How to paint your big pregnant belly

Painting a pregnant belly

A question we’ve received from readers more than once is this: What type of paint is safe for painting my pregnant belly?

Well, this confirms there are tons of women out there as weird as I am.

However, I’m not a dermatologist or even a paintologist, so I am usually hesitant to make a guess, even to share what seems like common sense, because what if I’m wrong and you get a rash and your baby comes out with rainbow stripes? I don’t want that level of responsibility.

How to paint a pregnant belly

When I saw this Pregnancy Belly Painting Kit — I think it was used at a Mom 2.0 event, I thought I should share it. Someone has done the research to figure out a formula that will paint on skin and not hurt anyone.

It’s about twenty bucks and has 8 colors in it, plus some helpful instructions inside.

This video shows more of the belly painting that happened before I took the picture at the top of this post. I’m in the video, too! (I have no relationship with the company – just got a chance to see the bellies!)

How to hack a baby’s activity playmat

Thanks to Stef from for this guest post.

How to use a baby activity gym at all stages

While an activity gym can be a great choice for unrestricted play, some can overwhelm babies of certain ages. How do you make one of these playmats work for your baby, plus get more bang for your buck as they grow?

Today we’ve got two activity gym hacks from Stef the Nanny of She transforms two popular baby playmats and makes them work harder from newborn to crawler.

How to make this baby gym last longer in your house

Skip Hop Activity Gym (The one pictured is Alphabet Zoo but you can also do this with any playmat that has a removable cloth base that is machine washable like the Tiny Love Gymini.)

Newborns who cannot yet sit up. These babies need less, not more stimulation. Too much action can make them cranky and unable to focus. By eliminating the twenty toys and do-dads that come with typical activity gyms and shutting off the music you can create a zone of calm where they can focus on one toy at a time, therefore extending their attention span (aka learning to *play* on their own).

  1. Detach the bottom mat of your gym from the cross bars.
  2. Remove any toys that are snapped or stuck on the mat with hook and loop.
  3. Flip it over so the blank underside is showing and reattach it to the cross bars.
  4. Take off all the toys that hang off the cross bars normally.
  5. Add the one toy with a mirror OR a string of plastic links instead.
  6. Place a book or mirror to the side of your baby to look at when they turn their head or when they are on their belly.How to use a baby activity gym at all stages
    How to simplify your playmat for an infant

Babies that can roll and sit: Now they are more ready for all the toys that come with the activity gym as well as the music it may play.

“Cause and Effect” is one of the most effective ways they learn so placing a burp cloth or favorite security blanket over the cross bars for them to pull down will be a big favorite. [Read more...]

Activity #33: Build your own portrait studio

Rookie Moms Maternity Leave challenges

Set up a photo space to take pictures of your babyLook at my son. Sigh. This photo was taken almost nine years ago at a photo shoot for my former employer who had a last minute need for a baby model.

Although I am usually opposed to studio photography, there is something about it that’s easy to look at. I guess that’s why our generation’s parents took us to Kmart for portraits all those years.

Well gone are the days of Sears Portrait Studios, or JC Penney, with their free 8×10 offer. I guess every one who owns a fancy camera has put them out of business.

Your assignment this week: Build your own temporary “portrait studio”.

This is the 33rd week of our rookie moms challenges.

Create a blank space in a corner of your home so that you can achieve the type of simple photo we got from department stores in the past. Cheesy or adorable – there is a fine line. And when it comes to your own baby, I’m guessing you’ll side with “adorable”.

Try taping a sheet to the wall so that it drapes down on the floor and placing your baby on it.

Here’s what the pros use, so you can get the idea of how a backdrop is created. This gives your eyes a rest from the clutter of your home. Oh, sorry, is that just my home?

How to set up a photography backdrop in your home

Experiment with a prop or two, such as a single stuffed animal or a stool that your baby likes to pull up on. You can try for a more interesting background with textiles you may have around your house. Did you know that people who set up a lot of photos buy backgrounds like this vinyl photo of brick and wood? What the what?

How to set up a photography backdrop in your home

On Amazon or Ebay, you’ll find all sorts of backgrounds that give the illusion of barn siding or brick walls or weathered shutters or decorative wall paper. But I warn you, if you don’t have the right lighting, your photos will not look like your fantasies. However, some of the backdrops are less then $10, so maybe it’s fun to try them out. (Browse a few options >)

My professional advice (and yes, having done casting for catalogs, I am actually qualified to give this) is to have your baby wear something timeless such as a solid colored onesie and jeans or overalls. The more skin you show, the better. Bare feet and bare arms make baby photography even more irresistible. Solid Cotton Leggings + Bare Feet = One Cute Picture.

No clean sheet? Just move some furniture out of the way and use a spot where the wall meets the floor.

How to set up a photography backdrop in your home

And my final words of wisdom: Keep a bib on your baby until you are ready to snap that shutter to avoid drool marks on the shirt.

See 51 other options for things to do while home with a baby
Get more photo tips from a pro

Photo of baby in bib: Sharon Montrose


On twins: bonding with each child

Gina Osher is The Twin Coach in Los Angeles. She bravely writes about some of the uneven feelings that twin parents may experience in hopes of helping other moms who are having the same challenge.

