No mean names allowed

Yesterday morning, my husband had already left the house for the day and I noticed an unfamiliar mug of tea on the table. I picked it up, and my immediate reaction was, “Oh no! Not in my house.” I hurried to load it into the dishwasher before a child might see it.

Obama Lama Ding Dong? Not in my house!

If this comic were shared by a Facebook friend, I would barely have noticed. I sure wouldn’t have freaked out or unfriended anyone, and I maybe even would have “liked” it.

But in my house, we don’t make fun of people or call names. I was bothered because I don’t want my kids to think it is ok to make fun of the president. I sent the mug back to his workplace where we wouldn’t have to see it again.

Obama Lama Ding Dong? Not in my house!

If you can’t read it, it says Obama – Lama – Ding Dong.

Because we don’t call people Ding Dong, President Poopypants, or Stupid Mommy Butt on my watch! To be completely honest, someone does get called Stupid Mommy Butt with regularity, but that’s exactly why I have such a firm no-name-calling policy.

In a related incident last week, my three-year old asked his visiting grandmother, “Grandma, what does dumb as a stone mean?”

Did I overreact?

Activity #50: Launch Camp Grandma

#rookiemoms baby challenges

#rookiemoms baby challenge: Launch Camp Grandma


As your next weekly challenge, we’re sharing a favorite activity from our book, The Rookie Mom’s Handbook:

In the long run, Grandma, baby and Mom and Dad will all look forward to this annual tradition. Since you’re still a rookie, however, do this to the degree you feel comfortable.

How it works: You and your partner plan an overnight trip. It might just be to a hotel in a nearby city. Your baby’s grandparents come stay at your place, saving you the trouble of packing up your baby’s things. Train them on usage of the car seat and the coffeemaker and LET GO.

Encourage Grandma and Grandpa to establish special traditions with your child.

Add a night to Camp Grandma each year so that you take a two-night trip next year, and by the time your child is fourteen, dear Grandma will get a two-week fill of adolescent merriment.

Grammy tries to read to wiggly gigglers
Grammy is trained and ready for these guys

If you’re a rookie grandma, we recommend The Granny Diaries to head off potential power struggles with rookie moms such as ourselves (because we know we can be difficult — sorry about that!). Here’s our review.

Are you ready to leave your baby for the night? Tell us about it!

Cool invention: kid cups by Puj that hang on your fridge

Phillup kid cups by Puj hang on your fridge
I love the idea of color-coded cups hanging exactly on the fridge for children to fill up their own water cups. So simple that it is brilliant.

If your house is like mine, used cups collect around the house and on the kitchen counter throughout the day. These hangable cups solve that problem. Clean freaks, rejoice!

Additionally, promoting independence (not to mention water drinking) makes me happy.

Tell me what you think. Available now on kickstarter (with cups available for pre-sale), the Puj PhillUp will be the world’s first hangable kid cup. It hangs at a height where kids can reach and is easily reusable and color-coded for less mess and less mix-up. My husband and I would certainly celebrate using only one cup per kid per day.


The kickstarter prices are compelling — $15 for a set of two cups or $30 for a family pack of four. See all the benefits and details here >

Best of 2014: My favorite Whitney posts

Whitney is one of my best friends in the world. The fact that we get to work together, too, is the whipped cream on top. We talk almost daily about parenting in Berkeley, bloggy stuff, home reconstruction, the best places, and stuff that is total bullshit.

Luckily she loves to share her insights and fun projects with all of us so you’re only missing out on attending our mammogram-and-donuts party this morning (because some things are personal).

I'll drink to you, Whitney, here are some of your best posts of the year

Here are some of her posts that I was happy to reread:

Parenting nuggets of wisdom

Crafty or otherwise clever tricks [Read more…]

Baby Shower ideas for second time moms

Ideas for a second time baby showerWhen I was about to have my rookie baby, Holden, I looked at my friend Susan (going at it for the second time) as though she were a total expert. I thought that I was sooooo special (not true!) and sooooo clueless (true!) but she had it all figured out.

Well, I have news for my rookie-pregnant self and any of you rookie parents-to-be: a second-time around mom may be more comfortable with the new baby, but she’s still living on the frontier of how to deal with her older child PLUS more to juggle and even less time for a nap. So, it’s still a pretty big deal.

