Despite the boys being sick on and off all week, I still had a great birthday on Wednesday. Both had come down with a stomach bug Monday afternoon so we kept them home Tuesday and Wednesday even though they seemed to turn a corner by Tuesday morning. They worked with Jessica to make me cards and a flower bouquet and had talked about doing 'breakfast in bed' on my birthday for a while. Unfortunately Coco slept horribly the night before -- up multiple times that involved me holding her for long periods of the night. She's definitely teething and we've gotten a few other wake ups this week too. Anyway, it was nice to be left to relax until breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and fruit was delivered to me in bed.

Jessica came a little early to watch the boys so I could take Colette to her music class, then I came home to pick up the boys and Dave and we headed to the Ice Cream Museum, a temporary exhibit that just opened and tickets were very hard to get. It was such a fun way to celebrate my birthday. Basically they classify it as 'an Instagrammer's Paradise'. Lots of bright colors and themed out rooms, similar to Color Factory in a way, but more treats at this one. I felt like the Color Factory was a little more interactive and slightly better for kids, but W&G did fine here. There was just some waiting to get in, and while inside, and there were certain things you couldn't touch. Throughout the museum, we tasted gingersnap ice cream with strawberry basil sauce (so good!), mochi, cotton candy, soft serve and Pop Rocks. The boys had fun, though I don't think the treats were ideal for tummy's still recovering so G continued to have issues for another day.

We just had dinner at home that night as Dave and I had a meeting to go to that night and our scheduled dinner the next night was canceled because Jessica came down with what the boys had.

It was a great birthday. It's funny to think back to past birthdays when I was on a great trip but still didn't have the best day as everything didn't go exactly how I wanted or I didn't hear from someone in particular or whatever the reason. I find that lowering expectations, not in a bad way, but just that things don't have to be so over-the-top or exotic has really made me enjoy these days a lot more. I always like a dinner out with Dave and it's nice that the boys are getting a little older and are making an attempt to make me feel special on my day. That's really what makes it a fun day, doing stuff together, getting a good meal and just a general feeling of celebration and recognition of my day. Here's to 36!

St. Helena

I almost forgot to write about our wonderful time in St. Helena. We rushed right back into school and the fall routine, but it really was the best way to spend the last few weeks of summer.

The house worked out great, was just two blocks north of the shops and restaurants of downtown (including The Model Bakery which we frequented most days). It had a huge yard with the pool set back at the end of the property. The house itself was fairly small, but plenty of room for us, especially considering we were outside much of the time. The main level had two bedrooms -- the boys in one and Colette in the other, and we were on the upper level which was just the master bedroom. It worked out fine for us to be upstairs, C only woke up maybe one night, but it was actually G falling out of the bed multiple nights that caused me to run down the stairs. Best of all, the house was previously the owner's home, including where she raised her kids, and you could tell it was much more than a rental. It was fully decorated and set up as if you were staying at a friend's house. The cabinets were stocked with just about every kitchen necessity, plus many staples for baking and cooking. I was prepared to need several days and trips to different stores to get us fully set up, but in the end, just did a big Trader Joe's run and that covered most of it.

I think a big goal of renting the house was to give the kids the experience of just hanging out and not needing specific plans every day and having them be able to 'just play outside'... and of course, doing all of this is beautiful sunny weather! For the most part, that's what we ended up doing, though we got a crazy heat wave that kept us indoors during the afternoons of the hottest days when it reached 115 degrees! Though I think we still had it better than SF, where it was 106(!!!). At least we had AC and a pool so it really didn't feel that hot unless you were just outside (not in the pool) between 2-4pm.

St. Helena has an awesome library we discovered so we went there for storytime and crafts each week, plus they had lots of puzzles, stuffed animals, trains, etc. which was nice since we didn't bring many toys. We would ride bikes to the park and play in the mornings before it got too hot and then come back for a swim. It was so nice to have Jessica come up which made it feel like more of a vacation for me -- plenty of time with the kids, but lunches were made, dinner was cleaned up and I could spend time with one or two of the kids without having to always be in charge of everything. Highly recommend that approach! Of course we knew Dave would be working most of the time so it was really the best way to do it. It was fine from my perspective having Dave work from up there, but I think it was tough for him. Internet and phone service wasn't great from that second floor, but he really couldn't be working downstairs with us in and out of the house all day. He made it work, but I think it was generally a more stressful time for him at work so that didn't help.

