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?

Love poems to a minivan

When our family found out we were expecting a third baby, we made the (tough) decision to get a minivan. We had been busting out of our smaller car and could never offer an adult visitor a ride let alone help out for a carpool.

Milo was so excited that he told his whole preschool about the family pregnancy by announcing, “We’re getting a van and a baby” in that order.

Love haikus to my minivan
3 adults, 2 big kids, 2 toddlers, with room to spare.

With four years of a Honda Odyssey under my belt, I love it. Whitney asked me to share some of my tips, logistics, and secret stories from life in the minivan. I chose to write these Haikus about our experience:

i can pick you up
there is room enough for all
grandmas, carpool too.

we love our baby
he screams in the car each time
sad i can’t reach him

we sit in silence
when boys have their kindles out
what a giant car

the magic button
opens all the doors for me
get out now, please go

baby near sidewalk door
the back back is very far
boosters all over

books go in the back
i keep all the snacks close by
children everywhere

cupholders are ten
only in the front seat, dude
hand spritz rides in style

space for all our gear
room to stretch, read, sing, and play
but please no farting

Any questions?

Take your toddler tailgating

I was way into football in high school and college: face-painting, dating the quarterback, the whole nine yards (which might actually be a military metaphor rather than a football metaphor, but whatever!). Since moving to San Francisco from America’s heartland (and marrying a man more interested in triathlon than touchdowns), my interest has waned.

But if I were still a football chick (or had one of those football-loving partners), I can imagine a whole bunch of weekend afternoons trading naptime for tailgating.

Take your baby tailgating: baby Aviva loves Stanford

Amy is a mom of 4 year-old Becca and five-month-old Beau and a sports nutrition specialist. In addition to raising her two children, she works as a nutrition consultant. She lives in Houston, where the temperature is hovering around the high 80’s with lots of humidity, and where football is a way of life. With the football season underway, she offered to share some of her favorite family-friendly (and healthy) tailgating snacks and activities:

[Read more…]

Is a joint birthday party a good idea?

Ideas for the best joint birthday party

An influential force in the village that is helping me raise my children is our preschool community, a quirky, community-minded cohort of families. For example: each eldest class in the school nominates a name for themselves, and Sawyer is a proud member of the Rainbow Penguins (#howberkeleycanyoube).

This weekend, we co-hosted a fourth birthday party with three other Rainbow Penguin families to celebrate the last cluster of children turning the big 0-4. Because we were already planning to invite the same guests, it seemed like a no-brainer to join forces.  Of course, I learned a few lessons that I want to share.

Pro-tips for throwing a joint birthday party (from an amateur)

One person needs to drive the train. Whether it is organizing location, determining theme, or choosing the menu, let someone be the boss of the plan. For this party, our boss was another mama; she kept us all on task, sent out invitations, and loosely themed the party around Rainbow Penguins. Boom.

Rainbow penguin sticker

Agree on a budget. Boring, but critical. By teaming up, does that mean we all will chip in for that $600 laser tag party that I’d never do on my own? Or are we merely sharing the load for a more fantastic bubble BBQ at the park? Either way, get on the same page before booking the fire juggler and bounce houses. [Read more…]

The lasts of the firsts, part two

About a year ago, I wrote moodily about the lasts being harder to notice than the firsts. And as my (last) baby approaches his fourth birthday, I’m feeling it all again.

First day of last year of preschoolEarlier this week, we had his first day of (his next year of) preschool. Oh sure, the school barely closed for a week in between “years” and he’s with the same kids and teachers, but the room is different and I know that he’s finally a senior. We’ve been in the same comfortable preschool since 2007 and this is really our last last year there.

Sigh… I can remember his first shocking day as an infant. And now he’s all big.
First day at daycare

A few days ago, Sawyer declared that he was all done with helping his dad make morning coffee. The two of them had developed quite a morning ritual around running into Daddy’s arms in order to help scoop and grind the beans each day. And just like that he said, “I’m over it.”

This morning, when Sawyer noticed Alec was a little bummed out to lose his “helper” he said, “I was over it, but I could get back under it.” Now we don’t know if he’ll keep it up or just go through the motions. The last of anything is his call to make (or forget to make as the case may be).

Funny either way. We like to document and commemorate, but capturing those lasts is so much harder than the firsts.

Perfect diaper-themed gifts for any new parents

Thanks to Desitin, my favorite booty cream, for sponsoring today’s post.

The pressure new moms put on themselves to live out their values through their parenting choices and purchases can weigh a ton. Not wanting to add to it with the wrong baby shower gift, we tread lightly around certain topics. Childbirth, feeding, sleep philosophies, baby wearing, diapers? Do what you want and change your mind as needed, Parents.

Without wanting to assemble the wrong diaper cake, we feel safer sticking to baby shower gifts that support diapering in general. Whitney took a turn at the wheel over on the Desitin Tumblr page and shared her five favorite baby shower gift ideas that work for babies in any style of diaper (disposable, cloth, edible, whatever)…

Baby Shower Gift Ideas

Disclosure: This is our second stint as guest authors on the Desitin Tumblr as part of a sponsored campaign. Opinions and gift picks are ours. (Desitin in the blue box is my favorite diaper cream, for realz.)

Buy this backpack for your toddler!

I recently shared all my very strong opinions about children’s backpacks with you. I included a few toddler and preschooler smaller-frame options in the mix, and they’re great. But if I’m honest, I feel very passionately about the Skip Hop Zoo Pack and I barely mentioned it. So here goes!

