The story behind our pumpkin patch photo {Rookie Moms Challenge #36}

The Challenge: Get A Pumpkin Photo

Back in 2009, when I first met my now husband, Eric, he was playing banjo for a bluegrass band in Connecticut; one of our first weekends together he took me to see a show, and the leader of the band said, “You better not take him back to Long Island for good!” We had just started dating, so it was slightly embarrassing…but low and behold, 5 months later we moved in together, on Long Island.

Five years later, we decided it was time to head back to the vineyard and see the old band; luckily, our visit to Connecticut was during the Harvest Festival! We were excited to introduce Weston to everyone, eat some BBQ, and see pumpkins. On the ride to the vineyard it dawned on me that this was the perfect time to complete Rookie Moms challenge #36, take a pumpkin photo! Heather and Whitney claim that you can’t take a bad photo in a pumpkin patch, and I’m going to one-up them and claim that you can’t take a bad photo in the Autumn! The green grass, the leaves, the perfect setting sun…everyone looks their best (even with BBQ sauce all over their face!).

Take a pumpkin picture with your baby #firsthalloween

Mommy’s Little Extrovert

Weston was a dream baby in the long car ride, and once we got out at the vineyard, his eyes opened wide: children, pumpkins, llamas! We met up with Eric’s old band, and it felt wonderful to finally introduce the little one to people who knew us back when we were newly dating. We planted ourselves right near the band and got some delicious pulled pork to eat for lunch. Weston happily sat in his stroller, pushed up against the table (highchair hack), and when the band started to play, he clapped and shouted like a regular!

Take a pumpkin picture with your baby #firsthalloween

However, the poor kid nearly lost his mind when Daddy unzipped his gig bag and took out his banjo. Weston started yelling, “gra! gra!” (Which, I think means guitar and is his word for any instrument?). He struggled to get out of his stroller, and when Eric started playing with the band, little monster boy ran right up to his dad on stage! Everyone in the harvest festival thought he was hysterical, and when Weston danced, everyone danced with him! Talk about raising an extrovert…

Take a pumpkin picture with your baby #firsthalloween

Stop and Eat the Flowers

After Eric played a few songs with the band, we all went to visit the llamas together. Weston got to pet them, and kept looking back at me with “this is not a dog?” eyes. Since there wasn’t an actual pumpkin patch to wade through, we made the most of the large green field of pumpkins out and about.

Weston thought it would be a good idea to go over to a pumpkin and play, but when I looked back at him, he had a flower in his mouth. The poor little purple leaves sticking out; he made a disgusted face, and I nodded, yes, that is disgusting. We did get him finally, to sit and take a lovely Fall photo with the pumpkin…it took a little prodding, but now we have photographic evidence of our wonderful autumn afternoon. And, really, does life even happen if you don’t have photographic evidence to post on Instagram? I think not.

[All photos: Olivia Lovely Howell]
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Baby’s evening at the art gallery {Rookie Moms Challenge #12}

The Challenge: Enjoy Modern Art (with your baby)

So far, I think one of the most interesting aspects of parenting is getting to know my child’s personality as he navigates the world. Often times I’m quick to assume that Weston’s reactions to situations will be the same as mine, and more often than not, I’m very wrong. Case in point: our adventure to fulfill Rookie Mom Challenge #12, Enjoy Modern Art.

It just so happened that a few months back my mother invited my sister and I to partake in an art show at the gallery where she’s a member. We decided our theme would be “Home is Where the Art Is,” and we would each create a piece of work to represent the theme. My mother, a watercolorist, tried her hand at digital art, while my sister created a watercolor of found objects from my mother’s house. I went to Home Depot, took paint chip samples, and used a square paper punch to create quilt designs. The gallery was having a reception for all the artists involved, so Eric and I packed Weston up and took him over on a cold Saturday.

Baby's evening at the art gallery {Rookie Moms Challenge #12}

The Real Challenge: Don’t Have a Panic Attack
Luckily Weston had fallen asleep in the car because it took about three years to find a parking spot. Braving the sidewalks of ice, we rolled over to the gallery, meeting my sister and her boyfriend on the way. Weston had woken up, and was enjoying the fresh air, so when we arrived at the gallery door, and I saw the room was jam packed with loud people, I took a deep breath and prepared for the worst.

