Things I Love Thursday: Buffets!

On some Thursdays, I’ll share something random that I’m really liking, enjoying, or appreciating. Just a little post to share a little snippet of life right now. I’d love to know if you also like these things, and what you’re randomly into these days!

Let’s review typical toddler behavior:

They are impatient. They don’t really understand the concept of “waiting”. They rely on you to keep them occupied…or else they start exploring and potentially destroying or spilling things.

Toddlers are also picky and indecisive. Again, it’s not their fault; their tiny brains just haven’t learned how to do that yet. But you never know if they will want what you feed them. They might love it and demand more…or they might throw it on the floor and whine and/or scream. (As all parents know, the only sure fire way to know a toddler will eat something is if you’re trying to eat it yourself.)

These two behaviors are never more on display than when you’re out at a restaurant.

Enter: the buffet.


A buffet is the perfect toddler outing. There is NO WAITING. There is food, immediately. There are many different KINDS of food. They can try a couple bites of something new as well as enjoy things they already like.

Plus, hello–unlimited dessert bar. (I guess that’s *my* favorite part of the buffet experience.)

As fair warning, it’s not a calm or relaxing affair to be at the buffet with small children. More like repeated, alternating trips to the food areas while trying to simultaneously feed yourself and assist the little one. The ideal situation is having one more adult than you have children, to take some of the pressure off.

Now, a place like a buffet chain restaurant may not be a high-quality fine-dining experience, but I’m okay with that sometimes.



Did you know?? Some McMenamins properties do holiday buffet events! We went to Edgefield for Thanksgiving dinner last year and for Easter brunch this year.

See, we aren’t really the cooking type, and I don’t eat a lot of typical Thanksgiving food, so by going to a buffet we get all the benefits–quality food, no waiting time, a fun family outing–with none of the prep time, stress, or cleaning. (And kids under four are free!) WIN-WIN.

This year we will be doing Thanksgiving at the Kennedy School. And I am excited for all of us. :)

Long live the buffet!!

Halloween 2015

Each new holiday that we have with our boys becomes more and more fun. They’re two years old, almost three. This year is the first time they understood Halloween. Through October, we all pointed out jack-o-lanterns and pumpkins in people’s yards, we visited a pumpkin patch (but didn’t have time to get a pumpkin) (I should add a post about that visit…), they picked out their costumes online, and we talked about how trick or treating works.

(We don’t really do holiday decoration at our house (partly because I’m lazy, and partly because in theory I don’t need more stuff and clutter to keep track of; I have enough piles and bins around the house and garage!) but I’m always impressed and a little envious of people who do.)

A couple weeks ago, I read this list of “Halloween Hacks” and was inspired to actually do something more Halloween-y at home. We bought four smallish pumpkins and then one evening had the boys paint them with tempera paint. They loved it! As you can see, they weren’t painting ‘designs’ or anything, just generally getting paint to cover the pumpkin. But hey, that works! It was a great activity, and they wanted to paint more the next day or two. I’d thought that perhaps I would do a monogram carving after they were painted, but I lazed out.




I let the other two pumpkins sit until finally on Halloween morning I was like, okay let’s do this! I hadn’t done any carving of pumpkins since some time in the mid 1990s at the latest, so I wasn’t sure how I would do. It was a LOT of work and I was so awkward and jagged with the knife and I seriously have no idea how people achieve those beautiful intricate carvings. There must be different, dedicated implements as the ‘secret’ to those, right? Right?


I made a generic jack-o-lantern face and then I made a train! It sort of looks like a creepy monster mouth, but I think the ‘smoke’ sort of helps, kinda? Again, these are not great, but I did it, dammit, so I was pretty proud of them.


Then finally it was Halloween evening and time to go trick-or-treating! The entire afternoon was absolutely pouring torrential rain, so we waited until well after dark, after 7pm. By then the rain was more of a light drizzle and eventually it stopped altogether. We ended up going to a few spots in our neighborhood.

M and E held our hands and helped us notice houses with their porch lights on. They would climb the steps and knock their little fists on the door or push the ‘ding-dong’. We had been practicing the routine of saying trick or treat and then thank you, but occasionally they would be bashful and say nothing at first, or say thank you first. We would prompt them and they would say the right thing and smile at the people. Many of the neighbors exclaimed over their cuteness in their costumes, and they would tell what they were dressed as. As we walked away from a house, they would say something like, “they was there!” or, “I got candy!” They were very excited about the candy and wanted to eat some right away, of course. (We didn’t let them.)

