Hits and Misses: Play and Everything Else

So, we have covered all of the baby gear, feeding and sleeping/soothing essentials that got us through the first year in earlier posts. For my final baby item list, I’ll share a few of B’s favorite toys, as well as hits and misses for a bunch of random items that don’t really fit into any of my prior categories.


Baby Play college

A random sample…

We registered for a few toys before B was born, but didn’t really go crazy stocking in those early months. Infants don’t really do all that much, after all, so you can pretty much stick to the brightly colored toys that can be hung on the handle of a car seat or dangled in front of baby’s eyes as they learn to focus. Our best purchases included the Sassy Go-Go Bugs (the only thing that kept her quiet on car rides), the Emily Doll by Lamaze (which continues to be one of her favorite things) and the Baby Einstein Ocean Adventure Play Gym (great for tummy time).

Of course, we purchased the ubiquitous Sophie the Giraffe. It is ridiculously priced at $23 (I’m pretty sure you can get something similar in the dog toy section of the dollar store), but she has been chewing on it since she was a little over two months old and it seems to be the only teether that really gives her relief.

At around four months, we broke out the activity saucer and when we realized that she really liked jumping, we scored a Jumperoo in great condition from a local parents’ list serve (If you decide to get these larger items, you can definitely get by with just one or the other. If the jumper hadn’t been such a steal, I wouldn’t have gotten it!) By the time she hit the six month mark, she let us know that she didn’t really like being confined and our usage of them tapered off. But, it was nice to have these items during the time when she was too young to sit up on her own and when I needed a place for her to hang out for a few minutes while I got ready for work. They are still sitting in our living room, so she does play with the toys occasionally while she is standing/cruising around.

At Christmas time, our family members bought out half of Toys R’ Us, and her collection exploded. The nice thing about most of the toys she has, though is that the age range and functionality are broad enough that she will probably be able to still get some use out of them for at least the next year or more. She plays with the Kick and Play Piano, Sit-to-Stand Walker, Ballapalooza, Poppin’ Park Elephant, and Baby Einstein Take-a-long Tunes almost every day.

Of course, there are a few drawbacks to all of those toys mentioned above. Specifically, they all make noise, light up and consume a ton of batteries. Make sure to balance out the crazy with a few simple items. You can’t go wrong with the classic toys that you  stacking rings, a shape sorter, some blocks (we have big foam ones that are easy for her to handle as well as the traditional wooden alphabet blocks that she likes to bang together or knock over if we stack them up for her) and a ball, if you ask me.

Everything else


I will probably be the kind of parent who might say no to buying a toy, but will always say yes to buying a book (or five). I started B’s library while I was pregnant, and she has already exceeded the capacity of the bookshelf in her room. We have a wide variety of story and picture books, and I’m so excited that she loves to be read to and can pass a fair amount of time flipping through the pages. I could probably do a full post just on books alone, but needless to say, I don’t think you can have too many!



We got a lot of use out of this seat between four and six months old, before B could sit up on her own. I would pop her in to it every morning, when I was getting ready for work. She just enjoyed watching all of the action and I felt like it was easier to interact with her and narrate what I was doing when she was sitting upright. I know there are mixed reviews about the safety of this item (it was recalled in 2013 when it was reported that a few babies fell out of the seat), but as long as you use the included restraint belt and keep the seat on the floor, I don’t see any real issues with it.


JJ Cole Bundle Me

If you are here on the East Coast, you know that we had a ridiculously cold winter. You can’t really put a baby into a thick snowsuit or coat and safely buckle them into an infant car seat. And, piling on blankets is just a pain. This car seat bunting was a lifesaver. We would dress B in a few layers and zip this up around her. She stayed nice and toasty we were outside, and the top layer easily zipped off when we ducked inside.

Car Mirror

I have been so thankful for this mirror when I have been on solo car trips with B, and now that she is older she is entertained by her reflection on car trips.

nose frida

The Nosefrida (aka the Snotsucker)

We were fortunate that B had only one really bad cold during this first year, but we more than go our money’s worth out of this strange looking little gadget. Basically, you place the end of the tube at the baby’s nostril and use your own suction to draw all of the gross stuff out of their nose. Disgusting in concept, but it works much better than the bulb aspirators that they give out in the hospital.

Nail files

Baby nails are super sharp and they grow like weeds. B has probably had more manicures in her first year than I have had in my whole life. The idea of using those tiny clippers that come with infant grooming kits on squirmy little hands freaked me out, so I have pretty much only used files to keep her nails in check.


Diaper Genie

I know that there are mixed reviews on the necessity/durability of this product, but I am glad that we have one. We haven’t had a problem with diapers stinking up her room at all. The drawbacks include the expense of the refills and the fact that it isn’t them most well-made product. Somehow, we broke the interior mechanism that traps the diapers, but Chester managed to rig it up again so that it works.


Side Snap Shirts

During B’s first couple of weeks at home, she lived in these shirts, a diaper and a swaddling blanket. They were the easiest thing to dress her in and didn’t interfere with her belly button while it was healing.

Diaper Bag (or two)

Really, what you need is a rolling suitcase to tote along all of the things you will need for even a quick trip out of the house. But, it would probably be impossible to drag that along behind you will pushing a stroller or carrying a baby. You might want to have a couple of different diaper bag options on hand to choose from, once you figure out how much you will be bringing with you on a particular day.

Big Bridget gifted me a lovely Kate Spade diaper bag, which I use for day-to-day outings. It fits all of the essentials, including diapers, wipes, an extra outfit, a bottle/snacks and a couple of toys. I have a small clutch purse that I throw my ID, phone, keys and lip gloss in and we are good to go!

However, for occasions where I can’t pack light, I use the Kelly Moore bag that Chester gave me for Mother’s Day. I actually came across the brand when I asked Google to suggest a brand  that could be used as a diaper and camera bag. It has a ton of pockets and comes with Velcro dividers that let’s you create spaces for all of the baby and camera essentials you will need for a full day or two out of the house.


