Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sad State of Fashion Affairs

I have never been into fashion. I have never had a good fashion sense. But I have tried to look a little nice in the past. I had fun socks. I have played around with scarves, and occasionally jewelry (mostly earrings). I also enjoyed a few different types of shoes.

Now it's all different. I need:
- To never think about what is on my body
- To be covered completely (tricky areas seem to be belly, butt crack and breasts, while breastfeeding all the time)
- To be so completely comfortable

This means that I have worn either flip flops or sneakers nearly every day for the last year or so (other than during the crazy snow time, when I wore boots exclusively). I need to be able to slip on and off my shoes. I have no time to tie them or zip them or buckle them. Plus I usually am carrying a child or two. Who has two hands to put on shoes? Even my Danskos are taking my mental space, since they aren't tightly fitting.

When I got back to the US I couldn't believe the black pants / yoga pants / leggings phenomenon. It may be present in Singapore, but I was too hot to ever wear anything more than shorts/skirts, so if it was there, I didn't notice it. I couldn't believe how nearly everyone here (West Bloomfield area / Newton area...) wore black pants, nearly everyday. Now I totally get it. They cover the butt crack. They are so comfortable. You can even spot wash them when you get puked on or yogurted during the day. Magical. I only have one pair, though, so I have to space out wearing them. My days of wearing pants a few times without washing them are over (for now).

My two pairs of jeans and two pairs of pants (they both happen to be navy) are all mostly comfortable, but they are low fitting, and they do not hide my bottom (perhaps the bottom has grown - but that's for another day...). Somehow I need to find some new pants that are comfortable, not sweat-pants-ish and do not ride down...This is an immediate concern. In the meantime I can usually tuck in a tank top and pull up my pants as much as possible.

Nursing tank tops are life savers. If you have to nurse in public all day long, at least your belly is covered. That helps a little bit.

I need to layer. If I'm hot, I need to shed a layer. I have zero patience to be hot for more than a minute. I don't have time to nicely take something off and put it somewhere where it can sit nicely. The extra layer has to be a fleece or zip up or something easy.

Tie strings around hoods are insanely annoying right now - Koby ends up trying to nurse from them, they dip into dirty diapers, baths, good at all.

All this to say that nearly everyday I wear the same thing:
Some plain shirt - long sleeved or short sleeved
A nursing tank top
A fleece or hoodie
A pair of pants
A super comfy pair of running socks
I haven't changed my jewelry in over a year.

How boring.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

I know my limits - but we can still get out a little

Three kids who are so young and cannot wipe their own asses is hard. Much of the time (M, T, W, Th 9-1 and F 9-12) Samara is in school. Some of the time (M, W 9-1, F 9-12) Samara and Elie are in school. Some of the time they're all sleeping (usually 1:30 - 3 these days). All of the rest of the time I have them all, usually all awake.

If everyone is happy and nothing is wrong, and everyone is listening to me, we could go anywhere! We could go shoe shopping, because I could work with one at a time and the other two would wait patiently. We could go to any playground, because when someone is doing something dangerous, or running away, they would stop when I said stop. We could go to a playdate anywhere, because they would all play nicely and safely. But...the reality is that someone is often unhappy, or shy, or needs a little extra something, and we can't go anywhere. We can go to very few places, actually, and we have to have certain things with us in order to do it.

We can go to a few gated playgrounds (Larz Anderson and Newton Highlands are my favorite). We can go to the Farmers' Market - and we have gone, nearly every week since August. We can go on a walk if I have a double stroller and also bring a scooter. Sam and Elie usually take turns on the scooter. Though Samara can (and DID!) hike 4 miles in one day, she sometimes craps out when we're on a walk, and when I have a 2 year old and a baby - I literally CANNOT carry her or help her. I need her to figure it out. But...sometimes Elie is happy to scoot, and she can ride in the stroller. We can go to someone's house for a playdate if their house is completely Elie-Safe and if they don't mind open nursing. We cannot really go out for meals (kill me now). We definitely cannot run errands (I took a babysitter with me shoe shopping for the kids, and even that was SO hard!). I can do anything if I have 2 of the 3 - as long as those two are not Elie and Koby at the same time. Otherwise, I know my limits.

