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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  • 21 Jun 2017 9:28 AM | Anonymous

    patriotic toddler awesomenessIf 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.

    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.

  • 16 May 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous

    Change, while exciting, also goes hand in hand with trepidation. Few people like change. It can be messy and uncomfortable, but it is required for growth.

    The exciting news is that our organization is making some changes! We are working to consolidate our web presence. As such, we are moving away from Meetup. AFC has been using Meetup for a decade!?! In that time we’ve quadrupled in size! The amount of organization and time required from volunteers to manange membership has increased in kind. So, for the health of the organization a move is necessary. We have decided on Wild Apricot  due to the variety and quality of features currently available. (They're also constantly responding to user feedback by developing new, better content for future iterations.)

    Our goal in making this change is to ensure that AFC thrives without being a drain to manage. We all know the amount of time we do or do not have, as busy parents, to volunteer. This change means that the administrative management will be simpified instead of one person spending many, many hours with a spreadsheet.  

    But it's not just about the administrative piece; Wild Apricot has many benefits for our members too!  Dues will be easy to pay online, via our website. You will be able to register your spouse/partner's account underneath your family membership. The events calendar is color coded! No more massive, difficult-to-read calendar. See what events you’re interested in with ease! We'll be adding Members-Only web content to increase transparency, make volunteering easier, and share things like Promotional Partner discounts. It's going to be great—and convenient!

    The transition team has been hard at work since April on implementation.  There are currently three phases:

    Phase 1: Website
       - Transition from WordPress.com to Wild Apricot
    Phase 2: Events
       - Move Events from Meetup to Wild Apricot
    Phase 3: Members-only website
       - Includes Board Meeting Minutes, sample lesson plans for various activities, Lending Library, etc

    Phase 1 is already complete—surprise! Our website is now hosted by Wild Apricot, which is why you may have noticed some small changes in appearance and content.

    Now we turn our attention to the Events roll-out. As part of this phase, all current AFC members will be receiving emails (Target Date: End of May) with instructions to log in and create your password. You will need to do this ASAP to continue accessing our great events. As each piece of the Events roll-out takes place, we will be reducing the features and content available on Meetup. Events and programs won't be disappearing, they'll just be digitally moving. Don't let your membership get left behind.

    We’re very excited for this new phase of AFC! If you have any questions or concerns about this transition, please reach out to me at secretary@alamedafamilycollective.org. More information will be shared via our Facebook Group, and we'll make this transition phase as painless as possible. Do not hesitate to reach out! This might not be easy but it's going to make AFC stronger & better, both now and in the long run!

    — Jennifer Weiss

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

  • 10 May 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Q’s Halal
    Q’s on Yelp
    Good for ages: 2+
    Kid-friendliness: 3/5
    Time to food: 15 minutes
    Highchairs? Yes
    Crayons? No

     At first glance, Q’s doesn’t seem like an obvious choice for children. There are no coloring books, no Nick Jr. in the background (although there is usually a soccer game on), or even a dedicated kids’ menu. But don’t let that scare you off, or you’ll miss out on one of the best-kept secrets on the island.

     Just across the street from the Alameda Theatre and Cineplex, Q’s offers a small menu of made-to-order Afghan and Mediterranean food, plus a few American crowd-pleasers like burgers and fries. The entrees are sized for adults, but you can order sides like falafel, rice, and chicken kabobs a la carte for smaller appetites. There’s a soda fountain with the usual staples, and a small fridge with more interesting drinks for the adults.

     Because everything is made to order, it takes at least 10 minutes to get your food, and up to 20 minutes during busy times, so it’s not ideal for very small (read: very impatient) kids who can’t sit still that long. It’s also a smallish place on a busy street, so there’s not a lot of room to run around and burn off energy. But if you’ve got a slightly older kid who can entertain themselves for a few minutes, you’ll be glad you came. The staff is super kid-friendly, there are several highchairs on hand, and there’s a small outdoor patio for extra-messy eaters. Plus, it’s right in the heart of downtown, so you’re only steps away from a post-lunch movie at the cinema, ice cream from Tuckers, or coffee from Peet’s or Starbucks.

     I’ve been taking my daughter here since she was just a few months old, and I admit the 6-month to 18-month phase wasn’t ideal. But since she’s turned two, we’ve been coming more often, and we see other AFC families with their preschoolers here all the time. So break out of your Chipotle/Five Guys/Lola’s rut (just me?) and come join us sometime!

    — Cari Trease

    Cari is a working mom with two little girls. She serves AFC as a regular blog contributor and Marketing & Communications committee member.


  • 26 Apr 2017 3:27 PM | Anonymous

    We might be sitting around waiting for summer, but don’t forget to plan ahead for fall’s best family excursion—there’s another members-only camping trip on the calendar!

    One of the best things about AFC Family Camping is, ‘roughing it’ with your favorite community. Maybe you’re not the best at starting a fire, but you excel at figuring out where that last tent pole goes. Or if you run out of batteries to inflate your air mattress, you have someone there with one to borrow. (Thanks, Brian!) Our children not only learn from us, but from the people we surround them with. Learning new skills and solving new problems not only increases self confidence, but is a huge boost for family bonding. I find the low costs for camping and gains in family bonding are a no brainer—what better way to do it than with other families? And the kids basically all entertain each other, so that’s another bonus!

    It’s all about stepping away from our over-scheduled,  hectic lives and unwinding … relaxing and letting the kids eat smores and play in the dirt. Hopefully at the end of the trip, you’ve all either strengthened or forged new friendships and given your kids amazing experiences. I have fond memories of camping when I was little. I am so excited to give my children the same opportunity!

