Sunday, November 25, 2012

When I Grow Up: Ethan's Career Options

When I grow up, I want to be a fireman!
My brother apparently wants to be a dog.  And my parents... don't get me started.

Or a doctor.
Have you ever seen someone so happy about healthcare?

A ballroom dancer...
All that's missing is the rose between my teeth.

... or a Broadway dancer.
I've got the moves like Fosse.

I could take over for Santa.
I'd make Everett bribe me for "Nice List" status.

Be the world's nicest T-Rex.
I'm an herbivore, I promise.

Or become a famous baseball player!
I've already perfected my game face.

I hear they're looking for a new Indiana Jones.
Ethiana Jones and the Tunnel of Hay.

I've also considered competitive eater...
I've taken down a whole pizza by myself.  

... race car driver
Caught red-handed behind the wheel.

... bull rider
I'll get comfortable on the back of a statue, then upgrade to the ones that move.

... and being a model for a cough syrup box.
Pathetic?  Yep.  Cute?  You betcha.  The Robitussin will sell like hotcakes.

There's always a red-carpet-walking A-list actor.
I've already got adoring fans.

Or perhaps a Lumberjack.
Psssst... I'm down here!
There I am.

I'm not really sure what the future holds for me.  But you'd better believe that whatever it is, it's gonna be 60-100* awesome.

*Note from Sarah:  Ethan's go-to superlative is 100.  If something is a lot, it's 100.  If it's a whole lot, it's 60-100.  The other day he told me, "Mama, I love you 60-100 always."  I adore that kid. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How to Party, Dino Style

I started planning Ethan's 4th birthday party a few months ahead of time.  In previous years, we kept things simple.  A couple of family members or friends, no other kids, and a minimal amount of sugar.  This year was a bit different.  Ethan is finally at the age where he plays with, and not just next to, his friends.  I allow at least five extra minutes for preschool pickup, knowing that Ethan will run around to each of his classmates and give hugs and/or blow kisses.  He's also old enough to really understand what birthdays are all about.  And when he asked me for a dinosaur birthday party, well, that settled it.  We were going to go big(ish) this year.

Step one:  Design the invitations.
(I gotta give Pinterest credit where credit's due... I totally stole the whole "ROAR means Happy Birthday" thing!)

Step two:  Goody bags.
Those dinosaur eggs are actually jelly beans.  Yum!
Dino egg close-up.

Step three:  Food.
I did a carnivore, herbivore, sweetivore, snackivore theme.  Turned out a little heavy on the sweetivore/snackivore side, but hey... it's a party.

I had Bugles as dinosaur claws, pretzels as dinosaur bones, grapes as (healthy, non-jelly bean) dinosaur eggs, and PB&J cut into Brontosauruses (Brontosauri?).  I also had dinosaur chicken nuggets, fossil cookies, and Jurassic cupcakes.

Made the fossil cookies, but bought the cupcakes.  Best.  Decision.  Ever.

Step four:  Activities.

Knowing that four-year-olds have a very short attention span, I tapped into my teaching roots and set up stations around the backyard.  We had a table to make "D is for Dinosaur" crafts.

Here's an example of how a stuffy adult makes a D dinosaur...
The kids took this very seriously.
Like, need-a-mid-crafting-juice-break seriously.
Must've been tiring adding that fifth leg to his dinosaur.

There was also a dino dig where the kiddos could channel their inner archeologist and unearth dinosaur skeletons.

I underestimated how popular this station would be.
I may have even seen a few adults get in on the dino dig action. 
Hands down, the most stylish archeologist I've ever seen. 

The final station was a dinosaur relay race, using a claw grabber to transport a plastic T-Rex back and forth across the yard.  I don't have a picture of this, so I'll paint one for you.  Close your eyes.  

Go ahead, I'll wait.  

Okay, imagine a gaggle of preschoolers who 1) don't have a lot of experience with relay races, 2) are still developing hand-eye coordination, and 3) are all hopped up on sugar.  Pepper in a few encouraging shouts such as "No, no, run over *that* way!" and "Okay, sweetie, your turn is over now."  