And when I leave the house I always have: a water bottle for Elie, Samara and myself, 5 diapers for the baby and 4 diapers for Elie, wipes, 2 plastic bags (one for dirty clothes and one for a dirty diaper), hand sanitizer, change mat, extra clothes for Koby (extra clothes for the other two are in the back of the minivan at all times), tissues, emergency snack - usually bars, sometimes cereal or fruit, a baby carrier (hoping to get Koby in the Ergo. He has been too small so far, so we have been using the sling and Moby), stickers or some other entertainment book in case of being stuck somewhere, my wallet, my phone, sunglasses and any weather-related necessities.

This is from the Farmers' Market yesterday. There is a booth for Green Newton, and the woman, Margaret (dressed as the devil here) runs the booth and is FANTASTIC with kids. She always has something fun to show them - caterpillars, dead beetles, cocoons, butterflies you can make out of folding paper...SO MANY THINGS. We usually play at her booth for a long while, then we take balls and play up at the basketball courts. In the middle we try to buy some veggies and fruit.

Today the kids didn't have school, as it was a professional development day for the teachers. (Next week will be our first full week of school, though last week was our fault as we were traveling on Friday. It's November next week. That's crazy). Many of the kids from school went to this trampoline park where the kids get to jump and bounce around. Though I haven't been to this specific one, these are the types of places where you really have to be an active parent and help your kid if they need it (or if your kid is jumping on someone's head, and perhaps that kid needs your help). I KNOW that if I went there and I had to nurse the baby, or if he had a pooplosion, or if someone needed to go to the bathroom, or if someone was feeling shy and didn't want to participate...or...or...or...I would find it super stressful and not enjoyable. 

So instead of joining the rest, the kids and I went to Drumlin Farm. We have been to this farm countless times since May, and we absolutely love it. I haven't yet gone with all kids alone, but also I didn't have a stroller Koby could be in, so I was always stuck wearing him. Changing Elie's diaper or helping Elie at all while wearing Koby is not easy, so I had always gone with a babysitter, family member, or some other adult. Koby FINALLY fits in all of our strollers, and he could stay all bundled up like a burrito while the other kids had a great time at the farm. And it was so super fun. We DID have a pooplosion. We DID have a few times where someone was grumpy or cold, or whatever, but being in a safe place where the kids can run around and I don't have to watch every second, and also being able to put everything down into a stroller made it so that we could cope with each moment and even have a great time.

Today at the farm

I forgot Elie's coat at home, so I gave him my fleece, and he was somehow fine (though he did have a full set of long underwear on). We just rolled up the sleeves...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Berkshires

We just got back from a fun, long weekend in the Berkshires. I had always heard of these Berkshires, and I visited Camp Ramah in the Berkshires for a day...but I had never been to Western Mass and not really explored the Berkshires.

My parents flew in on Thursday night, and they spent the night at Nancy's, right near by. At 7:15, while we were all upstairs and the kids were just thinking about getting out of bed, the front door opened, and in they came. My dad rushed up the stairs to get onto his hands and knees and crawl into Elie's room to surprise him as a "horse." Phew - I didn't have to watch two of my kids for the rest of the weekend. We got the car packed up, and by 9 we were on the road...

Gotta love that minivan. We all fit (SEVEN PEOPLE!), plus all of our stuff, a stroller, ice chest and food for the weekend...and it wasn't even squishy (says the lady who sat in the front the whole time...maybe I should ask my parents...).

First stop was near Amherst, at the Eric Carle Museum. It was pretty cool to see so much of his beautiful art and be introduced to so many books that we had never even heard of. We had a great time exploring the museum and doing crafts.

After the museum we went to Northampton and had a fantastic lunch/brunch at Jake's. We walked all around - including all over Smith's campus. Elie had a nap in the stroller and Sam was a champ and walked the whole way. We then hopped back in the car and drove north to the place we were staying, just outside of Sheburne Falls. 

After we got the baby down for a nap (and Matt too), the rest of us went to town to the Farmer's Market. There were two stalls of veggies, a few other random stalls plus a tuba and guitar (and harmonica at the same time) player. The music was the highlight. We grabbed a few veggies and went home to make a simple dinner. Sam and Elie were sleeping in the same room, and we had made the mistake in New Hampshire of putting them to bed at the same time. We had to get Elie to bed by 7, so Sam could go to bed after, but not too late. It worked. All slept well.

When I came out of bed, the kids couldn't even stop reading for a second to say hello to me. They love their Savta.

