You Know You’re From Seattle When…

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Jon and I were watching a movie recently that had a scene *supposedly* set in Seattle. Everything about it was so wrong, though, that it actually got me a bit worked up. How could they portray my city–and “my people”–in such a distorted light? I’ve lived in and around Seattle  my whole life, and I’ll be the first to admit that we Seattleites are a bit quirky. Living in a rain cloud is a unique experience and it makes for some interesting people. I am proud to be from Seattle–the real Seattle, not the one from the movies. You know that you’re from Seattle when:

  • You know at least 5 different ways to say”rain”.
  • “Barefoot” is an acceptable footwear option, even if there’s snow on the ground.
  • You own your own espresso machine and/or the baristas at your local coffee shop know you by name.
  • You don’t carry (or even own) an umbrella. Umbrellas are for amateurs.
  • You own 4 pairs of sunglasses yet you don’t know where a single one of them is.
  • You flock outside with the masses on the first sunny day in the spring that reaches above 60 degrees. You don your shorts/t-shirt/bikini and join the throngs of people swimming in frigid lakes and sunbathing in parks.
  • You sit in front of a SAD light every day in the winter.
  • You have seen fish flying at the market and have taken photos with the Fremont Troll. You’ve even licked the bubblegum wall.
  • You own a dog and treat him/her/them like your child/ren rather than as a pet.
  • You say things like “The mountain is out today” and “Look at those bright clouds! What a beautiful day!”.
  • You see nothing wrong with wearing socks under your sandals.
  • You check bridge and ferry reports along with your traffic reports.
  • You know that summer doesn’t begin until July 5th.
  • You know what a geoduck is (bonus points if you know the geoduck song or have actually eaten the creepy things).
  • You get a “snow day” off school because there’s a light dusting of snow on the grass.
  • You cry if there’s a light dusting of snow on the grass and you don’t get a snow day.
  • You have smoked marijuana in public. And it was legal. (Just for the record, I’ve never done this but it still weirds me out when I see other people doing it).
  • You commute to work on your bike in the rain/snow/sleet/hail.
  • You grow rhubarb in your back yard (or have a neighbor/friend/co-worker who brings it to you by the bagful in the summer).
  • You chastise people who don’t properly recycle or compost their waste.
  • You homebrew.
  • You know how to properly pronounce the place names “Puyallup”, “Sequim”, and “Des Moines”.
  • You think of rocks, not sand, when you think of beaches.
  • You say “pop” instead of “soda”.
  • You’ve cruised down Alki Beach in a convertible on a sunny day.
  • You pronounce the word “flag” as “flay-g”.
  • You’ve ridden on the monorail.
  • You call that major interstate that runs from California to Canada “I-5” (what the heck is “The 5”?)
  • You are accustomed to seeing at least 7 varieties of apples in your grocery store.
  • You’ve witnessed cars bouncing down an icy hill like they’re in a pinball machine.
  • You keep reusable grocery bags in your car. And you use them.

I really could keep going all day, but you get the picture. I love you, Seattle!

The Shape-Swat Game

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When I was teaching first grade I used to play  “the fly swatter game” with my students. It’s a great game that you can use to teach and reinforce basically any concept that you want your kids to learn. It’s a lot of fun, takes very little prep time or materials, and can be played for as short or as long a time as you have. You can adapt this game to work with kids as young as 2, but it’s also a lot of fun for older kids (I could even see playing a version of this game with high schoolers!).

IMG_0843To play, all you need is a fly swatter and some cards with your “learning concept” of the moment. For my 2 year old, I decided to focus on shapes and colors, but you could really use anything you want your kids to learn (see variations at the end of this post). My friend Krista told me about a website called mrprintables.com that has lots of fun, high quality free printables. I found some neat shape templates on the website and printed them off.

Then I just cut out the shapes for my “cards”.
*Note* If you want to be able to reuse your cards, glue your shapes onto cardstock or construction paper for some added durability.
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I used blue painter’s tape to tape the shapes up on the wall. Then I gave my little guy his flyswatter and showed him how to swat the shapes on the wall gently (which, in little boy speak, apparently means to strike repeatedly with all your force) .

