Backyards and Bubbles and Sneezes, Oh My!

I have developed seasonal allergies. Words cannot convey how dismayed I am about this. For thirty-one years I watched those around me pop Sudafed like candy and stick their faces under faucets in vain attempts to survive the pollen-rich springs and summers. All the while, I quietly went along, sniffing flowers and enjoying the seasons without so much as an eye rub.

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Until last week. Oh good god. This is downright intolerable! I want to scratch my eyes out (particularly the right eye). I’ve been forced to shelter indoors, with all the windows shut and a single revolving fan to relieve the summer-like temperatures (may I remind you we live in Seattle, where air conditioning does not exist). Since I’m breastfeeding, my allergy medication options are pretty much limited to nasal sprays and eye drops. Since I’d find it easier to chop off my own toe than to get any sort of drops in my eye, I’m pretty much just suffering through.

Their new favorite game is

Their new favorite game is “painting” the house and basketball hoop with water

Admittedly, it’s not too bad here in Seattle. The first day it hit, I was in Puyallup at my parents’ house. It’s a more rural location, with many cottonwoods around (the chief culprit, I believe). That day the allergies were just horrendous. I’ve only had one really itchy day here in Seattle, despite it being a city with quite a lot of trees. Just not cottonwood trees, apparently (thankfully).

A smile like sunshine breaking through the clouds

A smile like sunshine breaking through the clouds

So I’ve actually braved going out in the yard with the kids a few times and done fairly well. Which is great, because keeping them cooped up inside with me was going to result in our house spontaneously combusting and none of us ever being heard from again.

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Sk8r Grrl

So this post is tremendously overdue, but I stumbled across the pictures last night and couldn’t say no to sharing them. Waaaaay back in December, Zoey told Santa Claus that she wanted roller skates for Christmas. As he generally does, Santa came through.

She started out like this:

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Quickly progressed to this:

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And before we knew it, she looked like this:

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Do you see that smile? Do you see it? It is so full of joy and self-confidence and pride! I LOVE it!

The great thing about these skates is that they have three settings: (1) wheels locked (so you can “walk” in them), (2) wheels only roll forward and (3) wheels roll forward and back like normal skates. With her sensory processing disorder (and timid nature) Zoey has a hard time with new motor skills. She still hasn’t learned to do the balance bike she got for her birthday in September and, quite frankly, won’t even really try. In some ways, she just can’t.

Not so with these skates. The elbow, knee and wrist pads made her feel brave and unafraid of falling. The fact that the skates could walk, and not roll, gave her confidence. Before we knew it, she was asking us to put them on the second setting so she could really skate. I’m so proud of my brave, strong, happy girl!

Alden at 3 Months Old

Alden 3 months

This little cutie is three months old today. More “baby” than “newborn” now. This milestone is always bittersweet for me. I look forward to it because it means things like more sleep, more smiles and talking, less colic and tummy troubles, better head control so baby is easier to hold. But it also means packing away all the itty bitty newborn onesies and 0-3 month clothes, transitioning out of a swaddle because baby is too tall for all of them and learning to roll over, and saying goodbye to the tiny newborn whose head could fit in the palm of my hands.

A couple of days ago Alden hit that 52-weeks-post-conception mark and it was like a switch flipped. He’d always been a really good sleeper anyway (as far as newborns go), but suddenly he was sleeping all the time. With the exception of a prolonged awake period from about 8-11pm, Alden was now sleeping all day long. His usual four or five hour long sleep at the beginning of the night suddenly became seven or eight hours, a development I am certainly enjoying.

He also started talking. I mean really talking. He’ll gaze into our eyes and just babble on in that adorable baby dinosaur speak, with a happy smile on his face and his fingers intermittently in his mouth. Oh yes, he loves to chew and suck on his fingers! He also discovered his feet for the first time on Friday. The all-in-one outfit he was wearing had little giraffe footies on it, and he was mesmerized, staring at his feet. You could almost see the lightbulb over his head as he realized those feet were his and he could move them at will.

My sweet, darling boy. He has, without a doubt, been our easiest newborn. The only one without colic. The only one who let me sleep more than one or two hours at a stretch, and did so with regularity. The only one to take a pacifier and a bottle (hallelujah!). Alden is my only baby whose newborn stage I’ve been able to truly enjoy, and I am so grateful for it.

Alden is a full twenty-four inches tall now, having grown almost six inches since birth. He has also almost doubled his weight. He was seven pounds at birth and I suspect he is somewhere in the vicinity of thirteen pounds now. Zoey and Eleanor didn’t weigh that much until they were at least six months old!

These past three months have been three of the happiest months of my life. I am so looking forward to enjoying all the months and milestones to come.

A Date With Serenity: Kubota Garden

New pavilion under construction

New pavilion under construction

Last Sunday, Zach’s sister offered to babysit the girls while we enjoyed a daytime date for a change. The weather was absolutely perfect: sunny and blue skies with a fresh breeze. We decided to grab a quick lunch and go explore Seattle’s Kubota Garden. Neither of us had been there before, but I’d heard it was gorgeous. It is a twenty acre Japanese-style garden, made up of plants native to the Pacific Northwest, several ponds and bridges, and miles of winding paths.

