Family Activities in San Francisco - San Francisco Zoo

So. If you haven't figured it out yet, we moved this summer, and, as luck would have it, were dropped in the second most expensive city in the United States. The cost of living here near San Francisco is astronomical. Because of the cost of living, most families are either a) in a home where both parents work or b) on an extremely tight budget.

Now, I have also noticed that there are not a lot of families in the area (at least not compared to Utah and Nebraska), so family friendly activities in San Francisco are extremely hard to come by and generally pretty expensive (because everything in this city has to cost an arm and a leg). I have taken it upon myself to save some other poor unfortunate soul the time and effort involved in finding family (& budget!) friendly activities in and around the San Francisco Bay Area.

First on the list: The San Francisco Zoo. Let me start off by saying that I am a zoo snob. Seriously. I grew up with the Sedgwick County Zoo (ranked the 8th best zoo in the US by and then when I went to college, I lived near the Henry Doorley Zoo (ranked the 2nd best zoo in the US by
Photo by Elsie
Quite frankly, when compared with those two zoos, the SF Zoo sucks. Hardcore. But... my kids don't have very high standards when it comes to zoos, and, honestly, when you've got two toddlers, your main goal is to kill a good portion of your day, get kids out into fresh air, and enjoy the sound silence of two passed out kids on the drive home.

The animals are fine, although the zoo is missing a couple of my favorites (what kind of zoo doesn't have elephants?!). Hands down, the best part of this zoo is the children's play area. I would pay the membership fees just to get year-round access to this playground.

To get the best bang for your buck: Park on Sloat Blvd. - NOT in the zoo parking. It is a short walk and it saves you $10-$12 (depending on when you go). If you live close enough to the zoo that you will go more than 3 times, get a membership. A basic family membership is $130, and single admission for adults is $19. Kids 3 and under are free, but if you've got a 4-year-old, you're going to spend $13 on admission for them. The basic family membership gives 2 adults and 3 children complete access for a year. If your kids are young enough to be free, this membership pays for itself by the fourth visit. If you have three kids over the age of four, the membership pays for itself by the second visit.

Helpful hints:

-You can make your membership for you and a "guest." This way you can save your sanity and bring a mom friend and her kid(s) for free.

-Your membership gives you discounts at all the stores and cafes in the zoo

-Your membership gives you discounted admission to over 100 zoos and aquariums nationwide.

The verdict: The San Francisco Zoo is a fabulous family activity and worth your time if you live in the Bay Area. If you're just visiting, I'd skip it.

Anyway, now that I've talked about all the logistics, I'll share some pictures from my mommy-daughter date with Elsie. She asked to go to the zoo, and it was great to spend some one-on-one time with her.

Time Flies

And just like that - Christmas is over.

It seems like it was just a couple weeks ago that I was sitting in my living room, looking at the mess around me, wondering how another Christmas had gone by, and it was almost 2016. This year has totally flown by, and I am feeling totally blind sided by the fact that it's going to be 2017 in less than a week.

I could talk about all the ways 2016 kicked my butt, but instead let's focus on happy things like Christmas! My in-laws came out to California to celebrate with us, and it was so wonderful to spend a few days with them. I've also decided that the best thing about Christmas these days is having kids and watching them get SO EXCITED about every present!! And shout out to Esther, who made our matching family jammies!! We were in such a rush to get to church that we didn't get a picture of everyone together, but I'll work on that.

Wedgies = Weapons of Mass Destruction

UGH. Today. Let me start with where it all went wrong. Side note: Nikki, if you're reading this, HI! I can't reply to your comments and I feel bad about that! :)

The moment my alarm went off at 7:45 am (yes, my kids sleep in past 8:00... sleep training works, people).

I got up, got myself ready, and then went in to wake up my sleeping monster devil child daughter. At first, it was great - she got out of bed, happy to be starting her day. She was pumped and excited for school. But then I did a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad thing.

I made her put on pants. 
It started with a whine, "But mom, there's wedgies in my pants!!"

Fine. I did what any loving mother would do - I picked my kid's underwear out of her butt.

"THERE'S STILL WEDGIES!!! I HATE THESE PANTS!!! STUPID PANTS!!!" as she rips them off and throws them against the wall. 
Okay, okay - so I got her another pair of pants, and it was like the freakin' twilight zone as she started screaming AGAIN.


