On the Road: Charleston (Day Two)

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As usual, B was riding in style on this trip. People were stopping us on the street to comment on this stroller/backpack. In case you are wondering, it’s by Kelty, but has been discontinued. I don’t know why because it is pretty much the perfect item for traveling with a small child. But, you might be able to score one on Ebay, like Chester did.

Our second day in Charleston, started with brunch at Hominy Grill. This homey little restaurant is like Sabrina’s, with a Southern flair. We indulged in boiled peanuts, shrimp and grits (Chester) and a fried green tomato BLT (me). Of course, since this was a vacation, I had to get dessert—a thick slice of caramel pecan layer cake. All delicious, but definitely made me feel like I needed a session on the elliptical machine.

Luckily, we burned some calories (literally. It was so freaking hot. And, I of course, had packed all of the wrong clothes since it felt like fall when we left Philly.) with a long walk from the center of town to Liberty Square. Once there, we caught the ferry out to Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. The trip takes about 30 minutes. B was with the whole experience of her first ferry ride.

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View of the fort, from the ferry

Once at the fort, we had one hour for a self-guided tour. The site also includes a small museum with various artifacts from the war, but we stuck to the outside. I am not a big Civil War buff, but it was nevertheless humbling and somewhat eerie to be standing in a place where so many people lost their lives.

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On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by Caviar and Bananas, a gourmet market and cafe, to grab dinner to bring back to the hotel. There were so many options to choose from—including sushi, salads, soups, pasta and sandwiches—that I had a hard time deciding what to get. The East Coast salad (with honey glazed chicken, goat cheese, fresh strawberries, dried cranberries, toasted hazelnuts, and arugula) did not disappoint. This place needs to branch out to Philly!

I still have two days worth of photos to go through. More soon (read about our first day here)!

On the Road: Charleston (Part 1)

We had a few criteria on our list when we were considering fall vacation options. For example, we wanted a relatively short flight, activities that B would enjoy and the ability to keep a somewhat relaxed schedule (i.e. enough things to do to keep us busy, but not so much that we would attempt to pack too much in to a few days).

We had always wanted to visit Charleston, SC and it fortunately ticked off all of these bullets. So, we packed up B and off we went!

As is typical, I took a billon pictures and I’m just getting around to looking through them So far, I’ve sorted through the shots from our first day in town, and I am excited to share some of the highlights from that part of our trip.

Our flight arrived in the early afternoon. B surprised us by sleeping nearly the entire two hour flight, so she was ready to go exploring after we dropped our bags off at the hotel.

One of the main attractions in Charleston are the plantations and gardens, which are about a 30 minute drive from the center of the city. There are nearly a dozen to see, but we narrowed it down to just two on this trip, starting with Magnolia.

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The plantation dates to 1676 and has been in the hands of the same family for nearly 15 generations. It originally functioned as a rice plantation, but in the aftermath of the Civil War, the family opened the grounds to the public in an attempt to recoup some of their losses. It quickly became a popular tourist destination (it bills itself as the most visited plantation in Charleston) due to its immaculately kept gardens.

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This is the third version of the plantation house. Two other structures were destroyed by fire at various points in history.

The house is only accessible to the public through a guided tour, and B didn’t really want to participate in that. So, we spent most of our visit outside and practically had the place to ourselves. It was so peaceful to wander around the grounds, pretending that we stepped back in time. Perhaps due to the time of year, there weren’t too many flowers in bloom (the plantation is best known for azaleas, which bloom in the spring and camellias, which bloom later in the fall), but towering oak trees and canopies of spanish moss made for an impressive–and dreamy–effect.

 

27Long Bridge over Cypress Lake–one of the most photographed bridges in the country.

29Loved the reflections of the trees in the water

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34Along the Ashley River

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B’s favorite part was the petting zoo, where she didn’t get to touch anything because…germs. But, her reaction to the animals was absolutely priceless. She called all of them “dog” or “Eddy” (the name of my mom’s dog, for those who have forgotten) and giggled and pointed at them like a crazy person.

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The other thing that drew us to Charleston was the promise of good food. The restaurant scene there has been getting a lot of buzz in the last couple of years, for its combination of traditional Lowcountry cuisine as well as innovative restaurants serving up eclectic dishes with locally sourced ingredients.

On our first day, we stopped for a quick lunch at Two Boroughs Larder, a combination grocery store and cafe. The menu included an assortment of entrees and small plates, breakfast sandwiches served all day, and a “bowl of noodles” (the description was similar to Pho).