Dave and I took advantage of the great food and did two date nights per week. We ate at Redd in Yountville, Evangeline in Calistoga, Brasswood just up the road from us in St. Helena and our favorite meal was at Acacia House up the street. We also took the kids to Ad Hoc for fried chicken which is sooo good. Oh and I almost forgot, our actual dinner out as a family at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. Overall, everyone did pretty well, though when C was done (which luckily was about 45 mins in and we were mostly done), she was done. We moved fast and took their famous campfire pie to-go.

Surprisingly, Dave and I didn't do any wine tasting. I sort of thought Dave would have his afternoons free during the week and with Jessica there, we could sneak out for an hour, but he just was a lot busier than we expected. We did take the boys up to the 'castle winery' as William has been super into castles lately and they did really enjoy it.


We saw lots of friends which was great. I went to lunch with Stacey and then she came over for dinner another night. Our friends James and Olivia and their twins came up one weekend and then Maris and her family the next. Jenn was in town from Portland, so her whole crew came for a swim. We also went to our friends' house in Glen Ellen for the morning and it was just stunning! It's definitely fun to have a 'destination', somewhere people want to visit.

Dave did have some time for bike rides and that was the biggest hit with Colette as well. She's always climbing on the bike trying to get a ride. It got hot for the boys and they now want to ride their own bikes so besides our first night when we all rode down to Gott's for dinner, we didn't do a family ride. Dave is thrilled we have another activity, this one actually active, to do as a family!

We only brought a few toys for the boys to St. Helena -- the duplos, magnatiles and some art supplies. We brought a few books but luckily the library let us check out books so we got a bunch each week which was a lot of fun. They did surprisingly well with the limited toys inside and really used them. Of course we had a ton of outdoor toys that we bought up there, but that actually worked out well since those toys don't get much use in SF. The house also had a bocce court which was so much fun to teach the boys. They were into it for the first couple days at least. The property also had apple trees in the back and they picked just about all the apples they could and W and C ate most of them, well, C probably had a bite out of multiple different apples.

St. Helena is a great town to be in. It's definitely further north that being right in Napa, which actually isn't that far from the city, but being further into the wine country is nice too. There are several great parks in town, and one has a farmer's market we went to each Friday. There are great restaurants, plus you're in between Yountville and Calistoga so you have easy access to even more. I like that while St. Helena is still pretty small, it has a Safeway and another nice grocery store so you can get what you need.

Overall, the trip worked out so well. The main downside of the house was that the pool wasn't heated (which we knew about when we booked). Because it was so hot, it actually worked out fine, even with William who I was worried about, but C only went in a few times and didn't really want to swim with her face in. When we went to our friend's house to swim, she jumped right in and swam around as it was warmer so it was definitely our pool. It was just a bummer not to have her in more, and even with the boys, they were in and out a lot, though maybe they would've been anyway. It was refreshing on the hottest days, but pretty cold on the normal days. It also would've been so awesome if the driveway was paved and not little rocks. First of all, you're constantly walking across the driveway (which is in the back of the house between the house and the yard/pool), but it also would've been so great for the boys to ride their bikes on as it's a pretty big space and we could've closed off the gates so it would be fully enclosed. I think we'd still consider the house again, but too bad the pool wasn't a few degrees warmer. We really loved the time up there, especially having the help from Jessica (who worked 4 days instead of 5 since her commute was longer), plus several visits from my mom and dad. The kids had so much fun with them and I think they both enjoyed it too. We even went to the Petrified Forest for a short hike with my dad one day.

It was strange not to have more photos from the trip, but good in a way, it really was laid back.

