6 reasons CVS is awesome for parents

Tracking PixelThanks to CVS for sponsoring this post as part of the launch of their new vitamin line: RADIANCE. Scroll down to find the giveaway!

Things to love about CVS

When my husband’s company handed out CVS ExtraCare cards, and I added the little one to my keychain, I was only partially informed about the good things that were in store for me.  I already used CVS as a pharmacy, but there are quite a few things to love about it, including the fact that the massive drugstore chain recently walked away from millions of dollars in revenue when they stopped selling cigarettes. Here are six reasons parents should add CVS to their list of go-to stores.

1. We can’t remember everything. When I realize I need the unique combination of wipes, cupcake liners, and milk at 9.30 pm, CVS is open. Check the website, as some of the stores are open until midnight, while some are open until 10 pm.

2. We lose things.  Laura Bliel, mom of three in Champaign-Urbana says, “They send out great coupons. 25% off? Don’t mind if I do!” I cannot keep track of coupons. When you walk into CVS, however, you can swipe your membership card or key chain at the red machine and it will print out all the coupons and points you’ve earned on the card. That way, if you’ve lost all of them, now you know what you have earned before you start shopping.

Get the most out of CVS [Read more...]

When to use black and white photo filters

More than once I’ve heard the tip to filter your photos to black and white in order to mask the fact that your children’s outfits were excruciatingly mismatched, and not in a quirky stylish way.

When San Francisco mom Yuliya Patsay posted this cute baby photo on Instagram, and was transparent about her reasons for using black and white, I asked if I could share it, too.

Black and White makes photos better

I don’t like to hide all the trappings of real life all the time (wanna see my home office?) but sometimes a dated couch and carpet setting or even an overly bright piece of baby gear (Fisher Price, I’m looking at you) can be transformed when you drop the colors out of the photo.

If you’ve already identified the shot you’re using for a holiday card, note that our affiliate TinyPrints is having a fantastic promo for the next few days: $50 off your order of $150 or more.

10 Clutter-Free Gifts for Dads & Husbands

Clutter-free Gifts for Rookie Dads

  1. Consumable food. A subscription to a monthly beer, coffee, wine, or meat club will bring something fun in the mail each month. Eat, drink, and be done with it! I always buy bulk candy for my husband’s stocking.
  2. Concert tickets. Use Pollstar.com to find what’s coming soon. Print a picture of the band and wrap it up.
  3. Hotel night to spend with you. Plan a reservation for a date when you’ll be comfortable leaving baby with grandparents overnight.
  4. Gym membership. He’s less likely than you are to take it as a hint. [Read more...]

9 gender-neutral toys for kids of any gender

A friend of mine, mother to one little boy, told me she loved the “Dollhouses for Boys” post I did last year. Funny, because in my mind, that post was for parents of boys and girls equally — anyone who didn’t want pink plastic to take over their playroom, especially families with boys AND girls who would like toys to be inviting to all kids.

Here are some more great unisex toys that come free of any commercial baggage. This post contains affiliate links.

  1. Everything by Kid O, but I especially like their push walking toy and the squirrel pull toy. My toddlers loved things that they could drag and pull while walking.
    A round up of gender-neutral toys
  2. Indoor tents and forts are fun for everyone. I saw this cute KidKraft one at a tradeshow, and we got YEARS of use out of the collapsible nylon play tents that can go outdoors for a backyard festival.
    A round up of gender-neutral toys
  3. Pounding toys are a must-have for 1-year olds! We had a plastic one with balls that roll down to a tray where you can pick them up again. My son LOVED it. Pounding “benches” are inexpensive (look for one under $10) opportunities to offer the same play pattern. Of course the European unfinished wood brands will cost just as much as this plastic mallet and ball set.
    Gender neutral toys that are awesome
  4. Play kitchens, oh how I wish you would stop getting made in the color pink! IKEA makes a great-looking one (pictured) as do PLAN toys, Melissa and Doug, and KidKraft. Pro tip: compare heights on these products. If your child is older than two, don’t buy a tiny kitchen. Early elementary school kids will still enjoy playing with one of these if the scale is right.
    Gender neutral toys that are awesome
  5. This Schylling tea set offers a Fiesta Ware color palette instead of pink and floral. Hooray! But another option is to simply buy a set of espresso cups and saucers and put them in a special box.  IKEA has adorable ones that you could pair with a colorful tray and cool box. Even enhance a set of tiny white mugs with Sharpie designs.
  6. My family has this set of 26 blocks by Haba. Their unique shapes and design have kept my son and daughter interested in them for years.
    A round up of gender-neutral toys for children
  7. My local toy store owner recommended this pretty rainbow by Grimms to me. It’s a 6-piece nesting toy, a stacking toy, and creative kids will try all the configurations pictured below, but check prices – this seems to vary wildly depending on the store.
    Rainbow Stacking Toy and 8 more great toys
  8. A new “dollhouse for boys” or just a fun house from Hape whose geometric pieces can be placed in a few different arrangements, making setting it up part of the fun.
    A round-up of gender neutral toys for children
  9. Totally splurge-worthy, Magnatiles are open-ended building fun for everyone. My children have spent hours collaborating with Heather’s kids on mazes for Hexbugs, made out of Magnatiles. This combination of toys — for kids 6+ — will pay off during the long winter months.
    9 gender-neutral toys for kids

