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Another’s Perspective

Girls at Japanese Garden, Portland, OR

We met some friends at the Japanese Garden today. We got there earlier than they, and took that time to explore on our own. I used to come here regularly before kids, and only once or twice when Chloe was little. It is a lovely place, even in winter. Unfortunately, by the time our friends arrived, Leo was ready to go. However, we stayed for another hour or so, giving the girls time to hang out and enjoy being together. Leo was clingy and wanted holding the entire time. By the end I was ready to just get home.

Before leaving, we decided to exit the garden (no food or drinks allowed), and eat a snack outside the gates. The other mom is a newer friend of mine. She’s done a lot of traveling and living around the world, and married a man from another country. I love hearing about her experiences in other cultures, and I often see, by things she says, how it has informed her perspective.

Anyway, there are two particular instances that stick out in my mind, that I found myself thinking about later. The first is that she remembered to pack her daughter’s snack – a cheese quesadilla, some unpeeled clementines and a water bottle. I, on the other hand, did not consciously pack a snack, instead relying on what I happen to have in my bag for moments like this – a kids Clif bar, which Chloe and Leo shared, packets of organic gummies and two small juice boxes – all pre-packaged from the store. I also wiped my kids hands with a wet wipe and offered one. What do you think? Interesting to see the difference between the snacks, right? While I believe both are perfectly acceptable, I should have known, since my kids didn’t eat much for lunch, that they would be hungry. It was a good reminder to try and pack fresh more often than I do, though our impromptu snack was fine.

The other instance was when we got back to the parking lot. The mom took a peek inside our minivan, behind the kids’ row, and exclaimed “You could have a dance party back there!” It made me laugh, because it’s true (a preschool dance party anyway)! But her comment does put into perspective our choice of vehicle (newer, though we bought it used after David accidentally totaled our last car). I am really happy with it. It is comfortable for our family of four + dog, though it is the biggest car I’ve ever owned. It reminded me how lucky we are to be able to make these choices. From many perspectives, we are truly living the American dream right now. We have more than most. I don’t regret our choices (though I may in the future, and I did miss the AWD of our old vehicle when it snowed here a few weeks back). Looking through the other mom’s eyes was enlightening. It reminded me to be grateful. To be more conscious of my choices and time, and how they affect my children, our budget, and our family.

Sometimes an outside perspective really does work wonders.


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Chloe’s 5th (Painting & Art) Birthday Party!

Chloe's painting art birthday party
Chloe’s 5th birthday party was a success! We hosted 16 kids plus their parents, and even now I find it remarkable that everyone seemed to fit in our home without seeming crazy crowded. Chloe loved having all her friends over and the 5 “art stations” seemed to entertain and engage the kids, despite a span of ages. They could choose what they wanted to do, when they wanted to do it (and I was secretly glad to not have to organize any group games). And when party goers were done with craft projects they were free to roam outside to the sand table and play structure, or into Chloe’s room for dress-up, or Leo’s room for trucks and train table. It was great!

I didn’t take as many photos as usual, but here are a few shots snapped with my phone to show a little of our setup:

painting and art party table

Our main dining table was Station #1, painting. Each place had a set of (washable) watercolors (from this Crayola 24ct setcomes with 3 individual sets of 6 colors), a paintbrush, a bowl of water and a piece of watercolor paper set up for the kids to make their masterpieces.

Art party station play-doh

Station #2 was a Play-Doh table. I purchased a 24ct pack of rainbow Play-Doh and set out our rolling/cutting play tools. The colors were vibrant and lots of fun to mix and mash.

art party collage table

Station #3 was a collage table. I set out our collection of decorative edged scissors, stickers, colored glue sticks and a variety of paper for the kids to craft up a storm.

art party cookie decorating table

Station #4 was a decorate-your-own-cookie project. I originally saw this idea on Green Owl Art and decided it was perfect for little hands. I cut out cardboard circles as well as foam “icing” and purchased the same collection of stickers from Michaels. Easy to do and with really cute results.

