Summer Coast Adventure 2016!

Hurray for another trip to the coast!

After a lot of trips to the Seaside/Cannon Beach areas, we decided to go somewhere new (Newport) this time for a two-night trip, and I’m glad, because it really did feel like an adventure.

The downside of traveling farther down the coast is obviously that it takes longer to get there. So we drove to Tillamook first (which was our first coast overnight trip with babies in 2013) and spent the afternoon in that area.

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The boys LOVED the cheese factory. They lay down on the floor and settled in like they were watching television. Probably they would have stayed for quite awhile…as it was we had to practically force them away, and that was to go get ice cream!

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Of course they loved getting to choose and enjoy their own big ice cream cones! (When we go to our local ice cream shop, they get a half scoop in a cup.)

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From there, we drove to Cape Lookout. The boys were excited to see a real live lighthouse! Sadly they were too small to go up to the top, but they’ll be excited next year to do it. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was a gorgeous day to enjoy the coastal scenery!

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We drove south along the coast and I kept oohing and aahing. I wanted to stop every five feet but sat on my hands. We did pull into this viewpoint and I decided I wanted to jump with my boys. Andy dutifully took photos for me. ๐Ÿ™‚ E & M did really well and they had a great time jumping with me! โค

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We stopped for dinner at Pig n Pancake in Lincoln City (it’s our favorite place to eat when we’re at the coast), and continued down to Newport. The light as we approached was AMAZING. It wasn’t golden hour yet, but it was that perfect gold afternoon light and I was alternately so excited and so frustrated because I couldn’t stop and explore with my camera.

We arrived at our “hoo-tel,” as the boys kept saying, just across the street from the beach. It was going to be the boys’ bedtime soon but the weather and the light were perfect — PERFECT — so we dropped our stuff in our junior suite (literally half of our stuff was stuffed friends, by the way) and walked over to the beach.

Check it out. There was only a light breeze, and I was completely giddy with that light:

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They had a fabulous time scooping sand into buckets, running in circles, etc. We had to practically drag them away.

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Bedtime back at the hotel was…pretty much the worst. It took like two hours for them to calm down and go to sleep. It was after 10:30 I think. UGHHH.

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The next day we started out at the Newport Aquarium. This was the big draw for us and impetus for this trip; we’d been waiting a year or two until the boys would be big enough to enjoy it. We figured this age would be great. And since it cost so much for the four of us to get in, we were hoping they would think so too!

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We were there for 4-5 hours total, and we all enjoyed exploring. I had assumed it would be a bit bigger/fancier than it really was, but there was plenty to see. They didn’t care too much about the indoor exhibits, but they liked watching the otters swim in the outdoor exhibits. The tunnel, which we’ve seen in Goodnight Oregon for years now, was not quite as spectacular as I’d expected. But there were three or four, not just one, and that was neat. It was pretty cool to see sharks swimming above your head! Of course, the boys weren’t super interested in the fish…they were super intrigued by the scuba divers (which they pronounce scoopa-divers). They just wanted to sit and watch the divers float around.

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Once we’d exhausted the exhibits, we hit the gift shop on the way out. There, the boys discovered the shiny rocks bin. They played with them for probably fifteen minutes and would have happily stayed much longer. We did buy them a pouch of rocks of their choosing. (Which then would fall out/spill in the car and in the hotel for the rest of the trip, causing much distress.) After we’d finally left we asked them their favorite part of the aquarium, and they both said, the shiny rocks. Kids, man.

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That afternoon, after a nap and snack, we went to Seal Rock. I was hoping it wouldn’t be very windy, and there were supposed to be tide pools there. Unfortunately, E woke up super cranky, and he was very, very unhappy about the strong winds. M was happy though; he dug in the sand for a bit and then wanted to run around in the edge of the sand/water. I started to take E back to the car and halfway up the trail he decided that he wanted to go back to the beach. He was calmer and happier after that. M was having a great time racing near the water, and he and I went to explore the tide pools that were emerging. (Low tide was still several hours away, but the water was retreating slowly.) And eventually I found some sealife! I cut my feet really bad on some barnacles but I found a little puddle on a rock that was ringed with anemones! It was our first tidepool experience and wild sea creature spotting, and I was really excited about it. ๐Ÿ™‚

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The following morning we visited the Hatfield Marine Science Center. It’s fairly small, but has some neat things to see. There is one octopus which we saw for less than a minute before she went into hiding again. There were two really neat water tables that demonstrated the tides and tsunamis. I was as interested as all the kids were. ๐Ÿ™‚ And then we found the augmented reality geography sand table!! The boys would have played there all.day.long. (I can’t blame them; it’s a really fun tool.)