We got up and out around 9 to a hike called High Ledges, up the mountain behind where we were staying. The hike was basically a mile out to this amazing look out (at high ledges...) and then back. The kids enjoyed a short additional hike with my parents on a more strenuous path with some elevation while I was feeding the baby. The leaves were BEAUTIFUL, and the sky was beautiful (it was cloudy after this for the rest of the weekend).

Elie probably hiked for about 30% of it

Pretty, no?

Bamba is the hiking snack of choice in our family

After the hike, we drove back down the mountain to Gould's Sugar House, which had the best pancakes I have EVER had. No joke. They make their own syrup too (we bought some - even that was so good). We all loved it.

After lunch we drove for a while so Elie could have a nap. We drove out to North Adams, which looked kinda cute, but we didn't get out, other than for a cup of coffee. We drove through Williamstown and Williams College. It was absolutely beautiful. Elie was still sleeping so we stayed in the car. Then we did a hike to Sunset Rock, just outside of North Adams. It was beautiful, but it started to get cold - mid-30s, and no sun. Kids were champs.

I turned Koby around, and he was loving the leaves too.

This was the first hike - so pretty!

We went to grab dinner back in Shelburne Falls, but the one good restaurant had a hour and 45 minute wait (at 5:30!!!). So we got pizza and went back for the same bedtime situation as the night before - first Elie and then Sam.

Matt and I killed my parents at Euchre - BOTH nights.

Sunday it was rainy and cold. We took it easy at the place we were staying (The Kerry Lea House on Air bnb - I SOOOO recommend it!), and we left at 11. Matt and the kids wanted to do this corn maze, so they did that, and we grabbed a quick lunch in Charlemont, near the maze. Then we drove alllllll the way back to Newton, driving through Concord on the way.

Overall, it was a super trip - beautiful to see the amazing colors. Nice to have my parents around. Felt like a real holiday, even though it was barely two days!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Best Toys

My kids are super good at playing. They play alone. They play together. They play with strangers. They play with me or Matt. They even play with my parents on Facetime (see my previous post). They pretty much want to play all day long - with anyone who will engage. That might be normal. I don't know - these are my only kids.

If you're ever looking to get gifts for kids around my kids' ages, these are the toys that come out EVERY SINGLE day and are our favorites:

Magnatiles - these are the ULTIMATE. They were a hand-me-down from the Intraters (could we get any luckier!?). They come out nearly every day, and they're fun for adults too. They're outrageously expensive. Not sure how to get around that...

Medical Kit - We have this one from the Early Learning Centre (not sure if it's available in the US), but the kids are obsessed. It's the first thing to come off the shelf in the morning. By either kid.

Table and chairs - I bought this table and chairs from another mom in Newton (cheap!), and I put it in our "cold room" (uninsulated room off the living room), and it has changed a lot of the way the kids play. I put a whole bunch of (mostly) safe craft materials (stickers, crayons, hole punch, paper, activity books, etc.) in a cheap IKEA storage cabinet, and now they pick out things to do and sit at the table and do them. This happens multiple times a day as well. I think they like the independence of having it in a room that I can't quite see, and they can do it all themselves.

Kitchen - We originally got a hand-me-down kitchen from the Sehgals in Singapore. We LOVED this one and have nearly used it to death, but it's somehow still alive and kicking. It went in Samara's room until we moved here, and it was in the living room. That one has migrated to the basement, and the kids just got a super fancy one from my brother for all of their birthdays this year. The kitchen is also used alllllll the time. And one toy in the kitchen in particular - the eggs.

Eggs - These eggs, by TOMY are surprisingly fun for all ages. They are a super favorite and have occupied my children for days, if you were to add it all up. (Also a hand-me-down from the Sehgals). They're simple for babies to put the eggs together or try to get them into the carton. Then for older kids you can match the eyes, shapes, etc. It just keeps growing with them. Who knew?!

Doll stroller - Also a hand-me-down from the Intraters...(see a theme here?), this stroller carries someone somewhere each day. It is on its last leg and bent all over the place and probably a danger to any child coming near it...but it's incredibly fun for the kids. Every day.

This random Minnie Mouse thing that my friend Kirsten gave Sam for her fourth birthday is a surprising favorite. I totally don't get the major appeal, but they both love it.

Shabbat Set - my mom got this for Sam, and it's Shabbat everyday in our house. Total favorite.

