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
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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?

 

From The Mouths of Babes

img_9747This week as I was putting our house back together after Christmas, I came across one of my all-time favorite books. It’s a small journal that my sister gave me a few years ago from her travels in Thailand (lucky duck). On the cover of the journal there is a gray elephant decked out in colorful jewels and draped with a red blanket, an elephant fit for a king. The real treasure, however, lies within the book.

When you open the journal to the first page, I have written “From The Mouths of Babes: Funny Things Kids Say and Do”. The following pages are filled with funny (at least, funny to me) quotes and memories from the important little ones in my life: my own children, my nephew, even some of my former students.

As I was re-reading the quotes in this journal I was reminded of how precious this time with littles is–this time when the most innocent words can be misconstrued, and when you realize that common knowledge isn’t so common after all. It all makes for some hilarious tidbits, and lucky for my children, I WROTE THEM ALL DOWN. And now, my friends, I will share some of these gems with you:

December 21, 2012
David (age 2), looking at his picture Bible: “Mommy, I found Jesus!”
Mommy: “What is he doing?”
David: “Playing in the water!” (it was the story of Jesus Baptizing John the Baptist)

May 2, 2013
Mommy : “I’m thinking of a treat, see if you can guess what it is. It’s something you eat that is brown and sweet. It starts with the “ch” sound.”
David (age 2 1/2): “Jellyfish!”

May 2, 2013
David (age 2 1/2), crying hysterically: “I want my fingernail off my finger!”

July 30, 2013
Mommy: “David, can you think of an animal that is covered in wool?”
David (age 2 1/2): “A WOLF!”

November 28, 2013 (Thanksgiving)
Mommy: “David, what are you thankful for?”
David (age 3): “Balls. And beer.”

September 11, 2014
David (almost 4): “I’m touching my butt!”
Mommy: “That’s a yucky word. Try saying “tushy” instead.”
David: “I’m tushy my butt!”

December 2, 2014
David (age 4): “Mom, where are you from?”
Mommy: “Washington.”
David: “No.”
Mommy: “California?”
David: “No.”
Mommy: “Seattle? Ireland? Arizona? Ireland? America?”
David: “No, I think you’re from Heaven.”

December 3, 2014
Jacob (age 2): “Sorry, Daddy.”
Daddy: “Why?”
Jacob hits Daddy in the face
Jacob: “For hitting you.”

December 6, 2014
Jacob (age 2), pointing to a very tall water fountain: “Is that a water mountain?”

January 13, 2016
David (age 4): “Mom, thank you for this yummy treat!”
(The “treat” was a plate full of lettuce leaves.)

April 3, 2015
David (age 4), with pirate face paint on, talking to a lady in the park: “Hi, I’m David!”
Lady: “Hi! I like your face paint. I’m jealous!”
David: “Hi, Jealous!”

April 8, 2015
Jacob (age 2 1/2), having found his first ever snail: “Mom, I’m holding a sticky seashell, and it smells like chicken.”

April 10, 2015
Mommy, pointing to a letter “M”: “Jacob, do you know what letter this is?”
Jacob (age 2 1/2): “McDonalds!”

April 19, 2015
David (age 4 1/2): “Do wildflowers growl and bite?”

August 20, 2015
David (age 4 /12), playing with a rubber band that just snapped his hand: “Ow! That rubber band just got me in the nuts!”

November 10, 2015
Jacob (age 3): “Mom–stop singing. I can’t hear my ears.”

December 10, 2016
Jacob (age 4): “Mom, I love you so much that I’m going to toot!” (proceeds to toot in my face)

Awwww…aren’t they just PRECIOUS?! My take-away from this exercise:  I need to teach my children phonics more often than we go out for fast food, I should feed my family lettuce more often, and my children have a long way to go in learning the ins and outs of their own anatomy.

May your days be full of laughter and so much love that you have to toot.

 

The Last First Time

FullSizeRender (2)I’ve had a lot of Big Feelings this week.

David, my oldest, is turning 5 (FIVE?!?!) in a few days and I honestly can’t believe it. This little boy–my BABY–who I carried in my belly for 9 months (actually, more like 10 months, the persistent little bugger) is officially NOT a baby any more. When he was toddling around at 2 years old, I was justified in calling him a baby; when he was learning his colors and shapes and the intricacies of Angry Birds at age 3, I could get by calling him a baby–even at age 4 when he still sported the round, chubby face of a cherub could I call him a baby. But not any more.

He is tall and lean and feisty and fantastic and…FIVE. Holy moly, how did that even happen? Last week I was looking back at his baby book with him and I was recounting all of his firsts–his first smile, his first tooth, him eating his first foods, his first steps, his first word (“Mama”, obviously). I realized that in his short life that actually seems quite long, he’s had a lot of firsts. And I’ve been there for all of them, taking pictures and writing them down in his baby book (ok, I mostly just posted everything on Facebook, but that’s the modern day equivalent of a baby book, right?). So, the other day I went shopping for David’s birthday gift and I was pondering all of this–the beauty and the irony of life already moving so quickly.

