March 30, 2012

Back up! ... save energy and be safe

these are not our cars... but this is tandem parking: yuck.
I will thank my husband for sharing the article below. Today marks the first day of our last weekend living in our apartment, and I will not be sad for one single second about no longer having to 'tandem park' in the basement deck. On a daily basis I spend about as long trying to back my car into our designated spot as I did actually driving home (sure, it was just over a mile from work, but still...). Even after doing the same thing every day for over two months, I still second-guessed if I was too close to a column, and would pull out and start over, a light sweat forming on my brow. And if M was with me, this would be about the time he would start to whine, only adding to my anxiety. And did I already say that 'tandem' means we have to park one car in front of the other? And should the rear car need to leave first, they must first move the front car, pull out, and replace the front car (I will say that I NEVER had to do this, as my husband was kind enough to figure this part out for me).

I open with all this grief, to leave you with an article (Backing into Green) about why backing in is a good thing, and why I will consider continuing to back in in the future (now that I can, from all my practice).

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March 29, 2012

Date night toddler lunch!!

So... we have lived in SoCal for nearly three months and we finally found a babysitter. That process is probably an entirely different post (How do you find a sitter when you don't know a single soul and your coworkers either don't have kids or have their parents living with them?!), but the point is we did find one, and we had our first mini-date Wednesday when we joined some kid-less coworkers at a hockey game. To stay on top of lunch-packing, I packed two lunches Tuesday night. Granted, one of them was a little less put together, and the title of this post is slightly misleading, since I actually forgot to take a picture of that particular meal, but let me tell you how grateful I was when out-of-practice me got home at 11 PM after having two glasses of wine... and felt hungover and exhausted the next morning. *sigh* My, how times have changed from the college days...

Anyway, back to the goods you came to see: what was in our toddler lunchbox this week?

(and scroll to the bottom for a very easy, veggie-filled Sausage and Rice recipe)

Lunch: Brown rice, rotisserie chicken, frozen peas, frozen (but cooked at this point) cubed butternut squash, strawberries, orange slice cubes.
Snack 1: canned (organic) green beans, steamed carrots, rise and shine zucchini carrot muffin (from this post)
Snack 2: kiwi and Yobaby blueberry yogurt
Lunch: leftover toppings from our nachos the night before (black and pinto beans, cheddar cheese, avocado, tomato, onion), pretzels, steamed carrots, shredded rotisserie chicken
Snack 1: rise and shine muffin (see above) and orange slices
Snack 2: yogurt and a cereal bar
(note the ice pack that I haven't previously mentioned. This was the only one I could find after looking at two grocery stores and two different Targets on a single weekend, when we first moved here and had to start packing lunches. Turns out its pretty cool, since its flexible, and we usually wrap it around his cup of milk.)
Lunch: leftover sausage and rice (see below), blueberries, mango, and kiwi
Snack 1: half a blood orange, rise and shine muffin
Snack 2: strawberry slices and yogurt 
Lunch: leftover Taco Salad toppings (beans, tomatoes, sauteed peppers and onions, ground beef, cheese!), pretzels, frozen organic peas
Snack 1: Rise and Shine Muffin and kiwi
Snack 2: strawberries and yogurt

Veggie-Filled Sausage and Rice:

1 cup white rice
2 cups water
1 package pork or turkey kielbasa, cut into 1/2 inch thick, half-rounds
1 broccoli crown
1 red pepper

Add rice, water and sausage to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to low. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop broccoli and dice the red pepper (discarding stems and seeds). At the 10 minute mark stir the rice, and add veggies on top, and re-cover. Continue to steam for 10 more minutes.

Stir and Serve!

You can swap our veggies for ones that make you happy. Experiment and tell us what your family likes!

March 22, 2012

Toddler Food Thursday: Single Mom Lunches

This week we threw in an extra challenge: Daddy is out of town! Honestly, I could/should have made a batch of veggie pasta. But I just didn't.