Dave had to go back to the city once for work and they he headed back on Labor Day afternoon as he had to fly out the next morning. The original plan was to be able to enjoy the day and not rush back so we had booked to leave on Tuesday since the boys didn't have any school stuff until Wed. Since Dave had to leave early, my mom came up to stay overnight so she could help with the kids while I packed up and cleaned up the house. The boys were set on going to Train Town, but I remembered that after Labor Day, they only open on weekends. I thought of a couple more places, but similar story, so we decided on a visit to the Jelly Belly Factory which was a hit with everyone.

Dave always loves Florida best, and I love it too, but this felt easier since we just packed up the car (which of course was still a lot of planning and prep), had a house that was fully set up with all the basics and beyond, plus Dave picked up anything we forgot when he went home, not to mention we still had Jessica's help. It seemed like a nice balance of vacation and just hanging out in a different (and wonderful!) location. I think we'd definitely like to do it again.

As I told them, W's punch-it balloon popped shortly after getting it. C tried to help by offering her balloon and holding up his broken one... didn't help.

Colette: 16 Months

I just realized I never did a post on our St. Helena trip, but Colette did really well up there and enjoyed all the time outside. Luckily she was at a good age where there weren't huge safety concerns -- she's cautious enough around stairs and is walking well now that she really had fun exploring. Unfortunately the pool wasn't heated so she wasn't a huge fan of swimming, but did get in a few times. Since getting back to the city after Labor Day, we've been settling into a new routine. She's on one nap so we're getting out each morning and just powering through. I signed up for a music class, and that's been a hit so far. She's basically the queen of the class, walking around and stopping in fron of everyone to check them out, twirling around to the music and doing her little dance. She also loves helping the teacher. She's very independent when we're at storytime at the library, at music class or at the park. I'll obviously keep an eye on her but she'll make her way all around the space. We still don't have too much structure to our week but I feel like the opportunities for classes will open up a bit when she hits 18 months. I took her to an unstructured gymnastics class, which was fun for a drop in, but I didn't feel like it was worth the $25. I so wish MyGym wasn't all the way across town! There's another place that we can try when she's 18 months though.

She's at such a fun age and I'm enjoying all the new things she's learning each week.

She loves the swings, but only for a minute. Then she wants to get out, go to the next swing, try it out for about 30 seconds and repeat.

EAT: Geez, she is certainly an eater. She doesn't necessarily eat everything but it seriously seems like she eats constantly (though of course I don't really allow). We have our set eating times, but if she sees someone eating, she will beeline over to them. When I start to make dinner in the kitchen, she really can't be around... she'll whine and eventually start pulling on her high chair. The other day she went and sat down on the footrest awaiting her food. She really does love food which is so fun to watch. Jessica and I keep saying she must be on a growth spurt because it's slightly abnormal the amount of food she eats. Like today, she probably had 2-3 scrambled eggs, half a grapefruit and 75% of a bowl of oatmeal with Greek yogurt, berries and a chia seed mix. My mom said she had eaten most of her large lunch I packed about 2 hours after breakfast and when I heated up a bowl of chicken noodle soup, she had a decent serving of that. She isn't great with veggies, though ate up the carrots in the soup just now, so tends to do better when they're just part of the dish instead of a side. She still loves meat, cheese, tons of different fruits, eggs and is doing better with sandwiches. Her attention span for eating has shortened a bit -- she used to be able to sit for a while, but now she hits a point where she starts throwing her food and we say she's done. Sometimes she gets super mad if I try to take her bib off so we give her one more chance; sometimes she eats more, other times she keeps throwing food. She was over kiwi for a bit but then I luckily kept offering it and she's eating it again now. I just need to keep up with that and especially if she sees one of us eating something, she'll want it too, so I need to remember that to get her to eat more veggies.

