sea ranch.

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On the way home from our cabin stay, we drove out to Sea Ranch. Sam's been wanting to see the Sea Ranch Chapel for awhile, and it was really pretty amazing. (You can find more pictures online.) Eliza was really into it, and kept calling it a "mermaid house."

I'm feeling pretty grateful to have such close friends here in Berkeley, who are always up for adventures. Thanks, guys!


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Forever ago, we rented a cabin with some friends in the Redwoods for the weekend. I decided that this is absolutely my kind of vacation. It was only a couple of hours away, we all stayed in a huge, beautiful (and very affordable!) lodge together, and just r-e-l-a-x-e-d. We walked around the grounds for a day, totally no the kids' terms. For example, we spent a couple of hours lounging by the creek letting them throw rocks in the water. We even went on a mini canoe ride. And spent an entire afternoon napping. Like, everyone got to take a nap. It was wonderful.

The rest of the time the kids ran around squealing and laughing, totally entertaining themselves. It was a huge success. And, I plan on renting this place every other weekend now. Not really. But, really...

eliza says, vol. 6


Eliza is growing so fast. Her physical growth has slowed down, but her mind is growing and expanding so fast. She will say something one day, and not the next. She will stop mid sentence and correct her own grammar. It's mind blowing. She is constantly making connections between every little thing she comes across, and her imagination has blossomed in such a beautiful way. After years of always running around town trying to keep this girl entertained, she has finally come to this sweet stage where she just wants to stay home all afternoon and play house with her bunnies. For a full hour, I may actually be able to do some laundry as I listen to her high-pitched chatter as little adventures come spilling out of her little imagination. (And, this is coming from that early toddler who would throw shoes at me and then bang on the front door at 9am every morning ready to hit the town. "Go OUT!")

She is crazy strong-willed these days. We are encountering our first arguments and fights with friends, which sort of breaks my heart. But, we are working through it. She has gotten exceptionally physical lately, which really gets to me. I would really appreciate any tips from moms on that one! She hits and kicks when she's mad, which sends her straight to "time-out" and always produces a tearful "sorry." But, it's still hard to handle!

I really am constantly amazed at how smart and clever she is. She pulls her dress-up box out every single day and creates specific characters with outfits. She builds little homes for her bunnies or baby dolls all over the house, and I am always running across Eliza's toys organized in some interesting way in the tufts of the couch or the shoes in my closet. She creates at least one piece of art a day, always always insisting on mailing it to some family member or another. And, she dresses herself every day. I used to fight it, until I realized that this kid actually has great sense of style and is exceptionally good at mixing and matching. And, I really love seeing what she comes up with.

She is so kind, and very aware of the feelings of others. The past couple of weeks have been very wearing on me, and my heart has been heavy with current events in the world. Twice in the past week I have found myself in tears, and both times Eliza found me- she asked me if I need kisses, and then asked if I needed a bunny. Then she tucked her "Mama Bunny" in next to my face and gave me a kiss. I love her so much.

Eliza says:
"That's so nice of..." - She got this one from me. Whenever someone does something nice, Eliza will say, "Oh, that's so nice of (so and so)." Like when she puts on a dress that Grandma gave her for her birthday six months ago she will say, "Oh, Grandma gave this to me! That's so nice of Grandma." Or, once I was dictating a text to Siri on my phone and Eliza asked, "Who that?" When I told her that Siri was helping me send a message, she said, "Oh, that's so nice of her."

married- Eliza really wants to get married. She talks about it all the time. She loves seeing pictures of brides, especially the one of Sam and I on the bookshelf. When I ask her why she wants to get married, she says "Pretty dress!" And, when I ask her who she wants to marry she says, "... pretty dress!"

"When me a mama..." - She went through a time when she would say this all the time. "When me a mama, I want pink yips." (lipstick) "When me a mama, I will go out with my friends!" "When me a mama, I get married."

"Hereg gou go, Mama!"- She's saying "Here you go," but for some reason she adds in several extra g sounds. She loves helping me, all over the house. And, she follows me around saying, "Hereg gou go, Mama!" and handing me random things. Like, when I'm cooking dinner, or putting make-up on. She especially loves helping me fold laundry- where she very carefully rolls each shirt into a little ball and places them in a line. I'm trying to be better about letting her help out more, even if it's not actually... help. (ha!)

"just one?"- She might run across the Halloween candy stash- "Just one?" Or, some crackers in my bag, "Just one?" Or, a box of wipes that she wants to play with. "Just one?" I apparently use this term very often, and she's always shooting it back at me. Although, after she eats one little chocolate chip while we are baking cookies, I look back five minutes later and she's sneaking another one. She will smile back at me and ask, "Just one, Mama?" I guess that concept is a bit over her head.

