Thursday, April 30, 2020

Day In Day Out

How do you mark the passage of time when every day is more or less the same as the one before and the one to come? How do you coast without losing drive?

It would be wrong to say we aren't happy. Everett and Imogen are adorable and hilarious as often (or more) as they are frustrating and exhausting. At the same time, this isn't what we want for them - we want them to interact, to experience.

Santa Teresa County Park - April 22, 2020

Obviously, coronavirus has caused an unprecedented, worldwide pandemic. It has changed a lot for millions of people in far-reaching and sometimes tragic ways. We don't want to minimize any of that, but we can only really share our own perspective here.

At the beginning, we figured keep our heads down and just get through it. Give them love and support, get work done, don't let the stress make things worse. Now after 6+ weeks of shelter-in-place and at least 5 to go... it's starting to feel like we may need to reassess the routine.

His coloring has improved so much at preschool - April 16, 2020

Do we need to carve out time for more preschool activities? More 1:1 time? More video play dates? All of that will push our 9-to-5 work later to the bedtime-to-midnight hours, sapping our energy for the following days. It's a tricky calculation trying to figure out what is best for them, best for us, and best for our family as a whole.

All this mental (and often physical) juggling makes the days extremely long. The weather barely changes. No celebrations, no performances, no parties, no museums, no zoos. It's starting to feel like Groundhog Day to us. Does it feel like an endless loop to them? Is it any different from how they normally feel?

A lot of physical contact is happening - April 4, 2020

We have tried to mark special days - Easter, our anniversary, Immy's half-birthday - but it's tough. It feels reduced to sweets and presents. Even that is starting to bleed together.

Easter outfits - April 12, 2020

Oh yeah, our girl is two-and-a-half! She can do monkey jumps, eats everything, and has at least as many words as Everett did at this age (which was a mountain). Her imaginative play is a sight to behold - whether she's Oliver crawling around on all fours, a princess searching for her crown, or simply riding a flying Dumbo in our living room. It's abundantly clear that having a role model in the house impacted her development in the best way and it is fascinating to watch them play together.

This clown is 2.5!

We can't even type that last sentence without firing up that familiar twinge of guilt. Everett was learning and growing so much in his preschool environment. He vocalizes missing it, his teachers, and his friends.

It's always toughest trudging through the middle of a situation - when the ending is undefined and elusive. Someday we will look back at this time as an anomaly. We will joke about how crazy hectic it was and reminisce about how much time we spent together.

Stevens Creek County Park - April 15, 2020

We're also starting to wonder about the post-quarantine era. What will it look like? Will the kids be eager for the transition or confused, frustrated, and acting out? What will it feel like for our little family to not be together every hour of every day? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, we'll have cake sometimes, exchange gifts sometimes, make crafts sometimes, and snuggle all the time. Maybe add some more dance parties. We know we have it pretty good all things considered. At the same time, we are doing our best to parent our kids - minimizing stress and trauma, offering them chances to grow. Now... exactly what do we do?

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Keeping Balance in Quarantine

We promise, we won't just talk about yoga.

Evie in "semi-truck" pose - March 28, 2020
If you're reading this, you have internet, so you are aware of the global pandemic happening right now. We live in California and are two weeks in to government-mandated "shelter in place" meaning we may only leave our homes for essential business and exercise (while keeping appropriate distance from others). Schools are closed. We are working from home. We only go out for food, medicine, and walks / hikes. That's it.

For reasons that may become clear while reading, we're not getting into the more serious topics surrounding this pandemic. We are appreciative of, grateful for, and worried about our healthcare workers. We empathize with those who are already economically impacted. We acknowledge the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty this all brings. Because of these serious topics, we wanted to focus on balance.

