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 Marissa to get involved!

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  • 4 Aug 2017 6:58 PM | Anonymous
    ...and we're hoping you'll answer!

    Rainbow colored hands raised with the word volunteer underneath

    AFC is a member-run organization. We all know this. While not everyone wants or has the time to be a board member, there are many other volunteer opportunities where we would love your help!

    Is coordination your forte? We need someone (or a couple people) to take over blog management. Solicit blog posts, edit as needed, and upload to the website. 

    Passionate about writing? The blog isn't going to write itself! Your unique perspective is what we need. Ideally there are many people contributing posts for variety of voice and to reduce burnout. 

    Super at social media? We need a couple people to manage our public Facebook page and our Instagram account. 

    Mad about marketing? Develop promotional materials for our Ed Series events and special events (like Earth Day). 

    Event planning expert? Work with Molly & Hailey to plan our two major parties: End of Summer & Holiday/Winter. 


    Can't wait to get started? Send me an email so we can get you set up!

    None of these suit your passions? Check out our committee list and reach out to the board member listed! 

    Tree with volunteering benefits listed on leaves


    Need more reasons to volunteer? Aside from feeling good about giving back to our community, you're developing marketable skills through your volunteer work! Expand your breadth of skills to make yourself even more valuable in the workplace. Engage your mind in a different way outside of the realm of day-to-day childcare. Try out a different skill in a low risk environment. No matter how much or how little time you have available, we want you to make your mark on AFC!


    — Jennifer Weiss

    Jenn is a mother of two and has served on the AFC Executive Board as Secretary for several years.

  • 18 Jul 2017 9:23 PM | Anonymous

    It’s summer. And it’s hot! Sort of. It’s hot if you leave the East Bay! Luckily, we live in the land of beaches, splash pads, swim holes, aquatic centers, and water parks. These are pure gold for kids of all ages. I’m particularly a fan of splash pads for toddlers and preschoolers, as they are often free or inexpensive, and are a great way to get your little one used to the water in a low key setting. Here’s a list of places to do just that, most within or well under an hour’s drive away!


    Current Favorites

    Children playing at covered splash pad

    Larkey Park Swim Center 

    (Walnut Creek): One of the closest splash pads to Alameda, Larkey Park Swim Center has something for everyone. Admission is $2/pp from 10-12 (splash pad only), or $3.50/pp from 12:30-4:30 (as it includes admission into the large, pristine pool, too!) A dual water slide makes this splash pad extra special! You’ll find easy parking (either personal lot or street) and clean bathrooms. Pack a lunch and make a day of it! Playgrounds, Lindsey Wildlife Center, and the Walnut Creek Model Railroad Society are all a short walk away.Boy playing on splash padRancho San Ramon Community Park (San Ramon): My son still talks about this park! In addition to the splash pad, the playground includes a modern day merry-go-round, unique climbing structures, and a zipline! Playing and/or splashing won’t cost you a dime, and parking and bathrooms are easily accessible.Boy playing in shallow wading poolSan Ramon Central Park (San Ramon): This one is different from the rest, with only a large mushroom and shallow wading pool for splashing. However, kids can also dip their toes in the creek, and play on one of the tallest (yet extra secure) play structures we’ve come across. This park was also extremely well kept, and has plentiful parking and bathrooms available.Boy playing on splash pad with water sprayingHap Magee Ranch Park (Danville): An adorable farm-themed park with a great splash pad for the littles! Parking, bathrooms, and trails readily available.Group of people playing on a splash pad shaded by palm treesSeven Seas Park (Sunnyvale): This is by far the largest park on the list! Too many great features to name, including but not limited to: semi-shaded play areas, padded flooring, a nautical themed playground including a ship to explore, musical equipment, and a splash pad. Unlike the former parks mentioned, this parking lot fills up quickly, but the walk is well worth it!Boy playing on splash pad in front of rainbow spray tunnel ringsEmerald Glen Park (Dublin): Located right next to the Dublin Aquatic Center and the Wave Waterpark, Emerald Glen Park is a fun, free option which includes multiple play structures, a generous sand box, climbing rocks with winding slides, and a large splash pad. You’ll find a parking lot and bathrooms on-site, and possibly catch the ice cream truck rolling through.

