Ballet Birthday Bash

Over the past few months I’ve learned a few things about almost four year olds. Things become a big deal when you are four (or almost). Between Christmas and her birthday, Lila has been beside herself excited since the end of November. Just too much holiday fun to bear. And since her sister’s birthday is at the end of December and since November we’ve attended about eighty-five (by rough count) birthday parties, Lila was ready for it to be her turn.

Now I am not a Pinterest mom. If you are, good on you. You pin those projects, follow through and have beautiful handmade party favors with themed food. That is not me. I’m a manager, an outsourcer, an idea woman. So while I wanted nothing more than for Lila’s party to be a success and everything she hoped for, I knew no amount of time spent on Pinterest figuring out how to make ballet themed snacks would prove worthwhile. (For the record, I did spend on afternoon on Pinterest. After following one link, it took me to a blog discussing the three year old ballet birthday party and CREDITING THEIR PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER AND PARTY PLANNER. I slowly backed away from the internet and realized this was not for me.)

No Pinterest, but using Google led me to the Evergreen City Ballet in Renton, WA, just south of Seattle. This ballet studio offered ballet birthday parties with crafts, dancing and two real live ballerinas. I knew it was about 25 minutes away from home, but hoped the party would be worth the travel. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Ballet Birthday Bash in Seattle

Birthday Party with the ballerinas

Ballet Birthday Bash in Seattle

Releve!

Ballet Birthday Bash in Seattle

Arabesque

Ballet Birthday Bash in Seattle

Warm Ups

Ballet Birthday Bash in Seattle

Ballet Princess Cake

The birthday party was a huge success and perfect for a ballet and birthday obsessed four year. My only complaint? It is sure going to be hard to top next year.

 

My Bear Cub

My Lila Bear turns 4 today and I truly can’t believe it, despite 4 being a prominent number in her birth. She was born at 4lbs 8oz, a tiny, skinny, alien looking thing, at 4:44pm, 4 weeks before her due date. Holding that little baby burrito in my arms, I couldn’t imagine the walking, talking, intelligent, funny little person who is in our lives today.

I don’t even know where to start when describing Lila. She calls herself a princess and she loves ballet. Nothing makes her happier than putting on some kind, any kind, of music and dancing around to it. At the same time, she is not currently a fan of ballet class. Her shyness makes being in class sometimes too much for her, as well as the fact that she’d like a little more “real ballet” and less dancing around to Mary Had a Little Lamb with pool noodles, thank you very much. We’ve been trying to explain that few, if any, professional ballet dancers are autodidacts, but Lila seems ready to prove the world wrong on that one. (I blame Belinda.)

Lila loves princesses, but I would definitely not call her princess crazed as some girls her age may be. Given the option to watch Frozen or Daniel Tiger, she’ll always choose Daniel Tiger. At Christmas she wanted superhero books and her recent wardrobe choices tend more towards tee shirts and jeans. She loves doing yoga with me before bed, and I love watching her do a downward dog or sit crossed legged and say “namaste.” (I love cuddling with her during the shavasana relaxation at the end the best.) Dinosaurs and space amaze her and the other day she expressed wanting to do nothing more than take a rocket into outer space.

So many times I look at Lila and see only her father. While Lucy looks more like me, Lila looks like her dad. She acts like her dad too – they share a silly streak, a love for cereal and hamburgers, and of watching sports on tv, especially Duke basketball. As much as it can pain me, Lila and I butt heads more than she does with her dad because I think we share an emotional, hot headedness. Neither one of us can let the other win. And when you’re four – or the mom of a four year old – this results in some disagreements, which can result in both of us crying. We feel all the feels, though that makes Lila amazingly empathetic. As I sobbed at the improbable Patriots Super Bowl win, Lila ran to me hugged my legs and said “I love you mommy.” She didn’t realize I was crying happy tears and just wanted to help things be better. You’re a good egg, Lila Bear.

Lila’s first Patriots’ Super Bowl was on the eve of her first birthday. A less spectacular outcome resulted and I cried myself to sleep that night because the Pats had lost and my baby was one. I felt no happiness at her growing bigger, no longer my baby. But now, as she turns four, I may still miss my first baby but I am amazed at what a wonder person she is. Lila tells stories, takes care of her little sister, loves her dog and cat, cannot read enough books, enjoys math, and wants to travel the world. Best of all, even though she’s tall and lanky and much bigger than that 4lb burrito placed in my arms four years ago, Lila still loves to cuddle with her momma.

