Category Archives: newbie parents

Stroller Envy

I have three strollers. It sounds excessive, I agree. And I’m embarrassed to admit that. But having the right stroller for every occasion make seeming superfluous worth it because it makes life just that much easier.

When I was pregnant, I stressed about the stroller. I was adamant about finding a single stroller that was light weight, sturdy yet compact, good for nice sidewalks and gravel roads, reasonably priced, and could handle my kid from infant to toddler. Let me just save all you newbie moms the trouble of doing the research and just tell you that such a stroller doesn’t exist, no matter how much you spend. And trust me, you can spend $400, $600, even $800 (or more, gulp) if you want.

But it’s funny how once you go through the whole stroller selection process, you start noticing what kind of strollers other mommies have and somehow that starts to say something about the kind of parent they are.

For example, when you see someone with a Bugaboo, you think one of two things: mom and/or dad must be making beaucoup bucks or mom and dad are finicky first-time parents. (Why else would you pay nearly $900 for a stroller?) At the other end of the spectrum, a Graco stroller system somehow seems démodé. Quinny strollers are for those parents who still want to believe they’ll look chic and uber urban even with spit up down the front of their expensive clothes. Bob strollers say future soccer mom while City Mini strollers are for those who want the look of a jogging stroller but don’t want to jog. The list goes on and on.

When I was first stroller shopping, I didn’t know that my stroller would say that much about me. I was willing to pay a decent amount (<$300), if I could find one that could do everything I needed it to do. But as I started to really think about things, I realized my needs were diverse and evolving and maybe I was expecting way too much out of a single stroller. I mean, I needed something I could go for long walks with dog with but also could throw in the car easily when I went to run errands and yet could maneuver through crowds and over curbs.

So, at first, I started thinking that a nice, sleek jogging stroller would be the right fit for me. But those are inappropriate for newborns. Most joggers recommend that babies be about 6 months old before they ride in them. And I think there’s little more ridiculous than when you see parents put these teeny babies in strollers that are too big for them, so they end up all scrunched over and miserable looking. So, it was clear that I needed something for the early months as well.

Stroller #1: Pour le petit bebe

Figuring that out was easy. Every new mommy I knew swore by the Snap ‘n’ Go. That’s the Baby Trend model, but it’s basically one of those inexpensive, super light, folding stroller bases into which the infant car seat clips. Let me just say that they are awesome. I used mine all the freaking time. It made taking the baby from the house to the car to the stroller–and back again–as easy as possible, considering how heavy and cumbersome infant car seats are. I finally had to give it up around the five or six month mark because baby stopped being able to fit into the infant car seat. Good thing because I literally had almost worn the wheels off of it.

Granted, I could have opted for a larger stroller–even a jogger–that also allowed for the infant seat to clip into it. And the jogger I eventually chose had that option. But honestly, I never used it for the simple reason that clipping the car seat into the jogger made the whole contraption seem absolutely enormous. The Snap ‘n’ Go was much more maneuverable.

One stroller down and two more to go.

Stroller #2: The work horse

As I mentioned, I did end up getting a jogging stroller, but after I came to grips with the fact that I would indeed have multiple strollers, I downgraded my expectations–and budget. I ended up grabbing a Baby Trend Expedition jogger from Target for a whopping $107 at the time.

When I was shopping I had liked the Bumbleride Indie. A friend recommended it and a few of the books I had gave it good ratings. But I couldn’t get over the $450+ price tag and felt weird asking my parents to shell out for it on our behalf. So, I started looking rather pragmatically at my choices. At the end of the day, I looked at the Baby Trend and it had basically the same features. Maybe the Indie was a little lighter, but as another friend reminded me, no stroller, especially with a kid in it, is going to be feather light. So, the maybe pound or two difference really wasn’t worth hundreds of dollars in my book.

Plus, I figured, worst case scenario, the thing would fall apart in a year and I would have to buy a whole new stroller. If that was the case, I could afford to do that four times and still come out ahead of where I’d be had I spent the bucks on the fancy stroller. Plus it came with two cup holders that I didn’t have to pay extra to have.

Hello, stroller numero deux.

