Stop being anxious & start swimming {Rookie Moms Challenge #27}

The Challenge: Swim with your baby

Taking my baby for a swim #rookiemoms

Having grown up on an island, everyone around me, including myself, learned to swim very early in life. So, I was thrilled when I saw that taking Weston to a swim class was actually Rookie Mom Challenge #27: Go Swimming! Luckily for everyone involved, Laura already completed this challenge, and having read her post, I knew what to bring and what not to bring. I signed Weston up for a 6-session baby swim class, and my girlfriend and her 7 month old daughter signed up too (phew!).

I’m the type of person who gets incredibly anxious about stupid little things, but tackles huge things really well. The morning of the first class, I texted my friend, “I’m so confused! Help! Do I bring the stroller or not? Do I bring both the diaper bag and the swim class bag? Where do I park?” Being the understanding fellow new-mama she is, she called me right away and reassured me that everything would be fine, and if it wasn’t, we’d figure it out. Friends, man. [Read more…]

Activity #128: Put your toddler to work

My Ah-ha moment
I realized I was onto something one day while making a bottle for my 15-month old, Weston. I mused out loud that I needed to grab a water bottle to mix with his formula. Weston had heard me, walked over to the other side of the kitchen, grabbed a bottle, and came back to hand it to me like a magic little elf. I was floored! I raised my eyebrow and quickly realized something: if he can fetch a water bottle…what else could he help with?

When you Google, “Teaching Your Toddler Chores” you get a zillion Pinterest posts about the various ways to implement chores in your toddler’s life; but, I’m here to teach you a lesson. There’s really only one way to teach your child to be helpful: you have to be lazy. The lazier you are, the better.

Let me back up and explain. Weston’s a dynamo of a little boy, the kid doesn’t stop moving, ever. Even in his sleep. Which means that all day, every day, it’s the “mama-show!” You know the drill, right? The dancing, singing, playing, cooking, cleaning show? So, when I collapse on the couch with a cup of coffee around 4PM every day, there’s just not that much I would get back up for.

Put your toddler to work [Read more…]

Adventures in Baby Yoga {Rookie Moms Challenge #7}

As a new mom, one of the biggest worries I have 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, take a postnatal yoga class with your baby, there are places in this world made just for babies. We 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. I convinced a friend to join us with her four-month-old baby girl; none of us knew what to expect.

Yoga Time!

Going to a Baby Yoga Class {Rookie Moms Challenge #7}

[Read more…]

Things to do on Long Island with babies and toddlers

Now that my son is a toddler, we’ve been exploring new and exciting places to go on Long Island; pack the kids in the car and check out these family friendly places in the suburbs of Manhattan.

Monday: Free play
Start out the week with some free play at The Sandbox Playspace. Located in the heart of Huntington village, The Sandbox, run by a husband and wife team, is a joy for kids through five years old, and quite relaxing for parents. With Jack Johnson on the stereo, your child in eye and ear shot, and no screens blasting out annoying cartoons, you can chat with other parents, and even head into their adorable snack room for a break. They also have a breastfeeding room which overlooks the play area! You can drop in and play for $12/child, from 10am-5pm.

Where to take your toddler on Long Island: Sandbox Playspace

Tuesday: Huntington for books
Book Revue in Huntington has toddler time every Tuesday at 11AM. Once a month they have Jeff Sorg, a children’s musician, come in for circle time. Book Revue is family friendly, with accessible bathrooms, and a huge children’s section. When you’re done with toddler time, head over to their cafe for a snack and cup of coffee; they have high chairs, and room for strollers, too. [Read more…]

Toddler music time & other people’s kids {Rookie Moms Challenge #32}

There are so many aspects of being a parent to contemplate. For example, the concept of being a “mom in the world.” How will you, as a mother, act in the world? How will you treat other people’s children? I had to face these big questions when we completed Rookie Moms challenge #32: Patronize your bookstore’s events for kids.

Weston and I are big fans of Book Revue in Huntington, so I was thrilled when a day off from school coincided with toddler music time.

Bookstore events for tots #rookiemoms maternity leave challenge

Will the circle be unbroken?
I underestimated how popular a free music class would be, because when we showed up five minutes early, it was already jam-packed. Everyone was sitting in a circle. I parked my stroller, and didn’t love the fact that I’d have to leave it and go sit somewhere else. I pulled Weston out and stood there, a little nervous and flabbergasted. There was simply no where to sit! I looked around and around the circle, yet no one made eye contact, or offered to move over a little so we could sit down. [Read more…]

I invaded my aunt’s workplace with a baby {Rookie Moms Challenge #11}

Being a new parent is all about surprises. Often I think Weston is going to do one thing, and he flips my assumptions on their head and does the total opposite. The other day, for example, we were heading to meet up with a friend and her baby for coffee, but we had a few extra minutes to waste. He had been sleeping in the car, and though it was cold outside, I decided to brave the polar vortex and stroll down the street to visit my aunt at work. Perfect chance to complete Rookie Moms Activity #11: Interrupt Someone’s Work Day!

