Category Archives: kids

There’s no such thing as bad weather…

…there’s just bad clothing. I can’t take credit for that expression but I love it.

IMG_8033We’re experiencing a wet winter here in San Francisco and we’ve already had more rain this month than I can remember from winters past. H’s preschool sent everyone an email about appropriate clothing the other day — both so the kids can enjoy “recess” and because they spend a day a week in the woods. In my adult life, I’ve lived in winter climates and done a lot of outdoorsy things and I learned how to dress for the weather but growing up in California, that wasn’t something I knew about. Recently, I’ve realized that there are plenty of grown ups around who don’t know how to dress for the weather — whether it be for themselves or their little ones. Here’s my tutorial on the subject. If you live somewhere snowy you’ve probably got this all figured out already!

Now is a great time to pick up winter styles like fleecy hats and down jackets on sale. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try eBay, Amazon, or 6pm.com. Certain things like the adorable Boden baby hats and my favorite Patagonia mittens definitely sell out so you might make note for next fall!

EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE

RAIN BOOTS are pretty obvious and you’ve probably figured this out already! For all these outdoor things, you can search places like eBay or your local consignment store for gently used versions or try 6pm.com or Amazon for sale styles from great brands like Hatley and Western Chief. Solids are harder to find but LLBean has classic ones.

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The RAIN COAT is another no-brainer and there are of course countless adorable options to choose from. If you expect your child to play in the rain for extended periods of time, look for a heavier rubberized option. Lightweight polyester or nylon jackets are usually water resistant which means it will work to a point but eventually soak through. Houlton’s green dog coat is made by Hartstrings (we found it on sale) and it’s a size 4 but he’s been wearing it since he was 2. At first it was like a cowboy duster — ankle length — but now he’s growing out of it. Chessie’s yellow coat is from Gap. This LLBean option matches the pants (keep reading) and is waterproof and lightweight — great for warm rainy days.

RAIN PANTS are a game changer. With your child covered from head to toe, you can still go out and play on wet days (though keep in mind the playground may be dangerously slippery). We’ve had a great time this winter taking puddle stomping walks or exploring the woods on drizzly days. We have these ones from LLBean but a lot of retailers carry them.

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LONG UNDERWEAR is such a great secret weapon – even if you don’t live in a snowy climate. You want a synthetic (like polyester) not cotton as it will keep you warm when wet, wick moisture away from your skin (which keeps you comfortable), and breathes (again, comfortable). Every sporty brand has technical details on their website but the bottom line is that layering with a base layer will keep you comfortable if you’re moving around a lot and warmer. It’s climate control for your body — you won’t get quite so chilly when the sun dips behind a cloud or you stop for lunch on your hike.

My boys use theirs (baby, big kid) for playing in the snow of course (with lots of layers on top) but I also throw the bottoms on under rain pants or as a top for hiking and outdoor time.

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WARM HATS are cute but also, like long underwear, somewhat magical. You may have heard but we loose heat from our heads. If you’re ever worried that your child isn’t warm enough, you can start by throwing on a hat. Given that they’re smaller to pack than an extra jacket, they’re a great choice when you aren’t sure if you’ll be chilly. There are lots of options out there from LLBean to Hanna Andersson to Etsy. We love this Boden style for babies (they seem to do a version every year) as well as Patagonia and these cute dino ones from REI.

WARM SOCKS– also magical. Again, secret weapon. You can wear your normal clothes but if you have warm and comfy feet you’re going to be happier. Wool has great natural properties for warmth and breathability which again, provides climate control. And even people who find wool itchy can often tolerate the soft stretchy socks companies like Smartwool are producing. If you want your kids to play outside in the snow for long periods of time, these are great but you can also use them on rainy or chilly days.

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FOR THE SNOW

Having good WINTER BOOTS can really make a difference as they’re insulated (i.e.. a warm lining), water proof, and have good traction for walking on slippery snow. Boots with these qualities cost a lot and even when boots are marketed as “winter boots” they aren’t necessarily weather proof. I emailed Oshkosh earlier this year to ask if their options were waterproof. While I didn’t expect them to be given the reasonable cost, I was surprised to have customer service reply by saying they “weren’t appropriate for use in incliment weather.” Look for words like waterproof or GoreTex, insulated and/or Thinsulate, and ask lots of questions.

