Create the best chocolate-free advent calendar

My friend, the very creative Wendy Copley, created a clever advent calendar for her children and unknowingly changed the course of my own children’s holiday traditions. Whoa, right?

Before I tell you that my family is only altruistic and kind, I will have you know that we usually also supplement with a LEGO advent calendar (prices are a bit obscene already) and an olde time paper advent calendar from my mom. The boys take turns who opens which one.

This Choose-Your-Own-Adventure calendar has two big benefits over all other holiday countdown traditions:

  1. It focuses on experiences over stuff.
  2. I change it according to my mood and available time.

Allow me to explain. The drawers are empty boxes, waiting for you to fill them with chocolate (sold separately, natch) or your own activity suggestions. After reading Wendy’s instructions, I purchased a wooden advent calendar and stuffed it with her printable daily holiday challenges. On any given December Sunday, I might update the selections for the week or I might switch out the mystery box with the activity I want to do right after breakfast before they open it up: Take a bubble bath or Decorate the Christmas tree? Hmmm, what do we have time for? I also keep a pen on hand to fill in the blanks.

Each year, my kids look forward to the holiday activity — drink the good hot chocolate or drive around to see Christmas lights? — almost as much as the LEGO thingie.  [Read more…]

My favorite tradition: matching Christmas pajamas

While I can’t always remember what Santa Claus does from year to year, I always remember my favorite family tradition to purchase matching pajamas for my children that they open on Christmas Eve. Use black and white photo filters to make Christmas pajamas match

For sizes from toddler to tween, check out these candy-cane striped Santa pajamas (also for mom! Am I too excited?) for prices from $12 to $17.Santa pajamas and other holiday jammies for kids

These Christmas-y Leveret green and red striped PJs are about $14 for preschooler and toddler sizes. And — lucky you! — they also come in mama’s sizes, too! Other styles for kids in 6 months to age 5 have purple with snowflakes or Santa zooming down a firepole. Wait, it’s supposed to be a chimney, right?

Christmas striped pajamas and other holiday jammies for kids
These reindeer long johns are available for $16 in size 3T to 14. Can you imagine a 14 year-old in these? Now I can’t stop thinking of all the cousins lined up in front of the stockings.

Reindeer long john pajamas and lots more holiday jammies

This ornament flannel pajama package comes sized for the whole family and the pet. I thought they were too cute not to share, but I will warn you that sizes and prices vary wildly from $9 to $60.

Christmas pajamas for the whole family

[Read more…]

You probably ought to do baby swim lessons


Finding the ideal classes for your baby depends on your (and baby’s!) temperament and schedule more than anything I can write here. For me and Baby Holden, a regular drop-in swim class with perky teenagers leading “Motorboat Motorboat go so fast” was ideal; I could attend or not based on nap schedules and hunger. I frequently ran into moms I knew from work or the playground. And the pool was as warm as a bath.

For you, plunking down money for a scheduled hour each week might be the right incentive and structure. Parent tot water classes mean that you’re gonna need a swim suit and willingness to get wet. Pre-swim classes just might let you watch from poolside.

Baby and Daddy swimming pool challenge

You are looking for a warm-water swimming pool with other parents of tots in the same age range. Classes for baby swim time range from the playful to hard core with skills being mastered early.

In our area, some outdoor pools install a climate-controlled dome to make it through the winter, but I suspect most wintertime classes will be warm-water indoor pools.

Parent child swim classes begin for babies as young as 3 or 6 months. And they make a great clutter-free gift!

For in-the-pool reports from other rookie moms about baby swim classes:

[Photos by Whitney Mattocks]

Traveling with babies at the holidays

Traveling with babies and toddlers at the holidays is a different beast than the vacations we might take throughout the year. In addition to the regular joys of airline travel with small people, you can add in higher prices, crowds, and family stress. Woohoo.

Between Whit and I, we’ve done all the ages of travel in the car and on the plane from newborn through age eleven. So, we have developed some strong opinions! If you have any questions, leave ’em in the comments.

Here are our most helpful tips and products for those of you juggling babies along with your carry-on luggage:

Tips for traveling with babies on airplanes

Travel lighter when you fly: after packing one diaper for each hour of travel, pare down your luggage to the essentials. You can beg, borrow, and steal rent the rest. {More tips on how to pack much less when you fly with littles}

What to carry on, pack, and do when you’re flying alone with a baby written by my friend, Beth, who flew solo with bambino from Chicago to Sydney, Australia. And back again. {More tips on airplane travel with baby}

two great products

My best suggestions for toddler wranglers on the road:

Stop lugging car seats on airplanes with this strappy plane-safe harness and a padded car seat bag (that you can shove jackets and essentials into usually for FREE).

