Halloween in the US is very very different than Halloween in New Zealand. And if you know me well, you know I am a sucker for the holidays. I LOVE them. I love decorating and holiday traditions and celebrating to the fullest. And this year was no different. Yesterday (day before Halloween) we had a little neighborhood block party to carve pumpkins and eat delicious Halloween treats. Riley wore her lovely Halloween pajamas, and Mark carved his very first pumpkin EVER. And I tried SO hard to get just ONE nice picture of Riley sitting next to her pumpkin, smiling. Ha. That didn't happen.
Mark tried to "help" get her to smile by doing something ridiculous behind me, and this is what we got:
Close, but not really what I was looking for. She then figured out that she could take the top off of her pumpkin, and fill it with acorns that she found on the ground. Oh the joys.
There are currently about 15 acorns in her pumpkin, including some stuffed in the eyes. Here's what it looked like all glowing in the dark. Can you see the acorns still in there? And feel free to compliment Mark on his amazing pumpkin carving skills. :)
And then the REAL Halloween celebration was today! We started off by visiting one of our favorite family friends and attending their school Halloween parade. Of course, Riley loved it. She loved being surrounded by bigger kids, and getting to see all their costumes, although I didn't get any pictures as we were frantically trying to find out little friend Jill in the parade. And of course, we had to put Riley in her costume as well! She was the cutest little cow there!
Again, I had to bribe her with crackers to get her to stay still and look at the camera...
Later that afternoon we had a mini "photo shoot" at home, which lasted all of 45 seconds before Riley had had enough. Oh well, I tried, and at least I got a couple of good ones.
Then the real adventure began! This was Riley's first year trick-or-treating, so we met up with some friends to go trick-or-treat in their neighborhood, which was supposed to awesome (since we're currently living in an apartment- not so awesome for trick-or-treating).
And here we have Mark, Riley, and Jamie the transformer. I tried to get a picture with Jillian as well but Riley had had ENOUGH with the photos, and was ready to be outta there.... this baby likes to be free to roam.
And then we were finally ready to start our trick-or-treating rounds, and our dear friend Ashley hands Riley some skittles. Riley hasn't really had much in the way of candy in her life, aside from a tiny taste here or there, and she's definitely never had skittles before. Welp, the girl was hooked. She spent the next 20 minutes following Ashley around because she knew she was the skittle lady.
Once we finally were able to pry that little red packet our of her hand, we convinced her she could go door to door and people would give her MORE candy. She wasn't too sure at first, but she figured it out pretty quickly.
And if you didn't believe there are some outrageous (and awesome) Halloween decorations around here? Well, there are. There were TONS of house completely decked out with lights and pumpkins and spider webs, tombstones and mummies and ghosts, the list goes on. A couple houses even had a fog machine and spooky music. They even closed off the street to cars because there were so many kids running around!
Overall, total Halloween success. Riley got a ton of candy (which we are eating for her), and we still managed to get her in bed by 7:30. I'm a little sad it's over, but now we can begin the countdown to the next series of important events: Jennie's wedding, Thanksgiving, our return to NZ, and then Christmas!
We finally made it to the zoo! The Oakland zoo was having "boo at the zoo" in honor of Halloween, so of course we had to go. The kids there were mostly all dressed up in costume, which was pretty cute, although it was a little warm for Riley to stay in her entire costume the whole time. She looked something like this:
I wasn't totally sure what she would think of the zoo, but we decided to go check it out anyway. Some things she LOVED, some she really didn't care about. A few of her favorites? (1) The turtle (or tortoise, but she can say turtle so we called it a turtle).
(2) Her free wristband she got upon entry. It was one of those snap bracelets, and she was obsessed with it the whole time.
(3) The petting zoo- although they call it the "contact zone" or something silly. And it was a little on the lame side, to be honest, they had a few goats and some sheep, but that was about it. But she loved it nonetheless. Plus she can say "goat" so that's fun. :)
(4) She liked the monkeys and chimps quite a bit, she kept pointing at them over and over and over again.
