When I was pregnant with my oldest, I was encouraged by several new Moms to join a PEPS group. It's a support group for Seattle-area parents. I joined and my group bonded so strongly that we still see each other regularly 3 years later. They are the people I share my parenting highs and lows with first and they have continued to support me through the birth of my second child.
Last year, we decided that we needed a Moms-only getaway and we drove to Central Washington and had a blast! So this year, we decided to cross the border and head to Portland, Oregon. Most of us had been there before and we knew it's a laid-back city with lots of good food and quirky fun. It's a 3 hour drive from the Seattle area, which is a comfortable distance away from our families.
Most of the women in my group took Friday off from work and they were able to head to Portland in time for lunch. They ate at Pok Pok Thai restaurant and then checked into the Sentinel Hotel. We picked this hotel because one of the Moms in our group is 8 months pregnant and not only was it centrally located in Portland, but they also featured a restaurant and a Starbucks (in case we didn't leave the property.)
They had a lazy morning of sleeping in and then headed to breakfast. I joined them on Saturday at 1pm. They were just finishing up their naps (a MUST for a Moms getaway) and we decided to do some shopping. Nordstrom was just a few blocks away, so we did some shoe shopping. Then, we headed a few more blocks to Nordstrom Rack where we did more shoe shopping! I was so impressed with myself that I didn't head directly to the children's department and actually shopped for myself. This hasn't happened in years!
We had 3:30pm reservations at Comma for pedicures. This place is seriously amazing. Not only were were able to get wine and mimosas, but they offered chair massages and delivered cupcakes to us while we got our pedicures! The staff were so friendly and we were able to truly relax. In fact, they had some large chairs available for napping while waiting for everyone to finish up. Next time I'm in Portland, I'm definitely making an appointment here!
At this point, I needed to pump. Thankfully, my room at Sentinel was ready so we headed back to the hotel, just half a block down the street. I was really impressed with how spacious the room was. And I loved the whole vibe of the hotel.
After I finished, I met everyone at Starbucks downstairs. It was supposed to be a Starbucks Reserve that offered wine and nibbles, but they told us they no longer were doing that. That was a bummer. But, we got some caffeine and headed to Powell's Used Books, just a few blocks away.
If you've ever been to Portland, chances are you've passed by Powell's. It's one of the most famous used books store ever. It's an adventure in itself as there are many levels and staircases and it's easy to get lost in the different sections. I spent most of my time in the children's section looking at their books about different states and countries and the rest of the time in the travel section. Had I been alone, I could have easily spent another hour perusing the books. Thankfully for my wallet, it was 8pm and time for us to search for food.
We tried to go to Mediterranean Exploration, but it was a 2 hour wait (they didn't accept reservations.) We were too hungry to wait, so we tried a few other places, but they also had long wait times. I forgot that Portland restaurants don't usually accept restaurants. I think it's part of their hipster vibe. We ended up at Hamlet, a bar that specializes in pork products and cocktails. Our drinks were amazing and the small plates was surprisingly good. My favorite item was their butter. It tasted homemade with a bit of salt. The staff wasn't the friendliest, but the snacks and drinks were great.
But, we were still hungry. We found a Lebanese restaurant called Zaatar and it was the perfect place for our group! There was no wait and the staff was super friendly and helpful! We ordered a ton of food and were able to try a bit of everything. It was incredibly tasty! We even ordered baklava to go so we'd all have a midnight snack. We headed back to the hotel about 10pm and crashed.
It was another morning of sleeping in and taking our time getting ready and packing up. I did a quick pumping session and then headed to Starbucks downstairs to fuel up for our day. When we had all gathered, we walked a few blocks to Blue Star donuts. They consider their products donuts for adults. I had tried them last year with friends and was impressed with their flavor combinations. Their line is consistently out the door. My friends and I made lists on our phones of every donut we wanted to order. We all were planning to share with our spouses and kids but we were surprised just how many we ended up ordering!
