Honeymoon, interrupted

If you met me today, you might take me for a typical minivan-driving Berkeley mom. And I am. But I’m also full of stories. And dreams. Let me start with one of each from ten years ago.

The first date with my future-husband, Alec, was a long one. Four hours in, we were exchanging personal travel stories like trading cards over milkshakes. Alec had been to Kenya and me to Turkey; he had been to Honduras and me to Thailand; he had been to Australia and me to the Czech Republic. We both had been to parts of Western Europe. We unknowingly laid the foundation for our own big journey together.

A year after our first date, I bought a big map. Alec and I circled places on it that we wanted to go. That same map hangs above my oldest son’s homework desk and some of the markings are still visible. Once the circles started to obscure the countries with too many highlights to visit in a year, I made a plan. I took charge and whittled our dream trip down to a manageable six-month round-the-world plane ticket with eight major stopovers plus trains, buses, boats, and cars to get us the rest of the way.

In hindsight, I can’t imagine it any other way, but the trip planning preceded any mention of a wedding. And then we got engaged, so decided to turn the adventure-trip into a honeymoon, making a handshake agreement to also leave the country every year of our marriage. [Read more…]

Activity #51: Meet your friends out for errands

Go on, it’s semi-social, you can bring your baby or toddler, and you can Get Things Done (or GTD in Internet language. Seriously.) Meeting a friend out for shopping is your 51st Rookie Mom challenge! Not ready yet? Pick another challenge.

Shopping is more fun with a friend #rookiemoms challenge
When our firstborns were too little to know the difference between Target and the Children’s Museum, Whitney and I would meet with the boys to do some shopping and wonder if it counts as an outing. I say “yes.” In the picture above, our nearest indoor shopping mall had crazy-car-shopping-carts; the boys may as well have been at a theme park. In the photo below, we are (obviously) enjoying the treasures at our local Target.

Shopping is more fun with a friend #rookiemoms challenge

Once, I met my (child-free) pal, Olivia, and we wandered the aisles at Whole Foods toting the little man in his cart and handing him banana chips at his every sign for “more.” We chatted for a good long time, and I went home with ice cream. I loved having the opportunity to reconnect enough that I’m suggesting this as a challenge for you.

Pro tip: Ice cream purchases put the kibosh on post-Whole Foods coffee dates, so if you’re shopping with a friend, you might want to skip the frozen foods section.

More pro tips: Thingamababy offers 10 excellent tips for how to get out of the house and shop all day with a toddler. He includes a great suggestion on what to keep on hand and what to leave in the car. If you’ve tried to take your toddler anywhere and run into frustration, you’ll appreciate the advice.

Share your experience in the comments or your favorite channel: instagram #rookiemoms, twitter, facebook, pinterest!

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 mealtrain.com 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?