ON FILLING BUCKETS AND EASTER BASKETS

I saw this book years ago and loved the concept for kids, that being kind to people is like "filling their buckets." Such an neat analogy and tangible way to teach young children about about a big concept - the importance of being kind. I'm excited to have these conversations with Trey as he gets older.

As moms, we figuratively fill our kids' baskets in so many ways every day: listening, attending to, holding, rocking, feeding, playing with, and infinitely more actions that convey our thoughts about them: that they are seen and known and wanted and so loved. I thought about all these things as I was filling Trey's Easter basket, hoping that I'm better at filling his emotional bucket than this little Easter basket. It was a good reminder for me of what's important. Whether you fill Easter baskets for your kids or not - know that you are filling their buckets in the lasting ways, the ways that really matter. If you are filling actual Easter baskets, here are some ideas, many of which are ethically made, run by small businesses, and/or gift back to causes.

THE MODERN EASTER BASKET GIFT GUIDE FOR BABIES

Basket ideas: I used something we already had, a reusable tote. (Link is to the smaller Pint size, perfect for doubling for the egg hunt, or you can also use any basket or bucket you have lying around.)

Bunnies. Up your Easter bunny game with a bunny that gives back. Two excellent choices here: Benedict the bunny by Cuddle and Kind (donates 10 meals to a child in need for each doll purchased) and Pierre the bunny by Blablakids. Both are ethically made, fair trade, and hand knit by artisans in Peru.

Bella Bliss monogrammed outfit. Easter outfits mean bubble rompers and monograms to me, so I grabbed this cute one. (You might recognize the company when I discovered it last summer, they're my favorite special occasion outfits for babies.) Bella Bliss does good too, the clothing is made by artisans in South America, and they give back to a variety of child-focused non-profits.

Books: Guess How Much I Love You is a cute little bunny board book. And if your family celebrates the meaning of Easter, the Jesus Storybook Bible is one of the best kid's Bibles around.

Hat by George Hats. They carry the tiny sizes: baby, toddler, and child, for the best fit. We haven't seen much (if any!) sun in the PNW yet this year, but I imagine this getting a lot of use this summer.

Backpack. That cutie striped one is by Fluf, a Canadian company. It's mini sized, perfect for a preschooler or as a lunch box for adults.

Shoes. These are by Stride Rite, in a bright color for spring. Walking is just around the corner for us (which I can't even imagine right now!).

Other ideas for small fillers for older kids: bubbles, play dough, puzzles, sunglasses, swimsuits, and the ultimate baby gifts: paper, a wooden spoon, and a cardboard box, because the non-toys are always the best toys.

Speaking of non-toys, I need to sing the praises of good old fashioned Easter eggs. These are most definitely not ethically made, but I picked them up for $1 and they have endless uses and are currently Trey's favorite toy. I fill them with uncooked swirly pasta to make kind of DIY egg shakers and he thinks they're the best thing he's ever seen. They double as decor (in a glass vase high out of reach) and also as bath toys and everyday toys and can be used open or closed or to hide things in. They're the perfect size: small enough to grasp but not choke on, lightweight enough to stash a few in my purse, a platform for language development (colors, numbers, music, etc.) and just all around fun. I think I'll keep them around long after Easter.

Happy basket filling!

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SEATTLE BABY & KID ACTIVITIES

Photo: Talitha Photography

I'm lucky to live in a city where there is SO MUCH to do with kids. At times it can even be overwhelming trying to remember where that place was that I wanted to go, so I'm compiling a list here. I reached out to Instagram and there were some great tips there that I've included here as well. Let me know if you have any to add in the comments and I'll work them in. Happy exploring!

PARKS

Green Lake Park - a classic 3 mile loop with tons of grass/picnic area, a play structure, and happy hour spots and coffee shops all around.

Maple Leaf Park - new play structure in the last few years. Zip line, sand box, the works.

Cowen - big grassy area. Coffee shop and Whole Foods nearby.

Tons more. There are over 400 parks in Seattle (!!) so it's highly likely that wherever you are, you're close to one.

BEACHES

Alki - a trek from North Seattle but I love going here because it has such a beachy, southern California vibe. Lots of shops line the street that faces the beach, ice cream coffee, restaurants, etc.

Mathew's Beach - mostly grass, good for picnics. Huge play structure and shallow entrance to the water, with a lifeguard and enclosed area for swimming.

Magnuson - Enclosed swim area here as well with a lifeguard.

Golden Gardens - big beach area, lots of boats to see and a beautiful view that faces the sunset.

COFFEE SHOPS

Cloud City Coffee - smaller neighborhood coffee shop with a play area and books/toys for kids.

Third Place Books - coffee (and a bar!) in the back, used and new books, play area.

Tons more, obviously. It's Seattle.

SHOPPING WITH PERKS

University Village. Love this one for a stroll or a lunch date, so many great shops and a covered/outdoor play structure (which means fresh air even on rainy days!)

REI - indoor play area, smoothie place, rock climbing wall, free parking.

Trader Joe's - free stickers, kid sized carts, hidden stuffed animals. Grocery bribing at it's best.

Whole Foods - free piece of fruit for kids.

INDOOR PLAY AREAS

PlaySpace - at Ballard Church, T/W/Th 10:30-1:30pm. Free! Have heard great things, can't wait to try it out.