Our final stop was Pine State Biscuits. We thought the line wasn't too bad, until we realized that the entrance was around the corner! But, it gave us plenty of time to chat and think about what we wanted to eat. It was lunch time, so I thought I better get something with protein in it, so I ordered the McIsley that was a biscuit sandwich that featured fried chicken, pickles, mustard and honey. I also got a fried green tomato on the side. I tried ordering biscuits and gravy to go (so I'd have family dinner ready to go) but was informed that they can't sell biscuits to go on weekends because they have a hard time keeping up with making enough biscuits for those in line.
The food came out surprisingly fast. We had enough time to lurk the dining area and grab a table. The McIsley was a great mix of salty, sour and sweet and it was quite filling. I loved the crust on the fried green tomato and would definitely order both again. I'm hoping to come back here on a weekday next time in hopes that I could score biscuits and gravy to take home.
After lunch, we figured we should probably start the 3 hour drive back home to the Seattle-area. We had such a memorable weekend in Portland that was both fun and relaxing. I remembered how important it is to take time out to nurture friendships and take care of ourselves. I came home feeling energized and more focused.
6 Ways to Create Your Ultimate Moms' Weekend
In my 3-year-old's circle of friends, we are in the end stretch of "birthday season." It's been such a fun adventure exploring the different indoor play areas in the Seattle-area. I was especially excited to revisit the Seattle Children's Museum, located at the Seattle Center. The last time I was here, my oldest was 16 months old and wasn't interested in much at the museum. I was really looking forward to seeing what he thought now.
The tricky part is that we have been spending time at Kidsquest Museum in Bellevue, which is brand new and has a ton of windows. That made the Seattle Children's Museum look very dated and neglected. It's also located in the basement level of the Armory (formerly the Centerhouse) so there isn't any natural light.
However, I really appreciated the elements that represented Seattle. They have a winding train table that features not only the cities of the Seattle-area but also the Sound Transit stations. They also had a cutout of a Link Light Rail train at a pretend station. We also saw part of a City bus where kids could climb inside.
I think my favorite part of the Seattle Children's Museum is their Global Village cultural area. I love any exhibit that encourages children to explore the world and understand other cultures. It definitely could use a facelift, but I loved the interactive components. They feature the countries of Ghana, the Philippines and Japan. All three countries represented in this exhibit have a house, shop and mode of transportation for kid-sized exploration.
We went to their story time where a staff member read Rosie Revere, Engineer. I loved that it promoted STEM and was a story we hadn't heard before. But, my son lost interest after a few minutes and wanted me to read him a story about airplanes. I was impressed at the assortment of books they had available.
I also thought the mini Metropolitan Market. Usually, my son loves playing grocery story and has spent hours doing so at other museums and play spaces. I thought they had a great assortment of pretend food items, grocery carts and check stands that really scanned items. This day, he was all about the trains so it was a brief stop.
We spent our last few minutes at COG City. This exhibit area was renovated in 2014 and is all about cause/effect and the science behind motion. My son loved scooping up the balls and placing them in air flow pipes (the ones that were working.) He also had fun cranking the conveyor belt (with and without balls on it.)
Because there is more competition in terms of amazing children's activities in the Seattle-area, I'm glad that the Seattle Children's Museum is striving to enhance the experience of families. They are currently in partnership with the Museum of History and Industry on their Seattle Boomtown, Jr. exhibit. I got to see the facade, which is the beginning of what looks like an extraordinary exhibit, highlighting Seattle’s history. They are creating a place for children and their families to explore the boom of our great city. This “small town,” will feature a department store, a stable/blacksmith, barber shop, and even a school!
They are also working on the Marbleous Museum, which would be ticket separately from Seattle Children's Museum and target adults and older children. It would house one of the world's largest marble collections.
7 Tips for Seattle Children's Museum
I love toys. I especially like toys that don't require batteries. My oldest son accumulated quite a few toys when he was a baby. Some are cool, others not so much. So, now that my youngest is 5 months old and started to be interested in toys, I've been trying to phase out the lame toys and add in new ones. I do a lot of online research about toys that are new and seem interactive. That's how I came across Yoee Baby. I immediately contacted them to see if I could review their product. They sent me the monkey.