I sighed, trying to keep my patience, and through gritted teeth in a not very nice voice, "It's not the pants, let's try a different pair of underwear, okay, sweetie?" In my mind I was thinking, Ohmyfreakinggosh I am going to kill someone. I wish I drank wine. Why are three-year-olds so damn crazy?!

We got her some new underwear and put her pants back on. Nope. Not happening. This time the screaming reached levels of epic proportions. Poor Callum was just sitting there watching everything go down, no doubt thinking, Women are psycho. Girls are psycho. I'm moving out as soon as I can wipe my own butt.

By this point, Elsie was lying on the floor of the bathroom, butt-naked, screaming something along the lines of "I JUST HATE WEDGIES, THEY ARE LITTLE MONSTERS IN MY UNDERWEAR MAKING MY BUTT ALL ITCHY. WEDGIES ARE SO DUMB, MY PANTS HAVE SO MANY WEDGIES! I DON'T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL!!!"

I did what any mom would do at that point and stormed downstairs, got one of her Christmas presents, and threw it away (AKA the trunk of the car, not to be seen again until her birthday), all the while noting my every move in a very loud, "I just escaped from the psych ward" voice.

Let's just say that that certainly didn't help matters and, to put it nicely, s*** hit the fan and my kid went crazy. She proceeded to teepee the bathroom, throw all her clothes, and shriek like a banshee the whole time. That takes talent and dedication, you know.

Eventually everything got straightened out, my kid settled on a swimsuit for her day's wardrobe, and I decided two kids is more than enough.
Moral of the story: Wedgies ruin EVERYTHING.

A Christmas Gift to Myself

If you came to my house, you would automatically know that I am one of those people who LOVES having photos of my family up on my walls. Ya know, I'm a photographer and hound my clients to print their memories, so I think it would be a little hypocritical of me if I didn't print my own. 

As you looked at all of the pictures on our walls, though, you might wonder why there is only ONE of Mike and I. Well... it's been 6.5 years, and honestly, we've only got one photo of us that I feel is wall worthy. A couple of months ago, I found out that one of my favorite photographers was going to be in California for a few days and was scheduling sessions. I knew that I wanted her to do a session for Mike and I so that we would finally have good photos of us together, so I went ahead and gave myself a Christmas gift and scheduled a session with Five and Five Photography.

You guys. I am so in love with these photos. I look at them and I am so happy  that I can finally put together an heirloom album and get some prints for our walls. If you are in Idaho, I highly recommend hiring Krista - she is amazing! 

A Day in the Life

I know, I know - it's been a long time since I've written anything, and then here I am with two posts in as many days.

We moved to California from Utah in July, and our stuff took over two weeks to get to us. While we were waiting on basically all our earthly belongings, I decided to do a photo series of a day in the life. If you enjoy taking photos at all, I highly recommend doing "a day in the life" once every few months. I look back on these pictures from July and feel like my kids have already grown and changed so much, and I feel the need to do this again soon.
There's nothing exquisite or extraordinary about our lives - most of the time we stay at home, play with toys and the dog, watch TV, nap, eat dinner, do baths, and go to bed. But those mundane, ordinary, everyday activities are what make up our lives right now, and I think they are important things to document. Because while all the fun vacations, day trips, and play dates are wonderful things to have memories of, it's also important to document the time and events scattered among them.

And if you don't feel comfortable documenting your own day, you can hire me to do so. I love lifestyle photography!

Treat Yo' Self

So. If you know me, you know that I am a total advocate of moms taking time for themselves regularly, because if mama's gone crazy, well... then, heaven help us all. Or maybe that's just how it is in my house? Either way, I know that I personally need time to myself, and one of my favorite ways to escape the harsh realities of life is to head downstairs, lock myself in the bathroom, turn on the TV, and enjoy a nice warm bath while binge-watching my latest show on Netflix. An essential part of my bath-time routine is throwing a bath bomb into the tub.

