How To Halloween In 2019

IMG_7456

Halloween.

When I was a kid, Halloween was a day that I looked forward to every year. I mean, what other day could be more catered to children than a day you get to imagine you’re anything you want to be and every house you visit gives you free candy? One day of absolute kid heaven.

Growing up in the 80’s and early 90’s Halloween was exactly that: one day of kid heaven. We would decorate our house and carve pumpkins some time leading up to the big day, and we’d go through our dress-up box to pick out our costumes, but that was about it. There was not a lot of prep work or parental stress involved in the day (Other than, perhaps, the fact that my mom had to pick up a bag of Tootsie Pops when she was at the store buying herself Tab.). These were simpler times before Pinterest and Instagram and the mass-commercialization of just about everything.

Not so now. No, today in 2019 Halloween is a different beast altogether. If you have a child in 2019, your Halloween timeline probably looks something like this:

July 5, 2019
Begin your Halloween costume shopping at Costco. If you aren’t ready to make a costume commitment by the day after the 4th of July, you risk having your kid’s favorite character and/or size completely sold out by the time school starts in the fall.

August 2019
Begin the prep work for your Halloween decorations. You should pin ideas from Pinterest boards that will really make your house stand out on the block. You’ll need a couple of months to gather the supplies and craft your beach ball googly eyes (to hang in your trees) and life-size spiders made out of styrofoam and weather-resistant papier-mâché (to cover every facade of your house).

September 2019
Return the superhero costume you bought at Costco two months ago. Now that school has started your kid’s friends have introduced him to some new video game and he wants to be an obscure character from the Nether world. After a quick search on Amazon you find the newly-desired costume (for three times the price of the Costco one, thankyouverymuch). Thanks to Amazon Prime, the costume can be delivered tomorrow by a somewhat sketchy guy who will show up in your driveway in an unmarked car when you’re home alone.

October 2019
Visit at least one pumpkin patch each weekend during the month of October. These farms are only open for a short window of time, and you must get the requisite fun out of them while they’re available. Dig deep to smile when it costs over $100 to take your family to look at gourds in the mud. It will all be worth it, though, when you get photos of your children in a wheelbarrow full of pumpkins (#mylilpunkins) and eat your body weight in apple cider donuts.

October 5, 2019
Your daughter has decided to be a VSCO Girl for Halloween. You  have no idea what this is so you Google the term. Every search result is just a photo of you and your friends in middle school. Thank goodness Amazon Prime also delivers hair scrunchies and Fjallraven-Kanken backpacks.

October 12, 2019
Go shopping for trick-or-treat supplies before the stores replace all of the Halloween candy with candy canes and gingerbread houses. Buy enough candy to fill the entire trunk of your car–you don’t want to be that house that runs out of candy halfway through the big night. Make sure your chocolates are fair trade and your gummies are organic and dye-free. Also buy allergy-free trinkets for your teal pumpkin and teen-appropriate gifts for the teens who may or may not come to your house because they still want to enjoy a bit more of their childhood (aka free candy).

October 19, 2019 
Pumpkin carving! Spend a few hours researching pumpkin designs online. Print off your desired templates and affix to your pumpkin. Break out your specialized carving kit containing intricate tools of the trade. Also make sure your Dremel Tool is available for additional artistic edge. Sharpies and steak knives are so 1993.

October 26, 2019
Attend the Fall Family Festival at your husband’s work. Marvel at how quickly your children can consume an entire plastic pumpkin’s worth of candy on the car ride home.

October 27, 2019
Attend your community trunk-or-treat Halloween pre-funk. Your children now have approximately 50 pounds of candy each, and we’re still half a week away from the main event.

October 28, 2019
Open up your NextDoor app so you can plot the best trick or treating route. Luckily there is a special Halloween feature where your neighbors have already indicated with icons whether they will be offering trick-or-treat incentives such as full size candy bars, a haunted house, or booze for the parents.

October 30, 2019
Your son rips his costume in half because he’s been wearing it non-stop since he got it over a month ago. Stay up until 2 am sewing the pieces back together.

