Monthly Archives: July 2011

On the Road (Again)

I’ve been more than 1,700 miles since Friday, so I haven’t had too much time to post. My apologies.

While I most often travel with my wee one in tow, this time, given my rather packed schedule, I decided not to bring him. Although I know I made the right decision–and was lucky enough to have a Mimi that would take care of him in my absence–I kind of missed him. I mean, I was totally relieved he was hanging at the River with the grandparents as I got up at 4:30am for my flight out of Syracuse or waited for my delayed flight from Birmingham or ran through the Atlanta airport to catch my next flight or arrived close to midnight in D.C. These are travel realities that quickly become travel nightmares with wee ones.

But while I was down in Alabama, I got a chance to catch up with a mommy friend who showed me my next mommy must-have: the CARES Child Aviation Restraint System.

Her daughter is two and they were headed up to New Hampshire for a week. Given that her sister-in-law had all the gear she’d need once she got there–car seat, stroller, port-a-crib, life jacket, toys, etc.–she really didn’t want to haul a car seat on the plane with her. Even the more streamlined convertibles are giant and a pain when you’re lugging a bunch of stuff. So, this contraption, is basically a 5-point harness system that works with the existing airplane seat and seat belt to keep your kid strapped in. The bonus is that it weighs like a pound and can be stuffed into your purse. (So much better than a 20-pound car seat that needs its own set of wheels to be maneuvered around the airport.) The sheer convenience, to me, makes this worth the $75 that the contraption costs. And when you consider that you’re already paying for an extra seat at this point, I think it sounds pretty darn reasonable.

But more than that, it works. My mommy friend, in the middle of an absolute travel nightmare (yes, she was in Atlanta), had this comment to share on Facebook:

“For all travel savvy moms out there, the Kids Fly Safe aircraft restraint by Cares is fantastic!! Completely eliminates lugging a big car seat through the airport and is a breeze to install!”

So, glad to know that at least one part of her journey was easy. But if you’re a mommy looking for more info, here’s a news segment on airline safety for infants and toddlers that features the seat safety harness. I’m not about ready to poo-poo the lap baby, as the segment advocates–has anyone checked out ticket prices lately?–but I thought this was a fantastic option for a tour de toddler.

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Filed under babies, baby gear, baby travel, travel

Three Lessons for All Moms

I recently had lunch with three mommy friends that I’ve known since elementary school. (It seriously makes me so proud to be able to say that we’re all still friends after all these years.) Lunch with these ladies, who are all either two or three times more experienced at the mommy thing, is always enlightening if not totally entertaining.

Part of what makes it so fun to continue to get together is its a chance to take stock of what’s changed.

For example, one of my mommy friends ordered an unsweetened ice tea to go with her lunch. Another friend looked at her, shuddered, and said, “Whoah, unsweetened? That’s hardcore.”

That just about sums up how exciting the mommy life is. So long gone are the days of sneaking out of dances to meet up with boys. Or trekking through the woods at night to a bonfire kegger. Or backpacking through nine countries in eight weeks. Hardcore is now defined as living without the little luxury of a lump or two of sugar.

But what hasn’t changed is the uniqueness and humor with which each one of these women approaches life, and especially the responsibilities and realities of mommyhood. I’ve learned (and laughed) so much from their own stories of success and failure when it comes to keeping it together with kids. Here are three gems that I can’t resist passing on:

Lesson #1: You can avoid extraneous meltdowns. When my friend had her first child, she came up with a rule to keep the crying to a minimum. The rule was simple: You can cry if there’s blood. I didn’t even have kids at the time that I first heard this mom logic, and it still struck me as a brilliant idea. Now that I am a mom, it’s pure genius. I can’t wait to start pulling this one out. Take that minor bumps and tumbles, we’re saving tears for bigger drama!

Lesson #2: It’s okay to keep a secret. This trick of the mommy trade kind of traces back to the old adage of “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.” My mommy friend, for example, doesn’t tell her kids when the fair is in town. In fact, she doesn’t even drive down the street next to the fairgrounds during that week. (It didn’t even occur to me that I could do this as a mom!)

