Three

I have been procrastinating writing this post for a long time in hopes that it would somehow make the month stretch out longer, therefore keeping my two year old a little while longer. But it seems that time has flown by anyway and I now officially have a three year old! Here’s what she’s loving and doing lately…

  • She still loves reading. We go to the library roughly every week/ week-and-a-half and we pick up 6 or more books at a time. Her favorite stories seem to be ones where the characters get a little silly and are shouting something in them (i.e.- Wolfie the Bunny, The Not So Quiet Library, Llama Llama Red Pajama, etc.). She also really enjoys stories that have really beautiful, fanciful illustrations in them like The Night Gardener, Miss Rumphius, or The Napping House. Her favorite thing to do is read to herself and her stuffed animal friends. Once she has me or my husband read it, she’ll say “I read it! I read it!” And she does! She’ll ‘read’ back everything she can remember including the names of the author and illustrator.

  • She got her first haircut this month! I took her with me to my salon and had my girl trim it for us. She was very curious about what was going on and kept looking around a lot, but other than that she did great. Obviously I kept the hair clippings. That’s just the kind of mama I am!

  • She’s still a water girl. She gets very excited when it rains because she knows that it means puddles. As soon as it stops we’re out the door in our boots to jump and play in all the puddles in front of our house. She also enjoys ‘washing her hands’ in the puddle water and picking out the drowned worms.
  • She is fully potty trained (nights too) and has been since about two and a half. This was something she chose all on her own, if you can believe it. Emile and I were very nervous to start potty training so early, but she had it down in about a week. Then that was that! If I’m telling the truth, I get a little nostalgic when I walk past the diaper section, because it reminds me of just how grown up she’s become.

  • The playground with the ‘bumpy slide’ is where it’s at. She requests to go to this specific playground in the morning when she wakes up, and in the afternoon as well. Every. Single. Day. That’s how much she loves this place.

  • This picture scares me a little because I feel like I can see the person she will grow up to be. Does that ever happen to you? When she was a baby Emile had this picture of her where we put doll glasses on her and I made him take it off his background because she looked too grown up. But I digress. This girl is happiest when she’s outside, which makes both of us equally happy. It is honestly my favorite activity to take her for walks in the woods. She always finds new treasures to take back home, and also attempts to tidy the forest floor by sweeping all the pine needles off the paths.

  • She looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooves music. Loves. Loves. LOVES it. I know that was a lot of “o’s” and love, but you have to understand that’s just how passionate she is about it. She loves to sing. She loves to dance, and she’ll play any instrument that you give her. Just last night Emile and I got to listen to her serenade her puppy to sleep with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as loud as she could, over, and over again. (Yes I know the above picture is in no way related to a musical activity)

  • She adores her Papa. Her face absolutely lights up whenever she sees him. She hates when he has to start work in the morning and calls for him to come back. Then whenever she hears movement from upstairs in his office she always asks “Is Papa done working??” Whenever he comes downstairs she’ll ask him directly, “Papa are you done working?? Is it the weekend?” He is always coming up with new ideas for games for her, and no one can make her laugh like he can.

For those of you interested, I actually did a little interview with Esmé so you could get her perspective on life at the age of 3:

  1. Who is your favorite person in the whole world? Me
  2. What is your favorite color? Pink and blue
  3. What’s your favorite television show? Little Einsteins
  4. What’s your favorite outfit? Pink
  5. What sport do you like best? Golf
  6. What song do you love? Frosty the Snowman
  7. What’s your favorite cereal? Wheetabix
  8. Who is your best friend? Kenzie and Savanna
  9. What do you want to be when you grow up? A Pirate Ship
  10. What is your favorite book? A Chair For My Mother
  11. What are you really good at? Making food (she really is quite the helper in the kitchen)
  12. Where do you wish you could go on vacation? Cape count (pretty sure she means Cape Town)
  13. What is your best memory? I like yogurt (no idea about this one, sorry)
  14. What would you buy if you had $1000? A skateboard (no clue she even knew what that was)
  15. What vegetable do you hate the most? Salad
  16. If you could have a wish, what would it be? A skateboard (now I’m thinking I got the wrong birthday present)
  17. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Chocolate 
  18. Who is your biggest hero? Kenzie and Savanna and Kristie and Thomas
  19. What do you like to do best with your friends? I like to play with them
  20. What do you hope you’ll get to do before your next birthday? Play

Essie love, you are the brightest sparkle this world has ever seen. You have hair that the cherubs in Michelangelo’s paintings would envy. You run with a bounce and a skip because there is so much joy bubbling inside of you, you often struggle to contain it. You love to laugh. You’re an adventurer. You’re always willing to try new foods, places, or activities (albeit cautiously at first). You know exactly what you want, and you’re not afraid to let everyone else know. You negotiate with frightening skill. You are all the proof I need that magic exists in this world. Happy happy birthday angel baby! I love you so.

