Hits and Misses: Baby Feeding Essentials

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.

Baby Gear: Hits and Misses

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 have never used the playard piece of it, either.

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!

Little B: Nine Months

9_Month- (1 of 2)

Whenever I write one of these updates, I always think, “Well, that was our best month yet!” Then, during the next month, Little B seems to get even cuter and does even more amazing things. Someone recently told me that “every age is your favorite.” True statement.

At her 9 month doctor’s visit earlier this week, B weighed in at 17 pounds, 15 oz and was almost 27 inches long. She is wearing 9 month sized clothing, but I feel like I need to start stocking up on the next size soon, because she is seems to get bigger every day!

In addition to her first ride in an airplane and out-of-town trip, B took her first trip to the zoo, this pas month.


Taking a break from animal watching with granny


Both B and the gorilla were completely unimpressed with each other

She also tried out a swing at the park for the first time (hated it) and had her first taste of Pop’s water ice and ice cream (loved it).

Water ice collage

We finally have a forward crawler on our hands! She resembles a crab when she does it, scooting on her butt with her knees alongside of her. Still, she gets where she is going—and quickly, too! The first time I saw her do it, I cried. Something about seeing the back of her little head as she made her way toward the front door made me think about those times in the future when she’ll walk out the door and away from us, all by herself (Seriously. What is wrong with me?). She can pull herself into a standing position pretty easily now, so we finally lowered the crib. She likes when we hold her hands and walk her across the floor and has even taken a few tentative steps while holding onto furniture or a railing.

9_Month- (2 of 2)

An outtake from our 9 month photo session. She is keeping us on our toes, for sure!

B seems to recognize quite a few words. For example, if we ask her to wave, clap or kiss, she eagerly shows us her stuff. The latter is my favorite! She sticks out her bottom lip and plants it right on ours or the nose of a stuffed animal.  Similarly, if we say, “where are your balloons?” (the mobile above her crib) or  “where’s Tracy?” she knows just where to look. “Ma-ma” is still one of her favorite sounds. She uses it a lot when she is frustrated about something, but there have been quite a few occasions lately when I think she actually associates it with me.

Some of her favorite activities include playing peek-a-boo (particularly when we sit in the rocking chair in her room and she can grab the curtain to hide behind), rolling/chasing a ball across the floor, knocking over stacks of blocks and taking objects out of boxes or bags and throwing them on the floor (she hasn’t attempted to put them back in yet, which makes me think she is going to be messy like her mama). She bangs away on the piano at my mom’s house and “dances” (i.e. bobs her head and the top half of her body up and down) when she hears a song that she likes. Rock music, like what they play on WMMR, is her favorite and will even lull her to sleep when she is having a fussy moment in her car seat. Of course, like most kids, she seems to prefer objects that are not toys. The remote control and my purse and make-up bag seem to be an endless source of fascination for her right now, which has given us the opportunity to start teaching her the meaning of the word “no.” She gets it most of the time, but it’s absolutely not her favorite thing to hear.

New foods this month included scrambled egg yolks and toast. She likes combinations of things, like oatmeal and yogurt or squash and peas, mixed together. Surprisingly, one of her favorite mixes has been banana, beet and blueberry. It seems like a bizarre combination and beets are kind of an acquired taste, but she can’t seem to get enough of it. We have also been teaching her how to drink out of a cup with a straw. Most of the time, she does pretty well. Sometimes, though, she just likes to play. She’ll take a huge gulp of water and then let it all dribble out of her mouth, grinning like a crazy person the entire time.

B is down to just three bottles a day. On one hand, I’m grateful that she dropped her pre-bedtime bottle so easily, as I have heard that that one can be the most challenging. But, I do miss those moments of extra snuggle time that we used to have when she would fall asleep in my arms afterwards. It feels like little bits of her babyhood are slipping away little by little. I have no complaints about the fact that she continues to be a stellar nighttime sleeper, however. She usually goes down between 7 and 7:30 p.m., after songs and stories, and sleeping until about 6 a.m.

Looking forward to what the next month will bring. We are three-fourths of the way to one!


What I Read: May

I really could not tell you how I’m filling my free time lately, as most of the days pass in a blur. But, I can tell you that I haven’t been reading.

