Houston New Moms Blog

It’s officially October, which means I can start my month-long countdown to Halloween! Halloween is one of those holidays that becomes twice as fun when you have a kid. But, as I found out when my daughter was born, it can also get twice as complicated to plan your Halloween fun when you have a baby or toddler in tow. To help you get the most out of your spooky celebrations this year, here is our guide to Halloween in Houston with your little!

The Best Costumes for Tiny Houstonians

With so many adorable choices for baby costumes, it can be hard to know what to choose. After much costume experimentation with my 2-year-old, here is my Halloween mantra: Not too heavy, not too uncomfortable, not too long.

On Lana’s first Halloween, several little friends were dressed in adorable, full-body animal costumes. There were bears, lions, and elephants. Unfortunately, it was nearly ninety degrees outside, and the poor babies were sweltering. Before long, the costumes came off. Chances are, it’ll still be hot in October, so think twice before buying costumes that will envelop your little in heavy fabrics.

The other frequent error of first-time costume buyers? Assuming your kid will wear that uncomfortable-but-adorable top, mask, or hat. I’m guilty of this one – I bought Lana a super-cool witch costume last year, and, of course, she refused to wear the hat. So instead of a witch, she was a toddler in a cute orange-and-black dress. In my experience, most littles will put up a fight against headgear, wings, and most other accessories. Clothing that itches is also a no-no.

Find the perfect costume at an unbelievable price. Findcostume.com

And finally, if you have a walker, make sure the costume is not so long that he or she will be tripping over it! Costume sizes can be different from sizes in regular clothing brands, and a toppling toddler could put a real wrench in your trick-or-treating plans!

If you’re still looking for your baby’s costume, check out the funny, spooky, and simply adorable choices here!

Trick or Treating, Baby Style

Speaking of trick-or-treating, here’s how to make your first outing with baby a success.

First, know where you’re going. Don’t just assume that a neighborhood is going to be a great spot for candy – check with more experienced parents. On Lana’s first Halloween, we made the mistake of assuming that our apartment building, which has a fair number of families, would be a nice, compact spot for trick-or-treating. Alas, it was dead on Halloween night.

In addition to choosing the right neighborhood, make sure you ask veteran parents what specific streets are best (have sidewalks, good lighting, lots of houses participate, etc). And find out when the fun usually starts. On our second Halloween, we checked out the Heights, known for great trick-or-treating. But, we came too early and started on the wrong streets. It was only after we met up with a friend who lives in the area and waited for it to get dark that we found the great trick-or-treating streets that everyone talks about.

Find the perfect costume at an unbelievable price. Findcostume.com

Once you’ve found a great spot, your little superheroes and zoo animals will probably not last very long walking from house to house. A wagon, stroller, push car, or whatever mode of transportation they prefer is essential for keeping them happy and getting to more than 2 or 3 houses over the course of an evening.

Finally, if you’re not from Houston, you may be wondering about the pros and cons of the “Trunk or Treat” tradition. Coming from the Northeast, this was totally new to us. Here’s how it works: a bunch of people park their cars next to each other (often at a church), and each offers candy from the car’s trunk. It’s a much more compact version of traditional trick-or-treating. We checked one out, thinking that short distances sounded perfect for a toddler. And, indeed, Lana enjoyed going from car to car and getting candy. The biggest downside? It was over in 10 minutes! So, if a trunk-or-treat is on your schedule, be aware that this is not all-night entertainment.

This week, Abby Gorlach discovers Kanthaka, or Uber for personal trainers. This amazing Houston-based app allows busy moms to book workouts a trainer of their choice – at their home (or workplace, or gym), on their schedule, and with just a few clicks!

Self-care is important. As a mom of two toddlers, it’s imperative. Unfortunately, my needs often fall by the wayside in the midst of the competing demands of school, schedules, and parenting busy toddlers. And, since having kids, I’ve become more lax about my workouts due to all of the above – yet this is the time I need to be in my best shape and health so I will have the physical strength to wrangle my kids and chase them at the park.

