– Nate and I really enjoyed this Hula Pork with Coconut Rice. I’ll make it again. You can make only half the sauce.
– This Lemon Glazed Zucchini Bread was gross.
-Autumn requested a rainbow volcano lava party for her 4th. Thank goodness for this volcano cake tutorial! I did add an extra bunt cake and texas sheet cake icing.
– This Wet Brush is the greatest brush ever to detangle hair (wet or dry). It’s going to save the relationships I have with my girls!
– These Nexcare waterproof bandaids stay on better than any other bandage I’ve tried. I’m sold.
– Our cousins made these potatoes for Easter. I wanted to eat up the whole pan!
*Disclaimer: These are what have worked best for my girls (ages 6, 3 and 1). Every kid is different and boys may prefer a a car over My Little Ponies (or maybe not..). These are just our most popular, tried and true toys. We have other toys we love as well but these are the best of the best. Please share your favorites in the comments below. I love new ideas!
Magnatiles (from 12 months to adults) – These cost a fortune and two large sets is ideal if you have multiple children. I can get the price down a little from Amazon when I use the buy one, get one 50% off coupon from Lakeshore learning. I love these for so many reasons 1. They appeal to ALL ages 2. Can be used to build houses for ponies, roads for trucks, or any other toys. They are sturdy and beautiful. This might be our #1 toy.
Stomp Rocket (from 12 months to adults)- This never gets old! Just buy extra rockets and preferably use it at a park so you don’t loose rockets to your roof.
Doll Stroller (12 months – 3) – All my toddlers use and use and use this. I put a sack of flour in it when they are first learning to walk to it won’t tip if they lean into it.
Figurines – (2+) – My little Ponies, princess and villain barbies, etc. Played with for hours and hours and hours. I’m including plush into this category. My children’s stuff animals are some of their more precious played with companions. I love these bins for plush storage.
Dress-Ups- (18 months+) – Bless pretend play!! Buy Halloween costumes the the week after Halloween to score these for super cheap (Old Navy!). Include a range from princess to knights to cows to ninjas to cats to capes. Also lots of scarves which can be use endlessly. Make sure you have good and ‘bad’ costumes for good play scenarios. A bunch of sweet princess hanging around is a little boring until the which starts chasing them or turns them into a frog.
Play cups/ plates with MINIMAL play food (18 months+) – A set of mini plates and cups with some pretend food. Frankly, I don’t even think you need a kitchen as they usually have ‘picnics’ on the ground, etc. Just limit the pretend food to limit the mess!
Arts and Crafts (3+)- I have a large plastic pin with a variety of cardstock, construction paper, scissors, whole punches, yarn, glues, markers, stickers, fabric strips, tissue paper squares, die cuts, adhesive gems, glitter, etc. They enjoy it starting at age 3 1/2 but it takes a lot of supervision until about age 5. Then they can create solo for hours.
I’m a big fan of arts and crafts. Others I love are:
The Ikea easel with paints. I like the glitter washable paints from Lakeshore learning.
Play-Doh with Tools
Rainbow Loom (ages 6+)
Scooters – Mini / Maxi Micro or razor. They are pricey little things but they steer by leaning which minimizes accidents big time. Also, this enables two year-olds to be able to safely ride. They may have generic versions coming out which would be cheaper. For older kids, the basic razor is perfect and builds balance skills.
Bubble Machine (12 months+) – We have this one and have been pretty happy. Just make sure you get the gazillion bubbles to go in it. Other bubble brands don’t work nearly as well. All my kids can spend a solid 45 minutes straight chasing bubbles.
Ball Popper Machine (9 Months – 3) – Best baby/ toddler toy. Mine is 6 years old and still going strong.
– The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds is one of my all-time favorite children’s books. I discovered it at the library and had to buy a copy. Our whole family loves it.
– I work 20-30 hours a week now. I am so grateful for the opportunity to help us financially but I feel like my life has completed shifted to a new phase with it. I have mixed feelings about this shift.
– I thought this article summed up feelings moderately well on the ‘Ordain Woman’ movement. I don’t care for the priesthood but appreciate the that this is forcing a long-overdue conversation about equality in the church. I thought this article brought up some great points.
– This Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken recipe is very forgettable.