Then the real kicker came. As I was walking over to the toy section, I happened to (on purpose) walk through the baby section. I hadn’t had a chance to go shopping for our new baby yet, so I decided to take advantage of my solo shopping time and do a quick browse through the baby clothes. Somehow, three of the pinkest, frilliest outfits managed to find their way into my shopping cart. And then it hit me: this was the last first time I’d shop for my new baby. I could vividly remember my first pregnancy and the thrill of shopping for David for the first time. Then, a year or so later, I had the joy of picking out sweet new things for Jacob. But now. NOW. It’s our last baby and this was my LAST first time shopping for her.

I lost it, right there in the middle of the baby section. It’s probably not the first time a pregnant lady started crying over baby clothes at Target, but I still felt like a fool. A fool who really didn’t care because COME ON–this is IT. This is the beginning of the end, and it’s bittersweet.

I am in the last few months of pregnancy…EVER. In the coming months and years, there will be a lot of last first times. I recently began to feel my baby move, for the last first time. I am carrying another human life, for the last first time. In a few short months I will hold my baby in my arms, for the last first time. And every moment with here from there on out, it will be the last first time. It’s glorious and terrifying at the same time, and I almost can’t handle it.

So, this week I’m going to pull up my big girl panties (no, seriously, pregnancy panties are preeeeeeetty big) and I’m going to celebrate my baby-who’s-not-a-baby-anymore. I’m going to relish in his firsts–of past, present, and future–as he blows out those five flickering candles. I’m going to remember the first time he smashed a (homemade organic baked from scratch with no refined sugars) birthday cake and I’m going to smile because he’s come a long way, baby. And I’ll probably dream about the day that my other children will reach these milestones, these firsts, in their time.

And then I’ll probably (definitely) cry. Because that’s what I do.

24 Hours of Yes

IMG_4256Sometimes I feel like I’m always telling my kids “No.”

Sure, there are times when No is useful–like when they ask to eat ice cream for dinner or ask if they can draw that really cool picture on their arms…with a Sharpie. Other times No is quite necessary for the health and safety of themselves or those around them–like when they ask if it’s ok to play with Mommy’s (plugged-in) blow dryer in the (full of water) bathtub or if they can “practice flying” off the roof with their friend. Sometimes, though, No is just plain convenient. Like when they ask if they can go for a bike ride but I’m “busy” emptying the dishwasher or when they ask for me to do a puzzle with them but I’m BUSY updating my Facebook status (I may have a friend who does this.).

All of the No’s got me to thinking–what would happen if I just said YES? Like, every single time my kids asked me something, I just said yes. And so, an experiment was born: 24 Hours of Yes. I decided to go one whole day where my answer to every suggestion my children made was “Yes.” Not “Later” or “I’m busy” or “I don’t feel like it”, but “Yes”.

*Note:
I performed this “experiment” on our first official day of summer vacation (which also happened to coincide with the day Daddy left for a big business trip–not something any of us were looking forward to, so I thought the “summer fun day” would help distract them a bit). I chose this day so that I could guise all of my extra Yeses as a special celebration of our newfound summer freedom (that way they wouldn’t be able to hold me accountable to continue performing in such an agreeable manner for all of eternity). 

Although I didn’t tell my test subjects children about the experiment, I did set up a few guidelines for myself. First, no requests could directly interfere with stated family rules or cause harm to themselves/another being/property. Secondly, all of my Yeses for my kids meant some No’s for me: no cell phone (Gah! No Facebook! No emoticon texting! No Candy Crush Saga!) and no impatience–today was going to be about my kids, so I wanted to be present for them and lay aside my own plans for the day.

With no further ado:

24 Hours of Yes

Question: What will happen when I only answer Yes to my children for 24 hours?

Hypothesis: My children will watch way too much TV and eat way too much junk food. I will go bananas from the lack of control.

Experiment Notes:

7:15    Yes to “Can I watch a show on your phone?” when Jacob sees me check the time on my iPhone before rolling out of bed.

7:30    Yes to pancakes for breakfast. (Sugar count:1, because to my children, “pancakes” actually means “lick syrup off the plate”.)

9:00    Yes to watching Daniel Tiger while I clean up from breakfast.

9:25    Yes to spending the day at Happy Hollow (*Happy Hollow is a magical wonderland of childhood fantasy. It’s part kiddie rides, part zoo, part ride on a dragon to Never Land. It’s lovely.)

9:41    Yes to eating gummy bears while I pack a picnic to bring with us to Happy Hollow. (Sugar count: 2)

10:08   Yes to spending 15 extra minutes searching the house for a VERY SPECIFIC TOY–even though we already had the car packed and everyone buckled in their seats.

10:15   Yes to jumping on the bed while Mommy crawls on the floor looking for the VERY SPECIFIC TOY.

