Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ice cream machine

When I was younger, our family always got together on July 4 at someone's house that had a large yard and we would often make ice cream with an old-school ice cream maker with ice and a hand crank. It was always yummy but often runny (because we were too impatient to churn it enough or to put it in the freezer after it was done).
Now we are in Seattle where the weather is fair and they don't seem to take ice cream as seriously. Whereas in Minneapolis we had the choice of two different Dairy Queens to walk to on a hot summer day, we have to actually DRIVE to Dairy Queen (and pay a toll!) if we want some in Seattle. You can imagine our delight when a great ice cream place opened in our very neighborhood, called Molly Moon's. Despite being mediocre ice cream, they became wildly popular because they had the right combination of yuppy flavors (like salted caramel and blackberry sage), organic ingredients and locally-sourced food items. Eventually, they modified their recipes until their ice cream became pretty decent. Over time it became one of our top favorites, although we would never dare compare it to one of the wonderful midwest creameries.

Last year, Molly Moon's ice cream published a recipe book which inspired the appearance of one of the new-generation ice cream makers - made by Cuisinart - under our Christmas tree. For the first flavor we chose cinnamon. It's a surprisingly simple recipe; milk, sugar, cream, cinnamon.You cook it, cool it, stick it in the machine (which cools it some more and churns it for you - no hand crank!), and then voila! Ice cream!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas in Seattle

Highlights of our holiday (spent in Seattle):

- Layla in either her princess dress or her swimsuit (sometimes with butterfly wings)
- Santa dropping off an unexpected supply of chocolate and candy canes, and gobbling up some cookies
- An ice cream maker, for making pink and purple ice cream (and a recipe book)
- A large amount of pee on someone's living room floor
- Skyping, all morning
- Lots of holiday cheer and a few holiday tears (particularly at nap time)

All in all, we survived - I'm kind of glad we stayed in Seattle, at least this year. It was all kind of overwhelming for Layla and this way we could take it at our own pace (e.g. it took almost all day to get about half the presents open). We got together with some good friends on Christmas Eve, which sort of made up for the lack of family. We also spent most of the afternoon watching TV (including Sleeping Beauty, a gift from Grandpa K), and reading all her new and recent library books.

I hope everyone had a nice holiday!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

All ready for Christmas!

Our tree is up, stockings are out, cards have been sent, egg nog is bought, and... Amazon has delivered. Seriously, we have almost 20 empty Amazon boxes in our living room waiting to be broken down. Is this how every family does Christmas now? This year, I made an effort to buy some presents at local shops... but then I ended up sending them all out in Amazon boxes.

When you have Amazon boxes coming in with presents from relatives, your spouse, yourself for your spouse, and both your spouse and yourself for your kid, and all of them have your spouse's name on them (because you forgot to be clever when you ordered the stuff), you start getting a little confused about who should open what. At first, when there was only one package a day, we made educated guesses that were mostly correct. But this past week we were getting too many to keep track of. To make things worse, we get lots of other stuff through Amazon too so in the middle of the Large Pile Of Boxes were diapers and other things we actually wanted to use. Fortunately we finally got through it all this afternoon and everything is now wrapped - and correctly tagged - and under the tree. Hopefully there aren't a any present mishaps this year!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Layla's Santa

Layla's beginning to get the idea of Santa. She tells us she wants him to bring her 'pink and purple ice cream, rosemary, and lavender' and she hopes he brings the Studly Hubby and I toothbrushes in our favorite colors. Tonight she wrote him a 'letter' where she said, "dear Santa, thank you for the presents, I love you" (she yelled it afterwards like maybe he could hear her).

The funny thing is, she's actually leaving the presents alone that we've put under the tree - we are amazed. Although she did throw a few of them across the room while she was pitching a fit the other day. Please, those of you who may be sending presents, be sure they are well-padded.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Potty training and other adventures

We are in full-throttle potty training mode these days. We have extra motivation because Layla is moving up to the 'pre-school' room next month where most of the other kids are potty trained. She hates being wet and learned right away how to hold her pee all day so she didn't wet herself... but didn't get the idea of actually peeing in the potty at all. For two months now she's been requesting a diaper whenever she has to go pee. We've tried explaining, reasoning, bribing, scheduling, and even hiding the diapers to get her to pee on the potty and none of it worked (the daycare recommended we back off so we don't create a bigger fight). Finally she started peeing so much in her diapers that they've been leaking and that seems to be motivating her (like I said she hates being wet). Tonight she finally peed in the potty, and we're hopeful we're on the right track.

In other news for the past four months we've dealt with a variety of other troublesome toddler behaviors. In August and September there were excessive night time wakings (I'm talking 6-10 times per night), which really fried both of us. Then in October and November it transformed into frequent and very long, loud crazy tantrums. We think she resumed sleeping because of some sleep training we did (the toddler version, a bit more painful than the first time around but equally effective). We learned how to divert many of the tantrums but still had at least one a day for a while, and several really outrageous public disasters including one at the airport. Now, finally, she is both sleeping and the tantrums have ebbed. We are hopeful things are getting better. We're still dealing with some little problems like she will only wear a swimsuit and it takes us forever (like almost 2 hrs) to get out the door in the mornings but these seem manageable compared to the other problems. Now I finally get why some parents don't seem to care about some things.

