We started giving Totes an allowance and here's how it went!Read More
We recently started drinking Elderberry Syrup as part of a daily immunity building routine and here's what I think about it...Read More
The cutest hat you absolutely need, especially because it is FREE!Read More
Our second summer trip to Desolation Sound.Read More
Because the days are long but the years are short.Read More
A comparison of five common strollers.Read More
The pregnancy shot you MUST tryRead More
In the months and definitely weeks leading up to giving birth, I became a little obsessive over the thought of how I would go into labor. It was always on my mind and in my dreams. Not having experienced spontaneous labor in my first pregnancy, I felt like a first-timer going into this and was so excited but nervous about how it would all happen. I had vivid dreams of giving birth in the car because we would be stuck in rush hour traffic getting to the hospital! I also worried about how we would handle the arrangements for Totes if we needed to leave for the hospital in the middle of the night and my mom hadn't arrived yet. Or how he would handle being away from me while I was in the hospital for so long?
Now that it's all said and done, it couldn't have gone any better.
My second pregnancy was another great one. Although nothing is as romantic as the first time around. I was very nauseous in my first trimester (more so than with Totes, they say that's what girls bring!) and extremely fatigued throughout most of it, which I contribute to being older and having an energetic toddler to keep up with. Totes also conveniently decided to drop his nap just as I started the third trimester and needed that rest myself. But luckily this time there were no medical complications so I was able to prepare for the natural childbirth I wanted.
On the day before I went into labor (at 38w+5d), I started feeling the old, familiar aches and cramps that usually accompanied my period... I also felt that the baby had dropped very low into my pelvis, causing me to struggle with every move of my body, but I didn't know how much more it could go. I could barely get in and out of bed and although I tried to keep up with my prenatal yoga, so many of the moves were just impossible to do.
A side note, a quote from my aunt that has six beautiful children (she's my go-to for advice on these things!): "I think for me, I know labor is really near if I feel like a bowling ball is resting on my cervix, which it literally is if you're effaced and the skin is thin and the baby's head is right there resting. Think of it like you have a bowling ball resting between a few layers of blankets on your shin bone verses A bowling ball resting between one sheet on your shin. That's akin to the difference I feel. Super heavy. And no padding supporting it. Like moving causes deep pain into your whole womb and back."
That afternoon, I went in for a chiropractic adjustment, my sixth in the last couple of weeks to get my hips in proper alignment to allow the baby to drop and position optimally, then took Totes to a nearby park while we waited for Papa to finish work for the day. By the evening, I was feeling nauseous and felt too much so to eat anything so I skipped dinner. I went to bed early with Totes. By 3am, I woke up, uncomfortable and crampy, and had a hard time falling back asleep. I was starting to feel slight contractions but was too tired to get out of bed. At 4am I decided to get up and go to the couch and concentrate on what my body was doing and practice my HypnoBirthing breathing techniques. I monitored my contractions for the next hour and a half. They were inconsistent, but averaged five minutes apart and one minute long. They tapered off so I decided to lay back down and get some more sleep. Shortly after, my guys were up for the day and our morning routines started as normal. Throughout the morning, I felt different but couldn't quite put into words what I felt. The energy inside was brewing! I was distracted enough by the everyday morning activities to not notice what was going on inside my body and just kept moving. At one point my husband asked if I thought I was going in to labor and after I replied that I honestly didn't know since I didn't know what it felt like, he said "well haven't you read about it on the Internet?" Ha! Right?!
We spent a lot of time talking to Totes about his baby sister, included him in a lot of the Hypnobirthing relaxation techniques i practiced regularly and even did some "sleep-talk" hypnosis to him on a nightly basis to help him get ready for the arrival of his sister and the end of his only child status. I was confident going in to this change that he would be a great big brother. He regularly would his by belly and say "Baby Sister, come out!" That morning, I asked Totes if he thought his baby sister should come out today? He said, "Yes! Baby Sister come out today!" OK kid, you got it.
I dropped Totes off at his play-school and headed over to my OB's office for our weekly checkup at 11am. She did a cervical check and I was pleasantly surprised to learn something really had been in the works overnight and that morning... I was dilated to 5cm and about 70% effaced, baby at the -2 station. We confirmed my progress with a 20-minute monitoring sessions, surges were coming regularly enough although I could barely feel them. She suggested a walk around the block and then checking in to triage next door as I was in active labor. I was so excited we would be having the baby that day! It was a bit surreal as I left her office and went down the elevator, out the door and passing all these people going about their own business. Did they even realize I was in labor? No, because I didn't either! I spent the next 45 minutes walking around the block and made all my necessary phone calls: husband (it really was labor!), Barbara (doula) and Mom/Grandma (hurry! Change your flight!). During the walking and talking, there were several instances that I had to stop and focus on my breathing as the surges were getting intense and really frequent. I knew it was time to get checked in and situated so I could relax and focus on my breathing and body.
I arrived at triage at 1pm. Upon check-in, they monitored baby and gave me another cervical check. 7cm now. A lot of distractions happened over the next couple hours with people arriving and moving us around, but I worked hard to get in my Hypno-zone. Every time I had a big contraction, the baby would move away from the monitor and they would lose tracking of her heart rate. Because it had dipped on the low side a few times, the nurse would immediately push the monitor deeper into my uterus to find her better! It was driving me crazy and was so painful, I couldn't breath properly through the contractions. Otherwise the room was beautifully calm and I kept progressing. My husband had to pick up Totes from school and drop him off with family before arriving at the hospital, so he arrived just after 3pm. We waited for him before the doctor broke my water knowing it would speed things up.
