Archives for July 2014

What I Read: July

perfume collector

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

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

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

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

Hits and Misses: Baby Feeding

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

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

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

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

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

Feeding Essentials

Hits

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

Misses

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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

Hits + Misses: Baby Gear

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

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

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

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

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

Hits

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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.

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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.

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Mamaroo

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.

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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.

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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.

Misses

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Graco Day-to-Night System

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

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

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

What were some of your baby gear hits and misses?

 

Little B: Ten Months

10 Month

The most interesting baby in the world

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

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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Scary face

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

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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.