A wild morning at the farmers market {Rookie Moms Challenge #20}

One of my favorite things to do in the summertime is explore new farmer’s markets. Living in the Twin Cities, it seems there’s always a new one to visit, but I think it can be especially fun to visit farmer’s markets in other cities. When I was back in my hometown in Iowa, my son Eli and I stopped at their farmer’s market with some of my family for a morning outing. Since they’re a few weeks ahead of Minnesota in spring produce, it was fun to see the different things they already had out. We went with my dad and brother and sister-in-law and their two kids, right when it opened in the morning. As we looked around we realized that it was 90 percent parents with strollers there with us – the only people who are forced to get up at 7 a.m. every morning and need something to do.

Of course, coffee was the first thing on the agenda, as well as a breakfast sandwich. (But I failed to take a photo of that because my hands were too busy pounding it before Eli took too much of it away from me.)

Mom and baby at the farmers market: liquid courage

Contrary to what this photograph will lead you to believe, Eli wasn’t tired, (just not particularly smiley that morning) and a few minutes later, Eli was crawling around all over the street, playing with balloon animals and fussing for me to help him walk up and down the street. He’s crazy about walking with assistance, and I seriously think the kid could walk a few miles if I’d let him, but my back starts killing me about 100 yards in. Good thing his Papa was there and we could take turns helping Eli to walk – and take turns having sore backs. [Read more…]

The day my husband visited me “at work”

Our unexpectedly great lunch outing

The reason I’m able to be a stay-at-home-mom is a double-edged sword. My husband, Mike, has a great job, but it’s pretty demanding. Twice a year I basically become a single parent for about 4-6 weeks, while he works 12-14 hour days, 7 days a week. About five weeks into this past season of single parenting, my husband surprised us by coming home early on a random Friday. At 11 a.m. he texted me and asked if I wanted to go out for lunch – of course the answer was, “YES.” Followed quickly with a “HOW?”

Next thing I knew, he was walking in the back door with a fistful of flowers and I nearly passed out on the couch from an overload of shock and happiness. He announced he was taking me and our son Eli to Sea Salt, an outdoor restaurant right in the middle of a park, and going on a walk around the nearby waterfalls as soon as Eli woke up from his morning nap.

I was so excited I immediately started packing up our baby gear and as soon as Eli was awake, we were out the door.

A lunch date with DaddyOn such a beautiful day, we were not the only ones with this idea so the lines were long and service was slow at the restaurant. To keep Eli at bay we fed him about half his weight in Cheerios and water. I had only wished I had brought enough Cheerios for me to do the same. But as the adult, you have to be the patient one, right? Sometimes being an adult is super annoying.

After lunch, we walked through the park to see the waterfalls and chase our own shadows.

Playing in the park with Daddy

One of Eli’s favorite things to do while exploring our backyard is pick the yellow dandelions and 1) Eat them or 2) Hand them to me. (Which makes me feel pretty good that I never even had to teach my son that giving flowers to Mom is a nice thing to do!)

Before we knew it the perfect afternoon was over and Eli was cashed out in his crib in the nursery while Mike cashed out on the couch before he needed to go back into work for another shift. I went outside so I wouldn’t disturb my boys, making a mental note to pack more Cheerios in the diaper bag for wonderful surprise lunch outings like today.

I visited a high-security office with a baby {Rookie Moms Challenge #11}

Ever since my husband Mike and I were dating, I’ve wanted to visit him at work. He always kept me at bay, telling me that no one else’s girlfriends/fiancees/wives have ever visited, there was nothing to see, and that he wasn’t even sure it was allowed for him to have a visitor. Because he does work at a place with high security (for example: I wasn’t even allowed to take photos of anything but his office for this post) I didn’t really question it, but just lamented to him every once in a while about how I wish I could visit.

About two years ago, we were at a company appreciation party and a fellow spouse and I started to discuss visiting our husbands at work and – low and behold – she had visited! My eyes bugged out and I turned to my husband and exclaimed, “I can come!” He looked shocked and to his credit, he genuinely didn’t know this person had visited and it wasn’t that he was trying to keep me away, he truly hadn’t thought I could come. I was working myself at that point, so it didn’t make too much difference.