As with my first birth, I found a seated position, straddled on the hospital bed, that really allowed me to focus internally and shut out the external distractions. A part of me wanted to move around, knowing that movement and different positions might be more favorable for the baby's decent, but I was also scared to break my focus and get into a position that might be more uncomfortable. With each contraction on the inhale, I envisioned the walls of my cervix coming up, and with each exhale, widening. I also talked to my baby, telling her to push down into the newly opened space with each surge. Barbara massaged my feet and legs and applied pressure on my lower back to ease the discomfort I was feeling during contractions. The cold chills came and went, then the hot flashes started. My husband kept me cool with a damp cloth on my forehead and chest.
Upon completing my last cervical check and determining that I was fully dilated and effaced, I chose not to move and labor on my back as I was now feeling the urges to push. Once my body started fully pushing, all I could do was grab my husband's hand and hold on tight for the rest of the ride. It happened so quick with barely a break to catch my breath. Thankfully, Barbara kept reminding me to breath when I could. The doctor at one point said "I can see her hair!" and i thought to myself, "Hair? My babies don't have hair!" But I was relieved in knowing she was that close. The moment my little girl's head and shoulders cleared, all the contractions and sensations stopped and I was able to reach down and help pull her the rest of the way out and up onto my chest. Much to everyone's surprise, she immersed sunny side up (OP) with one hand up by her face, superman style! Perfectly healthy, weighing 7lbs, 7oz and 20" long at 5:30pm and an apgar score of 9. I had no tears and it has been a very quick recovery. We were able to do placenta encapsulation this time around and I feel that it has helped in this postpartum period immensely in that I'm not crying about everything!
Totes joined us an hour later and was happy to see that "sister came out!" We spent the next hour together before he and my husband went home for the night. I was ready to walk out with her that evening and even tried to walk myself over to the recovery room but the nurse wouldn't allow it and made me sit in a wheelchair. I felt so great immediately after I could have done cartwheels down the hall! But one of the setbacks to delivering at a hospital is how strict they are on your care. I had to beg, and lie!, to get released before the 24 hour period and go home to my family.
I loved reading birth stories! They are all so unique but secretly I was always searching them for the "how did you do it?" signs. While there is no secret 'right way' to induce labor or have a natural delivery if you're after one, here are a few thoughts about my experience. In my first pregnancy, I thought that labor was like a marathon and I needed to be physically fit to have the physical stamina needed to get through it. This time around, however, I realized it was less about the physical, and more about the mental stamina and state needed. They say that the baby will come when he/she is ready. But additionally, it's also when YOU are ready! A team effort, I believe. In my pregnancy, a few things I did that I feel helped:
- my Hypnobirthing practice. I re-read Marie Mongan's book to refresh my memory, listened to the rainbow relaxation and positive affirmations. Practiced my breathing techniques, getting into deep relaxation and shutting out distractions
- PreNatal Bonding from early in my pregnancy. In the last week, I prepped and talked to my baby each night. Told her our game plan. Sent her visuals of what we both needed to do. We visually "practiced" every night before bedtime for the last week
- read only positive birth experiences. A great resource for this is the group Hypnobirthing on FaceBook
- completed several fear release sessions. This time around they mostly centered around Totes, how our lives would change, and what the scenario might be for going in to labor
- followed the exercises outlined from Spinning Babies (even tho she still came out OP, I am fairly certain she was in an optimal position when I went in to labor!)
- perineal massage
- drank raspberry leaf tea and had several chiropractic adjustment and massage therapy in my third trimester
- assembled my team! I think this is the most important thing I did and luckily, I had the same wonderful people with me in this birth as I did with Totes's birth. My doula is so fantastic... I was so grateful to have her there for the birth of both of my babies and the education she brought to me in both of my pregnancies that helped set me up to have these experiences. I also can't say enough wonderful things about the group of doctors at Northwest Women's healthcare. They are constantly praised by other moms when a recommendation for an OB is asked in some of the mom groups I follow. Although I missed my doctor's on-call day by about 12 hours, I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Melville deliver my baby. She had such a calm energy about her, it synced perfectly with me. Our nurses at Swedish First Hill were so great again too. And, of course, my husband ;P
This was our last pregnancy, and with such great experiences both times, I'm a bit sad I won't get to do it again. But I'm so happy to be able to share with anyone wanting to know about Hypnobirthing. It's such a positive and empowering practice that allowed me to have a calm birth and welcome both of my babies to this world with as much joy as possible.
If you're in the process of creating a birth plan, then check out this "visual" birth plan I created using Power Point and icons for a much easier to read template for you team!
I loved creating a birth plan for both my pregnancies, although in both cases I never even shared it outside my doula and a quick glance from my OB. But despite that, it gives you an opportunity to think about all aspects of the birth and make informed decisions ahead of time instead of being pressured into a quick decision in the moment. Create it with the help of your partner so you are both on the same page with certain procedures and then he or she can be relied upon to be your voice when you are unable to speak up for yourself... as I've experienced! A strong word of advice, though, is try not to get too hung up on your specifics. Birth is a crazy journey, especially the first time, and you just don't know really how it's going to turn out. Giving yourself the freedom to be flexible is key, knowing that how it turns out is probably not in your control! My first wasn't but I was still able to have a beautiful, calm birth and was so grateful for the team that surrounded me during that moment because they supported me all the way and assisted me in achieving my "birth requests" to the best the situation allowed.