Dress up - We got an amazing set of hand-me-down dress up clothes from the Intraters (also some included that had originally been the Sehgals). They include little girl dress up clothes from all over Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, India, etc.) plus a bunch of great halloween costumes. This has been AMAZING for Sam. Whoever gets it after us is super lucky. It's kinda a priceless collection, and Sam LOVES it.

Pretend play - Samara would have loved to have a big doll house. They do have a barn that my in-laws just got for Elie, and that's becoming a favorite as well as some of these Playmobil sets (we have the vet set and the hospital - both from Jeremy). Little characters who can do stuff in different places are fun.

Baby toys - my kids favorites:
This face thing was Samara's and is Koby's all-time favorite thing to look at and grab. I think we got this as a hand-me-down from Francesca and Bernard.
Sophie. It's so expensive and seems like a silly dog toy, but they love it. (I love this article about it).
This giraffe is also a super favorite, though ours is a bit different (seems to be not made anymore).
This book (we have the woodland animals and cats) with tails. They love it! This brand is fantastic.

Finally...there is a horse that sings and walks. This actually my kids' all-time favorite toy. My in-laws brought it back from Texas. I hate it. It's so noisy. I don't do noisy toys. They all get lost (oops). Or their batteries die and they don't get replaced (I'll do it tomorrow). Or they find themselves in the basement (how did they get there?). This one has dead batteries, but they still try. Nearly everyday. They love this horse. Oy.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Maximizing Free Babysitting

We moved to the US, but we didn't move to Michigan, where all FOUR of our healthy grandparents are. Ok - actually not our grandparents, but the kids' grandparents. Having three littles who need help:

  • Getting any food
  • Getting any drink
  • Ensuring proper hand washing and teeth brushing (though Samara usually does it on her own - perhaps not well...)
  • Cleaning up everything
  • 2/3 need diaper changes
  • 2/3 need help getting dressed

It means that I wish I were an octopus. But I'm not. So my kids are sometimes alone eating a meal (in a high chair, strapped in, and at a little table), or they're sometimes alone playing in the living room. I literally cannot bring everyone upstairs to get the baby and change his diaper or put clothes on him. I cannot watch the kids while I prepare a meal (though I do very simple things and a lot of extra cooking, freezing and defrosting). I just can't do everything I need to do with them.

Enter grandparents. Remember - grandparents are in Michigan. We are in Massachusetts. My parents and in-laws babysite on Facetime.

Every morning we wake up around 7, get dressed and come down. Samara knows she can call my mom once it's 7:15. She will never get the code to the ipod, but once I enable it, she can decide whom she wants to call and pull the trigger. She calls my parents nearly every morning at 7:15. They catch up on what's going on. My dad does games where he teachers her numbers, playing cards, they play "the circle game" which they made up, showing something SUPER close to the camera and Sam has to guess what it is. They read books. They sing songs. They are way entertaining. Sometimes I call it the Papa and Savta show. While my parents are talking to them, they can get the million questions (4 year old and 2 year old mean a LOT of questions and ongoing dialogue that is exhausting even for this crazy extrovert), and I can make my coffee, prepare breakfasts, make lunches, do dishes, etc. My in-laws are also fantastic Facetimers, and the kids love calling them too.

I put laundry in the dryer and my mom reads books to the kids. I can go to the bathroom and my dad does math with Samara. I go get the baby and my in-laws are in the middle of a puppet show when I come back. It's amazing. Sometimes they even give me a warning that I need to step back in. "Mel - Elie is done eating." "We don't stand on the couch." From afar, they help me take care of my kids. It is SO SUPER HELPFUL.

Unrelated photos.

Happy in the park

Sam's new birthday bike from us, Matt's parents and my grandparents.

Apple picking

All 3 kids! Don't drop that baby...

Snack in the sukkah with friends from school

better view of the sukkah

Elie harvested this carrot!

Shake that lulav and etrog

Samara having a secret meeting, harvesting dried beans out of green beans with her buddy, Ele

Friday, September 11, 2015

My Super Easy Baby

Every time I say that Koby is super easy I feel like I have to justify it by saying that Elie was SOOOO not easy. I'm not bragging. I'm just SOOOO appreciative.

