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What We Learned from Parenting Books

17 Apr

Like all parents, Don and I bought, downloaded and borrowed a myriad of parenting books. You’ll note that I did not say we read these books, only that we obtained them.

This is because:

1. We have an infant. There is no time for reading about him. We are too tired to read and would rather gaze upon him than read anyway. And also,

2. They are sort-of pointless.

When my friend and new mom Karen shared the Portalandia clip above with me, I laughed for five minutes.

“Ryan, did you actually read the book?”

“Of course I read the book!”

No one reads the books.

Actually, we did read a little bit of all the books.  About three pages or so. I’m pretty sure that makes me an expert at parenting techniques so I thought I would share my wisdom with you and save you the trouble of acquiring these books yourself. Unless you want them to fool people into thinking you are well read on the subject of your baby’s development and want to place them in strategic locations around the house. In that case, by all means purchase a few. Don’t forget to leave one open on the coffee table for unexpected visitors.

Let’s start with the book above, Your Baby’s First Year Week by Week. In this book we learn that every week your baby will do things things radically different than the week before. For example, in week one your baby will focus on objects 8 – 12 inches away and in week two your baby will stare at objects 8 – 12 inches away. Wow. It’s crazy, right? I didn’t make that up; it’s in the book.

In Baby 411 we learn that all parents have questions. In fact, all parents have the same questions. For example: “My baby usually poops with every feeding. Now he hasn’t gone in 24 hours. Is he constipated?” The answer, I am both happy and sad to tell you, is no. Turns out constipation in infants is determined by the consistency of the output, not the frequency. That’s why as a new parent you will spend far too much time thinking about poop. People who don’t have children think that they will never be that parent. But you will. It’s inevitable. And really, you won’t even care.

I read my three pages of What to Expect the First Year on the plane ride to California to collect the Bird. I read those three pages for six hours because it was hard to concentrate for some reason. Therefore I am an extreme expert on pages 49  and 54-55. In the edition of the book we have those are the pages on infant reflexes (bottom line: he has them) and bottle feeding. I got to skip over pages 50 – 53 since those were the pages on breast feeding. Skipping pages was exciting to me. I felt like I had been promoted a grade in school. I stopped reading when I realized a HUGE portion of the bottle feeding section was about sterilizing the bottles and I had no idea how we might accomplish that in a hotel room. I mean, I’ve seen the “Dateline” specials. Nothing about hotel rooms is sterile.

For reasons we didn’t fully understand, we knew we would be swaddling the Bird from birth until he started Kindergarten. We knew it was valuable, we just didn’t know why. That’s why I checked out a copy of Happiest Baby on the Block at the library. A note about checking out library books as the parent of a newborn: Don’t do it. In my sleep deprived state, the book languished on a side table in the living room for weeks after I learned all I needed from it and I never made it back to the library to return it. The overdue fee would have paid for a new copy on Amazon, I think. Plus, you don’t even need this book because I am going  to tell everything you need to know. If your baby is fussy, turn him on his side and make a loud SHHHH sound. It sounds horribly cruel – like a really mean librarian. But honest to Pampers it works. We were already swaddling so we didn’t learn anything new about that, but the shushing was helpful when the Bird turned 6 weeks old and went crazy. I even downloaded a shushing app for my phone because I was getting dry mouth.

We put copies of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare on our Kindles. Every time I have turned on my Kindle since December 13 I have fallen asleep so I can’t tell you much about this one. Nonetheless, I still feel I can offer two pieces of expert advice on this book having tried to read it a dozen times. 1. It’s an excellent sleep aid and 2.  Your parents read an earlier edition of this book and look how you turned out. Interpret that in any way you like.

Finally, I was excited to learn that Cindy Crawford wrote the forward for Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Did you know she was a correspondent for “Good Morning, America”? I didn’t either until I read this book. See how much I learned? Actually, along with Happiest Baby on the Block, this book has been helpful even though I read so little of it. We started putting the Bird to bed earlier and even though it hasn’t stopped him from waking up twice a night to eat, we get a little more rest because of it. We had been putting him to bed between 9 and 10 p.m. when he fell asleep and he would wake up at 1 a.m. for a bottle. Now we put him into his crib at 8 p.m. and he coos to himself for 10 – 20 minutes before drifting off. He sometimes still wakes us up at 1 a.m., but we have an extra two hours of down time.

I think those are all the books I “read” to gain my expert parent status. Do you have a parenting book you would like me to review? I won’t actually read it, but I will be happy to read ABOUT it on Amazon and then tell you everything you need to know.

