Links rookie moms should know about {Spring Edition}

+ I got oodles of compliments on this purple dress from Modcloth, so I thought I’d post the {affiliate} link here.

My favorite purple dress from modcloth
Pictured: Heather in nearly the same dress;  me in my purple one; Elan Morgan of; and Natasha, The Stay-at-Home Feminist.

+ This is cute for the nursing mamas: Dry Erase newborn feeding tracker. Pop in a frame and write on the glass.

+ Because most Boppy covers are ugly

Adorable gray boppy cover

+ While we’re shopping for summer clothes, I super heart this polka dot family of swimsuits, also from Modcloth. I bought two variations last summer, loved them both, but realized they were so similar, I gave the navy blue one I bought on Amazon to Karen, who also looked adorable in it.

Polka dot retro swimsuits that are cute on moms

+ When I saw these teething necklaces for moms, I became an instant fan of modfresh, who sells them on Etsy.

Teething necklaces

+ If you have never browsed CoolMomTech, check it out. Tons of truly helpful and intriguing articles about technology.

+ Pea to Pumpkin, who has pregnancy and baby journals with a little sense of humor and hand-drawn illustrations, has free printable Month signs to use for pictures. Cute!

Pea to Pumpkin journals

+ Do you need help with positive parenting? We have arranged a free webinar by parenting coach Amy McCready, and you can watch it in your jammies. Don’t miss it!

That’s it for this week!



Notes on potty-training a 21-month old

This post was first published in 2009 when I wanted a medal for having two potty-trained children. Since then, thousands of toddler moms have arrived at this page searching for the keywords potty-training a 21-month old. Here’s my story.

Well, the first note is that the deed is done. Miss Scarlett is wearing diapers only during her sleeping hours. She hasn’t had an accident for four or five days.

Next, I’m going to assume that no readers are judging me for potty-training a kid who is so young. I’m assuming you are simply reading with open minds, curious about my experience.

As with all experiences, when you come out on the other side, it’s interesting to consider whether you’d do it again. The answer here is: I don’t know.

On the PROS list, we are not changing yucky diapers, treating diaper rash (an uncommon occurrence for this kid), or paying for diapers, or putting diapers into the landfill.

On the CONS list, our little monkey is nowhere near being able to go to the bathroom by herself, so the effort of changing a diaper is probably about the same as the effort required to take her into the bathroom, get her on the toilet, wipe, pull up pants, hold her up to the sink to wash her hands. Did I mention that she is tiny? When she climbs up to stool in front of the sink, she must still hoist herself up, placing her whole torso on the rim of the sink to reach the faucets. To keep her clean and dry in a public restroom, I will have to hold her up the whole time, which can be a strain.

Hmm. It looks like my cons paragraph is larger than my pros. Let me think of more pros. Did I mention the environment? Oh yes, check. Ok, what about the money? Oh, I already said that.

At the end of the day, this is an anticlimactic event. I am not really liberated from anything, and in fact, I have to be even more attentive to her potty needs than before.

So why did we do it? Why not wait? Because she was ready. Because at 18 months she would pee on the floor on purpose and laugh. At 20 months she started announcing she needed to “pee on the potty” and when we put her there, she would.

I’m sorry this post does not contain a tutorial. I am not qualified to write a “how to potty train” post. I can only echo what everyone else says: The kid has to be ready.

Julian, now four-and-a-half, was more than three years old the first time he peed in the potty. So you know I’m not in a hurry about this issue.

Did we bribe her? Yes, we did. We offered M&Ms, as recommended by our pediatrician. (Hey M&M/Mars, how often do you get mentioned in the same sentence as “pediatrician”?) But she didn’t care that much about the M&Ms. I believe she really was intrinsically motivated and that we were just reminding her that she can pee in the potty and hold it when she’s not in the bathroom.

Girls versus boys? I am lucky to be conducting all sorts of social science experiments in my house by having one child of each gender. So based on sample sizes N=1 in each test group, girls are ready for toilet training earlier.

Julian, as some may recall, also didn’t poop in the potty for a few months after he started peeing in it. I called him half-way potty trained for a while. (Now I call him 100% potty trained, although Heather may not since he still sleeps in pull-ups.)

So there you have it. One small package of M&Ms later, I am a certified potty trainer.

