Activity #31: Go out for just dessert

maternity leave challenges
I am assuming that I am not the only rookie mom for whom leaving my child to be put to bed by a babysitter for the first time was scary. My kid never took a bottle, so I pretty much had to be there for a bedtime nursing for the first ten months. This feeling is the opposite of freedom, by the way.

Once your baby is reliably sleeping between 8 pm and midnight or beyond, you can resume the life you used to lead in restaurants and cafes by making dessert dates with girlfriends or your partner. This is the least stressful babysitter situation possible. Pretty much anyone is qualified to lay on your couch and watch TV while you enjoy a short evening outing, right?

Put your baby to bed the way you like. When you are confident he is asleep, head out to any of your favorite restaurants. Order dessert or a drink. Enjoy ambience. Leave.

Rookie Moms Challenge #31: Go out for just dessert when using a babysitter for the first time

This is your 31st rookie mom challenge. Let us know when you try it by commenting below or telling us on our Facebook page. Baby too young for this one? Pick a different challenge.

An endless list: Mistakes you shouldn’t be embarassed about because every mom has made them

I’ve received — from various anonymous sources — this list of mistakes that parents have beaten themselves up for unnecessarily. And frankly, just like Heather once confessed to being embarrassed about being embarrassed about public breastfeeding, some of these events are so trivial, it’s clear a little resilience is in order.

We need to be able to bounce back, not drown in a shame spiral over missed snacks.

Other forgivable errors in your past or future:

  1. Resending an evite to your child’s birthday party because you put the wrong date in it. And then resending again because you forgot another detail.
  2. Running out of diapers and having to bum one off a stranger.
  3. Calling one of Emma’s moms Dana when her name is Tara and her wife is Dana.
  4. Enthusiastically pointing out construction or a dog or a firetruck to a group of adults who lost interest in that topic after their seventh birthdays.
  5. Sitting on the ground because you didn’t know lounge chairs or a picnic blanket was a thing to bring. And being too shy to ask to sit on the corner of someone else’s blanket.
  6. When your child exclaims, “I didn’t know restaurants have dessert!” because you’ve never allowed them to order it.
  7. Running out of milk or other important food that a mom should be on top of.
  8. Realizing ten minutes before you’re supposed to bring snack that it’s your turn and scavenging the kitchen for anything that can pass for snack. Bananas, old Ritz crackers… ummm, do kids eat canned pineapple or chickpeas?
  9. Using the word “potty” to another adult. At work.
  10. Being the last one to pick up your child from anywhere. Everyone feels terrible about this, but someone has to be last, right?
  11. Calling little Hayden “Holden” or “Aiden.” A lot.
  12. Not having a birthday gift when it’s time to head out for a party and re-gifting something from Christmas that didn’t get opened.
  13. Having a minivan full or garbage/snacks/crumbs/wrappers when it’s your turn to pick up adults for Moms Night Out / PTA training (something for grownups)
  14. Reading an evite for another kids party and not knowing who the kid is, who the parents are, or which of your children is invited.
  15. Forgetting the lunchbox.
  16. Sending the lunchbox, but leaving out key ingredients because you thought your partner was doing it.
  17. Forgetting to bring a bathing suit to swim class and talking your four-year old kid into wearing a jumbo size swim diaper they sell at the pool and calling it European.
  18. That time your toddler has a blowout and you don’t have spare pants so you put your own shirt on his legs and tie it up so they don’t fall down.
  19. Repeating a story to a patient friend because you can hardly focus on any conversation, there are so many voices and reminders in your head, that you’re not sure if you actually spoke the words out loud.

What “fatal” error makes you cringe whenever you remember the experience?


Whoops! This is why we’re out of milk.

How to turn your child into a pirate: Halloween costume idea #297

This post contains affiliate links.

It’s Orange Tuesday, which is Halloween’s answer to Black Friday.

In other words, if the costume retailers don’t have a really good day today, they hang their heads and cry. But that is not our concern.

