Adventuring with Kids: Holiday To-Do List

If there’s one thing I love to do, it’s write a good list! With Christmas only 16 days away (yikes!) there is a limited amount of time to do everything I want to do, but I am committed to the holiday spirit so it’s all going to happen. Hopefully. Or we’ll be exhausted trying. There are just so many holiday events near Seattle, which are especially fun with kids! I can’t wait to do it all. If you need some inspiration of things to do with your littles, take some of these ideas!


(LUCKILY I made this list months ago so I have already completed most some of it… but still, we have things to do during this holiday season!)

Here are some things on my holiday to-do list:

+ Make or buy an Advent calendar for each girl

Our au pair took care of this one for us (yay!). She bought Playmobil Advent calendars for each girl and they love opening a new piece every day. This is especially great for our family because I’m not a huge fan of the girls eating candy, so this is a good alternative.

+ Sing Christmas songs

As many times as possible. One of my favorite parts of this whole season are the Christmas songs! This is my current favorite Spotify list.

+ Decorate gingerbread houses

We buy ours from Trader Joe’s… I don’t have the motivation or the will to make them myself!

+ Attend a Nutcracker ballet performance

This was a first for us! We just went a few days ago, and the girls loved it. We went with a low key performance through the Issaquah Dance Theater. I picked this one because it was pretty inexpensive and they had an option for a 1-hour show. I just didn’t know how my girls would do at a performance with no words, but they did GREAT and didn’t want to leave at the end. Next year I might buy tickets at the Pacific Northwest Ballet‘s Nutcracker show, but those tickets are not cheap!

+ Buy a tree at a u-cut farm

In the past we’ve driven out to Carnation, but this year we went to Trinity Tree Farm in Issaquah and had a great experience! Sure, it was muddy, but that’s all a part of the experience!

+ Decorate that Christmas tree

My goal for this year was to decorate the tree without yelling at the girls too much. *Sigh* Have you ever supervised two preschoolers decorating a Christmas tree? It is a lot of chaos.

+ Go ice skating outdoors

The girls take ice skating lessons indoors all year round, but I love going outdoors in the winter, if we can! This year we had a great experience skating outside in Bend, but I would love to go again if we find a good rink nearby.

+ Bake (German) Christmas cookies

I actually don’t have a favorite cookie recipe (gasp!) so we’re going to make our au pair’s favorite German Christmas Cookies this year!

+ Send out Christmas cards

I’ve at least ordered the Christmas cards, but whether they’ll be sent out by Christmas is a true mystery. The site gave me a delivery window of anywhere from Dec 11-24th arriving at my house soooo….. who knows. If they don’t get sent by Christmas, I’m considering them ‘Happy New Years’ cards, no matter what the card actually says.

+ Drink hot chocolate

Not that we need an excuse for this, but this seems like an easy thing to check off a list, so I’m keeping it on here.

+ Create a Christmas craft with the girls

Last year a friend made holiday play dough, which the girls loved! This year they’ve done a few crafts with preschool and church but I’m hoping we can put together a small one at home, too.

+ Take pictures and see the reindeer at Swansons Nursery

This is such a fun tradition we’ve done every year since we’ve moved here. We love seeing the reindeer, and if it isn’t too crowded I attempt to get pictures of the girls in the ‘props’ they have around for just that reason. I have the cutest pics of them in sleds year after year.

+ Shop at the Edmonds Holiday Market and ride the trolley

I didn’t know about this event until last year, and I love it! On Saturdays in December there is a free trolley that drives around downtown Edmonds, and if we’re being honest I probably enjoy it more than the kids. There are also a lot of vendors selling goods at the (outdoor) market. Last year I picked up handmade earrings, soap, candles, some paper goods… and of course I sampled some wine. It’s a really nice way to spend a few hours.

+ And also shop at other local markets

There are so many markets set up at schools to raise some extra money for PTAs, etc etc. I really enjoy going to a few of these markets to support local vendors and pick up some handmade goods as gifts. Or just for myself.

+ Take the girls individually to pick out presents for each other

Our favorite place to shop is Snapdoodle Toys, which is in Seattle and Kenmore. I love supporting local when I can, and this seems like the perfect time to do it! I also think it’s really important for the girls to pick out a gift for each other.

+ Read holiday-themed books

I try to get a good mix of Christian holiday books and not-necessarily-Christian holiday books for us to read at this time of year. I keep the same ones year after year and just add one or two to our stash. I also put them away with the Christmas decorations so they’re extra-special when we take them out again.

+ Read the ‘real’ Christmas story from the Bible

Arguably this is one of the more important things on this list… I think in the hustle and bustle of the holidays we can forget to do the most essential things! Of course my kids know the Christmas story and they will learn about it at church the next few weeks, but I also want them to hear it from us, straight from the Bible.