Chester and I have always enjoyed photography as a hobby, so we both had pretty decent DSLR cameras on hand before B was born. And, we booked three sessions with a fabulous photographer, who captured some beautiful images while I was 35 weeks pregnant, when B was just ten days old and just a couple of weeks ago to mark B’s first birthday.

You are going to want to document every second of your baby’s life, so a quality camera and/or a session with a professional photographer are worthwhile investments. I treasure each and every one of the photos that we have taken over the last year (even those in which my hair is a mess and I’m not wearing any make-up).



Bumbo Snack/Play Tray

We never really used this item. It was a pain to put on and take off, and she wasn’t really snacking or playing independently during the time period that we used the seat, anyway.


Eurobath by Primo

I picked this tub based on the suggestion of Baby Bargains. It’s nice and functional, but I didn’t realize that it was humongous. We have no place to really store it in our tiny bathroom, so it sits on the floor of B’s bedroom when it’s not in use. Drives. Me. Crazy.

“Outfits” for newborns

 As I mentioned in a prior post, stock up on those easy to use one-piece pajamas those for the newborn days and save the cute pants/tops, dresses, and skirts for the days when you actually will be out and about in public and you are less afraid that you will snap your baby’s neck when you put something over her head.


Adorable in photos, pointless in reality. They just do not stay on.

So, this concludes my brain dump of all of the baby things. Hopefully, if you are trying to put together your own registry or pick out a few items for first-time parents these posts provided a helpful starting point. I can only imagine all of the gear that we will have to make room for as we get ready for year two!


13 Things About the First Year of Motherhood



10 days old.

Photo by the fabuloulsy talented Amanda Young

As we approach the end of the month, I’m excited to celebrate two big occasions: Little B’s first birthday and the fact that I made it through the first year of her life.

Before everything turned upside down during the past year, I always approached everything–whether in my professional or personal life–as a “project.” I would do all the research that I could about the task at hand, make a plan and carry out that plan in some sort of linear, organized fashion. Lists and spreadsheets may have been involved. Diversions from the plan or mistakes along the way were most unwelcome. I tried my best to make sure that everything was perfect.

I approached motherhood in the same way. You might remember that I talked about some of the stresses that I was feeling a bit in this post, which I wrote when B was just six weeks old.

It was rough during those first few months. Somewhere along the way, I realized that being a parent wasn’t something that could be managed in a perfectly coordinated way. I got better at going with the flow. At not being so hard on myself when things weren’t perfect. At just being. At taking in all of the little moments instead of just checking things off the list. At realizing the things that really matter.

It’s taken all year, and of course, I still have my moments. But, I think I have come a long way. As I reflect back on the last 12 months, here are a few things that I have learned during the first year of motherhood:

 The first three months are the worst. It’s temporary.

The baby will be so fragile and was so needy and you will be completely clueless about what you should be doing. Life will feel like an endless cycle of bottles, naps, diaper changes, exhaustion and general frustration. You will wish that you could fast forward to a time when those newborn days are over, and your baby less of a blob and more of a person.

Then, all of a sudden, when the baby is about four months old, it will seem like she has finally woken up. And, then being a mom won’t feel like work all the time. The fun moments start to balance out the hard ones. You will love spending your days with her.

It’s a shame that some of the most precious moments come when you are too tired, overwhelmed and anxious to truly appreciate them.  So, take a ton of pictures and try to write down everything that you can about your baby. Otherwise, you might not remember anything about those first few months. Try your best not to wish those early days away. As you get closer to the one year mark, you’ll wish you could go back and relive them again, knowing all of the things you know now.

Everyone will want to give you advice.

Seriously. Everyone. Your mom. Your friends with kids. Your friends without kids. Strangers on the Internet. Strangers in the grocery store. Some of it’s good. Some of it is terrible. Some of it is just plain ridiculous (sleep when the baby sleeps, anyone?)

Smile, nod and thank them for their words of wisdom. And then, decide for yourself what the best course of action is. Be confident in those decisions. You are really the only one who knows what is best for your baby. If that is different than what everyone else thinks, oh well.

You will feel guilty. About everything.

Related to the prior point, you will find that sometimes, the only thing that all that well-meaning advice causes you to feel terrible about some of the choices that you make. There will be some days when you feel like you are trying to balance so many things  at once and failing miserably at all of them.

You will feel guilty about the big things, like how you choose to feed your baby or your decision to go back to work (or stay home). You will feel guilty about the little things, like the time you decided to spend an hour on a Saturday afternoon at the nail salon instead of with your baby.

This particular thought pattern seems to be the hardest to manage sometimes. You constantly need to remind yourself that you aren’t perfect. That it is still okay to have a life outside of your baby. That you are doing what is best for your situation. It’s a lot easier to feel joy when you aren’t carrying around all that guilt.

 You will cry. Over everything…

…Especially in the beginning.

You will cry when she gets formula on her shirt. You will cry when she won’t stop crying in the middle of the night. When she finally falls asleep, you will cry while you watch her, thinking that she is the most beautiful creature in the world.

You will cry when you pack away those newborn clothes and when she crawls for the first time. You will cry on your first day back to work, as you spend more time than you should looking at pictures of her on your phone. You will cry when you come home at the end of the day and she seems less than happy to see you.

You will cry over sad stories that you hear about moms who have lost their babies or about babies who are sick or abused. You will cry in Paper Source when you see a greeting card with a quote that perfectly sums up how you feel about your little one.

Basically, those pregnancy hormones? They never go away again.

Similarly, the baby will cry. Over everything. Sometimes there is a good reason. Sometimes, it’s just because. 

You have verified that your baby isn’t in need of a diaper change, food or a nap. You have followed all the steps in the “The Happiest Baby on the Block” and she just will not stop.