In preparing for the arrival of our second child, I recently sat down to create my "Birth Requests". I like using the word requests as they are simply just that. I haven't come across too many moms that can tell me their birthing experience went exactly as their "plan". In a few of the mom groups I follow on Facebook, I started seeing these really cool plans that were done with visual icons rather than just wordy paragraphs on a sheet of paper. It really resonated with me as an easy to read way of communicating my preferences. My first time around, my birth preferences took up about 3 pages of paper, which was mostly copied and pasted from a few of my birth-prep sources. Who was going to sit down and take the time to read all that? My wonderful doctor, at one of our third-trimester appointments, did, but she had the time in one of our third trimester check-ups. In the end I actually never printed out any additional copies for the staff at the hospital but I had time to talk to them one-on-one because of the special circumstances under which I was admitted early. Even though my second birth was spontaneous, I still had the time after checking in to triage to communicate most of my requests to the nurses. And I answered questions along the way.
I googled "birth plan icons" and got some great inspiration from the pictures of how to put together my own. I posted mine on a birthing prep group on Facebook and got a lot of positive response and requests to share, which I am more than happy to do! So here it is with the links to all my sources that you can download and customize to your own if you wish to do so.
My one-page "Birth Requests" sheet was created in Power Point on an iMac (conversion to a PC-based power point program should work but may through off formatting slightly, just fyi). If you're familiar with the program, it should be very easy to customize to your own. Although all the available icons from the two sources I used are in the extra slides on the power point file, these are the two direct links:
I've meant to share my birth story here for so long but have kept getting distracted from writing it down. The memories are still so fresh but as I recollect my thoughts on the experience, and since have had plenty of time to read other's inspiring stories, I've come to realize that a birth story is so much more than just the long but relatively few hours of labor and delivery. We spend close to ten months preparing for this big event and all those months, but so much more, play a role on the outcome and experience. I think it's important for perspective to share the larger picture of my own.
Our pregnancy with Totes was planned and we spent a relatively short time trying for... a few months really. Upon taking my first pregnancy test, the second line appeared so faintly my husband thought it wasn't positive. We waited a few days and took a second test to be sure. From there, it was pure excitement all around and we couldn't wait to share the good news with family and friends. So many thoughts hit you all at once when you first become pregnant, things you've never had to think of before. But even before the time I became pregnant, I knew that I wanted to deliver without pain medication. Partly because I know how my body tends to react to such strong drugs and I didn't want to be battling severe nausea while trying to focus my attention on the joy of the moment I would be cradling my baby in my arms for the first time. And partly the idea that such strong medication would reach the baby during delivery and effect our first few precious hours of bonding. I've always been a minimalist when it comes to interventions, such as doctors and medication anyway.
When we made the decision it was time for us to start trying to conceive, the first thing I did was interview different OBGYN's. Luckily, it didn't long for me to be referred to Dr. Bohmke and the team at Northwest Women's Healthcare. I immediately felt reassured I would be in the best of hands in this group. The next thing that fell into place was finding a doula that would be there with me through the labor and delivery. This addition was so important to me as I really needed someone that could be there with me the entire time, keep me calm and reassure me that all was going as it should. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered that a long time family friend of my husband's was not only a very experienced doula, but was also a Hypnobirthing Practitioner, a class I was intending on taking during my pregnancy. We quickly contacted her and arranged our meetings. She worked with me on a one-on-one basis with the Hypnobirthing techniques using the Mongan Method and also led me through private, Prenatal Bonding sessions in the last half of my pregnancy.
I poured my heart and soul into this pregnancy and was so excited for the changes that were happening to my body and the ones that were coming next. I read and watched everything I could get my hands on. I ate healthy and continued to work out regularly. Since I had just come off training and running two half marathons prior to getting pregnant, I kept running through about 5 months along at a slow pace while monitoring my heart rate, making sure it didn't go too high. I joined a prenatal yoga class and stayed physically active. Although I had the normal aches and sickness that comes with pregnancy, especially in the first and third trimester, overall I felt great.
It was around 32/33 weeks that my doctor became concerned that my belly's fundal height wasn't measuring as large as it should. We initially dismissed it due to my build, being so tall with a long torso. But by 36 weeks, we weren't seeing any increase in size from the previous check. I went in for an ultrasound so they could estimate fluid levels and it showed a very low amount. My doctor ordered me on bedrest for the weekend with more monitoring the following week as an extra precaution. It was at this point that my doctor told me that inevitably, I would be induced early for the health of the baby. I was immediately distraught at the thought of my baby being at risk and also the knowledge that an induction most likely meant I wouldn't have the natural birthing experience I had been envisioning. I had been warned time and time again not to get too attached to a "birth plan" since everything about pregnancy and birth is so unpredictable, but I still let it happen. I had a good cry about it but then shook it off and knew I could still make the best of this situation and that it also meant I would get to meet my little boy earlier than expected! I came to terms with the fact that I would need an epidural, knowing how intense Pitocen would make my contractions. I would do the best I could, but I didn't want to make myself suffer just to prove myself strong.
At the next check a few days later, they estimated the fluid levels had dropped even lower so I was admitted to the hospital and hooked up to an IV for two days. The rest and extra fluids seemed to help as the next check my levels were estimating higher. I was released from the hospital but had to stay on bedrest for the rest of my pregnancy. These checks happened every three days over the course of the next two weeks. It was an intense time and I started feeling burnt out with all the prep and anticipation.
