Escaping the Smoke in Pismo Beach

 The wine country fires have been so devastating and we're sending our prayers each day to all affected. We, like most people in the city, know people who lost their homes which is just unimaginable. My friend Stacey worked tirelessly for over a week rescuing animals and caring for over 140 horses at her barn that usually houses 45 horses. Thankfully my aunt's house, as well as my dad's rental property (my grandmother's former house) escaped the fire despite it burning on three sides of the development.

It was pretty crazy how much smoke was hovering in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area and it's just cleared in the last few days. After the illnesses that were keeping us homebound for what felt like weeks, and then the smoke when we finally got everyone better, Dave and I decided on a last minute trip out of town for fresh air, as did many in the Bay Area.

Pismo seemed like a great option as it's not to far (but far enough to guarantee smoke-free air), no flight required and 85-degree weather was forecast, not not mention it was a great excuse to visit Chip and Julie. Dave had been down several times, but we had never taken Coco.

'Fire Sun' - craziest sunsets during the fires
Leaving town at 2pm on a Friday is never a good idea so we were slowly making our way down 101 basically to Salinas before we finally started making some progress after dinner at McDonalds for the kids and In 'n Out for us (conveniently in the same parking lot). We finally got to the airbnb at 9pm. The kids were actually really good and we did get naps out of all and then C fell asleep before we arrived and miraculously transferred pretty easily and went back to sleep.

Saturday was a much better day with breakfast out, the morning at the beach with Chip and his family, a quiet time walk around town with William while the others rested, a visit to Dinosaur park overlooking the ocean, then grilling on the rooftop of our condo before heading out for a quick ice cream. Chip and Julie came over that night after their event and we chatted for a bit over drinks.

The next morning we headed out by 9am, but stopped by a pumpkin patch, then had to charge the car which took a while, had lunch while it was charging and there was more traffic as we headed into Salinas so didn't get home until about 5:30 which was pretty brutal. Again the kids did pretty well, but it was a rush to get something healthy on the table for dinner, get the kids bathed and in bed, unpack, etc., before the week started. Thankfully we arrived home to good air quality so we were able to air out the house. The next couple days the poor air quality returned, but it's since cleared up and the rain several nights ago certainly helped. It was a much needed last minute getaway to get outside!

Apple Hill

Ever since I heard about apple picking in Apple Hill, I knew I wanted to go. Unfortunately the logistics of it were a bit complicated so this was the first year I actually considered. It's about 2.5 hours from SF, so a bit too far for a day trip with three little ones and the main problem is that it gets insanely crowded on October weekends, which is peak season. Apple Hill is on the way to Tahoe, near Placerville, in an area just north of highway 50 that reminds me a bit of Napa wine country -- lots of apples farms off of several main roads. This creates a bottleneck on weekends so I knew we wanted to avoid that. But was I really going to have Dave take time off work and take the kids out of school, not use Jessica for the day, etc all for a visit to Apple Hill? No. But the boys do have two Mondays in October off so I thought going up Sunday to Monday would solve a lot of our problems.

Overall, it worked out well. My mom was excited to come with us and our plan was to leave around 1pm from SF and get up there possibly in time to visit one farm, but if not, just head to the hotel to swim, order pizza and go to bed and pack in several apple farms the next morning. Dave was relieved not to go and the boys were really excited. George had come down with yet another virus on Wednesday before our trip, but was fully recovered heading into the weekend. Dave took Colette and William to church while I stayed with George as he still had a bit of a cough hanging on. We were all ready to go when Colette has a meltdown when coming home from church and won't eat and won't stop crying. Not a good sign. Then William complains he's feeling sick and I didn't know if it was because he thought he'd get to stay home with Dave (including the next morning) or if he really was sick. After much talk back and forth, and considering just taking Colette and George, William decided he was well enough to go. Colette and William slept most of the drive up there, and we did make it to a farm (Abel's Apples) before it closed, but G was clearly the only one feeling well. C was super clingy and William said he was cold even though it was 70+ degrees out. We headed back to the hotel for swimming and by the time the pizza arrived, both W and C were burning up with temps over 100. Luckily I was prepared with meds and a thermometer so my mom held C after she got some medicine and W and G got the ipads before heading to bed. I had to drive back 15 miles to get the car charged up for the next day which actually worked out fine.

The next morning I woke up to texts about the Napa fire. I had no idea how bad is was, but texted Dave and he confirmed he could definitely smell smoke at our house. So crazy. I didn't have time to be on my phone that morning though so didn't learn how bad it was until much later. The hotel had screwed up our ajoining room reservation so my mom stayed in a room with the boys while I was down the hall with C. That actually worked out well as W only woke up briefly once, whereas C was up multiple times so it was a bit rough. While still warm the next morning, C seemed to be doing much better and ate fairly well at breakfast. W was a bit under the weather soon, but as we saw with C, after medicine, they both were running around for an hour or two and then quickly nose-dived.