Fern, ready to unfurl

Fern, ready to unfurl

At one point, the path led through a small opening made by the low-hanging branches of some trees. Once inside, it opened up to the most magical hidden place! A forest of trees, all cleared of low branches, with the path winding among them and a small park bench. It felt like being in a secret fairy world. The photo below hardly does it justice.

Enchanting hideaway

Enchanting hideaway

There were, in fact, many enticing “hidden” pathways and stair steps made of stone. The entire park makes you feel like you are exploring magical, secret places.

Where could this secret staircase lead?

Where could this secret staircase lead?

There are several reflecting ponds throughout the garden, surprising you when you chance upon them.

Here we see a Zach in his natural habitat: the outdoors.

Here we see a Zach in his natural habitat: the outdoors.

One of several serene ponds.

One of several serene ponds.

Isn't this bridge gorgeous?

Isn’t this bridge gorgeous?

Another exquisite bridge and pond.

Another exquisite bridge and pond.

Despite being at sea level, Seattle is actually quite hilly and Kubota Garden is no exception. Throughout the grounds, there are areas where the paths run parallel, rising up the hillside and allowing some hikers to be on a higher or lower level than others. It made for some great photo opportunities!

Me, on the next path level up from Zach

Me, on the next path level up from Zach

The largest pond held several HUGE goldfish and a turtle, who crawled out onto the rocks to warm himself in the afternoon sun. The pond was quite still and offered beautiful reflections of the flowers surrounding it.

Flowers reflecting in the pond and one of the resident goldfish

Flowers reflecting in the pond and one of the resident goldfish

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Turtle sunning himself on the rocks

It turned out to be the perfect time of year to visit the garden, as all the flowers were in full bloom. We were surrounded by gorgeous, bright colored blossoms everywhere. Lilac, Wisteria and Jasmine made the garden smell heavenly.

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We stopped for awhile in the shade of a tree near the large pond. We rested for a bit while Alden finished his nap in the stroller (yep, he was there too!) and just enjoyed the peace of being out in nature.

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Our chaperone wasn't exactly diligent...

Our chaperone wasn’t exactly diligent…

Is there anything more peaceful than nursing a sweet baby, surrounded by flowers and the gentle chirp of birds?

Is there anything more peaceful than nursing a sweet baby, surrounded by flowers and the gentle chirp of birds?

We ended our date at Pike Place Market, where we bought some delicious (and very overpriced!) muscat grapes and a gorgeous $5 bouquet of fresh flowers. We both felt relaxed, renewed and peaceful after convening with nature for an afternoon. It was a wonderful way to spend our weekly date (and quite inexpensive – despite the grapes).

Laundry Math Doesn’t Add Up

You hear all the time about parents complaining of “laundry that never ends.” I never understood what they meant before. When Zoey was born, I just tossed her onesies in with mine and Zach’s clothes. Two loads a week, max, unless I was doing sheets or towels or something. No big deal. No more loads than before. Shortly after her first birthday we switched to cloth diapers and that added two or three loads a week, but it was quick and easy: just dump the bag in and wash. No sorting, no folding. Even when she was a toddler, neat and tidy tyke that she is, we didn’t see an uptick in our weekly laundry loads. I still didn’t feel like my life was overwhelmed by laundry.

Then Eleanor was born.

We did cloth diapers from the very beginning with Eleanor, and suddenly I was washing a load of diapers every other day. LITERALLY every other day. That’s a minimum of four loads of diapers a week. And then there were the clothes. How was it there was suddenly SO MUCH MORE laundry? It’s not like her clothes were that big. And she was the kid who never pooped, so it couldn’t be that. Where was all this laundry coming from???

Then Alden was born.

I kid you not people, I am going to be found dead and decaying under a mountain of laundry. Mark my words. Last week, I washed EIGHT LOADS OF LAUNDRY. EIGHT. We’re not talking skimpy, the-washer-is-only-one-third-full loads either. These are the-washer-is-packed-to-the-max loads of clothes. Still washing cloth diapers at least every other day (could any baby poop more than Alden does? I don’t think it’s possible). And suddenly there are six loads of clothes, towels, who knows what, every week.

How is it possible for one itty, bitty, tiny human to generate so much dirty laundry?

Alden at 2 Months Old

The time is flying by. Alden is already/only two months old and barely resembles the baby we brought home from the hospital in February. I kept thinking “Gosh, you feel so heavy” when I would pick him up. I didn’t remember Zoey and Eleanor feeling so heavy. Turns out, it’s because they weren’t. At seven weeks old, Alden clocked in at 10 pounds, 14 ounces and 23 1/4 inches tall. That’s a gain of just under four pounds and growth of three inches! In seven weeks! No wonder those newborn onesies stopped fitting so quickly! All that time, I thought it was the bulky cloth diapers. Those measurements put Alden squarely at the 50th percentile for both height and weight. Considering we celebrated when Zoey and Eleanor made it up to the 3rd percentile, this is entirely new territory for us! My back and shoulders sure are feeling the difference…

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Let’s see, other milestones this month:

Alden found his hands. He loves to suck and smack on them and it is just adorable.