Day Tripping In Switzerland

Switzerland is such a cool place to visit. We’ve been twice before (here and here), and we always see something different. This last time was a little different because I decided to be brave and go adventuring without my husband, who was working in Amsterdam during the week. He generally plans all of our outings whenever we travel, so I was very nervous having to do it without him. However, with the help of my brother-in-law, and my sisters-in-law, we managed to squeeze in two different day trips while we were visiting in February.

Our first trip was to the Chateau de Chillon in Montreux, Switzerland. We got to go with Essie’s Uncle, and his puppy George, so naturally she was thrilled. She made lots of friends on the train ride over, making sure to say ‘hi’ to every single person she passed, (something that was repeated with every trip we made to the bathroom, and back again).

The weather that day was spectacular. I mean, we were there in the middle of winter, and that day we almost didn’t even need our coats. It was so nice that we decided to walk from the train station to the castle instead of taking the bus. It was only a 20-30 minute walk any how, so we didn’t mind in the least. Especially as the walk was this pretty little path that bordered Lake Geneva the whole way there.

I knew that Montreux is considered the French side of Switzerland, but I was still surprised by how much the city reminded me of France. It was still very Swiss…pristine turquoise water, beautiful homes, well-kept, clean streets (there is seriously not a single piece of litter anywhere), but the style and the colors of the homes that we saw were all very French. Even the language had changed! In Zurich, where we were staying, everyone speaks Swiss German. In Montreux, everyone speaks French. It was such an interesting experience because as you are riding on the train, at a certain point, the overhead automated voice literally changes languages from German to French.

Side note- the mountains in the picture above are actually where Evian water comes from! You can look up Evian-les-Bains on Google maps, and see how close we were to them. I thought that was very cool to see.

Not surprisingly, once there Esmé could have cared less about seeing the castle. All she wanted to do was climb on the bike rack and find really cool sticks to play with that were not to share with George, but Georgie ended up stealing anyway.

We didn’t get a chance to go inside as we were short on time, but we still got to see quite a bit of the castle from the outside. Then that was it for our first trip! We walked back to the train station, hopped on our train and headed back to Zurich. All in all it went pretty smoothly, for traveling without the husband. We only had two hangups:

First- I was nearly eaten up by the escalator at the train station. I was standing too close to the stroller going down, and kind of fell backwards on the step behind me. With my backpack on and the stroller right in front of me, almost on top of me, I couldn’t get back up again. Fortunately Emile’s brother was standing behind me, and helped me get out from under the stroller before the escalator ended.

Second- Esmé decided to a back dive onto the cement. In the picture that is second from the top of this post, you can see her sitting next to some pretty flowers. Well, she decided to pick said flowers which happened to grow, very securely, on a sturdy stem. She pulled so hard to pick it that the momentum carried her backwards off the platform, where her head met the sidewalk behind her. Fortunately, the hood of her jacket was very poofy, so it cushioned the blow, and the only thing hurt was her pride.

Our second trip was to Lugano, the Italian side of Switzerland, and it was every bit as beautiful as the French side.

The weather was, obviously, more winter-y than when we were in Montreux, but I actually think we enjoyed this trip a little bit more.

Because the train ride to Lugano wasn’t as long as the one to Montreux, we actually had time to let Esmé run around enjoy herself a bit more.

And run we did… we had races in between the trees, climbed all over statues and benches, and fed the swans half our cereal.

I will say that Italian swans seem to be much nicer than any other that I’ve met. At least from what we’ve experienced, swans are actually very aggressive, mean birds. But these guys were super chill to have a toddler in their midst. Even Esmé seemed to like them a lot more than the others. She actually said as we were leaving “Bye my swans! Bye!” It was quite cute.

What I loved most about Lugano was how close the mountains were to you. Even with all the morning mist covering the tops, I still had this feeling of being so small, surrounded by these great looming giants all crowding around the lake.

After we finished exploring, we sat and had ourselves some pizza by the lake for lunch (when in the Italian side of Switzerland!). Then we headed back home to Zurich, where our cranky, territorial, Swiss German swans awaited us.

Both of these places were so spectacular in their own right that I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. Montreux is the perfect combination of French and Swiss…charming and practically perfect. Lugano is this gorgeous, pastel-colored city that is folded into the hills surrounding the lake. Honestly, I just feel lucky to have seen both while we were there.

