I love Seattle. I'm proud to say that I'm a born and raised Seattleite (well, Seattle-adjacent.) I love our trees, ferries, rippling streams, and coffee shops. But what I'm most proud of is our fabulous small businesses. When I heard that Milk Bakery (a new online bakery) was opening in Seattle and offering lactation cookies and granola bars, I immediately contacted them to see if we could collaborate.
Milk Bakery believes in "Judgement Free Breastfeeding." I really love this because I was caught off guard how many people commented on how I fed my oldest and wanted to know how long I'd keep breastfeeding. They make cookies for breastfeeding moms, formula feeding moms and all moms in between. I especially love this because I remember how hard it was to eat anything with I had my oldest son. I was just so busy and overwhelmed and by the time I would have a few moments of quiet, the last thing I wanted to do was make myself something to eat. So I just didn't eat. This time around, I'm making it a priority to eat.
I've always been intrigued by lactation cookies. I've tried Mother's Milk Tea in the past, which has helped my supply. So many Mom friends swear by lactation cookies. Others say they didn't help their milk supply. I love that Milk Bakery says on their website: "If our delicious cookies and granola bars help you produce milk, great. If they don’t, eat them anyway because you deserve a treat." This is a statement I can get behind!
Kate, the owner, was kind enough to drop the cookies off at my husband's work so I could try them out. My husband had just left for lunch, so he had his co-worker pick them up. She also is a nursing Mom, so I told her to have the first taste. Her first impressions were that they were super crunchy, which surprised her. She was eating them at her desk and it was getting a bit messy. She popped one in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it and they became a lot chewier. She suggested pairing it with Mother's Milk Tea for a nice tea and cookie treat. I got a text from her later that evening and she definitely noticed a difference in her milk supply, which surprised her because she's been nursing for quite awhile.
I decided to try my first Milk Bakery cookie for breakfast with my coffee. I tried to Oatmeal Chocolate Chip. I popped it i the microwave for 12 seconds and it was nice and warm and chewy. I loved the flavor! The oatmeal definitely came through and it tasted more substantial than other cookies.
Then about an hour later, I tried the Coconut Oatmeal for my second breakfast. I was surprised just how much the coconut flavor came through! I'm a Hawaiian-cookie addict (just ask my husband) and this rates right up there with some of my favorites!
About an hour after my second cookie, I noticed some tingling after I fed my son. When I fed him a few hours later, I definitely felt fuller than usual. That evening, I was able to pump 4.5 oz. I pump every few weeks so I was happy to get that much. However, my son was going through a "leap" and was nursing more frequently, which might have led to me producing more milk.
I did not try the Double Chocolate Chip, but I was really glad to know she offers a vegan cookie. Not because I'm vegan (I'm not), but because I know a lot of breastfeeding Moms who have to eat a strict diet because their baby has allergies. Sometimes those Moms end up going straight to formula because it's hard to maintain a strict diet. Vegan options are great for Moms who'd like the option to continue breastfeeding.
The cookies were so tasty that it was really hard for me to limit myself to just 2 a day. But, I wanted them to last a bit longer. I was able to pump 4.5oz-5oz of milk once per day every day I had the cookies. Usually when I pump, my son cries likes he's not getting enough milk for the next 2 feedings. However, the days I ate the cookies, he seemed happy and full after each feeding. I can't say for sure that it was the cookies.
The 2 bags of cookies lasted me a week (eating 2 cookies per day.) I made a point of sitting down and enjoying my cookies with my coffee each morning. Regardless of whether or not it helped my milk supply, it was really nice to set aside something that was just for me each day. It was the little bit of self-care that I needed to survive the craziness of raising a baby and a preschooler.
If you'd like to try Milk Bakery, head to their Etsy Store to purchase their cookies.
Milk Bakery sent me their lactation cookies for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
With this pregnancy, I've been so lucky to be able to travel a bit. It's mostly been family travel, so when we had the opportunity to have an official Babymoon (trip before baby arrives just as a couple) we seized the day! Babymoons are a somewhat recent phenomenon and not everyone is able to take one (especially with the lack of maternity/paternity available and people have to use sick/vacation days after baby is born.) We are so lucky that we were able to get time off and my Mom was available to watch our toddler.
