THE BLOG

This is our place to share parenting perspectives, member news, community events and other ideas.


The AFC Blog presents articles written by our members and people from the local community. If you would like to contribute to the blog (just once or regularly), please contact Amber to get involved!

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  • Monday, June 11, 2018 10:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I’m a recent convert of weekly menu planning. For a long time, I viewed “menu planning” as “Hey - I’m going to have guests for dinner, so I should buy stuff ahead of time,” or “I should use up the chicken in the fridge…” I had admiration for those motivated, extra-organized people who are able to menu plan for a whole week ahead of time, shop ahead, etc. I always felt like this level of planning kind of cramped my breezy “What do I feel like eating tonight?” style. It was almost like menu planning would somehow be a hindrance to my creativity in the kitchen, or otherwise too rigid for changing schedule obligations. I felt like menu planning was better suited to more organized homemakers, and not quite as compatible with the romance of a more carefree lifestyle.

    However, as life changed, I needed to readapt. I had so many swirling factors going on: full-time work plus teaching 1-2 nights per week, a stringent budget, a super picky eater, plus a ton of other considerations (is it healthy, is it delicious, OMG – I have a ton of things to use up in the fridge…). So, I sat down one day and decided to actually write down what we were going to eat every night for the next week; shopping only from the fridge, freezer, and pantry. Things I noticed - this was way easier than I thought. I looked at things like all the produce, what would go bad first, and then filled in gaps around that. I also noted things like evening meetings, or other scheduling considerations. What kinds of meals would take extra prep, and what kinds were easy (i.e., leftovers, soup/sandwiches, etc.). That first week went really well. I didn’t realize how much stress the simple matter of making dinner had added to our daily routine. Once it was down on paper, there was also less of a temptation to say, “I’m tired - let’s just go out, or get delivery.” Fewer things were being thrown away, and there were fewer trips to the grocery store.

    Moreover, as our son started to get older, keeping him on a regular schedule meant that dinner time had to happen sooner than what we were normally used to. Getting home around 6-6:30 often meant we would eat around 8 or 9 at night. When I could just put the little one in a high chair with some finger foods while we took our time eating, it wasn’t a big deal. Plus, when he was in daycare, he had a couple of nap times, and a looser schedule worked. However, when preschool hit, and a much more regular and earlier schedule was needed, we didn’t have the luxury of taking time to figure out what we wanted to make. This resulted in starting to make dinner after 7. Menu planning helped to keep us on task in order to have family dinner time, bath, and a regular bedtime.

    What worked:

    Planning one week at a time -- I have to say I really admire the families who can map out a month’s worth of meals. I feel like our household needs more flexibility. The flexibility factor was what had scared me off this planning previously, but I found that a week at a time was super manageable, and gave us room for spontaneity, while still keeping us on track. When I tried to do 2 or more weeks in advance, I found it was really easy to get pulled off track after the 4th day. However, one week was enough to allow for the kind of flexibility we wanted, without being discouraging. Part of successful goal setting is to plan some short-term, achievable goals. For me, it was one week at a time.

    Shopping from my pantry/fridge/freezer -- By taking a quick inventory of my staples once a week, I was less likely to forget about things tucked in the back, and cut down on “mystery” items. We get bi-weekly produce boxes, and there was always something I forgot about in the back of the fridge. This approach encouraged me to investigate what was about to go bad and needed to be used up quickly. It also reminded me of leftovers, and inspired me to plan on how those were going to be eaten (discussed more below).

    Planning according to my schedule -- I really, really love eating a nice lasagna made from a luscious homemade Bolognese, or a roasted chicken with mashed potatoes, or a hearty, slow-cooked stew. But those take a lot of time, and are usually relegated to Sunday dinner. One key thing was that we would often eat out on a weeknight, or get delivery, because we were exhausted... and cooking a meal seemed like just too much. Planning out a meal, assembling ingredients, etc. can take up a LOT of mental energy. Then you have to actually execute. After a long day of work, or other activities, it can be very tempting to skip making dinner altogether. Or, if you have some kind of evening meeting, who has time to make something beforehand or after??? But these are perfect nights for pulling out a quart of frozen soup (which reheats quickly in a large saucepan) and making sandwiches, or plan for leftovers night.