Now, I love Lush as much as the next girl, but I have to admit that, since becoming a mom, I have a special place in my heart for other moms who bust their butts to help support their families. A lot of those moms sell handmade products to do so, and wouldn't ya know it - bath bombs are one of those things! So when I was asked by a friend to do a review of Bath Sorbet's bath products, I was so excited!
I received my box with two bath bombs (Frozen and Heavenly) and one bath truffle. I was so excited - these things were so pretty! Over the next week and a half, I used each product, and I have to tell you - I loved them!!
Now, I know some people might be like, "WTF is so great about a bath bomb? What is a bath bomb? What does a bath bomb do??" Well, let me change your life. HA! First of all, bath bombs are way fun to watch as they fizz and turn your bath water pretty colors, but that's not all they do.
Bath bombs are packed with lots of ingredients that are amazing for your skin. Every time I hop out of a bath where I've used a bath bomb, my skin is left feeling soft and silky smooth. If you love a little shimmer, some of Bath Sorbet's bath bombs even have a little glitter in them, so you'll walk away feeling like a superstar. In addition to leaving your skin ultra moisturized and soft, these puppies make your bathroom smell AH-MAZING.

So moral of the story is this - if you need some you time and you have a bathtub, head over to Bath Sorbet and get yourself some bath bombs! If you buy five or more, they are only $4 each, which is an amazing deal.

There is No Place like Nebraska

With the Ohio State game this coming Saturday, I have Nebraska football on the brain. Here's an oldie but goody.

         “It’s football Saturday in Memorial Stadium and there is no place like Nebraska!” The crowd exploded, cheers of “GOOOO BIIIIIIG REEEEED” filled the air, and the marching band made their way onto the football field to play the Nebraska fight song. As I stood up and clapped along, shivers ran up and down my spine – this was the loudest the crowd had ever been (at least since I got here two years ago). It was the night that every Husker fan had been waiting for – the night that we would prove to Oklahoma that we were a force to be reckoned with. The crowd was fired up, and so was the team. The sweet smell of victory was in the air, and we wanted it more than anything.
       Memorial Stadium was packed full – it was the 303rd consecutive sellout game, which meant that over 86,300 fans were present. Nebraska fans have come to be known as the best in college football, and they are the reason that game day in Memorial Stadium is such a big deal. Fans from all over the country travel hundreds of miles to spend four hours inside Memorial Stadium cheering for their team. What is it about this place that makes it so special? Why is it that, upon walking through the gates into the stadium, a person changes from a student, doctor, lawyer, or teacher into a die-hard football fan?
On football game days, Memorial Stadium undergoes a significant transformation – it changes from a football field to a place of excitement and wonder. It goes from being completely empty to being more packed than a can of sardines in a matter of minutes. There seems to be something in the air in Memorial Stadium on game day that, once inhaled, changes the way a person feels about Husker football. It’s something that can only be understood by those who have attended a Nebraska home game – it’s something that can never be fully explained or put into words, but I will attempt.
       Unlike many of the students at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, I was not raised to be a Husker football fan. In fact, I remember the first time I saw Memorial Stadium. I was coming into Lincoln for my first college visit. My mom and I had just gotten into town, and Memorial Stadium was the first thing that really stood out to me. I was jamming to some Justin Timberlake on my iPod as we were driving down US Highway 34, and then I saw it – I was completely dumbfounded. I looked at the façade of the stadium in pure astonishment, and took note of the five national championship titles the Huskers had acquired. I wondered who Tom Osborne was, and why the playing surface had been named after him. At that precise moment, I began my journey toward becoming a part of Husker Nation. Someday I, too, would be infected by this Big Red fever.
            I spent the majority of my freshman year watching the Husker games on television (I hadn’t signed up early enough to get season tickets) and learning as much as I possibly could about the program. I learned that the current coach, Bill Callahan, was the worst coach Nebraska had seen in forty-six years (He won a whopping twenty-seven out of forty-nine games), and that, as of November 2007, he would no longer be the head coach of the Cornhuskers. I figured out who the new athletic director, Tom Osborne (affectionately known by his fans as T.O.), was and why he was so important. I realized that, under his reign, the Cornhuskers never won less than nine games in a season, and earned three national championship titles. As I learned the history of my team, I began to understand why everyone in Nebraska seemed to live for football. In fact, I became one of those people – I couldn’t bear the thought of missing a game.
            After my year of Nebraska football enlightenment was over and I had made the complete transformation from ignorant and oblivious out-of-state student to informed and enlightened football fan, I bought season tickets. During the 2008 season, I didn’t miss a single game. I was overwhelmingly happy every time my team pulled off a win, and completely devastated when they lost. I was ecstatic that the new head coach, Bo Pelini, was bringing the program back to its former glory. After the season was over, it was almost painful for me to wait eight more months to see another Husker game.
            It was the next year that I really noticed the atmosphere of Memorial Stadium on game day. As I walked into the sea of red in Memorial Stadium on Saturday, November 7th, 2009, I was overcome with a feeling of pride and love for my team. It was one of the biggest games of the season – Oklahoma vs. Nebraska is one of the oldest rivalries in college football, and it had been eight years since the Huskers were able to pull off a win against the infamous Sooners. Just a year before, we lost the rivalry game by an embarrassing forty points. That was NOT going to happen again. We wanted our revenge, and we were going to get it. It was the second year of the Bo Pelini era, and every Husker fan in the stadium was praying for a win.
       I joined my friends in the East Stadium student section just in time for the tunnel walk – a Nebraska tradition since 1994.  As the HuskerVision screen lit up with the words, “Not the goal but the game; Not the victory but the action; In the deed the glory” and the image of the Huskers making their way out of the locker room, The Alan Parsons Project’s “Sirius” began to blare over the loudspeaker. Everyone in the stands began to clap to the beat of the music, and as the coach and players stepped onto the field, the roar of the crowd could be heard from at least a mile away.