CARES airplane harness for toddlers and preschoolers

Yeah, your three-year old can spend several hours on apple juice and an iPad, but what about those too little? Secrets to entertain toddlers on the plane!

What to carry-on when you're flying with a toddler

Once you arrive, we have tips for juggling baby jet lag and here’s how to remember to bring home all your toys from grandma’s house using only your phone and a sleep-deprived brain. And if your mom is like my mom, you might need to plan for a UPS drop-off or a spare suitcase before your return.

Because vacationing to Machu Picchu with a baby is different from visiting Granny at the holidays, Karen also shares the whens and wheres of traveling with baby in one of my favorite posts: The 6 stages of baby & toddler travel: What to expect, where to go, and how to time it right!

The 6 Stages of Baby and Toddler Travel - What to Expect, Where to Go, and How to Time It Right: Bhutan

5 easy Halloween costumes from vests

When Whitney posted her easy babydoll dress tutorial and explained that it could double as a pirate vest, she inspired me to brainstorm other easy vest Halloween costumes. I love vests for their versatility in the costume box and the fact that they can fit longer than other tops.

She said that if you didn’t care if the vest closed (a la babydoll robe), you could easily upcycle an old sweater into a costume vest. That girl is brilliant.

Here are the easy peasy steps: [Read more…]

Join us: LuvsClub Twitter Party

Luvs® Diapers is the sponsor of this upcoming twitter party and today’s post.Tracking Pixel

Hi all! Did you know that we’ve been blogging and tweeting as part of the LuvsClub loyalty program. Not only can you pick up helpful and funny tips from us on the blog, but you can also keep up with offers, news, and great deals. Plus, all registrants are entered to win a full year of Luvs® Diapers.

This week, we’re taking it to the next level to give out some really great prizes to new parents in an hour-long twitter party. We hope you can join us to talk about babies, diapers, fall, and lots more!

#LuvsClubParty Twitter party for prizes

#LuvsClubParty Details:

Where: On Twitter, using the hashtag #LuvsClubParty
Host: @RookieMoms (that’s us on twitter)
When: Thursday October 29th between 9AM & 10AM PST (that’s noon to 1PM for you in the EST)
Prizes: But of course! See below for the goodies we’ll be giving away.

#LuvsClubParty Prizes:

To enter to win a prize, just share your brilliant answers, participate with an original tweet (no retweets) using the hashtag, #LuvsClubParty, in response to the Twitter party questions. Six (6) lucky winners will be selected at random from those who reply to the questions.

  • One (1) winner will receive one (1) $250.00 Walmart Gift Card
  • Two (2) winners will receive one (1) $150.00 Walmart Gift Card
  • Three (3) winners will receive one (1) $50.00 Walmart Gift Card

RSVP here to join us:

RSVP here so we know who to expect. Everyone who tweets during the Twitter event using the #LuvsClubParty hashtag will automatically be entered to win. Just add your name and twitter url as: (ex., in the inlinkz widget

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written on behalf of Luvs® and Procter & Gamble, Co. The LuvsClub blog is on Read all the terms and conditions.

Legal bits: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Odds of winning will depend on the total number of entries received. Sweepstakes begins on 9:00 AM PT/ 12:00 PM ET on 10/29/2015 and ends at 10:00 AM PT/ 1:00 PM ET on 10/29/2015. Open to legal U.S. residents (including DC), age of majority or older. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. See Official Rules for complete details. Sponsored by Procter & Gamble, Co. located at 1 P&G Plaza Cincinnati, OH 45202.

Supergirl for Halloween or any day

Today is the debut of the new Supergirl television series on CBS — or the internet for those of us without regular TV. I don’t know if it’ll be any good, but I doubt any of your preschoolers are up watching anyway. What matters is that a whole new genre of super-girl costume is ready for dress-up play, Halloween, and whenever a little more Super is needed!

Supergirl Costume

My favorite Supergirl costume is for ages one through ten. This Women’s Supergirl costume (SuperWoman?) is in standard sizes and (thankfully!) covers the midriff. Although you know that sluttier versions are always available.

If you want to get more life out of your costumes, you can always throw a Supergirl-themed birthday party!

Makin’ it: Kickass Blanket Fort

I am one lucky mother. Tomorrow, I’m expecting an appliance delivery which means one important thing: we get HUGE BOXES to create forts. As a kid, I could just about live in a refrigerator box with small windows cut out.