10:30   Yes to running laps in the driveway (outside the packed-and-ready-to-leave-our-house car), waving the found VERY SPECIFIC TOY in a victory parade.

11:00   Yes to playing on the metal fire truck outside the Happy Hollow entrance gate, even though we’re already an hour past my planned arrival time.

12:00   Yes to the children deciding which attractions we would visit at Happy Hollow, and in which order  (This had a pleasant side effect of giving me a great workout while criss-crossing the park all day).

12:45   Yes to buying Icees after lunch. (Sugar count: 3)

1:00   Yes to riding the rickety roller coaster SIX TIMES in a row. Without getting off.  Directly after downing giant red Icees.

1:40    Yes to posing inside the over-priced photo booth.

2:40    Yes to “Mama, will you hold me?” while Big Brother plays on the playground.

3:00    Yes to “Mama, hair down.” (*Jacob is obsessed with my hair and he gets depressed if it’s pulled back in my quintessential “messy bun” for too long).

3:30    Yes to looking around the full-of-temptations gift shop.

4:15    Yes to the request to go home and rest (*This resulted in a secondary request to go back to Happy Hollow–which was not granted due to the fact that it would negate my previous Yes–followed shortly by a colossal temper tantrum in the parking lot).

4:45    Yes to watching a movie with Big Brother while Little Brother took his nap.

6:35    Yes to reading a story before cleaning up from dinner, even though there was food on the counter and dirty dishes on the table.

6:45    Yes to taking my hair down. Again.

7:30    Yes to throwing rocks into the bushes in our backyard.

7:45    Yes to eating Pez out of their Elsa and Olaf Pez dispensers while we read our bedtime story. (Sugar count: 4)

8:20    Yes to one more story after everyone was already tucked in and ready for sleep.

8:30    Yes to butterfly kisses before they pass out from a (mostly) perfectly wonderful day of Yes.

Analysis of Results:
There was an excess of TV watching, junk food eating, story reading, and hair letting-down. There was a deficiency in Mother’s typical overly-controlling behavior.

Conclusion:
Yes is a good thing, and I need more of it in my life. There are certain requests that are always worth Yes–requests that increase our quality time together, that help us build memories, that help us strengthen our relationship, that validate my childrens’ role as a decision-contributor (most of the time) in our family. It went against my very nature to say so many Yeses, but I recognize the value of that word and I want to say Yes more often.

While I’m going to hang on to my Not Now’s and my No’s for when I really need them, I’m going to keep those cards in my back pocket. If there’s a way to say Yes–even at the expense of my own personal comfort or enjoyment–I’m going to take it.

Unless, of course, they ask me to ride that dang roller coaster 6 times in a row again.

XxX,
Allison

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20 Things Little Boys Do

boynoisewithdirtblueSo, I grew up in a family of all girls (my dad is a saint). My childhood was all pink and ballet-y and sweet. Nothing could have prepared me, then, for my current situation. The tables have turned, and now I find myself the mother of boys (thank goodness at least the dog is on my team).

Before my sons were born, I was either naive or ignorant or blind. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I now stand corrected. You see, little boys are not just a variance on little girls–they are a totally different creature. My boys do things every day that literally stop me in my tracks and say, “Huh….?”.

To illustrate my point, here is a sampling of 20 things little boys do:

1. Think they can fly–It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…DAVID, GET OFF THAT ROOF RIGHT THIS INSTANT!!!!

2. Throw All The Stuff–balls, rocks, toys, their shoes, feces (sorry, but if that one got to you, you may want to stop reading this post right now).

3. Despise shoes. And pants.–A home with little boys is basically a tiny nudist colony.

4. Urinate in inappropriate places–Forget “missing the toilet” (which they will do without fail every time they pee, by the way). Just wait until you see the very unusual and, sometimes, shocking, public places they choose to drop their pants. I have photographic evidence of the horrendous places my son has chosen to relieve himself. I would share the photos here, but I’m saving them for blackmail when he’s a teenager.

5. Make it their personal mission to destroy All The Stuff–Have something you like? Yeah? Really? Well, if you have a little boy, you might as well kiss it goodbye right now. It will just make the future destruction more bearable.

6. Shred to pieces every pair of pants they own–Since they’re never actually wearing pants, I don’t know how it’s possible for them to wear holes and tears into every pair they own.

7. Lick All The Stuff–I mostly just try to ignore it because my stomach just can’t handle the truth.

8. Be fascinated with their own male anatomy–It starts young, folks.

9. Relate to their favorite super hero on a deeply personal level–They will literally think they are Superman/Batman/Spider Man/The Hulk/Wolverine/Captain America/Luke Skywalker/Buzz Lightyear.

10. Turn All The Stuff into guns/lasers/shooters/swords/canons/projectile-spewing objects–This is not taught, it is ingrained in their psyche.