Don’t take it personally. The baby doesn’t hate you and you aren’t a terrible parent. Crying is the only way that they can communicate, but it is often damn near impossible to figure out what the heck is actually bothering them. And, if it gets really bad, there is nothing wrong with handing the baby off to someone else or putting her safely in her crib for a few minutes will you go have a good cry yourself.

You thought “Pregnancy Brain” was bad? “Mommy Brain” is even worse.

 A couple of days after you first get home from the hospital, you will find yourself unable to remember what that huge, box in the kitchen, where you keep the milk, is called. You can’t remember the last time you washed your hair, but you can recite “Goodnight Moon” from memory. Small talk with strangers seems more tedious than usual when you can’t think of anything witty to say.

You will learn to do various tasks, while keeping one eye on the baby to make sure  she doesn’t fall, eat from the dog food bowl or stick her finger in the electrical socket. However, you will soon get so used to dividing your attention that you will find it difficult to focus on one thing for more than five minutes at a time. If you go back to work, your co-workers will love your inability to multi-task or make sense of the even simplest instructions.

Maybe you are just sleep deprived. Or, maybe your brain has to get rid of useless info so you can remember the stuff that you need to do to keep the baby alive and happy. Whatever the cause, just resign yourself to the fact that your brain will never work the same again.

The pre-pregnancy clothes in your closet will probably never fit you again.

Everything shifts around after you give birth. So even once you lose all the baby weight, don’t think you will be able to get back into those skinny jeans. Yes, you will look at your baby and remember that there is a totally wonderful reason why your waistline is wrecked. Still, there is a new level of frustration associated with getting dressed in the morning and all the fun is taken out of shopping for yourself. The good news is that you can channel your energies and funds toward dressing your baby. They look cute in just about anything (and will make you feel jealous that you could never pull off that romper with the pink ice cream cones on it).

There is no such thing as time to yourself any more.

There will be some days when you just cannot wait to put the baby in her crib for the night (Just add this one to the list of things to feel guilty about). The crazy thing is, you will start to miss her before you even leave the room and soon, you will realize that there is really no such thing as time to yourself anymore. You think about the baby 24/7 and you can always find something to do—wash bottles, do laundry, sift through pages of the Google results that are returned when you search “is it normal that my baby…”—even when she is out of your sight.

And, even if you can think of a million ways to fill your time that are not baby-related, chances are, the only thing you will really be able to muster up the energy to do is stare at the television, without really processing what is actually happening on the screen.

Your thoughts will be consumed by the topic of sleep.

For the first few weeks, you will be petrified that something will happen to your baby in the middle of the night and that the only way to prevent it is by keeping yourself awake so that you can stare at her and make sure she is still breathing. You leave the lights on in the bedroom, just so you can be sure that you don’t miss a thing. You start to realize why they use sleep deprivation techniques as a form of prisoner torture.

You will be stressed out because you can’t get the baby to go sleep. Other times, you will freak out because the baby slept for a solid five hours at night without waking up for a feeding, which clearly means that something is wrong with her. Then, there is the whole business of “sleep training” and getting the baby to sleep alone, in its own room. If you don’t do that part correctly, so says everyone, you could be scarring your baby for life.

Eventually, the baby will sleep through the night. You, on the other hand, will become permanently accustomed to sleeping with one eye open.

Just when you think you have it all figured out, you don’t.

Babies are tricksters. They lull you into a false sense of security and then change things up in the blink of an eye, just to make sure you are paying attention.

You think you worked out the perfect eat/sleep/play schedule? That’s awesome! But, it will go right out the window when she starts cutting teeth or going through a growth spurt. She tried green beans on Tuesday and loved them? Don’t be surprised if she is throwing them across the room at you on Wednesday.

At times you feel like a total pro, and then ten minutes later you’ll feel like an amateur. So, get comfortable with constant change and uncertainty. Fast

The love you will feel for your baby is absolutely overwhelming.

It drains all the life out of you, yet makes you feel complete at the same time. And, even if you spend nearly an hour trying to find the words to more adequately describe it, you will fail.

Life will never be the same.

Obviously. See all of the above.

Still, there will be days when you miss your “old life…” in spite of the fact that you can’t really remember any of the details of those good old days clearly anymore.

Even on the worst days, it’s absolutely worth it…

…because if you didn’t put up with the challenges, you would miss out on some of the best moments of your life.


Figuring out this crazy, new life with the guy you love the most by your side and realizing that you couldn’t have picked a better dad for your tiny human.

Watching your family and friends fall in love with the newest love of your life.

A Saturday afternoon with nothing to do except snuggle a napping infant.

The intoxicating smell of a baby’s head.

First smiles. And, even better, first belly laughs.

The totally disgusting parental rite of passage of being pooped on and vomited on. At the same time.

The reaction that someone has when they taste ice cream, tear the wrapping paper off a Christmas present or feel the sand on their toes for the first time.

Cheering someone on as they figure out how to sit or stand up on their own (and realizing all of the basic life skills you take for granted).

Having someone look up at you like you are the best thing that they’ve ever seen.

To my dear, sweet Little B: Every day with you is a gift. I love you. You are more to me than anything in the world. Thank you for making me a mother.

Hits and Misses: Sleeping and Soothing

When it came to sleep-related products, I assumed we would just pick out a crib and a few pairs of pajamas and that would be that. As I delved a little deeper into this category of baby products, I found that there were about 500 different swaddling blankets out there, all promising that the mere sight of the blanket would calm a screaming infant down instantly (seriously, I think the Miracle Blanket does in fact make this claim).

Talk about overwhelming!

Here are a few items to start with for all of your sleeping and soothing needs:



Aden and Anais Swaddle Blankets

If you peruse any baby blogs, you will find that these muslin blankets are, by far, the most recommended baby swaddling option. They are big, easy to use and decorated with the most adorable patterns. In addition to their swaddling capabilities, they are also a great, light blanket for walks on cool days, a handy sun shade for the stroller and a perfect play area for the grass at the park.