So I get the fun of making dinner and lunch (and breakfast) for 5+ days!! Hm... this doesn't sound a whole lot different from other days, but somehow having no relief pitcher is just intimidating. Even if I do get to eat thin mints and drink red wine in bed while having the iPad all to myself... its the burden of being solely responsible that drives me to such measures.

But I digress... here was this week's menu! I definitely went for easy peasy stuff: we made a batch of cauliflower mac n cheese (+ peas) Daddy's last night in town for dinner, and had plenty of leftovers for another dinner this week, 2 toddler lunches, and one Mommy lunch... and there is still some leftover somehow. In preparation, I bought a rotisserie chicken and some frozen veggies. I chopped all the straggler veggies in the fridge and steamed them together into one big batch. And I made a batch of brown rice over the weekend.

I will say, I underestimated our fruit needs this week, and just in the nick of time we got our first shipment of 'Mostly Fruit' from our new CSA and some of the citrus from the shipment were featured in dinner this evening and the lunch packed for tomorrow! Stay tuned for the post on the CSA details!

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leftover cauliflower mac n cheese + strawberries, blueberries, halved cherry tomatoes;
mango + kiwi + cereal bar;
steamed baby carrots + yogurt

pulled rotisserie chicken + brown rice + leftover steamed veggies + mozzarella + kiwi + mango;
 applesauce + cereal bar;
 carrots + yogurt
pulled rotisserie chicken + brown rice + leftover veggies +  minneola slices
kiwi + cereal bar
toddler trail mix + yogurt
cauliflower mac n cheese + rainbow: steamed baby carrots, halved cherry tomatoes,  mango, blueberries
rise and shine (whole wheat zucchini and carrot muffin, from, that i had in the freezer) + yogurt
toddler trail mix
cheers! pizza! + frozen peas + strawberries + heirloom baby tomatoes
mango + blueberries + rise and shine muffin
steamed baby carrots + yogurt
one happy eater (usually... mostly... sometimes...)

March 21, 2012

Snow in Wrightwood, CA!

Since we moved to CA we have expressed an interest in seeing snow. Back in NC we would expect to see a couple of inches 1-3 times per year, and now that M is the age to really play in it, we didn't want to deprive him (ourselves?) of the experience. When you say "snow" around here, people instantly start jabbering about Big Bear, which I am sure is great for skiing and other winter sports, but this time of year requires snow chains on you tires, has a long windy road to get you there implying you should stay a while once you arrive, and reservations are already booked up. So I had asked all the parents I'd met at work to suggest a kid-friendly snow place, since we didn't plan on skiing, just making snow angels or something. Twice, Wrightwood came up, so we planned on this weekend. We were starting to worry that we'd missed the snow season, but then this cold, rainy weekend came up, and Wrightwood got 12-15 inches of snow Saturday night, and kept on Snowing into Sunday.

Luckily for us, this meant that the roads were still pretty open (meaning we didnt' need chains... because we don't - yet- own them, nor do we know how to put them on...)  but there was plenty of snow for us to play in, and it was actually falling, too!

When I googled Wrightwood, I got a link to the Mt. Hardware store (not to be confused with Mountain Hardwear, the gear/clothing company...), which looked like a great place to start: we could get a sled and any other winter essentials we found we needed, but also some advice on where to get the most appropriate snow. They suggested the city's Elementary School, about a block down the road: Perfect. The whole playground was covered in snow, which made the familiar that much more snow-seasoned for Mason.

March 20, 2012

Washing Cloth Diapers - Water Hardness

So, I found more clues in the investigation of cleaning cloth diapers. Thank you to Padded Tush Stats for raising my awareness on this issue. Who knew it could make such a big impact on how you need to wash your diapers. Did you just move to another town? Across the country? Then you might need to re-evaluate your washing plan...

If you want to know where you stand, google "water quality [insert your city and state here]". Hunt for the annual water quality report, and then hunt some more where hardness is referenced.

Then check out this wikipedia article: to translate the numbers to a category of hardness.