We Amsterdam

A few weeks back, we got the opportunity to travel and visit family in Switzerland again. We took advantage of my husband having to work in Amsterdam while we were there, and Esmé and I flew up to stay with him for a long weekend. Friends, Amsterdam is, hands down, one of the coolest places I have had the pleasure of seeing in Europe.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram will have to forgive me for sharing some of the same images here, because they are just too pretty not to re-share. But let’s be honest… if you went wandering past all these cute little shops where people just happened to be sitting, admiring them on their bicycles, would you not also take a picture? Then proceed to share that picture as many places as possible? I thought so. Also, if you hadn’t figured this out already, this is going to be a photo-heavy post. Consider yourself warned.

We spent the whole of our first day there just wandering around the city. We had no specific destination or goals in mind, we just wanted to take it all in at our own pace. I feel like that is the best way to see cities in Europe. I mean, it’s always nice seeing the major monuments, or museums that attract people in the first place. But our favorite places we’ve seen have been those that we just happened to find because we took a day to wander around.

We did have to take a nap-break after lunch (we ALL needed it), and when we woke up, the sun had come out! We hurried and bundled ourselves back up to go wander around some more.

As charming and beautiful as it was, there was one caveat about exploring the city. It really wasn’t a toddler-friendly thing to do, particularly in winter. It was busy. We were there in the middle of winter and the sidewalks were jam-packed with people walking around. I honestly got a little overwhelmed at times, and was thankful I had my husband there to help navigate us around.

In addition to navigating through the crowds, you also have to watch out for all the bicyclists. There is actually a separate lane for all the cyclists next to the actual road for cars. Trolleys and cable cars also share the road. Basically we decided that it was safest to keep Esmé in her stroller for the majority of the time.

When we did come across an area where cars/bikes/trolleys were not allowed, we let her out to run around a bit. She particularly enjoyed this little sitting area that had these tilted circular tables. She climbed on every single one, and walked around and around on top of them, singing ‘Ring Around the Rosie’ the whole time.

We walked until my feet were numb from the cold. Then we headed back to have dinner in our hotel, and figure out what we wanted to do for the next day. I told Emile that I thought it would be neat to see an old windmill while we were there, because that’s what I think of when I think of something being ‘Dutch’ or from the Netherlands. Well guess what husband did?

He found me a windmill!! Ok several, if we’re being specific, but how cool is that? I told him I wanted him to take my picture as I was doing a cartwheel in front of it on the pier. He said “Yeah definitely do that, because then I can laugh my butt off when you cartwheel off the pier into the water.” Spoilsport. What you see above is the second closest I could come to my interpretation of a windmill.

It was such a fun visit because in addition to all of the windmills there was an old Dutch village to explore.

There were all these tiny little houses that had mini canals in between one another (this was charming initially, but actually turned out to be a serious pain in the a** when a certain munchkin had to go pee, and there were three canals in between us and the potty).

Bathroom debacle aside, Esmé was in heaven. Since it had rained in the morning, there were puddles to jump in about every two feet, and plenty of space to run around.

Matter of fact, she did just that in this little garden where a group of people were trying to make a film of some sort. She completely derailed their efforts by running circles nonstop behind them through the garden.

One of the coolest perks of our little day trip was getting to tour this place where they make wooden shoes. We also got to tour the cheese shop while we were there, but it wasn’t as interesting because you didn’t really get a demonstration of how it’s made. At the shoe place, the guy literally took a block of wood and turned it into shoes! It was absolutely fascinating to watch.

Outside the shop they had yellow wooden clogs of various sizes to try on/ pose for pictures in.

Needless to say, the opportunity was not lost on us. After that we had to head back on our tour bus back to the city.

Esmé didn’t feel like napping when we got back, so we went out for a walk again. This time we decided to see the ‘Iamsterdam’ sign, and it was far and away one of the craziest places I’ve ever been. It was literally crawling with people. Everyone was trying to climb on top of the letters without really worrying where (or who) they were stepping on.

The one good thing about braving the crowds around the ‘Iamsterdam’ sign was we ended up finding a playground! This girl loves her swings. She really does have a knack for finding them wherever we go.

I love love loved this city. I loved the people, who were so friendly and helpful (they also speak English). I loved the row upon row of charming narrow houses all squished together. But mostly I loved the character that this city had.

Amsterdam may not be the most kid-friendly place we’ve been to, but it was certainly one of the craziest, most interesting cities I’ve seen. I would definitely go again in a heartbeat given the opportunity.

 

Cape Town

The vast majority of our South African adventure was spent in Cape Town. We had a whirlwind two weeks jam packed with family activities, so forgive me if this post is a little long.

First on the agenda was our stay with Ouma and Oupa, who, lucky for us, happen to live very near to lots of different wine farms. Score!

We got to see a few while we were there, but my favorite one was this beautiful place where you could have a picnic lunch while sipping their wine. They packed the adult boxes with tasty little jars of meat and cheese spreads, containers of salads, and lovely, crusty loaf of olive bread. They also packed two different desserts in there. Basically it was heaven in a box with wine.

