Thursday, 3 September 2015

First Day of School 2015

Yesterday was the first day of school for the new year - and the first day of school ever for Lola!

I can't believe I have two school kids. Ava is now in third grade and Lola is in Transitional Kindergarten.

Transitional Kindergarten (TK) is a relatively new class created for kids whose birthdays fall just after the cut off for Kindergarten. In the past kids were allowed to start Kindergarten if they turned five by the end of December. Over the past few years the cut off date has crept forward, and as of this year kids now need to turn five by the first day of school. Lola misses out by just over a month, which really sucks! I would have much preferred for her to go straight into Kindergarten but at least we had the option for her to attend TK.

The girls were pretty excited as they got ready for school in the morning. Ava was obviously eager to get back to school as she woke up around 6am, made herself breakfast, and was dressed and ready to go by 7am! School doesn't start until 9:10am so that gave her plenty of time to play Minecraft. Lola slept in a little longer, as usual, but was excited about her big day none the less.

On our way out we stop for our traditional "Leaving the house on the first day of school" photos. A neighbor was kind enough to take a group photo for us. Oh yeah, and there was duck face, of course!

Both Ava and Lola were given new backpacks as a back to school gift from Kim and I. Lola was pretty excited to have a unicorn backpack - although she does wish it was pink! Ava's new backpack features Peanuts characters and she loves it. (Both backpacks are from Hanna Andersson. You can see more of my favorite kids' backpacks here.)

The girls will be riding their scooters to school most days, but for the first day they both wanted to walk. That made it a little easier for me to take photos as they weren't zooming ahead!

At school the girls were excited to catch up with friends, most of whom they hadn't seen all Summer, and some who they have seen pretty much every second day over the last few weeks.

We dropped Ava off in the big yard and then made our way to the Kindergarten and TK yard to meet Lola's teacher and classmates.

All kids in Berkeley schools are provided with breakfast every day. Eating breakfast is the first thing the classes do for the day. Most classes eat breakfast in their classroom, however the TK kids eat out on the yard. The kids dropped off their backpacks and lunch boxes, then made their way to the seating area for breakfast. There was lots of yummy stuff on offer for breakfast. As Lola had already eaten pancakes at home, she opted for just a plum.

 While the TK kids ate their breakfast Mathilde played nearby.

After Lola's class had finished breakfast and made their way into the classroom Mathilde and I headed home. I've got to say, that after having all three kids home with me over the Summer it felt awfully quiet at home. Mathilde kept walking around the house calling out for Ava and Lola. She seemed a little confused that they weren't there.

After school had finished for the day I took the girls out for a treat. We were on our way to get gelato when we noticed lots of people sitting outside of Cheeseboard eating soft serve. It looked so good that the girls decided they wanted that instead. Good call. It was delicious! I had no idea that they even sold it there.

Hooray for the first day of school! 

Thursday, 27 August 2015

52 Weeks: Week 34

Week 34: Aquatic Park

The long Summer break is drawing to a close. Just one more week left before the girls are back at school. We've been trying to get out and about and enjoy the rest of Summer as much as possible. This means lots of trips to the playground. We usually head to either Live Oak Park or Ohlone Park but this week we decided to venture to a playground we hadn't visited for a while: Aquatic Park down by Berkeley's waterfront.

The girls enjoy going to the playground at Aquatic Park because it's so different to the other playgrounds we go to. Everything in the playground is made of wood, giving it a fort like feel. It's a little out of the way so we don't get there all that often which makes it feel a little more special when we do go there.

The girls had fun climbing, swinging, sliding and running around the playground together and with friends who met us there. 

Ava has always been a little monkey when it comes to climbing and has been able to make her way across any set of monkey bars since she was three or four years old. Lola is a little more cautious than her big sister and still struggles with the monkey bars a little but I was pleased to see her make it all the way across this time. I was also pleased that she missed Mathilde who happened to walk underneath right as Lola swung past! 

Mathilde loves going on slides and is pretty confident climbing up the steps and sliding on her own. She always likes to slide with me on the first go though. Check out how much more tanned her legs are than mine! 

There's one other thing about Aquatic Park that makes it an exciting place for the kids to play. It's located right along side the train line so every so often an Amtrak train or a freight train zooms past blasting its horn. Mathilde was a little scared at first when she heard the train horn shortly after we arrived, but once she realised what it was she was excited to watch the trains go past. This little one is obsessed with "things that go"!

 Only one more week of Summer vacation left. I can't believe how quickly it has flown by!

Back to School: Shoes

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

For our family, the start of a new school year usually means new shoes for the kids. I swear their feet grow faster over Summer than at any other time of year.

For school my girls tend to wear the same shoes they wear for play. We also tend to stick to the same styles and brands of shoes all year round as the weather doesn't change much in the Bay Area. As the weather is pretty mild here we don't really need "Summer" shoes and "Winter" shoes. The shoes that the girls wear for Summer usually work for Winter too, sometimes even sandals.

My girls like shoes that they can slip on and off easily. Lola isn't a fan of wearing socks so we stick with shoes that can be worn without. In general, I try to avoid shoes with laces for my kids. They haven't yet mastered the art of tying their laces effectively (something I really need to work on, especially with Ava) and I find that when their laces inevitably come undone during the day, the girls' attempt at retying them always result in loose shoes. And loose shoes (especially during PE) often result in twisted ankles. Ouch. So for now, until the girls can tie laces properly we're sticking with slip-ons and velcro.