I was fairly sure I would not be able to handle three children under five (I only have a few more weeks of saying that, so I have to milk it for all it's worth...). I could barely handle Sam and Elie. How could I add another baby? What if the baby was like Elie and took four hours to put to sleep and only slept for 20 minutes? I could leave Samara alone when she was two years and ten months, when Elie was born, but I can DEFINITELY not leave Elie alone. How will I do that? How will I be able to feed my kids or myself if I have no time to cook because I'm holding a baby all the time? I was very sure this baby would be very inconvenient, and I would lose my mind.

For the first few weeks, as I blogged about before, he cried a lot. He went to sleep fairly easily, and he ate just fine (it hurt, but normal amounts, I think). But he did cry. Then I realized that he was SUPER tired a lot of the time, and instead of calming him down, I needed to just swaddle him and put him in a bed, and he went to sleep. If I did this before he was super tired, it was damn easy.

Now that we have been at home and very unambitious with our schedule (oh - we also have very few friends yet, so we don't have a lot going on...), Koby is even easier. This is what he is like if I don't wake him/bother him:
8am - wakes, smiles, stretches when he's unwrapped, change him, put day clothes on, feed him, play for a half hour
9am - change diaper again, swaddle him and put him in bed. He smiles and falls asleep
12pm - wakes, smiles, stretches when he's unwrapped, change him, feed him, play for a half hour
1pm - change diaper again, swaddle him and put him in bed. He smiles and falls asleep
3pm - wake, smiles, stretches when he's unwrapped, change him, feed him, play for a half hour
4pm - change diaper again, swaddle him and put him in bed. He smiles and falls asleep
6pm - wake, smiles, stretches when he's unwrapped, change him, feed him, play for a half hour. Bathe, pajama, feed/nurse
7:30pm - swaddle him, put him in bed. Smiles and falls asleep. Usually he is asleep by 7, but 7:30 at the latest.
2am - wakes to nurse for about 30 minutes. Doesn't even open his eyes. Right back to sleep.
5:45am - wakes to nurse for about 30 minutes. Opens his eyes to give a few smiles. Right back to sleep.

He cannot really be awake for more than an hour. I have to find a way to fit in all of his needs while also filling the needs of the other kids, during that hour...due to this limited amount of time of his awakeness, Koby has only had tummy time probably four times. He does sometimes go more than a day without being on his back on the floor. He is often swept from place to place, usually including his bed, changing table, my lap, car seat, bouncy seat...and that's all.

I will have to bother his schedule as we take Samara to school every day and Elie three times a day. Today, though, we woke Koby to take him to school, he came home and slept the entire morning, until it was time to get Sam. Then he ate, we got her, he went straight to sleep right when we got home and he slept basically the whole afternoon. Then he played for a bit and slept for one more short nap before he then went to sleep for the night. It's a lot of sleep. It's amazing that I just put him in bed, and he goes to sleep. He is super happy. He doesn't complain. He schleps. He is amazing. I am so so thankful.

Sam is an amazing sister. She loves him so much and loves taking care of him (including wiping his spit up! It's amazing!)

Elie has started showing a bit of affection towards him and he gets super excited with Koby smiles at him. He now kisses him a lot on the head and also on the tummy. For the first three months and one week (inclusive...) he stepped on his face no fewer than five times, kicked him in the head at least four, hit him more than wasn't pretty. It's getting better. This was the first positive moment between them. 

Koby breaks all non-miracle swaddles. After he pooped through a miracle blanket I did a do-it-yourself miracle blanket, as I had seen in a video Shana sent. You lay out a small blanket (I used a burp cloth) on top of the swaddle blanket and put the baby on top. You wrap each arm in the burp cloth/small blanket and tuck it under the baby's body, so the arms are at the baby's sides. Then you use the swaddle blanket on top of that. He loves it. He just goes to sleep. Amazing.

Face shot, sporting a hat we borrowed from Rafa Abrams - not super practical, so he has never actually worn it out, but so cute.

Post bath. So fat. So happy. So tired looking all the time. But so cute. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

White Mountains

We just got back from a long weekend in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. It was our first unassisted trip with three children. It's not only that we survived it, but we even had a lot of fun! There were a few moments of chaos and overwhelmed-ness, but very few (for example entering a restaurant with the baby crying, Sam running and Elie running away and yelling). The kids were awesome, and we hiked a lot. This was our first trip where we hiked and if Sam was tired we could NOT carry her. We were outnumbered by our kids.