I’ve had a lot of success buying second hand snow boots on eBay. Since we only use them a week each year, it just doesn’t make sense to buy something brand new and I’ve found great ones from brands like Kamik, Gap, Timberland, and Crocs for less than twenty dollars. A great pair of wool socks can also make your everyday rain boots warm enough for the snow.

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MITTENS or gloves are a must have and these mittens are one of my favorite kids products ever. They are so easy to put on, they actually stay on (which I can’t say for pretty much every other mitten I’ve tried), they’re warm, and they’re water repellant. We’ve been using them for several years now and I think they’re absolutely worth the price tag. To ensure they don’t get lost, try an old fashioned trick — run a sturdy length of yarn through the jacket loop and down  the interior of each sleeve. Attach to the mitten’s tags with a secure knot.

WARM COATS are another obvious item. You may have noticed that we are big fans of Patagonia. We love the quality which ensures that younger siblings will have a chance to wear them too but also the reliability of knowing the kids will be warm and dry. Our favorite “California coat” is the Reversible Puff Ball Jacket which seems to be the perfect weight for our temperate climate. Whenever we travel somewhere snowy, we add extra layers underneath to make it suitable. Good coats can be expensive so checking the sale rack at the end of the season (to buy ahead for the following year) is a smart way to shop.

My final word: LAYERS. Lots of layers. Have you ever been cold? You weren’t wearing enough layers. For real. Don’t feel silly wearing 4 or 5 or 6 layers, feel warm. In college when I skied in frigid New Hampshire winters, I wore two layers of long underwear every day topped by an assortment of fleeces, vests, and jackets.

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What’s your favorite rain and snow gear? What brands have you found to be reliable?

Reality Check

 

 

IMG_1053I have an alter ego. When I’m having a particularly “mom jeans” day — you know one of those days where you’re covered in kid goo, pushing the stroller of screaming children uphill (both ways!) and can’t remember my last shower — i think about her. She splits her time between London and Italy. She has a high powered job that doesn’t require her to work that hard. She has a gorgeous, shiny apartment full of glass, breakable objects, and white suede couches. Her closet is to die for. She always looks amazing… And uh, no kids, no husband! Just gallery openings, sipping Negronis in outdoor cafes, and parties with friends for that girl.

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Judge me if you wish, but I actually find this fantasy to be an entertaining bit of therapy some days (c’mon it’s no worse than being a little too caught up in a romantic comedy and don’t tell me you haven’t been there). I’m never going to be going about my day in stilettos and the latest runway designer fashion but dreaming about it does the trick.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about other ways to trick myself when it comes to fashion. Again, reality check, there’s a lot of beautiful clothes out there that just don’t make sense for the lifestyle of a toddler mom. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy my latest fashion obsessions.

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When it comes to  fringe for example, there’s a lot of fringe to be found. I love these Aquazzura boots. They’re amazing right? My alter ego is wearing them on the private jet to Gstaad. Those boots have no place in my life. These Sam Edelman ones however are a lot easier to run around in, they work with (mom) jeans, and they don’t have an overly precious price tag that would prevent me from taking them to the playground.

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Ulla Johnson is a designer I look forward to each season and one who has yet to find a hanger in my closet. Her clothes are so pretty and evoke a carefree, designer hippie vibe that I love. This dress would be so pretty for fall — an evening perched at the bar in some hipster restaurant. Alas, I really don’t need another expensive dress that I only wear on nights out. The same color paired with some metal accents is another story. A cozy burgundy sweater or even a simple tee with some gold earrings or a necklace (love Madewell’s budget and kid friendly options) is a look I can pull off every day. The jumpsuit isn’t the same investment as the dress and would be a killer evening look with earrings and heels. Or daytime with boots and a cozy cardigan.

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I’m not a huge fan of knock offs and fast fashion (someday I’ll write a post on that) but occasionally I’ll find a piece I can’t resist. The original Isabel Marant sweater is amazing and not something anyone wants to wear around sticky hands. This Topshop knockoff allows you to wear the look and not worry about what your day/child throws at it.

