Brainstorm with me: solo Mother’s Day experiences

This is me trying to take a little bit of control of my own destiny for Mother’s Day. Is that so wrong?

My husband knows what I want on Mother’s Day to a T, and he does his very best for me: little people are extra friendly; we all eat brunch; he fields the dirty diapers and discipline as much as is humanly possible. Maybe there is chocolate. Done and done.

Happy Mother's Day ideas

Beyond the basics, he will sometimes surprise me with a some bonus alone time. He takes the boys to the library or park for a few hours and tells me to be happy, relax, and do no work.

But, what should I do? Without any notice, I sometimes end up feeling banished from my own family. I sure as heck better come up with something worthy of this precious gift of time!

As a favor to myself (and perhaps you), I thought we could brainstorm a few great ways to spend that imaginary three hours of selfish indulgence:

Massage. You want a massage on Mother’s Day? You might as well book it now, sweetie. Don’t get kicked out of the house on Sunday morning expecting to find a spa opening.

Last minute option: Grab your flip flops and try for a walk-in pedicure.

See a movie. I love to see movies alone, but if that’s not your thing, find a friend and book tickets for something girly.

Last minute option: Grab a smartphone or tablet for a Netflix binge session. I’ve done this in my minivan, but somehow that seems more tragic than festive. Maybe you can do it in the corner of a cafe after ordering a mimosa.

Walk or run with a friend. Can you conspire with a girlfriend to get out of the house together? Meet at your favorite trail and hike in relative peace.

Last minute option: Put on your running shoes and just GO, do not look back!

Brunch, or something like it. High-end places might require reservations on this holiday, but you alone with your book can sit at the counter.

Last minute option: Brunch line still too long? Put on a podcast and carry your cronuts to a park bench with a view (preferably not of a playground!).

Uninterrupted reading. Grab a good book and pick a nice place to read — better than your car. I’m reading The Boys in the Boat.

Last minute option: Download a new kindle book or find two new magazines to peruse.

Happy Mother's Day

In the past, when things don’t go my way on Mother’s Day, it feels like this.

If I manage my expectations and go share some of that love with my own mama, it is a happier day for everyone.

Happy Mother’s Day planning, friends. What’s on your list?

Get your toddler cleaning up pronto

I wish this picture of the OXO tot mini dustpan and hand broom showed a toddler or banana for scale instead of a full-grown mom looking for a kid helper to clean up around the highchair. But I am glad they cut her face off because you know she’s sick of crawling around down there. Or stepping on questionable bits of detritus as she moves UP and DOWN from her seat refilling and answering special requests during every meal.


OXO tot sweeping up broom for messy toddlers

So, here’s the tip: Get your little one to start helping around the house while he still thinks it is an amazing display of big kid power and before he starts to resent your intrusion onto his well-deserved free time.

Stock up on adorable kid-sized cleaning supplies or hack the ones you have and let him go to town!

1. Kid-sized hand broom. This one by OXO is cute, mod, and does the job for about $5.OXO tot sweeping up broom for messy toddlers


2. Hacked Swiffer. Take out the middle segment(s) of your swiffer to make it child-sized. Don’t lose them. A Swiffer Sweeper is about $23 to get started. You can buy a gajillion cloth refills for about $10. [Read more…]

5 Super green baby activities

You know how everyone wants you to buy green stuff in order to do your part for the Earth? Well, being green is more than just buying more crap we don’t need, it’s also getting our hands dirty planting a garden, annoying your family by turning out the lights when they’re still in the room, and having some fun with the babies in our lives!

5 Activities to do with your baby for #earthday

Here are five green(er) ways to spend the morning with your little sidekick:

  1. Go > Outing: Fondle the goodies at the Farmer’s Market; share something yummy to eat or just navigate your way through the aisles looking at big kids.
  2. Move > Start raising a treehugger by taking a hike in real nature.
  3. Play > Play in a different kind of nursery; enjoy the flowers and butterflies at the garden store, starting a garden is optional.
  4. Eat > Project: Make your own baby food; DIY with fresh veggies and fruit is hecka cheap, better for health, and not as hard as you think!
  5. Hide in bed > Send your partner out to jog with the baby while you SLEEP.

