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.)

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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.)

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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.

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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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!)

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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!

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The number of tickets worked out exactly so that they got to go three times! The last time they shared a car. ๐Ÿ™‚ ย  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.

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

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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

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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.

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2015 4th of July

Once again we had an epic family Fourth of July! We started off with our traditional holiday photo:

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So last year, we picked cherries and then went to Timberline. The year before, we went to Timberline and then on a little hike to waterfall.

This year, we did all three! We started out by picking cherries at Draper Girls Farm in Hood River Valley (we drove during the boys’ naptime…the drive was only about an hour and they didn’t even sleep the whole time). They really had a good time finding and picking the cherries. We lifted them up so they could pick some, and then each of us went up on a ladder to get more too. We handed the cherries to them so they could put them in their buckets. They were very excited about the whole thing.

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We got them to smile for this photo because we had them say, “Happy fruit-picking day!” Thanks, Daniel Tiger. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Our next stop was Mt Hood! We didn’t go into the lodge this time; we weren’t there very long at all. The boys kept saying, The mountain! The mountain! And they wanted to walk on the mountain…of course not understanding that we were already on it. Plus the big uphill walk was not easy or fun for them. It was a hot day and the snow was at the lowest level we’ve seen it. I made us take a couple pictures and then we left, and had dinner in Government Camp.

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Since they’re older now, and their bedtime is later, we still had time to go on our little hike! We did the Little Zigzag Falls trail again–it’s really short and there’s this nice waterfalls at the end. It was so cool and refreshing to walk through the forest (and that they could walk by themselves!)…and then of course they wanted to play with throwing pebbles in the water. ๐Ÿ™‚

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It was a long day, for sure, but it was a great family adventure! I love that we’re doing little traditions like this, and it’s really neat to do the same things as they get older and can do and say so much more.

Coast Vacation 2014!

After last year’s successful trip to the coast, I have been so excited to do it again! This year we decided to go for two nights, to give us more time to play. ย  IMG_6265_WEB

We stayed in Seaside this year, to be closer to more action. (As opposed to last year in Tillamook, where just the dairy was nearby.) We missed out on the sunshine…but that actually ended up being really nice. We didn’t have to worry about sunscreen and shade and all that jazz. It wasn’t cold but it wasn’t hot; it was actually quite pleasant.

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We brought a ton of stuff with us, as always. Mainly food and food-related equipment, but also toys and books. It’s like we moved in or something. We had a king room with a sitting area (a couch). We moved the couch to be a divider and set up the pack and plays on the other side. The babies quickly found the dresser drawers (and slammed their fingers a few times) and the AC/heater unit flap thing (which they kept playing with). NOTE TO SELF: Bring painter’s tape next time!!

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Seaside is a pretty small beach town. They have a carousel in a little ‘mall’, and then a little main drag with restaurants, gift shops, candy stores, and arcades. Our guys loved the carousel–we stayed on for a second ride and they wanted to stay longer!

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We had to stop in at this huge candy store with racks upon racks of taffy!

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We visited the little aquarium. At the front is a little seal enclosure. The dudes definitely loved watching them! Even though we got splashed a bit by the seal antics.

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BIG BAD NEWS: My camera got broken on Thursday. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ๐Ÿ˜ฆ One of our curious and handsy toddlers pulled it off the dresser and apparently it messed up the shutter mechanism. So I was then left with only my iPhone to take pictures for the rest of our time. Cue a very sad and stricken face. I felt a little naked and panicky at the thought of no real camera, especially since I was really looking forward to doing another family beach photo!

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By the end of the day, the sky was clearing a bit. We went to dinner in Gearhart (just up the road from Seaside) and went to the beach there. It was nearly empty compared to the very busy Seaside beach! The light was ah-maz-ing…and I didn’t have my big camera! Sob. I set up the iPhone timer app and got this one above, which is a good sister photo to last year’s.

I got a few other decent shots with the phone too, so it wasn’t a total loss. (I mean, not like the pictures are more important than the experience, erm, right?)

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Friday was our last day (just the morning): more beach! We went back to Gearhart again to have a nice quiet time playing in the sand. The babies would have probably stayed there all day with their buckets and shovels.

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I saw some big animal prints on our walk in, and then on the way out, saw more…and then looked up and saw this! A young elk, I think?

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The drive home was a little longer than it was ‘supposed’ to be, but isn’t that how it always happens? Overall it was a really good time–we loved seeing how much the babies loved the beach and playing in the sand. Plus it’s always a good adventure to explore new places. We hope to do a daytrip or two in the fall, and come back to play some more!

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Things I Love Thursday: Family Visits (and AC!)

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!

Last week, we spent a couple days in Seattle. It was a short visit, but always a good adventure. The Northwest was in the middle of a heat wave, and while our house in Portland has central air, neither of my parents’ houses do. Oh man, it was really hot. The twins were quite sweaty, especially after sleeping.

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But! The heat meant that I could let them run around sans clothes in the evenings! Oh my goodness, it was so adorable!