When it was time to play, I started by saying a shape for him to find: “Find a triangle.” or “Find a square.” and he’d try to swat it. Then we played with colors: “Find a blue shape.” and “Find a yellow shape.”. Then we got really fancy. “Find a green square.”, “Find a round, red shape.” “Find something the same color as the sun.”

The fun thing about this game is that you can really make up whatever questions you want to to keep things interesting. When David would answer incorrectly or have trouble finding what I was asking for, I used it as a teachable moment to show him the correct answer and explain why it was correct. David was having so much fun playing that I doubt he even knew he was learning. Plus, he got to run around the room and hit Mommy’s wall on purpose–every little boys dream come true.

Here are a few variations of the game if you want to play at home with your little ones:

  • If you have 2 or more kids, have a race. Have both kids start at a designated spot with their fly swatters behind their backs. Then call out a card for them to find and have them race to see who can find it first.
  • Hide the cards around the room (but still make them visible without having to move anything) instead of just putting them on the wall. Make your kid run around to find the correct one.
  • Play with animal cards- say an animal’s name or sound and kids have to find the correct picture
  • Play with number cards- say a number or “what comes next: 1,2, __?” and kids have to find the numeral. For older kids, have them find the sum or solution to a math equation (3+2+? , 6-1+?, 3×2=?)
  • Play with letter cards- say a letter’s name or the sound it makes and kids have to find the correct letter. For older kids, you can use letter cards for spelling (find the last letter in the word “chair”).
  • Play with sight words (for ages 4 and up): put a different sight word on each card
  • Play with feelings (as long as you don’t hurt any–hehe!)- do a Google search for people making different faces (happy, sad, surprised, etc.) and print them off for your cards. Have your little one find the different emotions.

The possibilities are endless. Have fun playing with learning!

This Week’s Menu and My Recipe For Baked Potato Soup

This week we have a few extra outings planned during the day, so I’m sticking with  recipes I make all the time and that I know I can throw together really quickly. At the end of the post I’ve included my mom’s recipe for my mom’s Baked Potato Soup–I hope you love it as much as we do!

Sunday: Our sweet neighbors brought us over some spaghetti carbonara that we’ll eat tonight. I baked some chocolate chip cookies to fill their serving dish with before I return it.

Monday: Indian Curry and Naan

Tuesday: Community Group Potluck- I’m bringing the main course, Baked Potato Soup (recipe at the end of this post)

Wednesday: Orange Chicken and Rice

Thursday: 7-layer Casserole (Made from rice, ground beef, veggies, and tomato sauce)

Friday: Beer Brats and Balsamic Potatoes

Saturday: Roasted Pork Loin and Veggies

Mom’s Baked Potato Soup
I got this recipe from my mom, an excellent cook who never writes down her recipes. In fact, my copy of this recipe is hand-written on a scrap of paper and includes two helpful directions: cook, add this last. Good thing I’ve watched her make it a time or two! I love this soup because it can be made ahead of time and reheated in a Crockpot or on the stove for dinner on a busy night. I like serving this with cornbread. Enjoy!

baked potato soup
2 cans chicken broth, plus extra for thinning the soup (or use vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian dish)
1 medium onion, diced
4-5  medium baking potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1 can evaporated milk
salt and pepper to taste
instant mashed potatoes to thicken
*Optional stir-ins: cooked diced ham, frozen corn, shredded cheddar cheese
*Optional toppings: cooked crumbled bacon, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, diced chives or green onions

Put the broth, onion, potatoes, and celery in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are soft and starting to break apart, about 20 minutes. Add evaporated milk, salt and pepper. Thicken to desired consistency with instant mashed potatoes, or thin with extra broth. Add any stir-ins that you’d like. Serve and soup bowls, and top with desired toppings.

7 Healthy Habits For Families

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One of our favorite family past times: the monthly Seattle Adventure Run

A couple of weeks ago at Stroller Strides we were talking about healthy habits that we are trying to implement in our lives. There were so many great ideas, that I thought I’d write a post to share some of them with all of you.

