new season, new goals

With the start of a new season, there’s often an urge to make promises to yourself; to strive to accomplish goals you’ve set awhile ago.

Lately, I’ve been really feeling this. I want to work harder on several things that are important to me. A few big goals, but mostly little ones. Some are things I used to do but have fallen by the wayside. Some are things I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t gotten to. Some are random. Some are predictable. I know I won’t get an A+ on this endeavor. But I’m going to try my best. (And be glad the days of getting grades are long behind me.)

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Goals for the rest of 2016:

  • Send more letters and cards by post.
  • Cook more. Mostly whole foods. Don’t cave and give the kids things we don’t really want them to be eating.
  • Spend 10 minutes of focused play time with each of my kids, twice a day. (Read this, and this for more on the topic, plus numerous parenting books!)
  • Blog more. At least one post a week. Do the updates/reformatting I’ve been planning for way too long.
  • Create our “family yearbook” of photos for 2015. (Nope, that year is not a typo.) Start the 2016 one.
  • Complete the household projects that we’ve been thinking about forever: new curtains, craft area for kids, laundry room organization, pictures in various spots around the house, the guest room closet…
  • Don’t plan on exercising during Cameron’s naptime.  It never works.
  • Host a party occasionally. I like parties.
  • Plan a new activity/park/outing once a week. I love our neighborhood, but I tend to do the same things and go to the same places all the time. I need to keep expanding my/our horizons.
  • Don’t drive if I can walk or bike. Unless the weather is really bad. But sometimes, go places I have to drive to.
  • Continue to reduce our waste. Don’t buy things in packaging if they can be obtained without packaging.
  • Minimize screen time before bedtime. Find an alarm clock to replace our phones.
  • Complain less. Just address the “problem.”
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meeting my newest seattle friend

I made a quick trip to Seattle last month to see my dear friend Megan and meet her 5-week old baby boy.

As cheesy as it sounds, Seattle clings tight to a piece of my heart. As soon as the plane landed on the tarmac, surrounded by clouds and drizzle, tears came to my eyes. I was there less than 48 hours, but we packed a lot in. Most importantly, I spent a lot of quality time with Megan, her husband Sean, and the cute newcomer to their family.

img_4981^^after touching down at seatac, i took the light rail (for just $2.75!) downtown, and then walked up to capitol hill. i had to hit up my favorite coffee shop, victrola, before uber-ing to megan’s ‘hood: madison park.^^

img_4997^^baby william! so happy to meet him! what expressions he has at such a young age. no surprise, though, given how cool and animated his parents are.^^

img_4985^^baby william, his parents, our friend shannon, and i all went to anchovies & olives for a delicious dinner, and then ended the night with dessert, conversation, and baby bouncing at cupcake royale.^^

img_4988^^gorgeous saturday morning light in madison park.^^

img_4999^^beautiful new mama rocking the best baby carrier eva.^^

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img_5005^^obviously, going to mighty-o donuts was a must. conveniently, they’ve open a new shop in ballard, which was another spot i wanted to visit. we spent saturday afternoon walking around and checking out new and old spots, happily full of donuts.^^

img_5013^^had to stop at golden gardens for a quick walk along the beach. // as the sun set, we went back to madison park and cooked salmon and vegetables for dinner. we talked parenting and baby carriers and life. we reminisced about the fun we had as twenty-somethings in fremont and capitol hill. we were too busy talking to take any pictures. it was just lovely.^^

img_5030^^a quick shot after a great breakfast at geraldine’s before i headed back to the airport. thank you SO MUCH for the wonderful weekend, megan!^^

summer in denver :: highlights

The weather recently has still been too hot for my liking, but there are sure signs of fall all around. Leaves are changing, and the mornings are full of crisp air.

