SF Ballet: The Nutcracker 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.

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

Maggie's 7th Birthday by Kate Brightbill

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Ahh, birthday season kickoff has arrived! Maggie starts the birthday train in August and I feel like I have a little more energy to give to her parties than everyone else's. This year was a tiny party- just four girls- which I love best. It allows us to pay a little more attention to details and do things a little nicer for fewer kiddos. 

Maggie actually plans her parties, and I try to make them happen. This year was a pony party theme, but the retro My Little Ponies had a last minute backorder and wouldn't arrive. They were the main pony factor, so it unfortunately went out the window there. It's okay. She really just wanted to hang with her friends and have pancakes and berries and play dress-up. Grown-ups mess with the simplicity, and then sometimes have a freakout when the balloon order is wrong (specifically requested months ahead by the birthday girl who lovvvvves the giant mylar balloons), the printout won't work for the game, the birthday cake topper is broken in pieces by an unnamed little brother, and things are just not feeling like they're going smoothly.... but then there's a call placed to get the correct balloon (free this time), the printer magically starts working again, and hot glue fixes that cake topper right up, and the freshly turned-7 year old is lighting up in excitement that her friends are arriving, and all is right again.

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I love fresh flowers and that they brighten up a day or a party. Even just a few simple stems that are inexpensive have big impact. :)

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The poster isn't just decor- it's a game that I thought of a few days before the party. Maggie loves the "pin the ___ on the ___" game, but since it wasn't going to be a pony party anymore, I was like, do I bother sketching a pony for the kids to pin the tail on it? I did that with the kitty party a couple years ago, and the kitty wasn't quite as cute as I hoped in that scale, and it took me a lot longer than I care to admit, considering its quality. 

So then I was like, WAIT. I can get those huge printouts at kinkos or wherever for like $5. One picture of Maggie and a few felt bows with some tape later, we had ourselves a party game that was way cuter than the pony I would have sketched. Pin the bow on the Maggie. The kids loved it and it simplified things (except that part when the large scale printer wasn't working- so just don't procrastinate like me and you'd be good). 

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Maggie loves dressing up more than anything. She actually has her own really good style and calls the shots on her wardrobe. This morning we couldn't find a bobby pin and so I tried a flower clip, and she said to me, ummm I really don't think this works. It's like, cute, but way too fancy for my outfit today. And honestly- she was spot on. It cracks me up. She plays a lot of dress-up, and on her birthday, she played all the dress-up with her friends that she could want! 

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Pancakes are her favorite breakfast and the absolute easiest menu. I try to be healthier when I'm making them on a normal day and do mashed bananas, eggs, cinnamon, and vanilla, but for the party in bulk, I just went with good ol' Krusteaz. I just didn't feel like mashing that many bananas. No regret. 

SO in case you're looking for anything in the pictures, here are the links:

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On Bad Movies by Kate Brightbill

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The other day, my parents watched our kids overnight while we attended a benefit for UCSF children's hospital. Sounds very fancy, right? So grown-up and 35 of us. And it was all that, but we're not all that... but I love UCSF hospitals, and I love that we got to be a part of benefitting them, so there IS that. Also, this post is mostly about bad movies, but I put a good picture up because we watched a bad movie on the same day that I wore my new favorite skirt on earth, and I'd rather have that in my memory bank than said bad movie. Makes sense, I know.

{spoiler alert for The Avengers movie coming. don't read any more if you want to watch it.}

Anyway, the benefit ended at 5 and we ate right after, and we had all this time on our hands, so we went to see the new Avengers. Listen, I'm up for a good superhero movie anytime! Mostly I go for the popcorn, but I also go because I can feel awesome at the end. Like I'm the superhero and we're all winning. We got there early, got good seats, said no to popcorn because this horrid detox I'm doing doesn't say "yes" to fun, even when all the circumstances do...* sidenote: I had a piece of cheese and nuts at the benefit. Literally. It was so sad. Then on Cinco de Mayo dinner, I had tortilla soup without tortilla chips. It's enough to shake your head at me in disgust, and I just want to let you know, I get it. I'm shaking my head in disgust too. But I'm also super healthy right now, and in two weeks, I will most certainly be eating tacos again.*

So this movie is absolutely the opposite of anything awesome. I'm sorry to all you Marvel people. I'm no comic book guru, and I only go to movies when we have an overnight sitter situation (rare!) and if there happens to be one out in theaters during that window of opportunity. I know I'm probably offending the die-hard, but oh man, avoid this movie at all cost.

