Meet awesome mom Jillian and an app for moms who like to be connected

Our guest today is Jillian Darlington, aka Taylor’s mom, who lives in San Diego, CA. Jillian is the founder of the MomCo app, and this is the story.

Jillian Darlington awesome mom from momco

The MomCo app was inspired by my own experiences as 1) a new mom trying to connect with other moms in my community AND 2) an owner of an indoor playground trying to find a way to advertise to my target demographic that was within my budget.

I was young when I had my son. None of my friends had children, so I worked hard for the first two years to build my amazing group of mom friends. I was fortunate to have made them,  because a few years later my marriage fell apart.

Without the support I received from my mom friends, there is no way that I would have survived my grueling divorce, raising a toddler completely on my own, and being a small business owner. [Read more…]

Activity #193: Meet a monkey at the zoo

toddler at the zoo

It’s time to introduce your baby to lions and lizards. And won’t you feel like an official parent when you brag that you take your child to the Zoo?

My friend Sarah gets credit for this one. “It’s fun for parents, too,” she says. Honestly, I think it’s mostly fun for parents. Even at 12 months, Julian could not pick the animals out of their environments with his untrained eyes. We’d stand right in front of an enclosure with giraffes in it, and couldn’t be sure that he could see them. He did see a lot of running water that excited him, though, and there are areas for babies and toddlers to crawl around.

Just like the children’s museums, when you join, you get to go whenever you want all year. My local Zoo membership includes free parking and a few other benefits. Also, the Zoo is a non-profit, so membership is a feel-good thing (not to mention a tax deduction). The money helps take care of the animals. Since as a mother, you now have a Responsibility to all things living, including those startling reptiles your child will soon be fond of, this is a Good Thing.

10 Things to do with a baby in Oakland, CA

 

When we’re not busy raising kids or writing RookieMoms.com, we manage {510} Families, a website for East Bay parents. Whitney and I created the resource we wish we had when home with our firstborns wondering what the heck to do with our time on maternity leave: a calendar with drop-in events and fairs (always ready to answer the old “It’s 10am on a Tuesday, where should we go?” question) and a ton of great free advice about places to go with little ones.

Together with our friend Lisa we offer you some of our favorite spots in Oakland, CA for baby mamas. We’d be thrilled if you made your weekly plan of attack using our notes:

  1. Baby Brigade at the New Parkway Theater @ 474 24th Street, Oakland, CA 94612 . Officially, you are welcome to bring your baby at any time, but Baby Brigade showings are specifically set aside for parents with infants with changing tables set up and an audience that understands if there are a few screams or whimpers along the way. See calendar.
  2. Then Comes Baby @ 3657 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610. New moms can stop in during drop-in times for a comfortable place to nurse or sip coffee. Owner Sabrina is adding post-partum classes and services all the time. See our introduction of Then Comes Baby before you stop by.

Places to go with babies in Oakland
Then Comes Baby lounge area
[Read more…]

Almost as good as a wall full of elevator buttons: Open Gym

I can tell by my local mom’s group discussion boards that people with toddlers are the most stir-crazy of all the people. I get that. How long can you stay in a house with someone who may, at any moment, throw a spoon full of food at you and not feel one lick of remorse?

I watched a toddler open my lowest dresser drawer, violently pull all the pajamas out of it into a heap of tangled garments on the floor, and then throw a fit because there were no more clothes to pull out.

“Where can we go that has a bottomless drawer of pajamas?” I thought. But there is no such place.

If I were the queen of the world, there would be an indoor playspace for toddlers packed with all the things they actually want to do. None of these bullshit ball pit distractions.

How about room where one of the walls is entirely covered with elevator buttons? Why don’t they install that in a kids “play area”?

Or how about a train table store, where the whole place is wall-to-wall train tables and none of the trains are lost or broken — and you’re not expected to buy anything. And there’s foot massages for the moms.

Since Super Duper Elevator Train Toddlerland with Massages for Moms not a thing, let’s focus on practical solutions for getting out of the house until naptime.

How to find an Open Gym playtime near you

 

Let’s find you a place to go using one of the following strategies:

1. An indoor padded warehouse designed for jumping. Look up these terms to find one near you: “trampoline park (your city)” or “open jump bounce house”. National chains include Pump It Up and Sky Zone. While some of these joints are reserved for birthday parties only, many have open jump hours where you pay an admission price. Typically there is an area where the under fives are protected from any big kids who might trample them accidentally or on purpose.

