monterey aquarium.

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Our friend so generously offered their condo, but also everything that came with it. Which included bikes and membership passes to the Monterey Aquarium! Yes!

We rented a trailer for Eliza, which she loved. We're considering getting one now. We definitely took advantage of that coastal bike trail during that weekend. We would ride up and down the trail watching the waves crash on the rocks, and listening to Eliza babble in her little chariot. 

It was only a 7 minute ride to the aquarium from our place, which made it the most ideal location for seeing the aquarium. We were able to spend a couple of hours in the morning, bike home for lunch and naps, and bike back for a couple of more hours. Now, how can anybody spend 4 hours at an aquarium, you say? 

Because, this place is what dreams are made of. It is beautifully built, incredibly well-designed, clever, interactive, and massive. I have never seen so many underwater creatures, and probably never will again. We loved the feedings at the Open Sea tank, which is two stories tall, full of sharks, turtles, huge tunafish, rays, sunfish, and this breathtakingly beautiful swarm of silver sardines. When the food would drop down the cloud of sardines would dart about, shimmering in the sunlight that broke through the water. Oh, it was just amazing. The tank goes all the way to the floor, so the kids can sit right up against the glass. Eliza got all giddy when she saw the line of kids, and wedged her between a few to get a better view. 

And, of course, the jellyfish are just out of this world. Eliza loved them. It is mind-blowing to me that all of these beautiful creatures live on this earth, and I am so grateful for places like this that allow me to see them up close. They seemed to glow in the tank lights, as they floated and danced around in the water. 

Eliza was in heaven the entire day. She loves animals, and this was just the most exciting day of her life. She ran around from tank to tank, asking to be lifted up to get a better look. She would exclaim "Oooooooo!" or "tutle!" (turtle) or just let out a screech or little, excited noises when she saw something she recognized. She loved the children's area where she could climb and run, and the splash zone with the tunnel that dropped waves over your head. And she was pretty excited when she got to see "Memo!" (Nemo). 

It really is one of favorite outings we've ever had. Such a magical place!

This weekend was amazing. We got to do pretty much everything we wanted to do. I will say, we failed miserably at our food choices. For some reason. we just kept making really poor choices. We even spent a pretty awful night trying to get clam chowder at fisherman's wharf, which ended in tears and hangry words. A pretty epic night that we laughed at later. 

Thank you, Sam. The best birthday weekend!

big sur.

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Since we were staying in Pacific Grove, it made our bucket list plan of seeing Big Sur so much more manageable. We could spend the day in all it's beauty, but head home when the sun went down. Right now, with a toddler, I felt like it was the perfect way to get a taste.

We hiked two of the trails at Limekiln State Park. The first led us out to the the old, abandoned limekilns- massive, yet dwarfed by the surrounding trees. The second led us to the Limekiln Falls. Our entire day in Big Sur was overcast and beautifully moody. The forest seemed eternally damp and quiet, with those soft needles underfoot. 

We also walked the Waterfall Trail. Get a load of that waterfall- the one that is cascading into a Caribbean blue cove, like something out of Neverland. You can't make this stuff up. This was the view from Waterfall House, the mansion built by heiress Julia Pfeiffer Burns, which sadly doesn't exist anymore. But, at least we can still see that view!

Eliza had so much fun on the hikes. She loves stopping to walk around a bit, and loves her pack. We hung out on the beach at Limekiln so that Sam and Eliza could chase the seagulls. We would wait until they were settled on the sand, and then run out at them. They would raise up in a cloud of wings, and then circle gracefully back down to the beach. 

And then, of course, the drive just makes it all worth it. Highway 1 is literally carved out of the hill, so the fog rolls up and over the road. It was perfectly wonderful.

pacific grove.

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The week before last was my birthday week. I say birthday week, because it really was an entire week! I can absolutely say that this was my favorite birthday yet. My girlfriends kidnapped me to dance at a club in the Castro one night, Sam treated me to dinner at Chez Pennise in Berkeley, I'm getting a season package for the San Francisco Ballet- basically I was treated all week long by the best family and friends a girl could ask for. Thank you!

The cherry on top of a stellar week, was our weekend down in the Monterey Bay. A friend of ours invited us to use her family's condo in Pacific Grove, where we stayed for 4 days last weekend. It was right on the coast, and a perfect location to get to everything we've been dreaming of doing down there. With four days, we didn't feel rushed or anything, and yet we somehow made it all happen.

We spent the first day exploring this cute town. Pacific Grove is right up next to Monterey. There were some cute shops, and an amazing bakery that we stumbled upon. Well, more like, we saw a huge line and decided it must be good. Wow. Sam decided it was his favorite bakery. Ever. That's saying a lot.

We took our baked goods down to the beach to hang out, and had to chase off some pretty aggressive seagulls- one of which literally picked up a bag with an entire loaf of bread and dragged it away from me. Even as I was screaming and waving my arms, he wasn't about to let go. It was a good bread, so I don't blame him.