One of the fantasies that I had about being a mom of twins is how I would instantly love both my babies in exactly the same way. What surprised me the most when our twins were born is how very common it is for parents of multiples to feel more of a connection to one than the other. It is so rarely talked about that it causes a great deal of shame for those of us who experience it. This is not postpartum depression but rather an imbalance between how easily you connect to one twin over the other. This bond imbalance can fluctuate, shift from one child to the other and generally does not last – especially if the parent is proactive about it. This is an issue that I believe exists solely for those of us with multiples; a singleton mother may feel disconnected from her child at times, but she doesn’t have the side-by-side comparison staring her in the face which adds to the already enormous guilt.

When our children were born, our son arrived first. After 18 hours of labor he pushed his way out and was placed on my chest. He blinked at me and made a sort of mewing sound – like a kitten. I felt this huge rush of emotion and felt instantly that I wanted to love and protect him. He was a gentle, quiet, easygoing baby with plaintive cries. He needed me and he was easy to love. Our daughter was born an hour and 10 minutes after our son – right from the start she had her own ideas about how she was going to do things! She came out, red-faced and screaming. I was jarred by her loud sounds after so many hours of labor and didn’t know what to make of her. When she would cry at home she always sounded pissed off and insistent. She was more difficult to figure out. I had a hard time describing her personality when people asked. I actually felt like she liked our nanny more than me. I was having a hard time bonding. And I felt awful. Here was my little girl, so beautiful and perfect and who needed me so much. Of course I loved her. But I felt distant. It was so natural with our son. Why was it so hard with her?

At some point I began to realize that some of what I connected to in my son were personality traits of mine that I liked (being sensitive, being quiet, being cooperative). Our daughter has some of the traits I have that I struggle with (being bossy, needing to be in control, being opinionated). Also, she was just a little more difficult – she fussed more, slept less and didn’t eat as well. Things were generally tougher with her. I subconsciously compared the two of them. It was unfair to her, but he was just easier and it made it easier to want to be around him. I felt as though I wasn’t able to be the mother she wanted, as though I didn’t know how to help her. I knew I needed to spend more time with her. I needed to get to KNOW her. This insight fortunately coincided with letting our first nanny go. I had no choice but to spend all day and night with the two of them. And when my husband was available, he would sometimes take our son so I could have less on my plate and I would have alone time just with our daughter. I began to trust myself with her and to understand her cries and to know who she was. It took time and effort but suddenly I realized I was bonding with her!

Now that I am years past those days I look back and it seems so obvious that when you’re not connecting with someone you want to be close to, the best way to change things is to spend more time together. But when you’re an exhausted mom of newborn twins you aren’t always thinking clearly and sometimes you just want things to be easy – you don’t have the mental capacity for dealing with one more thing that needs your attention. Your hormones are all over the place and it is so easy to start feeling insecure and begin to doubt your capabilities. If you’re feeling this imbalanced feeling towards your babies, please know it’s normal. [Read more...]

Activity #32: Go to bookstore events

Enjoy bookstore FREE events for babies #rookiemoms

Don’t miss the opportunity to let someone else entertain your baby. Go to a bookstore during story time. Some will even serve you a latte. This is your 32nd rookie moms challenge.

Many of these storytimes happen during the work day but some are on weekends. Use the “search by zip code” feature on the Barnes & Noble website to find when story time happens. Search carefully; there are different events for babies from preschoolers. Or find a local indie bookstore near you.

If you have a photo of you and your little sidekick chilling at the bookstore, post it to our facebook page or share it on instagram with hashtag #rookiemoms so we can give you a high five!

[Photo credit: Olivia Howell, all rights reserved]

Scarlett’s supergirl birthday party: activities

When I was still able to control her social life,  I steered Scarlett’s fourth birthday party toward a Super Girl theme.

As my girl has grown older, the threat of her being “eaten by princesses” has grown, too.  This article on Huffington Post about how we must engage little girls in conversations about things other than their appearances is important to me. Being pretty is not a pursuit I want my preschooler prioritizing. (And don’t get me started on the shoes made for little girls, most of which are clearly not meant for running or climbing, but rather for collecting compliments.)

This Super Girl party was satisfying to my birthday girl, fun and inexpensive for me, and welcoming to our guests of both genders.

We already had enough capes in our dress-up box to offer one to each child. It was big brother Julian’s job to offer capes as people arrived. (Need a couple extra capes? These are less than $7 on Amazon.)

I had four activities set up for the party. Each one was only engaging to a couple of the kids, so I am not trying to make you to believe that these are the world’s best birthday party activities, but having opted to throw the party in our own backyard, it was important to have things for the kids to DO.

(Full disclosure: a visiting kitten who was being held hostage in the master bathroom was the main attraction leading kids to continuously sneak into the house to get their little paws on the poor baby cat. Nothing I offered the guests could compete with furry little Zeus. Even the moms wanted to see him.)

Nevertheless, I hope you’ll find inspiration here: [Read more...]

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.