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.

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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.

HOWEVER!

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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. πŸ™‚

Long live the buffet!!

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. πŸ™‚ Β  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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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 E 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 M 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!

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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. πŸ™‚

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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. πŸ™‚

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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.

Spring 2015: Easter and Tulips

Early April was a busy time! First Andy went on a short work trip, and my mom came down to visit and help out.

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That weekend was Easter, and we took a trip to see the Easter bunny on Saturday. (Since it was the day before, there was no line! We also hit up the mall carousel, plus had a food court snack, and played with the trains at the bookstore, so it was a nice, full outing.) E was really excited to see the Easter bunny and waved and smiled and was cool sitting on his lap. M refused, so we did a family shot, and of course they looked their normal stoic.

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On Easter Sunday, we met my dad at Edgefield for the Easter brunch buffet. (I heart buffets for dining out with toddlers!) They enjoyed the food–mainly eating bread, bacon, some fruit, and orange juice, and wanted some of the chocolate dessert too (only one bite). Then we had some time to run around:

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They got some Easter presents from Grandpa! DSC_9720-1_WEB DSC_9723-5_WEB

After their nap, I ‘made’ their ‘Easter baskets’. They each got a random Easter-y book I found in a bin, a thing of bubbles, and a homemade snack baggie (almonds, a few chocolate cats, and cheesy crackers). They were very excited about the snacks, of course! I guess next year they’ll understand the whole Easter basket of goodies concept and I’ll have to do something not lame. DSC_9728_WEB

We also hid some eggs for them to find…but they were totally not into it! We did some practice egg hunting the previous weekend, and I guess they got over the idea. E pointed at a few eggs but didn’t pick any up, and M didn’t even come all the way outside. Silly toddlers!

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The following week we made it to see the tulips at Wooden Shoe! I of course wanted to wander and take pictures…but twin toddlers don’t equal peaceful meandering. They investigated the various tractors and the tiny windmill and ran around, and I grabbed a few photos as I ran after them. Mainly I wanted a family photo and we did manage to get that. Third one in a row!

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Phew! Thankfully May is looking a little quieter.

2014 Oregon Coast Daytrips!

Spending the day out in nature or on a little roadtrip is just the kind of thing that PNW’ers are supposed to do. Up to now we’ve only done it sparingly (because, you know, twins…also, we’re lazy sometimes), but after our second great coast overnight this summer, when the dudes had such a good time on the beach, we vowed to *actually* go to the coast more often. And we did! Woo!

We went on a Sunday in September, back to Seaside and Gearhart. The weather was glorious. The beach was beautiful. We played in the sand, and watched the surf. We had dinner at Pig N Pancake, and watched the sunset on Cannon Beach. It was a fantastic day adventure!

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And then we went again the first weekend of October! It was going to be yet another beautiful weekend, and we knew the weather-clock was ticking, so we took advantage. This time we went to Arcadia Beach, which is south of Cannon Beach. It was an incredible day, though beach was very windy. (Gearhart Beach was not at all windy that we recalled, interestingly.) There was a family playing with a football, which attracted the attention of our small, impressionable boys. The family generously let ours play with their soccer ball, and then the boys ended up practically worshipping the older boy, and following/copying every.single.thing he did.

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Then they did some splashing in the little beach stream, and then they noticed the rocks. Looking at/collecting/awe-ing over rocks is one of their current favorite activities. Needless to say, we had to pull them away.

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We had dinner at Pig N Pancake again, and watched the sun set over the Seaside beach.

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It is SO fun to get away for even half a day–it feels like a world away! The littles have an awesome time, and the grownups do too. We relax, explore, eat treats–what’s not to like?

We are so very lucky to live where we do. So many interesting and beautiful places, less than two hours away! I can’t wait to go back to the coast in the spring (and summer, and fall…)!