Once Eli was born, I became a stay-at-home-mom. When I saw Rookie Mom’s Challenge #11 Interrupt someone’s work day, I knew it was just the kick I needed to make this visit happen.

I teamed up with another coworker’s wife and her new baby for the visit. We worked it out that we’d go to the offices on a Friday, then head out for lunch at a local restaurant the guys frequent.

I did take a wrong turn getting into his office building, but a semi-friendly security guard set me straight. Once I arrived, Eli and I both had to go through security. I even had to write down the license plate for my 11 month-old son. What the what? Soon after, we were weaving through a maze of hallways that smelled like coffee and looked like a hospital.

Daddy is happy to show off his baby at work #rookiemoms

We visited each husband’s office, and Mike was right – there wasn’t much to see, but I loved every minute of it. There’s just something about having seen it with my own eyes that helps me to relate to him more when he’s sharing work stories and I can now picture him at meetings, going over plans and generally kickin’ butt and takin’ names. His office was full of boring, difficult-to-understand images, plans and numbers, but I did double check to be sure the photos I sent with him of Eli and I were residing in a prominent place in the office, and they were. Good job, Husband. Your office looks amazing and beautiful.

All in all, the visit took about 20 minutes and pretty quickly we were carpooling to a greasy spoon a few minutes down the road. Eli was getting pretty tired by this time and I couldn’t even get him to look or smile at the camera when I tried to snap a pic. While I don’t think he realized he got some extra time with Dad that day, but he definitely enjoyed sharing the steak, mashed potatoes and green beans off his plate, squawking and grunting around in public, and the general ooohs and ahhhs from every woman in the restaurant.

Daddy is happy to show off his baby at work #rookiemoms

Of course Eli fell asleep on the car ride home, and the 20-minute power nap gave him enough juice to miss his afternoon nap, but it was totally worth FINALLY getting to see where my husband has been working all these years and get the visit out of my system. I honestly have no need to ever visit again (well, maybe the restaurant – it was pretty good … ) and I can’t believe it took me this long to make it happen!

[Photo credit: Laura Wifler — all rights reserved]

Rookie Moms Challenges -- weekly adventures for moms and babies

Find more baby activities with the 52 weekly rookie mom challenges.

If you’re already participating, use hashtag #rookiemoms on instagram or twitter so we can cheer each other on.

I took my baby swimming {Rookie Moms Challenge #27}


How to take a baby swimming

In order to conquer Rookie Moms Challenge #27 – swimming with a baby – I signed Eli and myself up for indoor swimming lessons at our local Parks and Rec center, along with some friends who I convinced to join us.

On our first day, I was nervous: It was a place I’d never been to, and I needed to get myself as well as my baby changed by 9:30 in the morning. As we all know, having a hard start time is always difficult with a baby.

Soon after I arrived, I saw one of my friends and her son, and I immediately forgot all my worries – things are always better when you have a girlfriend around, am I right?

The challenge of the changing room

My friend and I went to change our boys in the family locker room (another first for me!) and we found a pretty large room, but it had barely any surface area to lay our boys on to change them. The floors were dirty with slush and mud brought in from outside, as it was still wintery weather in Minnesota, so we attempted to make our sons sit on a 12” deep bench as we shed our coats, hats and gloves off into our bags, while simultaneously pulling out our swim gear, and of course, keeping our sons from toppling off the bench all while never letting anything touch the floor. Well, except my shirt. That one bit the dust.

In the process of getting Eli dressed, I realized that his reusable swim diaper was a titch-bit too small (left over from last summer) but I shimmied him in there while promising to get him a non-wedgie pair in time for the next lesson. Eventually, we somehow changed out of winter and left the locker room looking like summer – but it was then that I realized I had forgotten sandals, so I tiptoed my way across the dirty locker room to the pool, mentally making a note to bring those next time.

The lesson
We made it just in time for the lesson to start, and we began by holding our babies in a four foot-deep pool to let them get used to the water. Even though the water wasn’t cold, Eli’s teeth immediately started chattering and I could tell he wasn’t a fan. (Eli is not a wimp, he’s sensitive.)

