To My Happy Place

CHK happy place

Tomorrow morning after some last minute running around, we’re piling everybody and the dog into our beloved minivan (seriously I adore that car) and heading off to my happy place in northwest Colorado.

I can barely wait.

I have been jonesing for this trip from the moment I drove away from the ranch last August. There were tears.

They were not the happy kind.

But tomorrow I get to head back to my absolute truest happiest place on earth.

(And yes I say that as someone who lives within 100 miles of Anaheim and has yet to set foot at some place I hear is long on princesses and over-sized mice.)

In MY happy place:

  • My cell phone doesn’t work.
  • I don’t have wifi.
  • My internet access is provided via satellite and on a ration system that basically cuts off ALL SERVICE if  we go over our monthly allotment before the month is out.

So don’t be surprised if you don’t hear too much from me until we’re back late next month.

I do want to try to post about family road trips and how we are FINALLY starting to have it down to a science after MANY years of practice, but doing that will require me dragging my butt into town and trying to work in the library.

Might happen.

Might not.

I am packing along to Bruno Mars, and umm, it is my plan to not do anything remotely work-y over the next few weeks if I can help it.

(Famous last words. I am cutting this trip a week shorter than I intended because I have to come home to make a movie I co-wrote — oh poor me — and I do sort of go a little nuts when I don’t blog a bit, and I have a GREAT AMERICAN SCREENPLAY I am aching to pound out that happens to be SET in my happy place … ok, so maybe there will be a little work happening. In between swimming and reading and riding and staring at my mountains and watching my kids run around with their cousins. And maybe eating some lamb off a spit. Hmm. Work is sounding less and less interesting as I type this.)

Anyway. Our oil’s changed, we’ve got new wheels and a nice big locker-y thing on the top of the van, and I am so excited I can’t sleep.

Which is why I’m sitting here typing instead.

Ah well.

I just wanted to tell you guys to have a great, great rest of the summer, and wish you all some quality time in your happy places, wherever those places may be.

Oh and while we’re talking happiness and all that …

You know what would be pretty happy-making for me?

If you’d go vote for ChecklistMommy as a Top 25 So Cal Mom Blog!

And look! I’ve made it super easy for you!

  • JUST CLICK THE BADGE! (Or this link).
  • You don’t have to sign up or sign in (just click away the the sign-up box when it pops up).
  • It literally takes THREE SECONDS and you can do it EVERY DAY until June  July 30.

Thank you.

Now go have a fabulous rest of your summer and I’ll see you when it’s time for school shopping.

I love love love school shopping.

It’s almost great enough to make coming back from my happy place slightly okay.



I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...

Without Going Overboard

CHK gear up for twins

A few weeks ago, a reader wrote to tell me she was pregnant with twins, and asked if I’d post about what gear she’d REALLY need to buy doubles of, and what she might be able to get away without.

Here’s the short answer:

When you have twins, you basically need two of everything.

The good news is:

Really, truly, absolutely most* of this stuff doesn’t have to be new.

I know when you’re a first time parent, you want it all sparkling and lovely.

But twins are expensive. REALLY EXPENSIVE.

So do yourself a favor and get your gear used if you can, from friends, off Craigslist, etc.

Here’s what you can get used used used:

