Copenhagen Denmark with Kids by Kate Brightbill

Copenhagen #denmark #copenhagen #kobenhavn

Last spring, a good friend texted me a flight deal with SAS airlines, “Buy a flight to Scandinavia, get kids free.”

Okay. I’ll fly to the place at the top of my bucket list. If you insist.

The parameters on flying out to Scandinavia were that travel must be between the week school started, and the dead of winter. Brian immediately had to opt out, which meant I needed for Jack to opt out as well if it was going to be a manageable trip. Though I don’t love taking the girls out of school, I also feel very strongly that travel can be one of the best teachers, and both of them are excellent academic students and only in elementary school, and would catch up quickly.

We booked for October 1-8. Before the extreme cold, but deep enough into the school year for teachers to not worry about the week they’d miss. My mom said she would join me, and the plan was set!

My great-grandparents on my mom’s side immigrated to San Francisco from Denmark, so we knew for sure that we wanted to go there. We still have family we know who live in Sweden in the town directly across the bridge from Copenhagen, so our second objective- to visit them- was also set. More on Sweden in a post to come. :) Here is a little recap of our three+ days in Copenhagen! Only took me 6 months to get this up here!!

Day 1, Tuesday

Day 2, Wednesday

Day 3, Thursday

Day 4, Friday

Copenhagen #travelwithkids #denmark #copenhagen

My cousin recommended staying in Kobenhavn K., aka. Indre By, because everything is super convenient for walking, and she was SO right. When I’m with my kids, I just find that the fewer uber/taxi/train rides we take, the better. Location for me matters more than size, and the home aesthetic and cost matter next. I search relentlessly, mark all my favorites with a heart, then do a google street-view before I actually book. Hosts will always show the prettiest side of their homes, but sometimes they are across from a massive thoroughfare, or they are in front of a gas station or something that isn’t optimal. Thankfully we found this Airbnb that had all three of my ideals, AND the loft style that the girls saw me browsing and LOVED.

From the airport, the easiest mode of transit is the train. It sounds daunting- a taxi must be a better way right? No, it was 100% best to have taken the train as we did. Please note when you come: except for the airport train machines, the train machines in Copenhagen do not take credit card. They DO take debit cards. Perhaps that will save yourself a moment of frustration. ;) I try not to use debit when traveling internationally, but this machine is the exception.

Day 1, Tuesday

Caught the super clean train from the airport and took it to the Nørreport stop, and went outside and down the block to these beautiful flower stands being set up to welcome us to the gorgeous city. Our residence was directly around the corner of the yellow building. Prime location.

The plaza between the Norreport Station and the AirBnb in Copenhagen K

The plaza between the Norreport Station and the AirBnb in Copenhagen K

We had the disadvantage of a 7am arrival & and a 1pm check-in. I was apprehensive about that wait when I booked it, but I know now for sure that I will really try not to do that again on future travel. The girls were thoroughly jet-lagged, and our suitcases were pretty heavy and we FELT those hours. We made ourselves comfortable at a booth in a nearby cafe Lagkagehuset, and Sophie slept on the bench for a couple hours after we ate breakfast and waited to drop luggage. Maggie started her homework, of course, because she is kind of obsessive about making sure every single thing is done and done on time for 2nd grade.

cph

Maggie had a muffin, but I delved directly into that salmon breakfast that Scandinavia has absolutely mastered, and I felt incredibly pleased with that decision. Sophie I think slept through breakfast on the booth bench. We were “those people,” but sometimes we all have to be those people (especially for the benefit of children)… and everyone around us was incredibly gracious with our taking time & space in the cafe.

We were finally able to drop the luggage (11am), we immediately started sightseeing and feeling almost alive again. The Round Tower is just a few blocks from where we were, so we walked straight over to climb the cobblestone path to the upstairs views. It seemed to be a lunch break for students, because there were Danish teens racing up the cobblestone path, but otherwise, it was not crowded at all.