But, the worst from Weston never came! He was totally cool with people watching and scanning the room; at one point my mother wheeled him through the throng of people. At that point both Eric and I were sweating and totally overwhelmed with the people, the sounds, the crowd. Therefore, I was expecting Weston to also get overwhelmed, but as my mother wheeled him back, he gave me an “I’m over this joint,” look and continued fiddling with his stroller straps.

Baby's evening at the art gallery {Rookie Moms Challenge #12}

I was shocked, to be honest. While I was getting claustrophobic, nervous, and full of trepidation, my offspring was calm, cool, and collected. Not what I expected! We made the executive decision to leave as soon as possible, not because of the baby, but because mom and dad couldn’t handle it!

As we finagled our way out to the street, Eric and I regrouped and took a collective deep breath of fresh air.  Weston looked at us with a “what’s the situation?” face and almost looked bored! He was ready to get out and play, and we were ready for a serious nap. Instead, we all went to Mexican food, where Weston was equally cool looking on while we shoved burritos in our faces.

I love watching him find his own stride, his own feelings, likes and dislikes. Tt amazes and delights me when my son has a positive reaction to something I’m nervous or anxious about. Maybe someday he’ll have to hold my hand and lead me through the crowds!

[All photos by me, Olivia, all rights reserved]

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We got rowdy at a pub with our baby {Rookie Moms Challenge #30}

The Challenge: Get Rowdy With the Rest of the Crowd
I took my baby to a pub #rookiemoms

The day before Mother’s Day was a glorious day on Long Island; not knowing if the weather would hold up the next day, I decided it would be best to do the activities I wanted to do on my special day Saturday instead: go out to lunch and walk over to the playground to push Weston on some swings.

Huntington is a town full of family-friendly restaurants and pubs, so I decided this was a perfect opportunity to complete Rookie Mom’s challenge #30, Stumble Into a Family-Friendly Pub. Now, Heather and Whitney claim, “Bars that serve food also service babies. Many of them have noise levels that will enable your family to blend right in….Pull up a high chair and get rowdy with the rest of the crowd.”

I wasn’t sure whether to believe them or not, so I went into this challenge a bit skeptical, but with an open mind.

We decided on Meehans, a restaurant and pub in town, which has just undergone gorgeous renovations. One of these upgrades was to open up the entire front of the restaurant, so you could sit inside, but essentially, be outside as well. This was the perfect blend of atmospheres for my inquisitive, people-watcher son. He could sit out of the sun while watching the cars, trucks, and people go by. We moved some chairs around to make room for the high chair, and even though we were quite loud and galumphing, no one complained or gave us nasty looks!

Hitting the Bottle (baby-style)

I took my baby to a pub #rookiemomsWe sat down, and the boy hit the bottle–the formula bottle–while we ordered burgers and iced tea. A baby boy around the same age as Weston sat down at the table next to us; our son was overjoyed to have a buddy and waved, clapped, and shouted to him. I didn’t bring any food for him to eat, but I ordered avocado on my burger, and had the patient waiter double my avocado. When the food came, we let Weston munch on a sour pickle, while I mashed up my avocado for him to eat. It wasn’t overly loud in the restaurant, but loud enough to cover the sound of the bottle and toys dropping over and over, as well as Weston’s excited screeching. When he started to fuss, we took him on our laps, and as long as he could watch the other baby and cars, he was entertained and let us eat.

So, We Got Rowdy!
Hitting the bottle at a family-friendly pub #rookiemoms

People tell you when you’re nine months pregnant to go out to dinner as much as possible because it’s not the same with a baby….and sure, it’s obviously not the same. I like to think of eating out with a baby like eating-while-on-a-boat. It’s not necessarily the most relaxing journey ever, but it’s doable, with some juggling, lots of quick hand maneuvers, and picking the right place to eat. It was a lovely Mother’s Day lunch, and it was so special because we didn’t have to stress about being quiet, Weston sitting in his seat the whole time, and not throwing toys.

