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!

  • Wednesday, December 21, 2016 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    When my family first moved to San Francisco, we fell in love with the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. My husband’s love of Japanese culture melded perfectly with my love of manicured gardens (and matcha) as I toted my little one around in our Ergo carrier. So, when I found out that there’s a great little Japanese Garden in Hayward, I knew we had to check it out. Trips into the city have become less frequent now that Owen is older and our newborn is here… but I really miss that garden!

    The Hayward Japanese Gardens are a short 20 min drive away. Admission is free and street parking is plentiful. With just 3.5 acres open from 8am to 4pm daily, this spot is ideal for a brief adventure with a toddler who just needs to run off some steam.

    One white koi and one orange black and white koi in a pond

    Paved paths wind around perfectly manicured shrubs, rolling moss, and a koi-filled pond. Hills are gentle and easy for tiny folks to manage independently. The park features three lovely gazebos, each offering up serene views and a spot to rest. The one by the pond is especially exciting with many fish and turtles on display in the water below. Honestly, we fought to keep Owen from diving in for a closer look! He was as thrilled with the “zoo” aspect as he was the chance to toddle about with very little interference from mom & dad.

    Also, I know the main message of this post is that these gardens are an ideal spot for toddlers to run around and explore… but it’d also make a great location for a chat between friends, sketching or reading, independently meditating… just some quality time for a mom with an hour on her own. I’d gladly visit with a thermos of tea and a good book.

    Boy sitting at edge of path surrounded by greenery

    The gardens are part of a larger complex including a senior center, gift shop & theater. We especially enjoyed a few interactions between our son and some seniors enjoying the area. He was all-to-happy to regale them with tales of his adventure: Go on walk! See the fish! Turtles! Have fun! Go on adventure with Mommy-Daddy!

    So next time you’re looking to wear out your toddler or just to relax, consider the Hayward Japanese Gardens for a change of pace.

    – Marissa Ramirez


  • Wednesday, December 14, 2016 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    When someone joins AFC, the first thing that they will notice is a strong sense of community. We care about one another. We help each other. And we firmly believe that when one member feels supported, it is a shared success and pleasure for everyone involved! One of the many ways in which these qualities shine in AFC is the Dinner Angels program.

    When members are going through periods of drastic life change or hardship, we work together as a community to extend our support in the form of food drop offs. Finding the time and energy to cook dinner for your family can be a major struggle when you’ve just welcomed a new baby to the family or while you recover from surgery. Members can reach out to the Dinner Angels coordinator, Erin Geiman, to request that a meal train be set up on their behalf. She uses a simple online scheduling system where members can select an available date and share their meal plans to avoid duplicate dinners. Recipients of the meals are able to request favorites, warn about allergies or dislikes, and share contact information as well.

    And the result?

    A flood of delicious love & support that makes life a little easier and that helps bond us together as a community.

    Recent meal-train recipient Jennifer Jeffers had the following to say about her experience:

    AFC and its Dinner Angels program are amazing. As fairly new “Alamedans” my family and I were so grateful to the community for bringing us meals upon the birth of our second son. Not having to think about dinner with a toddler and newborn in the house (and operating on very little sleep!) was wonderful. We look forward to paying it forward to other Alameda families!

    I actually provided a meal for her family and it was a lot of fun! I enjoyed planning something special for them, meeting her and her little ones, and feeling a bit closer to everyone in AFC as a result.

    Helping one another is such a beautiful part of this community. Since Erin took over coordinating this program in 2014, we have provided over 500 meals for one another! So, if you have been looking for a fresh way to become more involved in AFC, keep an eye out for Dinner Angels announcements on the Facebook Group. It’s a wonderful way to meet new friends and to develop a deeper sense of community. Also, if you are anticipating a period during which this program would be of benefit to your family such as a birth, medical issue, death in the family or period of financial hardship, please email Erin. It can also be a great gift to refer someone — just get in touch with Erin with their contact information and she will reach out directly. Your AFC Family is here to help!

    Thanks to everyone who has supported this program and to Erin for making it so easy & enjoyable!

    – Marissa Ramirez


  • Tuesday, December 06, 2016 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    December is here and that’s great news for AFC members. It’s time to get together and celebrate the holidays with festivities, philanthropy, and friends!

    This year’s holiday party is on Saturday, December 17th, and you can get the full details like time and location on Meetup. Why the blog post when there’s already an event? Because we really don’t want you to miss out! So, if you haven’t taken time to RSVP and put this event on your family calendar – do it now – because Hailey has planned an amazing party for everyone to enjoy!