I thought I would actually start getting through more of the books on my list, since I started going to the gym again and a good book is the only thing that gets me through a session on the elliptical machine. But, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I started reading two books at the beginning of April, and it took me until the end of May just to get through one of them.

But, at least this post is pretty timely for those who are looking for a bit of light reading for upcoming summer vacations.


If you couldn’t tell by the cover J. Courtney Sullivan’s novel Maine  makes a pretty good beach read.It tells the story of the women of the Kelleher family over the course of a month at the family beach house in—you guessed it—Maine.

Alice is the deeply religious, sharp-tongued matriarch of the family, who harbors guilt over an incident from her past.  She is joined by her daughter Kathleen, a recovering alcoholic and black sheep of the family, who runs a worm farm with her hippie boyfriend in California and Kathleen’s daughter, Maggie, who breaks up with her boyfriend and discovers she is pregnant, just before the trip. Rounding out the cast is Ann Marie, Alice’s daughter-in-law, who strives to do everything for everyone and project the image of the perfect wife and mother, despite the skeletons in her family’s own closet.

For the bulk of the novel, Sullivan lets the characters tell their stories separately. The narrative of Alice’s past, growing up in New England during World War II with aspirations to be an artist, was the most interesting, in my opinion. Otherwise, Sullivan draws on all of the stereotypes that are usually associated with Irish-Catholic families and the characters seem predictable as a result. It’s only when the characters finally converge at the house during the last third or so of the book that the pacing picks up and the real sparks began to fly between the family members.

Sullivan doesn’t tie up all of the loose ends at the conclusion of the story, and I found myself wanting to know what happens to each of the characters after their month in Maine ended. Sadly, I read an interview with Sullivan, in which she said that she didn’t feel compelled to revisit the Kellehers any time soon, so I guess I’ll just have to live with the endings for each story that I imagined in my own head.

However, if you also find that you are a fan of Sullivan’s writing, she has authored a few other books. I can vouch for her first novel, Commencement, which follows the lives of four recent graduates of Smith College. The characters in this book were more richly crafted and well developed, and I felt more invested in the story throughout.

As you might recall, at the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read at least 12 books this year. At the halfway point in 2014, I’ve made it through five. So, I have a bit of work to do during the next six months!

On the Road: Little B Goes to Boston (And, Some Travel Tips)

This past weekend, we took B on her very first trip! As I mentioned before, this broke my self-imposed rule of not traveling before she could drag her own suitcase through the airport. But, Original Bridget had her doctoral hooding ceremony in Boston and that seemed like a pretty special occasion that we couldn’t miss.

Prior to our trip, my biggest worries were that B would not be able to sleep in an unfamiliar place and that we would be “those parents” on the plane. You know, the ones that you give the death stare to because their baby is having a meltdown that cannot be stopped. Luckily, both of these fears turned out to be totally unfounded.

B was awesome on our short flight to Boston. We were able to distract her with a bottle (which is also said to keep baby’s ears from popping during take-off and landing) and a few of her favorite toys and books.

20140518_111012Peeking out the window before take-off

On Friday, we had a carb-laden breakfast at a cute little cafe by our hotel and took a leisurely stroll through Boston Common and the Public Gardens.


Getting ready to head out for the day!


She was pretty mad that we didn’t share our pastries


Make way for ducklings…and for B!


She was so excited to be outside that day.

Then, it was off to Bridget’s hooding ceremony. My BFF put in a lot of hard work during the last few years as a PhD student in the Clinical Psychology program at Boston University, and I was happy that we could be there to celebrate her accomplishments. B did get a little whiny during the ceremony, so we actually watched Bridget receive her hood on the monitors outside the auditorium. But, it was exciting nonetheless and I was in good company as there were many other moms, dads and grandparents bouncing babies around in the hallway.


Current and (hopefully) future PhDs!

On Saturday, we met up with Bridget and her family for a lunch at Quincy Market and a trip to the aquarium. We thought that B would enjoy the opportunity to see the real-life versions of her favorite creatures from the “Under the Sea” themed Baby Einstein collection. She was actually pretty into it! We spent a lot of time peering into the Giant Ocean Tank that stretches from floor to ceiling in the center of the building.