+ Go to Stanwood to see the The Lights of Christmas display

We’ve done this the last two years, and I think it’s worth the long(ish) drive from Seattle! The lights are great, there are pony rides, train rides, a light maze, a petting zoo… all of the things. It really puts me in the holiday spirit!

+ Go sledding at Hyak, near Snoqualmie Pass (preferably on Christmas!)

We don’t always get snow in Seattle, but we can travel to it in the mountains, so that’s the plan! Our Midwestern roots require playing in the snow around/on Christmas.

+ See the Christmas lights display at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens

This has been on my list the last few years, and it somehow hasn’t happened. I really want to go this year, though! I think the girls would really enjoy it.

+ Go to a Christmas Eve church service

Last year I went by myself (while pregnant) with both girls, and it was chaos. This year I at least know what to expect! There will be no childcare offered. The girls will be sitting with me and will need lots of things to entertain themselves. I will hear and learn nothing, along with all of the other parents of small children who are just trying to get them to SIT DOWN IN YOUR SEATS. But at the end there will be cookies, so at least there’s that!

There are a few other things going on around town that are not on my list, but I feel like I should mention them, because they’re very popular! (The reason they aren’t on my list is because I feel like they’re too popular / crowded for my three little ones! These things just aren’t worth the trouble it would take to go for us this year, but maybe I’ll add them to the list when the girls are older.)

+ Zoo Lights

+ Gingerbread Village at the Sheraton

+ Teddy Bear Suite at the Fairmont

+ Snowflake Lane parade in Bellevue

+ Enchant Seattle

What big things are still on your holiday to-do list?

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November is an underrated month

Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday of the year.

And November may be my (new) favorite month of the year.

Here’s why:

+ Soccer season ended and we got our Saturday mornings back.

+ The leaves on the trees  were still gorgeous.

+ We had beautiful weather in the PNW.

+ Football season. Hockey season.

+ THANKSGIVING. Friendsgiving.

+ Black Friday sales.

+ The start of the Christmas season.

It’s the best of all worlds! Even some Halloween stuff can happen in November. I feel like November as a month is certainly underrated. I love a month with low expectations and just general goodness. A holiday about thankfulness (let’s ignore all other origins) – YES PLEASE. Plus, with November is the promise of pumpkin pie… need I say more?

Now comes December and all associated chaos… and I think I am READY.

What is your favorite month of the year?!

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Adventuring With Kids: Camping at Deception Pass

The last (cabin) camping trip of our summer was to Deception Pass. We had been to that location before as a day trip, but it was our first time spending the night at the campground.

We had a great time, and I would recommend the location! At first I wasn’t sure whether it would be worth spending the night (two nights, that is), since it’s only about 75 min away from our house, but it turned out to be a great decision, and we had plenty to do each day.

Camping at Deception Pass State Park

Here’s What We Did:

  • Drove to Fort Casey and explored the lighthouse, watched people fly kites, and walked around the fort, which was huge!
  • Walked around Coupeville. We ate a casual lunch at Kneed & Feed. (On a previous visit we ate dinner at Christopher’s On Whidbey and it was great! I highly recommend that one for a nicer seafood meal.) We also got ice cream at a local shop, which of course was a highlight for the girls.
  • Threw rocks in the water at North Beach (in the Deception Pass State Park), overlooking the bridge.
  • Put our toes in the water at West Beach, and watched the girls swim in Cranberry Lake. (These areas share the same parking lot in Deception Pass State Park. If we had just a tiny bit more time I would have paddleboarded on the lake! Next time.)
  • Hiked up Sugarloaf Mountain to see the sunset. It was GORGEOUS and short, so I highly recommend it – even with young kids! *There is a 2 mile hike and a .5 mile hike… look up the shorter one!*
  • Stopped on the way home to eat at The Shrimp Shack. It definitely won’t be our last time eating that greasy roadtrip goodness.

Camping at Deception Pass State ParkCamping at Deception Pass State Park Camping at Deception Pass State Park Camping at Deception Pass State Park Camping at Deception Pass State Park Camping at Deception Pass State ParkCamping at Deception Pass State Park

We really maximized our time there! At night we stayed at a cabin in the Quarry Pond campground loop, and it was one of the nicest cabins we stayed at during our travels this summer. Nice for a state park campground, that is. It was definitely new and it had a lot of space inside – so it was perfect for us! Plus, we lucked out and stayed right across from a family with lots of kids, who were only too happy to share their toys. They even had an entire extra tent for a dollhouse! Our girls were only too happy to partake in the fun.

If you’re in the Seattle area and are looking for a super easy place to spend a few days, I highly recommend Deception Pass State Park for camping! Or even for a day trip. In previous trips we’ve done some hikes around the state park, including the Lighthouse Point hike, which I highly recommend. There’s also a small playground near there, if you need some little kid bribery. Every time we’re in the area we see eagles and seals (or maybe sea lions?). We have yet to take a whale watching tour from that area (we did take one from downtown Seattle!) but it’s definitely on my list!

