Harper, 4, and Max, 1

It’s been so long I hardly remember how to do this! I guess my absence tells you what’s it’s like to have two little kids. I really liked the part of blogging where I kept a record of my kids growing, though.

At this age they have kind of flipped roles a bit. Harper can communicate well enough to follow directions and she goes to bed reliably at 7:30, then sleeps until 7:30 (sometimes even later!). She’s still grappling with toddler emotions and SO MUCH ENERGY, but generally she’s a lot more mature. I can’t believe I’m going to be signing her up for kindergarten next summer.

Mellow Max on the other hand has become quite a handful. I had forgotten about the 18-months-ish age, where they can walk, climb and generally get into trouble, but they can’t really communicate yet. So if they want something and can’t make it happen, they just whine or cry. He does take naps, but he stays up later than Harper and during these really bright summer months, he wakes up ready to party at 6:30.

Max has figured out how to open the fridge and take things out. Poor guy is just hungry all.the.time. I can’t even imagine how much he will eat as a teenager.

Harper is getting a lot pickier about what foods she’ll eat. She still tries a lot of things, but she wants mac ‘n cheese and cereal, and if I make something with peppers and onions, she wants me to pick them out. They’re both all about the chocolate ice cream.

It is cute the way they play together now. Harper likes to help get Max set up in his high chair and sometimes she will even get him something he needs without being asked.

The problem is that they fight about toys all the time. They always want what the other one has, even if they have no real interest in it. Luckily they have different enough interests and we have enough toys that they can usually find something else to do.

Harper is still really into art projects and dressing up. We now have 3 cubbies and an overflowing bin of dress-up toys in her room.

Her biggest love right now is Moana. I actually think it’s a great movie, although I’ve seen it enough times to be a little over it. And of course she is always down to wear a princess dress to school over her clothes.

Max is super into trains lately. He says “choo choo” when a bart train goes by – it’s adorable. He also loves to build little things with Legos.

It’s interesting to see him developing language in kind of a different way than Harper. She didn’t say as many words, but she would say them perfectly. He’ll try more, even if it comes out all garbled. Sometimes he just kind of talks in gibberish and you’re like, OK buddy. I have no idea what you want, but right on.

Mike and I got a rare vacation when we turned his work trip to Vancouver into a long weekend without kids. My mom flew in from Kansas to watch them. It was so nice and over way too soon.

Our next trip will be with the kids to Minnesota in September. We wanted to go back to Lutsen for our anniversary (Sept. 18) and we thought we could have some alone time and then some with the whole family. I can’t believe we haven’t been back there since the wedding almost 7 years ago.

This stage of life is just tough. I think it was actually easier when Max was a baby. The not-sleeping part is super hard, but then their needs are pretty much limited to eating, sleeping and diaper changes. Now you have to be on all the time, and it’s intense. Especially for an introvert who needs alone time to recharge. I think when they’re old enough to have a little more independence it will be easier. But hey, no one does this because it’s easy.

Last week we finally got enough free time to take the kids on a bike ride in our neighborhood. It was really fun, and it was a little taste of the kind of outdoorsy things we can as a family, especially as they get older.

I have Max in daycare 4 days a week now, and I am starting to work a lot more. I now work at 2 stores (1 in Sausalito and 1 in San Francisco). I’m doing some PR work for one store and organizing classes at the other. And now I’m branching out and trying to teach more classes. I think that is really where it’s at for me. It’s the perfect intersection of crafts, media and retail, it pays well, and there are a lot of opportunities to teach around here.

I’m also trying to get back in shape, post-babies, so hopefully I’ll get a minute to share about that soon.

Max, 5 and 6 months

OK, get ready for cute overload because I have SO MANY good pics of my kids this summer.

I can’t believe Max is 6 months old, but it’s true. Here he is at 5 months.

And then at 6 months.

He is still our Mr. Smiley Guy.

If you tickle him or do a high-pitched sneeze, he has the cutest giggle.