October 31, 2019
Halloween Day!
Wake up at 5:30AM so you can make your traditional pumpkin pancakes and hot chocolate breakfast.
Get your kids dressed in their costumes so you can take pictures before school and post them to your social media accounts.
Arrive at school 30 minutes early so you can help decorate the classroom for the Halloween party.
Rush home after school starts so you can change into your costume (no weapons or masks) and get back to school in time for the party.
Drop off your toddler with your neighbor’s mother because all of your friends who usually help watch your kids are also at school for the Halloween party.
Get to school just in time for the first party. Enjoy watching first graders decorate “cookies” covered in an entire jar of frosting and bajillions of sprinkles.
As soon as the first class party is done, rush across the hall to your other kid’s party. Marvel at how many video game characters from the Nether world exist in the third grade.
After the party, rush home and pick up your toddler from the sitter so you can rush back to school to pick up the older kids after school.
Get home from school and try to force feed your children something with nutritional content before the next deluge of sugar.
Double check that your flashlights have working batteries. Realize that none of your flashlights have working batteries, so call your husband and have him pick up some extra batteries on his way home from work (which is taking approximately 4 hours anyway, because every other parent is also rushing home from work right now).
Attempt to bundle up your children for trick-or-treating because you live in Washington which means the weather on Halloween will either be A) cold, dark and rainy or B) freaking freezing cold (This was also the case in Washington during the late-80’s. Some things just never change.). Your children will have none of this bundling up business because the coats you’re asking them to wear cover up important details of their costumes. They say things like, “Dragons don’t wear rain coats.” and “Elsa doesn’t get cold because of her magical powers.” and “Kung Fu masters don’t wear shoes.” 100% of your children reject 100% of the weather protection you offer. May the odds be ever in their favor.
Spend the next 1-2 hours wandering your neighborhood in the dark while your children complain that their candy bags are too heavy and they are too cold.
Get home from trick-or-treating and allow your children to empty their candy loot and indulge in their every gluttonous tendency.
Finally wrangle the over-tired, over-sugared children to bed an hour past bedtime.
Print off a certificate of achievement for yourself because you have survived Halloween 2019.

Happy Halloween, friends! May it be a day you’ll always remember.

Halfway There

Birth and Coming Home 530

This weekend we are reaching a new milestone in our parenting journey: the halfway point. On Sunday our oldest son, David, will turn 9 years old which means he will be halfway to the age of 18…which means that he will officially be halfway to adulthood.

Mic drop.

Somehow I blinked and nine years flew by. I swear to you it was just yesterday that I was sitting on my living room couch at 42 weeks pregnant with David, re-reading my worn out copy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting and writing out my (extremely detailed) birth plan. I felt very ready, and very in control (Aren’t new mothers precious?!).

But then David was born. I realized very quickly how very unready and utterly not in control I actually was. Literally nothing about his birth went according to my plan, and I was introduced to perhaps the most important first lesson of parenting: Letting Go.

As parents we are continually forced to let go–to let go of our own plans for our children, to let go of the life we think they should live, to let go of our own control so that they can become who they were meant to be. In this way, I think children are the ultimate tools of sanctification. Every time I see how little I control in my kids’ lives, I am reminded that God ultimately has a unique plan for each of us–and the quicker I can get out of the way and trust Him, the better.

Because what an amazing plan He has!

I look at David and I can see the beginnings of this plan in new ways every day. For instance, when I see David’s intense knowledge of Pokémon I wonder at how his singular focus and depth of knowledge will serve him in his future career. When I see his friends who are kind and silly and spunky just like him, I have hope for the types of relationships he will build throughout his life. When I see him stick up for a child that is getting picked on, I have confidence that he will be an ally as he gets older. When I see his perpetually messy-like-a-hurricane-just-passed-through-it room, I just pray for a wife for him who is blind to messes and/or the most patient woman in the world.

This halfway point is a strange place to be in. To me, it feels like we’re still just getting started. We’re still figuring it out, one learned lesson after another. In fact, if these 18 years of child-rearing were a single hill of a roller coaster, right now I’m still ker-plunking our way to the top of the initial summit. The days are long *ker-plunk*, the days are long *ker-plunk*, the days are long *ker-plunk*.

But now, at 9 years in, I’m at the crest of the hill. I can see what lies ahead, and it looks like it’s going to be a wild ride!

And just like the roller coaster, I have a feeling that these next nine years are going to fly by much faster than the first nine. The distances, as far as time is concerned, are equal. But I know better than to trust something as fleeting as time.

I am quite certain that I will blink again and we’ll be at the bottom of the roller coaster hill. I fully anticipate that these next nine years will evaporate before my very eyes. The downhill rush of the next nine years will probably bring our biggest joys and our biggest challenges–which is both thrilling and terrifying. But I’m ready for it, because we’ve got a good driver (the best, in fact).

In the end, I’m just a passenger. I’m along for the ride, not driving this crazy train. I can buckle us all in and hold on tight, but we’re going down the hill no matter what I do. So, from now until the ride comes to a complete stop, I’m going to trust the One who’s driving us. I know that this will require me to let go–but isn’t the roller coaster more thrilling when you release the bar and throw your hands in the air?

Now that we’re here at the crest of the hill–halfway there–I look forward to what is to come. The future is promising, and I can’t wait to go on this ride with my favorite nine year old in the world.

Happy birthday, David!

 

 

Someone I Love

Image result for adhd love

I have wanted to write this post for over a year now, but the timing hasn’t been right. It has taken me this much time to start to wrap my mind around this subject and come to terms with what it means for me and my family. Time is a wonderful gift, though, and I do feel ready to share–the time is right, right now.