We've started finding and reading books on how to manage 'spirited' children which has been really insightful. My mom gave me one book in particular about what spirited children turn into - 'highly sensitive people' - it's a wonderfully positive take on how this can be a really good quality. I can really see what they mean and hope it's true!

Freshening up the blog

After about 5 years of changing nothing on my blog, including the links, I finally freshened up the layout and links a little today while I was procrastinating doing a bunch of other stuff. I'm not sure what inspired it, except that I keep finding other blogs that are so much better looking than mine and I decided to finally do something about it.

I'm really a big fan of the whole blog idea and hope that it never dies. Thanks to those of you who are still reading despite my infrequent posts!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Holiday lists

(for anyone who is interested - I'm not trying to get my friends to buy me stuff, I'm just trying to put a list in a convenient place for those who need it)

For Layla:
- art supplies including stamps, paper cutters, kid-friendly scissors, washable paints (finger paints are good!), watercolors, papers
- anything disney princess or Backyardigans
- puzzles, activity books, sticker books
- toy kitchen stuff (play food, play cooking supplies)
- 3-yr age appropriate lego sets or another building set
- miniature sets (e.g. tiny play kitchen or dollhouse type stuff)
-pink and purple nail polish (non-toxic please)
- size 3-4T tops and bottoms, in particular sweaters, elastic waist pants, size 8 shoes

For me:
- lavender/almond/vanilla/honey/oatmeal scented soap, bath or body oil, bath salts, bubble bath (if the Soap Opera is still open they always have good stuff, otherwise I like California Baby products)
- socks from Gap or similar place
- fancy hair clips
- any recommended books on ornery toddlers
- Aveda Stress-fix body lotion or soaking salts, rosemary mint collection shampoo, conditioner, soap
- running shirt (long-sleeve or short, size medium)
- Clinique 'whole lotta color' or 'kisses' collection
-any Theo chocolate product

For Derek:
-Star Wars thumb drive
-Amazon gift card (for photography stuff)
-socks (running socks and regular socks)
-running shirt, size medium
-picture frames, 5x7 or any size
- Justin Bieber CD

Going to the LIBRARY!!

We've started going to the library. When I was little, I was an avid fan of the library, going on a very regular basis to both the public and school libraries. I would rip through as many books as I could and even revel in just hanging out there and reading.

Now, I see Layla doing the same thing. She LOVES the library (although she's still getting the hang of being quiet there, sometimes we have to cut our visit short). Nowadays I get online, pick out some stuff, then it gets delivered to our branch library which is almost next door. We go over there, wander around a bit, then pick up the stack of books I requested and head home. She spends the whole week fascinated with her books, then just as she gets sick of them... we go back. I've taken this as an opportunity to get some books for myself as well, and have been devouring them at a dizzying speed. Here are some of the things we've fallen in love with.

Books I have recently loved:

Where did you go, Bernadette? Written by a Seattleite who used to live in LA, it's about... a Seattleite who used to live in LA, who gets a little crazy and then disappears. It's absolutely hysterical, especially if you have lived in Seattle or LA. The author, Maria Semple, is my new favorite. She used to write for TV shows like "Mad About You" and "Arrested Development." I like her so much I've 'liked' her on FB.

The Books of Pellinor. This epic adventure - laid out in four books, the first of which is called "The Naming" - was sort of published and forgotten about a decade ago. My mom found them at a garage sale and our whole family has devoured them. It is like Lord of the Rings except with a female hero and a more modern language. The author pretends like it is a historical manuscript, recently found and translated, but deep on her website I found admittance that this is not true (she made a pretty big effort so it seemed like it could be true!).

Other books I've read recently: Hunger Games (as good as they say), the Host by Stephanie Meyer (of Twilight, I thought it was pretty good), 50 Shades of Grey (as raunchy as they say), and several books on how to manage ornery toddlers.

Books Layla has loved:

Anything by Laura Numeroff ("If you give a mouse a cookie"), Lucy Cousins (the "Maisy" books), Eric Carle, SHARK VS. TRAIN by Chris Barton (a random find and excellent book) and all Disney princess books.

The holidays

For the holidays, Layla decided to wear her swimsuit.

She puts it on the minute she gets up (we somehow convince her to change into clothes for daycare), and the minute she gets home. She wears it to breakfast, lunch and dinner. She would wear it EVERYWHERE, except we like to consider ourselves somewhat competent parents and so far we've held off letting her go outside in it, in December, when it's almost freezing out, because that seems like something somewhat competent parents wouldn't do.