  • 2 swings / vibrating bouncers. Because you want to keep your twins on the same schedule, you want to be able to put them down somewhere at the same time. In the beginning, that place is a swing or a bouncer, because it gets your kids zen and sleepy and then buys you some sane-time. HOWEVER: Don’t buy these new. They are expensive and huge and your kids (or one of your kids) may HATE them. Find one second-hand swing and one second-hand bouncer, and then decide if you need to swap either/or out after both kids have tried them and you’ve figured out which is better for your lifestyle.
  • 2 playmats. Once the kids are big enough to roll over, they need their own real estate. Buy two playmats, with those jungly-gym-y arches attached. Those arches keep you from forgetting your babies are on the floor and stepping on them. That’s why BLANKETS ON THE FLOOR are no substitute for PLAYMATS. (Believe me. You think there’s no reason we nicknamed one of our boys Pancake?)
  • 2 pack-n-plays. At the start, both kids can share. Again, when they start rolling, they need their own real estate. And yes, buy THESE and not fancy travel tents. Pack-N-Plays are great bassinets, co-sleepers, travel tents, and playards ALL IN ONE. And cheaper.  If you live in a 2 story house, you want cribs downstairs and Pack-N-Plays upstairs. You want LOTS OF PLACES you can safely put your babies down. Buy GRACO!
  • 2 carriers.  I prefer the Ergo, but lots of people like the Beco, which is basically the same thing as an Ergo but you can carry smaller babies in it, and those babies can face forward. (Facing forward is not a developmental plus, while we’re on the subject. But still. You can do that in a Beco.)
  • 1 double stroller. Get the City Mini Double. Light. Easily Collapsible. End of story. If you simply MUST spend more money, get the Baby Jogger City Select Double. It’s better than the Bugaboo. I PROMISE. Less expensive and WAY LESS A PAIN IN THE ASS.
  • 2 high chairs. Ikea.


Here’s what you really should buy new: 

  • 2 cribs. Yes, they share at the start. But then they start rolling. See above. * That said: Buy cribs NEW to make sure they are safe by TODAY’S standards (slat width, fixed sides, etc). Ikea makes great, affordable cribs. Do that. Buy new crib mattresses, too. 
  • 2 carseats, with extra bases for each car your kids will be traveling in. Buy these new so you know where they’ve been. I like Graco.


You can get away with one these:

  • 1 Diaper Pail. Get the Ubbi. It is amazing. I have finally thrown over my beloved Diaper Champ for the Ubbi, which does a phenomenal job of containing twin stink and looks cute, too.
  • 1 Changing Table / Dresser with Changing Pad on top.


Other quickie twin gear / furniture tips:


CHK twin crib set up

  • Orient your cribs in such a away that you can be sitting on the floor between them, comforting to babies at once, if you need to. For me, this meant parallel cribs with an aisle between them where Mom sits in the wee hours when I need to …


* that’s actually Gaga’s old crib mattress, believe it or not.

  • Go for a small couch or a futon on the floor instead of a glider. There is no real way to accommodate two babies in a glider. I went with a futon and a MY BREST FRIEND twin nursing pillow and that set up works great.


What other tips to you twin parents have for saving time & money on twin prep? Let’s help my reader get ready without losing her mind!

I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...


So I finally sat down and watched the Dustin Hoffman video that the web’s gone nuts for this week.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the gist:

Hoffman fights back tears as he recounts the first time he did hair and makeup as Tootsie. Why? Because after spending hours getting done up, he looked in the mirror and  realized he wasn’t as PRETTY as he assumed he would be, based on the vibrant and interesting female character he’d created.

And the fact that this vibrant and interesting character wasn’t a hottie made him realize that he had probably spent his whole life discounting vibrant and interesting women based on how they looked.

Here’s what I have to say about that:


I was an awkward kid.

MOMS! Do not let DADS buy your daughters their first pair of glasses!

MOMS! Do not let DADS buy your daughters their first pair of glasses!


I think it's pretty clear why I spent most of my high school years hanging out with my horse.

I think it’s pretty clear why I spent most of my high school years hanging out with my horse.


It wasn’t until I was about 23 that I started to get it together.

I went to my high school reunion that year, the highlight of which was overhearing  someone I didn’t know all that well tell the boy I had unrequitedly loved FOREVER AND EVER,

Hey, did you see Sarah yet? She got HOT.

That may, in fact, remain one of the highlights of MY LIFE and not just that summer.

And you know what?

That’s pretty effing sad.

I went to Yale. I did my graduate work at Columbia and USC.