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Flats people! I love wearing heels. It’s such an easy way to feel polished and chic and womanly. It’s also an easy way to feel overdressed, uncomfortable, or… slow. Even when I’m just going out with my husband, we’re so often walking places or I’m standing at a cocktail party. Or it’s a family friendly holiday party and I end up with a baby on my hip all evening. You don’t regret flats. Especially if they’re sparkly and gorgeous and fun. You can wear them with jeans and a sweater on Christmas morning or to a fancy wedding. Regardless, you’re guaranteed to feel festive and comfortable and smart.

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Clockwise from the pom-poms: Topshop velvet pompom,  JCrew snow leopard,  Loeffler Randall blue snakeskin,  Chiara Ferragni Winking FlatsSophia Webster butterfly,  Loeffler Randall Leopard Lace UpsJCrew tartanNordstrom glitter mary janeBoden embellished velvet (image from Instagram).

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My final word of advice. Get a new scarf. Am I the only one who wants a new scarf every fall? Scarves are such a simple way to feel fresh and current and every year I find one that feels exactly right. I throw it on with everything and anything and feel pulled together and cool and whatever else I need to feel that day. And the great thing about scarves is there are so many to choose from. Whether you’re after a fresh tartan, a touch of fur, some more fringe and boho, there’s a scarf out there for it.

Top row: Modcloth Chunky Knit, Block Shop Printed, Eribe Fair Isle. Second row:JCrew Buffalo Check, Matta Pom-Pom Trim, Zara Faux Fur Third row: Boden Giant Pom-pom, Zara Plaid, JCrew Bright Tartan

European Vacation

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We took a trip to Europe earlier this summer. It was a little crazy to be traveling so far away with two toddlers but it ended up being a wonderful trip. We lived in London many years ago now but are still close with our best friends from that time — the bulk of our trip was spent with them. Being with locals really made the trip work for us as there were so many daily decisions that we didn’t have to worry about. For the part of the trip where we weren’t with our friends, we were with my husband’s parents so our kids were outnumbered. In other words, we weren’t crazy enough to go traipsing across the continent just us and our toddlers!

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We started with a couple days layover on the East Coast, something that I think helped immensely with jet lag. And, we had to meet up with the grandparents for our international flight to London! Our overnight flight was quick and smooth though the adults didn’t sleep nearly as well as our Benedryled children (we tried it ahead of time to make sure they didn’t get jazzed)  We spent five days in London — some with the grandparents, some with our friends and their baby boy Fergus (how cute is that name?!?!), some days we went into the city and others we played in their neighborhood in South London. From there we headed to our friends’ family home in a village near Bordeaux for five more days of sightseeing, swimming, and mellow summertime activities. Finally, we met back up with the grandparents for three very hot days in Paris.

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We had our highs and lows, but overall it was so fun to be abroad. I remember nursing my first son when he was a newborn and feeling chained to the couch. At that moment in time, the idea of strolling the streets of Europe (or anywhere else in the world) seemed like an absolute fantasy. I seemed like it would be forever before I’d get a chance to travel again and that made me crave it even more. Many friends prior to our trip said nice things like “hopefully you’ll get a chance to go out for dinner without the kids” and I really felt like that wasn’t the point. Simply being able to pick up fresh baguettes for breakfast or pushing the strollers down a foreign street admiring the shops and cafes was amazing — so inspiring and refreshing. It was also entertaining to do something new with our kids. Houlton and I checked out numerous library books about London and Paris (Madeline, Hippo says Hello, A Walk in London, A Walk in Paris, Paddington Bear, This Is London, etc) so that before we left, he knew many of the sights and monuments. The delight he expressed at each new place was so fun to share.

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So it was amazing — catching up with old friends as if no time had passed, watching our babies and their baby play together, exploring the Transport Museum with my boys, making new friends at new playgrounds, catching a quiet hour at the Picasso Museum…

…and magical — sipping wine on the terrace at twilight, buying cheeses and groceries at the village’s Saturday outdoor market, enjoying a leisurely pub lunch with friends, and sharing Notre Dame at sunset with the grandparents.