Our attitude is, a swimsuit is better than being naked, which would be her next favorite choice. It's only slightly worse than her pajamas, which was her favorite choice last month. And it's definitely better than the princess dress she wore most of the time we were visiting family in Iowa over Thanksgiving vacation.

What we decided we really ought to do is just let her wear it, and maybe even take her swimming. That seems like something somewhat competent parents would do.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fall, officially

It's officially fall when you...


Thanks to a couple of free weekends, we have done all of the above, and even some more. Last weekend we carved pumpkins, and this weekend we went to a pumpkin farm and had some pumpkin pie (and did lots of other fun stuff too!).

We finally had some nasty fall weather, with rain, wind, and a cold cold chill this week. After a long dry bout with lots and lots of sunshine we were all finally kind of relieved to see some rain and when it came down hard we all went inside and were happy to do all those things we didn't do all summer - for our family this is making soup and apple crisp, writing letters to Grandmas, shredding stuff (I kid you not, we generate a lot of stuff to shred somehow), reading books, watching TV (I FINALLY watched Hunger Games) and Skyping with various family members.

We've been searching out indoor activities to keep our little monster busy through the winter. Last week we ventured to the library and for the first time actually checked out some books for her (it seems to be working out). We're looking into signing her up for a toddler indoor soccer team, and possibly also a dance class. We've started doing artwork at home with renewed zest, and have a lot of plans but few supplies. Lucky for us the winters here are very mild so you can often sneak in a playground trip or hang around outside at the zoo intermittently through the winter.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Layla and the horses

Since Layla's mommy (me) is an avid horse enthusiast, it probably does not come as a surprise that she has already been around some horses. Over Labor Day, she actually met my (former) horse, who is having a very happy retirement at a new owner's lush pasture not far from his old home. Unfortunately, Layla was too crabby to take pictures (the horse was not, unbelievably - he's 28 this year! - and we got some nice ones of him).

Today, we took her to the Puyallup fair (near Seattle) where she got to ride ponies. She absolutely LOVED it. She had a huge smile on her face the entire time (except when I left her side for a minute so they could take a professional photo - she cried on both tries and we didn't get a good one).

Also at the fair: a TRAIN (which we rode), an airplane ride (she figured out how to get the airplane to go up in the air just as the ride was finishing - what fun!), a HUGE slide (her dad was more scared than her), and, of course, buttered corn on the cob. We had a great time!!!

A very weird thing happened - our friends, who we have not seen all summer, crossed paths with us at this fair as we were heading out. The fair is HUGE, with many entrances and many different areas - it's unbelievable that we were all there on the same day at the same time and saw each other. Plus, I had been missing them in our long absence from each other. It made the whole day even nicer.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Rolling into fall and trying to get some sleep

Well it looks like summer is ending. Boo-hoo! The neighborhood wading pool closed a few weeks ago and the outdoor pool we've come to adore closed this weekend (we made it for one last round at each). The weather just took a turn for the cooler and it finally started raining again (contrary to popular belief, summer in Seattle is actually very dry).

With the fall comes a different pace - days are shorter and not always nice, rainboots are often needed for an outdoor stroll, and everyone starts sleeping more... except Layla.

About a month ago, Layla decided sleeping was for wussies and she would have none of it. First, she had lots of problems falling asleep and was staying up well past 9 pm (a dramatic turnaround from last year). Then, from midnight until four, almost every night, she would keep us all up by repeatedly waking up and yelling and demanding things until often the Studly Hubby would give up and go in there and sleep on her floor (we have a mat and a blanket, so it's not horrible, but still). It was reminiscent of the early days just before we decided to sleep train. As before, we discussed strategies - and tried EVERYTHING we came across. A few things worked (one great trick; tell her you have to go check on something and will be right back... then duck out for a bit and often she falls asleep in the meantime), but often the problem came back after a couple days of relief. In the end we decided to lean on her newly developing compassion and cognitive reasoning (advise, again, from Dr. Weissbluth, whose great book 'Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child' got us through the sleep training phase). Every night we instruct her she needs to 'be quiet, close your eyes, and try to go to sleep' and when she wakes us up and that makes us very very tired. Tonight I told her she could even wake up the neighbors! and the neighbor's cat!! It seems to be helping, although intermittently.

I think not sleeping is one of the hardest things about being a parent. The Studly Hubby and I joke that we have PTSD from the first year... and it's tough to have to deal with it again. I tend to do really stupid things like drive into poles and ship empty boxes internationally (both have been done). Hopefully this phase will pass soon and we can all get some rest.

Finally... the Costco membership

After having a baby, the Studly Hubby and I naturally decided to join Costco. For a year, we discussed the possibility. For the next year, we developed a plan of action. We decided to go during an off-peak time, after a large mocha-latte and a few days out from our last good run, and when the weather was bad enough not to miss a rare sun event but not so bad that everyone else had decided to go too.