He’s had a pretty big couple of weeks. First, we started him on solid foods.

I decided to skip the rice cereal this time and just do purees.

Then he got two teeth! So we’ve also given him some mum-mums and crusty bread to chew on.

Obviously the Bumbo is getting a lot of use since he’s still a little tippy.

He loves playing with Tupperware containers and various other things that are not toys.

I have even put him in a laundry basket with some toys, since it is sort of like a mini playpen.

Other times I kind of prop him up in the Boppy so I can play with him.

The teething has definitely affected his sleep, although I would still say he is a much more consistent sleeper than Harper was at his age.

Occasionally he takes a long nap, but his are usually only half an hour. So I am struggling to get much of anything done during the days I’m home with him. But I feel like the alternative is having him sleep less at night, and I don’t want that either.

He has also become really grabby and interested in rolling or lurching for things, so I really have to watch him closely.

He likes to grab his feet, and he can get his toes in his mouth.

He still has really bad cradle cap, so sometimes I put lotion on his head and it makes his hair stick up.

He was 18.5 pounds at his last appointment and pretty tall.

I’m looking forward to what the next few months will bring. Before we know it he will be walking and talking!

Harper has been a handful and a half, but she is also progressing so much.

Her teachers tell us she has completely come out of her shell at daycare, and now she plays with other groups of kids, no problem.

She tells me about her day now, and has gotten a lot better at asking for what she needs.

What’s hard is that she has both an immense amount of energy and a LOT of feelings.

We took a trip to the petrified forest in Calistoga, and without a nap that day she whined/cried/yelled the whole ride home.

So I’m a little nervous about traveling with two little kids for a whole week, but I think the key is not trying to do too much. And snacks. So many snacks.


She calls this her swimming costume. 

Harper started playing soccer at school and I think she would like swimming lessons too. Although I think she would be really great at tumbling.


Toddler lunch of champions. 

She has a great sense of style (hat tip to Grammie!) and she is an amazing artist. I love seeing her creativity shine through.

There are still a lot of kids activities in the Bay Area that we need to explore, so hopefully we’ll get to do some of those things soon. We’re still finding our new rhythm without Grammie and with me working 2 days a week, but we’re getting the hang of it.

More pictures soon of Max’s finished room and our solar panels!

*I also wanted to mention that you can follow me on Instagram. I wish I had more time to blog, but since I don’t I try to at least keep the photos coming.

Max: 3 and 4 months

These last two months have flown by. All the sudden Max is a plump, drool-y baby who can almost sit up and grasp toys in his chubby hands. Looking back at those 2-month photos, he looks so skinny!

Here he is at 3 months.

And then at 4 months.

I just took him to the doctor and he was a little over 16 pounds. Pretty much right down the middle as far as height, weight, and head size. For comparison, Harper was 14 pounds, 10 ounces at her 4-month appointment.

Just like Harper at that age, Max went bald in some spots, but had a swirl of hair in the middle.

He also screams now, for no apparent reason. Can’t wait to see how that goes over in public!

Generally, though, he is sweet and so smiley and giggly. He’s started responding to toy squeaks and peekaboo. So cute.

Last month, Grandad and GB were here, and they got to see what a smiley, happy baby he is.

We took him on all kinds of outings and he was as sweet as can be. I think it helped that he would fall asleep in the car and then be really well rested wherever we went.

We stopped letting him nap in the carrier, and so he switched to taking 4 or 5 shorter naps throughout the day. Much like Harper, he only stays asleep for about half an hour at a time. I’ve basically decided not to fight it. Harper would only take about 2 of those naps a day, which was brutal. At least he gets enough rest in total.

His funny thing lately is falling asleep in the jumparoo. He’ll be bouncing in there and then I’ll look over and he’ll be asleep!

We still have him sleeping in the rock ‘n play at night, but he is going to outgrow it soon. At the end of this month, my mom will be moving back to Kansas (sniff…) so we will move into her room and then move Max into his own room. At that point we can put him in the crib without worrying about him waking up Harper.