We decided to go to Victoria, BC because it's relatively close to our home in Seattle and I'd heard wonderful things about the city. My husband had been when he was in high school, but I'd never been there before. We went in late July, so the weather was warm during the day, but cooled off at night.
As the trip got closer, I started thinking about what to pack. We were just going to be gone a weekend, but we had a lot of fun activities scheduled. I kept in mind that we'd be on a double decker bus, a boat, inside/outside and walking around. Some items on my packing list are essentials and some are things that I should take advantage of before I'm consumed by the newborn phase again.
What to Pack for a Babymoon
My family is heading to Spain in April and we couldn't be more excited. I love to prep my kids before trips so we get the most out of our time in other countries. When I think of Spain, I immediately think of Sangria. There's something so fun about throwing a bunch of yummy fruit, juice and wine together. Maybe that's because I'm a Mom and adding wine to my juice frequently sounds like a great idea. Obviously I'm not going to give my 3 year old actual Sangria, but I thought it might be fun to make fruit-infused water and test out our Drink in a Box.
Drink in a Box is a reusable juice box. It's kind of like the cool version of a straw cup for preschoolers and older kids. My son has always been interested in straw cups and has just gotten into juice boxes recently. When we were potty training, I needed him to drink a lot so that he could practice going to the bathroom frequently. I ended up buying him chocolate milk and juice boxes to ensure he was drinking a lot of liquids. I was really flabbergasted when I looked at the sugar content. I knew I didn't want to make it his drink of choice.
When we have get-togethers with my extended family, my Aunt always makes fruit-infused waters and they are so yummy! I figured, maybe I could do that as a toddler-led activity with my son. So I cut up some strawberries and added blueberries to a bowl and let my son put as much fruit in the Drink in a Box as he wanted. He had a lot of fun doing that. Then we realized it was too much fruit and not enough water, so we fixed that and it turned out great!
Overall, my son had fun making the fruit-infused water, but he wasn't super interested in using the Drink in the Box. He had a hard time holding it and immediately grabbed a straw cup to use instead.
We let the fruit-infused water sit in the Drink in the Box for a few days and it was a breeding ground for mold, especially in the straw and inside the top part of the container. Each little crevice was filled with mold. For our family, we need items that are quick and easy to clean.
What I liked about Drink in a Box:
Overall, while I like the idea of Drink in a Box, it's not a good fit for our family. We tend to forget water bottles in our car or in lunch bags, so I'd be hesitant to put anything other that straight water for fear of mold. But, it could be a great option for families with school-aged kids who could rinse out the Drink in a Box as soon as they got home from school.
I was provided these products in exchange for an honest review.
My family loves to vacation in Vancouver, BC. Each time we drive up, we pass the exit for Semiahmoo Resort and each time I tell my husband, "Hey, we should check out Semiahmoo sometime." So, we I had the opportunity to bring my family to Semiahmoo Resort & Spa for the weekend, I jumped on it! Semiahmoo Resort was just voted the Northwest’s Best Resort in the December 2016 issue of Seattle Magazine and now I know why.
The resort is located a bit off the freeway with lots of turns. Thankfully, there is plenty of signage along the roads making it really easy to find the resort. It was dark by the time we got there, but we could tell that the view would be really spectacular had we arrived during the daylight. We drove past a golf course before arriving at the resort. Again, there was plenty of signage to tell us how to get to the lobby.
As soon as I entered the lobby, I noticed that the air smelled like cinnamon tea! It was so yummy and comforting! The front desk staff were so incredibly friendly! We'd had a long day, so it was such a relief to be greeted so warmly. They got us set up very quickly and we were off to check out the digs.
We LOVED our room at Semiahmoo! We had the Waterview Deluxe Double Queen room, which was great since we had both kids traveling with us. They also provided us with a pack and play for our baby. We ended up using our DockATot instead because our baby was in the midst of his 4-month sleep regression (yes our vacation timing was impeccable.) I found the beds to be quite comfortable. They featured Simmons® Beautyrest Black™ Georgetown™ Plush Pillow Top bedding and we got as much rest as we could with the sleep regression going on.
The room also included ESA (Environmentally Sensitive Amenities) bath amenities, terry-lined bathrobes; hairdryer; Keurig K-Cup® brewing system; ironing board and iron; 42″ HDTV, functional desk/work area; room safes, micro fridge, USB power charging station; Digital Radio phone with charging extensions and WiFi. We were able to borrow an iPad charger from the front desk, which was immensely helpful! The clock was a bit bright and lit up the room at night.