       As I sit in the stands of Memorial Stadium now, on a brisk February morning, it is difficult to believe that it is the same place. There is no one else around, and the air is thick with ominous silence rather than acclamation. Football stadiums aren’t supposed to be this quiet – I shouldn’t feel so alone here. There should be tens of thousands of other red-clad people surrounding me, shouting with excitement, serving as a distraction from the worries and concerns of everyday life. But today, from where I’m standing, it is hard to imagine the stadium as that sea of red that I have come to love so much.
       When I walked into the stadium this morning I was not overcome with pride, and there was no sudden transformation from student to avid football fan. I was just… me.  I was not greeted by vendors yelling, “HOT AND FRESH VALENTINO’S PIZZA, COME GET YOUR VAL’S PIZZA,” or, “MOUNTAIN DEW, PEPSI, WATER! COLD AND REFRESHING, ONLY $2!” I was not trampled by fans rushing to get the best seat, or members of Husker nation fighting to get to the restrooms before kickoff. I didn’t hear the overly zealous (or perhaps just slightly tipsy) UNL students cheering and screaming as I approached the student section.
       Instead, I am surrounded by steely gray rather than Husker Red; the sky, the bleachers, the walls – everything is just a bland and somewhat gloomy shade of gray. I find that my mood begins to match every shade of gray around me. I begin to feel emotionless and indifferent. My mood suddenly brightens, however, when I look down at the bright green field. Not only is it the most colorful and stimulating part of the otherwise lifeless stadium, but it also conjures up images in my mind. I imagine our football team running drills at an early morning practice. I wonder what it’s like when all 150 of the guys are on the field at once. I smile at the thought – it amuses me to envision a hundred and some odd guys lined up doing tackling drills, jumping jacks and push-ups.
       I suddenly snap back to reality when I hear the campus bells start to chime the song, “No Place Like Nebraska.” I stand up and start to clap along, then realize that I am completely alone and probably look absolutely ridiculous. I sit back down and take another look around, hoping to notice something that I had missed before. I don’t notice anything, and instead let my imagination wander back to the Nebraska-OU game that took place three months ago.
       I can almost hear the screams and cheers of the crowd as I close my eyes and remember the game. I can remember it like it was yesterday; the crowd was so overwhelmingly loud that I could not even hear my own cheers. The first play that comes to mind is the pick-off by Prince Amukamara in the second quarter – his interception got the Huskers to the one-yard line and gave them the opportunity to score. As Alex Henery’s kick for the extra point sailed through the uprights and the band began to play “No Place Like Nebraska,” everyone began to scream even louder. Everywhere I looked, people were hugging and high-fiving complete strangers, but it didn’t matter – we were all members of the die-hard Husker football fan family.
       The rest of the game was just as amazing as the second quarter had been, even though we only scored three more points. The Huskers played astonishingly well, and even though the Sooners had nearly twice as many total yards as us, we were able to beat them by seven points. As the game clock ran out, and the final score flashed on the big screen, I was overcome with emotion. Even now, when the game is just a memory, I feel an enormous smile begin to form.
       As I think about the outcome of the game, I recall the quote etched into both the southwest corner of Memorial stadium and the western façade – coincidentally the same one that was featured in the tunnel walk. I feel a kind of reverence for the words as I contemplate their meaning. I have heard them a hundred times before, but, until now, have never thought about their origins, or what makes them so memorable. I, like most Husker fans, can only ever remember the last five words of Hartley Burr Alexander’s infamous quote – “in the deed the glory.” However, as I sit in the stadium today, it dawns on me that, in order to fully comprehend the meaning of those five words, one must first hear the preceding twelve. “Not the victory but the action; Not the goal but the game; In the deed the glory.” I finally understand why those words are there – to remind the Huskers to play with heart, to leave everything they have on the field. It does not matter if a game is won or lost; all that matters is how it was played.
       I look at my watch and realize that I only have five minutes to get to my 10:30 class; I spent more time here than was intended. I gather my belongings and make the walk out of Memorial Stadium. As I walk, I think. I think about the atmosphere of this place, and how it can be so magical one day, and so plain the next. I remember how it felt to enter the stadium this morning, and have a sort of epiphany.
For some reason, taking the step through that big red gate today just wasn’t the same escape from reality that comes with game day. Perhaps it was the absence of all the people that inhabit Memorial stadium on game day, but the vivacious and energetic atmosphere that I had become so familiar with upon entering the stadium was nowhere to be found. I could not distract myself from my responsibilities of everyday life – I was still worried about classes, work, and relationships.
            While I sat in the stands of a completely empty Memorial Stadium, I found the answers to all of my questions. I didn’t know it then, but now, walking through the bitter cold, it dawns on me why, exactly, game days in Nebraska are so special. I know exactly how Memorial Stadium comes alive on football game days. The extraordinary atmosphere surrounding the stadium on game days can be completely attributed to the tens of thousands of Husker fans. As I said earlier, Husker fans are the best in the nation, and they are the reason Memorial Stadium is so exceptional.
       Without the fans, Memorial Stadium would just be another college football stadium. Without the fans, Memorial Stadium would lack character. Without the fans, Memorial Stadium’s big red gate would lack the power to change a person from a student, teacher, doctor, or lawyer to die-hard football fan. Without the fans, the air in Memorial Stadium would be filled with the stench of stale popcorn, pizza, and the body odor of fifty football players instead of being filled with team spirit and Big Red “Fever.” Without the fans, there would be no reason for the football team to play.