A delicious lobster roll lunch


She was chatting away to the fish 


Penguin friend

B was a champion on our Sunday morning flight home, too…until the last ten minutes or so. Then, see got pretty vocal, due to a combination of a delayed naptime and an extremely dirty diaper. I was so glad to get off the plane, but not thrilled to find out that some of the bathrooms in Philadelphia International Airport do not come equipped with baby changing stations. I’ll spare you further details of this last leg of our journey. Needless to say, we were all glad to head home after that.

Of course, one trip doesn’t make me a baby travel expert. But, I thought I would share a few things that I took away from this experience. Maybe this will be helpful to you in case you are planning a getaway with your little ones this summer:

  1. Order baby items in advance and have them shipped to your final destination.

Packing light kind of goes out the window when you are bringing a baby along. Most baby gear items are huge and awkward to carry and then you have to pack extra of everything—baby food/formula, clothes, etc.—to account for travel delays and messes.

In the end, we had one bag for her clothes, diapers and wipes, our umbrella stroller, a huge diaper bag (Chester surprised me with this for Mother’s Day, after I wished out loud for a bag that could hold a camera and baby stuff. He’s the best at buying presents) and a smaller filled with toys/books for the plane. Oh, yea, then, Chester and I had a bag with all of our clothes.

To save some room in our luggage and to keep Chester’s back from completely giving out, I ordered baby food and formula from Amazon and had it shipped to our hotel a few days before our trip. This way, we would not have to worry about these items exploding all over our clothes in transit and we would not have to cut into our vacation time by running errands to pick up these things once we got to Boston.

  1. Bring the baby carrier.

It is a lot easier to navigate airport security, crowded subways and busy streets while wearing the baby. Being close to you can calm them down in unfamiliar surroundings and they can still get in a nap or two during excursions.

We have the Ergo, which seemed comfortable for B and was easy on my back. Plus, it was quite a workout! I was feeling every muscle in my body—in a good way—by the end of the first day. I might cancel my gym membership and wear a 20 pound sack of flour strapped to me at all times instead.

We used B’s stroller exactly once during the trip. We put her in it for a ride on the T, and she promptly freaked out. Back into the Ergo she went, and the stroller became a cart around the aforementioned gigantic diaper bag. If I knew that would happen, I would have left the stroller at home.

  1. Pack your patience.

Unfamiliar surroundings and people and disruption to routines can be a bit stressful for a baby. Be prepared for everything, from a little bit of extra fussiness at bedtime to full-on meltdowns. Sometimes in public.

Yes, it can be embarrassing. But, the golden rule of parenting (at least according to me) is to just do the best you can. Babies just do crazy things sometimes and most of them would act the same way in a stressful situation.

The nice thing about our trip was that we spent much of it with close friends, so they didn’t think our baby was an annoying little brat (at least I don’t think they did!). But, you might also find that complete strangers are more understanding than we give them credit for. When B got upset on our flight home, a sweet lady came up to us as we got off the plane, told us that B was beautiful and that we were lucky she had such strong vocal cords. Now that’s a positive spin if I’ve ever heard one.

So, find a quiet place, calm your baby down and move on. Everyone will get over it.  Enjoy the happy moments and don’t get bogged down by the challenging ones.

  1. Be prepared to travel differently.

When Chester and I traveled alone, we used to pack as much as possible into each day. We might leave the hotel at 8 a.m. and not come back until 10 p.m. Unless you want a really cranky baby on your hands by noon, this is probably not the way to go.

Don’t overschedule your days. Stay on top of the baby’s needs for food, diaper changes and sleep and build time in for these things. Everyone will be happier.

You might end up doing nothing more than strolling through a park all day and eating takeout at the hotel for dinner while the baby is sleeping. But, those might end up being some of your favorite days ever.

  1. Don’t make things harder on yourself than they need to be.

I think this list makes it clear that traveling with a baby presents some challenges, but there are plenty of shortcuts you can take to minimize them. Baby food in pouches travels well and is easy to dispense on-the-go. And, you can buy disposable, pre-sterilized bottles so that you don’t have to do dishes while you are trying to get some relaxation in.