2. A gymnastics training studio where the gymnasts are at school all day. While your kid may be too young to learn a balance beam routine, she’d probably like to hurl herself onto a gymnastics mat. Many gyms make extra money during the middle of the day by hosting “Open Gym” which means you can pay to enter and trail around after your child for an hour or two while she explores all the equipment. Google for gymnastics in your area and then check the websites to see if the schedules will answer your prayers.

3. A “family fun center”. This will take some sleuthing. What we’re looking for is a place where big kids rack up a jillion tickets playing skeeball and turn them in after a couple hours for a plastic parachute man. Some of these places will have a special room or set of activities for little kids. Again, they want to make money while big kids are at school, so if they know what’s good for them, they install a coffee bar and a toddler room with kiddie rides. What’s good about it? Everyone else there is in the same boat as you. What’s horrible about it? The lighting, germs, and electronic sounds. If you’re an outdoorsy person, a minimalist, or would rather be out hiking or stomping in puddles, I get it, and this post isn’t for you, anyway.

Things for toddlers to do

The Fantasy: Outdoor Organic Popsicle Land Elevator Button World

Need more ideas? Check out our list of things to do with a toddler before s/he turns 2.

[Photos: Eric Fung at Pump it Up used with permission; Whitney’s fantasyland also used with permission]

These pumping bras are for nursing too, and they’re pretty

Hands-Free Pumping Bra

A hands-free pumping bra is on the Rookie Moms’ short list of real must-haves for new moms. At a birth and baby event in Berkeley last month, I met Emily, founder of The Dairy Fairy, who has even loftier goals. On her list of must-haves is a pretty hands-free pumping bra, and so she invented one. From her website:

Pretty Pumping Bra

We’ve developed an all-in-one nursing and pumping bra and tank that lets you nurse, hands-free pump, and adjust for fluctuating breast size. Best of all? It lets you look like the beautiful mother that you are.
Anyone who has pumped at work with a hands-free bra knows that it’s a hassle to take it on and off. If you were old school, like me, you just pumped from your nursing bra, but held the bottles and got nothing else done, except for developing cramps from trying to hold a phone or device at the same time.
Lacy nursing bra
Emily designed her Dairy Fairy bras to be worn all day. The adjustable cup size closure you see around the rib cage enables women who change sizes throughout the day to get the right amount of support, before and after pumping or nursing. Dairy Fairy even has matching underwear for those who are choosy about their undergarments.
Save 20% on The Dairy Fairy’s website with promo code BOOBIEPALOOZA.

Why my entire home will soon be covered in wall decals

I am in the throes of a kitchen remodel, and it’s beginning to hurt. The work is running late, over budget, and having sparkling new cabinets makes me yearn for new overhead light fixtures and a waterfall of other Things that are out of scope for this project.

Since we have ivory cabinets and are getting grey countertops, I wanted to plan for something with a sense of humor for our updated kitchen, a contrast with the reserved color palette and style. My friend (and Rookie Moms contributor) Karen has a glorious orange stove that screams, “You can’t make me grow up!” and I want a little taste of that in our space, too.

I discovered The Lovely Wall on Etsy and became obsessed. The shop sells vinyl wall decals that can be repositioned whenever you like. The genius is the simple geometric shapes.

How to decorate with wall decals

lovelywall-dots

lovelywall-triangles [Read more…]

Amazon Mom doesn’t know my husband

I love Amazon, and so does my husband. He is all about efficiency and setting things up to take care of themselves. We never run out of vitamins, toothpaste, or hair product, thanks to whatever he does on Amazon.

I have a more flexible schedule, so while I’m more likely to pick up toilet paper at a store during the day, Ryan keeps himself stocked in shaving cream via the Internet. For convenience sake, when he’s placing an order, he uses his computer science brain to optimize the order by throwing in stuff we’re going to need eventually, like sunscreen.

Taking care of our family is one of his skillz.

Amazon Mom, a subscription program from Amazon.com, encourages parents to “set it and forget it” when it comes to diapers. Or does it not encourage parents, but rather moms, due to the name of the service?