    Local Swim Centers

    • Aquatech
    • Emma Hood Swim Center
    • Encinal Swim Center
    • Harbor Bay Club

    Bay Area Splash Pads
    East Bay
      • Brentwood: Blue Goose Park, Brentwood City Park
      • Castro Valley: Castro Valley Community Park
      • Concord: Meadow Homes Spray Park 
      • Danville: Hap Magee Ranch Park, Sycamore Valley Park
      • Dublin: Emerald Glen Park
      • Fremont: Always Dream Play Park
      • Pleasanton: Val Vista Community Park
      • San Ramon: Central Park, Rancho Sam Ramon Community Park
    North Bay
      • Fairfield: Mankas Park
      • San Rafael: Freitas Park
    South Bay
      • Campbell: Jack Fischer Park 
      • San Jose: Rotary Playground
      • Sunnyvale: Lakewood Park, Ortega Park, Seven Seas Park
    Bay Area Swim Centers and Aquatic Parks
    East Bay
      • Antioch: Antioch Waterpark
      • Concord: Waterworld
      • Dublin: Dublin Aquatic Center & The Wave Waterpark
      • El Cerrito: El Cerrito Swim Center
      • Fremont: Aqua Adventure
      • Livermore: Robert Livermore Community Center
      • Martinez: Rankin Aquatic Center
      • Newark: Silliman Activity and Family Aquatic Center
      • San Ramon: San Ramon Olympic Pool & Aquatic Park
      • Walnut Creek: Clarke Memorial Swim Center
    South Bay
      • Morgan Hill: Morgan Hill Aquatics Center
      • Santa Clara: Boomerang Bay at CA’s Great America
      • San Jose: Raging Waters

    This probably goes without saying, but don’t forget to bring your sunscreen, hats, and plenty of water! Temperatures in most of these areas can easily hit 100 degrees. What other splash pads or swim centers did I miss? What are your favorites?

    —Amber Prewitt

    Amber is an AFC mom who helps to coordinate Mom's Night Out, Busy Bag Swaps, Sensory Playdates and more! She's also a brilliant blogger who shares tons of adventures with her toddler son.

  • 11 Jul 2017 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    When it comes to finance, doing the right thing isn't always as easy or as obvious as we'd like it to be. It can feel like learning a whole new language or way of life. Throw that into the mix of trying to parent and work and get dinner on the table—sometimes it seems impossible to get the right information, let alone get ahead! Does that sound about right?

    Well, the good news is that you're not alone and AFC wants to help! On July 29th, we're inviting our members and the local community to participate in a workshop with Rebecah Freeling—local family coach and financial advisor.

    Rebecah is passionate about helping both grownups and kids to feel confident when it comes to money. This workshop is all about learning to speak the language of money. In preparation for the upcoming event, we had a quick chat about what attendees can expect to learn.

    Molly McGee: “Financial literacy” is a term we’re seeing more often these days. Why is financial literacy so important?
     
    Rebecah Freeling: Well, studies have shown that people who are not financially literate have a lot less money than those who are financially literate. And this is not just a matter of the more literate person having more money to begin with.
     
    For example, the less literate person spends a lot more on debt, because they don’t understand the power of the interest rate and they don’t have a solid understanding of how savings and debt grow over time. There really are a number of specific ways lower- or middle-income people can make even a small amount of money work for them, but they have to know how to do this in order to do it, right? So there’s a relationship between financial literacy and financial health.
     
    The other thing is that, because money connects to fundamental human concerns – for example, health, or where we live – money actually carries a lot of emotional weight. So just in terms of emotional balance, financial literacy has an impact. I think most of us will feel more empowered when we understand money, and less empowered and more anxious when we don’t.