Yeah, it went a little something like that.  Moving on. 

Step five:  Goofiness with good people.

Start with some of these:
Pack of 12 for under ten bucks?  Thanks, Oriental Trading!

Add the world's best godfather and a few new Hot Wheels:
Totally incognito.
And you've got yourself a recipe for awesomeness, my friend.

When the time came for cupcakes, Ethan was stoked.

Woo hoo!
Those "washable" dinosaur stampers?  Yeah.
Took three days and two baths to get rid of.  ;) 

All in all, I'd call it a success.  Ethan keeps asking if it's almost time for his next birthday, and has started putting in requests for themes.  Every so often, he'll bring up his dinosaur party from a "long, long time ago" and thank us for making it so much fun.
Melts my heart every time.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Songs My Kid Probably Shouldn't Know

He met someone new...

... but it didn't work out.

Preschool relationships are so complicated.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Adventures at the California State Fair

Here's what I knew about state fairs before visiting ours in Sacramento:

- Baby cows are born live for all the world to see.
- Funnel cake and other deep fried goodies abound.
- Carnival rides will test the strength of your stomach after indulging in the aforementioned deep fried goodies.
- They will end up costing you an arm and a leg to attend.

Here's what I learned about state fairs after visiting ours in Sacramento:

- I was right about all of the above, EXCEPT for the last one (going on Free Kids Day where rides only cost a dollar saved us upwards of fifty bucks, at least!).
- They are huge.  Like walk-for-a-thousand-miles-from-one-end-to-the-other-causing-your-son-to-whine-about-tired-feet huge.
- If you park at the west gate, the little kids rides will inevitably be on the far east side.
- Being armed with snacks and juice boxes is nothing less than a stroke of brilliance.
- When two moms are wrangling four children under the age of 4, including two babies, $9.00 is a small price to pay for the ability to sit in the shade for ten minutes sipping a nice cold beer.
- Getting to the fair at nap time in 80+ degree heat means that your children will repeatedly bounce back and forth between feeling like this:
Good times.

... and this:
Better times.

... All.  Day.  Long.

- The only thing funnier than eating ice cream next to dairy cows is nursing a baby next to them.  Even I had to chuckle at myself when I realized the comedy of the situation.
Sadly, we were photo bombed.  The cows are behind red shirt guy.

- Carousel operators are always ridiculously cranky, but that doesn't spoil our fun.
He's been on more carousel rides in four years than I have in my entire life.

- For just three tickets, you too can ride in the pouch of a kangaroo...

... that used to be owned by Michael Jackson.
(Is that a selling point?)

- After a long, hot day, $9.00 is not too much to pay for a cold beer (I know, I've already mentioned it, but this point cannot be stressed enough).

- Wearing a fire engine shirt while holding a fire hose makes the picture more authentic.

All he needs now is the helmet.

- Some of the slides are ridiculously knee-shakingly tall.

- You will repeatedly question why in the world you decided to take the kids on such a crazy overstimulating adventure while your husband was stuck at work.  However, having an incredible friend to spend the day with makes it an adventure worth repeating over and over again.  (I heart Candace.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How to Play ALL DAY LONG

9:00am - Head to Sacramento to visit Candace, Emberly, and Sam

11:00am - Visit the California State Railroad Museum with your best gal and refuse to pose for pictures until your mom bribes you with ice cream look really cute happily posing for pictures.

Fourteen shots and not one of them looking at the camera at the same time...

11:30am -  Try to figure out what the spiral plastic thingy on the end of the weird looking iPhone is.
Why doesn't this thing have a touchscreen?

11:45am -  Check out some super cool model railroad setups.
This one reminds me of the town in the Hidden Valley Ranch commercials.
I want to go to there.

12:30pm - Eat pizza and ice cream, and then go back to Emberly's house to do this:
We owe Candace and Ryan some grass seed.
PS -  Ten points if you realized the song is by Puddle of Mudd.

