Getting ahead of the holidays

COMMENTS: 7

family design  Getting ahead of the holidays

Ready or not, the holidays are just around the corner. This year—Skyler’s first—everything seems to be happening faster.

Every year I say I’m going to get ahead—on holiday wish lists, plans, cards, and the like. This year, it’s going to happen! I really want to savor this season with our two little ones.

First step: holiday cards. We went with Minted last year, and we loved how they turned out—so it was an easy choice to go with one of their designs again. (And they’re sharing a discount with readers. See below if you’d like to do so as well.)

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Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings

COMMENTS: 9

family  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings
family  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings
family  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings

When stories aren’t enough, you need some activities in the back seat to keep little hands (and minds) busy. But too much time looking down (be it at a screen or a coloring book) can challenge even the toughest tummy.

We came up with a way to make (halloween-themed) window clings that could be used on the windows at home—and in the car!

Hudson was very curious about what people in passing cars thought of his creation. “What she say to my pumpkin?” he’d ask! 

family  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings

You’ll Need: 

  • Contact paperfamily  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings
  • Sharpiefamily  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings
  • Acrylic paintfamily  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings
  • Paint brushesfamily  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings (and/or stamps, sponges, Q-tips… finger-tips)
  • Scissors
  • A surface for painting on, and some water/paper towels for clean-up.
  • Parchment or Wax paper (optional) to store your clings.

family  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings
family  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings

The key to this project is contact paper! Contact paper goes on and off glass easily, and can be used over and over again as long as you keep it clean. You can paint it, place stickers on it, or color it with indelible markers (like sharpies).  It’s incredibly versatile and easy to find. Once you have a roll in your home, you can make your own window clings—essentially reusable stickers—for any season.

How-to: 

1. Outline your images. You can free draw directly on the surface (non-sticky side) of the Contact Paper, but I find it easiest to outline images on the backing and then paint or color them in on the surface. In our case, I drew some pumpkins and spooky facial features (à la Mr. Potato Head) as well as some general monster shapes.

family  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings

2. Paint (or color) the surface. Flip over the contact paper and use your outlines to guide you. Hudson filled in the pumpkins and the monsters, but I painted all of the features and accessories for the pumpkins for him to play with later. (He’s only three, so his art tends toward the more abstract.)

Older kids can do all of this themselves and may even prefer to use markers to color the images (it’s a faster process), but washable and non-toxic acrylic paint is preferable for most little kids.

The less paint you use, the more light will shine through and the faster the paint will dry. However, if you are going to decorate a pumpkin, like Hudson did, the face will show up best on a more solidly painted surface.

Note: Don’t worry if the color doesn’t follow the lines exactly. Because you will be cutting the shapes out with scissors, you can either cut along the lines or correct then.

family  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings

3. Allow for drying time. Acrylic paint, if not too thick, dries pretty quickly—within maybe an hour or so.

family  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings
family  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings

4. Cut out your shapes.  In addition to the pumpkins and features for decorating them, I also cut the monsters Hudson painted into three pieces each—to be mixed up and recombined like a puzzle. (I drew the faces on with a pen, after the paint had dried.)

You can cut your shapes and apply them directly to a glass surface, or you can save them on wax or parchment paper for later. We stored ours in a shoebox, for bringing along on car rides.

family  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings

family  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings
family  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings

5. Have fun! These are very easy to make, so don’t be afraid to get creative. Just keep in mind: for the image to be clear from both sides of the window, you’ll want to create something with a single layer. In the case of our car activity, because the face is stuck on top of the pumpkin, it will only be visible inside the car whereas only the pumpkin will be visible outside of the car.

Such a simple way to keep kids entertained—and looking out the window—in the backseat!

What are your favorite activities for road trips?

family  Backseat activity: Make your own Window Clings

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Simple car trick: Record your own Audio Book

COMMENTS: 14

family  Simple car trick: Record your own Audio Book

A while back, I asked my pediatrician, in almost embarrassing earnestness: “so what did you do on car trips with kids before iPads and iPhones?” My family played games and sang songs, but other than practically reciting the entire Odyssey for my dad (something he generously endured on a trip to Mammoth when I was a senior in high school), I can’t remember how our long drives passed.

She said she was a big fan of audio books.