On the morning of July 17th, I woke up around 4am and just couldn't get back to sleep. I went downstairs and waited for my husband to wake up. We headed up to the hospital for yet another ultrasound check that morning. He was also feeling a bit burnt out as he had accompanied me to all my ultrasounds over the last few weeks and decided to grab us coffee and pastries while I went into the appointment. I watched as the ultrasound technician searched for fluid pockets on the screen. I had been to enough of these appointments to know that she wasn't finding much. The scan showed a fluid level estimate in the 2cm range (healthy being 8-18cm) and they estimated his weight around 6lbs, 9th percentile. I knew both numbers were cause for high concern and an induction would be following immediately. I walked the results over to my doctor's office and as soon as my doctor had a chance to look through them, she looked at me with a reassuring smile and said, "I think it's a good day to have a baby!" I was put in a wheelchair and transported over to triage. They had me immediately start using a Cook's catheter to encourage dilation and cervical change. It was right around noon and for the rest of the day I was told to just rest. We had a few friends stop by that evening and pop open a bottle of champagne to celebrate. At midnight when it was time to remove the catheter, the doctor on call checked my cervix for any progress but not much had changed. We made the decision to insert a second and let me rest overnight.
My doula arrived at the hospital the next morning and we went for a walk outside. By noon it was time to remove the catheter and my doctor had me start on Pitocin. My contractions started, but I wasn't feeling them much. At 3pm, she broke my water. Shortly after that the contractions started coming on stronger so I started using my Hypnobirthing "surge" breathing. I was feeling pressure creeping across the front of my abdomen, but nothing was painful. I realized that if I just closed my eyes and concentrated on what my body was feeling, staying inside, that the contractions would come on more regularly. I also knew that each contraction was progressively bringing me closer to delivery and if they slowed down, I would be given more Pit, so rather than trying to be social with everyone in the room, I put myself into my self-hypnosis state and shut everything out. The next few hours flew by as I felt almost asleep. But around 8pm, the sensations of the contractions had moved down into my lower abdomen/pelvis and I was having a harder time trying to concentrate through them. I sought after alternate methods of comfort... a heated pad behind my back, light touch massage, essential oils. We asked the nurse to prepare the bathtub. I got up to use the toilet and then tub, the change in position brought the sensations of the contractions on much more acutely. Even after getting in the tub, I was struggling to stay as calm as I had been and I asked my husband to order the epidural. I was getting nauseous and feeling the need to dry-heave, the contractions were coming on so strong and fast I had no time in between to catch my breath and recompose myself. What I didn't realize at the time was this was the start of the urge to push. My team encouraged me to have the doctor perform a cervical check before we committed to the epidural to see how far I had progressed. I agreed but my doctor was delayed with another birth and as the minutes ticked by, I begged for the epidural. It was ordered and just after my doctor entered the room and began her check, the anesthesiologist came in with his needle ready. My doctor told us all that I was dilated to 9cm and fully effaced and ready to start pushing anytime. She then turned to the anesthesiologist and told him we didn't need him anymore, he could go! I laid there stunned and unable to speak, knowing this was ultimately what I wanted but so torn! However, I started to relax as the contractions slowed down in frequency and intensity and moved into an urge to push. The change in pace was just enough to allow me to reset and refocus my energy into relaxing my body. For the next hour, I used my "birth breathing" techniques to gently bring the baby down.
My husband's hand was my focal point and I held on to it tightly. I didn't have the ability to communicate to him in words at that moment, but I felt that I could let him know how I was feeling by squeezing his hand with each contraction. Upon suggestion, I attempted to prop myself upright and use the birthing bar but I didn't have the energy to keep myself up and needed to lay down again. Finally, just before 10pm, the room started to buzz as the nurses made the final prep. Just as I was working through the final few pushes, a nurse popped in to the room to inform my doctor of an emergency C-section that she was needed for right away. She then told me "we need to get this baby out now" and directed me into more vigorous pushing. I tried with all my might to activate those pushing muscles and within a minute, I felt the pressure release and heard my doctor say, "Elise, open your eyes and take your baby!" She handed him to me and I placed him right on my chest. He let out a few yells then immediately calmed down and laid there, eyes wide open.
I ended up needing one small internal stitch, probably from pushing harder than I should have. But in the end, I couldn't have been better. He weighed 5lbs, 14oz and was 18" long. Other than being petite, he was perfectly healthy and gained weight steadily, although still to this day is in the first percentile in weight!
Since we had so much fun putting together a baby shower for Totes in the Tiffany Blue theme, we were so excited to switch it up to all pink and celebrate the arrival of baby Melina. Victoria's Secret Pink and Gold were our theme colors this time around and it was only fitting that we use the same venue, Mamma Melina Ristorante, again as our little girl is being named after Mamma Melina herself (her nonna/grandmother). Since we already have more than enough baby gear and supplies at home, I opted for no presents. However, my girlfriends were having none of that and wanted the excuse to buy adorable girly baby clothes. The party host, Jacqueline, custom built a baby clothing rack, painted in gold, that we displayed on the table with the collection of tiny pieces. She also put together a headband-making station and I love how all they all turned out! One of my favorite keepsakes is the gilded mirror where each of my girlfriends added a custom note to Melina.
Ombre Cake and Cupcakes by Honey Crumb Cake Studio
Macroons by Lady Yum
Photography by Natasha Wise (IG: @ttashwise) and Ashley Genevieve (IG: @ashleyfoto)
Event Planning by Jacqueline Merhej (IG: @jacquelinemerhej)
Hair Styled by Madison of Burnt District Salon
Dress by Badgley Mischka (RTR)
Makeup by Rachel Craig, Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Lead Artist (Nordstrom Downtown Seattle)
For the last year, Totes and I have been going to the Little Gym for their mom and me classes. If you are not familiar with the Little Gym, you may have heard of Gymboree, which is very similar, otherwise be sure to check out their website for more information!