Hello Flo: Care packages for new moms

The company Hello Flo made the rounds on social media with the launch of their mailed care packages for pre-teen girls, designed to support a first period experience with information and treats. If you didn’t see last year’s viral video introducing the “care package for your vagina”, here it is.

But that’s not all Hello Flo is working on. They sent me a new mom kit to check out.

Care package for new moms

Items in the New Mom Survival Kit include always pantyliners; a Chocolate Cupcake LUNA bar; 2 hair ties; lip balm; reusable heart-shaped nursing pads; sitz bath spray for your vaginal birth injuries; organic hard candy; nipple balm from boob ease; face wipes from Olay; and a zipper pouch designed to carry around pads or whatever else you need.

Care package for a new mom from Hello Flo

Not only does it have soothing balms and sprays for your bathing suit parts, it has an information packet with really helpful facts that most women should read before their fourth trimester begins.

Postpartum recovery care package

You can purchase a new mom kit for a friend at The upgraded version includes these awesome leak-free undies from a brand called Dear Kate.

Rookie Mom Did-Do: Emily Henderson hits the flea market

Maintaining hobbies, friendships, spontaneity, it all becomes more difficult after baby. That’s why we wrote up 52 challenges for Rookie Moms.

In Activity #45, meant for someone with a 9 or 10-month old, we challenge you to “do what YOU want to do”. In other words, don’t go to story time at the library or the baby swings at the park, but rather whatever you might do with a visiting girlfriend: brunch, a museum, a baseball game.

Emily Henderson, a stylist and HGTV host that I follow online, is a rookie mom to a toddler named Charlie. I loved reading her blog post about taking him to a flea market, which is both her passion and her job.

Rose Bowl flea market with a baby #rookiemoms

“As you can imagine he either wants to destroy things, run away, or wants carbs in exchange for good behavior. I would leave him home but the problem is that Saturday and Sunday are my two full days with him – the days where I don’t even have to check my email, and so even if it’s a massive pain to bring him, I’d rather suffer through it then not be with him. In case you are wondering what true love is, I think I just described it. Hey Nicholas Sparks, you’re welcome.”

Though Emily had her husband with her as an extra set of hands, I still give her props for doing what SHE wants to do. Read her whole story here >

What rookie moms need to know about nannies

Thanks to Oakland, CA mom of three Chantal Laurie Below for this guest post about discovering what really matters in a nanny.

As first-time parents, we hired a nanny with no understanding of what we needed. Sure, we wanted someone loving and CPR-certified; the ability to drive was a plus. But, we’d been parents for a whopping three months.

Our inexperience, combined with sustained sleep deprivation, meant we were under-qualified to choose diaper rash ointments let alone make an important hiring decision. So, we put complete faith and trust in references we’d never met and hired Alia.

My last day of maternity leave, I cried. The tears represented loss; the loss of uninterrupted time with my daughter (most enjoyable after my recovery from mastitis), the camaraderie of an artificially created (and fairly random but supportive nonetheless) mom’s group, and mid-day walks through the neighborhood (frequently cut short by blowouts). The tears also represented guilt and confusion.

Having been raised by a stay-at-home mom, I couldn’t shake the notion that hiring someone to watch my infant felt incongruous with my understanding of how one “should” parent. But, the taunting voice of mortgage payments and my need for a strong professional identity lured me into an office and lured Alia into our home.

Thank God.

It’s now my last day of maternity leave with baby #3. As I hand my third baby over to Alia’s care, I now know what we need.

We need a coach. As parents, we’re only vaguely sure of what we’re doing. Alia’s cared for children for over twenty years and is raising her own mature and respectful adolescents. We trust the loving and direct advice she offers about how to curb a hitting habit or wean a baby from a bottle, and we envy her limitless patience. Alia is our nanny deity who we turn to, in those frequent moments of parenting paralysis, and ask: “WWAD, What Would Alia Do?”

We need a sports enthusiast — and an equipment manager. We’ve got a two-year old son who pulls his socks up high to look like Hunter Pence and who’s still lamenting Panda’s trade to the Sox. Alia indulges his passion by pitching enough balls to induce carpel tunnel and never leaving home without his batting helmet and gloves. She doesn’t bore of his baseball obsession but instead revels in his joy and seizes on the chance to build connection with a toddler she loves.