    Toddler doing an art project at a table

    There will be great activities for the kiddos including face painting, bouncy house fun, a performance by the Dilly Dallies and even a visit from Santa! Several helpers will be available to assist with and supervise activities, which means a more relaxing experience for parents.

    We’ll also be working together to support Building Futures – a local non-profit that serves women & children by keeping them safely housed free from homelessness or domestic violence. This year, our Wonder Tree will be surrounded by your donations for this organization! Every donation will be matched with an ornament to decorate the tree. Please refer to the event details for a full list of personal items and gifts to give to the women, teens & children that are helped by Building Futures. With your generous spirit, we can all enjoy a well-decorated tree at the party and brighten their season too! This is a great opportunity to teach children about the spirit of giving, so be sure to involve them in the process of shopping, donating and decorating the tree.

    Decorated Christmas tree surrounded by bags of donated items

    As a new addition to the Holiday Party, we’ll be having a silent auction to benefit AFC programming & Building Futures. The auction will feature: a couples dance lesson package, TruKid Skin Care products, select items from Bird & Bean, a family photo shoot, an Amazing James party package, Mali McGee Buti Yoga classes, a baby carrier from Tot Tank, and original artwork by Veronica Casson. This is a wonderful chance to buy a gift for yourself or a loved one while supporting the organizations you love! All donations were generously supplied by your fellow AFC members and local businesses.

    This party is a wonderful gift for the families of AFC! Please come join in on the fun as we celebrate the holidays together while serving our community.

    RSVP here today!

    – Marissa Ramirez


  • Wednesday, November 30, 2016 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As we enter the madness of the holiday season and we start to get wrapped up in the spirit of this time of year, it is a great time to reflect on how we want our very young children to experience holidays. When I did this exercise with my husband, we both agreed that we don’t want our kids to start out life thinking Christmas is all about receiving toys and candy, that holidays are about being dragged through long lines to take pictures with a guy in a red suit, or even that everyone celebrates Christmas. As a secular family, we try to be extremely intentional about determining and conveying our values to our kids so we picked out 4 values that we wanted to focus on during the holiday season. Since we were doing this exercise ourselves last year (when we thought our toddlers would really start absorbing some of these values), we thought it might be nice to share some of the ideas we came up with from various resources. We hosted an Education Series event about Family-Centered Holidays and the attached list of ideas came out of our search and discussion at the Ed Series. Feel free to use this document and brief worksheet for thinking through your own set of holiday values: Holiday Traditions Worksheet

    We chose:

    • A Sense of Wonder – we want our kids to revel in the magical, pretence, and feelings that this season inspires and see our enjoyment and celebration.
    • The Power of Giving and Sharing – we want our holidays to be focused on our thankfulness for what we have and generosity in making sure others have what they need.
    • Togetherness and Community – we want our kids to have a sense that holidays are for reminding us of our connection to other humans and the wellbeing we feel by strengthening those connections.
    • Building Traditions – we want our kids to feel a strong sense of their place in the universe, and of their personal and family history.

    There are so many values that we can impart, but being intentional requires actually sitting and having a conversation about it as a couple or family. So instead of hitting all the sales this black Friday, save your sanity and hop in some comfy chairs and think through what the holidays really mean to you.

    —  Jessica Frank


  • Wednesday, November 23, 2016 10:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    To be honest I prepared myself for the results of this election the minute the Democratic National Committee selected Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate instead of Bernie Sanders. As a woman of color, I’m not surprised by the amount of ignorance and apathy that exists in our nation. The only solution is to get heavily involved in the political process. That’s why I’m raising an advocate.

    I was raised in a family of artists and activists, so speaking out against injustice is in my blood. I am teaching my daughter not just to tolerate diversity but to celebrate it. I don’t want to live in a colorblind world, I want to live in a world where all cultures are actively embraced. This starts with acknowledging our own privilege and exploring how we can use it to be better allies, supporting those facing injustice & oppression.


    Activism as a family legacy; three generations stand in solidarity with Standing Rock water protectors.

    It can be overwhelming to figure out what to do next. The best way to get started is at home. Personally reflect on how much you know about systematic oppression. Here are some questions to ask yourself and some suggestions with a few helpful links to find answers:

    Do you know the difference between racism and prejudice? Try taking the self-paced online course from mamademics.com .

    Do you know if the people who work for you are safe from deportation or detainment? The California Immigrant Policy Center has events to keep families together.

    Is your home Alameda Green? Alameda Municipal Power has a program to support clean energy from your home.