Round Tower #copenhagen #roundtower
Round Tower Copenhagen
Copenhagen

We checked in to our cute spot and napped our little hearts out. We tried to wake, but it was just not happening. Three hours later I made the call that we MUST get up and go to dinner. We found a spot nearby called Olive. It was rated perfectly, and honestly, I could not have picked a better option for our first night - even if I had done hours of research, which I did not. The mushroom soup was life-changing and it’s doubtful I will ever enjoy mushroom soup the way I did that one (I’ve never actually had mushroom soup, because frankly, it doesn’t sound truly appetizing as a general rule. It was amaaazing). We were there early enough to walk directly in, but I would 100% recommend a reservation. It has nearly perfect reviews and is generally booked for the night in advance. We just got incredibly lucky. Maggie got a second wind and talked our ear off about everything, which is honestly one of the BEST things about traveling. Interacting with my kiddos at length without distraction is one of the most beautiful things ever. Sophie’s jetlag took its toll (truth be told, she was physically sick twice and I was concerned she had picked up a stomach bug and we would all be indoors suffering from the same bug rather than sight-seeing for our vacation!!!) and we went directly back to bed after the dinner, and slept until morning (off and on, I mean. I was wide awake replying to emails and texts in the U.S. at 3am for awhile because my body was in such a weird not-sleepy state. ;)

Day 2, Wednesday

Day two was my favorite day. Absolutely perfect. Most importantly, everyone was totally healthy. The weather was beautiful and chilly. Everyone was fresh and ready to explore, and jet lag was no longer an issue.

We started our morning with pastries from Meyers Bageri. My mom actually went to get them and bring them back, which was really nice for the girls so that they could have a leisurely morning in our space. I took a cliche pastry photo, obviously.

Meyers Bageri

But what I really loved were the photos of the perfect light outside our window that morning. It felt like it wasn’t real life. Those views were stunning.

Copenhagen
Copenhagen

I reserved a spot for lunch at a beautiful space in Nyhavn called Kompasset. When I travel, I prefer to do a mix of pre-planning and improvising. If it’s all improvised, it can be a recipe for hunger and crankiness, which we always want to avoid. Having reservations also gives a bit of structure and expectation to a day. We walked there and took some side roads to see small courtyards between homes and businesses. My eyes savor the beautiful architecture and detailed design. I never became the architect I imagined I might be when I was child, but I DO have a deep appreciation for beautiful structures.

Copenhagen
Pistolstraed

Nyhavn is the iconic row of buildings that you see on any Copenhagen postcard or guide. It’s every bit as beautiful in real life as in the pictures. It’s actually a longer street than I realized, and it’s both sides of the water that are the classic Scandinavian views. Visiting on weekdays in October was the perfect formula for avoiding excessive crowds, but it also means there was no way we would be eating outside. Give & take! We ate inside in a bright sun-soaked room. The tables by the window allowed only for two per, so Sophie sat with my mom and I sat with Maggie and got to chat with a tiny bit of separation.

Kompasset
Kompasset
Kompasset

Kompasset offers traditional Danish food, with a bit of a higher price tag, but remember- no need to tip (except on VERY exceptional service), so the price you see is the price you pay. San Francisco does not have the same luxury, so for the experience and food, the lunch felt like a good value. Thankfully my girls love seafood, because it is served everywhere here, and tastes SO fresh and right. It was a good, special time and I wished my husband was there because he would have loved it. Maggie sketched everywhere she went, and tried to capture everything she was seeing.

Nyhavn
Nyhavn
Nyhavn

From there we walked around and shopped. There was a great LEGO store (LEGO is a Danish brand), and the girls wanted to move in. We made a crucial stop at Zara for a winter coat for Sophie. Her Target thin green SF jacket wasn’t getting the job done, and I wasn’t into having her freeze. She tried about 8 coats and we purchased one that was marked down to $21 USD. The price was mis-marked but they honored it, so she was SUPER warm after that, and it’s a really cute coat she’s worn since. I clearly love a good deal. I almost got some Vejas I’ve been eyeing, but realized the price was actually less at home, so I held off and got them for my birthday a week later instead.

Copenhagen
Skates
Lego Store CPH
Antique Shop Copenhagen

It was a beautiful, full day (my personal favorite day in Copenhagen), and we ended it with some REALLY good sushi to-go from Torvehallerne, which was super convenient to our Airbnb. Convenience wins often when kids are involved, because waits for restaurants after walking a lot and flying around the world just doesn’t make for an optimal experience.