Activity #41: Test drive some baby classes

Take a free baby music class

Take a free baby music class

Most classes for babies provide a free trial experience. Take advantage of these freebies before committing to a paid class. Try to talk your other mama friends into joining you so it’s the most fun for YOU.

Your 41st weekly challenge is to contact a local music, dance, or exercise class for moms and babies, and arrange to take a free class.

Many of your local gymnastics studios for kids will offer a free trial experience, and here are four national chains with free class offers on their websites:

  • Kindermusik offers classes for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and big kids and each class is 45 minutes long.
  • Gymboree classes for babies focus on either music or playing – you can choose.
  • Music Together is mixed age classes up to age five and the classes are an hour long.
  • My Gym is a children’s “fitness center” that starts classes with parent participation at age – get this – six weeks!

You may find that your local independent music or movement centers for kids offer a free trial visit as well. Have you tried any? Let us know!

Not ready for this rookie mom challenge? Go back and start with an easier one.

Activity #105: Recreate the E.T. stuffed animal scene with your baby

My ten-year old and I just watched E.T. for the first time together. He was the perfect age for it. We both cried, though not as hard as I remember sobbing at the end of the film when I saw it in the theater as a child. I loved this movie and loved watching it with my son.

ET fans: Recreate this stuffed animal scene with your baby

If you don’t remember this iconic scene, take thirty seconds to watch it. Elliot’s mom hears noise coming from his bedroom. When she goes to survey the scene, she even opens the closet door. E.T. is hidden among so many stuffed animals, her eyes pass right over him.

My college boyfriend J.J. Carroll is a rookie dad, artist, and toy enthusiast in Omaha, Nebraska. Sure, I’ll never see him again, but Facebook keeps me informed.

When he put out a call for stuffed animals for a photoshoot, I was amused; my house probably contains this quantity of stuffed animals, without contributions from other families, but of course in our first year of parenthood, we were not yet hoarders.

These photos of J.J.’s baby Maxwell, taken by Omaha photographer Dana Damewood, are a tribute to the E.T. closet scene, and in my mind, the perfect holiday card photo for Maxwell’s first Christmas.

ET-inspired stuffed animal photo shoot

[Read more...]

Is having a third child a good idea?

Thanks to Oakland mom and non-profit executive Chantal Laurie Below for this guest post. We met through our shared babysitter a few years ago. When she sent me this post and I was so excited about it, I wrote on Facebook that I love when people send us an excellent post just because they have something to say and need a place to say it. Some readers thought I was being sarcastic. I was not. I’m truly happy to share your writing. You know, as long as it’s pretty good.

On having a third child

I’m 70% sure having a third child is a good idea. And I’m seven months pregnant. With my third kid.

My husband’s also 70% sure, but 30% uncertainty doesn’t send him into a tailspin. It appeals to his, “We’ll figure it out. What’s the Niner’s score?” mentality that tempers my over-thinking and drives me batty.

With the first and second, it wasn’t a question. I wanted the joy and heartache of raising a little one and wanted our first to have a sibling. Getting pregnant wasn’t easy, but it was an unequivocal decision.

