Monday, August 25, 2014

Andrew's in First Grade! {Minecraft Back to School Dinner}

The night before school starts we have a tradition of having a Back to School Dinner. This year we are going to have two different Back to School dinners since Andrew and Catie start school two weeks apart!

Last year we had a Back to School pizza picnic at the park and the year before we had a silly pirate themed night. Andrew currently loves Minecraft, so it was fun to add that to the mix. I made a super quick banner on the computer, decorated the table with some Minecraft toys and Kevin made us green waffles! We added dark chocolate chips to help them fit with the theme.

During dinner we talked about a few goals and some things Andrew is looking forward to about 1st grade!

After dinner Kevin gave Andrew a father's blessing that was super sweet! He had such a hard time going to sleep last night because he was SO EXCITED to be a first grader!!

Can't wait to hear how his first day went!!

Update: Catie never remembered about her Back to School dinner and I was too tired... so we'll try again next year with her. :)

My Momcation- BlogHer 2014

As my Toddler Approved blog has grown I have had the opportunity to meet some really nice people from around the globe.

This summer I attended a blogging conference called BlogHer 2014 that was being held down in San Jose. 

I stayed at the Fairmont Hotel and had my own super cozy room. I felt totally spoiled and was bummed that I didn't get to spend nearly enough time in my hotel room because I had way too much fun out with friends!

The conference had different classes we could attend and then we also spent a lot of time hanging out and chatting. 

On Thursday when we got there we had a big Kid Blogger Network meet up for dinner at Il Fornaio (photo from Jamie). Not the cutest angle, but was nice to have the event documented.

On Friday I had fun going to classes and roaming around. I also went to a few events with some brands.

On both Friday and Saturday night they had parties. Friday night there were parties hosted by different brands that were held in different hotel suites. My favorite party (where we stayed for a long time) was the Goldie Blox Party! We could play with the toys and get drinks/eat food. They had treats, so I was a fan!

Afterwards we went out to a nearby restaurant for dessert/food and stayed there until it closed. It was fun to just sit around chatting and learning from some of my super successful blogging friends.

During the day there was also a big Expo in the Convention Center where different brands had booths. We could chat with them about how they worked with bloggers and get free stuff. My favorites were Sonic and Baskin and Robbins... lots of free treats anytime you wanted them. Chuck E Cheese also was awesome and gave away big board games to everyone. We got Scrabble. The kids were stoked!

My friend Allie (who has a blog called No Time for Flashcards) presented at the conference, so several of us went to her session. She gave so many great tips that have already been really useful to me! Now I just need more time in the day to use them more!

For dinner on Saturday night we checked out a fun new-to-me place in downtown San Jose called San Pedro Square Market. There was so much good food! 

Later on Saturday night McDonalds hosted a big closing party for the conference. There was a giant McDonalds truck serving happy meals all night long plus other food/drinks. 

There was also a big dance party. I haven't gone to a dance party in FOREVER and had a blast. Run DMC performed and we hung out dancing and chatting at the party until the cops shut it down around 11pm or midnight.

The cops were trying to get us to stop chatting and leave... so Jyl (who's photo this is below) told them we'd leave right away if they would take our picture in a giant pyramid. They were good sports and we had three cops snapping photos while we all posed. It was so funny and they were cracking up!

Then they really kicked us out and we went back to the hotel to sit around and chat till the wee hours of the morning. My 6am alarm the next morning was painful!

What an awesome weekend with so many neat and creative friends!! This was one of those momcation where I came home completed exhausted and took a nap for 4 hours! I was so grateful that Kevin was willing to watch the kids so that I could have such a fun weekend (that was also really useful in terms of my blog too).

Here are a few of my friend's blogs if you want some other great kids activities and resources!

Chrissy- The Outlaw Mom

Rachelle- Tinkerlab

Maya- MemeTales

MaryAnne- Mama Smiles Blog

2014 Summer Camps for Catie & Andrew

This summer we were around for several different weeks so in an attempt to save my sanity and not have Catie & Andrew fighting endlessly, I sent Andrew to a few camps. He loved every minute of all of them! I also sent Catie to one camp. She was sad she didn't get to go to more!

Here are a few photos from camps!

First off he went to a local vacation bible school camp. It was super hero themed and they learned a bit about bible stories. He had tons of friends there and was in heaven!

I was fortunate to be invited to review Camp Galileo again on my Toddler Approved blog, so Andrew got to go to camp for a week in exchange for me writing about his week. He had a blast! You can see tons more pictures of his week here.

Andrew also went to a week of Pirate Camp at his Gymnastics studio. Here he is trying to look tough like a pirate. :) I think he looks a little creepy!

