While we were in Texas, the kids were thrilled to have the run of my parents' completely toddler-proofed house. Mom and Dad really went the extra mile to prepare for our extended visit, installing all sorts of safety locks, putting down rugs on the tile floors to cushion any falls, using booster seats to transform their kitchen table into a feeding table, and hanging blackout curtains in the kids' room. They even put several items of furniture into storage—both to accommodate our four PeaPods in the guest room and to create this veritable toddler heaven of toys, books, and stuffed animals in the dining room:
No longer being confined to their "gated community" meant that the kids had the freedom to explore and experience all sorts of new things—like hiding pacifiers in the recycling bin, tearing up the newspapers that my dad left laying around, and watching their beloved Baby Einstein DVDs at eye level (and within hands' reach, to boot!):
The kids also loved being gateless because it allowed unlimited access to one of their very favorite things: shoes. They all enjoyed finding their own shoes around the house—and putting them on and taking them off, seemingly ad infinitum—but Dahlia was the first to commandeer a "pair" of grownup heels:
Lucy, of course, was quick to follow in her footsteps (with a little plastic bling to complete the look):
For me, the best part about not having gates was that the kids burned off tons of energy running all around the house (and I expended quite a few calories, too, just trying to keep track of everyone!). One afternoon, Jude thoroughly entertained himself (and us) by repeatedly running to the kitchen and "hiding," calling out his own name while he was out of sight, and then running back to the living room to say "boo":
I was worried that the kids would stage a revolt once we got back home and they realized that the gates were back in business, but so far I've heard no complaints. And as long as they're still happy, I'm not changing a thing!