But it doesn’t take long after assembling the jogging stroller to realize that no matter how much time you agonized over finding the most compact jogging stroller, you’ve still got a pretty big contraption on your hands. And for as much as they may fold up easily and fit into their own bag, it’s not something you can just throw in the back of the car easily if you’ve got a lot of groceries, shopping bags, luggage, or in our case, a large Doberman. Just to give you an idea, our jogger generally gets strapped to our roof rack when we travel any amount of distance. So, are you really going to put your kid in a jogging stroller to run a quick errand? Ummm, no.

Stroller #3: On the fly, baby

And so it began to occur to me that I needed yet another stroller–one of those inexpensive umbrella strollers that could be stashed in a closet or in the trunk of my car. There are so many options that I think I just ended up picking one rather randomly–the Chicco Capri.

I think I mostly just liked the color, but after taking it out on it’s inaugural spin today, I will say that it’s super compact and light–perfect for taking on the metro and to restaurants. About the only negative I can see about it is it’s sun shade. It’s a separate canopy piece that you attach/detach, and I wish it somehow could collapse in on itself like the canopies on full-size strollers.

But it does the job, so I guess that’s really all I need. And I think that’s just the best way to look at the whole stroller selection process. For some reason, it seems like a huge decision when you’re seven months pregnant and trying to feel prepared for your first baby. But really it’s not that big of a deal.

The reality is no matter how much you spent on your stroller, as a new mommy, you’ll end up cursing it at some point. Every stroller feels heavy when you’re carrying it up a bunch of stairs. Every stroller can be difficult to get through a store door when you’ve got your hands full. And when you’re living in a city, every stroller seems to take up too much room in your condo or row home. On the flip side, every baby will find a way to fall asleep in his or her stroller, whether it be a $25 deal from Costco or an $800 Peg Perego. And isn’t that a beautiful thing?

So, when I look at my three strollers, what do I think they say about me? I’m practical, appropriate, and all about keeping it simple.

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Filed under babies, baby travel, daily life, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, strollers, travel

All Baby Wanted for Christmas

2010 was a year full of firsts for our family. My husband and I became parents for the first time in May and every day since then has yielded some sort of new discovery for baby, us, or both. But as cheesy or cliche as it sounds, baby’s first Christmas was definitely an awesome way to close out a year of most memorable firsts.

It was hard to resist the temptation to go big or go home for baby’s first Noel, but I think the family exercised a decent amount of restraint. Baby got a pair of booties from the maman, a hysterical dinosaur hat from Auntie Kate and Uncle Nick, bath toys from Mimi and Grandfather Condor, blocks and a toy from Poppa, and a Redskins warm-up suit from who else but the Papa–and a whole lot of wrapping paper. We figured he’d get a little more out of the whole Christmas event next year.

Even though baby was too young to get into the whole Santa and presents thing, he made Christmas so much more fun for all of us adults. I mean, who can really resist a baby with a set of reindeer antlers? He was full of smiles and giggles and totally into whatever anyone else was into–be it a magazine, a napkin, or a bowl of olive tapenade, as caught on video.

The fact that he was in a mostly good mood was amazing because he was teething in a bad way. Not only were his top front teeth coming in to match the bottom two that came in nearly three months ago, but his incisors were totally busting through the gums as well. Needless to say there was no shortage of references to that horrendous Christmas song, All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.

And that actually ended up happening. By Christmas Eve, baby had two big front teeth and a nice gap in between that my husband is sort of stressing about. By New Year’s Eve, he had an additional two sharp points poking through his gums where his incisors will eventually be.

But all teeth aside, this holiday season was so great thanks to baby. As my husband would say, he added a little je ne sais quoi to our normal holiday traditions. But the best part is knowing that next year will be even better because he’ll enjoy it even more.

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Filed under babies, family, holidays, infants, newbie parents, teething

Buggin’ Out

My husband and I reached a parenting milestone this week. We were both taken down in a big way by some nasty bug or another that no doubt came from a crumb cruncher. It’s like a game of Clue to try and figure out which crumb cruncher.

Was it the wee one in the nursery with the teething toy? With everything that he touches, drops on the floor, and puts in his mouth, it wouldn’t surprise me if he picked something up that way despite all my efforts to sanitize. But he really never exhibited any symptoms more severe than the sniffles and a little cough.