If you have any friends about to have second babies and you’re wondering what to get the mom who already has all the baby gear, allow us to make a few suggestions:

  • Private Yoga class: prenatal or post-partum yoga where she doesn’t have to figure out how to leave the house = awesome.
  • Food train. Enlist a gang of friends to sign up for meals on a calendar with or a shared google spreadsheet. Witching hour times two is no time for cooking.
  • Advice book: interview your friends with more than one kid about little and big things. How do you load everyone into the car? How do you get food on the table? What is something you swore you’d never do (that you now probably do)? Useful or not, these are great little keepsakes.
  • Forgo the shower and chip in for a massage.
  • Meal Prep party where mama gets freezer fodder from everyone; there are places that can organize this for you.
  • Everyone gets a massage :-)
  • If different gender, clothes
  • If same gender: a fresh towel, wash cloths, onesies that are unstained
  • If name known, personalized clothes so that #2 has a few things of his own
  • Babysitting dates where other moms of same aged #1 will come get #1 and take him away for a couple hours
  • The basics, be the sweetie that buys a full medicine cabinet’s worth of infant tylenol and butt zinc. More excellent gift ideas for new parents on our amazing registry guide.

What are some other great ideas for moms going again for their second, third, or fourth?

psssst. Hey Whit, You had a “real shower” with shower games and it looked like fun. did you like it? Did you wish you had a group massage instead? Shhhh… I won’t tell.

I would cook more if my kids were less rude about it

I like the satisfaction of preparing a meal; trying new recipes and cookbooks; and eating healthfully. So, why would I rather hide out on my computer seeing what’s going on with Facebook instead of actually cooking according to my meal plan most nights? I am frickin’ beat down from all the complaints.

Picky kids make for cranky cooks - solutions for picky eaters

This is a real photo of delicious homemade pasta with parm that he refused to try at all. xo

I don’t know what dinnertime looks like at your house, but we have three competing scenarios at mine.

After much trial and error (see below), RookieDad Alec and I have a few homemade go-to meals that most of us like (well, everyone but the three-year old): tamale pie, teriyaki salmon, chicken parmesan, or spaghetti and meatballs. If I’m on my game, I can do some of the prep before the witching hour or we team up in the kitchen on a weekend evening for a big cook. These are the good nights.

More often it seems, I try out a new recipe and at least one person is visibly disgusted. I made a homemade sweet potato and black bean stew tonight that was so ugly, my son shared, “When I need to taste something that looks like this, I just do it real quickly before I lose my nerve.” Uhh, thanks kid. [Read more…]

Activity #123: Streamline your toy box

IKEA Kallax storage system will radically improve your lifeAs we move away from the holidays, it is easy for me to think “we have too many toys!” and my boys just don’t need a thing. Other times, we visit friends for playdates and I think the opposite. Maybe my sons have all the wrong toys. Ugh.


Scary toy box from Wendy
Scary toy pile from Wendy

Here are some battle-tested how-to instructions for doing an effective toy box sort based on some of my own experience and other tips I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Sort. Make two big piles: “toy keepers” and the “toys you can do without” — More often than not, the toys in the “must keep” pile are open-ended (like Legos, blocks, stuffed animals) and the “forgotten” pile are toys that don’t do very much at all. [Read more…]

How many pregnant women want to know the gender of their babies?

Tracking PixelThis post was sponsored by Panorama.

Did you and your partner find out if your baby-to-be was a boy or a girl? Apparently, I’m in the minority (like less than a quarter) of people who didn’t want to know before birth, the ultimate reveal. RookieDad Alec and I both agreed that we wanted a surprise (!). Little did we know that having a baby of any flavor was going to so completely rock our worlds with surprise around every corner…

Here are some results of a recent survey of 500 expecting mothers for Natera, a non-invasive genetic screening company:
Natera infographic

Did you see that? More than three-quarters of those surveyed (79%) wanted to know the gender of their baby before he or she is born. And two-thirds (68%) feel learning the gender of the baby is even more exciting than winning the lottery. Aww.
[Read more…]

Santa Claus, how do you do it?

How do you DO Santa each year?
Christmas morning means matching jammies and “the pose”

I loved Santa Claus as a child. Loved. In fact, I made sure to stick little gifts in my mom’s stocking to make sure that she still believed in Santa (just in case she was really SC, I didn’t want her to find out.)

I want my kids to love him every bit as much. But each year, I kinda forget how we did it the previous year. My husband and I invariably have a conversation like this on Christmas Eve:

  • Me: Was it one big gift from Santa and the rest of the presents from Mommy and Daddy? Ooh, but what about the wrapping paper? Does Santa always use the same wrapping paper? Wait a second, I know, we used plain brown paper from Santa!
  • Him: That all sounds fine. As long as you remember that Santa always brings Matchbox Cars!
  • Me: What are you talking about?!
  • Him: And the kids have to do “the pose” like me and my sister did.
  • Me: Well, all I really care about is matching Christmas jammies. Were we supposed to put out cookies? Oh crap.