Candy aside, I just really loved watching them be so excited about the whole process. I seriously died over how cute they were in their costumes, and I was impressed that they didn’t want to take them off or complain about wearing them. Plus, it made me happy to walk around holding their little hands as we did our first family trick-or-treating. They were just so small and so full of big smiles and innocence. I think this is a really special age and I felt very lucky and grateful to have this experience together, and to be able to watch them learn about all these rituals and adventures of childhood. My sweet boys!





They got to pick out one piece of candy to eat after we got home. They were psyched. :)


I hope you and your family had a happy Halloween. :)

Family trip in Washington, DC!

Here’s Part 2 of our first big trip–actually being in Washington, DC. (Part 1 was our flying experience) I booked us at the Hampton Inn near the Convention Center. It was pretty near to two Metro stations, and since that was our only mode of transport, it was very important.

Back when I was traveling regularly for work, I discovered Hampton Inn and it became my hotel of choice. It’s always a decent price, and they have a great breakfast buffet. (This one also had a pool, and I brought all of our swim stuff but we didn’t end up going.). Free breakfast may seem like a silly perk or amenity, but whenever I traveled on my own, having a free meal first thing makes the rest of the day seem easier.

Having two small children to feed made a big free breakfast on site even more important. It saved us a lot of money and a ton of effort to just go downstairs and have their choice of cheerios, oatmeal, milk, a muffin, a waffle, yogurt, a banana, a bagel, toast. (Otherwise we would have had to buy a bunch of food and utensils/plates and eat in the hotel room, or go out for breakfast, which would take a lot of time and money.)


The first thing they did when we got to the hotel was start looking for things to play with, and they zeroed in the phones. We had to unplug them so they didn’t accidentally call people. Then the phones became real toys–the boys made them necklaces and guitars, among other things. (Here’s Emmett strumming the phone.) (They also do this with books, by the way–hold and strum them like guitars.)


I was kind of excited about taking the boys on the DC Metro. They love trains, they usually like seeing new places, and it was their first foray into big city public transportation. They seemed excited to go on the escalators, and watching the trains come in and out of the stations. We also discovered that all (?) of the stations have an elevator somewhere. This was a lifesaver, because while we could take them out of the umbrella stroller to take the escalators, it took a lot of time and energy. Plus it was such a surprise, since many subway stations in NYC don’t have elevators. The only bad thing was that weekend service is pretty spread out, so we often had to wait ten minutes for every trip to get on a train.


One of the best reasons to travel to DC as a family is all the free site-seeing. There are so many world-class Smithsonian museums, all with free admission. As anyone with small kids knows, they don’t have long attention spans, so I would have been pissed to spend a lot of money for four tickets only to spend 30 minutes there. As it was, we could sort of run in and out at our leisure.

Our first stop was on Saturday morning to the Natural History museum. We looked at the dinosaurs very briefly, and walked through the ocean room, and then the jungle/savannah area. They sort of liked seeing the dinos, I think, but didn’t seem super excited to see the other animals. We all had fun in the gift shop, though. :)

IMG_5191_WEB (2)

Saturday afternoon was the wedding! The boys stayed with a babysitter at the hotel, and we had a beautiful evening celebrating E & B!




Sunday morning, the grandparents met us at the Air & Space museum. The planes were interesting, but their two favorite places were the re-created aircraft carrier area (especially the video that showed planes taking off from the deck), and this display of suitcases that opened and closed.

DSC_0309_WEB (2)

On late Sunday afternoon, we went to the National Zoo, and the rest of Andy’s family met us there too. Hurray for more family time! The pandas were off exhibit with their new little babies, and so mainly we just saw the elephants.

DSC_0326-12_WEB (2)

We all took the metro back into town together, and the boys were really sad when the others had to leave–they wanted more time with everyone!

Our last day was Monday. We began back at the National Mall again, at the Carousel. It opens at 11am, in case you’re wondering. DSC_0396_WEB

From there we spent almost two hours in the American History museum. A helpful lady at the front desk pointed out the areas that our toddlers would enjoy–the Kermit puppet, and the transportation exhibits: trains, cars, and buses. They did indeed love running around looking at all the cool things!

