Archives For On a Personal Note…

I pride myself on being a smart shopper–I research and read reviews and agonize over what the best choice is before almost every purchase. The world of baby gear can be overwhelming, but I’ve found a few things in my first year of parenting that are really just wonderful. My post about my picks for the first six months was popular with many of you so naturally I’m following it up with my top ten items for older babies. Let’s get started.:

Eat

I feel like learning to eat solid food is maybe the biggest thing happening at this age. I’ve shared before that we skipped conventional baby food with Jack, but things would have gone much less smoothly without the help of a couple well-designed products. Exhibit A: the portable placemat.

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Tiny Diner Placemat

We like to eat out and this thing made it so much easier. Why do restaurant high chairs not have trays? If I put a plate in front of Jack it’ll end up smashed on the floor, and even though I’m as far from germophobe as they come there’s no way I’m letting him eat straight off a restaurant table. This silicone placemat sticks to most surfaces and rolls up to fit easily in the diaper bag when we’re finished. I usually give it a run through the dishwasher when we get home and keep it stashed in my car until next time.

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Wipeable Snappy Bib

Okay, I can’t exactly attest to the quality of this bib because I haven’t gotten it yet (I placed a custom order last week), but I’ve spent months hunting for the perfect bib and I think I may have found it. It’s big, it’s wipeable, it has snaps instead of Velcro, and it’s cute. Mine will have green dots on the reverse instead of the red chevron pictured above. I can’t wait!

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Playtex Straw Cup

I also spent a long time searching for the perfect cup. New research suggests that it’s best for babies to move to a straw as soon as they’re able–something about the traditional sippy spout is not great for oral development. This cup has a straw, easy to grip handles, and it doesn’t leak. Plus it’s easy to take apart and throw in the dishwasher. Winning.

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Fisher Price Booster Seat

We use this as a high chair full time at home. I love that I can put the whole thing in the sink to scrub it down every week or two and that it’s not a giant honking high chair taking up a huge corner of my dining room. Plus it’s easy to fold up and take with us when we travel.

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String Cheese

The day a friend with an older baby suggested feeding 8-month old Jack string cheese was a total lifechanger. It’s so convenient to bring along as a snack or to take the edge off his hunger while we wait for our meal at a restaurant. I throw one in his lunch bag whenever he goes to the babysitter and brought a bunch in an insulated cooler bag for our road trip. There are other snacks I stand by as well, like bananas, Happy Baby Greens Puffs, and wheat tortillas, but these take the cake for nutrition, convenience, and deliciousness all rolled into one.

Play

To be honest, most of Jack’s favorite toys these days are basic household stuff–measuring cups, the curtain by the front door, the cats, etc. But we do have a few things we love. I’m including transportation and safety in this category as well.

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Zany Zoo Activity Cube

Jack just got this for his birthday but I’ve had my eye on it for months. We saw it at a friend’s house when he was maybe only seven months old and he was able to play with the stuff on the sides even then. It’s cute enough that I don’t mind it sitting out all the time (which is saying something) and Jack really likes it.

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First Years Ignite Stroller

This is another one we just got for his birthday, but again, it’s only because I was too cheap to buy it myself if I knew I could wait and get it as a gift from family. I researched lightweight strollers and found this one to be the best value for the money. It’s got a five-point harness, is super easy to navigate, and will fit him until he’s 50 pounds.

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Maya Wrap

(that’s not me, it’s a model. Photo from here.

Before I got my new stroller I used a ring sling to carry Jack around whenever I needed to. This was great before he was sitting up well enough to use a shopping cart or whenever we went someplace that carts weren’t available. It’s only in the last month or two that he’s gotten so heavy that I don’t like using it, but I’ve heard of moms even using it to carry toddlers on their backs so maybe I’ll get some more use out of it yet.

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Safety 1st Bamboo Gate

Ah, the baby gate. I was hoping to avoid them entirely. I thought maybe I’d get lucky and my baby would just not be interested in anything dangerous. I was wrong. He’s drawn to the stairs like a moth to a flame and thinks that Juliet’s food and water bowls are his personal playthings. I like that this one is on the attractive end of things, made of sustainable materials, and reasonably inexpensive. And here’s a tip for those of you with pets–I moved Juliet’s food to the laundry room but couldn’t figure out a way to keep Jack out while allowing Juliet to come and go as she pleases. I was about to order one of those expensive gates with a pet door when–Eureka!–I got the idea to just mount the gate a little bit higher off the ground. It’s high enough that Juliet can scoot under but Jack can’t. Of course, this wouldn’t work with a big lab but for our little dachshund it’s perfect. And here’s a bonus tip–if you don’t have a dog consider getting one. Juliet eats every crumb that falls from Jack’s high chair.