"stop teasing me"- This is one of my favorites. She yells this at inanimate objects all the time. Like, when a sticker is stuck to the bottom of her foot, "Stop teasing me!" Or, her skirt gets caught on a branch, "Stop teasing me!"

"remembder?" (remember)- Eliza loves reminiscing about her long, lovely life. "I was a baby, remembder?" "We saw that movie, remembder?" "My birthday party was at the park, remembder?" I am still constantly amazed at this girl's memory. She remembers so much! And pretty far back, too!

"mama" and "papa"- Every man or woman in a movie or book is a "mama" or "papa." So, when we are reading the "Beauty and the Beast" book, and the Beast turns into a handsome man and they embrace and kiss, Eliza squeals "Aw, she loves her Papa." Or, the "Kiss Kiss Fish" smooches the "Pout Pout Fish," Eliza happily proclaims "He found his Mama!" Also, anytime anyone or anything is sad then she usually nods her head sadly and says, "He misses his Mama."

"I can't wait"- Eliza recently picked this phrase up, and uses it all the time. But, she uses it very literally. Like, when her friend is coming over for a playdate she will very seriously state, "I can't wait!"

(This photo was taken back in September, when we were visiting Texas.)

under the sea.

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Happy Halloween, everybody!

I think this was my favorite Halloween yet. I might end up saying this every year, though. But, this was definitely the year that Eliza was old enough to completely embrace the holiday in all it's glory. I asked Eliza a couple of months ago what she wanted to be for Halloween and she said, "A mermaid with a pink tail!" I loved this idea, but I was pretty sure that she would change her mind about fifty times before October 31 rolled around. No way, this girl knows what she wants. Every time I asked her, "A mer-dade!" (which is actually how she pronounces it.)

So, I figured I better get to work. When I was in Texas back in September, my mom helped me design her costume. She's a costume genius, not only with our amazingly creative costumes growing up, but for countless stage productions, museum exhibitions, and everything in between. We found this little ruffle dress in a size 6, so it was perfectly floor-length on Eliza. Then, after gathering as much information and sparkle trim I could find in my mom's sewing room, I took it all home and pieced it together. It turned out pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself. The seashell bra was the cherry on top.

The first time she tried it on, it was still sort of in pieces and she kept trying to rip it off, and whined "It doesn't look like a mer-dade!" I was super mad, and my ego was a bit bruised. But, then when I finally finished it and slipped it over her little body she looked down at all the sparkles and smiled, "I want to wear it to the splash pad!" She totally loved it, and I was in mommy heaven watching that tiny tail swish, swish, swish when she walked. She wore it multiple nights, for hours, and never once complained.

This girl loves to dress up. She pulls out her dress-up box every single day, without fail. Anytime we have visitors at our house, the box comes out and everyone at the dinner party ends up with a tiara or hat on their head. So, Halloween was just one big party for her and she was all over it. One of my favorite parts was pulling her little chair into the bathroom, where she would sit for me to do her make-up and hair. I would ask her to close her eyes and she would smile and clench her eyes tight shut so the eye shadow would just sort of smear onto her lids. And then she would smoosh chapstick on her "yips" for a good fifteen minutes while I got ready.

Even though we let Eliza pick her costume this year, I was not ready to give up on family group themes. No way. So, with some imagination we decided to go with an "under the sea" theme. I made a bioluminescent jellyfish umbrella that lights up, and found a blue dress that was plastered with sequins (thank you, 1980s!). It was really fun, and really an easy costume to make. Of course, Sam in all his indecisiveness, waited until the last minute to pick his aquatic creature. While reading Eliza Dream Animals one night, Sam and I had a heated discussion about whether or not narwhals were real....

They are real. (In case you didn't know.)

Guys, I'm 27 years old and I just found out that narwhals are real! I know, pretty embarrassing. But, not that embarrassing since I really feel like they are the most ridiculous creatures and that there is no way that they should still be around. Just sayin'.

So, then Sam decided he wanted to be a narwhal. It's actually a super easy costume to make, as well. He just made a horn out of a wrapping paper tube, covered it in silver fabric, and stuck it on a headband. The funny thing is, I actually had to buy him some sweatpants for this costume- since Sam Gray doesn't own sweatpants.

On Halloween, we walked the 4th St. shopping district for some early trick-or-treating, and then met up with friends at the famous Russell Street in the Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley. This street is nuts. They block off the streets with cop cars, and every house is crazy and over-the-top decorated. The entire city shows up to trick or treat here. There was a massive pirate ship with a light up dragon, and a robotic alien show. We took the kids up and down the street, and Eliza ate so. much. candy. She was very meticulous and organized with her candy collecting, and eating. She spent an hour nursing a box of Nerds, eating each Nerd one at a time.