Joyful and Triumphant

8 Jan

When I last left off in our story, we were trying to get some sleep in the early morning hours of December 12. Later that day I would meet our son, but there were miles to go before that could happen. Literally miles. We live in Virginia and our son was born in California.

It’s hard to describe the emotions I felt that morning. I was definitely excited and happy, but also scared and nervous.

One of the reasons my stomach was in knots is that I would be doing all of this without Don by my side. I’m the emotional one and Don is always my rock. I rely on his strength and I was scared to be facing this giant life change alone.

We’d been told countless times that your match would come when you least expect it. That was not quite true for us as I never stopped expecting it. But I can say that our little man burst into our lives when we were least prepared for it. And that’s one of the reasons I was travelling alone. Don taught a university class last fall and the final exam was scheduled on the same day our son was to be discharged from the hospital. Of course the finals were in-person presentations – not a test for which he could request a proctor to administer. He had to be there. On top of that, we had 65 people coming to our house on the 14th for our annual holiday party. We had purchased about half the food already and all of the beverages.  We couldn’t cancel the party without a reason and we couldn’t tell people why we needed to cancel yet.

After a brief discussion it was decided that I would go to California on Wednesday and Don would come on Thursday. That’s how it came to pass that I was sitting nervously by myself at an airport at 5 a.m. on December 12.

I should also mention that since we booked these tickets at 9 p.m. or so the evening before, there were no seats on direct flights. We both ended up on flights that went from DC to Boston and from Boston to Oakland. You wouldn’t think this would be a big deal, but it ended up impacting the flight time considerably. I naively thought that Boston to Oakland would be roughly the same flight as DC to Oakland, but it’s much longer. DC to Oakland is about 5 hours, but from Boston is takes 6 hours and 45 minutes.

I had enough time in Boston to get a latte and call Cole, the birth mom specialist, for any overnight updates. There had been one. Initially, the birth mother said she did not want any contact with us, but after Cole told her how excited we were and how we were booking tickets to travel 12 hours later, she decided to meet us. I was very happy for a chance to meet her and thank her.

When I hung up the phone, a woman sitting next to me said she couldn’t help but overhearing that I was on my way to California to adopt a baby. Her niece had just adopted, too – AND that baby was born on the same day as our son. She was incredibly sweet and showed me a picture of the new family. Seven hours later, when I was standing in line for my rental car, the same woman approached me. She told me again how excited she was for us and gave us a children’s book called “San Francisco Baby”. I was so moved by her kind gesture.

The flight from Boston was incredibly long. I watched a lot of HGTV and Food Network and tried to read “What to Expect the First Year.”

Finally – finally – we landed in Oakland. (I was in the same state as my son!)

Our dear friend Suzanne met me at the airport and we picked up the rental car with the infant seat installed. (I needed an infant seat!)

It’s about two hours from Oakland to Modesto. Boy, that seven-hour plane ride had NOTHING on the two hours I was in the car. I was so glad Suzanne was with me and she did her best to keep up the conversation so I wouldn’t freak out, but I’m afraid I wasn’t the best company. I seriously thought my heart would explode right inside my chest.

As we approached Modesto, we turned on the GPS. Somehow we missed a turn and ended up at the wrong hospital. A few minutes and one course correction later, we pulled up in front of Doctor’s Medical Center. My son was in that building. (My son!)

I was ready to meet him.


Catch up on our story:

1. Spoiler Alert

2. It Happened One Night

Spoiler Alert: Call Me Mommy

31 Dec

If you have not heard the news by now, there’s no point in dragging it out.

Don and I are the proud, excited, exhausted and overwhelmed parents of a tiny and perfect boy. Our little bird arrived on December 10, but we didn’t know about him for about 36 hours. When  we did find out about him, we had a to jump on a plane and travel clear across the country to meet him.

The minute he was placed in my arms, I melted. I mean, look at this face. Who wouldn’t melt?

Seriously. This was my first look at him. I took the picture about 4 minutes after I first held him. I was still holding him when I took it. He’s so beautiful. And calm. And peaceful. Totally, 100 percent in love.

The next three weeks were a whirlwind for all three of us (and I’ll tell you all about it in future posts), but we’re happy and healthy and home.

Thank you for your love and support. Stay tuned to hear the story of how we filled our nest.

And Happy New Year to you. It was tough year in so many ways, but for our family it ended on a sweet note. I hope your family will also receive joy and happiness in the year ahead.

Our First Adoption

19 Mar

This is Casey. We adopted him yesterday from Lost Dog Animal Rescue. He’s a 12-week old terrier mix, though mixed with what we have no idea. Any guesses? We’ve heard a few votes for rottweiler.