Pacific Grove is a stop for the monarch butterfly migration. They are super proud of this, and you can see butterfly symbols and art on every street corner. We got to visit the butterfly sanctuary, that is filled with eucalyptus trees, which the butterflies prefer. We went in the morning, so we didn't actually get the full effect. When the sun is not warm, the butterflies are sleeping. But, it was still pretty amazing to see so many sleepy butterflies, clinging to the branches like leaves. Every once in awhile one would fall off and flutter in a lazy circle before finding a new spot to rest.

We also went down to the tidepools at low tide to let Eliza play. She was a little wary, but curious enough if we held her hand. She liked sticking her fingers in the sea anemones, and picking up the hermit crabs. No worries, I taught her to be gentle. But, she did collect quite a few treasures to put in her tiny pockets- pebbles and seashells. The past few days, at home, her face lights up when she realizes that they are still in there. 

The sand there was like brown sugar, the way it fell apart in your hands. Eliza would ask to have her little feet buried, and then pop! them out to watch us act surprised. Then she would giggle and say "mo?" (more) and I would bury them again. We sat and watched the sun go down with our feet dug into the sand.

eighteen months.

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Miss Eliza is eighteen months old. That's one and a half years! I wish everyone could know Eliza. She is so hard to explain now. It's absolutely amazing how complex her personality has grown to be. It's still so crazy for me to think that this is my child and she is already on her way to becoming a real person. She is a real, little person.

This age is just amazing. It is a million times easier than it was before and, at the same time, it is a million times harder than it was before. In fact, it took me a couple of weeks to actually complete this post because I was having a hard time figuring out what to say.

I love her so much. I love her conversational babble, as she fills in the blanks between the words she can say. I love that she gives the tightest squeezes, and plants firm kisses on the lips just because. I love that she always asks for my hands when we walk around, and especially when she asks for Sam's hand, too. I love her avid curiosity, even if it causes messes and tumbles. I love her little smile, when the corners of her eyes crinkle, just like Sam's. I love, love that she gets excited whenever I turn on music, and wants to dance together in the living room. I love the noise of chairs and stepstools scraping the ground, as she situates herself beneath a counter that she wishes to explore. I love that she loves to go to bed, and gets giddy about crawling under her blanket- just like I do. I love when she brings me stacks of books, and then turns around, waiting for me to pull her up into my lap to read. I love hearing her feet padding around the house, and watching her busy body move. I love bath time, I love lunch time, I love park time, I love play time. I love every time.

Ok, maybe not every time.

Wow, it's so hard to remember these things when she erupts into a full-on toddler tantrum. Yes, we have definitely entered this phase. It's hard for me to watch. She gets so worked up that she shakes and tighten her whole body in fits. She has a screaming cry where her eyes close real tight, and her whole face turns red. But, the worst is the fire engine cry with glassy eyes wide open and that accusatory stare. By the end of it all, she's so exhausted that she hiccups little whimpers and rubs her swollen eyes aggressively. Lately, it seems that we have at least one tantrum a day. Some days I have to go hide on my bed, above her eye level, and just let her cry herself to exhaustion because nothing I do is helping. When do you help, and when do you let it go? I know that I can't jump at every little whine and complaint that comes out of this child. Especially since there seems to be so many of them, these days. 

I want to help her understand that the world is not crumbling around her. I think I need to make sure that she knows that I am here for her, without feeding the flame. Right? But, how? Eliza is such a special, little soul. She is strong and spirited, and that's why I love her. This girl has a lot of emotions, and can get very frustrated when things are not just so. I think she has a lot of her parents in her. 

Trust me, I know all toddlers struggle with similar things. But, I'm pretty sure Eliza has a little more fire in the belly. My neighbors, who must hear every single noise that she makes, told me that she seemed pretty "ferocious." HA! They meant it as a compliment, and I took it. Yeah, Eliza is pretty fierce.

So, how do I help her?

I was talking to my dad about this recently, and he made me realize that this is something that I will always be navigating. Helping your child is not as simple as it seems. Even when she is older, I won't be able (nor should I) fix all of her problems. Sometimes, I can only be there for her.

So, this is what I'm working on when the tantrums erupt:

1) Help her know I love her.
2) Give her space to express her emotions, so that she might realize she can let go.
3) Show examples of realistic and healthy emotions.

The last one is a doozy for me. Until recently, I hadn't realized how dramatic I am. (Ok, maybe a little.) But, when I noticed a few instances that Eliza mimicked my reaction to things, like dropping something or not getting something I needed- it made me stop and think. A couple of weeks ago she started saying a very dramatic "Ohhhhh, noooo!" every time she dropped something, and I realized it was me. When I stub my toe, and make a little scene, she freaks out and runs to me crying. I need to be a good example, it starts now.

This post got away from me a bit, but I'm glad I had a space to work it out. I love this girl something fierce, and I want to do right by her. Doesn't every parent? 