Davis is a small town, but the driving to and from school every day adds up. I keep a box for the toys and books that accumulate beside Hudson’s chair, but he usually spends the time peppering me with questions.

Most days I look forward to hearing about what he sees and what he did at school—letting some stories grow elaborate: “A whale? Oh! What does a whale’s breath smell like? Like fish? Is that stinky?” The longer I can hold off the strings of “why?” and “what’re you doing, mommy?” (a sure cue that he’s bored) the better.

But every other day or so he still asks me to read him a book. “I can’t while I’m driving, buddy!” I reply.

So I thought back to that conversation with my pediatrician.

family  Simple car trick: Record your own Audio Book

Have you ever used audio books with your kids in the car? They’re a wonderful antidote to screen time. We played The Further Tale of Peter Rabbitfamily  Simple car trick: Record your own Audio Book , written and read by none other than the lovely Emma Thompson alongside a stirring soundtrack evocative of the Scottish highlands—when we were driving along the coast of Italy (bag pipes being so fitting). We still quote it to one another in our best brogue: “Throw the radish!”

If Emma Thompson can do it, why can’t I? (Don’t answer that.)

So the other night, while we were reading together, I recorded myself.

family  Simple car trick: Record your own Audio Book

Right now, Hudson is a loyal fan of Julia Donaldson’s books—and so I am I! (Thank goodness.) The Gruffalofamily  Simple car trick: Record your own Audio Book , Room on the Broomfamily  Simple car trick: Record your own Audio Book , and even The Gruffalo’s Childfamily  Simple car trick: Record your own Audio Book are in regular rotation—they’re perfect for this time of year! (And the stories are so clever and engaging that I actually haven’t tired of reading them yet!)

The Gruffalo is particularly good for reading aloud—there are lots of repeating phrases that kids will love to say with you. And the pattern motif lets kids practice predicting what will happen next based upon what happened previously. However, Hudson knows it almost by heart.

family  Simple car trick: Record your own Audio Book

The advantage to making your own (besides that you can do it in an instant, for free) is that you can leave pauses for call-and-repsonse:

“A gruffalo? What’s a gruffalo?” “A gruffalo! Why, didn’t you know?” 
“He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws.”

becomes

“A gruffalo! Why, _[pause]______?” 
“He has terrible  [pause], and terrible  [pause], and terrible  [pause] in his terrible  [pause].”

The good and the bad? By the time we say “jaws” together, Hudson is practically shouting out the answers.

family  Simple car trick: Record your own Audio Book

The How-to: 

You can make an audio recording on your computer or smartphone to play in your car. There are dedicated apps for this, but the pre-installed Voice Memo function works, too.

  • Use a story you both know well, so that it’s easy to follow along with—both verbally and if your child wants to turn the pages along with the recording. (This is true when using purchased audio books, as well—especially then, when a new voice can be hard to understand at first.)
  • Speak clearly, but get into it! (You can listen to a sample for encouragement.)
  • Leave pauses for increased engagement. (And be ready to help fill in the blanks together.)
  • Be safe! Set the audio up to play while you’re still parked, or pull off to the side of the road if you need to cue up a story on your phone.

Most newer cars have integrated ways to play audio from your phone on your car speakers, but here’s a guide to alternatives (often as simple as using an RCA cable with your audio jacks).

The whole thing will take you under 10 minutes for a story like The Gruffalo or Room on the Broom! 

What are your tricks for keeping little ones entertained in the car?

family  Simple car trick: Record your own Audio Book

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Beyond the Pumpkin Patch: Activities for fall

COMMENTS: 6

family california  Beyond the Pumpkin Patch: Activities for fall

family california  Beyond the Pumpkin Patch: Activities for fall

family california  Beyond the Pumpkin Patch: Activities for fall

family california  Beyond the Pumpkin Patch: Activities for fall

At the start of the month, we drove out to Capay Valley—to Full Belly Farm, where I’d had my birthday party last year—for their annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival.

It’s not feeling particularly fall-like out here, and that day was especially hot. We stayed for just over an hour, rushing around to see as much as we could, before escaping back to the comfort of an air-conditioned car. It was easily 100 degrees.

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Centering: Group OB Appointments

COMMENTS: 14

family  Centering: Group OB Appointments

When my girlfriend Emarie first told me that she’d attended two-hour-long group pre-natal check-ups with her OB, I had a million questions…

Leading with… “Say what?!”