The only thing that was missing was bottled water. I don't remember staying in a hotel in the past couple of years that didn't provide a couple of complimentary bottles of water. With the air being so dry, my husband and I were insatiably thirsty and so we relied heavily on the tap water.
Overall, I found our room to be very quiet at night. However, during the day when it was nap time, all we could hear was the sounds of little kid footsteps above us running from one side of their room to the next. It was a good reminder for us to opt for ground floors when we travel with our kids. Also the doors are quite loud and woke our baby anytime someone entered to left.
My son was ecstatic when he saw that the staff had brought matchbox cars and a playmat for him to use during our stay! I was thrilled because I hastily filled a Ziploc bag with some random trucks and trains and threw them in our suitcase, crossing my fingers that it would occupy him. They were the perfect addition to the playmat. Now that my oldest is 3 years old, I'm realizing how important it is to have things in the room to occupy him while we are tending to his brother or getting ready. I really hate using our iPad in hotel rooms for long periods, so this was a much better option for us!
The first night we arrived, we decided to check out their movie theater. Discovery Theater offers a 156” HD projector and 50 comfortable leather chairs. Our oldest had fallen asleep on the drive to Semiahmoo and was wide awake by the time we settled into the room. We got there about 15 minutes after the movie was supposed to have started. The seats are really comfortable and there was plenty of leg room. It turns out that the movie that was supposed to be shown that night was missing, so they brought some alternatives. Our son was starting to yawn, so we took this as our cue to head back to the room and settle in for the night.
Our first morning, we decided to try the Pierside Kitchen. I loved that we didn't have to walk outside at all. Semiahmoo is a bit of a maze inside, but they have tons of signage so it was really easy to find the restaurant. They had an extensive breakfast buffet that included fruit, pastries, meats, potatoes, pancakes, eggs, yogurt, cereal and more. Our server recommended that we do the buffet for our son because kids under 5 eat free. My son got some berry yogurt, Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, a blueberry muffin and some eggs and he was a happy camper. My husband also did the breakfast buffet and raved about the cantaloupe and prosciutto as well as the bagels and lox. I wasn't super hungry, so I had the lemon pancakes which were tasty!
After breakfast, we decided to explore the resort a bit more. They had a nice veranda where we could let our son run around. The coolest thing is that we could see the Peace Arch border crossing into Canada! I've only seen while driving through the border, so it was pretty spectacular to see the line of cars slowly passing from one country to the other.
We got chilly pretty quickly (as we had not dressed for outside weather) so we hustled inside to explore. The lobby is quite spacious with lots of seating. We found a room that had a chest of board games and we decided to check it out. The family-friendly games included Apples to Apples Junior, Monopoly, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Jenga, Life, Pictionary Junior, Uno, Yahtzee and more!
My son tried out about 5 different games, including Candyland. We've only really done puzzles with him, so it was fun to hear him make up rules and use the board games to play in a different way. The room itself was quite relaxing as there were large windows overlooking Canada and the water in between.
I had the opportunity to get a tour of Semiahmoo, which was immensely helpful. We started in the Spa, which is the portal to the indoor/outdoor pool, hot tub, sauna, steam room, fitness center and more. I learned that they have an indoor golf simulator that should be up and running by the time this is posted. They also have a fitness center upstairs that features an indoor track. They also have a fitness room that offers classes (like Zumba and Pilates) throughout the day. The indoor tennis/basketball court is quite large and I was told it's the next area to be renovated.
We went in January, when the weather was a bit cold. However, we were told that in the Summer, they offer beach volleyball,croquet, corn hole, and soccer. Plus, the golf courses are open!
My husband and son went in the indoor/outdoor heated pool and I couldn't believe they lasted an hour. They grabbed a pool noodle and my son learned how to kick and propel himself around the pool. There were some other flotation devices available, as well.
I wasn't feeling very well, so my husband took both boys out for lunch at Packer's. We are big fans of oysters and he was thrilled to discover they offered kumamotos and kushi oysters. He says they were delicious! He also enjoyed the lamb burger. My son had the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and french fries. They were a hit with him!