But how to fit everything in? Enter Kanthaka, an app that is like Uber, but for personal trainers. You can choose which type of training you want, when, and where, and a personal trainer will show up. It’s seriously that easy.

I downloaded the app, set up my account in seconds, and scrolled through the training offerings. I chose “General Training” because I was looking for circuit training, but you can choose yoga, Pilates, boxing, or pre/post-natal. I chose a trainer based on her profile and philosophy, set up the session at the park next to my house, and chose a time that was convenient for me after school drop-off. I had a small technical issue, but  it was resolved really quickly by the IT team, and I was able to continue with my booking.

When I arrived at the park, the trainer was already there, scoping out the location and setting up props. She brought a mini-gym with her (weights, foam tiles, cones), plus water for me. She spent time evaluating my functional abilities and going over any physical limitations before we actually began the session. The session itself was great, and I really liked the trainer’s style and attitude. She was very knowledgeable and generally awesome. I really liked how she took the time to evaluate my personal situation and didn’t simply dive into a routine, plus the exercises were great.

I didn’t have my kids with me, but I can see how this would work with children and babies in tow. You could pop your baby into the stroller and they would have free entertainment while you get in your workout, or your toddler could play at the park during the session, or you could have the trainer come to your house! There are many variations of what might work, which is the great thing about a personal trainer “on demand.”

I loved the flexibility Kanthaka gave me with timing and location. I did find one caveat specific to my situation. I often need to do training outside of my home since at least one of my children is usually at home, and I work from home so I don’t have an office per se, and I don’t have access to a gym where I could bring an outside personal trainer. This leaves the park, which I love because I really enjoy the outdoors, but this is Houston. It’s hot, there are mosquitoes, and it rains a lot. Luckily, none of these things were an issue during my session, but I could see how it might be during the heat of the summer if you don’t book during the early morning hours. With fall and winter ahead of us, this shouldn’t be much of an issue, though.

With Kanthaka, I don’t have any excuses for missing a gym or personal training session. I can open the app and find a trainer who can come to me, wherever that might be (home, park, gym, office), at a time that works best for me. The rate is also the same rate I’ve paid personal trainers at a gym – a good value considering all the extra flexibility. A nice bonus: the company is donating $10 of each booked session to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts during the month of September.

Check out Kanthaka’s website and download the app to see for yourself!

This post is brought to you by Back After Baby, a one-of-a-kind postpartum rehabilitation program designed by physical therapists just for moms. And the best part? It’s 100% online – no need to worry about scheduling, traffic, or finding childcare!

Hello! We are Hallie and Ingrid – two moms and physical therapists on a mission to provide women with the knowledge and resources they need to properly recover and get back after baby! We developed this 3-phase program after years of treating women with back pain, urinary incontinence, shoulder pain, neck pain – should we continue? The common denominator? They were all moms – some 2 months postpartum, others 10 years – who never properly retrained their muscles after having a baby.

With most postpartum programs emphasizing weight loss instead of muscle recovery, who would know retraining your muscles was so important? Why not just go back to your pre-baby routine? Well let me tell you… The changes that occur during pregnancy to your joints, muscles, soft tissue (ligaments), and spine, not to mention the weight gain, water retention, crazy hormone fluctuations are significant and DON’T just rebound and go back to normal. Well maybe if you are that 1%, then it does, but for all of us other women- what do we do? How do we get those stretched, weakened, traumatized muscles to work for us again?

We based much of the Back After Baby program on our own clinical practice. We guide the member through each phase of the program in the same way we would progress a traditional physical therapy program. This method is tried and true and addresses the whole body. It is completely unique from any other “workout” or “fitness” routine you find online in that it’s assessment-based, meaning we take you through a complete assessment testing things like core stability, strength, endurance and flexibility before each phase so we can customize the program to what you need. Once you have your playlist of recommended exercises we go even further by teaching you how to do each exercise properly, what you should and shouldn’t feel, and when to stop.