Soothie Pacifiers

These are the standard issue hospital pacifiers, and seem to be universally beloved by every baby that I have met recently. B only used a pacifier for the first few months, but you can bet that our house was fully stocked with them and we never left the house without at least two in the diaper bag.

happiest baby

The Happiest Baby on the Block

I received a copy of this book from a colleague at my work baby shower, and it was one of the few books that I read before B arrived. In it, pediatrician Harvey Karp describes that the first couple of months after birth as “the fourth trimester.” In other words, they aren’t quite ready for all that the outside world is throwing at them. Karp suggests that best way to calm them down is to try to recreate the environment of the womb. The rest of the book goes on to outline his “5 S” sleep strategy, which consists of swaddling, placing the baby on its side or stomach, shushing sounds, swinging motions and sucking (on either a pacifier or their thumb).

The rationale behind this method actually makes a lot of sense and the techniques are pretty effective in calming a fussy baby. Sometimes I didn’t even need to go through all five steps before B was out like a light.

If you are a more visual learner, there are also DVDs that explain the method and some hospitals and birth centers offer classes to explain it in more detail.

baby shush

Baby Shusher

We were first introduced to this white noise app by Amanda, the fabulous photographer who took newborn pictures for us when B was just ten days old. Chester and I promptly downloaded it to our phones when we saw it work its magic and keep B asleep for more than an hour during her photo shoot. It makes the perfect shushing sound for Karp’s “5 S” method described above. And, since it is portable, it saved my sanity on quite a few of my solo car trips with B.

crib soothers

Baby Einstein Sea Dream Crib Soother

I purchased this crib soother  a couple of weeks after we transitioned B to her crib and the soft lights and soothing music seemed to make a huge difference in her ability to calm down and go to sleep at night. I, however, realized that the tunes it plays sound a little like the background music that the creepy butler on American Horror Story: Coven used to play in his attic. Thankfully, B has never seen that show.


One-Piece Pajamas

I quickly found out that trying to put a shirt on a newborn baby is absolutely frightening. Their head goes back and forth, like one of those bobblehead dolls they give out at baseball games. So, B lived in button or zip up, footed pajamas for the first few weeks, when all she did was sleep. They were the easiest to take on and off for all of those diaper changes and she seemed pretty comfortable in them. When you are putting your registry together, I recommend stocking up on these in the newborn/0-3 month sizes and buying real “outfits” for later.

sleep sack

Sleep Sacks

Like the A & A swaddles, wearable blankets show up on just about every baby registry must-have list. The main benefit, obviously, is that they keep your baby warm at night, without the suffocation risk presented by a loose blanket. Halo seems to be the most recommended brand, but just about every baby clothing line has some version of this product. We didn’t use these a ton because the upstairs rooms of our house tends to stay pretty warm. So, B was usually fine sleeping in her crib in just a pair of fleece pajamas. But, a few of these are good to have on hand for super chilly nights.

video monitor

Motorola Wireless Video Monitor

In my opinion, a video monitor is a must for peace of mind when your baby is sleeping! I have heard mixed reviews about this model, but we have had no issues with it. The clarity is great—even when it is dark in B’s room at night, I can still see her breathing (which doesn’t mean that I still don’t go up there in person, multiple times during the evening so that I can put my hand on her chest, just to be sure).


I actually don’t think we had any misses in this category! We had things we simply didn’t use, or got very little use out of, but I certainly wouldn’t categorize them as bad products.

Swaddles are a good example of this phenomenon. Every baby is different when it comes to swaddling. B, for example, didn’t really enjoy being wrapped up like a baby burrito (disappointing, because those are totally adorable) and she was only really happy when we swaddled her with her arms out. You might need to practice with a few techniques and blankets to figure out which one makes your baby the most comfortable. We had at least one of all the popular swaddles (including the aforementioned Miracle  Blanket and Summer Infant SwaddleMes), just to have on hand. But, the A & A blankets were the only ones that we ever used.

What would you add to this list?

For my thoughts on a few popular baby sleep solutions, including the Mamaroo, the Rock and Play Sleeper and the Pack and Play, see my baby gear post. 

Little B: 11 Months


Well, it’s time for our last monthly update before Little B turns one. I’m excited to celebrate her big day at the end of this month, but in denial that it’s actually happening. This year has flown by.


Crusin’ along on her first Fourth of July

This month, she learned how to sit down from a standing position and she can bend over and pick up a toy while standing. I thought for sure that when she started to push her walker around the house last month that she would be off and running in no time. But, she is still mostly sticking to crawling. I think it’s because she has realized that it will get her to where she wants to be in the least amount of time. I don’t feel bad on the days that I don’t make it to the gym, because I can stay in shape just chasing her around the house and trailing behind her as she climbs the stairs. (Speaking of which, she made it all the way to the second floor the other day! I’m not sure where she got this daredevil-ish streak—certainly not from her parents!).


Hanging out at her favorite spot in the house.

She points at everything she is interested in or that she wants, so we have taken that as an opportunity to continue introducing new words. She is really good at mimicking sounds, and now seems to say things that resemble bear, ball, baby, dog and Tracy (well, for the most part, B still calls Tracy Eddy, but every so often, an “Acey” sneaks out). She is also getting pretty good at responding to simple commands, such as “come here,” “roll the ball” or “do nice [pet] to Tracy.” I started introducing “share” recently, to get her to give me things that I would rather her not play with (like my phone). So far, she has been selectively cooperating with that one, but it’s never too early to try, right?


Eddy + B = BFF

B also seems to have quite the sense of humor. A few weeks ago, she started blowing raspberries on our arms and it cracked us up. Now, she does it whenever she wants to get a laugh out of us. She has also been super affectionate lately. I just melt whenever she puts her head on my shoulder and gives me a snuggle or when I ask her to give me a “hug,” and she sweetly touches her forehead to mine. As you might imagine, it gets harder and harder to leave the house in the morning.


Pool time!