Now back to our regular broadcast. Cute pictures of Eliza, wearing this darling dress that my mom sent her

And, maybe one more realistic one...


swan lake.

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A week before Halloween, I pulled together about half of our costumes when I decided, "Hold up. Eliza needs to wear a tutu for Halloween!" Thus was born, Swan Lake! Eliza is Odette, the White Swan. I am Odile, the Black Swan. And Sam (who was a super champ to go along with my theme) was Von Rothbart, the evil sorcerer. Seriously, it was the most fun! 

All of my mommy dreams came true this year while creating these costumes. I made her tutu, which she immediately latched on to. She wore her "too, too!" all week long, and still asks to wear it every day. We went to the dance store three times to pick out a leotard and teeny-tiny ballet shoes. I could hardly believe they made shoes that small. She was so excited to try them on, "thoos, thoos!" I spent my evenings that week hand beading and sewing sequins to create the embellishments to our costumes, while watching my fill of Netflix and pounding down early Halloween candy. There were sequins stuck to our feet, beads rolling around the floor, and feathers floating through the air. It was a dream. 

Sam's costume was a little more tricky. We looked up different versions of Rothbart's costume online, and Sam decided that if he was going to do this he only wanted this one. He wanted the wings and the spikes. Yikes! So, we finally settled on faux suede bat-like wings, and faux-leather "spiky" scales. I'm pretty proud of that costume, if I do say so myself. Eliza loved watching it all come together. She would play with the little squares, and hand me bits and pieces of things as I worked. And, she loved trying to touch the wheel as it spun on the machine. 

My costume was pretty simple, since I already owned most of it. I just added some flare, and perfected my Natalie Portman face. Eliza was beyond excited when she saw me do my make-up. She kept trying to touch my face and squealed with delight. So, I sat her down on her little chair and painted her nails, and put a little white shadow on her face. She was so darling, I thought my heart was going to explode. She would hold really still and squint her eyes in a little toothy grin. She loved putting her "bows" in her hair, and danced all around the house.

She had such a ball that week. We won a costume award at our church Halloween carnival. We went out to trick-or-treat twice on Halloween day/night, and then hit up an after party at a friends' place. For the official treating, we went out to Russell Street in Berkeley, which is famous for their celebrations and decorations. It was nuts! I have never seen anything like it. One house built an entire pirate ship in their front yard, as tall as their two story house. Another house had an elaborate light-up show of an alien attack. Eliza collected a few bits of candy in her sparkle purse, and then managed to bust into every single piece. She would be innocently clutching a sucker one second, and the next thing I know it's half-way gone- sucked through a tiny hole that she punctured with her little vampire teeth. She ate so. much. candy. I felt so bad! But, not- because she had a blast. At the end of the night, when I peeled her leotard off, it was filled with half-eaten M&Ms and Nerds. 

Happy Halloween to you all! I hope it was magical!

PS. How much do I love that last photo where Sam and I are being super serious, and Eliza's photobombing? A lot.

pumpkin patch.

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A couple of weeks ago we went out to Fremont to visit a pumpkin patch at J. E. Perry Farms. As much as I love the Bay Area weather, sometimes I miss seasons. I mean, a pumpkin patch in sunny 80 degree weather is just not the same. Especially when they are just rolled out on a dry field. Makes me miss Utah, and the East Coast. But, we still had fun! 

We picked out a good pumpkin for carving, and let Eliza wander all over. She has been completely obsessed with pumpkins ever since the season began. She points them out at the store and in decorations. She knows where all of the pumpkins are in the house. So, I thought she would just go crazy at the patch. But, I think she was pretty warm because she walked around in a total daze. I told her she could pick out a little pumpkin, but she didn't want any of them. She really started to perk up when we went under the tent, and then Christyn helped her pick out a small ear of "Indian" corn and she wouldn't let go of it. So, now it's sitting on our mantle, and she carries it around the house with her baby doll. "Cor, cor!"

This season has been so much fun! Eliza loves pumpkins and calls all of the scarecrows on display, "baby!" She has been really into all of the Halloween things at the dollar section in Target, and loved making Halloween cards for all of the family. We went to a Halloween store, which turned out to be a poor parenting decision on my part. It was scary! She stayed pretty close to me, but loved growling at all of the creature masks, "rawr!" It wasn't until I kept hearing say, "baby, baby, baby!" and I realized she was pointing at a very disturbing dead baby decoration, that I decided we needed to get out of there!

Sam carved a smaller pumpkin with a kitty face for Eliza, and she loves it. we decided to put our jack-o-lanterns in our fireplace this year so Eliza can play with them, and also to avoid the Bay Area three-day moldy mess of a pumpkin trend. It's been great, because she runs up to it multiple times a day, to say "mow, mow?" (meow)

Pumpkin patches will forever remind me of this day, though. That was at our first place in Provo, and our pumpkin sat out on the porch all through Christmas. Whoops.