Four Years Old

COMMENTS: 30

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I know that every parent says this about their child, but Hudson is truly a special kid.

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Like every preschooler, he has his moments that drive you crazy. He has a inexplicable need to keep his body in motion—even in sleep he tosses and turns. And he sometimes chooses the most random things about which to be stubborn. But not a day goes by when he doesn’t delight us with some insight, some glimpse into how he’s coming to understand the world… some sweet gesture of love towards me, or Aron, his sister—or even (or rather, of course) the dog. “I’m a lovey boy, right mama?”

Yes, Hudson, you really are.

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Thinking About: A family gap year?

COMMENTS: 49

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Many of you are likely familiar with blogger Courtney Adamo already—from her work on the expat-based parenting blog, Babyccino, or from her Instagram account that features “the most stylish” family in Britain, or from one of her many appearances around the web. I’ve found her travels with kids to be very inspirational—most notably it was she who led us to our apartment rental in Positano last summer.

So it was with great interest that I read the article Courtney wrote recently for The Telegraph‘s Lifestyle section: “We’re all going on a family gap year.” There, she describes her plan for her family of six (kids aged two to nine) to put jobs and traditional schooling on hold (in favor of check-ins and homeschooling) for a year of travel, and how it connects to a particular memory from her childhood:

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Scenes from our 4th of July

COMMENTS: 9

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Hope those of you who stood to advantage from a three-day-weekend had a great one! The 4th of July has always been a favorite holiday of mine because it, like many good birthday parties, tends to include friends and family and good food—and it’s in the summer!

But I especially enjoy our Davis celebrations of late: the day begins with a very Americana kiddie parade (this was our second year) and some bike races that leave you with that “I love this little town”-feeling; and then we cool off in the pool with friends before walking over to community park to catch the fireworks.

Our day this year had some unexpected twists, but overall was a great one. Here are some photos…

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Best advice for new dads

COMMENTS: 16

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I’m always a bit surprised when I see companies and advertisements speaking only to mothers about parenting.

Everywhere I turn, I see dads wearing their babies or strollin’ them around town, coaching their kids at little league and running beside them in mini-triathalons.  They’re kneeling down to fix their daughters’ braids, reaching up to help them reach the highest rung of a ladder, and riding their sons to school in trailers and bike seats. They’re up in the middle of the night, rocking newborns to sleep, and they’re changing wet mattresses in the middle of the night after sleep-walking limp preschoolers to the toilet.

And these are not super-dads—well, not necessarily. They’re just dads. And there’s not an armchair-one in the bunch.

So I asked some of my favorite dads to share:

Here are their top tips (and top gear picks) for those new to the parenting role…

This post is sponsored by TargetFor more baby inspiration, find us on Facebook and Pinterest.

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Thinking About: Wife Bonuses & Two-Income Households

COMMENTS: 48

KellyRutherford

Did you happen to read Wednesday Martin’s op-ed, “Poor Little Rich Women,” in the New York Times last month? In it, the author writes about the practice of “wife bonuses”:

“A wife bonus, I was told, might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup, and distributed on the basis of not only how well her husband’s fund had done but her own performance—how well she managed the home budget, whether the kids got into a ‘good’ school—the same way their husbands were rewarded at investment banks. In turn these bonuses were a ticket to a modicum of financial independence and participation in a social sphere where you don’t just go to lunch, you buy a $10,000 table at the benefit luncheon a friend is hosting.”

It was at once mind-blowing and, well, not surprising at all—having lived in New York for a time. It’s mostly just fascinating when people talk about their (very extreme) financial situations openly.

Which, of course, they didn’t. Not really.

This op-ed was all a part of marketing for Martin’s pseudo-scientific, yet serious anthropological study of certain Upper-East-Side elite, a tribe of wives if you will, that she conducted by becoming one of “them” in preparation for her memoir that’s coming out soon, Primates of Park Avenue. But color me intrigued.

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Gift Guide: Father’s Day

COMMENTS: 10

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It’s not too early to start thinking about Father’s day gifts…

If you want to get something from someplace like Etsy, you often need to think a bit further ahead. On the other hand, if you leave your shopping until the last minute, there are some options on here from sites like Amazon (where, apparently, major cities can now get same-day shipping—crazy!). I got a little carried away this time—too many great things for guys.

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Row by row, left to right…

A card to make yours laugh (because it’s all too true). And to thank him for everything.

Classic (California-made) board shorts with a 7″ inseam—to best flatter his great dad-bod. The Sky and Stripe are my favorites.

A perfect casual watch (on sale).

This starter kit because everything is under 30z and would help him in his struggle to still travel carry-on only. Ah, the good ol’ days.

This handsome french press would suit him well.

Awww. For him and his little one. Throw in a box of pizza while you’re at it.

A croquet set! Because games are the best gifts, and he probably doesn’t have one yet. You can all play a round together in the afternoon.

On a related note, Cards Against Humanity. Indulge his wicked sense of humor (or at least flatter it).

A slim-cut linen shirt that comes in extended sizes (like Tall!)—on sale until Monday.