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One great thing about this visit is that my little brother and sister got to see the twins and hang out with them a bit. It was wonderful to see them all bond!

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But oh boy, it was so amazing to come home to our own beds and our air-conditioning! Phew!

Getting Ready for Christmas

December has been a busy month! DSC_3260-47

We got our tree on the 8th, put lights on it on the 10th, and finally got some ornaments (and living room lights) up on the 21st. Oops. (We also got some larger outdoor strands for the front of our house…those are still in their boxes.)

Pictures with Santa was on my list, but we kept putting it off and I was afraid we’d never actually get to it. But on Sunday morning before Christmas, we went downtown to the Macy’s Santaland. The line wasn’t long at all (and much better to wait indoors than outside for the Pioneer Santa, though I heard he was a great Santa), and there were several neat Christmas displays in the waiting area, like the animatronic reindeer.

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The Santa part was really quick and really easy. Santa himself was very nice–I realized that one baby was stinky right when it was time to put them on Santa’s lap! I told Santa and he didn’t mind. The babies did not scream and cry; they did their classic, slightly-nervous staredown like they do in all new places.

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In comparison, here is their first Santa photo from last year, when they were only a month old!

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There was more neat stuff past Santa–an old monorail car and this awesome train display:

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A quick photo of me with the babies, too:

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The last piece was our stockings! I grew up with two handmade, personalized stockings–my grandma knitted one for all of us on my dad’s side, and my mom sewed matching/coordinating ones for all of us when I was little. So I wanted to have a new set of stockings for this new family of my own that was also handmade. Last December I asked my mom if she would make some for the four of us. We bought fabrics but there was no time to do anything last year. But this year, my mom was ready to go! She was down here for a day to finish everything up. They turned out really nicely!

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Next year, we will figure out a place to hang them, and we’ll fill them with goodies!

First Birthday Party

At first we weren’t going to do anything for the twins’ first birthday.

See, we still don’t know that many people here, and their birthday falls near Thanksgiving, when a lot of people leave town, plus I didn’t want to plan a “thing” or even have an official “to-do.” Plus of course, the babies don’t know anything, a party wouldn’t mean anything to them.

But after going to a friend’s baby’s first birthday party (which was nicely put-together and well-attended), we thought about it and decided that we should mark the occasion with some kind of event.

So we decided onย  the Sunday after their birthday, and invited all of our friends with babies. We found some decorations at Party City, and I looked up a few recipes to try for snacks, and I made a plan for cake. Just a casual get-together, really.

For decorations, I kept things really simple. No pinterest here–nothing chevron, no striped straws, no drinks in mason jars, no hand-lettered signs labeling the cheese and crackers. That is not my style, at least not for this kind of thing. (If that is your style, awesome!)

There was a banner, because a) it was a great backdrop and b) we can use it in the future:

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I made this fun streamer ‘curtain’! It was supposed to also serve as a fun photo backdrop, but I never got around to that.

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I printed out all of the babies’ monthly and holiday photos from this past year, and strung them up on a ribbon. (Here it is at the end of the night, on the floor.) It was neat to see them all together like that! I always like looking back and seeing how much they still look like themselves, only smaller and slightly less-fully-formed.

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Somewhere on a facebook page, I read about a recipe for Carrot Apple Cheddar Bites as a tasty toddler snack. They stunk horribly of egg while cooking, but got good reviews by all who tried them!

I decided not to deal with making a cake from scratch and got some box mixes and frosting. I made a batch of chocolate cupcakes and two chocolate cakes in loaf pans (one for each baby, of course), because I found this adorable first birthday cake idea from Betty Crocker:

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So cute and so perfect, right? Here’s what mine ended up as:

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Nailed it! Bahahaha!!!

I made the cakes that morning, and they were so light and fluffy! Cutting out the shape with the paper template actually worked pretty well. But I learned a good lesson: pay attention to the part that says refrigerate cake before frosting it! Should have made it the night before. Also, get extra frosting.

We only had a few people, and two other babies. Everyone played for awhile and then it was time for the celebrating!

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We put the cakes on their high chair trays and sang happy birthday to each of them. They were not sure what to think about any of it! They poked and stared at the cakes. Malcolm did figure out that he could eat it, but Emmett didn’t–I gave him a piece. Neither really wanted much, and neither really wanted to dig in their hands. Oh well. More cake for mama. ๐Ÿ™‚

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I ended up being really glad that we did the little ‘party.’ First, because I wanted pictures of it, but also, it was nice to make it an event: to purposely think about and celebrate a whole year of these wonderful babies, and us as a family of four. Even better that we got to share with a couple other people – I hope that we continue to build a community here in Portland in the coming years. I can’t wait for these guys to be old enough to actually play with our other baby friends!

Pumpkins and Apples, Oh My

Now that autumn is really upon us, there are some fun seasonal activities to participate in. At the very least, it’s a great excuse to get out of the house on weekends.