    Leftovers -- While reheating leftover Chinese food is perfectly acceptable for a weeknight dinner (or breakfast), the key is to remember to eat it before it goes bad. I love “leftover” nights for midweek, or if I know I’m going to be home late from an afternoon meeting, etc. I also like to look at how to reinvent leftovers. Sandwiches, soups, salads, or even homemade pizzas are really good ways to use up leftovers.

    Comfort on a weeknight -- Remember that stew or lasagna from a delightful Sunday night? Well, after we had it for dinner, I probably portioned up and froze half of it. I can’t even tell you how much I love to pull out a portion of lasagna, put it in a small baking dish, freshen it up with a little sauce or cheese, and bake off. Or, plan a slow cooker dinner that can cook while you are at work and is ready when you walk through the door. Prepare a side salad, and you have Sunday dinner on a Wednesday.

    Planning for a picky eater -- My preschool aged son is a ridiculously picky eater. Menu planning for him was extra frustrating for both me and my husband. While menu planning for us, I also mapped out his dinners, which included stuff he would eat that was similar to our foods. This also gave me the opportunity to talk to him about what kind of foods were on the menu, in order to prepare him. (I’ll re-visit this whole issue in a future post.)

    Spending a few minutes on Saturday morning mapping out the week to come also helped to satisfy that urge to read cookbooks and fantasize about recipes. By adhering to these simple considerations, menu-planning became a game-changer and sanity saver for our family.

    --Stephanie Chenard

    Stephanie is mom to an amazing son, was formerly AFC's Babysitting Co-op Chairperson, and currently spearheads our delicious Cookbook Club. 


  • Tuesday, May 15, 2018 9:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hey AFC members!

    Are you looking for more ways to get involved and make the most out of your membership? Do you enjoy going to playdates, Moms and Dads events, members-only events, and would like to help us plan more? Would you love to meet more families with similar aged kids? If you answered "Yes!" to any of the above questions, we have a few events right up your alley coming in the months ahead!

    BUILD YOUR VILLAGE:

    Two ways to get to know your Alameda parent clan would be to attend our upcoming Meet and Greet or New Member Social. What is the difference between these two events?

    New Member Socials are free brunch gatherings for parents only (though babies in arms are welcome) to learn more about the events and programs that the AFC puts on. There will be an agenda, an opportunity to answer questions, as well as a sign up sheet for volunteer events. Take a morning break from parenting duties, and have some light refreshments and adult talk! The first New Member Social of the year will be on May 20th at Betsy Johnson's house. Whether you're a new member or not, if you'd like to learn more about what the AFC has to offer and how you can help contribute, please RSVP and attend!

    Meet and Greets are open to the public, and are intended for the whole family. We will host our next AFC Meet and Greet on June 8th, to coincide with the kick off of Alameda's Concerts at the Cove at Crab Cove. Bring a picnic blanket and/or some lawn chairs, and join the AFC gang while we listen to some live music.

    SUMMER EVENTS:

    You have a lot to choose from this summer, from Popsicles at the Park in June to our End of Summer blowout in September.

    Popsicles at the Park is Sunday, June 10. Come enjoy a free popsicle for your little one(s) at Longfellow Park from 3-5pm. Supplies will last as long as they are frozen, so be sure to get there on the early side!

    Concerts at the Cove - AFC will be sponsoring a table area at the Concerts under the trees behind the Visitor Center June 8th, July 13th, and August 10th. Look for the bubbles! Grab a list of events for your fridge, and chat with us about volunteering and building our community. Our next Meet and Greet is also at the Concert, hosted by Jessica and James Frank. Bring your picnic blankets, this is a great family-friendly event!

    Our annual End of Summer Party at Crown Beach will happen in late August/early September. Details will be announced soon, and we always welcome volunteers to help us plan the event!

    VOLUNTEER/GIVE BACK:

    Finally, the AFC will be calling out for some open board positions starting in the new fiscal year. We are looking for talented and committed volunteers to help keep the AFC running and successful. These year-long positions (starting in July) are a great way to get involved and meet other great parents in Alameda. Board members who have served a full year will have their dues waived for the following year! 