I’ll post another day about the bajillion ideas we have for refashioning and upcycling. For now, go have some fun outside and let the ants clean up the crumbs!Hiking daddies sleeping babies and more green baby activities


Things to do in San Diego with a baby or toddler

Big thanks to blogger and rookie mom, Kristin Helms, for sharing her favorite places to take a baby or toddler in San Diego.
Best things to do with a baby in San Diego

As a first time mom to a now 16 month old, the words, “family vacation” stir up many feelings – mostly fear. Of course there’s always the hope for fun and family bonding time – the rose-colored visions of frolicking on the beach while you toss your baby into the air as the sun is setting providing the perfect photo opp and memories to last a lifetime. But more realistically, and here back on earth, it is daunting to pick a “vacation” spot and map out what to see and do with an unpredictable infant or a protesting toddler in tow – I get it! Sometimes we can barely navigate Target without a meltdown or a diaper blow out, so are we really expected to drive or (gasp) fly to an unknown destination and explore an entire city?

The answer is yes, but the right destination is key. And if the right destination is key, then San Diego will unlock the door to a happy and fun family vacation. I won’t lie to you; there WILL be crying and spit-up, and you’ll probably forget to pack a pacifier or a beloved “blanky”, but the sunny San Diego weather will make it all seem very mild and most of all, manageable.

While everyone knows about the large attractions like the famous San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, LEGOLAND, and SeaWorld, that all most definitely should still make your lists of what to see while in San Diego, I’m here to shed some light on the hidden gems that make this beautiful city a mecca for family fun, even for the fearful family with a baby or toddler in tow.

Here are my favorite mom-approved places to have fun with a baby or toddler in San Diego for visitors or mamas on a “staycation”:

  1. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center: If your toddler is anything like mine; curious and wants to test everything out on her own, then the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park is a must. Filled with interactive, kid-friendly science exhibits, you can easily spend half a day here exploring. Kids 5 and under should set aside a good amount of time for the Center’s Kid City where toddlers can enjoy playing on fire trucks, shopping at a mini-grocery store, playing music and much, much more.The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center is open daily at 10:00 a.m. and is open in the evenings during summer and on weekends. For more information: While you’re already in Balboa Park, check out some of the other great museums and traveling exhibits and enjoy a patio lunch at The Prado while sipping their fresh-made fruit sodas (they’re incredible!)

Best places for babies in SD: Reuben Fleet Science Center San Diego [Read more…]

Tech Tuesday: Stitch Fix news

Stitch Fix offers the perfect dress for wrangling storm troopers and children

Stitch Fix: clothes to wrangle children or Storm Troopers.

Stitch Fix has big news for smaller people and those growing small people: They now carry maternity and petites! Fill out their questionnaire with your sizing and due date, to get monthly shipments of stylish clothing to fit your body. Try StitchFix yourself.

But as for me, I’m just over one year in to my Stitch Fix subscription and I’m excited to share the results. I keep about 1.23 out of a possible 5 items each shipment.

Now that I have 13 fix boxes under my belt, I have a revised opinion of the service and optimizing my usage of it. I’m a geek, not a shopper, and optimizing is my ultimate goal.

Almost delightful.

Yes, I just love having the pretty little box come to me once a month. For a person such as myself who has a dang hard time scheduling “me time,” receiving a surprise present on my doorstep is really nice. And if that person also lives with four guys, receiving a nicely wrapped assortment of pretty dresses and feminine clothing pretty much kicks ass.

No hurt feelings.

Unlike when my wonderful mother goes out of her way to choose stylish duds as an upgrade to my jeans and hoodie lifestyle, nobody at Stitch Fix cries when I send it all back with “helpful” feedback like “Gag. I think I wore this in the 80s and it was ugly then” or “My skintone looks like a zombie in this color.”

One is enough.

Speaking of wanting to optimize, I have done whatever I can to steer these fixes in the right direction short of actually wanting to choose my own darn clothes. I have shared a pinterest board and given super helpful comments with each piece so in the hopes of reaching five perfect pieces in a single fix box. If that were to happen, it would be magic, and I’d get a bonus discount to buy everything. But after this many months, I’ve ratcheted down my expectations and have found myself much happier each month (isn’t that true of everything? ahem). Now, I hope for one or two adorable new finds that are an improvement of my taste and wardrobe within my price range. So far so good.