Two weekends ago, we returned to the pumpkin patch that we visited last October, when I looked like this:

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Now that bump is these two giant babies:

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I totally had a vision for this photo–and I think I actually had it last year too, before these babies were even ‘real’: to stand the babies on either side of a big pumpkin. And voila, it worked! They were really distracted by the scenery (and the tractor wagon ride winding around the field), so I didn’t get the big smiles that I always want, but eh, what are you gonna do.

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One more comparison: Our family last year…

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and this year!

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Pretty crazy. ๐Ÿ™‚

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After all the pictures, there wasn’t much to do. There are kid activities, but they’re all for bigger kids–a slide, a pile of haybales to climb on, pony ride, petting area, corn maze, etc. Next year we’ll return for more photos and to actually do some of that fun stuff. We did grab one pumpkin to take home with us. Who knows if we’ll get around to carving it, or if it will be left, ignored, outside our front door, like last year’s pumpkin. Heh.

This weekend we went apple picking in the Fruit Loop! There are a ton of farms and orchards in the Hood River Valley, near Mt Hood.ย  I’ve been looking forward to this excursion all year.

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It was a seriously gorgeous day (it’s been a gorgeous October in general), and we kept getting closer to the mountain and I kept oohing and aahing, but then we got to this. FOR PETE’S SAKE LOOK AT THAT.

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We decided to visit the Kiyakawa Family Orchard because they still had a good variety of apples to pick. There were a ton of people there, but once we got out to the trees, we got away from most of them.

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We picked a bunch of Mutsu apples, big green ones that are good for baking. (We learned about them on our first apple-picking excursion in the Berkshires two years ago.) We also found some Cameos and Fujis. At the farm stand, we grabbed some Honeycrisps and some pears. In the coming month, there will be a glut of apple baked goodies, as well as apple-based baby foods! Yum for all!

Then it was time for the photos. (Because really, at least half of my reason and excitement for these family outings is the pictures. At least until the babies can actually participate in the fun!)ย ย  DSC_0620-11 DSC_0609-10

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Hurray for autumn in the northwest!

Big Bad Apple

I lived in New York for eight years. There are a lot of great things about the city, which everyone knows: tons of cultural events, bars stay open really late, it’s really easy to get around via public transportration, great restaurants everywhere, interesting and diverse mix of people, it’s never boring.

However, the thought of New York City life while also the thought of life with two babies…well. I’d been wanting to get out of the city for years anyway, and having twins was my ultimate trump card. We would have had to move out of our awesome apartment and neighborhood to somewhere with more space and less cost. And everything in general would have been a pain in the ass. I’m pretty sure I would be stuck inside all the time, partly because it would be hard to get out by myself with two babies, and partly because we wouldn’t be able to afford childcare.

So the main reason we moved to Portland was for the lifestyle change–to make our lives with two babies easier and more affordable. Obviously plenty of people raise lots of children in NYC and are happy about it…we just aren’t those people. ๐Ÿ™‚

We’ve been in Portland for less than two years, and it’s been hard to get to really know the city, since most of our time still revolves around babies (and we haven’t been able to do lots of the fun baby-and-me groups that many singleton parents attend). But no doubt that our lives here are much easier than they would have been in New York!

So here’s a summary of the lifestyles in New York and in Portland.

New York City
Huge, booming thunder and frequent lightning.
Our apartment had a gorgeous view of the harbor and lower Manhattan.
Roof access for photos.
Traffic everywhere you go, all the time.
People people people everywhere you go, all the time.
Hipsters.
The Strand.
Tons of great restaurants.
Lots of activity/exercise walking around the city all the time.
With two babies and a double stroller, public transportation is not possible (not enough elevator stations).
Therefore hard to get out and socialize.
Walk-up apartments.
High rents!
Higher nanny/babysitting rates.
Years-long waiting lists for daycares, preschools, and schools.
Crazy fucking drivers.
Parking difficulty. (Understatement of the year.)
Difficult, time-consuming, expensive to get out of town. Only strip malls to see nearby.
Small living space, no extra storage.
One bathroom.
Dishwasher/laundry not likely to be in-home.
Pain in the ass to do Costco/Target trips.

Portland
Can’t see the sky (from our house).
No good photo opportunities from our house (though Mt Hood is just visible from our bedroom window!).
Hipsters.
Powell’s.
Lots of great restaurants.
Some traffic at certain times/places (don’t ever EVER go northbound on Friday after 3pm, for example).
No through streets.
Most street signs are illegible in the dark.
“Slow racing” drivers who drive UNDER the speed limit, ON PURPOSE.
Green space, right outside our door.
Easy to get out of town; lots to see near by–mountains, coast, state forests.
Easy to get of the house in a stroller.
Easy to find parking.
Parks nearby by foot and by car.
More affordable housing costs.
Childcare costs slightly less outlandish.
Dishwasher AND washer/dryer!
GARAGE!
BASEMENT STORAGE!!
MULTIPLE BATHROOMS!!!
Easy to go shopping and run errands.
Easy to stay inside the house for hours.
Easy to sit on one’s ass all day long (working at home).
Hard to meet new people, what with so much time inside sitting down.