Day 3, Thursday

Coffee Collective

We kept the simple theme for breakfast and had coffee and pastries for our Thursday morning, also at Torvelhallerne. It was two blocks from us, and had so many amazing options, so it quickly became our morning go-to.

When Sophie’s 4th grade teacher heard we would be in Copenhagen, she made a list of a few spots that the class would be reading about in the book Number the Stars when we returned from break. Among them was Amalienborg Palace. My mom had also visited there when she was last in Copenhagen, and knew the girls would enjoy the changing of the guards. We walked over there with a few stops on the way. The little shops have so many good Danish pieces that it was hard NOT to stop.

Copenhagen Shops
Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Amalienborg

The guards are very official, and not approachable. The girls took polaroids and Maggie sat and sketched the guards from a distance (the sketch turned out super cute too).

Amalienborg

This might be my favorite polaroid Sophie took on the trip.

Amalienborg got a bit crowded, so after watching the changing of the guards, we went around toward the water for a walk toward The Little Mermaid statue. We got maybe 1/4 mile away and quit the walk. None of us were THAT motivated to see it, and the kids felt like we had walked far enough already, so we stopped and grabbed a GREAT lunch at a little gourmet market called Logismose.

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Copenhagen

Fueled up, we headed back toward the Rosenborg Palace. I really feel that when we travel with kids, it would be remiss to not attempt to understand the culture and history while in that place. Touring museums and castles or places with historical relevance is also a way for me to justify the missed days of school for travel. ;)

Denmark
Rosenborg
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When we booked our flights, everything worked perfectly for our schedules, EXCEPT that the infamous Tivoli was closed for a seasonal update the exact date we flew in. Tivoli is a wonderland of beauty and amusement park history. We did the next best thing on our last evening in Copenhagen and went over to Tivoli Food Hall. These food halls in Copenhagen are just a dream. Everyone in one place having the exact food they want is beyond ideal. We got ramen, bao, and I think a burrito? All in one place. We ate outside overlooking the charming, twinkling lights of Tivoli. I wish I got better pictures there, but I was truly focused on eating all my favorite things and savoring every bit of the last evening there.

Tivoli
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We walked the cobblestones back to our home for the last night, and heard musicians playing beautiful music and vowed we would be back to spend more time in this magical city.

Copenhagen

On our last morning, we hit up Coffee Collective again, and then headed with all our luggage back to the train. Reminder to avoid frustration: only debit or Danish money in those machines! :)

Torvehallerne
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We loved Copenhagen, but we were off to Bornholm and Sweden. :) I will post every detail on both places the next two weeks!!

xoxo

San Francisco: Lands End by Kate Brightbill

Lands End #sanfrancisco

Every new year, we get a few Mondays off school. We usually plan small weekend trips - usually Tahoe or south a little to Santa Cruz, but this year we’ve stayed local. We have a big trip planned for spring break, so we’re holding off on the wanderlust for now, and appreciating our own backyard.

Yesterday we realized it’s been forever since we’ve done Lands End and it was time. :) We’ve always parked by the Sutro Baths when we’ve gone (I LOVE the Sutro Baths), but since our kids tire before we finish the whole loop (it’s between 3.5 & 4 miles total, and it takes a lot of extra time when you have kids who like to veer off the path and spend plenty of time climbing rocks at the beach), we decided to start on the other side of the loop near Seacliff & down the hill from Legion of Honor. HERE is the spot on the map.

LandsEnd #sanfrancisco

If you’re in town for only a short bit and all you want are quick pics of views and then to move on to something else, the views are RIGHT there. Walk a few steps and get more views. All the way around it’s a new angle of the pretty bridge.

#SanFrancisco


Jack kept up pretty well. The hike is honestly not hard for anyone but Jack, and he’s three so that feels fair. He did great getting there, but back to the car was a trek with a little guy going uphill and up stairs two hours past his nap.

#sanfrancisco #landsend #sfwithkids
San Francisco

I love how lush and green it is right now. There were puddles and areas where it was slightly muddy, but not bad considering how insanely rainy it’s been all month! Sunshine in the forecast for the week and I can already feel all of our moods getting collectively brighter. I love rain in moderation, but since our state needs rain in bulk, I’m doing my best not to complain about it… definitely appreciating every bit of sun when it does come out!