    Do you bring reusable bags when you go shopping? Save the Bay hosts shoreline cleanup projects.

    How often do you drive? Become a member of Bike Walk Alameda to support alternative transportation in Alameda.

    It’s easy to slip back into our comfort zones, especially when we get tired. We need to create support networks to keep ourselves accountable and to hold us when things get hard.

    — Mali McGee

    Mali is a member of the AFC Board currently serving as chair for the Babysitting Coop and Education Series committees. 


  • Tuesday, November 15, 2016 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On a cold winters day in South Texas, my greatest teacher arrived. Naryan came through the threshold into my hands, leaving the warmth and ease of the liquidous world he knew. He greeted the cold and my hands with such intensity, a wail, a cry, signaling his arrival, this great transition, met in waves of grief.

    Naryan has reeducated me about my inherent humanness that was lost to the different systems that are in place within our society. Systems that thrive while the whole dies. I spent decades without access to my tears, a drought stricken wasteland of flatline reactions. Substance, consumption, busyness, entertainment, filled the emptiness that was aching to feel, sense, and imagine again. Intellect could only get me so far.

    Once Naryan started talking I began adding my own interpretations to his feelings. When he would start crying for instance, I might say “are you feeling sad because your need for choice is not being met?” Sometimes he would agree and the tears would stop. Pat on my back, on to the next activity.

    Then the divorce. He started becoming violent towards other children and his caregivers. I kept attempting to verbalize his experience, and learned that intellect is not welcomed in the realms of emotions and feelings. This has never worked for me in retrospect, nor any other relationships I’ve encountered. What to do, oh no I have to, I have to feel again?

    Man looking at his toddler son

    I let go of what I knew and asked the universe for help. I plummeted into the proverbial dark forest, the Hero’s journey of time honored mythologies, religions of old, as well as untampered fairy tales. Then the mentors came, men and women who have been down similar paths and understand the importance of creating a safe set and setting for someone to express whatever is present.

    These lessons carried over into my parenting. Now whenever I sense a feeling of frustration, anger, fear, confusion arise for Naryan (those times when everything is wrong, they don’t like what they are wearing, they want to be in three places at the same time, while wanting everything except what you can give or have) and the situation allows, I say the phrases that he so dreads yet loves. You are safe, I am here. No figuring anything out, just maintaining that phrase over and over until he has fully expressed the unnamable. Words cannot describe the depth that this has created in our relationship. He is so much more affectionate and cooperative, it’s like he now trusts me.

    Beware, this is not for the faint of heart. Our culture does not honor grieving the way it is naturally done. You will be called names, swung at, stuff thrown, tears, perspiration, stared at by persons passing by,…. and this is perfect. Stay with it, and get support for yourself. I have a parenting support partner that has been a life saver. Our boundaries are simple, no advice giving, fixing, or any other commitments or expectations of each other. At any time of the day or night we can text or call with anything that either one needs to express.

    So dear community, in these days of transition and uncertainty that we are all experiencing, in this moment, you are safe and I am here for you.

    – Jesse Sullivan


    Jesse is an AFC member who is currently transitioning to a new role as a counselor and life coach in our community. He is available via email to connect for support. 


  • Wednesday, November 09, 2016 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    There’s a new school in town. And kids LOVE it. It’s called Nature, and it’s facilitated by a really amazing teacher called Instinct. While AFC’s branch of the school is relatively new, it’s actually been around for quite some time. Like, thousands of years. And it’s a great way to get preschoolers “kindergarten ready.”

    On a recent Sunday morning, with rain in the forecast and a windy front coming through, about five families left their comfortably warm living rooms behind to brave the weather and join us for our first of many outdoor adventures to come. The Bay churned, and a few raindrops scattered sideways, making Crab Cove an exciting place to be. Even the crows, geese, pelicans and gulls were in on the secret, flocking to the beach and grass for their own party.

    Young boy standing on grass holding a leaf

    There were leaf races in the wind, each contestant carefully selected for its acrobatic athleticism, flight distance and ground roll aerodynamics. As the leaves tumbled frantically down the raceway, leaf racing quickly turned into leaf chasing. Most were recaptured, but a few lucky ones found their freedom once more.

    After leaf races, a brief attempt was made to build a wind shelter out of sticks and branches. The shelter was abandoned when structural integrity was undermined by a stray foot. Rain kicked up a notch, and the kids found dryness behind tree trunks wider than themselves. Running from tree to tree to find the driest spot became the prime objective. It was discovered that sycamores are good for blocking windy rain, but only for one person. Cypress are better than redwoods, because even the tallest trees eventually leak.