And don’t bother to ask my BFF Whitney what normal looks like, the only opinion she offered is: it is bullshit to wrap stocking gifts. Well, ok then.

Another friend told me that Santa Claus brings the most commercial obnoxious gift that Mommy and Daddy would never purchase. That way, you can continue espousing the importance of independently crafted wooden toys and your daughter can still have her Barbie glam-o-rama dream house. I love that one.

So, friends, how do you do it? What are your Santa Claus traditions? Did you learn them in childhood or make them up as you go? And how the heck do you remember them each year?

Activity #46: Host a clothing swap party

Nine months on, nine months off? Something like that.

Your 46th weekly challenge is to obtain some new-to-you clothes that you’ll enjoy along with an afternoon of girlfriend hilarity all for the cost of some cucumber-scented spa water. The end of the year is a perfect time to plan a clothing swap.

Host a clothing swap party with your friends #rookiemoms challengeThis is me (not at a swap) trying on clothes too fabulous to purchase. In real life, I wait for my shopaholic friends to bring them over. Thank You Very Much, Don’t Mind If I Do!

We’ve mentioned this idea here and there, but now I present the instructions for how to throw a simple but fabulous women’s clothing swap on your own.

I have hosted no fewer than ten clothing swaps with my stylish friends and spawned at least three known copycats. For the record, this is better as a a no-kids-allowed event (or just pre-crawlers), so let Daddy take the bambino out for a hike while you get some well-deserved girlfriend-time. The whole event can take less than two hours.

Here’s the step-by-step to planning and hosting:
(kind of long, but I want to make it mindless for you) [Read more…]

9 Favorite clutter-free gifts

Friends don't buy friends clutter, figurines, or bookmarks

Again this year, we have created clutter-free gifts for babies, kids, grandparents, moms (AKA girlfriends), and dads. But this is the mack daddy round-up of our tippy top favorites. The good news is that most (if not all) of these ideas can be obtained up to the very last second of the holidays (like Christmas Eve at 11:50 pm or the next morning right before you leave for brunch at Grandma Barb’s).

Often, you just need access to the internet and a halfway decent printer. If you don’t have that, a crayon and piece of paper might work, too!

All I want for Christmas that is not a thing:

  1. Lessons for anything. Whether you’re registering your husband for pastry classes, your nana for Italian, yourself for hip hop, the kiddo for music together, or anyone for swimming, we love this gift of self-improvement. Try a free baby music class #rookiemoms
  2. Membership to a museum. Children’s museums, hands-on science, and zoos top our list of family destinations. Soooo much better for the family who lives in an apartment, am I right? {related: tips and hacks to get the best deal at your children’s museum}
  3. Tickets to a performance. Make a big deal out of putting it on the calendar. Check Living Social and GoldStar for half-price deals on local events. In our area, the Harlem Globetrotters are on tour next month.
  4. Something to eat or drink. Wine and coffee are popular consumables. Nuf said.
  5. A nook or new room. De-clutter some existing space for a child’s reading nook or a parent cave as needed. This year, two of our children are getting their own bedrooms. But they can read, so I won’t say who.
  6. Adventurous tourism (light). Though I’d like to take a trip to Paraguay with my family, I’d also be happy with the gourmet chocolate walking tour of San Francisco. Cloud9Living makes lots of experiences possible through their quirky tours.
  7. Amazon Prime. Yes, we are affiliates, but we are crazy-frequent users of this service. Two-day shipping, great digital programs including 48-hour movie rentals, and discounts on kindle books make this a must-have in our homes. Get amazon prime for someone you love. Amazon Prime makes a great gift
  8. StitchFix. I’ve been pretty happy with my subscription to StitchFix. Each month, I pay $20 for a person to choose clothes for me. If I like anything, I can apply the styling fee to my clothes. If I love everything — yet to happen — I get a mega discount. {related: My strong opinions about Stitch Fix}
  9. Your time. Even cheaper than half-price tickets is your time offered to do something together. Can you fix a broken something or offer to make dinner? My son would like an hour each weekend dedicated to art. I want a date night, I’ll even put the boys to bed first.

What’s your go-to, last-second, can’t-go-wrong, clutter-free gift?! I might need it.

[Photo credit: of us Megan Small + of Weston Olivia Howell]