She’s totally figured out that life can go so much more smoothly without the questions, begging, complaining, and crying that go hand-in-hand with kid-magnet activities like county fairs. This isn’t to say that my friend doesn’t take her kids to places like fairs; it’s just that she’s gotten savvy to fact that she can totally circumvent the annoying and/or exhausting build-up to the event.

Two caveats: This technique works better with the not-yet-literate set and is by no means foolproof, as my mommy friend can attest. Her child started inquiring about the fair after a play date with another child whose parents weren’t keeping the same secret.

Lesson #3: Never forget to make your kid feel special every day. I had a little exchange with my friend’s four-year-old son the other day that I thought was so reflective of the type of my mommy my friend turned out to be. Her little boy said, “Do you know what the most beautiful word in the whole world is?” I, of course, said, “No, tell me.” He said, “Thomas.” That was of course his name. And what he said was, of course, so very true. That’s totally what every kid should be taught. Every day.

So, thank you to my friends for sharing these pearls. From the practical to the sweet, I feel so much better prepared to navigate mommyhood thanks to you.

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Filed under daily life, moms, newbie parents, parenting

Pimp My MiniVan

When our little bundle of boy was born, we had two vehicles. One was an SUV that we used mainly for long road trips and hauling stuff like my husband’s military gear and the dog. The other vehicle was a Volkswagon Jetta that was perfect for city travel because it was good on gas and a dream to park.

Move over, stationwagon

But all it took was one big trip to my parents’ house with baby gear plus all of the normal stuff for us to realize that the Jetta, for all its practicality, was rather impractical for us at this stage in our lives. So, when a friend of ours who was set to deploy, offered us the chance to buy his Volvo SUV for what he owed on it, it sounded like a great deal.

And it has been. The only thing that’s been a surprise is the fact that serious dudes with a serious interest in cars seem to especially appreciate my family mobile.

I don’t know much about cars. I don’t dabble in the aftermarket business at all. So, I had no idea I had some crazy pioneer Pioneer GPS/sound system or mad tires and rims. I’m not even sure the dude we bought it from knew all this.

But I’ve been learning. On top of the fact that we, on a whim, bought the safest SUV on the market, I’ve also learned, for example, that I have some serious low-profile tires and enviable rims. I usually know when a black guy with chains tells me he has the same ones. What size they are, I have no idea. But it’s instances like the one the other day that confirm it all to me:

So, there I am, pulling into Petco to buy some hyper expensive canned dog food because my dog craps out cow pies otherwise. I pull into a parking spot just as a dude is pulling into the space next to me. I see him nodding as I get out of the car and as I walk around to yank my kid out of the car seat, he says, “Nice ride.”

All I could muster out was, “Thanks.” But what I really wanted to say was something like, “Yeah, boo, the Graco My Ride 65 is how we roll.”

It is absolutely hilarious to me that I have milk stains literally coating the inside of my right, rear, passenger-side door and yet dudes who know stuff about cars always comment on my car, assuming I know what I even am riding on. I mean, seriously, if you weren’t into cars, you wouldn’t know that I apparently have fancy tires and rims. They aren’t tricked out in any sort of way or anything. In fact, for the first month, because of the low-profile tires, I thought I always had an under-inflated tire. (Shows you how much I know about cars.)

And yet, they do.

But there’s something about me that gets infinite amusement out of the fact that I’m carting my milk-stained munchkin around in a hot ride. Even though I’ve only committed to the SUV, I’m totally thinking that if I ever get to the minivan stage–hey, remote opening rear doors are pretty awesome–I’m totally going to have to pimp it out or lose some real street credit in the drop off/pick up lane at school.

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Filed under baby travel, delivery, family, moms, transportation

Breaking the Mom Market Wide Open

If Target was a type of fast food chain, I would be categorized as heavy user. Part of it for me is the convenience. (When I’m home, the store is a quick 10  minute stroller from house and also in the same building as my gym.) But part of the attraction is the fact that whoever it is who does Target’s buying completely knows me, where I am in my life, what I want versus what I necessarily need, and what I am willing to spend.

I can hardly think of a better example than today, when I stopped by the greeting card aisle to pick up something for my sister’s upcoming shower. Forget birthdays, gets wells, new babies, and condolences. Move over graduation, housewarming, and pet death. Turns out there is now a whole greeting card section section dedicated to desperate moms. That’s right, there is a whole segment of the buying population that is comprised of moms willing to spend nearly $4 for a card to send to another mom that basically says something like, “Sorry that your kids are, in one way or another, making your life fall apart.”