The other cool thing about this place was that it was very kid friendly. They had a playground and a water fountain that kids could swim in, which sort of over-flowed all the way down to a splash-pad. While we lunched, Esmé played her little heart out until she was hungry…

and then they set up a special little picnic spot just for her to eat her lunch! I mean this place seriously was the best. It is so nice to find places that are kid-friendly when you travel, so this was a definite win.

After our stay with Ouma and Oupa we got to see Emile’s brother get married! It was such a beautiful wedding. Table Mountain was the backdrop, and the lush, green garden was the perfect frame for one of the prettiest wedding parties I have ever seen. Seriously all of the guests were so stylish, I felt a little out of place there with my backpack on running around after my toddler.

Said toddler was the only child present at this wedding and she made quite sure that everyone knew she was there. She started out looking pretty and pressed with her new shoes on, but ended the day barefoot, covered in dirt from head-to-toe, with lipstick on her dress from being kissed by others so much. She ran. She jumped. She ate. She laughed. She drank (milk). She threw dirt in the fountain and almost ruined the filter system. She danced. Then we went home and she crashed. It was a very, very good day.

We were so lucky to have such clear days while we were in town for the wedding, because we had spectacular views of the mountains.We spent some time walking around the waterfront, checking out the shops, and also took her for a trip to the aquarium.

The coolest part was their clown fish exhibit. They had this entrance where you duck under to get to this cylindrical viewing area inside the tank. Esmé loved it. There were so many clown fish! She had just watched ‘Finding Dory’ on the flight over, so she was all about the Dory and Marlin fishes.

We also got to see Santa while we were there!! I was very curious to see if she would like him in person. She loves him in movies, books, and stories, so you’d think she would. Last year when we took her, she screamed bloody murder. Turns out we are still wary of the in-the-flesh Santa. The closer he got to the glass, the farther away she ran. Sorry Santa, maybe next year.

After that, we were down to our last week with family. There was lots of wining and dining, golfing for Papa, swimming at the hotel pool, but I think Esmé’s favorite was a hike we did through the forest in Knysna.

This was actually a 3 kilometer trail that she ended up walking, almost entirely, by herself. I literally only had to carry her for maybe 10 minutes total.

The rest of the 1.5 hour walk she did all by herself. Everyone, myself included, was super impressed with our little adventurer.

We did so much in our three weeks in South Africa: from safaris, to hiking through a beautiful green jungle, to walks by the coast.

After all was said and done, my favorite moments were actually ones where we weren’t doing much of anything at all. They were the times spent sitting outside on Ouma and Oupa’s porch, watching Esmé run and laugh and play in the garden.

Or watching my little love decorate the Christmas tree with her Uncles. Don’t get me wrong, I love new adventures and want to see as much of the world as I can. But the quiet moments where no one was worried about running around, or where we were off to next, and everyone was just hanging out? Those were the ones that made my heart happy.

On Safari

When I first met my husband many, many years ago, and he told me he was from South Africa, I had all sorts of curious questions for him. One of them was “Do you have like zebras, or giraffes that come through your back yard?” In my hometown of Tucson, AZ we saw javelinas, rattlesnakes, scorpions, bobcats, coyotes, etc. in our backyard, or sometimes even the front yard all the time. So when he said he lived in South Africa, it seemed a reasonable assumption on my part that this…

might show up in his backyard. He gave me a look, that he often does, indicating his uncertainty of my sanity, and said ‘no we do not.’

After living in the States for a couple of years, where we had all sorts of wildlife in our own backyard here in NC, he has determined that my question was not as stupid/ insane as he once believed.

This past December we were in South Africa for three weeks, visiting family. While we were there, we decided to do a safari through Kruger National Park. The park is exactly what my younger, more naive self envisioned. It’s an enormous game reserve where wild animals are literally right outside your car window.

Our first day there was chilly, which was quite a rare thing for being the middle of summer. Cooler, cloudy weather meant two things. One- more animals out in the daytime; and two- longer, more frequent car naps from Esmé. It actually made for quite a pleasant car ride.

As soon as we got into the park she was out like a light. Literally, a herd of water buffalo tromped past our car and she didn’t even flinch. She was out cold.

Emile was most excited about seeing a pack of wild dogs. Apparently they are very rare, and we saw the whole pack (if you look closely you can see some of them hiding in the trees in the picture above), which was very cool.

I was most excited to see the elephants. So much so that when one appeared outside my window I actually shrieked from surprise because it snuck up on me. I shouted for Emile to stop and we skidded to a stop, nearly scaring him away. He carried on walking to a mud/water hole, where we were able to get an amazing view of him drinking water. We were soooo close! It was crazy, and a little unnerving because the last time we went to Kruger we were charged by an elephant. As it was, there was another car that got a little too close to him. The elephant started shaking his head at them, so we hurried up and got out of there.