2:15pm - Change out of muddy clothes, relax on couch and watcWALL•E while baby brother hangs out in a roll-away-proof pod on the floor.
Escape attempts = thwarted!

5:15pm - Go to Fairytale Land for the Chalk it Up event, have a delicious picnic dinner, and watch Emberly cover herself in loads and loads and loads of blue chalk.
If you go home neat and tidy, you didn't have enough fun.

6:30pm - Systematically (and repeatedly!) try out each and every amazing slide that Fairytale Town has to offer.
Sharks and crocodiles... ha!  Where does he come up with this stuff?

10:05pm - Stay up way past your bedtime and fall asleep in the car on the way home, dreaming of next week's fun play date event - going to the Oakland Zoo!

Summer.  Is.  Awesome.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wait... I have a blog?

You wouldn't know it with the way that I've been spacing out my posts lately.  I have SO MUCH to catch up on.  I'll work on that this week.  Given that I'm on vacation, I have absolutely no excuses for neglecting the blog.

In the meantime, enjoy this behind the scenes video of the semi-annual Notch boys portrait photo shoot.  Super awesome images (as well as a few blog posts making up for all that I've missed over the past two months) to follow soon!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


- Why are there commercials?
- I wanna ride on a train.
- There's dog hair on the couch.
- My baby isn't looking at me.  I want him to look at me and laugh.
- Mama, can I come with you to the potty?  Do you want privacy?  Maybe you don't.  Um, what happens when you lock the door?
- Can I watch Phineas and some Ferb?
- Why do birds lay eggs?
- Hey, Mom, look at me!  I'm a silly turkey!
- What happens if you push this button?
- Do you like my hat?
- Why?  Why??  Why???
- Max, get back inside!  When I was a doggie, I stayed in the house.
- When I get big like you, then I'll take care of Everett.
- That's a pattern!
- Let's make a Daddy sandwich!  I am the bread, and Daddy's the peanut butter, and Mommy's the other bread... and Everett's the pickle!  
- Are you letting me stay up late?
- Is this a one time book, or a two time book?
- No thank you, but thanks for sharing!
- Mmmmm... this cereal is tasty!  Can I have it for dinner?
- Can I play games on your phone?
- If the sun melts the ice cream, what happens when you take the ice cream into the dark sky?  The moon's not hot, right?
- What's a wishing well?  What's a wish?
- I like buildings and cities.
- Why is there traffic?  Let's take a shortcut.
- Can you take me to school today?
- Why do I have to wear socks?  You don't wear socks.
- What makes steam?
- What's an itch?
- I'm not a lot awesome, but I'm a little awesome. And a little shy.
- Is this a freeway?
- If you don't use a crosswalk, the police officers will come get you.
- What happens if a bird bonks into a tree?
- Animals can't talk, but they can laugh.  They laugh in a different language.  And the cows say "I love you" like this:  "Moooooooo!"
- What does danger mean?
- What's a business trip?
- Mom!  I think there's chocolate in these M&Ms!!!

*I have to credit the lovely and talented Emily for this post.  She wrote all about What Lyla Wants to Know over on her blog, and I totally stole her idea.*  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Bit of Peter Pan Magic

Did you know that Neverland is actually located in Berkeley, California? It's true. With a pinch of my husband's daring spirit, mixed with a dash of internet research, he found the park that the Lost Boys built.

Apparently, a lot of other people have also discovered this park, as it was packed full of kids and parents who refuse to grow up. This incredible place, named one of the Top Ten Playgrounds by National Geographic Magazine, is almost indescribable. But I'm gonna try...

Opened over thirty years ago, Adventure Playground is still a work in progress. How is that possible, you ask?  Well, it's simple.

Normally a list of things to *avoid* on a playground... which is what makes it so brilliant.  There were hardly any construction hazards to be found.  

Kids have access to giant piles of scrap wood, and can check out hammers, nails, saws, and paint to build pretty much whatever they want to.

