Mommy Sanest is Expanding

Let me tell you a story. Seventeen years ago, I went to orientation at Ohio University the summer before college began. I knew my roommate’s name — room assignments had been sent earlier in the summer — and I knew she would be at the same orientation session. We had plans to meet, but before that happened, we ended up sitting back-to-back at lunch and somehow, my mom figured out that she was at the table next to us.

And so, Gena Kittner and I met, eyed each other suspiciously, and after a few months of living together in a tiny dorm room, became friends. (The turning point for Gena, according to Gena, was when I hugged her good-bye for winter break.)

Post-college, Gena and I have become even closer. Before Mommy Sanest was born and Gena’s family moved to Arizona, I would retreat from Chicago to visit Gena in Wisconsin (and not just because she always bought me New Glarus beer). Then she had her daughter Ellie, and I had Emme 11 months later, providing us with yet another dimension to our friendship. When I started Mommy Sanest, I “jokingly” asked Gena, who is a seasoned journalist, if she would be interested in writing for me from time to time.

And the rest is history.

Then, last fall, I met a woman named Deb at a mom’s group in the western suburbs of Chicago. I swear I wasn’t being a stalker, but I happened across her Facebook profile and realized that she and Gena, both journalists, worked together in Wisconsin for several years. Deb was relatively new in town, so the next time I saw her, I said something about not being a stalker, but I thought we might have a connection in common… oh, and would you like write for my blog?

And the rest is history.

Then it the whole thing got META.

In November, Deb wrote a piece for Mommy Sanest about baby sprinkles — smaller showers for moms who are expecting their second child. Who would have thought that less than six months later, Gena, Deb, and I (we’ve never all been in the same room!) would be celebrating together at a baby sprinkle…

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for Gena! Baby no. 2 is on his way (yep, his).

Gena’s sister, who lives in Chicago, threw an adorable destination sprinkle for Gena. Family came from Ohio, friends from Wisconsin, Gena from Arizona (obviously), and Deb and I from the ‘burbs. The theme was cowboys and cactuses.

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Don’t worry Internet Police, Gena’s just refreshing my prosecco mimosa. Isn’t she an adorable pregnant lady? Not to mention, she’s a great host… why on earth is she getting me a drink?

It was good food and lots of fun. I always love catching up with Gena’s family, and it was so cool to finally hang out with Deb and Gena in the same place, at the same time. I feel lucky to have both of these women in my life, and the random connection really does make it all the more special.

Anyway, I can’t tell you how excited I am for Gena (and not just because I know this will give her good material to blog about). Gena is an amazing mom, which you probably already figured out based on her creative playdates and smart parenting tips, and Ellie is going to be an awesome big sister. I told her that when her son is 21, I will be able to say, “I’ve been friends with your mom for 40 years,” when I call him on my space phone from Mommy Sanest’s moon office.

Congratulations Gena!

What I Learned by Hosting a “Baby Sprinkle” (Or, What the Heck is a Baby Sprinkle?)

By Deborah Ziff

I recently co-hosted a “baby sprinkle.” In the interest of full disclosure, I’m going to admit upfront that I’d never heard of a baby sprinkle until a few weeks ago (this despite the fact that the New York Times was on top of it two years ago). So if you’re like me, and you’ve fallen shamefully behind on your baby shower trends — the sprinkle is a smaller, less elaborate version of the baby shower for second, third or fourth (or more) pregnancies.

I wanted to do something to celebrate my friend Katy’s second pregnancy. Katy has 2-year-old twins, Emma and Daniel. Emma was diagnosed a year ago with a chromosomal disorder, autism, brain damage from birth and resulting cerebral palsy. Katy has been very open about Emma’s struggles on her blog and she was featured in a newspaper story. Given the day-to-day stress of raising 2-year-old twins — let alone 2-year-old twins with special needs — I figured Katy hadn’t had much time to celebrate herself or the new baby.

Learn how to host a baby sprinkle. A baby sprinkle is a small baby shower for a second (or subsequent) baby. It's a great way to celebrate mom and baby.

Katy is a boisterous, funny, extroverted British woman who is usually the one planning parties. She threw an elaborate 30th birthday party (it involved a citywide scavenger hunt) for me and another friend and was known to rent bouncy houses for her backyard even before she had children. But hosting a party for “the planner” can sometimes be tricky.

Now for a word about me: I’m not fancy. I held my wedding reception in a lodge in the North Woods of Wisconsin where guests amused themselves during dinner by taking photos with the animal heads mounted to the walls. My husband and I—ages 36 and 33, respectively—were very pleased with ourselves when we recently bought an ACTUAL COUCH after sitting on a futon since college. So the idea of a no-frills baby shower is right up my alley.

Deb (left) with Katy, the mommy-to-be-again.

As I planned the party, I realized that the expectations of a sprinkle are not as well-defined as that of a shower. Or, as the Times put it, “sprinkles are not without controversy.” (Move over Benghazi!) The Times goes on: “Guests directed to spend money on gifts yet again might feel resentful, and, on the other side, moms-to-be can feel uncomfortable with the expectation that they do so.”

Yikes! Luckily, I had two good friends/co-hosts who helped me navigate my way through the (apparently) pitfall-filled world of baby sprinkles.

So here’s what I learned about how to host a baby sprinkle:

Make it about mama: Since second-time moms already have the basics, make mama be the focus of gifts, instead of baby. In Katy’s case, she had not one, but two, of everything in the whole wide babyverse. Mommy Sanest has already run a thoughtful list of gift ideas for second pregnancies. I got Katy some fragrant, locally-made soaps and perfume, and threw in an eco-friendly wooden rattle for the baby (all from a cool store in Forest Park called Refind Home).

Set the tone early: We chose to do an Evite, rather than a snail mail invite, to keep the expense down and to keep it casual. The invitation asked guests to “join us to celebrate Katy,” rather than welcoming baby. Katy already had a registry with items for the new nursery and practical items like diapers and wipes, so we included that in the invitation.

Keep it casual: Katy’s baby shower for her first pregnancy included lunch at a private club in Madison. We held this party at a friend’s house. One of my co-hosts, Debbie, got a little happy with the Cricut craft cutting machine (I also had never heard of this until the party – remember, I’m not fancy!) so the decorations wound up being really beautiful, but also all homemade.

Keep it small: We ended up having a small intimate gathering of about seven people. It was perfect. We felt totally comfortable talking about the less glamorous side of having a baby. At one point, in the midst of talking about the possibility of, erm, going No. 2 during delivery, someone astutely noted, “So this is the difference between a sprinkle and a shower.”

Skip the games: I’m actually a fan of this rule for regular baby showers, too. (Seriously. No one wants to eat chocolate from a diaper!) For an activity, we bought some wooden blocks for guests to decorate with stickers, paint and paper. The idea is that the new baby will be able to play with them after she’s born.

Stop worrying and have fun: If some of the invited guests decided not to come because they just_couldn’t_take_one_more_shower, so be it. That’s their choice. More cupcakes for the rest of us.


Deborah Ziff is a freelance writer, ex-trombone player, and hedgehog enthusiast in the Chicago area. She’s also mom to a 19-month-old daughter and a labradoodle named Franklin.


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