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 Kendieveryday.com 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

olaf-costume

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.

BuyCostumes.com 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

From Amazon.com

Anna Costumes

anna-costume-dress-frozen

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

BuyCostumes.com Links: Anna’s regular dress at BuyCostumes.com; Coronation dress at BuyCostumes.com
Amazon.com links: Blue long-sleeve Anna dress for preschoolers at Amazon.com; Coronation dress at Amazon.com; 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.

SummerFun

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

preschool-giveaway
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.

easy-monster-cupcakes

(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.

Tie-Dye-Cake-Mix-GROC

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.

rainbow-cake

 

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.

rainbow-cake-cups

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

when-cake-falls-apart

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.

Two kids in a room. Or not.

We are at a conference for the rest of the weekend, so I am re-posting this one from a couple years ago.

Baby and Toddler Room Sharing

Heather and I both live in Berkeley where houses are small, and expensive nonetheless. Our neighboring city Oakland is pretty much the same.  If you’ve seen the show Parenthood, which is set here, well, let’s just say that the houses in which those characters live would be in the top 5% for spaciousness.

The other day I went over to my friend Karin’s house for the first time since she’s been married and had two sons. When she opened the front door, the first thing I saw was a queen-sized air mattress taking up her entire living room floor. I asked if she had weekend guests, and she sheepishly explained that she and her husband actually sleep on the air mattress and let their baby sleep in their room while their toddler hogs the room that is intended to be shared by the brothers. Eventually.

They were struggling to figure out how to put two kids in the same room such that they would allow each other to take their naps and sleep at night.

I had no advice for her, although since my kids are older and have been sharing a room for a long while now, I could hardly register the situation as a problem.  I remember letting Scarlett cry it out and Julian, age 3, just slept right through it.  I now realize every toddler does not sleep as soundly as Julian, who could be carried into a playdate if he had fallen asleep in the car, plopped on the host’s couch, and be jumped on by his excited little friend, and sleep through the whole thing. As I drove home from Karin’s, however, I suddenly remembered a few scenarios that may have comforted her.

Documenting a lost battle: Scarlett naps on the floor in my room

When Heather’s baby #2 Milo was born, she worried that his night wakings would disrupt Holden’s sleep, yet she and Alec had learned from their rookie parenting stint that they prefer not to sleep in the same room as the baby. Therefore, baby Milo slept in his infant “bucket” carseat in the office area just outside their room. Every night. For four months.

When my own second child was born, we made half of our bedroom into a babycentric space, expecting her to stay with us for a couple months.  She tricked us by being a good sleeper for about a month, but then lost her knack for staying asleep past midnight. Taking a cue from our good friends who called their children “swing babies”, we set up the automatic swing in our bedroom, and there she slept, swinging at full speed, all night long. For three months.

And Julian? He slept swaddled and strapped to a changing table pad on the floor when we visited our parents for the first few months.

My point is that we do a lot of crazy shit as new parents. We sing potty songs, attach electric pumps to our breasts, and read books to kids who can barely hold their heads up. Sleeping in your own living room is the least of it. (That reminds me…  my second cousin’s husband used to sleep on the porch.)

If you’ve got two children who share a room, tell us more.  How did you do it?

What Not To Wear: Baby Edition

Poor Winnie the Pooh. Such a nice guy, but moms are not into him these days.

We asked our Facebook page about what types of clothing they refuse to put on their children. While this is a very subjective topic, and I don’t imagine we all share the same opinions on these styles, here are the things some moms named as styles they don’t want their babies to wear.

1. Camoflague. It’s too early in life to draft our little ones into battle, I gather. Though it’s been a recent trend, many of you don’t want your kids sporting camo.

camo-green-long-sleeve-onesie-front
source

2. Bikinis. No “likes” on Facebook for the teeny weeny swimsuits.

10 things moms don't want their children wearing
source

 

3. References to Mommy and Daddy. Mommy’s Little Sailor above a picture of a boat? Wild About Daddy with a cheetah print? You guys say, “No thank you.” Especially not this exceptionally graphic tribute to Daddy’s relationship to the baby. Umm.

daddys_little_squirt_infant_bodysuit

4. Pastel animals. Also, neon animals. Also, neon cars. Ok, this one is pretty subjective. I think what we’re getting at here is general cheesiness. Or maybe just ugliness? I feel bad selecting a product to illustrate.

5. Turtlenecks. We don’t need to say more. But we will. San Francisco mom Val says, “Because a baby shouldn’t look like Steve Jobs in a tiny black mock turtleneck onesie.”

Styles for babies that moms hate

6. Announcements that this baby just might be a jerk.  I Heart Boobies, Little Monster, Call Me Princess, Lady Killer, and other faux arrogant claims are rejected.

11 baby clothing styles moms hate.