Reduce, reuse, recycle!

As a result, the play structures all look, well, like the forts I used to build in the woods with my friends growing up.  But much, much cooler.   They're a little bit wonky, a little bit messy, and a whole lotta fun.

Sure, that makes for a few hazards here and there, but parent supervision is required, and there are warnings all over the place.


If you would have asked me yesterday if I'd take my not-quite-four-year-old to a park where they not only provide, but *encourage* the use of potentially dangerous tools, I probably would have said absolutely not.  But once you're there, witnessing the playground's perfect combination of creativity and childlike joy, it seems like the best idea ever.  

For starters, the park is right on the water, with views of San Francisco.  That alone is hard to beat.  But it gets better.  There's giant climbing nets, tons of slides and swings, tunnels for days, and a zipline, for crying out loud. 

Old instruments have been turned into works of art...

I kind of want one of these for our living room.

... and objects of exploration.

Everywhere you turn, there's a new nook or cranny just begging to be explored.

This.  Playground.  Rules.

It's everything a Bay Area mama could ask for.  It's amazingly artsy.  It's granola-crunching hippie.  It's something completely different.  It encourages the kiddos to play outside and use their imagination.  But the best part of all?  It brings families together.  Since you have to keep a really careful eye on your little one, it creates a totally different level of engagement.  Parents are given permission to turn into kids again.

Forget about finding the Lost Boys.  We ARE the Lost Boys. And this is our Neverland.

Friday, March 2, 2012

(Almost) On a Roll

Things I learned while filming this video:

1) Everett is a determined little guy, just like his big brother. (This can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on what the boys are determined to do. In this case, the determination to figure out how to roll over is adorable and endearing. Put a tally in that blessing category.)

2) Gone are the baby blob days when all he did was eat and sleep. Everett is growing up quickly, and developing quite a personality. I suppose he was born with free will (debate this amongst yourselves), but he's just now getting to the point where he's old enough to execute it. I love watching him choose to do something.

3) There's a reason why the play mat comes with structured plastic inserts to hold up the sides... and I should probably spend the weekend searching the garage for them.

His technique is a bit unorthodox, but I guarantee it'll yield results!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In the Blink of an Eye

There are a handful of nostalgic movies that I will always watch if they are on TV. One of my favorites is Big - a Tom Hanks classic. It's one of those films that sucks me in and absorbs 100% of my attention. I am physically unable to change the channel. It makes me *that* happy.

Some Broadway producers tried to capture that magic by making it into a musical. Sadly, it compeltely tanked, and was only on the Great White Way for a little under six months. However, that was long enough for my high school drama director to see it and decide that we would perform Big: The Musical in the Spring of my Junior year. I was cast as Mrs. Baskin, aka Tom Hanks' mother. For lots of different reasons too numerous to go into, we didn't end up doing the musical. I instead played Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls that year, another one of my favorites. But every now and then, I think about the show that never was and how much fun it would have been to perform. Of the songs that Mrs. Baskin sings, "Stop Time," has always stuck with me. It was moving when I was 16, but now that I'm thirtysomething and have two kids of my own, it means oh-so-much more.

I go back to work in a little over two weeks, which marks the end of my days at home with tiny boy. My maternity leave has flown by, and I know it's just the beginning of time slipping away from me. As I hold Everett and stare at his itty bitty baby features, I think about how quickly Ethan has grown, and Mrs. Baskin's song plays on a loop in my head:

Two months old, he looks up at you.
How his smile melts your heart!
You want to say, "Stop, time."
"Don't move on."
Even as you watch, that look is gone.

Then he's two, such a little man.
So alive and so smart!
Again you say, "Stop, time."
"Stay just this way."
But the future comes, and he can't stay.

Nobody warns you of this parent's paradox -
You want your kid to change and grow,
But when he does, another child you've just begun to know,
Leaves forever.

