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Noe Strolls: Moms and Babies with Places to Go, People to See
By Alison Pence
Got a baby? Got a stroller? Want some action?
Then you should definitely link up with Noe Strolls, the new "playgroup on wheels" founded by Noe Valley resident Martine Paris, or rather by her son, Max, who turns 1 in July.
"When Max was about 4 months old, he decided to nap only while in motion," says Paris. "I soon found out that leisurely shopping or relaxing at a café were out of the question for me --Max needed to keep moving."
Paris also got tired of strolling around the neighborhood by herself. "I could see there were a million moms like me in Noe Valley who were strolling along the streets with their sleeping babies and looking for company."
So last fall, she decided to organize regular "walks" for moms (and of course dads and nannies, too) and their babies -- to the parks, the beach, the zoo, and to museums to soak up the latest art exhibit.
"I put up a flyer at Natural Resources, Small Frys, and the other kids' places in the neighborhood, announcing a marathon stroll to the Museum of Modern Art called 'Mama Goes MOMA.' At first, I was afraid no one would come, so I brought my husband [Andrew Klinman] with me. But a bunch of moms and babies showed up, and we had a terrific time."
Since then, the group has established the first Tuesday of the month at 1 p.m. as their regular date for a special stroll. (The first Tuesday is a free day at most museums, and docent tours usually start at 1 p.m.) Among their outings have been visits to the Japanese Tea Garden, the Legion of Honor, the Crissy Field Restoration Project, and the Arboretum in Golden Gate Park.
"That one was so much fun," said Paris. "We saw a giant asparagus from Mars. The moms and babies loved it."
She says the trips to the museums have been particularly successful "because you can go on and off [the tour] and catch up later. If you have to change a diaper or nurse your baby, you can go somewhere to do it and you can find everyone again in the next gallery."
Nowadays, Noe Strolls has about 30 members, who keep in touch via constant e-mailing. But, Paris points out, usually only about four or five mom-and-baby pairs are on a walk at any given time. The rolling adventures are geared for kids in the 0 to 3 age bracket. "Toddlers, unless they're in a stroller, can have trouble keeping up," she says.
Susan Lin, who strolls with son Benjamin, says she enjoys the walks because "they are great exercise, and involve visits to parts of the city that are easy to forget about once parenthood takes over. You also get to meet new people from the neighborhood each time you go."
A big part of Noe Strolls is its rapidly expanding web site: www.noestrolls.com. The site, which is frequently updated by Paris, offers colorful descriptions of the First Tuesday walks, reviews of past walks, "Baby About Town" activities around the city, a schedule of library lapsits and events at local parks and rec centers, tips on lullabies and music CDs for babies, and announcements of the group's strolling innovations, such as Fitness Fridays. (Meet on Friday, May 11, at the Beach Chalet at 2 p.m., for a special workout with Anna, a group member who is also a personal trainer.)
The June 5 "First Tuesday" stroll, by the way, will be another excursion to the Museum of Modern Art, this time to see the tech and pop art of Andy Warhol.
The web site is also promoting a lecture series that Noe Strolls will sponsor in May and June at the Commonwealth Club of California, located at 595 Market Street. (Paris is on the club's Program Committee and chair of the group's Science and Technology Section.) The series is called "Nurturing Your Child's Brain," and takes place on Mondays from 2 to 3:30 p.m. "We'll be listening to experts talk about early childhood education and how to create a 'pre-preschool' environment in the home. The lectures are in a very large room, and moms can stroll around while they're listening, have their babies play with the toys, or lay their babies on blankets on the floor." The cost is $7 if you mention Noe Strolls.
Paris says this series truly captures the spirit of Noe Strolls. "The whole gist of Noe Strolls is that you can do a lot of fun things while caring for your baby, and where both you and your baby can have fun participating in the event.
"The only requirement is that you have a baby!" she laughs.
If you'd like to join the group (membership is free), all you have to do is e-mail your first name, and your baby's name and age, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can check out the events at www.noestrolls.com, and just show up at the appointed time, ready to roll.