My favorite Lila

My favorite Lila

Lila Bear, you are my special bear cub. You challenge me, inspire me and make me want to be the best momma I can for you. I know I fail but I love that you let me cuddle you and say I’m sorry and try again. I love you and your sister and I can’t wait to watch your dance parties for the rest of your lives. 

Happy birthday Lila Bear!

Our Year.

And so here we are. Another year. Passed by way too quickly, with so many things left undone it seems. But it was a good year. Our kids are bigger, with bigger personalities and made the year super fun, as cliched or pedestrian as that sounds. I look back on the year wishing I had a better handle on some things, but we did ok, our kids are healthy, our house is heated, our pets are furry and we will welcome the new year in the comfort of our own beds. (Fast asleep, because let’s be honest, it is just silly to stay up that late when you have a 2 year old.)

A look back at our year that was:

January

We started the year celebrating Lucy’s first birthday with our first trip to Vancouver. We learned that Canadians are friendly, Vancouver is rainy, and the food there is fantastic. We made our annual trip back East to the Other Washington where Lila made her first snowball.

February

February saw the Seattle Seahawks win the Super Bowl, resulting in horrific traffic, the likes of which I would prefer to never see again. At the same time, our sweet Lila Bear turned three and we were all amazed at the wonderful little person she has become.

March

March caught us by surprise, as did Lucy’s progression from infant to toddler. We realized here that the year was only going to move faster and faster, not slowing down at bit. I thought about trying to add more exercise into my routine, something I’m still trying to figure out on the dawn of 2015.

April

Another Husky double national championship in the books – Lila is three and has been alive for 2 men’s basketball national titles and 2 women’s basketball national championships. (Lucy for one men’s and two women’s) I’ll call her a reluctant good luck charm. We celebrated Easter as these two seemed to realize a sister is a pretty cool thing to have.

May

We traveled to Vancouver again for Memorial Day weekend, this time to enjoy Raffi’s Beluga Grads concert (and yes, more Indian food. Vij’s is worth the wait at the border.) I also wondered when this Washington was going to begin to feel more like home than the Other Washington. I’m not sure when the pendulum will swing to the west, but I do think it is happening a little more each day.

June/July

So I didn’t blog in June and July, but we had a great time. We traveled to the Oregon Coast with friends, for a total of 4 kids ages 3 and under. We had a great time, even if the weather was less than summery and the kids didn’t sleep much.

In July, we headed back East for a week at the CT shore with all the grandparents. Lots of grandchildren being spoiled, lots of ice cream and unfortunately lots of rain. It was still a great trip as Summertime Lucy suggests here.

August

In August, we adjusted to being back home with no vacations left to look forward to, but determined to enjoy all that summer in Seattle had to offer.

I joined the crew over at Liberating Working Moms and have been having a great time writing for the site. (I was even featured on the NYTimes’ Motherlode!) August saw my first LWM post where I wrote about breastfeeding a toddler.

September

Warm temps and amazing weather continue in Seattle, allowing us to enjoy the summer just a little longer than normal. We are also spoiled with a Labor Day weekend of the Other Washington on the West Coast when the Washington Nationals play a three game series against the Seattle Mariners.

We went to the Pullayup Fair (as you do in September in this Washington), celebrated the return of football and continued to talk about the life of a working mom.

We also talked about reading – banned books, toddler books, picture books. Books are a big deal in our house and our own Lulu is always asking for “8 more books please!”

October

October brought the first of the 35th birthdays to our home.

The kids started doing yoga at home in the evening, proving that an almost two year old saying “namaste” is one of the cutest things ever.

We did the pumpkin patch thing and I determined that next year we’ll just hit up the pumpkins outside of Safeway.

November

This month saw the second 35th birthday at our house (though I’m not telling whose it was).

I felt overwhelmed and learned that apparently everyone else does too.

Despite sick toddlers, busy schedules, meals to plan and holidays to prepare for, I reflected on how lucky we really are.

December

Ah December. Filled with joy, ballet, presents, shopping, parties, must dos, stress, and no time to get the whole to do list complete. We had a great time enjoying the holidays in Seattle this year – Christmas boats, gingerbread houses, Nutcracker, and Seattle Children’s Theater.

It also marked the end of the year’s birthday celebrations, with our Christmas Goose turning two.

Thank you for sharing our year with us. May 2015 bring us all peace and happiness and the wisdom to recognize both. 