Our recent trip to Iowa provided some extra motivation. My mom and the Studly Hubby's mom (collectively, the 'Grandmas') both have memberships and LOOOOOOOve it there, and told us so. Then they spent a few hours telling each other about all the great things they've discovered there, such as GIANT teddy bears (the size of a full-grown man), granola bars by the100's, and the weekend food sample frenzy. The giant teddy bear was a present for Layla, which she loved.

So last weekend we finally went, bought a membership, and took a spin around the store. It was pretty intense. We did buy a few things, and had some great food samples (greek yogurt with honey... mmmmm...). We didn't find any giant teddy bears. But, we did find the legendary Giant Bag of Pistachios, and bought it immediately. YUM.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Potty and big-girl bed update

Two updates:

1. Potty. Layla is not self-potty training as we had hoped. Instead, she tells us regularly how much she wants to go potty, and sometimes even insists on wearing underpants, but then she misses the potty whenever she actually needs it. Based on the daycare's recommendation, we've been continuing to encourage the diapers and waiting for some sign that she is really ready.

2. Big-girl bed. The transition to the big-girl bed went pretty well. On the first night, she slept all the way through. On the second night, she woke up for a while in the middle of the night and tried to escape a bunch of times, but we eventually got her to go back to sleep. Over the next week, we had a bunch of other problems related to a bad cold in the house and some general anxiety about sleeping - once the cold went away and we figured out a trick to deal with the anxiety we were ok again. The naps have been going well, surprisingly. As you can see below, Layla LOVES it now, and this morning put her daddy to sleep in her big-girl bed.

Wading pools

A lot of the neighborhood parks in Seattle have wading pools for tots that are heavily used when they are open (they only open when it's above 70F which isn't every day).

Layla LOVES going, as you can tell.

The lifeguard always plays music, and sometimes Layla sings along and dances too.

When she gets tired of splashing around the pool then we go to the playground and burn off any remaining energy we might have. This is especially important if we go get ice cream just before the whole adventure.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Big Girl Bed

Layla was recently upgraded to a toddler bed. This was because she crawled out of her crib on Tuesday night, while her daddy was out for a run and I was downstairs and couldn't immediately respond to her insistent yelling. When she crawled out for the first time over a year ago, we promised ourselves we'd convert her bed as soon as she did it again (no sooner, because she has a terrible time napping and we didn't want to encourage problems). Fortunately she held out for a long time. Now, I hope the bed conversion will be an easier transition for her and we don't create any new problems (fingers crossed!).

She adores the new bed, and so far it is not a big problem. Thanks to the daycare, which has her sleep on an open cot during nap time, she was familiar with the idea of staying in bed when we instructed her to do so. She also didn't seem too shaken up by the big change (a year ago she would have been - she would get very upset when we rotated her crib or took out the throw rug for a washing!).

After about two hours of sleeping on the first night, she rolled out of bed (you can see where the guard rail ends there's lots of room to roll out). Fortunately the Studly Hubby predicted this might happen and had lined the floor with pillows. We heard a soft thud, a brief cry, and then nothing - but when I went to check on her she was asleep on top of the pillows on the floor instead of in her bed. I assume she either didn't wake up at all or woke up only briefly. She didn't acknowledge that she remembered it in the morning. She hasn't fallen out again, and normally she doesn't roll around that much so hopefully this will be an infrequent event.

We haven't truly tested it with a nap yet - she's usually pretty good at night but the naps are where we really get challenged - like her mommy, she's a very light sleeper and has a tough time settling down in the middle of the day for a nap. Hopefully by the time the weekend rolls around the new bed will be old news.

The beach!

Last weekend we went out to the saltwater beach at Golden Gardens (pictured below). The saltwater is the Puget Sound, which is super deep and SUPER COLD (55F).

We like to get our feet wet while we're there, then warm them up in the sand and go play on the amazing new playground or go look at the tidepools if the tide is out (something I have only realized since moving to Seattle - not many tidepools in Iowa!). The nice thing about this beach is that it's not so big that you can't find your friends (and we often do, even when we didn't plan to), but it's still big enough to find lots to do and see. You can have bonfires, buy ice cream, set sail on a boat, play in a stream, watch trains go by, grill out or have a party, play frisbee or volleyball, or watch people doing any of the above (which is what we usually do).

We also had a 2.5-yr birthday party for the kids at a public pool - we rented it out for the 'party' but really we just wanted to have the pool to ourselves since it's normally really really crowded (see below).

The pool has a giant waterslide that we went down about 800 times. It also has a really warm kid's pool with a smaller water slide. It's a little hazardous swimming with a bunch of 2.5-yr olds - they're adventurous enough to try to get away from you but not smart enough to know what's really dangerous. Many of us parents had a few moments of terror when our kids (briefly) got away from us at various points in the swim. Fortunately Layla was pretty good. She didn't want to do the waterslide by herself and listened when we told her not to run. She LOVES the water and has no fear of putting her face in or getting splashed. She also really had a lot of fun playing with all her friends.