Hiking - March 21, 2020
Our Minds
  • This is temporary. We don't have to do the best at everything, this isn't how we will be judged for the rest of our lives, it's merely an episode.
  • A lot of our focus is in the present. The kids help a lot with that - planning and doing activities, meals, naps, storytime, snuggle time, what have you. There's not a lot of time for the mind to wander and that's probably a good thing.
  • We are both working from home full time, which is a challenge. Tag-team parenting helps one of us have more clear focus while the other one juggles and then vice versa. We are super grateful for naptime.
Climbing on Mommy during Cosmic Kids Yoga - March 27, 2020
Kiss Immy, she's Irish! - March 17, 2020
Our Bodies
  • It would be so easy to just eat junk food all day. While snack food has certainly ticked up, we're also focusing on vegetables in our litany of home-cooked meals.
  • Getting outside at least once a day is so helpful for all of us. A little Vitamin D, stretching the legs, and waving to the neighbors are each little boosts.
  • We are observing all the directives in the "shelter in place" order. We are keeping our 6ft distance and staying home. We aren't in the highest risk categories, but none of us want coronavirus and we don't want to become carriers. 
Tee ball became "real tee ball" with live pitches - March 19. 2020
Evie getting really good at hide and seek - March 18, 2020
Our Hearts
  • We check in with each other, to make sure our emotional states are OK. We know how quickly things can get very dark and very heavy, and we want to be there for each other if that starts to happen.
  • That said, we've been pretty fine. What matters most is family, and we are staying close to our little unit right now. We aren't in deep grief, we aren't in postpartum purgatory, we just are. We know what fear, uncertainty, anxiety, pain, and loss really feel like. This isn't even close.
  • Our stock portfolio obviously is taking a beating... but we have a stock portfolio. While it would be easy to get swept up into economic anxiety, we aren't doing it. We are comfortable and it feels wrong to obsess over any economic hits we will take when so many people have it so very much worse.
Sidewalk chalk to encourage neighbors (Evie wrote the OBIE) - March 20, 2020
Pretend lunch... NOM NOM NOM - March 23, 2020
Our Beasties
  • They need a lot of attention at these ages (2, 4) and that can be tiring. While the days seem long (so long!) we aren't worn down emotionally. It's GOOD to spend this much time with them and it's a happy, content type of tired at the end of the day - not a stressed out, frazzled one.
  • They don't really "get" what's happening, so they aren't fearful or anxious about it. That is a bonus for us as we don't have to navigate through those complicated emotions. Our biggest hurdles with them emotionally are (1) isolation from their friends and (2) distracted parents when we're working. These are surmountable.
  • When they look back on this time, we truly hope they remember feeling loved and supported. That it is simply a blip on their personal experience. When they learn about it in school, I hope it helps give them perspective that even in uncertain times we can be kind to each other and ready to work together.
Ready, set, go! - March 24, 2020
Playtime on the swing set between raindrops - March 18, 2020
Activities We Love
  • Making a list of what we (mostly the kids) want to do each day
  • Cosmic Yoga
  • Sensory Bins - we like these & these, but making your own works great!
  • Practice Easter Egg Hunts (filling eggs with small toys at night and hiding them around the house to be found the next day is time well spend each evening)
  • Reenacting their missed activities - The Little Gym & Swim Class
  • Sidewalk chalk art to brighten our home and the neighbors' walks
  • More movie time than ever before
  • Sticker and coloring time
  • Pen pals
  • Creating a store and shopping
  • Jazz up the snacks - branded crackers / cookies go a long way (Scooby snacks!), sprinkles in the yogurt, mochi ice cream, s'mores - it's time to indulge a bit
Evie paints one of Obie's Bees - March 23, 2020
Making Puppy Chow: Immy wanted to get messy, Evie did not - March 28, 2020
It's really been a nice mix of technology and not. We use technology to stay connected, to occupy when we need to focus on other things, and to give us ideas. On the flip side, most of our day is totally disconnected. Chalk, crayons, glue sticks, toys, blocks, plastic eggs, these are the things getting the most use. Aren't we fortunate to live in a time with both?

At the end of the day, we love our family. We love our kids and we love spending time with them. Of course, when things settle down we'll find happiness in socializing with our friends and family, in coffee dates, in group experiences. It's because those things bring us joy, not because we need an escape from our home life. We know not everyone is so lucky, and we feel for them. We hope you find the things that bring you comfort during this quarantine. There sure is a lot out there!