Malls - Alderwood, Northgate, Bellevue, Westlake Downtown, IKEA in Renton (drop-off kid style)

Seattle Community Centers - Two words: Toddler Gym. These are free, drop in play times for ages 5 and under. I've only been to the Magnuson one, but it's awesome. Tons of toys, bikes, etc. Check the day/time availability, Green Lake is 10a-8p almost daily, Magnuson is only Fridays 9:30a - 1:30p.

Play Date Seattle. Big, indoor play space. Membership fee or daily rates ($8 - $12 depending on age). Insider tip: admission fee is waived with two canned goods on the last Wednesday of every month.

MEMBERSHIP PASSES

Zoo - a fun walking loop, carousel and indoor play area. Starts at $70/yr for a family membership. (Tip: memberships are greatly discounted each year on Black Friday)

Aquarium - haven't been here yet but I hear it's worth it for the parking pass discount alone (down to $2/hr for downtown AND it's walking distance to Pike Place Market, which is always a struggle to park near and cheap with kids.) Starts at $70/yr.

Children's Museum - lots of creative play for older kids, story time, crafts. Starts at $70/yr for a family membership (free for kids under 1)

LIBRARIES

Almost all have a kids section of books and there's a free story time every day of the week across all the libraries. The Magnolia and Queen Anne branch are excellent, I've also heard great things about Ballard and Capitol Hill. I also like Green Lake, Northeast, and Lake City. My friends with older kids say their kids love having their own cards.

FARMERS MARKETS

Ballard - Sundays, 10a - 3p, year round

Fremont - Sundays, 10a - 5pm, year round

Phinney - Fridays, 3:30 - 7:30pm, June - Oct

Lake City - Thursdays, 3 - 7p, June - Oct.

Queen Anne - Wednesday 3 - 7:30p (very family friendly, concerts for kids)

U District - Saturdays, 9a - 2p, year round

TRAVEL

The light rail now goes all the way to UW, which means it's now a convenient, cheap, easy way to get downtown (Also: zero traffic so it's lightening fast, and no paying to park or for gas. Super win.)

BUCKET LIST/FUTURE ITEMS

The Seattle Fire Station Headquarters is what sparked (pun intended) this whole list. I walked by it in Pioneer Square, and the building was beautiful and antique-y, complete with a turquoise door with gold hardware. It looked like a museum or least a Tiffany's, but then I saw a little boy walk outside with his mom and grandma and a smile on his face, carrying a play fire hat. I asked her if she was on a tour and she said yes! They're on Wednesdays year round, (and Wednesday/Thursdays from June - August), open from 11:00 - 3pm, and free. More info here.

SPORTS FOR MINIS

Bowling, mini golf, dance classes, gymnastics, etc. etc. A million options here once they're a bit older. When Trey starts playing sports we're excited to have him play on a few Unified teams, teams that have athletes both with and without disabilities. Seattle has a strong program.

RESOURCES

PEPS - Huge list here (and well organized!) For kid info in Seattle. Lists all the story times, consignment shops for kids, so many things.

Red Tricycle. Excellent resource for kids by city, with events specific to that day/weekend, kid-friendly restaurants, the works.

Would love to hear more beyond this list in the comments if you'd like to share!

WHAT BEING A GOOD MOM DOES NOT MEAN

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a good mom. And the more I think about it the more I come back to this: there's no such thing as a good mom. We're all just doing the best we can. Sometimes I can get tripped up in thinking this equals this, and it's just not true.

A real life story: a friend recently joked on Instagram as she was trying to get a good photo of her three kids, with something to the effect of "because good photos equals good mothering, duh," and I loved that joke. Social media mothering is not real life mothering. There is a huge, real, vast difference between mothering your kids and photographing them. "Good" in one are does not equal "good" in another. It was a light bulb moment for me, and I started to think of other things that I had at times (mistakenly and subconsciously) equated with "good" mothering.

These things do not make me a good mom:

A clean house.

Arriving to places on time.

Having the best stuff.

Baking.

Well dressed kids.

Well dressed me.

Well behaved kids.

Well photographed kids.

Organized anything.

A made bed.

Laundry done.

Dinner on the table.

Emails responded to in a timely fashion.

Scrapbooking.

Planning parties.

Hosting play dates.

Breastfeeding.

Working.

Not working.

Healthy eating.

Exhaustive list, right? While some of these things can be good things, none of these things equals good mothering. Conversely (and thankfully) this also means that the absence of one doesn't negate the other (ie just because you don't scrapbook doesn't mean you're not a good mother).

Instead of wondering how I'm measuring up on trying to be a good mom (subconsciously), I'm trying to be a present mom.

These things make me a present mom:

Holding/Playing/Singing/Dancing/Reading/Looking/Smiling/Talking/Laughing with my baby

Everything else is just a bonus.

A clean house, a clean shirt, or any house or any shirt at all, the babies could care less. What they want is more of us. Our time, our attention, our love, our eyes on them.

The good news/bad news is: you can't buy that kind of mothering. The best news is, you're already equipped. We have everything we need to be good moms. We don't need that one more thing. They simply need us. Available, responsive, attentive, silly, playful, messy, as we are.

How relieving to know we don't have to try so hard or be so hard on ourselves. We're all good moms. We're all doing our best. It all works.