Our little girl has a strong affinity for lavender. She also likes rosemary, mint, thyme, chives, and pretty much any herb that is growing outside. Lavender is her favorite though. Every time we pass by our front garden, which has several robust lavender bushes, she grabs at least two sprigs and carries them around with her until it's been eaten. That means that every morning on the way to daycare she grabs some lavender - and takes it with her to daycare (she actually keeps track of it too). The staff joke that she smells like lavender all day long (or maybe they aren't joking...).

We try not to let her eat strange lavender around the neighborhood, but she always looks for it and points it out when she sees it. She also asks about her lavender when we're out and about - we got asked about 100 times where her lavender was while we were at Lake Chelan.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Farmer's Market!!

Our neighborhood has a Farmer's Market in the summers, in a park about 8 blocks from our house. We go every week. It has a playground in the park, and a large grassy area where you could theoretically picnic (but who would, with the playground right there?). Mostly, we buy berries.

Lately, we've also started buying hamburgers and ice cream. Both are almost as good as what you can get in Iowa. What we really like about the ice cream is that they have bars in a million flavors. Our favorites are root beer, and vanilla lavender.

There's also live music at the Farmer's Market (although more at the bigger Ballard Market we go to in the off-season). Layla likes to stop and listen and dance a little bit, and then throw a couple dollars in their instrument case. One night, she found her daddy's mandolin, opened it up, played some music for me, then demanded I put some money in the case. What a quick learner!

'Baby Layla'

Layla has adopted one of her babies as her 'baby brother' (even though it is pink and very clearly meant to be a girl). She calls it 'Baby Layla,' probably to divert the label from herself ('I'm 'Big-Girl Layla!' she tells us).

Baby Layla goes a lot of places with us and gets mentioned a lot at the daycare and around town. When asked if she has a baby brother or sister, she insists she does, and his name is 'Baby Layla.' If you try to argue with her about her story, she will defend it REALLY well (mostly by yelling 'No! That's my BROTHER!!!'). One of her teachers made the mistake of telling her that Baby Layla isn't really her brother and immediately regretted it. And Layla laid down the law with a slightly older boy that tried to tell her the baby is clearly not a boy - she told him (loudly) (several times) that Baby Layla is her BROTHER and she DOESN'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. 

We play the role of the worn-out parents that will agree with whatever story we're told. We say 'ok, that's your brother' and go get him/her milk and cookies as needed. Sometimes, Baby Layla needs to eat, and can be a little picky about what he likes. He cries and needs soothing, and sometimes Baby Layla falls down and needs a bandaid. Mostly, Baby Layla cuddles with Layla in bed, in the stroller, and everywhere else.

Lake Chelan pictures

For those of you who are wondering, Lake Chelan is the vacation-destination for Northwest families (compare to the Dells). It is about 4.5 hrs east of Seattle, and just on the other side of the mountains so the climate is TOTALLY different - they have real winters and summers. While we were there, it was actually HOT. It's also very dry there - there were apple and blueberry and grape farms but they were all irrigated.

Here are a few pictures from our trip.

On Saturday, we went to breakfast at one of the irrigated blueberry farms. They really did the tourist thing well and the place was packed. We shared a table with another family and Layla and their 3-yr-old boy got along well.
An irrigated blueberry farm.

Layla was actually a really good blueberry picker!

I enjoyed it too!

Back at the beach, Layla was REALLY interested in the boats. She wanted to ride them so badly. We finally rented a paddle boat and took her out in it. She was really good! We picked up a stick floating in the lake and she went 'fishing' while we were out.

Layla at the beach.

 Our hotel room overlooked the beach and was 20 feet away from a heated outdoor pool. People were in the pool all day and night. We were out on our deck until 10 pm then passed out.

The view from our room

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Summer mini-vacation - Lake Chelan

After a successful two weekends away earlier this summer we thought we'd try again - this time for a little further and longer trip, by ourselves (another family we knew happened to be at the same place the same weekend, which was really nice, but mostly we were on our own). Layla's really into swimming right now, we haven't had much summer in Seattle yet and the Studly Hubby and I really needed something easy and relaxing - so we rented a fancy place in a resort by a beach (Lake Chelan, we stayed at Wapato Point), a good 4 hr drive East where it's actually sunny and warm (it got up to 100F today!). This place had it all: two bathrooms (!), a pool right outside our door, a beach a little walk away, a deck overlooking the lake, and lots and lots and lots of things for kids to do - playground equipment, boats, mini-golf, wading pools, fresh clean grassy lawns to run around barefoot, and a fairly unrestricted attitude about screaming and nakedness (especially good for us, erm I mean Layla).

I have to admit, the whole hotel-by-the-beach thing is not a regular thing for us. I was a little worried after spending all that money that the drive, the toddler, and the heat might get to us - but we really really enjoyed it and would do it again in a heartbeat (the drive and the toddler did get to us but it was still worth it). Our biggest challenge was that our fiesty girl decided she didn't need to nap at all while we were there, which doesn't suit her well, so the afternoons got very long and wearing (especially Saturday). Fortunately the place offered many good distractions to help us get through it.

