Things I Love Thursdays – Baby Shower Edition

Baby Showers!  I’m nearing 40 so, alas, my baby shower attendance has dropped off a bit in the last few years. Sadness.  Hopefully I have a few left to attend.  Here is a list of a few of my favorite baby shower gifts to give (and get!).

L.L. Bean Boat and Tote

This is one of my very favorite gifts to give.  They are made in the good ol’ U.S. of A and last forever.  Know baby’s name?  Add a monogram!  Or perhaps add just the last initial.  I have a large collection of these bags and use them for everything.  They have served as diaper bags, luggage, and grocery bags.  I use them daily.  My favorite is the large tote with long handles (to go over shoulders when arms are full of baby and baby things).  I do have a zippered version, which works well for travel.

112636_2253_41

 

Nightlights

I always get an inexpensive pack of nightlights for new moms and dads.  These are really helpful when you are groggily nursing at 4am, and they are usually an afterthought.  Middle of the night diaper changes are jarring enough, low light makes it a little easier.

Nightlights

 

Books

Now that my littlest is in size 3T (sniff!) I am certainly drawn towards those adorable tiny clothes.  But new parents get lots of clothes at showers, so I usually try to give them something else – books.  Also, I am a nerd.  I pretty much think books are the coolest.  I usually try to give a small collection of the titles that were kid tested and kid approved at my house.  So many are available inexpensively on Amazon.  And many come in a variety of formats – board books for younger children, hard cover for keepsakes, and soft cover for when they are a little older.

Engine

 

Zoo

 

words

 

jack

 

bear

 

Clothes

Yes, I know I said I tend to avoid giving clothes, but I love these Hanna Andersson sleepers so much I sometimes just have to gift them.  They are a bit pricey, but the quality is always excellent, and the cotton really is the softest.  We own a lot of Hanna Andersson at my house and not one piece has ever worn out – even items that have been handed down three times.  So pick up one of these adorable sleepers in a gender neutral pattern, and know that it will last through kid after kid after kid and wash after wash after wash.  I like the footed ones for babies, and the footless ones for toddlers.

Sleeper 1

 

village

 

After the shower…

Anything personalized makes a great new baby gift.  Sweet gifts include personalized blankets, birthday blocks, and framed birth info (check Etsy for tons of choices).  And of course, gift certificates to local restaurants are great, too.  With a new baby, sometimes take out is a life saver!

Chamois Stroller Blankets from Pottery Barn are lovely, useful and not too expensive.

Chamois Stroller Blankets from Pottery Barn are lovely, useful and not too expensive.

 

Keepsake Birth Blocks by Smiling Tree Toys

Keepsake Birth Blocks by Smiling Tree Toys

 

As always, no affiliate links.  I have linked these items for your convenience. 

 

Things I Love Thursdays

And here we are again.

It is February.  And that means it is cold, and dark (but getting lighter!) and I’m in the thick of the most challenging part of my year.  But all is well!  And the kids are (at least for today, and this minute) healthy!  Though there is a constant, unyielding stream of snot at my house.  SO MUCH SNOT.  Ugh.

So here is a mid-winter installment of TILT for you – fun, light and lovely things to offset the seasonal blahs…

 

Tulips! They start arriving at my local grocery store in mid-January.  Ten stems for $4.99!  I buy them every week because they make me happy every time I see them.  I fill a vase with ice and water, trim the stems and pop them in, and they last for 7-8 days without drooping.

tulip-for-hapiness-1559712-1280x960

Milestone Baby Cards from Anthropologie.  I’m sure you’ve seen the stickers or blocks that are used as props in baby photos?  You know, the ones that say “One Month Old,” “Two Months Old,” and so on and so forth?  These are similar.  They are the modern, iPhone era version of a baby book entry.  And they are adorable.  They would have been perfect for Pistachio, my third, who is in a lot of photos, but whose baby book is pretty sad and empty.

Click on the photo to be brought to the Anthropologie page.