Heather and Whitney were indeed right: getting rowdy with the rest of the crowd is actually more enjoyable and relaxing than boating against the rough waters and trying to be the perfect dinner patrons.

What challenge are you working on?

[Photo credit: Olivia Howell -- all rights reserved]

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Celebrating my inside/out day {Rookie Moms Challenge #40}

The Challenge: Celebrate Baby Being Outside Longer Than Inside!

The Friday before my 37th week of pregnancy, Eric left for work, and said to my stomach, “Son, would you mind coming out sometime this weekend?”  Lo and behold, at 4:00 AM that night, I woke up to my water breaking. I couldn’t believe it, we weren’t even fully packed for the hospital! 15 hours later, my early-bird baby arrived. Thus, instead of completing Rookie Mom Challenge #40, Throw an Inside-Out Party at week 40, we celebrated it at week 37. I was more than happy to deliver early, as I had a not-so-fun bout with gestational diabetes (GD), which made the end of my pregnancy incredibly stressful. Having GD prevented me from doing even more activities/eating more foods than “normal” pregnant women, so on this day of jubilation, I celebrated both Weston being on the outside longer than he was in, and the fact that I don’t have gestational diabetes any more (mine actually went away the second he was delivered).

Grateful All Day Long!

Drinking my coffee in celebration #insideout #rookiemomsI began my day with lying in bed. When I had GD, I had to get up every single day at 7:00AM to test my blood sugar. I quietly lay in bed, with my little guy sleeping soundly next to me, and thought about how grateful I was to be able to simply lie there and not have to prick my finger. Of course, I started breakfast with two cups of strong coffee; I didn’t have coffee during my pregnancy, because the one time I did try some, Weston went wild inside of me. I also treated myself to some delicious runny eggs, and reveled in how gorgeous the yellow yolks are when not fully cooked.

I’m the type of woman who loves rearranging furniture, this was obviously something I couldn’t do while pregnant, as I was afraid of falling or breaking a bone. On our 37 week celebration day, we had to move a bunch of our old furniture to the garage to sell, and when Eric offered to do it, I said, “No, I want to!” I lifted those chairs high over my head, strutted outside, and plopped them down in the garage. It made me feel so strong and capable to do those sorts of activities again!

Celebrating eating precut fruit with wild abandon

But, the part of the day I enjoyed the most was our trip to Target. While there, I picked up containers of pre-cut fruit. While pregnant I had a wicked fear of pre-cut fruits or vegetables. I was constantly afraid of listeria, so I refused to eat any vegetable that I didn’t cut up myself. Fruit was completely off the table due to the diabetes. Do you know what’s it like to go a whole summer without watermelon? Exactly. I devoured my pre-cut fruit, pineapple, blackberries, and watermelon, with utter gratefulness.

Looking back, it is silly how nervous I was when pregnant, but, the expert at anything was once a beginner. I enjoyed my day of celebrating Weston’s 37th week of life; it was special to not only celebrate his birth, but be grateful that I learned so much and made it through the experience a stronger woman.

[Photo Credit: Olivia Howell, all rights reserved]

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Going all Mary Poppins on my bedroom {Rookie Moms Challenge #29}

How a new mom upgraded her own crib
When school was cancelled for a snow day this Spring (argh!), the first thing I did was jump to the list of Rookie Mom challenges and see if there were any I could complete while home with the boy all day long. There was a perfect one: Challenge# 29, Refresh your bedroom.

I took Weston to our bedroom (to picture this challenge appropriately, you need to realize that we all share one room) and fashioned a playpen on the bed for him, using pillows, his Boppy pillow, and many, many toys. He sat there for approximately five seconds. In those five seconds I assessed the situation. I tend to pile clothing on my jewelry box, my dresser, and the floor. I needed to find a way to make these hot-spots less hot and more clean.

Weston quickly decided he would have none of this “playing on his own” thing, so I moved him to the crib with his little piano and mirror, and I sang out loud to him while cleaning. Just as I got most of the clothing put away, he decided he was officially done and wanted to be held. While holding him with my right arm, I used my left to haul things all over the house. Books to the living room, towels to the linen closet, baby gear to his room.

How a new mom upgraded her own crib
Mama Needs a Break!