My favorite activity: the waterpark, which had FIVE slides we could take Layla on and a Lazy River (which she also liked, surprisingly). Derek's favorite: the hotel pool and throwing Layla up into the air so she could splash in the water on her way down (the first time, she sucked down a bunch of water and spluttered around a bunch and then screamed with glee, "DO IT AGAIN!!!"). Layla's favorite: the paddle boat, which gave her much fodder for imaginary play once we got home (now when we pretend to go somewhere we can do it in a boat, which is much less complicated than a car because there are no parking or traffic problems).

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Summer bucket list

Saw this on a recent blog, and even though summer is 'half' over for all you normal folks, it just got started here in Seattle. But, I'm proud to say we're already making a lot of progress on the list, despite the extra-cool and rainy spring. So here it is:

The J & D & L Summer Bucket List:

- GO TO THE BEACH!! (there are many kinds of beach and we want to get to as many as we can)
- GO SEE SOME TIDEPOOLS (already checked!)
- GO TO THE WADING POOL (check, check and CHECK!)
- GO PICK SOME BLUEBERRIES! (does the Farmer's Market count?)
- GO FOR A BIKE RIDE (where IS my bike!?)
- CHECK OUT A SPRAY PARK (Found one! it was at Crossroads in Bellevue - nice!)
- GO TO A WATERPARK (heading there on Friday!!)
- GET AWAY FOR THE WEEKEND (Check and check... and this weekend, check again!)
- CALL MY DAD (oops! did you say you were moving to Texas?)
- TAKE A FERRY TO AN ISLAND (whoo! made it!)
- GET A PEDICURE (Check! First one ever - thanks B for getting me motivated!!)
- DO SOMETHING TOTALLY NEW (hmmm.... see above)

Well, I guess we're doing pretty good!!! I'll be calling my dad this weekend though...

Summer with Miss Layla

Well, summer is full-on here in Seattle, which means it totally stopped raining and gets above 70F every once in a while. For the first time since I was a kid, I can't WAIT until it gets above 70F so we can bust out to the pool, the neighborhood wading pool, or the beach (we can get to the Puget Sound inlet from our house, it isn't the ocean but it's saltwater and beautiful). Layla LOVES it and now so do we. On days that it doesn't get above 70 (which are a lot) we go to the indoor pool and totally wear ourselves out. Members of our baby group (8 families all with kids the same age) are joining us more often than not and helping create more fun.

Layla has started to go to bed later and later (her bedtime is now 8 pm) and it's a whole new routine - we've been leaving work a little later, taking turns putting her to bed (I recently started going to an evening yoga class, which has been awesome), eating dinner as a family more, going out  at night to BBQs and parks (something we could never do before), but also the Studly Hubby and I have a little less time to ourselves which takes some adjusting to.

Layla has changed so much over the past month. She has taken the super-hyper-crazy down a few notches and is finally calming down a bit (although she's still on the super-hyper-crazy side, don't get me wrong). She is sitting still for up to 20 minutes at a time (40 the other night!!!) to watch a little TV (she switches preference but is currently coming off of Dora and heading into Backyardigans). She'll also cuddle every once in a while, play on her own in a rare moment, or sit down and have a whole conversation (dinner is SO much more pleasant, and we're finally finding out what she does at daycare all day!). She says all kinds of crazy things to us and a lot of them we can't really track down from anywhere so she must be dreaming them up herself - it's so weird to have her putting together her own ideas and then sharing them with us. Speaking of, she is REALLY into imaginary play and invests a lot of time and energy making up and acting out situations with us like getting a hair cut (including a final spray with pink hair dye, where did she get that idea?), buying ice cream (she likes to give us money, then give us ice cream, in flavors like 'pink' and 'purple'), and throwing a birthday party (she'll spend a half an hour trying to find adequate party hats for each of us and passing around pretend birthday cake). What we find especially endearing is that some of her favorite things are our favorites too (ice cream, the farmer's market, the wading pool, sushi, legos) and therefore easy to accommodate. Some things are totally of her own preference, however, like eating lavender and rosemary out of the garden (constantly), scooting on her scooter, and trying on other people's shoes.

Another thing Layla really really enjoys is cavorting around naked or in totally ridiculous outfits (like a cape and her swimsuit, or one of my tank tops). We spend most of each morning convincing her to wear SOMETHING that's decent and if we succeed we often have to race her up to the daycare immediately after or risk her changing her mind. To make things worse we keep confusing her by taking her to clothing-optional events like the famous naked bike ride and Solstice Parade in our neighborhood (hey, it's Seattle). From the many hilarious questions we got afterwards, we suspect she was carefully thinking the whole thing through for a while.

