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

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?

Last-minute baby Halloween costume ideas

Remember how when you sorta grew out of Halloween, there were still times when you were able to throw together a costume with items you had on hand, because at the last minute someone would convince you to dress up? This can work for a baby or toddler costume, too.

Last-minute baby Halloween costume ideas: chef

The one above was inspired by a visit to the Zynga office when they launched a Facebook game called ChefVille!

Last-minute baby Halloween costume ideas: baseball!

Last-minute baby Halloween costume ideas: LIKE button

Here are a few more ideas:

  1. Waldo – Red and white striped shirt or onesie. Beanie. Glasses optional.
  2. Tourist – Hawaiian shirt, shorts, socks with sandals. Print a picture of a camera from the Web, paste it onto some cardboard, and make it a necklace for baby to wear.
  3. 50s guy – black fake leather jacket (buy used at baby resale store or ebay), white onesie, jeans. Slick back hair for maximum effect. If hair is available.
  4. Fried Egg – white one piece outfit or separates. Cut yellow circle from felt and sew or safety pin onto belly.
  5. Ballet dancer – Pink onesie, pink tights, pink Robeez. Done.
  6. Farmer – Plaid button down shirt, denim overalls, sunhat. Carry a stuffed animal that belongs on a farm, such as a pig.
  7. Bumble Bee – Black onesie, black sweats, yellow electrical tape. Pipe cleaner headband for anntenae. (Contributed by veteran mom Jen R.)
  8. Aerobics instructor – onesie over leggings with baby legs if you’ve got ‘em. Make a quick sweatband by cutting the edge off an outgrown newborn cap.
  9. Baby Einstein – Write E=MC2 on a onesie and be done with it. Concept and photo courtesy of baby Halloween costume ideas: Einstein

What else could you do for a last-minute DIY baby Halloween costume idea?

Ten things I know because I have a ten-year old

Once I became a mom, I was the mom of a baby, then a toddler’s mom, then a mom of two little ones, a preschool mom, a grade school mom, and soon, the mom of tweens. That is how life works. I didn’t get diplomas at any of these graduations.


In the past ten years, I’ve moved from rookie status to all-star status, and even though it still feels hard sometimes, and the lack of “right answers” is frustrating, it is also my dream-come-true to raise these two children and watch as it becomes increasingly clearer that they will develop into adults who don’t think only of themselves, don’t need calculators to figure out tips, and can get lost in a good book. I am grateful to be experiencing my dream and have learned these ten facts along the way:

1. We are just mammals. Yep, the laws of nature govern our reproductive experiences, no matter how often we joke “There’s an app for that.” There is no app for the hormones that course through a birth mother’s body, that tells her to start lactating, that makes infants cry and sleep and wake in infinite cycles. The fact that babies sleep better on or next to their parents is hard to believe, but that’s an animal instinct. It’s shocking but true. Sometimes I use these biological facts to remind myself that my husband is attracted to me no matter how hairy I’ve let my legs get. His DNA tells him to be.

2. Pee is not a big deal. Before you are a parent, before someone hands you a naked baby, because that’s how he arrived in the world, you might think pee is a yucky, private thing. Well, it turns out it’s everywhere, all the time. You have probably gotten some in your eye. When your child pees on your lap, you’re glad it’s urine on your pants, not milk.

3. A green bean is just a green bean, not a gold medal. I shared this lesson after reading a parenting book. I wish we could all stop obsessing about the quality and quantity of our children’s meals. We’ve begun treating what our kids eat like a status game. Sorry, but you are not a Good Person just because your child eats salad by age three. We can only reach Good Person status by being compassionate, generous, and respectful to our communities. Making homemade baby food is for saving money and avoiding packaging, not for earning moral superiority points. [Read more…]

More than misery loves company, embarassment loves company

I had a lovely experience at the gym this morning, and that’s not sarcasm. At the end of my workout, I felt I hadn’t pushed myself hard enough, so I grabbed a jump rope off a hook in the yoga room that was not being used, and jumped for 30 seconds. (That’s harder than it sounds.) I had seen another mom from my kids’ school using the jump rope at this gym, and had been thinking I should try it.

When I got my jacket and purse to leave the gym, now sweating properly, I saw that mom out of the corner of my eye. She was jumping rope with impressive rhythm. I went over and told her that she had inspired me to try jumping that morning. (Give me one gold star for pushing myself to give warm fuzzies to someone I hardly know, right?)

We started talking about jumping rope. She gestured to her phone, which was on stopwatch mode, and explained that she was on a jumping kick and had invited a bunch of friends to try it with her. She said she’s been improving over the course of the month and shared some of the variations she does: one-foot jumping and backwards jumping. She said that when she started, she could barely accomplish two one-foot jumps in a row.

We joked about the side effects of jump-roping for women: feeling like your uterus might fall out or that you are peeing a little.

She mentioned that when she began this particular exercise kick, she felt self-conscious about jumping rope in the gym, where people could see her.

“But everyone is doing ridiculous things in here,” I said, thinking about the grunting and downward dog stretching that was happening all around us.

I wasn’t allowing her to have her embarrassed feeling. I was telling her she shouldn’t feel that way.

But then I remembered that there was one piece of exercise equipment that I have been wanting to use, but avoiding, because I felt embarrassed about it. I hadn’t even realized that’s what I was feeling until I told her about it.

It is a pair of huge ropes that are anchored to the wall. They’re called “battle ropes”, and you wave them up and down as fast as you can for a high-intensity interval.

On being embarassed

Can you see why I might feel stupid doing this in front of other people?