A six-pack cooler for picnics in the park. Fill it with Dad’s Root Beer or a microbrew from his home town to start.

Best. Dad. Ever. Period.

Cool skateboard for the hipster dad.

Backgammon to play on that camping trip he’s been wanting to take.

I’ve always wanted to try this: Play catch for 25 minutes with the kids and make ice cream at the same time. Everyone wins!

This clean, ceramic Sake Set could come out after the kids are asleep. And it’s half-off. (Here’s an article about the beverage.)

A handmade waxed tote that gets better with age (like him). Or JCrew‘s less-expensive alternative.

This waterproof phone case inflates. So it would be perfect along with white-water-rafting plans.

Steak knives. And a promise to make a juicy rib-eye soon.

Kindle Paperwhite. I love mine, and it’s likely the only way he gets to read on planes anymore (one-handedly, usually while someone sleeps on the other one).

All he really wants to know. Make sure he gets the message.  (And low pressure: Tell him he can leave it on the shelf and you’ll add to it from time to time.)

Not pictured: Would a Father’s Day gift guide be complete without a tie? This one is clean and timeless.

Of course, if the dads in your life are anything like the ones in mine, they tend to buy themself everything they want. So experiences make great gifts, too. Or even just his favorite breakfast with a note saying why he’s the coolest—and that you love him. 

What are your best father’s day gift ideas? 

P.S. Last year’s Father’s Day Gift Guide. And the holiday gift guide for him. I stand by all those recommendations, and will say it again: that toy helicopter remains my favorite go-to gift suggestion ever.

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How to: Meal Train Etiquette

COMMENTS: 35

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There were ten babies born to women in my bookclub last year (including Skyler)—and there are more on the way this year! With nearly every new arrival, we would all sign up for nights to bring food over the family. (We used a free website called MealTrain.com that helps you organize drop-offs.) They’d list their preferences and allergies, kids’ ages, and best times to stop by. We would, in turn, coordinate to spread out the meals rather than filling their fridge for merely a week.

Once it was my turn to benefit, and friends started showing up with homemade casseroles, kale salads, and pints of ice cream, I realized I’d been a terrible meal-giver. I think I’d brought over a sort of sad tupperware of chili with hardly a side to speak of. (Sorry, Vanessa.) Luckily I was the second to have a baby, so I learned early. Another friend echoed this sentiment: “I have to rethink my go-to recipe because I always made things for others that needed to be assembled! Not until I had it done for me did I realize the joy of just opening the meal up and eating.”

So now that we’ve all (and seriously… almost all) been on the receiving end of a meal train in the past year, I thought I’d ask my friends to share their thoughts on meal train etiquette…

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Scenes from Mother’s Day

COMMENTS: 20

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Did you know that the woman who lobbied (successfully) for the official recognition of Mother’s Day as a holiday later wished they would rescind it? Apparently she wrote that the industry around the holiday were “charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations.”

Reading that made me laugh of course, thinking about the poor family members tasked with picking out peonies and making a beautiful breakfast. But I was talking with a friend of mine and found myself nodding along when she said that, in a way, Mother’s Day feels more special than a birthday: her identity is so imbued with being a mother—at least right now, when the kids are still babies—that it feels really necessary to celebrate that. And I imagine that our mothers felt that way at one point, too (if not still).

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Last-minute Mother’s Day gift (From the grocery!)

COMMENTS: 4

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Mother’s Day is this Sunday. Have you picked out a card yet? Did you remember to pick up a gift?

In case you’ve gotten behind and will be scrambling for something Saturday night, here’s an idea you can pull together in no time. In fact, everything but the card came from our local grocery!

Here’s what I included…

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Something to entertain.

Pick up a few of her favorite magazines. A nice trio might consist of fashion, home, and celebrity pop-culture, but you’ll want to tailor the choices to her to show that you’ve been paying attention.

Keep reading…

This post is sponsored by Lindt.
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Assemble Your Allies: 5 tips for a stress-free kids’ party

COMMENTS: 15

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I have it on good authority (from a 4-year-old expert), that Captain America is the coolest because he’s “the strongest human ever, has the best outfit, and he always does the right thing.”

So when that little Avenger (or explorer or princess) comes and tells you they want a character-themed party for their birthday, how do you bring that beloved vision to life while still keeping things unique and stress-free?

Here are 5 tips I’ve gleaned for throwing together something simple but special…
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A Mother’s Day Gift Guide

COMMENTS: 10

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Some ideas for Mother’s Day (it’s coming up—May 10): Whether it’s for you, your wife, your gal pal, or your mother, I hope there’s something inspiring here. (And if not, check out the last mother’s day gift guide—or even the one before that. I still stand by all of those suggestions, too.)

If she’s hooked on podcasts, she’ll appreciate these beautiful headphones. (However, if she prefers in-ear ones, consider these by Bose—the noise reduction feature is fantastic.)

Gorgeous, feminine, one-of-a-kind baskets.