Click on the photo to be brought to the Anthropologie page.

The kate spade champagne bottle clutch is ridiculous and impractical, but maybe that’s why I like it? 

Bubble

Heather Ross fabrics designed for Windham Fabrics.  These make me want to sew things.  Or quilt things.  Or make cute smocks, and dresses for my children and friends’ children. Only I don’t actually know how to do any of those things.  Maybe someday!  I just adore the Tiger Lily and Briar Rose collections.   

Briar Rose Collection by Heather Ross

Briar Rose Collection by Heather Ross

 

My favorite from the Tiger Lily Collection.  Ms. Ross was inspired by her childhood summers in Vermont.

My favorite from the Tiger Lily Collection. Ms. Ross was inspired by her childhood summers in Vermont.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all – I hope you get lots of love and chocolate.  And maybe some tulips, too.

Of Long Labors and Crinkly Whales

Recently, I was asked to offer some words of encouragement and advice to a friend expecting her first child. My first piece of advice? Pay no attention to even the most well-intentioned pieces of advice. With that said, here are a few things I’ve learned on my 3 trips to baby town.

 

  1. Doctors don’t want to scare you, so they don’t tell you exactly how long labor will last. But I will. Labor will last a long time. A few days. Yes, days. I know only two women whose first labors lasted less than 24-hours. Two. (I’m not counting scheduled C-sections.) And when you’re 40 weeks pregnant, anxious to meet your little one, in pain, and don’t know what to expect the whole process will seem excruciatingly long, miserable, and sometimes a bit out-of-control, no matter how well you plan. But you will be okay. You will.

 

  1. Get one of these.
rockn

Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play Sleeper

 

  1. People with children who are teenagers or older will tell you to enjoy every minute, that it all goes by so fast. Those people are wrong. You won’t enjoy/savor/cherish every minute. In fact, I think it is far more likely that you’ll find a lot about caring for an infant to be tedious, repetitive, messy, exhausting and not-so-fun. BUT, it gets better, and there are lovely, quiet, rewarding, amazing moments.

 

  1. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re doing everything wrong. You aren’t.

 

  1. Forget what the books and registry guides say. Children don’t need much: love, warmth, a food source, and when they get a little older, a toy that makes a crinkly crunchy sound. You have enough and you are enough. Get this whale for the crinkly toy part.
Franky the Hanky Whale by Lamaze

Franky the Hanky Whale by Lamaze

  1. Don’t feel bad about asking for what you need. If someone asks what they can do to help, tell them to bring food and hold the baby for an hour while you shower and nap. Never underestimate the restorative power of a shower and a nap. (In the reverse, if someone is over-staying their welcome, don’t feel bad about asking them to leave.)

 

  1. Bring your own pillow to the hospital. The bed is uncomfortable enough. Don’t add to your misery by sleeping on a pillow encased in rubber.

 

You got this, Mama.

How quickly we forget…

A woman I know – a brand new mom – reached out on Facebook the other day to mention how much her world had been rocked by the arrival of her son.  She mentioned this without a positive or negative spin.  There was no whining or wonder, just a mom noting how much her life had changed and how much hard work parenting a newborn is.

Then came the responses. There were so many women telling her to enjoy her baby! Cherish these moments! Change is good! He is adorable! Welcome to your new normal!  Your life has been changed for the better! It is a love you’ve never known! Welcome to MY world – now you get it! You’ll miss these days when they’re gone!

Blarghggghhlll, these posts gave me reflux.

How do we forget so quickly?

Why does “We’ve done it, so can you.” sound so dismissive rather than supportive?

The subtext of so many of these types of comments seems unkind and unsupportive:

Enjoy your baby! (Stop whining. We’ve all been there.)

Cherish these moments! (Stop whining. Why dwell on the bad stuff?)

Change is good! (Stop whining. What did you expect?)

How do we forget that the newborn “new normal” is occasionally terrifying, always exhausting, and can throw a person completely off kilter, no matter how much they love the little milky, loose-skinned, froggy-legged baby asleep on their chest?