We’ve been wanting a dog for years. When we moved into our new house, the urge grew stronger and about a year ago I started allergy shots. Still, we knew we were going to have to look at one of the allergy friendly types of dogs like terriers or poodle mixes because while the shots help they don’t typically eliminate your allergies (especially when you are well into your 30s and have suffered with allergies for more than 25 years).

There’s no such thing as a hypo-allergenic dog, but there are some breeds that are better than others.

In order to determine my allergy level to Casey, the rescue organization suggested burying my head right in his hair and giving it some time. Also, making sure he licked me … which with a 12-week old puppy is not so hard. I’m sure I looked like an oddball snuggling this puppy right next to my nose and eyes in the store, but I was willing to do whatever necessary to make sure Casey is a good fit for us.

I had a small hive on my arm and one on my jaw line … but nothing much else happened. And for me, that’s probably as good as it’s ever going to get.

So, we went to the adoption event on Sunday and adopted our first family dog (we both grew up in homes with dogs and cats, but have never had a pet together).

The first two weeks are the trial period. If my allergies are just too bad we can return him to his awesome foster mom … but we already love him and so I’m extremely hopeful that he’s going to be a good fit.

We had not planned on adopting a puppy. We expected to adopt a 2- or 3-year old dog, but Casey stole our hearts. He’s mostly house-trained and crate-trained and has done a pretty good job at maintaining his training since we brought him home yesterday. Since we haven’t picked up a crate yet, we’re using our shower stall and as his safe place during the day. He has his nice soft bed in there, a bowl of water and some toys. I’m pleased to say there were no accidents when we went to the theatre last night, or this morning (I went home to let him out at lunch). So he definitely seems to have the crate-training (or shower stall-training in this case) down pat. We do need to get an actual crate because we want him to feel safe and contained and to be able to go in there whenever he wants when we’re home and hanging out as a family.

Here’s another picture because I just can’t resist.

Of course, we need to tell American Adoptions about his addition to our household. We mentioned that we were likely to adopt a dog to them a few weeks ago and they seemed very flexible about it, but I’m sure there will be some requirements. Also, we should find some time to take a picture with him since apparently that will help our profile greatly.

And, in case you’re wondering: No. We did not adopt the dog to help with our profile. You can check my medical record to see how long I’ve been taking shots to facilitate this adoption AND check my browsing history to see how long I’ve been obsessed with allergen friendly terriers.

On the other hand, we did need to make sure we found a dog that would be good in a house with kids. Lost Dog asked us the top three things we were looking for in a dog and we said: allergen friendly, gentle with children, social. Casey fits the bill very well. He had tons of fun with some toddlers at a BBQ yesterday. He gave a few tentative licks while they were petting him, but otherwise stayed away from their personal space, was patient and played nicely.

So, is Casey the cutest puppy you’ve seen in a long time or what?

The Decor, the Game and the Favor Bags

8 Feb

I think this is my last baby shower post. Thanks for hanging in with me guys.

To recap:
For our Book Worm Baby Shower, there were invitations, there was food, there were onesies (not actually book worm-themed) and there were Hershey Kisses.

Today we’re going to take a look at the decor, plus reveal Katy’s fun game and cute favors.

First the decor. Back in early December when I scored those Hershey Kisses for 70 percent off, I also found this great Hanukkah banner on super sale. It was a semi-DIY kit – the ribbon, blue circles and white circles are all separate pieces. There were also felt letter that I discarded. I printed out new letters to spell out BABY and Jaimie and Dean’s last name (you’ll have to use your imagination on the image below since I had to block out the last name to respect their privacy).

Here’s a closer look:

The mantle also sports those cute little blue tissue paper puffs. Here’s a tutorial from Pinterest, or you can do what I did and buy the kit from Martha Stewart. When I first looked at a tutorial (I’m not sure if it was that one or another one), it seemed kind of confusing. Now that I have done it from the MS kit,  I know it’s actually pretty easy and if I ever have to do it again I will start from scratch (and make them bigger).

Here’s a look at the table centerpiece:

It’s pretty simply – just a couple of white flowers in a square-ish vase on top of a small pile of children’s books. I was inspired by the awesome book themed party I saw on Pinterest.

Now, on to the games and swag. Cooking and decor is a lot easier for me than games, so when Katy offered to pitch in I gladly took her up on the offer. As you may remember, Katy is herself a new mom (I couldn’t help but link here and above to different pictures of Katy’s cute little man).

