material. I’m better off focusing my activist efforts outside of social media.

Even this blog, I haven’t hardly posted this year because I wonder why I am posting or why I want to post. What makes us want to voice every inner thought publicly? Is social media a public-facing journal of sorts? And now that I have a baby, I think about her as a teenager stumbling upon my social media accounts and reading all this garbage. At the very least, I’m going to only post authentic garbage and not perfectly curated Instagram photos and captions in case someday I achieve social media fame.

I have no advice. I have no suggestions. I put a limit on my social media and it has made me really dive into my history of social media use and question what it is doing for me and what I am gaining from it. I have gained a lot and I know there are many benefits and I know it’s not going away anytime soon so I might as well use it — but maybe use it my way.

I’ll be showing up as myself on Instagram, Twitter and my blog. Unedited. Probably not even proofread. I no longer have time. I’ll be following people and pages that interest me and unfollowing them when they don’t anymore. I’ll probably keep wondering why we spend so much time on social media and I will probably never figure out why we keep doing it even though it’s bizarre.

Maybe I will make a new blog series called the breastfeeding journals that I will likely forget about in a week. Stay tuned.

To summarize: social media is weird and it’s weird how much time we spend publicly journaling about our lives instead of living them, and it’s even weirder how much time we spend watching other people live their lives. I don’t hate it but I don’t love it either.

Weekend Adventure: Yellowstone National Park & Grand Teton National Park

September has been a crazy month, y’all. I am so excited to finally be sitting down and writing this blog post. This was our last big summer trip — and we have taken a few weekends off since then so I am feeling horribly deprived and antsy for some more weekend travel! In the meantime, I have been reminiscing on the photos from this trip because Yellowstone is drop dead gorgeous (and no, it’s not my go pro skills).

Working normal 9-5 jobs and only having so many days off requires us to take advantage of holiday weekends, so we decided to take the opportunity over Labor Day weekend to drive up to Yellowstone. This is a bit farther than we’re used to driving for a weekend adventure — about 6 hours — and unfortunately, leaving on a Friday and driving North was a recipe for a traffic disaster. The route we chose to take also took us “the fastest way” which seemed like it was absolutely not the fastest way since we went from Utah to Idaho to Montana to Wyoming, which seemed like quite a lot of driving.

But, neither of us had ever been to Montana so we were really excited that we got to cross that off our list!

For anyone who is not aware of this, Yellowstone is ginormous. It’s huge. The maps really do not make it seem incredibly giant but it is — and in retrospect, I should have paid more attention to the maps when planning, but it all worked out because the campsite I reserved was sort of in the middle. But we realized how big the park was when it took us over an hour to get from the park’s west entrance to our campground.

My pet peeve so far with reserving campsites in advance is that you’re not actually reserving a specific campsite at most places, you’re just guaranteeing that you will have one. So in this case, I had reserved a spot for a large tent or RV, and the spot I was given was definitely meant for an RV. So our tent was on a bit of a hill and we had to set it up in the dark, which is not my favorite thing, but it was nice and cool outside and the stars were incredible! After spending so many nights camping in the desert heat, we get really really excited when it’s cold outside.

Day 1

Having realized that Yellowstone is monstrous in size, we realized we needed some sort of a “game plan” for seeing everything we wanted to see during the two days we were there. We decided to start by driving to the Norris Geyser Basin and then looping around back to our campsite. The parking lot was already packed pretty early in the morning, but the views were 100% worth sharing with many other people. It was so stunningly beautiful and also reminiscent of all the time I spent watching Land Before Time as a child. The landscape was truly alive.

Next, we drove to Mammoth Hot Springs. There is a huge town in this part of the park where many of the tourists were congregating. There is also a “neighborhood” of sorts with what looks like normal houses where normal people just live their daily lives in the middle of a national park. Apparently this is a thing. We skipped the incredibly crowded “town” and just walked around the hot springs instead.

The hot springs looked absolutely beautiful and my photos do not do them justice. The only bummer was we couldn’t go for a swim because our skin would have melted off.

After that, we stopped for a quick lunch and met a bison friend! He was just hanging out by the road and most people zoomed past, not even noticing him! We thought he was really cute and wanted to take him home with us. But instead, we followed the rules and stayed in our car a safe distance away. The close-up photos are zoomed in.

On our way back to camp, we stopped at Tower Falls for a few quick photos.

Back at camp, we enjoyed some nice, free, hot showers. I realized I had forgotten my hairbrush and had to hand-brush my hair, so that was fun. Then we drove into town to find a bar to eat dinner at so Kevin could watch the Oregon game. I was forced to occupy myself with good food and drinks while Kevin watched the game.

