Archive for February, 2012

We really need rain at the moment and, if it must rain, today was the best sort of rainy day for toddlers.  It was wet overnight and in the morning, but temperatures remained mild and the skies brightened in the afternoon.  This meant it was perfect weather for puddles which, for toddlers, is what rainy days are all about.

I really don’t like taking the boys to indoors play areas at any time–they just have too much energy for those places–but I really hate taking them to indoors play spaces on wet winter days when they are crowded with frustrated and often sickly kids.  It always ends in tantrums or fevers.  Plus, the boys love the wet. So now when it rains I just take the kids outside.  What is it the Scandinavians say? There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes?

tracking the run-off

Sometimes we do a Serious Wet Weather Hike on the weekends. Stevens Creek is one of our favorite and super muddy destinations as the rain really brings the wildlife out.  Hidden Villa also has awesome puddles after a storm.  Other times we just do a rain walk down the street which is what we did today.  It’s a little disappointing that the City of Palo Alto put storm drains in our road last year as this has had a deleterious effect on our street’s puddles, but the little ones had fun following the run-off down the street and working out where it fed into the creek.  And the local park still had puddles galore. In the end, we spent just about the whole day outside as usual.

When do boys grow out of this?

Where do you like to take your kids to enjoy some outdoors rain time? I’m always looking for inspiration on this one. And the more puddles the better.

[as a side note, I often find the weather forecasts exaggerate the chance of rain round here and I’ve come to relay on this radar program to let me know what storms are actually in the area. It’s pretty good at forecasting the following 6 hours – perfect for planning toddler outings].


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I was fascinated by a recent report that suggested sugar is about as toxic to our bodies as alcohol and that we eat far, far too much of it.  You can find a good summary of the report here (the actual report is behind a subscription wall).  Now I know this has been a little controversial but its basic arguments, that too much sugar is unhealthy and that sugar is addictive, do seem to be substantiated by the evidence.  I also know that I am a terrible sugar addict with out-of-control cravings for mint aeros and jam.

Inspired by the report (and by the hope that a sugarless diet will shift that last bit of second-baby-fat), my husband and I have decided to do a ‘no sugar month challenge’ and March is the month. As of tomorrow, we are both going to try to exclude any items with added sugar from our diets. (Foods with naturally occurring sugars – fruits–are permissible).  He feels he can do it. We both feel I will last about three days.  We shall see.  Declaring the challenge to the world is my way of seeking accountability in the hope I may make it to five days.

And what a good example we would set our kids right?

Would love companions in the journey……

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Although it seems early, this week we started thinking about our summer veggie garden. I’m told by my green-fingered neighbour that now is the time to plant seeds so that the baby plants will be ready to transplant in a month or two. Sowing seeds directly into the soil round here just doesn’t work–far too many slugs. You can wait a couple of months and plant shop-bought seedlings into your beds, but I thought it would be fun for the boys to grow our plants from seed this year.  Our winter veggie garden was only a moderate success.  We did get some broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage out of it, but the weather was just too warm and the frosts too few for these plants to flourish.  I have higher hopes for our summer garden.

worm stew

So this week I took the boys off to our favourite local nursery to get some seeds.  They then had heaps of fun planting the seeds in a mixture of potting soil and home-made compost.  The compost worms were a big hit with both kids, although extracting one from The Puppy Dog’s mouth was not my favourite mothering moment.  That child has a deep attraction to all things slimy and gross.  The Monkey seemed to get the idea of what we were doing and enjoyed it, even if The Puppy Dog kept wondering round the garden planting seeds everywhere.  Who knows what we will find growing where.

In the end we planted sunflower, snap pea, snow pea and cherry tomato seeds and are watching for them to germinate. We also bought some pumpkin seeds as I want to grow our Hallowe’en pumpkins this year, but they can wait a month or two for planting.  A certain element of surprise has been added to the process by The Monkey who, when my back was turned, pulled all the labels out of the planters declaring “we know what we planted Mommy! We don’t need them!”   So we’ll have to try to identify the plants as they grow.  We may yet end up with a Mammoth Russian Sunflower teepee rather than a snow pea one. We’ll see.

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Latest scientific research concludes video games (even including the wii) do not make children more active or improve their fitness.

Maybe instead of trying to make more active/interactive video games we should just put the consoles away and go outside if we want to get our kids active and keep them healthy?

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Sometimes I have to work hard to remind myself how different the world looks to my toddlers.  They’re often intrigued by things I would never have thought about.  The bushes at the end of the garden are a good example. Now these bushes are especially big and, well, bushy and have been a source of fascination and anxiety for The Monkey ever since we moved in.  They’ve long remained unexplored territory, however, and he’s been happy to inspect them from a safe distance. If his ball went behind them, he needed Mommy or Daddy to venture back among the leaves to retrieve it.

Do we dare?

But no longer. Today was the day The Monkey explored the bushes.  When his ball went back there this morning, instead of running to me and asking for help, he slowly crawled in among the leaves.  He was very excited by his own bravery and delighted to find a hidden path and shady hiding places between the bushes and the fence.  The Monkey spent the whole morning exploring, gradually enticing The Puppy Dog, who is rarely daunted by anything, to join him.