Sleep

The whole sleep thing really fell into place for us around 7-9 months, thanks in large part to the writings of Dr. Richard Ferber. Only other parents who have used the Ferber method successfully can relate to the love I have for that man.

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Paci Blanket

Once Jack was sleeping better the only problem we still had was that he would fling his pacifier out of the crib, resulting in a morning ritual of searching for missing pacifiers. I sewed a small blanket from some cute printed cotton and soft minky, then sewed a ribbon into the corner to attach the pacifier. We started using it over a month ago and have lost exactly zero pacifiers since. Bonus: the blanket gets in the way while he’s playing, discouraging him from keeping the pacifier in his mouth all day without me being the mean mom who takes it away.

Honorable Mention

I’ve mentioned before that we use cloth diapers, but I prefer disposables whenever we travel and have found that Target store brand diapers work really well and Huggies One and Done wipes smell the best. For toys, Hape has lots of reasonably priced and cute choices. Also, I have an old laptop that no longer works that I let Jack play with–he loves hitting the keys just like he sees me do on my computer. And one last thing–the Evenflo Sureride carseat will keep kids rear-facing (which is safer) up to 40 pounds and forward-facing up to 65. It’s also pretty affordable.

If you’re expecting or have a baby at home I hope this has been helpful, and if not maybe at least mildly interesting. Thanks for reading, y’all!

We’ve had this little wicker coffee table on our front porch for as long as we’ve lived in this house. It belonged to Nick’s mom and he co-opted it to serve as a media stand in his room at the frat house. It was one of the few things that came with him when we moved in together and it’s served us well, but I’ve known for a while that I wanted to replace it.

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I’ve had my eye out for something modern. I was thinking maybe metal and glass, but when I saw this orange parsons-style table on the curb I thought it had potential. Once I had it on my porch I thought the proportions were just perfect! The size and scale are a really good match to the space, and the modern lines are a nice juxtaposition with the more traditional swing and wicker chairs

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Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, this table had definitely seen better days. That’s particle board you see poking through the surface.

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But never fear! Being the internet home decor junkie that I am, I recognized that little table as the infamous $10 Lack side table from Ikea. And I just so happened to be planning a trip to Atlanta this weekend. But, ya know, I’m kind of over the Ikea experience. We were coming to town to visit with friends and I really didn’t want to spend half a day being herded like cattle through Ikea’s showroom. I was telling my lovely hostess, Lauren, about my plan to leave Nick and Jack in the car while I ran in to pluck a flat-packed box of side table parts from the warehouse, when she told me she actually had two Lack side tables she wasn’t using. I was planning to get white and she only had birch effect, but I figured I could try my hand at painting it and it would make an informative blog post. Behold: Lack in birch effect on my porch.

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I actually kind of love the birch! It warms things up a bit. There is a little bit of damage on one of the legs where the paper veneer is peeling up. This furniture is not really meant to be outside or stand up to a lot of wear and tear (that’s why it’s only $10). I may coat it with some sort of poly to make it a little more weather-resistant, but even if it only lasts a year I’ll be happy.

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Next I’d love to get some new cushions for the two chairs, but dang if those things aren’t crazy expensive! I’m not sure they’d be cheaper to DIY, what with the cost of foam and all. We shall see what happens.

We had such a great time in Atlanta. We mostly laid low and hung out with BFF”s from high school, drinking Trader Joe’s wine and playing this hilarious game, but we also did a little shopping (HomeGoods! H&M!), had a delicious dinner at Nuevo Laredo, and visited the Grant Park Farmer’s Market. It was the perfect weekend trip.

Guess what we’re doing today!

road trip

I used to hate road trips. But married life is pretty great in that it allows you to settle into your respective strengths and preferences. Nick does all the driving and actually insists that I keep myself occupied with my phone or laptop or book so I’m not tempted to nag him about his following distance or wince every time I think we’re about to die a fiery death on the interstate (which is often. I’m a nervous passenger). So he drives and I take advantage of the rare opportunity to spend the day immersed in daydreams and social media without an ounce of guilt. During this trip I’ve been dreaming of our next house. We plan to stay put for a few more years, but before Jack starts kindergarten we’d like to move back to the New Orleans Northshore suburbs to be closer to family and good public schools. We may build, we may buy, but either way it’s fun to fantasize about all the features I’d love to see included. A wraparound porch is definitely a must, as is a mudroom and a big yard for lots of plants and pets (in this daydream money also grows on trees).

