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A Few of My Favorite Things: 2016

I make it a general policy not to apologize when I have a big break in between blog posts, but a four month pause after just moving to a new country probably deserves one. Things have been amazing and crazy and fun and hectic, and when the end of the day comes and the thought of writing a blog post crosses my mind, it’s been far too easy to push it aside and instead pick up a book or plan our next trip. I’d like to break the silence, though, and I’m going to start with something easy: An updated list of a few of my favorite things.

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Favorite Things: International Travel with an Infant

When Andy and I first learned we would be going to Prague for my cute little best friend’s wedding, the biggest point of stress was how in the world would our seven-month-old Lucy do on a plane for that long.  How she would make the adjustment to a timezone six hours ahead was a close runner up. Having made many an international trip as a childless person, I know what people are thinking the minute they see a baby on your hip and to some degree I can sympathise. However, babies are people too and you can’t just board them or stick them in a cage in the luggage compartment when you need to travel so we all must learn to have a little more patience in public spaces [end mini rant].

I scoured the internet for any tips or product recommendations I could get and thought through every worst-case-scenario I could imagine, but there is just no way to anticipate all the things you may find yourself needing.  My biggest piece of advice for parents traveling internationally is to stay relaxed, roll with the punches, and try to channel your inner MacGuyver.  Difficult situations will arise (like forgetting a formula scoop from the land of ounces on a train ride through the central european countryside) but you will live to laugh at yourself.  Getting tense and critical of your partner will only make things worse.  Your baby will feed off of that negative energy so it’s best to just try to stay positive and do what you can with what you have.

Ask ten traveling parents for a list of their essentials and you will get 10 different lists, but these were the things we found most helpful:

 

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1. Ergo Baby Carrier:  This is one of our favorite purchases period, but it was espcially useful on those long flights.  We tried every possible sleeping arrangement we could with her but putting her in the carrier and letting her sleep against our chest was by far the most successful.  We heard a lot of good things about the bulkhead bassinet, but Lucy would only sleep for 10 minutes at a time without waking up either from the bathroom line noise or someone bumping into the bulkhead itself. We spent a lot of time standing in the back of the plane bouncing her so she would stay asleep. The hood kept the little Irish grandmothers at bay who just loved to get right in her face and talk very, very loudly. My other favorite feature is the zipper pocket.  When you’re wearing your baby on your chest you can keep all the things you need quick access to in the pocket!

The carrier also came in handy when Lucy had just had enough of her stroller (this happens quite often). It can be worn on your chest (recommended until your wee one has excellent head control) or on your back and is very comfortable. Most of the baby’s weight is on your hips so you don’t have all the pulling on your shoulders like you do with the more popular Bjorn. They do have an insert for newborns, but I liked the Moby Wrap best when Lucy was itty bitty. There are a few different models but I chose the organic because the fabric was so soft. We bought ours at Sprout Soup but they can be found at Buy Buy Baby or numerous online sources.

2. Teething Bling Necklace: Lucy LOVED to play with this necklace.  It kept her entertained in her carrier so I could keep my hands free for toting luggage or showing our travel documents. I ordered mine on Amazon.

3. Piyo Piyo 360 Bottle: Words cannot express how much I LOVE this bottle. Lucy was not one for reclining once she could sit up, so bottle feeding became a real struggle around five months.  This bottle gave her (and me!) some freedom to feed herself.  The handles are a great size for tiny grips and the 360 straw meant she didn’t have to tip the bottle for drinking.  The straw is flexible and there is a weight at the end so no matter what position your little one is in, it works. Genius. They are made by a Japanese company and I found ours on Zulily, but All Modern carries them all the time. Because TSA and their respective international counterparts are a giant pain in the tushie, if you are bottle feeding your infant I recommend putting the bulk of your formula in your main suitcase (still sealed) and bringing individual packets of formula on board.  We used Enfamil Individual Packets and they came premeasured for 4oz so it was easy to just fill the bottle with water and pour these in.  It also eliminated the need for a scoop which can be tricky business on a bumpy airplane.