1. Set the example for your kids: I’m really fortunate in this arena because my parents are some of the healthiest, most motivating and inspirational people I know. They have always set a wonderful example of healthy living for me and my sisters. Case in point: My mom got attacked by a dog last summer while she was out running. She broke her shoulder and had to get multiple surgeries on her arm. Three months later she was running a half marathon–with her arm in a sling for all 13.1 miles. Smiling and chatting with other runners the whole way. My dad’s favorite past-times include boogie boarding (yes, he still dons a wetsuit and goes out in the frigid Northwest Pacific Ocean), skim boarding and downhill skiing. They work hard, play hard, and eat well. I learned a lot of healthy habits from my parents, and I hope I can pass those along to my kids–kind of a “pay it forward” for our health.

2. Be Active With Your Kids: My boys are only 2 and 6 months now, so a lot of being active with me involves them riding along in the stroller while I run or walk or exercise. I secretly want to be like “Greenlake Mom”. If you’ve ever been to Seattle’s Greenlake, you know who I’m talking about. She’s the one out there running in the pouring rain with her double jogging stroller in one hand and the dog leash in the other hand while her 5 year old zips ahead on his bike. As the boys get older, I’m looking forward to spending time practicing sports with them, going for family bike rides, hiking, rock climbing, skating–whatever will get us moving and having fun together.

3. Keep bad food out of your house: If you know that you’re tempted to sneak a bite of ice cream every time you open the freezer, it’s probably best to just NOT keep ice cream in your freezer. We have lots of opportunities outside of our homes to eat unhealthy food (parties, dinners out, a quick snack from the vending machine when you’re out and about), so make your home a safe-haven.

4. Keep good food in your house: Replace those food traps with healthy options that you actually like eating. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a huge sweet tooth. I will literally sit down and eat a whole chocolate cake if I’m left un-checked. Seriously. Instead, I fill my fridge and pantry with healthy sweets: yogurt, fresh fruit, berries, raisins and fruit leather and even a bag of chocolate chips (I can eat a few chocolate chips for a chocolate craving and it will usually tide me over so I don’t feel like I need to go and bake myself a cake). That way when the craving hits, I can usually find a healthier option that will satisfy me.

5. Prepare your meals and eat as a family: I consider dinner time to be almost a sacred event. Even when Jon is crazy-busy with work, he makes an effort to be home and at the dinner table by 6:00 every single day. I cook almost all of the food we eat and I even have my toddler “help” in the kitchen. The whole family eats together, talks together, and gets to share a few moments of peace in our otherwise busy lives. Many days, this is the only time that everyone is awake and present in one place at the same time–I wouldn’t give up family meals for anything!

6. Get enough sleep: This is for you and for your little ones. Set a bedtime and come up with a bedtime routine that you do to unwind every single night. 6 AM always comes way too early, so do what you can to make it less terrible!

7. Limit screen time: Everyone knows that watching too much T.V.  or playing too many video games or spending too much time surfing the internet isn’t a great idea. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against any screen time for children under age 2. The importance of limiting screen time basically sets you up for a healthier lifestyle in two ways: (1) you aren’t sitting around watching T.V. all day and (2) you’ll have more time to be up doing other things.

The earlier you start incorporating healthy habits in to your life, the earlier your kids can start learning with you.  And, if you’re lucky, maybe your kids will even teach you a thing or two!

Now excuse me while I go watch The Biggest Loser with a brownie and a bowl of Doritos.

20 Things I Do That I Never Thought I Would Do (Now That I’m A Mom)

Motherhood has changed me, for better or worse! A lot has changed in my life since becoming a mom. For instance, before becoming a mom I never thought I would:

  1. photograph poop.
  2. share photos of poop with my friends and family.
  3. eat Mac and Cheese for lunch 5 straight days in a row.
  4. get dressed in the morning–almost EVERY morning–by changing out of black yoga pants (my P.J’s) into black yoga pants (my “outfit”).
  5. count a solo trip to the grocery store as “me time”.
  6. choose a restaurant based on the following criteria: noise level (the louder the better), food selection (chicken nuggets must be on the menu), and whether the high chairs have properly functioning restraint devices.
  7. own 57 balls (and counting…).
  8. actually look forward to dentist visits (one of the only times I get to be by myself, lay in a *relatively* comfy chair and zone out for an hour).
  9. get poop or spit-up on my clothes and debate whether it’s really worth changing my outfit.
  10. spend my few-and-far-between date nights talking about the very children I left just a moment ago.
  11. enjoy folding laundry–sometimes (baby clothes are so cute!).
  12. use plastic party cups to scoop poop out of the tub (in another life those held a nice, cold adult beverage).
  13. schedule my showers like I used to schedule hair appointments–phone calls and calendar entries required.
  14. get a song stuck in my head only to realize it’s the made-up tune played by the baby bouncer or the jumperoo.
  15. forget to shut the bathroom door when guests are in my house.
  16. let the dog lick of the baby’s face after a meal.
  17. wake up to the baby’s cries, get dressed for the day and walk out of my room only to realize that it’s 3 AM
  18. flash an innocent bystander when the baby suddenly rips the nursing cover off of his face.
  19. know every. single. word. in the “Birthday Party” episode of Blue’s Clues.