Was it the nanny in the kitchen with the warmed bottle? Possibly. She has had a bit of a runny nose and a cough. And then there’s the question of the nanny’s two kids, ages 2 and 7. I know she had to go pick up her 7-year-old from school the other day because he threw up. But I saw him later that day and he seemed perfectly fine, so maybe it was that his breakfast didn’t agree with him, as his mom suspected.

Or was it a neighborhood parent in the living room with a brunch plate? I hadn’t considered this option until my husband pointed out that we had gone to a meet-and-greet brunch last weekend for a neighborhood new parents group. There were a bunch of kids there, although at the time I wasn’t looking at them as pint-size petri dishes.

While Patient Zero remains unknown, the end result is not. I started feeling bad Sunday night, so I decided to go to bed early. I went upstairs, pumped, and as I came back downstairs to put the bottles in the fridge, I had to take an emergency detour to the bathroom. I think the last time I threw up like that was Colgate Spring Party Weekend ’98 after my roommate and I tried to drink 3 bottles for $10 Andre champagne out of a two-story funnel. (True story.)

Monday morning was just painful. I had spent the whole night alternating between my face feeling like it was on fire and my teeth chattering and had a wicked headache. Fortunately, the nanny was on duty, so I pretty much handed the baby off to her like a baton in a relay race and holed myself up in my room with my computer for the day.

Just as I was starting to feel better by the late afternoon, I get a call from my husband. He wasn’t feeling well. By the time he got home, it had gone from bad to worse.

If I thought I was sick then he might as well have been on his death bed. His symptoms were like mine times 10. So bad, in fact, that he woke up this morning and said, “I dreamed I had a disease.”

“Really?” I said. “What disease?”

“TTS,” he said.

“What’s that?” I said.

“Toilet to sink,” he said.

We’re both on the mend, thankfully. But the experience was definitely eye opening. I had no idea baby germs could take down–and with such wrath and fury–two healthy adults. I always sort of thought that the parents who worried about their kids getting sick from daycare or church school or wherever else kids interact were a little on the paranoid side of things. Or, if they were getting sick all the time, a little more immune deficient or susceptible somehow. After all, in the decade plus that my husband and I have known each other, neither one of us has been remotely close to as ill as we’ve been in the past two days. But down we went. For the first time but certainly not the last, I’m sure.

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Filed under babies, daddy care, daily life, family, health, hygiene, infants, mommy care, moms, newbie parents

Have Infant Will Travel

With all my recent travel, I’ve received a number of notes from mommy-friends looking for a little advice on how best to prepare for their own travel adventures with baby. So, here’s how baby and I roll when we’re on the road–or should I say tarmac…

First, when we fly, we arrive ungodly early. It’s painful for me because I’m typically the type that arrives about 1 hour before the flight and carry on or bust. But now that I’m a mommy, I plan on being at the airport 90 minutes early if it’s a small airport like Savannah or Syracuse and at least 2 hours early if it’s a big airport like Atlanta or Baltimore. (I haven’t flown with baby out of Dulles yet, but I have to say that I might plan on being there 2.5 hours before my flight just because that airport sucks in more ways than I can count. But I digress.)

Baby gets wheeled through security, to the gate, to baggage claim, and anywhere else we may need to go in his car seat, which is clipped into the Snap ‘n’ Go stroller base. I’ve seen people with babies in those front carriers, but generally they are still pushing a stroller so it just seems like the carrier is just more thing to lug around that I really don’t need. I mean, no matter where you’re going you need the car seat, so you’ve got to take the stroller base. But the carrier? If you really think you’ll use it wherever you’re going, throw it in the bag that you check. (And no matter how much you hate paying the luggage fees, check the darn bag; you’ve got enough to carry onto the plane. )

I’m sure that it’ll come as no surprise that going through security with a stroller, infant, and other baby accoutrement takes a lot more time than you’re probably used. (I’ll get to more on security later.) So, just try not to stress. You’ll have to take the stroller all apart and put it on the conveyer for X-ray or someone will come and whisk it away and give it some wand action. In the meantime, you have to hold the baby as you walk through the metal detector. Grabbing your stuff off the conveyor and setting up the stroller while holding an infant on one hip is a challenge, but if you take your time, you’ll get through it.