As for the Studly Hubby and I, we've been busy like two worker bees this spring/summer. We've been alternating going out of town (me: San Francisco, Michigan; him: Texas, then London) in between finishing up enormously time-consuming projects at each of our respective jobs. We've been coping - we're using the discounted nanny service provided by his work, scheduling play dates to keep Layla occupied, keeping things fairly simple at home (this is where renting is nice!), and before Layla's bedtime recently moved back we were putting in lots of productive work-nights. But, a few things have been suffering: the blog (sorry!), the extended family (again, sorry!) and our houseplants (hang in there, you can make it!). Hopefully things will slow down later this summer but I doubt it - we still have several family trips coming up (yay!) as well as lots of summer-y weekend plans. But, at least it's all fun stuff.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Energizer bunny

We are realizing over and over again that we have an extremely energetic, adventurous and independent toddler, even compared to other toddlers. Having only ever had one toddler, we sometimes wonder if we are correctly assessing things, or if we are partly to blame (other than genetics. With regard to genetics, I blame her father). Our recent trips with other families of toddlers, and some acute observations at the daycare, have led to the following observations:

1) Layla is much more trouble than most other toddlers, but not the most trouble. These other more troublesome toddlers are boys, and are bigger and just a little more adventurous. Layla seems to have at least a little sense of caution, which is tremendously helpful.

2) A few really big benefits come out of this - first, she doesn't hesitate to try everything and do anything, which makes every outing very fun. Second, like her mommy, she finds hanging around at home kind of boring, so we have a good excuse to go out and do family-friendly fun things when we can, and we have found a lot of neat things to do. Third, I don't worry about her getting enough activity when she's being watched by someone else - because I know she'll make sure she gets it.

3) A few other things: she is a GREAT sleeper at night, and she seems to have made that necessary cognitive leap so she understands where we're going and what we're doing - hugely useful when things aren't going as planned or we're in a new environment. She's also pretty tough and doesn't whine a whole lot when she gets hurt, something she couldn't have gotten from me.

I have no idea how much of this is her and how much comes from the way we're parenting her - but I get the sense that it's mostly her. It must be fascinating to have twins that are totally different, so you can see this. And I'm sure it will be very very interesting to see how this toddler morphs into a little person and finally into a grown-up person.

The things coming out of Layla's mouth

Layla's starting to be able to tell us about more than just her opinions, although we're still hearing plenty of opinions (mostly involving milk, her scooter, and the playground). She can order events and associate different things and remember directions. Today on the way home from daycare she told me she wanted to get some milk, bring it outside, and then scoot with her Daddy. When she falls down at daycare, she can tell us about it and who was there and how she fell and what she hurt. She reads books to her Tigger, and she actually tells Tigger about the pictures and sort of tells the story to him. Although she is talking constantly, we still can't get her to talk on command (she NEVER reveals anything useful when I ask how her day was, or when we Skype with one of the grandparents). But, the new level of chatter is changing the way we handle her and how we plan our days (we can actually ask her whether she wants to go to the playground or go scooting). Most important, we can explain - and she understands - what we are doing and it has made traveling a ton easier. And it is probably a big relief to her, to be able to finally articulate what she is thinking!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Potty training update

Apparently, our girl has decided it's time for potty training. She insisted on wearing underwear all day today at daycare and actually went potty in the toilet - something we didn't even know she knew how to do! She only had one accident at the end of the day.

We are a little bit surprised, and not ready, and don't really know what to do... but I guess Layla will lead the way as she has done with everything else!

Another toddler vacation

We finally got away this weekend for a wild time up at Orcas Island. This is about a 2 hr drive split by a 1.5 hr ferry ride (because it's an island, it's only accessible by ferry!). The island itself is about a 45-min drive across. It's surrounded by other islands and is totally beautiful - but it's also very rural so the island itself reminds me a lot of my home country of Iowa.

We happened to have TOTALLY beautiful weather. We really had a marvelous time. Three families stayed in a big house and two other families stayed in nearby cabins. All the kids played hard all day then after they went to bed the adults partied hard at night (a bit too hard...). Layla was the only kid that slept through the night, and wasn't even woken up by the other kids that thought 5:30 am was a perfectly natural time to get up and scream a bunch. We considered it a great success, and are even thinking about traveling some more with her this summer. Maybe by ourselves next time.

Below are a few pictures of the resort where we stayed, Doe Bay - it has a bunch of cabins, camp sites, hostels and yurts and a swimsuit-optional hot tub, organic cafe, and yoga classes. But, what really got our business was the playground and sand pit right outside our house. Layla was a huge fan of both. She also loved the beach, which was very beautiful and offered much for exploration.

While we were there the kids did a bunch of really cute things. They all took a bath together, they carefully played with the little babies, they read books to each other, they wrestled and knocked over furniture and then tattled on each other, they each melted down a few times, they made lots of demands and chatted it up and even held each other's hands a few times. It was so, so cute to watch them play together and so good for all of us parents to stop our crazy regular lives to take it all in for a few days. For the most part, the kids were pretty good and easy to entertain while we were there.

