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Monday, July 13, 2015

Letting Things Slide

Words & gifs by Meg

I've been jotting down random bits of this post for weeks and today I was finally compelled to finish it after participating in a facebook thread about moms who are overwhelmed by "having it all" and therefore having to DO it all! It was a bunch of moms going and forth about the things we've let slide and the things we're holding onto, but probably should let go of. It was nice to know I'm not alone, but also kind of sad to realize that we all struggle so much.

This time a year ago, pretty much everyone I knew could tell you the following things about me: 1) I was that crazy person who got up at the crack of dawn 4 days a week to take 6:00am spin class. And I liked it. 2) I volunteered every weekend at a local animal shelter and we fostered kittens for awhile, too. Yes, I'm a crazy cat lady. 3) I liked to read and belonged to a book club. 4) I was very organized.

It might sound silly, but these facts gave a lot of structure and meaning to my life and my persona.
Just about 8 months ago, I stopped being defined by these things. It's not a coincidence that 8 months ago we welcomed our Ella Bean and our lives as we knew them completely changed. In the first few weeks of my new life as "Mom," I really tried to get to the gym. I subsequently felt really bad when I couldn't pull it off because I was up half the night with a baby or work demands were growing or I felt guilty leaving Kate alone with the terror (I Whatever the reason, I didn't make it 6:00am spin very often. Ok, I didn't make it to 6:00am spin at all. Ever. I actually took a two-week old Ella with me to the gym to cancel my very expensive membership. Shortly after that, I decided to let myself off the hook for 6 months and re-evaluate at that time how (or if) I could fit it in. we are at 8 months and my spin shoes are still gathering dust.

Cats on exercise balls
Maybe I should combine my two loves? Save time? Maybe?
Regrettably, I've also become a major slacker in the volunteer department. I've only been back once since Ella was born. I have a lot of guilt about that because I really don't like to quit something I've committed to and I miss the routine, my fellow volunteers, and feeling like I was giving back and contributing to the world.

On top of the guilt about not exercising and not volunteering, I feel bad when I miss friend's birthdays, don't send postcards from vacation, ignore messages for days, struggle to keep in touch, fail to finish a book, don't vacuum for weeks and fall behind at work.

I have plenty of excuses and some of them are even pretty compelling. There are practical issues of the number of hours in each day and the many, many tasks that fill them very quickly. But what it comes down to is this: I need to let some things slide. And then I need to let myself off the hook for letting them slide.

In the wise words of Queen Elsa, every mom's favorite character, I need to let it go, let it go...(turn away and slam the door?).

Keep Calm and Let it Go
What have you had to let go of?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Babies Come With Stuff: 3-6 month Baby Gear Update

(Words by Meg, images by Kate)

Now that we've passed the 6 month mark (7 months tomorrow!), we have plenty of things to say about baby gear for the 3-6 month span of time. Our usual disclaimer applies- this is just our opinion and what worked for our 3-6 month old. Of course we expect everyone has different experiences.

1. The City Mini stroller. I did a lot of research about city living baby gear and the City Mini comes highly recommended. We don't have a garage or outside space where we can store a stroller and there's a full flight of stairs up into our apartment, so the number one concern was ease of folding up and carrying the stroller. The City Mini is as simple as it gets, I think. It has a pull strap that collapses the whole thing in one movement and compared to other strollers, it's lightweight. The wheels handle crappy sidewalks pretty well and the canopy comes waaaaaaaay out so it covers our super-white child's legs, which is important. I'm sure we'll get a lot of use out of this for years to come.

2. High chairs.  Yes, multiple. This might sound crazy and definitely does sound a little lazy, but it's really amazing to have a high chair in the kitchen and another in the dining room. We'll likely find this less important when Ella can crawl, stand and walk on her own, but for now we need a secure place to put her down in every room. In the kitchen we have a Keekaroo that Kate scored for an incredible bargain at a children's consignment shop. It's treated us well so far, though Ella is still on the small side for it and requires a little bolstering. We don't usually feed her in the Keekaroo, she just hangs out while we cook dinner, empty the dishwasher, etc. Then we have a transportable clip-on high chair on our dining room table that's really great because it automatically puts Ella at table height and makes her part of our eating experience. We do most of our actual feeding there.
Clip-on High Chair

3. Busy Zoo Activity Center. A good sized wooden box with activities on all sizes including the top. This was another bargain find for us. They retails for upwards of $100 and we got a like-new one on Craiglist for $15. SCORE! Ella can play with it laying on her tummy, sitting in front of it, or standing with assistance. So far it's the toy that keeps her most occupied, and I suspect she'll like this one for years which is not something I can say about most of her toys.