Once you’re to the gate, definitely take advantage of your priority seating status. It takes more time than you think to deconstruct the stroller and get into your seat and settled. But basically, you’re going to just gate check the car seat and the stroller base. Leave them with their pretty pink tags at the end of the jet bridge. I’d recommend putting the car seat in a plastic bag, but I forgot mine the last time and we survived.

Now for carry-ons… I use this rather large shoulder bag to lug most stuff and then I bring a small purse-like thing for my pump, mini cooler, and extra bottles. I figure if my luggage gets lost, I have the things I really need. In my big bag, I throw in: a gallon ziplock bag with a thing of wipes and a bunch of diapers; a full set of clean baby clothes (not just an extra onesie because inevitably you will have some sort of inopportune diaper blow out that will make the pants baby’s wearing unwearable); a sweater/sweatshirt for baby; this plastic container thing that has 3 sections, where I put formula, rice cereal, and oatmeal; a bottle of water (buy it once you get through security); 3 rattles; one small stuffed toy; two large, thin receiving blankets/giant burp cloths (one to lay down on whatever baby changing table you find in the airport bathroom); a washcloth; and then my stuff (wallet, ID, phone, and that was pretty much it). If you’re traveling in the winter or on an overnight flight, I’m guessing you’ll need an actual blanket, too.

If baby happens to be traveling on your lap (although I would seriously recommend parents cough up the cost of an extra seat if you’re taking more than a 4 or 5 hour flight), I’ll just tell you right now that you won’t need the normal stuff you travel with (Kindle, iPod, book, etc.). The baby will sleep, but you’re going to have your hands literally so full for a lot of the time, keeping baby entertained and quiet, that I really think it’s overly optimistic to bring all that stuff. However, if you are going to be on a longer flight, you might want to bring something if you think the gazillion movies they’ll play won’t be enough. I just wouldn’t burden yourself with lugging all that stuff around the airport when you can throw it in your checked bag.

As for baby food… You can bring as much breast milk as you can carry and you can even put it in the big 8oz or 9oz bottles. When you go through security, they’ll pull you over to the side and make you open every single one of them as they wave this vapor stick over them. This takes also takes up more time going through security, but at least there are no restrictions. You’ll also want to pack some formula, even if you’re not feeding baby formula regularly. You don’t know what kind of situation you’re going to be in—maybe the dude sitting next to you completely creeps you out and you don’t want to whip out the boob when you run out of bottled milk or maybe your flight gets cancelled/delayed or maybe the top comes of your boob milk and spills all over the cooler. These are all things that have happened to me, so you want to be prepared.

If baby is into solids, I recommend throwing some of the Gerber Nature Selects in the rectangular plastic containers into your bag as well. They are foil sealed and also have a plastic top if you need to re-close it. This last time I flew back with some jars of baby food Ian’s mom bought me and they made me open those but not the plastic containers.

As for keeping baby quiet and comfortable during takeover and landing, my secret was feeding him. I would try to hold off on actually giving him the bottle until we had pushed away from the gate and were taxiing to the runway. He’d be gulping away as we sped down the runway and then would be asleep by the time we’d reached our cruising altitude. I think the swallowing motion did a lot to relieve the pressure than can build up in the ears when taking off and landing. Same deal with the landing. If he was asleep, I’d just let him be and if not, I’d feed him until we were on the ground.

The only problem I had was at one point he just refused the bottle—either boob milk or formula. He’d never done that before. So, I had to pull out the boob for a couple minutes before he crashed. I was completely uncomfortable, but I figured it was a few minutes of self consciousness versus a crying baby.

Now, as far as seats go, I think I’d recommend mommies opt for the window seat. Although I do think on a long-haul flights, there could be some advantages to having an aisle seat; you might want to get up and walk baby at some point and having an aisle would make that much easier to do.

There’s also some row considerations. I got put in a bulkhead seat (you know the ones behind the business/first class and economy divider) once, and I didn’t like it at all. There was more legroom, but I didn’t like not having my bag with all of baby’s gear within arms reach. (I actually switched seats with someone.)

However, one of my girlfriends who also has an infant and will be traveling to the Philippines says that’s where she and her family will be sitting because the flight crew can attach a bassinet of sorts for the baby. For overseas travel, you might call the airline to find out if that’s a possibility because being hands free even for a little bit on what is sure to be a crowded flight would be awesome.