    We are looking forward to meeting you and your families. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to get more involved!

    Betsy Johnson, Membership Committee Chair


  • Monday, April 09, 2018 11:17 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Pregnancy #2 was different for so many reasons. My body went into autopilot, chasing my toddler around was my exercise, and fitting in my prenatal visits was an afterthought. I never thought much of it when my OB asked if I wanted the “routine” genetic tests, same as last time. Blood draw #1, nuchal translucency ultrasound, then blood draw #2. I never looked back…

    Until the phone rang one random Wednesday afternoon while I was at work. A genetic counselor from Kaiser was calling to tell me that my genetic tests were positive, and that my baby had an increased risk of having Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome). I was so caught off guard as I listened to him explain the risks, describe my options for further testing, and say words like “termination” and “abortion.” My mind was racing. I have worked with special needs children my entire life, and now work at a children’s hospital where I see first-hand the physical and mental challenges these beautiful children go through. I knew in my heart that I would love this child no matter what. Everyone feels differently about genetic anomalies, and everyone makes different choices, but I already knew my choice would be to love this baby. But I was terrified. I never knew how deep my desire was to have a healthy child, until my baby’s health was threatened. There were two more weeks of further testing, more ultrasounds, and LOTS of waiting.

    When choosing to write about this topic, it was not the experience of the genetic testing that I wanted to reflect on as much as the loneliness and fear I felt during those difficult weeks.

    As I reflect back on this time and as I reflect on the AFC blog that was beautifully written for February, I ask myself the question: Why was I silent during this experience? If I had been vulnerable with my fellow AFC moms would this time have been a little less terrifying? Would I have realized that hundreds, if not thousands, of families go through these challenges, and that I was not alone?

    It made me think about my favorite author Brene Brown, whose research about vulnerability has changed so many lives. She writes, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.”

    Growing up I was taught that being a strong woman was demonstrated by independence, not relying on others to meet your needs. I am now realizing that the courage to tell the truth and be vulnerable is where I will find my strength.

    To end this story, it’s important to tell everyone that my baby boy was born healthy, and further testing ruled out an extra chromosome. However, not every story has a happy ending. What I am learning is that leaning in and being vulnerable is how I want to live my life. I wish I could have written this story, or spoken this truth, when I was in the midst of this frightening experience. Hopefully, next time I will. Because I know that I have so many mothers and families in our AFC community who would have been there for me—to listen, to cry, and to celebrate. As I think about the mother I want to be and the women I want to raise in this era, courage and truth must be at the forefront.

    -Kelsey Merl is the amazing mama of a kindhearted 3 year old daughter, in addition to a 6 month old boy whose smile lights up the room! She has a passion for people, and radiates warmth and love to those in both her personal and professional life. 


  • Tuesday, March 20, 2018 4:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    What can be more fun than the daily grind and joys of motherhood? How about a night in with the ladies? I personally know the difficulties of getting out of the house in the evening. It's much easier to do a Mommy Board Game Night sitting around a table in a quiet setting (it's just a few rowdy moms!) It's usually 2-3 hours of board games, wine, snacks, and relaxed conversations.

    Games range from the ever popular Cards Against Humanity to Sushi Go to Pictionary. Attendees are always welcome to bring a few games, and then we all pick a game or two to play. Hosts don't even need to own a board game! (Alameda Main Library even has kids and adult board games to borrow at the Children's Desk.) Just let us know if you need some games brought over and we'll make that happen. Hosting simply means providing a location and a table. Hosts can even reduce or expand the guest list quantity according to their space.

    I fondly remember hosting a game night where my then 3 year old daughter woke up. Asking her to go back to bed just wasn't going to happen. So what did I do? I let her come downstairs to mingle with a room full of loving mamas! She colored us pictures and had a snack.  After the night ended, she went to bed and woke up late the next day. These things happen, but I was still able to have a fun night while the husband was out of town.

    Mommy's Game Night has certainly helped me find some amazing mamas that are on the same wavelength as me, and have forged several friendships. We are all overworked, so taking a few hours in a low-key, yet fun situation will do wonders to fill your "Me Time Bank".

    -Sharon Ross

    Be sure to let us know you're coming, and RSVP for our next two game nights in March and April!