In addition to your workout playlist, you’ll have access to resources such as anatomical illustrations for each exercise so that you can picture the specific muscles we are targeting. We also include body mechanics training and positioning strategies to help with proper form when sleeping, lifting, breastfeeding, and a host of other things.

We know this program can be life-changing but don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what one of our members has to say…

“Back After Baby has given me hope that I will be able to restore my body to a pre-baby level and potentially even better. I had so many muscle imbalances that I would injure myself when working out or would get pinched nerves in my neck and shoulders just from sleeping. As I’m progressing through Back After Baby, I feel myself getting stronger, having better posture and in less pain.” ~ Cristy

The last week has been tormenting. No one has been unaffected. We have watched family and friends escape their homes by boat/kayak/helicopter at the last minute before flood waters overtake their home. Our newsfeeds have been flooded with harrowing images and videos of our friends and loved ones sharing their stories of devastation and heartbreak. We all hurt for each other.

Those of us fortunate enough to weather Harvey without damage are itching to help others. There has been an outpouring of donations to the victims living in shelters in the form of volunteer hours, supplies, and love, but it is so hard to know where to start. Who needs what? Where should I volunteer? Where should I donate cash that will go directly to the victims and not to overhead? How can I help these distraught families begin to rebuild and recover?

All of us want our donations to go to good use, not into a warehouse as surplus. It takes manpower to sort through clothing donations and match to someone in need. Our efforts might be better used by donating time, money, or very specific items requested by a shelter or family in need, so we’ve created a short list as a starting place. This is by no means exhaustive, but a wonderful place to start. For those generous hearts from out of town who want to know how to help us, this list is for you, too.

1. Texas Diaper Bank

  • Volunteer: Texas Diaper Bank (@TXDIAPERBANK on Twitter) NEEDS volunteers in San Antonio to count, sort, and send out donations.
  • Donate items: Any brand and any size baby diapers, pull-ups, adult diapers, formula, and wipes. We need primarily the larger sizes of diapers, pull-ups, and adult diapers.
  • Donate money: If you’re not local, you can help by donating money: 100% of every donation will go to disaster relief efforts along the Texas coast. Diapers and other items will be distributed to shelters in the affected areas over the course the next several weeks. Donations will continue to go towards post-recovery efforts to families that have been displaced long-term.

2. Houston Food Bank

  • Volunteer: Please register first
  • Donate Food and Supplies: Drop off curbside at 535 Portwall, now through Saturday, September 9. Check here for drop off times and “Most Needed Items.”
  • Donate Money: The best thing you can do to help the Houston Food Bank right now is to make a donation of money designated for disaster relief. Our neighbors urgently need assistance. The Houston Food Bank’s greatest need is for funds that will help us provide relief and continue recovery efforts. Donations will be used for disaster relief until this year’s needs are met, and the remaining funds will support ongoing hunger-relief efforts.

3. The Humane Society of the United States

  • Houston animals are lost, cold, and suffering too. HSUS relief workers have airlifted over 100 dogs out of Texas amid Harvey’s catastrophic flooding, and have waded in deep flood waters to save many more. They are on the ground saving our most beloved companions.
  • Give to HSUS Disaster Relief by following the hyperlinked text OR text LOVE to 20222 to donate $10. This is the best way to help.

4. Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston

  • IM is a wonderful organization. Their main purpose is described here: “At Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, we believe that, through service and dialogue, it is possible for very diverse people to know one another and find common ground, while still embracing our personal beliefs and cultures. We celebrate the strength of our shared beliefs through four areas of service to the greater Houston community:
    • Meals on Wheels for Greater Houston delivers more than 1.5 million meals each year to seniors in Harris and Galveston counties.
    • Refugee Services, in conjunction with the U.S. State Department, resettles thousands of refugees in Houston each year.
    • Interfaith Relations provides a safe harbor for greater Houston through its many interfaith programs and dialogue efforts.
  • In Harvey’s aftermath, Interfaith Ministries will be focusing on helping homebound seniors who receive Meals on Wheels and refugee families – vulnerable populations who will need extra resources after the storm.
    • Donate Money: Please give via phone by texting the word Interfaithhelp to 243725.
    • Please visit their official Facebook page for latest information and updates.