The basics
Sharon Schindler Rising, a nurse-midwife, began offering group prenatal care called “Centering Pregnancy”  in 1993 after realizing that she was answering the same questions over and over, but not necessarily getting the time with each patient to establish the sort of deeper discussions the mothers might be after.  She appreciated the community the women developed but also: it’s estimated to cost roughly $2000 less per patient. More remarkably: the model was shown to reduce preterm deliveries by close to 30%.

The American College of Nurse-Midwives is encouraging all physicians and midwives to get training in group clinic situations, so I wanted to know more about this. Emarie was kind enough to answer all my questions, like… what if you don’t like your physician? Were you ever embarrassed? How was your husband involved? and Two hour appointments?! Did you ever feel like rolling your eyes?
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On Working Parents (& Friday links)

COMMENTS: 8

family  On Working Parents (& Friday links)

Have you seen Robin Roberts interviewing Michelle Obama at the White House Working Families summit? One clip, where they talk about the balance of family and work—and in which the First Lady candidly shares an anecdote about bringing Sasha to an interview (for VP of the University of Chicago Hospital) as a “breastfeeding mother of a four-month-old” without a babysitter—has been widely shared.

I recommend watching from 5:30 to 12:30 of the interview, in particular (embedded below), but I really loved a lot of what she had to say.

She speaks from a place of privilege: “We live in the White House now. This is not about us.” But I am especially impressed by how she articulates the pitfalls of going part-time as a means to “having it all” without—I think—saying anything that might alienate working or stay-at-home parents, or should put anyone on the defensive.

Red, blue, whatever: Now that’s a minefield, right?

What do you think?

Some more items for your weekend…

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Thoughts on Italy with Kids

COMMENTS: 35

travel family  Thoughts on Italy with Kids
travel family  Thoughts on Italy with Kids

travel family  Thoughts on Italy with Kids
travel family  Thoughts on Italy with Kids

One morning, while we were in Positano, we rented a boat from one of the stands along the beach. Most people decide to rent a rubber boat—the likes of what we rented in Sardinia—and jet down the coast with the sea-air whipping through their hair.

We were taking two small children out, so we went with the charming, but very slow fisherman’s boat.

travel family  Thoughts on Italy with Kids

Hudson was quite thrilled and looked out intensely. I asked if he was okay and he told me that’s the face he makes “when I very interested.” Fair enough!

He’d point to passing boats and exclaim “Those boats are fast! But not as fast as ours… Right daddy?!” Sure kid.

travel family  Thoughts on Italy with Kids

But about 10 minutes later, only slightly out of the village’s harbor, he was a bit bored; Aron and I both admitted that the slow rocking was making us a little queasy; and Skyler’s fussy squeals were a sign that she would not be sleeping as expected. Aron and I exchanged frustrated (nauseated expressions) and wondered how soon to call it a fail and turn the boat around.

I tried to channel those memories of Sardinia, when being out on our own boat was so exhilarating and recalled that it was the thrill of jumping off the bow into the cool water—the sort of thing completely unique to being out on a boat versus going to the beach—that really made the day.

travel family  Thoughts on Italy with Kids

And so we pulled into a small, picturesque cove and dropped anchor. Hudson counted to three and I lept! That queasy feeling disappeared instantly. Hudson and Aron went next as we took turns in the boat with Skyler.

It changed everything.
travel family  Thoughts on Italy with Kids

It’s not as if the memory of that slow ride disappears, but it’s now something to look back on and laugh about, to maybe even say “not again” in reference to—but to wholly appreciate.

That morning changed from total fail to total highlight—even though those actual moments of jumping in and swimming were brief. It felt incredible and I’ll appreciate it for a lifetime.

When we returned the boat, we were on a high and decided to walk from the main beach to Fornillo beach to get lunch. Then, Hudson had a meltdown—we should have known not to push it around nap time—and back to the room we went.

travel family  Thoughts on Italy with Kids

This is all to say: the pictures never tell the whole story. I don’t pull out the camera and snap photos of Hudson crying. It’s not because I’m trying to hide anything or forget that it happens, but it’s just not what makes sense in that moment—and it’s usually not representative.