    Four preschoolers playing with sticks

    Some latecomers met us at the redwood tree. Reinforced with their rain gear, they were excited to join the fun. After checking out one more pine tree roof (which turned out to be pretty leaky, too), the kids started to notice the puddles that had been accumulating. Now, the real fun of puddle jumping could finally begin. Deep to their ankles, they looked with nets for “fish” (twigs and pieces of bark, mostly), and raced leaves again, this time as boats instead of airplanes.

    Although they would have kept going for another hour if we’d let them, it was decided by the group that it was time to go in and dry off.

    Heading to the car as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, Ellie called out to her mom “I LOVE Nature School. It’s FUN! Can we come again next week?!”

    You sure can, Ellie. Every Sunday morning from 9:30 to noon at the flagpole behind Crab Cove. Rain or shine, naturally.

    – James Frank

    James facilitates Sunday Nature School for the Alameda Family Collective. AFC dad Adam Ross assists with the program. James is a Supervising Naturalist for East Bay Regional Park District who has studied and practiced nature education for over a decade in both California and Maryland. Sunday Nature School is not affiliated with East Bay Regional Park District or Crab Cove Visitor Center. For more info, email James.


  • Wednesday, November 02, 2016 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “Oh hey…wait…when did you grow a mustache?”

    Every fall this is the conversation that I have over and over again. I’m not complaining, though. I’m glad my Mo’ starts a conversation, because that’s the entire point. For the past four years I have been one of thousands of men (and women) around the world who take part in starting conversations about men’s health for Movember.

    Red billboard with text, This year thousands of men will die from stubbornness. Spraypainted underneath, No we wont.

    That’s one of my favorite billboards on the subject. A lot of people find talking about health concerns – even with their close friends and family – difficult. But, stubbornness really can kill.

    • The average life expectancy for men in the United States is almost five years less than women (76.2 years compared to 81)
    • Around 15 million American adults (6.7% of the population) are diagnosed with depression each year
    • 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime
    • More than one-third of adults (34.9%) in the United States are obese
    • 12.1% of men 18 years and over are in fair or poor health
    • Lots more fun health facts here

    These facts above aren’t fun to think about. For my part, I really don’t like going to the doctor or chatting about health issues. But that’s why the Mo’ is so important to me. It’s an easy way to start a conversation with friends and loved ones, and usually it starts things off with a smile.

    Movember is a really important time of year. I’ve been a leukemia survivor since ’96 and have been dealing with minor skin cancer issues since 2013. But when our first son was born in 2014, I promised him that I’d always be there. I am certain many of you have made similar promises to the ones you love. I am going to do everything I can to be around as long as I can, for my family and for myself. No one lives forever, but I’m going to do my best to make it into the centenarian club.

    Man looking toward his right into the distance

    At the very least, I hope that you will have a conversation with someone you love about health, or just go and get your yearly physical. If you’re feeling inspired, join me by signing up for Movember! You can grow a mustache to start conversations, host an event to discuss men’s health, or be like me and do a move challenge. No matter how you choose to do it, please join me in making men’s health a priority this Movember.

    – Omar Ramirez


  • Wednesday, October 26, 2016 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    When AFC started in 2007, it was actually called Alameda Hip Parents. Since then, this organization has undergone a number of changes! We’ve had a change of name, multiple changes in leadership, and eventually, our co-presidents began running AFC like a non-profit instead of a club. A board of directors was formed, and our group began its journey to becoming a 501c3.

    What does that mean, exactly? What is a 501c3?

    Basically, it means we are a non-profit social organization. The IRS exempts 501c3s from paying federal income tax, but in order to qualify an organization must be of some service to its community, whether its focus be religious, charitable, educational, social or athletic.

    The process of becoming a 501c3 began about three years ago. AFC had to be incorporated and to register with the state of California as a charitable trust. The board had to establish formal bylaws to make clear the structure, purpose, and organization of AFC. And then came a mountain of federal paperwork to prove our organization is properly functioning as a not-for-profit entity to the benefit of both its members and the public. (The process of doing this at the state level is still ongoing.) It was a lot of work! Why go through all that trouble?

    Well, whether you realize it or not, the goal has always been for AFC to be more than just another “moms group.” Jessica Frank, board member, summed it up nicely:

    There are literally thousands of mommy groups … who are doing just what we do — building a community of parents that share resources, educate each other formally and informally, and maximize relationship building. We all knew that with our 501c3 status, we could just do more, and solicit public funds to do it. We could bolster the already strong Alameda community of families and provide some value-add.