Prior to signing up at the Little Gym, we tried a few other classes. Kindermusik was one of them and although I felt that we started a bit too young (he wasn't even crawling yet), I felt the specific class we took was too unstructured and unorganized for my liking. We still regularly participate in the Toddler Story Time sessions at our local library, but every time I find myself chasing him out of the room as the class participation just doesn't hold his attention. The local community centers have great classes that are worth checking out as well. I recommend trying out a few and see what jives best with your toddler's personality and temperament.
For us, the Little Gym was the best. It helped to have a great teacher who was personable and fun, but the classes are structured for "serious fun" and we both really enjoyed it. Sadly with preschool starting this month, I didn't feel our schedule was open enough to continue the regular weekly commitment so we recently said farewell. We met some wonderful moms/parents and their kiddos. I wanted to share our experience and encourage you to give it a try if you are searching for activities to get you out of the house, give your toddler a chance to get out some energy and socialize with others.
Every summer we live by one simple rule: enjoy the Seattle sun while it lasts. Most Seattleites know never to travel in the summer... you stay and enjoy the precious two months summer affords us and save your travels for the other ten gloomy months of the year, which is precisely what we do. In early June, when the rain is usually falling heavy, we escaped to paradise and were surrounded in bliss at the Royal Hawaiian for a week. We made no plans, didn't search out any tourists activities. Our intention was to sit under a cabana from late morning to evening while Totes played on the beach and we indulged in the hotel's cabana and pool service. The only thing that foiled our plans was Totes surprising reaction to the beach... he hated it. Wanted nothing to do with the sand between his toes or walking on the uneven ground. The rushing waves, although mild compared to most areas, were another no-no. But that didn't stop us from taking a daily family dip in the ocean! Kids are so unpredictable.
Luckily the pool at the Royal Hawaiian was heated to a comfortable, what felt like, 90 degrees and was a piece of heaven in itself. It took a few days, but Totes finally warmed up to the beach and we had some very fun strolls walking along Waikiki beach.
On Totes: Hat and Tank by H&M, Denim Shorts by Zara Baby Boy
We brought along our BOB Revolution Stroller knowing that nap time would probably happen most of the time here. Although I would generally take my Orbit Stroller with me 99% of the time, it was nice to have a one-piece system with a super smooth ride and the basket underneath for toting all our beach gear. We put Totes and the stroller around nap time and once he was asleep, we'd find a place for lunch.
One of the first few days we were at the hotel, we walked into the gift shop and Totes went crazy over this large stuffed bear. He has the same bear at home, just half the size. It's the Philbin bear by GUND that we used in my baby shower and he's been crazy about it since he was just a baby. So we bought it and he carried it around everywhere for the first few days. It's nice to have a comforting item when traveling away from home. Good to remember next time we go away.
When we first arrived at the Royal Hawaiian and walked into our room, Totes had a strange reaction. I had to pull him inside... he was shaking his head and saying "no, no no..." This particular room has a bit small and very dark. I can imagine after he had just been running around the grounds in all the light and space he was super hesitant to be so closed in. My husband popped down to the front desk to ask about an upgrade to the new tower and after a few minutes, I got a call telling me to bring the bags over. The new room we upgraded to had an ocean view with sliding glass door out onto the lanai. He was so happy, I couldn't keep that little monkey from jumping on the bed!
We chose Waikiki because of the action. We knew our social little guy would have a great time with all the people and life around him, and we were right. The Royal Hawaiian is probably the best location for this too. Our stay here also gave us access to the Sheraton pool next door, which was a big playground for kids. Unfortunately the water, not heated, was a little too cold for us and our skinny kid. It looked like a blast for older kids though. We walked along the beach and swam in the ocean every day, it couldn't have been a better time.
On our second to last day in Hawaii, we booked a little excursion aboard a real pirate ship! The pirate crew was super lively and even reenacted a little battle just off the coast of our hotel on Waikiki beach. Totes slept through it all. He was a little too young to participate but the other kids on board had a blast. Was be a fun activity for kids in the 4-6 age range.
We'll miss this view. Until next time!
After a week of working our way north from Seattle into Canada, we arrived at our ultimate destination: Desolation Sound
All the research and pictures we came across during our prep for this trip couldn't have prepared me for the beauty that is in Desolation Sound. The terrain is dramatic and the waters so warm we swam comfortably almost every day.
Getting there has been half the fun!
The Gulf Islands and other areas in Canadian waters are still pretty new to us as boaters so even though Desolation Sound is our ultimate destination this trip, we spent a full week slowly working our way north and stopped off at a few new places.
We left Seattle on a Wednesday evening close to sunset. After spending an entire day prior tending to some last minute mechanical repairs to ISOS, we thought about waiting until Thursday depart, but Wednesday evening came, the boat was loaded, so we decided to clear the locks and get a head start. Since we had little time to navigate before the sun went down, we quickly hopped over to Port Madison (North Bainbridge Island) and anchored for the night. My husband is an early riser, so he got us going early the next morning, set for Roche Harbor, while Totes and I slept in. We arrived in Roche around 1pm and had plenty of time for a trip to the playground and a few rounds of tennis. (See why we love Roche here)
The weather has cooled off considerably from our earlier visits here this summer so we skipped the pool. But even on a weekday, the resort and marina were bustling. Since Roche is one of the closest ports to the Gulf Islands, it's a natural spot to stop and top off provisions.