Swimming with a baby

We sang a few songs, moved the kids around in the water and did the typical things you think of with kiddie classes. Next, the teacher had us sit our kids on the edge of the pool where they were suppose to “jump” – aka FALL – into our arms. Eli was having none of it. He just sat there looking at me like I’d abandoned him when my hands were literally an inch away from his body. He looked around all nervous-like, watching the kids to our right and left gleefully jump fall into their mother’s arms so eventually I’d just pull him into the water and he continued to look at me like I was crazy.

Swimming classes for babies

After putting Eli through 10 minutes of what was clearly torture for him, the class moved to a different, more shallow, zero-entry pool, that Eli could sit and stand in. He liked this pool MUCH better. We sang more songs about guppies and turtles, and bubbles and dancing, and I didn’t know any of the words but just smiled and bopped my head along while thinking about all the crazy things I do for my son. At the end we had a bit of free time, so my friends and I tried to get our sons to interact with each other, but as usual with babies, they pretty much just ignored each other while us moms used it as an excuse to sit by the fountains and catch up on last week’s happenings.

Taking baby in the pool

On making my exit
Right in the middle of one of my many hilarious stories, the whistle blew and the class was over. We got out of the pool and went to grab our towels and I realized that I had only brought one towel – which was fine when I was holding Eli – but made it a little difficult while I was attempting to dry and change him and I was dripping wet and freezing. And yet again, I had to balance Eli on the stupid, most shallow bench in the world while getting us both changed.

It was seriously like that childhood game I used to play where the floor was lava and you couldn’t touch it or you were out. Except when I was a kid I never had to make sure a squirming, tired baby didn’t touch it as well. Or try to get dressed. Or try to take a wet, too-tight swim diaper off some seriously huge thunder thighs. Okay, so it was nothing like that. That childhood game was cake compared to this.

But somehow we did it and before we left I made three mental notes about a swim diaper, sandals and a towel, but then I added a fourth that reminded me that I’d forget them all because I’m now a mom and am no longer capable of remembering more than one thing at a time unless I write it down. Ahh, well. We survived, didn’t we?

Rookie Moms Challenges -- weekly adventures for moms and babiesFind more baby activities with the 52 weekly rookie mom challenges.

If you’re already participating, use hashtag #rookiemoms on instagram or twitter so we can cheer each other on.

First birthday parties are for the parents {Rookie Moms Challenge #52}

I can’t believe it’s been a year! Beyond the fact that my son morphed from an amphibian-like newborn to a caveman toddler in 365 days, I can’t get over the fact that I’ve survived and kept him alive through all of those changes! Rookie Mom’s Challenge #52, “Celebrate Your Way” is aptly named – I’m a firm believer the first birthday party is truly for the parents, not the child. (Although I’m hoping someday my son Eli will look back at the photos and believe it was all out of love for his tiny little self that we threw a huge bash, rather than his mother’s self-indulgent tendencies…)

My husband and I decided to throw a pretty big party for our little one year old, inviting lots of our family and friends to help us celebrate one year of parenthood, er, Eli. Okay, both. But mostly parenthood. Let’s be real.

While we had lots of family staying in town for his party, it was pretty quiet the morning of his birthday, so we filmed waking him up (the CUTEST) and then threw balloons into his crib to celebrate. He LOVED it. They were a huge hit and we had so much fun watching him beat and play with them. Of course, I watched him super carefully to make sure nothing popped to protect him from swallowing any balloon parts and we had a blast throwing them in the air and watching them fall.

Crib balloons, a sweet surprise. First birthday parties are for the parents #rookiemoms #babies #birthday

Our party was scheduled after most children’s afternoon naps, from 4:30-7 p.m. and we ran it open house style. We had lots of young families coming, so we wanted to be sure they felt comfortable to come and go as they pleased. Since we hosted it at a community center, I and a few other people ran over a few hours before the party started to get everything set up and ready to go. Eli stayed home with Grandma to get his beauty rest, with firm instructions to be dressed and at the party by 4:30 p.m. (Seriously, planning this thing felt like I was planning a mini wedding and Eli was the bride.)