    The ability to accept tax-deductible donations and to pursue public funding opportunities means we can increase our education efforts, include our larger community in more events, write grants and more. This means more chances for AFC to positively impact the lives of Alameda residents. We’ll also be able to sell items for fundraising purposes without paying income tax. Overall, our 501c3 status has opened up a world of possibilities.

    There are a few restrictions, but none of that will have a negative impact on our members. In fact, the restrictions will do quite the opposite. Maintaining our status means we are held to a high level of fiscal transparency not only to our members but also to the public. The board is now ethically and legally bound to ensure that our funds are used for the public good, not to the benefit of specific members or donors. We are prohibited from making political contributions or involvement outside the realm of voter-education. Basically, the restrictions placed upon a 501c3 ensure that we focus on our mission and run our organization in an ethical manner.

    Alameda Family Collective’s new status means we can dream bigger, building our group and brand into an essential part of our island’s community!

    So, now you know. AFC is an official, IRS-designated non-profit organization! Join us in celebrating this awesome accomplishment: make a toast to AFC at your next Meetup, post a picture with friends on Instagram using #alamedafamilycollective, consider giving a tax-deductible donation, or just post some love in the comments section below!

    – Marissa Ramirez (with intellectual contributions from Jessica Frank)


  • Tuesday, October 25, 2016 12:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With a few hot September days behind us here on the island, fall seems to be blowing right on in just in time for October! Grab your planner and a pen… here are a few autumnal events and adventures you won’t want to miss!

    Speer Family Farms’ Pumpkin Patch at The Point opens on October 1st and continues all month long with a 4-story slide, bouncy house, petting zoo, and plenty of pumpkins! There’s no price for admission fee and attendees can pay per activity. This is a great spot to take your costumed littles for some fun family photos! (2153 Ferry Point, Alameda. 10am – 10pm Daily)

    The Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival opens for its 46th year on October 15th & 16th. If you’re up for an out-of-town adventure, head south to enjoy this celebration featuring fine art, fair foods, live music, adventure activities, and the opportunity to visit one of the many nearby pumpkin patches offering up over 3,000 tons of locally-grown pumpkins! Admission is free. Do, however, prepare to spend some time stuck in traffic… (Main St between Miramontes & Spruce, Half Moon Bay. 9am – 5pm Daily.)

    On Friday, October 21st, we will be holding our first ever adults-only AFC Halloween Party! Get your costume ready and find a sitter. We’ve rented out the O’Club for this members-only party. Admission is $10 and it is BYOB. You can get the full scoop and RSVP on Meetup. An After-Party is in the works for late night party animals… so stay tuned for more details via social media.

    The Oakland Zoo will be hosting safe, daytime Trick-or-Treating at their annual Boo at the Zoo event on October 29-30. Admission is $17.75 for adults, $13.75 for kids, and free for kids under 2. Their train will be decked out in spooky decor and treats will be offered throughout the zoo as you visit the animal exhibits. (9777 Golf Links Rd, Oakland. 10am – 3pm Daily.)

    Children’s Fairyland is holding its own Halloween celebration — The Jack O’ Lantern Jamboree — that same weekend with treats, rides, performances, activities, and some special characters. Admission is $10, but is half off for park members. (699 Bellevue Ave, Oakland. 10am – 4pm Daily.)

    The APRD and Alameda Chamber of Commerce are also offering up several events at the South Shore Center over Halloween Weekend including their Teen Haunted House (all weekend), a Free Halloween Festival on the 29th with various activities, and the annual opening of The Little Ice Rink. Get the full details on all three happenings here ! (2130 Otis Dr, Alameda.)

    On the 31st, there are plenty of Trick or Treating options for the kiddos. Enjoy Trick or Treat on Webster Street at participating businesses from open till close while supplies last. On the other side of the community, Bay Farm Community Church will be hosting their annual Trunk or Treat event where children can safely collect candy from playfully decorated cars in the church parking lot from 5:30-7:30pm. And, of course, there’s the good old-fashioned door-to-door approach all over the island from sundown until bedtime!

    Have fun and be safe!!!

    We’ll be updating this post with new events on the island as they are announced! Have a suggestion? Feel free to share details about more happenings or activities in the comments!

    — Marissa Ramirez


- OUR MISSION -
AFC facilitates connections within a diverse community of families
by providing resources and opportunities for
social, educational and philanthropic engagement.

We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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