11. Produce a disproportionate level of noise for the size of their body–My ears hurt too much to comment on this one.

12. Eat All The Stuff–SERIOUSLY.

13. Sleep in unusual places–Beds are for wusses.

14. Put All The Stuff in their pockets–I could start a small (but growing) art gallery with the collection I have removed from pockets on laundry day. Perhaps I’ll donate our gallery to the Guggenheim some day.

15. Fall down randomly like they’re fainting goats or something–Running, running, running, DOWN.

16. Think you are ACTUALLY CUTTING OFF THEIR FINGERS every time you trim their fingernails. Every. Single. Time.

17. Think their own bodily functions are hilarious–Nothing in God’s green earth can produce as much joy in a boy’s heart as the sound of a burp or a fart.

18. Spend hours enthralled by nothing but a pile of sticks and rocks–Oooh! Can we break them? Can we throw them? Can we eat them? Can we stuff them all in our pockets?

19. Injure themselves incessantly–see #1 and #15. And make sure you know the fastest route to the E.R. from your home, your son’s school, and your son’s favorite parks.

20. Think their mommy is a princess/The Queen/their wife–You can now disregard #’s 1-19, because this is the truth. If you are the mother of a little boy he will absolutely adore you. He will think you are royalty. He will guard and protect you as if his own little life depended on it. His cuddles will melt your heart anew every single day, and you will know that you are the luckiest person in the world. The luckiest, happiest, most exhausted person in the world–because you are the mother of a little boy.

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How To Shop Childrens’ Consignment Sales. Like A Boss.

JBF1Two weeks ago something rare happened: it rained in California. Seeing as we are in the middle of Autumn the presence of precipitation should come as no surprise, yet we were all caught off-guard. The toys we’d left strewn about the yard overnight got drenched. The laundry I had on the line got re-washed by nature. And when I went to get David ready for school in the morning, I came to an unfortunate realization: he didn’t have a single pair of shoes that fit him.

After spending all summer barefoot or in sandals, we hadn’t donned a pair of shoes in months. And in those months, my boy’s feet had grown gargantuan. Just like the rest of him. So, then I came to the even more disheartening realization: it was time to buy the boy a new (larger) wardrobe–which would undoubtedly come with a massive price tag to match.

Fact: kids cost money. Oodles and oodles of money, all the time. Any time I can save a bit of that money, I’m all for it. And that, my friends, is why God created children’s consignment sales.

If you’ve never been to a children’s consignment sale, just imagine a massive garage sale taking place inside of a Costco warehouse–full of all the stuff you keep having to buy for your very expensive offpring. Children’s consignment sales are a collection of consignors (aka “moms”) who are selling merchandise (aka the stuff their kids don’t use/have outgrown/just don’t want any more). They sell everything from toys and books to clothes and shoes to baby gear and maternity wear. In short, consignment sales are da bomb.

With two growing boys who DON’T EVEN HAVE SHOES THAT FIT THEM, I have become a bit of a consignment sale shopping expert. You might call me a professional shopper-saver, if you were so inclined. And now, dear friends, I will share my wisdom with you:

How To Shop Consignment Sales. Like A Boss.

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Research the sales
Consignment sales tend to happen seasonally, so research your local area for a schedule of sales that will be coming up soon (a quick looky-loo on Google should pull up several results). There are several large consignment sale organizations that franchise around the country, like Just Between Friends and Rhea Lana’s and locally, like Outrageous Outgrowns (California Bay Area) and Jack and Jill (my favorite in the Seattle area). Sign up for the email list on consignment sale websites so you’ll be notified of sale dates and special discounts.

Always visit the sale’s website before you go to the sale so you have accurate information on the sale dates and location. Sometimes you can also print off coupons from the sale’s website for free or discounted parking or admission.

Selling vs. shopping
If you have baby and/or kid stuff that you want to sell, sign up to be a consignor. As a consignor you’ll make money off every item you sell and get special privileges like shopping the sale before the public. If you don’t have anything to sell you can always attend the event as a shopper.

Timing your visit
Sales typically happen over a weekend and last 2-4 days. If you have specific items you want to buy, or if you are particular about the types and quality of the products you buy, you’ll want to go on the first day of the sale while the inventory is fresh. If you want to save even more money, visit on the last day of the sale when the remaining items are typically sold at half-off. Or, if you’re really serious about this whole consignment sale thing, you could always visit twice: once on the first day of the sale and again on the last day of the sale to pick up some bargains.

Try to arrive at the sale early in the day. Like when they open. Or, better yet, before they open. Think of it practice for Black Friday. These things get packed, and fast. The earlier you can get in and out, the better off you’ll be. Otherwise, aim for lunch or dinner time so you can take advantage of the lull when most shoppers go home to eat.

