Connor: Running after a duck. When given his space, he loves playing in (shallow) water. When forced, he freaks out and wants nothing to do with water. This day, he was playing away. 

Isla: This girl and her cats. Tabby Cat (pictured) was the original one that began the obsession. Tabby still is her favorite. 

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014."

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Preschool Orientation

On Wednesday, both kids had their preschool orientations. They were at different times, so I was able to go to both. First up was Connor's. All summer he has been excited to get back to school. He was so excited to check out the toys in his new class...I am pretty sure he could care less about his teachers! About half his class are the same kids that were with him last year, so that is really nice. They did half an hour of play time, then had all the kids sit on the reading rug while the teachers talked to the parents. This is when Connor decided to let loose. He was making faces at the boy next to him. That boy, in turn, would tickle Connor. Then, both of them decided to crawl away from the rug. When I shooed them back, they crawled into the middle of the rug (and all the other kids) and put on a little show. Oh these teachers, they have their work cut out for them this year!

^^ When I asked Connor what his favorite part of orientation was, he said this skate toy. 

Next up was Isla's orientation. Going into it, I somehow expected it to be Connor's old class (like the same kids and parents), but with Isla in there. It is a totally different vibe than Connor's class was last year, but that may be that I just loved Connor's class oh-so-much. Isla actually played with the same toy almost the whole time in her class. Then, when all the kids were instructed to sit on the rug, she surprised me by sitting down and making a little friend. About half way through the teachers talking, the kids started getting antsy and making a mass exodus towards their parents. Isla joined in and I ended up sitting on the floor with her. After all was said and done, Isla totally thew a fit when we went to leave. She wanted to stay and color and paint. At least I know she likes her class!  

^^ This car toy is what Isla played with pretty much the whole time in her class. 

It's going to be weird dropping both my kids off next week. Not quite as life changing as most want to paint it, after all, it is for 3 hours 2 days a week! I'm excited because Connor loves being around other kids all the time, so this is great for him. And, well, I know Isla will at least enjoy the craft portion of her mornings! 

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Kitchen Update

Remember about 500 years ago...or 6 months ago...when I said we were updating our kitchen a bit? Well I am finally getting around to showing it to you. As with everything in our house, the kitchen ended up taking some twists and turns and taking longer than we thought...and I still have things I want to do! The good news is, the transformation took a while, so it never felt overwhelming at any point.

What started out with us wanting to change out our broken microwave and get a matching stove, turned into us getting some amazing Viking appliances due to the deal of a lifetime. I also stumbled upon some amazing lockers that fit the space I needed with literally no room to spare (maybe an inch). Some projects weren't planned, like the new kitchen faucet. Our old one broke and flooded the kitchen, so hence the new one. And, I randomly decided to take off a couple cupboard doors one day when I couldn't find a place to have my vintage pyrex on display. I also painted the back of the cupboards.

 ^^ The view from the dining room

^^ View from the playroom

I would still like to put in a fun backsplash behind the stove top at some point, but we will get there eventually. On my HUGE wish list would be to make this an open concept kitchen, which would hopefully also add more light to the kitchen, because it is a bit of a cave. Getting rid of the blinds in favor of light burlap curtains has helped a ton though. 

Here is everything we did during our update:
  • Paint kitchen to match the rest of the house
  • Paint trim going into the playroom
  • Hang old window in opening going into the playroom
  • Find a storage solution - lockers
  • Replace stove, microwave and dishwasher
  • Get wine glass shelves (also opening up a bit of space in the cabinets)
  • Take doors off a couple cupboards and paint back wall of them
  • Take down blinds and replace with burlap curtains
  • Get new kitchen faucet

Now that I list it all out out, wow we've done a lot. Doing it over several months though certainly made it not seem bad. I am very pleased with how it turned out and almost forgot what it really looked like before I looked at the before pictures. Quite the transformation! 