We need a role model. Alia embraces a culture that isn’t her own (and revels in the trashiness of fine American shows like Nashville). And, she fights to ensure her children value and know their native language and cultural identity. When Alia proudly illuminates for my children the gifts of Mexico (by making a mean pozole and joyfully singing Dale, Dale, Dale at the countless park birthday parties that sport a piñata), she shows our kids the confidence that comes from defending your traditions and values, especially when a dominant culture denies their import.

We need a party animal. When my daughter turned one, I didn’t invite Alia “after work hours” to her birthday party; I wanted to respect Alia’s personal time. The Monday after the event, Alia let me know of her disappointment. What I viewed as respectful, she experienced as exclusionary. Alia has never defined her role as caring for our children during a 40-hour work week. She’s defined her role as being a crucial part of their lives; she wants and deserves to celebrate the milestones that shape who our kids are.

We need an advocate. Alia engaged in a tough negotiation when we hired her; she stuck to her guns about her needs and got them. She helps our children do the same. When my son turns to a playmate at the park who is twice his age and informs his peer that grabbing his shovel is, “Not okay,” I credit Alia. When my daughter, in a calm and commanding voice tells her brother, “I don’t like that,” when he’s screaming in her face, I thank Alia. Alia has equipped our children with the tools they need to have confidence and agency over their needs.

We need a brave outdoorswoman. Alia’s an adventurer. She won’t shy away from carting two kids in a Double Bob Stroller on two buses and BART to get to the zoo. She’s also an organizer. A few years ago, she convinced multiple families to pool money together and buy a parachute so she could create a Gymboree-like class at the park. Then, she distributed Mexican children’s song lyrics among parents and caretakers so the whole park gang could sing together. Alia’s actions show our kids that being a passive bystander in life isn’t nearly as fulfilling as rolling up your sleeves and engaging fully.

What do you really need from a nanny?

We need a comedian. And a teddy bear. Few interruptions do I welcome more in my home office than the uninhibited belly laugh I hear from Alia when my son, with fierce abandon, pretends to ‘run the bases’ after hitting an imaginary home run. Few sights do I treasure more than, in his rare moments of quiet, seeing my son and Alia snuggle on the couch. And, at the end of the day, few routines do I appreciate more than the “I love you,” Alia offers each of my kids before she heads home.

Five years ago, I thought a nanny was a second tier option to me being at home with my little one. I now see Alia’s presence in our life very differently. She has informed and clarified our parenting values and has surfaced for our whole family what matters most: being passionate, courageous, and loving. I see that my children are happier and more confident because of her influence. I see that I’m a more patient and deliberate mom because of her.

Five years ago, I couldn’t articulate what we needed from a caregiver. Now, I recognize that Alia has shown us what we need by being what we need.

A few years from now, my youngest child will go to preschool. At that time, I will likely be the unknown but trusted reference who will articulate the gift that is Alia to a family looking for childcare. I will hope that the family she chooses appreciates that she is more than they need and everything they want. And, at the transition point when Alia leaves our family, I will, without a doubt, cry over loss.

Thanks, Chantal, for sharing your love for Alia in our space today. Hiring a nanny with only two months of parenthood under my belt is one of the toughest challenges I’ve faced as well.


What it’s like to have a nanny
On being a working mom: Practice makes imperfect okay
How to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle

Mother’s Day Ideas from Shutterfly {Whit’s Picks}

Shutterfly has some great stuff and good deals for Mother’s Day gifts. See it all here >

Use promo code MOMSDAY to save 20%.


Do you know they can print photos on a sort of plaque with a stand so it has a frameless appearance?  It makes a nice gift – a little bit different than the usual.


For my go-to, a personalized card that is mailed directly to the recipient, I like a recent picture uploaded with a simple decoration.



I kinda love all the stuff on this landing page, but don’t think my mom needs any more mugs or serving trays.

I do really love the idea of preserving some keepsakes with new prints. The pillows with handwriting on them in this room are a great idea: scan some handwriting from a loved one and use the image in a photo collage or on a pillow. I mocked up this one.



The pillows on Shutterfly have surprisingly good reviews. I had never considered a photo pillow, but they have some good ideas.

Order now to meet the Mother’s Day deadlines.