4. Jumparoo and Exersaucer. These might also go out of style the minute Ella figures out how to crawl, but from the time she was about 5 months old, she's really enjoyed being upright in her Jumparoo or Exersaucer. They also serve as safe places to put her when we need to do something else for a few seconds. She loves to bounce, bounce, bounce.

5. Diaper Genie. I guess this was useful from the start, but let me just say..solid food changes things. Stinky things. The Diaper Genie contains the stink and makes diaper clean up much easier. Need I say more?
Without a Diaper Genie

Meg said no to me having this

We still haven't mastered the baby-wearing devices and we still rarely use the Aden & Anais blankets. People love both, but they didn't do much for us.

Stay tuned for our next blog post: When do I get my sense of self back?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Things I've Learned About Myself Since Becoming a Mom

(Words and gifs by Kate)

Meg and I both say that we never imagined having kids until we met the person we wanted to have a kid with.  I mean, we all say we want to grow up meet someone and have a family, but, much like the greasy piece of pizza I just ate before a 4 hour meeting in a hot room, I don't always think things through.  We all know how the first six weeks of motherhood slapped us in the face like a scorned lover on Jerry Springer.  But there are many things that have happened since then that have taught me things about myself.

Here's a couple of things I've learned in the 6 months since we had the Bean. (NOTE: She is the light of my life, but 90% of parents reading this will probably give the unity fist on these):

1. I really like doing absolutely nothing. 
Seriously.  I could dick around on the internet like a pro. Power watching Food Network on the brightest of spring days used to be my jam. Post-Bean, the closest I get to doing absolutely nothing is going to the bathroom at work.

2. I have no idea what is going on.
I now get what my mom meant when she said she has a huge gaping hole in her memory of any
popular song/tv show/movie from the 80s.  She had 2 kids, worked full time and took care of her parents.  I'm not quite as bad because smart phones exist, but frankly, I get most of my news from Buzzfeed... so look forward to riveting conversations with me.

3. Unmedicated, I am a horrible sleeper.
Before I had the baby I would pop benedryl like tic-tacs to sleep, but when you're a parent of an infant you are "on" all the time whether you like it or not.  Meg and I split the night as to who is on duty, but that doesn't mean we don't hear phantom baby cries that turn out to be the screech owl who has decided to camp out next to our bedroom window.  Then I lay in bed wide awake listening with the intensity of trying to hear the grass grow.  Why?  She's asleep.  I can see it on the monitor.  Then I think, "When did we wash the crib sheets last?  Did I prep enough bottles for daycare?  We should get a bottle of wine for the cat sitter.  Was that her crying?  No, that
What a baby's cry feels like when
it wakes you from a deep sleep.
was the cat singing the song of his people.  I wonder what happened to Cat Stevens."

The exact moment, while feeding her,
that I regretted teaching her to blow
4.  Everything in my life is based on the Bean.

When we eat, when we sleep.  Dinner with the friends?  Sure! Oh wait, they want to eat at 8.  Do I have a clean shirt to wear?  No, we experimented with mixed veggie puree last night.

"Oh we're just going for a 20 minute walk"

Also, leaving the house and doing something has never been more complicated.  After we pack up Ella's compound of necessities, filling the backseat of an SUV after perfectly timing a feeding and a nap, we are ready.  For a 2 hour outing down the street.

But after you accept the fact you will watch "Game of Thrones" when she goes to college.  You will always be about a week to a month behind on any pop culture.  And as you sit in the bathroom stall at work negotiating your "standards" of hygiene contemplating leaning against the toilet paper rolls to take a power nap you'll think of this image from 4am.  And you'll get your ass up and check out Pinterest for "must haves for camping with a 6 month old". <Really happening this weekend- that post to come soon

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Confessions of a Guilty Mom (or two)

(written by Meg)

I think all you moms out there are familiar with mom guilt. It's that twinge a woman* feels when she overhears another mom at the playground saying something like "well, of course we're only feeding our daughter homemade, organic, local, fair trade, non-GMO, hormone-free baby food." You nod
If you dump Gerber Sweet Potatoes from the jar into a bowl
does that make them local?
your head enthusiastically while frantically covering up the label on your just-plain-old-Gerbers baby
food. You consider buying some organic jars to have with you when you're out in public. Ugh, my kid is going to grow an extra arm because her pears aren't organic! Welcome to mom guilt.