We kept everything super simple at the party, no real program and we also asked for no gifts – so there was no formal opening ceremony, but people were generous enough to still allow Eli to make out like a bandit. And to my surprise Mike and I were gifted with a few things as well. From wine and beer to movie tickets, people were so thoughtful to include us in the gifting (And they apparently share my view that the party is really for the parents. Right on.)

First birthday parties are for the parents #rookiemoms #babies #birthday

We did gather everyone together for about 10 minutes, and my husband gave a short little speech thanking everyone for coming to the party and he said some super sweet things about Eli and me.

First birthday parties are for the parents #rookiemoms #babies #birthday

Then before we knew it, it was smash cake time! Eli has a mild obsession with his pointer finger, so there was lots of that going on, poking and prodding the cake before he actually took a taste.

First birthday parties are for the parents #rookiemoms #babies #birthday

First birthday parties are for the parents #rookiemoms #babies #birthday

His cousin also jumped in there to give a play-by-play of Eli’s pointing and to let everyone know ten times over that it was Eli’s birthday. Which really meant, “Aunt Laura and Uncle Mike’s celebration of parenthood,” of course.

SMASH CAKE: First birthday parties are for the parents #rookiemoms #babies #birthday

All in all, the day was so fun and the time and energy to plan his party was totally worth it. I truly do hope Eli looks back on these photos someday and does see how much we loved him, even as a destructive, incoherent, unintelligible, adorable, sweet, sensitive toddler. On the surface, the party may have been to celebrate our survival as parents, but it would have never happened had this little boy never come into our lives – giving us so much joy, delight and happiness – and that’s what we were really celebrating.

First birthday parties are for the parents #rookiemoms #babies #birthday

Rookie Moms Challenges -- weekly adventures for moms and babiesFind more baby activities with the 52 weekly rookie mom challenges.

If you’re already participating, use hashtag #rookiemoms on instagram or twitter so we can cheer each other on.

Making baby-painted greeting cards {Rookie Moms Challenge #6}

When I saw Activity #6, Paint Your Baby’s Feet, I knew I could put my own spin on this for my husband’s birthday card this year and have my son, Eli, make it.

Painting homemade cards with baby: rookie moms challenge 6A little backstory: When we were dating, my husband and I were pretty big gift givers. Everything from skydiving to sleigh rides and even diamond earrings, we both went all out when it came to birthdays, Christmas and the sacred dating anniversary. After we got married and started sharing a bank account, those extravagant gifts quickly fell by the wayside, not because we didn’t want to give the other person special things, but because the other person didn’t want to receive them any more. I’ll never forget the time I purchased a dog sledding experience for my outdoorsy, animal-loving husband, and he sheepishly (and kindly) asked me to return it.

OUCH. But I understood. Because just the year prior, I had asked for a “no-frills” birthday – we we were DINKS (If you haven’t heard that before, that’s Dual Income, No Kids) and generally purchased anything we really wanted whether it was our birthday or not, so I wasn’t in need of anything, and a dinner out spending quality time with my husband was gift enough for me. (My how things change when becoming a self-sufficient adult!)

One of the other things that has fallen to the wayside in the name of saving money is purchasing cards. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather spend my $4.00 on a fully-loaded latte than on a piece of paper. We still write cards for each occasion, but typically they’re homemade.

What we did: I started out by completely covering Eli’s high chair in plastic. We have the Ikea Antilop high chair,(Amazing for only $25!) and while it’s completely wipeable, I wasn’t sure how it would hold up to paint. I also decided to switch him from his usual cloth diapers into a disposable, and it’s a good thing I did – because this activity is messy – awesome – but messy.

To try to control the amount of paint he played with, I took a paper plate with a bunch of paint on it and dipped his hands into it, then let him play. At first, he really didn’t care about the paper, he just wanted to stare at his hand. Please notice the crossed-eyes below. His eyes were stuck like that while he turned his hand around and around for a good five minutes.

Painting homemade cards with baby: rookie moms challenge 6

Eventually, I took his hands and showed him how he could “paint” the paper and he took interest in seeing the colors transfer from his hands to the paper, and the plastic, and his body, and of course, his mouth.