Welcome to Disney+ with Frozen II - March 28, 2020
He claims Green Tea is his favorite flavor - March 27, 2020

Where Evie hides his eggs after finding them

Friday, February 28, 2020

Heart Month

This February had valentines all over it. From making valentine boxes to sending cards to loved ones to hanging up school friend valentines, our house was covered in hearts. As much fun as we've been having, it's not hard to remember Valentine's Days that were less joyous. It can be a complicated holiday, but we are trying to instill a more inclusive way to celebrate.

Happy Valentine's Day! - February 14, 2020

You love being a mom, don't you? 
Someone said this to Elizabeth at work. And it is true. We love parenting these beasties. We love their silliness, we love when they belt out "Into The Unknown",  we love bedtime stories, we love negotiations, we love when they run to hug us at pick-up time, we love watching them flourish. Yes, the boundless energy and confusing logic of toddlers can be annoying, but it is easily balanced out with all the giggly love.

Reunited after Elizabeth's work travel - February 15, 2020

Family means love.
Everett and Imogen doodled valentines for their grandparents, parents, and cousins. For the first time, we asked them to tell us why they loved these people. It's a win-win as it teaches our children to name and value the wonderful things about their loved ones, and we hope Grandma loved reading that Everett loves when she reads stories to him. 

Reading with Grandma F - February 20, 2020

Friendship and caregiving mean love.
Our friends and those who take care of us are showing us love. Everett is clearly getting this concept as he included all the things his preschool teachers do for him as reasons he loves them. We didn't get to witness Everett's Valentine's Day party at preschool, but he told us all about it. He relished delivering his valentines to his friends (they had an Obie's bee!) and was giddy opening his valentines at home. He's clearly made an impression on Ian H. who gave him not one, not two, but THREE valentines! 

Valentines all ready for preschool! - February 2020

Love is love is love is love is love.
Our beasties have had models and stories of different family and love dynamics since they were born. Of course, our family unit is a Mommy and a Daddy who love each other and are married, but that's not the only type of family (or the only type of love). We think we're doing an OK job as one of Everett's running stories is that Hiro (a train from Thomas the Train) is married to Scooby-Doo. We're also having active discussions when we watch older Disney movies like Sleeping Beauty. It IS silly that Prince Phillip and Princess Aurora "fell in love" after one woodland dance party. The plot of Frozen really helps here, because even though Anna thought she was in love with Hans, she was wrong. But then, in A Day In The Life of Marlon Bundo the bunnies fall in love in one day and decide to get married... oof. Maybe bunnies just know faster than humans.

Expressing love is a good thing.
Our culture is very wound up when it comes to the "L word." We haven't seen any signs of emotional repression in Everett or Imogen yet, and I hope we never do. (Though we will be on the lookout.) Expressing your feelings - positive or negative - is not inherently bad or wrong or stupid. Saying "I love you" can feel awkward, even for adults, especially outside of the culturally sanctioned romantic relationships. Let's not perpetuate that. Let love fly! 

And with that, to any of you reading this - we have love for you. Whether we know (and love) you in real life, or whether we appreciate (and send love) that you are interested in our story. We hope you felt the love on Valentine's Day and beyond. Happy Heart Month.

Valentine doodles - February 2020

Valentine's Mask from Ms. K - February 14, 2020

 Immy's First Roller Coaster Ride, Pacific Fruit Express at Happy Hollow - February 22, 2020

Beasties Melting My Heart - February 24, 2020

Thursday, January 30, 2020

11 Reasons We Go To Disneyland (Again And Again)

"They're too young to remember."
"It's so expensive."
"They can't do the big rides."
"It's so exhausting."
"There's so many other, cooler, places to go."

We've heard all kinds of reasons not to do a Disney vacation. In passing, online, or directly to our faces. Here's the thing though - you can tell us how Disney is a megacorp who owns everything and is ruining arts for everyone and we won't even 100% disagree with that - but this family will still go to Disneyland right now. Kind of a lot.

Of course, we'll go other places too. When the kids get older, Disney vacations will probably be less frequent and longer trips with more varied destinations will crop up. For now, an hour flight to the happiest place on Earth is too easy to pass up.