Perhaps I put most of this burden on myself, but I don't think I'm alone. It's not that I doubt my abilities as a mom, per say. But I can't help feeling a little bit bad that I don't seem to have enough time to make homemade baby food after working 40 hours a week and taking care of an infant during the rest of my waking hours. Never mind taking care of our diabetic cat, doing laundry, making dinner...oh, and occasionally taking care of myself! So confession #1: Ella sometimes eats non-organic baby food***. I'm trying to come to terms with this reality and it's harder than I thought it would be. It's harder than it should be. To even things out, sometimes I spend hours (yes, hours)** scrolling through reviews of activity cubes, debating whether or not they are more useful and enriching than, say, a push walker. Or maybe a learning table. But learning tables all have battery operated lights and sounds. Oh, you mean you didn't know lights and sounds will ruin your baby's brain? "We try not to overwhelm little Timmy with too much stimulus." Insert enthusiastic head nod and frantic covering up of the light-up toys in our house. Confession #2: Sometimes when I just need 2 minutes to run to the basement and load the washer, Ella sits in front of the scrolling screensaver on our TV. Please don't call the mommy police.

Confession #3: I don't want to be a stay at home mom. Oof, it feels good to get that off my chest. Do I love my kiddo? Yes. Do I want to spend time with her? Yes. Do I look forward to picking her up at daycare? Yes. Do I want to be home with her all day, every day? No. Is this something I should feel guilty about? Gosh, I don't know, but I sure do feel it, especially when other moms talk about crying in their cubicles because they wish they were home with their babies. I respect that, but I suspect I might actually do more crying if I was home every day! I was serious about not calling the mommy police, ok??

Sometimes I have to take a step back (walk away from the toy reviews, Meg) and remember that Kate and I are definitely, without a doubt, for sure more capable and concerned than the majority of parents in this country, just by virtue of our status as educated and relatively privileged people who purposefully brought a child into this world. Our daughter will never go hungry. She'll never go without healthcare. She'll always know she's loved. She'll see museums and theater and parks and baseball games. She will survive the plain old pears and occasional light up toys. I mean...she will, right?

I also have to remind myself that when I was a kid, all babies were put to sleep on their stomachs with blankets, which is absolutely something to call the mommy police about these days. Most people let their babies "cry it out," something a lot of parents consider cruel now. My dad likes to tell the story about how I was "crying it out" louder than usual one night and they found my head lodged between the crib mattress and the rails. Oops. Don't forget the time I fell head over heels down a flight of stairs while strapped into a walker. And did they even have organic food in the 80s? Anyway, I'm sure we all have stories like this, and we survived! We did more than survive, actually. We thrived.

So, why the guilt, moms? Are we, the moms, doing this to each other and ourselves? I've found that other moms are very quick to judge when it comes to parenting techniques and ideas, especially in online mommy forums. (Note to self: Leave online mommy forums.) I'm guilty of jumping to a quick judgement of other moms myself sometimes."Oooh..they're using a bumbo...I guess they didn't see that article about lumbar flexion..." Could we all try to be a little more accepting of others and ourselves, and assume we're all doing the best we can?

Oh, and if a mommy asks, Ella never spends more than 20 minutes a day in her Jumparoo. Never. Because that could cause hip dysplasia and we wouldn't want that. Not to mention the dreaded lights and sounds. Insert frantic head nodding and Jumparoo hiding here.

Jumparoo, babysitter,
Enjoying the Jumparoo for 19 minutes.


*Disclaimer: It's possible that men experience "Dad guilt," but I'm not a dad, so I can't say.

**Hours at work (hope my boss isn't reading this...), so not hours I could be using to make baby food. 

***Shout out to Alison, Mom Extraordinaire, who shares Theo's homemade goodies with Ella! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Baby Gear Reviews Birth-3 Months

(Written by Meg, gifs by Kate- I actually MADE the last one!)