(5) There was an exhibit with giraffes, some antelope-type thing, and DUCKS... and of course, she was only obsessed with the ducks. You know, the ducks that you can see at our local pond rather than pay a fortune to visit in the zoo... oh well.
(6) She likes the sea otters, but I couldn't get a picture of her because she was surrounded by children, but trust me, she liked them. So let's pretend this picture is her LOVING the otters, mkay?
Overall it was a success, although I think she would have been just as happy going to a little petting zoo, but oh well. She liked the animals, and she looked pretty cute in her baby cow costume!
This is one hilarious baby, I must say! So let's just get right to all the new things she's doing this month, besides looking cute (and making lots of silly faces), of course.
Riley has learned a bunch of new words, including but definitely not limited to: "waffle," "fish," "peek-a-boo," "eat," "Bailey" (the dog), and "balloon". And when she sees Bailey, she now yells "yay yay yay!" in excitement, complete with fist pumps. Oh yeah, and when we go to playground, if there's a steering wheel anywhere in sight, she turns it and yells "beep beep beep beep!" and yells "weeeeeee!" when going down slides or jumping off the couch. Yes, she jumps off the couch. She's also getting more opinionated in her old age, and one morning when Mark asked her if she was ready for a nap, she turned, looked at him, and said "NO NIGH NIGH!" and took off running! Yeah, she runs. Fast.
She is learning to use utensils! She has never been interested in feeding herself with a fork or spoon (unless you give it to her pre-loaded with food, but that doesn't count). But this month I started putting bowls or plates of food on her high chair and giving her a fork or spoon, and letting her do whatever she wants, and she's actually been using it! She's by no means an expert in her use of cutlery, but she's trying! And speaking of food, Riley has some new favorites this month- spaghetti bolognese or spaghetti and meatballs is a definite favorite. She LOVES burritos and guacamole. She also decided she does in fact like tomato soup (after not liking it before) and she loves to eat an apple all by herself... as in, just hand her the apple and let her chomp away. In fact she will eat lots of fruit if you give it to her in slices so she can do it herself. Also on the list of faves: raisins, peanut butter, wheat thins, and cheese. And gummy vitamins. Oh, and eggo waffles. She LOVES eggo waffles. :) She hates all vegetables, although she likes to chew on raw carrots and then spit them out. That counts, right?
She still loves to play with puzzles and flashcards, and she loves to read books over and over and over. She is obsessed with rocking chairs, and will climb on any chair and try and rock it while chanting "rock rock rock," even if it is not actually a rocking chair. She loves bath time, especially bubble baths (and eating said bubbles). She FINALLY stopped fighting me when I brush her teeth, and even seems to sort of like it? She loves to play outside, and has a new found love for sand and sandboxes. She's really loving climbing up onto play structures, and is getting better at climbing down, but is by no means an expert. She loves to play in her crib, and she is learning how to scale the outside of the crib to climb IN. Eek, does this mean she's going to learn how to get out??
But the biggest new development this month? Riley is down to one nap! It's been about 2 weeks now, and she is doing very well with the transition. And, as an added bonus, she is no longer waking at 5am, and usually sleeps until 6 or 6:30 (one day she even slept until 7:30!) She takes a 2 or 2.5 hour nap around 11 or 12, and then goes to bed by 7pm. It gives me a lot more freedom to plan activities and fun things during the day since we don't have to be back at home for two naps anymore.
Riley has also developed some funny new quirks this month. (1) She does not like her sippy cup to be on her high chair tray after she drinks from it. She wants to give it to me or Mark, and will yell MAMAMAMAMAMA until I take it, and if I don't take it, she'll throw it on the floor. (2) She loves to walk around with clothes/blankets on her head. Not sure why, but she'll even put it over her face so she can't even see, and then still walk around. And she gets MAD if you take it off. (3) She will NOT eat string cheese. She loves cheese, bit she won't even eat her favorite flavors of cheese if it's in string cheese form. She will only eat shredded mozzarella, and sliced cheddar. (4) She likes to take all her folded clothes out of her drawers, or move them from drawer to drawer. Not great for my cleaning/organizing, but fun for her, so we go with it. I'm sure there are quite a few more that I'm leaving out.