Also of note…twinning with the zebras! And I didn’t even plan it! Emile said I was being ridiculous, but I made him take my picture anyway.

The best part of our first day in Kruger was seeing lion cubs! There were at least four of them that we could see up on this ridge near the road. The mama lions were a little farther down the river bed, but still visible (not in any pictures we took unfortunately). It was such a treat to be able to see these guys in person.

Our second day in Kruger turned out to be a family day for the animals. It started with this family of four impalas. It was so cute because the mom was leading the way and the dad was nudging them along to cross the road from behind.

Then we saw a family of giraffes. This guy actually stood for quite some time right in the middle of the road, before moving to the other side, so that we could get by.

My favorite family viewing was, of course, the elephants. I mean, look at that little guy!! Baby animals are just the best. Esmé was actually awake for most of the day this time around and the elephants ended up being her favorite as well. She kept holding up her Charlotte Bear and saying “Look Shah-lot (Charlotte)! Look! There’s al-a-fants back dere!” After each animal we would see, we would ask her which one she wanted to find next. She always said, “Al-a-fants (elephants)!” It was so fun to see her enjoy them as much as I do.

We also got to follow these guys around for awhile. They started out a little ways off, on the right side of our car but then jogged away. When we turned right on the next road, it turned out that they were going the same way we were! Emile was hoping that they were in pursuit of food, but after awhile they plopped their butts down just to hang out on the side of the road. I thought they were pretty cute little hyenas.

When you go on safari, you aim to try and find what they call the “big five,” which are the lion, a buffalo, an elephant, a leopard, and rhinoceros. We were happy that we’d seen three of the five, but really wanted to find a rhinoceros. Seeing them has actually become harder due to heavy poaching. They are extremely shy of people, and try to avoid the roads.  We actually got to a point in our last day where we decided to head back to Johannesburg, because it was getting late.

As we were leaving the park, my husband was looking around and said “This looks like good rhino territory, I’m going to stop the car and do a scan.” So he put the car in park, got out his binoculars and literally started scanning the surrounding landscape. I was very skeptical because there were miles and miles and miles of land stretched out before us.

You know what? He found one…. A MILE AWAY. Can you believe it? You could barely see it with your naked eye. Honestly when I looked without the binoculars, it looked like a grey dot, no bigger than the tip of a ball-point pen, moving through a mass of green on the hillside. I was seriously so flabbergasted. That was like park ranger skills. Husband man stole my ‘eagle-eye’ title that day.

 

Little E Starts Preschool

Esmé has been really pushing boundaries with us lately, and also perfecting her tantrum techniques. Whenever things got overwhelming, and I felt like I wanted to quit being a parent, I would tell myself “She starts school in January. You just have to make it until January.” So really, a big part of me has actually been looking forward to this. For months I have been daydreaming about my twice weekly sessions of blissful solitude.

Guess what? It finally came!

Guess what else?? I totally lost it on her first day, and spent half of my three and a half hours bawling my eyes out.

The morning of her first day started out just fine. We were all excited for her to start school. We set out her clothes the night before. I woke up early to make her a good breakfast. We all got ready and took lots of pictures of Esmé in her outfit with her backpack on. My husband even took time off of work to drive with us and drop her off.

On the way to the school, I started to get this feeling of unease. My chest felt tight, and I felt very jittery and anxious, but I figured that was normal since this was such a big change for us, and that would be the end of it.

We got to the school and my spirits brightened when I saw she had her own hook to hang up her bag with her little name on it. Then we walked her into her classroom and she got a little shy, so she hid behind my legs for a few minutes, and my anxiety went all the way from my stomach up to my collarbone and my throat closed up.

Once Esmé saw the other little kids playing, she ran off to join in.  Meanwhile I stood there trying to talk around this lump in my throat to her teachers and my husband, willing myself not to cry in front of my child.

We said goodbye to her, and she gave us a quick hug before running off to play again. I swallowed, and swallowed, and swallowed and successfully fought off my tears until we were out of her classroom.

My husband ushered me out and I cried the whole way home. I cried at snack time, because she wasn’t there to share it with me. I cried at Target because the preschool director was kind enough to send me a picture of her, holding a classmate’s hand:

So then I missed her all the more.

I finally got it together around 10:30, and managed to keep it together until it was pick up time. The preschool director greeted me at the door and asked how I was doing, so I got a little blubbery again, but just a little. I pulled it together again quickly before I headed to her classroom.

I was so excited to see my little love. I walked down the hall, grabbed her things and peeked in her classroom. There she was playing with play dough. She took one look at me and said “Where’s Papa?” As soon as she heard he wasn’t there, she went back to playing with her play dough. So much for missing me.

