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)?

Cookbook review: Dinnertime Survival Guide

Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide: Feed Your Family. Save Your Sanity.

If I truly like a cookbook, it starts to look like all the others in my collection: oil-splattered and spine broken with hundreds of my notes scrawled all across it — both in the margins and also copy editing the book itself. I thought that was true of everyone, but Whitney, who had never thought to write in a cookbook, asked me to photograph a few of my many notes from Dinnertime Survival Guide as I shared my family’s feelings.

Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide: Feed Your Family. Save Your Sanity.: My notes in the margins [Read more…]

5 great date nights that don’t require a babysitter

5 great date ideas, no babysitter requiredI’m a firm believer that new parents need to figure out a way to get out of the house and have some dates. Best case scenario, that’s only one night a week. More realistically, that’s one night a month. Or never.

So, what about all those other nights? Here are five fun date-night ideas that don’t require a babysitter. I’m assuming that you can get your baby in bed and have the date afterward. I put my kids to bed around 7:30 and can trick them into bed at 7pm if I’m really on my game (because they can’t really tell time yet and we have black-out shades in their room).

Rookie Parents alone together
Rookie Parents alone together

I’ll follow-up with a post for sneaking in dates when the kids are awake.

First step, put the baby in bed.
Second step, choose your own adventure:

  1. Make dinner after dinner but in a fun, sexy way. Enjoy the dance of cooking together and let it last the whole evening.
    Recipe for date: mix food with ambiance and cooking stuff. Average difficulty but planning is required.
  2. (if cooking is too much effort) Share a fancy dessert and wine by candlelight. Make it something decadent like souffle or fondue.
    Recipe for date: dessert plus beverage of choice. Pretty easy, if you get carryout or grocery dessert, prep is minimal.
  3. Invite friends over for a post-bedtime double date with board games or video games. If your friends have kids, try a half-sleepover. If it fails, then next time you can stick to your child-free pals.
    Recipe for date: let your friends bring the game and you just clear the plastic toys off of the couch. Easy!
  4. Turn an ordinary evening in front of the TV into a movie date with junior mints and a big bowl of buttery popcorn. Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, and many cable plans now have onDemand options so you don’t even need to plan ahead very much for the film. Make it a series.
    Recipe for date: film plus movie snacks. Easy! (since its so easy, remember to put on a clean shirt so your partner knows its a date)
  5. Hop in the car (yes, with your baby!) and go to a drive-in movie if you’re lucky enough to have one nearby.
    Recipe for date: must have nearby drive-in, cooperative baby, and vehicle. Advanced.

Third, calculate how much you saved by not using a babysitter this time, and treat yourself next time!

Related posts:

If I were the boss of the auto industry, this is how families would roll

I was invited to attend the Chicago Auto Show this year by a very friendly car company. While I considered the invitation strongly (I would have been able to visit my posse of Chicago besties) I had to decline the trip because of the impact to my family.

If I were going to write about vehicles, which is not exactly my beat, I’d have to keep it real and share my fantasy features that probably don’t exist in any auto show. Since I could write that list without getting on an airplane and having a slumber party with Crystal, I did it.

Fantasy vehicle features for nerdy moms like me:

  1. Retractable limousine-style window dividing myself from my kids – for so many reasons!
  2. A special blocking technology that would lock up my phone during the drive so I can’t ever text during stoplights. I would still be able to use the phone as a navigation system.
  3. Completely lice-resistant fabric.
  4. Bluetooth in the backseat, so when my mom or husband call and I answer on speakerphone, the kids’ greetings can be heard clearly by the caller.
  5. On the other hand, I would like to selectively not allow the speakerphone to broadcast to children. (Put up that limo window?)
  6. Built-in booster seats
  7. Tiny tray tables for kids to color and do homework
  8. Robot that carries in my heavy loads from the trunk and puts itself away.
  9. Built-in mini fridge.
  10. Self-vacuum crumbs and sand, or maybe it’s a magic filtering floor. Or a venting system. Or that robot that is at my beck and call. Execution is someone else’s problem.

If I had gone to the car show, I might only be disappointed to learn that the new lines of cars targeted at families don’t have these features. Or maybe I would have been wowed by a whole list of functions I could never have dreamed up myself.

What’s your fantasy new car feature?

Dream car for moms

5 ten-minute Valentine’s Day ideas

In about ten minutes, you can make someone feel loved for Valentine’s Day. Here are five fresh ideas for you using stuff you probably have around the house:

1. Mix up a love potion

5 ten minute Valentine's Day ideas: Smoothie as Love Potion
Follow the tasty (and fast) instructions from the lovely Marie at makeandtakes. Serve your love for breakfast, snack or dessert.

2. Turn your baby into a conversation heart

5 ten minute Valentine's Day ideas: baby conversation heart greeting
Got construction paper and a cute baby? Now you just need a sense of humor and your camera to make a funny conversation heart greeting. When creativity is failing, Love ya! works.

3. Crank out some decorations

5 ten minute Valentine's Day ideas: Easy valentines decorIf you have paper or fabric scraps, you can make quickie hearts to hang about the room. It really sets the tone for your daytime date.

4. (Heart) someone or something

All you need is a Sharpie and a plain white tee to make your baby be the bearer of your message of love. See instructions for speedy onesie customizing.

5. Have sex or something like it

If you don’t have time for a full-on session of making whoopie, might we suggest the “5 minute fix” from Babyproofing Your Marriage? If that’s not to your liking, there are many other great sexy, fast, and easy ideas from Kristen Chase’s sexual resolution (like wear a thong, make a sexy playlist, or give a massage).

Now, I really hope that someone is planning an eleven minute surprise that will knock your socks off!

Photos: delicious smoothie: Marie; Conversation heart: reader who wishes to remain nameless; Fabric hearts: Whitney; Heart onesie: Thompson Tribune.

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…]