We spent a lazy morning on Friday getting ready for our next destination and left around noon since we weren't going very far. Sidney BC is roughly 10 nautical miles from Roche on Vancouver Island. This was a fun place to walk around, eat and shop. Totes and I took a quick tour of the aquarium while Papa stayed back at the boat. It was great!
Next Stop: Port Browning
We know Pender Island for its southern most marina and resort: Poet's Cove. Since we have already been there a few times in the past, we decided to check out Port Browning to the north. The bay is very protected and simply stunning. It would have been a great place to explore by kayak, as many visitors were doing. The pool was a little too cold for my liking so unfortunately for Totes, we stayed on the outside of the fence while he longingly looked in at the older kids playing around. Breakfast the next morning at the marina's cafe was delish, worth coming back for!
Ganges on Salt Spring Island has been highly recommended so we booked our stay here for two nights to give us some extra time to explore. It was just the right amount of time too. I mentioned on our Instagram account a memorable experience we had on our first night in Ganges attempting to dine out that I'll detail here. The Hastings House is a local bed and breakfast style hotel that was raved about in our travel guide, so we wanted to try it for dinner. The setting of the hotel and restaurant is out of a fairy-tale and I was just giddy with excitement walking up to the front door. That was until we encountered the restaurant manager. He took one look at our toddler and went stiff. We didn't call ahead for a reservation and he informed us that the restaurant was full, we would be limited to the 'lounge' and the bistro menu, rather than the prix fixe dining room menu. That was fine by us, preferable anyway. However, Totes seemed to be picking up on a few vibes from those around him... my excitement and the managers hostility. We could not, even with the efforts of both my husband and I, get him settled into his highchair. He insisted on exploring the entire restaurant, which was driving the manager even more crazy. After my husband took Totes outside for the third time, I took a quick glance at the menu and realized that nothing I ordered would probably come out before 30 minutes, and I gave up. We left, crushed at our anticipated loss. Just below the hill from the Hastings House lies a pub on the waterfront that looked very inviting and rowdy enough to handle our little guy. Upon walking in, we noticed signs everywhere saying that the pub was "Kid Friendly before 7PM". It was now 8pm. The waitress confirmed, no kids allowed this late.
We dragged our feet back toward the marina and town center. Remembering one restaurant in the shopping plaza area that caught our eye, we headed there, hoping for a redeeming chance, otherwise we'd be three strike outs.
At the Tree House Cafe, they were able to get us in without much of a wait. We scored a table in the center of the room, under the tree. Literally, the restaurant was built around a huge tree and it's so beautiful. We sat down just in time for their live music to start up. They brought out an adorable crayon set from Melissa & Doug Toys. The food was fantastic. Music by Sister Speak was even more fantastic and Totes was enthralled by it all. He clapped enthusiastically after every song along with the crowd, danced and blew kisses to the girls. It was magical and such a great way to end a long day.
We stopped here just before crossing the Strait of Georgia and had a wonderful dinner with the group at Bayshore Restaurant
Pender Harbour, BC
Our first stop on the sunshine coast! I was in awe of this gorgeous inlet with all its nooks and crannies.
We spent almost an hour (yes, we... even papa joined in the effort) trying to get Totes down for his nap. I think the problem was that we spent all morning navigating between Nanaimo and Pender Harbour across the Strait of Georgia. It's not a peaceful, easy ride. We were fighting 4-6 foot waves so the only solution was to keep him in his highchair strapped in with cartoons for entertainment. Not much chance for him to run out the energy he needs to tire out for naptime. It's funny that as adults, the less I move, the more tired I am during the day. All I want to do is lay down when we have days like this. It's the opposite for kids. Our best days are spent with both of us getting a lot of physical exercise in the morning so he's worn out and needs a nap and I have a boost of energy to power through the rest of the day.
We finally gave up the naptime thing for the day and took a short dinghy ride across the bay to the closest market to stock up on provisions. Of course he crashed in the five minutes we were driving over. We turned back and got the stroller so he could continue napping while we shopped.
Getting your baby to sleep is a never ending battle, my friends! But there's nothing more that I love than having him sleep in my arms. Going to cherish these moments for as long as I can... I know it won't be much longer.
We left early the next morning for Desolation Sound. Check out my next post for the rest of the details on our trip!
In the spirit of back to school, we are rocking the backpack these days! In an effort to lighten the load, I have made some changes... for the better? I've been trying to keep the "diaper bag" in the car at all times, knowing that we're never too far from it in the event of an emergency. With me is my new backpack from Marc by Marc Jacobs. Love the way it carries... and that it allows me to carry Totes without fumbling with straps falling off my shoulder. I picked up this mini backpack from SkipHop recently and we both love it. The best feature is the leash! I remember seeing a kid once on a leash and thought, wow, does it really have to come to that? Well, yes it does. I have a runner. A fast runner who thinks it's hilarious to dart away in a busy crowd of people. So until he's a little more "trained", this does the trick and has been a lifesaver in airports. It's also super petite so it fits him well. I have to be careful not to overload it, which can be easy to do with only a few items. As he only weighs about 22 lbs now, it doesn't take much to weigh him down.
Clockwise from Top:
1. Skip Hop Zoo Pack (pre-school backpack). Comes in so many cute designs.
2. The Honest Company: Diaper and Travel Wipes. Such cute designs on these diapers. When his pants fall down because they're always too big, at least we have a cute diaper to look at! The free trial is a great way to get introduced to the products. I also love that they are stocked at Whole Foods so when we are grocery shopping, I can stock up on supplies immediately when I'm out.