So, the last word: It’s definitely exhausting traveling with a baby, but it’s not impossible, even if you’re by yourself, if you’re organized.

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Filed under babies, baby travel, breastfeeding, daily life, feeding, formula, infants, moms, newbie parents, nursing, organizing, travel

Grandstanding for Grandma

I just got back from my second solo flight with baby in as many weeks. We did pretty well, considering this last one was fraught with my typical travel drama. This round included arriving at the airport at 5:15am only to find out that someone–it’s still not clear to me whether it was Travelocity or Delta’s mistake–canceled the reservation on my ticket when I had to cancel my husband’s ticket. So glad I got up at 3:45am for that.

Baby held his cool through it all, minus a 15 minute scream fest on the tarmac in D.C. while the plane  was stuck in runway gridlock. I swear everyone was glaring at me as the minutes ticked by so unbearably slowly. I rocked him, I burped him, I tried to feed a bottle to him, I held him up to the window, I turned him on his tummy–I did everything I possibly could to get him to stop screaming. I finally had to whip out the boob, which is something that I never do in public–much less in front of a captive airplane audience–if I can possibly avoid it. Thankfully the larger woman in the seat next to me was able to scoot over to the aisle seat after the man sitting next to her bolted to the first available free seat one row over, so there was some discretion.

But even though we got to South Carolina a few hours later than expected, we got there without major incident. Grandma Linda and Great Grandma Pat were there to meet us, which was fantastic considering what a challenge it is to wheel a suitcase as you’re pushing a stroller and carrying what feels like the world’s largest diaper bag. Not to mention that I’ve pretty much worn the wheels off my Snap ‘n’ Go, so it actually takes some muscle power to maneuver it.

The weekend went by fast–too fast, as it would seem–but it was fun. We saw the family, did some shopping, had a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner, and even stayed up until 1:30am having girl talk over a bottle of wine (okay, so it was two). But the best part for me was watching Ian’s mom just love on baby.

She’s been basically biting her tongue since the day we got married about having kids. She’s wanted nothing more in the past decade than to be a grandma. In fact, when we asked her what she wanted baby to call her, she didn’t even think about it. No need for a nickname that would sound young, energetic, even stylish. It was Grandma. End of discussion.

Of course, baby was at his very cutest the whole weekend so she would just go ga-ga over him, reveling in his every mood and movement. But I think the moment she loved the absolute most was most unexpected.

We were out Christmas shopping and randomly my mother-in-law says we have to go into PetSmart; they were having an adoption fair and she wanted to see the dogs. I should probably note that she (a) has a dog and (b) volunteers at a dog shelter, so she’s a dog lover through and through. I think she was also trying to tell us something about moving on from Joey.

There were probably 20 dogs there hoping to find a new owner, including eight Burmese Mountain-Beagle mix puppies that were oh-so adorable. So, there was a lot of barking. I was a little worried that the noise might scare baby; he generally gives a little jump when there are sudden noises like the doorbell or the phone ringing.

But not that day, not my kid. And fortunately, I happened to have my Flipcam hanging out in the bottom of my purse, along with some receipts, crumbs, and a random curtain tie back. (Don’t ask.) Baby heard the barking and just cracked up. Why? No idea. But it was funny enough that it kept us yelling out, “Ruff, ruff!” or “Grrr, grrr,” at every dull moment during the weekend. Check it out:

As I said, I was lucky enough to have my Flipcam on hand to catch this moment for posterity, or at least for the amusement of grandma. I highly recommend anyone who has kids should get this thing. It’s cheap, small, seriously simple to operate, and you won’t over do the whole video thing. It’s just perfect for any spur-of-the-moment grandstanding for grandma.

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Filed under babies, daily life, emotions, family, grandparents, infants, newbie parents, travel

My Baby Vampire

I can’t say that I knew baby was teething, even though looking back, I did think it was weird that when I would pick him up out of his crib in the morning, he would sort of crunch up and then try to hook himself, jaw first, onto my shoulder. Honestly, at first, I thought he was just excited to see me.

Then there was the drool.