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Have Passport, Will Travel

It's hard for me to believe that Connor is old enough to be on his SECOND passport! Not to mention that there is just something about passports. They seem like such a grown up thing, yet kids get them. Connor applied for and received his first passport before he was even a month old. In fact, the photo of him in it, he wasn't even a week old. The lady had to prop him up on a bean bag to get the picture. I remember it like it was yesterday...kind of.Over the past almost five years, that passport got Connor into America for the first time. It also went with him to France, Italy and Canada. Now he has a new passport that will hopefully take him on some fun adventures over the next five years of his life. First stop - England, Scotland and France. We will be taking off in just over a month!!!
I should mention I was totally excited about Connor's passport and trying to explain the importance of it to him. When he opened it up and saw his picture, he excitedly asked, "Mom, why is my picture in this book?!" It was a really cute moment. I know he still doesn't fully grasp the vastness of our world, but he does know he was born in Scotland and is excited to see the Eiffel Tower. And I am excited about trying to instill a love of travel in our kids from a young age. 

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Railtown 1897

^^ Who gave her permission to grow up?! Isla just looks so grown up here to me!!!

We live only 45 minutes away from Railtown 1897. It's a sister museum of the Sacramento Train Museum, meaning one membership gets you in both. Given that it's pretty close to our house, we have gone up there many times over the past two years and taken a train ride. Given that summer is coming to and end and we haven't been up there in a bit, I thought it would be fun to head up there on Saturday.

Our journey up there got off to a rocky start. Connor got a little yogurt on his finger. He was upset about that and in his fury managed to dump the container of yogurt all over himself and the car. So we pulled over on a one lane each way highway for me to clean up the mess...I ended up wiping it off Connor, then throwing a towel over the mess in the car and calling it good. About 5 minutes after we started driving again, Connor said he had to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW. The problem was, we had to wait until there was enough of a shoulder on the road to pull over. Finally that happened and he got to live out his dream of peeing on the side of the road. The rest of the trip went fine, but my expectations of the day were certainly lowered by this point!

Once we were at Railtown, things went really well. We managed to score seats in the caboose, which we have never ridden on before because they normally don't use it. And, not only did we get to ride in it, but on the first half of the train ride, we got to ride up in the top of the caboose! I know I enjoyed it more than the kids. It was an incredible view, but really noisy because we were level with the train engine. Of course, the trip back down the hill was just as much fun because the engine switched sides and they kept the back of the caboose open, so we got to watch out the back of the train. The kids enjoyed it more than being up top because it was much less noisy and they could run around and look out the different windows.

I'm glad we went. Even though things got off to a rough start, it really was a good day. Plus, I realize my kids won't think trains are cool forever and I really do enjoy getting to do all these things with them.

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Connor: This boy's love of legos grows by the day. Or really, his ability grows, because the love has been there for a while now. I love seeing that smile on his face when he accomplishes something...in this case, a wind up lego car. 

Isla: Really, what is better than fingers covered in little people?!? 

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014."

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Did You Ever Wonder...

Did you ever wonder what it would look like if someone put an entire box of bandaids on at one time? Well now you know. Isla says you're welcome. 

The other night, while trying to calmly remove Connor from the lego isle at Target, Isla spotted a box of Dora bandaids and quickly grabbed them. She could sense my weakness, with all my strength going toward not buying Connor a huge lego just to keep him from melting down in public. Anyway, we leave the store, Isla opens the bandaids in the parking lot. Said bandaids scatter all over the parking lot in the wind. Ian and I scramble to pick them up as Isla cries. We put the kids in the car and head home. On the way home, Isla proceeded to put every single last bandaid on her legs. She walked really slowly, without bending her one leg because her knee was covered. After a day, I gave her a bath and they all fell off in the bath. It was drama. But, what can I say, the girl likes Dora and she likes bandaids, so I could see how them all falling off in one go could be trauma. I kind of felt like that was a waste of $2, then I remembered that it is also a waste of $2 when I go to Starbucks rather than just making myself coffee at home. So, Isla can stick an entire package of bandaids on herself from time to time because, it really does make her oh so very happy.

On a side note, I realize Isla's chair is totally dirty in this picture. It is her favorite chair, after all. And when something is her favorite, she cant help but draw all over it any chance she gets. Really, it isn't dirty...it is a one of a kind piece of art.  

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Legoland California - Tips & Tricks

Having been to Legoland California a couple times, I learned some things the first time that helped out on subsequent trips. We have been both during the week and on the weekend (so, busy and not so busy), as well as in cooler and warmer weather. Here are some tips and tricks that I wish I had known before we went the first time. 