The Stats:
In Durham our water was considered 'soft' as it measured in at under 60 mg/L. Here in Orange we now have very 'very hard' water measuring in at ~300 mg/L!! No wonder we needed to change our routine!!

Consider Padded Tush Stat's article on making your own detergent based on your water type. Also consider checking them out for all the great diaper reviews and 'stats' on cloth diaper related questions!!

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March 19, 2012

Discovery Science Museuem

a little bit closer up on the dinosaur insides
We have driven past the Discovery Science Center's precariously balanced cube a hundred times since we moved here two months ago, and have had it on our list to go see. We finally took advantage of our rainy St. Patrick's Day to check it out.

The short of it is that it is a cool place, but very crowded (guess we weren't the only ones with the rainy day idea), and a little too old for our 19-month old. There were lots of interactive science-y experiments like a wave tank, and learning about how planes fly or how ice skates work (there was pretty big section devoted to each airflow and the Duck's hockey team). Additionally, there was a large supermarket area, where you can use a shopping cart to virtually shop, answering some questions about environmentally friendly foods. When we came in, there was a 'scientist' putting on a little show of science experiments to teach about recycling. I thought that was neat, but again not for our little guy.

using his wand to open a clue
There were some areas that were age appropriate: Dora's play space near the entrance, and the Dino Adventure were both a pretty big hit. You might notice the dinosaur from the freeway as you pass. You can actually walk around in that one, and thoroughly explore his insides (digestion and all!). The entire dino area is outside. You check in at the archaeologist's station and receive a stick or wand. Depending on your age, they will suggest a program to follow, and you can program your wand accordingly. For M, we didn't need to program anything, and the wand was able to open all 'clues' just for fun. The first time we opened something - and it started talking to him - he was actually sort of scared (understandable). He preferred to bang on things, or use it as a walking stick. At his age, he enjoyed seeing all the different dinosaurs and climbing up and down the different sets of stairs.
the purple slide!

The indoor Dora area was fun, too. There was a car to drive and some sort of game to play where you put brown plastic balls (supposed to be acorns) into different 'machines' for some purpose I didn't figure out. There was a wall where you could plug in stars into different constellations and watch them light up. And there was a slide. A simple purple slide where M took turns with a few other kids his age going up the stairs and down the slide and running around the side to do it again. We visited this stop at least 5 times.

The Science Center offers a reasonably priced annual membership, but given that it was SO crowded, and M is just not really the right age, we probably won't be back for a while. We did have fun, and were glad we finally got to visit.

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not really interested in Dora's maze
I did actually find this supermarket a letdown, since from the front entrance it looks really cool, but you can't pick anything up. You can only scan it with your gun to answer questions on your digital shopping cart. :( Note the zen salesperson on the TV screen at the left. She gives you a short lesson and then you can grab a cart and start 'shopping'

picking flowers in Dora's garden

genius - put a steering wheel in both the front AND the back of the car to maximize toddler enjoyment!

inside the dinosaur!

sliding down the Dino's tail!

March 16, 2012

Boysen Park

We had a weekend packed with house hunting as we look for a good rental home (way more difficult than I had anticipated). So between visits and errands, we found time to get some sunshine, get some energy out, and visit some parks. One of which was right under our noses! Less than a mile from our current apartment, but in a direction we rarely go, hubby remembered this as it was nearing dinnertime, but we needed a break. This is Boysen Park, named after Rudolph Boysen who invented the Boysenberry (which later came to make Mr. Knott and his berry farm so famous) and was also a parks superintendent here in Anaheim.

the big kid structure - really tall!
seeing the big and little space shuttles
The park is really cool, especially for a little boy who loves airplanes. In fact, we had to hear "Air-pane! Air-pane!" all the way from the parking lot, across the large grassy field to the playground. There is, in fact, a retired airplane that has been cemented into place in a mulch bed. Kids can climb on the wings and into the cockpit. In addition to the plane, there is a spaceship structure with climbing walls and ropes, and a big twisty slide. There is also a smaller version for smaller kids, complete with three steering wheels. 
I will say, that this park was also crowded on a Saturday afternoon. I think there were several family events going on, and there were even a few suspicious gentlemen playing with the tiniest dice I have ever seen. However, it was still daylight, and we could easily see our car and we felt totally safe.