    We also chatted about savings, interest rates, taxes, and how to make the most out of your financial advisor relationship. I'm amazed by how much I didn't know!

    Of course, this is an AFC Education Series event, so I had to ask her about something uniquely important to our organization...
     
    M: How can I help my kids get a good start financially?
     
    R: One really important way to help your kids be empowered financially is to take the time to include them in the family’s financial life... ...Teach your kids to save money—have a conversation in which you all come to an agreement that they’ll save a certain percentage of whatever income they have, and have them do that math... ... ...You can also talk to them about some of your own financial decisions – walk them through some of the choices you’re making (knowing that what you say may or may not be repeated to others outside the family…). Finally, talk to your kids about consumption and advertising – explain that it’s fine to have things and buy more things, but also, the advertisers want us to feel compelled to buy these things just so that they’ll have our money. I’ve found that kids are quite willing to set their own boundaries on consumption once they understand advertising’s manipulation aspect.


    I mean...wow! This conversation with Rebecah left me feeling inspired and empowered. I'm so excited to bring her knowledge to our community. Get the full event details and RSVP HERE. I look forward to seeing you!
     
    --Molly McGee with Rebecah Freeling
     
    Molly is AFC's new president and the Education Series chair. In addition to being a mom, she teaches yoga and engages in community activism.

    Rebecah Freeling is a family coach and financial advisor. She loves helping "spirited” kids develop self-discipline, social skills, and a sense of responsibility. She assists families to plan their long-term financial stability.

  • 5 Jul 2017 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    Like most parents awaiting the birth of their first child, my husband and I filled our shelves with books about child-rearing, development, nutrition, safety. We read as much as we could. Then we added to that collection books and documents about adoption from our agency and legal team, topical magazines and (endless) online resources. We had so much information...but not much human connection. 

    The adoption agency encouraged us to exchange contact information with other families also awaiting the arrival of their children. Yet, as we ticked off the application boxes and completed our requirements, we felt further and further removed from other families we had met. There were geographic challenges since the agency had such a large service area. And, every family we met was at a different stage in the process. Some were just beginning the paperwork, some had already been matched with an expectant mom, and others had already welcomed their child(ren) home.

    adoptive family

    So, while we already had a few adoptive families in our circle of friends, my husband and I were keen to grow that web of support—not just for us, but for our daughter too. Through the creation of AFC’s Adoptive Families Happy Hours events, we now have a local resource to help adoptive families connect with each other. A small group of us held our second social of the year in May, and we have dates on the calendar through the rest of the year and into 2018.

    Our small group will no doubt evolve as we grow, and the possibilities for education and community outreach are many. For now, however, we are simply enjoying the camaraderie of families created through adoption. It is a comfort to know that there are other families in the community with the wisdom of experience to share or an ear off which to bounce our thoughts. What a joy it is to see our children connect, realizing they have something really special in common—they are children born not from our bodies but from our hearts. 

    Any member of an adoptive family is welcome to join us: children, parents and even siblings. Foster families are welcome too! AFC membership is not required to attend, so please let adoptive/foster families in your circle of friends know about this terrific new resource! 

    The events are held in Alameda on Sundays from 4:30-7pm so that we can enjoy the last bit of our weekend together. Each family takes turns hosting the event either in their home or a local park. We bring kid-friendly and adult beverages and a dish or snack to share. Our next social will be held in about two weeks on Sunday, July 16. Other upcoming dates are Sept. 17 and Nov. 12, 2017. Locations will be announced closer to the date of the events. Interested parties can contact me via email!

    Michelle Lange

    Michelle is an adoptive mother and serves the AFC community as the Membership Chair on the Board of Directors.


  • 28 Jun 2017 10:00 AM | Anonymous

    The last year was loaded with progress and accomplishments for AFC, including our transition from MeetUp to private member and event management through our very own website. Now, as we shift into the 2017/18 fiscal year, it is time to look forward and build off of that momentum with more changes & growth!