In my long tenure of reviewing parks and playgrounds for Houston New Moms, West U has never disappointed either me or chief playground tester Lana. This week, I’ll be taking you on a little tour of my latest discovery in the neighborhood: Colonial Park.

Colonial Park has a truly impressive number of different play structures / areas to explore. Its other claims to fame include being fully fenced and proximity to an awesome, kid-friendly pool (alas, open only to West U residents and their guests – so make some local friends and maybe you can check it out one day!)  This park is partially shaded, but there will definitely be  some sun on a sunny day. (You will see evidence of aforementioned sun in my photos — apologies in advance for the questionable photo quality!)

Here’s the little-kid play structure. It’s definitely geared toward older toddlers, with challenging climbing routes and several places to fall. We did see a couple of families with pre-walkers exploring this structure, but they definitely had to stay close to the babies at all times!

The big kid play structure also offers climbing, sliding, and running, on a bigger scale and located at a good distance from the the little kid area, which I always like to see.

While the main play structures are nice, you could spend your entire visit here without approaching either of them, instead choosing among a half-dozen other entertainments. Three of our favorites were the swings for babies and big kids, a sandbox, and little wooden houses to explore, which even pre-walkers can access. We also loved the various ride-on toys scattered throughout:

The set of musical instruments in the corner provided some amusement as well:

And, finally, we enjoyed jumping and climbing on these little hills in the ground – it the first time we’d seen this kind of playground feature!

One final note: in case you haven’t figured it out from the photos, this park is totally covered in wood chips, so watch out if you have a little  wood-chip eater! If not, definitely come check out this park – with so much to choose from, you’re sure to find something to entertain the kiddos!

If You Go

  • Address: 4130 Byron St, Houston, TX 77005
  • Parking: Small lot or free street parking
In this sponsored post, H Town Limos offers some ideas for a taking a break with your mommy friends!

It can be hard to manage your time as a busy mom. With schedules that are constantly filled, work, and the never ending cycle of household tasks, sometimes it seems nearly impossible to set aside time for yourself. If you ask any of your friends in the same situation, they’ll likely agree! In this day and age, it’s especially tempting to spend your free time on the couch with Netflix running. However, you’re local to a unique scene of restaurants, activities, and celebrations in Houston. You deserve a night out with friends that ends with great memories without breaking the bank.

With all of the different options for enjoying nightlife in Houston, you have a task at hand when it comes to planning an itinerary. Thinking outside of the box can lead you to some awesome choices! Consider starting the night off enjoying a calming session of aerial yoga at Aerial Yoga Houston. You’ll be instructed to complete simple stretches guided by silk fabrics hanging from the ceiling. It’s a great way to get some exercise and meditation in!

 

If your group wants to enjoy a quiet night out, you can’t go wrong enjoying the atmosphere of a local lounge with live jazz music like Khon’s Wine Darts Coffee Art. They’re known for their warm atmosphere, delicious craw fish boils and affordable drink selection. Another great option is to head to a paint-and-wine destination like Art Class & Wine Glass. Here, a local artist will guide you through the steps of a painting while you sip on your favorite beverage. You get to take your creation home at the end of the night, it’s a great way to make memories!

 

Using a party bus or limousine to enjoy a night out in Houston hopping to and from any of these destinations is the best way to make sure everybody is safe and having a great time while enjoying drinks. If the cost is split between everybody attending, it works out to be around the same cost as your favorite ride share service – with triple the features to enjoy! There’s a ton of space to socialize in, counter tops and cup holders for your drinks, multicolored lights, television screens and amazing sound systems with custom playlist capabilities. In the end, you’ll be so glad you set aside the time to let loose while enjoying all of the fun destinations that Houston has to offer. If you’re looking to take advantage of professional transportation, click here for more information.