You see, October is ADHD Awareness month, and someone I love has ADHD.

That person is my 8-year old son David and, with his permission, I’d like to share a bit of his story.

For years now David has struggled in certain areas but we were never sure if the behaviors we noticed were a result of his immaturity (he was young!) or his lack of foundation (the poor kid was only 7 years old and had already lived in 6 different houses and been to 5 different schools!)…or something else. After years of suspecting and noticing and wondering, however, we finally decided to get some answers.

In the spring of David’s 1st grade year we went to our pediatrician and ran a number of tests. And, although the result was exactly what I had suspected all along, I was still caught off guard: my son has ADD.

As soon as the doctor gave me the official diagnosis I felt all of the emotions that I’d been holding on to for so long, and I felt them all at once. I felt relieved to finally have an explanation and an answer and a way to plan for the future. I felt nervous for how I would explain this to my son and how others would see him now that he had a “label”. I felt loss for the old normal and worried about what the new normal would look like for us. I felt overwhelmed by the choices Jon and I would now have to make on our son’s behalf. I felt guilty because I’m his mom and I can’t help but feel guilty any time everything isn’t perfect or going the way I’ve decided it’s supposed to go.

That night when Jon got home from work we sat down with David after we’d put his younger siblings to bed and took a moment to try and explain what had happened at the doctor’s office that day. We explained to David that he had something called ADD. We went on to explain that ADD is something he was born with, and that it makes some things more challenging for him. His brain is like a race car–it loves to go fast, but it has a hard time putting on the brakes.  How exciting, and also how difficult! We told him that there are some things that he can not control, and that it isn’t his fault. And then we told him the most important part: his ADD is not bad or wrong, it’s simply something that makes him unique in this big ‘ol world. It was not an accident that his brain was wired in this way.

God knew from the beginning of time that David would have ADD. For God, this was not a detour, but part of the original plan. And because He knew this, he already put the pieces into place to keep us steady on the (new) road that we now find ourselves on.

God knew that while some areas would be difficult for David, he gifted David immeasurably in other areas. God knew that David would have a mom who was a teacher, someone who knew all of the ropes when it came to setting up educational supports and accommodations in the classroom. God knew that David would have a dedicated dad who would spend his free time working on special projects with him that piqued his unique interests. God knew that David would have  patient and generous siblings to share life with. God knew that David would need smaller classes and more one-on-one help, so He always put David in these exact classes every year and at every school he’s ever been at (and that’s a lot of schools!).

In addition to preparing our family, God prepared David for this journey by giving him unique talents and abilities that are fueled by his “race car brain”. He is passionate and able to develop a depth of knowledge for his passions unlike anyone else I’ve ever met (Just quiz him about Pokémon stats, and you’ll know what I mean!). He is resilient and able to brush off what others might think in favor of simply doing what he feels is right. He is willing to take risks and test boundaries when others would simply give up. He provides a different perspective to every situation and helps others to see the world in new and fascinating ways. He is fiercely loyal has an incredible sense of justice–he will fight for those he loves with every ounce of his soul. He is amazing, he is special, he is exactly who he is supposed to be.

The road on our new adventure with ADD has not always been smooth, but we take comfort in knowing that it is the road we are supposed to be on.  We can go forward in confidence knowing that the same God who has carried us this far will continue to be with us wherever we go. And, so, forward we will go–not alone, but together.

10 Things That Are Saving My Life Right Now

Image result for life ring in waterEvery week I listen to one of my favorite podcasts (Sidenote: podcasts are one of the greatest inventions ever. Especially if you’re a stay at home mom who usually only hears other adults speaking between the hours of 5-9PM.). Each episode in the current series ends with the host asking that week’s guest a single question:

What is saving your life right now?

The guests answer’s range from the mundane to the profound, but it’s always interesting to hear what people consider significant. I’ve been thinking a lot about that question myself, but I can’t come up with a single answer. So instead, I’ll give you my list of 10 things that (really and truly) are saving my life right now:

  1. Preschool
    This year I have entered a new phase of my life, a phase that I have been greatly anticipating for quite some time now: The “All My Kids Are In School” Phase. With my youngest child entering preschool, we have ushered in a new era of Mommy-Freedom.  For any of you with multiple children–really, for any of you with any children–you understand the significance of this phase. Because not only are my children’s lives being enriched every day with education, but I get a break. Can I get a Halleluja?! Granted, by the time I drop all of my offspring off at their respective schools my “break” comes to a total of only about 3 hours per week. But 3 hours is 3 hours, and I’ll take it.
  2. My Stroller
    Over the course of the past 9 years since we’ve been toting around our babies, we’ve gone through approximately 597 bajillion strollers. We’ve had umbrella strollers and double strollers and snap-n-go strollers, and jogging strollers. So. Many. Strollers. So last spring when my trusty BOB started falling apart (Literally. Bolts and screws would fly off every time I opened the thing up.) I seriously debated just getting rid of strollers for good. My husband in his ever-present wisdom, however, convinced me to get one more stroller to pull us through to the finish line of toddler-hood. I reluctantly bought yet another stroller…and, boy, am I glad that I did. Every single afternoon I toss Hannah into that stroller with a snack (and, let’s be honest, her favorite “baby show” to watch on my phone) and I go out for a walk/jog/whatever. In this way, my stroller offers me freedom and, literally, a breath of fresh air.
  3. No
    This has already been an interesting school year for our family, and we’re only a few weeks into it. Some of the changes in our schedule and commitments have meant that I have to say no quite often. Sometimes I have to say no to really good things or things that I really want to do. But I’m learning to embrace that “no” is an acceptable answer. No allows me to keep my sanity, to be there for my family, and to focus on what is most important for me right now.
  4. Yoga Pants
    I made a decision quite some time ago that my comfort trumps fashion. As a result, I have relieved my wardrobe of pants with confining buttons and zippers. After all, what am I doing in my life that is so important that I can’t bring yoga pants along for the ride? Dropping the kids off at school: yoga pants. Taking my favorite stroller out for a walk: yoga pants. Steamy date night: yoga pants with a dress on top. I am yet to find a solution to life’s woes that is more appropriate than simply replacing jeans with yoga pants.
  5. Waterproof Cast Cover
    As I wrote about here, my 7-year old son broke his arm a few weeks ago. Beyond the physical limitations of having a broken arm and a ginormous cast, there are some very real emotional issues we have come across. For poor little Jacob, one of the biggest hurdles he’s had to face is not being able to take a shower with his cast. This kid loves his showers more than anyone I’ve ever met, and it was crushing his soul to know that he couldn’t take a shower for approximately 1/80th of his life. I was sharing this heartbreak with a friend recently and she told me about a waterproof cast cover that she’s used with her sons when they’ve broken their arms. Being the loving mother that I am, I went on Amazon that very moment and ordered the cast cover. Two days later (Thank you Amazon Prime!) Jacob was back to taking his beloved showers and our life has blessedly resumed a sense of peace.
  6. My Minivan
    I’m not gonna lie, I love my minivan. Like, really, really love it. Sure, it’s not the coolest car on the road, but it appeals to my practicality like no other object in my life. At the push of a button I can open or close doors and windows. There’s enough floor space to conceal 3.8 bags of crushed goldfish crackers. There’s room in the trunk for a load of groceries, soccer gear, and the family dog–all at the same time. There’s a built-in child-quieting device (Some refer to it as a DVD player, but I choose to think of it as my rescue inhaler). God bless the designers who took my motto of comfort over fashion and applied it to the automotive industry.
  7. Barry’s Tea
    I got turned on to Barry’s tea when we were living in Ireland, and now I’m officially addicted. My day does not officially begin until I’ve had my cup of tea, and you probably don’t want to know what I’m like until that happens. Let’s just say that if you ever find me lying unconscious in my living room, the likely solution is an IV of Barry’s tea.
  8. Freedom From Nap Jail
    This summer Hannah (my youngest) officially gave up naps. When my children were younger I loved the break I would get if I could (miraculously) get them all to nap at the same time. As they got older, however, nap time became nap jail. I was forced to stop whatever activity we were doing and rush home for nap time, then wake up a cranky toddler so we could rush off to whatever other thing we had to do. Now that all of my children are officially done with daytime naps I have been released from nap jail, and it’s kind of amazing. I can stay places for longer than 2 hours in the morning, I can relax if there’s traffic because I know my toddler won’t fall asleep in their car seat and have to be unsuccessfully transferred, and I can plan activities that have a start time after 12:00PM. Buh-bye, nap jail, and hello all-day freedom!
  9. Miss Veronica
    I have a housecleaner, and she is one of the most important people in my life. Miss Veronica comes to my house once a month and I am not joking when I say that the day she comes is my very favorite day of every month. When Miss Veronica comes she re-sets the physical space in my home which, in turn, re-sets my mental space. The fact that I can see through my smudge-free windows again and rest in the knowledge that dust bunnies are no longer inhabiting every corner of my home gives me an absolute sense of relief. For one day out of every month I can walk into a clean house and know that all is right in my little world. And that is worth everything.
  10. Grace
    Over the last few months I have been learning the importance of grace. Grace for myself, and grace for others. Sometimes this looks like admitting I was wrong or that I stepped out of line. Sometimes it looks like pushing homework out until tomorrow morning because the kid is just too dang tired to put forward any more mental effort today. Sometimes it looks like stopping to hold a screaming toddler instead of screaming with her. Sometimes it looks like letting the laundry pile up so I can go for a walk on a sunny day. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

And now it’s your turn–what is saving your life right now?