IMG_5304_WEB IMG_5288_WEB


The entire Mall is under construction…which is a bummer if you’re anyone but a toddler. They would seriously have sat and watched the construction vehicles for an hour, or more, I bet.


Finally, it was time to head to the airport. We decided to just do the train after all, since Uber Family was unlikely to be around. I also found one of those suitcase straps that allows you to ‘carry’ one on top of another, which allowed me to drag all three suitcases at once, plus wear a backpack. Andy wore the other backpack and pushed the double stroller. And because of the elevators, it worked out quite nicely and easily! (Again, that would not be the case in New York!)


So overall, as you can see, it was a great trip, and we all had a good time. Combining seeing family and seeing exciting new places was extra special, and this age seems like such a fun time to explore together. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait to travel with our twins again!

Flying with Twin Toddlers


We have just completed our first plane trip with our 2.5 year old boys, which obviously makes me a top expert in the field of traveling with toddlers! Haha, obviously that’s a joke. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the long weekend went overall, and wanted to share some tidbits in case they’re helpful.

I’m going to break it into a few posts: the flying part, the Washington DC visit, and the apps they like to play.


This first tip is HUGE DEAL. Since my husband was out of town and our nanny has an injury, my mom was here helping out late last week, and she was planning to drive us to the airport and help us check in. But then while she was here she asked about getting a gate pass. I was like, huh? Turns out that you can get a special ‘ticket’ or pass for someone to help you in the airport, past security. (I called the airline and told them, and then the ticketing agent is the one who can issue it, or not.) Seriously, this was a gamechanger. Being able to have two adults for the entire process made a huge difference.


We happened upon a kids’ area at the end of the Alaska (C) terminal at PDX, and my mom stayed with them while I went to buy snacks and lunch for the boys, and to the bathroom. Then we switched and she went to get a coffee. All this was done leisurely while the boys played happily!


The next tip was something that I’d thought made sense but recently saw a blog post confirming it–don’t board early. Why on earth would you want your small children confined to a tiny airplane seat for longer than necessary? I let them keep playing after boarding began, and then we were almost the last ones on the plane. The taxi/takeoff happened really quickly after we got settled. It made the whole experience feel a lot more streamlined and efficient. (Of course, we were on a morning flight from a smaller-city airport, and a nonstop to boot. All those effected efficiency, I’m sure.)


The boys were very curious boarding the plane and someone pointed them toward the cockpit, where the pilot brought them in and sat them on the pilot seats! We also got some coloring books and crayons from the flight attendant–can’t hurt to ask on your next flight if they have some too!


The three of us had a row all to ourselves, which was excellent. No worrying about bothering other people with our stuff and constant moving around. Plus, since the boys’ feet barely reached to the end of the seats, that meant I had three underseat storage areas: one each for my backpack, ‘their’ backpack, and my feet. :)

A random amazing thing is Alaska’s outlets at every seat. (I hear that some Delta flights have them too?) Being able to use devices as much as you want and not worrying about running out of juice? I’ve been on enough cross-country/international flights to know how precious that is! Overall, I was very impressed with Alaska. I hadn’t flown them in over a decade (since they don’t really fly to the east coast and I am/was a diehard Jetblue fan), but I will look forward to flying with them again in the future! Our flight attendant was really sweet and cooed at them, and also sat with one while I went to change the other.

On the flight itself, I was overly prepared with snacks and toys. I brought some silly putty and pullback racer cars, the Melissa & Doug Vehicles Reusable Sticker Pad, a Water Wow vehicles coloring book, plus our two iPads and 2 pairs of tiger headphones with a splitter.

The sticker pad was the first thing I pulled out, and they played with it for almost two hours! I wouldn’t expect them to play with it that long again, but since this was their first time seeing something like that, they really liked it. Mainly they just pointed to the sticker they wanted and then stuck it somewhere on their scene page. (I tore them out so they could each hold one, and I held on to the sticker sheets.)

(I didn’t end up taking out the coloring books or the new board books I had in my bag.)


We had lunch and snacks, and then for awhile they listened to “songs.” (Which is what they call the kids music we play for them that they love: 52 Sing-A-Long Silly Songs, Children’s Favorites, Volume 1, and Volume 2) I was sitting in between them and I had them lay down with their heads in my lap, and they just zoned out. (And I watched a bit of a movie on the in-flight entertainment.) It was really sweet.