Nap time came along and my husband stayed in the room with our sleeping kiddos while I headed to the Spa for a Hydrating Sea Flora Facial. I was warmly greeted by staff and given slippers and a key to the women's locker room. Once I had changed into the Spa robe, I headed to their relaxation area. There was a cozy fireplace, lots of comfy seating, plus they offered lemon water and trail mix. It reminded me a lot of the Spa at the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C. I was fully relaxed by the time my esthetician came to collect me. She was very gentle and explained that SEAFLORA is a luxurious Organic Seaweed Skin and Body care line that is hand-harvested from the cold, clean Pacific Northwest coastline. I had never tried it before, but we've had a very cold, dry Northwest winter and my skin was not coping well.
The facial itself was immensely relaxing. I've had facials in the past at other spas and they always tell me exactly what they are putting on my face and why each time they put anything on me. I was surprised that after chatting for a bit, not explanation was given for what was happening. However, I was enjoying my child-free hour of spa heaven too much to really be bothered.
Afterward, I was told that I was welcome to use the steam room or sauna and take as long as I'd like in their relaxation area. I sipped on some lemon water and took some meditative breaths before opting to get dressed and check on my family.
The second night, we decided to check out the bon fire instead of the movie. I mean, how often can we go to a beach fire, especially in January? I wasn't feeling very well, so my husband popped our baby in our Tula carrier and took our 3-year-old out our back door to find the bon fire while I rested in the room. They told us they start the bon fires "at dusk" which really meant 8 p.m. Thankfully, there was enough interest that they started the fire around 7:30 p.m. When they got back, my son told me all about roasting marshmallows and how some folks put their marshmallows directly in the fire but he didn't want to do that. My husband chatted with the other guests at the bon fire and he had a great time! I heard a lot about s'mores the entire next day!
On our final morning, we opted to try out the in-room dining. The breakfast page was missing from our Hotel Directory but I was able to find it on their website really easily. I ordered the Eggs Benedict, my husband had the Sweet Potato and Sausage Hash and we ordered the Fresh Fruit, Yogurt and Granola kids breakfast for our son. The menu had mentioned that it could take up to 45 minutes for room service, however our food arrived about 15 minutes later. All of our food tasted great and it was really nice to take a leisurely morning. Our son likes to move around when he eats, so this was a great alternative to having him sit in the restaurant. The only thing missing was a spoon, but we managed just fine with a fork.
After breakfast, I took the kids out for a beach walk while my husband packed everything up. My oldest loved walking on the beach and throwing rocks into the water. He asked if it was okay for him to walk into the water since he was wearing his rain boots. He was elated when I told him it was okay and he cautiously got his boots wet. Then he threw a bunch of rocks one at a time into the water.
By the time we headed to our car, the rain started. It was a nice way to signal our trip was coming to a close. My husband and I were very thankful that we didn't need to deal with any ferries to get home. Plus, we had the option of hitting the Seattle Premium Outlets in Tulalip (had our kids been awake.)
Top 10 Things for Families to Know about Semiahmoo Resort & Spa
I received complimentary room, spa service and select meals from Semiahmoo Resort & Spa for review purposes.
Earlier this month, I was contacted by Dr. Dana to see if I was interested in reviewing their Nail Renewal System. Up until this point, all my product reviews were items I specifically sought out to review. I like to keep my blog focused on travel-oriented items.
However, they contacted me right after I had broken 2 nails and chipped another while traveling around Vancouver, BC. It made me realize how brittle my nails were and how it was impacting my travel experience. My husband is too nice to say this, but I am straight-up snippy when I break my nails because they snag on just about everything and I get so worried I will scratch my kids.
So, Dr. Dana picked the right day to email me. I had never heard of this system before, but I'm always intrigued by nail-care options. According to their materials, "The Dr. Dana Nail Renewal System is a breakthrough, once-a-week, three-step system that restores dry, damaged nails back to a healthy, hydrated, high-shine state--instantly."
Step 1: Glycolic Prep for Nails
The first thing you're supposed to do is exfoliate your nails using glycolic acid. I twisted the pen (about 20 times) and then brushed the acid onto my nails. The pen was really easy to use and I was surprised how fast I was able to coat each nail.
Step 2: Perfect Grit Priming Wand
Then I primed the surface of my nails with the 3-way wand to remove damaged nail cells and allow for maximum absorption of the next step. I swept my nails about 5 times with each of the sides (this is the maximum times they recommend.) I could have easily filed my nails 20 time or more and I really had to slow down to make sure I didn't over file.