Kids’ guide to gardening (sponsored by Tree Top)

Tracking PixelBest invention for babies in the new millennium? Apple sauce pouches. We are proud to have our writing sponsored by Tree Top today and help introduce their mess-free, pure fruit pouches.

Tips for planting for kids

Healthy snack - Tree Top Pouches

RGA-LogoTree Top, the apple juice company I grew up with, is committed to raising good apples, which means they want to encourage families to grow things together and learn more about where food comes from and the joys of growing.

That’s why they’re teaming up with, a site that helps parents and teachers use gardening as a resource for learning.


Having just completed a project in my backyard — we have a new deck and pergola with those cool globe lights hanging across it — I wanted my kids to spend more time out there this weekend. It was easy to entice them when I pointed out all the plants with which they could actually interact. I do not have a precious attitude toward my garden.

Healthy snack in my Tree Top Backyard

Scarlett + Chloe require snacks before playing

A few months prior, we visited the Gardens at Lake Merritt in Oakland where we had fun walking through the paths and seeing all the landscape features. More than anything, however, we had fun with our senses.

Here’s what I learned makes a good sensory garden:

First, telling your kids it is a sensory garden. Now that they know it’s not just about LOOKING at the plants, consider these elements of a garden that may appeal to kiddos.

1) Smelly. Flowers usually offer something to the nose, but I especially like rosemary, mint, and lavender in a garden because you can grab them and then smell your fingers. Something toddlers may do anyway.

2) Pretty. Think about color combinations offered by both blooms and succulents. Going to the nursery and checking out the varieties is seriously fun with a kid who digs dirt. (See what I did there? Digs!)

Tree top sensory garden

3) Touch. Lambs ear, grasses, even spiky things are inviting to fingers. My friend and neighbor Nila’s drought-tolerant yard, pictured above, is a great example. Who can walk by without running their hand through those wispy grasses?

4) Listen. A ritual of opening your ears when you visit your garden is a super zen parenting move. Hopefully you’ll hear birds, insects, and if you have a water feature, you win.

5) Taste. Yes! Put stuff in your mouth. Grow herbs, berries, or go full on vegetable garden if you’ve got the space.

In my own backyard, I encouraged Scarlett and her friend Chloe to experiment with whatever they liked to make “perfume”, something I remember doing as a little girl.

Sensory Garden: Ingredients for an engaging garden for kids

They stayed at this table for over an hour, squishing lemons from our tree, mixing the juice with not-yet-ripe blackberries, rosemary, and flower petals.

Sensory table with kids making perfume

I gave them some kitchen tools and a pair of clippers to help them stay busy. They tried to convince me to drink the resulting perfume, as they were tasting it themselves, but I declined this generous offer.

Tree Top Giveaway of garden goodies

Are you feeling lucky? We’re giving away a bundle of goodies to 40 lucky entrants.

  • “My Gardening Journal”
  • Red Tubrug pail
  • Kids gardening gloves
  • Watering can
  • Soft touch hand tool set
  • Favorite Five Sprouting seeds
  • Tree Top Apple Sauce Pouches

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thanks to Tree Top, a grower-owned co-op, deeply rooted in the communities where we work and live, for sponsoring my writing today. For every purchase of Tree Top Apple Sauce Pouches, Tree Top will donate a dollar to to help fund community garden projects and raise good apples across the country.

Surrender: a concept for overwhelmed moms

Surrendering, a concept for overwhelmed moms

Sometimes, when I feel like too many things are being expected of me, my stomach gets tied up in knots. I want to be able to cross everything off my list, make everyone happy, and have some down time. I have trouble knowing where to start when the day looks like a huge tangle of logistics and obstacles, and then I fear the presence of my own children, because each task is more difficult when they are in tow.

A couple years ago, I read something written by life coach Andrea Scher that impacted me. It was about the concept of surrender. She wrote, “The rain is just the rain”, which means that when you look out the window and see the rain, and feel fear, disappointment, and think, “Well now I can’t do x, y, or z,” to ask if it’s possible to reframe the rain.

It’s just water.

The consequence of experiencing the rain is getting wet.

I can live with that. I can get wet.

Surrendering to the rain means accepting its presence. Maybe tossing a towel in your bag, so that if you are really bothered by the water, you can wipe up some of it.

I’m not a generally neurotic person, but I do suffer anxiety about certain issues: namely sleep and time. [Read more…]

Stuff your kid just doesn’t like. Sorry, Pinterest.