Two awesome teenage boys from the local high school lacrosse team did a free two day camp for a few boys. It was adorable and I was excited to see that Andrew actually LOVED lacrosse and got really into it. He especially liked checking :)

The week before we went to LA Catie got to go to Sofia the First Princess Dance Camp! I was really worried because she didn't know anyone going and has never done something by herself for three hours before. She has anxiety sometimes so I was picturing huge meltdowns and problems. The teacher said she was awesome every day. This was the cute face she gave me when I said goodbye the first day. No problem at all! I was FLOORED!

She loved her "leotart"

The last day they did a very simple dance show for us. Catie did a little dancing and then spent a lot of time cleaning up sparkles off the floor while the other kids danced. She sure looked cute though! She made tons of Sofia the First themed crafts too. I think this camp was the highlight of her summer! She even got a Sofia doll to bring home with her!

All in all I think the kids had an awesome summer! I still need to blog about Girls Camp and our trips to Idaho and Utah! I can't believe school starts tomorrow!! So sad!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Summer Trip to LA

Kevin had a business trip to LA last week so we decided to tag along. I think we might have to do that every time he has business trips down there from now on... we had so much fun!

When we arrived we had to get down to business and do the most important things... jump on the beds and "call Grandpa." Ryan had a pretty good conversation with him without actually being connected. The other important thing we always do when we arrive at hotels is disconnect all the phones. That way our kids can't call anyone and no one can call us if our kids are being loud all night long ;)

When we woke up the next day we rushed off to meet up with the Balenas at Griffith Park! The reunion was so sweet. These two started running towards one another they were so excited. Liz and I started bawling... and hugged and we were just so happy to finally be hanging out with our dear friends again! Catie ran and gate Grace a big hug too.

Ryan and Hank had fun goofing off on the train as well.

We rode the train, the ponies, and the carousel.

The medium speed ponies rode FAST! It was so funny to watch!

We also visted the La Brea Tar Pits. It was HOT but interesting... there were several tantrums throughout the visit by the littlest guy, but we survived. Not my favorite part of the trip.

We also visited the Hayes family!!! And we got NO PHOTOS since I was so busy inhaling the yummy homemade ice cream Meredith made and chatting and eating the cookie bars she made too. The kids had fun making a disaster of their home and we had fun catching up. Yay! So fun to have friends to visit that aren't too far away!

Liz and I continued our adventures with the kiddos once Kevin went back to work and we went to the Kidspace Museum in Pasadena.

We also hit up a yummy donut place and the Taco Deli for lunch. Hank fell asleep on the table at the restaurant while he was eating and me and Liz gabbed and gorged ourselves while my kids played on tablets and Ryan spilled food everywhere. It was blissful and so wonderful to just have chat time!

We stayed at the Embassy Suites and these kids loved the elevator and the huge free breakfast. They also loved that we were right next to LAX and we could see the airplane flight path from our hotel window. I took them down every morning in their pjs for breakfast. They were very self sufficient and helpful and ate everything in sight.

We tried to get a workout in so we ran from Hermosa Beach to Manhattan Beach and back... I ran and pushed the double jogger and Andrew rode his bike. It was HOT but I got all the kids ice cream midway through the 40 minute jog, so they all survived and were happy.

We also played at the beach a bit afterwards.

We went to the cutest story hour at the LA Temple with the Balenas on Tuesday and then we hit up Sprinkles Cupcakes and Sprinkles Cookies! Yum Yum! I LOVE the cookies!

I was SO sad to say goodbye to Liz... but fortunately we'll be back down to LA in a month or so again!

The kiddos and I attempted to go to the Museum of Flying in Santa Monica... but it was closed because of weird summer hours. The kids were VERY disappointed.

I cheered them up by taking them to the Santa Monica Pier and letting them ride rides and get amazingly large slurpees. They cheered up quickly!

We spent many evenings watching movies on my laptop... One night we were waiting for Kevin to get back so we could go swimming... Ryan decided that sitting on top of Catie was way more cozy than sitting on the couch.

On our last day in LA we drove down to Irvine and met up with Meredith Hayes and kiddos to hang out at Pretend City. It is seriously the perfect place for kids! My kids had a blast!

After saying goodbye to Meredith we grabbed yummy drinks at Sonic and then we went and picked uo Kevin, packed our car, and hauled ourselves back to the East Bay! Other than stopping every 50 miles so kids could go to the bathroom we made really good time and got home right around bedtime!