Transportation is another thing to consider when traveling with a baby and all of their gear. On this trip, we decided not to bring our car seat and use public transportation. Yes, Boston has a pretty reliable, reasonably priced public transportation system that gets you just about anywhere you need to go. But, as we were hauling our portable Babies R’ Us on the bus from the airport, we quickly realized that taking a cab would have been a lot easier.

Of course then, we would have had to haul around yet another item. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, as they say. But, my point is, this might be the time to splurge on things that make your life easier.

The bottom line is this: traveling with a baby is really not that bad. So, get out there!

It was so nice to change of scenery and a few days of quality time together as a family. Now that Chester and I have one trip with B under our belts, I feel a lot more confident that all of us can handle being on the road together. In fact, we have already started planning another short trip for the fall and can’t wait for more adventures together.


For My Mom.


Dear Mom,

I hope that you know that not a day goes by that I don’t think of all of the things that you have done for me, and continue to do, even though I’m a grown-up now. But, as you know, life gets crazy, and sometimes I forget to say all of the things that are floating around in my head out loud. So, since today is your day, here is a short list of all of the things that I owe you a long overdue thank you for.

Thank you for always telling me that I am capable of doing anything that I want to, even on the days when I feel like I can’t do anything right (and there are lots of those lately).

Thank you for being the voice in my head that keeps me in line. Whenever I have to make a difficult decision, I think to myself, “what would mom do?” or “what would mom think if I did that?” and usually that’s all I need to make the right choice.

baby shower shoes

One of the few times that I ignored your voice in my head. I knew you would not be happy with my choice of four inch heels while 8 months pregnant. I wore them anyway.

Thanks for reminding me to always double bow my shoes. As you know, I’m clumsy, and this has probably saved me from a multitude of accidents.

Thanks for the snow day picnics on the living room floor. Sorry about the mess. Actually, sorry for all of the messes. I know that the fact that I never learned how to make my bed or keep my closet organized was an endless source of disappointment. I am sure you are delighted that this is Chester’s problem now. (There are however, some of your neat freak tendencies that I’ve inherited. For example, whenever I see a rug with fringe on it, I can’t resist the urge to comb it—with an actual comb, if available—so that it lies perfectly straight).

Thanks for not helping me with my homework in grade school. I know that I was annoyed by that at the time, it taught me how to think on my own, learn from my mistakes and stand by the things that I put my name on.

Thanks for the Friday nights that you let us pile into bed with you and watch TV while we shared a big bag of popcorn. Those were some of my favorite times, even though Michael never sat still and I got mad that he interrupted the shows.

Speaking of Michael: thanks for making sure that I didn’t kill him when we were little. I kind of like having him around now (Also, I don’t understand how you handled two kids under two. One wears me out sometimes).


One of the few photos of the three of us that I have, where we aren’t making the most awkward faces.

Thanks for dropping off my graphing calculator that time I forgot it in high school. I was mortified when you walked down the hallway yelling my name, while wearing your rattiest pajamas and pink foam curlers in your hair. But, I’m pretty sure that ended up being one of the few math tests that I actually passed.

Penguin hat

This look is actually less embarrassing than the one described in the above incident.

Thanks for holding our family together when things felt like they were falling apart. I still think back on those times and just don’t know how you did it. No one has more grace in stressful situations than you do.

Thank you for forgiving me when I became a bratty teenager and said the most horrible things to you. It was probably easiest to take my frustrations out on your because I knew you loved me unconditionally. It wasn’t nice and you didn’t deserve it. I’m sorry.

Thank you for making me take out those student loans in college. Like the no-help-with-homework thing, I found it annoying at the time. But, it helped me build my credit, realize that my education was a huge investment that I had to take seriously and taught me a thing or two about managing money when the time came to start paying them back.

Thank you for helping me be independent enough to make my own decisions but connected enough to know that you are only a phone call away when I need you. When something good happens to me, you are one of the first people I tell. When life is too much to handle, I call you so that you can tell me everything will be okay. And, you always answer (okay, maybe you don’t always answer because you have trouble working even the most basic cell phone sometimes. But, you call me right back and that’s all that matters).


