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…]

Marvel Universe LIVE! on tour for superhero fans

Tracking PixelMarvel Universe Live! is a traveling live action arena show designed for superheroes for fans of all ages. Thanks to Marvel for the gift of tickets, I plan to hit the matinee with my family in March.

Marvel Universe LIVE! is a touring arena show for families: yay! spiderman

My youngest is three and a half so I hope we’re ready for all the awesome. Truth be told, I am more worried about the Spider-Man costume + barely potty-trained child equation than the pyrotechnics and intensity on stage. Yes, we will encourage him to wear his costume to the show. I like to get my money’s worth out of Halloween investments.

My family will see Marvel Universe LIVE! in San Jose, but it is touring all across the country throughout the year and into next. I see dates in Oklahoma, Arizona, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, and more. Find out if it will be in your town and purchase tickets here. Save 25% on your tix with code MOM2.  (Savings does not apply to VIP or Gold Circle seats. No double discounts.) [Read more…]

The Control Freak’s Guide to sippy cups

I have one overarching piece of advice for you: Standardize, standardize, standardize!

Though any controlling and freaky parent will want to know that she is using the absolute best brand of drinking cup perfectly suited to the environment and the ergonomic shape of a child’s mouth that will never leak… I just want you to buy four of the same thing and move on.

The psychic toll of having to match up lids to bases exceeds all those other benefits in my book.

Here are a few great brands, choose one of these and buy four of them!What you need to know about choosing a spillproof toddler cup

When available, just buy into the entire sippy cup universe of one make and model. I aim for you to reach into a messy drawer, grab one lid and one cup and know that they will fit together. Go crazy and experiment with different lid styles (standard sippy, hard, soft, straw, or 360 any-side); I don’t care. That’s between you and your kid.

  1. AVENT. Terrific because you can grow from bottle to sippy cup and beyond. If this is already your bottle brand (Lord help me if you have more than one brand of bottle in your home!), just buy the replacement spouts and fit them to your existing bottles where the nipple fits. They offer a ton of different spout options that fit on the same base. Two (pictured) 7 oz penguins for $7.60 or a single training cup with drink-anywhere top for about $5.
  2. MUNCHKIN. Going straight from boob to cup? Bravo for you. Many parents love the Munchkin model of cup. I might buy four of these today for car rides and keeping near the bedside. Munchkin Miracle 360 Trainer Cup comes in a 7 ounce two-pack for about $13. The 360 Sippy Cup (no training handles) is about the same price for two 11 ouncers. Choose your favorite color combos and buy two. Lids are a single piece and allow tots to drink anywhere around the rim with no special spoutMunchkin Miracle sippy cup system is mom approved
  3. SASSY. The Sassy Grow Up cup comes in a 7-ounce and 9-ounce design also with no spout. Handles are interchangeable on the four different models.  Get two for either $11 (good price) or $22 (keep looking!)
    Sassy spill-proof sippy cup
  4. PLAYTEX. I am disappointed to report that my go-to brand for cups and lids has changed the design and made parents very unhappy. All hail the honest Amazon reviewers who sound insane getting up in arms about click and lock design flaws. These are my people!

I did not cover some of the many stresses you might have about transitioning to a cup from breast or bottle, so let me know what questions you have!

Guessing game: me or my kid?

This is me at ten. This is my son at (almost) ten. Can you tell which is which?

Guess which is me and which is my kid

Kid reenacting a scene from mom's childhood at Disney World
Pretty striking, huh? Thanks to Wendy for scaring up this retro Mickey Mouse visor on ebay for our fun! And these are the outtakes. Turns out it is not so easy to get a kid to show just the right amount of eyes, smile, teeth, hair, and chin even when he’s totally up for it.

This is both of us around age five when, again, the resemblance is rather strong.

Big thanks to Anthony at PicMonkey for making my son more “vintage” and teaching me a few cool tricks!

Do you want to play my guessing game? Is your child a mini me (or a mini-Other-Parent)?