Toddler Food this week: chili

This was a Leftovers for Lunch kind of week!

Earlier this week, I told you about the super easy and yummy Cheers! Pizza!
our Cheers! Pizza! leftovers!

 The next win was veggie-packed Three Bean Chili (we add a half pound of cooked ground beef to the recipe). Don't be afraid of the jalapenos - make sure you take out all the seeds, but the peanut butter and cocoa cancel out the heat, leaving the flavor. The cooler weekend approaching put me in a mood for the chili, plus our recipe makes many servings so its definitely a time saver during the week. And surprisingly it went over well with the toddler. We threw in a handful of cooked whole wheat macaroni and topped with cheese. We even shared our cornbread, biscuits and tortilla chips with him (See, even leftovers can be versatile, just pair with a different carb each night!).

chili... mmmm!

So our lunches this week included our leftover chili three times much like this one...

3 Bean Chili + whole wheat macaroni + cheddar, strawberry slices, mini slice of cornbread; blueberry yogurt, steamed broccoli + cauliflower; cereal bar + applesauce

Our third meal of the week was peanut-coconut Chicken on a Stick (again, thank you I will say, I am thankful I did not skip the soak-the-skewers step because my gas stove tried very hard to set them on fire. We also made the Zucchini Coins as a side. They did not go over as well, so I think next time I'll use breadcrumbs instead of panko, as I think the texture was a bit much for the little one. I, however loved them! M took some leftovers in his lunch one day this week.

I also 'invented' a new snack: Toddler Trail Mix, which contains Cheerios, Moms Best Honey Grahams, raisins, dried cranberries, and quartered dried apricots - but obviously can contain any combination of things your kiddo likes to eat!
Shredded Chicken on a Stick, mango and blueberries, quartered zucchini coins, halved cherry tomatoes, mini slice of cornbread; toddler trail mix; strawberry yogurt + cereal bar

March 14, 2012

Ruby's Diner

a choo-choo speeding by!
Ruby's Diner is a Southern California chain (though there are locations across the country), with an 1940's diner feel, waitress uniforms and all. We have been meaning to try out a Ruby's location for a while and decided to go for it one sleepy Friday evening when no one felt like cooking. We weren't sure exactly what to expect, except that Ruby's is a diner... so probably good hamburgers? I was pleasantly surprised when the waitress's opening sentence was, "Can I start you with a milkshake?"

Our nearest location's theme was a train station (Orange, CA). We usually like to sit outside at dinner (given the kid's table manners and great SoCal weather), which turned out to be a front row seat for the choo-choos (and also where all the other families with young kids chose to be, so we felt right at home)!  We saw about 5 trains go by during our meal, both passenger and freight. Some seemed to scare M, but others he was thoroughly excited about. Each location has a local theme (including WWII aircraft, and surfing) so we will have to try them all in our travels!

enjoying a cereal bar appetizer
The food was yummy (hubby and I both enjoyed our burgers), and I was surprised that they even have many options for lower calorie or low carb fare (to offset the milkshakes, of course). I even felt good about sharing some of my sweet potato fries with M, and he happily ate his chicken-finger-and-apple-slices kids' meal, too!

Definitely a thumbs up for a family meal here.

March 12, 2012

Cheers! Pizza!!

Cheers! Pizza!!
 I couldn't wait to post this tonight!! I snagged an easy recipe from for two-cheese pizza. I thought this was going to just be so-so (especially since my toddler doesn't really care for pizza - he only ever eats the crust!), but at least it would be a fast weeknight dinner, and hopefully M would eat some of it... Turns out both hubby and child went crazy for this recipe. Seriously crazy for it. Hubby even ate some of the pesto pieces after he proclaimed how much he was not even interested in tasting it.