Our concern is how to make Halloween easy and fun for everyone, which Heather will tell you takes years of practice. (See Control Freak Mom Survives Holiday Centered Around Candy, the Prequel)

Easy options for pirate costumes

The first thing that’s fun is that is offering 20% off. Click through this link to find princesses and ninja turtles, superheroes and tigers for babies, toddlers, kids and adults. Again, use this link to the 20% off page.

Where to buy a pirate costume for a baby

When my son was four, he was a pirate. Though you can purchase a head-to-toe pirate outfit, he was still satisfied with my half-way homemade costume projects at that time, and I saved a bit of money by outfitting him in an old black maternity shirt, belted at the waist with a scarf, over red and white striped PJ bottoms that he already owned. We made it authentic with a package of accessories. The most important bit to get your hands on is a felt child’s pirate hat, but a bandana can work as well.

Precious Lil' Pirate Toddler / Child Costume

We went with the red and black color scheme, bandana and all, but there’s also this brown get-up that’s as easy as adding the whole thing to your cart.

Rogue Pirate Toddler Costume

And Melissa and Doug makes this pirate costume which you might not come across because they call it “role play” so that you can use it year-round. Thanks for the permission, Melissa and Doug, but we are pretty clear that being a small child is a sufficient excuse to wear costumes year-round. I think this is the way to go if you are not a DIY costume person. Simply add black pants or PJ bottoms and perhaps black rainboots.



Next tip: Parents should dress up if they like to. Coordinating with the kids is like, the cutest thing ever. My dad absolutely hates costumes, though, so if you’re in his camp, I get it. He’s a really great dad anyway.

If Mama wants to be a pirate, wear black boots, red pants and a long black top. Wear your partner’s top if it’s bigger, and belt it. Then add accessories: patch, bandana, etc. Not a black boot owner? Consider these Pirate Lady Boot Tops.

Other where-to-buy and how-to-make costume posts:

5 easy Halloween costumes from vests
Homemade Halloween costumes from readers
10 ideas for Baby’s first Halloween


Activity #305: Alter your board books

We had a board book that I didn’t like too much. The illustrations were too wishy washy and there were too many words. We also had a board book that I loved, by Todd Parr, called This is My Hair. Bold illustrations and simple text. Plus funny. I decided I wanted the first book to be more like the second book. And I needed a Father’s Day gift for my husband.

So, I painted over the cover of the book, put stickers on it to make a new title, and pasted all sorts of stuff on the inside.

[Read more...]

Activity #29: Upgrade your own “crib”

You probably did nice things to your baby’s room to get it ready for him. How about your own bedroom? Make a small change that will make you happy in your sleeping space. Move a piece of furniture, hang something on the wall, or get rid of a clutter pile. (I didn’t say clean up – just hide it somewhere else!)

Could you put your baby in a bouncy seat so that she can watch you re-arrange your bookshelves?

Upgrade your own crib: a challenge for rookie moms

Every photo of  adult living quarters I considered for this post featured a vase of flowers on the nightstand. If you need an outing, how about to the farmer’s market to select a bouquet? Refreshing your bedroom is our 29th challenge for rookie moms.

Upgrade your own crib: a challenge for rookie moms

Heather and I both painted our bedrooms in honor of this activity. It is one of the biggest impact, lowest cost design changes you can make.

This is my bedroom currently.

Upgrade your own crib: a challenge for rookie moms

Real person inspiration: Our friend Wendy executed a marvelous makeover of an old typing table with spray paint. Check it out:

Upgrade your own crib: a challenge for rookie moms

Upgrade your own crib: a challenge for rookie moms

So what adult furnishings need a little love in your house?

I took a postpartum yoga class {Rookie Moms Challenge #7}

Thanks to Rachel Martin for this guest post.
Doing yoga with a baby

During first introductions, another mom in my Mommy & Baby yoga class said bluntly of her very young baby, “We needed to get out of the house.” #truth

Our little short stack, Evie, is a little older than three months, and I sure wish I’d jumped into this class on week 3. As a newly-minted stay-at-home mom, getting out of the house has been a profound challenge– hence my mixed delight and horror at the Rookie Moms challenges. This sh*t is hard.