    The board would like to welcome Molly McGee as its new president. We're also seeing a shift of role for Jessica Frank who is the new vice-president, focusing on governance and non-profit compliance. And, former VP, Molly Cossette is our new treasurer.

    As we wrapped up last year, we held an Info Night session to foster discussions about the annual member survey and where our organization has room for improvement. We identified a few key issues including a need for programming that's more accessible for families with two working parents, increased guidance for how to host our education-focused playdates, and clearer opportunities for member involvement. The board is happy to announce that solutions are already being implemented!

    Several members volunteered at Info Night to start developing more events for families who only have evening and weekend availability. Because AFC is member-driven, we're so excited to see folks volunteering to fill this need in our organization!

    You'll find that our Educational, Sensory & Music for All Ages now feature clear directions on how to host these events inside a linked signup spreadsheet...everything you need to know to be a rockstar host! These programs have been so successful and enjoyable—with your support they will continue to grow. Also worth nothing: you can always volunteer to host a scheduled event around YOUR schedule. Recurring events don't always have to happen at the same day or time or place every week! If you want to host, make it work for you and your family. This flexibility already exists within our programs—don't feel limited by the established event information. It's all easily changed and we'd love to make sure more families can enjoy these opportunities.

    The Members Only section of our website now features a Volunteer Opportunities page so you can see where we are in critical need of volunteers! Now you'll know exactly how to help and who to contact to get involved. Many of the positions posted require minimal time commitment. This is a great way to develop your role, especially if you might be interested in serving on the board down the line!!! We also added a page for Dinner Angels so you can find that information all in one place too (instead of scattered on our Facebook group). 

    In an effort to increase transparency—you can now find our board meeting schedule, minutes, and financial documents in the Members Only section of our website as well. If you want to attend a board meeting, you're always welcome. We're so happy that the new website makes it easy to share more (and share more directly) with our members!

    Thanks for being part of the AFC Family! Your individual participation and contributions are what makes this organization great—we are so glad you're here. HAPPY NEW (Fiscal) YEAR!

    —Marissa Ramirez, on behalf of the AFC Board

    Marissa is a part-time work from home mom to two little wild men. She serves on the board as the Marketing & Communications Chair and is a regular blog contributor.


  • 21 Jun 2017 9:28 AM | Anonymous

    If you're looking for classic Americana on July 4th, then you're living in the right town! Alameda Island offers up one of the largest parades in the nation—viewed by nearly 60,000 spectators annually. It's a whole big thing and you won't want to miss it.

    Patriotic toddler awesomeness

    Spectators can enjoy the parade one of two ways. You can do some social poking-around in the hopes of receiving a coveted invitation from someone living on the parade route or plan in advance for where to get a decent view! There are several parks along the parade route that make for great picnicking while you watch. However, the real "gem" would be a spot along Park Street! We've enjoyed grabbing breakfast at Ollie's before staking out a spot previous years. It's wonderful but pretty much leaves you out in the cold for a good view! Many seasoned residents claim their position by leaving out curbside chairs overnight on July 3rd with good faith that they'll be waiting in the morning. For parents, it's all about making sure you have a clear plan...and one with an easy exit strategy in case things don't go as planned! (I'm just hoping that the kids hold out long enough for me to catch the Sikh motorcycle club and the dancing horses!!!)

    If you'd like to get a little more active, you can add some miles to your pedometer by participating in the early morning 5k run/walk. Even better, consider spending the morning with your fellow AFC families enjoying the view from IN the parade instead! We'll be participating again and will have a float to walk behind. Get that stroller decorated with your best red, white and blue... and RSVP on the Events calendar!

    After the parade, you can enjoy the Coast Guard Festival at Pier 3 (next to the USS Hornet Museum) with food trucks, entertainment, and parade award results! Alternatively, head home for some blissful nap time since your kids will surely be exhausted from a hefty serving of sun & fun.

    — Marissa Ramirez

    Marissa is a part-time work-from-home mom to two little wild men. She serves on the AFC Board as the Marketing & Communications chair.