What a fabulous trip!! So glad we could tag along with Kevin and get to see our good friends too!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Team Hope SF Walk for HD

Our family is teaming up again this Fall for the San Francisco Team Hope walk for Huntington's Disease in honor of our friend Eva Boren who lost her life to HD 12 years ago and in support of Eva's daughter, my friend Jen, who was diagnosed with HD last year. Jen is an energetic mom of three kids (ages 8,6, and 3) and is active in the HD community in Idaho where she lives. We love her and want to spread awareness for HD and help support other families who are battling with this challenge!

If you live in the Bay area, come sign up to be on my team and walk or run with us! You can also donate here if you are unable to walk/run that day but still want to contribute.

Team Hope Run/Walk Details:

The event will be held on Saturday, October 25, 2014 starting at Sports Basement in the Presidio. The run starts at 9:30am and walk starts at 10am. 

The walk/run is about 5K and starts at Chrissy Field and goes all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a gorgeous way to spend the morning and such a great cause to support!

Sponsorship help needed:

I am on the organizing committee and we are also still looking for corporate sponsorships, so if your company/small business is interested in participating in some way, let me know. I am the marketing/PR person so I'll make sure your business gets lots of extra media attention if you decide to help with sponsorship. :)

If you want to join my team, let me know!! Hope to see many of our Bay area friends out walking/running with us on October 25th in San Francisco!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Grandpa's 90th Birthday & Seattle

Over the weekend we got to fly out to Seattle for a quick trip to celebrate my Grandpa's 90th birthday and help my mom and her siblings throw him a big birthday bash!


The flight there was great. It helps that our kids are great walkers and love to compete to see who can carry the heaviest bags. Pretty soon Kevin and I will be buying ourselves adult strollers and we'll let the kids do all the heavy lifting/pushing.

We loved exploring the parks around my grandparent's house. We hit up this one twice...

On the first night I went over to visit my grandparents while Kevin put the kiddos to sleep at the hotel. I loved getting to chat with my aunts and uncles and grandparents without my kids running around. Grandma made sure that we got our sugar fill! In this photo she is holding three large boxes of ice cream bars. If you ever wonder where I got my sweet tooth from... it is my Grandma Brown! We are kindred sugar/chocolate spirits. :)

On Friday Kevin and my dad explored and played with the kiddos while I ran birthday party errands with my aunts. What a fun day!

On Friday night the "adults" (aunts, uncles, grandparents) all went out for dinner so Elise & I (and families) we had our own cousins bash at the park with pizza... followed by Dairy Queen!

On Saturday we played some more at parks and then let the kids play at grandma and grandpa's house for a few hours. In the late afternoon I helped set up for the birthday party and then loads of family and grandpa's friends arrived around 5pm for his 90th Birthday Party!

My kids had fun running around and eating as many treats as they could sneak while we met many of Grandma and Grandpa's friends and neighbors and chatted with cousins.

We even managed to get a photo with Grandpa and all of the great-grandkids that were at the party from the Smith, Love, Caffee, and Buskirk families. We need to have a big reunion so that we can get all of the other great-grandkids together too!

It was so fun to spend time with my mom and dad again! My kid were in heaven!!

One of Grandpa's neighbors made these cute 90 cookies for his party.

Darling Sophie!!

The highlight of the evening was listening to Grandpa, Grandma, and Aunt Diane shares stories from G&G Brown's life. This testimony shared by grandpa was the best part of the night. It was so special to be there to listen to him.

After cleaning up the party we went home and crashed at the hotel!! My kids were terrible sleepers the entire trip, so we were exhausted!! Ryan slept in the bathroom at the hotel and the two little kiddos shared a pull out couch and were constantly stealing blankets from one another and rolling on top of each other. Since Ryan slept in the bathroom we had to walk the big kids down the hall if they had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night... it was PAINFUL! So glad to be home because of that!


Before we went home we had to spend a day or so exploring Seattle!! We visited the Space Needle and Seattle Center, rode the monorail, went to the International Fountain, rode the Giant Seattle Wheel, ate ice cream and food along the pier, and just roamed around. We are so glad our kids are such good walkers. They walked and walked and then walked some more! The weather during our visit was gorgeous too!

I was also so excited that I got to meet up with several blogging friends that live in the Seattle area! We went out to dessert at the Purple Cafe and chatted for a few hours while Kevin and the kiddos played at the park. I've known all of these ladies online for a few years and yet we'd never met in real life... in fact, Allie (far left) is one of the bloggers that inspired me to start my Toddler Approved blog. So cool to all hang out a bit this weekend. I love how many creative and fun people I have met through blogging! 

(photo courtesy of Marnie from Carrots Are Orange)

My only wish is that we had another day or two to play in Seattle!! There are so many things that we wanted to do and not enough time!! Can't wait till our next trip back!

We finally headed home this evening. I am exhausted, my house is a wreck, and am hoping my kids decide to sleep FINALLY. Wish me luck!