Her second day was easier and harder at the same time. She couldn’t wait to get to school, but then when she got there she got really attached to me. She didn’t want me to leave, and after I said “Bye!” she started a very sad little whimpering cry “Mommyyyyy.” My heart just about broke, but I somehow managed not to cry until I got home again, and it was only for a little bit (improvement!). I then spent the whole time wondering if she was ok.

Apparently I am not ready for twice weekly sessions of blissful solitude. I know it will get easier as time goes by, but I just miss my little buddy, and am having a very, very hard time letting go.

Seattle Weekend

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We decided to visit Seattle while we were staying in Portland for two weeks. We thought that we would do a road trip over the weekend, so we could visit someplace new, and we were totally blown away. Here’s a run down of what we saw while we were there.

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Our first day there was jam-packed with activities. We knew we only had a day and a half to really explore, so we left as early as we could to get the most out of Friday. Much to Esmé’s obvious excitement, our first stop was the playground by the EMP Museum. That place was easily her most favorite thing about our trip.

To this day if you ask her about Seattle, she will tell you she wants to go do the swing and the slide. It was one of the best playgrounds we’ve ever taken her to see: Massive climbing structure, tallest/longest slide I’ve ever seen, a very cool rock garden that has chimes for kids to play with, and an enormous water fountain just around the corner.

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Next we hopped on the monorail, which Esmé also loved, to Pike Place Market, (Emile and Esmé are right at the lower right had corner underneath the sign). It was busy, somewhat expensive, but a wonderful place for browsing and people watching. We took our time wandering around before walking back to our hotel.

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The last thing we got to do that day was a sunset tour of the Space Needle! I was so excited because I feel like it’s akin to going to the top of the Empire State Building in NYC. It’s just something you have to see if you’re ever there. It was so crowded that you had to wait for people to move in order to see the views, but I feel like it was well worth it. Esmé’s favorite view was of the playground we went to earlier, down below the tower. In fact she let us know that she would rather be down there swinging than up at the top taking in the view.

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My favorite part about visiting the Space Needle had nothing to do with anything we saw. It was what Esmé called it when we first saw it, that I will always remember. It was right next to our hotel, so we had this amazing view of it driving in. We told her ‘Look Esmé! It’s the Space Needle!’ and she said ‘OOooooo! Space Noodle! I see the Space Noodle.’ Even now, when she sees our Seattle magnet on our fridge, we’ll ask her what it is and she says ‘Space Noodle!’ So that’s what we all call it now.

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Saturday was my favorite day. We took the ferry to Bainbridge Island, and Esmé loved everything except being outside in the wind. She does not like wind, like even a little bit. We weren’t sure how much fun we were going to have on such a small island, but it ended up being the highlight of our trip.

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We went to this reserve where there were all different kinds of gardens, wooded areas, and meadows to see.

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At one point we came to this little bridge. I was squatting down to take a picture of Esmé leading us along the bridge when she just stopped all of a sudden. She turned, put her little arms on the bridge railing, and got lost in her surroundings for a bit. I was so happy I happened to catch it on camera. My little dreamer, lost in thought in a magical forest.

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We finished off the day wandering around a little harbor town that was one island over from Bainbridge. After we ate, we found a seaside park area for Esmé to burn off all her energy before heading back to Seattle. Such a perfect day.

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Before we knew it, it was Sunday. We packed up all our things, said one last goodbye to our favorite playground, and hit the road back to Portland.

Portland currently has my heart, as far as favorite places in the United States, but I think Seattle might be a close second. It’s almost as if Portland met NYC, or maybe not quite that big a city, but something similar. The downtown area is HUGE. There are all the massive department stores you’re familiar with, but then you also have these little boutique shops that are local and quite unique.

Then there’s also the outdoorsy side of Seattle: the views of Mount Rainier, the easy access to picturesque Pacific Northwest coastline. It’s majestic. It’s serene. It’s awe-inspiring.

I hope I get to see it again sometime soon. They really have the best of both worlds.

 

 

 

Esmé’s Portland Favorites

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We went to Portland a few months back, and Esmé had the time of her life. We had been before about a year ago, but obviously she didn’t remember it, nor was she as mobile and communicative. This year with her being a year older, I think she was able to enjoy it so much more than last year. Here are her top three favorites from our trip:

The Water Fountainfullsizerender-2

Or ‘Water Countain,’ as she liked to call it.  The picture doesn’t do it justice, but it was absolutely massive. Similar to a waterfall, you could actually hear it before you see it. As Esmé told me when I got her out of the car, ‘I hear the countain mama! I hear the water countain!!’

There were steps on either side where you could climb all the way to the top and play in the part where the water is falling at the top. You could also climb down under some of those square platforms and swim around, which several kids were, while we were there.  I was trying to keep Esmé from doing exactly that, as she isn’t the best swimmer yet, and I was terrified she would get stuck under there and drown. In hindsight perhaps not the best water fountain for a toddler, but she LOVED it.