Lands End, San Francisco
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San Francisco

Ok, so in general, this isn’t any sort of challenging hike, but if you DO want to see the Labyrinth from the top, it’s a slightly treacherous outlook. My kids love risk and love keeping my heart pounding, but I only kept Maggie there with me to see it this time, and didn’t let her get near the edge like she wanted to. She wanted the best view so she could sketch it. She takes sketching supplies with her everywhere, and I love it. Brian took the other two down to try the maze while she sketched. :)

San Francisco

Ate some snacks by the rocks, then ventured down to the beach. It’s not like a “lay-out and sunbathe” beach… not that any SF beaches really are except on those heat wave weeks when they’re packed out. This one is mostly rocks. We had a competition boys vs. girls to build the best rock towers. Girls won easily, of course.

San Francisco

Sophie wanted to climb on one of the massive boulders at the ocean, but we restricted the kids to a nice giant rock right beside it where they could see thousands of mussels and massive starfish in the water as the waves crashed.

San Francisco
San Francisco
San Francisco

Allll those black shells on the rocks are mussels. It’s so crazy how many are just clustered there!

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Sophie was first to get her feet accidentally wet, but Maggie got it BAD- up to her ankles. She wasn’t thrilled about it, but honestly, she was pretty chill considering how freezing her feet were the whole walk back. I’m resisting posting the shot of her adorable sad face when she realized how soaked she got.

It’s funny because when I told people I was pregnant with my first, second, and third child, we got the question throughout, “when are you going to move out of the city?” I know we have postage stamp backyards, and we have some definite gritty sidewalks and everything else, but ohhhhh, we are finding it is a GOOD place to raise a family. So many open spaces and beautiful history and everything else to explore, and yesterday reminded us again.

  • Verdict on the day: 5/5 of us had fun and that’s a good percentage.

  • Total time out there: about 2.5ish hours.

  • Total mileage: only about 3 miles.

  • Total $ spent: nothing.

  • Total Band-Aids used: None (it’s a miracle!)!

We’ll come back to Lands End Trail again sooner rather than later. :) And when Jack is a little bigger, I want to do the full loop.

xx

Travel: Portland with Kids by Kate Brightbill

#portland #travelwithkids #portlandwithkids #stylesmallertravel

I haven’t been to Portland since I was a kid and made a brief stop (I think?). I don’t even remember that so I don’t really count it. I’ve been hearing great things for years, but we’re always more inclined to go south to warmer weather than north to chillier weather. Some of our dearest friends just moved up there though, so we decided to put on those heavy coats and head north for a visit during our winter break.

Portland is a ten hour drive from San Francisco. It sounds daunting to do with kids, but it honestly wasn’t terrible. Brian and I like to leave while it’s still early enough for the kids to fall back asleep, but not too early for us to be alert enough. I took the 4:30 shift (which I prefer!), and he filled our Yetis with hot fresh coffee before we headed out the door. All good. We stopped twice (three times if you count the time the officer pulled me over for speeding near the Oregon border… delayed us 10 minutes, haha, but he didn’t give me a ticket!! Brian will never let me live it down) and we arrived at around 2pm.

I’m the type who would be totally cool sipping coffee and eating pastries all on a rainy Portland day x4, and not getting out at all because obviously- it’s winter and not warm, but between our AMAZING Portland friends/hosts and our own kids, we have seven little wild ones who need to run out that energy, so we had to A-game.

Here’s everything we saw, loved, and ate as a little summary, and more detail on everything below:

Day 1: Oregon Zoo & Blazers Game

Our first excursion was a Saturday misty trip to the Oregon Zoo. It’s stunning, compact, clean, and gives beautiful views of the animals. I’ve been to our SF Zoo more than I can count, and to the San Diego Zoo once, but I honestly think this one was the favorite of the three. It was totally manageable with 7 kids, and - maybe because there was misty rain falling- it was not even slightly crowded.

StyleSmaller #travelwithkids #portland #portlandwithkids

I LOVE giraffes.