Noah’s Ark at Quillian Center has been on my radar for quite some time, and this week I finally made the trek outside of the Loop to this magical water park outfitted with animals like bears, lions, and the quintessential Noah’s ark animal: a whale. My toddler didn’t notice the inconsistencies with the Noah’s ark story, and the water-spewing whale and frog were a lot of fun. As for logistics with more than one child: I was able to leave my crawling baby at home and spend some quality time with just my toddler, but I saw many warrior moms wearing their babies and hanging with their toddler. You don’t have to get soaked—or even wear a bathing suit—which is great if you want to wear baby, but you will definitely get splashed here and there. And I have to give a shout out to these baby-wearing warrior moms, because I know how hard it is to juggle two small children in this type of environment: you guys rock.

Now back to the fun stuff. This place is really perfect for small children: it’s completely gated, the water is six inches deep, there are two different types of slides to suit toddlers and their older counterparts, lifeguards abound to keep the kids in check, and coolers with outside food are allowed. My two year old had an absolute blast and readers might think my use of the word “perfect” throughout this review is redundant, but it’s the most accurate word to describe this heavenly toddler waterpark/pool (no pun intended, Noah).

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know my kid loves slides. This place was no exception. There is a foam type slide that is perfect for her age and I didn’t have to worry about her going up the stairs on her own or sliding down too quickly. She loved being able to just sit and splash in the water, and sit on the whale, too. She braved the big slide which is more like a waterpark slide, and you have to climb up a rope ladder hooked to get up. This seems a bit dangerous as kids are scrambling up this fairly steep rope ladder to get to the top, and she was knocked by a bigger kid once and slid down a bit. I would make sure to help your young child get up or else prohibit it altogether. But once she was up, she had a blast coming down the big slide, which empties right in front of a lifeguard.

Splashing in the sun makes for a hungry kid, and since this mama didn’t think ahead to pack a lunch, we took advantage of the 11:30 am pizza delivery. It was a huge treat for her and I think she had one of the best days of her life, all kidding aside.
If the water park doesn’t wear your kids out, there’s also a big, traditional pool in a separately gated area (gotta appreciate all the gates when your toddler who has a hard time perceiving risk is on the loose!) with a neat slide and a huge floating alligator. And if your little ones need even more activity, there is a fun playground within yet another gated area! My girl was worn out after her splashing and sliding, so we didn’t get a chance to visit the other areas, but we will be back!

  • Admission: There is a $7.50 entrance fee for everyone above the age of one.
  • Parking: Free and easy parking at the Quillian Center parking lot on Westcenter Drive
  • Address: 10570 Westpark Dr, Houston, TX 77042
  • Website: http://www.quilliancenter.org/index.php/events/swimming-pools
  • Weekday Hours:
    • May 26 – August 25, 2017: 10am – 4pm (Both Pools)
    • August 28 – September 1, 2017: 10am – 2pm (Noah’s Ark Only)
    • June 6 – August 22: Twilight Tuesdays Theme Nights, 6:30pm – 9:00pm (Both Pools)

What play area offers water, sand, drums, and sun? Not a beach scene from Jamaica, as one might think, but the Barbara Fish Daniel Nature Play Area! Whether your little one loves climbing or sliding or playing in the sand, the Fish Play Area has you covered. Its location is pretty amazing, too. It’s located on the bank of the Buffalo Bayou and below an open green space with fantastic views of the downtown skyline. The play area opens to a walking/running trail, so you can stop by before or after a family jog or enjoy the play area on its own. What I found really neat was that you can “enter” the play area by sliding down the slide. There is also a ramp, but the cool kids use the slide to make their entrance.


According to the official website, the play area was “designed to inspire a love of nature within children,” and “features of the play area include: a boulder rock scramble, a rolling lawn, a stream and waterfall, climbing logs and stones, and a 33-foot slide.” If that’s not enough to pique your interest, the site goes on to describe “the most compelling component” of the play area: “a tri-level tree house/boat deck with climbing net.” Can adults play, too? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t climb that net to reach the boat deck.