Thanks for being the best Granny to B. When I found out I was pregnant, one of the things that I was most excited for was that you would get to be a grandmother. I love how her eyes light up when she sees you. There are many days that I still feel guilty that I went back to work after she was born, but knowing that she is with you makes me feel a bit better. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you are willing to spend five days a week with her. Hopefully it’s not as stressful as dealing with the craziness at the bank. I’m looking forward to all of the memories that we will make with her as she grows up.

I’m sure that there are loads of things I’m forgetting, but the point is this: if I can even be half the mom to my children that you were to me and Mike, then I think they will turn out alright.

You are the best. Enough said. Even at 31, I still need you. And, I’m sure that I always will.



Little B: Eight Months


As usual, we have had a busy month!

B is now eating solids three times a day. While we still are making some purees, we have been incorporating more finger foods since she is definitely eager to feed herself and sometimes will only eat if she is in control of the spoon. I know it’s important for her to gain some independence, so I try to ignore the mess on her face, clothes, hair and the floor surrounding the high chair.

photo 1

Her table manners need work

New foods this month included mangos, yogurt, rice cakes, cantaloupe, Cheerios and bits of cheddar cheese. She also tried, but was not at all keen on, asparagus and pasta (what the heck?! She’s part Italian!). The Cheerios are, by far, her favorite. If they don’t show up on her tray at every meal, she cries until she sees that yellow box come out of the cabinet.

In terms of other milestones, her two, bottom front teeth finally broke through! I had been able to see the outline of them since she was born, but was beginning to think that they would never make their appearance. There were a few days where she seemed extra fussy and spent a lot of time chewing on Sophie the Giraffe, but fortunately, we did not have any major disruptions to her normal routine (including sleep!). Hopefully, we are this lucky as the rest come in.

She still has shown no interest in crawling forward. I don’t mind, though, because the backwards scoot is endlessly entertaining to me. If she is on her belly, she can pull herself into a sitting position and she uses people (and, as of yesterday, the crib and couch at my mom’s house) like a jungle gym to pull herself into a standing position.

Waving is one of her favorite skills to show off. She pumps her arm vigorously up and down whenever someone enters or leaves a room and whenever we visit with the “baby in the mirror.” She responds to her name and has added a few new sounds to her repertoire, including “da,” “pa” and “ra.” When she gets sleepy, she closes her eyes and babbles to herself. Like the doting parents that we are, Chester and I praise her for nearly everything she does. We say “Yay for B!” and she breaks into the most adorable, shy smile and soaks it all up.

Her least favorite things at the moment are having her face wiped and diaper/clothes changed. I think she hates having to stay still for these tasks, and no amount of songs, peek-a-boo or goofy smiles and noises can distract her. Now that it’s warmer and we have the windows open more, I can’t imagine what the neighbors think is going on in our house.

We had a lot of fun celebrating B’s first Easter last month. She fell asleep during mass, but woke up in time to participate in her first Easter egg hunt (By which I mean that I carried her around, filled her bucket with eggs and then helped myself to the chocolate inside). She received FOUR Easter baskets from various family members, all of which were overflowing with books, toys, and other treats. Spoiled much?

Here are a few of my favorite shots from the day:



One of her Easter baskets, from Grauntie


Considering the spoils of the egg hunt


51 2

She is such a love!


High-Fives for Uncle Mike


Predictably, the big yellow box was her favorite present

The best part of my day is when I walk through the front door at 5:30 p.m. and am greeted by my smiling, bouncing baby girl. I miss her like crazy during the day, and live for the couple of hours at night where we play, read stories, and catch up on snuggles. She is learning and doing so much, so quickly, these days. It’s hard not to dwell on the fact that I will might miss some of the big milestones coming up, like her first steps or first words. I keep meaning to ask my mom not to tell me if she does these things while I’m at work. Maybe then I can trick myself into thinking that she is just waiting for me to witness all of her big firsts.

photo 2

Enjoying a nice day in the city, in her big girl stroller

We have another busy month ahead of us, including Little B’s first plane ride to Boston to celebrate Original Bridget’s graduation from her PhD program. Yes, I am breaking my own rule of not traveling with a child until they can drag their own suitcase through the airport. But, B just seems to love being out and about on adventures lately. I’m optimistic that she will do well on this short trip and she will become my and Chester’s travel buddy sooner rather than later. Stay tuned!