So anyway, I’m out for today. I hope you all had a fabulous weekend and, as always, thanks for reading!

Last Saturday was Jack’s first birthday. It was kind of a big deal for us, obviously. First birthdays are definitely as much about the parents as they are the babies. That first year is so intense and emotional and demanding–marking the end of it is part sigh of relief, part mourning the tiny newborn that grew so fast, part celebration of the toddler your baby has become.

Anyway, we wanted to have a small party at our house with friends and family. We kept it simple with a cold lunch, cupcakes, and easy decorations (not pictured below: the cheese plate I forgot to pull out of the fridge until later). I used mostly white ceramic dishware I already had and scattered a bunch of tissue paper confetti around the table. I made things easy on myself with disposable plates and forks, but at least I opted for the recycled content plates for a few cents more.

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I covered the table with a canvas painter’s dropcloth (the same one that I keep folded up on the back of the couch in the playroom/office), and just tossed a tea towel over a cardboard box to make a little stand for the cupcakes. My sister cut off part of a foil muffin pan to make a little pedestal for the birthday boy’s cupcake to sit slightly above the rest.

easy cupcake stand

The only other decoration was this fun photo garland. I forgot to take a picture of it before the party but it was still up the next morning. I got a bunch of pictures printed at CVS and hung them up in chronological order with some clothespins and string. I actually printed 64 pictures total but only 24 went up on the garland. After the party I put them all into an album–I didn’t keep a baby book but this is almost as good. The album I bought* has enough space that I can do this for the next two years and by Jack’s third birthday I’ll have an album of his baby/toddler years from beginning to end (that’s the album sitting on the ledge there).

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Jack seemed to have a really good time visiting with all his baby friends, not to mention the doting grandparents. I think he knew it was his party.

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My sister made the cupcakes–pineapple carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting (and all of it sweetened with agave instead of sugar). I printed out the “1″ circle from here and glued it onto a bamboo skewer to make Jack’s cupcake a little extra special.

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I’d say he was a fan! I was too. Those cupcakes were delicious for something so healthy. I’ll link to the recipe below.

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Friends with older babies tipped us off that opening presents usually does not go well with a room full of toddlers, so we waited until there were just a few family members and close friends lingering and helping clean up before tearing into the gifts. By then the birthday boy had been stripped out of his cake-covered outfit and he and his two baby BFF’s had fun playing with his new toys. I made sure to jot down who gave us what so I could send a thank you note to all the folks who weren’t there to see us open their gifts.

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My mom’s side of the family always gets together for the Fourth of July so we held off to celebrate with them on the holiday instead of asking them to drive over an hour for the party at our house. It was kind of up in the air yesterday what we were going to do because my grandpa was in the hospital, but my parents ended up hosting everyone at their house and we had so much fun. We took some time out from celebrating America to pull out an angel food cake with whipped cream and fruit and sing Jack happy birthday. I think he is really liking this birthday business–he gets to eat cake! He got some more cool toys and cute clothes and was spoiled with hugs and kisses and cuddles all around.

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In case you’ve got a kids’ party of your own coming up and are at a loss for what to serve, here’s our menu:

  • Finger sandwiches (turkey, ham, roast beef, and egg salad on white and wheat bread). An electric knife borrowed from my sister made these easy to make ourselves and the egg salad (cheaper than lunch meat) helped stretch our budget while also providing an option for our friends who don’t eat meat.
  • Potato salad made by Nick’s mom
  • Guacamole with tortilla chips
  • Hummus with cut veggies (carrots, cucumber, celery, snap peas, and broccoli) and pita bread
  • Cubed cheddar, monterey jack, and pepper jack cheese
  • Fruit kabobs–chopped kiwi, strawberries, cantaloupe, and blueberries on bamboo skewers that I arranged in a glass cylinder vase
  • Carrot and pineapple cupcakes with cream cheese icing
  • Tea punch, soft drinks, beer, and ice water to drink

Altogether we spent about $150. Not bad, I think! Everything was going smoothly until half of the guests fell violently ill the next day. Apparently I was carrying some sort of stomach virus that I passed onto almost everybody through the food I’d lovingly prepared. At least one person from each family got sick on Sunday, and the rest of them caught it from each other in the following days. I felt so terrible! Next time I cook for a crowd I’ll be scrubbing my arms up to my elbows like a surgeon for fear of getting everyone sick again.

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