    Sharon is light-hearted wife & stay-at-home mother of two amazing and sweet girls - 5 & 16mo. When she's not questing for coffee or praying for her little to nap, you can find her lurking Pinterest and thinking about how to make AFC better.

  • Tuesday, February 13, 2018 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    We were told our daughter had a 1 percent chance of surviving. 

    The news came when she was 13 weeks in utero - the time when women normally get to sigh with relief that the most risky part of their pregnancy has passed. Nausea and fatigue are lifting, the honeymoon trimester has arrived, and it's okay to start spreading the word about the little, growing miracle.

    I was told the results after getting a noninvasive prenatal exam called MaterniT21, which tests for genetic disorders. The test is 99 percent accurate for things like Down Syndrome, according to my genetic counselor. 

    What my baby tested positive for was Turner Syndrome, or Monosomy X. It's a condition that happens when one of the sex chromosomes is missing, or partially missing. It affects only females, and can cause a slew of problems including abnormal kidneys, heart defects, failure of the ovaries to develop, and shortened height. Most pregnancies end in miscarriages. 

    I went in a few days later to get a chorionic villus sampling, or CVS, to verify the results. While the noninvasive tests can only give the likelihood of a baby having certain conditions, a CVS will confirm with 100 percent certainty whether they have a genetic disorder. (I was warned when I made my appointment, however, that sometimes there is still a small chance that they will not be able to give a clear answer based on the results.) 

    However, my baby measured too big for the test, and I had to reschedule for an amniocentesis. The doctor said the chance of having a miscarriage was greater if the baby was too large. He advised against proceeding unless I had already made up my mind to terminate the pregnancy if there was any chance of the baby having Turner Syndrome.

    I had to wait three more weeks for the appointment. I felt like a time bomb, wondering if I was going to have a miscarriage at every moment. I was frozen with grief, numbly going through the motions of taking care of my toddlers as happily as I could pretend to be. I piled on layers of clothing trying to disguise my bump, not wanting to talk to anyone about it. I lost a baby last February, and the fragility of creating life was still raw in my mind. 

    At 16 weeks, I got the amniocentesis, which tests the baby's own genetic material from the amniotic fluid. My mom had flown down from Oregon to accompany me to the CVS test; yet I went alone this time since my husband was working. My nerves got the best of me and I didn't sleep the night before, and had only a few bites of cereal hours before the test. After it was over, I went shopping, even though you are supposed to only rest--a suggestion in retrospect that I should have obviously taken more seriously. I ended up being taken to the emergency room in an ambulance after nearly fainting at Nordstrom Rack.

    It wasn't the relaxing afternoon I had envisioned, but several days later, I thankfully received the news that my baby was healthy and the test was negative for Turner Syndrome. 

    With my first two children I was never offered noninvasive prenatal testing, which is a blood screening that analyzes the baby's DNA. I don't regret getting the NIPT done because having knowledge is powerful; but I do think it's important to open a discussion about such tests. 

    Like miscarriages, there seems to be a veil of shame or just too much sadness to deal with it openly. Women, myself included, often say how they don't realize how many people have lost babies or dealt with similar testing results and false positives, until they go through it themselves, prompting their friends to share. 

    I am a private person. Yet, having experienced this, I understand how having had more information about how common false positives can be and just having a circle of support during the process can be beneficial; not just emotionally, but for other reasons, too. Many pregnancies are terminated based on results that may not be accurate. 

    For the most part, my husband and I have been fortunate in having two uneventful pregnancies, resulting in healthy kids. While having number three on the way stirred up some anxiety over the impending sleepless nights and chaos to add to our already jam-packed existences, the experience did make us remember to not take the health of our two kids or this little one for granted. Ever. Life is oh so fragile. 

    Baby girl is due May 6.

