Friday, April 18, 2014

Chocolate Overload in T minus Two Days

It's almost Easter weekend. In our house that means egg dying and lots of chocolate. We successfully colored a few eggs yesterday and Ben takes them out of the fridge every few hours to admire his handiwork. 

It reminds me of the time growing up that I was so enamored with one of my eggs that I refused to eat it, instead hiding it in a little box under my bed for a few weeks. 

Predictably, it went (very!) bad and my parents mounted a massive room search in order to find the source of the noxious smell. 

We'll see if Ben can bring himself to eat his little beauties. Just imagine Gollum petting his precioussss and you'll have a pretty good idea of Ben's level of attachment. 

We're having brunch and an egg hunt with the family on Sunday. I am actually really excited; I loved doing this stuff as a kid and it's neat to see Ben jazzed about it as well. He is anxiously awaiting the Easter bunny's arrival. :)

Have a great weekend, my dears!



How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight (for Toddlers and their parents)

There are only so many times a parent can read Hop on Pop before they go a little batty. Thus, we are always searching for new reading material in our house.

My toddler never does things in half measures: if he’s going to love something, he’ll love it wholly and completely. His favorite book? He’ll ask to read it seven times a day. And it must accompany him to bed.  This lasts for about two weeks. And then he’s ready to move on to a new favorite obsession.

We had a minor crisis the other day because he wasn’t quite done with the current crop of favorites and he didn’t understand why they had to go back to the library. “Well just buy them for me, mommy. I don’t want to send them back!”  Oh, child. We need to have a little talk about money.

He’s had a few stinker obsessions too. I’m kind of ready to be done with garbage trucks, for example. But dinosaurs? Never. Especially after my parents brought over the “How Do Dinosaurs...” series by Jane Yolen.

They are awesome. The verses are great (we’re always on board with rhyming books) but the illustrations, especially of the poor, bewildered parents, are pure gold.

When he hears, “Take a nap!”
does he give dirty looks?
When he’s told, “Quiet down!”
does he rip up his books?

No cookies today?
Fling a mug at the cat!

From How Do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad?

At the conclusion of each book, the dino works out his problems or decides it really is time for bed. Although, between you and me, I like the ‘mad, stubborn, and mischievous' parts best. Reminds me of my own little stinker.

He cleans up his mess, 
and he picks up the mug.

He says, I’m so sorry.”
He gives a big hug. 

His anger is gone,
so he opens the door.

Not mad? I’m so glad, 
little dinosaur. 

Here is an interview with the author on how the series came to be. 

As for Emma, we have a few favorites.

These two will never get old for me:

Time for Bed, by Mem Fox:

and the classic Going To Bed Book by the always-lovely Sandra Boynton.

What are your favorites, My Dears? Any recommendations? We’d love some suggestions.

xo ,


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Double Trouble

This week we hung out with some friends from an old preschool - ones we hadn’t seen in nine months.

They have our combination: a three year-old son and a new baby girl.

My Dears, you’ve never seen little boys that instantly clicked like these two. Ben was in heaven. Their kiddo is very much like ours: lots of energy, very verbal, and with a gleeful mischievous streak. It. was. awesome.

Watching them together, I thought: kismet. These two are perfectly matched.

It was fun to watch but also, and I’ll be truthful here, slightly nerve-wracking. These kids were on fire. You can do that?! I can do it too! And higher!  

You could practically see them rubbing their hands together, grinning gleefully at one another, and asking: “What glorious bit of mischief should we engage in now?!”

Shall we throw sand? YES!

Shall we egg each other on as we jump off high ledges? YES!

Shall we run through this couple’s romantic picnic down by the water? MOST DEFINITELY.

And for good measure, Ben fell in the lake. Twice.

Fortunately, with boys so similar, we’re both pretty good at baby wrangling. And we’re quick runners/retrievers. There is a sense of security that goes along with having another mother who is equally well-versed in high-energy toddler antics. And she probably won’t judge you near as much as that mama with the quiet little gal that plays so demurely with her dolly and is shooting horrified glances at your holy terror of a toddler.