Although there were a lot of options to choose from, nothing on the menu really jumped out at me. Maybe it was the fact that some of the dishes that sounded good at first glance had an odd combination of ingredients when I read the description further (smoked yogurt with beets, ham and pumpkin seeds?). Or, perhaps it was because we had been traveling all day and I gotten to the point where I was starving but didn’t know what I wanted to eat. I ended up with the chicken boudin blanc (a sausage made from chicken, pork and cream) sandwich and Chester got the bratwurst. Both were delicious, but not particularly memorable.

We stopped at Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ to pick up take-out to eat at the hotel after B went to bed (this was after we stopped at the best Target ever (so well organized, well stocked and attached to a mall) to stock up on supplies for B. Times have changed!). I’m not a barbecue connoisseur, and I definitely prefer the sweet style that you can get around here to the traditional Southern style that is heavy on the vinegar. Still, my pulled chicken sandwich and mac-and-cheese hit the spot, but Chester really made the best choice with his combination plate of brisket, ribs and pork.

The best meals of the trip were still to come, but it was a great first day.

 

Pumpkinland!

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She should be in a Gymboree catalog, right?!

Even though she was around this time last year, B wasn’t really “with it” enough to do any fun fall activities. As she gets older, I am excited to start some family traditions with her. The first thing on our list was a trip to Pumpkinland at Linvilla Orchards. Fortunately, last weekend provided the perfect weather for our excursion. Our first order of business was a visit to the farm market for some treats. 7

We skipped picking our own this year, but did bring home some delicious honey crisps from the market

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Enjoying apple cider–in drink and doughnut form!

We checked out the barnyard and then B pretended to be a few of the animals. 17e When B sees one or two pumpkins on doorsteps or in windows around South Philly, she gets pretty excited. So, her eyes nearly popped out of her head when she saw thousands of them, in all colors and sizes, in Linvilla’s pumpkin yard. We took a ridiculous  number of pictures of her sitting in piles of pumpkins, but here are a few of my favorites. Her expressions are just so darn cute! 20 40 53a 35 I thought she would be more excited about the hayride, but she looked pretty bored the entire time. I think the combination of the warm sunshine, tractor exhaust and sugar coma nearly lulled her to sleep. Or, maybe it was just a little too country for our city girl. 56 If you plan to go to Linvilla, be warned it is INSANE on the weekends. So, pack your patience or maybe try to get there on a weekday when things are slower. Either way, there are tons of activities, including pick-your-own apples, a corn maze, playground and occasional live music to keep kids of all ages entertained for the better part of the day. We had a great day and look forward to going back next year!

Little B: 13 Months

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I’m excited to kick off the second year of B’s monthly updates. Let’s not dwell on the fact that she turned 13 months old almost two weeks ago and I am just getting around to posting this—life has been busy!

Although B changed so quickly during her first year, the transition between 12 and 13 months was the most dramatic, in my opinion. It seemed like she went from baby to toddler overnight. She says and does so much and her personality is really shining through.

Here are a few of this month’s highlights:

Doing

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From the photo shoot blooper reel. This kid cannot sit still!

As I have been saying for a couple of months, she is this close to walking. Seriously, though. I mean it this time! She is still cruising around like a champ, but she can stand and balance on her own for a good ten seconds without holding on to anything. It’s only a matter of time!

Saying

I love hearing her sweet little voice and am surprised by how many words she can clearly enunciate. New ones this month include “up,” “apple,” and “Elmo,” “all done” and a pretty good approximation of her name.

She makes an effort to sound out new words and understands even more things than she can actually say. For example, if we say “where are B’s toes/fingers” she proudly holds them up. She has learned how to click her tongue and the sound seems to thrill her. She has also developed a cute little habit in which she will point back and forth from herself to any object that she is interested in, as if to say “Will you give that to me?”

Personality

She is still our “Bipolar Express.” When she is happy, she can’t stop laughing When she is angry, she will punch you in the face (it’s happened to me!). She can also be super playful. She loves chasing us around the house, laughing insanely the entire time. Sometimes, she will play jokes on us by pretending to offer us food, a toy or a kiss before changing her mind.

Milestones

Four teeth (all on top) came in during a two week span. That makes a grand total of 6!

She is down to one nap a day, in the morning. The length of time is still completely unpredictable, sometimes sleeping for 30 minutes, other times for 2 hours.

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Favorite napping place: Mom and Dad’s bed

She got measured for her first pair of real shoes (she is a 4.5…for now). She was none too pleased when they were first on her feet, but started strutting around and showing them off in no time.

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Showing off her new kicks.

Shortly after getting them, she started training for a career as a tap dancer.