From my experience, one of the biggest threats to a happy vacation is having unreasonable expectations. One wants to assume that because you’re somewhere amazing, doing really special (and expensive!) things, your kids will be so wowed by it all that they’ll behave differently than you’re accustomed to. But in my experience, kids are kids, toddler are toddlers, wherever they are. Hudson’s pretty terrific as little travel companions go, but we play to his strengths (and remember his weaknesses) whenever possible.

So I always hope that as you read these travelogues and you have kids, you just take for granted that even if I don’t describe every time Hudson wanted that piece of basil removed from his pizza or cried because we closed the door and he wanted to do it, it is still happening.

We endured all of those same toddler antics in Italy that we endure in Davis. I think my children are wonderful and I of course don’t want to go out of my way to have Hudson think that all I noticed on any trip were those exasperating moments. But I want to be honest, too.

travel family  Thoughts on Italy with Kids

And the honest truth? Most of the time, you just dive in and it’s all well worth it.

Coming up next: A travelogue from Rome

Update: Thanks for asking–source for my swimsuit

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The Best DIY Halloween Costumes for Kids

COMMENTS: 3

family  The Best DIY Halloween Costumes for Kids
family  The Best DIY Halloween Costumes for Kids
family  The Best DIY Halloween Costumes for Kids
Kids’ Halloween costumes are the ultimate in disposable clothing purchases—buy it once, and chances are, it’s worn only once. Plus, it can be a challenge to find high-quality, well-made costumes at a reasonable price. This year, why not try your hand at making your own? (Older children can help, too! ) Below, a few favorite sources for easy, inventive DIY ideas that kids will love—enough, I’m willing to bet, for them to defy the curse of the one-time wear.

Above:
Martha Stewart. Standout ideas: Chickenbeespace invaderbouquet of flowerslittle lamb.

Real Simple. Standout ideas: Pig in a blanketspelling beedetectiveLittle Miss Sunshine.

Oh Happy Day. Standout ideas: LlamaJune & Johnny Cashfield of flowersFrida Kahlosnail.

A Beautiful Mess. Standout (family) ideas: Rag dollsPeter Pan & the Lost BoysGoldilocks & the Three Bears

family  The Best DIY Halloween Costumes for Kids

Above:
The Etsy Blog. Standout ideasBat; printable animal masks.

DIY Network. Standout ideas: Hot chocolatemac ‘n’ cheesegarden fairywatercolor tray.

Parenting. Standout ideas: Twisterspaghetti and meatballsRainbow Connection.

family  The Best DIY Halloween Costumes for Kids

family  The Best DIY Halloween Costumes for Kids

Above:
Small Fry. Standout ideas: Despicable Me charactersblue birdgnomes.

Handmade Charlotte. Standout ideas: Kit Cat clock; Day of the Dead tulle masks; lion masks.

What was your favorite costume you wore on Halloween, as a child?

P.S. More Halloween costume ideas. Including our family costume from last year. And a Halloween board on Pinterest.

[All images sourced from respective links. Thank you to Shoko for her help with this list!]

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On the Go: What’s in my diaper bag

COMMENTS: 14

family  On the Go: Whats in my diaper bag family  On the Go: Whats in my diaper bag
Most days, at home, I can just toss a few diapers and a pack of wipes into my purse and run out the door. But we’ve been moving around Italy, diaper bag packed for two, and it’s reminding me very much of when I used to prepare for days out in New York City with Hudson: every worst case scenario accounted for. Still, I’d like to think I’ve refined my approach a bit since then. Here’s what you’ll find inside my bag these days—and some thoughts on choosing a bag.

family  On the Go: Whats in my diaper bag

This post is sponsored by Target. The adventure begins here: Discover all Target has to offer for your baby registry and throughout your motherhood journey.

 

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Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

COMMENTS: 18

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

I’m often guilty of underestimating what Hudson can do to help. Sometimes it just doesn’t cross my mind to ask.

At three, he’s ready to do more tasks on his own every day. Or, occasionally, as a team. (“We’re a team! Right, Mommy?”) I’m excited to spend more time in the kitchen together.

Studies have shown that children are much less likely to reject foods they help prepare themselves—and so cooking can be a wonderful way to expose them to new flavors, new skills, and new responsibilities (like cleaning up). We didn’t really broaden his flavor horizon this time around—dessert!—but I’d been eager to try Gâteau au Yaourt (French Yogurt Cake) with him.