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And also totally real — asking in broken French to retrieve my three year old’s shoes from the staff only area where he’d thrown them, or not having actually bought a ticket for our lap baby on the flight and having to “start over” ten minutes before our flight was boarding, or having the kids pass out at 5 only to wake up at 8 super cranky and refuse to go back to sleep until 2am.  And did I mention the heat in Paris? 100 degrees?!?! it was like standing under a hand dryer. We were all just surviving at times.

Despite the low moments, I am so happy we were crazy enough to take the trip, so grateful for all the family and friends who made our trip such a success through their thoughtfulness and hard work, and so fortunate that we were able to travel like this. The boys’ grandparents were seeing Paris for the first time too and that made it really special.

You can see a few more pictures on Instagram (this photo from Bordeaux was one of my favorites) . And I’ll be following this post with more details about what I packed and wore while abroad.

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On Babies and Dogs

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I saw this article on MotherMag today — it’s got perhaps the cutest dog/baby photo ever to draw you in — and it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to share a few tips on babies and dogs.

Our Bernese Mountain Dog, Mudslide, is without question, my first baby. When I was pregnant for the first time, parents kept telling me that I had “no idea how much I’d love my baby.” In my head I was always thinking, yeah, I think I do have an idea… I love that dog! Aside from being a wonderful, nearly perfect dog (yes, spoken like a true pet owner), getting him was an important step for my husband and I. All my anxieties about having kids of my own — whether I could handle it, whether my husband could handle it, whether we’d work together as a team — were all assuaged by our new puppy. One night of getting up to take him out and clean his crate (and bathe him at 2am because he was a total mess) and I immediately understood that when it’s your baby, who you undoubtably love to the moon and back, all the hardships of parenting don’t matter.

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For his first year, Muddy and I spent every day together. He came to work and sat at my feet, we went on countless adventures together, and there were decadently long cuddle sessions. All of that changed when my son was born and dealing with my “dog guilt” was in fact one of the greater challenges of being a new parent.

If you’re preparing to introduce a new baby to your dog, you’ve probably read to bring a blanket home from the hospital for the dog to sniff. We did that and it made for some cute video to watch while I was recovering. The best advice I got however was this: have someone else carry the baby into the house. Depending on your type of delivery, you’ve been away for a least a couple of nights and I’m guessing your dog, like mine, is always very excited to see you when you walk in the door. Having your hands free to greet your dog and give them your full attention may be a small thing but it’s a nice way to start things off on the right foot/paw. So much better than (what will soon be the norm) of having your hands full carrying the heavy carseat + baby and your bags and trying to make your way down the hall while the dog energetically follows and bumps into you.

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Curious Mudslide checking out the new arrival.

Another friend told me to let the dog lick the baby all over.  My first though was that’s crazy but I later recognized the value in that sentiment. With both our kids, we gave Muddy a chance to sniff (and lick a little) when the baby first arrived. Highly supervised of course but not actively restraining him while it happened. (You need to take your dog into consideration and obviously if you have any concerns about your dog around kids this may not be the right approach for you.) Dogs can be surprisingly sensitive. We were cautious with Muddy for the first several months as we and he learned how things were going to work but he was always very delicate around the babies (as long as he wasn’t super distracted and excited).

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Muddy gets a first sniff of baby Chester.

One thing every parent, much less dog owner, should know are the warning signs of a distressed dog. I stumbled across a dog/kid website early on and was surprised to discover that I didn’t know half of them. Did you know that yawning is a sign of discomfort? Or licking the lips? This website has a great list but a quick google search will turn up more information too. Even if your dog is the sweetest kid-friendly pup out there, you should take a look. I trust Muddy and don’t believe he would ever bite a kid. Perhaps that’s foolish but he’s a patient dog from a sweet natured family breed. That said, I try hard to pay attention and not let the kids terrorize him. Even if he’s unlikely to hurt them, it’s simply not fair to him or their relationship. And it’s a bad standard to set for your kids. The last thing I want is my kids “assaulting” someone else’s dog at the park.

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What not to do! Perfect example of how subtle an anxious dog look might be. Look in Muddy’s eyes — he’s clearly asking for help but you have to be paying attention to him and not that cute chubby baby.