Below are a few pictures from their website to tide you over while we get our own pictures off the camera.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Potty training

People keep asking me about potty training. Well, we are aware this is the eventual goal, but we are not making much progress towards this goal. We got a little potty, and a seat for the big potty, and we read the potty books, and talk about it, and encourage it plenty, but I don't think Layla is quite there yet. She seems to be getting the idea of 'potty' but not getting the idea that she could go potty.

As a good example of this, I was changing Layla's diaper tonight, and she asked if she could go potty. I said ok, and took off her diaper, and instructed her to go in the bathroom and sit on the potty. Instead, she took a detour to the kitchen, where she screamed at her daddy "LAYLA NAKED!!!" and then squatted suspiciously... and pooped on the floor. Not quite what we were hoping for. But, there was the idea of going potty in there, so we weren't totally discouraged either.

Studly Hubby, with a boa

My husband is a pretty good guy. He puts up with a lot. I mean, a LOT. And he will still make killer enchiladas at the end of a long day. I love you Studly Hubby!!

Tornado Toddler

When Layla turned 2, we took her back to our favorite photographer in Seattle, Jennifer Tai, who has been taking regular pictures for us since I was pregnant. Every time is a new experience, and this was was quite the experience. We went to her studio in the SoDo district (old warehouses, lots of trains) which had a bed, a chair, lots of space, lots of light, and not much else. Layla had a blast there and ripped all around the place, mostly naked (good thing I didn't spend a lot of time and money on clothes for this!). We had no chance of any kind of posed shot, although we tried for a little while. We had to just follow her around, creating shots wherever she was.

Somehow we actually got a lot of good shots out of it - amazing! Now for the hard part: picking out just 12 of our favorites. Ugh!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Budding photographers

Both my Studly Hubby and my Tornado Toddler are budding photographers. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that they both have this leaning. The toddler got a camera for Christmas and she takes it everywhere and makes everyone (and everything) in her path "SAY CHEESE!!!" She clicks the camera only at select and often unexpected times so the pictures that end up on its little memory card are often more like a surreal dream than formal portraits.

Where my daughter is becoming an enthusiast of abstract photography, the Studly Hubby is focusing on his amazing talent at photographing wily toddlers and fussy babies (remind anyone of a certain someone, who may or may not be pictured above??). He has actually created a little business for himself through our baby group and other friends. As with other skills he has picked up, the Studly Hubby is self-taught through an online photography resource (Kelby Training), photography magazines, and now his growing experience shooting his family and friends. It helped that he was already intimately familiar with Photoshop (his former day job was a web designer). He is even carrying photography equipment and catalogs around with him everywhere, like a little boy obsessed with dinosaurs. Last weekend was when I knew it had gotten serious - or at least really expensive - he actually rented a $2,000 lens to play around with (rental fee was only $60, but boy, we were careful with it!). If he's going to buy a $2,000 lens, he's going to have to set up a few more photography shoots!

I'm very proud of my Studly Hubby - it takes a rare talent to take a new hobby to a professional level without any formal training (he also did this with his current career). I am inspired!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Moving into the second year

Layla is now TWO YEARS OLD, as I may have mentioned, and here are her stats from our recent doctor's visit:

She is 29.5 lbs
She is ornery
She doesn't like having her ears looked at, her hips checked, or her diaper taken off.
She doesn't like having her diaper put back on after it's taken off.
She is in the 95th percentile for both height and weight (!!!)
She doesn't like shots, but if you give her an Elmo sticker when you give her the shot, she won't notice the shot.

The doctor told us we could bring her back in 6 months, if we felt like her verbal development was slow and we were concerned. After Layla loudly shared some of her opinions with the doctor on that, it was mutually agreed we probably wouldn't need to bring her back for another year.

Layla has learned a lot of new words, and routinely asks "What's that?", but she also often resorts to screaming as an effective means of communication. We are rapidly learning to ignore her, but this has made it hard to go out in public again. And I think our neighbors are considering extra soundproofing for their houses. She also likes to dress herself (she can get her shoes on, sometimes her socks, sometimes her pants, definitely a skirt, and loose shirts almost make it). This, combined with all the nerve-rattling screaming she's been doing, means she often ends up at daycare wearing outfits we didn't exactly approve of. But, it helps us think outside of the box. For example, who ever made the rule that you can't wear tights over pants, and your mommy's sports bra for a hat?

We are also amazed at Layla's ability to listen and remember what she hears and sees. At the Sunday Market about a month ago, we bought a dinosaur with some money. This morning, she found $10 and immediately took it to her dinosaur (the same one), although I'm not sure what she thought the money was supposed to be for. When we tell her a friend is coming over, she remembers and asks about it. If we promise something, she expects us to follow through. What a new kind of stress we face!!

Meanwhile spring has sprung and we can finally go outside again... thank goodness! It was a long, rainy, cold winter. We have busted out into the wild and Layla is spending most of her time at her favorite place... the playground. Or, as below, examining the wildlife on our own block.