And, finally–

20. love two tiny people with a love so big that I would give my very life for them.
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Potty Training Bootcamp!

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TMI warning: bodily functions will be discussed in this post. If you are not a parent accustomed to daily conversations including the words “pee”, “poop” and “potty” you may want to stop reading now.

Last weekend we embarked on a new adventure as parents: potty training our first child! I’ve actually been wanting to start potty training David for a few months now but the timing just hasn’t been right with events and life changes happening in our family. At 27 months old, David is definitely ready for the potty, though. So, we decided to move forward with the potty and we’ll just deal with life as it happens.

We decided to do our own version of the 3-day potty training method, or as I fondly refer to it, potty training bootcamp. I didn’t ever read the official book on the 3-day method, but I got the gist of it from friends and from what I could find online. Basically, you stay home for 3 days and don’t leave the house. You give your toddler copious amounts of liquid so they have to pee a lot and you run them to the bathroom every few minutes to see if they can get anything in the toilet.

The idea is that after this intensive introduction to the potty, your toddler will start to understand how everything works. Then, for 3 months the trainee goes bare-bottomed at home and only wears loose pants out in public (no pull-ups or undies yet–they still feel too much like a diaper). Accidents are to be expected for awhile, but the kid should basically be staying dry by the end of the 3 month training period and you can make a big deal about going to a store to pick out some fancy new big kid underwear.

David actually took to the potty pretty well right from the get-go. Over Christmas we spent a lot of time with his “big cousin” Noah (who David idolizes and, consequently, who uses the potty like a champ). In fact, the first thing David said when we sat him on the potty was, “just like Noah pees!”.

We had a few  “misses” on the first day, and 5 “successes” (plus a poop in the tub–which David has NEVER done before–so I’m not sure if that counts as a miss or a success. Obviously he missed the target, but I count poop in the tub vs. on my couch a bit of a success…). On day 2, he had 2 “misses” back-to-back, then a success, then a poop on the floor of the bathroom after he got off the toilet because he “didn’t have to go yet”, followed by 3 more successes. On day 3 we started with 2 back-to-back “misses” and then a few successes, and then a couple more misses–day 3 was actually not as successful for D as day 1!

I was fortunate to have Jon home all weekend to help out (I don’t know how I would have done it alone, especially while taking care of Jacob!). Then, on Monday, my sister came up because she had the day off for MLK day (I didn’t plan this, but it worked out pretty great having a holiday weekend for the potty training).

Today is my first day going solo. We went to Stroller Strides this morning (our first time leaving the house since operation potty training began on Saturday). David had an accident on the floor of the gym right before class began, but we rushed to the toilet and he finished the deed in there. He also had another successful pee in the toilet before we left to drive home. Then, when we got home, he got his first #2 in the toilet! He’s definitely still learning, but I know that he’ll get it with enough time and patience.

If you’re ready to start your own potty training bootcamp with your toddler, you’ll need a few things to make everything run smoothly. Here are a few things helpful items you may want to have on hand:

Sanitation: Cleaning supplies for the misses (they will happen).

IMG_0826Entertainment: A nice selection of reading material for all the time you’ll be spending on the potty waiting for something to happen. I got this whole bag of books from our library, including several potty-themed classics such as “Everyone Poops”, “Even Firemen Go To The Potty” and (David’s favorite) “Where’s The Poop?”.

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Fashion: Some nice comfy clothes for wearing around the house. I love these leg warmers from Baby Legs since he has to be bare-bottomed for the next 3 months in the dead of winter. I decided not to have David model the outfit because he is bare-bottomed and this is a rated-G blog.