By the time that was done I was sure my arm was going to fall off. I decided a break was due (and I was starving), so we went to make lunch. He was beyond tired at this point, so we sat, watched some Kardashians, and had a bottle (him, not me). Finally he fell asleep, I transferred him to the crib…and I got more done in the twenty minutes that he napped than the two hours of previous cleaning! I moved my feet faster than I knew they could go (but quietly!), and managed to get all of the clothes away, the floor swept, moved my jewelry box to the corner of the room (no more piles on that!). The room was looking really good! He awoke just as I was about to make the bed, but like the sweetheart he is, just lay in his crib watching his mobile. As I propped the last pillow on the bed he started to fuss, so I picked him up, and like all the baby dolls I’ve ever owned, propped him on the middle of the bed, like a little king.

How a new mom upgraded her own crib
The Verdict (I Think I Can, I Think I Can!)
I realized a few things while embarking on the challenge. First off, it is possible to clean a room (and well!) with a baby in the house. However, it takes you about ten times as long to do it, and a lot more mental energy. Furthermore, I realized that while I think I am efficient with my morning routine, there’s no way I can be as efficient as I want to be with a messy room. However, the best part of the challenge didn’t come until late that night. Weston was getting sleepy, so I took him up to our bed to watch some television and have a bottle; when I walked into the room, it felt like a hotel! I couldn’t believe how hard I had worked, or how much I accomplished. It was such a great feeling to see all my hard work paid off; mostly, it was important for me to see that I could still do it all. At least for that snow day, I did it all.

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I loved YogiBaby but not for the yoga {Rookie Moms Challenge #7}

The Challenge: Go to a Baby Yoga Class

One of the biggest worries I have as a new mom is taking Weston into the greater world. I get a little nervous about people responding to him; if he’s crying, or hungry, or needs to be changed, I don’t exactly know all the protocol yet, and that can be daunting. But, as I found, while completing Rookie Mom Challenge #7, go to a yoga class with the baby, there are places in this world made just for babies, and new parents should take advantage of those locales.

Having done yoga all through high school, I was intrigued, and a little anxious, about taking Weston to a baby class. We decided to attend a YogiBaby class at Absolute Yoga; my friend and her four month old baby girl came with us, and we weren’t really sure what to expect.

My first time at mom and baby yoga #rookiemoms

Yoga Time!

The class was small, and most of the babies were around Weston’s age. It was the first time he had been around so many babies, and I was thrilled to see him looking around, watching, and even making eye contact with the others.

We began the class by warming up the babies and making them feel comfortable. Weston was game and loved having me play with his arms and legs. Once they felt safe and secure, the mamas did a sun salutation and stretching. It was fun to have Weston there with me! Unfortunately, just as in daily life, I regret to say that I didn’t pay much attention to my own body, I was too busy seeing what he was staring at and wondering what he was thinking.

The class had a nice rhythm of mom-time and baby-time. We sang some songs, did some arm workouts with the babies in the mirror (he got a kick out of that!), and even some ab work incorporating the little ones. I was unbelievably impressed with Weston’s behavior. He even turned to see what the teacher was saying when she spoke (son of a teacher, what can I say?!).

My first time at mom and baby yoga #rookiemoms

But, Here’s the Secret…

But, the best part of the class was the freedom we had to just be Moms. If a baby cried, we fed them. If a baby needed a change, we changed. If a baby just needed to stop and be held, he was held. No one judged. No one stared. We smiled at each other, we complimented each other. There were no mommy wars or battles. About forty-five minutes into the class, the room got loud with a general cry-whine in unison from all the babies. We all whipped out toys, bottles, breasts, diapers, and our mommy-voices. No one even batted an eye at each other. In that room, we were safe to be silly mommies.

Even if you’re not fan of yoga, I highly suggest attending a baby yoga class, because let me tell you a secret: it isn’t about the yoga at all. It’s about the calm feeling to be the mom you are at home, in the great big world. Now, if that isn’t spiritual and freeing, I don’t know what is!

My first time at mom and baby yoga #rookiemoms

PS. Someone was a little Yoga-ed out!

Have YOU tried mom and baby yoga yet?