Birthdays fly - 7, 8, 9, 10.
Every kid he becomes you clutch and say "Stop, time."
"Hold this one fast!"
But it's not supposed to last.
And that time has come and passed.
For he's growing,
And he has to go.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Be My Valentine

We drove up to Sacramento this weekend so Ethan could have a date with his sweet little Emberly. Of course, I had to chaperone, camera phone in hand to capture each and every moment. Here's a little photo essay on how the evening went:

It started off with a gourmet dinner of dinosaur chicken nuggets and juice popsicles. Ethan let his best gal have the pink princess plate - not because he's opposed to pink, but because he wants to give her every happiness. He's chivalrous that way.


We need to work on manners. Ethan made a drippy popsicle mess all over the table. Upon discovering it, Emberly hopped up, ran into the kitchen, asked her mom for a wipe, and cleaned up after him. She's nurturing that way.

But seriously, little dude, let's try to get more in than on your belly next time.

After dinner, Ethan took Emberly for a spin on a shiny red tricycle. Chicks dig it when you've got a cool ride.

Notice how he's powering it Fred Flintstone style. Smooth.

Emberly wanted to show him how to put the foot to the pedal and the pedal to the metal. Or something like that. So they swapped places and Emberly hopped behind the wheel.

She's a much better driver. Sorry, Ethan, but them's the facts.

After the long drive from the kitchen, they arrived in the living room and watched "Finding Nemo" for a bit. When their attention span was tapped out, they retired to a comfy chair for a little light reading.

Building literacy skills with the added bonus of cuddling up with his lady. Win-win.

Those two little sweeties played together for hours, filling the house with the sounds of squeals and laughter. Thanks for such a lovely evening, Hoke family!

(A special shout out to the babies, Sam and Everett, for sleeping through the whole thing! Boys - you were missed, but it sure was nice to be able to eat a delicious meal and play some Spades without interruption!)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Everett's Birth Story (Finally!)

Here's how the story *should* have gone:

"Knowing that we were going to have a repeat c-section, we scheduled everything in advance. We booked the surgery for 9:00am on December 8th, 2011. I got a full eight hours of blissful sleep the night before, and woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on the morning of our big day. I had time to shower, curl my hair, and put on makeup. We took a leisurely drive to the hospital, and everything went as planned. Friends were anxiously huddled in the waiting room, ready to toast Everett's arrival with bottles of sparkling cider and red Solo cups in hand. Everett was born at 9:30am, and Mommy and baby were happy and healthy." Short. Sweet. Predictable. Of course, we all know that babies sometimes have a mind of their own...

Here's how the story *actually* goes:

On Friday, December 2nd, I was working from home. I had just finished my last work task for the day when my best friend, Ingrid, called me. She said she had a funny feeling that I was going to have the baby early, and wanted to work out the logistics for taking care of Ethan in case I went into labor. "Don't you worry about that," I told her. "I feel fine, and the c-section is only a week away. There's no way I'm going into labor before then."

What happened next? I went into labor, of course. Not an hour after telling Ingrid that I wouldn't. Cause that's what happens when you make such a bold statement. The universe knocks you down a few pegs and shows you who's boss.

I wasn't quite ready to accept that my contractions were the real thing. I'd been having some pretty intense Braxton Hicks action off and on throughout the last few months of the pregnancy, and I was in total denial that these contractions were different. You see, I'm a planner. And I had a really good plan cooked up for welcoming this baby into the world. Unexpected labor and a trip to the hospital did not fit into those plans. I sheepishly called Ingrid, and began a slightly panicked conversation by saying, "Soooooo, remember how, like forty five minutes ago, I swore up and down that I wouldn't be going into labor?" She offered to come over right away, but still being in denial, I told her I'd call her in a hour after I'd had a chance to lie down. I made another few panicked phone calls, including one to Ryan, who happened to be enjoying himself at a "Last Hurrah Happy Hour" thrown by his work buddies. In the city. Ninety minutes away with rush hour traffic.