With the third, it felt different. I wanted some Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test with 25 questions to reveal my “type” and tell me what to do:

  • “You value fun, adventure and challenge and you’ve got more love to give. Go for it.”
  • “Your age, need for order, concern over finances, and investment in your career say two is plenty.”

Without a Magic 8 ball, we did what any responsible, highly-educated adults do: played it fast and loose and left it up to some determined sperm to make the decision for us.

I’m still 30% unsure it’s a good idea.

Having a third seems impractical. After that additional shoelace is tied and snack is packed, it’ll take 20 extra minutes to get out of the house at any given time. We’ll be perpetually late to everything. And, we live in the San Francisco Bay Area which is prohibitively expensive; I’m dubious we can provide for three kids the way we want.

It also seems excessive. Are we the “Duggar Family of the West” as we challenge the prevailing ideology of our peer group: two and through? We’ve got two healthy kids and the quaint set up of a boy and a girl, why tempt fate by relying on my “advanced maternal age” eggs?

A third delays our dreams. Aspirations of traveling abroad in the near future get stifled when imagining a newborn addition. Nap times cramp the style of a hike to Machu Picchu or a Habitat For Humanity trip to Honduras. And starting the clock again from the beginning means paying for more years of childcare and pre-school, real money that’s never channeled towards that kitchen re-model.

There’s the identity piece. A third seems to imply I’m more “mom” than “professional.” I imagine getting so swallowed up in permission slips and breast milk that I’ll forget how to code switch from the language of “sweet pea” to “what’s the dial-in for the conference line?” And, I fear colleagues will predict that I’ll temper any semblance of ambition I can muster up when not sleep deprived. Do I have the wherewithal to resist succumbing to subtle ‘opt-out’ expectations? [Read more...]

Black is the new black (My 4th annual holiday card round-up series)

Every year I post my observations about trends in mailed holiday cards. When I was taking writing classes in college, I had no idea I would be publishing on topics of such incredible significance.

Rookie Moms is an affiliate of Tiny Prints, and it is their recent catalog that inspired me to surface my first round of greeting card trends for this year. The first thing I noticed was how much black was featured.


Joyous Wreath

Holiday Card picks for those who are tired of red and green


Joyful Chic

What’s the deal? Are we all tired of red and green?

I’ve personally been going with blue and white for years because many of my family and friends are Jewish and it works as a general winter theme. Not that we have any white snowflakes in California. Long time readers may recall my rainbow holiday card.

Black is elegant, sure. And, it makes your photo pop, which is nice. It works for New Year’s greetings in case you don’t get cards out in time or don’t celebrate a December holiday. So, maybe, like The Farlingtons pictured below, I’m starting to see the magic of black.

Holiday card picks for folks who don't do red + green
Gilded Leaves

Another take on black, more casual than true black, is the popular chalkboard look.

Holiday cards for those who don't do red and green

Chalked Treasure

So, what do you think? Is black the new black?

If you love vibrant color in non-traditional color schemes, check out our affiliate Paper Culture. Their current designs are beautiful and modern.

P.S. Good Deal: Order this weekend and get 10 free cards from Tiny Prints. Offer expires 11/12.

How to trick yourself into doing laundry

Thanks to Tide Pods for sponsoring this post on RookieMoms.com.

How to stay on top of laundry

I’ve tried out various laundry rituals to stay on top of dirty clothes, but the one that’s currently in place can best be summarized as “early and often.” My husband is an unstoppable laundry doer these days, so it might be time for me to acknowledge that none of my other systems worked quite as well.

Ryan walks in the door from work, changes his clothes, and starts a load of laundry, nearly every day. I don’t know when he switches it to the dryer, but at some point in the evening, after our kids are asleep, he carries a basket of clean clothes up to our bedroom and watches sports or The Daily Show while he folds the clothes. [Read more...]

A love letter to my soccer co-parent

Gratitude for a Soccer Mom

This love letter/guest post was written by my friend and fellow soccer parent, Nila Rosen.

I never thought that I would I would be co-parenting with anyone else but the person who got me pregnant 11 years ago, but I am — and it’s not due to divorce or separation. In fact, I am still married to that same guy that demanded specific high-end appetizers at our wedding (and I’m still thankful to him, as they turned out to be the only thing that I ate ​the entire night.)  But I have also found someone else. And I’ve fallen for her.