Well, when it came to the party game, Katy rocked it! She came up with Kiddo Catch Phrase, a game in which (much like the real Catch Phrase) teams compete to see how long it takes them to guess 20 correct answers in a randomly assigned category. In keeping with our literary themed shower, Katy came up with appropriate categories like fairy tales and nursery rhymes (my team was assigned fairy tales). Katy started the timer and handed the first person a card, then you had to get your teammates to guess what was on the card without saying any of the words on it. So for example, one of my cards read “Puss in Boots” and I gave the clue, “It’s a cat who wears shoes.”

Some of them were so hard and I was really impressed with the teams who had super heroes and nursery rhymes. It was also funny to see who knew some of the more obscure things like “Wee Willy Winkie”. Katy’s mom is a recently retired librarian so I bet she was very proud of Katy for coming up with this game – especially since it required making something like 120 unique cards and knowing what all of those things were so she could help us out (which she did pretty liberally – thanks, Katy!).

Here’s the sign she made for the game:

Can you tell what the pictures are on the outside edges of the poster? They’re little cards / stickers depicting The Cat and the Fiddle nursery rhyme. Here’s a closer shot:

I think everyone really liked the game … and you just never know with this things. No one wants to smell and taste any more melted candy in baby diapers, right?

Katy also put together the darling little favor bags with our Hershey Kisses and these cute little notebooks that look like a library collection:

Yup. That pictures says it all: Thanks Katy!

Okay – back soon with actual adoption stuff.

Watch Me Grow Onesies (Free Printable)

6 Feb

** Free Printable included at bottom of post **


Here’s a look at the gift I made for Jaimie, Dean and their baby boy.

I know I personally will want to see pictures of this little muffin every day so I came up with a way for them to document his growth each month – custom onesies announcing his age.

They turned out so cute. Here’s how I did it.

Watch Me Grow Onesie Project:

Supplies -
12 white onesies (3 0-3 month, 3 3-6 month, 3 6-9 month, 3 12 month), washed in baby safe detergent
3 sheets of Iron-On Transfer paper (you can buy it at office supply stores and craft stores)
Color ink jet printer
Scissors
Iron

Directions -

1. Wash the onesies in baby-friendly detergent like Ivory or Dreft – or use just baking soda.

1. Using PowerPoint I created 12 graphics depciting every month for the first year of baby’s life - each one with a different color or theme. A few of the onesies are very specific because I know his due date. For example, he will be seven months old in October so the seven month onesie is a pumpkin instead of a circle. This could obviously be done in Photoshop, but I was just using my little slow laptop that doesn’t have it AND since there was nothing fancy needed and no complicated layers, I didn’t see any need to use my Mac Mini.

2. I printed the graphics four per page onto iron-on transfer paper. I had to change the settings on our color ink jet printer to ‘mirror image’ so the text would read properly after I transferred it to the onesies. If you’re going to make these at home, don’t forget to check your printer settings like I did the first time.

Once printed (properly), I cut out and trimmed each individual graphic. Don’t leave too much white space around your graphic. Here’s what mine looked like after I cut and trimmed them.

3. Place the iron-on transfer and get ready to iron. Once you start there’s no correcting it so be sure you love the placement.

4. Very carefully iron them on. It requires constant, even pressure – and quite a bit of it. The cotton onesies are pretty delicate so there is a small amount of yellowing / browning on a few even though I was super careful.

5. Carefully peel backing away from transfer. I don’t have pictures of this step because it requires an even hand. Once you have peeled the backing away, your onesie will look like this:

6. Repeat 11 more times.

So cute and so easy. After I was done, I folded them up and put them into a seagrass basket.

And guess what? I made a pdf so that you print your own! I took out the graphics specific to how old this baby will be during certain months of the year so these will work for any new baby. Remember to make sure your ink jet printer is set to ‘mirror image’ when you print.

Have you made a special gift for a new mom or mom-to-be?  OR have you documented your baby’s growth in some photographic way?

Bookworm Food

4 Feb

My friend Jaimie’s baby shower was this afternoon. I am so excited for Jaimie and her husband Dean and I wanted to make sure we had a great event with lots of thoughtful touches.

Jaimie mentioned that she would like for people to bring books for the baby. I decided that sounded like a great theme and I put together plans for a Bookworm Baby Shower. Even the food was themed based on childrens’ books. Here’s what we served:

Green Eggs and Ham
Spinach & Ham Egg Quiche

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Rainy Day Meatballs (Yeah, these I just bought at Ikea – everything else was homemade.)