But, having no other babies or even younger siblings of my own, I didn’t think it was all that weird that babies drooled. I  mean, they are babies after all, right?

Did I mention he was cranky?

Well, really only in the afternoons. And he wasn’t really inconsolably cranky; rather, he was just mildly annoyed and irritated all afternoon. I, being new at this mom thing, just chalked it up to the fact that he wasn’t too keen on napping on the afternoons anymore.

So, I guess you don’t know what you don’t know. Even though all the teething signs were there, I didn’t see them. He was four months old at the time; wasn’t teething reserved for the 6+ monthers?

Apparently not.

After a couple of drool-y weeks where baby couldn’t stop pulling things toward his mouth–from the blankie to the totally dirty diaper that I thought was out of his reach–finally he latched on to my finger. Owww! I felt the two little nubs on his bottom gums poking through the soft, pink flesh. No wonder nursing had started to feel more like a contact sport.

But even with the tell-tale signs and the biting, I wasn’t sure. I needed a look.

Open wide....

Good luck, sister. Try getting a four-month-old to open wide enough and long enough for you to get a good gander at whatever chompers might be debuting. I mean, a bikini-clad Tooth Fairy waving a $100 bill couldn’t have made this little man keep his mouth open long enough for me to confirm that what my finger had felt was indeed the real thing. But two weeks later, it was official; we clearly had two pearly whites staring back at us every time baby smiled.

But I didn’t really think past those first teeth. I never really considered the teething process–like how long after one tooth appears will the next one show up, whether the signs will be different for front teeth versus molars, or even how long before he’s got the whole mouthful of teeth. I had sort of hoped that baby would get some sort of reprieve between each debut, where he would go back to his normal self for a little bit before the drooling and crankiness started back up. But my cousin assures that I’m dreaming; once the teething process starts, it doesn’t stop until all the teeth are in. Of course at that point, the babes start losing them, but let’s not go there for now.

Besides the shoulder mauling, what pains me the most about teething is that baby turned into a real cranky pants in the afternoons. And he’s generally a pretty easy going little guy, so this was disturbing to me. Even more disturbing was that even if I fed him, he wouldn’t sedate. He’d gnaw on a bottle nipple or, worse yet, decide to check out something else in the room while nursing, pulling with his not-yet-developed pearls on what I used to consider some delicate pink parts. I hate that.

The biggest change I made once I realized he was indeed teething was I started him on solids. (You can check out my post on baby’s first solids here.) And it seemed to do the trick–at first. But then the newness wore off and I still had a cranky, drool-y baby on my hands.

So, I turned to teethers. I have to admit that I always thought that teethers were a crock. They seemed like they were just something over-tired parents bought in hopes of getting another 15 minutes of sleep or 15 minutes more in front of your inbox. Here I am a month+ after the first teeth appeared and I’m pretty sure that’s really all that they are. Here’s my proof:

Needless to say, we’ve tried a lot of teethers. But as much as I’d love to tell my mommy-friends that I’ve got the fool-proof teething solution, I don’t. Honestly, sometimes I think my baby is happier munching on the nose of his stuffed Tigger than any of the other approved teether toys I give him. Which is sad. Because I really love these little guys:

How many bites does it take to get to the center of a mesh teether?

There are a number of manufacturers, but I happen to have the Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder. And although I feel like they should be easier to open, I love them. And I don’t even really use them for their primary purpose, which is to give babies a chance to gnaw on some food to get some flavor without worrying about them choking on it. At this stage, I mostly just stick an ice cube in it and hope that it numbs whatever dull, irritating pain baby must feel in his mouth constantly. I’d love to say that it works, but, despite how genius I think this contraption is, it doesn’t really solve the whole pain problem. But nonetheless, this little thingy tends to make it into whatever new-mommy-and-baby gift basket that I happen to be putting together. I really think that if it’s not now, it’ll be soon enough when I get my money out of this thing.

My husband keeps saying that I should rub some vodka on his gums–that’s what his grandmother used to do for the babies in his family–but I feel like he might have gotten that wrong. I always thought it was brandy, but maybe Polish people do it differently. But baby’s not so unhappy now that I’m ready to medicate, in one way or another, so, I guess for now, I’ve just got to remember not to stick my fingers inside baby’s cage.