In Real Life | Real Product Reviews | Norwex

Happy Tuesday!

Sorry I missed yesterday's post - I totally spaced it over the weekend, so it didn't get put together in time. Anyway, this week's real product review is Norwex!
If you haven't heard of Norwex, I pulled this little blurb from the "about" section of their website:

"Our purpose is simple but powerful: The idea that working together, with trust, integrity and honesty as our core values and radically reducing chemicals in our homes as our mission, we can improve the world around us." 

Basically, Norwex produces cleaning products with no chemicals. I was totally skeptical at first, but after attending a Norwex party and watching numerous demonstration videos (like this one), I was hooked. I had to try this stuff. I went ahead and ordered the basic household package. I ended up winning a makeup removal cloth,  and my mom gifted me a bathroom scrub mitt. I have also used so many more products, but I thought I would review the few that I actually own (and just let you know that I haven't used anything from Norwex that I didn't want for myself).

First up: The basic household package (more specifically, the envirocloth)

 I LOVE my envirocloth. I will never use another washcloth in my kitchen (or anywhere, really) again. It makes me sad when my envirocloth is in the washing machine. I use this thing for everything. I wipe my table and counters off with it, I clean my stove with it, I wipe the floor with it, I wash my windows and mirrors with it (combined with the glass cloth). It is seriously a must-have and I honestly don't know how I lived without it. See the picture above? Cleaning my microwave literally took me less than a minute. I know the envirocloth might seem a little pricey, but it is worth every single penny. I'm actually going to order another one so that I don't feel sad when mine is in the wash.