Unfortunately, there have also been some cranky moments this month, due to teething. She still just has those two bottom, front teeth, but it seems that some of the top and side choppers are trying to make their way in. She doesn’t seem to be a big fan of teethers, but she does like sinking her gums into my arm, which is surprisingly painful and has left me covered in black-and-blue marks.

Her favorite things this month have been picture books, her big, pink ball and the Ballapalooza. She enjoys putting objects in containers, and on occasion has even been able to put the blocks in the right places in her shape sorter. Her dislikes have been pretty consistent for a while. They include having her diaper changed, her face/hands washed and strangers.

Our mini sleep regression from last month seems to have corrected itself, as she is sleeping until 6 a.m. pretty consistently. She is pretty much still a two nap a day gal, although sometimes she will skip her afternoon snooze. She is so much happier in the evening when she takes it though! I can tell that she gets tired during the part of the day, but it is getting so hard to pull her away from her activities. I think she thinks that she is going to miss something.

Some of her favorite foods this month have included peaches, eggs, this orzo salad (which my mom made, minus the chicken and goat cheese, as a side dish for her Fourth of July barbecue. B scooped it up by the handful), and toast, spread with cream cheese or fruit. I am surprised by how many herbs and spices (including cinnamon, oregano, basil and garlic) she seems to enjoy and I hope she will continue to be an adventurous eater! If she could talk, I’m sure she would say that the highlights of her culinary explorations this month were sampling ice cream and pizza at the beach and digging in to her very own plate of mini pancakes at a recent brunch with friends. She is still getting pureed solids, but she seems less and less interested in them as the days go by and is eager to help herself to whatever is on our plates. She is also getting pretty good with a spoon to scoop up food. Sometimes, she ends up putting the handle in her mouth, but at least she has the right idea!


Alright, I guess I can’t put it off any longer. Time to finish planning that first birthday bash!

What I Read: July

perfume collector

When The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro showed up on the list of books that my Nook recommended for me recently, I decided to buy it based on the cover alone–I love that red coat! Then, I remembered that I often choose bottles of wine based on how pretty I think the label is and am often disappointed. Thankfully, this book ended up being a great choice.

When the novel opens, London socialite Grace Monroe has just learned that a complete stranger has left her a sizable inheritance. Shortly after receiving this life-changing bit of news, she also learns that her husband is cheating on her. Naturally, she then jumps at the chance to escape to Paris and find out more about her mysterious benefactor, Eva d’Orsay. The rest of the story weaves in and out of decades and through New York, Monte Carlo, Paris and London as Grace learns about Eva’s past and the role that she played in the career of Paris’ most famous perfumer. Along the way, everything that Grace knew about her own past is shattered and she begins to question how she will spend her future.

The connection between Grace and Eva was fairly easy to guess at the outset of the novel. But, Tessaro focused on interesting themes, including the powerful connection that scent has to memories and our indivdual stories, as she told Eva’s story in the context of the three perfumes that she helped inspire. The tidbits that she wove throughout the novel to explain the art of making perfume were also fascinating.

Prior to reading this book, I wasn’t familiar with Tessaro’s work, but I was pleased to see that she has written a few others as well. I look forward to reading more from her!

Hits and Misses: Baby Feeding

There are lots of things to worry about when you are a new parent, but there are a few things that occupy your thoughts the most:

1.       What should I feed my baby? Is my baby eating enough?

2.       How can I get this baby to sleep longer (so that I can sleep longer)?!

3.       What do I do to get this baby to calm the heck down?

Let’s talk about things related to the first question in this next installment of the “Hits and Misses” series.

Feeding Essentials


avent bottles

Avent Natural Bottles

When I was doing the research to set up my registry, it seemed that the Avent Natural Bottles and Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow were consistently recommended. Both of them claim to reduce colic and make the transition easier if you are going back and forth from breast to bottle. So, I decided to register for a set of each so that we could see what B would prefer.

Breastfeeding didn’t work out for us, so we ended up relying exclusively on bottles. It quickly became clear that B did much better with the Avent variety. She seemed to be pretty uncomfortable after a feeding anytime we used Dr. Brown’s and the valve system that supposedly prevents air bubbles just meant that we had more little parts to clean at the end of the day.

I definitely recommend having a few different types of bottles on-hand in the beginning to find one that works for your baby. And, once you find the one that works, stock up–you might be going through six bottles a day at the beginning! We used four-ounce bottles at first and then transitioned to eight-ounce bottles when B started to drink a bit more at each feeding.

bottle warmer

Dr. Brown’s Bottle Warmer

A bottle warmer is really not an essential item. Obviously, you can just run a bottle under warm water before offering it to your baby. But, we use ready-to-feed formula, so I feel that warming the bottles when they come from the refrigerator is just a nice thing to do for Little B (For a while, I regretted this decision since B would sometimes refused to take a non-warmed bottle when we were out and about during the first few months. She has since become less picky). If you choose to use one of these, this model is a good option since it fits most brands of bottles and takes up minimal counter space. There is a handy chart on the back that tells you how many minutes to set the timer for, based on the number of ounces in the bottle, so you know that the bottle is warmed evenly.

baby food maker

Baby Brezza One-Step Baby Food Maker

If you choose to make your own baby food, you can certainly do so with the basic kitchen items (steamer, food processor, etc) that you likely already have on hand. But, I have enjoyed the convenience of being able to steam and puree food using one item, without dirtying multiple dishes.

I usually make a batch of food for B a couple of times a week. But, most of the time I don’t get a chance to do it until almost 10 p.m. So, the less mess that I can create, the better. In about 30 minutes or less, I can whip up a batch of fruits or veggies that will get us through three to five days.

I also would give a shout-out to the company for good customer service. Shortly after we purchased the machine one of the parts malfunctioned. I sent an e-mail to the company and they sent a new machine out to us in less than a week.