4. Sophie: This toy is over fifty years old and there is a reason she’s been around that long.  The design is genius.  Babies LOVE her.  Your fellow passengers may not love her squeaking feature, but it has to be preferable to a crying baby, right?

5. City Mini Stroller: We absolutely love this stroller.  It has a smaller footprint than most sturdy strollers and it was super easy to get on and off of public transit.  In some cities you are required to fold your stroller before boarding busses/trains/subways.  The City Mini has a handle on the seat (where your baby’s bum goes) where all you have to do is pull up and the stroller collapses.  No extra buttons or levers, just pull up and walk away. We bought ours locallyat Petit Green and they were so helpful.  You can also find them online.

6. Hunger Games Series Audio Books:  I had already read the series, but wanted something to keep me entertained while I was bouncing Lucy to sleep in the aisles of the plane.  Watching a movie wasn’t an option because she wouldn’t sleep very long if I was sitting and music just wasn’t keeping my attention.  An audiobook was a perfect fit and Hunger Games is easy to follow and fast paced.

7.Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water:  This is the one thing we DIDN’T bring and I wish we would have.  Lu’s tummy was very unsettled after all that traveling and once we actually arrived in Prague she had painful gas issues that kept her from sleeping very soundly.  Luckily our hosts had friends with babies who could make recommendations because we would have been lost trying to hunt this down in another language. Also in the Czech Republic all medications must be purchased from a pharmacist so we couldn’t peruse shelves of products to look for it.  Mommy’s Bliss brand seems to work the best for Lucy.  We’ve used it since she was a newborn.

8. Secure a Toy: These are great for keeping your twenty-dollar Sophie secured to the stroller or high chair.  Once a baby can throw an object, a baby will throw an object so these will save your sanity and your back.

 

***Honorable Mention: An iPhone.  My phone is my favorite baby distracting tool of all 🙂

Favorite Things: Newborn Edition

In keeping with the tradition of blogging our favorite things (see Andy’s previous posts Part One and Part Two), I thought I would talk about some of the things that have used nearly every day since little Lucy-Q joined our team.

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1. Adin + Anais Burpy Bibs:  Lucy has had latch issues from the very beginning and since she can’t quite get the proper flange of her upper lip, milk goes absolutely everywhere every time we feed her.  Since we prefer not to have to change her clothes every single time she eats, bibs have become essential.  Luckily we have a ton of bibs between our hand-me-down stash and some IKEA cheap-o 5 packs I picked up, but these are by far the best and it’s really nice to be able to throw it over your shoulder when its burp time.  I love how big and soft they are.  If you’ve used other Adin + Anais products, you know how dreamy their cotton muslin is.  I also love that it transitions from a bib to a burp cloth–Keeps those night feedings super simple!

2. The Original Tummy Tub: Ok, so it looks like a $30 bucket, but I promise you it’s much better.  Lucy has not been a fan of the bath and I have a bad back so kneeling over the tub whilst wrangling a slippery baby just didn’t seem like any fun.  In the Tummy Tub, I can keep Lucy upright and safe with only a few fingers and my other hand is free to scrub her down and teach her the joys of splashing water everywhere.  We don’t really use the Tummy Tub for hardcore bathing, it’s more to relax Miss Lucy.  Seriously, I’ve never seen the kid happier.

3. Baby’s Bliss Gripe Water: There are a million different kinds of gripe water/gas drops on the market, but so far this is the only kind that doesn’t make Lucy scream in terror at the very sight of it.  It also seems to be the most effective at working its magic on her tummy.

4. The Moby Wrap: We have used this carrier pretty much from the day we came home from the hospital.  When Lucy is in one of her DO NOT PUT ME DOWN moods, this gives me back the use of both my hands.  Andy has also used it a few times while he’s working to give me a break for a nap.  I can’t say enough good things about it.