Amazon includes this sentence in the description on their website: Amazon Mom is open to anyone, whether you’re a mom, dad, grandparent or caretaker.

So why is it called Amazon Mom?

While Heather and I created this website for moms, because we were focused on a phase of life that included postpartum healing and breastfeeding, we have another website for Bay Area parents called 510Families.com. We thought long and hard about the name of that site, and because the content focuses on local activities for kids, we did not want to exclude men from the name. Wouldn’t any parent be interested in finding out what family-friendly weekend events are coming up? We think so.

By offering discounts and conveniences on diapers and other baby supplies, Amazon is providing a great service to families. No parent wants to run out at 7 am to pick up diapers to leave at their baby’s daycare. Hence the name Amazon uses in the UK and other countries, Amazon Family, for the same service, is a better choice.

This matters, you guys. We have to break open the assumption that diapers and shopping are women’s issues. Even if they are in your house, we have to welcome participation and accountability from parents of both genders. And, dads who stay home, or take on more childcare, diapering, or shopping duties, shouldn’t be made to feel that they are playing Mom when they do those things.

Dad changing diapers

The dad blogging community has been getting vocal on this issue, asking Amazon to make the change. If you would like to see Amazon change the name, you can sign this petition.

Please note that I am not suggesting a boycott of Amazon, because I have to live here.

Related: Are these dad stereotypes true, fair, or productive?

Second birthday party ideas

Two-year old birthday parties are an exercise in herding cats. You can hire an entertainer, serve an aesthetically pleasing and/or well-balanced meal, and provide hands-on activities for your little guests, but it doesn’t mean they will appreciate it. In fact, some may cry or scream “MINE!” for the better part of your event. That’s why we encourage you to take it easy.

These are some sanity-saving suggestions for planning a second birthday party.

Easy tips for second birthday parties

Skip the meal. If you can get away with it, host your party when neither lunch nor dinner is expected. Serve fruit, crackers, pretzels, and finally cake or cupcakes. (I always feel compelled to serve a meal because we usually have out-of-town grandparents at our parties and I have to feed them anyhow, so if our party is at home, I order from a taqueria: everything you need for guests to make their own burritos, from tortillas, beans, and meat to cheese, salsa and guacamole.)

I like the snack line up below where the pretzels have been poured into a toy truck.

Two-year old birthday party ideas: Construction-themed party

The rest of this construction-themed party is way too adorable, so proceed with caution.

Two-year old birthday party ideas: fun snacks

Cupcake papers can hold individual snack portions and make them feel special. (This idea is from an amazing LEGO party.)

Simplify the theme or just don’t have one. If buying everything Dora is easy for you and makes you happy, go for it. If one key element will satisfy your toddler, such as Dora on the cake, do that, and free yourself from weeks of curating Nick Jr. merchandise. Other themes that offer flexibility, especially for the licensed character-adverse, are stripes, animals, or transportation. I usually have no theme at all, other than a color scheme — red and white for Scarlett who was born on the 4th of July; orange and black for Julian, born October 29th. I don’t think my kids have ever demanded a theme. This is not a Bar Mitzvah, guys.

Searching “rainbow party” on Pinterest may leave you feeling inadequate, but picking one simple point of focus for the rainbows could just be a 20-minute project.

Two-year old birthday party ideas: rainbow-veggie tray

Crepe paper is a cheap and easy way to decorate with big impact. Two-year olds will enjoy running through the “curtain” (and tearing it down.)
Two-year old birthday party ideas: rainbow-crepe paper decor

Let them swing, bounce, dig or splash. Outdoors is ideal for two-year old parties. If at all possible, set up a sand table, water table, or trampoline. A playground party will do the trick as well. Winter birthday parents might consider children’s gyms or children’s museums where kids can roll up their sleeves and get involved. Remember when we hid plastic animals in the sand table at Scarlett’s fourth birthday party? Two-year olds are too young to socialize, share, or play cooperatively. Empower them to have a good time on their own terms and the party will be a success.

Birthday Party Activity: Sand Table

Two-year old birthday party ideas

photo sources: truck, puffs, rainbow veggies, crepe paper, sand table

Start training your toddler for Easter 2015

How to get ready for an Easter Egg hunt with toddlers
How to prep a toddler for EasterHis first Easter, four-month old Julian slept through the whole thing, but once he got his first taste of modern American celebrations of this holiday the following year as a determined toddler, he never looked back. Since he is not actually Christian, his experience of Easter was limited to the hunting of plastic and hard-boiled eggs. And hunt he did.