My own mom suggested I start with postnatal yoga. If Evie could touch her toes, Grandma would pay. Here’s how it broke down.

Babies Make Great Social Props

In Jane Austen books, people always need letters of introduction. I think it’s because they didn’t have Mommy & Me groups.

“Oh, he’s beautiful!”

“What a sweet smile!”

“So much hair!”

“Only seven months?”

This is like the best version of a cocktail party, where you have exactly the right thing to say to everyone. It’s this mellow, diverse group of ladies, and, by merely reproducing, I’ve become a charming party guest.

All this time, I didn’t need social skills; I just needed an infant.

Yoga Has Nothing to Do With It

The sweet instructor, Erin, earnestly corrects my foot position and the angle of my knees. I always thank her and aim to get things in parallel, but it doesn’t matter. I’m holding a baby in front of me and I can’t see my feet, no matter which way they point.

What’s handy here is that I have two excuses for my poor performance that don’t involve my lack of athleticism: for one, my body recently birthed a baby, so no one expects it to be in top form (except that “What’s Your Excuse?” lady). For two, my body is off the mat half of class anyway when I’m soothing or distracting Evie, and maintaining the integrity of the pose is a lot less meaningful when she’s squawking.

No One Cares That Your Baby is Crying (or That Your Boob is Out)

There are always at least three babies in the room, and chances are that one of them is crying at any given moment. Actually, sometimes there aren’t three babies in the room because one of us has taken a particularly grouchy little ‘un into the vestibule to cool off. When these kids set each other off, it’s like a room of car alarms.

Only, it’s cool. When I took Evie into the vestibule during her first class, everyone was sympathetic: “Is she okay?” There were no dirty looks. The time I curled up in the back of the room to feed my sweet hungry hippo, I finished up only to find that two other moms were nursing right on their mats. Boobs everywhere, you guys, and nary a cover-up to be seen.

I’m counting this challenge a success. Can’t do a wall pose for love or money, but Evie and I have a date for story time tomorrow.

What I learned from the #30×30 closet remix challenge. Spoiler: I am a lazy sweatpants wearer.

My sister lives 500 miles away, and therefore, we don’t see each other much. I stalk her through twitter and Instagram to know what she’s up to on a daily basis, and the big things, like a business trip to the Cannes Film Festival (she has a film industry job), I learn via phone calls and coordinated visits to our parents’ house, halfway between our two cities.

A few months ago I caught on that she was doing a closet remix challenge and documenting it. She tagged her Instagram pictures #30×30 and posted her outfit every day. At the end, she posted a collage of 30 outfits.

#30x30 closet remix challenge

The basic idea is to take 30 items from your wardrobe and wear only those for 30 days, in 30 unique ways. You can make your own rules, but for my sister, clothing and shoes are what count while accessories are a free-for-all. You can use them liberally to make your outfit new again.

On the first day of August, I noticed that Em had posted a full length shot of her outfit and tagged it 30×30, commenting “Here we go again.”

#30x30 closet remix challenge

I asked if I could join her.

Since she invested so many years of her life idolizing me, how could she say no? She referred me to the originator of this idea, perhaps because she didn’t understand that I was asking her to boss me around and force me to follow her rules.

I scrawled out some notes about what I’d wear for the first week on an envelope on my nightstand and took a picture for Instagram for Day 1. I tried not to obsess about how I looked in the picture, after all, I walk out the door without fear everyday, but for some reason posting HEY LOOK WHAT I’M WEARING, felt more embarrassing.

Day 1

3#30x30 closet remix challenge

I’ll be honest: today (Day 20) I am wearing this same sweater with different jeans (no pre-made holes!) and different shoes (sandals) and a different necklace (a heart pendant), but it feels like a bit of a cheat.  In fact, I feel like a huge cheater on the whole assignment because of the allowances I am making a different days for different reasons.