We sure will miss our Grammie!

Harper still likes to entertain Max while he lays in the crib, and he likes to watch her, too.

She is still pretty good with him, but I see some jealousy creeping in. Age 3.5 seems filled with whining and tantrums, so we are just trying to power through it.

It is also filled with pink. So much pink. All the sudden every outfit has to be pink, head to toe. She’s big into the princess thing, too, although her version might include cowboy boots and binoculars.

Harper’s diet pretty much consists of cereal, ketchup, and whatever else she feels like eating at any given time.

And it has to be served in the bunny bowl, with the yellow cup and the purple spoon. OK?!

I can’t believe Max will be eating solids soon. I really feel like he is growing up too fast, but what can I do? I just love ’em both and try to appreciate the cuddles when I get them.

Max has been making this face a lot lately.

Talk about a flashback – here’s Harper making the same face.

I have thought for months that it seemed like his bottom teeth might be coming in early, but they never do.

I guess babies are just orally fixated and drool-y in general.

I just started working some short shifts at the store in Sausalito this week. Harper is in daycare full time and I’ll have to find a nanny for Max soon. We’re shifting into a new normal. It’s a little scary, but also good. I just don’t feel like myself unless I’m working, and I really did miss it.

Harper at 3

I think this photo pretty much sums up what it’s like to have a “threenager.” Harper is bossy, demanding, temperamental, and a little cray sometimes. But she bounces between that and sweet, cuddly, creative, curious and so many other interesting qualities that it’s hard for me to say that three is as bad as I feared it might be.

Honestly it seems like having a baby brother has made her a little easier to communicate with because she can’t demand all of our attention all the time. And she wants to be more independent so she likes helping with him.


Sometimes she goes, “baby Max is so cute!”

For example, she always wants to bring the Boppy pillow to whoever is holding Max. She’s a little aggressive with putting in his pacifier, but it’s cute that she wants to give it to him.

She’s also been playing with her dolls more, trying to imitate what we’re doing.

This picture just slays me.

When Mike’s parents were here, she interacted with them in a way I’d never seen before. Where before she had been hesitant to play with people she doesn’t see very often, she made an instant connection with them.

She let both of them read her books, which strangely, she doesn’t do often. Her version of reading is to turn the pages before you can get a line out. But I do think that will change as she is able to sit still longer.

She LOVED the Christmas tree when we had it. She kept asking to go see it, and then she would name every ornament.

She got a giant floor puzzle for Christmas, which got her really into the idea of doing puzzles. Now she’s got at least one going at all times.

It’s hard for me to deal with the “toy soup” she creates daily in our living room, but it takes a lot of toys to keep this girl entertained. Her current favorites are her finger puppets (she is constantly singing this finger family song where each finger is a member of the family), and her Peppa Pig figurines.

She’s starting to have a much bigger imagination. She play cooks us meals and she does the most adorable routine where her Ernie doll goes to sleep, then wakes up, brushes his teeth and has breakfast.

She’s still a great eater and will try most foods, even if she prefers her favorites.

Of course I am biased, but I think she gets more beautiful every day.

Her hair is turning darker, but I think it will still get sun-bleached in the warmer months.

She is in the process of moving up to the 3-year-old class at her daycare, and I think that will be good for her. She’s had a lot of shyness with kids her age, but I see her opening up much more on the playground now.

Seeing Max as a baby now, reminds me of how quickly these years pass (even though as they say, the days are very long). So I am really trying to take the tantrums in stride and just go with the roller coaster that is life with little ones. Before you know it, Harper will be a teenager for real, and I’ll wish for those 3-year-old cuddles.

Harper at 2.5

I just put this in the kids category rather than baby – I guess that says it all.


She loved when grandad played guitar for her.

Harper has changed so much in the last few months. I find myself wanting to freeze her in time when she does something really sweet and funny. She’ll be a total monster one minute and then the next minute she’ll cuddle up and say, “I love you SO MUCH!”