To keep it simple, I just chose two colors, blue and red, and I tried to let the blue dry a bit before I let him move on to the red, just so things wouldn’t turn too brown.

Painting homemade cards with baby: rookie moms challenge 6

Before he started painting, I cut out a couple pieces of cardstock to 8.5” x 5.5” and folded them in half to look like cards, and I kept a handful of additional 8”x10” sheets on hand so he could make a few pieces of art for us to hang on a chalkboard wall we have in our house.

Here are a few of his masterpieces.

Painting homemade cards with baby: rookie moms challenge 6

Painting homemade cards with baby: rookie moms challenge 6

I’m hoping these will be worth billions of dollars someday when Eli grows up to be a master artist. You never know!

Oh, and here are 10 recipes for homemade, edible paint or you can also purchase non-toxic paint in case you want to try this as well!

[Photo credit: Laura Wifler — all rights reserved]

Rookie Moms Challenges -- weekly adventures for moms and babiesFind more baby activities with the 52 weekly rookie mom challenges.

If you’re already participating, use hashtag #rookiemoms on instagram or twitter so we can cheer each other on.

My baby meets live animals {Rookie Moms Challenge #37}

Minnesota winters are tough. Below zero temps, whiteout snowfalls, and a wind that cuts right through even the puffiest puffer coat make it tough to get out of the house – let alone with a baby in tow. But every single time I make the effort, I find it’s completely worth it. Particularly if I stop at a Starbucks along the way.

For my challenge, I chose number 37, Visit a Pet Store, except my son, Eli and I visited a place you can’t purchase any animals from – the Minnesota Zoo. (So really, I did Activity #193, Meet a Monkey at the Zoo.)

Take baby to the Zoo and other outings for Rookie Moms

A friend of mine has a family pass, and she can bring one additional adult for free, and kiddos under age two are free as well, so we thought it’d be fun to get together on a random Monday morning to check out the indoor parts of the Zoo.

Eli is nine months old, and of course the morning of our zoo visit, he woke up about an hour earlier than his usual wake-up time. Because my little ticking time bomb only has about two and a half hours of max wake time between naps, I knew we were in for a tired – and probably fussy – morning.

I didn’t want to change our plans, although I definitely considered it because a tired and fussy baby is never any fun, but I knew it’d be worth it for me and Eli to get out of the house, even if we just spent 10 minutes at the Zoo. After all, it was free.

Take baby to the Zoo and other outings for Rookie Moms

When we arrived, I could tell Eli was excited. He loves looking and touching – well, everything – and I could already hear him oooo’ing and grunting with excitement as soon as we walked in. My friend has a two-year old and a five-month old, so we stopped at a lot of the exhibits to let the two-year old run around and point at the animals. Each time, I’d push Eli right up to the front of the viewing area so he could get a good look at everything that was moving around. And at a few exhibits, I’d pull him out of his stroller so he could get a better look at everything, touching the trees and beating on the railings. At one point, he was craning his neck and back so much, I nearly dropped him right into the Komodo dragon exhibit.

Take baby to the Zoo and other outings for Rookie Moms

By the end of it, Eli was pretty tired and he has a really tough time falling asleep in his stroller – so I knew a nap wasn’t happening while we were out. While I was planning on staying about two hours at the zoo, we only spent an hour and fifteen minutes. (And I had to use LOTS of crackers and cheese to buy me those additional fifteen minutes!) I wanted to stay and catch up with my friend – because conversations with kids take at least six times as long as normal – but I knew I needed to get him home for a nap.

Take baby to the Zoo and other outings for Rookie Moms

Of course, he fell asleep in the car ride home, which meant he had a fifteen minute power nap that made him think he was no longer tired once we got home – but that’s another matter – it was still worth it. My friend and I plan to make it a regular thing and as Eli gets older, I know he’ll love it more and more each time – plus it’s free. Gotta take advantage of generous friends while you can, right?

Related post: Marry your friend for a museum membership

Rookie Moms Challenges -- weekly adventures for moms and babiesFind more baby activities with the 52 weekly rookie mom challenges.

If you’re already participating, use hashtag #rookiemoms on instagram or twitter so we can cheer each other on.