I did a terrible job blogging about our summer adventures…I probably have one more post to do about our trip to Vermont, but until I can get around to doing that, I wanted to post some miscellaneous pictures from the summer months.

img_3586^^homemade ice cream; delicious.^^

img_3610^^many of our summer days looked like this.^^

img_3472^^bocce and pizza in the park!^^

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img_3686^^summer haircut + pizza afterwards.^^

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img_3728^^denver chalk art festival.^^

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img_3726^^few things are more fun than the fountains at union station.^^

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dsc01515^^willa’s 4th birthday!^^

img_3785^^bbqs at my sister’s house are always fun + yay for a rare family photo!^^

img_3814^^willa asked for a kite for her birthday. windy days aren’t frequent, but we’ve gotten it up in the air a few times!^^

dsc01434^^fun with nana!^^

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img_4398^^we hit the pools pretty hard this summer.^^

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img_4480^^summer nights.^^

img_4292^^friends. thank goodness for friends. and park picnic playdates.^^

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img_4549^^the color run. super fun.^^

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img_4782^^the day we biked to cherry creek to buy a deep fryer.^^

img_4783^^the donuts we made with the fryer.^^

dsc01940^^and just like that, summer was over. back to school!^^

memorial day in kansas city

How is it August already? Didn’t summer just begin? What is it about summer that makes us all so busy? The nice weather and conceptualized “break” from the routine of the “school year” seems to be engrained in me, even though it’s been a long time since the academic year dictated my life. Although, Willa is now wedded to the school calendar, so summer has brought a lot of freedom with her schedule. A lot of bonding time for us.

As soon as school finished, we hit the road as a family and headed due East. Some tornado warnings slowed our initial progress, but once the skies cleared we made good time and were delighted to spend a weekend with Dan’s mom and other extended family. There was lots of pool time, good food, and a baseball game. Most importantly, there was family bonding and the road trip was totally tolerable. The kids rocked it.

Photo highlights:

DSC01325^^shortly after we arrived, we went to check out the pool. the kids couldn’t contain their excitement and started to climb in, clothes and all (and helmet!).^^

DSC01333^^memorial day weekend marked willa’s discovery of her love of the pool! she had been really timid up until that time, but she realized how well her floaties would hold her up, and she then spent hours swimming around the deep end. it was the beginning of a summer of swimming willa!^^

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DSC01384^^frozen treats at grandma’s house!^^

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DSC01388^^humidity = green!^^

DSC01355^^cousins!^^

IMG_3635^^yay family and yay KC royals.^^

our willa bean is 4

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It’s late (almost 10pm!) and it’s been a long but wonderful day of celebrating our dear Willa. We planned to keep it low-key this year but somehow it felt anything but that, but in all the right celebratory ways. Willa was thrilled.

We had a birthday party in the park yesterday with cupcakes and donuts and a bubble maker and a Minnie Mouse piñata. And for the first time ever, her scrooge mother didn’t write “no gifts please” on the invitation so she got a boatload of amazing gifts, several of them of the Frozen variety. Princess Elsa 4eva.

And her Nana’s in town.

Her Uncle got her a stuffed skunk with pink sparkly eyes. She loves skunks. Almost as much as Elsa. Sometimes more. Depends on the day.

And today we took a trip to her favorite park and she didn’t even care that the train and petting zoo were closed or that a thunderstorm rolled in after 20 minutes of playing in the stream.

After that we went to see chickens and get fresh eggs at Auntie Al’s work.

Once home, she and her brother ate a whole pint of raspberries in the backyard and then she watched The Cat and the Hat on the couch in minimal clothing.

We made pizza for dinner and she squealed when daddy threw the dough high up in the air. She got more presents.

I made her a “pink lady” cake with strawberries and as soon as she saw the strawberries smashed to the sides she ran over with arms spread wide and gave me a huge hug and told me it was the best cake ever.

Mid-cake eating we realized there was a rainbow in front of the house. Not a mini one, but a real-deal all the way across the sky one. She jumped up and down and said she “just knew” there’d be one on her birthday. Later she said it was the best gift she received for her birthday.

She used her newfound four-year-old strength to drag her mini trampoline upstairs and bounced on it for a good hour to burn off pizza and cake and present-induced excitement.

She got to stay up until 9pm. Wearing a glow bracelet from Nana and Bobo.

She makes us laugh and smile and sigh and scream and I can’t imagine what our life would be like without the joy she brings to it each and every day. Happy birthday, Willa!

tulum, mexico :: places we went

Just one more post about Tulum. We gotta talk a few deets: Places to go! Things to see!

It was our first visit, and we were only there a week, so we are obviously the farthest people from experts on the area. Nevertheless, there were several places we really enjoyed during our trip, and I want to share them. Some are places I found before our trip through online research, while others we stumbled upon while there.