Melissa And Doug wooden stringing beads and bead bouquet
Station #5 held wooden beads to make beaded bracelets. It included a set of Melissa and Doug Deluxe Wooden Stringing Beads set and the Melissa and Doug Bead Bouquet set. I think the kids really liked being able to include their names on their bracelets and the Bead Bouquet set had a nice variety of shaped and painted beads. I cut each necklace-length cord into 3 equal pieces (singeing the severed ends with a lighter so they wouldn’t unravel), so that every attendee could make at least one bracelet. Since the kits didn’t come with enough closure beads I supplemented them with lanyard snaps.

art rainbow party table snack decoration crepe paper streamers

Besides the snack table backdrop, the only other “decorating” we had time for that morning (besides balloons) was to line the pass-through from the living room to the kitchen with rainbow-colored crepe paper streamers as we have in the past. Young kids love to run through them and watch them flutter back into place. Plus they really give a visual bang for the buck, which is always nice. The snack table itself held a little less than usual since two of our young guests have severe food allergies. Good thing their moms are such avid ingredient readers, as I overlooked a detail even though I was trying to be careful.

Overall, this party was the perfect blend of what Chloe wanted to do to and the amount of effort I wanted to put into the planning and details. I sometimes wonder if I don’t do enough (or if I do too much), but this one felt just about right. There is no doubt that Chloe loved every minute. Afterwards, I received several sweet and heart warming comments and emails from moms who really thought it was a terrific time. Pretty much the best any mom could ask for. 🙂

P.S. To make it easy on myself I linked to the products above on Amazon, but purchased almost everything locally. For example the Play-Doh came from Target and the best price on the Melissa and Doug beads came from Home Goods.

Elmer's colored glue sticks best price

I also found a few things at Dollar Tree, which is always worth checking before a party. I purchased the left set of Elmer’s Colored Glue Sticks
at Dollar Tree for $1, but then saw them a few days later at Michaels retailing for $5.99. Sometimes it pays to shop around!


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Party Planning

Planning a painting art craft party

My little girl is turning 5 in less than a week! The older she gets the more she has her own opinions of what she wants to do to celebrate. A while back she mentioned a rainbow party. I remember thinking ‘Fun! I can do that!’ Then she said she wanted to paint with all her friends, and it morphed into a painting/craft party (with the same rainbow cake as last year, per her request). Earlier this week she said she wanted a fairy party, but by then I had already stocked up on watercolor sets and paint brushes, as well as other crafting materials (and to be honest, I have no idea how to throw a fairy party or how we’d incorporate boys). Either way, I know Chloe is very much looking forward to having her friends over and having a good time!

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this event – trying to stay within a reasonable budget, keeping the amount of decorating manageable but festive, planning varied and age-appropriate projects to suit different levels of interests and abilities, and most importantly of all: keeping in mind that this party is for Chloe to enjoy.

It is all too easy to fall into the stress of making a party “perfect” and feeling the pressure to impress other people. Its happened to me before, and still does to some extent. I’ve had to remind myself that this is for Chloe. Will she like this activity? Will this be fun for her preschool friends? But ultimately, I want the parents to enjoy being at the party as well. Socializing is all well and good, but its even better if the parents can participate in the fun.

Lastly, I’ve asked myself “How much cleaning up do we really want to do after the party’s over?” I am under no illusions about what might happen while hosting a painting/craft party with little ones involved. It is risky business any way you look at it. Mainly I tried to choose “washable” options and was careful to steer clear of anything involving glitter. The husband hates to see glitter on the floor, which is hard since Chloe loves “princess-y” things and has been gifted glittery clothes and toys which often leave a trail of sparkles behind.

So, that’s that! It’s going to be the largest gathering that we’ve ever hosted at the house, even though I tried to keep the guest list down as best I could. I just hope that everyone has a good time, and that Chloe feels the love of having her family and friends here to celebrate her big day.

More details to come after the party!


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At the Gas Station

Chloe: Mama, is that man (the gas station attendant right outside the open windows) going to have a baby?!
Me: Embarrassed silence.
Chloe: He’s really big! His belly is big. Isn’t it?
Me: More silence.
The attendant hands me the receipt and politely says “Have a good day.” As we pull away Chloe asks “Was he speaking Spanish?”
Me: No, Chloe. He was not speaking Spanish, and no, he was not pregnant. Men don’t have babies.
Chloe: Daddy seahorses have babies…


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First Day of School 2013-1014

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 11.14.14 AM

Both kids started their respective preschool classes at the end of last week (on separate days). For Chloe, it was pretty much old hat, since she had gone to the same preschool last year. She was excited to see some of her old classmates and easily made new friends on her first day.