7. Writing on the butt. What’s worse than a onesie that brags “Little Diva”? One that says it on the tush.

diva-diaper-ruffle

8. Skulls. Many moms find them creepy. Enough disagree that Honest Co makes diapers with skulls, and I bought them for my nephew because I knew his mom would dig ‘em. Oh well. Find these at Target. Or don’t if you hate skulls.

11 styles for babies that moms are wary of

 

9. NFL, NASCAR, NBA licensed gear. Some parents are uncomfortable with their child acting as a billboard for multi-million dollar businesses. That includes Disney. Fair enough.

11 styles for babies that no mom is excited about

Bonus discussion topic: Overalls. Wait, overalls are cute, aren’t they? Or you guys hate overalls? I can’t tell.

No matter how much you agree or disagree with the picks above, I can guarantee that by the time our kids are grown, we’ll think it was all adorable — even NASCAR turtlenecks with neon animal-themed overalls.

Related activity: Host an ugly baby clothes contest

What I wish I could do over: Introducing my kid to food

My nine-year old son is a very picky eater. I was the same way. The world will not end over this, and he is certainly not lacking in the nutrition department — red bell pepper, raw spinach leaves, and hummus are on his limited list of approved foods. More than anything, it’s inconvenient.

Going to a barbecue stresses him out because he doesn’t care for anything on a bun. Taco Night, a crowdpleaser at most multi-family dinners, means that he approaches the DIY food station and selects a tortilla and shredded cheese. No meat, no beans. Tomato? Fugeddaboutit. At that point, I usually open my friend’s fridge and pour him a huge glass of milk to be sure he won’t be hungry.

No sauce on his pasta; no fruit salad. He would prefer a pile of strawberries next to wedges of apple and nectarine slices, lined up, but not leaning into one another. He will not eat sweet potato fries or French fries, or anything else served at a baseball game concession stand.

This is my fault.

If there is an opposite of Baby-Led Weaning — that’s how I introduced baby Julian to food. I prepared individual bowls of homogeneous foods that lacked texture. A cup of apple sauce. A bowl of mashed avocado. No seasonings. No meat.

Those plastic children’s dinner plates with divided cubbies? That’s how my brain works. I set up his meals that way even without cubby-plates, because that’s what I liked when I was little. And by the way, my picky eating was an inconvenience as well. I never ate a casserole or lasagna before age 20 because, eewww, textures.

A divided plate for a toddler caused me years of food-related angst

My second child was eating lentils and tomato soup with chunks of sweet potato with her fingers at ten months old. Scarlett’s a little picky, as most children are, but not as much so as Julian (she tries new foods regularly and will not starve at a campout).

I tell myself it’s okay. When he travels in Latin America, as I did in my early 20s, he’ll eat whatever’s on hand: beans and meat included. When he gets invited to his girlfriend’s house for Easter dinner, he’ll put food on his plate and force it down. Peer pressure in his teens will introduce him not just to beer, but also to pasta salad and turkey sandwiches. God, would my life be easier if the kid would eat a turkey sandwich.

If I could do it over again, I would feed him curried chicken and vegetables from a Thai restaurant before his first birthday. I would let his applesauce ooze over and touch, just barely, the carrots, and tell him that it’s okay. I would pack tortellini with pesto in his daycare lunchbox when he was 24 months old. And I would not make different dinners for the kids and adults in our family.

But I cannot go back in time, so I’m laying in the bed I made. Sometimes fretting, sometimes feeling embarrassed, and trying to tell myself that in the scheme of things, there are worse problems to have.

Have you ever reminded yourself, when your child is a late bloomer in some arena, that everyone learns to walk eventually? No one brings their bottle with them to Kindergarten. And for the most part, daily tantrumming dies out before adulthood. I’m trying to have faith that ability to order without stress in a restaurant, identify food one likes at a potluck, and be flexible enough to enjoy dinner at someone else’s home will also be milestones we arrive at one day.

Related: 3 parenting tips that have completely failed me

Activity #23: Build muscles at bootcamp

By the time my first baby was 10 weeks old, I had not exercised for about 6 months. Baby Bootcamp was my re-introduction to sweating and I loved it. I was not a gym-goer in my normal life, and Baby Bootcamp was perfect for me. Here’s why:

  1. Exercising in the company of other sleep-deprived, temporarily overweight, leaky-breasted women is more fun.
  2. It was no problem that I walked the course rather than ran it much of the time. I had many excuses lined up for not running (all of which are somewhat valid and mostly shared by other participants).
  3. Stopping to deal with my fussy baby was totally expected. Everyone had to stop at some point.
  4. It got me out of the house to do something good for myself and enjoy the outdoors.

All about Baby Bootcamp classes

This is our 23rd Rookie Mom challenge. Not ready for it? Go back and pick an easier one.

Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can invite your partner and show him or her how awesome and athletic you are. The other parent and grandparents can tag along for free.

Check babybootcamp.com and a similar organization Fit4Mom.com for locations and schedules.

Did you complete this challenge? Share your story.

  • Comment below and spill the details.
  • Share a picture with us on Facebook.
  • Tag a tweet or instagram of your experience with #rookiemoms

[photo: Whitney Mattocks]

Water toys and gear that make swimming more fun for rookie moms

Puddle jumper swim floaties for kids getting more comfortable in the water
{Photo by Kate Marzo}

When your children can swim independently, the word vacation takes on a whole new meaning. Relaxing at the pool while my kids wear themselves out with cannonballs is my happy place. Here are some fun items that I keep seeing at the swimming spots we’ve hit so far this summer.

1. Puddle Jumpers. Sold at Amazon, Target, Costco, and even Bed Bath and Beyond, this new-fangled life jacket allows kids to have the mobility their arms need to get used to swimming. If you’re looking to get your child more comfortable in the water, this is the swim-aid for you. For kids 30-50 lbs. Runs about $25; click to see all the color and design choices.

Products that make swimming more fun

2. Sunsuits. In my house we called this the “super suit”. You may find it dorky, but I found the peace of mind in having my child’s body nearly covered with SPF 50 fabric invaluable. A swim diaper under one of these babies from One Step Ahead (pictured) is our beach uniform. Infant sizes come with snap up crotches for diaper changes. I also dig this striped one from Columbia Sportswear.

Sunsuits make a day at the beach more relaxing

3. Water toys for babies. For babies and toddlers, plastic cups and bowls from wherever you are visiting will suffice as water toys. Scooping and pouring is the work they’ll do. In the sand, those same cups can be used as sandcastle molds. Want to get fancier? One of these spinning wheels toys is a lot of fun. Pour water or sand to make it move.

Sand toys to make beach time with a toddler fun

4. Floatsuits. These swimsuits from Konfidence USA have foam inserts that keep children safe, like a life jacket, while allowing complete motility for arms and legs. As children gain confidence in the water, the floats can be removed one-by-one. I have not used this brand, but a few million years ago when I was a nanny during college, the girls I watched, ages 18 months and 3 years old, had bathing suits like this, and they were great. Also comes in many colors/styles for about $25-$35 (boys’ versions too).

Floatsuits make swimming safer

5. Portable shade. We own this “Sportsbrella” and so should you. It offers about 1 Million SPF because the fabric is coated and the sides can roll down further than I did in this photograph for more protection. Find it >

pop-up-shade-tent

6. I-can-totally swim toys. My kids love to hunt for things to rescue in the pool, so we usually have a set of dive rings or sinking balls, and I’ve just discovered these Avengers dive characters. (Test any of your rubber action figures at home to see if they sink. Maybe you already own “dive characters”!)

Toys for the pool - you might already own some of these!

7. I-don’t-like-to-put-my-face-in-the-water goggles. Before my kids would willingly put their faces in the water, they wore these mega goggles by Aqua Sphere. Now, their inability to enter a pool without goggles baffles me, as I never wore goggles as a child, but they have graduated to normal smaller goggles. The bigger goggles come in many colors, including a 2-pack where one pair offers a tinted lens for the sun.

Gear to make swimming fun: huge goggles

8. I can, like, totally swim, so like, don’t even talk to me. My daughter and I watched with great interest as some older girls donned mermaid fins to swim in a pool. Unfortunately these only fit kids who wear shoe sizes 1 and up, so it’s quite a few years away for my little girl who has her Mama’s very small feet. But I’m tempted to try a mermaid monofin myself.

Gear to make swimming fun: mermaid monofin

{photo via amazon.com}

99 balloons and 99 poops (Yet, another potty training experiment)

Like many new toilet trainees, my son mastered the art of #2 a few months after he mastered #1. Even though my rational mind told me that more patience is required, my eager-to-stop-cleaning-poopy-pull-ups mind determined that MORE BRIBING is the answer. At the time, I believed that I hit the jackpot in terms of bribery.

Potty training bribes

I purchased blik wall decals for both of my kids rooms, and they are totally adorable. Julian’s bedroom took a long time to finish, even though applying the decals is as easy as putting stickers on a flat surface. And that is because the set of stickers I bought for him was made up of 99 red balloons and we applied one balloon every time he successfully, er, makes a deposit in the toilet. At the time, he was thrilled with his balloon wall and showed it to everyone who comes to our house. All eight apple-red balloons, each one representing a victory in the life of a preschooler.

The balloon set comes in seven different candy colors and comes with grey strings. They look totally adorable on his sky blue walls, and now, years after his potty habits were cemented, they are still fitting for a 9-year old’s room.

Blik also makes robot stickers that Heather used in her boys’ robot-themed bedroom.