    -Ananda Paulas

     Ananda has a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old, and one bun in the oven. She is a European-trained photographer. Shooting weddings has taken her to Costa Rica, the Bahamas, multiple states across the U.S., and all over California. Pre-kids, she felt most alive riding rickshaws through monsoons in India, paragliding over the sea in Malaysia, diving into the Mediterranean, accidentally ending up on a Uruguayan freeway in a golf cart, being chased by a monkey in Costa Rica, or eating Toblerone atop a Swiss mountain.
  • Thursday, January 18, 2018 8:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I’ll be honest: I don’t look like a beauty writer. My makeup of choice tends to be the “no-makeup look,” easily achieved by, well, no makeup. (I’m literal like that.) But the truth is, sometimes a quick sweep, swipe or smudge makes me look–ok, feel–a little more J.Lo and a little less sleepless twin mom. Minus the glow, that is. And fierce cheekbones. And sexy, come-hither gaze. But we both have twins so we’re sorta similar, right? Right? Bueller?

    5 PRODUCTS. 2 MINUTES. GO!

    TINTED MOISTURIZER or BB CREAM

    This is my take to a desert island, grab from a burning fire, can’t live without, holy grail product. The reason? It kills two, no five (or more!) birds with one stone by blurring the lines (pun intended) between makeup and skincare. For starters, it acts as a daily moisturizer (a godsend when my entire skin regimen = washing my face in the shower), and provides just the *right* amount of coverage (evens skin tone, masks redness, camouflages dark circles). And depending on the formula, it can prime for makeup, protect with SPF, or fight aging. I use this instead of foundation, and often ditch the concealer as well.

    Shut up and take my money!: Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 The original and still the best IMO. It leaves me looking dewy, not greasy, which is difficult since my skin often looks like it belongs to a hormonal, french fry-lovin’ teenager.

    Yay! I can still afford preschool: e.l.f. BB cream Its powerful ingredient list screams high-end (vitamin E, jojoba, aloe, cucumber), but at $5.99, it costs less than open swim at Aquatech.

    CHEEK COLOR

    Surprised? I get it. Blush is often associated with clown-like circles or dynasty-esque streaks. So why on earth would I consider this an essential? The reason: it takes seconds to apply, yet it takes years off your face. My face looks flat and dull without it, and being someone with serious cheekbone envy, this helps. And keep in mind that blush comes in colors other than pink or red. A shade closer to your skin tone (soft coral, tawny peach, dusty rose, or deep mahogany) looks more natural and adds subtle warmth.

    Shut up and take my money!: NARS Blush in Orgasm Thanks to its perfect not-quite-pink/not-quite-peach hue, this universally flattering blush has garnered a cult following, and inspired countless knockoffs. Also, its name is Orgasm. Need I say more?

    Yay! I can still afford preschool: Milani Baked Blush in Luminoso See “inspired countless knockoffs” above.

    EYEBROW PRODUCT

    I practically had a unibrow when I was younger, but the 90s skinny brow trend (i.e. years of waxing, tweezing, and threading) left mine looking less than lush. Bold brows frame your face, open your eyes, and can transform your whole look STAT. Get ready to raise some brows, literally.

    Shut up and take my money!: I was going to recommend Benefit’s bestselling Gimme Brow, but it was recently recalled. Luckily, the company launched ka-BROW! Cream-Gel Eyebrow Color with Brush and it’s just as good–if not better. The cap transforms into a full-length brush for extra precision, and the creamy gel formula won’t budge, smudge, or smear.

    Yay! I can still afford preschoolEssence Make Me Brow Eyebrow Gel Mascara I don’t have the time or skills for a pencil, so luckily this wand-powered product takes 10 seconds to apply. A couple swipes (make sure to shape an arch) and...voila! Bonus: It’s almost an exact replica of Gimme Brow, but costs a whopping $2.99!

    MASCARA

    The most time-consuming beauty product by far is just. so. necessary. I don’t know what it is, but there is something uber-feminine about long, lush lashes. (Think about it: How do you differentiate a female cartoon bunny from a male one? Lashes.) Full fringe is so coveted, my friend once told me that she wouldn’t drive through Taco Bell sans mascara. Which is kinda weird since no one wants extra long nose or ear hair, but eye hair? Sign me up.

    Shut up and take my money!: Lancome Hypnose Custom Volume Mascara An oldie-but-goodie, I like that this mascara isn’t overly dramatic, because being mistaken for Tammy Faye at Trader Joe’s is never a good thing.