We already knew Riley loves dogs, but now she's added birds and squirrels to the list. She chased birdies and squirrels around the Stanford campus today for almost an hour! She also loves music (pandora toddler station is on quite frequently at our place) and she loves to dance. She weighs maybe 23 pounds (that's a guess), wears mostly 18 month clothes, and is in size 4 diapers. Shoe size is maybe 4 or 5, depending on the brand, but she is barefoot more often than not. :)
And of course, she is still the best baby in the whole entire world. Happy 16 months to my little bug!
We spent the afternoon at the Children's Discovery Museum in San Jose. We had never been before, but I decided we MUST go before we head back to New Zealand, so Riley, my mom and I went today after nap time. Let me just say, that place is AWESOME. We started upstairs in a large room specifically for kids under the age of 4. Riley went straight for the ball contraptions, of course:
Hours of fun, I tell you! We then convinced her to check out the sand table, which she wasn't too sure about, but she played with it for a bit before deciding there was much more to explore.
There were stairs to climb, light up carousels that project horsies on the wall, there were ambulances and firetrucks to ride in, buttons to push, bubbles to play with, basically endless hours of fun. And then? We discovered the gold mine of the museum. The water room. This place was AWESOME.
They had this one fountain that if you filled the bottom with balls, they popped up and floated on the water, but Riley preferred to stick them in with her hand, which meant she sprayed water everywhere! So funny to watch her explore!
I wish I had more pictures but the lighting in there was really dim, and Riley was seriously on the move, she was so excited to see everything! If we were here in the bay area long term we would definitely get a year pass and come all the time, there is so much to see and do!
I have decided to start "home school" with Riley. Now before you jump to any conclusions (like I used to do when I heard the words "home school," hear me out. It's actually pretty cool. First of all, Riley is only 16 months old, so pretty much everything will be play-based. It's not like we're sitting here drilling her on ABC's and filling out workbooks. Yeah right. Basically it's just playing with her, guided by a theme each month (which I will choose). I might change it to two themes a month if we run out of activities or if she loses interest, we'll see. It's really all going to depend on Riley and what she's interested in at the moment.
SO... we started a little (or very) late this month, but for what's left of it, our theme is "Halloween". Here's just a little peak into what we're doing with our Halloween theme. I started by clearing all the junk out of Riley's toy shelf, and replacing it with things I picked to go with the theme, as well as some of her favorite non-Halloween related toys. Here's what her shelf looks like when she wakes up in the morning:
Quick summary: (1) picture cards (2) puzzle (3) stacking blocks (4) shape sorter truck (5) home made straw container toy (6) block of fun (7) orange balloons (8) geometric stacker (9) orange items (10) Halloween treasure bowl (11) white and black items (12) Halloween (and regular) books.
I basically took a ton of her toys out and put them away. She had so many toys out, that her "playing" really just involved taking them all off the shelf and making a huge mess, but not really PLAYING with much of anything. Some things I left are obviously not Halloween-themed, and I left them because (a) she loves them and (b) they are good toys for learning. Things like the puzzles, the stacking blocks, the truck shape sorter, and the geometric stacker. Oh and her beloved flash cards. Those will probably stay out for quite a while.
Now for the fun stuff. HALLOWEEN THEME!!
BOOKS: All centered around Halloween. Riley usually prefers to read the same old books over and over, so I wasn't sure what she'd think about these, but she actually liked most of them! Here's what we got (from the limited selection at the library this close to Halloween) Normally I would get more, but there's only a few days left in the month, so I only got 6:
Surprisingly she likes all of them, except the "One Witch" one, she's not really into it. Normally she takes a while to warm up to new books, but she let me read all of these with her!
