Things I Love Thursday: Buffets!

On some Thursdays, Iโ€™ll share something random that Iโ€™m really liking, enjoying, or appreciating. Just a little post to share a little snippet of life right now. Iโ€™d love to know if you also like these things, and what youโ€™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. ๐Ÿ™‚

Long live the buffet!!

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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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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. 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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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, Malcolm 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

And we sort of did:ย  DSC_9895-1_WEB (2)

 

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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!)

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.