Breaking Point

IMG_6366

Today concludes our first full week of school. While usually this is a time of returning to routines and settling in, this year has been anything but that. Instead of getting “back in the swing of things”, an actual swing has thrown our family off course in ways that I never knew a piece of playground equipment could.

As many of you already know, we had a little incident after the second day of school. It turns out that even when your mom repeatedly tells you “Quit jumping off _____(the top stair, the 2-story deck, the swing that is 12 feet in the air)”, sometimes you just have to test those limits yourself. Especially when you’re a 7-year old boy whose favorite sports include Parkour and Ninja Warriors.

On this particular night, the kids were playing in our backyard while I finished cooking dinner. Right as I was pulling food out of the oven David came running into the house crying because he had jumped off the swing and hurt his hand.

Put down the food.

Turn off the oven.

Comfort the crying child.

Get ice on the hurting hand.

Not 2 minutes later I hear another (this time, blood-curdling) scream coming from outside. This time it’s Jacob. He came running in the house saying that, you guessed it, he hurt his hand jumping off the swing.

Comfort the crying child.

Get ice on the hurting hand.

Realize immediately that this is more than a bump-and-bruise situation.

Now, I’m no medical expert, but I could tell this was bad. Really bad. Jacob was screaming any time I so much as touched his hand or arm, and he said it was hard to move his fingers. Uh-oh.

I called Jon at work and he advised me to forget about dinner (Yet another reason why I should just stop cooking dinner every night) and get Jacob right in to the hospital. So, I made Jacob a state-of-the-art splint out of an Amazon box and an Ace bandage, loaded three hungry children into the car (two of whom are still crying about their hurt hands), and drove the route I had memorized on the first day we moved into our house to the Emergency Room (Because with three active children I knew it would be a matter of when I would need to drive there, not if I would ever have to go).

Jon drove from work straight to the hospital and met us at the ER drop-off door, so it was simply a matter of rolling up in the minivan, sliding open the passenger door, and shuffling Jacob (along with his car seat and a backpack full of electronic devices and snacks) out the door to his waiting dad. Uber couldn’t have done it better.

After I dropped off Jacob at the hospital I headed home with the other kids, and that’s when it hit me: Mom Guilt. Rationally I know that there’s nothing I could have done to keep him from getting hurt, but what if there was? And now he’s hurt and there’s nothing I can do to help him feel better. And this is going to be a long haul, and how will we make it through? And what if the x-ray gives him radiation poisoning? And what if he gets cold in the ER because he’s only wearing shorts? And what if…

So that was a fun night.

As I went through the motions of feeding the other kids dinner, putting them to bed, going through school bags, and pacing the floor, I kept getting text updates from Jon. Finally, at about 2 hours past bedtime, we got the news that I was hoping and praying we wouldn’t get: Jacob had a non-displaced fracture of his radius or, as normal people like to say, he broke his arm.

The ER patched him up in a temporary arm cast and sent him home with a prescription for Children’s Tylenol (Seriously, that’s the best pain meds we can give to kids with a broken appendage?!) and advice to rest. I think Jacob got some sleep that night, but I’m pretty sure neither Jon nor I got a wink.

The next morning (a Friday, exactly a week ago today), Jacob woke up chipper and excited to go to school. I tried to convince him to stay home and rest, but he was insistent that he wanted to go because he didn’t want to miss anything (Oh, the enthusiasm of the first week of school!). So, he went to school and I hovered in the school parking lot most of the day.

Since then we’ve gone back to get Jacob’s official cast: a full-arm, up-to-his-shoulder, bright-red, no-nonsense, super cast. Jacob has an awesome Orthopedic doctor at Children’s Hospital–not only does he work with my sister (she’s a pediatric Physical Therapist there), but he also  has a child in kindergarten at the boys’ elementary school AND is a former collegiate wrestler (Jacob was getting tips for taking down his brother…for after he has use of both upper extremities, of course).

553153E7-4B01-4EDA-AF63-67F170B24EB0 2

Now we’re looking at 4-6 weeks in the super-cast, and then another 6-8 weeks in a below-elbow cast after that. During this time he has to avoid all: balls, wheels, swings (ha!), slides, trampolines, water, climbing, jumping, and running…so basically everything he enjoys. And for the kicker, the broken arm is his dominant hand so he gets to learn how to do everything with a hand that he’s rarely used before.

Everything from putting on shoes to writing his name takes a ton of extra effort and energy, so it’s been an interesting learning curve. He’s tired and frustrated. He feels left out because he can’t play with his friends how he used to. He gets pain in the middle of the day and I have to drop everything and run to the school to give him Tylenol. He’s sad because he missed his first soccer game (And, at this point, will likely miss every other game this season). He can’t wear his coat because it won’t fit over his cast. His arm itches and he just has to deal with it. He, whose favorite past time is taking a long, hot shower until the hot water runs out, is not even allowed to take a shower. It’s a big bummer, no way around it.