Here’s what I learned from the 30 for 30 challenge:

1) Social media can be a really fun way to connect with someone. I know, duh, we are living in 2014 and this is the main way we stay in touch with many friends, but even in the two weeks I’ve been doing this project, it has felt like my sister and I are doing an activity together. I feel like I’m posting especially for her and each day I look forward to seeing her pictures more than anyone else’s in my stream. No offense all of you who I may follow on Instagram, but none of you are my only sister. I have felt like I’m getting know people over social media before, but this has been more special.

On Saturday Em and I were both at my parents’ house and because of my lazy sweatpants-wearing ways, which I will explain in #2, I asked that we substitute a shot in our bathing suits as our Outfit of the Day — or #00td as fashion-forward chickadees on Instagram call it.

#30x30 closet remix challenge, now in swimsuits

2) I don’t get dressed head-to-toe much. Due to my work-from-home lifestyle, it is rare that I shower and dress before I take my kids to camp/school. I usually put on exercise clothes and even if it’s only a quick walk, I do some kind of workout once I’m alone. Then, I go “Crap – it’s 10 am and I haven’t done any work yet,” so I sit down at my computer instead of getting dressed. The next thing I know it’s 1 pm and I have no outfit to photograph: I’m still wearing some version of what I slept in or worked out in. Kind of pitiful for someone actually enjoys stylish clothing. With a new focus on what I am wearing each day, I became more aware of the short number of hours that I actually wear my “outfit”.

3) I like cute shoes, but I like to be me. I included a pair of high-heeled clogs in my 30 items, but every day that I selected them for my official 30×30 outfit, I ended up slipping on these other super-comfy, not quite as trendy, sandals to do an errand. I just felt embarrassed to wear clompy shoes to walk around the corner to my grocer, and today for example, walking my daughter from our parking spot to the soccer field seems like a lot of ground to cover in super-womanly shoes. I like to wear my fancy shoes when I’m dressed up, but I just can’t do the heels – even casual heels –  in everyday clothes. It makes me feel self-conscious.

4) Camera angle is everything. When my husband takes my picture, the thirteen inch difference in our height has a slimming effect. Hiding my arms has a slimming effect.  Being aware of these things has a shaming effect. I shouldn’t be so picky about how I look – I am in great health! “Accept and love your body, accept and love your body,” I tell myself. Say it with me. It’s so hard!

#30x30 closet remix challenge

It was hard to even take a moment each day to photograph myself. I felt like giving up after just a few days because I didn’t want to study my image either in the mirror or through the camera.

5. I don’t actually have a problem with my clothing or closet. Or at least I don’t have one that was revealed by this challenge. I picked my favorite things to wear – casual everyday items, including three different pairs of jeans and a pair of cut-off jean shorts. Maybe I didn’t make it hard enough, or make enough use of the opportunity to experiment. Upon mid-month consultation with my sister I learned that she pulls everything she’s going to use in the challenge to one part of her closet. She also thinks ahead, like, hey, I have a wedding shower and a business trip this month, so include a dress that can work for both. I feel like sort of a lame participant for not thinking this through very well, like wow, I wore jeans and tank tops for a month — when I wasn’t wearing yoga pants — not very interesting. Perhaps I’ll do it again and pick more challenging, less frequently worn items from my closet.

I am glad I included this top, cause it’s newish and I {heart} it. (See related items >)

#30x30 closet remix challenge

If I get very ambitious at the end of the month I will make a collage like my sister’s above. Otherwise, I will just return to my regularly scheduled programming of jammies for 20 hours of the day and a cute outfit for four hours.

The challenge I think I’d get more out of is starting on one side of my closet, wearing each item and then moving it to the back, forcing me to wear every. single. thing. hanging in there. That can be my September challenge. Are you in?

Dressing up as Olaf, Anna, and Elsa: FROZEN costumes for kids


I know it’s early for Halloween, but some of these have just hit the market, and I don’t think there’s any reason to wait. Why should kids only wear their costumes once per year?

Who doesn’t want to be Elsa every day? Or at least wear it at your own FROZEN birthday party!

Here are the FROZEN costumes I’ve located across the web.

Olaf Costumes

This is the hardest to find. The only one on Amazon for kids cost over $150 and is for kids under 2 years old. WTF, weird third-party Amazon vendor. has reached out to me and I’m psyched that they have a kids’ Olaf costume. (Seen above.) It comes in sizes from 12-months to size 6.