The Yoee Baby is cool on several levels:
I'm always on the hunt for baby toys that travel well. And by that I mean not only do they physically hold up, but also serve a few purposes. We like to travel as light as we can, so I have to be really particular about what toys I bring with us. The Yoee Baby has been really helpful in our travels. It doesn't take up that much room in my carry-on, so we can use it for flights. Since it has the teething ring, I can attach it to practically anything with my Chewbeads GO Links. Sometimes I attach it to our suitcase so my son can bat at it.
I've even brought it to our Itsy Bitsy yoga class. It's a yoga class designed for babies and it's the one class I do just with my youngest. We're encouraged to bring toys to occupy the babies during class. It's the only toy I bring because he's fully entertained with it. I can let him chew on the handle, put it out front for Cobra position, or tickle him with it when he's on his back.
I wish that there were more animals to choose from. Right now, they offer Puppy, Kitty, Monkey, and Lion. I think adding a Fox would be a smart move (especially since they have brightly colored bushy tails.) Otherwise, this has been a toy that has gotten a lot of use in our home and I would recommend it to families with babies.
My oldest is a transportation-enthusiast. We like to indulge him by adding in public transportation when the opportunity arises. So, when we heard there was going to be a lot of traffic at Seattle Center the same day we had an event to go to, we decided we NEEDED to ride the Seattle Monorail from Westlake Center to Seattle Center.
As I'm writing this, I can't stop saying "monorail" like they did in that episode of the Simpson's where they do a riff of the Music Man. It cracks me up because that episode made monorails seem like an old-timey thing, when in fact they are supposed to seem more futuristic. In fact, our monorail was launched as part of the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle as a transportation system for the future.
Anyway, we parked at Pacific Place (parking is only $6 on Sundays) and walked over to Westlake Center. There was lots of signage to catch the monorail, plus there was the MONORAIL right there. I love it when things are hard to miss. We took the elevator up to the platform. Since kids 4 and under ride free, I handed my son $10 and let him buy roundtrip tickets for my husband and me. The Monorail only accepts cash (so no ORCA cards, Debit/Credit, or Sound Transit cards.) He was excited for that responsibility!
And then we waited for the monorail to arrive. I think we waited 3-4 minutes and my son posed for about 50 photos as he anxiously waited the arrival of the monorail. And then in happened. The monorail raced into Westlake Station and we patiently waited for the passengers to disembark and for the crew to check the monorail. Then, the doors opened and we were able to select our seat.
The ride is very, very short. It's a total of 2 minutes. It was enough time for my son to get settled, look out the window, ask if he could have a snack for the ride, and spot the Space Needle. I thought everything looked fairly clean and no one lingered on the monorail.
When we got to Seattle Center, we stopped to look at the Monorail Man (AKA Trainus Prime.) It was a fun little exhibit! My son especially enjoyed his traffic light legs that lit up! He is made from used parts that are no longer suitable for their current monorail system configuration. Monorail Man was built with about $15.00 in scrap metal, which makes it especially impressive!
They also had a vending machine that sold Seattle Monorail merchandise, which I thought was cool. And they had a souvenir smashed penny machine, which is always a hit with kids! Plus there is a lot of fun stuff to look at from the Seattle Center platform.
6 Reasons Your Kid Should Ride on Seattle's Monorail
I've had two beautiful kiddos in the past 3 years. I knew my body would fluctuate through pregnancy and post-partum. What I didn't count on is that even if I went back to my pre-pregnancy size, I might not be able to fit into my old jeans. Everything seemed to shift. Plus, I now spend most of my time playing cars on the floor with my oldest or running upstairs to tend to my crying baby. I'm always on the go.
I realized on my latest trip to Vancouver, BC that I needed something warmer than leggings. I went through all my old jeans (and I had a lot) and none of them fit me. I went to the store and tried on pair after pair of jeans and I couldn't find anything that felt comfortable. I ended up getting a pair that fit at first and then slowly would stretch out and I would constantly be pulling them up. Not a flattering look.