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. Β  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. 😦 😦 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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Tulips, take 2

As I mentioned last year, I have been looking forward to this year’s outing to Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival! We found time to go on a Wednesday afternoon to avoid the big crowds. The tulips were at their peak, the sun was out–it was a gorgeous day to see some gorgeous flowers.

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Mt Hood in the distance!

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This year’s trip was much different than last year’s, for several reasons. First and foremost, we no longer had such a strict nap/feeding schedule to adhere to! Ever since the babies transitioned to one nap, we have the whole afternoon available for outings.

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A difference that is almost just as important–mobility! After last year, we knew the ground would be uneven and therefore to forget the stroller. And so we brought the Ergos, but not surprisingly, the dudes definitely wanted to explore!

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In fact, M explored right into a big fat mud puddle. And we don’t have spare clothes in the diaper bag. Oops.

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I’d been wanting to get a new version of this photo: DSC_2481-1

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Around this point, they noticed the giant viewing staircases and they desperately wanted to climb them. It was also getting late, so we needed to leave and get dinner (we can all eat at restaurants together!), which meant it was time to get a family photo. (And really, another family photo at the tulips was one of my main goals for going at all, so no matter what, I was gonna make it happen!) I had to go get and set up the tripod and set the camera timer (because of COURSE I realized that I lost my remote when we were about to leave!). So it was pretty much the worst time to take a picture.

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Heh. Definitely not the best photos, but they sure are real! πŸ™‚

They were way too squirrelly for us to try for individual parent + baby photos, or to try another clone shot behind the tulip cutout thing. And since each of us had to watch and chase after a toddler, I only grabbed a few flower shots, which was a little disappointing. But hey, the tulips will still be there another time. And maybe next year, it will be a little easier to wrangle two two-year-olds? (Haha, yeah right!)

Summer Bucket List #7: The Coast!!

Woohoo, we finally made it to the coast! This was the outing I’ve been most looking forward to all year!

This was our first ‘real’ vacation with the babies. We’ve only stayed overnight at someone’s house before, but after the success earlier this summer, we were hopeful that the babies would do okay with a hotel.

It was about an hour and a half drive–west on 26 and then meet up with the famed Highway 101. (In 2001, I drove 101 all the way to LA; that was the last time I was on the Pacific.)

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Our first stop was Ecola State Park in the town of Cannon Beach. This stunning vista greets you to one side:

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And the open ocean is straight ahead. We got out to stretch and to feed the babies their lunch. Happily, we’ve done a lot of al fresco ‘dining’ with them, so they were totally cool eating outside in this new environment.

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Make sure to change your focus settings before handing your camera to a stranger/non-photographer:

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We continued into downtown Cannon Beach and found lunch for ourselves, and the babies had their bottles. Then finally it was time for the beach!! There’s the iconic Haystack Rock behind us. Again, this was a stranger…she almost hid the rock behind us and also shot vertically (I cropped it).

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We rolled up our jeans and dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean! The babies had been cranky but they quieted down with their little feet in the water. No doubt they were trying to figure out what kind of giant bathtub they were in and why it was so cold! E even managed to kick and splash while Andy was holding him up.

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On the way back to dry land, one of Andy’s shoes fell out of the plastic bag I had everything in. I suppose that’s a worthy sacrifice for an adventure. He needed new shoes anyway. He grabbed some flipflops from a gift shop and we made a detour to a mini mall so he could buy some new sneakers.

Then we continued on to our hotel in Tillamook. Babies’ first hotel stay!

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We had a ‘king suite’, so there was a little sitting area across a half wall. We set up the pack n plays there and crossed our fingers that the babies would be able to sleep. It took them awhile to quiet down (which happens plenty at home too), but they slept quite well. Andy and I watched stuff on our laptops with headphones.

Our first stop the next morning was the Tillamook Cheese Factory. For the record, 8am is a great time to visit; hardly any tourists are out yet. πŸ™‚ It was a quick stroll and then we got back in the car.

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You can buy an empty ice cream bucket for fifty cents! I was stoked.