Two over Two

Lucy. The Lucy Goose. Goose. Lulu. Lu. LuGu. Gu. You are a girl of many nicknames. You are, as another parent told me, a lot of personality in a little package. You are smart. You are funny. You are independent but you are such a momma’s girl. And today, you are two.

 

I remember waiting (and waiting) for your arrival. I remember the quiet time in the hospital room with just you and your dad. You are the second child and I knew that the quiet time of just the three of us would be limited, so I cherished that. It was so peaceful compared to your sister’s stressful NICU time and so wonderful. Bringing you home to a world of two under two was stressful and hard and challenging. But even though I remember all of that, I can’t remember what things were like without you.

People tell us all the time that you look just like your sister. I don’t see it, I think perhaps because I see all the ways the two of you are different. Such different personalities, such crazy little people. You so want to be like your big sister and do everything she gets to do – but you really want to be your own person too. It is a wonderful thing to watch the two of you interact. The two of you, now two over two.

I’ve dreaded writing this post, not just because I can’t believe you are two already, but because I know there is no way I can put your awesomeness into words. You and your sister are everything to me. I love cuddling you in the mornings, each crawling onto my lap with your own blankets and insisting on your own side of lap. I love listening to you babble to each other at night, even if that means that you don’t go to sleep until almost 9pm. You two have such crazy fun. And you Lulu, I love how you sing Jingle Bells while “reading” a book, how you memorize your favorite parts of the Ladybug Girl stories and how you and your sister do crazy ballet duets while singing Let It Go.

Lucy, you love to color. You love your friends and care for them in a way I don’t often see two year olds do. You are tiny, which is surprising since you were literally twice the size of your sister at birth. People never expect for you to use full sentences when you speak since you look more like an 18 month old than a 2 year old. But you use crazy sentences like “Thank you for making a nice dinner, Daddy,” or “Miss Danielle, fix my hair please.” You use your words to tell us what you want, and you do this often. You are girl who knows what she wants out of life (and often that is Rice Crispies, yogurt and/or strawberry milk.)

While I don’t want your birthday post to be all about your sister, she is so much a part of who you are. You long to be the Elsa, but you are clearly the Anna. While I hope your sister never chooses to build an ice castle on the side of a mountain, I know if she did you would follow her there and convince her to come back home. (I know if either of you would run off to live in a castle by yourself, it will be your sister) As strong willed and independent as you are, you are equally loving and care so much for others.

Lucy, these 700 words can’t begin to express what it means to have you in our lives. I look at pictures of you as a little baby and miss it so much – the snuggles, the nursing, the tininess of you. But this Lucy? The LuGu who tells jokes, gives hugs and plays on the bars at gymnastics? This Lucy is awesome. She is fierce and she is amazing. I will always remember how long we waited for you to arrive Lucy and I will always know that you were worth it, and we would have waited even longer to have your in our lives.

Two Over Two: My Lucy Goose is Two

So here’s to a child who is joyful and clever. Happy day, happy year, happy always and ever. 

(From one of your favorite books,  Happy Birthday, Little Pookie )

Working Moms Wishlists

Check out my and other working mom’s holiday wish lists on Liberating Working Moms today!  I’d say we all have pretty good taste.

 

What to Get the Working Mom in Your Life

Secret Santa Joy

Part of the fun of being a blogger is “meeting” people across the interwebs. This is part of the reason I was excited to participate in the Blogger’s Secret Santa Gift Exchange this year.

Bright and early this morning my Secret Santa sent us a Starbucks gift card, which let’s be honest, what more does a blogger need than coffee? Lila and I had a shopping date planned, so the gift card was great to grab some shopping fuel!

Breakfast with my little lady thanks to my Blogger Secret Santa!

Breakfast with my little lady thanks to my Blogger Secret Santa!

 

Of course, I may be biased in thinking this was the perfect gift, as it was the same one I sent to my assigned Secret Santa partner, Jamie. I hope Jamie has as much fun using her gift card as we did using ours. We even picked up this year’s Starbucks ornament for our Christmas tree.

Coffee, friends and fun new blogs to read – can’t ask for much more on a Friday morning!

What are you getting for. . .

Tis the season of frantic emails between friends to say “hey, what are you getting for. . . the babysitter, your grandmother, the dogwalker. . . ” As I’ve talked about in the past few posts, gift giving is hard, expected, and exhausting. So let’s pool our ideas and try to figure things out. Here’s what I’ve gotten in the past (or am getting this year. So if you are my dogwalker, assistant, day care provider, or babysitter, stop reading now.)