All hail the minivan again. We packed everything we needed including two strollers, a box fan, two pack n'plays, a bouncy seat, a huge boppy, an ice chest, a hiking backpack for a baby, a high chair booster thing...PLUS all of our clothes and stuff, and it didn't even make an impact on the minivan. We could see out the back. We didn't even have to pack it well - it was like a grain of sand on the beach. That thing just oozes space.

Day one we got up early and meant to leave the house around 8:30. I was trying not to be annoying and naggy, so I let it be, and we left around 9:30 (and then made a stop off the highway for coffee...). We decided to do a quick bathroom break in Concord. It was a beautiful day, there was a beautiful farmer's market, and we were enjoying, so we stayed for a few hours. We got back into the car and drover farther up, entering Franconia Notch State Park. Our first stop was the Flume Gorge. It was a two mile loop, out to the flume, on the boardwalk through it and around and back. Sam did this one with a few complaints. Elie walked quite a bit of it too. Koby slept.

On the boardwalk on the flume hike, at a waterfall

moving the glacial boulders

making mommy nervous, sitting on the covered bridge edge over the Pemigewasset River

all of us at the end of the hike

We got to our house we had rented near the south end of the White Mountains, through Air BNB, and it was totally fine (the Addy Shack). We were pooped after a long day, and we happened to have thrown a bit of food in the car, so we had sandwiches for dinner and attempted to put the kids to bed. We tried to put Elie and Sam in the same room downstairs. Unfortunately Elie would not leave poor Sam alone - he kept yelling, "wake up ra ra!!!!" so after a while (um, at 9:30, after we put him to bed at 7!!!), we finally moved her to a futon upstairs. I think I went to sleep before they finally did.

Day two we got up and moving around 9:30 and we went to Loon Mountain, in Lincoln, near where we were staying. We took a gondola up the mountain, which was fun for the kids (and easier than walking...). We were kinda underwhelmed by being on top of the mountain until we found the glacial bounder caves. We had no idea what they were, but Sam, Matt and Elie went down a big ladder into them and they had the best time. Elie came out onto the boardwalk that skirted the caves after a few caves, since they were kinda hard for a 2 year old. Sam and Matt found their way around and under all of these amazing, huge boulders. It is like a totally natural playground. She was so proud of herself. Life highlight for her.

Then we went back to Lincoln to get pancakes for lunch (that was the stressy moment, but it passed quickly) and headed across the Kancamagus Highway (112), toward Conway. Silly me, I thought the kids would fall asleep and take their nap in the car. It was a BEAUTIFUL drive with amazing overlooks and loads of hikes on either side of the road. Elie finally fell asleep and had a small nap before we turned around and found a short 0.5 mile hike which took us around an old logging railroad area and by the Swift River. Eh. Then we went to Sabbaday Falls, a 0.6 mile hike, to the falls and back. It was a beautiful waterfall, and below the falls we took off our shoes and went in the water - it was FREEZING, but the kids loved it. We stopped at a local tavern for dinner on the way home. The kids were great, and luckily the tavern had a great grilled cheese. Sleeping was much easier the second night (though Elie still cried for about ten minutes, poor dude).

Koby enjoying the view up the gondola on Loon Mountain

Samara coming out of one of the caves on the glacial bounder

Matt, Samara and Elie at Sabbaday falls

Oops - this looks like a Flume photo from the day before

getting our feet wet near Sabbaday Falls

Day three Koby got up to eat around 5:45 and wanted to hang out too, until he went back to sleep at 6:30...when Samara woke up. Sam and I watched a little PBS until Elie woke up around 7:40. Finally Matt and Koby woke up around 8:45 and we threw everything in the car and drove east to a hike near where we were staying, the Smarts Brook Trail. We originally planned to do a three mile loop, but I thought that might be too much for Samara, plus we didn't have that much time, so we instead got lost and ended up on the Tri Town Trail, with a bit of elevation, until it met the Smarts Brook Trail and we found the cascades. It was a beautiful waterfall, and again, we could stop, have a snack and get our feet wet (most of us did that on purpose. Some may have fallen in...). I tried to distract Samara with stories, songs and just about everything else I could think about. She was amazing. Most of the time she was skipping, singing or just walking happily. After this, we grabbed a quick pizza lunch and drove all the way back home.

Adding a third to a hiking trip makes it so that number one must walk, which is limiting in terms of what we can do and how long it will take us. But the logistics in general of traveling haven't really changed. We already know how to travel with kids. I already know how to hike and nurse at the same time. All in all - a total success and super fun. We already want to go back (or somewhere else to get outside).