Shoes, please!

Oh how I wish I had some of the items to mix and match as depicted in the aspirational leaflet that accompanies each of the fix boxes. Usually, I can pull together a pair of jeans or even a tasteful skirt, but gosh my shoes are all from the School of Comfort-Over-Pain, and I own zero of these pointy numbers that are supposed to bring out the best of every clothing combination. Let me know when the Netflix of Shoes launches, and sign me up!

If you are like me in three or more of these ways, you should totally try it and see if you like it:

  1. Hates shopping
  2. No time for shopping
  3. Would like surprise packages in the mail of cute and weird stuff

Here are some my greatest hits over the stitch fix boxes I’ve received, excluding Storm Troopers.

My Stitch Fix favorites

Related: Stitch Fix is like a personal shopper for moms.

[Affiliate links included if you try StitchFix yourself, all photos from my iPhone]

Calm the F*ck Down, the only parenting technique you’ll ever need

CTFD: the only parenting book you need

Do you get worked up over parenting challenges? CTFD. I am not calm as a rule; energetic on a good day translates to freaked-out on a bad day. More likely, it is moment by moment of me trying not to yell at the children or panic that I’ve actually broken my eldest child (ever heard of the first pancake theory of parenting? Yikes).

So I LOVE David Vienna’s simple and concise parenting mantra for everyday parenting dilemmas: Calm the F*ck Down: The Only Parenting Technique You’ll Ever Need. Started as a fed-up blog post about parenting angst and over-complicated solutions, David clearly struck a nerve with parents. His CTFD philosophy blossomed into a full-blown, cute-as-heck, giftable book for yourSELF.

I asked David to share some of his wisdom with us today. And he calmly agreed.
[Read more…]

Makin’ it: Shopping cart cover (no sew!)

I wanted to buy or make a shopping cart cover for Baby Sawyer to protect him from those nasty grocery store germs when I discovered this tutorial from Kim on Little Rays of Sunshine.

Because it uses fleece, there is NO SEWING INVOLVED. It also does double duty as a highchair cover. Yippee and Yahooo! I already like fleece because it is so cozy and washable. In fact, I spent most of the nineties wearing a fleece jacket as my regular coat. But that’s another issue.

How to make a shopping cart cover for baby - no sew!

When I shopped around for the fleece, I didn’t love the choices. The printed patterns were not my style, so I settled on this luscious chocolate made by Polartec with plenty of heft. I figured that once Sawyer was inserted, his baby cuteness compensates for the plain color. I could have also gone crazy embellishing — Whitney suggested edging or multiple colors — but all that extra work is really really not my style.

During the span of one morning nap, I made this cover. I spent about ten minutes measuring, remeasuring, cutting, remeasuring and trimming. Dead simple, yes? In fact, it took me longer to choose a color of fleece. [Read more…]

Cool coloring books for adults? Yes!

I had never even considered the idea of coloring books for adults until a few weeks ago, when Jessica Ashley mentioned that they help keep her focused on long conference calls. Wait, what? That’s awesome! I asked her for some recommendations and before I knew it, I had bought myself two coloring books and a set of fancy markers.

Coloring for stressed-out moms: basic suppliesSide note: my birthday was coming up so I told my kids that if they didn’t have a present for me they could give me the coloring books and markers. Holden thought shopping for my own self was ridiculous but the others thought it was fantastic:

Milo, “So you won’t be surprised?”

Me, “Nope”

Him, “But you know you’ll like it?”

Me, “Yep”

Him, “Cool”

And that is how it came to be that I am the proud owner of new coloring books and 48 gel pens. The first day I tried it out, I was hooked. The whole process of picking colors and playing with markers (instead of hiding on my phone or doing dishes) is calming. [Read more…]

25 Activities to try during your maternity leave


When I have a long stretch of unstructured time, I just about lose my mind. I like to have goals and a to-do list, even if its someone else’s list.

Running out of ideas for what to do with your baby during maternity leave? Here is my list of goals for you. Try to choose one outing or activity to build your day around.

Afterward, you can spend the rest of the day staring at your baby or hiding from your baby and I won’t judge you one bit!