Wholesome Baby Food

This book has been an excellent resources since we started B on solids at 5 months old. The sample feeding schedules were helpful in understanding how to incorporate solids into her diet. And, it includes plenty of recipes, broken down by age, that provide creative ideas for introducing various foods. There is a companion website with additional recipes and resources that I have referred to from time to time, as well.

happy baby

Happy Family Products

When B first started eating solids, Chester and I spent a lot of time in the baby food aisle at Target considering all of the products. It was important to us that we could pronounce all of the ingredients on the package and that the items were made in the US. We settled on this line because of the tasty sounding flavor combinations. B loves the rice cakes, puffs and pouches (well, almost all of the pouches. The Hearty Meal variety with pureed chicken and quinoa was not well received at all).

oxo tot

OXO Tot Items

We have the bowls, a plate, a snack pod, spoons and a straw cup from the line. They are sturdy and have non-slip bottoms to minimize spills. My only gripe about the bowls is that the lids don’t seem to fit very well. So, I wouldn’t recommend them for storing food while traveling, but we haven’t had any issues with them at home.

neat solutions bib

Neat Solutions Bibs

I don’t love the cartoon-ish looking characters on these bibs, but they have a basic, velcro closure so they are easy to put on a squirmy baby. And, they fit close to the neck, so they actually do minimize the mess on B’s clothes.


skip hop

Skip-Hop Drying Rack

I picked this drying rack because it looked kind of cool and it had a small footprint (again, counter space is an issue for us). I hate it. It just doesn’t fit all of the bottles, cups and associated accessories and things are always falling off of it. Next time, I’m getting this model by Boon, which seems to be highly rated and looks even cooler.


Mesh Feeders

I bought these to use during the transition to solids because liked the idea of being able to give B chunks of real food without worrying about her choking. Plus, I had heard that these were good to help with teething pain. But, we just never got around to using them. Then, I heard that they were a pain to clean, and I was glad that we had one less mess to deal with.

take and toss

Take and Toss Straw Cups

These cups were recommended for babies learning how to use a straw on several blogs that I frequent, but I have been finding that the liquid spills out of the hole in the lid, even when the straw is inserted. Perhaps this is because B is still learning how to use a straw, but I tend to think that it’s just an annoying design flaw. Maybe a curved straw would work better?


Tommee Tippee Explora Bib

I go back and forth about whether I like these bibs or not. I do like that they roll up easily for travel and wipe off easily. But, the closure is not very secure and, they gap horribly around the neck, even on the tighest notch, so food always ends up on the collar of B’s shirt.


Baby Brezza Octo Storage System

This system does help to keep frozen baby food organized and the cups also fit in the bowl of the Baby Brezza Food Maker for quick defrosting. But, they have not held up well. In the five months we have been using them, three of them have cracked. I switched to Glad storage containers, which have held up much better and are cheaper.

Looking for a high chair recommendation? Check out my baby gear post!

B at the Beach

Chester and I took a few days off last week so that we could spend some extra time with B. We drove down to Ocean City, NJ for the day so that she could experience the beach for the first time. I can’t resist sharing some of the cuteness.

She laughed like crazy every time the breeze blew through her hair. She was fascinated by the seagulls (she called them all Eddy) and the little kids running around.


One of my favorites from the day. I just love the look of pure joy on her face.

She didn’t seem to mind touching the sand with her hands to pick up shells (which I promptly stole from her because I was afraid they would end up in her mouth). But, when we tried to put her feet in it, her legs would spring right back up. The same thing happened when we dipped her toes in the ocean.






I am fully aware that I look ridiculous here, but I don’t care. My pale skin hates the sun. Plus, I’m pretty proud that I scored that hat for $2. You can bet I’ll be wearing it all summer.

After a couple of hours on the beach, we headed up to the boardwalk for a stroll and some treats. She tried her first bites of Manco and Manco’s pizza and Kohr Brothers’ ice cream.

Beach Trip July 7 2014

It took her a minute to decide how she felt about it. Then, she couldn’t get enough of it.

In short, she LOVED it and Chester and I loved watching her discover something new. I can’t wait to take her back.


A much needed nap after a day of sun, sand and fun.

Hits + Misses: Baby Gear

The first time I walked into a Buy Buy Baby, I was completely overwhelmed. I had no idea that there were so many options when it came to baby items and at 20 weeks pregnant, I was tired, hungry and completely incapable deciding what kind of baby bathtub I needed. Then, I saw the price tags of things and considered the amount of room that they would take up in my house. I’m honestly surprised that my head didn’t explode.

Fast forward a year and I now know that choosing a bathtub was a completely minor decision in the scheme of things. But, in that moment, it was monumental. At least that’s what the people who manufacture and sell baby goods would have you believe. I mean, you don’t want to choose the wrong thing and put your baby at risk for some kind of serious injury, right?

The point is, babies need lots of things and it can be tricky to decide on the “must-haves.” I found the book Baby Bargains helpful in cataloging all the options and explaining which items carried the biggest bang for the buck. But, it is still a lot different when you actually use the items in real life. You might find that you get very little use out of the things you thought you couldn’t live without and that certain things don’t really work as well as you had hoped, either because they just are crappy items or they don’t fit your lifestyle.

So, as B approaches the one year mark, I thought I would do a few posts with some of my picks for can’t-live-without baby items, as well as things that we didn’t really get as much use out of as I thought we would. Hopefully, you will find this helpful if you are preparing to welcome a little one into your family (and now I’ll have a handy list to refer to, if I’m ever crazy enough to do it all over again).

Let’s start with baby gear (also known as the “big stuff”).


Britax image

Travel System

At the very least, you are going to need a car seat. The hospital won’t let you leave with the baby unless you have one. But, I highly recommend getting an all-in-one travel system. Infants sleep constantly (particularly when in motion), it’s a lot easier to just to move the car seat to the stroller and then back to the car, without waking the baby.

I love our Britax B-Agile Travel System. Britax car seats consistently receive high marks for their safety features and the seat snaps easily into a car seat base or stroller. The stroller is lightweight, maneuvers well on uneven city sidewalks, and is easy to open and close with one hand. I also like that both the car seat and stroller have nice, large canopies to keep out the sun.