This particular incarnation spoke to me:

The front of the card

 

The inside of the card

Doesn’t that just say it all? I feel like I need to send this to every mommy friend I know.

I can’t help but be fascinated with the micro segmentation that’s going on here. It’s brilliant. It’s so much more than female, aged 25 to 34. This actually pinpoints an emotional stage in my life as a mommy and completely capitalizes on it. Again, brilliant.

Interesting enough, I had stumbled across another great example of this kind of niche mom marketing as I popped into the Old Navy before my last Target run. First, I noticed that they had traded their navy blue, mesh shopping bags in for full-on shopping carts with child seats in the front. (Thank you.) Second, I noticed that they had put a pint-sized table with matching chairs at the entrance to the dressing room and left a pile of coloring books and crayons on the table. Way to know your customer, Old Navy. Seriously, who is going to take the time to try stuff on when her kid, or kids, is on the brink of a meltdown?

All this rambling to say that, as a mom, I appreciate when stores actually show in one way or another that they understand what I like and value at this stage in my life. After all, it’s moms that really control the purse strings.

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Filed under baby gear, daily life, moms, shopping

My Love-Hate Relationship with Swim Diapers

It’s full-on summer these days and when the temps start climbing, there’s really nothing more adorable than a baby in a pool or at the beach. While I have always been the type happy to sit waterside for hours on end with nothing more entertaining than a beer, babies certainly do not have my tolerance for nothingness when the sun is shining. So, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get the most out of whatever pool or beach time I can get with a one year old.

I thought swim diapers might turn into a hot-weather essential, but after a handful of uses I’m becoming more skeptical. Here are the pros and cons, as I see it:

Pro: Swim diapers don’t suck up unbelievable amounts of water after every dip,  end up weighing a gazillion pounds, and drip it out all over you when you pick up your kid.

Con: Because they are not absorbent, despite their name, they are not intended to be used actually as diapers. I learned this after I thought I was being smart, got my kid into his swim gear, popped him in the car seat, and headed to the lake. When I pulled him out of the seat a short time later, not only was he literally dripping wet, but his car seat was soaked. I still feel like my car smells.

Pro: They aren’t ridiculously expensive. That’s always a plus in my book.

Con: Not a fan of the S-M-L sizing, particularly since it seems to run a bit small. I’d imagine that a one-year-old would be a medium, but they seem tight.

Pro: The pull-up style of the swim diapers helps them stay on better when soaking wet. When regular diapers get really wet, the adhesive straps can unstick due to the weight of the diaper.

Con: The pull-up diaper is a nightmare when we’re talking No. 2. My kid has the uncanny knack of always taking a dump about 5 minutes after the swim diaper goes on. (What is with that, seriously?) So, after I get him all dressed, I have to undress, and then redress him. The on and off of clothes is trying to begin with at this stage because baby is too big to lie there but still too small be very sure on his feet. Tear away sides or not, I am usually trying to shimmy a full diaper down my squirming baby’s legs. It’s a mess. Literally and figuratively.

 

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Filed under babies, baby gear, diapers, swimming

Keeping Up with the Alpha Moms

As I was flipping through the local paper this evening, I came across a reprint of an article from the Chicago Tribune, called “High-stress Motherhood.” Given my recent crisis of confidence in believing that I can actually succeed at being a working mom, I decided this article was probably meant for me.

I am totally mom Alice Domar, who so perfectly describes what it’s like trying to balance job demands with child demands:

“When you’re at work you feel guilty that you’re not at home, and if you go home at 5 or 6 p.m. to pick up the kids from day care, you feel guilty you’re not at work—or you do what I do: You have your Blackberry in hand, and every time you get to a stoplight, you check your email.”

I totally always feel like I’m running to just keep up, which makes wonder how only 40% of working moms report feeling rushed, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. What do the other 60% of them do for a living that doesn’t seem to make significant demands or add a certain level of stress to life?