Step 3: Deep Hydrating Formula
Finally, brushed the gel-oli generously on my nails, cuticles and surrounding skin. The gel-oli contains their proprietary Phyto Crystal Complex, which is a bioactive natural nail strengthener derived from the sap of a French evergreen tree. It's yellow, which caught me off guard at first.
What I Thought About Dr. Dana Nail Renewal System
Day 1: It was super easy to coat my nails and they were very shiny.
Day 2: My nails feel a lot smoother and more hydrated.
Day 3: A couple of my nails chipped a bit.
Day 10: Applied Nail System again.
Day 14: Nails look healthier and have stopped chipping.
Day 21: Applied Nail System for 3rd time.
Overall, I really like the system! My nails definitely don't feel as dry and brittle now. The skin around my fingernails also looks better. The thing I like best is that it just takes a few minutes to do and I can continue to do things while the oil soaks in.
Dr. Dana provided the Nail Renewal System for review purposes.
My family became members at the KidsQuest Museum in Factoria more than a year ago because it was close to our house, my in-laws, and I could hit Target on the way to our car. When I heard they were moving to Downtown Bellevue, I was disappointed because that meant I couldn't just stop in while running errands. I was completely bummed. However, when I heard about all the cool new features, I figured we'd need to check it out.
Our favorite area of the old museum was the train table. I liked how the tracks were screwed to the table and the wall and there were plenty of trains for all the kids to play together. Our next favorite areas included the semi-truck and the water tables. We spent the majority of our time in those 3 areas.
Since we are members, we were invited to their members-only preview celebration. I brought my 3-year-old son and wore my 4-month-old baby in my Tula carrier. We arrived 20 minutes after they opened and the place was packed!
Let me start off by saying that the new museum is AMAZING! What's not amazing is the physical location. It's located on the North side of Downtown Bellevue next to Bellevue Library. They have about 20 parking spaces and some of those are reserved for donors. I received a map telling me all the places I could park near the museum, but when you're toting a baby and preschooler and have been advised not to bring a stroller, any distance is far. I ended up parking at Bellevue Library in the basement level of their garage because I couldn't find anything else.
When we entered, it was a bit confusing as to what was happening. No one gave me any directions as to where I could stash my diaper bag or where anything was located. It was a mad house. I ended up lugging my huge diaper bag around for about 15 minutes before I asked a staff member and she told me I could get a locker for $1. I was initially outraged that I'd have to pay to store something I could have easily put on my stroller (but didn't bring as a common courtesy) but I wasn't about to haul the bag everywhere we went. Later, I realized that there were a handful of cubbies underneath some bench seating but they were stuffed to the guilds by the time we arrived. They also had some coat hooks that were layered with coats.
The first area that we tried to explore was the On the Go Gallery. It was crammed with overflowing with kids and cardboard boxes and mail room carts, so we decided we might want to start upstairs and then head back down. This was a good move.
We ended up going straight to the train table and that's where we stayed for the first hour. I was itching to explore the other areas, but my son was more than content to stay put. Not only is is much larger than at the old space, but it has a gorgeous mural of Bellevue and Seattle in the background. And, the table features a Space Needle and Pike Place Market as part of the set. He would have stayed there the rest of the day if I hadn't encouraged him to check out the Bellevue Mercantile Co.
The Bellevue Mercantile Co. is a mini grocery store from back in the day. What I loved most about this exhibit was the signage around with info about Bellevue in the early 1900s. My son really enjoyed the ice cream cart, complete with cones and felt ice cream where he could make an array of ice cream cones for me to hold. When he ran out of ice cream cones, he started shopping for produce and waited in line to be rung up by a slightly older child who was working the cash register. She then informed an adult that she was the manager and sent another child to restock the shelves. It was a lot of fun to watch kids of all ages work together.
Another major feature of the Bellevue Mercantile is the large bean bin. Not only was this area usually swarmed with little kids who wanted to weigh the beans, but the kids ended up using the beans as a form of money for purchasing things at the store. There were beans all over the floor and I saw staff members constantly sweeping the floor. No one that I saw slipped because the beans basically crush when stepped on. This would be a great area for their kid-size broom!