Favorite Books

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 A typical morning. 

Books seem to capture her attention more than toys, but she particularly loves Goodnight Moon (she knows exactly where it is on the bookshelf and points to it until we take it out to read at bedtime); Five Little Pumpkins; anything with a mirror in it, so that she can give the baby in the mirror a kiss (at the moment, I Love You Little Pumpkin  and Guess Who? are in heavy rotation)anything in the Curious George series.

Favorite Foods

Anything the adults are eating; Cheerios (always and forever); roasted sweet potatoes; ricotta fritters; ditalini pasta (yes, only this particular shape); yogurt; peas; eggs; toast with cream cheese and fruit; prunes. She has fully transitioned to whole milk, and for the most part it agrees with her (on the days that it doesn’t we are glad that she likes those prunes!). Her appetite varies throughout the day. Sometimes, she eats everything we put in front of her and other times everything ends up on the floor. She usually eats best at breakfast and lunch and it’s hit or miss at dinner time.

Favorite songs

She is still a huge fan of music and dancing. If Your’re Happy and You Know It; The Wheels on the Bus never fail to get her moving. Alarmingly, she also seems to be a fan of songs/rhymes that involve violence and injuries, such as Three Blind Mice, Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill.

Favorite Things

Musical instruments, especially the piano and ride-on zebra she got for her birthday; The stuffed panda that Auntie B brought home from China; pumpkins; all animals, even though she still thinks every creature she sees is a dog; getting her nails filed (I can’t wait to have a new salon buddy in a couple of years).

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Cuddling after story time with panda

Least Favorite Things

Getting a bath; having her clothes/diaper changed; having her teeth brushed; headbands/hats–basically anything on her head, which is a shame because she look so stinking cute with accessories.

Fun Experiences

We took her on her first trip to Philly’s Magic Gardens. She loves colors and mirrors, so I figured she would enjoy it. And, she did! She loved breaking in her new shoes on all the cool tiles.

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We also took her on a little vacation to Charleston, South Carolina, where we spent a few days exploring the city and surrounding plantations and eating delicious food. She was the perfect travel buddy and I have more to say about our trip in a separate post!

What I Read: September

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It might surprise you to learn that I am a total introvert. Sure, I have a job that requires me to interact with lots of people on a daily basis, frequently at large events. While I enjoy my work and the people I get to meet, I definitely find the business of talking with people all the time draining rather than energizing. I can fake my way through, but often need to hide in the bathroom in the middle of an event, just so that I can have a few minutes to recharge.

For the most part, I embrace my introversion. I used to wish I was the kind of person who didn’t hesitate to speak up in meetings and I forced myself to go to parties in college or to happy hours with co-workers, because that’s what I felt like I should do, even though these gatherings made me feel like I wanted to jump out of my skin. Eventually, I realized that there were other things I could do to make an impact on work/school projects without being the loudest person in the room. And, I decided that it made me happier to spend my free time grabbing a cup of coffee and having a good conversation with a friend, instead of counting the minutes until I could stop making small talk and slip out the door. If other people think that’s weird, well then, too bad!

Embracing introversion is the premise of Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I first started reading the book way back when it came out in 2012, but never finished it before it was due back at the library. But, I picked it up again because I have been feeling my introverted tendencies quite a bit lately. I think it has to do with the fact that between work and life at home with a tiny human, I’m “on” most of the time and moments to recharge are few and far between (yes, even the bathroom at home is not a safe place anymore!).

Cain begins the book with a few stories of the difficulties that her introverted nature posed for her in her former corporate law career. The personal context makes her relatable, but is balanced with a historical discussion of the “extrovert ideal” in Western culture (including stories of notable leaders and creative thinkers, like Ghandi and Dr. Seuss, who were introverts)  and findings from biology, psychology, neuroscience and evolution that illustrate why introversion isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I chuckled at portions of the book that described me to T, such as her discussion of “pseudo-extroverts” (i.e. those that can appear extroverted when needed, for the sake of people/work that they love or other things that they value highly, as long as they are also able to carve out “restorative niches” for themselves). This time around, I was also particularly interested in the section on child development, in which Cain described how parents can relate to and support their children, no matter where they fall on the introversion/extroversion spectrum.

While Cain does spend most of the book talking about why it is perfectly okay to be an introvert, she actually does a good job of advocating for those on both sides of the spectrum. For example, she talks at length about the differences between introverts and extroverts in the workplace, citing examples of the strengths that each personality type can bring to managing teams. Overall, she effectively illustrates that there are positives and negatives to each type of temperament, provides good advice for how introverts can more effectively communicate with their extroverted counterparts in a variety of settings, and how we can choose environments and situations that make the most of our characteristics.

