Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville, You Should Go

We headed up to Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville yesterday, and had a great day.

The Russian River beach has been in operation for nearly a century, and it feels exactly that quaint. They have everything you need for a day by the river, so you can just show up in with your suit and a towel for a day of swimming. We’ve been going for years.

There’s no charge for admission, but we rent a beach umbrella, chairs, and a couple of tubes for $5 each. You can also get paddle boats, canoes, and kayaks by the hour. The beach is rocky, so one of the guys comes out with a mallet and pounds the umbrella in for you. They also dredge out a shallow area where the tiny kids can wade.

You can bring a cooler, or visit the snack bar for lunch. It’s so chill, and easy, and Hank always finds kids to play with when we bring a little collection of squirt guns. If you’re a river person, it doesn’t get any more perfect.

Johnson’s Beach
Open Mid-May Until the End of September
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Parking is available ($5/car on weekends and special events).

Auto-Filling, Self-Tie Water Balloons Are Epic

This changes everything. Everything, I tell you!

These are the genius Bunch O Balloons Self Tie Auto Fill Water Balloons.

Last year on Independence Day we spent several tedious hours filling and tying water balloons much more slowly than the kids went through them. That meant hovering kids fighting over the next balloon, hurt fingers, and no chance to actually participate in balloon throwing. This year, filling 100 balloons literally took a few minutes. Here’s the video I took:

Can you believe it? Amaaaazing. I immediately tried to figure out how to make my own, and the answer is “not worth it.” The balloons auto-seal with one of those little rubber bands that come with mouth braces. Each balloon works out to about 17 cents, which I’ve decided is a small price to pay to get back to my frozen beverage.

Toys that are Good for Baby Brains, 0-6 Months

I’ve been doing research on toys that are good for Ozzy’s brain, so we have them around when he hits new stages. These are some pretty versions of classic toys that get baby synapses dancing, whether you’re looking for your kiddo or just want to win a baby shower.

1. Manhattan Toy Classic Baby Beads Wood Rattle, Teether, and Clutching Toy, $10 This is one of my favorite baby shower gifts. The balls move around in a mezmerizing way, and it’s so pretty. Also supportive of LGBT friends, which is always nice.

2. Melissa & Doug Color-Flap Mirror, $10 It’s good to have lots of mirrors. I also like this simple Wimmer-Ferguson crib mirror with black and white shapes on the reverse, and these Edushape geometric mirrors for the bath. The downside being mirrors in the bath.

3. Nuby Click Links, $5 These are more useful than I’d ever have thought. The baby plays with them and chews them, but you can also use them to hang toys from carseats, strollers, and cribs. Bam, insta play gym wherever you are.

4. Green Tones Polar Bear Shaker, $9 Good for chewing, shaking, and reminding your newborn that the Earth is a precious resource.

5. Plan Toys Play Gym, $66 Looks boring, I know, but Oslo finds it borderline overstimulating. He loses his mind kicking and cooing, and then konks out. He’s way into spare modernist design.

6. Infantino Textured Multi-Ball Set, $9 I was going to keep these in a glass bowl on the living room table, until I realized how overtly stupid that would be. I haven’t slept in a while.

7. FAO Schwarz Mini Plush Elephant, $12 FAO Schwarz makes the best small softies, which babies can grab and shake without smacking themselves in the face. I also love the unicorn.

Babies at this age apparently also benefit from hearing simple songs and nursery rhymes, and seeing photos of faces. I’ll do a few more of these toy roundups for different stages. If you’re interested, here are some great toy recommendation guidelines from the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Grow baby brains, grow!

Life List: Fill a Room With Balloons!

For years I’ve been looking for a reason to fill a room with balloons, and we finally did it to celebrate Hank’s first day of summer. His best friend Clark came over, and Hank knew something was up immediately when we didn’t let them just run into his room.

We said there was a surprise in there, and I asked if I could take a photo. Clark reluctantly complied with my request for a fist bump.

They opened the door.

And responded with screamies, and happies, and laughter.

It was so rewarding. Parenting! I momentarily forgot the throbbing in my raw balloon-tying fingers.

The boys spent the next couple of hours thwapping each other with balloons and then we went for ice cream.

Afterward there were balloons everywhere. Brad loved it.

I kid. Brad kept trying to pop balloons covertly so he would stop stubbing his toes on things. The nerve. You can’t sweep away celebration Brad, you can’t tidy joy.

But eventually I admitted that balloons spontaneously combusting in the night wasn’t the best situation with a newborn. So Hank laid down on his bed and cut the ends off hundreds balloons so he could watch them fly around the room.

Summer is such a damn delight.

There’s a video over on Go Mighty if you’d like to see their reaction. It’s nice to check something off my Life List again.

Pregnancy Update: The Baby!

This is our good, smooshy baby Oslo Boon Ellis.

He is a sweetheart and we love him very much.

He was born last week at around 5 a.m., every finger and every toe accounted for.

He has his brother’s (and his papa’s) good-natured calm, and his mama’s affection for naps.

In other news on the home front, Hank made a rocket ship! A fast one.

As for me, this post will be the only thing I accomplish today that is not is some way related to my boobs.

Fishy Cupcakes

I made these for Hank’s birthday. I’m always on the hunt for cute cupcakes that require no ability to manipulate frosting.

I smooshed the Swedish Fish on with my fingers, and used tweezers to place the “bubble” sprinkles.