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

Gâteau au Yaourt is a popular goûter (or afternoon snack) in France, rumored to be one of the first things children there bake. The idea is that (almost) the entire recipe can be made off the measure of a 1/2-cup yogurt container.

I drew the outline of the recipe on our chalkboard for Hudson:

  • 1 serving yogurt (1 serving is one  4.75-oz yogurt cup in this case)
  • 1 serving oil
  • 2 servings sugar
  • 3 servings flour
  • 3 small eggs (we used two extra-large)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla (my yogurt was vanilla flavored, so I skipped this)

Here are two, kid-friendly printable versions of the recipe: First, Ingredients only.  Second, with quantities. (You can laminate them for your kids!)

You just combine all of the ingredients. Mix until smooth, and pour into a well-buttered 9″ baking dish. Ours took just shy of 30 minutes at 350 degrees to be done, but I’d suggest checking it with the clean-fork-test as soon as you smell it.

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

I set out all of the ingredients (like a proper sous-chef) and then showed him the recipe on the chalkboard. Each time we started a step, I asked him to count how many servings we needed based on the illustration.

We washed our hands and got started…

I had to help a bit a few times (scraping the last of the ingredients out of the jar after each dump; pouring into the jar from heavy bags or boxes—though he could have spooned things in himself; and cracking eggs), and I did all of the oven-related steps.

But he even did a fantastic job cracking the eggs. Tip: I had him use a separate bowl in case some shell made it’s way in (it did) and told him to open the egg like a book.

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

Of course, after handling eggs we washed our hands again. I like this foaming hand wash from Method because he likes all of the bubbles and can easily use it himself (and he’s less likely to over-pump).

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

Don’t you love those squishy little toddler wrists? (I do!)

He poured all of the batter into the pan. (Raw eggs means no licking the bowl, but he was so engaged he forgot to ask!) And while we waited for the cake to bake, we practiced our clean-up skills.

We didn’t make too much of a mess, so a little dish soap and water was all we needed to tackle the counter clean-up.

You’ll recall that we’ve committed ourselves to exclusively using products from the newly curated Made to Matter, Handpicked by TargetTM  (which is convenient since I’m already there all the time), so I’ve been especially happy to let Hudson help me clean-up knowing that he’s using non-toxic household goods throughout the kitchen.

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

The hardest part of all was waiting. We tried the cake by itself, first. Delicious! It was dense but not heavy at all. It’s a little bit sweet, but not saccharine—just right. It reminded me so much of an olive oil cake that I might try using olive oil in place of canola oil next time. Really, there’s heaps of potential here: you could frost it, bake fruit into it, top it with lemon curd or whipped cream and lemon zest…

Keeping with the jar of yogurt theme, we let Hudson top his with more of the vanilla yogurt and some berries. I thought the whole affair was wonderful—and so did he! I could tell he was proud of the cake (which he really did make almost all by himself), especially when he saw how badly Skyler wanted to try it, too.

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen
food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen

food drink family  Living Clean: Kids in the Kitchen This post is sponsored by TargetThe Made To Matter line has been handpicked by Target to bring you brands that make things better for your you, your family, and the place we all call home.

We’re excited to continue using these Method and Seventh Generation products in our home. Thank you for following along with this series of Living Clean posts. And thank you to Target for supporting Hither & Thither!

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Teething remedies (and wishes for a happy weekend)

COMMENTS: 11

family  Teething remedies (and wishes for a happy weekend)

What are you up to this weekend? We have family in town (we’re celebrating Aron’s sister’s 40th birthday!) and are looking forward to checking out Davis’s Bike & Brew Fest. Meanwhile, Skyler is working hard on getting her two little teeth through her lower gum. One is definitely through; the other is still causing her a bit of anguish.

We’ve been breaking out some teething remedies. Sophie’sfamily  Teething remedies (and wishes for a happy weekend) cousin, “Noisy”family  Teething remedies (and wishes for a happy weekend) the deer (as Hudson has named her), Watermelon rinds, teething biscuits, and our knuckles have been tops. The Boon Pulp Silicone Feederfamily  Teething remedies (and wishes for a happy weekend)  (above) is my new favorite addition: we’ve had products like this before—where you pop some fresh or frozen fruit into something they can gum—but this is by far my favorite. I’ve been freezing whatever puree she doesn’t finish (banana, sweet potato… what-have-you) and she loves it. I love that it’s easy to clean.