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PLAYA MAMBO ECO CABAÑAS
There are lots of hotels in Tulum, and all of them are small and locally-owned. No big resorts. But there are lots of choices. We wanted to be right on the beach, and somewhere that was more rustic, so Playa Mambo sounded like a good choice from what I’d read online. It was.

We reserved through booking.com and rented a bungalow with ocean view. There are two of these available. Both have the beach and ocean as their front yard. They are also a bit bigger than “cottage” options because they have a sleeping loft. I thought this would be a good option for the kids. It was a small loft with a window, accessible by ladder. It worked out well for Cameron; he slept up there in his travel crib and it was good for naps because we could go in and out of the cabana without disturbing him. Willa was freaked out. She slept on a mattress by our bed.

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Pros:

  • Location. Playa Mambo’s beach was beautiful. They had a small number of beach chairs/beds with umbrellas. There were several good restaurants nearby, as well as a mini-mart just outside the gate for cheaper beers and other snacks.
  • The hotel provided breakfast to guests. Coffee, fruit, and pastries. Eggs and such were available at an additional cost.
  • The staff were efficient and friendly. Our room was cleaned daily. The staff offered the kids beach toys on our first day.
  • Overall, Playa Mambo had a great vibe. It was laid back and casual while still being stylish and well kept. It seemed to attract friendly people; we enjoyed interacting with many of the other guests staying there at the same time.

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Cons:

  • No fridge. No cold drinks. No way to store perishable food.
  • Breakfast. We wanted to enjoy it because it was part what we were paying for, but it wasn’t quite enough. It was our first breakfast and then we’d go find a second breakfast.
  • Cash only. I alluded to this in a previous post. It is absurd that a place that charges what Playa Mambo does per night would not take a credit card. Or at least PayPal or some other electronic option. This was really to their detriment though; we would have bought many more piña coladas if we could have paid with plastic.
  • Value. While we really enjoyed our stay at Playa Mambo, it didn’t feel like a great deal. It was “eco-chic” which, in some ways, just meant “budget.” There was no air conditioning. The shower was a trickle. We only got new towels every few days. All of this was totally fine for us, but I’m not sure it matched the price point.

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RINCÓN POBLANO
I didn’t want to spend a week in Tulum and only be at the beach. (However, the beach was really nice!) We ventured into town one of our first days to check things out. The town definitely had a less tourist-focused vibe.

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My favorite thing to do when I travel is to do everyday activities like locals would, so it was nice to just walk into this random restaurant off the main street and have lunch. It ended up being a great choice. It was relatively empty; just us and one Mexican family eating lunch. The man working was quite friendly and the food was delicious. We ordered taquitos and a mole. And beers. And a smoothie. Willa got quite into smoothies on vacation!

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LA OÑDA
A few doors down from Playa Mambo, this place advertised “Best Pizza on Earth.” Now, I’d have to disagree with that bold statement, but the pizza really was quite good. The service was friendly and the beers were cold.

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BOLAS DE POSTRE (Balls of Dessert)
Being on vacation was no different than real life; the words “if you X, you can have ice cream” somehow at some point were uttered by some parent. That was much easier said than done however. On Tulum’s beach road, everything is run by generator, so freezers are few and far between. Willa was a good sport about it, but we did feel compelled to find ice cream at least once during the week.

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We’d seen an ice cream cart when we were driving to and from town, so on one of our last afternoons, we finally decided to walk down the road to find it. It was a bit of a walk; Willa was asleep in the stroller by the time we arrived, but it was so worth it!

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They called it “superfood ice cream” and all the flavors we tasted were divine. The Vegan Papaya Almond Bliss was my favorite, but the Cacao was also good and the Tamarind Jamaica was really delightful and refreshing. Willa initially said “yucky” when the chocolate came out (3 year olds!) but I think she was just thrown off by the nuts and other textures. She ended up devouring it. As did Cam.

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There were no real cons about this place for us, but my only somewhat negative thought was that all the soymilk they were using might not fly in a trendy American city, but that was no problem for me (tofu foreva!).

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ZAMAS
The New York Times told me to go to Zamas in the morning for the view and the huevos rancheros. So that’s what we did. And, unsurprisingly, NYT was right. The service was great, the food delicious, and the location on the beach was fantastic. This breakfast is a really happy memory for me; I’m so glad we went. (Notably, Cam cried through most of the meal. See, another vote for traveling with kids! Even when they cry it’s still a happy memory!)