Sarah, you are my soccer co-parent, and you make my life better. Let me count the ways my world has improved since you swept me off my feet by offering to share twice-weekly driving responsibilities.

It’s not just gas we’re saving; this relationship offers me so much more:

1) Time. You give me one extra hour to accomplish of all the crap that I have to do on a daily basis, some of which I haven’t even figured out before soccer practice starts in the afternoon.

2) Fitness. You make sure that my butt is not widening by being glued to the seat of my car once, twice, or even four times a week, when you cut my driving burden in half.

3) Brain Power. You remind me of details (field locations, jersey colors) that I can’t seem to keep track of, no matter how many times I add them to my Google calendar.

4) Nourishment. You provide extra snacks to my child when I have forgotten to pack one. I don’t care if they are healthy or not. I don’t ask.

5) Affirmation. You call at 8 am on Saturday morning with the same frantic voice that I have inside my head, wondering if I’m keeping it all together. It turns out, we’re fine.

6) Extended family. Your offspring have become “car siblings” with my child. I don’t have to ask you if I can put your name down on all of those emergency forms I have to fill out; I just do it.

7) Socialization. You teach my child manners in that “it takes a village” way — to say thank you to the person who has just chauffeured him/her around for the past half hour. And my child learns not to take that vital service for granted.

8​) Companionship. You offer witty adult conversation when we are watching a game, so that I can not only watch my child’s tenth ​soccer ​game of the season, but I can feed my soul at the same time. (No offense, kid.)

9) Community. You live in my hood and can be relied on for other things in a pinch. I’m so glad you don’t live all the way across town.

As our children’s activity commitments continue to get bigger and more complicated, I need you more than ever.

I wish that everyone could find what we have.

Let’s go away together. I’ll drive.

photo credit: ABSC Soccer on Flickr

Activity #39: Slide on the playground

How to put your baby on a slideHow to put your baby on a slide the right way #rookiemoms challenge

Are you ready to see some big smiles? Or looks of horror? Be prepared for either.

Our babysitter taught us the following method for putting Julian on the slide when he was too young to slide sitting up:

  • Put baby on tummy, feet down, mid way up the slide.
  • Place his hands up near his face, not down at his sides. Hopefully he is holding his head up so that you are not about to smear his face against the metal as he goes down.
  • Let him slide down to the bottom.
  • Repeat. Repeat. Repeat until your back feels like you need a week at a spa.
  • Then sit down and let baby play in the sand while you think about that spa you’re never going to visit.

This is pretty safe (please note I am not a doctor or a paramedic) and after you get comfortable with it, you can let go and let him slide to the bottom.

Taking your baby to the playground to try out the slide is your 39th challenge for rookie moms.

If you’ve already made it to the playground with your baby this week, congrats! If you snapped a photo, tag it #rookiemoms on Instagram or Twitter.

Not ready for this challenge? Go back and start with an easier one.

Do you need a nap mat?

All about Nap Mats

At their daycare and preschool, where they went from 24 months to almost age 5, my children were expected to nap on mats that were provided by the school. No, they didn’t look like the one pictured above. Probably something like this Kindermat.

Parents supplied a sheet and a blanket, and our daycare provider, god bless her, washed them each week. At the daycare Heather’s kids attended, after they graduated from crib napping, they brought their own sleeping bags, which parents had to bring home each Friday to wash for Monday morning.

Is a nap mat a thing your child needs?

I saw this one at a baby expo and thought it was totally adorable.




It rolls up and closes with Velcro strips that kids can handle. It’s totally lightweight. The soft blanket is attached to the side of the base layer, so it’s just one piece to keep track of.  Very cute, Elonka Nichole. (See her Etsy shop here.)

After seeing this, I felt like I could make something like it, and remembered having pinned a nap mat made from three or four store-bought pillowcases sewn together.

If you are crafty, Prudent Baby, offers an amazing step-by-step tutorial for making a similar mat with beautiful finishes. This is hers:


Sadly, it has proved impossible to find the original source of this pillowcase idea. But for those of us who can only sew a straight line, it might be worth trying. Then again, it requires 4 or 5 pillows, so it might be a better thing to bust out on a rainy fort-building day.

All about nap mats

What do you use for this napping-on-the-floor purpose? Or are you shaking your head, thinking, no freaking way my kid would settle down for a nap on a floor?