Resting didn't help. A shower didn't help. Crying certainly didn't help. And so, finally, I relented and faced reality: this baby was not going to wait. He was ready, and didn't care that I wasn't. I called Ingrid and told her to come on over. Thankfully, she had decided to ignore me when I told her to wait for my call, and was already on her way. Ryan had begun making his way home as well.

By the time we were headed to the hospital, things had already started to get real. I'd heard that labor can progress more quickly with your second baby, but I didn't expect it to progress this quickly. Four hours into my labor with Ethan, I wasn't totally sure that I was actually in labor. Four hours in this time around, I was in tears. Thankfully, since we had already decided to take the doc's advice to have a repeat c-section, I knew I wouldn't have long to wait. Eight hours into labor, I was being wheeled into the operating room.

Unlike the emergency c-section with Ethan where I had to be put under general anesthesia, I was able to get a spinal instead. I was so excited to witness the birth of my child, but was also very nervous about the whole process. There's a bit of blissful ignorance when you're unconscious for a major surgery. I was prepared for the recovery, but had no idea what to expect out of the actual being-cut-open-and-having-a-baby-yanked-out-of-you thing. Luckily, the c-section went really well, and Everett was born at 2:46am on December 3rd, 2011.

Everett was healthy, but not breathing well enough on his own. He had some fluid in his lungs and wasn't getting enough oxygen, so he had to stay in the NICU for four days. I wasn't able to nurse him for the first two days due to his breathing apparatus. We did get a lot of skin to skin bonding time, and (the one perk to having a baby in the NICU instead of in your room with you) I was able to get some rest between pumping and snuggling time.

Under those blankets, our kiddo was a big bundle of tubes and wires.

Slowly but surely, Everett's condition improved, and they moved him from the CPAP to the nasal cannula, took out the tube going down his throat into his stomach, and weaned him off of the IV fluids. When I was able to begin nursing he took to it like a champ, and hasn't looked back since. I was initially a little worried about the loss of bonding time, but he quickly reassured me that we were thick as thieves, even if we couldn't be hospital roomies. He'd instantly calm down when in my arms, falling asleep to the sound of me softly singing what would become his favorite songs. I can't really put it into words, but when I held him, it was like we'd known each other forever. It was hard to walk back to my room and leave him in the NICU, but deep down I felt like he knew that I'd be back. He usually just slept in between my visits - the nurses would call me when he woke up so that I could be with him. That made me feel a lot better during the long, slow walk back to my room. I left him with enough love and comfort to make his dreams sweet, and was by his side almost as soon as he woke from his peaceful slumber.

Ethan and Ryan spent a lot of time in the hospital with me, and I relished those little moments when we were together as a family of four. Ethan wore his big brother scrubs from Mima and Poppa when he came to the hospital to meet his future best buddy, which resulted in a lot of ooooohing and aaaaahing from the doctors and nurses.

A pack of crackers AND a baby brother? Best. Day. Ever.

He stared with wonder into Everett's eyes, gently touching his baby brother's fingers and toes through the "portholes" in Everett's isolette.

You were that small once upon a time, big brother.

Unbeknownst to me, my dad had been scheming with Ryan since August, and had a secret visit planned that turned out to be perfectly timed. He arrived on the evening of December 6th, and surprised me in the hospital. I was floored, and turned into a heap of tears. See for yourself:

It's a bit of an embarrassing video, but the reaction was too good not to post.

We were released on December 7th, the day before I was supposed to be entering the hospital all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and curly-haired and pretty-faced. It worked out nicely, though, our impatient boy's unanticipated arrival. Ryan's parents flew in the next day, and were able to get more QBST (quality baby snuggling time) at home than they would have if Everett was still in the hospital.

It just goes to show - you can plan and plan, and be certain that you know the "right" way for everything to work out, and still end up being so totally wrong. Babies arrive at the perfect time, whether you want them to or not. Looking back, it was silly of me to want to wait for his scheduled arrival. On Everett's schedule, I ended up with five bonus days with my tiny boy.

Perfect timing, little man. Thank you for that.