I read some if not ALL of the New York Times every single day and I listen to NPR in the car and I consider myself fairly well-educated and pretty well informed.

I can hold my own at a dinner party.

But I do it better with a blow-out.

I do it better when my dress fits just right, or I’m rocking the greatest necklace you’ve ever seen.

If you run into me at Target on a Tuesday morning and I’m not looking my best, I feel it.


And that’s RIDICULOUS.

Especially since I know girls aren’t BORN feeling that way.

There are a few years, early on, where they are happy no matter – and often despite – how their hair looks, or what they’re wearing.

They don’t NOTICE how people look at them.

They don’t notice if people look away.

But it doesn’t last that long.

When Diddy was four, she asked if she could get a hair cut – the fine locks trailing down her shoulders bothered her. I took her to get a cut at a kids’ store that had a stylist working a chair in the back room.

Diddy showed the stylist how long she wanted her hair – just to her chin.


I would have killed for this hair. I would STILL kill for this hair. And it kills me that she worried her friend wouldn't like HER if they didn't like her HAIR.

I would have killed for this hair. I would STILL kill for this hair.

Diddy burst into tears. She said her friends would tell her she looked like a boy.

They wouldn’t like her haircut.

They wouldn’t like her.

Now Diddy is a fairly socially-attuned kid. She has always understood the social currents rushing around her, and is careful how she wades through them.

But I have heard some version of this story from not 1 but 2 other Moms whose girls went through the same thing. Neither of their girls is as tapped into the machinations of the social strata in their classrooms as is my kid – but still they felt it, this feeling that if they didn’t LOOK a certain way, they were somehow damaged goods.

I wish TO GOD I had a solve for that.

Because my girls are going to go through that same awkward stage that 98% of all girls go through.

And it’s going to shape them, in some good ways, sure (get funny, get smart, get strong), but also bad (start worrying about bleaching and shaving and waxing and Spanxx).

What the hell is a Mom supposed to do?

Maybe we can turn this Dustin Hoffman moment into a movement.

You can start by watching the video, and passing it on.





I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...

My case for SIESTA. Siempre!

CHK siesta

Moms of small kids are constantly telling me they can’t wait till their kids don’t nap anymore, because it screws up their day having to be home for those few hours while their kids are passed out.


And I say that despite the fact that 2 of the 4 kids in my house don’t even nap anymore.

Wanna know why?

Because way back when I was a brand new Mama, my friend Wonder Woman told me about a friend of hers with 5 yo twins who still enforced naptime. The twins didn’t have to NAP during naptime, but they had to sit on their beds and play quietly for an hour or two every afternoon, regardless.

This friend of my Wonder Woman is a FRIGGIN’ GENIUS.

Ever since my kids started outgrowing naps, I’ve been enforcing a post-lunch QUIET TIME.

In our house, that means the kids have to play quietly in their own rooms for about 90 minutes after lunch.

It’s kind of like the Spanish siesta.

Have I mentioned that I dream about moving my family somewhere Spanish-speaking for a year or so to expose them to another culture, a different language, etcetera etcetera? Not yet? Well, I do. MrBigIdeas and I talk about the logistics of that ALL THE TIME.

And it just occurred to me as I wrote this that part of that ABSOLUTELY has to do with siesta.

Siesta is AWESOME.

Here’s why:

While my kids siesta, I do to. My siestas involve the newspaper, or a great novel. Sometimes I organize a drawer or two. A few weeks ago, MrBigIdeas and I watched an entire MOVIE during siesta. We even (gasp) got a little naked time together IN THE MIDDLE OF THE AFTERNOON.

I mean, come on. Who wouldn’t like THAT?

Now, that isn’t to say there aren’t a few small wrinkles to this system.

For instance:

The girls have a secret passageway in their closets, kid-sized doorways that lead from one room to the other. So yes, lots of the time the girls flaunt the rules pretty badly and end up playing together during Quiet Time, either in the closet, or in Gaga’s room.