Day Care Providers:

I mentioned in my Liberating Working Mom blog post last week that I’ve found a gift that works for our day care providers and I’ve stuck with it through the years. These blankets from Lands’ End are soft, cozy and look very nice. Who doesn’t like a nice cozy blanket? I write a note about how I hope that the blanket allows them to feel as safe and loved as they have made my daughters feel in the past year. Everyone seems to like the gift. You can even get it monogrammed. (And, if you use Ebates, you can get 6% back at Lands End right now!) I’m including a small tube of Aveda hand lotion for each as well since they wash their hands so often.

In addition to the main teachers in the classrooms (2 for each girl, so yes, 4 blankets!), there are classroom aides, the administrative staff, directors, etc. I like to be sure they know we appreciate how hard they work to keep our children happy and cared for daily. I send a box of Cheryl’s Cookies to the front desk for the directors and support staff. If there aides who are regularly in the kids’ classroom, I may get something small for them. This year, I’ve gotten the main aide in Lila’s class some salt scrub and a Theo candy bar.

Assistants:

I know not everyone is lucky enough to have their own assistant, but you may have people within the workplace who make your life easier in some way – be it the mail room attendant or the lady who saves you the last blueberry scone in the coffee stand. I’m lucky enough to have my own assistant and I like to make sure she is happy and feels appreciated because she does a lot to make me look good on a daily basis. She likes coffee and tea and delicious food. For this year, I got her some Starbucks coffee, a tea sampler and a gift card to Whole Foods. Nothing fancy, but something that shows I hope she has a very nice holiday.

Dogwalker:

So first of all, you’re probably beginning to realize it takes a mighty big village to run this family. Second, we love our dog walker. She has her own nicknames for Cal, she loves him and helps him get the exercise he needs while we’re at work. It’s an odd relationship since I have almost no personal interaction with her, but she has my alarm code, key to my home and cares for my pets. I also know nothing about her other than her love of dogs and reliable nature. So I’ll go generic, probably cash. It may be impersonal but I know she can use it as she would like.

Babysitter:

I love our babysitter. She is awesome, amazing, and other than A there is no one I trust more with my children. So keeping her happy is high on my list of things to do. Being that she is a sweet and caring nursing student, I made a donation in her name to WorldVision to support medical care in the neediest locations. I want to give her something that she can use herself so I’m thinking of getting her a pretty scarf – I think she’d like this one from Gap. It matches her bright but practical style. I think I’ll get her a nice Christmas ornament too so that years from now when she no longer sits for us (heaven forbid) she’ll remember my girls, as I remember the kids I babysat for in college.

Grandparents:

Grandparents are a big part of this blog’s readership, so let’s keep it simple and not give away all our secrets. Every year since the girls were born, grandparent gift buying as been pretty simple. Put a grandkid’s face on a variety of items = instant fantastic gift. I do calendars every year and they continue to be a hit. So much so that starting last year I make one for myself as well. There are many sites that can make photo calendars, but we have always used Shutterfly.

Do any of these gifts speak to you? What’s on your gift list for all the supporting players in your life?

Gift Cards: Evil or Evil Genius?

So the holidays are here. Ho ho ho. I love the holidays, I really do, though I do tend to get wrapped up in all the to dos and out a bit. After a late arriving birthday party invitation through our weekend schedule into disarray this week, I may have had a small anxiety attack that resulted in me hyperventilating at my assistant’s desk. (You guys, the struggle is real in December.)

As I discussed over at Liberating Working Moms this week, gift giving is a huge part of the holidays and one that takes up a lot of energy. As the name Two Washingtons suggests, we still have lots of family and friends on the east coast. So their holiday gifts not only need to be purchased, but then shipped to the other side of the country to make it in time for the holiday.

This is our fifth (!) Christmas in Seattle, so I’ve got the shipping things done to a science. I know when things need to be shipped by, I know how to pack a box and what a great friend the self serve shipping machine is. It’s not the shipping that has my losing sleep this season. It is the what the heck do I get you thing that is killing me. It sounds sort of silly, but honestly, why do we have to give gifts EVERY year?

It is not the gift giving itself that I mind. I’m all for giving something to people that they want and can use. But it is the gift giving for gift giving sake that drives me crazy. The proliferation of stuff everywhere that accumulates from the need to just give something. I’d love to be able to find the perfect gift for everyone that I know they will love and use, and not feel like I am just needlessly contributing to the clutter in their lives. (Maybe this is partly me projecting that I do not know where we will put all the stuff that will accumulate in our house this holiday season. We want to move in the spring and every time something new enters the house I think, where will I put that and how will I pack it.)