Here's a look at some of my favorite shoes for my kids. Some of these are shoes that they have now, or have had in the past, while others are new shoes that I'm eager to try out. Click the links below the image for more details including sizing, colors and pricing.

1. Native Kids Shoes - Jefferson
2. Freshly Picked The Next Step Shoe
3. Puma Kids Whirlwind Mesh V
4. Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Slip On
5. Toms Canvas Youth Paseos
6. Salt Water Sandals
7. Toms Canvas Youth Classics
8. Vans Classic Slip-On

The Native Jefferson shoes are a staple in my girls' closet. The style goes well with both dresses and pants, and they can be comfortably worn with or without socks. My girls have had these in a few different colors but we usually stick to navy blue as it goes with everything. The rubbery material makes them perfect for wearing in/near water. They're kind of like Crocs, but without the ugly Crocs styling!

Saltwater Sandals are our other main shoe staple. They're dressy enough for special events but still casual and comfortable. I even have several pairs myself. They're waterproof which makes them perfect for walks on the beach or in creeks. The soles are really long wearing too which is great as Ava is really hard on her shoes.

The Puma sneakers are Ava's current favorite for when she needs to wear something a little sportier, like for PE at school. They're comfortable, breathable and the velcro is so much easier than laces. A lot of sneakers with velcro tend to look a little toddler-ish, but these just look like regular sneakers which is great for older kids.

My girls have had quite a few different styles of Converse All Stars over the years and while I love the high tops the most, the slip on style is definitely the easiest for them. Like all styles of All Stars, the soles are so hard wearing that even Ava and her shoe destroying feet can't trash them!

The Toms Classics are a simple comfy option and are almost like part of a uniform here in Berkeley. Everyone wears them! The simple styling goes well with many outfits and they come in a huge range of colors in sizes ranging from toddler and youth, to men and women. Perfect for a little "Mummy and Me" styling! We haven't tried the Toms Paseos yet, but I really like the simple styling, and I'm sure they're just as comfortable as the Classics.

I really like the simple styling of the Vans slip-ons. Lola really likes that they're covered in tiny hearts! Like the Converse, these shoes have really hard wearing, sturdy soles perfect for kids like mine who ride their scooters everywhere.

I'm really excited to try out the new Freshly Picked Next Step Shoes. Mathilde has been wearing Freshly Picked moccasins since she was about five months old and they are just the best baby shoes. They're so well made and they never fall off. I love that there are now matching hard sole shoes for Lola too. Ava's feet are a little big for these as they only go up to a size 13, but they're a great choice for younger school kids.  

We've got one more week before school goes back. Just enough time to squeeze in a little shoe shopping!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Seattle 2014: Harbor Cruise

During our vacation in Seattle last Summer we took a sightseeing cruise on the harbor.

After spending quite a bit of time walking around among the city's buildings and along the waterfront it was nice to see it all from a different perspective. It was also a very hot, sunny day so being out on the water with a breeze was lovely. Look at that perfect blue sky. Seriously, the weather was absolutely perfect the whole time we were in Seattle. Maybe even a little too hot and sunny. I'm starting to think this whole "It rains non-stop in Seattle" business is a myth created to stop the rest of the country moving there!

Our one hour sightseeing cruise with Argosy Cruises departed from Pier 55 and took in wonderful views over the waterfront, the Seattle Skyline and the surrounding mountains including Mount Rainier.

The girls were pretty excited when they first spotted the Space Needle. At this point we were yet to visit the famous tower but the girls couldn't wait to go up it. They've been up plenty of observation towers/decks in their time and they always enjoy the views and that feeling of being up high above the city. Plus the Space Needle looks like something out of the Jetsons!

While Ava and Lola enjoyed being out in the sunshine and the novelty of being on a boat, little Mathilde slept the entire time. Back then she'd sleep for hours and hours at a time snuggled up in her wrap.

Our cruise took us alongside the shipping terminal with the bright orange cranes and colorful shipping containers. It kind of felt like we were back in Oakland. The girls liked to pretend that the cranes were dinosaurs here to destroy the city! They sure do look like it. Oh, and the color coordinated orange helicopters that flew past at just the right time were a nice touch!

We all thoroughly enjoyed our cruise on the harbor and before we knew it we were back at the pier and disembarking. Time flies when you're having fun - or soaking in the sun and enjoying views of a beautiful city!

It's rare to get all five of us in a family photo at any time, but especially so when travelling. So this was one time that we actually did purchase the souvenir photo. We don't usually bother with these as they're always over priced and I'm not a fan of the fake backgrounds, but this one was a great family shot - and the background is real!

For prices, times and more information about Argosy Cruises please visit their website here.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Back to School: Backpacks

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. 

Summer is almost over.

We have just over a week of Summer vacation left before the kids go back to school. This year I'll have two big school kids. Ava will be going into third grade and Lola will be starting Transitional Kindergarten (she just misses the cut off for Kindergarten). Having them both at the same school, with the same drop off time is going to make mornings much easier.

To celebrate going back to school I've purchased new backpacks for the girls. There are so many fun backpacks out there, and lots of great back to school deals at the moment, so I thought I'd share some of my favorites for elementary school kids with you (many of which are on sale right now). All of these backpacks come in different colors and designs. Just follow the links below.

1. Hanna Andersson There & Backpack Junior 
2. Land of Nod Teacher's Pet Backpack
3. Fjallraven - Kanken Backpack
4. Hanna Andersson There & Backpack
5. Herschel Kids Backpack
6. American Apparel Cordura School Bag
7. The North Face - Mini Berkeley
8. So Young Grade School Backpack
9. Toms Stand Up Backpack