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Sustenance: This weekend we let David have as much juice as he wanted so we could get lots of practice peeing (a very special treat since he usually only gets milk or water). We kept a water bottle in the bathroom so he could sip as he sat on the potty–it seemed to get things flowing a bit better than just sitting and waiting for the urge.

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Reward: We decided to get David a special reward for poop in the potty. He loves balls and he loves candy–so I figured this was the perfect reward. He’ll get one chocolate ball for every poop he gets in the toilet.

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Just in case: I’m a bit nervous about how things will go once we leave the house, so I’m going to lay puppy training pads down in his car seat and stroller for awhile. It seems like it will be easier to toss one of these guys out than take apart his car seat to wash it if an accident should occur.

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The non-material necessity: Patience. This is what our bathroom looked like after day 2 (can you tell David enjoys the toilet paper?). Potty training is a big deal and it will take awhile for everything to click. For now, I’m aiming for learning, not perfection!

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*Update After 6 Weeks Of Potty Training*
We’ve officially been potty training for a month and a half now. David still goes bare-bottomed at home but, after a few eventful outings, I’ve started putting him in Pull-Ups when we leave the house for “just in case”. He does great using the potty when we’re at home (in fact, he’s only had 1 accident in the last 2 weeks) but he still doesn’t tell me when he needs to go if we’re out in public (and if he does tell me, it’s because he’s already peed in his pants). For a little peace of mind (for me) I decided that the Pull-Ups were necessary (I do feel a bit like I’m cheating, but I also have a 7 month old baby so I’m giving myself a little grace here. It’s already stressful enough leaving the house without worrying about possibly having to stop in the middle of the grocery store, leave a full cart of groceries, run to the bathroom, change David’s clothes, and finish the trip with even an ounce of sanity.).

Since David is so good about going using the potty at home now, I’ve learned that if my trips out of the house are less than 3 hours he’ll usually hold it until we get home anyway so he can use the potty he’s familiar with. He doesn’t like having “accidents” and he is proud of himself for learning to use the potty. He definitely prefers his little potty that’s on the ground to the potty seat on the big toilet–mostly because he can get on it without any assistance (even with a step-stool he can’t quite reach high enough to sit on the big potty by himself).

He’s also great about getting poops in the potty. After the initial day where he pooped in the tub, he figured out the whole #2 thing really quickly. We have not had a single #2 accident since that first week!

The next challenge will be at the end of our 3-month “bare-bottom time” when we move on to big boy undies. For now though, I’m confident that he’ll be ready for the transition when it comes.

DIY “Cloud Dough” For Kids

I found a recipe for “cloud dough” on Pinterest a few weeks ago and had been wanting to make it for David. Since we’ve been hanging out at home all weekend potty training, I thought it would be the perfect novel activity to help pass the time.

This afternoon while David was napping I whipped up a batch of the cloud dough. Basically, you just mix together 8 cups of flour with 1 cup of baby oil (I actually ended up using about 1 1/4 cup baby oil to get the consistency I was looking for, which was about 3/4 of the bottle). I just used the cheapest flour I could find in bulk and a generic brand of baby oil, for a grand total of $2.00 for all “ingredients”. I mixed my cloud dough with my hands in this old Lego Duplos bin that I’d been hanging on to for such a use as this (it’s nice and sturdy and has a good lid that snaps into place so I can use it to store my cloud dough after playing).

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When David woke up from his nap I told him that I’d made him a special surprise–and he loved it! We laid out a quilt on the floor and put some large baking sheets on top for our play surface. Then we used plastic cups to make towers (kind of like sand castles) and our hands to form balls. The cloud dough feels really neat–soft and moldable. It also smells really great because of the baby oil. It does not, however, taste very good (just ask David). David played for a good 45 minutes before he was ready to move on to a new activity–pretty good for a 2 year old who usually gives things about 2 minutes before his attention wears out!

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This worked alright as an indoor activity, but we did get pretty “dusty” and everyone ended up needing to change their clothes after play time. Since it’s just made of flour and baby oil, though, I’m sure it will clean up pretty easily. It would be great to make this stuff in the summer and just go wild outside in the yard. You could probably even have “cloud dough” fights instead of snow ball fights!