The bad guy KEEPS WINNING. Til the end! He wins the universe!

And then - as if the loss of power to the bad guy itself isn't sufficient- half the good guys turn into dust. Yes, dust. I'm sure there's some great meaning behind all this and theories about what the next movie will bring (all the superheroes back to life, SURELY and some kind of victory), but while all the true fans were on their phones googling the obscure Avengers meaning to this miserable flick, I was googling "is the new Avengers movie the stupidest movie ever made?" I meant it quite literally and expected google to return with commiserated opinion by the hundreds, but it didn't.

SO. All these movies say you have to watch through the credits for the bonus scenes! Ahh, that must be why there isn't consensus on how awful this was! The bonus scene will surely reveal victory. 

Yes, there's a bonus scene.... no it did not feel like a bonus. There are two more superheroes who weren't in this particular edition, so the bonus scene obliterated THEM to dust too. Because our collective hearts weren't quite crushed enough.

Thanks Marvel. 

Are there even movies made for the "me's" of this world anymore? I'm so over You've Got Mail and The Holiday, and even Notting Hill! The me's of this world have loved those movies a bit too long and we're completely over solo night at home including repeats that we've essentially memorized. I miss the "chick-flick" genre- the kind where the girl ends up with the one she loves and adores and charms all through the movie, and there's nothing truly realistic about any of it. These movies are no longer created! I'm thinking I might need to calm my hype over Oceans 8 coming this summer because given the obnoxious realistic movie trends, this particular Oceans might result in all the characters being shipped to isolation in prison, never to be seen again... in the name of realistic fiction. 

Anyway, clearly it's not the me's that make the box office get to a billion in record time (insert the completely ill emoji here- because this atrocious movie set that record), so the trends might continue...

It's time for me to face facts. Fact is, I'm 35! I'm officially not the target demographic anymore (answering surveys in the 35-50 makes me kind of not want to answer surveys anymore. There's no space to write that I'm actually that very bottom 35 number of the demographic, just barely out of the target market, and SUPER young in real life). 

I don't really have anywhere to go with this blog post. I just felt like I needed to put my feelings about the Avengers into the universe on my obscure blog on the internet, and now I feel better. Closing a blog post when I'm this rusty on the writing is virtually impossible, plus, I only have about 30 minutes till pickup for the kids, and about 55 minutes worth of work to get done around here. Byeeeee. See you next time.

xx.

Raising Girls by Kate Brightbill

Hi! Long time since I've written, even though I have had so much to say! It seems that parenting three children leaves little extra time on the day to day to circle around to the computer for a typing session! 

I've come out of blog retirement today, and I hope to stay online here. Blogs aren't really read these days the way they once were, and that is perfectly fine. It's the circle of life... something takes its place (social media) and takes less time and less clicking and truly is sufficient for most online experience. I personally take the time to read sites only once per week- actually more like monthly, so I get it.

I've come to the blog to share these videos and articles, which I really just want on more than just my instagram. Our Sophie girl was asked to join a panel of 7-10 year old girls on this tiny show called Good Morning America (!!!) to talk about what it means to be a girl today. We said ummm YES, and saved that date! 

We arrived and the girls sat immediately. They were set up in a row of chairs under glares of lights and cameras and people bustling around signing papers and connecting sound systems. There wasn't a warm up or someone sprucing them up- they simple came as themselves and answered questions as they were asked. As soon as papers were set, they started rolling cameras.

The group of girls blew their parents away with their ability to focus and answer far more eloquently than I would have at that age. They spoke about standing up for friends who aren't being kind, they talked about how they do not feel stereotyped or put into a box of lower expectation, even if they do like girly things, and they chatted about role models. They were poised and attentive and all that we could hope for them to be.

Some thoughts on the subject: my girls ARE stereotypical girls- they love their dolls and their shades of pinks and purples and twirling... but we want them to understand that they are just as capable as boys to do great things. They can be inventors or CEOs or musicians or stay-at-home-moms. God created us with different passions and talents, and we believe they can pursue them. We teach them that girls don't HAVE to like princesses, but princesses are often not only wear beautiful dresses, but teach lessons on being brave and strong and courageous too ("have courage and be kind," are words repeated around here often, and are a lesson from Cinderella).

So many of these and more concepts were addressed during the 45 minutes the girls spent on camera, but obviously this was a short segment from that time, so not everything could be shared. 

ANYWAY, this motherly pride has to land somewhere, and this blog has been sitting and waiting for something to appear on it... so here is our girl on Good Morning America!

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