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 11.15.46 AM

Leo was the unknown, but I was pretty much knew he would do fine. This was his first 9-month preschool class, held in the same building and with the same teacher as Chloe. I think it all felt really familiar to him (as it should, since he came with us every time I dropped off Chloe last year). This time, though, he got to be the one to participate. Moms are required to stay during the first two classes, and I was glad to have had the opportunity to see first hand the kind of experiences he would have. And I was very happy with what I saw.

The only thing that concerns me is how I will do, taking the kids to school on a daily basis (although they attend alternate days). It’s a 12-15min drive one way, which makes for almost an hour of commuting if I choose to come back home between drop-off and pick-up. I know it will be worth it, though. One big benefit will be having more one-on-one time with Chloe. I hardly ever have that, and now I’ll get it two mornings a week. I anticipate some fun excursions (and definitely easier grocery shopping)!


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Chloe’s Preschool Graduation, Age 4

So far this summer I’ve been doing a lot more posting on Facebook instead of here on the blog. Part of it is that I rarely get time to sit at a computer. It is so much easier to post photos and snippets using my phone. Also, the Facebook App seems to be a lot more user-friendly than the WordPress app. However, I’m going to try and re-post some of it here – like these photos on Chloe’s graduation day.

Chloe will be attending the same preschool next year, and on Facebook I wrote “I realize this graduation day is just the first of many, and that this is “only” preschool, yet I can’t help but feel so proud of my little girl. She has grown in so many ways this past year. Here are some special moments from our morning…” After graduation I took the kids to the park for a little fun. They are growing up so fast!

P.S. This photo below is a the graduation cap she made – she’s wearing it in the top photo, too. 🙂


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Chloe & Leo’s Vintage Play Kitchen

kids vintage play kitchen

I’ve mentioned the kids’ play kitchen many times here on the blog. Because of that I thought I’d post some photos of  this special “toy” that’s provided countless hours of play and learning, and also as a record for my kids to look back on someday.

play kitchen, melissa and doug sweet treat towerPlenty of room for storage, which makes clean up easy (though never organized like this).
play kitchen, sink detailThe “sink” is cleverly made with a tupperware style plastic container

First of all, the play kitchen was a gift from David’s parents. I believe they had seen it at a colleague’s home and offered to buy it. Eventually it became theirs, and then later they drove it all the way out here (to Portland) from Colorado on the back of their pick-up. I don’t know much else about it, but even before it became ours, it looked very well-loved, yet still sturdy. It has a handmade quality to it, but may have been put together from a kit, for all I know. The previous owners passed down several pieces of play food and dinnerware. More pieces were added later, mostly as gifts (like that Melissa & Doug Sweet Treat Tower puzzle that the kids got for Easter, in lieu of candy). Once, after cleaning it all up for the umpteenth time, I decided to put half of it away, mostly the mis-matched odds and ends. They still played with it just as much.

play kitchen, side view Side view. It sits between the kitchen and the dining area.
play kitchen, stove and oven detailThe oven handle says “Hamilton MFG Co” and the stove dials are record player knobs.
play kitchen, nursery rhyme detail, there was an old woman who lived in a shoe...There are decals all over depicting scenes from nursery rhymes. This one is “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…”

To be completely honest, I remember David and I hesitating when we first saw it. It isn’t really how we see our “style,” and takes up a chunk of space. However, I admit that its play value has completely exceeded our expectations. I am so grateful now to my in-laws foresight. I have grown to love it as much as the kids, and now see it as charming and important part of their history, to be cherished and remembered.


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Preschool & Toddler Activities

Chasing bubbles in the back yard

It is not even summer break, yet I already feel like I’m having a hard time keeping the kids busy. On one hand there’s the advice that says it is good for kids to be bored, because it forces them to be creative with the tools (or toys) they have access to. On the other hand, I’ve also read that boredom actually puts a lot of stress on a young brain, which science has shown to be unhealthy. All I know is when the kids are bored, they make this mama C.R.A.Z.Y.!