We visited on a picture perfect Sunday morning and there were several food trucks offering breakfast tacos, lunch tacos, coffee, popsicles, and even dog treats! I really liked how most of the play structures were integrated into the natural landscape. For instance, tree stumps replace a ladder leading to the slide and provide a way to practice your coordination and tolerance for letting your kids get dirty. There is also a stone water table, but it was on the fritz. During our visit, my toddler enjoyed playing in the sand, water features, and climbing a rope ladder of sorts, but she really, really enjoyed the super high slide. She was barely two when we visited, so I was unsure if it she would want to try it, but she did and she loved it. It is 33 feet high after all!

There is a covered pavilion with nice benches next to one of the sand pits perfect for cooling off and enjoying a picnic, as well as a covered area with tables and chairs next to the open green space nearby.

 

This is one of our favorite parks because of the natural elements and location, but it gets really hot during the summer. There isn’t a ton of shade in the main play areas, so you’re better off going on a cloudy day or when the summer heat passes. Overall, this is a one of a kind play area that offers so many ways to play, just make sure to pack sunscreen and water!

  • How to get there: I recommend parking at the Water Works in Buffalo Bayou Park (105 Sabine St., Houston, TX 77007) and walking through the lawn and past the Lee and Joe Jamail skate park to get to the play area.
  • Official website: http://buffalobayou.org/visit/destination/buffalo-bayou-park/

I’m always surprised by how many visitors to Hermann Park walk right past this secret garden without even realizing its there. If you’re one of them, here’s what you’ve been missing: little paths for toddlers to explore, mini fountains and waterfalls, bridges overlooking golden koi fish, towering pine trees, and cute gazebos. And, at this time of year, gorgeous blooms of flowers.

One of my favorite things to do in Hermann Park these days is to take Lana to the Japanese Garden and just let her loose. It’s fenced, so I know she’ll stay inside. (Of course, I still follow close behind to make sure she doesn’t fall into any of the ponds and streams!) Here’s a peek of some of the spots she’s led me to:

The pines at sunset: 

A peaceful oasis:

View from a bridge: (you can’t see the koi, but they’re there!)

Wishing well: 

Gorgeous flowers:

Even more flowers: (See them while you still can!)

Little shrine: 

Shrine #2: 

The whole park is nicely shaded, so it’s a good refuge from the sun on hot days. Parking is the only challenge – it is a ~10 minute walk from either of the major Hermann Park lots. But, the paths in Hermann Park are stroller-friendly, and you can uses your stroller on most of the Japanese Garden paths as well.

If You Go: 

  • Hours: 9:00AM-6:00PM.
  • Public Transit: The garden is very close to the Rice U light rail stop if you’re in the mood to take public transit.
  • Parking: I recommend parking at the Centennial Gardens lot (put in 1700 Hermann Drive on your GPS).
  • How to get there: From the Centennial Gardens lot, walk north past Centennial Gardens, across the street and train tracks, past Miller Outdoor Theatre, and past the plaza with the obelisk and the fountains. Look for the entrance to the garden just to your right after you cross the plaza. If you park elsewhere, use this park map to figure out your way to the garden!

This week, we are exploring beautiful Edith Moore Nature Sanctuary in West Houston. Lana, who’s almost two, is largely over playgrounds these days. Instead, she prefers to roam parks and green spaces, getting up close and personal with nature. So, the winding trails at Edith Moore were a toddler dream come true:

We explored most of the trails and found them to be flat, largely shaded, and even partially paved. There is also a little cabin to explore, as well as a set of stairsteps down to a creek, where rain boot-wearing toddlers can stomp in the water.

“Horseback” riding also available on request!

And just look at that sky.

If You Go:

  • Address: 440 Wilchester Blvd. Houston, TX 77079
  • Hours: 7AM-7PM, 7 days a week
  • Parking: It’s easiest to find parking at Memorial Drive United Methodist Church, and there is actually a gate leading into the sanctuary right off the church parking lot. Church address: 12955 Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77079