Plunging in

To me, they’re just bushes.  To the little ones, they’re a whole world to be explored where daring and independence can be tested and adventures enjoyed.

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This weekend we headed up to Memorial Park to check out the old growth redwood forest.  As usual, we were the only family on the trails (although one hardy family with older children was actually camping out there for the weekend-kuodos to them!).  We fairly flew along the path as it had two key attractions for our children:  The Monkey was fascinated to discover the alphabet amongst the trees and the Puppy Dog was delighted by the banana slugs all over the trail.  Slugs really are magical to eighteen-month old boys.

If you feel like venturing into the forest, it’s a great park.  Just note the $6 day use fee and be warned that there is a distinct lack of parking near the trailheads!

Getting some learning on the trails



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We found this one in Memorial Park. The boys played here for the longest time. I’m finding many of our most successful hikes are those on which we stop and make time for unstructured play if that’s what the boys want to do.

Clambering around their forest stronghold

It's all mine!

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Today we checked out the two replica eighteenth-century tall ships, the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain, that are currently moored in the Port of Redwood City.  It was a pretty impressive sight which the kids enjoyed more than I’d expected.  I was also surprised by how fun the port was for little ones to explore.  There’s a trail along the water front from where kids can look into the water, watch the ducks and geese, and enjoy the many sail boats out in the Bay.  The Monkey had many questions about how sail boats worked and why all the boats looked so different. It was a new experience for him. The Puppy Dog really enjoyed chasing the ducks. We’ll no doubt come again on a windy day and bring a picnic lunch. As long as you’re happy to have your little ones near water, the port makes for an interesting outing.

Boat watching

Big ship, little guy

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I can’t quite believe how wonderfully warm and sunny it was today. I think we set a record for February, managing to enjoy a full day (8am-5.30pm, minus a nap in the car) outside.  We spent much of the day on the Stroller Hike’s expedition to Bravo Ranch playing in the fields, woods and the creek.  It’s a magnificent and remote spot, perfect for toddlers to explore with a play area, animals, tractor rides, water and mud.  If you fancy joining the next Stroller Hike’s trip to the ranch–their annual camping trip in July–see here to make reservations.

Rustic beauty everywhere

All sorts of things to explore on the ranch

Did someone say mud this way?

Spot the baby in the wilderness

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It’s meant to be beautiful this week with temperatures into the 70s and 80s, so here are a few ideas to get the kids outdoors:

Friday 24th February

Visit the Bravo Ranch with Stroller Hikes.

Details: Friday, Feb 24 at 10:30 AM: Day at the Ranch (Soquel) – Join Liza, Sasha, and Nico for a day at her family’s private ranch in  Soquel.  We’ll visit all of the animals – pigs, chickens, rabbits  (including new babies); check out the garden and orchard, and visit the  creek if it’s not too cold.  This won’t be a trail-following hike, but  kids are bound to get a lot of walking in, checking out everything at  the ranch.  This is the famous site of our Stroller Hikes Annual Family  Camping Trip (July 20th to 22nd this year).  Bring a carrier/pack for  non-walkers.  Directions: From Silicon Valley, take Highway 17 South  towards Santa Cruz.  Exit right on CA-35 Summit Road.  Veer right  following Summit Road over Highway 17.  Go 3.8 miles.  Turn right at San Jose Soquel Road (just past Summit Store).  Go 7.8 miles. The entrance  to ranch will be on your left hand side directly across from Casalegno  General Store. Look for the big yellow mail box, 3490 San Jose Soquel  Road (watch out – Mapquest and Google Maps will sometimes send you on a  wild ride!). Don’t try to make the left turn. The driveway is narrower  than it looks.Pull into the parking area for Casalegno & then cross  over Summit Road & go down the driveway.  The property is gated, so  see the sign on your left before the gate for the code to get in.  The  gate will close behind you automatically.  You can also access this  easily coming from Santa Cruz – just drive to downtown Soquel and head  towards the mountains on San Jose Soquel Road – you’ll see the Casalegno General Store on the left and the yellow mailbox on your right

This is a free event, but register with Stroller Hikes so they know to expect your family: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/StrollerHikes/surveys?id=13124526

Friday and the Weekend

This week there are 2 historic sailboats moored at the Port of Redwood City: The brig Lady Washington and topsail ketch Hawaiian Chieftain. They have walk-on tours this Friday afternoon. $3 donation per person. And all sorts of other exciting activities over the weekend. See here for details.

Saturday 25th February

Don Edwards S F Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Family Bird Walk 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Visitor Center, Fremont Let family walks become a shared time of nature learning. We’ll begin by helping kids create their personal bird watching field guides, and then head out onto the trails to find those birds. A limited number of binoculars are available to borrow. Recommended for children ages 5-10. RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. Call 510-792-0222 ext. 363.

And I would suggest this is a perfect weekend for a beach visit…..

Advance Notice – These events fill up fast:

Hidden Villa has a nice looking ‘toddlers on the farm’ class in March (three friday afternoons) for toddlers aged 1.5-3.5.  To reserve a spot, see here.

Elkus Farm has a couple of open days coming up – March 14th, 15th and 17th. The 16th is already closed for further reservations. If you’re interested, see here.

Tiny Treks is now registering for its summer programs. Comes highly recommended!



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