Because she’s been there. She knows what these boys are like. And she loves her boy just like you love yours: fiercely, protectively, proudly, and (perhaps) with slight bemusement and mystification.

Later that night I saw this article [toddler found safe inside bowling alley arcade machine] and thought: Ah yes, there are many of us out there. We are not alone. 



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Toddler Outings

Ben and I did an adventure over to my parents’ yard a few weeks ago. I love their garden in the Spring; everything is fresh and new. Things are always popping up in unexpected places. We had a picnic (food being an essential part of any outing) and then sailed paper boats on the pond. 

The fish were not impressed by these new interlopers. We used this particular origami model (I also like the look of this one, too). 

Not surprisingly, the boats lasted about ten minutes before they started taking on water.  But it was long enough for a good race and we got to slip into our pirate lingo for a bit (always a plus for Ben).

Arggg! She be sinking, matey!

There are several ponds in the Seattle area that would make for a good pirate face-off. The best is probably the one at SLU: Lake Union Park (right next to the new MOHAI building). The Center for Wooden Boats rents wooden pond boats.

Also: Greenlake might be a good sailing place, particularly in the summer when you can wade in after them. The ponds at Meadowbrook would also work (although getting them back might be tough).



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Garden Shenanigans

We’ve been trying to make the most of this Spring-like weather and do a bit of work in the garden. At times, the ivy, blackberry, and laurel battles can seem a bit overwhelming but we’re making progress in a few select areas.

Ben’s pumpkins have sprouted. He lovingly drowns them every morning. They’re going to be hardy souls - if they survive their first few weeks of overwatering. 

The raspberry patch was an overgrown mess and I spent a few good hours last month tearing out all the bushes and tilling the soil. This would have been a project better suited to the Fall, when the plants were semi-dormant, but I was a pregnant mess then, with limited digging abilities. Hopefully I haven’t totally killed our summer harvest. Robbie helped me straighten it up and then I dug some holes for a new trellis. In the rain. Welcome to Spring in Seattle!

The first trellis was only five years old but the original 4x4s had completely rotten through. After a bit of research I decided to use the dreaded treated lumber, provided that we bury the ends in concrete.

The thinking is that the chemicals in the lumber won’t be able to leach into the soil, thanks to the concrete, although there still is the issue of run-off. A number of publications argue that treated lumber is acceptable for trellis for a variety of reasons, but mostly because arsenic (the really nasty component) isn’t particularly mobile, typically only moving an inch or two beyond the wood source. I hope they’re right.

 Chris and his dad poured a bit of concrete into the holes and voila! A trellis.

You can see the old trellis laying against the fence. Those posts used to be four feet tall, but were completely rotten from the ground surface down. 

Our raised beds are made of non-treated wood and, although only two years old, are showing signs of significant rot. A real bummer, since treated lumber is definitely a no-no for vegetable beds. 

This trellis has a improved design: it’s offset so that we can have a path along the fence, allowing the harvest to occur from both sides.

Let’s hope for a nice warm summer - the raspberries are my most favorite thing to harvest in the garden!



Sunday, April 13, 2014

Seattle Hikes: Paradise Valley Conservation Area

My Dears,

We tried a new little hike today in the Paradise Valley Conservation Area outside of Woodinville. From our house in North Seattle (zip code 98125) it was a 30 minute drive. Not bad.

It must be Spring; the trillium are blooming.

The key to keeping Ben moving? Snacks. Lots and lots of snacks. 

According to the Snohomish County website, this 793 acre park is home to the headwaters of the Bear Creek Watershed and is primarily composed of forests and wetland areas. It is also home to one of the most productive salmon streams in the Sammamish River System. The park is open to hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders.

Thanks to our 72 degree weather, this park was hopping. We got the last spot in the lot. Unlike Lord Hill Regional Park, this space was primarily dominated by mountain bikers, which made us a little leery, given the unpredictable nature of the smallest member of our group. 

There are trails that are hiker/horseback rider only, although you have to walk for a bit on the main  trail before reaching the specific-use trails.