Don’t get me wrong; I like my job and I like being busy. I find what I do both challenging and interesting. But while there are good days where everything feels under control, there are those other days, which usually end (at least for me) in some sort of mommy meltdown, a glass of chardonnay, and a call to my mom. At that point, I can hardly count myself one of those moms who report that they are happy despite their frazzled lifestyles. In fact, it usually takes me a couple of days to get over that this-is-too-much-for-any-sane-person feeling.

I fully acknowledge that I add a certain degree of undue pressure on myself. That’s just in my DNA; I have never really done anything half ass. Anything that I consider worth doing, I do to the best of my ability. But this article made me consider this:

As biology nudges the modern mom into the traditional position of comforter-in-chief, she starts to contend with the dazzlingly high domestic standards promoted by everyone from Martha Stewart, to HGTV to your friendly neighborhood alpha mom.

First, I just have to say that the term “alpha mom” is really funny to me, hence the title reference. But that aside,  maybe women, and especially working moms, are unknowingly being set up to try and fulfill unreal expectations. While husbands and moms definitely help share the burden of doing it all, they aren’t the teams of people that go into making every Martha Stewart or HGTV project a success.

But even though we may recognize that fact, it doesn’t necessarily stop us from wanting it all or striving for it. Does a reality check ever really kick in? Or do we as moms just live feeling inadequate in perpetuity? Gosh I hope not.

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Filed under daily life, depression, emotions, family, infants, mommy care, moms, stay-at-home moms, working mom

My Inner White Trash Mom

I don’t know whether it’s the fact that it’s summertime or that I’ve taken refuge at my mother’s house for the season, but I’ve started to notice that my parenting standards are slipping.

Bedtime was the first routine to go. The first couple of missed bedtimes I justified by saying to myself that we hadn’t seen my parents in awhile and we were in a new place. Things would settle down and we’d be back on our old routine. Not so much. Twice in the last week we’ve been out to dinner at baby’s bedtime. (Thankfully sans meltdowns.) Not to mention that I’m so not a co-sleeper mom and yet three times in the past week, I’ve tried to have an all-night struggle with my baby. (I have regretted that decision every time as I found myself hanging off my queen-sized bed at 4am.)

Cleanliness also has been debatable since we’ve been home. Whereas at home baby gets a bath around 5pm every afternoon, at Mimi and Grandpère’s, baths are much more fluid. (No pun intended.) We’ve been so busy that it feels like I’ve been in almost a rush to get him into bed at the end of the day, bath or not. But the other day, I found an entire lock of hair encrusted in some sort of baby food. Seriously, how did I miss that?

Yes, that is a Dorito

But I’d say where I’ve been doing the worst in recent days is in baby’s nutrition.

I consider myself totally that mom who tries to buy organic for baby, who thinks about balancing fruits and veggie servings every day, who doesn’t get more adventurous with snacks than Goldfish or an occasional Wheat Thin–two of baby’s faves.

As a total aside, I’m a big fan of HappyTot foods; love the foil pouch, random mix of flavors–seriously, spinach, pear, and mangoes?–the thicker consistency (no need to add oatmeal or rice cereal), and the fact that it includes the so-called super grain salba, which has the awesome powers of omega-3. But these days, this type of wholesome food is only a tertiary part of his diet.

This past week’s menu has been pretty much an incarnation of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. While baby’s still sucked down tons of milk and chowed on at least some of his his normal breakfast, lunch, and dinner foods, his appetite has been decidedly more geared toward a number of treats:

Last Thursday, baby ate French fries.

Friday, he ate a lemon wedge, a carrot with ranch dip, and part of an onion ring.

Saturday, he ate watermelon, salami, and macaroons.

Sunday, he ate soft-serve, vanilla-chocolate twist ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.

Monday, he ate gingerbread cookies for breakfast and Doritos.

Tuesday, he ate barbecue-flavored pretzels, a grilled cheese, and part of an Arnold Palmer (half lemonade, half iced tea).

Wednesday, he ate animal crackers.

Taking stock of his intake definitely makes me feel a bit like a white trash mom. The collective nutritional value of these menu items is darn near zero. But then part of me thinks that it’s summer at grandma’s house, so why not have a little fun and indulge. We’ll make up for it with an extra gummy vitamin or two.

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Filed under babies, co-sleeping, daily life, feeding, food, health, hygiene, infants, parenting