Chocolate and roses: pink vanilla buttercream roses with chocolate layer cake. Yumm…

Homemade bath salts—and the promise of an hour to soak with them. (You just need Weck Jars, epsom salts, and essential oils—any scent you like.)

Luxurious new towels by Coyuchi. (I fell for these on our day-trip.)

Paintable family dolls—to make with her kids.

Everyone can use a large canvas tote. I like this striped one from West Elm. (And it’s on sale. And monogrammable.)

ceramic jar, handmade in Minnesota—because she’ll love how unique it looks.

Kumquat are symbols of prosperity. (Tasty ones.) Order her a dwarf Nagami or Fukushu tree.

Nothing says love (or “have fun”) like a giant, inflatable pool toy, right? Try the swan or the flamingo.

Something beautiful for her table.

A slim backpack that will keep her hands free without overwhelming her frame.

The Anne of Green Gables DVD boxed set: good for remembering watching it with her mother—or for watching with her daughter.

New moms would love this picnic blanket and playmat. (Note: It’s coming from France—you may need to wrap up a photo until it arrives.)

A classic: this solid copper watering can is made from a single metal tube that is bent three times and soldered onto its body. (There are lots of colors.)

And, finally (and this may be all you need): plans for the day together—and a card that says thank you, and tells her you love her.

P.S. All gift guides.

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Nostalgia (& Friday links)

COMMENTS: 14

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The final season of Mad Men starts this weekend. I have such affection for that show. Besides just feeling it has some of the best writing on television and some of the most compelling characters, I rewatched the entire first two seasons while nursing Hudson—usually horizontal—on the couch in our New York apartment. It brings me back to those warm afternoons with Hudson—slightly sweaty, breathy-little-baby-filled afternoons. So sweet. You can bet that the Kodak Carousel scene that ended the first season (perhaps my all-time favorite pitch in the show) especially got me that time around: “in Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.”

I’ve loved reading all of the interviews coming out with creator Matthew Weiner and the stars of the show, in anticipation of the series’ end. And this one, with Kiernan Shipka—who plays Sally—was fun because you get to look back at how much the actress has grown up in front of us. (Isn’t she stunning?)

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I’ve also been looking back at how Hudson’s sleep patterns shifted to one nap a day. I think we’re almost there with Skyler and it’s a little confusing right now (though she’s pretty happy regardless). I’ve been pulling out my favorite baby reference books; this one is my go-to pick for sleep and sample schedules.

Some other items of note… 

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Family Dinners: Introducing New Flavors

COMMENTS: 66

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At one year, Skyler is an open-minded eater. She’ll try anything. But there are still the wrestling matches for the spoon, her spirited tests of… gravity, the “grass-is-greener” on your plate scenarios to make dinner complicated—and then there’s her three-year-old brother. We do our best to sit down together and let her try a bit of everything, but there are some meals when that’s trickier. When we, for example, order Thai food and the curry is a bit too spicy.

But I like to feel like we’re eating together, and I want to do all I can to help her become an adventurous eater. Plum Organics has new line of baby meals and their Hello Dinners have proved to be a great solution:

The ingredient list is nice and small to begin—simply some filling whole grains and vegetables—and while we can add just a bit of hot water and serve it immediately, we’ve discovered that they also make a great base for introducing new flavors.

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We’ll mix in more vegetables and protein or, in this case, some kaffir lime leaves, cilantro, and a little coconut sprinkled on top.

Skyler can feed herself and still be a part of our dinner. We can introduce her to new flavors, while still making sure she has a well-rounded meal. And honestly? She wants to grab everything! So even if she gets to try a bite of everything on our plates, I love for her to have her own dish—something more than just rice—so that we have a moment to focus on feeding ourselves.

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Check out that spoon control!

Each of the Hello Meals (there are two Hello Morning and two Hello Dinner options) have suggestions for customizing: add some chicken stock and mushrooms, stir in coconut milk or a bit of yogurt and bananas—or whatever suits you.

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It’s a winning proposition.

In fact, good news…

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Giveaway! I get to give away a Plum Organics prize bundle, including  4 boxes of Hello Meals (1 of each flavor) and 15 pouches (everything from Peach Apricot Banana to Barley, Kale, Spinach & Basil).

To enter: Leave a comment with something you’d add to one of the Hello Meals to make it your own. For example, I added raspberries and extra bananas to the Hello Morning Blueberry, Banana & Quinoa and found myself stealing bites. (Tip: Find recipes to use with Hello Meals and a $1-off coupon for Hello Meals.)

Comment by Friday, February 27 at noon PST. Good luck!

This post is sponsored by Plum Organics. Thank you for supporting Hither & Thither!

P.S. Cooking with kids.

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An evening baby shower

COMMENTS: 9

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Who says you can’t have sequins at a baby shower? My friend Emarie threw this lovely cocktail reception for her sister, Meika-Rae (and a few dozen friends and family). I stopped by to take some pictures and was so inspired by the sophisticated (but still sweet) celebration. I love that it the decor and theme would have worked for a co-ed party, as well.

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