[Photo credit: Olivia Howell -- all rights reserved]

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Overcoming the fear of buying new jeans {Rookie Moms Challenge #35}

The Challenge: Buy New Jeans
When I look back at family photos of myself as a child, there seems to be someone always missing from the scene: my mother. Now that I’m a mother, when someone asks me for a photo of Weston and me, it’s hard to find one. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and I sought out someone to take some professional-style photographs of us together. I booked Molly Leon Photography, and as soon as I decided on a date, my mind naturally went to the dreaded place: what am I going to wear? I took this photoshoot as an opportunity to complete Rookie Mom challenge #35: Buy New Jeans!

Buy jeans that make you feel good - rookiemoms challengeOf course, I procrastinated, and kept telling myself that new jeans were too expensive, or I had black pants to wear. However, I wanted these photos to reflect who I really am, and I’m really a mom who wears blue jeans any chance I get.

See, Heather and Whitney are smart, and they set up this challenge for a reason. After you deliver a baby, your body just isn’t the same, and it can take a while for you to feel any semblance of normalcy within your skin…

I’m still in that mid-way place. I look put-together and in-shape, but I feel odd at times. My pants are either too big, or way too small. The jeans I do have are still just a tad too tight and give me a lovely muffin top.

Must Hide the Muffin Top!

The day before the photos were to be taken, I ventured into The Loft and decided I wasn’t going to buy new jeans at all, but instead I was going to buy some shirts which would cover the muffin top caused by my old jeans. Needless to say, as you can imagine, this only got me frustrated. Loft was having a 40% off everything sale that day, so when I picked up a $60 pair of jeans that I thought were cute, I decided to bite the bullet and try them on. And, interestingly enough, I picked up the size I thought I was, but when I tried them on, they were too big! I tried them in the smaller size, and Hallelujah, I loved them! But, the real test was when I texted my sister a photo from the dressing room, and she responded with “love the jeans A LOT.” Score one for mama!

Photo by Molly Leon | Buy jeans that make you feel good - rookiemoms challenge

Jump In Front of the Camera
I wore the jeans during the photoshoot and felt so comfortable and so much like myself! I didn’t even have much time to plan out an outfit, but because I had the jeans to rely on, I paired them with a simple button-down top, and went barefoot. I want Weston to look back on these photos and see how I wasn’t worried about a muffin top, or my shirt looking funny, or my jeans not fitting right, but that I was overjoyed to be laughing with him, and how much love I have in my eyes. Sometimes, all you need is a new pair of jeans to make you feel like yourself again, stop being so self critical, and jump in front of the camera, instead of skulking behind.

Photo by Molly Leon | Buy jeans that make you feel good - rookiemoms challenge

[Photo Credit: B&W photo by Molly Leon Photography (except for the selfie), all rights reserved by Olivia Howell, Molly Leon, and Rookie Moms]

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Verdant bliss for mama {Rookie Moms Challenge #22}

A joyful baby outing to the nursery with Olivia of Lovely #rookiemoms

So much to see!

It had been one of Those Weeks. Those weeks where you have a melt-down in the car in the Target parking lot, then proceed to stress-eat an entire bag of mixed nuts while shopping in Target and feel sick…you know, that brand of week. I really tried to be grateful and let it wash over me; I really tried to wake up Monday morning with a new outlook. But, Monday was grey and rainy.

On my drive to work, I decided that my world had been too grey, and I needed some splashes of color to lighten everything up. Where does one add color to their life? Why, anywhere there are flowers, that’s where! So, after school, Weston and I hit up Main Street Nursery to complete Rookie Moms challenge #22, Visit Another Kind of Nursery–One With Flowers. Main Street Nursery isn’t just a nursery, they have a gorgeous assortment of gifts, a bakery, and a general store. What better place to spend a rainy afternoon, right?

The Revelation: Treat Yo’ Self!