Since Leo’s second birthday is coming up in a couple weeks (and since my parents want me to buy Leo’s gifts for them), I have been happily researching some new games and activities I think would keep him occupied he would like. I’ve given him one gift a bit early, the Design and Drill Tool Kitby Educational Insights. He took to it like fish to water. Anything with pieces and moving parts is fascinating to him. It’s the smaller of the three sets, but I wanted to give it a try first. I’m poised to buy more bolts and an extra drill so his sister can join him. I love to have them working on a project together. The other sets come with pattern sheets that older kids can follow.

Speaking of patterns, Chloe is definitely aware of them in both shapes and colors. Here are a couple of her creations from just this past week. These were projects she designed completely on her own. All I got was a “Mom, come look what I made!” at the end. Plus, I’ve got to hand it to her, she takes Leo’s interference a lot better than I would if I was trying to concentrate on a creative project. I usually try to give them a little time to work it out (like with the colored plastic blocks), but if Leo cannot control himself from knocking down her buildings down over and over (like the wooden ones today), then I will remove him and give her some peace to work.

We also do a lot of arts-and-crafts type projects. Here was a project from yesterday, where the kids drew on popsicle sticks and I helped lash them together with tape (the classic “raft of popsicle sticks” project). It kept them both busy for a short time, and we did an “experiment” at the end to see if they would sink or float. However, Chloe was not happy to have the colors in her raft began to wash away. Whoops. I forgot that they were washable markers (the only kind I’ll let her brother near). By the way, Chloe told me that picture was of her and me that she drew on the sail.

And sometimes, I just throw my hands up in the air while saying “Whatever!” and go pull out something I’ve been saving – like these animal masks that I ordered for Leo’s upcoming party. Part of me wants the kids to be surprised, but part of me also knows that it wouldn’t hurt for them to get played with a little before the big day. It was surprisingly fun! We made silly faces in the bathroom mirror, trying on the different animals and finally I had to run and get my phone so I could take a couple pictures. This is the face of a child happily engaged in the activity she is doing at the moment. A photo worth a thousand words to this mommy!

 


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Holland America Tulip Festival

Walking the u-pick tulip field with Chloe

Have you ever been to a tulip festival? Chloe and I came upon one by chance yesterday. We were a few hours into our homeward journey from a friend’s house north of Seattle and were more than ready to stretch our legs. This festival was at the Holland America Bulb Farm in Woodland, Washington. Such a sight! So many colors and so many gorgeous varieties. I’ve seen pictures of masses of blooms, but to see it in person…

smelling the bright pink tulips

This was our first tulip farm experience. We stayed about an hour, enough to browse the garden gifts, sample some “deep fried popcorn”, sniff some different varieties and wander among the u-pick area to select the stems we wanted to take home. Of course, I also took a lot of photos. While most of our drive had been rainy, the sun just happened to come out when we arrived. For the record, I did not alter the color of these photos at all. They were truly that rich and vibrant against the gray intensity of the sky.

In the colorful tulip field

smelling the yellow tulips

I’m so glad we took the opportunity to stop. It is so easy to focus on the destination, and not take time to savor the journey. A fitting and memorable reminder to “stop and smell the roses” (- er, tulips). Don’t you agree?

 


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Photo Friday: “Natural Light”

f/2.8  1/4000  iso 100

I shot this photo on Easter Sunday. You can tell that she is wearing the same dress from the egg hunt, but she didn’t want to change into anything else. Normally I don’t like to have a subject right in the middle of a photo, but I think it kinda works here. Photo Friday link up here.


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Easter Egg Hunt 2013

Nothing like the joy of a good Easter Egg Hunt! We’ve attended the same one every year since Chloe could walk. Its free, hosted by a local church, and starts off with a few crafts for the kids to do while they wait. This year was Leo’s first. You should have seen his eyes light up when he noticed the fields sparkling with colorful eggs!

Next year Chloe will be too old to hunt the same field as Leo, so I am glad I was able to get some photos of them together. By the end, Chloe had her basket filled literally to overflowing. So much fun, but unfortunately, over so quickly! More of our hunt photos can be seen here, and a special thanks to the kids’ aunt and uncle for providing them with such adorable, personalized baskets!