What are your favorite teething remedies?

We usually rely on Infant Tylenol and have some Orajel swabs or Homeopathic tablets at the ready, but I’d feel more comfortable letting your pediatrician make those recommendations.

P.S. Here’s a video of Hudson spotting her first tooth—of her reaction, really. Also, a look back at when Hudson got his first tooth on this trip to Saint Lucia!

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Living Clean: Starting Potty Training

COMMENTS: 26

family  Living Clean: Starting Potty Training

We’d been doing what one might call “potty-training-lite” for some time before ditching the diapers completely. I think Hudson may have first come running toward me, pants down, carrying a little (slightly wet) plastic toilet chair, exclaiming “I go pee-pee, I go pee-pee!” nearly six months ago. Since then, we always offered him the choice to use the toilet—before bed, at restaurants, and—of course often—when swimming and he would occasionally take us up on it. But while he had lots of successes using the toilet, he hadn’t shown much interest overall.

Teachers, his pediatrician, and some friends all offered the same advice: don’t rush. “Wait until he’s excited,” “wait until summer,” “wait until well after the baby arrives” had been the consensus. And with experience watching friends see the process—and the accidents—drag out (in some case, for years), we were happy to follow that advice.

But we thought that this might be a good time to get more serious about saying goodbye to diapering. He turned three recently and the new baby is not-so-new anymore. Plus we have a big trip to Italy coming up at the end of the summer. It sure would be nice to be (confidently) into undies by then, we thought.

family  Living Clean: Starting Potty Training
family  Living Clean: Starting Potty Training

And it’s summer! Perfect for naked time—and accidents outside the house.

So here is a list of supplies I gathered for getting started, and some tips I’ve gleaned so far… 

family  Living Clean: Starting Potty Training

  1. Potty books—I’ve heard raves about these four books when it comes to inspiring toddlers: Once Upon a Potty, Everyone Poops (pictured), Prince of the Potty, and Going to the Potty (by Mr. Rogers). For parents, my cousin swears by Jamie Glowacki’s Oh Crap!
  2. A potty chair—We have both the small stand-alone potty (Pros: kids tend to find it less intimidating and it’s portable; Cons: you have to clean it, and they have to transition eventually) and the adapter ring. We ended up buying both, but have promoted the adapter ring. We bought the same one for both grandparents’ homes, too. I also think this 3-in-1 seat looks like a good idea.
  3. A step stool—If you don’t have one already, this one looks perfect: it wraps around the base so that they can still be flat-footed on the big toilet. But really, anything will do as long as they can use it to easily climb off and on—like this one. Some stools make for reaching the faucet are too tall.
  4. Rewards—Okay, this is controversial. We had a potty chart in the bathroom, and Hudson would get a different sticker for peeing versus pooping. (But honestly, it was not that compelling for him.) Some people suggest that you use the stickers to earn a prize.  And, I’d heard good things about immediate rewards—like one M&M for each time they go pee and two for poop. I’d also heard that the best reward is lots of positive encouragement… maybe with a little song-and-dance thrown in. And that’s what worked best for us.
  5. Training pants and Undies—Hudson was very excited about a pair of Captain Hook and Dusty from Planes undies. He was less jazzed about the plain Gerber training pants, but I like how these are extra absorbent (but without wicking away moisture like a diaper).
  6. Overnight pull-ups—Most of what I’ve read discourages pull-ups during the active teaching phase and encourages training pants or underwear instead (so that they can feel the sensation of being wet). But I couldn’t imagine going cold-turkey overnight, so I had these at the ready (and have been glad). I’ve heard an alternative tip is to use underwear inside of a diaper; that way, you still give them the chance to feel wetness, but you contain the accident.
  7. Foaming Hand wash—Hand-washing goes, er, hand-in-hand with toilet learning. I’ve found it’s much easier to keep Hudson interested in hand-washing with a foam soap, and it makes less of a mess. This Method hand wash is paraben-free and biodegradable. (Kids might like this one a lot.) We also sing his hand-washing song from preschool: “twinkle twinkle little star, look how clean my two hands are.”
  8. Plenty of cleaning supplies for the bathroom (and the rest of the house)—As you know, we’ve been using products from the Made to Matter, Handpicked by TargetTM collection and these are things I’d feel good about using in the kids’ bathroom: Seventh Generation Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner and Seventh Generation Recycled Paper Towels. Hudson actually leans up against the toilet when he stands to pee (which is really a problem in public restrooms—gross), so I’ve been more vigilant than ever about keeping ours clean. This one kills nasty germs like E. Coli, but without the yucky fumes. They also make a free and clear surface cleaner.
  9. And for the laundry—If you’re not going with the bare-bottomed approach, be prepared to wash a lot of undies. One anecdote someone shared with me included her washing twenty pairs in a single day! This one is tough (but still gentle on their little bums), and it’s ultra-concentrated so it will get you through extra loads.
  10. (Not Pictured) Patience, humor, and heaps of praise!—Again, there are so many different opinions about the best method for potty training (or toilet learning, as many would say), but the most consistent advice I read before we started is to stay completely positive and enthusiastic.