So, when Svelte contacted me to try their shapewear, I was intrigued. I've never really be into shapewear. I guess I just think of Spanx. But, I looked through their website and I thought their clothes were not only cute, but they looked like they were good quality. Then I saw that they offered jeans! I knew I needed to try them out!
When they arrived, I was surprised that they felt like real jeans. I had been thinking they'd be more like jeggings or something. But they felt just like my stretch denim jeans I rocked pre-pregnancy. I immediately tried them on and I liked that the top of the jeans hit my natural waist. I have a long torso, so jeans always feel low-rise, even when they aren't cut that way.
I was a bit concerned that the waist panel would feel like my maternity jeans. While maternity jeans were comfortable for a few hours, mine always seemed to sag after awhile and I would constantly need to pull them up. After I had my baby, I bought a pair of pull-on jeans that I found at Macy's on clearance and after a few hours, the waist-band would stretch out and I would need to tug to keep them on. So, I was pleasantly caught off guard when the jeans felt just as great at the end of the day as when I first put them on. I decided to see how they'd do if I wore them again the next day (without washing) and they still kept their shape! Never did they feel like they were falling down or that I needed to adjust them.
What I like about Svelte Jeans:
What I don't like about Svelte Jeans:
The jeans normally run $112CAD (or about $85USD.) At first, I thought that was pricey. I'm someone that usually shops the sales or at discounted stores like Nordstrom Rack. However, after wearing them on and off for the past couple of weeks, I'd say they are definitely worth the money. Not only do I feel "put-together" when wearing them, but they are just as comfortable as my yoga pants. I'm even intrigued to check out their line of leggings to see if they are the same quality.
Svelte Shapewear sent me this product in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
I really love children's museums. I may love them more than my 3-year-old. I just really appreciate places that are dedicated to giving kids a hands-on learning experience through play. We've explored children's museums near our home and while traveling. Each one seems to offer something distinct that sets it apart from others.
This past month, we attended a birthday party at the Children's Museum of Tacoma, Washington which was about 30 minutes south of Seattle. It's located right in the middle of Downtown Tacoma, with limited street parking.
Our first experience was with the parking lot. We had no problem finding a spot at 9:50 a.m. on a Sunday. So, I took that opportunity to feed my baby before heading out. However, we stood outside in the rain for 15 minutes waiting in line to pay for parking. Normally I would have been just slightly annoyed, but we ended up being late to the birthday party because of it. As we headed in, we saw about 8 other families who were heading to the party stuck in the line. It's too bad that we couldn't just pay for parking inside the museum. Not a great first impression.
I liked the party room. There was plenty of room for parents and kids and there was seating against the window. The party attendant was also really friendly and great at giving a run-down of the rules before inviting us to explore the museum.
Our first stop was the water area. My son played there at least 30 minutes straight. They had lots of Green Toys to play with. They also had squirt toys, which I've never seen at children's museums before. This area was packed and there were more kids than aprons. It stayed pretty packed the entire time we were at the museum.
Then, my son headed over to the Pirate Ship where he enjoyed climbing through the rope tunnel and playing with the corded phone in the tower. Even though it was crowded with kids, he was able to move around quite quickly and freely. There were a lot of props nearby that would have been a blast with just a few less people around.
Right next to it was a cool reading nook and a slide. My son had so much fun on the slide! He did it over and over again and thought it was amazing! The slide is pretty slow, which is great for little kids. The stairs to get up to the slide are narrow (too narrow for more than one kid) so there were a few tears as kids tried to climb over other kids to get to the top.
The Museum dead-ends with a large-scale marble run and scarf vacuum activity. My son played with the scarf vacuum for awhile. It felt a bit small for the amount of kids who wanted to play with it.
I was especially impressed with the marble run and I'm contemplating figuring out how to build one for our house. The kids were thoroughly entertained.
7 Tips for the Children's Museum of Tacoma
For those with small children, you know the struggle of constantly picking up toys that get tossed around the house. I usually have my oldest son pick up his stuff and put it in his room. He has some storage cubes and he knows where he's supposed to put his toys. I want to do the same with my youngest. But finding good-quality storage solutions that can survive toddlerhood can be tricky.