She’s a constant imitator, both of what we say and what she sees on her favorite shows, Daniel Tiger and Peg + Cat. One time my mom walked in the room and she was playing her xylophone like a “pinano” while watching a character play a piano on TV. It was just so precious. I’m not one to use that word often, but there’s no other way to describe her right now.

I do see her trying to exert her will more. Like with very basic things I ask her to do like put her shoes on. She’s testing boundaries and realizing her power. I’m starting to understand all the things I’ve heard about the 3-year-old personality. I’m definitely concerned about how she’ll react to the new baby since she’ll be almost 3 when he arrives. (Oh yeah, we just found out it’s a boy!)

She does not want to talk about having a baby brother at all. She will repeat pretty much anything you say, but if you bring up a baby in mommy’s tummy or being a big sister she just shuts off. It’s so weird. How could she know that?

But we have more pressing concerns right now with potty training. We’ve been putting it off for a while, but I think she’s finally ready (and we’re finally ready to commit).

 

My dad and stepmom came for a visit recently, and they had a lot of fun taking Harper on some outings. The last time Mike took her to the Little Farm she was terrified of the cows, but not this time. She LOVED feeding the animals. She was just cracking up the whole time.

And I know everyone says this, but my god, their energy! I’m still extra tired all the time and I would give anything to suck a little bit of energy out of her.

On the plus side, she has been sleeping so much better lately. Pretty consistent 2-hour naps and longer nights without waking. I don’t know what the secret is with this kid, but I’m just going with it.

She’s still a little daredevil. When we walked around the houseboats in Sausalito she kept going right up to the railings next to the water and poking her head through. I think she would have just jumped in the water if we let her.

Another thing she really seems to enjoy is gardening. She “helps” us pick cherry tomatoes and puts them in the back of her little dump truck.

She is also still very much an outdoors gal. She decided our overflowing geranium plant was the perfect hangout spot and sometimes I find her laying there.

Large trees are not all that common in our neighborhood so when she sees one she will literally go up and hug it.

She still has a great appetite, and it must be fueling her growth because she has really stretched out. She’s pretty tall compared to her peers now, so I think she is going to end up taller than me.

We’ve had her in part-time daycare for a few months now and it’s kind of a mixed bag. They say she is really reserved and plays by herself there, which is the total opposite of how she behaves at home. I think she’d probably open up more if she was there daily but we just can’t afford it. So we’ll see.

This next 6 months will hold a lot of change for this little girl, but she is nothing if not resilient.

Toddler team pom poms

A while back I tried making Harper some pom poms in Packers colors, and they turned out as adorably as I’d hoped. Unfortunately, though, they did not hold up to being flung around by a toddler. The strings started falling out pretty much immediately. I had made them with a traditional pom pom technique (wrap the yarn around and around something, tie it off, then snip through both ends). And as with pretty much every other pom pom I’ve ever made that way, it didn’t last. So, back to the drawing board.

I figured that the problem was that the strings needed to be reinforced so that you couldn’t just pull one out. They had to be strung together. So I gathered up all the loose pieces and very carefully wove a string through the middle of all of them. It took a while, but it totally worked! Harper has been playing with her pom poms ever since. We occasionally lose a string, but it’s rare.

We cheer for a lot of teams in this house, so I’ve been making her more in some other colors. I found that this Hometown USA yarn in team colors actually works for quite a few teams with the same color combinations. But you could also just buy a skein of each of your team’s colors and mix them together.

This pattern is for teeny toddler-sized pom poms and only takes one skein of yarn. If you want them bigger, use a full skein for each pom pom.

Toddler team pom poms

Materials:
• 1 skein Lion Brand Hometown USA yarn in your team’s colors (or 2 skeins, one of each color)
• ruler
• sturdy string or embroidery floss
• needle big enough to thread the string
• scissors

Instructions:

Start by cutting your whole skein of yarn into 12-inch pieces. You can just stretch the yarn out next to a ruler to get the size right. Then once you have a few cut you can use one of the pieces as your guide.