SONGS: I'll be honest, I didn't know a single Halloween song. But thanks to the lovely internet, I now have quite a few. Best part? The ones I learned are basically just new lyrics to common tunes, so pretty easy. And since she knows the tune, she likes the songs!
POEMS: I have a bunch of Halloween poems/rhymes to read to Riley. She's generally not really that interested in poems and nursery rhymes, but I want to get into the habit of reading her rhymes and it's a pretty easy thing to do, so we'll see how it goes. Reading nursery rhymes and poems to your kids is great for language development, so in the future I'll share some of what Riley likes just in case anybody is interested. She likes them a lot better if they have some sort of action to go along with them. Here's an example (you can use your fingers as the "pumpkins":
ACTIVITIES: This was a little bit tricky, but also really fun to try and come up with things to fit the theme. What Halloween "activities" could we do? Here's what I came up with:
(1) Halloween "treasure basket." This is meant to be a Halloween themed sensory basket, so lots of things that are fun and different to touch- includes leaves, spider web, Halloween erasers, ribbon, spiders, tomb filled with confetti, mini pumpkin pencil toppers, rubber skeleton, a random pine cone or two... She LOVED the spider web, and loved trying to get all the spiders out of it.
(2) Halloween color sorting- I already had an orange and a white trick-or-treat bucket, so we went with that and filled each bucket with its respective colored items. I didn't want to spend any money, so I searched the house and found everything I could that fit the color theme, and stuck it in the basket. So we're clearly working on orange, black, and white.
(3) pumpkin seed sensory bowl- we're going to try playing with pumpkin seeds this weekend at our pumpkin carving party, and see how that goes. I think this time I'll give her some different sized cups or bowls and some spoons and see what she does with it. Maybe a water bowl as well so she can drop the seeds in there if she wants?
(4) Making pumpkin bread from scratch- this is our activity tomorrow morning after breakfast! We're going to make pumpkin bread and she gets to help measure, pour, stir, and then do the dishes with me! And of course EAT the deliciousness!!
(5) Orange balloons! Good for learning colors, and for comparing sizes (4 different sized balloons), but mostly just good for throwing and kicking and shouting "boons boons boons" over and over again! Also, very good for covering with stickers! (please excuse the pants-less baby, it was almost bath time).
(1) Halloween Day at the zoo- SO excited for this one, we're going on Saturday!
(2) Trick-or-treating! There's an awesome neighborhood by our apartment that has great decorations and lights and is super kid friendly, so I can't wait to check it out with Riley.
(3) Halloween children's parade on Monday- hurray for another excuse to put on her Halloween costume!
(4) San Jose Children's Museum- tomorrow with Grandma (not Halloween related I don't think...)
(5) We carved pumpkins once already, and we'll be doing it again at a pumpkin carving party on Sunday!
Now just because we pick a theme doesn't mean we don't do other "normal" stuff. We do. In fact, Riley's favorite thing that I just made for her? Totally not Halloween related at all. And total cost? $0. I took a container of puffs, cleaned it out, and filled it with straws that we already had. Minimal effort, literally HOURS of fun for her. She takes the straws out, puts them back in. Piles them up, carries them around, chews on them, blows through them, the list goes on...
Sooo that pretty much sums up our Halloween theme work!! I'm loving having an excuse to do some new and creative things with Riley, and she seems to really be enjoying it too. Next month we will probably have two themes I think- first "transportation" (think cars, trains, trucks, planes, bikes, etc) and "Thanksgiving," although I think the Thanksgiving theme may really revolve around turkeys, as I don't think pilgrims and such will be all that exciting for her, but who knows. Maybe Indians? I don't know yet, we'll see.
Also? Riley turned 16 MONTHS OLD today, so stay tuned for 16 month update coming tomorrow.