StyleSmaller #travelwithkids #portland #portlandwithkids
StyleSmaller #travelwithkids #portland #portlandwithkids

We stopped at Trader Joe’s before we went so that we didn’t have to buy zoo food (overpriced and usually just meh anyway. :) They apparently have a Christmas lights exhibit through the holidays in the evenings, which looked like fun, but we had plans to watch basketball on a double date that night!

Brian is a Warriors fanatic and they were playing the Blazers WHILE we were there. Best luck ever. We had a quick bite at Wayfinder Brewery. Generally speaking, breweries aren’t known for their food, but in Portland it’s actually common for the local breweries to have amazing food, and this one totally did. I highly recommend the banh mi and the fried cauliflower. Craving that cauliflower now actually, so I might try to make it at home.

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Five minute drive to the game from there, and into the super clean, #local arena. Like, all the food options were so legit and local. I had this random thought right after halftime that some soft-serve sounded good, and so I went up and two booths away was local Tillamook soft serve. Check and check. Had soft-serve in hand and was back to my seat in 5 minutes. I’m into this Portland vibe. The Warriors won, and we were VERY happy. The fans didn’t even heckle us for being Warrior fans. ;) Oregon people are generally SUPER nice.

Day 2: Hawthorne Bridge

An hour scooting across the bridge and back and up and down the riverside was perfect for getting energy out on day 2. A double rainbow made it extra cool. I won’t pretend I loved having the cars on one side and the heights on the other side, but between four grown-ups, we corralled all the kiddos safely around and they LOVED it. I’m the same when I take my kids on the Golden Gate. It’s SO high and so many cars. Gives me some panic, but honestly, if you’re not a stressed out mama like me, it’s a good little activity, and gorgeous.

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We drove across more bridges to visit family in Vancouver, Washington after the bridge adventure, so day two was perfectly mild and relaxing.

Day 3: New Year’s Eve on the 4T Trail

The hardest things can sometimes be the best things. We learned it when we took 7 kids on a hike to the Hollywood sign last year, and we learned it when we took the same 7 kids on the 4T trail this year.

The 4T trail stands for Trail / Tram / Trolley / Train. In my head it was more of an urban experience than a woodsy one, but in real life it was more of a woodsy experience than an urban one. ;) The trail starts at the Oregon Zoo (kind of a weird starting point right off a freeway onramp), and you hike up the stunning mountains through the trees, winding around in muddy terrain… for four miles. The big kids (5 & up) were in their element, running ahead the whole time and having the BEST time. The grown ups loved it. The 3 & 4 year olds loved half of it, and were in tears by the end of it, poor babies! We had a BOB which was a bit tricky to maneuver, but necessary. The top of the trail about 2/3 in had the most beautiful view of Mt. Hood.

Oregon 4T Trail #oregon #stylesmallertravels
4T trail #stylesmaller #stylesmallertravels #oregon
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Pro Tip: wear shoes that can go in the washing machine. hahaha.

The tram was the highlight because of the satisfaction of accomplishment, the warmth, and the views. The kids also liked the little lurch as it went down to the ground.

stylesmaller

Caught the trolley and found the nearest stop with good food. Another brewery, this time Deschutes. Perfect for a big group. Waited only about 15 minutes, but I took the 10-year-olds for a quick shop across the street where there were the CUTEST little spots.

stylesmaller #portland #travelwithkids
portland
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We were BEAT by the end of the day, in the best possible way. I loved ending 2018 exploring with every bit of energy we had. We went home and everyone got clean and in pj’s. Set up some sparkle photobooth fun at the house for the kids (Jack went straight to bed), while we watched the ball drop at midnight east coast time. ;) Best New Year’s strategy for west coast kids ever.

photobooth
photobooth
photobooth
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photobooth
photobooth
New Years

Vacuumed a lot of sparkle that night… and the next day… and the next day we left. Our hosts are probably still vacuuming sparkle.