I'm not going to lie, we were a hit. We won "Best Group Costume" at our church carnival. And, on Halloween night we were like the cool kids on the block. Everywhere we walked there was a trail of comments, "Narwhal? Narwhal. Narwhal! Narwhal!?" And then, "Cool jellyfish!" And, of course, "Oh, a mermaid! So cute!"

I wish every day was Halloween. It's one of my favorite holidays because there is such minimal stress, no traveling, and you have a reason to be whoever you want to be for one night. Such magic.

After trick or treating, we all went to Zachary's Pizza for the best deep dish, and the kids were so great even though it was way past bedtime. I love Berkeley, and I love our friends here. Holidays away from home can be rough, but I always feel like we have such a solid Berkeley family to celebrate with.

Bonus photo of my glowing jellyfish: Untitled

And extra bonus photo of Eliza in full mermaid mode:


oh boy!

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Lisa has two little girls, and is expecting her first little man. Oh boy! This girl deserves a party, if only to pull tiny collared shirts out of gift bags, and get excited about onesies and swaddles that are not pink, pink, pink.

She told me that she was interested in decorating her nursery with a few different animals, one of them being foxes- so I ran with it. I put together this board of foxy, woodsy themed ideas. Luckily, I save things, which should be a testament to Sam that it's good for me to have drawers full of party supplies. I totally re-use them! These garlands were from Whitney's shower, two years ago. 

I also hand-painted the signs, modeling the fox after this little guy. Sam and I already had a whole pile of this aspen wood, and I gathered moss, pinecones, pine boughs, and other stumps from around the Bay Area over the past few weeks.

We had a great brunch spread, with plenty of cake donuts! Add in a couple of quiches, a salad, a beautiful fruit board, and some pretty addicting pumpkin donut holes- and you're set. I also let some apple cider simmer all morning, before putting it out on the buffet, to set the mood. For favors, I made these s'mores chocolate-dipped marshmallows which were surprisingly easy to make. And, little heart-shaped bird feeders all wrapped up in parchment with a sprig of wild flowers.

Lisa's mom came into town the night before, and gave me free-reign on this party. She was really sweet, and I'm glad I got to help out. I love parties. It gives me a reason to hoard bags of moss and pinecones, or clip pine boughs off the trees at the park, and not look totally crazy. 

We are so happy for you, Lisa! That little boy is going to have the cutest big sisters and a pretty awesome mom. 

birthday trip, part 3.

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Eliza and I spent one of the weekends at my sister's, while we were in Texas. Her husband was out of town, so we tag teamed the three girls all weekend. Sammie was a dream, for the most part. I swear, I kept forgetting she was there half the time. She's so quiet! And just such a happy babe. Eliza and Lucy were there usual crazy selves, and they all had such a good time.

One of my favorite nights, we turned out all the lights and had a dance party in the living room with Lucy's flashing Elsa wand to strobe up the dance floor. Eliza wore Lucy's Belle dress-up dress literally all weekend long, usually accompanied with some tiny plastic heels and a pink diamond tiara. The heels were way too big for her, so her long finger toes would curl out over the peep toes and I cracked up every time I saw them.

It was fun to be a parent with my sister. I mean, we've done it before, obviously, but never solo without husbands. Sometimes I get annoyed being the middle sister. But, mostly, it's pretty nice. I mean, it's really great having someone to look up to and learn from. And it's really great thinking that I can possibly do the same. 

We took the girls swimming, spent the evening at the giant H-E-B like it was the best amusement park ever, and Desi and I spent most nights watching ridiculous(ly awesome) shows- like Katy Perry's concert on Netflix. Have you seen it!? There are dancing cats. You will cry.

Desi could not get over Eliza's voice, and so every time she talked we would bust out laughing. I guess I never really realized how high-pitched her voice is! I knew it was bird-like, but I'm just so used to it. She has the cutest, highest voice and every word of her sentences get's progressively higher. And, almost every sentence ends in a "?" even if it's not necessarily a question. It's so cute, and I love it. What's funnier is that Lucy actually has a cute, deeper and sort of gravely voice. "Roxie, Roxie!" So, to hear the two of them talk to each other just makes you laugh. They kept crawling up on the top bunk of Lucy's beds and conspiring.