SLEEP: It's been a transitional month for sleep and we're in a pretty good place. The last week up in St. Helena, C started giving up her morning nap. It was actually somewhat surprising since the first week so went straight down for a 45-minute nap each day despite having the noise of her brothers right outside her door. The next week she would whine for a bit and then end up just playing, reading or rolling around in her bed so finally we decided to just cut it off. We played around with the single naptime, but knew we wouldn't get on a schedule until we got back. Basically any day we're out and she's in the stroller or the car, it's going to be hard to keep her up anytime past 11:30am. Actually, in the stroller it's okay as I can give her something to eat and that buys me enough time to walk home. We've mostly just avoided any car rides during this window. A few days I've put her down early around 12:30, but for the most part it's between 1:15 and 1:30 that she goes down. I'm sure she's tired a bit earlier, but we'd prefer to have a good chunk of the morning to be able to go out with everyone on weekends, and have nap and quiet times line up, so I'm glad she's able to make it most days. The good news is, she goes straight to sleep for naps, and typically she falls asleep easily at night too, whereas she had been crying more when we were still doing 2 naps. She sleeps soundly through the night and has been waking up between 6 and maybe 6:20 but is now fine to play and read for about 30 minutes (making noises of course) before she really starts getting loud. I think we're in a good place and we just need her body to fully adjust to one nap and then we'll start getting out in the car a bit more and a bit later.

PLAY: Colette is getting more and more independent and plays really well on her own. She'll go into her room and read books, or go through her toys out in the living room. I can't think of a single toy she particularly likes, but often times it's the 'big kid' stuff like duplos, the play kitchen food or the space ship. Honestly, her favorite item is the remote. She's still obsessed with it, even more than the phone I think (she'll literally seek out phones from parents or nannies during music class or storytime when everyone is sitting on the floor). She'll pretend to talk into the remote, or push all the buttons. She still likes stuffed animals a lot. Oh, and she loves to draw. She loves getting into the art cart and taking everything out, but also loves to sit and do markers or crayons at the table, much more so than I remember the boys at this age. She's becoming more active overall, moving pretty fast, starting to climb stuff more, getting into things much more than a few months ago. She loves taking apart the tupperware drawer and can now reach handles and open doors. She goes all over at the park and is very social with other kids and adults. She seems to warm up to people quickly, but does not like being left in the church nursery. She's okay when we leave and she's playing and I say goodbye, but we got called down again and even though I can settle her back into playing, she does not like when I leave. We've had so much going on that there hasn't been much consistency to church though, so hopefully when we're going every week, that will help her transition better. She's also so into books right now, loves to read. She'll bring books over to me and literally beg to read.

TALK: Not much progress here. It's still amazing how much she can communicate with so few words. Her intonation and different pitches sounds like she's having an actual conversations. Some possible new words are da (for both dog and duck :) but anything else would be a stretch.

POTTY: She's really taken to the potty since we've been home, meaning she loves to go into the bathroom and sit on the potty (clothed or not). She actually prefers the big potty so I just ordered a new toilet seat cover that includes the little child's seat. No action yet, which is fine -- we're not actively potty training -- but glad she's comfortable. Unfortunately she's still having a lot of issues with her poop. She doesn't seem to be constipated but instead holds her poop so just a little comes out... multiple times a day and sits right in her butt. That results in lots of diaper changes and a diaper rash that's hard to get rid of. She did okay in St Helena when she was in a swim diaper more and preferred to poop in that, but reverted back to her old ways once we got home.

Colette: I feel like you've been in motion all month and are becoming a very busy toddler. It's so fun to watch you discover new things and new environments. You're eating like crazy and it feels so good to watch you enjoy food like you do, considering your challenges with food in the beginning. I hope you continue to be a good eater and love food like Dad and I do. I hope your outgoing and social spirit lasts. You really seem to enjoy being around other kids and adults. Your current communication is surprisingly effective, but I'm looking forward to upcoming months where hopefully we'll get to hear a bit more of your little voice. You've started getting into your brother's stuff more this month and you're also more resistant to their tight hugs and squeezes. You definitely let them know when you're not happy and stand your ground when they (or anyone else) try to take something from you. You still love clothes and getting dressed and now that it's started to get cooler, we can wear more of the fun jackets and scarves. You've started to want to wear your sunglasses just like me and will actually keep them on for a while. You've become more of a helper this month and want to do everything like your brothers. You can take your clothes to the hamper and always want to carry your bowl to the sink just like them. You also like to help push the stroller. It's fun to be able to let you walk alongside, something I wasn't able to do with the boys at this age. The other day, after a long morning and you making a huge mess with your lunch, I was annoyed and said, 'Colette, you made such a huge mess!' I took you out and washed your hands and then saw that you had gotten out the dustpan and started cleaning up your food :) I'm so glad we started music class, it's been such a hit with you and I look forward to more activities like that where I can witness the pure joy of experiencing new things.