At the end of the flight, they played a couple games on the iPad, and watched part of a Daniel Tiger episode. They did *not* sleep. The flight ended two hours after they would have gone down for their nap. And for the most part they were okay, but at the very end, after the seat-belt sign went on, E was really tired and wanted to lay down on his seat. Of course I tried to wrestle him into his seat sitting up..but gave up after ten minutes of shrieking (him) and a backache (me), and just put him on my lap. He calmed down immediately and looked out the window as we descended and landed. Sigh.


On the return flight, my husband was there too, so we were evenly matched. Once again we had a row of three, and then the seat across the aisle. I made my husband sit with the boys and I helped out from across the aisle as much as I could.


They fell asleep right after takeoff; it was several hours past their normal naptime. They dozed for an hour and then woke up again.


The sticker pad wasn’t as interesting this time around, and the magic coloring pages only lasted a few minutes. Silly putty was a total dud. The racer cars provided some fun and interest! So did snacks. We also walked up and down the aisle a couple times, and the boys charmed the flight attendants. We put on 3 episodes of Daniel Tiger to finish up the flight.

So as you can see, overall our flying experience went quite well. What a huge relief. I think their age had a lot to do with it–a year ago they wouldn’t have been able to understand as much or communicate very well, or do as much, activity-wise.

If you have any great tips or favorite toys/activities for flying with little ones, please share in the comments!!

Clark County Fair, with Twins

Two weekends ago, we decided to brave the Clark County Fair. It was our first big fair experience, and it was certainly an adventure!


First, thank goodness we brought the stroller. (I recently got a double umbrella stroller, which is perfect for this kind of thing!) We weren’t sure if we would need it, because you know, toddlers walk everywhere anyway, but we brought it just in case.

Obviously we are newbies at this, because a stroller was totally necessary. There was a long walk from where we parked to the entrance, and if they’d been walking on their own, I’m sure they would have run all over the place in opposite directions and gotten swallowed up by crowds. So it was a good containment device when needed.


We went on Saturday of the second weekend of the fair, in the early evening. The traffic was ridiculous getting to the fairgrounds–not sure if it’s like that all the time. That meant that by the time we finally parked, walked to the entrance, and waited in line to get tickets, it was past dinnertime for the boys, so they were cranky. They kept wanting to go look at the Ferris wheel and were very whiny, but mostly they were hungry. We got a smoothie, hot dog, burger, and curly fries to share between all of us.


We didn’t end up doing or seeing any of the kid-specific or animal stuff. We did pass the sealions, which definitely intrigued the boys. They were so focused on the rides and the kiddie stuff was off to the side and must have closed around dinner time? We didn’t leave until after 8pm.


The first stop after getting food and ogling the Ferris wheel was the carousel. Of course they loved it and wanted to stay. However, we lured them out with the promise of checking out other rides.


Since they were 36″ inches, there were a few little rides they could do–a tiny rollercoaster, flying elephants, and the “car-driving”. The first two looked a little bit intimidating for our toddlers, so we tried the cars. Of course they loved it. They looked around at the other kids, they waved at us, they ‘drove’ their cars.



The number of tickets worked out exactly so that they got to go three times! The last time they shared a car. :)   DSC_1283_WEB

I was struck by the realization that they’re only going to get bigger and older and more independent and more capable. I couldn’t believe that we had kids big enough to go on a ride all by themselves! Even though it was the dinkiest ride possible, it’s still the gateway, if you will. Before I know it, they’ll be running off on their own to go on the highest possible roller coasters, wanting nothing to do with their dumb parents.


Naturally, they were not happy when it was time to leave the ride for good.


It was a beautiful night and we were glad not to be in the long lines for the big rides. DSC_1297_WEB

I couldn’t leave without getting an elephant ear, so I left all the boys to explore the the John Deeres while I got my treat. Once again, they would have stayed at the tractors all night long. They climbed up and down most of them, big grins on their faces. DSC_1336_WEB DSC_1348_WEB


Final thoughts:

1: Going to the fair is EXPENSIVE. Parking, admission, food, ride tickets–it adds up really fast.

2: They’re at sort of an in-between age right now. Next year when they’re 3.5 they’ll be so much more capable and ready to do more exciting rides.