Smiling. And exhausted. June, 2010.

Smiling. And exhausted. June, 2010.

I think my poet friend’s response was best “You are doing it! And you can do it! ❤ ❤ ❤ No subtext.  Just support and love from another new mom who isn’t so far past that newborn world-rocking that she forgets what it is like.

Because it is so hard – it is bigger, more all-encompassing than that even.  And you just do it.  You get through the days, you get through the nights. You have good moments, bad ones, lots of tired ones.  You call in your village if you have one.  Or you call your village if they are far away.  Or you call your doctor.  You accept help, pay for it, ask for it, or struggle through without it.  You do it.  You just do.

June 2010. Pickle, Baby Bear and Me.

June 2010. Pickle, Baby Bear and Me.

I’m making a promise to myself that I’ll try my darnedest not to forget the feelings, the exhaustion, the crazy way the universe shifted completely when Pickle was born.  And I promise my friends that I’ll never demand that they cherish their baby and enjoy every damn moment.  I’ll just love them, remind them of their own strength, hold them up when they need me to and bring dinner when possible.

(Don’t) Mind the Gap.

You know how sometimes an old friend will cross your mind and you’ll think “I’ll write! I’ll call! I miss them!” and then life runs its normal course, and time slips away, and it is months (or – gasp! – years) later and you start to think, “Gee, it might be awkward if I called now,” or “It is probably too late to respond to that e-mail, anyway”?

And you know this is silly, because whenever an old friend calls or writes to YOU, out of the blue, you are more than thrilled to hear from them?

Yeah.  That.

It starts to feel like it is somehow too late to get back in touch – or in this case – getting back to blogging.

But I’m getting back in touch.

Hi.

How have you been?

It’s hard to avoid the use of the word “busy” here. I’m tempted to say that my life has been busy, that I’ve been busy having and raising babies, working, living life.  But I don’t really like that word.  It seems rushed, harried, un-fun.  My life has been full. And mostly fun.

Pistachio arrived in late-January.  My dearest third. My baby boy. He is a delicious – a scrumptious! – little human.

Handy

Life with three children under the age of four?  It is… well, GOOD.  (What, were you expecting me to say “busy”?)  Three small, loud, needy, hysterical (in both senses of the word) people do require much time, love and attention.  But that lovely third child has made my days feel more like a dance than a tennis match.  I struggle to keep the beat sometimes. But three means it is no longer either/or, him/her, you/me.  Three means us.  I am, surprisingly, less stressed than I was with two.  Perhaps this is due to the new balance, but perhaps it is me letting go of things, too.  Whatever the reason, three is good.  So good.

So here I am.  Back on track.  Back at it.  A return to my Sarky self.

I hope you are well.  I’ll be in touch.  No really, I will.

Mama’s Minivan

So we did this…

Yes, this is a minivan.

Yes, this is a minivan.

A year ago – maybe more – I took the champagne flutes out of the cabinet and a slew of sippy cups took their place.  Now, I own a minivan.  Transformation complete.

And the reason for the minivan?  We also did this…

Baby 3 - aka Pistachio

Baby 3 – aka Pistachio

The tiebreaker Tartlet is scheduled to arrive in January.