  • 14 Jun 2017 9:53 PM | Anonymous

    If your budding-naturalist toddler needs an afternoon adventure but you're tired of the usual island offerings, consider a quick drive to Berkeley. Live Oak Park offers up the perfect spot for a mini creek hike and perhaps even an afternoon picnic!

    View under bridge

    Tucked away in the Berkeley Hills, you'll find this tiny park under the shade of ancient trees. With gently running water for splashing and bridges for exploring, it's sure to be a hit! "Hiking" the park takes about half an hour but you can count on it taking a lot longer if you let your little get into the water. We had a blast overturning big rocks, trying to skip stones, and looking for aquatic creatures. Dragonflies buzzing around and birds chirping added to the magical atmosphere. There's even a tiny waterfall that's totally climbable—even for a toddler!

    Family on creek hike

    This park is also home to the Berkeley Art Center and Live Oak Theater, so you may want to coordinate your visit to include a cultural event too! For something more casual, there's a playground just down the street. And the green grass in Live Oak Park is perfect to spread out your picnic blanket for lunchtime... or you could try one of the many nearby restaurants.

    We love living in Alameda and enjoy the island's many parks...but sometimes it's nice to hit the "mainland" for a change of pace! Live Oak Park was just perfect for a hot afternoon. We'll definitely be going back all summer long!

    —Marissa Ramirez

    Marissa serves on the AFC board as the Marketing & Communications Chair. She's a part-time work-from-home mom with two little wild men.


  • 7 Jun 2017 9:30 AM | Anonymous

    I recently purchased a package of ball pit balls and was excited to use them in as many ways as possible. Here are a few ideas:

    baby in box with balls

    Throw them in the box they came in! Get started right away!!!
    My big bag of ball pit balls arrived in an even bigger cardboard box. Yes, that's right, they sent it inside of a free ball pit. Amazing!(One might even say "Amazeballs!")

    Upgrade Bathtime
    When bubble baths no longer thrill, pump it up with some alternative "bubbles." These floating, colorful balls are just what you need to add some excitement! Even better, they don't melt or disappear during the bath...

    Summer-style Ball Pit
    The idea that I just shared about bath-time fun?!? Take it outside! When you fill up the kiddie pool, dump your balls right on in. Make up games to play, splash, and explore with this delightful sensory experience.

    100 Ball Pickup
    After we finished up with our first round of ball pit fun (in the aforementioned big cardboard box), we had a blast scrambling to put the balls back into their storage bag. I don't think cleaning up the living room has ever been so much fun!

    toddler in box with balls

    Educational Goodness
    Because ball pit balls come in a variety of colors, they're perfect for activities like sorting, counting, pattern-making, and tons of other early education concepts. These toys also make great classroom tools (whether at school or at home).

    You can buy packages in sizes 50 to 500 at various toy stores and online retailers. Shop around for the best deal, there are dozens of options! These are just perfect to keep hidden in the closet and break out for quick, easy fun when plans fall through or the day is starting to drag. Go have a ball—or 100!

    —Marissa Ramirez

    Marissa serves on the AFC board as the Marketing & Communications chair; she is mom to two happy, little wild men.


  • 31 May 2017 9:00 AM | Anonymous

    I've written here before about how having a second child changed my motherhood experience. At that point, I was still deep, deep, deep into sleep deprivation.

    Our first has never been a great sleeper. That's partially our fault—we helped him establish all his "bad habits" as soon as he came home from the hospital. We nursed, rocked, and shushed until we could lay him down already asleep in his crib (several times) every night for over a year. Putting him into a twin bed at 18 months helped curb the issue of him waking up with a thunk as his head hit the crib rails, but it never helped him learn to fall asleep without a struggle or stay asleep through the night.

    When we brought home our second kid, I assumed he'd sleep. That's how it works, right? Kids are different. So if the first one doesn't sleep, the second one will? Right?

    Nope.