When we’re out and about, I’m often surprised at how few dog owners understand these warning signs. Knowing what to look for and being conservative about interactions — such as pulling your kids away when the dog turns away — is a good way to keep your kids safe from other dogs too. I never trust a dog owner when they say their dogs are “kid friendly.” Dog owners love their dogs more than they should.

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Another bad mom moment: Muddy is licking his lips, a sign that he doesn’t like what’s going on.

That goes for me too! So, please, do your own research. I don’t mean for my words here to be a rule for you and your family. Every dog is different and what’s worked for Muddy isn’t necessarily the best choice for your dog. If you’re not sure about your dog, you might ask friends and family to be honest with you about their perception. Others are often a lot less forgiving about a dog’s shortcomings than their owners would be. 

What’s your experience been with dogs? Do you agree with what I’ve said? Have different ideas?

What are your best tips for mixing kids and dogs?

And here are a few more dog-baby pictures in case you haven’t yet had your fill.

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Another great do/don’t example. Muddy is happy on the left, not happy on the right. If you’re not familiar with dog expressions you might think he was just ruining the photo! And yes, those are both my boys, at almost the same age, in identical outfits, two years apart.

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Guard dog duty. Muddy was a very proud “big brother” and loved to keep an eye on the babies.

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I find Muddy is the most playful with the kids when we’re outdoors and he’s off leash. He’s happy to be running around and has the freedom to escape any uncomfortable situations.

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And sometimes he’s perfectly happy to have a kid all over him!

And now we have November…

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Happy Halloween! Did you have fun? This was a big year for Houlton — his first real trick-or-treat. We went with his friends (and ours) around the neighborhood and had so much fun. Ches got a lot of attention for his pumpkin cuteness and Muddy who pretty much hated his costume finally got into the spirit of things and enjoyed the nighttime stroll.

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My mom found Houlton’s costume and our sweet neighbor Alexis who was also an astronaut got him the balloon (which he loved and which I accidentally lost/let go of at the end of the evening. Horrible Mom guilt. Total meltdown). Chester’s pumpkin is a vintage “family special” that my husband’s brother and cousins have worn in years past. And my sweater is an 80s era hand me down from my mom. Amazing right? I think this is going to be my thing – no costume, just the ugly sweater.

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Houlton hasn’t had a lot of exposure to candy (we don’t eat much of it ourselves so don’t worry, we’re not saints, we just don’t have it around) and we were so amused at his ability to pick out the big size Snickers bar from the basket even though he has no idea what’s inside that brown and blue package. We managed to only let him have two or three pieces of candy through the whole evening so it seems that it was truly just pure excitement that then kept him up all night. He had trouble falling asleep, he woke at midnight, and then he woke at one and didn’t go back to sleep until four. Umm… worst night ever. Ches woke up too and we couldn’t get either boy back to sleep.

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So like the many in our neighborhood who were out for a hangover brunch (some still in full costume), we had our own type of hangover brunch yesterday morning. Coffee… and more coffee… Isn’t it funny how waking up to kids on too little sleep is about the equivalent of a night out partying?

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Cozy sweater and ripped jeans are both old. Marled socks and boots are too. I’ve never felt like I knew what to do with the boots (picked up at a Barney’s sale many years ago) because the opening at the top is super wide. But I think I made a break through in my sleep deprived state — chunky socks and rolled up jeans (boyfriend style would be great for this I think) balanced things out a little.

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Pumpkin Patch

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It’s hard not to love fall right? A trip to the pumpkin patch is so nostalgic for me and of course who doesn’t love a chance to wear some wellies?

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Any big plans for Halloween? Houlton is going to be an astronaut and Chester is going to be a pumpkin. I’m happy that we can keep things light still though we will probably go trick-or-treating this year. We chose Houlton’s costume simply because it was a gift but then he randomly started telling people he was going to be a green dragon. We finally got him straightened out and a trip to the library for space books has helped pique his interest in his adorable orange jumpsuit. But I’ve learned my lesson — clearly next year he will be in charge!

Sweatshirt: Steven Alan (from last spring), Jeans: J.Brand (old), Boots: Hunter

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STL

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Chester and I made a quick weekend trip to the midwest to visit my almost 96 year old grandmother and see my brother and his family.