Next time we might try to park at the southern end as it affords closer access to those non-biker trails. We’ll keep you posted. It’s definitely worth checking out. We’ll be back.

If You Go: Paradise Valley Conservation Area:

23210 Paradise Lake Road
Woodinville, WA 98072
Trail Map
Website: Here.
Cost: Free.

Tips: Porta potty at trailhead. 

Emma: Three Months

Three months. Our little girl is three months old.

I mentioned previously that I’m struggling with the fact that our Emma, our last child, is no longer a tiny babe. It’s bittersweet.

I’m more alert this time around and more cognizant that time is slipping away. I miss these early days, and they’re not even over yet. It’s a funny feeling. Like I’m mourning their passing as they go strolling on by, like drummers in a marching band.

On the mornings that Ben is in preschool I find myself holding her in my arms, long after she has fallen asleep; watching as she smiles and snorts, enjoying some dream that I can only guess at. Later, I bring her into our big bed and she kicks frantically, trying to scooch closer. I kiss her on the nose and she goes cross-eyed as she tries to focus in on my face. And when I tickle her belly she smiles and smiles, and does her little happy gurgle. Oh darling, to be your mother is a joy.

This is how you look at the world, with wide-eyed, happy wonder. Oh to be a child again.



Saturday, April 12, 2014

Seattle Activities: Urban Nature Fair


I hope you are in the middle of a great weekend. Last night Ben had a sleepover at his grandparent’s house so we celebrated with dinner out at Elliot Bay Brewhouse and a movie (The Butler - highly recommended). This morning we slept in until 7 am (!) and made a big breakfast, reminiscing about how relaxed life was prior to having kids.

I love ‘em... but I also miss the quiet and slow pace of life. It reminded me of this article:

Having a baby is like losing your leg and winning the lottery. Winning the lottery does not make it OK that you're without your leg, but it does give you enough of a distraction that you don't completely lose your mind. Yes, your leg is missing, but you're on a yacht. 

Later in the morning we went down to Magnuson Community Center for a little Caspar Babypants, Seattle’s most famous toddler balladeer, and the Urban Nature Fair.

Ben was in heaven: animals, toys, and tattoos.

Bunny in a snuggie. What a brilliant idea. This was part of the animal encounter exhibit. Also on hand: eagles, owls, falcons, reptiles, and a baby wallaby. The wallaby was riding around in a custom pouch worn by his caretaker. It was pretty darn cute.

Not surprisingly, my mom made a beeline for the insect display. Can you blame her? Take a look at these specimens:

Definitely something to add to the calendar for next year.



Foster Island Trail, Seattle

Seattle has some special urban parks and one of our very favorites is Foster Island and the adjacent Arboretum. Despite its close proximity to the 520 bridge, this little slice of marshy land is home to fish, turtles, frogs, and many species of birds.

We like to drive to the old MOHAI parking lot (also called the East Montlake Park) and start our walk from there. You can also approach from the Arboretum side and park in the dirt lot on East Foster Island Road.

This is definitely a fair weather hike and it always helps to come wearing your waterproof wellies, as the trail is soggy, even on the best of days. Major props to the kid that decided to improve the trail with several tons of bark for his eagle scout project - it’s significantly less muddy today than it was six month ago.

Foster Island is a great hike for kids due to the many bridges, docks, and wildlife viewing opportunities. It’s also a nice place to spot baby ducks in the late spring.

We like to bring a picnic and camp out on Foster Island proper; there are a few tables/benches, and plenty of grassy areas near the water. Boats passing through the Montlake Cut will zip by directly off the point. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a front row seat for Husky crew practices.

Our little bobble head baby. 

Ben, sitting in his ‘nest'

If You Go: Foster Island Hike

Distance: 1 mile, roundtrip
What to Bring: waterproof boots, lunch
Cost: Free

Tips: No restrooms on Foster Island. The condition of the trail depends on the amount of recent rain and the level of Lake Washington. 
Another way to access the area: renting a canoe from the UW Waterfront Activities Center (summer months only). Parking in the UW lot is free on Sundays.