family  Living Clean: Starting Potty Training

When we finally went for it, I had Hudson bring me all the diapers from his room and we threw them out together. We spent half of that first weekend naked, and the second half commando—and had no accidents on the third day! Nighttime and naps? Still a moving target…

What would you add? Any advice? Did any of you tackle this during the day and night simultaneously? How’d that go?

family  Living Clean: Starting Potty Training This post is sponsored by TargetThe Made To Matter line has been handpicked by Target to bring you brands that make things better for your you, your family, and the place we all call home.

This is the fifth part of a series about giving the Made to Matter, Handpicked by TargetTM  collection a try. See my interview with the founders of Method and my post on cleaning up and making over our laundry room with before and after photos.

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Living Clean: Let’s Go for a (Bike) Ride

COMMENTS: 24

family  Living Clean: Lets Go for a (Bike) Ride
family  Living Clean: Lets Go for a (Bike) Ride
family  Living Clean: Lets Go for a (Bike) Ride

I’ve really been missing getting around town by bike. Skyler is still too young to ride along (most recommend you wait until children are about one year old), so I’ve been in the car a lot more lately.

When we first moved here, we even tried to resist buying a second car—the plan being that I would bike commute around town with Hudson.

I don’t want to fall out of habit; beyond its benefits in terms of the environment and (potentially) my waistline, riding a bicycle on a warm summer night just makes me happy!

So we got a babysitter, packed a picnic, and had ourselves a bike date.

family  Living Clean: Lets Go for a (Bike) Ride

Our bikes haven’t been getting their due attention this past year (when was the last time we rode them?), so Hudson helped us give them a good wash.

By the way: I did a quick Internet search for some tips on “how to clean your bike” to be sure we had any special technical tools on hand. Turns out, a little diluted dish soap is just right for the job! We used Method Dish Soap—one of the products I’m trying as part of my commitment to shop from the Made to Matter, Handpicked by TargetTM collection. The other two top tips I gleaned: (1) use a diffuse setting on your hose (never use a high-pressure hose), and (2) use a lubricant where necessary (like the chain) after cleaning.

family  Living Clean: Lets Go for a (Bike) Ride

Once the bikes were all shiny and clean, we replaced the child seats with wine and cheese and hit the road! Just west of our house, there are rows of olive trees that you can ride through and stop under to look across corn and wheat fields, shining in the golden evening sun.

family  Living Clean: Lets Go for a (Bike) Ride
family  Living Clean: Lets Go for a (Bike) Ride
family  Living Clean: Lets Go for a (Bike) Ride

It’s the perfect place to start a picnic, and the perfect way to get back on the bike.

family  Living Clean: Lets Go for a (Bike) Ride

P.S. This is the fourth part of a series about giving the Made to Matter, Handpicked by TargetTM  collection a try. See my interview with the founders of Method and my post on cleaning up and making over our laundry room with before and after photos.

family  Living Clean: Lets Go for a (Bike) Ride This post is sponsored by TargetThe Made To Matter line has been handpicked by Target to bring you brands that make things better for your you, your family, and the place we all call home. 

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MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

COMMENTS: 14

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

We skipped town this past weekend and headed south to Los Angeles. (Thank you for your tips!) We had some business to attend to and decided at the last minute to extend our travel and bring everyone—except Sawyer, who had a mini-vacation of his own thanks to DogVacay. (More on that below.)

Even though we used to live in Los Angeles, we hardly know the west side at all, so we decided to restrict ourselves to the coast (with, okay, a small detour into Brentwood).