Madeline
Savory Madeleine Cookies 

Pete’s a Pizza
Petesa Balls

Chicken Little
Little Chicken Pockets

Peter Rabbit
Peter’s Veggie Cup

Blueberries for Sal
Blueberry Ricotta Flatbread

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Caterpillar’s Fruit Salad

Super Fudge
Fudge Crunch Ice Cream Cake

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Charlie and the Chocolate Cookies

James and the Giant Peach
James and the Giant Peach Bellini 

Lemony Snicket
Lemony’s Lemonade ( just regular low sugar lemonade with lime and orange slices floating)

Red Fish, Blue Fish, One Fish, Two Fish
Just the Red Fish
 
Here are the menu cards (the book cover with the name of the food item below it) if you’d like to host your own book-themed lunch or baby shower. I think the chicken pockets were my favorite.

 

A Rose by Any Other Name

2 Dec

In my other life, I work in the field of public relations. Yesterday I logged in to PR Newswire to upload a press release and notice a headline that caught my eye:

THE WAIT IS OVER … BABYCENTER® UNVEILS TOP BABY NAMES OF 2011

From the Jersey Shore to the Royal Palace, Pop Culture and Celebrities Offer Inspiration While Sophia and Aiden Still Reign Supreme

Truthfully, I hadn’t been waiting … but I couldn’t help but take a peek. The list of the top names for baby girls and baby boys was interesting enough - lots of Sophias and Aidens out there this year, but the follow up commentary was even more interesting.

The rise in popularity of the name Mason (#3) is attributed to Kourtney Kardashian’s son. *sigh*

Also, Briella (what?) and other names inspired by New Jersey-based reality shows including – and I am not making this up – the first name Jersey. Really? *double sigh*

I also noted with interest the rise in royal name like William, Harry, Kate and Pippa because if Don and I have a son our top contender for his name is Harris, after Don’s grandfather. Baby Harry. It’s so cute right? Except, it seems, he might be in school with a lot of other Harrys. Oh well – we’d probably call him Harris anyway.

Sometimes the Smallest Things Take Up the Most Room

22 Nov

My best friend is pregnant! She’s due in May and I am so excited to be an auntie.

Her shower is in early February and even though I am going to send formal invitations in the mail I decided a little advance notice would be appreciated by everyone – especially with the holidays approaching.

Here’s the quick Save the Date invitation I created. I saved it as a JPEG and sent it out via e-mail.

I chose Winnie the Pooh because Jaimie and her husband discussed a Winnie the Pooh-themed nursery before they decided on a Yankees-themed nursery instead. I’m going with classic Pooh, because the modern Pooh wearing a shirt and no pants is troublesome to me. I’m mostly kidding, but I do prefer the old-fashioned bear.

Plus, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the quote I found written  by A.A. Milne for Winnie the Pooh and it’s certainly true for anyone expecting a baby.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who loves the quote for new little babies. Here’s a wall decal you can buy on Amazon for your own nursery.

Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart
Winnie the Pooh quote (jandle) 36×14

This is sort-of what it will look like, though this is obviously Photoshopped onto a blank wall:

New Baby Casserole

23 Oct

My dear friend Katy just had her first baby a week ago. He’s a precious little man. Just look this teeny guy:

 Photo by Snips and Snails – http://www.snipsandsnailsphotography.com/
 

Don loves it when our friends give birth because it means that I will make what we call New Baby Casserole and that I will make two of them – one for us and one for the new mom or parents.

It’s super easy to make (you start with the valuable time saver known as the rotisserie chicken), freeze and re-heat. Plus, it’s tasty and appeals to just about everyone (even kids for those parents who already have a toddler at home).

Today at the grocery store I even found single-serving, aluminum pot pie containers. That makes it even easier to pop them out of the fridge or freezer and re-heat.

Don and I have a deep freeze so hopefully I can make lots of these mini casseroles in the weeks leading up to our placement.

New Baby Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 of a yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bag of frozen peas and carrots
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, picked and slightly shredded (into manageable pieces)
  • 1 can reduced fat cream of chicken soup
  • 1 1/2 cups 2% (reduced fat) cheddar cheese
  • 1 can refrigerated busicuits 

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, coat large casserole pan with cooking spray
  • Heat olive oil in a large pan, add onions and saute
  • When onions are clear, add bag of frozen peas and carrots, cook through
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Add can of cream of chicken soup, mix well
  • Stir in shredded chicken
  • Add 1 cup of cheese and mix until melted
  • Place mixture in casserole dish, spread evenly
  • Bake for 20 minutes
  • Remove from oven and place biscuits on top
  • Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 of cheese and bake for an additional 10 minutes (or until brown)

Makes 6 – 8 servings

This is a very forgiving recipe. Use green beans instead of peas if you like. Make single serve containers.  Cook partially and freeze before the step that calls for the biscuits. Whatever you want. It’s really hard to go wrong.