    Yay! I can still afford preschool: L’oreal Voluminous Original Mascara Due to my sensitive, infection-prone eyes, I usually shill out extra dough for prestige mascara. But when I can’t get to Sephora, I go to great lengths (get it?!) to grab this from the nearest drugstore.

    LIP TINT

    For me, lip gloss is too sticky, and lipstick requires too much commitment (as evidenced by the fact that I have three kids with my lifelong partner but still haven’t said “I do”). On the other hand, a hydrating tint, with just a hint of color, looks ultra fresh, not overly fierce. Plus it fades gracefully, unlike lipstick which has to be reapplied constantly.

    Shut up and take my money!: FRESH Sugar Lip Treatment Sunscreen SPF 15

    Seriously, this stuff is like crack. It tastes and smells so good that I just want to rub it all over my body and eat it–which you can technically do, as it’s totally natural and made from sugar. It comes in a dozen colors, including sheer, but Rosé Tinted makes your lips look like you nibbled on organic, sun-kissed Parisian raspberries (or something like that). My daughter uses it, my “husband” uses it, my dog uses it (ok that’s not true, but she would if she could because it’s just THAT good). Without sounding overly dramatic, YOU-HAVEN’T-LIVED-’TIL-YOU-TRIED-THIS, DROP-EVERYTHING-BUT-YOUR-BABY-AND-GET-IT-THIS-VERY-SECOND. I wish I were kidding.

    Yay, I can still pay for preschool!: Burt’s Bees Lip Balm No intro needed. If you haven’t applied this at least once while reading this, you are about to pull it out of your pocket/purse/glove compartment in 3...2...1.

    -Desiree Marr

    Desiree Marr was born and raised in Alameda, then left at 17, vowing she would never return unless she had kids (which she was 100% NOT having.) Fast forward 20 years, 3 cities, and 3 kids later, she realized that Alameda is pretty cool after all! She is now mom to daughter Saylor (4) and twin boys Hunter and Colton (16 months). In her past life, she worked in Manhattan as a fashion editor and stylist before returning to the Bay Area to write for Sephora. When she is not freelancing for brands such as Urban Decay and Uber, she is drowning in laundry and kissing her slobbery kids. (Seriously, why are they always wet?!) Her (sorta) husband, Mark, is the best hands-on dad imaginable and an amazing partner. In her “spare time” Desiree likes spinning, reading Yelp reviews, worrying, and drinking wine coffee.

  • Monday, December 04, 2017 4:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Let’s be real: as rewarding and fulfilling as becoming a mother is, there is little time left for any of us to let loose, relax, and recharge! Whether you are a stay-at-home-mom or working mom, it can be tough! Do you long for the days when you could pursue hobbies and interests? Or, perhaps on a smaller scale, simply drink a cocktail or eat a meal in peace with like-minded empathetic women?

    AFC and your mom-hive is here for you with monthly group outings that span more than just play dates or kid friendly gatherings! As a first time mom in Alameda, I was eager to make local friends who I could meet up with outside of working hours that truly understood this new phase of my life. This desire prompted me to serve as a Moms’ Night Out (MNO) Organizer for the past year with my right-hand friend and planning extraordinaire Amber Prewitt! It was important for us to not only create fun monthly activities that appeal to a variety of our members, but also instill a warm and welcoming space where we can all take off our mom hats for a bit and focus on our identities outside of that all-consuming title.

    In the past we have done bar trivia, paint night, karaoke, private salon rental for mani/pedis, bingo, AFC MNO only boot camp and dinner/drinks/movies to name a few! Going forward, we are inviting all of our lady members to take an active role in planning these monthly outings to keep the momentum, interest, and assortment of outings high! Future activities include a pajama day, escape room, comedy club, and beer/nachos sampling...all planned for 2018!

    In honor of the holidays this month, we will be having our Second Annual White Elephant/Ugly Christmas Sweater event! RSVP and access details through our AFC website here. We look forward to seeing old and new faces alike, and creating more fabulous memories with you all in the new year to come!

    -Leah Bigonger

    Leah Bigonger is a working mom who, in addition to helping organize AFC Moms’ Night out events, is raising her spectacular toddler son!