The following guidelines to build a totally sweet indoor fort (for those of you not willing to purchase a new fridge) are excerpted from our new book Stuff Every Mom Should Know.

I searched for an old photo of Holden hanging out in a particular fort that Took Over our Living Room (with only his tushie hanging out while he played chess), but after an hour, I gave up looking. Then I spent five minutes building a new fort that will blow my kids’ minds when they get home from school.

How to make a blanket fort for your kids with easy hacks


What’s easier to build than a treehouse? With materials available in any hotel or grandma’s house? It’s a blanket fort. Once you master the basic skills, you can tweak it into a cozy den for one or many. [Read more…]

How to take the best pictures of your child’s Halloween adorableness

AKA 3 simple ways to capture your child’s Halloween costume

For photography buffs, Halloween is a glorious time of year. Adorable children lit up by the golden fall light, wearing irreverent, bold, and/or hilarious costumes. But for your average parent juggling one or two little people with extra accessories, it can be a challenge to capture the magic. We asked professional photographer Stacy to help out with some tips for the rest of us to make the most of Halloween cuteness.

1. Find the perfect light.

Halloween photo tips by Stacy Mae Photography

Don’t wait until the day of Halloween to try and capture shots of your little ones all dressed up in their costume. You’ll be too busy to think about doing it creatively. Instead, pick a day where you can shoot late in the afternoon. About two hours before the sun sets so you can take advantage of the sun’s golden glow.

Pick a spot that is simple and make sure that the background is not too busy. For these shots of my daughter, I chose an empty parking lot because I knew her bright pink costume would really pop. Position your child with the sun at their back and snap away. If you’re having trouble with this type of lighting situation, switch to open shade for some nice, even light.

2. Capture her personality.

Halloween photo tips by Stacy Mae Photography

Have your little ghost or ghoul get into character. If her costume includes a mask, have her put it on. Do you have a mini superhero? Ask her to flex her muscles. If your little one is a ballerina, make her twirl. Have an Elsa or Anna? Ask her to sing “Let it go!” Doing so will make having her picture taken more fun. She’ll probably last a little longer too! [Read more…]

Happy ten years,

Happy Tenth Birthday to the RookieMoms blog
Whitney as a rookie mom with Heather as a mom-to-be; Whitney super pregnant with Heather secretly pregnant

Happy Blogiversary to us! I’m so excited to wish this blog a very happy birth day and celebrate a few sentimental moments along the way. Whitney knew I wanted to say, “Yay! This is a big blogging deal” but she didn’t know what I had planned.

Here I present a few well wishes from ten of our bloggy good friends over the years… and invite you, dear reader, to PLEASE share any memories in the comments! Thanks for joining us on our journey.

First, Asha Dornfest from and Minimalist Parenting:

Asha at BlogHer 2006
Me, at BlogHer 2006, uncharacteristically holding a drink which I probably took two sips of. Photo credit: Liz Gumbinner, another dear friend I met there.

We first met online, when I found Rookie Moms. I’m not sure if it was because of a link (remember, that’s how we always used to find each other? Back links were the @ mentions/tags of 2005) or because one of us reached out via a blog comment or email. All I know was that I immediately felt like I found my people. Not only were you in Berkeley (I had recently moved from there to Portland), I deeply identified with the title “rookie mom.”

When we later met in person, it was that effortless, inevitable sort of friendship. When you meet someone and you’re already friends. It’s more a matter of recognition than anything else.

I am so very lucky to know you and Heather, and to have shared the laughs and conversations we have. Congratulations on an amazing anniversary…a monument to hard work, smarts, friendship, and chutzpah. You are loved!

Jyl Johnson Pattee from Mom It Forward:

Jyl, Whitney, me as seen by jerk pedicab driver
Jyl, Whitney, me as seen by jerk pedicab driver

I fell in love with co-founder Whitney on a way-too-expensive rickshaw ride in New York City back in 2010. From that time, I’ve been a huge fan of hers and the brand. We love to recommend as a trusted parenting website and can count on 100% reliability and professionalism in any campaign we partner on. Furthermore, I love the friendship I have formed with Whitney and will always associate Berkeley with more than the Bravermans because of the time she took to show me around. Congrats on 10 years!

Alma Klein from MarketingMommy:

I started reading Rookie Moms way back in the day and considered Whitney Moss my West Coast soul sister–admittedly one I only met in person a couple of times. We both had backgrounds in marketing, we were half-Jewish, and our children were born at the same time. First our precocious Julian and Zoe, then our mischievous second babies, Scarlett and Ada.