I've been dying to carve pumpkins with Riley. I had this vision of us all sitting outside, her helping me scoop out all the squishy insides, and making a big ole mess and loving every second of it. Well, it basically went nothing like that. Don't be fooled by this one photo of her participating in the "fun."
Mark cut the top off the pumpkin and started removing all the seeds and other pumpkin goo, and tried to get Riley to help. She was totally not into putting her hand inside the pumpkin, and as soon as she touched all the sliminess, she basically just repeated "EW EW EW EW" for the next ten minutes. She did help pick up any stray pumpkin seeds we dropped, and even went as far as to try and eat one (which she promptly spat out), but that was about it. We were able to re-kindle her interest in the pumpkin by giving her a bunch of sticker and letting her put them all over, but she could not have cared less about our masterpiece we created. Oh well, at least it's cute, right? Here is Riley's very first pumpkin carving, the "cat bat."
Cute, right?? Don't even get me started on how difficult it was to get a decent picture of Riley sitting with her pumpkin. All she wanted to do was try and climb down the front steps. Oh well, we'll count these two as halfway decent.
Can you tell in that second picture she's about to jump up and run away? Because she was.
Oh well, we have another pumpkin carving party next weekend, so maybe she'll be more into then. And if not, I will come armed with stickers. Lots, and lots of stickers.
Ohhh boy, we are entering an all new stage of toddlerhood. You know, the one where your little innocent baby goes ahead and does something like this:
Yes, that is the baby, sitting on top of my parents' dining room table. Don't worry, we were right there (obviously, since I took a picture) so we made sure she was safe. But it took her all of 30 seconds to climb on to the chair, and then on to the table to get some fun little toys that we thought were out of sight (and out of reach).
And then? She took off with the entire container of puffs, and in a blink of an eye, dumped every last one out onto the floor. At least she helped me clean them up, right?
Then today, she realized that she can jump off the couch onto this little floor cushion, and roll off it, all the while yelling "weeeeeee!" I guess we've been spending too much time at the playground, she thinks our house now qualifies as one. Other new things on her list of crazy toddler behavior? Scaling the outside of her crib trying to get in, escaping the grocery cart seat WHILE buckled in tightly, climbing into and emptying cupboards, and being able to open doors to get outside, into the garage, and into the pantry. Oh man, I'm going to have my hands full.
I left the husband and baby back in California, and headed up to Washington to learn. I'm here for a newborn photography workshop, and I have rekindled my love and excitement for newborn photography. Here's just a tiny itty bitty (literally) preview of what I've been up to today...
And there are SO MANY MORE! Eeeeeek I love newborn photography!!
I still can't believe we're getting towards the end of October, and it's hot enough to take Riley swimming in the early evening. She's going to be very very sad when it gets too cold to hang out in the pool, that's for sure! Especially since Mark has been perfecting a new "pool trick" with her...
Also? I was FINALLY able to capture Riley's "super excited" face she makes on camera. She does it on command, but I've never been able to get a decent picture of it. All you have to do is tell Riley to go "eeeeee!" and clench your fists, and then she does it too.
Notice how she's in her swimsuit, all wet, posted up by the flowers? Yes, well, she just HAD to get out mid swim and go smell the flowers, obviously.
Seriously this child cracks me up with all the little quirks she is developing, I love every single thing about her!
And because Mark and I are apparently obsessed with the fact that she's finally getting hair, I had to take a picture of her post-swimming look.
Oh yeah, and in case you missed my post yesterday about this flower-loving baby, here's a few more pictures with her beloved pink flower.
Annnnnnd what happened when I took the flower away... surprisingly, no tantrum, but she did try to climb right up my legs to get to it.
I haven't participated in an I Heart Faces photo challenge for a LONG time. But this week's theme is "tickled pink" and I thought this would be a perfect week to get back into the photo challenges! So here's my little princess, smelling her pink flower, one of her new favorite activities! Anytime we see flowers we MUST stop immediately so she can smell them... Which basically means shoving her entire face into it!