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LA EUFEMIA
While Tulum was overall a great travel destination, and we really enjoyed our time there, there’s no getting around the fact it’s quite touristy. Perhaps it was once off the beaten path, but beach road is now the path. It’s full of folks from Brooklyn or London (or Denver), looking for some tasty tacos. Luckily, just a few places down from our hotel, was La Eufemia. It ticked all the boxes for me: casual, fun, delicious food, good drinks, reasonable prices, and an authentic vibe. It was the only place we went twice. It was also the only place we spotted the young, hip staff from our hotel eating after they clocked out.

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They had a 2×1 drink special the first night we were there, and we didn’t really think it through before Dan ordered a piña colada and I ordered a mojito. So when 4 drinks came to the table, we were like, “hey, I guess we’re having a big night!” The second time we went, we were ready and just ordered one piña colada. Although I don’t judge anyone who enjoys multiple. They were good!

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LAGUANA KAAN LUUM
The morning I did my paddle boarding + yoga outing, they took us to this public lagoon. SUP Tulum has their own private lagoon, but it was quite windy that day, and Kaan Luum was smaller therefore less wind.

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It was beautiful. When we arrived at 9:45am we were the first ones there. By the time our class was over, around 11:30, there were probably 20-30 locals there swimming. The sandy bottom of the lagoon was pretty squishy, which took some getting used to, but the water was gorgeous and a perfect temperature.

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SOL
Not a place, but I feel compelled to note that while on the beach, the refreshing taste of Sol made it my preferred cerveza.

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Salud, amigos!

mexico :: what we packed

When it comes to packing for recent trips, I’ve felt like a fish trying to swim upstream. I try so hard to pack minimally, but still we end up taking what feels like WAYYYYY too much stuff.

Usually, I blame carseats. When we were planning a family vacation for 2016, our first thought was to do a trip entirely without carseats. We thought through a lot of itineraries, but couldn’t come up with one that made sense for us. When we decided to go to Tulum, we pondered whether or not we could make the trip work without a car, but in the end we opted for a rental car. It was the right choice.

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But still, even with the carseats, packing light had to happen. How much do you really need for a beach vacation anyway? I was thankful I could reference what we’d taken to Costa Rica a couple years back, and I tried to pack even a bit less since this trip was shorter and we had to use the same size suitcase for one extra human. So anyway, here’s what we brought (minus Dan’s clothes, but he packed about the same as I did, perhaps a tad less).  This list is mostly for my reference in the future, but maybe someone out there will find it useful, too?

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willa’s clothes
2 pair leggings
1 pair shorts
2 tank tops
2 t-shirts
2 dresses
1 beach cover-up
1 hooded sweatshirt
1 swim shirt
3 bathing suits
1 pair sandals
1 pair moccasins
2 pair socks
1 sunhat
1 pair sunglasses

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cameron’s clothes
1 pair pants
2 pair shorts
1 full-piece pjs
1 long-sleeved onesie
1 long-sleeved shirt
2 t-shirts
1 hooded sweatshirt
1 tank top
2 swim diapers
1 swim shirt
1 pair sandals
1 pair moccasins
1 pair socks
1 sunhat

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toys + other kid items
Cheer Bear
3 books
folder of coloring/art materials
2 matchbox cars
2 stacking cups
2 small plastic spoons (for sand play)
1 small ball
AquaDoodle
1 book of puzzles
1 BrainQuest
1 pair earphones
kids’ camera
Ergo
Solly Baby Wrap
2 life jackets
2 carseats
travel crib

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my clothes
2 short dress
1 pair lightweight pants (“vacation pants!”)
1 pair cropped legging
2 pairs shorts
2 t-shirts
1 lightweight cardigan
1 long-sleeved shirt
3 tank tops
1 beach cover-up
3 bikinis
1 swim shirt
1 sports bar
1 regular bra
2 pairs socks
running shoes
flip flops
sunhat
sunglasses

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non-clothing items
2 bags of toiletries (lots of sunscreen; minimal make-up)
laundry soap
travel knife
12 Lärabars
fruit leather
canvas bag
4 water bottles
2 snack containers (plus a few we used as sand toys and then recycled there)
Steripen to purify water
2 books
2 magazines
2 iPhones + 1 charger
iPad + 1 charger
camera
2 headlamps

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