So what are your gift giving tips? Honestly, I’m to the point of only giving gift cards this year. Part of me thinks it is a cop out but I spend so much of the holiday gift trying to find the “perfect” gift that meets my usabililty requirements, that I end up driving myself crazy. A gift card that allows the receiver to use as they wish – be that for more things or something they truly find useful – seems to be the best plan right now. I think the ability for them to truly buy what they want/need helps to reduce the guilt of sending the impersonal gift card.

Do you feel overwhelmed by stuff at the holidays? Have you found a good “non-thing” gift for your loved ones? (And to those on my gift list – SURPRISE! – you’re getting a gift card.)

#blessed

It is very easy to get overwhelmed in the holiday season. To wish that there wasn’t a giant meal to make, or parties to attend, or cookies to bake or gifts to buy. But the truth is, we are so blessed to have so many stresses. So many #firstworldproblems to deal with and no real problems to contend with.

So for this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the stress, the hustle and bustle, and the demands of the holiday season. We are blessed to have such worried.

– I am thankful for crowded grocery stores and expensive organic turkeys.  My only concerns are the annoying crowds, not how I will pay for my family’s meal.

– I am thankful for a large list of people for whom I need to buy gifts. My concerns are what to buy and how to ship, not how I’ll afford Christmas this year.

– I am thankful for the stress of figuring out which dish to cook when because I have a warm, safe place to cook it in.

– I am thankful for a very full calendar because it is filled with parties, ballets, and holiday celebrations because it means we are full, exciting lives.

– I am thankful for missing my friends and their babies back east because we are lucky to have friends across the country (and the world really!)

– I am thankful for the hassle of trying to get my kids to talk to their grandparents on Google talk. It may be hard to convince them to sit still long enough to have a meaningful conversation but we are lucky to technology that  allows us to stay in contact with our families.

– I am thankful for the stress of a busy time at work. I have a job, a good job, as does A. We are lucky.

– I am thankful for the stress of constant day care colds because it is a minor inconvenience in the scheme of health issues.

This holiday season I am stressed, overwhelmed, and overextended and I am so thankful for all of it.

Adventures in Wine Country

On my actual birthday, things were rough. I was 35, work was busy and Lucy was sick. We spent the night in the emergency room with her, splitting a Starbucks fruit and cheese box for dinner between the four of us. I went to bed exhausted, hungry and unimpressed with 35. Lucky for me, A had ensured that there were cupcakes and had made alternative plans for my birthday celebration.

WA Birthdays in Woodinville

A & Lila hiking the trail

 

Saturday we woke up and got the kids out the door in a relatively speedy manner. We headed north and started our adventure with a walk along the Sammamish River. The rain held off for us and we had a pleasant walk along the river, even spotting a river otter swimming along side the trail.

WA Birthdays in Woodinville

Full of Brunch-y goodness

From there, we headed to the Barking Frog at the Willows Lodge. I’ve been longing to go to the Willows Lodge and eat at the Herbfarm since we moved to Seattle. While we still haven’t made it to the Herbfarm, Barking Frog was a fun substitute. It was an excellent brunch – beignets and all. I had a giant Bloody Mary that involved bacon, a beef stick, pepperoni and mozzarella. I recommend, but be aware it will fill you up before your brunch arrives. (Sidenote, children do not understand brunch. One will insist you are eating breakfast, the other will insist it is lunch, and when you try to tell them that you are both right, they will not be amused.)

From there we hiked (further than we were expecting) to Chateau Ste. Michelle for the winery tour and tasting. It was interesting to see the bottle rooms and the children at least learned that there were two different colors of grapes. Once we got to the tasting room, we were greeted by bright holiday decorations (and tasty wines). We walked to Columbia Winery next, and then traveled to Fidelitas Wines and Mark Ryan. All were really good and the tasting rooms were all fun and friendly. My favorite was definitely Mark Ryan and I’m currently trying to convince A to join the wine club. At least then we’d have an excuse to go to Woodinville four times a year.

WA Birthdays in Woodinville

Lila took this pic, Lucy was unamused

It was an excellent re-do for my birthday and a great way to kick off 35. Now that I’ve been bitten by the Woodinville wine bug, I’m ready to go back.

WA Birthdays in Woodinville

Andrew and Lila say thumbs up to Woodinville (Lucy took this pic)