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Filed under babies, child development, daily life, feeding, infants, moms, newbie parents, teething

Driven To the Brink

I don’t know what it is, but every time I try to install, assemble, or set up some type of baby apparatus, I end up on the brink of a meltdown.

It started with the car seat. That exercise had my husband and I tearing the car apart in 90 degree heat as we tried to figure out whether to follow the car seat installation directions or the car manual, which of course, said opposite things about how and where best to install the car seat. Then it was the pack ‘n’ play. I still think it’s counter intuitive that you would have to put the sides up before pushing the bottom down. And you can forget about getting all the extras–diaper caddy, sunshade, mobile, etc.–back into the bag once you’ve taken them out.

Drivin' Me Mad

My latest battle with the baby gear, however, was with the jolly jumper. Or at least that’s what I call it. I think it’s technically called an activity jumper these days. But whatever mommies call it, it’s basically a seat that you hang from the door frame. You pop your wee one in it and–BOING!–you’ve got a few minutes of hands-free time. Your wee one can amuse himself for a few minutes by jumping up and down while you fold laundry or empty the dishwasher.

So, today I decide I’m going to be the greatest mom in the world and set this thing up for baby. He’s big enough, strong enough, and I know for sure he’s going to love being in it. And selfishly, I really want to go through the pile of junk mail and shred a bunch of stuff.

I pull the Combi Activity Jumper out of the box and my first thought was, “Awesome! There are only three parts to this thing.” Oh, and it’s totally cute and goes with baby’s fun car-themed nursery. It took me about 10 minutes, after reading the directions, to put it together. I thought I was rockin’.

And then I tried to hang it.

The assembly directions said it fits most door frames. I should have learned by now that with my horrendous luck, anything that says “most” means “not mine.”

I first tried to hang it between my dining room and our library, which is this weird little parlor room that many houses from the early 1900s had. I figured this was a very strategic location; I could see him from both the kitchen and the living room. What I didn’t realize is that the pocket door that I found so charming when I bought my house made the doorway too wide for the jolly jumper’s pincher-like door-frame attachment.

Not to worry, I thought. I’ll just hang it on the door frame between the library and the living room. It’s in the same line of sight, so baby will still be well monitored as he bounces to his heart’s content. What I didn’t realize is that particular door frame is taller than the one on which I had first tried to install the jumper. Consequently, despite my struggle to lengthen the strap, it appeared baby would have to be the height of a 13-year-old to be able to sit in this thing and have his pudgy piglets touch the ground.

Well, then, I say to myself, I’ll just hang it upstairs. The door frames are much narrower, so I’ll have to take it down after every use, but I can deal, I think. But why would it be that simple? Turns out every door frame upstairs has a transom window on top of it, preventing any sort of clamp-like installation.

Now, I’d like to say that I was like, “No biggie, I’ll just send it back.” But if I’m honest, every failed installation doubled my frustration level. Add to the aggravation the fact that the baby began screaming for no apparent reason. Well, maybe he was starting to get hungry again. But still, it couldn’t have been worse timing.

At any rate, I dial up the company to ask about what the best way to send this thing back was. It was ordered through Babies ‘R’ Us but shipped from the manufacturer, so I had no idea where to send it so I could get a credit of some sort. No dice. The company is only open Monday through Thursday from 8:30am to 5:30pm and half days on Fridays.

To this point, I’ve managed to hold it together. I’m annoyed as all get out, but I’m calm. Until I try to get the damn thing back in the box.

As I mentioned, this activity jumper has all of three parts. And yet, after 20 minutes of wrestling with it, it’s still not in the box. I mean, I’m sweating–I’ve ripped off my sweater and thrown in somewhere into the living room–and I’m cursing. (This, of course, is making the baby bawl even more.)

The problem is the toy bar. I can’t get it to detach no matter how hard I wrench on the thing. I’m literally stepping on the seat and pulling up with all my force. At this point two things are going to happen: (1) It’s going to come off and I’m going to go flying onto my ass or (2) it’s going to break, I’m going to go flying, and then I’m not going to be able to return it. I decide that it’s better to stop yanking on it.

So, now I’ve got a jumper that I can’t use but that I can’t return because it won’t go back into the box. Never thought a toy car would drive me right to the brink.

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