I took a bunch of photos and will share more about some of the highlights next week, but—in the meantime—one of our favorite stops from the weekend: Blue Plate Oysterette in Santa Monica.

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

We walked from our hotel to Blue Plate Oysterette—which sits right on Ocean Boulevard off Santa Monica overlooking the, well, overlook to the beach. It’s a popular spot (as are the other locations in the restaurant group: nearby Blue Plate and Blue Plate Taco), so because we didn’t have reservations, we just crossed our fingers and showed up early. The wait wasn’t too bad (about 45 minutes to sit outside), so they took our number and we walked down to the sand and played a bit before dinner. But even without that option, I loved that they had sidewalk chalk at the ready for antsy kids.

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

When we did sit down, I knew exactly what I wanted: a Lobster roll! While the scene was very Los Angeles, the menu was very East Coast, and I was offered a choice of a Lobster Salad roll or a plain, warm Lobster roll with drawn butter on the side. There are two camps on this, but I’m more a lobster salad gal—and this was a good one.

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

A sleeping baby, plenty of french fries, lobster and fresh tuni, beer and rosé, and a setting sun… could dinner be better?

Um, yes. Yes it could: Key Lime Pie. (And, frankly, the best non-homemade Key Lime Pie I’ve had since visiting the keys nearly 12 years ago. So good.)

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

Actually, there was more that made it great: while we were out, Hudson told the waiter all about his “black doggy named Sawyer.” We always tell Hudson that Sawyer is having a playdate while we’re away—and this time we were able to give details with full sincerity because we were getting little updates on how Sawyer was enjoying his weekend!

Before our trip, DogVacay got in touch about trying their site and the timing was perfect! DogVacay is a website and app that helps you find great pet sitters. We searched for nearby sitters, booked our stay, and paid online. Sawyer’s host took care of him in her home, sent us cute little emails and photos of what he was up to while we were gone.

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

We learned that he spent the weekend with lovely Mia (in the photos on the left) and a pug named Auggie, as well as Charlie the kitten (on the right). He also got a bath!

A funny combination of topics, I know, but knowing that Sawyer was happy made the entire weekend better. If you’re looking to take a night or two away and need a good pet sitter, I’d recommend the site. New users can get $10 off their first DogVacay with the code HITHER!

P.S. Sawyer as a puppy! More from Los Angeles (and from our earlier Pacific Northwest road trip)  next week!

Thank you to DogVacay for putting Sawyer up for the night and for supporting Hither & Thither! All DogVacay reservations include free pet insurance, 24/7 customer support, and daily photo “pup”dates, so pet parents can rest easy knowing that their best friend is in great hands. We’ll definitely be using the site again!

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Talltape

COMMENTS: 5

uncategorized family  Talltape

I’ve always loved the idea of marking out your kids’ heights on a wall or doorframe. I picture years and years of scratch marks recorded in the laundry room, a record of growth spurts that remains well after they’ve headed off to college. But the chances that you’ll stay in the same house—will the same laundry room—for all of those years is, for most of us, slim. So whenever I see a good alternative, I can’t help but take note.

This one is called Talltape, and what I like about it (because there are a few options out there now) is: a. it’s portable, and can be rolled up into a canister for storing if you don’t want to display it all the time; b. it’s wide enough to mark multiple children on one and tall enough to stretch into most adulthoods (6’6″ doesn’t quite accomodate Aron, but that’s a…er… tall order) ; and c. it comes in basic white! like your wall! (In addition to fairies and the like.) Most of the one’s I’ve seen are covered in art I’d likely grow tired of and only stretch to three or so feet. Hudson is already 40″ tall!

Talltape has been available in Europe for a few years now, but is just now being released in America.

uncategorized family  Talltape

uncategorized family  Talltape

You might recall that we have something similar in Hudson’s room, called Life’s Journey Measuring Stick. He loves standing up beside it (you can see it on the door frame, below) and will hand me a book as he wedges his heals against the baseboard. It’s a bit narrow for marking both his and Skyler’s heights, but I think we’ll manage. And though I love the nostalgic link to those old wooden rulers and its simple, pared down design, it would ideally sit flush with the wall a bit more easily. But either would be a sweet way to preserve a special memory.

uncategorized family  Talltape

P.S. The monthly baby photos we save; our kids’ rooms; and my (updated) baby registry guide.

 

 

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