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Our final stop was theย Yaquina Lighthouse in the afternoon before we headed home. It was CRAZY WINDY and so foggy we could honestly just barely see the lighthouse from the parking lot. It was very dramatic to see the scenery in that weather! We went to the visitor’s center afterward and the whole place looks so different in all the sunny pictures. (Also, we learned there that it’s pronounced “Yeh-kwinna” not “Yah-keenha”, which is weird.)

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As you can see, it was full and fun family adventure! I love creating these little traditions and exploring new places with our boys. I wonder how and when they’ll start building permanent memories, but even just for now, it’s pretty wonderful.

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!

Flying with Twin Toddlers

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.)

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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!

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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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!!

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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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! Emmett 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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!

Summer Family Road Trip

Part 2 of our busy family July was a road trip up to Seattle for a long weekend. We were there mainly to see some family (mine this time), but also took the opportunity to play tourist with the babies.

I only realized after we’d gotten back home that we neglected to take grandparent photos. I’ll have to make sure we do that next time we get up there. I don’t know when that will be–maybe before the end of the year/early next year? We did get a few family photos while we were out and about though.

Packing up: I love our CR-V. It would be super awesome if there were like an extra foot of trunk space, though. I guess packing will be easier when the babies need less baby stuff.

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We stayed at my dad’s house, which has this gorgeous view:

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And this silly dog who loves to play fetch:

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And somehow these babies sit up on the counter now! When we were here in January, they were little bitty babies in their boppies.

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On that January trip, I basically sat around one house or the other, mostly trapped with the babies. It was boring and long and boring. So this time, we made sure to explore a bit. Thankfully the babies were willing to play along.

First up, we hit downtown Seattle! I haven’t been there in awhile, so it was fun for me to see the sights too. We did a very quick look around Pioneer Square (mostly the awesome toy shop), but there was some noisy construction going on and we didn’t want to upset the babies (lately they’ve been noticing and not liking loud and/or sudden noises).

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So we moved over to the Pike Place area! We strolled through the market but didn’t stop, because argh, the crowds.

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Phew.

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We did go find some ice cream for “lunch”. It was super delicious.

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And then the babies had lunch in the car. IMG_0636-6

On the second day, we went east to Snoqualmie Falls:

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It was another gorgeous day! The mist from the falls was drifting all the way up the cliff, and it was quite refreshing.

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Since we were so close to North Bend, of course we had to have lunch at Scott’s Dairy Freeze! It’s one of those local burgers/fries/shakes joints that is always tasty and refreshing.ย  ย ย ย ย ย ย  IMG_0683-3

That day we also stopped by one of my favorite places in the whole Northwest–Boehm’s Candies. I always say that if heaven doesn’t smell like that shop, I don’t want to go. If you’re ever near Issaquah, you should go!

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Day three was a big adventure–Whidbey Island. The babies’ first boat ride!

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We got to my aunt Molly’s house and they took a nap together in their pack n play.

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When they were awake, they were passed around and they were totally into it–lots of new faces all looking at them!

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The whole gang!

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We had planned to leave before their dinner, but there was a huge wait for the ferry. So we ended up feeding them at my aunt’s house and then later, driving around Deception Pass. They slept the whole way, thank goodness. It was a three hour drive to get back to my dad’s house, but it would have taken that long to wait for the ferry and drive anyway. So it was a loooong day.

Altogether it was a good trip. I was really happy and relieved that they did so well being not only away from home, but carted around to so many new places, not to mention having their naps interrupted by outings. By the last day, they fussed a little being put into the car seats, but that was the extent of their protests. What amazing babies!!