Oh! And, guess who we got to meet up with? Miss Stacie, former freshman roommate. This girl got me through my first year of college, without a doubt. And, I hadn't seen her in almost three years- not since I was first pregnant with Eliza. Stacie and her family now live in Houston, and she was a superstar friend and drove all the way up to Texas with her two little girls to spend the day with us. I haven't laughed so hard in my whole life. I was like drunk with laughter by the end of the day. Half of the day was spent with all five little girls, all three and under. We played dress up, while Willow ran around the house in an Elsa dress pointing her wand very sternly, "I will freeze your heart!" Later, we drug out the kiddie pool, and watched the girls "wash the car" while Stacie and I sat on lawn chairs and caught up on life. I was sort of digging this suburban lifestyle. And, I was sort of digging hanging out with Stace again.

We spent the afternoon at the Do-seum, which was big, beautiful perfectly clean suburban museum magic. Eliza and Lucy made s stop motion film while rolling around on a green screen, and Willow walked the entire museum with a tote bag full of lobsters from the "Little Town." After, Stacie and I took just our girls out to eat downtown, where they promptly made a ridiculously funny scene and I promptly tipped generously for the craziness. We let the girls pick out pan dulce, and sat outside in El Mercado for two glorious seconds eating our goods. I loved being a mom with this girl. I just love seeing old friends as moms. It's like a whole new, bonus self that you get to learn and love from the already pretty amazing person that you already know.

And there you go. I'm sure I left a lot of goodness out. And, I always seem to kick myself for not taking enough pictures on trips. But, there you go- the great Texas birthday trip of 2015. 
I love my family.

birthday trip, part 2.

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My dad's big 60th birthday has been in the makes for months now. We wanted to do something that would bring everyone together under one roof, which hasn't happened in years. I mean, once you have children who have children, and who all live in three separate states- it's kind of like asking for a miracle. So, we made it happen.

We rented a condo on Padre Island, for a weekend at the coast. It was a cute, little condo with just enough room, close to the beach, with a really awesome pool and an equally awesome kiddie pool. Everything really fell into place. Sam flew in two days earlier, Danielle flew in the night before we left, and somehow we managed to fit everyone in two cars, including three massive carseats. 

Except, let's just pretend like the three hour car ride down with three kids all three and under was perfect, as well. Right? Let's just say we made it without losing our minds completely, and only managed some crayon drawings on the inside of the car door. (yikes!) Also, let's just pretend like Eliza and Lucy were total buds the entire trip. Because, honestly, they were kind of pills. I guess this must be what siblings are like. The girls are only a year apart so they have such a good time together. They laugh and squeal, and say the funniest things, and play the funniest games. But, when they are not being nice they are being so naughty! They would fight and cry and scream, and boy did they hate sharing. It was the first trip where this was an actual thing. It's like, whoa, we have real kids now! But, you gotta love them. And when they hug each other, your heart just wants to melt.

Our first afternoon there, it rained as hard as ever. We thought we were going to slide right off that bridge coming up over to the island. In a way, it was kind of nice. We just sort of spilled into the condo, spread out, and relaxed all night. Later that night, some of us took the kids out for a swim in the rain until we were all shivering and laughing. The next day we spent all morning at the beach, and all afternoon in the pool. This entire trip made me remember how much I completely hate heat, but also how much I completely miss water activities to cool down! 

That night, Desi and I snuck out and grabbed a cake from Marble Slab, a huge bag of party goods from the dollar store, and a handful of balloons. The girls helped us decorate the condo while my dad was out grabbing pizza, and they screamed when he came home, running around kicking balloons and waving their glow sticks. It was a great night. 

It made me smile to see my dad so happy. He deserves the best. I hope that he can see what great things have come about because of him. He has always been there to give me just the right amount of advice to help me become to person I am today. And he never misses a chance to tell me he loves me and that he is proud of me. Happy 60th, Daddy. I love you.

We had a great weekend. On the way home, we stopped at the Texas State Aquarium, and when we got back to San Antonio we jumped in the neighborhood pool one last time before they closed for the summer.

Eliza loves my dad's backyard. I always wonder what goes through her little mind, like, "Oh look! Grandad has a park in his backyard!" Nobody in Berkeley has a yard, but there are plenty of beautiful parks for us to play in. So, to be able to to step right outside his door and run around in the grass looking for treasures- it must have felt like such a luxury. She also made a cute little "house" in one of the empty closets upstairs, where we played with toys and read books behind the curtained door. On one of the days, my dad watched Eliza solo while I went out with my mom. He and Eliza made homemade biscuits, colored pictures, and watched Sesame Street. She was so happy when I came back. 

On our last night, we all went to Jim's and I ate the most massive pancakes ever. I don't know why, but this trip felt like the closest to "old times" as I have ever felt since I've moved away. It's like a new "old times." One I get to share with my family. And, I'm really loving it.