What about you? Do you have fond memories of egg hunts? Treat-filled Easter baskets? Pancakes shaped like bunnies?

 

 


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Daily Reflection: Rose, Bud and Thorn

At a dinner gathering a while ago, some friends of ours introduced us to the Rose, Bud and Thorn daily reflection activity. For those of you who have not heard of it, it works like this: You begin by reflecting on your day. The best part of your day is considered your “Rose”. The worst part of your day is your “Thorn,” and your “Rosebud” or “Bud” is something you are looking forward to (either later that day, or tomorrow). From searching the web I can see that it is often used as a classroom exercise or dinner table conversation starter, where each person takes a turn to share their Rose, Bud, and Thorn.

Here are my Rose, Bud and Thorn for today:

Rose: While I was driving Chloe to preschool this morning, I was singing along to Taylor Swift. Chloe exclaimed “Mama, you and the music sound the same! I can’t tell you apart at all!” Such a compliment, even from a four-year-old!

Thorn: Since Leo refuses to sit in a shopping cart, I’ve gone back to carrying him in the Beco on my back. I even gave him his beloved pacifier in the hopes of having a quiet 10 minute shopping experience. Instead, he spit the pacifier out on the floor, pulled my hair, yelled, purposefully spit saliva down my back and tried to bite a hole in my shirt. Seriously! My son does not like shopping. It’s strange because Leo is generally easy going. Anyway, not a fun experience.

Rosebud: I’m already looking forward to the weekend. Hopefully, we’ll be painting our bedroom. I’ve got a gallon of Benjamin Moore’s Natura paint waiting at the ready!

So, what was your Rose, Bud and Thorn for the day? Be sure to ask your husband or kids and see what they have to say. You may be surprised. 🙂

P.S. Here is a nice listing of the benefits of using the Rose, Bud and Thorn as a family conversation starter.


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Night Waking

Last night, as I was getting ready to shower before bed, I heard the telltale patter of little feet in the hall and then our room. I peeked out the bathroom door to find Chloe climbing into bed beside daddy, mumbling sleepily about something scary.

This was a surprise. Though she has woken up from bad dreams before,  she usually just called to us from her room. This was the first time she’d ever come into ours.

I hesitated. Part of me wanted to see what was wrong. To snuggle beside her and David. But part of me also knew that night wakings are delicate situations. I had been warned by other parents, and didn’t want to encourage a nightly recurrence.

My pause gave me the time I needed to conclude that Daddy’s got this one. I continued my shower, feeling a little guilty and also curious. I reminded myself that I was giving David an “opportunity” to parent.

Of course, I love my kids and know it’s my job to Mother. But I admit that sometimes I step in for other reasons – maybe because I want to handle a situation my way, or maybe just to to “spare” David the task (don’t get me wrong, there are PLENTY of times I’ve been just as happy letting him deal with a situation). But my kids have two parents. Just as I do them a disservice when I don’t let them try figuring things out on their own, its the same if I don’t allow them to benefit from both parents.

By the time I finished brushing my teeth, daddy had quietly helped Chloe back to bed and all was peaceful in the house.

But I doubt it will be the last we’ll see of Chloe in our bedroom at night. I have a feeling this could be the start of another chapter of parenting.

PS. The photo above is Chloe hanging from her Ikea Kura Bed that we painted white. The wall mural was painted by her Grandma Sandy when Chloe was a baby. You can see a color photo here. We talk about painting her room, but I can’t bear to see it go just yet.

 


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Not on your face!

This is an outtake shot of Leo while I was helping Chloe make her valentine cards on the other end of the table. I had set him up with some Alex Dots and Dashes paint markers to play with, which he’s used fine in the past. However, I guess he was feeling experimental, and decided to either taste the tip or just see what it felt like on his face. This reminded me of a photo I took of Chloe a little over a year ago. Her photo was taken December 5, 2011, a couple weeks after she turned three. I remember uploading the photo from my phone onto Facebook and writing “I guess it was inevitable…” 🙂

For the record, although it was labeled ‘washable,’ the ink left a blue stain on Leo’s face for the rest of the day. The washable Crayola marker that Chloe used came right off. Good to know!