DAY 4: POKPOK & MCMENAMINS KENNEDY school

Per the recommendation of my Vancouver cousins, we had lunch at PokPok on New Year’s day. We actually had so many amazing food recommendations from my cousins that I was grateful it was New Year’s Day so the restaurants being closed helped us make up our mind. PokPok did not disappoint. It’s my favorite Portland meal, actually, and I keep wishing I could get their chicken wings in San Francisco because they were THAT good.

oregon #portland
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So when I go back to Portland (when, NOT if), I will 100% be stopping back for PokPok again. It’s legit. SO. After lunch, we went to McMenamins. McMenamins is this super interesting group who bought several unconventional spaces of real estate in Oregon and I think Washington too, and reinvented their use. The McMenamins we visited used to be a school, and now it is a space with restaurants, bars, and a movie theater playing old movies. We watched The Sound of Music in the theater, and the guys went and grabbed a drink and chatted while we were in there eating popcorn. Kind of a win for all, and the vibe in the spaces is so cool.

Portland #portland #travel
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SO. If you’re thinking about a trip to Portland, just do it and I’m pretty sure you’ll love it. Get your fill of allllll the local coffee, breweries, and ice cream, and don’t be afraid to bring the kids with you.

xx

San Francisco: The Nutcracker Ballet by Kate Brightbill

SF Ballet #stylesmaller #ballet #sfballet #sanfrancisco

I’m a person who loves and thrives on traditions and experiences. There isn’t much more that excites me than to travel to new places, have new experiences, and create memories.

I haven’t been to the ballet since I was a child on a field trip. Several friends go to The Nutcracker every year, but I’ve only briefly considered it until this year. We were SO honored to be invited to opening night at the SF Ballet and share about our experience, and now I want to attend every.single.year.

Though I never was a ballerina as a child, our girls were enrolled in Tutu School for years while preschool age. They adore ballet and all dance, really. When I told them we would be going, their eyes widened and they squealed. I didn’t even have to fight to get them out of bed on the day of the performance, which is saying something. ;)

SF Ballet #ballet #nutcracker #sanfrancisco #stylesmaller

The performance we attended was a Passport Performance, which means that there are additional activities for children. The first 500 children receive a darling stuffed bear upon arrival, then are treated to SmashMallow snacks before the performance, and Miette shortbread cookies at intermission (both favorites!). They receive a passport book with stamps to acquire through visiting activities throughout the Opera House. As my girls ran up the stairs, I was able to see the incredible Opera House adorned in lights and garland and stunning Christmas trees on every level. They took photos at photo booths, learned history, and had the opportunity to see ballet pieces up close.

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#ballet #sf #nutcracker

The highlight of the Passport experience was having the privilege of holding authentic ballet slippers (much heavier than they look!), and trying on the REAL tutus the ballerinas wear.

SF Ballet #ballet #stylesmaller

There are booster seats for children to use during the performance, and both of mine needed them (shorties!). The views from our seats were perfection, and the show was magic. I had no idea what I have been missing all these years not attending. The elegance of movement, and the stunning costume design was absolutely breathtaking.

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We stayed the entire time. I wasn’t sure how my Maggie would do since it was wayyy past her bedtime. The show started at 7:30 (also past her bedtime!) and lasted until 9:30. I wouldn’t recommend it for children younger than six because it IS long and late, and I even had to shhh my little talker when she made some observations. She loved it so much that even when her eyes were heavy and her head started resting on the back of her chair, she said she definitely did not want to leave early. Sophie was engaged and enthralled the entire time (so was I!).

We could not recommend the experience more. I am already looking forward to taking the girls in 2019 to experience the magic again.

The Nutcracker runs from now until December 29!

Buy tickets HERE.

*Tickets were complimentary in exchange for a review.

All opinions are my own. We LOVED the entire experiences.

Shop: Christmas Gift Guides by Kate Brightbill

I’m under no illusions that all children want the same items for Christmas, but I created a little gift guide for people who have run out of gifting ideas and need some simple things for the kids QUICK because Christmas is soooo soon. Time is legit flying for me.

This year, I’m attempting to curb the consumerism slightly by having a template of “want/need/wear/read” for the kids. I love gifting needs the best. Do my kids truly “need” anything? Not really, but some gaps in the I was going to buy it anyway can be filled with a wrapped box with a bow, and I’m a great believer in that sort of gifting. Sophie has outgrown all her sneakers, so new ones are in the need box. Maggie needs a bigger helmet and a bike bell, so I’m trying to find the cutest versions that will make her smile. Jack needs to learn some math concepts, so that’s going to happen with educational toys. A couple years ago, we gifted the girls a table and chairs that they have used literally every day since, but there was huge excitement when they walked out to it on Christmas morning, and Rice cups in all the cutest colors to replace their old broken kid cups. I’m a useful gift nerd.