I was browsing on Amazon for items that might add a global element to my youngest son's nursery. He's starting to play with toys a little bit and I've been hoping to find something fun to separate his baby toys from the rest of the toys. That's when I came across Kaikai & Ash's toy storage cubes that feature cities from around the world. I contacted them and they send me 4 toy storage cubes to review.
As soon as I took the first one out of the bag, I realized how much sturdier they were than the ones we had in our basement and in my oldest son's room. This was fantastic news because the ones in my 3-year-old's room are already misshapen and partially collapsed because we tend to overfill them. They also fold completely flat and because of their weight, they stay flat.
They were also BIGGER. The cubes measure 13" x 13" x 13" and they fit perfectly in our IKEA shelves (which is essential, as we have them in practically every room.) This also means I've been able to put more toys/clothes/blankets in them than other cubes, which keeps more clutter off our floors.
The felt detail on the front is also well-constructed. They are sewn on and seem like they will stay awhile. Plus the designs are even more adorable in person. I had a hard time choosing because the colors are also so bright and playful. And I like that they are gender-neutral, which is not always the case when looking for children's room decor.
In the past, I've paid $5-$10 for cubes from IKEA, Target and Big Lots (the ones that are slowly falling apart.) Amazon sells these cubes for $18.95. That's a big price difference. But the quality is superb. If you're looking for toy storage that will last (as well as being used as a train/boat, building blocks, etc) I'd highly recommend these.
I wouldn't even limit these for just toys. My plan is to transition our guest bedroom into a travel-theme using elements from the nursery. I will definitely incorporate them because they don't look too babyish/kiddish. These storage cubes will be great for holding bath towels and extra sheets. They would also make a great base for a gift basket about travel-items or for a bridal shower with the honeymoon destination. I might also transition some to hold our travel items (noise-canceling headphones, battery chargers for phone, the latest Liane Moriarty novel, etc) so I can always find them before a flight.
I'm hoping to fill our Paris box with children's books and toys that we pick up on our upcoming trip. It's been fun teaching my 3-year-old about the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe just based on the felt appliques on the front of this box. He's also starting to name the letters in Bonjour Paris, which has been exciting!
Kaikai & Ash sent me the toy storage cubes in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
I'm always looking for new baby products to try with my 4-month-old son. He's been having a hard time sleeping and I thought maybe it had to do with the unusually cold weather we've had in Seattle. I came across Gunamuna's Gunapod and it looked like a great fit for my family. They sent me their Alphabet Luxury Bamboo Duvet for review.
As soon as it arrived, I was giddy. I tore open the box, ripped off the bag and felt the fabric. It was so soft. It was softer than my baby's skin. I found myself petting it over and over because I couldn't get over how incredibly silky it felt. My son was starting to get sleepy, so I thought I'd try it out on him immediately. The zippers were really smooth and it was easy to get him in the Gunapod. My son loves anything soft and he seemed to enjoy rubbing his cheek on the Gunapod. I put him in his swing and he fell asleep instantly and stayed asleep for longer than usual.
When he woke up, I kept him in the Gunapod since the house was cool and I wanted him to stay warm. I felt some rumbles and my first thought was "Please don't blow out my Gunapod, I mean YOUR Gunapod!" I laid him down and it was so easy to unzip the bottom of the sack, keeping my son nice and warm while I checked his diaper. Thankfully, it was a false alarm! My 3-year-old was able to easily zip up the Gunapod around my baby all by himself.
We've been using it every night for the past 3 weeks and not only has he kept it clean (knock on wood) but he hasn't felt cold once. We're able to use lighter weight pajamas (instead of fleece) and he stays comfortable. He also seems to want to stay in it all morning. When we start doing formal nap times with him, we will be using this Gunapod as his signal that it's time to sleep.