I decided pretty early on not to bust them for that. I think there is great value in kids believing they’ve pulled one over on their grown-ups, and I also think that doing it TOGETHER goes a long way to drawing siblings close. So if they’re not so ridiculously loud when they’re playing together during Quiet Time that they disturb their brother’s naps, I leave them be.

That said, if they ARE that kind of loud, and I’m worried they WILL disturb their brother’s naps, I separate them and add 15 minutes extra quiet time every time I have to tell them to keep it down.

This might sound hypocritical, but I strongly subscribe to the DON’T GET CAUGHT philosophy of rule-following/breaking.

As in, my dad used to buy me the vodka I brought back to boarding school each semester, but it was understood that I was absolutely ON. MY. OWN if I got busted drinking it.

Rebel a little if you have to, I say. Just do it SMART.

Or at least smart enough that no one in your boarding school administration ever says boo about it until your 10 year reunion, at which point your School Dean pulls you aside and say, “I knew EVERYTHING you were up to when you were here.”

Now that I’m a Mom, I totally get that. I know what they’re up to pretty much all the time.

I’m just glad that my kids are still young enough that the worst that happens around here is crayoning the walls while Mom and Dad are otherwise occupied during Quiet Time.

I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...

Except When They Don’t.
So We Made a List For That!

CHK sisters rock

Recently Gaga complained to me that Diddy likes to read to EVERYBODY but her.

The thing is, she’s right. This year, Diddy went UPSTAIRS to the elementary school while Gaga stayed DOWNSTAIRS in the preschool, and it drove a little bit of big-kid/little-kid wedge between them where there hadn’t really been one before.

Before, they had a pretty typical little-sister/big-sister vibe, with Gaga loving her Diddy A BILLION PERCENT and chasing after her and imitating her and grooving on her all day long, and Diddy putting up with it about 40% of the time and the rest of the time doing everything she could to shake her Gaga shadow.

I figured I’d try to stay out of it – I know how sisters go, and it’s a bumpy ride up and down the love/hate spectrum on the way to WOOHOO SISTERHOOD! – but Diddy’s refusal to read to Gaga REALLY UPSETS my Gaga, who can’t help but notice, uhh …

CHK no gagas

… Diddy’s got no problem reading to the boys.

So last week at Family Meeting we started talking about how Gaga was sad that Diddy didn’t want to read with her –


We talked about how it made us feel, when our friends excluded us.

We talked about how Diddy and Gaga would be sisters forever, how they were a team against the world for the rest of their lives.

We talked about how Diddy just wanted a little privacy.

We talked about how Gaga just wanted to hang out a little bit more with her big sister —


Now, I’m a big sister. I totally get where Diddy is coming from.

But I’m also Gaga’s MOTHER, so obviously I see her point too.

And I think most talk about most things is pretty damn cheap.


So I told Diddy to make a list of things she actually LIKES doing with Gaga.

Here’s what Diddy came up with:

  • Making tents
  • Making big messes that she cleans up
  • When she helps me up the stairs
  • Going on the monkey bars
  • Playing restaurant
  • Making up stories while Gaga watches … she loves my stories
  • When she helps me hit a piñata so the treats can come out
  • Doing climbing walls together
  • Playing on the iPad together

Then I had Gaga do it. She said:

  • When she reads to me
  • When she climbs big rocks with me
  • When we swing together and go on the monkey bars
  • When we play on phones
  • When we play on the iPad

At which point Diddy said:

 I like to do a lot of things with Gaga that I didn’t know! I thought I hated Gaga, but I really love her!

Seriously, folks?

Is there ANYTHING a list can’t do?

I'm Just Looking for Some Grown-Ups to Talk To ...

Sarah Kate Levy

Once upon a time I wanted to be a novelist in NY. FOUR KIDS LATER I'm a
screenwriter in LA who blogs about parenting, partnering, and the decline of civilization / my home.

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