Want:  Petit Collage Game  || Need:  Mathlink Cubes  || Wear:  Hoodie  and  Shoes  || Read:  Say Zoop  &  Chugga Chugga
  1. Want: Jack is the biggest gamer I’ve ever met in three-year-old form. He wants to play games that are way too old for his ability, so I want to get some more age-appropriate. Petit Collage has the hands-down best collection, and he already owns & loves this one. I cheated because he already owns this one, but it’s definitely a good game option, and I definitely plan to order another game from them.

  2. Need: Also cheated the system because he owns these specific math cubes already, but he LOVES them, and they’re perfect for taking places and practicing math concepts. Other education (less photogenic) ideas are the IQ Builder Construction Engineering, which he has and plays with every single day, and the IQ Builder Kinetic sand, which is what is ACTUALLY under our Christmas tree for him. Both of those come in great storage boxes and are STEM toys, which are always my favorites. Magna tiles are our other go-to toy, and if we didn’t already get the sand, we were also considering an extra set to build bigger projects.

  3. Wear: His slide-on vans are cute and so simple to wear, and he needs an updated pair that isn’t covered in dirt. We also love hoodies from Zara, and they get a ton of use year-round in SF because of that beloved fog and chill. ;) He also wears a lot of henleys because they’re super cute, and I got him this one in blue and brown on black Friday for 30% off.

  4. Read: Jack is one of those adorable kids who memorizes books and reads them to me. His favorites are the Tip Tip, Dig Dig series (I really should take a video of him reading every one of them, every page), and the Press Here series (Mix it Up is my personal favorite). Thankfully, BOTH series released new versions recently, so he’s going to be VERY excited about his new books.


Maggie’s turn. Maggie knows her mind and made a great list to make it easy(ish).

  1. Want: Wellie Wisher accessories to go with her doll. This age is perfect for Wellie Wishers (and their books!).

  2. Need: Maggie’s bike helmet is too small, and we ride bikes all the time, so it’s becoming a little problem. She really hopes for a teal helmet that looks like this pink one…. I can’t find one, so I think I might actually have to go IN PERSON to shop for one in the city. She also would like a bike bell so she won’t have to yell “excuse me! pardon! thank you!” when she attempts to pass pedestrians on the sidewalks and paths.

  3. Wear: Maggie actually is rather difficult to surprise. She has all the intuition and pays attention to details. I bought this skirt and boots on Black Friday after she had told me how much she loved them, then left with her gramma… later that week, she said “Really, the PERFECT outfit for today would be that skirt you got me for Christmas with this shirt.” Sooooo… apparently I wasn’t sneaky enough, haha.

  4. Read: Princess in Black books are easy reading, but adorable for this age group. Maggie loves that she’s kind of fancy but kind a hero as well. I think she thinks of herself the same way. ;)

Want:  FLair Pens  || Need:  Converse  || Wear:  Tees  and  Jeans  (favs are the superskinnys) || Read:  The Mysterious Benedict Society books

Want: FLair Pens || Need: Converse || Wear: Tees and Jeans (favs are the superskinnys) || Read: The Mysterious Benedict Society books

Sophie is at an age where things start feeling a bit simpler. She loves accessories and jewelry, and she loves science, so those are always top picks, but very specific. Here are some ideas that a lot of girls her age love:

  1. Want: Flair Pens. Maggie loves these and has a huge pack she received as a gift, but they’re the kind of thing that feels too special to share all the time. Sophie would love her own.

  2. Need: School shoes. Right now it’s high top converse or checkered vans. She had black converse that she outgrew, and vans that are just destroyed, so both need to be replaced. :)

  3. Wear: Fourth graders seem to wear mostly jeans or basic leggings. Sophie mixes in culottes and skirts, but most days she loves good fun tees and jeans.