What I like about the Gunapod:
What I don't like about the Gunapod:
We've been using it non-stop every night for the past 3 weeks and my husband and I can't get over how much we like the Gunapod. I've been trying to think of anything I don't like about it and it's been a struggle. I even went on Amazon looking for negative reviews to see if I was just missing something, but I came up empty. If a new Mom asked me what sleep sack she should buy for her baby who is no longer being swaddled, I would recommend she get this product.
Gunamuna sent me their Gunapod for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
Did you know that you can take your kids to an indoor beach during the cold weather in Seattle? I discovered Sandbox Sports in Georgetown last year through ParentMap magazine. They always seem to know what's cool to keep kids occupied. I went with a few friends and we all brought our 2-year-olds. They had a blast just playing with trucks in the same spot in the sand!
So this year, when we were invited to a playdate there, I quickly said yes. We decided to do the 9:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m. session so we could grab lunch after. They also have an 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. session that I have heard is less crowded.
I remembered that parking was tough last year. I was newly pregnant and I had to park in an industrial area and walk with my toddler in the rain while avoiding huge trucks and puddles. So this year, I arrived 30 minutes early to nab a spot in their lot. That may seem crazy, but it made it so much easier with a baby and a 3-year-old in the chilly rain.
Since we had been before, we didn't need to sign the waiver. I paid the $8 and we took off our shoes and headed into the sand pit. We kept our socks on because it was cold and I thought last year that my feet were freezing by the end of the session. While I remembered that the sand was cold, it took me awhile before I realized it was also WET. The socks didn't really keep our feet much warmer and they ended up trapping in sand so our feet were cold. wet and sandy. Next time we will just do bare feet.
Because we arrived right at 9:30 a.m., my son had his pick of toys. He ran around and grabbed a truck. Then, he went down all the slides right as other kids started to trickle in. Our friends arrived and the place started to get really busy. We stayed in the sand pit the whole time, but I saw a lot of parents sitting in the chairs outside. I wore my 4.5 month-old in my Tula baby carrier. I saw one family put their baby in the carseat on the sand, but I would have worried about sand getting into a baby's face.
The coolest thing about Sandbox Sports is that it's probably one of the few "beach" experiences where your kids can roam around in a pretty safe environment. No need to worry about them running into the ocean or walking down the beach and out of sight. It's really easy to keep your eye on your kid(s) the whole time.
My son had to use the bathroom, so we quickly headed into the Women's restroom. They have a handicapped stall that was the right size for all 3 of us. They also had a step stool at the sink. What impressed me the most was their changing table. It was located in the alcove outside of the restrooms and not only had a trash can, but extra bags to bag up stinky diapers. I thought the whole set-up was great!
8 Things to Know Before You Go:
Before our oldest was born, we knew we had a family reunion in Thailand when he'd be 6 months old and that we'd need to get him a passport. Having only gotten passports for ourselves (and it had been quite a few years) we had to do a bit of research to figure out how to get one for a baby. We ended up having to drive to a neighborhood far away in order to get it in on time.
When our youngest was 2 months old, we decided to plan a trip to Europe for when he'd be 6 months old. We went online to look for the form. I found one here. I was able to fill it out on my computer and then print it. Then, I searched online to figure out which post offices near me accepted passports and had to check appointment days/times to see what worked with my family. The hardest part was NOT SIGNING the form until we got to the Post Office to apply.
After we had the form filled out (but not signed) I took some passport photos of my baby. We have white bed sheets on our bed, so I just pulled the covers off the bed and laid my son down. To avoid shadows on his face, we just used daylight and a flash on my iPhone. We took several photos so we'd have options, as passport photos can be really specific. Here are passport photo guidelines. My husband found this website to be especially helpful when printing the passport photos at home.
Our experience at the post office was meh. We waited in line for 10 minutes past our appointment time. We had our 3-year-old and our baby with us. There wasn't enough room for us all to be at the counter at the same time, so it was cramped. The appointment took about 20 minutes. At then end, we were asked for a check for the passport fee. We didn't bring it with us, but thankfully we were able to get a money order for a small fee.
6 Things to Know:
I'm a mom to a 3-year-old and a baby. We believe in traveling as a family as soon as possible and sharing our tips and tricks with other families!