On doing embarassing things

I feel like I’m not entitled to those ropes, like they are for big firefighters, or people who workout really hard. Guys with mustaches, maybe.


My new friend said that she had never tried the battle ropes, and then suggested, “How about next time we see each other here, we do it together?”

Well that is flippin’ brilliant, isn’t it?

Suddenly it seemed so doable. Imagining the two of us taking 30-second turns made me feel like it would be totally normal to shake oversized rope up and down with all my might in the middle of a flourescent-lighted room. I might even let out a grunt.

The rest of the morning, I kept thinking about how that shift in perspective made me feel. It was so simple: do it with a friend.  Or in this case an acquaintance whose name is definitely Betsy or Robin, I’m not sure which, but I’ll definitely figure it out before we embarrass ourselves together.

Photo credit: Art Of Manliness

Things to do with toddlers before they turn two

Many of you have followed our list of 52 things to do with a baby and are hungry for more. What happens after Week 52?

Toddlers possess the amazing ability to simultaneously demonstrate knowledge about how the world works AND cluelessness about their role in it. (Sorry Sweetie, Mommy is not going to help you push the stove out of the way so that you can ride your plastic car through that part of the kitchen.) No longer satisfied by an activity gym on the floor, they are ready for some more exciting activities.

A helpful list of things to do with toddlers

Here are some that we like:

Indoor activities for toddlers (which are also handy when you need to make a phone call or complete an online purchase without someone hanging off your body.)

  1. Sitting in front of an open cupboard or drawer full of plastic storage containers and messing around with them.
  2. Hunkering down in an unexpected place, such as inside the closet or under a table. Throw a sheet over it to make it special. {tips for a better blanket fort}
  3. Squeezing and squishing play-doh. Fear mess? Keep the playdough in a sealed baggie while your child handles it.
  4. Drinking toddler tea out of a real ceramic cup (add lemon or a shake of cinnamon to warm water). We love this gender-neutral set for pretend play and real use.
  5. Turning regular shoes into tap shoes, and back again.
  6. Gathering all the washcloths in the house and laying them out in various patterns. “Shoot it out!” my daughter used to say. Washcloths are more manageable for little ones than baby blankets, but blankets are a good time, too.
  7. Playing with magnets on a cookie sheet or metal bucket.
  8. Helping sweep up with a little dust pan.
  9. Placing different lengths of Scotch Tape or masking tape onto paper or the side of a box.
  10. Sitting in a box. Yep.
  11. Taping up a train track on the rug. Choo choo.
  12. Getting silly with finger puppets.
  13. Playing hopscotch inside.
  14. Organizing small objects, like Cheerios, in a muffin tin.
  15. Creating a felt food feast.
  16. Pouring water between containers at the kitchen counter (AKA potching)
  17. Trying on all the hats in the house.
  18. Removing everything from the bookshelves. Maybe putting them back.
  19. Sticking and unsticking stickers! On the paper, on your shirt, on your cheek. Hooray.
  20. Playing in a ball pit from your old pack n play.
  21. Helping grind coffee beans (or is this just my kid?).
  22. Tearing up paper – use old magazines or newspaper.
  23. No-mess finger painting.
  24. Banging pots and pans really loud (not so great for that phone call).
  25. Solving puzzles like these simple ones.
  26. Running trains over the tracks you put together.

Outdoor activities for toddlers

  1. Discovering how chalk works on the ground outside
  2. Playing hide-and-seek with small toys or fruit from a tree, Easter Egg-style. (Give your child a bucket to collect the items you’ve “hidden” at the park or in your yard).
  3. Throwing. This simple act never gets old. “Let’s go to the park and throw sticks at the bushes!”
  4. Going anywhere in a bike trailer.
  5. Collecting rocks into a container. Stacking rocks. Lining up rocks. I’m surprised they don’t sell rocks at Toys R Us. I bet someone has tried.
  6. Pouring water in and out of a large container.
  7. Starting a butterfly garden.
  8. Playing fetch with stomp rockets or other “blast-off and chase” toys

Outings for moms with toddlers

  1. Home Depot or other massive hardware store. Check out the light switches, the door bells, the orange cones. Basically every thing your kiddo enjoys seeing in the world around him is sold there. Look at all those potties!
  2. Public Library. Since other people’s toys and books are more fun than your own, this is a place to enjoy them for an hour or two. No pressure to buy anything!
  3. Zoo, time to think about a membership, mama.
  4. Elementary school playground, watch some big kids or test your daredevil.
  5. IKEA. If you’re lucky enough to live near one, here’s a list of why it’s awesome for parents.
  6. Chase the garbage truck! Some days are easier to get out of the house when you know your garbage routes.
  7. Children’s museum (save money on membership when you follow our tips).
  8. Pitch a tent at REI.
  9. Sip pretend coffee at a kid-friendly cafe. (It’s called steamed milk, and they’ll make it not-too-hot if you ask.)
  10. Your friend’s house, where the toys are fresh and novel.
  11. Anywhere with trains.
  12. Push a doll stroller or drag a wagon around the block. Even better, find a friend with a baby in a stroller and let your toddler push her stroller on the World’s Slowest Walk.
  13. Ethiopian or sushi restaurant where eating with your hands is worldly.
  14. Indoor playspace with climbing, bouncing and toys you don’t need to keep at home.
  15. Bus ride, round trip.
  16. Take a class together.
  17. Botanical garden with leaves to touch and bugs to chase.
  18. Toy store; keep your wallet hidden, why not teach now that a store is like a museum of cool stuff to admire?

52 things to do with toddlers before they turn two

Related: Best gifts for a two-year old.