The only drawback is that the infant seat is bulky, so it can be difficult to carry and maneuver, particularly as the months go on and that baby gets heavier. This is one of the reasons we just switched B over to a convertible car seat (also a Britax). I think this is just the way things are with this kind of system, and not necessarily a reflection of the design of the Britax products.

I can’t remember the specific figures that the car seat/stroller expert at Buy Buy Baby tossed out there, but this also ended up being a pretty cost-effective option, as the system also includes a base for the car seat. The other option, if you choose to go with two different brands for a car seat and stroller is to choose a stroller that allows for the use of a car seat adapter or to go with a dedicated car seat carrier, like the Snap-N-Go, for those first few months.


Ergo Baby Carrier

The Ergo is usually recommended as one of the most comfortable carriers. The way it’s designed distributes the baby’s weight evenly, so it’s easy on mom and dad’s backs and provides the ideal support for baby’s developing spine, hips and pelvis.

If you plan to use it when your baby is under 12 pounds, you should do so with the infant insert (sold separately). I felt like it just made the whole thing bulky. So, I mainly used it around the house, when B was napping but refused to do so in her crib. But, now, it’s one of my favorite items, to use when we running errands or taking walks, particularly because there are many days lately where B is just not a fan of the stroller. It’s nice to have my hands free when we are out and B still enjoys being cuddled up close to me. I’ve been leaving it in the trunk of the car so that I can make sure we always have it handy when we are out and about.



My love for the Mamaroo, which mimics the way that parents bounce up and down and/or sway from side to side when trying to soothe a baby, has been well documented in prior posts. We set it up in our living room, and B took lots of naps in it during those first few weeks. When she was having particularly fussy moments, it was one of the things that could calm her down when nothing else seemed to be working and our arms needed a break. The only drawback is that the base of it does have a rather larger footprint, which is not ideal in a small house. But, it’s still better than having a separate bouncy seat and swing to mimic the variety of movements that this one piece of equipment provides.

rock and play

Rock-and Play-Sleeper

We originally set up the bassinet that came with the Graco Day-to-Night system in our bedroom for B to sleep in during the first few months. As soon as we put her in it on her first night home, she let us know that she hated it. I sent Chester out the next day to buy the Rock-and-Play and she slept like, well, a baby for the next four months. I can see where the deep, structured insert would make an infant feel secure and where the slight incline would be more comfortable for them than lying flat. Another plus, is that it folds up easily, so we were able to move it from room to room for naps, as needed. Did this make the transition to a completely flat crib more challenging? Maybe. But, I think we all appreciated good nights of sleep during those early months where we were trying to figure it all out.


Graco Blossom High Chair

I chose the Blossom based on the fact that it is like having four different seating options in one item: a traditional high chair, infant and toddler booster seats (to be used at the table) and a youth chair Plus, if you have children of different ages, you can use the  highchair and toddler booster or the infant feeding booster and youth chair at the same time. We’ve mostly used the traditional high chair and infant booster a couple of times, but I have no complaints about it, and I like the flexibility that it can eventually offer. I also like that it has wheels. We currently keep it in the dining room when it is not in use, but wheel it into the kitchen so B can throw food on the easier-to-clean tile floor until her heart’s content.



Graco Day-to-Night System

I loved the idea of this system, which features a pack-and-play, portable bassinet, and changing station all in one, when I added it to my registry. But, as I mentioned above, B was not a fan of the bassinet. For awhile, we kept it in our living room, and sometimes she would take (very short) naps in it. But, after a few weeks, it was relegated to the basement. We bought the playard piece of it to my mom’s thinking she would be able to use it for naps there, but so far, she hasn’t.

(Horrible parent alert: we have never really trained B to sleep in her crib, either. When she was very small, I used to hold her for most of her naps. As she got bigger, she started taking naps in bed with me, in her car seat, or in her stroller/carrier if we were out. Yes, I regret this pattern of behavior now).

I still think the multi-use concept is a good one, but in general, a pack-and-play probably makes the most sense for people who plan to travel a lot with their baby. Or, maybe for those people who have three-story houses and want a second changing station/crib on a lower level. We personally just did not get a lot of use out of it. We have only traveled with B once so far, and we were able to borrow a portable crib from the hotel and I didn’t mind going up and down the stairs every time she needed a diaper change or a nap.

What were some of your baby gear hits and misses?


Little B: Ten Months

10 Month

The most interesting baby in the world

We have hit the double digits and the countdown to one is on! At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this was our best month yet!

B has been so playful this month! Peek-a-boo is still a favorite pastime, but this month she also mastered “So Big!” One of the other activities that never ceases to entertain both of us is when I lay floor behind the couch and ask “Where’s Mommy?” She crawls across the room, laughing the whole way, and gives me a big kiss when she finds me.


She is loving the swings at the park these days! Don’t mind her “hat hair!”

She is truly like a little sponge, watching everything and soaking it all in, even if we don’t notice her doing so. She has started to mimic some of the things that we do. For example, Chester taught her how to sway her head back and forth and she pretends to “make calls” on her toy phones (or, our cell phones, when she can get her hands on them). She also seems to know that the remote turns on the television. She loves to press all of the buttons as she looks back and forth between it and the screen, waiting for something to happen.


Her attention span seems pretty decent these days. She often will spend several minutes quietly investigating a toy or other object, turning it over and over to see how it works. She is fascinated by faces. I’ve had quite a few instances of being awoken from naps by tiny fingers poking at my eyelids and attempting to pry open my mouth. She recently discovered the joy of a pot, pan and wooden spoon band. She loves the water, whether she is splashing in the tub or the wading pool in my aunt’s backyard, and, as I was horrified to recently discover, in Tracy’s water bowl.