Divide the pieces into 2 even piles. Start with the first pile.

Thread the string through your needle and start piercing it though the middle of each piece of string. One way to make sure you get it through the exact middle is to fold the string in half first.

As you work, the pieces will start forming a line. Every now and then you might need to cinch them up a little bit so you have room to add more.

When you’re finished, it should look like this.

Now bring both ends of the string together and pull to cinch up the pom pom. Keep pulling until it’s really tight, then tie a knot.

Just to get the pom pom nice and secure, wrap the string around the outside of the bundle of yarn one or two times and tie another knot. Now you can snip off the remaining string.

If you need to you can also snip off any pieces of yarn that are sticking out too much. Repeat this process with the second pom pom.

All done! It takes a while to thread all those strings, but trust me, it’s worth it to have the pom pom hold up over time. Harper loves hers. Go Royals!

Bay Area fun for kids

I realized that my Bay Area travel guide really needed an update, so I added a whole bunch more restaurants and things to do and took off some that either closed or aren’t really hot spots for us. And because I know it’s a huge list, I still have my top 10 list so you can cut to the chase.


Mike and Harper at Codornices Park in Berkeley. This one has a cool hill slide and a tunnel to the Rose Garden. 

Now that we’re parents, though, we have a whole new perspective on travel and dining out. Most touristy places — well, let’s be honest, most everywhere in the Bay Area — can be crowded with long lines and inadequate parking. When you’re hauling around small children and all the stuff that goes with them, you want to make sure you’re going to be able to keep them entertained while finding things like clean bathrooms and high chairs. So, I wanted to put together a list of our favorite places to hang out with kids. When I first moved here I thought this wasn’t a particularly kid friendly place (more like dog friendly!) but now I realize that there are plenty of super fun places that cater to kids. You just have to find them. *When in doubt, search Red Tricycle.

Here are a few that are definitely worth checking out:

Steam trains and Little Farm. It’s a nice drive through the eucalyptus trees to reach Tilden Regional Park, which is up in the Berkeley hills. You can stop at one of the overlooks for a view of the whole bay. Then continue on to one of our favorite stops, the steam trains. It’s about a 10-minute ride through the woods in a cute little train. There’s a spot nearby where you can have a picnic in the grass.

You can also drive to the carousel and the Little Farm, where kids can feed farm animals. And there are some great hiking trails in the area. 

Children’s Fairyland. They call this Oakland’s storybook theme park, and I’d say that’s a perfect description. It’s full of tiny houses to explore, plus a train ride, puppet show and other performances. Bigger kids can go down slides and ride the carousel. 


Harper inside one of the little houses in Fairyland.

Lake Merritt. Fairyland is right next to gorgeous Lake Merritt, which has a great playground and nature center. Harper likes to watch the ducks and geese. There’s a huge lawn where you can have a picnic. 


Running near the playground at Lake Merritt.

Bay Area Discovery Museum. This place is much more than a museum. It’s like a theme park without all the schmaltz. Kids can explore different areas, inside and out, with climbing obstacles, water to splash in, musical instruments and a lot more.

It’s a little pricey, but the first Wednesday of the month is free! Plus, you can’t beat the Golden Gate Bridge view and the proximity to Sausalito and other fun things in Marin. 


The view from the parking lot at the discovery museum.

Treasure Island Flea. The last weekend of every month there’s a huge flea market on Treasure Island. It’s only $3 admission and kids under 12 are free. They have activities set up for kids and food trucks, where you can get a really yummy lunch. The market’s great, but it’s also just a fun place to hang out. 


Food trucks at the Treasure Island Flea.

Crissy Field and East Beach. Harper loves the water, so even if it’s freezing cold, we still have fun taking her to the beach. The one near Crissy Field is right in San Francisco and has great views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge. It has a nice walking/bike trail and bathrooms nearby. 