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There’s a little cape to the west Tillamook, and we drove out there to see the Cape Meares lighthouse.

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On the way back we stopped at the beach in Oceanside, a town so small it didn’t show up on the map on my iphone. We had more time this time and so the babies got to hang out and enjoy some quality beach time. IE, playing in the sand. Yes, they definitely ate some.

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And then we went back to Tillamook for ice cream before driving home! Andy got black cherry and I got s’mores. Dee-lish.IMG_1211

Overall, things went really well! It was a great family adventure. I hope we can find a closer beach-type place to bring the babies this fall, since they had so much fun. I loved seeing such pretty scenery and exploring new areas. Can’t wait for our next family vacation!

Milestone: First Haircuts!

The babies have been getting seriously shaggy-haired. It was time for professional help, so I made an appointment at Little Clippers for the day before their nine month ‘birthday.’ It seems to be THE place for baby/kid haircuts in the Portland area. Of course, it’s in one of the Portland suburbs, which meant the total time (travel+haircut+travel) could cut into danger territory (ie, overlap with feeding and/or nap or something). But I figured I should just do it already.

I know that this is traditionally an emotional event for mamas, and that a lot of them either cry when their baby’s hair is cut for the first time, or just don’t get it cut at all. However…I haven’t really felt that. I did feel a pang knowing that this hair being cut was their ‘original’ hair they’d had in the womb. But I’d already trimmed their mullet wings a few months ago and had saved snippets of hair; I also knew that this salon did a special thing for First Haircuts.

Anyway, I was a couple minutes late for our appointment, made even later because I had to put both babies into the double stroller in order to get from the parking lot to the salon. Can’t just pick up two babies and all the stuff and waltz in!

I was asked what cartoons or shows they like to watch. I was like, “um…I don’t know?” thinking, they’re nine months old, why would they be watching anything at all? What makes this place kid-friendly is A) kid videos playing at each station to entertain and/or hypnotize the kids to keep still, and B) cute ‘cars’ instead of regular barber seats.

The second I got both babies down into their cars, they both starting bawling. Like loud, seriously upset crying. I think they were just confused and overwhelmed and overstimulated. New people, lots of noises (they hate loud sounds like hairdryers and blenders right now), lots of bright colors and moving screens and mirrors. I think it was just all too much for them.

So–two screaming babies and of course there’s only one of me. I picked up E because he seemed more freaked out of the two. I did my best to soothe M while not being able to pick him up or do much at all. I grabbed his pacifier from the diaper bag and tried to hold it in his mouth. This only sort of worked.

I said wryly to the ladies, “…And this is why I don’t take them out by myself.” I seriously pondered just leaving, if it was going to be such a disaster. Argh. But we were there, I figured we should just power through it and it would be over fairly quickly.

M quieted a little, but was still clearly unnerved. Another lady came over to hold the pacifier for M and try to calm him down.

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His stylist finally got to work, but E was still really upset. I put him in his seat anyway as he continued to bawl. Huge tears rolling down his little cheeks. He continued to sob as his stylist got going. And of course, me being the terrible mama that I am, I had to grab my camera to document everything. I mean, come on, this was my babies’ first haircuts!

The chaos definitely helped me not feel emotional or anything. If anything, I was stressed, not sad.

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By the end, M was totally quiet and E was only sniffling. The stylists worked really quickly and in broad strokes to get some shape/control to the babies’ hair.

And now for the rest of the photos. They make me laugh in such an ‘awww’ way.

Here’s a couple more of M:

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Just look at that face! Poor baby!!

And here’s E.

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So much hair!

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Awww, poor baby!!

In the end, we got in and out fairly quickly, considering the meltdowns. I do think it was worth it so that their hair wasn’t falling down into their eyes. They do look a lot older with “real” haircuts, though. By the time they need another haircut, I think they’ll be ready for the experience and it will go smoother. I hope so anyway. πŸ™‚