– I never thought I had time to read before audible. Now I “read” (listening counts!) while driving, mopping, cooking, etc. Life changer!!!!
– I ended up returning The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World after about 13 hours into it. I wanted to like it but it just went too sloooowwwww.
In the summer of 2010, I was pregnant with Autumn, my second child. It had been a scary pregnancy from the beginning. I had some early complications and then contractions started at 14 weeks. We were in-between school and work and consequently without insurance for most the pregnancy. My OBGYN told me that if I had insurance, she would have had me hospitalized since I was about 80% effaced by 23 weeks. Without insurance, that was not an option, so she pleaded with me to take it easy. If I ran or was too active, strong contractions would start so I heeded her advice as much as I could. The problem was that I had a two –year old. Enough said.
One afternoon, I went to Wal-Mart to pick up a few groceries and items. I tried to put Scarlett into the grocery cart but she protested and thrashed so violently that I conceded and tried to let her walk near me. Plus, even if I could get her in the cart, she’d scream hysterically the entire time. She had that two-year old tantrum thing down to an art.
As predicted, she wanted to be everywhere I was not. It turned into a cruel game of tag with my aching pregnant body chasing her. I tried to vain to wrestle her into the child’s seat. I was feeling defeated and aware of all the eyes on me. Panic set in as contractions started. Tears were only a few blinks away. Just then, I heard a deep gruff voice say, “Let me talk to her”. I turned to see a very large, muscular tattooed man who had a rough appearance. Frankly, he was a little scary. He was very commanding and I dared not question him. I took Scarlett over to him and she was so taken back by his appearance that she did not protest either. He bent down and said, “Closer”. She moved closer. “Closer” he said. She moved within a few inches of his face. He looked at her seriously and shouted “Rarrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!”. Scarlett instantly jumped back in terror and grabbed my legs. He looked up, smiled, and said “You’re welcome” and walked away. I was still in shock but I hope I smiled back.
He was my tattooed smoke- smelling angel that day. She stayed glued to me the rest of the shopping trip in fear of seeing him again. It was exactly the motivation she needed.
– This Fish recipe (could also be used on chicken I bet) was one of the best new recipes I’ve tried in a long time. It was so good that Nathan requested I make it again, only two night later.
– These grilled lemon zucchini spears were a keeper as well.
– I’ve not sewn for 18 months and cannot see when I’ll ever be able to find time to again. Life is just too busy with three kids and working PT at home. I miss it.
– I have a complicated relationship with California. I adore her but I also resent her. Between housing costs and broken school districts, it makes raising a family hard.
– Whenever I’m in Monterey, I just feel like I belong there.
– There seems to be two types of couples: Those who cuddle at night and those who need their space. We are the latter. I’m so glad that we are in agreement.
– We are starting the search for a mini-van and I could not be more thrilled!
– I just discovered Audible (book on audio for my iphone) and could not be more thrilled. I can now get smarter while I clean! I just finished Elizabeth Smart’s book and was blown away. Read it!
– Living in Silicon Valley has it’s perks! I was accepted as a Beta Test Shopper for Google Shopping Express and now get free delivery (for 6 months) from Target, Walgreens, REI, American Eagle, and lots of other stores. No more having to drag kids to the store!
– I have severe chronic hay fever and just tried a Neti pot for the first time tonight. Instantly 75% better. I’m a fan.
I have “Ramblings’ to publish but they all seem so silly right now.
A few weeks ago my baby brother was kidnapped in Mexico and only made it out alive after SEVERAL miracles. It was, without question, the hardest week of my life. When I got the call, I collapsed on the floor and started to hyper ventilate so intensely that I was audibly croaking for air. It was beyond tears. No words can express how it feels knowing that someone you love may be murdered or tortured, even at that very moment. I called Nathan and he took a taxi cab from Mountain View immediately because I was in no condition to drive or watch my children. Although my fingers were shaking terribly, I somehow managed to text close friends and family, begging for them to drop to their knees, that very moment, in prayers. I felt a desperate need for prayers. I felt helpless and it was the only thing that I could do to help. I had all my friends put his name in all the temples in the areas that are closest to them. I know that at least California, Texas, Utah and Arizona temples were covered. In a fetal position, I fiercely pleaded with God. I struggled trusting him with Shane. Logically, I knew that he loved him infinitely more than I did, but in the moment, I struggled believing that he knew how precious and good Shane was. I started to hyperventilate again. I knew God could make this better but I was terrified that he would not intervene. After all, good people have horrible endings all the time. But this was Shane! Shane!!! This couldn’t happen to Shane!!! I concluded that I just needed to do all that I could do, which was just pray, and trust God with the rest. So, I did my best to trust him. I can’t say that I ever did trust him completely but I sure tried. In hindsight, I think of that scripture in Mark 9:24 where the Father says, “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief”. I wanted to so badly to believe but wasn’t all there yet. However, Heavenly Father knew my DESIRE to trust and was so gracious and patient with me.