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Going to the farm is seriously one of our favorite things to do. There is a ton of room to run around and explore. There’s animals that you can often feed, and there’s generally food (for people) if there’s a gift shop area.

She made fast friends with the goats at the first farm we visited, by picking as many dandelions as she could to feed them. The chickens, however, she was not such a big fan of, and required me to hold her if we got within 10 feet of them.

Something that went down as a huge plus for me was the fact that this place was also a Christmas tree farm! Anyone who knows me knows that I am crazy about Christmas. We spent a lot of time wandering around and smelling that heavenly aroma.

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The other farm that we went to was a pick-your-own farm, which I thought was super cool. They had apples, tomatoes, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries while we were there. I think Esmé would have a tough time deciding which she enjoyed more, visiting the animals, or picking berries.

The best thing about all their berry bushes was that they didn’t have any thorns! We have a ton of blackberry bushes by our house that grow wild in the summer, but I dislike them for two reasons:  1) You are eaten alive by mosquitos and 2) you are then sliced to death by all the thorns on the bushes. So you can imagine how delighted I was to find these thorn-free bushes. I let Esmé run wild and pick to her hearts content.

Food

Esmé’s #1 favorite thing about Portland was the food. I am happy to say that we have, so far, raised a foodie. Home girl loves to eat just as much as her mama and papa. Actually, sometimes she will eat a bigger meal than we do, if you can believe it. Basically we ate our way through Portland. Here’s a sampling of what we ate…

Pretzel Fondue:fullsizerender-4

Just as glorious as it sounds. A fancified version of what you find at Auntie Anne’s at the mall.

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I don’t know if you guys have seen, or tried, those fancy Moonstruck chocolate bars that they sell in stores, but they actually had a shop near where we were staying. I never buy them because they’re expensive, but the reviews all said they had amazing hot chocolate.

I thought it would be the perfect rainy afternoon activity. Go in, share a cup of hot chocolate, not have to purchase super expensive chocolates, then head back to the hotel. I thought wrong.

I didn’t tell Esmé where we were going because as soon as you say the word ‘chocolate,’ she starts up with ‘I want some chocolate!!’ However, when I plugged the address into the gps in our rental, the wonderful navigation system announced ‘Routing to Moonstruck Chocolate Café.’ Esmé immediately responded with ‘Chocolate?? I want chocolate! Chocolate, Mama, Chocolate!!’ Now I had to buy her a piece of chocolate, thank you navigation lady.

When we got there, I ordered my hot chocolate, and let her pick something out (pink chocolate fish). We went to sit down to enjoy it, but as it turns out she didn’t like the hot chocolate. Then she only wanted more chocolate after finishing her piece. With all that sugar in her system, sitting with me while I sipped my drink was the last thing she wanted to do. She wanted to play with the door…opening and closing it, over and over again. She fell, and was then inconsolable, of course. I had to hurry and chug my very hot, hot chocolate, carry her out, and that was the end of that.

Not our best outing, but very good chocolates.

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You guys. This was the best chicken pot pie I have ever had in my entire life. I’m getting hungry just looking at this picture again. Esmé and I inhaled it, (she had to have the heart, of course), and then we also got a sweet mini pie for dessert. So so good.

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I’m sure you’ve probably heard of Voodoo donuts before. This place is crazy busy, but it’s well worth the wait. I have to say these donuts are the closest thing I have found to my favorite ones in Barcelona. The inside is so soft and chewy, and not overly sweet. You can actually taste a little bit of the yeast that goes into the dough because they’re so fresh. The one that I got had a custard filling with chocolate on top, or basically a Boston creme, which is my favorite. The custard was also not too sweet, just perfectly cool and creamy. The chocolate was divine. Just a teeny bit of a shell and then soft, sweet, and rich underneath. While Esmé very much enjoyed this one as well, I think it’s pretty obvious it was a favorite of mine too.

There you have it! Esmé’s favorite things: food, farms, and a water fountain, in that order.

Best of October

fullsizerenderI thought last years’ October was fun, with our first trip to the pumpkin patch with Esmé, but this year was even better. In fact this past one was probably my favorite one ever.

This year we went to a pumpkin patch where you actually got to pick your pumpkins off the vine yourself. I was telling a friend that even though they didn’t have all the rides and attractions as the one we went to last year (it really was like a mini fair), we all liked it a lot better. It helped that we went during the week, but it was far less busy, and we really got to enjoy it much more.

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Esmé’s favorite thing was the corn playpen. When we first put her in it she kind of freaked out, and refused to walk around in it unless she was holding one of our hands. But after some time sitting and running her hands through it, and especially once Papa climbed in, she got used to it. Then she really started to have fun…rolling around in it, burrowing in it, and, as you can see in the picture above, stuffing allll the corn into her clothes!