3: It was a lot of fun watching them explore and be so excited! I am already looking forward to our next time.



Monday Cuteness

Last night we had one of those major moments where you just go Awwwwwwwwww but you can’t quite put into words the ‘aw’-ness that you feel as your heart expands and melts. (We actually have this fairly often when they do things like spontaneously give each other a hug, or tell one of us that he loves us, or just have a funny conversation between them, or similar.)

Anyway, after dinner we were at the big Mt Tabor playground and Emmett decided he wanted to go for a walk. So I walked with him up the road and then up to the summit, and M and Andy came up too. The sun was setting and Malcolm noticed a group of people. “What they doing?” he asked “They’re doing yoga,” I said, and Andy added, “It’s kind of like stretching.” We had this exchange about a dozen times and M kept staring at the group, before I finally got him and E over near them so we could try it out. I started copying what they were doing and encouraging him to also. By golly, he was totally watching and copying them. It was SO FREAKING ADORABLE! He actually kept up pretty well and just kept going, so I was able to grab a few phone shots. (E did a few of the moves too, but then he got distracted by other stuff.)

I was really impressed, and hit with cuteness overload, and like I said, in a big ol’ puddle. Toddlers are awesome*.

*Earlier tonight before dinner, there was like 15 straight minutes of screaming as E kept smashing M’s magnatile creations, which greatly upset M of course, and we put E in timeout a couple times which also caused screaming. And because he was crying so hard, M also kept being bothered by snot in his nose (so he kept screaming, “More snot!”). Toddlers are a handful sometimes, to say the least. But dammit if they don’t do fun and interesting things like this too!

IMG_4664-1_WEB IMG_4665-2_WEB IMG_4666-3_WEB IMG_4667-4_WEB IMG_4669-5_WEB

That Hair

This is me at three months old. I was born with a full head of hair and it never fell out. I’ve had lots of dark hair ever since.


My hair has been medium or long since I was a kid, and it has always been thick and prone to tangling.


It was long all through high school and into college, when I tried a layered cut that was chin-length. Ever since then, I’ve gotten my hair cut once a year (like a responsible adult) and done a cycle of grow-it-out, chop-it-off.    DSC_2328_WEB DSC_2363_WEB

(One time I cut my own hair, just because!)DSC_2981_WEB

I got it cut fairly short a couple times while I was in New York. Sometimes I liked it and sometimes I didn’t. Mostly because I didn’t/couldn’t style it, so it didn’t look nice enough or something.


So early last summer, I went in for my yearly haircut. It was getting long-ish, and I had decided that instead of chopping it off and tossing it, why not let it do some good? I didn’t want it anymore, but it could still go to someone who would want it. It was decided: I was officially going to donate my hair! After that I’ve actually gotten trims every three months, like you’re supposed to. (It really helps my hair feel healthy great, who knew!)

My original plan was to do the Big Chop in the spring. But then that didn’t happen…and I told myself I would do it after I got home from NYC in June. But I kept putting it off.

In the past week or so, my one hair clip that held my hair…wasn’t holding my hair anymore. There was too much hair. I couldn’t do anything with it and it was always in my way. Then, on Monday, my hair clip broke.


I decided that was my sign to finally do it! Get this hair gone!

One thing that I’d planned to do before the  big haircut was one last photo shoot featuring my hair. I wanted to have a couple nice shots to look back on. You may have seen one of those on Facebook. :)

DSC_9539-1_WEB DSC_9568-4_WEB DSC_9614-5_WEB

Later that day, I did it. I got ALL MY HAIR CUT OFF.


The donation was thirteen inches of hair! The initial cut was about at my chin but the final cut is mid-jaw-length. I didn’t want more flatness or weird roundness with this length, so I asked for more layers to give it more body. And…there is plenty of body. Sort of mushroom-shaped. DSC_9739_WEBThe day after the haircut I had to go get some hairstyling products (because I don’t want to look like a mushroom), so I’ve been sort of experimenting. I’m not very good at styling, and I’m also lazy…so the spray-in/leave-in stuff is right up my alley. I’m sure I could blow dry it and make it look at sleek and pretty…but I don’t know how to do that.


I’m still not sure about the whole thing–the style/length, I mean. I’m glad that all the hair is gone and I hope it will go to good use!