  • Friday, November 03, 2017 9:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Congratulations! Now that your blood pressure has gone down from the excitement/nervousness of that positive pregnancy test and reality sets in, what’s next? If the adults in your family are all working, it’s time to look for child care! Yes, even before you tell your loved ones following that delightful first trimester, or before you go scanner happy at Tot Tank or Target for that baby registry. If you hope to keep your baby in the care of someone in our beautiful island city, or really anywhere in the Bay Area, you need to start your search as soon as the shock of a new family member wears off. Seriously.

    So where do you turn? First, a quick sit down to discuss your desires for child care and (very broad) options… assuming a fairy godmother (or grandmother) isn’t going to be on child care duty every moment you need them.

    What do you want your family and child to get out of their new child care setting? Super structured, or more play based? Close to home, or close to your place of employment? What’s your budget? Smaller, more intimate setting, or larger child care facility? Do you work and need child care during normal business hours, or do you only need child care for nights and weekends? Are you looking for full or part-time care? Do you have the flexibility to take off work if a sole care provider is sick? Is an outdoor play space important to you? And, a bit further down the line, but something to consider now: do you want to provide meals or have the child care provider prepare meals?

    After answering the questions above, you may be able to eliminate or narrow down your choice to one or more of the following options:

    1) Nanny or Nanny Share

    2) Child Care Center

    3) Family Child Care Home

    4) Part-time Recreation Program (This last option is typically not an option for the littlest ones, so I won’t go into too much depth here.)

    If you choose a nanny or nanny share (fair warning: typically the most expensive of your options), you will want to reach out to your mommy/AFC/Facebook/Yahoo Group networks in town ASAP (okay, maybe this can wait until the end of the magical third month of pregnancy). Alameda Family Collective, Alameda Mamas Facebook groups. and Alameda Parents Network Yahoo group are brimming with families looking to share or pass off their wonderful, fantastic nannies. Before you interview your very own Mary Poppins, be sure that potential nannies are cleared through TrustLine – a background check specifically for caregivers. This background service is about $135, but priceless for someone who will be caring for your child.

    If a nanny is not your preference, your next call is BANANAS if you are looking for care in Northern Alameda County, 4Cs of Alameda County if you need care closer to work in Southern Alameda County, or Child Care Links if the child care you need will be in the Tri-Valley area. These are Alameda County’s Child Care Resource and Referral (R&R) Agencies, and they are the ONLY ones in the county with access to the list of ALL licensed child care facilities or preschools (used interchangeably in the early care and education field).

    Call or stop by your local R&R, or check out their website – some have online forms – and give them the information about the care you are seeking. The R&R child care specialist will provide you with your own customized list of providers that meet your needs FOR FREE. Yes, they will whittle down the 91,823,679,621 child care options in Alameda to only those that are open when you need them to be, fit your budget, are in the location you need, etc. They will talk about the difference between Family Child Care Homes and Child Care Centers (yes, both must follow Community Care Licensing regulations) and answer any specific questions you may have about child care generally.

    Okay, so now you have your list to jump off of. Next, hop onto the Community Care Licensing’s website and search every single one on your short list for violations. If a facility has severe violations and their license has been revoked, they will not be on the list from the R&R. If a child care facility is on your list, you will still want to check out previous violations, if any. You will want to know what the potential violations were, and if any just don’t feel right the facility can be crossed off your shortlist. Now is the time to set up tours. Infant care waitlists can fill up VERY fast (like a year out) - so the sooner, the better. Ask the hard questions (you can see a great list of questions here). Be sure to go on the tour ideally mid-morning or mid-afternoon when the children are less likely to be napping and you can get a real feel for the child care.

    Once the tours are done, perhaps you are wavering between a few. This is when you reach out to your Alameda parent community. What do families like – and, almost more importantly, not like - about these particular child care facilities? I would strongly suggest making an ultimate decision, signing a contract, and getting on the waitlist no later than one year prior to your little one beginning at a program. ONE. WHOLE. YEAR. You may think this is crazy talk, but trust me, this will lift a huge burden off of your family so that you can sit back, enjoy the morning sickness, swollen ankles, prenatal massages, “baby’s” cravings, and newborn months, and try not to think about handing your new bundle of joy off to complete strangers… we’ll talk about surviving that next time.