3. A small board book, this one here is Doggies by Sandra Boynton and we have it from a set of four other books. We love them all and rotate which one we are going to bring. Great for the stroller rides or to kill time sitting in a high chair when dining out.
4. Aligator blocks by Janod. Keep little hands busy with pieces that pull apart and back together again.
5. Too Faced Lipstick in Spice Spice Baby, my current go-to shade.
6. The Honest Company Hand Sanitizer Spray - love how compact this little bottle is and smells great.
7. Fork and Spoon Travel Set with Case from Sugar Booger - have you noticed that when dining out, some places are awesome with their kids menus, coloring books, cups, etc. but then they hand you an adult sized fork for your toddler? I can always get Totes and little more interested in eating if he can do it himself, so now I always bring along our own toddler utensils.
8. Easy snacks to-go from Plum Organics
We're gearing up for our BIG boating trip here soon... but have spent a considerable amount of time up in the San Juan Islands already this summer! We're home now, organizing, as we'll be gone for three weeks this next time. Yep, that's three straight weeks on a boat... with a toddler. Wish me luck!
We're lucky we have such an easy-going kiddo, he makes life so much fun. Here's a few stops we've made on our San Juan Summer Travels journey:
La Conner, WA
This is such a unique port, situated right in the middle of the Swinomish Channel. The channel is partially man-made, dredged, and can be very intimidating by boat as low-tide brings dangerously low water levels. The currents that run through this area are fierce and beautiful to watch. A walk through the little waterfront town with its adorable boutiques and restaurants is worth the short visit we try to make every couple of years.
Another favorite destination of ours. Here you'll find beautiful grounds and an enchanting mansion with three swimming pools (Indoor, Adults only and outdoor family) and excellent spa. We've always enjoyed the casual dining outdoors at the Cascade Bay Grill. Be sure to catch their oyster happy hour!
We've spent more time here than any other marina this summer, and for good reason... Roche is excellent all around and I've taken a new appreciation to this place now that I'm seeing through the eyes of a toddler. The outdoor pool, although not heated, is the kids hang-out. In fact, prior to having children, we never came by for a dip as it is so catered to the younger crowd. The toddler wading pool is perfect for those times, like most, that I'm not in the mood to get in the water with him. Three different restaurant options for decent variety plus a well-stocked grocery story sit at the top of the dock. The marina itself is very large and is home to some of the biggest yachts up here. The docks are super wide, it's a great place to walk around and greet fellow boaters. Just beyond the resort are great hikes, the mausoleum, sculpture park, lime kiln and more.
Next post coming soon... Destination: Desolation!
I've stepped into Discovery Park a few times. It's so so so gorgeous there. We did my maternity shoot here as well! But there is so much to this park as it covers 534 acres and over 11 miles of hiking trails that I didn't even know where to start when I took Totes there for the first time. But one thing always peaked my curiosity the most; the West Point Lighthouse. From the water, we've gone past this point many times so it's always been on my bucket list. A fellow mom keyed me in to a very helpful tip the other day: If you stop by the visitors center, you can pick up a parking pass, valid for a few hours only, if you have children under the age of eight. The parking lot is right next to the south beach and lighthouse, much more convenient than hiking down from the upper parking lot a mile and a half away.
Bring a few toys to play in the sand and snack for a little picnic. The beach is great and very clean. Great trails and long beach front for walking on a clear day.
There are plenty of kid friendly restaurants out there... and then there are the restaurants you really want to go to. Going out to eat is one of those indulgences that my husband and I simply refuse to give up. While we have dared to venture into almost all of our old pre-baby favorites, there are just some spots that legally are not set up for accommodating children. I can't tell you how much I miss going to List in Belltown! But thanks to a small selection of restaurants that do not limit happy hour to just the bar area, we've been able to continue dining out while catching some cheap(er) eats in these downtown spots. We love taking Totes out with us on our regular dinner dates, more so than leaving him home with a babysitter. We have spent plenty of times cursing to ourselves for do it while one of us has to take turns leaving the table with him, but as he is now approaching the 2 year old mark, he is becoming increasingly and consistently more behaved as he knows what to expect when we sit down at a restaurant.
Additional Note: We were fast eaters before having children, but now... it's the 100m sprint to the finish line, aka, "we'll take the check as soon as you put in our order". Yes, our kid is growing up in the restaurant industry and therefore may have a little more restaurant manners than the average, but that doesn't mean we sit down for a 6 course meal while he just chills out in the high chair with his crayons and kids menu. Our little man, just like anyone else's, has a limit and we try to respect that. Or at least I do while giving my husband the look and gathering up the litter from the floor. But in general, our Totes is great when we are out and his social personality is a hit with most other diners. But above all, I try to be respectful of the fact that other patrons are there, just like me, to relax and enjoy their meal and are paying a premium for this luxury and a screaming toddler, even screams of delight, are not always well received.
1. Goldfinch Tavern at the Four Seasons - Previously known as Art, this hotel restaurant just off the lobby recently got a pretty big facelift and is now serving up specialty fare from Seattle's local restauranteur, Ethan Stoll. They knocked down a few walls to create a more open concept and connection to the lobby but still maintained the reason why we frequent hotel bars: a few tables that are still considered part of the bar but just outside the legal railing. What that means to us? We can bring our kiddo and still grab happy hour in the "bar". Great food and drink selection, although as a huge cheese fanatic I was sad to see the cheese buffet go. With the large amount of foot traffic being in a hotel lobby can bring, a loud toddler goes fairly unnoticed. Although we weren't presented with a kids menu upon our recent visit to this new spot, they must still have a few leftover kids cups with lids and curly straws and thankfully have kept the lego-style utensils; our favorite part!