1. You can pretty much always find a buy an adult, get a kid in free coupon somewhere. Definitely google it before you go. Sometimes you can even find buy one, get one free coupons, allowing you to use the coupon on an adult admission too. 

2. It's not worth it to pay for premier parking. The parking lot really isn't that big and you are saving yourself maybe an extra 5 minutes walk each way by paying for premier parking. In my opinion, that's not worth it. 

3. Once inside, I recommend skipping the rides right by the entrance, as the lines are really long given that everyone is going to those first. The first ride we saw, the line was an hour and a half long. We skipped it and returned in the afternoon to a 15 minute wait. 

4. Bring a minifigure for your kids to trade minifigures with the workers. All your minifigure has to have is a head, body and legs and it can be any minifigure. Workers wear them on their name badges (and there are boxes to trade at food places) and if your child sees one they want, they just switch with the worker. This was really fun for Connor. 

5. Want to save money on drinks? There are drinking fountains by every restroom, so you can bring a refillable water bottle and fill it throughout the day. Or, if you prefer soda, they sell cups with unlimited refills that you can refill around the park. 

6. You can also save on food. They do allow you to bring your own in. But, if that isn't for you, at Pizza Mania in the park, you can get a kids meal for $1 more than an individual pizza and it includes the same individual pizza as for adults, a drink and a bag of chips. 

7. If it is a warm day, don't forget to bring bathing suits for your kids. You do have the option to pay more and go into the water park. But, there is also a pretty cool water play area in the actual Legoland park. There is shady seating for parents right by it, so it is the perfect place for both parents and kids. On a warm day though, it gets very busy in that area. 

8. If water play isn't for you, or you just want to cool off again, there are a couple indoor places around the park for kids to play with legos. There are even duplos out for the younger kids. 

9. You can pay to have a Lego brick engraved with your child's name, or whatever. It costs 40 cents for the brick, or $5.99 for a brick keychain, and $2.99 to have it engraved. And you can watch it be engraved. They do this at a store in the back of the park.

10. Just in case your kid happens into one of the many Lego stores around the park, feel guilt free knowing all those Lego sets are normal retail price. No markup. They are the same price as the ones at Target and the normal Lego store.

In case you care, here are a couple posts from our visits to Legoland - 2013 and 2014. We are planning on taking the kids when we are in England in October. I'm excited about that and hoping the park will be just as cool as the one in California.  

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Different Year, Different Worries

Last year was our first foray into preschool. I was nervous about the impression Connor and I would make on the director during our initial visit. I was worried about how preschool would change the schedule of our home. I was worried about how it would change EVERYTHING.

But, preschool was great. Connor loved it. I could do the grocery shopping with only one kid. It forced me to get us up and out of the house at a reasonable hour two days a week. And, it made me value our "down days" more than I had before.

This year my worries are different. None of them concern Connor. He is a seasoned pro. He loves being around other kids. This year, my worries center around Isla. I am starting her a full year (well, technically 11 months) earlier than Connor. Whereas Connor was one of the oldest in his class, Isla will be one of the youngest. I worry about how she will be when I drop her off. I worry about whether she will listen to her teachers or not. I worry about if she will be able to get her pants up on her own after she goes to the bathroom (she still struggles with this). But, I know it will be good. She has a great set of teachers. They do crafts all the time, which Isla absolutely will love. And, if she ends up not being ready, I can just pull her out.

The only real tricky part of this year will be figuring out how to drop two kids off in two classrooms that are in two different buildings that start (and end) at the same time.

It's going to be a good year. All this worry will soon be just that, worry. It will be in the past and I will find something else to fill my head with worry, because I've learned that as a mom, that's what I tend to do...fill my mind with worry over the smallest of things that end up being totally fine.

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Connor: Playing hide and go seek. That's the first time I've ever seen him count like that and it was so incredibly cute.  

Isla: This cat lover got in plenty of time with cats this week. We wondered the neighborhood, looking at cats and petting the friendly ones. Then, she got to go over to her friend's house and play with their kitties to her hearts content...or until her mean mom said it was time to go! 

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014."

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