    For all the above reasons and more, we have AFC Family Camping on the schedule again!!! We will be going from September 22nd -24th. Check-in is 2pm Friday and Check-out is noon on Sunday. It takes about 2 hours to get to the campground, baring any crazy traffic. (Petaluma is a perfect mid-way point to stop and stretch/pee.)

    Man making giant bubbles for five toddlers at a camp site

    To maximize fun and minimize stress, we’ll all be sharing responsibilities and resources during this trip. For meals, we split off into teams, dividing the cost and workload. If you’re a morning person and know you’ll be up with the sun, a breakfast shift won’t be as big of a deal for you as for those who need 3 coffees to function after daybreak. (Coffee is always important, copious. amounts. needed!) We found this is great because you’re only responsible for one meal, set-up and clean-up, and get to enjoy the rest of your camping trip in leisure (well parenting leisure…) You and your team are responsible to connect, discuss, coordinate and execute your team’s meals. It’s cooperative and fun.

    Toddler girl wearing a bike helmet while eating a snack

    You’ll need a tent & camping gear, supplies for mealtime (including your preparation shift AND family placesettings—green options preferred), loads of wipes and soap, adult beverages (kid ones too) and s’mores sticks. We’ve arranged a spreadsheet to request and loan gear… so we can all work together to create a pool of activities and supplies. Bring along any outdoor awesomeness you’ve got including bicycles, hiking carriers, soccer balls, hyali equipment, extra tents or sleeping bags, and basically whatever!

    RSVP on Meetup as soon as possible and submit your $25 deposit (with $25 more due before the trip) to reserve your campsite. For more information, email me at creativity@alamedafamilycollective.org.

    Let’s get ready to (mostly, kinda) rough it!

    – Sharon Ross

    Sharon, mom of two, is AFC’s Creativity Chair and helps to make being a member as uniquely fun-filled as possible by organizing activities for moms, dads, kids and the whole family. 


  • 19 Apr 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous

    Every year, the AFC Board welcomes members to join us for a casual Open Board meeting. This year, we’re doing things a little differently. We want to hear directly from our members about how we can make our organization into the best possible version of itself. Join us on May 11 @ 7pm at Phoenix Alameda for our first ever Info Night.

    This event is for all AFC members—especially those who want to become more actively involved. Come join us for a lively evening of discussion, planning and collaboration. You can suggest events and programs that you’d like to see developed within our organization. Let’s talk about where there is room for improvement. We will work together to establish our goals for the coming fiscal year. We’ll also share some news about exciting changes and opportunities happening in our community. The heart and soul of AFC are the families that make up this organization—this information night is all about empowering and including all of our members at a higher, more engaging level.

    Current board members will be in attendance to discuss upcoming plans and to meet potential committee members and volunteers (like you). There are opportunities to volunteer with any level of time commitment, so don’t be shy about getting involved even if you have a busy schedule. The best way to have an awesome experience as an AFC member is to really get involved! Attending more events and volunteering helps forge deeper relationships within our community. You might be surprised how helping on one small project opens up the doors to new friendships and experiences.

    So, folks, it’s time to mark your calendars because…the upcoming Info Night is all about YOU, our members! Check out the event details HERE and RSVP. We’ll be sure to have plenty of treats and coffee (and wine) for everyone. We can’t wait to see you there!

    – The AFC Board


  • 5 Apr 2017 12:00 AM | Anonymous

    We often hear people joke about it. What’s one more? – they say, with a laugh.

    Well, one more means about another $65 a month on diapers… bringing the total in we’ll over $100 if your first isn’t potty-trained yet. It may mean a major increase in childcare costs too, or further delaying one parent’s return to the workforce. It means dragging all the baby stuff back out (or buying it on the swap if you thought you were all done having babies but now you’re having another one anyway). And, of course, it means starting all over from scratch.

    But, what does it really mean?

    It means basically giving up hope of ever sleeping again. It means the endless mountain of laundry has now multipled exponentially somehow. It means all that relationship stress of adjusting to a baby is happening all over again – somehow no easier than the first time around. It means when you’re alone with your kids, they outnumber you and they know it. Any already somewhat neglected household pets will become even more neglected and will resent you twice as much as they did when you brought home the first baby. And that To-Do list of household projects you’ve had since Baby One was born? Just burn it. That stuff is never happening. At least not until they’re both in preschool.

    There’s something else, though. Something nobody told me.

    That love you feel for your kid? It more than doubles when you have another. The end result, it turns out, it equal to way more than just the sum of the parts. The love I feel for my first son just explodes and grows in ways I never knew when he makes his baby brother laugh. When I was pregnant, I worried that I could never love another human as much as I love Owen. Well, I could. I could love another baby just as much. And I could love them both together even more.

    Toddler and baby boys laying on floor

    About half a year into being a Stay-at-Home-Mom with two under three… I can tell you that it’s worth every major increase in spending, stress, and worry. It’s worth the lost sleep, the total chaos, and the endless occurrence of “Oh, crap!” moments. And after six months of getting used to our new arrangement, I got brave and took them to the zoo – all on my own, totally outnumbered. It was the best ever.

    With my ever-growing personal mental library of motherhood war stories expanding (at least) twice as fast…I can honestly say that it is both so much harder and so much better than I ever imagined.

    – Marissa Ramirez

    Marissa serves on the AFC Board as Marketing & Communications chair, managing the website and blog, and is mom to two wild little men.


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AFC facilitates connections within a diverse community of families
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