5. Angelcare Movement Monitor: Before Lucy was born, Andy and I were pretty open to whatever sleeping arrangement would work best for Lucy.  We tried co-sleeping with her in the bed with us, in a co-sleeping bassinet, and in her own crib in her room and it just happened to work out that Lucy didn’t sleep well in the room with us for whatever reason.  Pretty much from the first week we brought her home with the exception of when she was sick with RSV), she’s been sleeping in her own room in her crib and she sleeps really well.  However, I am a worrier–Like, get-up-50-times-and-make-sure-the-baby-is-still-breathing kind of worrier. Even though Lucy’s room is right next ours, I still got nervous.  This monitor is designed to set off an alarm if baby is motionless for longer than 20 seconds and it is a sound monitor too so no need for a second devise.  They have a fancier version that monitors the room’s temperature as well and sometimes living in an 80+ year-old house, I wish we had that feature, but for the most part sound and movement monitoring are enough for us.  I sleep so much better knowing that Lucy-girl is save and sound snoozing away in her room.

 

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6. The Puj Tub: This is the tub we use to give Lucy her actual baths.  I love that it is soft and fits right in a sink so there is no excessive bending or knee sitting involved in bath time.  Being a c-section mama, it was a few weeks before bending at the waist was comfortable and the Puj made it easy to give Lucy her baths.  On the nights when Lucy gets a full scrub down, we start her out in this tub, wash and rinse her, then transfer her to the Tummy Tub for the rest of her bath.  She loves both tubs.

7. The Miracle Blanket: I know there are many anti-swaddlers out there, but Lucy has responded well to the swaddle from the beginning.  However, our girl is strong and from about 3 weeks old she could bust out of a traditional swaddle and those velcro swaddle blankets in 5 minutes flat.  My friend Tani passed this blanket along and we could not love it more.  Lucy stays tightly swaddled and sleeps for hours in this blanket.  Now that we are at the three month mark, she’ll sometimes sleep for 10 hour stretches (woohoo!).  We love this thing :).

8. Boon Grass Drying Rack: We have one of these upstairs in our bathroom as well as one in the kitchen to make drying bottles and other baby-related accoutrement. It’s small and compact and easily to clean, and in a house full of baby crapola, never underestimate the power of something pretty to look at.

9: The Diaper Champ: Andy’s parents gave us a hand-me-down Diaper Champ and we love it.  I have an overactive sense of smell and I rarely get a whiff of diaper business from this. Also you can use regular trash bags, no special stuff needed!

10: A DSLR: Obviously, since photography is how I make all my monies, I have (and truly, madly, deeply love) a DSLR camera, but at the price point entry level dslr’s are at these days and the quality difference, its a good investment for new parents.  Babies change so quickly, even if you hire a photographer to capture the major milestones, it is so nice to be able to make good quality photographs of your own family.

A Few More of My Favorite Things

Last year I introduced you to a few of my favorite things in the world. A year is a long time, though, and a lot of things change, so I thought it would be good to update my list. While I do still love the things from last year’s list, I’ve had a little time to notice a few other things around the house that I view as indespensible, and I thought I’d write a little about them here.

On last year’s list, I mentioned the little yellow coffee cup that I used every day. Sadly, we lost that coffee cup in the Great Coffee Mug Purge of 2010, so I’d like to have a moment of silence for my lost friend . . . . . . Fortunately, I’ve found an adequate replacement in that one coffee cup in these six stackable cups that January bought at World Market. They’re slightly larger than my old, lost friend, but they do the job just as well. Plus the stackable nature of them saves on cabinet space, since we can just set the stack of them out on the counter, next to the coffee grinder and electric kettle.

January bought this little guy for me a couple years ago, and I’m not really sure why it didn’t make the list last year. If you’re not familiar with the form or function of this statue, it’s a little holder for your eyeglasses! Most nights before I crawl into bed, I take my glasses, fold them up, and place them on the “nose” of the statue to keep them safe until the morning. I’m not really sure where you would get something like this, but as I’m prone to losing most things, having a dedicated place like this to keep my glasses when I’m not wearing definitely falls into the category of “Great Ideas.”