Here is how easy this recipe is (we made a half batch):

2 pieces whole wheat Naan
1/2-3/4 c mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
2+ tbsp pesto
2+ marinara sauce
1/2 c leftover chicken, diced

Preheat oven to 450. Top 1 Naan with pesto, and the other with marinara. split chicken between two crusts. Combine mozzarella and Parmesan, and spread equally over crusts. Bake for 10 minutes. Cut into slices. Pair with halved cherry tomatoes and leftover steamed broccoli & cauliflower. DONE.

My toddler sang "piz-za!! piz-za!" on the way to the table. And then he ate it all. I did have to use my "cheers" technique to get some of the veggies going. This is where I ask if we can cheers x. Then we each load our forks with x, touch them together, say cheers! and then eat our bites.

And then he asked for seconds! "Mo-mo piz-za!"

My Fun List

taking the lead from PaperCoterie and piggy-backing on some of her items...

going to kids museums with my kid (because I am secretly jealous of such a cool place geared just for him... and like to pretend, too)
reading snuggled up somewhere
snuggling with my guys (either or both)
reading bed time stories
taking a few minutes by myself enjoying coffee on a gray day
enjoying coffee with a friend and catching up
a pedicure!
tapas and wine with my husband
evenings with food and beer and wine with my friends at our favorite bar - i miss them!
wine tasting afternoons
taking in the sights on hike
a solid early morning quiet run
planning something
making lists (like this one!)
crossing things off my lists when i complete them
catchign up with my friends virtually... on a chat or via their precious family blogs
walking on the beach
at the beach, sweating, with a cold drink, listening to someone with a guitar
looking at hubby and smiling knowingly when our little one does something adorable
getting our finances in order for the month (weird? maybe)
packing the perfect lunch
wearing a great dress
being outside on 75 degree days
walking to my next errand
watching my parents with my son
looking at a full drawer of folded, clean cloth diapers

.. and this is just my first 5 minutes of brainstorming...

March 11, 2012

Another fun thing about cloth...

OK: this is a bit impractical, but no small part of why I like cloth diapering. They are just so dang cute!!

I caught a glimpse of M's bag for school today and saw all the cute patterns (including the Bum Genius Elemental in the Albert print, and the Tots Bots Easy Fit in Cosmic)!

The other day, I saw a Facebook post asking if you put your favorite pattern on the little one for pediatrician visits. I do! And I secretly I hope I get to show them off everywhere!!

What's your favorite diaper pattern?

March 8, 2012

Toddler Lunch Equipment

SoYoung lunchbox
I had a couple of friends ask about what I was packing these toddler lunches in, and I realized that I never posted a complete description, so:

The lunchbox we use is by SoYoung (not the cheapest one out there, but its got a cute design and its pretty roomy- fits our stuff perfectly.). I bought it on Amazon. They also make 'cooler bags' which may be a better fit for bottles or depending on your containers. I love the bird and bicycle designs on those, and the robot or rocket would be cute on the lunchbox, too. And the giraffe!- though since its pink, so that won't fly at our house.
The containers I use are made by Sassy, and are BPA-free. We were handed down one set, and found another at Kohl's, but I found them available on amazon  and am sure you can find them at Babies'r'us, BuyBuyBaby, Target, etc., too. recommends (and offers discounts on) some metal 'laptop lunch' containers.

I like using these containers and lunchbox, combined, because it makes packing lunch feel like a coloring book: I pack a lunch, coloring inside the lines, and ta-da: lunch is packed.

What do you use to pack your kids' lunches?

March 7, 2012

Toddler Dinners (including a super-fast option!)