It’s exactly what my kids love: the costume covers their whole body, including the head. It’s about $45 and it looks warm and cuddly, too.  (Perfect for offering Olaf’s trademarked “warm hugs”.)

Click through to see the Olaf costume. Updated 9/1/2014: This 25% discount code is good until 9/2! ORANGE25

Now if you have a willing older sibling or parent who wants to be a snowman to accompany a FROZEN princess, and is not concerned about the details, like Olaf’s wide eyes and slightly hooked nose, less expensive, generic snowman costumes can be found. This toddler snowman is $14.99 at Amazon. This one for Dad is $43. Moving on.

Elsa Costumes

Frozen – Elsa Snow Queen Dress Costume – $26.99

from: BuyCostumes


Anna Costumes


There are generally two Anna costumes to choose from: her blue dress and the coronation dress, which is black and gold.

Frozen – Anna Coronation Deluxe Girls Costume – $39.99

from: BuyCostumes Links: Anna’s regular dress at; Coronation dress at links: Blue long-sleeve Anna dress for preschoolers at; Coronation dress at; Blue long-sleeve Anna dress for girls 7-8

More bang for your buck: This combo pack of Anna + Elsa dresses will put both flavors of FROZEN in your dress-up box for about forty bucks. If you have two kids between 4 and 6, this is the deal for you.

You might also do okay in the toy aisle at Target, but the inventory is very unreliable. Let me know what you find there.

And finally, the less descriminating FROZEN fanatic may enjoy this trunk which includes an inexpensive take on both dresses, with accessories. Great gift, plus, you’re covered for Halloween. About $25 for everything you see here.  Click on the image to check availability. As of this writing, free shipping for Prime members.

Where to buy FROZEN costumes

Summer Fun Giveaway

What’s all this Back to School nonsense? Stop trying to end my summer! August isn’t half over yet and we still have a lot of water play to get into.

Today we have a giveaway for those who don’t have a care in the world about school starting. We are thankful to the folks at Club MomMe for arranging this one.


Here are the goodies in this prize package:

  1. Safe Seas Sets from Green Toys (details)
  2. deedee squirter game for the bath tub from B Kids (details)
  3. Singing toothbrush that plays What Does The Fox Say? (seriously)
  4. Science-oriented bubble exploration kit (for big kids)
  5. Adorable doll that comes with paper crafts (details)
  6. Lillebaby organic cotton carrier for babywearing, toddlerwearing, or preschooler wearing if you’re up for it! (See all the colors)

Activity #27: Go swimming

Taking the baby in the pool is both scary and funny.

A kid’s gotta stick his toe into the water at some point, right?

Baby Anneliese is having a blast with Erin

Buy a package of disposable swim diapers or a reusable one, and plan your outing. This is our 27th rookie mom challenge.

If you are alone, think carefully through the logistics of how you are going to change your clothes, change baby, get in the pool, get out of the pool, get on dry stuff and get back in the car. You are not as smart as you used to be and you will probably mess up part of this process and end up walking out to your car in just a bra and towel holding your baby in one arm and a diaper between your teeth. Let me just help you out: Take your stroller with you into the dressing room. That way you have someplace to put the baby, towels, wet bathing suits and diaper bag while you get dry yourself.

This is also a fun activity with a very pregnant friend.

How to take your baby swimming

Do you plan to take your baby into the pool this summer? Have you done it already?

Off-to-school or back-to-preschool? Win these useful goodies

We’ve assembled a few things we love for a fun giveaway, just in time for some of you to put your kids in a toddler program or preschool for the first time. Or even back-to-school for those whose preschools take a summer break.

Here’s what we’ve got.

Win these cute preschool items!