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Smiles. Sweet, adorable, toothless baby smiles. They are still fleeting but oh-so-wonderful. He smiled at me for the first time at six weeks old, on my mom’s birthday in fact. It’s ridiculous the things I do to coax those smiles out of him.

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Sleep! The night before his first smile, Alden slept for a five hour stretch. Hooray! (We were BOTH smiling the next day!). He has repeated that feat several times since then (hooray, hooray, hooray!) and one time even slept for SEVEN HOURS STRAIGHT!!!!!  That means that I slept for more than six hours straight! I can’t even remember the last time I did that! I have learned from experience that all this awesome sleep is probably not going to last, but that’s not stopping me from enjoying every second of it.

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Playing in the Mud

When I was a kid, my mom (who loves to garden) would order huge truckloads of dirt to be delivered to our yard. A big dump truck would arrive and unload a mountain of dirt, which my brother and I would promptly claim for ourselves until my parents could get around to distributing it where they wanted it. We would grab the hose, our buckets and shovels, and a pile of toy cars and trucks and go to town. At the end of the day we’d be covered in mud, head to toe. My mom would strip us at the back door and carry us to the waiting bath tub, tossing our muddy clothing in the washer on the way.

The closest my children have gotten to this childhood joy is the sandbox in the backyard and some buckets of water pilfered from their wading pool. We headed to my parent’s house (my childhood home) for Easter, and promptly filled that void in my daughters’ childhood experiences. I swapped their Easter dresses for jeans and my mom provided a dirt patch, hose and some of the very same shovels and buckets I had used as a child.

It started out with just dirt:

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It was hard to get good pictures of Zoey playing in the dirt because she was moving so fast.

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Then came the water.

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See all that mud to the right? It was gloriously smeared all over their clothes and boots by the time they were done. And, yes, that is the goldfish pond Zoey is rinsing off her shovel in. (Yes, even while playing in the dirt, Zoey tried to be “tidy” and keep her tools clean).

The girls loved getting so dirty, and I was happy to see them enjoying it so much. Especially Zoey, who hates getting her hands dinner. Another childhood milestone accomplished! I hope this will become a regular activity once we own our own home someday.

Little Misses Big Stuff

Can I just take a minute to talk about how HUGE my girls are? Especially now that there is a newborn in the house? When did they turn into giant children??? What happened to my toddlers??? Why is everything I write a question?????

Evidence:

I present: Pre-teen Zoey

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Is it the dress? The posture? Why does my four year old look ten????

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I mean, seriously????? STAAAHHHP!

And Eleanor! Ack!

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Who is this big kid?!

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Whoa, whoa, whoa! Stop it right there! When did you suddenly learn to peddle AND steer at the same time?

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You’re killing me, Smalls.

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That’s it. I can’t take it. If you need me, I’ll be raiding all their Easter chocolate so I can eat my feelings.

Easter Egg Decorating, 2015

We tried out several new methods of Easter egg decorating this year, all of which were inspired by Pinterest (of course). My favorite, hands down, was using shaving cream and liquid water colors.

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You squirt a bunch of shaving cream onto a cookie sheet and then dribble liquid water colors on top. (We used these). Then just roll the egg in the colored shaving cream.

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Let the egg sit a bit, then wipe off the shaving cream. Voila! A marble-look decorated egg! It worked best with darker colors (so, everything but yellow).

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The best part was how toddler-friendly it was. So simple, really. I also really loved the sensory component of the kids squishing their hands around in the messy shaving cream. I think it was really good for Zoey. Eleanor sure loved it.

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Bonus: that blue shaving cream in her hair? Yes, it did indeed dye her hair blue. BUT! It washed out easy-peasy with a bit of shampoo in the shower. I’m TOTALLY going to give them rainbow colored hair this summer! In fact, all evidence of the color on their skin, clothes, etc washed off really easy.

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(See the blue hair?) I’m also a huge fan of the wire whisk to make it easier for little ones to hold the eggs without dropping them. Those little copper handles that come with the egg kits are a bit tricky for the toddler set.

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We also tried the trick of adding vegetable oil to the traditional egg-dyeing-in-a-cup technique. It was supposed to make a marbelized look as well. While it didn’t really do that, it did make for some more interesting color distribution. Fun, but don’t think I’ll bother with that again. The oil also made the eggs quite slippery.

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Post bath, with clean skin and hair, putting stickers on the eggs.

All blonde again!

All blonde again!

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The orange and white eggs are a good example of the oil in the dye. The blue egg with purple speckles was also an oil-dipped egg. Not sure why or how it came out that way, but I liked it. The ones with more white in them are products of the shaving cream (the two in the foreground actually have quite a bit of green on them, it just didn’t show up well in the picture).

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The purple and pink ones show the shaving cream technique.
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The green/yellow/orange and the green/orange/blue eggs here also were dipped in the oily dye, so the colors stuck in different ways (rather than just the traditional straight-line stripes).