A joyful baby outing to the nursery with Olivia of Lovely #rookiemoms

Weston was sleeping when we arrived, but as soon as we stepped out of the car, and he felt the whipping wind, he awoke in awe of the gorgeous flowers and all of their colors. It helped my mood tremendously to see him in such amazement! If only we all could look at the world through the eyes of a 7 month old–everything is brand new to them! We headed inside and wandered through the winding rooms, looking at all the home decor and gifts. Weston couldn’t stop turning his head, looking this way and that. I gazed at the flowers, sighed, and said to Weston, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have some flowers?” It then dawned on me, for the first time ever in my life, that I could be the bearer of happiness…and buy myself flowers.

Verdant Bliss, Mama!

Verdant bliss: a joyful baby outing to the nursery with Olivia of Lovely #rookiemoms

I didn’t need to wait to receive flowers when I could provide my own colorful joy! We went up to the extremely kind ladies at the front and told them we would be getting some flowers to take home. I took Weston to the flower window and we both scanned our eyes back and forth, deciding what to get. We decided on white tulips with lots and lots of greenery and some sunflowers.

Plush, happy, signs of Spring!

It’s amazing how a simple task like picking out your own flowers, and bringing some verdant bliss into your life, can change your entire outlook. As I watched my son make goofy faces at his reflection in all the mirrors, I realized, more than anything, I want him to know how to make his own soul happy. I want him to find joy in the little things, like tulips, or mirrors, or delicious smells. Our job as parents isn’t to create a bubble-world in which nothing bad can ever happen, it’s to help our children foster their own sense of happiness, so when those bad things do happen, they can find their sense of joy again.

A joyful baby outing to the nursery with Olivia of Lovely #rookiemoms

When Eric got home that night, he asked who bought me flowers, and for the first time in my life, I smiled and said, “me!” And that, that filled my soul with joy.

[Photos by Olivia Howell, all rights reserved]

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

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I was a tourist in my own town {Rookie Moms Challenge #24}

There is nothing I love more than exploring new small towns full of local stores and delicious eats. When I saw Rookie Moms Challenge #24: Be a tourist in your own town, I loved the idea of “visiting” my own hometown.

I took this challenge very seriously. And by seriously, I mean, I packed as if we were going out for an entire day; I googled, “Tourist Attractions in Huntington, NY”; and I acted as though I was dropped off in a new city to simply explore and enjoy the sunshine with my guy.

Always have to visit a bookstore

Huntington, NY with a baby

I grew up in Huntington, but back then, there wasn’t much to it. In the last 30 years, it has become known as “The Little Apple,” and is a booming town full of families. We started down New York Avenue (see, I even looked at street signs, like a tourist would!), to Book Revue. Book Revue, opened in 1977, is Long Island’s largest independent bookstore; they have an eclectic mix of new and used books, famous guest speakers weekly, and a beyond wonderful children’s section. Luckily, for this mama, they also have a cafe! I loaded up on iced coffee, and sped over to the children’s section. Weston wasn’t into playing much, but his eyes did wander all over the place. Tuesday mornings they have toddler time, so I’ll take him back there this summer.

Music, anyone?

Things to do in Huntington, NY with a baby

Next up was a new attraction for our little town, The Paramount Theater. Just opened a few years ago, where an old theater once was, The Paramount has taken the Long Island music scene by storm. With headliners such as Willie Nelson, Whoopie Goldberg, and Rob Thomas, you can’t drive past the theater without seeing a long line out of the door. When we strolled up, we could hear the bass booming from outside the doors. Weston’s eyes got wide, and though we didn’t go inside, we snapped some photos, like real tourists, and read the list of upcoming shows.

And, toys, of course!

Things to do in Huntington, NY

The last stop was a personal addition of mine: Little Switzerland Dolls. It is a special place to me, because I used to wander in with my mother and grandmother to occasionally pick out a doll. They have a handpicked selection of lovely toys, and boy oh boy, did Weston know exactly where we were when we stopped in! Owned by the gregarious Lily; she never forgets a face, or toy preference. I noticed they had the classic Fisher Price record album set, and made a mental note to come back.

No souvenirs for us!

Last, like a real tourist, I stopped into a local boutique children’s clothing store. And, like on most vacations, the owners scoffed at the baby stroller, and then had the audacity to charge…$400 for a baby raincoat. Oh, don’t worry the t-shirts were $60. Totally reasonable. Ha! We promptly walked out!