The egg hunting was so much fun, I realized we should be doing this in the backyard whenever boredom strikes. The more the merrier, so this might be something to suggest when your relatives are visiting. A little fresh air is good for everyone.

So the activity of the day is to conduct an age-appropriate treasure hunt for pre-verbal toddlers.

Materials needed:

  • three or four of the same object, such as golf balls, tennis balls, or plastic eggs. (We use lemons from our backyard tree).
  • small gift bag

How to do it:

  1. Place objects in a grassy area in plain view.
  2. Hold a small gift bag on behalf of your little scavenger.
  3. Announce the hunt: “Let’s go find some golf balls!”
  4. Model the desired behavior: “I found a ball – now I’ll put it in the bag!”
  5. Help child “find” another object and place it in the bag.
  6. When child is not watching, take “found” object and toss it from the bag back onto the grass for more finding fun.
  7. Practice this exercise periodically so that when Easter rolls around next year, your toddler will be kicking butt and taking names.

Related: Plastic Easter eggs can be played with before and after Easter

Activity #418: Document Examples of Bad Parenting

Document Examples of Bad Parenting #rookiemomsYears ago, a reader named Lynnette gave us the idea to start a collection of photos using baby as a prop to demonstrate all the What Not To Dos. I took mental photographs for this collection whenever I found my second child is asleep in her Pack and Play, swaddled tightly, but surrounded by loose extra blankets, burp cloths and a stuffed animal or two. We never would have allowed such lax safety measures with our first baby.

Lynette explains:

One of the keys of surviving as a rookie mom is to have a sense of humor about the whole motherhood experience. My husband and I often relax after dinner with a glass of wine, and find that our daughter is mesmerized by wine glasses. My husband, a wanna-be wino, likes to swirl the wine above her head, talking to her about the color, and then offer her the glass to smell the “nose” of the wine. She has recently started reaching for the wine glass with glee, and we just had to document it because it looks so darn funny. (Don’t worry, she hasn’t had a taste of wine yet!)

If you have any photos that fit this category, add #rookiemoms to the tags when you share so we can all enjoy your bad parenting.

Jillian of HelloSplendid shared this photo of her baby son browsing the Victoria’s Secret catalog.

Related: Dangerous photo inspiration from Chelsea and Nate

Clever ways to make roads for toy cars on your floor

When my son was little, we used painters tape to make roads on the floor of our playroom. You can draw lines down the center with Sharpie and use your imagination.

Apparently enough parents have done this, that some clever toy industry folks decided to turn the DIY approach into a product.

Playtape, which will run you about $12/roll on Amazon is a great little gift for a preschooler. It comes in a few varieties.

Playtape for toy cars

Roll of tape you can buy for car play
available on Amazon

There are train tracks, which seems handy for travel if you want to just bring 3-4 trains and this roll of tape for your train addict, but I’m not sure any hardcore track lover would be satisfied with this substitute. What do you think?

Railroad Tape
find railroad tape on Amazon

See also, Civil Engineer tape.

Best toy that’s already in your house: Washcloths

Things to do with toddlers indoors

My kids have logged many sessions arranging and rearranging washcloths and hand-towels. We have parked cars on washcloths, laid dolls down on them, lined them up, made them into a circle time and more.

We had a pack of white ones from Target that were the favorites for a long time, but the way they showed the dirt when we actually used them to wipe dirty faces started to gross me out.

Washcloths and other toys that are already in your house

Regular adult washcloths, like these 12 x 12 guys, are the most satisfying.

I bought these bright rainbow ones on Amazon, which are fun for a preschooler who has opinions about colors, but a little hard to make them lay flat. I suppose it’s because they are the type that are designed for infants, lightweight and smaller in size.

Playing with washcloths is a surefire way to reveal anyone’s inner OCD. But smoothing them out and making the corners perfect is half the fun, if you’re two. Or half the frustration if your motor skills are not finely honed.

A fresh pack of 24 white washcloths just might be your new best friend. Present them to your toddler as a neatly folded stack, because you know that is what makes it most appealing to unpack and spread out all over the living room.