We visited High Hill, the main ranch, first thing Monday morning and that was great. We fished in the pond, fed the ducks, the boys rode the ponies, we all got apple donuts and cider and even an apple cider milkshake. Thankfully this is when all the kids seemed to be feeling well. We made it several hours and as C and W started going downhill, we drive down the road to another farm, Rainbow Orchards to pick up a pie and a homemade corn dog for George along with some apple cider. Only G and I got out and we only spent maybe 10 minutes there while the others waited in the car. W was already drifting off. G and I wanted to check out one other farm so we drove to Apple Ridge and picked up a BBQ sandwich for me, some apples for my dad and G got to mine for 'gems' which was fun. Again, we only spent maybe 15 minutes here while the others waited in the car, C and W asleep and my mom the good sport as always.

Thankfully W and C slept most of the way home, but neither sounded good. The kids' doctors office had called several times that day to check in on G so when I talked to them, I told them about the other kids. After hearing C cough, they thought it could be going into croup, so thankfully our pediatrican was able to see us that afternoon at 5pm. C did get croup medicine and while W couldn't go to school the next day, thankfully both got better pretty quickly with just a lingering cough.

Had I known that both C and W were going to be feeling so poor, I would've skipped the trip but it's always hard to tell. I'm so thankful my mom was able to come, and that a situation like this doesn't bother her at all -- she just loved seeing the fall colors and visiting the farms with us. It certainly could've been worse, but I think we'd definitely want to go back to Apple Hill again. The hotel worked out really well, we got delicious pizza (at Pizza Plus down the road) and it really is a cool experience, not to mention such delicious apple treats!

Colette: 17 Months

Time is certainly flying by. Colette is getting further and further from the baby phase and is a full-on toddler. She seems so big to me, she caught me by surprise the other day when my mom pushed her back in the stroller and I saw her sitting there, her long legs hanging down. Of course there are ups and downs with the phase. I love how much she knows and understands now, but she's also becoming more opinionated by the day and definitely knows what she wants. Dave reminded me that I had already read The Happiest Toddler on the Block as it lay on my bed, but I feel like I need to refresh my memory and as we head through this phase again with a different child.

Though we've had some good adventures in the last month, overall, it's been a bit tough. Sickness has seemed to follow us since the end of September until maybe a week ago. Luckily it hasn't been awful, but at least one kid sick for a couple days so he's home from school, then both boys are and overlap for a day or two, then the original one goes back to school and then Colette may get it. Of course I'm not taking the sick one out to the park or elsewhere, which means we all stay home so I feel like after the initial couple weeks of school, we got out of our routine. Then the horrible fires up in Napa and Sonoma have led to pretty bad air quality, which thankfully is now back to normal, but was bad enough that we couldn't go outside for over a week. Everyone was bouncing off the walls -- the boys weren't taken on the roof at school, soccer or anything else outside was canceled, so as we headed into last weekend with the poor air quality hanging on, we decided last minute to go down to Pismo Beach to see Chip and Julie and get some relief. It was great, and when we got back, things were improving here and few days later, pretty much back to normal (at least here). We even got rain last night.

Now the kids seem to have a mild cold again so hopefully it doesn't get worse and we can enjoy the last week or so of October with lots of Halloween activities. Colette loves her costume though it's not good quality so I haven't let her wear it much as I already had to put my sewing skills to use to repair.

EAT: Since getting George's virus 2 weeks ago when we were up in Apple Hill, her appetite has been slow to get back to normal. Which may be a good thing because before that I actually was thinking about talking to her doctor as she seemed to be eating so much and wanting food constantly. Though her appetite has finally returned in the last few days, she does seem to be pickier and I've sworn to not give in as it was around this age the boys slowly started getting pickier and it's certainly a slippery slope. I continue to push variety and though she definitely knows what she does or does not want to eat, I have had success with offering the same food at the next meal. She didn't like my veggie-packed mac and cheese, wouldn't even touch it, but the next day ate it for lunch so it's a good reminder that just because she doesn't want something once doesn't mean she no longer will eat it. At snack time, often I offer 2 things and if she throws a fit and doesn't want them, nothing more is offered. Sometimes she'll eat and sometimes she won't, but she still eats quite a bit, and a good variety, that I'm not worried. She still does great with meat, cheese and just about any fruit, is getting better with sandwiches, seems to have gotten over eggs a bit (though I keep trying every other day or so). No progress with veggies and she's only sometimes drinking the smoothies Jessica makes with lots of veggies. We did move her out of the baby seat on her high chair so she's a bit less confined which has seemed to help. She's getting better drinking out of an open cup (though will sometimes intentionally throw it too...) and loves sparkling water. She's pretty good with utensils and loves using a big fork if she can snatch one. She also loves having a napkin and wiping her face. We've even included her in helping set the table (the boys' job) and she loves it.