So far I’ve heard all of the regular responses:
  • You only have 2 hands!
  • You’re going to need a minivan! (Check!)
  • You’re going from a man-to-man defense to zone defense!
  • You DO realize there is birth control, right?
I’ve also heard:
  • Don’t stop at 3, have more!  (Interestingly I heard this from two good friends, both men, both with 3.)
So yeah.
I guess my husband and I have always felt like three was our number.  So we’re going for it.  I’m not going to lie.  We recently crunched the numbers and it seems crazy.  I had two grumpy/sick children last night and slept 4 hours last night, it seems crazy.  We will have 3 children under 4, which seems crazy.  (Aside: I DID just meet a woman who had her first and then 10 months [!] later had twins, so she had 3 under the age of 1!  She survived.  That makes me feel a bit better. Kind of.)  So yes, it does feel a bit crazy.
And we’ve used up both our names.  So Baby 3 is currently being referred to as “Commodore”.  Here’s hoping we come up with something before January.  A friend suggested that I refer to Baby 3 as “Pistachio” here on Sarky T.  I like it.  We’ll have a Pickle, a Plum and a Pistachio.  Works for me.
I’m trying to enjoy this pregnancy (thankfully, I have few complaints) as it is (very very very) likely my last. I’m trying to set into memory the butterfly kicks, and changes my body is going through. Everything happens earlier this time around – the good stuff – like feeling the kicks, and the not-as-great stuff like the waddle, round ligament pain, and heartburn.  The midwife calls it 3rd baby syndrome.  I trust her – she has 4.
An adventure, for sure.

Permission Granted

By the power vested in me by… well, no one, I’m giving you permission.

A friend called me, concerned. She had breastfed for a year, and didn’t feel like stopping but thought that somehow she should. “Can I keep breastfeeding?” she asked, unsure of herself. “Of course you can!” was my response.

Speaking with the receptionist at my dentist’s office, she worried aloud about her daughter, a new mom, who was barely keeping hide and hair together, sad, working full time, commuting too far, pumping and nursing around the clock, with a grumpy baby who didn’t sleep. (Okay, maybe my dentist’s front office staff is prone to oversharing, but I don’t mind, the ladies are lovely.) “Has anyone told her she can stop pumping or nursing?” The receptionist was caught off guard by my suggestion, probably figuring that her daughter already knew that. But I wasn’t worried about whether she knew that, rather, I wondered if anyone had ever told her so, out loud.

So let me say it outloud, er, in writing. You have permission. Sometimes you just need to hear someone else say it.

These are breastfeeding examples, but there are so many more.

Motherhood, strike that, parenthood is really just improv. You do the best you can, as you go, guided by instincts, friends, family, doctors, books, and the internet. It’s no wonder that so many of us second guess our choices and decisions. I do it all the time.

So here’s the thing. Odds are very good that you’re doing it right.

We don’t tell each other that enough.

So stop second guessing.

Do you want to stop breastfeeding? Stop breastfeeding.

Do you want to keep breastfeeding? Keep breastfeeding.

Do you want to name your child “North”? Go ahead.

Do you want to circumcise/not circumcise your son? Do it.

Do you want to make your child wear a onesie that says “I heart titties and beer”? Um, no. Please, don’t do that.

But you get my point.

Two Hearts.

Plum turns one on this week. She is my dear little one, and is so much her own little person. And now that those ears have gotten better (mostly) she really is a delight – silly, weird and smart.

Plum at One

I must admit, that it took me the better part of the year to figure out life with two. It was a hard year. Just when I was getting used to this whole kid business, Plum came along and upset my confidence and equilibrium. She was not a particularly difficult baby (except we still haven’t gotten that sleeping thing down). It was just that sometimes I felt like life had become one of those fast-forward film reels. Completely normal, I know, but still tough.

We welcomed a new nephew on Saturday. He is a gorgeous little boy, and we are so excited he is here. He is a second child. His birth, and Plum’s birthday have meant some mama-reflection on what life is like with two.

Second Baby Surprises

I so enjoyed my maternity leave the second time.
First, Plum’s birth was SO much easier on me physically. I felt surprisingly good after delivery, which made those first few weeks so much better. The pinched nerve in my back, and time of year made it tough, but I was armed with better knowledge of my rhythms and the rhythms of a newborn. I loved cuddling and nesting. We kept Pickle in his regular routine of daycare/school 3 days a week. So for those days it was just me and Plum, cuddling and napping and getting to know one another. It was awesome. Oh, and I watched seasons one and two of Downton Abbey – added bonus!