Set your expectations
This is not Nordstrom’s–heck, this is not even Nordstrom Rack. You are buying used kids stuff. And if you have kids, you know what kids do to their stuff. They beat up their toys, they spill juice on their shirts, they draw with Sharpie’s on their furniture. Consignment sales are full of bargains–if you’re willing to compromise. The nicer and newer the condition of the item, the more expensive it will be. If you’re willing to put up with a few bent pages in a book or a dress that has obviously been off the rack since last season, then you’ll be grand. If you’re expecting perfection, sales may not be for you (but please give me your contact info so we can get in touch when you’re ready to offload your kids’ gear…).

To kid or not to kid
Consignment sales are for kids, but they are not FOR kids. Yes, you buy kid stuff at the sale. No, you should not bring your kid to the sale. Why? Because it’s a Costco warehouse-sized kids garage sale. There are toys and books and bouncy things and all sorts of other temptations everywhere you look. Your children will whine about literally every item in the sale. All 20,000 items. And you will get so fed up that you will just throw up your hands and say WHATEVER and get in line so you can check out and get the heck out of there. And then you will realize, as you are trying to find the end of the line that snakes around the Costco-sized-kids-garage-sale that there is not back of the line. The back of the line is in Mexico. Or Canada. Or whatever country is furthest away from where you are right now. And then you will finally get to the front of the line and you will wonder was it all worth it. (I brought my kids with me to a sale last week)

Have a shopping game plan
If there is something special that you know you want to get, make a beeline for that section as soon as you arrive. Big-ticket items like cribs, strollers and rockers can go faster than a toddler’s temper. Seasonal items like Halloween costumes, outdoor gear, and fancy Easter clothes also get picked over quickly, so grab yours before they’re gone.

Plan for the future
Since sales typically only happen a few times a year, think ahead to what you might need in the months between now and the next sale. Will your child be moving up a size soon? Will the seasons change so you’ll need more seasonal clothing? Will your baby become a crawler/walker/toddler and require different types of toys or gear? Do you have birthdays or Christmas coming up that you want to buy gifts for? Take advantage of the bargains now so you won’t have to break the bank in a month or two.

Bring cash
Some sales create special (shorter) check-out lines for people who are paying with cash. With the average consignment sale check-out line lasting about an hour, bringing cash has saved me countless hours of line-waiting.

Bring the right gear
Bring these things with you to the sale. Just because I said so.
-wagon, empty stroller or shopping trolley (like the ones you see little old ladies bring on the bus) so you have somewhere to put all the cool stuff you find at the sale
-baby carrier–Sometimes you just have to bring the baby with you. With a baby in tow, it will usually be easier to put your baby in a carrier and have your hands and (now empty) stroller available for shopping.
-shopping bags–most sales do not offer you a way to cart your stuff home. Bring your own.
-snacks and water–this shopping is serious business (especially if you find yourself stuck at the end of a 2-hour check-out line)
-cash (see above)
-empty back seat and/or car trunk–you may go to the sale for one thing, but we all know how that’s going to end…

 Happy shopping, and happy saving!

An Open Letter To Family Dogs (From A Family Dog)

About a year after we got married, Jon and I decided to embark on a new adventure together: dog-rearing. Bota was our first introduction to caring for another living being, and we kind of wanted to prove to ourselves that we could hack it with a dog before we tried it with a human.

For a good long while, Bota was the center of our nuclear family universe. Fast forward four years (and two children) later, and she has…well…succumbed to a new position in the family. To illustrate, this is how I found Bota when I entered the kitchen yesterday afternoon:

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The poor dog puts up with a lot. In fact, I think being the family dog must be one of the hardest jobs out there. So, in honor of Bota and all of the other hard-working family pets out there, I offer you a this letter. It is a letter from Bota to other dogs who might be considering the role of man’s (and childrens’) best friend. Enjoy. Or don’t. Just don’t put any more pool accessories the dog’s head.

Dearest comrades,
Congratulations! You have accepted the greatest calling of your life, that of a family dog. You are entering the ranks of the brave, the loyal, the always-faithful, the tough-skinned and the ever-patient. This is a role that comes with much honor, but with it comes much hard work. I want to encourage you in this journey but, to be fair, I feel I should also enlighten you about the road you are now facing.

You have already enjoyed your golden years. When you’re having a rough day, just remember how good you’ve had it up until now. You had one–maybe two–owners. You were their roommate, their confidante and their companion. You were treated not as an animal, but with the dignity and respect that is sometimes reserved for other humans. Actually, you were treated more like Hollywood royalty. With your frequent spa days and daily trips to the dog park, you often wondered how you got so lucky. Your “parents” bought you gifts on holidays and birthdays and for no reason at all. They planned puppy playdates for you in parks. They arranged doggy resort stays for you if they had to work late or leave town for the weekend. They would even let you ride in the front seat and buy you your own meal at the drive-thru.

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Life was good.

But now they have children–HUMAN children–and life will be different. The love and attention that used to be solely yours will now be shared with the human children. Do not be discouraged, though, because there will still be plenty of love to go around.

The human children will actually enjoy many of the same things you do! They like chasing after balls and will even try throwing balls for you sometimes (although most of them will end up in a bush or over a fence where you will never ever be able to find them again).