SLEEP: Hmm, as I remember with the boys too, still a bit hit or miss. Generally I think it's okay, but with her being sick, we definitely had some rough nights where either Dave or I were up with her or sleeping in the bed in her room with her. Now she seems to be getting another tooth in and two nights ago I was up 4 times in an hour with her and finally shut off my brain and told her I was going to sleep... and I didn't hear her until I woke up at 7am. Well, Dave had been up with her since 4am. We've had a good night since, so hopefully we can get back on track. Her wake up times vary, sometimes she's able to entertain herself until 6:45, other morning we have to go in earlier to get her. We did get her the sun/moon clock that worked so well with the boys though, so we're trying to stay in her room with her until sun comes up so she learns to wait. She does love the clock so we're off to a good start. Bedtime has been tougher unfortunately. She's in a very clingy stage and cries to be left in there. Thankfully it hasn't been terrible screaming, but more whining most of the time, so we go in and check on her, reassure her and then go back out. It's just taking her sometimes close to an hour to fall asleep. Naps are fine in the sense that she's sleeping 2 hours most days, sometimes slightly longer, but she continues to wake up at least once, sometimes multiple times, crying/whining. We always leave her as we know the drill and she almost always falls back asleep but I really wish she would be able to sleep through. Most of the time I don't think anything exterior is waking her up so not sure there's much we can do to help.

PLAY:  She's practically running now, or at least walking fast enough that you're sure she's going to fall, but she doesn't. Her favorite 'toys' still remain: the remote, the phone, the toy camera. I got her a tea set from a friend and she does like that, and pretend play in general. She loves playing doctor and attending to her stuffed animals. Dress up is also a hit with the doctor kit, getting out her lion coat, superhero mask and cape or just pulling out clothes she finds. She gets excited when I show her her outfit for the day and loves to get dressed and look in the mirror. I do wonder how much I'm influencing this and though I know I shouldn't be doing it, I did the same with the boys, 'you look so cute!'. Though there have been periods of intense clinginess lately, she's generally very independent. There are many times she goes into her toy corner to read books or play, or gets in to the duplo drawer and starts trying to build. At the park she heads off on her own and will even start climbing the play structure. Though she's done it before, she still gets nervous to go down the slide and has a problem letting go from the top so I still hold one hand for her to get down. She loves the swings for a minute and especially likes switching between different swings in 30-second bursts. Reading is still a favorite though she'll promptly snap a book shut in the middle if she done and hands me a new one.

TALK: She definitely made progress this month, though we're mostly just getting the first syllable of the words. There's a lot of aah (apple), da (duck, dog), ma (milk, more) and ba (bar, ball, bow, bear) and uh for up. Other 'words' I can loosely include are 'off' and 'on' and 'all done'. She has 'wawa' down for water. She doesn't say yes or no, but has a different guttural sound for each that communicates her opinion. Her no sound also includes a fiercely shaking finger in your face... I have been encouraging her to 'say' more words so when she grabbing at my legs and pointing up (the sign language sign for up), I say 'up Mama, up' and she'll say 'uh'. I think she may be starting to say 'ga' for George (we're going with 'Gaga' but other than Mom and Dad, she doesn't say other names.

POTTY: Zero change this last month. She's extremely interested if you're going potty, to the point that you need to move her away, and loves to get you toilet paper, but hasn't been sitting on it much at all and we haven't really been encouraging. She continues to have her poop issues holding it in.