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Light Up Valentines + Free Printable PDF

Chloe worked on her Valentine cards right after breakfast this morning. I had designed these cards a few weeks back, knowing I had a stash of tiny finger flashlights for her to give away. These super bright LED Finger Flashlights are about 20¢ each when you buy a set on Amazon. Keeping their size in mind, I made a similar-sized flashlight with a heart and then included the phrase “You Light Up My Life Valentine.” Interestingly, this is the first time I felt like typefaces failed me. None of them looked quite right, so I ended up handwriting it and then scanning it in. Much better!

Here’s what the cards look like freshly printed:

This is what the packages of finger flashlights look like:

If you decide to add a finger light onto a card, use an x-acto knife to cut a small tab near the middle of the printed flashlight, like shown. Then slide the elastic loop onto the tab. Like this:

Continue Reading →


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Family Portrait by Chloe, age 4

This is a drawing that Chloe made yesterday. I totally, totally love it. For the longest time she was mostly a scribbler. We never guided her drawing, but sometimes she would as us to draw something for her. Now suddenly she is starting to make all kinds of recognizable drawings. They are really fun to see, and sometimes come with imaginative scenarios or stories that blow me away.

The other photo shows her explaining the people in the picture: Daddy is in the middle. He is carrying her and Leo, one on each arm. He’s strong! Mama is in the back next to me, and Barkley (our dog) is the puffball in the corner under Leo.

The toy is a Fisher Price Kid Tough Travel Doodle Pro with Light. It’s been a great! I bought it for Leo to play with during our holiday flights to Colorado and Cancun, and also because he was always fighting over Chloe’s Toulouse-LapTrec from B. Toys (both definitely on my list of best toy purchases ever). The Travel Doodle has a little stowaway light the kids like to switch off and on, and turns off by itself (genius! why doesn’t anyone make a kids flashlight that does this?). For Chloe I pack her travel Aquadoodle which is much thinner and lighter, but mostly now she just draws on her ipad. We also have the large floor Aquadoodle that both kids can play with at the same time. All have been a big hit, and worth every penny.

PS. I just found out when getting the link to the Toulouse-LapTrec that all versions before 2011 have been recalled, which includes Chloe’s. Looks like they might send a new one. Hers is the chocolate brown version, but now it looks like they only come in olive green and red.

 


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Better

Things are gradually getting back to normal around here. The kids are feeling better, and so far, David and I have stayed healthy despite the wealth of germs that I am sure were floating around our house. My hands are raw and chapped from over-washing. I have wiped all doorknobs, sinks, tables and counter tops, plus all areas of floor where the kids threw up with antibacterial spray or disinfecting wipes. David mopped the floor in Chloe’s room. I washed all the bed sheets, sick clothes and towels in an extra long hot cycle with an extra rinse. Our house has never seen a week like this and I hope it never does again.

I am not exactly a germaphobe, but I do take precautions, especially with the kids. We’ve all had our seasonal flu shots (except David), and I carry two kinds of hand wipes in the diaper bag and in the car. We also teach the kids to wash their hands, especially before meals and after playing outside. Okay, maybe I am a germaphobe, but I can tell you caring for two very sick kids is exhausting and stressful. This year seems to be particularly bad, all around the country. I am a firm believer in the old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

One of the few highlights of my week was laying down the new rug in Leo’s room (after all vomiting had ceased, of course). It arrived while I was away. Our house has mostly wood floors, so the kids love having this cozy new place to sit and play. The image above shows a photo of it, and of Chloe concentrating on building an extra tall Mega Blok tower, which she was very proud of. Yep, things are finally getting back to normal. Phew!

 

 


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First Snow of Winter

Nothing like the first snow of winter! It rarely snows here in Portland, so when it does it feels extra special. Even though we were running late this morning with Chloe due at gymnastics, I couldn’t say no when she asked to go outside to play. This was also Leo’s first real experience with snow. Last December he was only 6 months old! Now he is running around and checking out the substance called “snow” like a budding scientist. And I’m glad they got the chance, because when we were done with gymnastics all the snow had gone as quickly as it had come.

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