I loved getting to see my town through a tourist’s eyes. It was thrilling to show my son the places I frequented growing up, and further, to show him what the future of his town looks like. I highly recommend this challenge, as it makes you see the world a little differently, and inspires a new-found love for your hometown.

[Photo credit: Olivia Howell -- 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.

Stop talking about sleep! {Rookie Moms Challenge #21}

When my friend, a fellow new mom, told me that she gave up complaining for Lent, I thought she was a genius. So, instead of complaining about how my child was sleeping, I simply talked nonstop about it. Eventually, I had completely exhausted and bored myself talking about Weston’s sleep patterns, so I thought it was an apt time to complete Rookie Mom Challenge #21: Talk About Something Besides Sleep.

Challenge Accepted!
I picked a very busy day to shift gears: Weston and I would be attending MommaCon; a brand new convention all about things to do with babies and children on Long Island. We would be attending with a friend and her baby, and she was bringing friends. I figured it was a perfect time to use the conversation starters Heather and Whitney suggested!

Maternity leave challenge: stop talking about sleep #rookiemoms

Distract Yourself, Mama
I decided my one rule was that I couldn’t bring up Weston’s sleep; if someone asked me about it, I could either change the subject, or answer and move on. I quickly realized that the best way to not think about your child’s sleep (or lack thereof, in my case!) is to distract yourself! Do something different, out of the way, and new. We experienced our longest drive, went to a totally new place, and partook in a new activity.

The convention was amazingly cool! I got information on music classes, tons of freebies, talked about doing fun fashion things on my blog, and didn’t think about Weston’s sleep habits at all! I used the conversation starters with the other new moms, asking about their jobs, their high school experiences, and what their children ate. It was really nice to get to know my friend a little better (I had had no clue where she even grew up!), as well as meet other new moms and trade some ideas with them.

Maternity leave challenge: stop talking about sleep #rookiemoms

It’s A Process…
After about an hour, the little one started to lose his cool (it was very loud!), so we hopped outside to listen to some music. I have to admit, it is so ingrained in me to discuss his sleeping, that when my friend asked, “is he sleeping?” I quickly quipped back with, “Well, inconsistently! Some nights, yes, some nights, no, some nights in his crib, some in our bed…” She smiled and said, “Um, I meant right now? Is he sleeping in his stroller?”

Head smack.

Through intentionally changing the subject and not dwelling on sleep (or sleeplessness!), I realized how the constant chatter about sleep makes me feel frustrated, sometimes embarrassed, and confused. To be honest, most of the time I think I’m rocking the Rookie Mom thing, but when it comes to sleep “issues,” I go back to feeling like a clueless kid.

Yes, this is going to be a process, but I’ve got to curb it when it comes to talking about sleep: his or mine. Because, really, it isn’t fair to Weston: he’s an amazing, funny, smart, silly little boy who deserves for me to talk about all the positive things, not the one negative thing he’s maybe, sometimes, having some issues with!

So, I dare you, Rookie Moms: take the “sleep talk” out of your vocabulary and see what happens to your spirit; I’m excited to stop talking about it, that’s for sure!

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.

Bring my baby to the indoor farmers market {Rookie Moms Challenge #20}

Visit a farmers market with a baby: rookie moms challenge 20

The Challenge: Visit a farmer’s market with my baby
One of the words I teach my students is extemporaneously; coming from the Latin tempus, meaning time, it is defined as doing things on the spur-of-the-moment. Know what goes out of your life when you have a baby? The idea of doing anything extemporaneously. Which is why, when my sister showed up to hang out on a recent Sunday, and I exclaimed “let’s go to the farmer’s market!” she thought I had lost my mind. “Are you sure?” she asked quietly. We both looked at Weston, who was rubbing his eyes and getting grouchy.

We had planned to hang out at home, but I was tired of being home! Besides, it wasn’t insanely cold out, and I wanted to see what the local indoor winter’s market was like. “Yep!” I replied, and a “let’s roll” came out of my mouth before my mind could change itself. The market was at a local elementary school; we had both never been there, so we relied on GPS and arrived within minutes. During that time, Weston had fallen asleep in the back, so we did the best car-to-stroller transition we could, and we were successful!