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The human children also enjoy exploring. They will be happy to tromp through a river with you and dig in the mud. They may even find a nice stick to throw for you (if they start hitting you with the stick, though, just run them over and pretend like you were playing a game).

IMG_6564The human children will create hilarious games for you to play together. My favorite is where they tell me there’s a squirrel in a tree–EVEN THOUGH THERE’S NOT!–just so I can run and jump and claw at the tree like I’m insane or something. It’s awesome.
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They will think it’s cute to do things like color you a poster for your birthday, even though you can’t read and don’t understand the point of birthdays.
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If you’re really lucky, your owners will feel bad that they’ve completely neglected you for the last year and will even bake you a cake for your birthday. They won’t let you eat it, though, because it’s made of chocolate (hypocrites). 
IMG_3518The human children will love you so much that they’ll even dress you up so you can look like them. Too bad they all look like homeless pirates.
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When the human children are away from you, they will miss you like crazy. In fact, they will insist on employing modern technology to get some face-to-face time with you (because you’re that awesome).IMG_7337

It’s tough work being the family dog, and at the end of the day you’ll probably be exhausted. It’s alright to take a moment for yourself.
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Because, at the end of the day, your job is one of the most important ones out there. You play with and entertain and endure, and love your family. The daily walks and the gourmet dog meals may be long gone (although, kids are a great resource for extra treats at the dinner table), but you have something so much better. You have a family.

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With my enduring love,
Bota

 

Life With Boys

I grew up in a family of all girls. My world as a child revolved around ballerinas, princesses, frilly dresses and “playing” house (oh, the irony…). Fast forward a few years and the roles have been reversed. I am now the only female in a house run by boys (children and husband counted in that tally). And, as you might expect, my world is a bit different now. Life with boys usually leaves me dumbfounded and, sometimes, just plain shocked. I offer you the following examples of how my life has changed now that I am living a life with boys:

1. On a beautiful Spring afternoon I took my 3-year old son out to play in the field across the street from our house. As we laid in the grass some daisies caught our eye. David started picking the delicate flowers and I taught him how to make daisy chains.

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As I was adding the final flower to our daisy chain I looked up to show David our beautiful creation…only he wasn’t sitting behind me any more. No, he had stood up, turned around, dropped his pants down to his ankles (remember, we’re in the field in the middle of our neighborhood) and was peeing all over the daisies. No daisy crown for you, son.

2. Due to my boys’ destructive tendencies, I have become an expert at mending all manner of broken things (clothes, toys, books, the family dog).

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3. David and Jacob will just be walking along and, all of a sudden, they’ll stop in their tracks, lay down in a pile of mud and start making “snow angels”. For no reason.

4. Most days when I go to put on my shoes or boots there are little surprises waiting inside for me:

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5. When I point out a cool bug for them to look at their first instinct is to smash it to smithereens.

6. All of my kitchen gadgets are tools with much more creative uses than they were originally designed for. The salad tongs are screwdrivers, the meat mallet is a hammer, the wooden spoons are drumsticks, the whisk is a light saber, the pastry cutter is a violin and the vegetable peeler is its bow. As a result, my boys have enjoyed hours of endless entertainment from my gadget drawer…and I have to re-wash every kitchen tool every day.

7. I always check my drinking glass before I take a sip of water. You never know what might be lurking inside…plastic soldiers:

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…or grapes (but we wanted to see if they’d float, Mom!):

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8. I am trying to allow David to exert his independence and help get himself dressed for school in the morning. Nine times out of ten, though, we end up with something like this:

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9. I find myself uttering ridiculous phrases like “Don’t pull your brother’s penis!” and “Quit peeing on the picnic table! That’s where we were going to eat dinner tonight!”.

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10. We have actually coerced David into eating his dinner by allowing him to run laps in the kitchen. For every bite of food he ate, he got to run one lap around the kitchen. It was the only time this month that he ate his entire plate of dinner in one sitting (even though he wasn’t exactly sitting).

11.David April 2013 - 0030Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) revolves around balls: basketballs, baseballs, footballs, tennis balls, rugby balls, soccer balls, golf balls, bouncy balls, bowling balls. Our house is littered with balls. Our topic of conversation at dinner revolves around balls. A good day or a bad day depends on how many balls we played with and whether or not they were full of enough air. Even our food must be referred to in ball terms if there is any hope of getting my boys to eat it (Have you tried your pea balls yet? Look at that chicken–it almost looks like a football! Did you know that the best soccer players eat all of their broccoli?).

12. Every time they see a dandelion they roar with all their might (Get it? DandeLIONS?).

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Yes, life with boys is a challenging, head-scratching, patience-testing, learn-more-each-day experience. In the end, though, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My boys have taught me to be more spontaneous, to enjoy getting messy, to use my imagination in new and creative ways, and to laugh more. They are the apples of my eye, and I wouldn’t trade them for all of the frills and fluff and lace that money could buy.