We bought the Monkey Skip Hop Mini Backpack when my now third grader was three years old. We’ve had it in the house and filled with incidental restaurant and car trip goodies for five years. It looks good as new. Since then, they’ve rolled out nearly a gajillion other cute animal patterns. Each time I see one out in the wild world, I feel a kinship with the parent or child carrying it. So cute, people!

The best little backpack is the Skip Hop Zoo Pack

My only caution would be to choose a design with less white and pale colors if you’re kid is dirty or will be dragging it around a lot. 

The bag is totally washable, fairly durable, and completely adorable. Let this be the time your little one carries a flipping precious penguin bag before hitting the real world of elementary school and settling for basic blue. And it’s only about $20.

My current favorite designs are hippo, shark, unicorn, and bee! Which ones do you love?


Not sponsored, just in love with this hand-me-down monkey backpack that is living a second life with our youngest preschooler. See also my very strong opinions about elementary school backpacks.

My very strong opinions about kids’ backpacks

Back to school shopping. Ugh. As I walk through Target and see the many character-themed backpacks trying into leap in my shopping cart, I remember why I must make this journey alone. Back-to-school shopping is no place for kids. Alluring as my sons might find these school bags, they will never come home with us.

I insist on purchasing high quality backpacks only. Lands’ End, Eastpak, L.L. Bean, JanSport, REI, I’m looking at you.

Buying a sturdy back pack means two important things.

  1. It will last longer. Duh.
  2. But if it doesn’t, it will be repaired or replaced for the lifetime of the backpack. As in, never buy another backpack again!!

So the $30 to $50 you spend on a good strong pack will more than make up for the annual purchase of a $20 crappy-zipper, break-before-the-year-is-out school bag. Though my cheap gene shudders at paying nearly $50 for a kid’s backpack, I know it will withstand many years worth of aggressive treatment.

My kids are going into fifth and third grades this year and their backpacks are not being replaced since KINDERGARTEN. That’s it. That’s all I wanted to tell you.

Sounds too boring? If your child still wants to personalize, there are many ways to make a plain pack seem more childish childlike: glowing zipper jewelry, mini-me felt patches, labels and stickers, dogtags, printable star wars tags (free from Amy Locurto), or all of the above.

Here are a few picks of high-quality backpacks (that I hope do not fall victim to the blogging curse of breaking because I said nice things about them). [Read more…]

We *heart* The Places You’ll Feed!

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week — yes, it’s a thing! — we want to celebrate feeding babies by sharing this silly, fantastic, creative, laugh-til-you-spray-milk book: The Places You’ll Feed!

In a house or with a mouse? In a supply closet or the front seat of a minivan with your legs squished by the steering wheel? Dang, author Lauren Hirshfield Belden makes it look so easy with her Dr. Suess style illustrations and artful rhymes about nursing and pumping! Somehow she managed to capture the universal truths all set to a bedtime-story rhythm.

Check out these sample pages of her new book, The Places You’ll Feed!

Places You'll Feed: breastfeeding humor book

Places You'll Feed: breastfeeding humor book

Places You'll Feed: breastfeeding humor book

So cute, right?

If you have a booby- or bottle-fed baby in the house, you’ll want this on your bookshelf. You’re also guaranteed to be the VIP at your next baby shower if you bring this as a gift.

Find it at your neighborhood gift shop or buy The Places You’ll Feed! on amazon this second. Hope you love it as much as we do!

Disclosure: I was sent a review copy of this book; I love it for real; if you invite me to your baby shower, you’ll probably get a copy.

Putting the kibosh on the Me, Me, Me Epidemic

We're so confident you'll make a better choice next time, we got tattoos

After listening to a webinar with parenting coach Amy McCready in which she was suggesting what we might say when our children are devastated by the consequences of their actions, Whitney and I both joked that we were going get tattoos that read, “I’m confident you’ll make a better choice next time” so that we could remember to use that line.

Spent so much time not putting pajamas on that we only had a 30-second back-scratching session? I’m confident you’ll make a better choice next time.

Though I’ve never met her in person, I completely trust Amy and her philosophy of love and positive discipline. Literally, every time I listen to her, read her, or watch her videos, I learn more that helps me become the parent I want to be. When she told me about her newest parenting book, The Me, Me, Me Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World, I wanted to help spread the word.

Me Me Me Epidemic bookThe theme of this book? By setting up limits with consequences, and training them in responsible behavior and decision-making, parents can rid their homes of the entitlement epidemic and raise confident, resilient, and successful children. Doesn’t that sound nice? [Read more…]

Best things to do with a baby in San Antonio, TX

The 5 best places to take babies and toddlers in San AntonioFrequently mentioned on lists of the best places for families to travel, San Antonio has something for everyone. But is it fun for babies, too? Colleen Pence with San Antonio Mom Blogs shares the five best places to take your baby for pint-sized fun in the Alamo City:

The DoSeum

The 5 best places to take babies and toddlers in San Antonio: The DoSeum

While The DoSeum – San Antonio’s brand-new children’s museum – is an amazing place for all kids, ages 0-12, their Little Crawlers area will keep your baby busy for hours. Let him crawl around freely in this protected area that’s perfect for stimulating senses. Your sweet babe can look in the mirror, see other babies, and explore the colors and sounds all around them. [Read more…]