And of course I, the mother, feel utterly helpless. I want to make it all better. I want my son to feel successful, not stuck. I want to take away his pain. I want to rewind to last Thursday and call him in to dinner five minutes earlier so this whole thing never happened.

But I can’t.

And maybe I should’t.

Suffering–terrible and unwanted as it is–is an assured part of life. Nobody, not one of us, is immune to suffering. Whether it be an all-consuming aspect of our lives or a relatively temporary inconvenience (Hello, broken arm!), suffering is a guaranteed part of the human story.

Suffering is so much a part of the human story that Jesus himself, God as human, suffered. Obediently, willingly, perfectly suffering:

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Hebrews 2:9-10

God redeemed all of humankind through suffering.

When we are at our breaking point, we are made perfect through our sufferings.

I don’t know how Jacob or our family will be made perfect through this ordeal, but I do know that we will be forever changed. How we view this change is up to us.

We will be made stronger because of the support we offer to one another.

We will be more attentive because we are made aware of the attention that needs to be given.

We will be more knowledgable because we are learning together.

We will be more resilient because, as always, we will make it through this. Together. Stronger. More perfectly like Him.

Imperfectly perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What To See and Do With Kids: San Francisco

Moving on to part 2 of this little travel series (If you missed part one’s adventure to Portland, check it out here!).  Today’s location is one that is near and dear to my heart: San Francisco, California. I’ve spent a total of 5 out of the last 10 years living in the San Francisco Bay area–2 years while Jon was in grad school (when our only child had fur and four legs), and then a few years later when we returned for another 3-year stint with our kids.

While we never lived in San Francisco proper, we did spend enough time in The City to discover some special kid-friendly spots (which is really saying something considering I don’t think any actual children live in San Francisco any more). Read on for a few of our favorites!

DISCLAIMER: All tips and tricks are based on my limited and biased perspective. I am the self-proclaimed expert here because I have actually been to these places with actual children and have survived to tell the tale. I always love hearing from other experts, though, so if you have your own tips, tricks, or favorite insights to share please leave a comment at the end of the post!

San Francisco, California
17799356_10102172962692400_4700821454525289366_n

Where To Stay:
Since we were day-trippers into the city I  don’t have much solid advice for you on this subject. I will note a few tips, however, if you’re trying to find lodging in San Francisco:

  • Parking in The City is scarce and very expensive, so try to stay near a public transportation line such as Muni (the city’s bus and metro system), the cable car lines or, if you plan on exploring areas outside of the city, the BART (commuter train).
  • Try to find lodging in the city center.
  • San Francisco real estate is *ahem* quite pricey which drives up the hotel rates–consider renting through a vacation rental company such as Airbnb or VRBO.

What To Do:
Before I get into this I need to say one very important thing about visiting San Francisco: it’s cold. You may think that it’s warm because it’s in that land of eternal sunshine called California, but San Francisco is a land unto itself. A cold land. Do yourself (and your kids…and your sanity…) a favor and pack along some warm layers and a rain coat. You’re welcome.

Moving along to more exciting matters now…

My very-favorite kid spot in San Francisco, and one that I made a point of visiting frequently when we lived in the area, is Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM). BADM is located across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco in the seaside town of Sausalito–which means the first part of your adventure to BADM involves a trip across one of the most famous pieces of architecture in the world.

Take some extra time to explore the bridge before or after you visit the museum–you can either pull over on the San Francisco side right before you get to the bridge (there’s a fun little gift shop and visitor center here), or cross over the bridge and drive up to the Marin Headlands for a birds-eye view of The Golden Gate.

Once you get to BADM park in the large fields out front and enjoy your day exploring the indoor exhibits (they’re all set up inside former army barracks) or take a trek outside to hike on the nature trails and play on the giant pirate ship play structure.

Once you get back into San Francisco, spend some time exploring Golden Gate Park. This giant park in the middle of the city is full of trails to explore, ponds to paddle on, and museums that pique every interest.

My favorite kid-friendly museum in Golden Gate Park is the California Academy of Sciences. The museum itself is breathtaking with a grass-covered roof and an indoor 4-story rainforest where you can climb through every layer of the rainforest. The museum also has natural history exhibits (DINOSAURS!!) and an aquarium. There are plenty of hands-on activities to keep little hands and minds occupied.

Another must-do when you’re in San Francisco is a trolley ride. I like to hop on the Powell-Hyde trolley at the Powell stop downtown. Get off the trolley at the top of Lombard Street where you get a great view of the “twistiest street in the world” (It’s not actually THE twistiest street in the world, but it’s definitely in the running for that honor and a visit there makes for some great photo-ops and entertaining tourist-watching).