She also loved the beach in Pescadero, which is a bit of a drive but a nice getaway. 

Lafayette Park playground. If you’re looking for a playground in the city, you’ll love the one at Lafayette Park. We went there for a birthday party and couldn’t believe how nice it was.  


The playground at Lafayette park.

Berkeley Marina/Cesar Chavez Park. When Harper was a baby, my moms group used to meet here to walk our strollers on the wide path through this waterfront park. People come to “kite hill” to fly kites here, which is fun to watch. Nearby at the marina there is a nice playground and then a big adventure playground for older kids.

I might do a separate list for kid-friendly restaurants, but there are a few places I can recommend. For breakfast, we love Mel’s Diner. They have a bunch of bay area locations (apparently these are different from the Mel’s Drive-Ins, which would also be good), which have kids menus, crayons and balloons. For Mexican food, the Talavera in Berkeley is great because it’s right next to a little park. For ice cream, we love Fentons in Oakland. You can get huge sundaes to share, and although there’s sometimes a line, you can usually get a table pretty quickly. 


Baby-size sundae at Fenton’s.

I will keep adding to this list as we discover new things!

Harper at 2

Sometimes Harper wakes up from a nap and my mom and I will go, “Does she look different?” She literally seems to change hour to hour.

She still has a tangle of strawberry blond hair (fine and mostly straight like daddy’s), but it’s a lot longer now. Sometimes I give it a trim, but she’s yet to have a real haircut. I’m a little afraid of that process…

The biggest change, of course, is language. She seemed kind of stuck on a few words for a long time. We were kind of surprised, given our communications backgrounds, that she wasn’t more verbal compared to her peers. But this week has been like an explosion of words and words turning into phrases.

Her favorites are “No, no, Sadie,” “Mommy, (where) are you?”, “Uh, oh, what happened?” and things like “Ready, set, go!”

I recently heard the phrase “three-nager” to describe the personalities of three-year-olds. But I have to say that Harper seems like a two-nager at times. She can change her attitude on a dime and you can see her not knowing what to do with her frustration.

Thankfully, she is spunky, giggly, and curious most of the time. Her energy is just astounding! Sometimes she will take off down our long hallway or the driveway outside and just do laps yelling “run, run!”

She got her first real shoes this month. She was tripping and falling a lot in her soft shoes and seemed to need more support. She’s a pretty fearless climber and I think she is about ready for a tricycle or a balance bike.

She’s less inclined to put a strange thing in her mouth now, but you never know when she is going to go digging through the trash, or stepping in dog poop or any number of destructive things.

Sleep has been a mixed bag. She had been sleeping pretty well at night and taking her usual scattered naps and then we hit a patch a few weeks ago that was far worse than the 18-month regression. I thought maybe she was getting a big molar because she was just so out of sorts and only pain reliever seemed to calm her down.

Now she seems back to normal and no new teeth. So who knows. I am pretty desperate for a break or a vacation and really wanting to travel more this year. I know now that breaks are key to mama happiness and that’s one of the things I really need to work on in the future.

The selfie photo reminds me that we actually had to take the iPad away completely because she became so obsessed with “Pen.” Now she is obsessed with Daniel Tiger on PBS, but that one doesn’t bother me as much. Hopefully we can bring it back in the future because I really liked some of the learning apps. But man was she attached to that thing!

Lately she LOVES baths. She practices counting with her toys and it’s so cute. She likes being in the car and it is about the only way she’ll fall asleep for naps. She loves to run wild in the aisles of a store. We’re working on finding more activities to do with her. I think the aquarium and zoo would be fun.

I do have the tiniest bit of sentimentality for her teeny baby days, but really each stage has been so much more fun and interesting than the last. And this one in particular with breakthroughs in communication is so big, I’m really enjoying it. And you better believe I indulge in sleepy cuddles as much as possible lately. Those are the best.