  4. Read: The Mysterious Benedict Society books were recommended to me at a bookstore. It was a perfect recommendation; they are on Sophie’s Christmas wish list. They’re mystery stories, but not with too much intensity. They’re good and long, so they’re not finished in one quick sitting. The reviews are great, and Sophie gives them her total approval.

Happy gifting! xx

*affiliate links included in post

Faith by Kate Brightbill

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*Updated to say, all tests are clear. Incredibly thankful today*

This morning I went to set my yeti down on our fireplace mantle while Jack and I were going to do his firetruck puzzle, but I missed. The yeti went down and the coffee projected itself across the hardwood floors in both the dining and living room, along the walls, and splashed slightly on the carpet.

It’s kind of a Monday thing to do. It’s beaming sunshine outside though, so I’m unaffected and take the excuse to run to get coffee up the street instead. Iced, this time.

My phone rang while in the coffee shop and I panicked and set down my things as quickly as possible to answer…. ohhh, just Brian.

Listen, Brian is a dream and my ultimate #1, but let me tell you about the phone call I really want. The one I’ve had before but I need again. It’s the phone call from the doctors to tell me everything is clear. Everything is benign.

I had two biopsies earlier this summer. If there are things I could say I hate most in life, I would start with health problems. It’s been almost 25 years since my uncle picked us up from school and on the way to the hospital told us that my brother got diagnosed with cancer after his biopsy. I’ve had 25 years to learn to think the best and have all the hope and become a grown-up in this area… yet my glaring doubt and heart issues come to the surface as soon as there is a health scare. And based on the 10+ visits to the ER with my kids (glue, staples, staples, staples, glue glue, broken wrist, fever, staples…), the high risk pregnancy, the miscarriages, the biopsies, and now the surgery to remove lumps from my breast, you’d think I’d have my bearings and trust up that this, too, shall pass. That this, too, will turn out okay. Even my biopsies earlier this summer were clear, and I only have one extra small lump that is still up in the air. The lump “looks benign.” My eventual good news to bad news ratios are high… one unthinkable scenario, and dozens of stories of good outcomes.

But health is the thing that keeps me awake at night regardless. Not the staples, not the cast. But lumps and lymph nodes and my high risk pregnancy health scares. The heart that wants to expect the best, but tried that in 1994-97 and feels raw and vulnerable because that best turned into the worst. But even then God is still gracious and He still provided all the peace and the rainbow and the sun shone in our brokenness. I trust this to be true, but I my heart becomes so delicate at these moments. And I know God can heal but I’m not certain whether or not He wants to, but all I want is for Him to want to.

Usually I steer clear of the computer when I’m truly feeling. The first time I quit writing on my blog was when Maggie had six months of testing for unrelenting swollen lymph nodes. I recount the feeling of my blog of sunshine and bright kids fashion feeling silly, even though people were actually reading it at the time. I just up and quit it all. Quit the internet in favor of real life. “This isn’t important,” I said.

I write about things when they’re all better. When I can come back and share my story of victory. I’m not yet there this week, but I plan to be in a couple days.

The reason I’m here before the results are known is the knowledge I’ve had since I opened up about my miscarriages a couple years ago— people behind the scenes- behind their screens- are going through it… and when they’re going through it, sometimes a voice on the other side of the computer screen is the only one that can relate to that same doubt and uncertainty and all those feelings I’m clumsily attempting to articulate here. The collective “we” generally don’t want to talk about it. We want to stay upbeat, and if we get attention we want it for the good, not the sympathetic or bad. “We” want to have it all together, under control. Or maybe it’s just me?

I’m feeling like we’re going through it. It being those days that you eventually look back and say MAN, that was hard. I’m so thankful for God’s grace and the prayers of friends and the refinement of my faith that resulted from those huge unknowns.

And this time I don’t want to say, oh hey, I have it all together now. I got all the words I want from the doctors. I want to actually tell you that I don’t know the answers and I don’t know what results will come from my surgery, and I do want to keep writing about birthday parties and cute outfits for travel and about trips, but I’m also going to share my heart in this really hard moment. Because travel is fun and photo shoots are cool and cute kids are amazing, but it’s what’s in between that’s building the character, building the faith, and showing us God’s faithfulness through it all.

xoxo