His introduction to my grandmother was rather magical. She cannot see well or hear well and she’s very fragile. Chester nuzzled into her face as if he knew exactly what he should do. They had the sweetest connection.

 

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St. Louis is so beautiful — I’m thinking they must have the prettiest neighborhoods in the country. It’s obviously a lovely time of year to visit with fall just getting started.

 

 

 

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Aside from lovely walks down tree-lined streets (oohing and aahing at the gorgeous brick homes), we had a blast with my nephews. Even though Ches is too young to get involved, he was so excited to see them. We will all be together for the holidays and I know these four little boy cousins are going to have a blast together. I also enjoyed traveling without a toddler and a delicious steak dinner out.

How was your weekend?

 

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My sister-in-law has a great sense of style. I loved how she threw a leather jacket over a simple sweatshirt dress (from Zara) and leggings. Comfortable and super cute.

 

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P.S. This happened. Don’t tell anyone.

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Scenes from a Saturday Morning

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The kitchen was a mess. The house was a mess. But we ignored all that (I think my husband could ignore it permanently!) and headed out to Fort Funston for a “hike” amongst the sand dunes. Houlton’s preschool is big on nature and the importance of children having “unsupervised” outdoor time to connect to nature and explore. We were so inspired by the Head of School’s comments at Back to School Night that we’ve decided to try and have one good outdoor activity every weekend.

 

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I packed up a cappu to go and some homemade trail mix that was a delicious combo: dried mango (cut with the kitchen shears), almonds, walnuts, and mini white chocolate chips. My former boss used to make her own trail mix as an office snack and often threw cut up beef jerky into the mix. Yum.

 

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A short drive later and we’re worlds away from our to do list and the house enjoying sunshine and blue bird skies along the coast.

 

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The downside of this “hike” is that Houlton doesn’t move very fast. Every two feet he finds something to immerse himself in. We got a lot of “I’m busy” when we tried to coax him down the path. He didn’t have a single toy with him but could have spent hours playing in the sand and dirt. Obviously this is the whole point — he explored and played in a very different way from what happens at the playground or in a room of toys. And we sat a short distance away and enjoyed our coffees.

 

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I’m wearing an old pair of Athleta jeans. Pretty cute, kinda dorky, super functional. They’re made with Schoeller fabric (if you see this on a hang tag know that you’re getting awesome quality/technology) that makes the jeans highly water and stain resistant. In fact Muddy drooled on my pants (while he sweetly rested his chin on my leg) and the drool rolled right off. I’ve been wearing them more lately on days when we’re off on an adventure. Sure, I could wear normal pants and be totally fine (minus a little extra laundry effort for grass stains etc) but sometimes it’s nice to have one less thing to worry about, right? Not to mention the pants have loads of thoughtful pockets and such. Search for my jeans and similar styles here.

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First Day Of Preschool

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First Day! Officially today was visit day so we got to go with Houlton to meet his teachers, classmates, and their parents. I’m so excited that he’s starting school and a bit nostalgic too. My little boy!

Houlton picked his outfit (so much for a cute preppy button down). I wasn’t sure what to wear. I mean, I’m a grown up now right? I tried to look a little polished while still being preschool appropriate.

Shirt: J.Crew, Jeans: old J.Crew (similar), Scarf: LemLem (similar), Shoes: Loeffler Randall* (here, here, here)

*The shoes are a big coup. These are the pair I lusted after this spring/summer. I love snakeskin – it’s such a fun neutral and this white version was a bit 80s (love) and would look good with all the denim and chambray I’ve been wearing. I just found them on Amazon at 70%. How random is that? Just one pair, just my size. My shopping tip: when you love a specific style, look for it by name on shopstyle.com or just google the name – in this case Loeffler Randall Milla.

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Backseat Driver

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Did you have a good weekend? We had a great weekend minus two long drives back and forth to Tahoe. While we’ve taken a fair number of plane flights with kids, turns out we need a little more practice with road trips. After too much crying, we resorted to me riding in the backseat wedged between the two carseats where I could reapply pacifiers, smile and giggle, assist with iPad usage, etc.

So how do you do it? What are your tips for long drives with kids?

What am I wearing? Oh a swaddle blanket. No big deal.