I was a single mom for a couple of nights this week. The first night, we had leftovers, which took a lot of pressure off for the evening. The second night, however, I didn't plan so well. In fact, I thought Daddy was going to be home in time to help with dinner/kid management, so I had actually planned to make a totally new meal. But I was wrong. I started to make one of our favorite, 20-minute meals: Cauliflower Mac n Cheese (recipe at the bottom of this post). However, with the help of my toddler this was taking much longer than usual, and I had to bail about halfway through, when it was 6:30 and I still was nowhere near close to getting something on the table. So I pulled out a piece of bread and a slice of cheddar and got started on a half a grilled cheese sandwich. Somehow this cooked perfectly, and landed on a plate with a few steamed carrot sticks (a staple in our fridge) and a handful of (still) frozen peas. AND HE ATE THE WHOLE THING. Our guy has been boycotting dinners this week (except cheese and milk), so I was glad to see him gobble this meal, and ecstatic that he ate the bread and veggies, too! See the photo of a couple minute in.

I wanted to include a few photos of other lunches we have packed this week, constructed of leftovers:
The entree here is the guts of an enchilada (see recipe below), torn half a whole wheat tortilla, cubes of steamed sweet potato, strawberries, blueberries, mango, kiwi, a yogurt-covered pretzel; Snacks: yogurt and granola; applesauce (in the container) and toddler trail mix (pretzels, raisins, craisins, diced dried apricots)

Cauliflower Mac N Cheese, strawberries, blueberries, cherry tomato halves, steamed carrots, yogurt -covered pretzel; Snacks: yogurt, frozen edamame (in a Dora single-serve pack - full disclosure, most of these came home...); halved grapes, fig cereal bar

Cauliflower Mac N Cheese
(based on a recipe from What to Eat When You're Expecting)

8 oz whole wheat macaroni
1 small head of cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp butter
1.5 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded Gouda
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1.5 tbsp wheat germ
1.5 tbsp Parmesan

Start cooking macaroni according to package directions. Meanwhile...
Steam cauliflower. Meanwhile...
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour for a couple minutes to create a rue. Add the milk and simmer until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in Gouda, cheddar, mozzarella until smooth. Add macaroni and cauliflower, and stir to coat.
Mix together the wheat germ and Parmesan.

At this point, if you like baked mac n cheese, like grandma makes, you can transfer the mac n cheese to a baking dish, top with the wheat germ/parm and bake on 350 for 10 minutes. We usually can't wait this long and dish it right up, and sprinkle the topping right on our bowls.

For more veggie sneakiness, we have tried stirring in peas or sauteed kale. Broccoli would be an easy swap for the cauliflower. And chicken or beef or edamame would be an easy addition if you feel like you need more protein.

Easy Enchiladas
(based on a recipe from my friend Shelley)

10 oz canned chicken
1 cup black beans
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup salsa*
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
7-8 whole wheat tortillas
1 can enchilada sauce*

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine chicken, beans, cheese, salsa and yogurt in a bowl. Scoop even amounts of filling into tortillas, and roll into tubes. Nestle the tubes side-by-side, touching, into a baking dish. Pour enchilada sauce evenly over the tubes. Sprinkle a little more cheddar on top.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.
*To really make this toddler friendly, use a mild salsa, and look for a non-spicy enchilada sauce (unless your little one likes heat. We couldn't find our usual brand, and the replacement was still hot, so we only served him the guts, with pieces of dry tortilla.

March 6, 2012

Overnight Diaper Suggestion?

So... the dog ate one of our nighttime diapers...

This has never happened before, but usually we don't leave diapers where she might be tempted either. I was a single mom last night and as I folded toddler clothes and stacked clean diapers after bedtime, I left them outside M's bedroom door, so as not to wake him. And left them there. Our mornings generally have a good routine, but the last 5 minutes usually go haywire. I will have our bags and lunchboxes on my arm ready to go and I'll see M dumping out a box of blocks across the room, or I'll have forgotten my badge, or my shoes...

Needless to say, I forgot to put the aforementioned clothes and diapers IN the bedroom, and found one dissected on the living room floor upon arriving home.

So now we need a new one to keep our rotation full, and could you really find a better excuse to buy a new diaper? So which one should I get for overnight? We have tried Rump-a-rooz so far - what's next?