Day 2

Despite our best efforts, we slept in the next day and had a much later start to our morning. Kevin was coming down with a cold so I didn’t complain when he wanted to keep sleeping. We started our morning with a quick trip to the visitor’s center to buy some Yellowstone stickers for our cooler and Kevin almost convinced me to buy him a mug with a bison on it, but I stayed strong (we have a mug problem).

The first place we stopped at was Inspiration Point. I thought it was absolutely beautiful and I’m so glad we decided to take a short detour to get there. Kevin thought so too.

Next, we had to stop and take some more photos of all the bison by the river! There were so many of them, it was crazy! The park even had people out directing traffic because so many people were just stopping in the middle of the road to take pictures. Once again, we stayed a safe distance away (unlike many of the other tourists) from the wild bison.

Next we stopped at the mud volcano (and a bunch of other really smelly geysers). This place has ruined hard boiled eggs for me — there’s nothing quite like a hot wave of sulphur steam hitting you in the face — but hot bubbling mud that will melt your face off is still pretty cool.

And — as if this place couldn’t get more awesome — there’s a lake right in the middle of the park! Yellowstone Lake!

Next, we stopped at the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Although I wish we could have gone swimming in these beautiful (scalding hot) pools, the reality is that we would have had to share them with thousands of tourists.

And finally — the main tourist event of all of Yellowstone — Old Faithful! Someone had told us when we got to West Thumb that it had just gone off so we knew we had about 90 minutes. We pulled into the parking lot and it was packed — nowhere to park — and Kevin and I got in an argument about where the hell we were going to park. Spoiler alert: I convinced him to park in a spot that was definitely not a parking space (everyone else was doing it) and we ran over as quickly as we could.

I got one photo with the go pro and Kevin took a 45-second video. It was very cool to see, but it was shocking to see how many people were standing there watching. Crowds are not my thing, so really arriving exactly as it was going off and watching it from afar was probably the best case scenario. I’m glad I can now say I’ve seen Old Faithful, but this was definitely the most stressful part of our trip and there were many other geysers that we thought were way cooler (not to mention the face-melting bubbling mud).

What followed was a trip to town for some ice cream to decompress after all that stress! We stopped by the Yellowstone sign for our obligatory photo on the way back to camp, and stopped at some other cool spots that no one else bothered to visit — sometimes those are my favorite places!

We had a delicious dinner and a few beers and decided that we wanted to venture out before the sun set and try to see a few more places. We drove to Upper Falls and Lower Falls and tried to get some photos before the sun went down. Kevin decided we could make it down to the brink of the lower falls before we lost all daylight and this proved to not be true. It turned out that it was about a half mile down to the falls and it was pitch black by the time we got down there.

However, being right at the top of the waterfall in complete darkness barely being able to see is actually one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done! We hiked back up the steep trail in the dark and when we got to the top Kevin yelled, “Aw man, we should have kissed down there!”

None of our photos from the dark waterfall adventure came out, but that’s okay — we still have blurry photos, a really loud video of waterfall sounds, and the memory of stumbling down this trail in the dark, laughing.

Day 3

Kevin’s cold was in full swing by this time, so he was in a mood. But we packed up bright and early and headed on our way. We still had a few things we needed to stop and see on our way out of the park.

First up, the Fountain Paint Pot. Yellowstone is a whole different vibe in the morning. The air was crisp and cool and you could see the steam floating off the geysers on the horizon. I think a lot of people were bummed because they couldn’t get a good look at the geysers through all the steam, but I thought it made for a perfect morning and some of my photos turned out really cool.

We drove down to the park’s south entrance and said goodbye to Yellowstone (until next time) — and hello to our next destination: Grand Teton National Park.

We planned on doing a short hike while in Grand Teton National Park, but it turned out that everyone in Wyoming was also planning on doing that exact hike so there was absolutely nowhere to park within a 5 mile radius. So we settled for driving through the park and walking around at two of the visitor’s centers.

Grand Teton, we will be back soon to do some hiking!

We finished off our trip with a delicious pizza lunch at a restaurant that used to be an old movie theater. Jackson, Wyoming was a really cute town and we contemplated walking around but we had a 5 hour drive to look forward to and it was really crowded, so we forged on.

It’s so hard to choose but I think Yellowstone is probably the coolest national park we’ve been to so far — and one we’ll definitely go back to again! We can’t wait to come back and spend more time in the Tetons as well. This was a fantastic way to wrap up our summer and we can’t wait to start sharing some of our fall & winter adventures with all of you!