One of my favorite memories is the time Whitney connected me with a toy manufacturer–a maker of doll houses. They sent me two doll houses–one for Zoe’s 4th birthday and one for us to give to a worthy cause. Zoe still remembers the day we brought the second doll house to a little girl at Hephzibah House, a group home for neglected and abused children headed into foster care.

Christine Koh from and Minimalist Parenting:

Rookie Moms and Boston Mamas
Photo by Christine’s daughter of a Berkeley visit

I first met Heather and Whitney at BlogHer 2009 — they were just as adorable in person as online, and equally so with or without paper bags on their heads. Over the years, it’s been a joy to watch the Rookie Moms empire to continue to grow and also expand to 510 Families, and to experience awesome things with these ladies, whether it’s running 200 miles across California in the dark, channeling Bon Jovi during karaoke, or convening our families in Berkeley. I love you, Whitney and Heather. Thank you for making the world more awesome.

Christine Koh and Heather Flett kill it at karaoke
Livin on a Prayer at Blissdom 2013

Heather Spohr from The Spohrs Are Multiplying:

I found Rookie Moms when I was, myself, a rookie mom. I was the first of my local friends to have a baby, and I was desperate to find women like me who found the humor and awe in motherhood. I’d read Rookie Moms in the middle of the night and laugh and cry and feel less alone in those crazy early months!

Wendy Copley from

Wendy from Wendolonia with Baby Wyatt
Photo of Wyatt and me, circa discovery

I went back to work shortly after the birth of my first child, and though I tried to build up a network of mom friends on my maternity leave, I didn’t have much success. A co-worker recommended that I check out her friend’s new blog — — and I was thrilled to see that Whitney and Heather both had kids right around my son’s age. I loved following their adventures and trying a lot of the activities they tried with their babies myself. Even better – we eventually met in person and I became real-life friends with two of the best people I know. Thanks for being there in those early days and beyond, Rookie Moms!

Morgan Shanahan from the818 and BuzzFeed Parents:

Morgan Shanahan and Whitney and Heather of
Morgan, Whitney, and Heather at the first ever Iris Awards

Heather and Whitney have this incredible talent for sharing the human side of parenting. Rookie Moms caught my eye before I became a mom, and it helped me realize that I could maybe hack this kid thing after all.

Meagan Francis Writer, Podcast Host, Speaker of

Meagan Francis and Heather Flett
What do you think? Could we pass for sisters?

Whitney and Heather were some of my first blogging friends, and I’ve always loved the practical yet reassuring advice they give at RookieMoms! Happy anniversary ladies :)

Anna Fader from

How to be a Dad, Rookie Moms, Parent Hacks, Mommy Poppins, Daddy Complex at Mom 2.0 Summit
With some friends {How to be a Dad, Rookie Moms, Parent Hacks, Mommy Poppins, Daddy Complex} at Mom 2.0 Summit

I found RookieMoms through one of Whitney’s craft posts and was immediately drawn to the charm and fun attitude toward parenting. The chemistry of you both, your strong friendship and great energy is infectious. Being a new mom seems a lot more fun with RookieMoms.

Victoria Haller from the blog formerly known as VDog + Little Man:
I started reading Rookie Moms while I was pumping milk for my son, who was in the NICU. I continued reading after my son came home from our shared local hospital.  I got somewhat star struck as I met both Whitney & Heather on local mom outings (baby massage class & park outing, respectively).  From their advice, wisdom, and community, I was able to navigate my own rookie year like a champ.

Happy Anniversary, RookieMoms! Ten years looks good on you.

Dear Readers, If you’re still with me. Will you please join in the fun and share a memory or comment to celebrate our tin blogiversary?

Activity #289: Unroll the bubble wrap

Toddler fun with bubble wrapThoughtful reader and not-so-rookie mom, Tanyetta, shares this tip for entertaining a gaggle of energetic toddlers:

Get a strip of bubble wrap, roll it out in the middle of the floor and watch the kiddos have a ball making their own unique type of fun!

Inspired by Tanyetta’s suggestion, I unrolled some large bubble wrap for Holden and got some great action photos of him leaping off of our hearth (is that what it’s called?) and onto the bubbles. Super cute!

I have noticed that my Amazon packages are most often enclosed with giant air pillows instead of classic bubble wrap (which is better for frustrated mamas than jubilant toddlers!), feel free to order a roll for just such situations.