What Happens When My Back Is Turned

I have two sweet, adorable, loving, havoc-wreaking sons. In the last week or so I think they have teamed up together and made some sort of secret pact to destroy my home, my sanity and, possibly, each other. They’ve always loved getting into mischief together, but lately they’ve taken their escapades to a whole new level. It seems that every time I turn my back–to wash some dishes, change my clothes, or (God forbid) pee in a room with a closed door–I turn around to find utter and complete disaster. And just so you know I’m not making this up so I have something to whine about, here are a few examples from a 2-day period this week:

Reason my back was turned: I was making breakfast
Time elapsed: 6 minutes
Resulting disaster: 3 large tubs of toys were dumped down the stairs and strategically scattered in the most debilitating places to step on them with bare feet.

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Reason my back was turned: I was washing dishes after breakfast
Time elapsed: 4 minutes
Resulting disaster: Remember all of those toys that they threw down the stairs before breakfast? Well, now they shoved half of them out the mail slot and into the pouring rain outside our front door.

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Reason my back was turned: I was vacuuming the hallway outside the bedroom door.
Time elapsed: 3 minutes
Resulting disaster: Both boys climbed on top of Jacob’s (rickety) changing table. They opened a bottle of Purel and smeared the contents around the room (well, at least one room got cleaned today). They took every book off the bookshelf. They emptied all 5 boxes of clothes from the changing table. They pulled all of the blankets out of Jacob’s crib. They attempted to empty the diaper pail (Haha! Mom scores 1/2 a point for preemptively moving the diaper pail off the floor).

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Reason my back was turned: I made a phone call to schedule a doctor’s appointment
Time elapsed: 2 minutes
Resulting disaster: Every drawer in my kitchen was emptied onto the floor (the floor which, by the way, is covered in filth because I apparently can’t afford to turn my back long enough to clean it properly).

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Reason my back was turned: I was getting dressed
Time elapsed: 4 minutes
Resulting disaster: They dumped 4 rolls of toilet paper into the toilet, tried to flush the toilet, and then started swirling around the overflowing mess with a toilet brush. Oh yeah, and the other half of the toys that didn’t get shoved out of the mail slot? They were in there, too.

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Reason my back was turned: I was going to the bathroom (the upstairs bathroom, not the gross one that they just demolished downstairs)
Time elapsed: 30 seconds
Resulting disaster: They emptied every drawer and basket in David’s closet and moved the clothes to the floor on the other side of the closet (by the way, I’d just finished folding the laundry and putting all of the clothes neatly away in said drawers). They dumped a bin of shoes and boots down the stairs for good measure.

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Reason my back was turned: I was loading the stroller into our car. So we could leave the house and take my childrens’ destructive tendencies elsewhere.
Time elapsed: 1 minute
Resulting disaster: David emptied and entire box of Kleenex and began throwing them around the kitchen like they were big, fluttery snowflakes. This is him cleaning up the mess–good luck to anyone who tries to take a tissue out of that box…

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I’m exhausted just looking at these photos again. And the *best* part is, I know that this is only the beginning. Oh, Lord help me. Some day they’ll be big boys–and then teenagers— with access to things like rope and knives and fire and other mischievous boys. For now, though, we’re doing what we can to quench their quest to destroy. With super-effective deterrents like zip-tie locks on our cabinets:

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And scarves tied around the drawers so nobody (not even me!) can open them:

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And baby chains tying down the handle of the diaper pail:

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And duct tape over the mail slot:

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We’re living in Fort Knox here, folks. I know that this is a battle I’m probably just going to lose again and again and again. And, even though it drives me crazy, I’m kind of okay with that. They are, after all, little boys who are exploring their world. They’re testing their limits. They’re experimenting (maybe they’ll grow up to be amazing scientists some day?).

In the meantime, though, know that I’m watching you, boys. Even when my back is turned.

My 100th Post: 100 Reasons I Love Being A Mom

Jacob week 1 - 0459 Today I am posting my 100th entry to this little blog of mine. Over the course of my last 99 entries I’ve written about many subjects, but the overarching theme has definitely been “mommy life”. I’ve written about hot topics such as what it takes to be a mom, how to prepare yourself for parenthood (Good luck with that one!),  how I attempt to get things done with my kids around (Again, best of luck), how we discipline, how we travel with our kids, what I feed my kids, and the ridiculous things that I do as a mom.  Lots of…mom stuff. So, for my 100th post I thought it would be appropriate to write about my favorite mom-topic: how much I love being a mom. I could probably share with you a million reasons why motherhood is the best “job” in the world, but I’ll practice a bit of self control and stick to 100 (100th post, remember?).  And now, here are the top 100 reasons why I love being a mom:

  1. Snuggles
  2. Hearing my baby say “Mama!” all day long
  3. Getting to see God answer my prayers for my children
  4. Ugga Muggas
  5. Seeing that first ultrasound pictures of the life growing inside me
  6. Parenting with my husband
  7. Having my family be my full-time “job”
  8. Waking up to children’s voices instead of a buzzing alarm (I just wish those sweet little voices would learn how to sleep past 7 AM…)
  9. Going to children’s museums and kiddie playgrounds
  10. Teaching them new things
  11. Seeing the light in their eyes when they learn something new and have that “Aha!” moment
  12. Growing in the virtue of “patience”
  13. Singing lullabies
  14. Tiny naked bottoms running to the bathtub
  15. Bubble baths
  16. The smell of a baby
  17. Kissing boo-boos
  18. Watching my older son teach his little brother (mostly it’s just him teaching the baby how to get into mischief, but I’m sure it will come in handy some day)
  19. My new-found appreciation for all things “balls” (if you know David, you know exactly what I mean)
  20. Hearing a small voice say, “I love you”, and knowing that he really means it
  21. Watching first steps (and first everythings!)
  22. Having an excuse to eat chicken nuggets and Mac ‘n Cheese
  23. Witnessing innocence
  24. Playing!
  25. Watching my children grow and change
  26. Hearing David say the phrase, “So, I was thinking today we could…”. He sounds just like his Mommy.
  27. Splashing in mud puddles
  28. Nursing my baby until he falls asleep in my arms
  29. Re-watching classic movies like “The Lion King” and “Cars”
  30. Exploring new places with my kids
  31. Stroking feathery-soft baby hair
  32. Learning in a whole new way how to trust God each day
  33. Celebrating holidays through the eyes of a child–it’s magical
  34. The hilarious things they say
  35. Wrestling (even though Daddy definitely has me beat in this area!)
  36. Seeing bits of me and my husband in our children
  37. Kissing their sweet, soft, pudgy little cheeks
  38. Teaching my kids God’s Word
  39. Comforting my kids when they are upset
  40. Painting with our fingers
  41. Baby laughs–there’s no problem in this world that a baby laugh can’t cure
  42. Reading with my children
  43. Oggling their teeny-tiny clothes
  44. Being the one they run to when they are scared
  45. Priority boarding on airplanes
  46. Helping them
  47. Praying with them
  48. Sharing in their joys and sorrows
  49. Learning from them
  50. My son’s excitement to see me when I pick him up from school
  51. Trying new things
  52. Wiping away crocodile tears
  53. Listening to David talking to and playing with other children
  54. Seeing how excited they get over the little things in life
  55. Knowing that I helped create something AMAZING
  56. Sharing in my kids’ curiosity
  57. Nourishing and sustaining another life with my own body
  58. Being appreciated
  59. Watching David DEVOUR his broccoli and turn up his nose at a cookie (he may not be my child after all…)
  60. Feeling Acting younger than I am
  61. All the cute baby gear
  62. Planning their birthday parties
  63. Because my kids rock!
  64. Helping to shape a young life that will influence the world long after I’m gone
  65. Doing the mundane…but having it feel purposeful
  66. Watching my kids sleep
  67. Lazing around together in our jammies
  68. Watching David dance and sing
  69. Mimi and Gigi
  70. Taking the boys swimming
  71. Buying bunch after bunch after bunch of bananas
  72. Doling out M&M’s for potty successes (and always sneaking a few for myself…)
  73. Having picnics together
  74. Baby kisses (they feel more like baby licks, but I know that he means them lovingly)
  75. Blowing raspberries on their tummies and watching them squirm
  76. Swinging on the swings and sliding on the slides with them
  77. Watching them spend hours on a “meaningless” task like putting balls in a basket or throwing rocks into water
  78. Playing Peek-a-boo and Pat-a-cake
  79. Encouraging them
  80. Witnessing David’s unique sense of style (which usually includes 3 layers of basketball t-shirts and nothing else)
  81. Brushing their teeth and seeing new teeth appear in their mouths seemingly every day
  82. Being humbled by my children
  83. Tickling my baby during diaper changes
  84. Bedtime. ‘Nuf said.
  85. Counting tiny fingers and tiny toes
  86. Holding their hands
  87. Seeing David’s “cheese face” when we’re taking his photo
  88. Unconditional love
  89. Watching Jacob crawl at lightning speed when he sees something he wants across the room
  90. Challenging them and being challenged by them
  91. Sharing in their dreams
  92. Hearing my baby clap when he’s excited
  93. Helping them see their potential
  94. Cuddling when they don’t feel well
  95. Meeting new friends with my kids
  96. Watching David DOMINATE at Angry Birds
  97. Experiencing old things from a new perspective
  98. Finding toys in random places to remind me that my children have been here
  99. Laughing uncontrollably when David rolls down a hill and then (dizzily) tries to run back up to the top
  100. Loving them. I just love loving them.

So there you have it, 100 reasons I’m one of the luckiest people in the world. Thank you for letting me be your mommy, boys! IMG_3644