Everett, Obie O, and Stitch - February 2018

1. Toddlers have a blast at Disneyland.

Look, we waited until Everett was walking and that was probably a good choice. We've taken Imogen much younger incidentally, and she's always had a good time. There are tons of rides with no height requirement - more than 25, and we haven't even ridden them all yet in six trips. Then there are shows, parades, play areas, and characters. Our little kids have found big smiles in all those categories.

Will they have actual long-term memories of trips from when they were under three? No. Will we talk about it with them for weeks afterwards when they do remember? You bet. Will we have adorable pictures? YES WE WILL.

Riding Jessie's Critter Carousel (and loving it) - August 2019

2. It isn't too much work to schlep them around.

Elizabeth remembers saying she wouldn't take kids to Disney in a stroller. She was WRONG. Strollers are the best. A handy place for the kid to nap so you don't have to leave the park and a handy place to put all the stuff you need that no one wants to steal - like wipes, goldfish crackers, and extra kid clothes just in case.

Disneyland makes it EASY to have babies and toddlers there. Because they are smart. They have food our kids want to eat, changing tables everywhere, clean facilities, copious stroller parking, and you can even babywear on certain rides. It was a BREEZE having infant Imogen in the park and nursing her. We still haven't taken advantage of the Baby Center or taken a rest / nursing break in the Main Street Cinema for privacy and cooler air - two of the top tips we saw when researching "infant in Disneyland." Elizabeth just sat on a bench to nurse and people-watched while Chris and Everett rode a ride or something.

Meeting Mickey - February 2018

3. It's not cost-prohibitive.

Every family has to prioritize their spending. For us, we find it worth the money. Of course, if we had to do a cross-country flight we would see things differently. We're taking advantage of living close to Disneyland while we do - and Southwest fare sales.

Plus, the ability to stay with family instead of always requiring a hotel helps too.

Dumbo after dark (and sick of smiling for Mom) - August 2019

4. We can do it in a weekend.

We can do Disneyland in a long weekend, and that's how we like it. Yes, committing a full week and two weekends for a Disney vacation feels like a lot of time investment. Maybe we'll do that to go to WDW in a few years. For now, we usually take a four or five day weekend and have two park days. It's the perfect amount for our family right now. And it's one of the pluses of Disneyland over WDW - you CAN just take a day or two and not feel like you missed out on everything.

Watching "Mickey and the Magical Map" - February 2019

5. We can be more relaxed about "doing it all."

We'd be stressed six ways to Sunday if we tried to do it just once and do everything. We've been enough now that it is no big thing if we miss a few rides or shows, if something is closed for refurbishment, or if we just want a lower-key day. So we didn't ride "Peter Pan's Flight" - we'll catch it next time. Because we go frequently, there isn't that intense pressure to maximize every minute. Oh, the kids want to go play with some beads that hide a back door to a snack shop? Go for it.

Behind Fillmore's in Radiator Springs - February 2018 (and many times after that)

It means we take the time to see the live shows and savor treats and let the kids run around the playgrounds. And let us tell you - we've never been disappointed by the less flashy or famous attractions and activities they have.

Along the same lines - when the kids aren't tall enough to ride the "big rides," it frees up a lot of time for the less popular, but still magical, experiences.

Our first rodeo as Disneyland parents - April 2017

6. They are the right age for magic.

They still believe it. They can still be swept up in it. It is a whole new world experiencing those little eyes light up and those little jaws drop. Our hearts MELT. Big kids, teenagers, and young adults can all feel the Disney magic... but it's not like this for long.

Immy dances with Minnie - August 2019

7. They'll grow and the experience will change.

Everett just hit 40", so many of the new rides are available to him now. On his sixth trip to Radiator Springs in Disney California Adventure he was able to ride "Radiator Springs Racers" for the first time. Which he LOVED. He already loved Cars Land, and this new experience just made it that much better. There are still many of the "big rides" he hasn't tasted yet, and we're already excited about our next trip when we'll get to experience those with him.