It is a different kind of hard.
I had been warned that a second child didn’t make things two times as hard, a second child made things 100 times as hard. Thankfully, I found this was not quite true. With one, you’re already giving it your all, with two, you’re still giving it your all, just differently. Two IS hard, so hard. But it is a different kind of madness. It means you spend your day managing the needs of the littles. It means you have to get good at needy child triage. Whose needs trump right now? Some days, everyone is in the groove, and you can jump from task to need to play to nap to meal to task smoothly. Most days it doesn’t feel like that. Most days I feel like I’m scrambling behind the runaway train, hoping things don’t go too far off the rails. Plum needs to be soothed and rocked and fed and Pickle is bellowing from downstairs that he NEEDS ME NOW because he needs his bum wiped. And in order for me to respond that “I’LL BE RIGHT THERE!” I have to yell, which wakes up Plum. And then no one naps. And then people start throwing things and then there are tears, from everyone. Including me.

I came to trust Pickle more.
I had to. When Plum needed changing, feeding or rocking it was often impossible to convince a stubborn 2-year-old to come along (and sit quietly). So instead of dealing with two crying children, I had to trust him enough to leave him alone downstairs, playing, by himself. I had to trust that he wouldn’t break things, hurt himself, leave, make incredible messes, etc. There were some minor mishaps, but for the most part, he was a champ. And he rose to the challenge, feeling accomplished and proud that he could be in charge of himself for a bit.

Baby two helped me to better understand the relationship I have with my younger sister.
It is so interesting to watch a sibling relationship develop as a parent. Pickle is annoyed by his younger sister, of course, but he is also fiercely protective, loving and sweet. Plum gets frustrated with her older brother – who tries to boss her around and is constantly taking things away from her – but adores him all the same. She grins like a Jack-o-lantern when he goes to visit her in her crib in the morning. He is the best at making her laugh. Their relationship has helped me understand some of the dynamic between my sister and I growing up.

The quiet moments are sweeter.
Mostly because they are fewer. (HA!) I would have preferred a stellar sleeper, but Plum isn’t wired that way. And while it sometimes makes for exhausting days, the middle of the night feedings and cuddles have been more magical than maddening. The moments when it is just the two of us, in the glow of the nightlight, cozy in our pajamas, is the best. And the time cuddled with Pickle, reading a book, and stealing moments together while Plum naps, is lovely. Thankfully, these sweet quiet moments continue, and now sometimes include all three or us, or all four of us even. Last night Pickle perched quietly on the edge of the glider, snuggled into my left shoulder, while Plum had her pre-bed bottle, cradled in my right arm. As I sang silly, made-up songs (requested by Pickle, of course) I realized that it just doesn’t get much sweeter.

Two Hearts

Baby Favorites (Giveaway!)

As I switched on the quiet whhhiiiirrrrr of the white noise machine Mr. Pickle’s thumps and yells instantly became background noise.  Plum closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

I have my own white noise machine, Plum is a light sleeper, Pickle is loud, and our house is small.  I don’t know why it took me so long to get her her own white noise machine.  She has slept better, and longer with it.  (Of course, the ear tubes and her age could have something to do with that, too.) Add that magical machine to my list of favorite baby things!

What follows is a partial list of my didn’t-want-them/didn’t-know-I’d-need-them/had-no-idea-how-much-I’d-love-them items for newborns/infants/toddlers.

Dohm-DS Dual Speed Sound Conditioner by Marpac

Dohm-DS Dual Speed Sound Conditioner by Marpac

There are cuter ones, but I love this white noise machine.  It creates a whoosh of air, so there are no strange electronic loops.  You can change the tone and speed (volume).  It is very portable and does exactly what it is advertised to do.  The only negative? No bells, whistles, music, lights if that’s what you’re looking for.

Carter's One-Piece Microfleece Zip-Up Sleeper

Carter’s One-Piece Microfleece Zip-Up Sleeper

Cozy, comfy and inexpensive. I love these. We have all sorts of one-piece sleepers and these are my favorites.  When you’re doing a squirmy-wailing-middle-of-the-night diaper change the zipper is a lifesaver – who decided 15 snaps was a good idea?  These wash well and my little ones seem to think they’re great.  Thank you Carter’s! The only negative?  Pickle has big feet, and sometimes his feet outgrew the sleepers before the rest of him did. Also, they aren’t ideal during potty training.