I was especially impressed by Katarina, a staff member who took the time to play not only with my son but with a number of kids. She asked engaging questions as she roamed around and the kids seemed drawn to her. I also noticed helpful staff in the On The Go Gallery and Water Gallery. I didn't think the staff members interacted with the kids in the old location, so this was a pleasant surprise.
As soon as we left the Bellevue Mercantile, we headed straight back to the epic train table where he played for another 20 minutes or so. I finally pulled my son away from the train table and we headed back downstairs to find the Water Gallery area.
The Water Gallery is on the other side of the front desk and has tons of smocks for children. The area felt smaller to me, but I think it's because it was divided into separate areas. There was a quieter area tucked away that had a mirror, a squeegee and a spray bottle. Yes, it's an activity that teaches your kids how fun it is to clean windows. My son LOVED this area and did this for about 20 minutes.
It was nice to see an old favorite featuring PVC pipes and it was even better than my son could reach everything easily. What made this new was the bucket of water that dumped out once it was full. My son stopped to watch it several times. He only played here for a few minutes, but I think it's because it wasn't totally new. I'm sure he'll spend more time here when the newness of the other exhibits wears off.
When we finally made our way back down to the On The Go Gallery, things had calmed down a bit. There was an area for throwing paper airplanes (mainly used by adults who wanted something to do or a place to sit.) There was also a place set aside for matchbox cars. But, the main attractions were the new Semi Truck Cab (which has a CB radio, a horn and many fun buttons and knobs) and the package loading area. They have about 50 medium sized cardboard boxes for kids to cart around in mail carts, put through an x-ray scanner that shows the content, and then send up on a conveyor belt that drops the packages in 2 different locations. This area had the most energy as children quickly stacked packages on the conveyor belt and raced to pick up dropped packages. I felt like I was either in Santa's workshop or a secret kids division of the Amazon Distribution Center.
After the kids got tired of moving the boxes in this cycle, the kids decided that the boxes should be loaded in the Semi Truck. My son was on board with that and dutifully helped load nearly all the boxes into the truck, which made it crowded for the kids in the truck cab. I wasn't sure if that was something staff members had expected was going to happen, as I overheard someone commenting that of course kids would then load the packages on a truck for delivery. I then saw staff members unloading the boxes back to the mail room area, so I instructed my son that the truck was at it's destination and it was time to unload the boxes. He was only partly on board with that.
I ended up having to cart him away from the exhibit to grab my diaper bag and head out. We'd been there 4.5 hours and he still wasn't ready to go. We hadn't even seen the outdoor space, explored the Climber longer than 5 minutes, or the Art Gallery area, but we had to leave something for our next visit.
What's New at Kidsquest Museum
Since I was wearing my baby at the museum, one of the staff members came up to me to let me know about their nursing lounge in the Tot Orchard. She reassured me that I was free to nurse anywhere, but that they now have a dedicated lounge available. I checked it out and I was glad they had so many options for toddlers who want to stay near Mom if she's nursing. I liked that it was in the gated off toddler area so kids are also welcome to explore around in a safe environment. I ended up nursing my son in the Bellevue Mercantile simply because that's where my oldest was when my baby was hungry.
My Thoughts on the New KidsQuest Museum
When I talk with other families about traveling with young kids, many of them tell me they won't travel because they are afraid it will disrupt their child's sleep routine. Some of them have specific routines that are hard to replicate other places. We've traveled the world with a baby and we've picked up a few tricks.
One way that we've had success with baby sleep while traveling is that we follow a bedtime routine that incorporates SleepSacks. They are easy to pack and don't take up nearly as much room as a full blanket. When we change his diaper and put our son into his jammies, we slip on a SleepSack so he's ready for bed. Then I usually nurse him one last time, pop the binky in his mouth and I'm able to set him in his bassinet or crib while he drifts off to sleep.
HALO has a new design of SleepSacks available and they sent me one to review. Here's what I thought:
What I Like:
What I like most about our HALO SleepSack is that I feel like I'm keeping my baby safe while he sleeps. I love using my cute blankets when he's in the stroller, in his swing or anywhere where I'm keeping my eye on him, but I get a bit nervous at nap time or at night. The fleece is the right thickness for our house in Winter so I don't worry about him being cold. I'm also able to clip my son's pacifier right to the SleepSack so it's always nearby and not pulling on his clothing.
HALO's Safe Sleep Tips
To enter to win a HALO SleepSack, head to my Instagram page.