Colette: I noticed the shift to toddler this month, how active you are and how opinionated you've become. I'm hoping your language picks up a bit as I know how much of a difference that makes, though it is pretty amazing how much you can communicate just by the different grunts you use. A boy about your age was riding a bike at the park and you wanted it so you went over and did you guttural grunt and he started balling and ran to his mom. You sat down and rode off on the bike, satisfied. Why talk when you can get your point across so clearly? There are plenty of tantrums when you don't want your diaper changed, you don't want to be taking out of your high chair (yet are throwing your food), or don't want to leave somewhere. But along with all that comes the development and understanding of more and more each day. I feel like I can ask you to do pretty much anything and you attempt to do it. You're getting better at taking off your shoes when we come home, you'll go get things for me, etc. I know we're heading into what can be a hard phase, but there are so many great moments too. You do more and more animal sounds and can't point out so many things in the books now. It was sad to see you sick and not feeling well and some of that clinginess has stuck around, but since I didn't get much of that with the boys, honestly, it's secretly appreciated. You're a great helper, so sweet with giving hugs, know just what you want and will stand your ground to get it. For the first time today at the park, you cried, and I don't blame you. A little girl, maybe close to 2 or slightly older (but not much), wrapped her arms around you from the back in a light hug. I was watching and just as I was saying, 'gentle', she grabbed you tightly and pulled you backwards to ground. Of course her mom was mortified and you were crying, but we calmed you down and you were okay. That type of thing is bound to happen many more times and I think it caught you offguard more than anything else. You are such a strong girl and we love you so much! Here's to soaking up another great month before you're closer to 2 than you are to 1 :(

Weekend at Autocamp

We were out to dinner with two other couples with kids in the boys' class last year when someone suggested a camping trip. We were all hesitantly enthusiastic -- a trip sounded fun, but camping is so much work, especially with little ones. Besides this dinner out, we really hadn't spent much time with these couples, but we did have fun. I had heard about Autocamp up in Sonoma, basically a campsite of luxury airstreams but with the amenities and feel of a hotel. I looked into it, found a weekend in September with availability and sent it over to the group to see if they were interested. It was actually perfect for us as the kids got to play together with lots of space to run around, the adults could hang by the campfire after bedtime, and we felt like we were in nature, but didn't have to worry about no bathroom, setting up tents and lugging all our gear.

Though only about 80 miles north of San Francisco, it took over 2 hours to get there on a Friday afternoon. We used provided radio flyer wagons to get our stuff to our airstream, which was so nicely done with everything we'd need for our stay provided. We arranged it so our friends were on either side of us. Each airstream had a master bedroom with a full bed and TV, then the main room had a microwave, mini fridge, sink and plenty of dishes as well as a cast iron pan for cooking on the camp fire (we never used). There was futon couch that pulled out into a bed that the boys shared. Then a beautiful bathroom was at the far end. It was small and definitely not somewhere we could all hang out in all day, but obviously that wasn't the plan anyway.

I was a bit nervous because it was technically 4 occupancy max and where we'd usually get a suite or connecting room, that obviously wasn't an option here. I was worried about how everyone would sleep -- getting C down for bed with or before the boys in a strange place was likely to be challenging and I worried about her waking others up with the close quarters of the airstreams. I told my mom that if she was a little bit sick or teething at all, I would leave her home as I didn't want to risk her up multiple times at night. Thankfully, her portacrib fit, just barely and sleeping actually went really well. She woke up screaming at one point Friday night and I was able to quickly pat her back to sleep. Somehow she fell asleep quickly that night too. The next day she fell asleep on the 2-minute car ride from the beach, so I carried her in and put her to bed on our bed, which I figured would certainly result in a short nap. Though she did wake up once, as she always does, I was able to pat her to back to sleep and she slept over 2 hours. That night, we put her to bed first, and while she did fuss, she went to sleep before we brought the boys in. That night G woke up really upset from his arm hurting from the flu shot and I thought for sure she'd wake up, but she didn't. So sleep overall was good.

All three kids got the flu shot the day before we left for the trip and I should've remembered how G had a bad reaction last year too. His arm swells up and hurts for up to 5 days. He had a very slight fever that sent him home early from school the next day but besides feeling a little off, luckily he never got sick (until Monday when he started throwing up, but NOT from the flu shot...).

Friday night we ordered pizzas and all ate together. Then roasted marshmallows, but the kids to bed and stayed up drinking wine, chatting and playing games until almost midnight. The next morning the kids were up early but managed to stay pretty quiet before we finally got up to go to breakfast at a place just off property from the camp. We played at a park also right next to the camp before getting our stuff together to go out to the beach down the street (beach of the Russian River). We rented boats and played in the 80 degree sunshine before coming back for a rest. After naptime, we went over to Armstrong Redwood forest for a walk before picking up ribs for takeout. We did smores again and the adults had another fun night chatting by the fire.


The next morning we packed up and went to breakfast, then headed to a nearby apple farm to pick apples, and then into Santa Rosa to go to the great children's museum I'd heard about. It was so fun and nice for the kids to go to somewhere new like that (unfortunately it must be where they picked up the stomach bug).

Such a fun weekend and we loved Autocamp. It really was the perfect balance of camping and luxury accommodation with most of what you need provided. While there were definitely many couples there alone, it's also so fun with families and I think it would be fun to go up with others again.