To get to Deception Pass we drove up north, but in the past (when we have more time) we’ve extended our trip by taking the ferry back. This entails driving all the way south on Whidbey Island (visiting Fort Ebey along the way – one of my all-time favorite places near Seattle), and taking the Mukilteo Ferry back across the Puget Sound. There are so many things to do on Whidbey Island, you could spend quite a few days there!

It’s also worth mentioning that we’ve visited Whidbey Island in both the summer and fall/winter, and it is always fun! In the winter it’s less crowded and it gets dark so early that there are less hours to do all of the things, but it’s worth spending the day hiking and eating and then driving back to Seattle in the dark.

Happy Adventuring!


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Currently: November


+ I’m re-reading this book (because it’s one of the best).

+ I’m practicing taking photos with my new mirrorless camera. My Canon Rebel took a nose-dive off a porch and I took that as a sign I needed to upgrade. So far I am very pleased with it.

+ I’m carrying Phoebe with my new sling from hope&plum. Get yourself a hemp sling, you will love it.

+ I’m disinfecting my entire house always and forever because we’ve had the stomach bug for two weeks and now one of the girls has HFMD. Luckily she just has a mild case and it hasn’t spread… yet. Wish me luck.

+ I’m reading posts by R. Eric Thomas on the regular, because he is hilarious.

+ I’m embracing fall. Over the last few months we went to a few pumpkin patches, we dressed up for Halloween, we took family pictures in leaves, we got lost in a corn maze, and most recently Tim and I went on a fall hike to Oyster Dome (north of Seattle, near Bellingham) and then went out to brunch afterwards at Tweets Cafe, in Edison, WA.

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Why We Decided To Hire An Au Pair

About a year ago, I barely knew what an au pair was, and I definitely didn’t understand anything about the au pair program.

And then Tim started talking to coworkers and hearing about their au pairs. At the same time, one of my friends told me about her experience with an au pair. I was intrigued, for sure, but didn’t necessarily consider it for our family.

But when we got pregnant with Phoebe I knew we needed to figure out a childcare plan before she was born. One of the biggest mistakes of my motherhood journey was not getting more childcare help after Isabelle was born, and I wasn’t going to make that mistake twice!

Tim and I immediately discussed hosting an au pair and quickly determined that we would try the program out.

Why We Decided To Hire An Au Pair

Here were the biggest draws to the au pair program:

+ The cost.

Childcare in Seattle is expensive. An hour of childcare (for three kids) can cost almost $30. We pay our au pair about $200 per week for up to 45 hours. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many other costs of the program… there’s an upfront agency fee, we provide a place to live and food and car insurance and a car to drive, etc. Some families have calculated that having an au pair costs about $25k-30k per year. By my calculations, hiring a full-time nanny could cost more than $50k in our area.

+ The flexibility.

This is the huge one. We can figure out our childcare needs as we go most days/weeks. Generally our schedule is consistent week to week, but we can decide relatively last minute if want to take Phoebe with us to a soccer practice, or let her stay home with our au pair. We can also take Saturday day dates, an occasional night out, or change the start and end times of our days without a ton of notice. Being an enneagram type 7, the flexibility is key to my happiness. Do I do a lot of spontaneous activities these days? Nope! But could I? YES! I could! And just knowing that makes me a bijillion times happier.

+ The full-time childcare.

Going back to the cost aspect, if we were paying for childcare by the hour, I would feel a lot of pressure to be super productive on my hours ‘off’. I would constantly be thinking, “was this hour off worth the $30 I paid for it?” However, with an au pair we get 45 hours per week of childcare, so I don’t worry about maximizing every hour. (I might feel differently about this if I worked full time and my 45 hours were spent working at a job and not doing mostly SAHM activities.)

+ The cultural experience.

I think it’s great that my daughters get a little bit of exposure to a different culture. Granted, they keep trying to get our German au pair to teach them Spanish (eye roll), but at least Phoebe is learning some German. 😉 But truly, I love the thought of making friends around the world, for everyone in our family. We’ve all benefited from hearing a different perspective and being exposed to some new things. Plus, our au pair’s parents visited earlier this month and my girls were able to hang out with them and form relationships with them, too. We’re looking forward to getting to know everyone better throughout the year.

Of course, this is just addressing why we chose an au pair instead of a nanny or daycare or some other childcare arrangement. The reason we chose childcare at all is a different question. The short answer is that I needed some help, so we got help. More on that later.

If you’re considering an au pair for your family, definitely reach out to me! I’d love to answer any questions. There are so many factors to consider and we were totally clueless when we started the process.

Phew, it feels good to write a blog post! It’s been way too long since I’ve written here!

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