My aunt Leslie works nearby as the office manager for a dentist’s office (my dentist, Dr. Lamberg). Now, in all my time parenting Weston, he has never once stayed asleep in the carseat-to-stroller transfer. So, I was prepared for the inevitable with his toys, blanket, and bottle…but when I took him out of the car, he stayed sleeping! And guess what? As we walked fast through the whipping wind, he stayed sleeping! And even more crazy? As I bumped the stroller into the dentist’s office door frame about thirty times, he stayed sleeping! I was beyond shocked.

Interrupt someone's work day: rookie moms challenge 11

My aunt was thrilled to see us, and had a few minutes to chat. Aunt Leslie and the dental hygienist were cooing over him, and the kid just kept on sleeping. The whole time, I was a little nervous he was going to wake up,  become afraid of where he was and start to wail, but I rocked the carriage back and forth, enjoying my few minutes out of the cold.

Always Surprising Me!
Just then, Dr. Lamberg came rushing in from out of the cold and was pleasantly surprised to see us. As he was talking to us, Weston’s eyes began to flutter; my heart took a leap, and I was all prepared to wheel him away and not embarass myself in front of my dentist. But, he opened his eyes, saw my aunt, saw me, and started to just look around. He didn’t smile, but he didn’t make a peep either. I kept on waiting for the bottom lip to start his famous quiver, but he just laid still, hands at his side, tucked under the blanket, taking in his surroundings. The dentist started to dance for him, but my usually silly and goofy kid just stared wide-eyed, his lips in a straight line.

Interrupt someone's work day: rookie moms challenge 11
It’s A Small World, After All

Within a few minutes, our visit was over. We had to go meet up with my friend, so I tucked the blanket under him, gave our kisses goodbye, and headed back into the cold. I don’t know why I’m always so shocked when he doesn’t cry. Why do I always expect him to cry? I guess I expect he’ll be scared, shocked, or confused by his surroundings and lose it; but, he never does! It was so nice to add a little extra flair into our day by seeing a loving face of a family member; and, it was great for my little boy to see that the world may be big, but there’s always a face of a loved one near by.

[All photos property of Olivia Howell]

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I brought a musician’s baby to baby music class {Rookie Moms Challenge #41}

Just so you know, it is not my fault that these challenges are being presented to you all out-of-order. Please blame Heather.

One of the pitfalls of being a working mother is missing out on all of those morning “mommy and me” classes. However, being a teacher, I do get summers off to enjoy a few weeks of a class with my boy. This is why I was so grateful that Not Just Art, offered a “drop-in” week during my Spring Break and we could complete Rookie Mom’s Challenge #41: to attend a free music class. My husband is a musician, and we’ve been handing Weston mini-instruments since day one, which is why I was beyond thrilled to be taking him to a music class where we could sing, dance, and meet people. For me, the excitement wasn’t as much about the class, as it was about watching my son respond to and interact with both the music, and children his own age.

Try a free baby music class #rookiemoms

We attended a morning class with my friend and daughter; the class was mostly girls, one of which toddled up to Weston, and in true boy style, Weston totally ignored her. The little girl got fed up, said, “ugh!” to him and walked away. Her nanny was horrified, I thought it was hysterical. Nevertheless, he did love standing up and watching all of the other children; his eyes got wide as each new student came into the room. Miss Kristen was our teacher, and she was wonderful. The class began with a rousing rendition of “The Hello Song,” which Weston absolutely adored. Ever since then, we’ve been practicing every day and he really does remember it! [Read more…]

Our free portrait left me feeling uneasy {Rookie Moms Challenge #33}

The Challenge: Get a free 8×10 photo taken (Or build your own studio)

Nabbing a free baby portrait: the shooting #rookiemomsGrowing up, my family was not the type to get professional photos taken; school photos aside, we were more of the “grab the camera as the baby is running around naked” type of family. We have an abundance of family photos, taken by my parents, but not one is a professionally taken photograph. When I saw Rookie Mom Challenge #33, Get a Free Baby Portrait Taken, it actually made me nervous!

  • Where would I do this?
  • How would Weston act?
  • How would I act?

I love taking photos of my son, and I think I’m pretty good at it, so with some trepidation, I marched forward to the photo studio to complete my challenge. We have a lack of photo studios on Long Island, but stumbled upon CLIX Portrait Studio; though they are not currently running any free photo promotions, I asked if they would help me complete my challenge with a free 8×10, and they were more than happy to help! [Read more…]

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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Find more baby activities for any season 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.

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]

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

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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]

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.

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]

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.