This is a poster we have hanging in our dining room, featuring the various neighborhoods in Columbus.  January bought me one of the more famous ORK posters of Chicago and its neighborhoods for Christmas several years ago, so when These Are Things came out with this poster last year we had to get a print to put with it. Most mornings, I get up, brew some coffee, pour some cereal or make some oatmeal, and sit and look at this poster for a while. It makes me feel a little closer with my city, and helps me think about some of the neighborhoods I don’t get to visit often.

Yes, I’m adding a second poster to this list. We’ve lived in our house for just over three years now, which is a whole year longer than I’ve ever lived in a single place since I left my parents’ home. As we continue to get settled in, we’re finally getting around to decorating the walls, which means more and more posters. This poster, “The Perfect Pour” was another gift from January that I really love. It has twenty different infographic-style images on it, depicting various coffee beverages and their ingredients. As you can see, I have this hanging next to my coffee station in the kitchen where I can see it every morning. Although I invariably go for a simple french pressed pot of coffee every morning, it’s still nice to see all the options available to me.

There you go. A few more of the little things around the house that I’ve grown attached to. I’m sure, like this year, my list will have grown this time next year so check back for another update next November. What about you? What are some of your favorite things that sit around your house?

A Few of My Favorite Things

I don’t like to think of myself as a materialistic person. I mean, I definitely love my gadgets and I used to have a moderately expensive video game habit, but overall I don’t think I get hung up on what I own. But of course, there are a few little things that I would be really sad about losing if, say, the house burned down. I mean, I’d be really sad about losing the house, but also a couple of comparitively worthless things as well.

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One of my absolute favorite things in the world is coffee. I’ve had many coffee cups over the years, but over the past couple of years I’ve really settled into a nice routine with this little yellow cup. First thing in the morning, I make a big pot of french press coffee and keep it right on my desk. The problem is, I drink it relatively slowly, and each cup usually gets cold by the time I finish it. For a while, I would keep a “dump cup” on my desk that I would dump the cold, bottom-of-the-cup coffee into before getting a refill. This cup, however, holds maybe 6 fluid ounces of coffee. This means more hot coffee, and more frequent refills, and less wasted coffee!

things_sporkWhen I first enrolled at Taylor University, we would take multiple trips each week to Muncie, a town about 30 minutes away, for late night Taco Bell runs. In my junior year, a combination Taco Bell / KFC restaurant was opened up by the freeway about 10 minutes away from campus, and while it wasn’t as nice as the Taco Bell in Muncie (you know, by Taco Bell standards), it was a lot closer and as a result got a lot more of our business. The KirTac restaurant did have one advanage: copious amounts of sporks. If you aren’t familiar with sporks, they’re combination spoons and forks. Sporks are amazing, and for my last birthday my sister Lesley bought me a titanium spork that I love! Goes great with soup, spaghetti, ice cream… you name it!

things_glassesShortly after January and I got married we got her some new glasses and me some new lenses. We were still pretty new to puppy-raising, and it wasn’t long before both of our glasses became casualties to Gus’ puppy teeth. Mine were completely destroyed, but January’s just got some teeth marks on the ear piece. I started wearing her glasses, and ultimately claimed them as my own officially by getting the lenses replaced with my own presecription. Three years later, I’m still using these glasses with tiny puppy teeth marks on the ear pieces, and several tiny scratches on the lenses. I’ll probably get the lenses replaced someday soon, but I’m keeping the frames as long as I possibly can. They just feel like me.

things_capWith the exception of my Lake Superior State Hockey t-shirt that is currently in tatters, this stocking cap is the article of clothing that I have owned the longest. I bought it shortly before moving to Chicago, and it’s great in the winter. Since using this cap, most other caps just feel like they don’t cover enough of my head. This cap comes all the way down, covering both of my ears complete. There have been several times when I’ve thought I lost it, and I have almost literally torn the house apart looking for it. In my mind, it’s irreplaceable.