From the moment a baby is born, she is showered with gifts. From the baby showers with diapers and blankets to the hospital's baby hats and bulb syringes (I'll come back to that later). But what does a baby really NEED? Well, ok, not that much. But there are some very clever baby gear items that we found quite helpful. And, of course, some that we owned, but never used.

Things we had and used often:

Bouncy chair:
With vibration, that's key. This item made it possible to pee without holding the baby.
Worth every penny.
Nose Frida: This thing seems disgusting, and I is. BUT when you have a 4 week old with a cold, which we were lucky enough to experience, you will use it and you will love it. For those of you who aren't familiar with the joy of the Nose Frida, it's kind of the same idea as the bulb syringe snot sucker that we all steal from the hospital, but the parent actually sucks the snot out of the baby's nose. Don't worry, there's a filter that stops the snot from ending up in said parent's mouth.

Things we thought we didn't need/want, but ended up needing:
  • Newborn sized clothing: People kept telling us not to stock up on newborn sized clothing
    because lots of babies are born already too big. Well, ours was not. On day 5 of Ella's life, I was scouring Carters for NB sized onesies. It's true she did grow out of them after a few weeks, but what was she supposed to wear in the meantime?? Give me all the onesies in all of the land! (PS: Did you know onesie is not a real word? My spellchecker is going crazy.)
  • When my wife found a swaddle Ella can't "Houdini" out of
  • Swaddles: We tried to swaddle Ella when she was tiny and she did not enjoy it. Newsflash: she doesn't have to like it if it works, which it does. We did not try again for way, way, way too long. The first time we bit the bullet and put her to sleep in a Velcro swaddle....was the first time she slept for longer than 45 minutes. Ah-mazing.

Things we thought we'd use, but didn't:
  • Baby carriers: We registered for two and we received a few hand-me-downs as well. So far, we've "worn" Ella a collective total of three times, only one of which I would consider successful. Maybe it's because it's been 10 degrees here basically every day of Ella's life...or maybe it's because the Baby Bjorn directions make my head spin. Either way, I think Ella is destined for the stroller.
    Trying to put that *adorable* but complicated
    outfit on a wiggly baby
  • Cute, but not at all practical outfits: Before you're actually holding your 8 lb, wiggly human
    Figuring out snaps at 3am in the dark
    , that 0-3 sized dress that buttons up the back seems like a perfectly reasonable idea. As it turns out, ain't nobody got time for that. Baby girl lived in the aforementioned onesies and sleepers for the first 3 months of her life. (PS: Sleepers with zippers for the win. Boycott snaps. That might be my best baby advice.)

  • Aiden & Anais receiving blankets: What's the big damn deal? We were told by many people that these were must-
    have items. I just don't get it. When we tried to use these as swaddles, we found they were too small and didn't have enough stretch to stay in place. Plus, our dainty 8lber could easily get out of the swaddle. These "blankets" are less thick than your average bed sheet, so not terribly useful for keeping a winter baby warm. I mean, they're cute, but also super pricey and basically useless. We ended up buying some nice big stretchy cotton blankets from Carters for a quarter of the price and relegating the A&A blankets for use as floor covering during tummy time. Expensive floor coverings.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wonder Weeks: Was That a Leap or Just Gas?

First I want to say that I'm mad at all y'all for letting me post about how well our daughter was
sleeping.  Come on guys.  I think we all knew what was going to happen.  And it did.  For the past 4 nights the Bean has decided that her true bedtime shall be between 11-1am.  But she's going to tease you with the occasional 20-40 minute naps between 7pm and bedtime.  "Go ahead mom.  Go try to start watching tv.  Or be productive.  Will I stay asleep for the rest of the night or yell for you like I'm hailing a cab?  Of course you don't know so you should probably not go lay down in that soft, warm bed of yours because being shocked from sleep would suck so much more.  Welcome to the jungle mommy dearest.  Are you ready to play Sleeping Baby Russian Roulette?"

We, as parents, really want to label things.  Not just the lovingly, but OCD-ish way my wife has organized Ella's clothes, by size (not just 6 month, but holding them up to each other as we all know baby clothes sizes are not created equal) and season.  When Ella went from a good span of days sleeping through the night to refusing to fall asleep until late, fussing a lot, refusing the pacifier (which used to help soothe and knock her out), waking up more often and (mostly at night) refusing to eat unless you were holding her standing we were shell-shocked.