Cain’s book is an interesting read for anyone looking for an exploration of what it actually means to be an introvert and for people like me who just need a little reassurance that it’s okay to be, well, quiet.

Speaking of taking time to recharge, we are doing exactly that this week with a little family vacation in Charleston, SC. B is an awesome travel buddy, and I can’t wait to share some photos when I get back!

First Birthday Bash!

We continued to celebrate Little B’s birthday into the month of September with a fun, little party for family and friends. Turning one is a big milestone, so it totally deserves multiple celebrations, right?

In my typical fashion, I overthought every element of the party (an occupational hazard of a career in event planning is that it has a way of taking some of the fun out of personal celebrations). Starting with the location.

I wanted to keep things pretty casual and cost-effective, but there was no way we could host a group of 30-plus people in our tiny house. I thought about renting a picnic area at a local park, but wasn’t thrilled about having to deal with permits or inclement weather. The local play places (such as Nest and Smith Playground), were nice, but pricey. These options will be great for the future, but with a guest list comprised of mostly adults and kids that aren’t really walking yet, they didn’t seem like the best fit for our group either.

At a loss, I asked for ideas on a local parenting message board that I frequent, and someone shared that they hosted a first birthday party at a frozen yogurt bar in their neighborhood. This seemed like a brilliant way to keep the kids and adults happy. So of course, I stole the idea and called up at Zoey’s in the Italian Market. They had a small, private room in the back that was the perfect size for our group and every flavor of frozen yogurt and type of topping imaginable Perfect!

I considered a few themes, but in the end, decided to keep things simple and just focus on the birthday girl and her milestone age (that, of course, didn’t stop me from obsessing about what color plastic utensils to buy, of course. Everyone who works at the Party City in South Philly now knows that I am insane.).

The pink/orange/polka dot/chevron decor followed from the adorable printable invitations, banners and favor tags that I purchased from Etsy seller Ooodles and Doodles. We added in a few DIY elements, including a chicken wire picture frame to display her monthly photos (thanks, Checkter!) and cupcake liner flower centerpieces that I stayed up way past my bedtime to put together (if you are wondering, I debated over just the right colors/patterns of said cupcake liners for way longer than necessary. Everyone who works at the AC Moore in South Philly also knows that I am insane). We brought in hoagie trays from Sarcone’s and a seriously delicious Funfetti cake with vanilla buttercream from Whipped Bakeshop and we were ready to party.

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And, of course, everyone had all the sweet treats that they could handle! (It’s a little hard to appreciate in these photos, but I would like the point out that the birthday girl fit right in with the color scheme with a special outfit from Etsy seller PDS113. She also had an adorable headband from Pretty Little Elm, that didn’t stay on for long).

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Vanilla yogurt and mango sorbet for the birthday girl!

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She was scooping up yogurt by the handful during these photo ops!

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With Auntie B, Uncle B and Joey!

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She had no problem smashing up her cake here!

We were so fortunate to be able to celebrate B’s special day with our amazing family and friends.

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With Grauntie, Granny, Lola and Lolo. Even after several takes, we failed to get a photo in which everyone was looking at the camera.

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Former carpool buddies, plus one!

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B’s newest friend + the youngest party guest, four-week old Carmendy and her dad, Richard. You must click over to Louisa’s blog for the story of how she made her entrance into the world.

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Jack, B’s future husband.

Thanks to everyone who joined us!

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The after-party, at home

The Little Moments

Kurt Vonnegut said “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” As I scroll through the photos we have taken recently, I am reminded of what a valuable piece of advice this can be.

After a somewhat stressful first birthday weekend, we wanted to have a low-key day for just the three of us to be together. We decided to head over to Franklin Square Park for a ride on the carousel.

I placed B atop one of the shiny horses and she grabbed right on. As I held on to her, I could just sense her anticipation as we waited for the ride to start.Birthday_Week-46

When the music started and the carrousel begin to turn, I thought she would be scared. But, when I looked at her, the first thing that I saw on her face was wonder. And, after that, that pure contentment. There is something magical about seeing the world through a little one’s eyes. It doesn’t really take all that much to make them happy. And, in that moment, without cake, balloons or any real fanfare, B looked like the happiest darn baby on the planet. And, that made me the happiest mom on the planet.

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Yes. Sometimes the smallest moments really are the best moments.
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Little B: 12 Months

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Little B is one!