Her babbling has started to resemble real conversation, her voice rising now and then as if to ask a question. I’m now positive that she associates “ma-ma” with me. “Dah-dah”, “ba-ba” or “du-du”, all seem to be used interchangeably to refer to Chester. She recently started saying “a-boo” when we play peek-a-boo. She recently learned “Eddy,” (Ed-dee) the name of one of my mom’s dogs, and now seems to say it to refer to all dogs, in general. When she wants something, she gestures to it with an open hand, or occasionally, points to it with a finger. She loves praise of any kind, and when we say “yay” or “good job” she always claps for herself. If we tell her “no” she will shake her head (even if the word is actually directed at someone other than her. Most of the time, that person is Tracy).


Celebrating Father’s Day

B’s personality seems to get more dramatic as the months go on. As a result, Chester has recently nicknamed her “Bipolar Express.” She can go from ridiculously happy to a melted down mess in a matter of seconds. I hope that this is a phase, and not a sign of what we can expect to be dealing with for the next 18 years. Unfortunately, we see quite a few meltdowns around here lately. She is really testing the boundaries of where she can go and what she can touch around the house, so we often end up pissing her off when we have to redirect her attention elsewhere.


Treating the staircase like her personal Mount Everest

She still loves standing up. She hasn’t yet mastered the art of getting on to her feet without pulling up on something or someone. She gets into this kind of downward dog position on the floor and then can’t figure out where to go from there. Since her balance is still shaky, she can only last a few seconds before landing on her backside once she lets go.

Slowly but surely, I can see her putting all of the pieces together in her head and getting more coordinated in terms of her movements. She has figured out how to climb the steps in the living room (we really need to get out those baby gates!) and can zip across the floor while pushing her walker.

New foods sampled this month included strawberries, blueberries, zucchini, white potatoes (her new favorite), cottage cheese (a close second. She seemed to devour it even more quickly when it was mixed with green beans) and (the tiniest bits of) chicken and meatballs (which she alternately enjoyed and hated, depending on the day). Dinner time is always our worst meal of the day. She is tired and cranky by the time that part of the day rolls around, and is rarely interested in eating anything aside from Cheerios, puffs, or rice cakes. Now I know how my mom felt when my brother and I refused to eat dinner when we were young.

Mealtimes are a messy affair, as she loves throwing food on the floor (Tracy is definitely eating well these days!) and finger painting on her tray with her purees and yogurt. Sometimes, it takes a good five to ten minutes of those antics before she will even consider putting the food in her mouth. Then, she’ll stuff her face like she hasn’t had a meal in days. She does tend to eat pretty well when we go out, often sharing bites of what Chester and I have on our plates. It’s as though she wants to fit in with the grown-ups, and we like having her as our brunch buddy these days.

brunch buddy

Considering the brunch menu at Porto in South Philly

Our bedtime routine of stories and songs is my favorite part of the day. B listens attentively and gets visibly excited when she sees the covers of her favorite books, like Goodnight Moon and The Three Little Pigs. She seems genuinely sad when we close the last book for the evening and I start singing “You Are My Sunshine” to her. She obviously knows that means it’s last call!

She is still going to bed between 7 and 7:45, but her wake-up times have been really inconsistent lately, falling anywhere between 4:30 and 6:30 a.m. If it’s way early when she gets up, I bring her back to our bed, just like the old days, and try to get her back to sleep. Usually, she just bounces around and laughs for awhile and by the time she falls back to sleep, it’s time for us to get up for the day anyway.

Good times. She’s lucky she’s cute.

pretty girl

One of the few times she has stayed still enough for a photo recently. It’s my current favorite.

Chester took a lot of great photos during our photo shoot this month, and I can’t resist sharing a few more of my favorites!


Scary face


She makes this face a lot lately and it cracks me up!


Finally let her hold a balloon

There have been many days lately, when I just feel kind of down and overwhelmed by a to-do list that does not seem to get any shorter and days that don’t get any longer. That all melts away when I come home at night and B crawls into my lap and rests her head on my chest. And then, I remember that as long as I’ve got that, nothing else matters. She makes my life.

What I Read: June

June was another two book month.


First up, I finished a book leftover from May. Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has Time grew out a piece that journalist Brigid Schulte wrote for The Washington Post in 2010, which explored the decline in leisure time in America. In the book, Schulte blends personal experiences with interviews with, neuroscientists, leisure researchers (who knew there was such a thing?), and regular, everyday people to find out what contributes to our ongoing sense of overwhelm and the impact that this has on family life, productivity and creativity.

Some of the criticism of the book stems from the fact that many felt like Schulte was making this an issue specific to mothers. Since she is a working mother herself, she does tend to focus on this population quite a bit, but was also careful to note and provide examples of how everyone—dads, working professionals without kids, and kids themselves— feels the affect by so many competing demands

Most interesting to me was the comparison of leisure time and family roles in Europe as compared to America and the discussion of progressive offices and flexible work-life scenarios that are already in place within some organizations. Although these examples are still far from the norm, learning about them gives me hope that others will soon come to see that there is a better, more productive way to balance work and life. The book is kind of depressing and hopeful all at once, and I think that just about anyone who struggles with trying to keep an million things in the air at once would find this an interesting read.


My second book was The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. It had been on my wish list since last summer, but I moved it up in the queue after I read an interview in which David Sedaris called it one of his favorite summer reads. He is one of my favorite authors, so I was pretty sure he wouldn’t steer me wrong. I was right—I loved this book!

The story kicks off with a group of six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts, who dub themselves“The Interestings” because they think they are, well, the most interesting people in the world. During the next three decades, we see some people falling away from the group, some of them achieving the fame and fortune and others giving up on their dreams because they realize that, in reality, they are just kind of average. I thought the way that Wolitzer chronicled the way that the friendships among members of the group endure, are tested or break was pretty realistic. I found myself caring about what happened to all of the characters, and stayed up late a few nights in a row just so I could read more of their stories. I would definitely recommend it for a summer beach read.

At the halfway point in the year, and more than halfway to my reading goal!