WTH happened?!  So here's what we noticed.  Ella was having trouble pooping- constipation.  She
also got another cold- hard to breathe when eating and coughing in the crib waking herself up, epic diaper rash- it looked like someone dropped napalm in there.  There's also 4 month sleep regression.  And then there's a thing called Leaps.  I was introduced to this by some fellow moms.  The app/book is called The Wonder Weeks and it is an infant development resource.

Ella's Current Leap
So what is a Leap?  They describe it as: a leap in the mental development of your baby means that suddenly there are many changes in his head. Suddenly, her brain perceives things it wasn’t capable of perceiving before. This change is so great that her entire world suddenly looks different.

Mental Leap 4 is all about events- learning that their actions affect others and they have a bit more control.

Signs of Leap 4 According to Wonder Weeks:
Trouble Sleeping
Becoming shy with strangers
Demanding more attention
Head may need more support than before
May be clingy
May lose appetite
May be moody
May be less vocal
May be less lively and sucks his thumb or fingers more often than before.

20 Days Left.  Shit.
I have the app so it alerts me when she goes to the next leap.  Apparently, Leap 4 is one of the hardest as she starting to process more around her.  You will see on the update to the left that there is a big ole storm cloud.  That means an increase in the 3 C's: Cranky, Crying and Clingy.  Super.  Oh, and did I mention this Leap last, supposedly, 40 days.  Lovely.  There's also a chart showing Leaps and predictions of mood changes.  When you see a storm cloud approaching it puts the fear of God in you.

But is this legit?  What if her general behavior change was due to not pooping?  What if it really was the cough keeping her up?  Anyone swear by the Wonder Weeks?  All I'm gonna say is if I fall asleep during a conversation with you lately it's because princess is learning how to hold a ball and party til dawn.

When I finally get Ella down to sleep and she stays asleep.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Where Did This Angelic Baby Come From?: The 3 Month Turnaround

By Kate

Another mother told us that, if at any point in the first 3 months you don't think "I wanna throw this child out the window," that you're a liar.  We've mentioned here that no one ever tells you how hard parenting is (Screw You Folgers and Other Things That Make Me Cry & One Month In), but we want to say that IT. GETS. BETTER.  (Thanks gays for giving us this phrase)
The first months of being a parent + winter in Boston
When the baby knows
you're about to eat
The first three months really are a cyclical process of scream, eat, scream, poop, scream, sleep, scream. With the occasional "aww" moment when she falls asleep on you, open mouth breathing and delicately snoring.  That saved you, child.  Also, having a baby in the winter (more importantly the Winter of our Discontent in New England) is like a form of torture. Not to be over-dramatic, but there was a point that I would have given up government secrets to eat a hot meal in peace.  You're more tired than you ever
imagined you could possibly be and still have to be the most responsible person you will ever need to be.  You hear baby cries in in the sounds of a running dishwasher.  You have no idea what time it is except for when you are recording a diaper, a feeding or how long she slept.  Seriously. You will record more details about her movements that Jane Goodall did with her gorillas.  Sleep seems like a dream and you will feel like you're going a little crazy.  It. Gets. Better.

The morning after she slept through the night
3 months.  Just make it to three months.  I swear it felt like it happened overnight.  All of a sudden she sleeps more than 2 hours at a time.  She interacts and plays.  SHE SMILES AND COOS and you think, "Child, you better thank the Baby Jesus you learned how to smile because you were one tantrum away from me having a bald-headed Britney Spears breakdown."  She doesn't wake up screaming bloody murder and when she does you can solve it (95% of the time).  You start to feel like
you've done this for years and start balancing better with your spouse.  Don't forget your relationship matters too.  You will call in your spouse to look at a diaper chock full of poo and celebrate since it had been "longer than usual" since she pooped. But you should also make time to go have dinner. 

Meg's birthday is in March and I'm giving her/us a night in a hotel 5 miles from our house.  People ask if we will go out to see a show?  Hit up the Boston bars?  HELL NO.  We will have dinner at a sensible hour, go back to the hotel, watch HGTV and crash in a bed we don't have to make and a room we don't have to clean. And maybe not talk about poop for 12 hours.  Maybe.
Be strong y'all