Happy Thanksgiving!

COMMENTS: 5

food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!
food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!
food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!
Hope your holiday is filled with things that make you happy—perhaps some good friends, good food, and some good downtime. We have so much to be thankful for, and I’m grateful for a holiday to celebrate it. And it’s a pleasure sharing so many of those things with such kind readers.

Happy Thanksgiving!

food drink family  Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Next week is a full one! Looking forward to sharing some gift guides in the afternoons.

In the meantime, some favorite Thanksgiving posts:
The best cooking resources for making Thanksgiving dinner
5 Ways to keep your food safe this holiday
Thanksgiving for Two
Reimagining Holiday Leftovers

[Photos from an autumn trip to the Catskills]

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Skyler at Nine Months

COMMENTS: 10

family  Skyler at Nine Months

family  Skyler at Nine Months

family  Skyler at Nine Months
family  Skyler at Nine Months

Nine months.

As I’m late writing an update, Skyler has officially been out longer than she was in. I feel like we got here faster than with Hudson. I think it has a little bit to do with her disposition and a little bit to do with being the second child—she gets less exclusive attention each day.

Actually, right or not, I compare her to Hudson often. It’s funny how fast I’d forgotten what happened when, and I find myself looking back through photos archives, these monthly updates, and the line-a-day journal I kept with Hudson to see how their development is different (and the same). She crawled sooner. He took his first steps at the end of his ninth month.

What I don’t need any of those items to remind me: this is a wonderful age.

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Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)

COMMENTS: 26

family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)
family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)
family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)
family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)
family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)

The DeYoung Museum, in Golden Gate Park, is one of my favorite places to visit in San Francisco. It’s such a feast for the eyes—the architecture, the landscape, the views, and (of course) the art.

Art museums can be a bit tricky with kids, but I’d recommend giving this one a try if you’re interested.

family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)
family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)
family california  Visiting the DeYoung Museum, Golden Gate Park (San Francisco with Kids)

Here are a few tips I’ve gleaned…

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Best Creative Gifts for Preschoolers

COMMENTS: 3

family  Best Creative Gifts for Preschoolers

As the holidays approach and the kids’ wish-lists starts growing, I thought it would be nice to get some advice from an expert—a preschool teacher. In this post, the last of a three-part series on tips for preschoolers, Kayla Poole was kind enough to share her answer to “What are the best gifts for inspiring creativity at this age?” 

The following items all inspire endless opportunity for creative self-expression. In case it hasn’t been obvious in my previous posts, I believe the most impactful gift we can bestow upon our children is the cultivation of imagination…

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Five Ways Cheerios Can Help on a Long Flight

COMMENTS: 7

travel family  Five Ways Cheerios Can Help on a Long Flight
travel family  Five Ways Cheerios Can Help on a Long Flight
travel family  Five Ways Cheerios Can Help on a Long Flight

Sometimes I can’t get over how much stuff we pack to entertain the kids on trips. It’s as if we’re going into an emergency bunker rather than boarding a flight.

It’s easy to forget how the simplest things are often best when it comes to entertaining young ones—and I’d been feeling like we needed some new (space-efficient) ways to get through a flight.

Enter Cheerios. We always pack Cheerios.

Here are five ways to use what you surely already have in your kids’ snack cups to get through a long flight this holiday season.

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Paris with Kids

COMMENTS: 5

travel family  Paris with Kids
travel family  Paris with Kids
travel family  Paris with Kids travel family  Paris with Kids

I just learned that Yolanda Edwards (Co-founder of Momfilter and Creative Director at Condé Nast Traveler) collaborated with the mapmakers at Herb Lester on their Paris En Famille guide to Paris.

travel family  Paris with Kids

Having a marked up map like this is one of my favorite ways to sightsee, actually: freeing you to wander, and discover things serendipitously, while assuring that you still have a way to connect the “Must-See” dots.

I usually make one of my own.

travel family  Paris with Kids
travel family  Paris with Kids
travel family  Paris with Kids
travel family  Paris with Kids

Just another reason to return to Paris.

P.S. Photos from our trip to Paris with Hudson last spring, when he was two. See more, here:
Paris Travelogue, Part 1 & Paris Travelogue, Part 2.

Also: A 5 Things Guide to Paris; the truth about high chairs in Paris; and our Paris apartment rental.

travel family  Paris with Kids

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The Best Books for Preschoolers

COMMENTS: 22

family  The Best Books for Preschoolers

As the holidays approach and the kids’ wish-lists starts growing, I thought it would be nice to get some advice from an expert—a preschool teacher. In this post, the second of a three-part series on tips for preschoolers, Kayla Poole was kind enough to share her answer to “What are the best books for this age?” 

As an early childhood educator, my personal picture book collection is enormous. We’re all aware of the inherent value in reading to little ones: if you want your child(ren) to love books, you need to start by reading your favorites to them. As a child, I vividly remember becoming lost for hours upon hours in the pages of books. Story books were everything to me, and that’s because my parents fundamentally believed in their importance. Cultivating imagination and creative thinking is so important at the preschool level, and storybooks are are the first resource I turn to in my classroom to instill these skills.