    -Katie Honegger

    Katie Honegger is an Alameda native raising her 4-year-old preschooler, Brayden, with her Alameda High School sweetheart husband, Travis. Katie works for 4Cs of Alameda County and was recently appointed by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors as a member of the Alameda County Early Care and Education Planning Council Steering Committee. When she is not working or neck-deep in Paw Patrol, you can find her volunteering for Alameda Family Services as a Board member and fundraiser, watching documentaries, or finding her zen at Leela Yoga. 


  • Thursday, September 07, 2017 6:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Alameda is an island, so this year we are celebrating the end of summer at the beach. 

    Most of the year our beaches can be cold and windy but mid September is prime beach time while our Indian Summer is in full swing.


    040917 Molly exercice outdoor-109.JPG

    We will gather at Shoreline and Willow near the volleyball nets. Slather on the sunblock, grab your shovels and head on down to soak up the sun before Autumn falls upon our home the bay.

    Make sure you RSVP here, small bites will be provided from the Town Kitchen but please bring drinks to share.

    We need volunteers to bring shade structures, tables and ice and we also need people to help with general set up and clean up. You can sign up here.

    Looking forward to getting and sandy with you!



  • Thursday, August 24, 2017 11:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Let’s talk about GUILT baby, let’s talk about you and me!  So now you know that I’m 35 and love Salt-n-Pepa.  While my musical preferences are an open book, what I hide all the time is the overwhelming sense of guilt I feel and have felt for about the past year upon returning to a full-time job outside my home that doesn’t exclusively involve caring for every need of the tiny humans I call my own.  When I was a stay-at-home full-time mom for two years, I had twinges of guilt when I let them watch a little more TV than I thought prudent so that I could have one more cup of coffee, or a shower, or watch one more episode of Game of Thrones out of their sight.  But I wasn’t prepared for the amount of guilt I would feel leaving them with a caregiver 5 days a week for 10 hours a day.  My kids are happy and usually kind little boys with every indication of one day being stellar adult humans.  I honestly have nothing to feel guilty about - they are fine. 

    One of my colleagues, who also has small children, and I were recently discussing how some people need emotional fulfillment from their work life and we were agreeing that we have so much emotional stimulation at home that we don’t feel the need for emotional reinforcement at work.  I explained that every day when I get home, two children’s faces light up, they run screaming to the door, “Mommy! Mommy!” and bury their faces in my crotch with both arms around my legs before I can even get through the door.  Sometimes they even weep with joy and relief at my presence.  Your colleagues might be happy to see you, but honestly, having someone weep with joy at your arrival isn’t something you can really expect daily from your coworkers.    

    With a parent, it's always guilt. You want to be there, but you kind of also want to be here. -Heather Locklear

    Every day at that same door, my kids have said “Mommy I don’t want you to go to work” or “I miss you when you go to work.”  Most days I’m energized and ready to dive into the adult challenges I face at work, but other days I tell my kids that I wish I could stay home, and I really mean it.  When I have a day in my workplace where my productivity is flagging or it is a gorgeous blue day in the usually foggy San Francisco summer, the guilt flows up again and I romanticize about the days when I could pack the kids in the car and head up to the zoo with them or have conversations with them while hiking through the woods.  Whenever they have a behavioral issue like hitting or, I dunno, peeing on the sidewalk and saying “don’t worry mom, I didn’t have an accident!” I wonder if they’d be doing the same thing if I were still their primary caregiver.  Probably they would, but of course I still blame myself.  Then there is the nagging guilt that I could be sending them to a great “forest school” preschool where they could get filthy and be wildlings but is only available part-time, or taking them to Dance With Me or some other enrichment that happens in the middle of the workday…. if only I didn’t work full-time.  And when I am having a really rough day at work, I think of how being a full-time stay-at-home caregiver was one of the most challenging, but also the most rewarding, positions (and privileges) I’ve ever had.  

    For all the moms and dads who’ve passed the full-time primary caregiver baton to “the professionals”… I don’t have any answers about how to assuage the guilt or whether I really want to or know how to, but know that if you feel this way - you aren’t alone.

    —  Jessica Frank

    Jessica is a mother of two and is serving as the 2017/2018 AFC Vice President.


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