They also had a corn maze that all three of us got to enjoy. My husband would run up ahead and hide, then pop out to scare Esmé as she tried to find him. She had so much fun that she didn’t want him to stop. Anytime he tried walking with us, she would tell him ‘Go hide Papa! Go hide!’ She’s very demanding these days.

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For our costumes this year, I decided to have Esmé be an angel because she has this crown of cherubic curls right now. Initially I was thinking that Emile and I could be a Christmas tree, so she would be the angel atop our tree, but Emile said he didn’t feel like dressing up. So I was like, I guess I’ll be her cloud then.

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Esmé had a blast trick-or-treating with her bestie Luigi (Carson), just like last year. Last year she didn’t know what people were putting into her bucket, but this year she figured out what candy was. She was SO excited about all the chocolate. She actually made it around the whole neighborhood without being carried, (quick run home for a potty break excluded), so I was very impressed.

As much fun as all of those things were, my personal favorite thing from the month was a conversation I had with Esmé about my cloud costume that I made. Once I finished making it, I set it on a chair downstairs in the basement. She could see it in the mirror whenever she walked down the steps, so this is what she said when she first saw it:

Esmé coming down the stairs seeing my ‘cloud’ on the chair: What you make Mama? What you have?!

Me: It’s Mama’s cloud costume for Halloween!

Esmé: You take it from the sky?

Me: No, I didn’t take it from the sky.

Esmé: You take it from the ground?

Me: No, lovey Mama made her costume.

Esmé, a little disappointed and confused: Oh.

–A few hours later—

Esmé coming down the stairs seeing my ‘cloud’ on the chair: Mama what you have? What’s on the chair?

Me: It’s Mama’s cloud costume.

Esmé: You take it from the sky??

Me, giving up on trying to explain: Yes. Mama took it from the sky.

Esmé: Mama tooked it from the sky!!

Me: Yes. Yes I did.

Esmé: I want to touch it!

Me: Ok. What does it feel like?

Esmé: ooOOOOOooo. It’s soft Mama.

Me:Is it fluffy?

Esmé: Yes. Soft and fluffy. I want to sit on it Mama. I sit in chair.

Me: No love, you’ll squish the cloud if you sit on it. Let’s go.

Esmé: Ok, I sit on it later.

She still thinks that we have a legit cloud in our house. Anytime I point out that we’re having a pretty sunset, or that the clouds look nice in the sky. She says ‘Mama has a cloud. Mama has a cloud at home from the sky.’

Best October ever.

 

Dependently-Independent

 

We recently started looking at preschools for Esmé for next year, thinking she would be ready by the fall. I’ve been doing research and arranging tours to find the one that’s right for us.

Last week we went to look at a school and Esmé just jumped right in with the other kids in the classroom without so much as a backward glance at me. Then my heart exploded and I decided then and there, that home-schooling would suit us just fine. I mean she has me, the cat, and sometimes my husband works from home, so she’s set.

Just kidding! Kind of.

We are only going to be doing a few days a week, so it’s not like I won’t get to see her at all. Plus, I’ve been dreaming about having a little free time, especially lately with her being so needy.

You remember how a couple posts back I was all ‘I have a much more predictable nap time…blah, blah, blah…or I can catch up on my reading?’ Yeah, that’s gone.

I now have a toddler that is choosing to defy nap and bed time, all the while needing to ‘Hole my haaaaaaan (hold my hand)!’ It might be due to the fact that she is nearly two and a half, and could very well be outgrowing her nap time. Or maybe it’s because she’s potty trained now and uses having to go to the bathroom as an excuse to get up out of bed.  But I have a sneaky suspicion that it’s because I made a boo boo on our most recent trip out to Portland…I let her sleep in our bed for naps.

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I know I know. Insert shocked and appalled emoji here. Did it make sharing a hotel room with a toddler while trying to undo bad sleep habits a nightmare the following weekend? Yes. Did my husband make me swear to make her sleep in her own bed for the remainder of the trip after said nightmarish weekend? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Every time that I have a phone call or tour with a potential school, I have a huge wave of anxiety hit me. My chest burns, my heart starts racing, and my throat hurts. I literally have to give myself pep-talks in the car because I think about this,

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and worry that my snuggle time is going to disappear, and she’s not going to want to ‘hole my han’ anymore. Particularly when my husband tells me she’s going to love school so much she’s not going to want to come home.

The funny thing is that when I started this post, I picked the title as a description for my daughter, because that’s, infuriatingly, how she has been lately. In writing the post, I have come to realize that it actually describes me as well. I want my free time, but I don’t want to share her either.

I’m just going to say it…I’m not ready. My child might be ready, but I still need her. A lot.