After you’ve gotten your fill of watching cars try to navigate the zig-zags on Lombard Street, hop back on your trolley and continue down to the other end of the line at Hyde. You’ll get off near Ghiradelli Square, so take a brief detour to get some chocolate or ice cream sundaes at the Ghiradelli Chocolate cafe (Or, if you need an afternoon pick-me-up, an Irish Coffee at The Buena Vista next door).

While you’re in the area, visit Fisherman’s Wharf to watch the sea lions on the docks or take a boat ride through The Bay. And speaking of boats, this is also where you can catch a boat out to one of the most infamous (former) prisons in the world: Alcatraz. If you plan on visiting Alcatraz, definitely try to buy your tickets in advance–this is a popular destination and tickets sell out quickly during tourist season (Which, as far as I can tell, lasts from approximately January 1 – December 31 each year.).

If your kids enjoy animals (What kids don’t like animals?!) head over to the San Francisco Zoo. The zoo is a good sized with all of the expected animals (the giraffes even have a view of the ocean from their enclosure). There’s also an indoor rain forest exhibit, a train you can ride through the park, and an epic playground where your kids can let out their inner monkey. After you’ve seen all of the animals, head down the road for a little play time at Ocean Beach so your baby can eat sand and you can dip your toes in the Pacific.

What To Eat:
San Francisco is a melting pot of people and cultures, so I would recommend treating your dining experience as a trip around the world. You can visit Chinatown for dim sum (Do yourself a favor and head straight for the oldest–and best–restaurant in Chinatown: Sam Wo); Little Italy for pasta or 40-clove Garlic Chicken at The Stinking Rose; the Mission District for authentic Mexican food at La Taqueria; or Ethiopian food at Tadu in SOMA.

The Farmer’s Markets are also amazing and most of them operate year-round–check the current offerings by day or neighborhood here. While you’re at the market, grab some goodies that you can pack along for a picnic by the beach–maybe you can nibble your organic veggies and vegan cheese while you watch your children frolic in the waves.

Pure. Bliss.

I know that this just scratches the surface, so now it’s your turn! What are your favorite things to see and do with kids in San Francisco?

 

What To See And Do With Kids: Portland

Hello, friends! It’s been awhile. Between months of terrible weather (Hello, winter in Seattle.) and me endlessly trying to escape it, I haven’t made much time for writing lately. Spring is finally here, though–and with no more snow to shovel, I have a renewed desire to get back to writing. So let’s get this party started, shall we?!

I just mentioned that I spent most of the past few months trying to escape the winter weather, and I wasn’t kidding. In the last 5 months I’ve been to Hawaii, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and Portland…and those are just the destinations that took more than 1 tank of gas to reach. Now that I’m settling down from my winter wanderings I’ve had some time to reflect–about what I enjoyed about each destination and how I might travel differently next time.

So an idea was born: a blog series about what to see and do in some of my favorite family-friendly travel destinations. Over the next few weeks I’m going to write posts about different locations that I’ve visited with my kids and a few insider tips in case you decide to escape reality with your own brood. First on the docket: Portland, Oregon.

DISCLAIMER: All tips and tricks are based on my limited and biased perspective. I am the self-proclaimed expert here because I have actually been to these places with actual children and have survived to tell the tale. I always love hearing from other experts, though, so if you have your own tips, tricks, or favorite insights to share please leave a comment at the end of the post!

57070969_10103148542836970_5279328020186791936_n

PORTLAND, OREGON
Over my kids’ spring break last week I took them on a little road trip. We visited my grandma in southern Washington and then went on to Portland, Oregon. I’d been to Portland several times before, but this was my first visit brining my kids. We had a great time and we’ll definitely be back again!

WHERE TO STAY:
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in downtown Portland. My priorities for finding this hotel were: 1) Close to all the action downtown 2) Indoor swimming pool and jacuzzi (Because why would you ever stay at a hotel with kids and NOT have a pool???) 3) Not a totally terrible place (remember, I was by myself with 3 kids).
This place checked off everything on my wish list and then some.

Pros: Reasonably priced, free parking (most of the hotels downtown charge around $30/night for parking), free breakfast (Including fresh Cinnabon cinnamon rolls–double bonus!), clean rooms, friendly staff, property is adjacent to two coffee shops and a Jack-in-the-box (I just feel like this is important to mention.), and it has an indoor pool and jacuzzi. The pool was heated to tropical ocean temperatures, which meant we could spend 2 hours swimming off our drive and nobody ever complained about being too cold.

Cons: Not within walking distance of most downtown attractions (I’m looking at you, donuts.), very confusing freeway situation getting to the hotel…but I think that’s Portland’s fault and not the hotel’s.