Next up: the makeup removal cloth

I don't actually have photos of before and afters for this one because I haven't worn makeup since before I decided to review Norwex this week, and there was no way I was going to lather my face in makeup just to take it off ten seconds later. Anyway, the cloth works great at taking off your makeup from the day. It actually works better than most makeup removers I've tried, and doesn't leave that greasy residue. I love it.

Finally: the bathroom scrub mitt

This is actually one of the only Norwex products I've tried that I will tell you you can probably live without. Don't get me wrong - it works so well! BUT... it's not perfect (as you can see from my disgusting before and after photos of my nasty shower... GROSS). It holds a ton of water, and that really bothers me when I'm trying to scrub at something - I don't like feeling the squishiness of excess water. Other than that, it does a good job of scrubbing. It really is no match for some good old bleach and icky chemical cleaner, though (although the whole point of Norwex is getting those icky chemicals out of your house).
Other products I have used and would recommend: the kitchen cloth, body cloth, and mop.

The final Verdict: YES. If you are worried about having harmful chemicals in your home that may not even be truly getting rid of all those icky germs, then you need Norwex. I cannot recommend these products enough. I haven't had to buy cleaners in forever - I just don't use them anymore. I don't worry about Elsie getting into my "cleaning" cabinet, because all it is is a couple of washcloths. It has made such a difference having a safe way to clean my home. An added bonus? Elsie can help.

Have you used Norwex products? What did you think? 

Sometimes It's Okay.

As moms/women/humans in general, there is a lot of pressure to be perfect all the time. In this world of social media, our lives are constantly on display for the world to see (yeah, yeah, we bring it on ourselves). With that, we see everyone else's lives. We all know that people post the best parts of them and their family on social media, but sometimes it's hard not to compare our bad to other people's good.

We find ourselves feeling guilty and getting worked up over the stupidest things (I say, "we," but by that... I mean "me/I"). I've been thinking about this a lot, and I've come up with a list of things that we beat ourselves up over, but really... they aren't the end of the world.

Sometimes it's okay.... 

to be selfish. I know so many women who don't take any time for themselves. They are constantly putting everyone and their dog first, and you know what?! That sucks. Stop it. Take a friggin' day off. Pawn your kids off on somebody, take a day off of work, whatever it is that sucks up your time... leave it for the day. No one will die without you - life will go on. Sure, the house might look like a tornado when you get home, you might have an inbox full of emails when you get to work, but those things don't matter. Your sanity and well-being matter. Quit feeling guilty for wanting a day off and just take it. Seriously. Get over yourself - you're not that important, work and family will survive 8 hours without you there.

to quit. I am not a quitter. I was raised knowing that if I started something, I sure as hell better finish it, because quitting is not acceptable. Except when it is. Sometimes we spread ourselves too thin and realize it too late. It is okay to quit. In fact, sometimes it's good to quit. I'd rather be able to give a couple people 100% than half-a** my way through 20 different things. 

to say no. I wrote a whole blog post on saying no a while back. I still maintain that it is a necessary evil, and it is oh, so wonderful to be able to say that word and not feel bad about it. 

to be a hypocrite. I tell Elsie all the time that she can't have oreos until she's eaten dinner. But guess who's a big, fat hypocrite? That's right, ME!!!  I eat all the oreos I want before eating dinner and I don't even feel bad about it. HA!

to scream. I've screamed at my kid - I'm not proud to say it, but it happens. We are all human. I'm not talking about screaming at my kid, though - I'm talking about screaming at the world. The other day, :I was just pissed. I hated the world, I was mad at myself for being upset about things because, really, I have it pretty good. I seriously left my house at 11:00 at night, got into my car, and proceeded to drive and just scream. It's a good thing it was nighttime and no one could see into my car, because I'm pretty confident that I looked like I'd escaped the madhouse. But you know what?! It was really therapeutic. I just screamed and cried and screamed some more. It was awesome and I felt sooo much better after that. Try it, you'll see.

to look like a hot mess when you leave your house. Living in Utah is like this whole other world. All these women at the grocery store, perfectly made up... me in my sweatpants covered in boogers, poop, and spit up. I've come to terms with the fact that I enjoy sleep more than I enjoy looking like I put effort into my appearance, and it's okay. You can see in the photo below with my non-made up face and greasy hair that appearance really isn't my top priority most of the time.

What about you? What could you add to this list?