They’re a variation of this idea, which uses rainbow fishy crackers instead of Swedish fish.

Fishy crackers are not as delicious as gummy things. Love, Maggie.

Science Party Favors: Expanding Soap Experiment

For Hank’s class party, we did the science experiment with the expanding Ivory soap that I’ve mentioned here before.

We did the experiment in class, and made favors for all the kids to take home with a bit of Ivory soap. The tent card has instructions on how to do the experiment.

This hits all the favor buttons:

Simple You chop a soap bar into fourths, pop it in a bag, and staple a card on top.
Cheap A ten-pack of soap was $3 at Target, which is enough for 40 favors.
No Candy Hank’s class doesn’t allow it.

Plus, it’s awesome and fun but only takes 35 seconds to use. Thanks, science.

Thinking About Parenting

This useful NYT article came out a while ago Raising Successful Children. Some excerpts:

“In a typical experiment, Dr. Dweck takes young children into a room and asks them to solve a simple puzzle. Most do so with little difficulty. But then Dr. Dweck tells some, but not all, of the kids how very bright and capable they are. As it turns out, the children who are not told they’re smart are more motivated to tackle increasingly difficult puzzles. They also exhibit higher levels of confidence and show greater overall progress in puzzle-solving.”

“…children thrive best in an environment that is reliable, available, consistent, and noninterfering.”

So let your kid walk to the Dairy Queen by themselves, just follow at a discreet stalking distance so you can be at hand when the police intervene.

Maternity Wardrobe Links and Tips

If you’re planning to grow human in your belly, here are some of the things I bought that were high-quality and reasonably priced. If you’re not, here is a comic strip that made me feel better about my brain.

Maternity Clothes I Recommend

Undies that don’t suck: 3-pack boy shorts from H&M, $15

Knit Faux Wrap Dress from Banana Republic Sexy and happens to work for nursing, so we’ll see if it lasts: $87

Grey Mama Treggings, on sale for $17

Red Batwing Sleeve Sweater that’s not technically maternity but big enough to push it, $27

Maternity Stretch Tanks, on sale $5-7

Two-pack maternity tights in grey and black, $17

This 2-Pack of Maternity Leggings are pretty thick. Some pilling after being worn near constantly for 7 months, but come on, $40

Maternity Wardrobe Tips

Buy maternity clothes from the get go, do not wait until you can’t get your regular jeans up around your thighs. They’re crazy comfortable, and clothes that stretch make you feel healthy and pregnant as your body grows instead of just feeling fat and bummed. Also, my first pregnancy I thought I could just buy bigger clothes, and my sister said, “Your body is going to get weird. You’ll have to get maternity stuff in the third trimester, so just be comfortable all along.” She was right.

• Go for the full-belly panel on your pants. Those low elastic waistbands look good, but the last trimester when they start feeling really tight just as you don’t want anything touching your body. Also, your shirt rides up to reveal your naked belly, which is very vulnerable and yucky. Finally, when the baby gets big enough to have an opinion, they will vote by kicking you hard until you buy new pants that don’t smush them. Sorry, baby.

• Neutrals are the most economical. I buy dark grey when I can and black when I can’t. Everything works together and doesn’t clash with pieces that still work from my normal-body wardrobe. I bought a couple accent pieces in red, but mostly rely on colorful accessories.

Don’t worry so much about whether you’ll be able to wear it after. With my first pregnancy, I obsessed over finding nursing/maternity clothes that looked passable as regular clothes. After I gave birth I was so sick of those clothes. They were mostly worn out — all stretched out and pilly — and people kept asking when I was due, probably because I was wearing maternity clothes? Yeah. So this time I bought very little, I’m wearing it into the ground, and tossing it or passing it on when I give birth. The exception is bras and nightgowns. Buy nursing versions so you can nurse right away.

Coats are an exception. Maternity coats are expensive, so I buy vintage and try to find something I’ll wear until I have time to reassemble my body. Search “cape coat” and “swing coat” on eBay for maternity coats that will transition into your regular wardrobe, like so: Grey Wool Cape Coat.

Maternity Wardrobe Starters for Warmer Climates

A quick list of maternity basics. This will vary by lifestyle and season, but it’s a great base that lets you purchase a few necessary pieces as you realize you need them.

• Knit dresses in neutral colors (2) – High-quality thick jersey that doesn’t thin out too much as it stretches, preferably with hemlines that fall below the knee. That hemline will pull up as your belly grows and lots of ladies get temporary cellulite down to the knee before they give birth.
• Maternity tights in neutrals that work with your dresses (2)
• Maternity leggings or sweats (2)
• Camis with shelf bras (2) – These will transition you to a new bra size, and the support will help you sleep.
• A sundress that works for nursing to be worn as a nightgown – Maternity sleepwear is stupid expensive and it’s usually not as good quality as just buying an Old Navy sundress or equivalent.
• T-Shirts (2 short sleeved, 2 long)
• Undies a size or two up (6 pairs)
• A Hoodie – H&M has lots of long ones right now that aren’t a million dollars. Maternity hoodies can be laughably pricey.
• A Sweater – Bonus if it’s a cardigan because you can wear it multiple ways.
• A coat or cloak
• A pair of flats

If you’ve been through this or are pregnant now, please add your tips and links to good deals in comments. Thanks, mamas.