Visit a farmers market with a baby: rookie moms challenge 20

To Market, To Market…
The farmer’s market was small, but had a plethora of interesting local vendors to check out. It was quite loud, there was a musician playing, but Weston kept on sleeping. We took a lap around the gym and saw boutique dog biscuits, local raw honey, Long Island apples, all-natural power bars, and lots of baked goods. I kept the stroller hood down as far as it could go, to keep the light out of his eyes, and as we wheeled him around the room, people would smile at the little sleeping boy in the blue hat. It was a different feeling being at the market with my child; instead of thinking about what I would want to eat, I thought about what I could buy to make for him! Would he like local eggs? Apples? I got an excited feeling thinking about all the fun we would have together, as he grows up, going to farmer’s markets and exploring the goods.

Visit a farmers market with a baby: rookie moms challenge 20

I’m Alive!
We wandered over to a bread seller and my sister got a day-old soft pretzel for free; we split a cup of coffee, and stood around for a few minutes people watching. It was so peaceful and I felt a contentedness that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I was happy, out in the world, with my son. He was cuddled up and sleeping; I felt in control of the situation. I can handle this “parenting thing”; better yet, I could handle this “going out and doing something without planning situation.” When you become a parent, I feel like everything is not only thought out in minute detail, but discussed until you simply cannot discuss it anymore. By deciding on doing something last minute, it allowed for my freedom of creativity to come back. It sounds so cliche, but by switching up my “mommy-mindset,” I felt so alive again! Now I know that I can put my son in the car and explore the world, because if something happens, it happens, and we can always just get back in the car and go on home!

[All photos taken by the Lovely sisters. 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.

Stroller adventures in the snow {Rookie Moms Challenge #15}

Leave your neighborhood: rookie moms challenge 15

The Challenge: leave your neighborhood!

There is only so long a rookie mom can stay inside during a cold winter before she just about loses her mind. So, on a recent Friday, I decided we needed to just do it: go out and walk. I know that seems like a simple task, but with the winter we’ve had in New York, even just walking in our neighborhood was near impossible. I decided this was a perfect opportunity to complete Rookie Moms Challenge #15, leave your neighborhood! We drove east to Northport, a quaint village near the water.

My mother did come along for this challenge, but let it be known that all she did was play the role of photographer; she didn’t even hold doors for me!

Follow that rookie mom!

The hard thing about taking a baby somewhere unfamiliar is all the questions: where to park? where can I change him? where’s a warm store to duck into? I put my anxieties aside, bundled him up, and off we went. Weston loves being outside, so that helped a lot; he was happy to watch cars and feel the cool breeze on his face.

When leaving your own neighborhood, follow another rookie mom!

I started over to the playground to try out a baby swing, as per the challenge. On the way there, something wonderful happened: I met another rookie mom! She lives in the area, has an adorable baby girl a few months younger than Weston, and was really open and nice. It’s nerve-wracking meeting other new moms. We traded stories for a few minutes about how the babies don’t sleep, and I said how I would love to get her number and maybe we could meet up sometime. She was more than happy to swap numbers. I was really proud of myself, and of Weston, who gave her a giant flirtatious grin.

It’s a big world, kid!

Alas, the playground was covered in snow, so we walked over to the bakery. I was a little nervous that he would lose his cool when we got inside the delicious smelling bakery, but he was entranced by the smells, the kids, the bright colors. We got coffee and sat down; he started to fuss a bit, so I pulled out the bottle I had already made for him and calmly fed him.

He finished his bottle and hung out on my lap; kids and old ladies were waving at him from all over the bakery, as he smiled and opened his eyes wide at everything. A student of mine and his mother came over, and we ended up chatting with them for a long time; Weston was enthralled by my student and kept smiling and jumping for him. I was really proud of my boy! He was becoming a real person in the big world. Once he started to rub his eyes we packed it in and headed home.

Leave your neighborhood: rookie moms challenge 15

I was in shock with how easy the whole outing was. He was happy and content from start to finish. And, I did it all on my own. Stroller, diaper bag, ice, snow, baby; that was all me!

This trip was totally a confidence booster and I’m already excited for our next big adventure.

[All photos taken by my mom, 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.