The Happy Frog mobile by Flensted

The Happy Frog mobile by Flensted

I like old-fashioned mobiles. I don’t want big fluffy, chunky animals, music, plastic.  I like airy, elegant, whimsical, floating mobiles. I like mobiles that dance, and balance.  Thankfully, I found Flensted mobiles. LOVE.  I’m considering getting more of them – like the bunnies (BUNNIES!), or the cycling elephants (CYCLEPHANTS!). I want to put funky Danish mobiles all over my house.  The negatives? A little expensive for paper and wire, and sometimes I fear the mobile will get wound up up up when the ceiling fan is on and it circles in same direction over and over and over.

"That's Not My Donkey..." by Fiona Watt and Usborne Publishing

“That’s Not My Donkey…” by Fiona Watt and Usborne Publishing

It is hard to find books for little bitty ones. Attention spans are short and there are much more exciting things to do, like eating things they should not, sticking fingers in outlets, and tormenting the cat.  However, the “That’s Not My…” series by Usborne has proven to be a huge hit among my under-2 set.  They are short, sweet, tactile, and colorful.  Negatives?  My husband and I disagree about the appropriate emphasis. Is it, “That’s not my donkey, its tummy is too squashy” or “That’s not my donkey, its tummy is too squashy“?  Also, is “squashy” a word?

Giveaway!  Post a comment here and be in the running for two Usborne books and two Carter’s Microfleece sleepers!  Winner will be chosen at random, and can specify age and size of recipient(s).  (No, you don’t have to have kids/grandkids to win! These make great shower gifts, or donations!) (Update: ends at noon EST on 1/22/13!)

Note: I don’t know anyone at Marpac, Carter’s, Flensted or Usborne.  I just think these baby-related items are great.

Here’s Looking at You…

I don’t know what to call my children.

Oh, I know what to call them to their faces: their names, love, my love, sweetie, pickle, pickle pie, doodle.

And I know what to call them here: Mr. Pickle and Miss Plum.

I just don’t know what to call them when I am referring to them individually.

Because in most instances, I don’t like the word “kid.”  I know. Weird.

It sounds strange to me, almost low brow. It sounds condescending. It sounds mean, “Hey Kid! Get off of my lawn!”

It clangs against my brain like hearing people refer to their spouses/wives/partners/girlfriends as “the old lady” (in my house that is grounds for immediate, no-contest divorce).

The only people who gets passes for using the word “kid” are boxing coaches, bookies, and Bogart.

Plural? That doesn’t bother me. “My kids are great, thanks for asking!” or “Time to go gather the kids from Grandma’s house!”

I know I’m not the only one with a weird word aversion. My college roommate (and about 30% of the population, it seems) doesn’t like the word “moist.” (Pondering: I wonder how they would describe their perfect cake?)

So here’s the problem… I can’t figure out the right word to use. Sometimes it just isn’t appropriate to use their first name (for example, looking for shoes in a store, the sales person will think I’m weird if I say, “Mr. Pickle needs shoes,” since he/she doesn’t know Mr. Pickle.)

Options

  • Child – too fancy-formal-pants-y. And a little Priest-ly? (Not 90210 Jason Priestly – the Churchy, collared type.)
  • Kiddo – I don’t mind it, but recently it has been seen on some lists of overused words/phrases alongside amazeballs, awesome sauce, DH, hubby, OMG, and Ryan Gosling.
  • Peanut – No.
  • Kidlet(te) – I like this one, but I sound like a schmuck saying it out loud. And it maybe too close to “piglet”.
  • Son/Daughter – Probably the best option, though a bit formal.

So what are your word aversions? And how do you refer to your offspring? Inquiring minds want to know…