Elie's ride

Bamba at the cascade at Smarts Brook

Discussions by the edge of the water, at the top of the falls

Family selfie looking upstream

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Minivan

I can't believe it, but I LOVE our minivan. It is a life changer. I had no idea.

The week we moved back to the US we did some test driving and lots of research, and we decided on the Nissan Rogue. We wanted a small SUV that would fit two car seats comfortably (and possibly a third child down the road), space for strollers and groceries, all wheel drive and good gas milage. We LOVED that Rogue. For about a month. Then we found out we would need to fit THREE car seats in our car soon. Shit. Back to the drawing board.

We did a lot of research. I really did not want a minivan. I didn't feel like a minivan mom. Am I old enough? It just felt so suburban and so MOM-my, and I didn't feel it yet. I was sure it wasn't my thing. There are a few big SUVs that fit three car seats, two rear-facing, but none that would not make me twist and turn to buckle everyone in, and I couldn't imagine Samara climbing under seats to reach her own while managing boots, a winter jacket and her school bag. There are also huge SUVs that have back rows, so someone can enter through the trunk (and a few SUVs with "captains chairs" so people can climb in through the doors and go to the back row), and you can put the other two car seats in the second row...but again, it was a lot of twisting and turning (I was pregnant while shopping and not super mobile, so this seemed pretty challenging), and Samara would be only four and a half for a half year after the baby would come, not buckling herself, in a 5-pt harness for many months (years...) to come. Fitting a double stroller, a single stroller, all just seemed like it was going to be a LOT of work, and my life already pushes me to my physical limits everyday.

Many people on my mommy's facebook groups suggested the minivan. Many friends suggested the minivan. Matt LOVED the minivan (we rented one last fall). I just didn't feel it. Then it was March. Baby was coming, and I didn't have a better solution. I gave up and realized we were going to get a minivan, and we just had to decide which one. Minivan research pushes one towards the Sienna and the Odyssey. We test drove each one. The Odyssey drove a bit nicer and smoother to us, but the Sienna had all wheel drive. We decided that there would probably be a few days a year I would wish I had all wheel drive (though we still can fit everyone in the Rogue, just not comfortably...), but we went for the Odyssey. And I really wanted to be able to open and close the doors from afar and the driver's seat, so we splurged for the key-less entry, sun-roof, push-a-button-for -anything-you-want model. Within a day, I absolutely loved it. I didn't know if I could live without it in Michigan in July (we did). It's amazing.

We took out the seat behind the driver's seat, so we have the big seat and the middle seat in the middle row, and we have the whole back row. Koby sits behind the passenger seat, Elie in the middle in the second row, and Sam behind the driver in the third row. This way I can get Koby's infant seat in and out easily, I can lean in (or get in) behind the driver to buckle Elie and Samara. Samara can see both babies. Unfortunately I can only pass things to Elie. In the back we have a double city mini, a single city mini and a snap n'go. The seats next to Samara go up and down easily, so if we need more room for groceries or something we can put them down. I have extra clothes for each kid (and me) plus extra diapers for everyone and blankets in the very back compartments (they don't even take up space in those things!).

The minivan is completely designed for my family (ok - all families). The windows in the back are low so the kids can see out. Even Elie, who is rear-facing and seems to be looking at the back of a seat can see all construction vehicles we pass ("whoa, mommy"). The venting systems are amazing, so there is air con throughout the car. There is a crazy little mirror in the sunglasses holder thing that enables me to see every seat in the car - so if Sam wants me to see something, I can see it. There is latch in EVERY seat other than the middle in the back (I believe). There are so many spots for my diaper bag or purse that I can barely decide a consistent place to keep it. There is a spot for my water bottle, my ice coffee, my hot coffee and each kid's water bottle - with like seven cup holders to spare. I can open the car doors before I have even left the house, so the kids can start to climb in while I'm struggling with the door lock, and we waste little time (how does getting in the car take SO long?!).

I get my stubbornness - but it was wrong. It was the best decision. Life changing. It only makes EVERYTHING easier, like multiple times per day. Thank the lordy for the minivan.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Photos from our visit with cousins on Cape Cod

Clearly our kids need cousins who pay more attention to them. :)

We had a GREAT day with cousins last weekend. And they took amazing photos too!