  1. Everyday Bento – An adorable book full of lunchbox inspiration by one of our favorite bloggers and friends, Wendy Copley
  2. Zoo Pack of your choice – Sized just right for the preschool body, these high-quality backpacks from skip*hop come in many adorable animal themes
  3. Zoo Lunchie of your choice – Match this insulated lunchbox with your pack or use it as a chance to own another of the loveable looks from skip*hop
  4. $50 to spend on Little Pim – Fun foreign language videos for your child which can be in DVD format or downloadable. We couldn’t choose that for you and we couldn’t decide if you’d prefer French, Spanish, Hebrew, Mandarin, so the winner will be able to decide for herself.

Enter the giveaway below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How I saved Scarlett’s rainbow birthday cake from dying a terrible death

My daughter had her 7th birthday party at Pump It Up, a colorful warehouse outfitted with numerous inflatable jumpy things. This operation is a birthday party machine. Parents need not lift a finger during the party; the children’s shoes and the parents purses are even carted along on a shelf with wheels as the party moves through the facility.

While any sane parent would have simply checked the box next to “ice cream cake” when signing up for the party, I have a tradition of making my children’s birthday treats, though I’m beginning to question why. I don’t have a special aptitude for it. I’ve just always thought it’s not that hard. I make cupcakes from a box and use store-bought frosting, and everyone’s happy and the whole thing costs about $10.

Here are Julian’s birthday cupcakes from a year or so ago.


(Find these adorable googly candy eyes on Amazon.)

Scarlett and I saw this tie-dye cake mix on the shelf at the store and bought it.


After adjusting Scarlett’s expectations that our cake would not resemble the picture on the box because a) I did not buy three packages of mix to make three circle cakes that need to be frosted together and b) I am not doing frosting and then fondant and then coloring fondant and then cutting fondant into circles and then poking my eyes out with a frosting knife. I’m just not doing that.

I thought it would be fun to cook it in a Bundt cake pan and then frost it with white and then each slice would be it’s own amazing little rainbow.

We made the mix, and followed the instructions to separate the batter into six bowls, one for each primary color and one for each secondary color. The package guided us to use the enclosed food coloring to turn each segment of batter to its assigned hue on the tie-dye spectrum. To our delight, the color mixing went off without a hitch and we actually made purple from red and blue. Or close enough.



Next we poured the batter, one color at a time into the non-stick bundt pan.

How to make a rainbow or tie-dye cake

Hmm. It filled only a fraction of the pan. I hoped that it would rise or else I only had enough cake to feed about six kids. We were expecting 15, plus siblings who sometimes show up in time for cake.

After the prescribed baking session, I let the cake cool, but perhaps not enough. When I attempted to flip the the cake over, it completely fell apart. Half the cake was glued to the top of the pan. Oh. Shit.

Tie-Dye Birthday Cake: What to do when it falls apart

I had embarked on this project the day before the party for just-in-case reasons, and now I had to consider my Plan Bs.

  • Do this same project over again and hope for better results. I realize that is the definition of insanity, but I suspected that more cooking and more cooling might produce a more sturdy cake.
  • Revert to my usual cupcake offering, taking comfort in the reliability of it.
  • Dig into my creative brain and upcycle this crumbled rainbow cake.

One of the key benefits of Good Ol’ Cupcakes is that you don’t have to cut and plate cake in front of a crowd of children. No one likes that parent-of-the-party-kid job, do they? After some hand-wringing and swearing and giving myself a pep talk in the kitchen, I came up with a new plan. I sent my husband to the store for whipping cream and clear plastic cups and I shut down Operation Rainbow Cake for the day.

In the morning, with a couple hours to go before the party, I made the whipped cream and put it in a tupperware in the fridge so that we could transport it to the party. I scooped a serving of tye-die cake pieces and crumbs into each plastic cup. We packed those in the car and went to the party. A few moments before the pizza was served, I topped each cup with fresh whipped cream.  Suddenly my kitchen fail was a Pinterest-worthy dessert.


Wait, I said Pinterest-worthy, right? Here you go.


Bonus: I achieved the easy-to-pass-out dessert status I was afraid I’d miss. No public cake cutting for this party. Each child got a cup handed to him or her.

Next time, I’ll plan for cake cups (like cupcakes but accidental?) from the beginning so I don’t waste time crying over spilled crumbs.