Nathan stayed home with me for two days. I went from sobbing, to hyperventilating, to numb stares, to rare peaceful moments, to anger. I stared at my cell phone every moment waiting updates. I finally had to ask my friend to please not text me as every time I received a text that was not an update, I felt crushed. I searched the internet, gleaning for answers or stats. My appetite completely disappeared and lost six pounds. I couldn’t sleep well, even after taking twice the recommended amount of sleeping pills. Part of it was that I felt immense guilt eating or sleeping when I was not sure if Shane could. At one point, I asked God that if these captors were going to kill or hurt Shane, that they do it immediately to not prolong his suffering. And then I sobbed again. Did I really just utter those words?
I felt an intense need to be with my family in Utah and purchased a ticket for Friday. At that point, I didn’t know what I would be coming home to but know I needed to be there either way.
Shane was held for 36 hours and only after a guardian angel helped him escape, was he free. Around 6:30pm at night, I went in my room for a minute and left my phone in the kitchen. When I returned to kitchen, two minutes later, I saw that I had missed two calls from home and one from my sister. I immediately knew it was good news as bad news would have come slower. I immediately called back my sister Jill and she said, “Shane’s free!” I dropped to the floor and wept with her over the phone. It was such a release to weep openly with her. We didn’t know any other details but I knew he was free and physically well.
I was so glad that I went to Utah. Our family needed the time to heal. I intensely needed to touch and hug my brother. I needed to grab him and know first-hand that he was well. It was the first time in years that all eight siblings were together. We all cried a Shane told us his terrifying story. We all knew so little and it was painful to hear the details. My back and shoulders ached with large knots from all the tension and emotional trauma. My body was finally starting to relax.
Many, well-intentioned people, mistakenly think that our family was just celebrating at his return. While we have been elated with his return, there is a need of reverence when talking about it. My mother put it well by comparing it to seeing your baby in the road with a semi-truck coming. When you just barely save him, you don’t start to jump up and down with joy. You grab that baby, hug him, and weep. Sure, you are elated that he is safe but it takes time to get over how close that baby came to death. Death was much too close here for celebration.
It’s been a few weeks, and even though it ended well, I still shed tears or over. I broke down blow drying my hair only two days ago. I came way too close to losing him. And in such a disturbing way. Murder feels so different than if someone I loved was dying of an accident or illness. Having evil captors play with his life so flippantly shook me to the core.
I find that I am struggling to trust strangers right now. Upon flying back from Utah, I had to wait at the BART station for two hours while Nathan tried to escape work to pick me up. I started to have such anxiety and fear of the strangers around me that I did everything not to break down. Although Nate was only twenty minutes away, I ended up jumping in a cab and paying the $80 to get home as soon as I could. I’m doing really well but what happened to Shane plays constantly in the back of my head like static.
I feel immense gratitude to God. I know that Shane is only alive because of him. My mind is so clear of what really matters right. Experiences like this help you see how all your troubles and concerns are so insignificant. I have my brother back. And right now, that is all that matters.
– My favorite new dessert is this Vegan Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding! I use chocolate rice /soy milk in place of the almond, cocoa powder, and syrup. I also threw a handful of toasted almonds on top after and it tastes just like an almond joy. It’s to die for. Make sure you stir it after it’s been in the fridge for a few hours. Chia Seeds are so good for you.
– We discovered the R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series on Netflix and Scarlett is in heaven. It’s just the right amount of fear.
– I love living in California but here is what disappointments me about where we are.