When I was newly engaged and busy planning our wedding, I needed another distraction to keep me from obsessing about all the details. My Aunt was really into genealogy and I realized that I didn't know much about my Dad's side of the family. She walked me through how to use Ancestry.com and I began my treasure hunt.
I started with my paternal Grandfather's side of the family. He was 16th out of 17 children born to German-Russian immigrants. Their story is fascinating! They were born in small ethnically German villages in present-day Ukraine and then moved (or were sent to) Siberia where they had their first child. From there, they made the trek to Buenos Aires, Argentina to join a sibling for awhile and then had another child. Then, they worked their way through Mexico and earned enough for a boat trip to Canada, where they had planned on settling permanently. However, another sibling was ill in North Dakota, so the family relocated yet again to help with the farm.
I was fortunate that the eldest sibling had written down the basic story of how she and her parents came to the U.S. but I still had so many questions. Through my research online, I was able to find a photo of him in The Seattle Times coming home from the Korean War. I brought this clipping to him and his face lit up and he told me all about what had happened moments before the photo was taken! At Christmas, we were talking about what life was like growing up with immigrant parents and he started speaking German. None of his children had ever heard him utter a word of German, so it caught the whole room by surprise! I got to spend a lot of time with my Grandfather asking him questions about what he remembered from his childhood, having him identify people in old photos, and telling me a bit about his parents. He never knew any family history past his parents, so it was a true honor to be able to present him with a book I pieced together highlighting his ancestors. He ended up passing away less than a year later, which makes me so thankful for the time we spent together reminiscing.
Through my research, I'm now really interested in visiting the villages in Ukraine where my Great-Grandparents were born and I'd like to go to Argentina to find out more about where they went and what they did when they got there. I've been inspired by the show Who Do You Think You Are and would love to do genealogy research in the actual places my ancestors lived.
The common theme amongst all the stories in our family is that hard work does pay off. Our family is full of determined people who have overcome quite a lot to make their mark on the world. The people who came before us play a big role in who we are today. I'm glad that I have a written account of many of these stories to show my children and hopefully their children.
How to Get Started:
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If you ask me about my Holiday Season, I can sum it up with the words: The Snowy Day. Thanks to Amazon Prime, my 3-year-old and I watched their version of The Snowy Day about 50 times (I'm not exaggerating.) I had surprising never read the book as a kid, but it seems to be everyone's favorite winter-time book for kids. After seeing the Amazon Prime version, I see the appeal. So, when I was invited to Seattle Children's Theatre's The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats, I had the perfect date in mind.
My son has had limited experience with live theatrical performances. We took him to see a kid's show at Teatro ZinZanni last month, but it was mostly music (from Grammy-nominated Recess Monkey) and circus acts. He also really enjoyed seeing Daniel Tiger Live at McCaw Hall a couple of months ago. We'd taken him to a few movies and he was entertained throughout the end credits. Since he loved the story of The Snowy Day so much, I had a feeling this would be a good play to try out.
We arrived about 5 minutes before the show started. I let my son pick out our seats and as we walked around, I realized that ALL the seats were good seats. It was nice to see the theatre full of families with small children. The family next to us had a young toddler who wanted to walked up and down the aisle and we saw Dads bouncing babies in carriers. As the show started, the crowd quieted down and then I started to hear little tiny voices around us asking "Why? Why is it getting darker? What's happening?" It's always fun to experience something through the eyes of children. My son kept asking "When is the movie starting?" and I explained over and over that we were seeing a play, not a movie. But, since he had never seen a play before, he just couldn't comprehend what was happening.
The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats features 3 actors and many shadow puppets. The other stories consist of Whistle for Willie, Goggles! and A Letter to Amy. I had never read these stories before and I was excited to experience them with my son. For the most part, he was interested in the acts and asked me a lot of questions throughout the play. I think the shadow puppets were confusing for him and I wished we would have gotten there early enough to play with them before the show started so he'd understand what was happening. However, shadow puppets aren't very common and I'm not sure when he'll have the opportunity to see them live again.
What was really cool about this production is that it follows Peter over a period of a few years, so he's a constant character. My son turned to me halfway through and told me "Peter is growing because he sleeps a lot and drinks lots of milk and eats his dinner." It's always nice when the arts underline messages we give our kids.