We do have a pretty heavy wetter, but we also have some extra bamboo inserts that I am willing to add to anything if we need to!

Also, given the dog's preferences, I will take this dog event as a hint that I need to start research stripping diapers...

March 5, 2012

A perfect trip to the park!

We have been to Irvine Regional Park playground several times, but this time all the pieces finally fell together perfectly and it was just a relaxing morning.

Even on a weekend it still seems a little crazy to make some breakfast, squeeze in a Skype call with our parents, and all get dressed (not even showers!), especially after a night of interrupted sleep. So we all welcomed the trip to the park as a nice break. Somehow we arrived with water, snacks, sand toys, a kickball, the camera, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and two coffees. The weather was warm. There were some other families there as well and M even shared his sand toys. He had a great time climbing up the stairs and sliding down the slide. Over and over. Digging in the sand. Chasing after his ball. Swinging along side the other kids. Daddy and I soaked in the sunshine and leisurely sipped our coffee (those of you with small children may appreciate what a rarity it is to enjoy your cup of coffee without fear of small hands threatening it at every moment).

Maybe M is just approaching the age where he can explore this whole play area with minimal assistance from us. In other words, the leash is getting longer.  Or maybe we just got tired of helicoptering and are finally give him his space... And its relaxing.

This is a short post, but I'll call this park hour a Kairos moment (thank you, Momastery for this term). :)

March 4, 2012

Tyke Hike: Shipley Nature Center

Saturday we went on a 'Tyke Hike' at the Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach.

I learned about this hike though this FunOrangeCountyParks blog.

We decided to go to breakfast at Crystal Cove beach beforehand, and even though we got there early, we had so much beach fun we were running a couple minutes late getting to Shipley. Luckily we were still among the first to arrive and didn't miss any part of the program.

starting our hike!
We signed in, and got name tags and explored the space in front of the center (mostly just the magnets on the sign board) until everyone arrived. Then we sat down in the mini amphitheater for just a minute while the guides explained the game plan.

We would (loosely) follow some 'clues' to 3 different spots where activities had been planned. Along the way, we learned lots of fun facts about California flora and fauna. For instance, I didn't know California has two State Trees (the Redwood and the Sequoia).
learning about the different varieties of sage in the park - some are good for rubbing on you to keep bugs away, while others you can rub on you to mask your scent from deer you may want to hunt

All walking involved was probably under half a mile and we spent 1.5 to 2 hours on our 'hike'. Also, there was a cost of $5 per person for the hike, but the guides were having so much fun, they nearly forgot to collect it. Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised at this trip. I was most happy with the fact that even though I think kids a little older than M (19 months) would get more out of this hike, we were never made to feel like he was disrupting the group (even when he was totally ignoring the meditation exercises below and throwing the props and running screaming into the open field), and the guide often used his name to engage him in activities. I am definitely planning on attending the next one in May!

If you visit Shipley on your own, check out the main center. Since we arrived late, we only caught a glimpse when we ducked in for a diaper change, but I instantly wish we had more time to play in it. It is relatively small, but appeared to have lots of activities, and props for kids to learn. Bathrooms are located there as well!

Don't forget water, snacks, a hat and sunscreen... and your camera!
our first stop was to check out the inside of a Native American hut (an Eagle scout project donated to the park)
we heard about the Native American legend about how California was built on the backs of turtles, and when the turtle siblings push each other, we feel earthquakes.

then we got to make turtles out of egg crate sections, pipe cleaners and paint.

our next stop was to learn some animal-themed Chi Gong exercises. M was less interested in this activity, but was happy to throw the balls they had as extra props

family exercisers
walking to our last station

the guide showed some native animals, that we were allowed to touch: a tortoise, a tarantula, and a gopher snake!

then we got magnifying glasses to look for bugs
using mirrors to look for bugs on the undersides of leaves

we were even given a kids' guide to state parks (written by kids) and a history of Orange County coloring book