Here’s a truth: Parents like things that are pretty to look at, thoughtfully designed, and often free of logos. Kids like bright colors, buttons, bells and whistles, and icons they recognize.

These two taste groups often butt heads, and in early parenting, the parent wins. A one-year old does not know she’s been dressed up as Frida Kahlo for Halloween.

At some point, she’s going to have her own opinions and will want to dress as Jessie from Toy Story or a big-eyed princess, and we have to be okay with that.

Show me an 8-year old boy who picks a striped Mini Boden shirt over a Minecraft T-shirt and I’ll eat my own son’s sweater, which, for the record is 100% clean because he has absolutely no use for sweaters. They are not made of athletic fabrics.

This post is about crap that kids just don’t like.

For several years, every time I asked my daughter to show me some toys she didn’t need or care for anymore, she offered up this hand-knit style doll. I thought it was too cute to discard, and it was from a special friend of mine, but I finally surrendered.

Adorable blablakids rag doll and other things kids hate

She’d rather have a shelf packed with these guys.

Calico Critters and other things kids like [Read more…]

Cute-as-your-kid birthday party decoration idea

Fourth birthday party ideas

My friend Daniella decorates her house for every holiday, so I was not super surprised when she posted an adorable birthday garland for her daughter Noa on Facebook this week.

Look, it’s Noa’s little face through the years (all four of them!) made festive with scrapbook paper hats.

Personalized birthday party decor

She pasted the photos into Word.

Find the menu that says Insert, then select Picture. [Read more…]

Activity #459: Keepsake your favorite baby clothes

When I was pregnant with my second child, a daughter, we went through our stored baby boy clothes, pulling out the ones that could be worn by our baby-girl-to-be, donating the majority, and saving five or six items that I couldn’t bear to part with. Predictably, those extra special clothes are still on top of my spare dresser because I’m not really sure where they go.

Then I saw this great idea from the now defunct WonderTime magazine’s blog (via Apartment Therapy).

Cut a small sample of the fabric and keep the swatch in a memory book, ideally next to a photo of the baby wearing the item.

Keepsake your favorite baby clothes

I’m torn. it would look really cute, but then we can’t enjoy the size and shape of the clothes when he’s an adult. Or, his wife can’t. (Secret fantasy: one day a baby grandson could wear these clothes– not that I have put one single thing on my son that my husband wore as a baby, and we have a similar hand-me-down-a-generation bag to choose from. It just seems that 1973 didn’t produce very soft fabrics.) I’ll let you know what I decide.

The Fourth Trimester: The struggle is real

When I was recovering from having my first child, somehow this book, now out-of-print, made it into my hands, and I found it hilarious.

Fourth Trimester book is so good

It’s still on my shelf, even though it’s not relevant to me anymore, because I remember relating to it so much.

The references are a bit dated, but the gist is a bunch of universal experiences new moms have in the first six weeks after childbirth.

Photo Apr 06, 7 25 29 AM

For those who cannot read the image above, here’s an excerpt from the back cover.

The thank-you note real moms in the Fourth Trimester would like to send:

Dear ________ :
Thanks for sending us ________ . I’m sure __________ will love it as soon as _______ can do anything besides eat, sleep, cry, and run up the stock price on Pampers. Having recently entered the Fourth Trimester, right now my goals in life are to sleep more than three hours and shower before 7:00 p.m. So please excuse this impersonal note.
I’d love for you to come over and see _________ . But no helpful hints, no critiquing of the fact that I
(1) breast-feed without a cover-up;
(2) do not breast-feed and use formula;
(3) allow my child to use a pacifier;
(4) use a Swyngo-matic to hypnotize my child into a state eerily similar to an Ecstasy trip.
Do not tell me that __________ looks cute. I know that __________ looks like a cross between E.T. and Yoda. And no comments about my figure. I am not Cindy Crawford and, yes, those are maternity clothes I’m still wearing.
Bring rain gear and you’ll be well prepared for the nonstop torrent of liquid escaping from __________ and me. Can’t wait to see you — of course, these days I’m even looking forward to having my mom and mother-in-law visit. I’ll take whatever adult company I can get.

Love and kisses from me and the pumpkin!

Related: The Rookie Mom’s Handbook