Pajamas make the best Halloween costumes!

Pajamas are my very favorite Halloween costume base. There, I said it. For about $20 you buy something that your child can sleep in for a year — what a value! Here are a 15 of my favorites for this year.

Skeleton. Our go-to pajama-based costume is this skeleton from Carter’s. About $10 or $12, it never goes out of style.The legend is true that all five of our little ones were pajama-skeletons for Halloween, some of them more than once. It also comes in purpleSkeleton jammies come in all sizes! .

Skeleton pajamas and other Halloween costumes for toddlers

Mouse (or any other gray animal).
As Whitney shared, solid colored pajamas are remarkably hard to find! I had to piece together this little outfit with American Apparel karate pants (or leggings) plus the baby long sleeve T-shirt. You can add cute mouse ears with tail (and bow tie!?) or extra bits from any other gray animal you love. These jammies come in asphalt (dark gray) or heather plus a ton of other colors to be your canvas. So if you have a piggie snout or duck bill lying around, solid pajamas might be your ticket!

Gray pajamas make an easy Halloween costume base

Leopard. Leopard jammies + Leopard ears and tail make a fun and simple costume for your wild child.

Leopards and other Halloween costumes made from toddler pajamas

Clown. Oops! Sorry if I made this clown too scary for you. She’s a sweet little toddler teddy bear wearing her polka dot pajamas, rainbow wig, and Julian’s silly clown collar.  The scary part comes later with all in the face paint and red nose. Just add a clown wig and a jumbo collar to any set of colorful pajamas. Perfect for a toddler on up through a grade schooler. See the quick clown collar tutorial.

Clown Halloween costume from pajamas

Doc McStuffins. We love Doc in my house and these Doc McStuffins pajamas are perfect for your little doctor- or vet-in-training. Her candy bag can be a medical kit, but why make things harder?

Doc McStuffins and Halloween costumes from pajamas

Mummy. Super cute Mummy Pajamas (Mama Pajama, anyone?) are another simple twist on my favorite theme of ADD NOTHING.

Mummy and other pajama Halloween costumes

Zebra. I’m a big fan of Leveret’s affordable cotton and fleece pajamas. I have many sets and put them through all three sons when I can, so I’m not messing with you. Check out these cute zebra fleece footies and all you need are the zebra ears with tail (and flipping bowtie, what?!). They also come in pink cow flavor.

Zebra pajamas and other Halloween costumes for toddlers

Batman and Robin. The original Dynamic Duo, Batman and Robin are so fun for best friends, but how do you decide who is Robin? Since the pajamas are such a deal (both sets for about $22!), you can chip in another $10 for a Batman cape and mask or a Robin cape and mask to complete your look.

Batman and Robin costumes from pajamas

Brobee and Plex. Yo Gabba Gabba character pajamas are two for $20 — what are you waiting for? Make up your mind or share with a friend later!

Yo Gabba Gabba character pajama Halloween costumes

Woody and Buzz. Toy Story superstars, Woody and Buzz (add a cowboy hat for Woody and a space ranger helmet for Buzz. Cool space gloves for about $7. A versatile space helmet is about $5 or a fancy Buzz helmet is about $20. If you’re considering a full-on jet pack for another $10, I might direct you out of the pajama section and back toward a complete costume.)

Woody and Buzz Toy Story Halloween costumes from pajamas

Christmas Elf. These green stripe pajamas can turn your child into a Christmas elf as soon as you find a funny elf hat. If it feels a little incomplete, you can add a DIY red vest. Boom. These jammies also work for your holiday card photo shoot which you should totally already be working on.

Christmas elf pajamas as a Halloween costume

Ninja Turtle. Without ever seeing a show, my four-year old has become a TMNT devotee. If Teenage Mutants are allowed your house, check out these choices: 2 piece TMNT PJs or footie pajamas with a cape. I’m a fan of the simpler ones, but I don’t have to wear them. With soft pajamas, your kiddo can easily fall asleep in the stroller. For a more realistic look, you can upgrade with a decent backpack to form the shell (something like this for about $20). Combat gear optional.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume for toddlers

Jack O’Lantern. In closing, I offer a classic. For about $15, your kiddo can wear these pumpkin pajamas until you get sick of seeing orange. I’d probably pair with solid green leggings or pants as a stem instead of the print. Maybe you can throw an orange blanket over your child’s lap?

Pumpkin pajamas and other great toddler costumes from jammies

Have you created any memorable Halloween costumes from pajamas?