    So about six months into another waking nightmare (get it?) with a kid who doesn't sleep well or nap well, I decided it was time to start exploring possibilities. As a first-time mom, I knew that my baby needed me. I also knew that if I sleep trained him, he think he'd been left on a hill to die or that I didn't love him anymore. (I had gone WAY down the Mom-Guilt Rabbit Hole with respect to sleep training.) As a second-time mom, I knew that the situation was not sustainable. So I reached out to my mom community. I talked online with a good friend whose kids slept through the night for 11+ hours thanks to sleep training. I chatted at playgroups with another AFC member who has several kids—that sleep. I learned that their children not only still loved them but were happier, rested kiddos with happy, (mostly) rested parents.

    So, we picked a book. We leaned in hard. And we sleep trained our second child. I did most of it on my own while my husband was working abroad. It went better than expected (and certainly better than our one or two misguided, halfway attempts with our first child). He hasn't totally got it down just yet, but most nights he sleeps 10 or more hours in a stretch. And now, putting him to bed at night is one of my favorite parts of the day. Plus, he's napping—regularly and independently. We're both more rested. And happy. And he doesn't hate me; he doesn't think that he's been abandoned.

    The big takeaway, though, was something I gained from conversations with other moms before we started the process. I learned that every child, every family, every mom is different. There's no one right approach to sleep. We all need to find something that works for our baby and for our family. The important thing is to keep everyone safe and healthy. And to let go of silly things like shame or guilt when it comes to the choices we make about our parenting. We need to do real research: gather community wisdom, ask the pediatrician, and read reputable books. We need to learn about and honestly assess our own needs. And we have to make choices based on knowledge and parental instinct rather than meme-driven irrational feelings.

    Here comes a shameless plug: If you'd like to learn more about healthy sleep habits, sleep training, or family dynamics, consider borrowing a book from the AFC Lending Library. We've got a ton of resources to help you make great parenting choices that meet your family's unique needs!

    —Marissa Ramirez

    Marissa is a mom with two little wild men and serves on the AFC Board as the Marketing & Communications chair.

  • 24 May 2017 12:46 PM | Anonymous

    Bring your shovel, bring your bucket, bring your best friend (and a camera)! The 51st Annual Alameda Sand Castle & Sculpture Contest is just around the corner!

    One of my favorite days in Alameda, this event fulfills every item on my family-fun checklist:

    Local?…Yup!

    Kid friendly?…Super!

    And my favorite…Free!

    Ok, so it’s not the most extensive checklist, but this mom can’t be too picky these days or I’d never leave the house. Anyway, if you haven’t been to this event before, you are in for a big treat. Registration starts at 9am at Crown Beach for those families, groups, or individuals driven to create sand art masterpieces, and there are some amazing pieces. However, if you’re more like my family, then you can also just mosey over whenever you feel like it (read: whenever kids allow), find a shady spot in the sand and have fun.

    This is a great sensory activity for all ages, just don’t forget your beach day essentials:
    Sunscreen/sun hats
    Swimwear and towels (and perhaps a change of clothes)
    Beach blanket (if you’re not into sitting on sand)
    Snacks/water
    Beach toys

    Parking is available, but this event is also easily accessible to pedestrians. Judging begins at noon and the contest wraps up by 1pm, but keep a lookout for fellow friendly AFC faces all day long, because many of us like to make a whole beach day of it. I, for one, will be out and about as long as the kiddos will let me. If you happen to see a mom who looks like she hasn’t seen sunlight, had a haircut, or slept in about 3 years please come say hello, there’s plenty of space on my beach blanket to share.

    The Alameda 51st Annual Sand Castle & Sculpture Contest
    Saturday, June 10, 2017 9am-1pm
    Robert Crown Memorial State Beach
    Cost: FREE!
    Contact: 510-747-7529
    https://alamedaca.gov/recreation-uncategorized/events/4869

    —Jessica Flash

    Jessica is a regular blog contributor and mother of two lovely little ladies. She has been an AFC member for two years.

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