WHAT TO DO:
OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry): This is a must-do if you travel to Portland with kids. It’s part science museum, part IMAX movie theater mecca (I think they had a dozen different movies showing the day we were there!), part submarine experience (You can go on a real submarine that is submerged in a real river and go on a tour led by a real Navy captain. True story.), and part foodie destination (Seriously–OMSI has the best museum cafe I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a LOT of museum cafes!). Plan on spending a whole day here.

Powell’s City of Books: I don’t even know where to start with Powell’s. When they say that they are a “city of books” that’s not just them trying to be cute. It is literally a city of books. Well, an entire city block, anyway. Powell’s book store fills an entire city block and is something like 25 million stories tall (At least it feels that way when you are in the lowest level–where the children’s books are located–and nature calls so you have to drag 3 children up multiple flights of stairs to find the only public restrooms.). Powell’s carries both new and used books that intermingle harmoniously on the bookshelves: You may find a brand-new copy of Disney’s Peter Pan right next to a vintage original from the turn of the century. And speaking of old, there is a rare books room on the top floor that more mature children with gentler hands and quieter voices than my children may enjoy–some books in the rare books room are nearly 1,000 years old which just makes every book nerd bone in my body tingle.

Portland Aerial Tram: This quick tram ride gives you a great view of the city and, if you catch it on a clear day, the surrounding mountains (I could see all the way from Mt. St. Helens in Washington down to Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood in Oregon on the day we were there). The tram itself is actually a functional way for people to get from downtown (by the river) to the hospital (at the tippy top of a hill). Bring a few bucks for your fare or, if you’re strapped for cash, just schedule a quick procedure at the hospital at the top of the hill and your ride will be free of charge.

Oregon Zoo: I’ve never actually been to the Oregon Zoo, but everyone says that it’s wonderful. I’m adding this to our must-visit list for a future trip.
Bonus: The Oregon Zoo participates in the reciprocal zoo program. If you have a membership to the Woodland Park Zoo (or most other zoos around the country), you can get half-price admission to the Oregon Zoo with your membership. And, as an added bonus, the Oregon Zoo is now a sensory inclusive location–they have backpacks you can check out for free that include items like noise canceling headphones, sunglasses, and fidget tools so that all kids can enjoy their zoo experience.

Multnomah Falls: Located just 30 minutes outside of Portland, this 600-foot waterfall is a breathtaking side trip. There are kid-friendly walking trails around the waterfall and a beautiful viewing bridge. If it’s a hot day you may even get to cool off in the waterfall’s spray–nature’s water park!

And speaking of waterparks…

Wings and Waves Waterpark: Technically this is not in Portland, but it’s just shy of an hour away in McMinnville, OR. And, again, I have not been here before…but I’ve had friends go and was adequately jealous of their Facebook posts about this place so I thought it would be worth including. Wings and Waves is a giant indoor waterpark complete with twisty waterslides, splash pads, and swimming pools (they even have a huge screen above one pool where they show movies). There is also an air museum next door for all of your aviation buffs.

WHAT TO EAT:
I was trying to decide if I should make a separate dining category for Portland or just put all of this under “what to do” because, honestly, most people just go to Portland to eat. Any way you put it, though, food will be a central part of your Portland vacation!

Brunch:
The weekend brunch scene in Portland has a strong game. If you can get your kids to sleep in (ha!) or if you’re ready for second breakfast by 10:30 then I highly recommend a family brunch adventure. There are dozens of restaurants that vie for the top spot in the brunch game: HunnyMilk, Mother’s Bistro, Tasty n Alder, Pine State Biscuits. I could tell you about the melt-in-your-mouth biscuit sandwiches or luxe eggs benny but you might just be better off tasting them for yourself.

Food trucks:
Every few blocks in downtown Portland you will find a brilliant phenomenon known as the food truck pod. In empty parking lots and abandoned spaces you will find clusters of food trucks waiting to offer you fare from every corner of the globe. From curry to crêpes, pierogi to pizza there is something sure to please every palate (even the bland, picky ones typical of the under-four-feet-tall set). Just start walking down any street in the Pearl District downtown and you’re sure to bump into a food truck pod (or twenty) so you can discover your own delicacies.

Dessert (or just whenever):
Portland is known the world over for their donuts, but the locals have a bit of a debate about which donut shop is king. For the cult followers, a trip to Voodoo Doughnut is a requirement (Because who doesn’t want a donut that looks like a zombie with a jelly “blood” center?). The purists, though, prefer Blue Star Donuts. Why not try them both and decide for yourself?

If donuts aren’t your thing, maybe ice cream will hit the spot. In keeping with the city’s motto of “Keep Portland Weird”, even their ice cream shops have to mix it up a bit. Have you ever wanted to taste pear and blue cheese ice cream or have edible flowers mixed in to your sorbet? Then look no further than the ultra-creative flavors of Salt and Straw. You won’t find any plain Jane vanilla here, but that’s not why you came to Portland.

 

Now it’s your turn! What are your favorite go-to spots for families in Portland?