2. Trace at the W Seattle - So the key here is to grab a spot in the lounge... which yes, is technically part of the lobby to the hotel as well. We actually prefer sitting out here rather than inside the restaurant because we love the comings and goings and the vibe is great. Hey, we're very much lounge people. So this the spot we have frequented the most since our plus one came along. It was so great during the infancy stage because the constant background noise was a steady hum that kept him sleeping through our entire meal. Once he became more active and through the first year, he loved this place even more than we did! The people, the fireplace, the lights, the music! Swanky for sure if you're into that sort of thing. Now that he's walking it's a different story. Totes is almost TOO comfortable here and on more than one occasion I have spent the better part of our meal chasing him up their endless stairs and into every nook and cranny between the lobby and the restaurant. He definitely feeds off the energy here. Pretty good happy hour selection with an assortment of bar items and sushi plates and the hours available are generous. No kids menu.
3. Taylor Shelfish Farms - Great spot to quench your oyster cravings without going to a fancy sit down restaurant. Very casual with a neighborhood feel and crowd. The menu is tiny but you're coming here just for oysters anyway, right? Just be prepared by bringing your kiddo their own food supply unless they are good with prawns (Totes loves!), clams or bread and butter.
4. Daniel's Broiler - In the summer the patio is a must! Enjoy gorgeous views of Lake Union while you sip down that glass of Chardonnay. Inside, as long as you're not seated at the bar counter, the lounge is separate from the bar counter and OK for kids to hang. "Happy Hour" is pretty limited to special pricing on drinks with food priced the same all day in the bar.
5. I love Sushi - Super casual spot on Lake Union with a huge menu and great beer. One place where I don't feel too bad if he makes a mess because I always do myself anyway!
6. Mamma Melina Ristorante - Pizza, pasta, dessert... everything to keep a kid happy! Close to U Village so after you've exhausted yourself and your child from dragging them from store to store, pop on in for some great food. Conveniently, parking is plenty and free in the garage of the building with direct access into the restaurant so you won't have to worry about that part like you do downtown. A special kids menu means you can order that adult meal and choose to share or not.
6. Nordstrom Grill - Although the Cafe upstairs is quite a bit more rowdy and kid-friendly, we prefer the food at the Grill. And since they share the same kids menu, we don't miss out! We have our favorite table by the entrance Totes loves because he can great everyone passing by and coming in. The service is always great and the chocolate mints that come with the check are another favorite of his!
7. Taste at the SAM - Grab a window seat for great people watching along First Avenue. Cheap eats for kids with all items priced at $5.00 and generous portions. For the adults, I get an Aviation cocktail every time and work my way around the menu with a new dish at each visit. Nothing has disappointed so far.
A few things we do to ensure a pleasant dining experience:
- Feed your toddler prior to go out to eat. A hangry toddler is the biggest nightmare!
- Scope out the layout and scene of the restaurant and request a specific spot. Is there a fishtank? A window? a high-traffic area better suited for your social butterfly? Any element that will provide a source of entertainment is a great bonus.
- Order your toddler's meal first thing, before your meal. Most restaurants bring out bread for the table before the meal arrives and I hate having Totes fill up on that before his food comes and then refusing to eat anything else.
- Bring your own toddler utensils. I've only found one restaurant (at the Four Seasons listed above) that provides toddler sized sets. Totes is in the I-do-everything-myself phase and will eat and be entertained much longer if he can feed himself.
- Bring your own books, games, crayons, etc. Not all restaurants give out crayons and they only hold a toddler's attention for a few minutes anyway. Have a stash in your bag that you can pull out one by one after they are starting to fidget.
- Take turns leaving the table and walking around with your little one. Sometimes all they need is a little change of scenery to be able to hit the reset button. Hotel restaurants are especially great because of all the areas you can explore for a few minutes while waiting for your food come up.
- Bring the iPad. Or make sure your phone is fully charged. I try to be a low-media mom, but sometimes you gotta do it. Pulling up a few videos on YouTube creates so much peace at the end of the meal while we are finishing ours and waiting for the check. Everyone is happy.
I also loved this article from Bon Appetit called "The Commandments of Going Out to Restaurants with Kids"
Family, Friends, Fireworks... what more do you need for the perfect fourth of July weekend!? The fourth of July has always been my most favorite holiday, even above Christmas. I just love watching the fireworks and all the other parts that come with this season, namely the warm weather. July is also Totes's birthday month! What a better pre-cursor to your birthday than a big firework show? I told him it was all for his birthday! Last year he slept through the show so I was excited to see his reaction when he got to see them for the first time. Impressed? Not so much. I had a hard time getting him to pay attention to them, I think mostly he was just too tired. The show started around 10:30pm after all and he fell asleep in my arms half-way through it.
Little boys connect with men in uniforms at such a young age! Totes was fascinated by the Police officers and thrilled when they gave him this flag and stickers. I have celebrated the Fourth of July on Lake Union for the last 7 years and it gets better every time. It's no surprise it rates as one of the best firework shows in the country. While we usually anchor the boat in the middle of the lake to be directly under the fireworks, this year we tied up to the dock near South Lake Union Park and was able to enjoy the festivities on land. Lots of vendors, activities and the splash park to help us all cool down on what turned out to be the warmest 4th of July I've ever spent here.