There was also a lot of kids trying to whistle during Whistle for Willie. It was adorable to hear the audience try right along with Peter. And when Peter finally whistled, the kids were so excited for him! I loved how engaged the audience was with the show!
Something that I wasn't expecting after the play ended was that they actors came back on stage for a Q&A. What made this special is that the actors had questions for the kids before the kids asked questions of the actors. At the end of the play (spoiler alert!) there's a scene where Peter blows out the candles of his birthday cake. One child asked if the candles were real (they were not.) The next kid asked if the cake was real (it also was not.) So, the actors asked the kid what kind of cake would he like for his birthday, to which he immediately responded, "A REAL one!" It was a fun dialogue.
There also was an opportunity for kids to see how the shadow puppets worked and meet the actors. My son is an observer, so we waited until almost everyone had come up to the actors to get autographs, ask questions and look at the puppets before we approached them. I really appreciated this part because it made the whole theatrical experience more accessible for him.
For those who are unfamiliar with Seattle Children's Theatre, it's internationally recognized as a leading producer of professional theatre, educational programs, and new scripts for young audiences. As of December 2016, SCT produced more than 251 plays, 110 of which were world premiers, inspiring more than 4 million children. SCT's School Children Access Programs provides $1.4 million in significantly reduced complimentary tickets for schools and community organizations in the Puget Sound area.
The Snowy Day and Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats runs January 19-February 26, 2017 at Seattle Children's Theatre located at Seattle Center. They have snacks available for purchase, a really cool gift shop, and booster seats available for the show. There is also a great park located at Seattle Center if your little ones need to burn off energy before or after the show.
Seattle Children's Theatre provided me with 2 complimentary tickets for review purposes.
Science World is a "must-do" if you are visiting Vancouver, BC with a toddler. It's such a well-thought out museum with tons of things for children and adults. Even if you aren't a fan of science museums, it's a fun place to play with your kids. We checked it out last year when our toddler was 2 years old and we returned this year when he was almost 3 years old along with our 2-month-old baby.
We arrived right when they opened at 10am on a Sunday for a fun activity to do before we drove back home to Seattle. We easily found parking in their paid lot and loaded up our stroller. If we had gone in the summer, we would have skipped the stroller, but we wanted a place to stash our heavy coats and the diaper bag and the camera bag. Since we are members at the Museum of Flight in Seattle (a partner museum), we just showed our membership cards and we were able to enter for free.
Since we had been before, we headed straight to the Kidspace exhibit area on the 2nd floor. It's a room geared for kids ages 6 and under and is filled with hands-on activities including climbing structures, building blocks, science experiments and more. My toddler spent almost an hour playing with a red boat in the water table. They have smocks in all different sizes and styles so kids can protect their clothing from getting too wet. They also have lots of small step stools. Inside the water table, they have small pieces of plastic where kids can create water streams to put their boats on and race down to the end.
Once he had thoroughly enjoyed the water table, he decided he wanted to do the face-painting. I liked that the face painters asked if he'd like it on his hand or face. My son prefers getting it on his hand so he can look at it throughout the day. He opted for Santa Claus and we were impressed how well it came out.
The next big hit were the virtual drums. They had circles on the floor that lit up when stepped on and made sounds. Some of them made drum sounds and some told jokes or made funny sounds. I sat there and watched almost every kid (and several adults) hop on them as they walked through the area.
One of my favorite things about this museum is that my husband enjoys it as much as our toddler! It's fun to hear him explain the physics behind some of the stuff while my toddler pays close attention. Then, they end up laughing because they are having so much fun! It's cute to see my husband get distracted trying to "win" at all of the stations while my toddler is ready to explore the next area.
The big hit for both of them was a large stand where they turned steering wheels to get the propellers to move, which moved the entire base around (like a merry-go-round.) My son spent about 45 minutes doing this by himself, with my husband and with other children. At one point a young toddler was placed on the base and she just was there for the ride! It was really cool to see my toddler study the whole thing and experimenting with changing the direction of the wheel to see what would happen.
My ultimate favorite thing about Science World is that it's a great museum for parents to interact with their kids and show them how to problem solve. My toddler was completely occupied and engaged for hours. Had we not needed to head back to Seattle, we easily could have spent another couple of hours exploring the exhibits.
4 Tips for Science World with Babies + Toddlers
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!