Be fearless
1. Observe Fearless Fridays.
2. Talk about sex.
3. Go on a recon mission.
4. Take your baby swimming. Scary and fun.
5. Take your babe to the movies. Twice. In case the first time is a failure.

Be romantic
6. Go out for just dessert.
7. Celebrate your old selves and be in love.
8. Reconnect over dinner. Have a romantic meal just the two of you.
9. Lube up. It’s the only way to get past 2nd base anymore.
10. Pretend you and your partner are teenagers babysitting instead of housebound parents.

Be selfish
11. Track your own mama milestones. Be proud.
12. List 50 things you like to do. Do those things once you finish my list.
13. Learn to rely on daddy. Then schedule a spa day.
14. Interrupt someone’s work day. (as if you’re the first one to do this!)
15. Learn how to take a shower while home alone with your baby. Trust me, this skill will serve you well.
[Read more…]

Tech Tuesday: All-you-can-read children’s books from Amazon

Thank you to Amazon for sponsoring today’s post.

Literacy tip: Grow your hair long

When my oldest son started reading, I learned that there are two Holdens: the one that is constantly in motion, never stops talking, wants to touch every single thing and the one that quietly reads for hours at a time. I need that second one in order to live with the first one. You get me?

No matter what, we make time for reading every day.

We keep lots of books — both old-fashioned and electronic — in the car to reach our reading goals. Since our route around town is pretty straight, the boys do it while I drive.

Literacy tip: We read in the car all the time [Read more…]

How to improve your family’s cranky moods in five minutes

As much as I’d like to use my remote control to PAUSE then REWIND some challenging moments with my kids, the technology just doesn’t work like that yet.

When we start to spiral into the whine-yell-hit-your-brother-scream cycle, we need something external to stop the seemingly neverending loop. Often one of us will ask for a “Do over” then we hug and try to move forward being less snappish (in my case) or whiny (usually one of them).

We’ve had pretty good success with our do-overs, so I really liked seeing this list of imaginative ways to “Reset” when the kids are having a hard day. Lisa has nine children so I can imagine how handy it is to have a few — TWENTY — tricks up her sleeve to improve the overall mood. Some of my favorites:

8. Tear paper. Sometimes we all just need to do something wild and completely unexpected. So I will give each child 3 pieces of construction paper and we’ll stand in a circle and when I say, “GO!” we all start tearing up our paper and throwing it on the floor. We jump around and scream and laugh and giggle and fall down and throw the paper around for about 5 minutes. Then I say, “STOP!” and we have to clean it up as quickly and silly as we can.

16. Color their name. I write their name in really big, puffy letters and they get 3 Crayons to color it in. No sharing, no trading…just 3 colors…GO!

19. Animals. I sit on the couch and and gather them around, with an arm length between them. Then I call out animals and they have to act like that animal until I change the animal. I might switch it up by calling out a specific child’s name with an animal.

How to hit the reset button on your kids' moods

The common denominator of all these activity suggestions is for everyone to pause what they’re doing (especially Mom or Dad!), break the cycle of frustration, and spend a few minutes together being a little silly. I love it. I’m going to stock my mud room with colored paper to tear up right after I finish coloring in my own puffy name.

Do you have any successful mood busting tricks up your sleeve?

The Control Freak’s Guide to leaving your baby with someone else

There are three big parts to dealing with leaving your baby with another caregiver for the first time:

  1. How YOU are feeling.
  2. How the BABY is feeling.
  3. What the SITTER needs to know.

I will offer to you — in total empathy with how hard it is to leave a precious baby — that the first part is the most important.

How to let go and trust a babysitter

Can you handle going somewhere else? Are you ready? Because if you are ready, then your mood will positively influence your baby’s state of mind and help the caregiver too. Most skilled babysitters can figure out the rest to keep your baby alive until you return.

I once had a babysitter watch my five-month old in a hotel room during my brother’s wedding. Her instructions were to do whatever she could to leave the breastmilk stash untouched so that I could nurse him once more before the reception. She messed up my one instruction; and now that child is eight. It all works out.

Let’s deal with you first (and last)

This will be okay. You can do this. You want (or need) to be somewhere else and that is ok. Whether it is work or your best friend’s bachelorette party, it is alright to leave your baby with someone. Take some deep breaths, feel the feelings. Now be brave. [Read more…]