Back to School

The boys have been back to school for just over a week. We had 'visit day' which is an hour-long visit that the parents stay for. There were some last minute changes when a teacher gave her notice 2 weeks before the start of school, so it meant that both of the 4-year old classes have brand-new teachers. Not ideal, but so far they both seem great.

Visit day went okay -- George was extremely clingy and wouldn't talk to his new teacher at all. William didn't seem to have any problems. I chatted with G on the way home and asked him what we could do to prepare for the next day since he'd be there with out me. I thought it was great that he was able to verbalize, 'It will be fine. There were too many parents there and I couldn't find my friends. I'll be able to find everyone tomorrow.' And it's true, the room usually holds about 60 kids and on visit day, you have 60 kids, plus at least as many parents, and sometimes both the parents came. It gets very loud as parents are catching up after the summer and doesn't seem like the best environment to get comfortable at school.

But luckily the official first day went well. I walked them up and they went right in after a quick hug. We didn't hear too much from them about school the first few days, but are now getting a few more stories.

It's the first year they're in different classes. George is in the Sharks and William is in the Eagles. The room is one big room with all 60 kids, but it's separated into 6 different 'classroom' areas, the Eagles and the Sharks being right next to each other. The boys can spend much of the day together if they choose, but of course, we were hoping that wouldn't be the case.

I love that a week into school, the teachers send a little update to share how things are going with your child. The transitions aren't surprising, but so glad G has settled in and I'm impressed that the teachers already seem to be seeing bits of their personalities.

Ms. Linnea about George:
"I am writing to share what a joy it has been to get to know George over the past several days.  The Sharks have had a wonderful start to the school year, and George has very much contributed to this.  He has been busy building in the block area, painting in the Art Studio, crafting books about animals (George is a very proud author!), and is creating and building new routines in our classroom.  Too, he is always willing to lend a hand, often looking for how he can assist, and is very well liked by his peers. "

When I inquired more about whether G is seeking out W, she replied:
"George is doing really great! 
I think the first two or three days may have been a bit challenging for him, to find his place and all.  William and George were very much glued together early on, and when not together, I could see that George was thinking of William and wanting to be with him.  It was hard for him to be present with us during our classroom time.  That has all changed.  He has grown more and more independent with each day.  George is coming up the stairs in the morning, right into the big space, and knows just what he wants to do, with or without William.  He's been painting all on his own, writing books as I shared (he loves the Art Studio), building with fellow Shark classmates, etc.  He is doing really wonderful work and coming into his own.  The time that I do see them very much together is on the roof, when bicycling and all.  They like to chase after each other.   
 Too, George is enjoying his Shark peers more and more.  As I may have mentioned, they look up to him.  He happened to be our Line Leader this week, but, too, he feels like a leader to them throughout the whole of the morning.  He has a maturity they admire.  He's strong, but kind. 
On a sidenote, it was adorable this morning... I had just finished writing words in one of George's books with him.  William came over with a baby doll and sat with it alongside of us. George proceeded to read his book to the baby and William ~ "The giraffe went to the zoo.  The dog went to the zoo..."   Very sweet!"

Ms. Amy about William:
"I hope you are having a good week. The Eagles class is off to a great start. We are adjusting to being back in school and getting to know each other. William is adjusting very well. He particularly enjoys creating art at Mrs. Smiths table. He has made many fantastic paintings. He also enjoys listening to stories. When we are outside on the roof he has fun on the scooters. When he runs into George they give each other a quick hug. It's very sweet. It's a delight having William in our class."

And again, when I inquired if he's spending time separate from G, she wrote:
"From what I have observed it appears that during free play they spend about a third of their time together and then go their separate ways. William enjoys playing with many different friends. He spent the majority of this morning with me and a group of children reading books."