This is barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to picture books, as there are literally hundreds I hold in high regard. But these? They are some of the most beloved by me and the hundreds of students I’ve taught over the years…
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Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

COMMENTS: 11

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home
food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

I am such a sucker for studies about kids’ behaviors. The footage of a little girl trying to avoid eating a marshmallow? Empathy tests involving a room of toddlers? Aw, such charming little subjects. One such study that has stuck with me for years was watching preschoolers choose a sticker-festooned rock over a cupcake. (Say what?!)

What researchers set out to prove was that kids prefer foods bearing the likeness of characters, particularly familiar ones. I didn’t have children at the time, but I remember filing it away: “Stickers on carrots! Stickers on broccoli!”

With Thanksgiving approaching, I was thinking about how to get the visual-appeal-voodoo working on all of us for that post-holiday car ride home. After all, snacking in the back seat is the most sure-fire solution to keeping little ones entertained.

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home
food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

First step: sticker-festooning something. I went with lunchbox lids and got Hudson involved.

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

Next: work with what you have. I think we all love leftovers. (Turkey sandwiches with apples, cranberries, and cheese, anyone? Pumpkin pie for breakfast?) But there comes a time when you want to make some healthier choices—at least until the December holidays hit.

The raw ingredients for most Thanksgiving feasts are thankfully quite healthy, (think celery, apples, baked root vegetables, brussels sprouts, nuts… and turkey!), and you’re likely to have some yams left that didn’t get a marshmallow treatment. Hudson isn’t so sure about brussels sprouts, but the celery is a big hit because it’s so loud! (He thinks we can hear it crunching as loudly as he does in his ears, which amounts to lots of laughs when we make a game of pretending we can’t hear the radio.)

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

And finally: Make it pretty! Sure the stickers work on the preschooler in the back, but I’m also about ten times more excited about a snack tray that’s colorful and neatly arranged.

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

What healthy snacks do you like to bring along on road trips? What do you reach for after the Thanksgiving feast?

food drink family  Reimagining Holiday Leftovers for the Ride Home

This content was created in partnership with Ford to help make creativity a part of every drive this holiday season.

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The Best Toys for Preschoolers

COMMENTS: 9

 

family  The Best Toys for Preschoolers

As the holidays approach and the kids’ wish-lists starts growing, I thought it would be nice to get some advice from an expert—a preschool teacher. In this post, the first of a three-part series on tips for preschoolers, Kayla Poole was kind enough to share with me her answers to that pressing question: What are the best toys for this age? 

I am often asked my opinion about the “best” toys for kids. “What should I buy my toddler this holiday?” “What should my child entering kindergarten be doing in her free time?” “I want my kid to play but also be learning something!”

Guys, I know. I find this to be a nearly impossible question to answer adequately, as young kids are all so different, with varying interests and needs. Moreover, something appropriate for a two-year-old is very different than a toy or game for a four-year-old. That being said, I really sat down to think about the top recommendations I feel comfortable delivering to parents and inquiring gift-givers. This list is in no way comprehensive and based purely on seven years of practice as an early childhood educator. I tend to believe that less is more when it comes to toys. Children truly don’t need a lot to learn and discover: in fact, I stand behind my opinion that the most popular toy of all time for a toddler/preschooler is an oversized, empty cardboard box. So, there’s that.

Anyway, lest you care about what’s inside of that box, herein lie a few additional classics…

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Scenes from Halloween

COMMENTS: 5

family  Scenes from Halloween

The candy has been eaten (or stashed), and the costumes have been put away—as if we might actually use them again. More likely, I’ll just look back at photos and fondly remember Skyler as a parrot on her first Halloween, and Hudson as a “baaaaad crocodile.”

He really didn’t remember the idea of trick-or-treating, but it was amazing how fast word spread once we arrived at a party full of preschoolers. “Mommy! When are we going trick-or-treating?”

I wasn’t watching closely at the first door as the gang of them (about a dozen) yelled “Trick-or-Treat!” But when Hudson came back to me, he showed me that his entire sack was already full. I looked back and spotted the unintentionally generous six-year-old who’d been standing with a bowl of candy. Whoops.

family  Scenes from Halloween

You may have seen on Instagram that Aron was Captain Hook (with his parrot and his foe, the crocodile) and I was Peter Pan, but I also shared an album of photos on Facebook. Check it out, if you’d like!

P.S. Baby costumes using a onesie. And this year, Making Skyler’s costume.

[Top photo mine; Bottom photo taken by Hudson!]

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Happy Halloween!

COMMENTS: 8

family  Happy Halloween!
family  Happy Halloween!

Here are some shots of the work-in-progress for our family’s costumes. I made my very first one—a parrot!—for Skyler this year, so I really hope it stops raining soon so we can all go out downtown together again. (Davis has such a nice Halloween tradition. Here we are dressed up there, last year.)

Regardless, I can’t wait to see both kids in their costumes! I’ll be sure to share some photos after the weekend.

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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: 11

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

This content was created in partnership with Ford to help make creativity a part of every drive.

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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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