In a couple years, Imogen will get the same experience of enjoying something she already loved THAT much more. And we'll love watching her.

Everett and Lightning McQueen - January 2020

8. We hang out with family.

Of all the trips we've had to Disneyland the past few years, exactly one park day was just our immediate family. We've had extended family with us on every other day. Chris's brother lives in SoCal, so it makes sense we've had the most park time with them. It's adorable to watch the cousins together.

For non-local family, sometimes it's nice to fly across the country and meet at a destination (like Disneyland!) instead of just hanging out with us in San Jose. Both are nice, but it's a good option with a built in plan of what we're going to do. We've been in Disneyland now with all of Chris's immediate family and all of Elizabeth's.

Thoma cousins - October 2018

9. Holidays at Disneyland bring EXTRA magic.

We've been at Lunar New Year, Halloween, and many moons ago Christmastime (NYE, actually). Disney really brings it for holidays and festivals, and we take advantage when we can. Everett saw a picture of us with "Dracula Mater" on a photo calendar and asked when we can see him again. Who knows? Maybe Halloween 2020!

"Monster Truck" Dracula Mater - October 2018

10. It doesn't take an inordinate amount of planning energy.

We just GO. Maybe we plan some stuff out because the anticipation is fun, but we don't need to. The Disneyland app has all the showtimes and allows us to order ahead food. We know where stuff is so we can just walk to the things we want to do.

Magic photo moments - January 2020

11. It's always been part of our story.

Of course, we didn't always go twice a year like the current cadence, but we always had a magical time. We were even there before we knew Elizabeth was pregnant with Oberon.

Our second anniversary, pregnant with Obie but didn't know it yet - April 2014

P.S. Our bright, bold, boundless Everett turned FOUR YEARS OLD this month. We love him so much, he's growing so fast. He started preschool and he's doing amazingly well - better than we could have expected! We're sure the bumps are coming, but for now it's smooth sailing. Oh yeah, and his birthday party? Disney's BOLT!

Everett is FOUR! January 7, 2020

Happy BOLT Birthday Party - January 11, 2020

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

For Auld Lang Syne

The end of another calendar year. A time to reflect, but truth be told we don't feel much like reflecting on this one.

Instead, we'll focus on today. New Year's Eve. The day that is our small little family's traditional celebration day. So instead of getting all emotional - because we're exhausted - we'll give you the play-by-play so far, and the plans for the rest of the day.

Santa kindly left a letter for the kiddos on Christmas morning letting them know that since we were traveling, he would make a special New Year's Eve trip to our house in California. To prepare for his visit, we left our cookies for Santa and vegetables for his reindeer by our chimney last night.

New Year's Eve Eve - treats for Santa and the reindeer - December 30, 2019

We slept in a bit (oops), then woke up to find the stockings filled by the big guy. We opened them right away... well, the kids did. Chris and I still haven't found the time, but it'll happen.

Stockings! - December 31, 2019

Then, we made bug pancakes with strawberries, blueberries, cookies, and sprinkles. Imogen helped a lot, Everett only helped smash cookies.

Helping prep bug pancakes, filled with goodies - December 31, 2019 

Meanwhile, the furnace guy was here for the fifth time to try to diagnose why our furnace turns off all the time (annoying, but not terrible in a California winter). Everett told him (Mr. Tony), that he thought the problem was a part that was broke. He's obviously right, but also not going to be making a living fixing furnaces any time soon. Then, it was off to Happy Hollow for NOON Year's Eve celebrations. Imogen picked the carousel, Everett picked the playground, then we made some NYE crafts, watched some magic tricks, and counted down a disco ball drop to ring in the new year. Happy New Years were exchanged and kisses were freely given.

Noon Year's Eve at Happy Hollow - December 31, 2019

Kids are exhausted and napping, and when they wake we still have: present exchange amongst our little unit, London ball drop and countdown (with sparkling juice!), maybe homemade apple pie (we might save that for New Year's Day), and sushi dinner. It's a full day, but it's also such an intimate day. Just the four of us and remembering Obie throughout (Obie bear, bug pancake pan, lots of yellow...).

Happy New Year.  On to 2020.