1. Even with all the fruit trees, produce at the grocery store seems just as expensive and not necessarily better. I often see oranges grown in Florida on the shelves.
2. I am not happy with the education system. Each Kindergarten teacher has 32 kids with no Aid. How in earth can they teach them?
3. The cost of living is even worse than DC. Why do we only move to expensive places ? The good news is that with this trend, then Waikiki must be in our future.
– I finally got renter’s insurance. I still am not sure if it’s the right thing to do.
– I’m loving JCrew’s matchstick jeans (in neon). $18 at the outlet.
– We finally finished the reading program! Scarlett is so empowered. She loves spotting all the words she knows on signs, etc. She also writes notes to me all day. The notes usually tell me that God loves me or that she loves our family. It’s really cute.
– I’m trying to savour every moment with my little Scarlett before I let her go to (full day!) kindergarten this fall. I fear for bullies and other things kids may say that will be out of my control.
– All the Toca Boca ones! By far, the most played at our house. Among our favorite are Toca Tailor, Toca Monsters, Toca Hair Salon, Toca Store, Toca Birthday Party, Toca Tea Party and Toca House. I just downloaded Toca builders today but have yet to try it.
– The Duck Duck Moose Apps. Park Math HD and Superhero HD are amazing.
– Child Scripture Stories is how we read scriptures with the kids these days.
– Bugs & Bubbles – Educational and entertaining.
– ABC Wildlife has real photos and videos for all the animals alphabetically.
– Scribblenauts blows my mind. You are in a game and overcome obstacles by typing in anything you can imagine (like a pink ladder) and it appears for your person to use. It really encourages Scarlett to learn to write.
Any good ones I’m missing?
– I have a collection of the best girlfriends ever! They are spread all over the country but at least I am always covered, wherever I go. I’m lucky.
– I made these coconut chocolate chip cookies and loved them. However, now that I know coconut oil is more fattening that butter, I don’t think I’ll make them again.
– I joined a bunco group!
– Trader Joe’s gnocchi is disgusting. Slimy. Gross.
– Nate made the world’s best strawberry and rhubarb pie. I love it when men cook.
– It’s crazy how many other Hollands that I’ve met. Only a few, but more than I would have thought.
– Finish Pancakes from Pinterest were a fail. I’m sticking to German Oven Pancakes.
– I’m working from home a lot lately. I started my own job placement company and and I’m devoting hours to it each day in order to get rid of that darn student debt. While I hate feeling to spread out, I’m loving having ‘professional Melanie’ back. I missed that part of myself. The job will get easier when I don’t have all three kids at home all day long. In the fall, kindergarten (sniff, sniff) and preschool (hurray!!) starts.
– I placed my ipad on top of the car while buckling children in car seats and drove off for Nathan’s work with it still on the roof. I was depressed and sobbed for three days. Applecare doesn’t work since I cannot even find it. I’m still hating myself.
– I’ve fallen in love with the Sock Bun. So has Scarlett. Autumn is heart-broken that her hair is not quite long enough.
– Autumn’s seems to be sloooowly coming out the hardest phase I’ve ever dealt with as a mother. Praise the lord!
– Nate got me a mopping robot for my birthday. I’m pleasantly surprised at how well it does! Now Holland will have clean floors to crawl on.
– Nathan is getting this for Father’s Day. A friend showed me hers and I loved it. Nate is a huge popcorn man. He doesn’t read my blog so won’t even know it’s coming.
– Does anyone even read blogs anymore with Instagram around?
– Scarlett’s surprise 5th birthday party was a success. However, I’m going back to the park for the next party. It’s much easier than home parties that destroy your house. Plus, you don’t have to entertain the little ones.
– We don’t have cable and I love it. We watch shows (Breaking Bad, MadMen, Downton Abbey, Modern Family and Shark Tank) only on weekend nights through Hulu or Netflix. On weekday nights, we have to be productive or read books.
– I am flying solo (both ways) with all three kids to Maryland at the end of June. This also includes an hour car ride to Oakland airport and a three hour ride from Dulles Airport. I am terrified. It may be enough excuse to get a new ipad though. Maybe.
– I’m reading Half Broke Horses and enjoying it.
The most beautiful 5 year-old and 7 Month Old in the World. Ever.
We are loving the beach and year-round warm weather.