I have been getting weekly e-mails from Baby Center all year, with the subject line “Your Baby This Week.” When this week’s update arrived in my inbox, with the title “Your Toddler This Week” I almost cried. In my mind, of course, B will always be my baby, but it still makes me a little sad that every time I blink, she seems a little bit more grown up. This time last year, she was a sleepy, little blob and today she is a bouncy, giggly little girl.

During the past month, she learned how to stand up on her own and has become an expert cruiser. She has yet to take any steps by herself, but loves to walk by either holding on to our hands or the furniture. All. The. Time. When we try to let go, she gets a bit panicky, so I often wonder if the reason she hasn’t started walking yet is due in part of a lack of confidence. One of her favorite activities lately is to chase Chester or I around the house when the other one of us is walking her around, so at least we will continue to burn a few extra calories until she decides she wants to take off on her own.

When B does actually stop moving, she likes to climb up on one of our living room chairs to look out the window. She loves to know what’s going on in the neighborhood and waves at the cars that whizz down the street and the hooligans that congregate in the schoolyard. It’s particularly cute when she and Tracy peer out together. They are truly best buds.

I am constantly amazed at how much she understands and how quickly she learns new things. We get so excited when we hear a new “word” emerge. She is all about “dada” these days, and we have heard her say things that resemble bottle and bubble. She strings a series of sounds together that I swear sound just like “I love you” which, of course, melts my heart.

She will shake her head “no” when asked just about any question (when we ask her if she wants her diaper changed, I can see why she responds this way. But, she also does it when we ask her if she wants a snack. Who refuses a snack?!). She has learned how to blow kisses, give high fives, raise one finger when we ask her how old she is and point out the red balloon in Goodnight Moon, her current favorite book. We decided that it would be adorable to teach her “jazz hands,” but so far she only does it one-handed. It’s a work in progress!

She tipped the scale at 19 pounds, 12 ounces (more than tripling her birth weight) and measured almost 28.5 inches (9 inches more than when she was born) at her most recent doctor’s appointment. Her diet now includes a wide variety of finger foods. Some days, she is ravenous and will eat everything we put in front of her and on other days, she is only interested in Cheerios. But, she will at least try everything we put in front of her, which I hope will continue. We got the go-ahead from her doctor to transition her to whole milk, and she has taken to it pretty well so far.

Officially, she still just has two tiny teeth (bottom front), but we can finally see her two top teeth poking through her gums! And, man, have they been giving her a rough time this month. There are times that her level of anger and frustration from the pain makes her almost demonic. I feel terrible that we can’t do more to help, beyond giving Orajel and extra hugs. I’m glad that she won’t remember this time years from now.

One of those cranky days, unfortunately, coincided with her first birthday. I could tell as soon as she woke up that it was going to be a rough day. We tried to make the best of it, but between being out of sorts because of her teeth, short on naps and just generally overwhelmed by the festivities, there were plenty of tears and stress–for all of us–that day.

I know that where babies are concerned you need to manage your expectations, but I really was excited for us all to celebrate the day together and I really wanted her to have fun. So, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t just a tiny bit upset with how the day went. Luckily, we still managed to take plenty of photos, so as I look back on the day I have realized that there were some really sweet moments after all.

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Checking out her birthday loot!

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Enjoying a pancake breakfast

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A new ride


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Digging into cake

We celebrated this milestone a few different ways beyond the actual day, and I have few other posts about those festivities coming up.  In the meantime, I can’t resist sharing some of the sneak peeks from our one-year photo session at Valley Forge Park with Amanda. As I have mentioned before, I am so glad that we invested in photography during the last year. The family photos are particularly special to me; we don’t have a ton of photos of the three of us, since one of us is usually behind the camera.

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I expected that she would have a blast smashing a cake to bits. Who wouldn’t love to have a whole cake to themselves, right? Well, B wasn’t really into it. She poked at the icing for a bit, smeared some on her legs. Finally, she decided that she had had enough and kicked the cake over. It was a unique reaction to say the least, but still adorable!

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It’s been amazing to watch B grow every day. I just feel so darn lucky that I get to be her mother. I am sure that I will always miss the newborn days just a little bit, but I know that there are plenty more memories and milestones ahead for our little family (and, I’m glad that I know a whole lot more now than I did this time last year!). So, bring on year two!

 

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.

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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

 Books

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!

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Bumbo

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.

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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.

genie

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.

gerber-sidesnap

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.

Photography

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).

 Misses

BU-Play-Tray

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.

tub

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.

Shoes

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

NEWBORNBRIDGET-16

 

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.

Like:

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.