Christmas Pajamas

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So one of the Christmas traditions that we started last year is the Christmas pajamas.  Last year I had Oliver open up a present on Christmas Eve, which was his pajamas that he could wear that night.  I figured it would be good to get that itch of opening a present early scratched by opening his Christmas pajamas.  This year I added a few other goodies to the pajama box.

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Oliver really loves reading, so I thought why not get a Christmas related book.  There are tons on Amazon, surprisingly, all relatively inexpensive too.  I know that he will want to read this before he goes to bed.

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I also included a treat for him to share with the family.  So I put the ingredients to make s’mores, which he won’t know what that is.  He’ll probably just be excited for the graham crackers.  It’ll be fun to teach him how to make this treat.

I also made a similar box for my daughter.  She has pajamas, a board book, and just graham crackers in her box.  She won’t get it, but having things consistent for the two of them won’t draw any questions from Oliver.

Hopefully this inspires you and your own family traditions!

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Potty Training

potty_trainingSo we started potty training my son earlier this week.  Day 5 in and I am pretty confident that we have a fairly well trained toddler.  It makes me wonder why I ever feared potty training.  I know the biggest drawback of potty training back in SF is that our house has wall to wall carpet (weird, I know).  So I waited to potty train him here in VA at my parents’ house since we are here for 3 weeks and have their hardwood floors.  There are accidents, and the first two days there were a lot.  But now the accidents are mostly because my son forgets to point his penis down.  Poop was also a big barrier, and it almost made me want to can the training on Day 2.  But we got over it, and now he’s back to pooping twice a day in the pot.  We’ve also adventured outside and he’s used the public restroom a few times (which is HUGE since I hate hate hate public restrooms).  He’s also good about nap time and night time, so no diapers there.

I guess the biggest take away from this is that you should never under estimate the intelligence of your young tot.  I honestly didn’t think he would get it, that he wouldn’t be able to pull down his pants and all that jazz.  But on Day 3 we hit a turning point, and he just gets it.  He will stop whatever he is doing and announce he has to pee and races to his potty.  When I gave him underwear for the first time yesterday he looked at it and said, “No mommy.  No diaper.”  He’s a smarty!

I should have potty trained him earlier, before the baby cause it would have been a lot easier.  But at least I have the support of my family here to keep an eye out for him to make sure he’s successful at using the potty.  But honestly a lot of it has to do with the fact that my son is a lot smarter than I thought, and that is why this experience hasn’t been as terrible as I thought it would be.  Thank goodness!

Also, if you are wondering if there were any books or pieces of advice to share… just download the e-book Oh Crap. Potty Training.  There’s a lot of fluff, but when you get to the heart of the training it was really helpful and worked well for us.  And I see how proud my son is now that he is a big boy!

Play Area: Before & After

So our house is fairly small (although pretty big by SF standards).  Because I’m at the stage of pregnancy where nesting kicks in, we rearranged the living room.  This is huge since I was too tired to really care about how things were laid out when we first moved in (Oliver was almost 4 months old then).  So I left it up to my husband to do the layout, and let’s just say it wasn’t ideal in the long run.  Anyhoo, we moved the furniture around two weeks ago to maximize the amount of room we have, which also means we created a designated play area for Oliver, and soon baby dos.  But the state of the play area was kind of gross.

play_area_before_1So here is the gross looking play area looking from one of the couches.

play_area_before_2This is the designated art area, which I actually like.

play_area_before_3For the love of God, all the toys and madness!

play_area_before_4And this ugly old entertainment center that we used to collect random stuff.

When we moved to SF, most of our furniture we bought from a friend who was moving to Singapore.  Needless to say, we inherited A LOT of “bachelor” furniture.  Dan argued that it saved us money and he also didn’t anticipate us staying for more than a year.  Almost 2 years later, we are still left with a few undesirable pieces in SF.  So the first thing to go was this ugly entertainment center that, thankfully, the Salvation Army gladly came over to pick up.  Their website said that they would reject any furniture they thought wasn’t good enough (something like that), and I thought that this thing would certainly be rejected.  So I was quite happy and relieved they hauled it away!

In my head, I had an idea of what I wanted to do with the space once they ugly thing was gone.  A purchase from Etsy and Ikea later, I was ready to make the area what I envisioned in my head!

play_area_after_1Art area is still the same.

play_area_after_2The new toy area/reading nook.

play_area_after_3The best the toys will ever look–EVER!

play_area_after_4Some prints for I hung up specifically for the space.

play_area_after_5A better looking piece for the books and some storage.

I absolutely love the prints I bought on Etsy from Niko And Lily.  They aren’t too kiddish for a shared space with adults.  I bought them already matted because I knew that Ikea frames come with mats that are irregular, and it would have been a pain in the butt to try to make them fit.  You can buy the prints without the mats and probably go to another shop for the frames, and probably save more money that way.  But it was just easiest for me to go this route since I already had the frames.  FYI, the frames are the Ikea Ribba frames and they fit perfectly!

I also like how we are able to use Oliver’s chair, after it was on hiatus the last year (I took Oliver’s monthly photos in this chair when he was first born.).  Even though he can’t “read” on his own, he will sometimes sit in his chair and look at the books.  Hopefully it will be a true reading nook in the future.  And the chair is awesome because adults can sit in it too, and it’s light and portable enough that we can move it around the house.  The chair is from Pottery Barn Kids.

The one thing I still need to add are bookends.  I haven’t found the right bookends for the space that are cheap enough (i.e., <$20).  If you pay close attention to the books that are sitting on top of the shelf, they are a mix of books for when Oliver is older and some cooking books.  I’m looking for bookends that aren’t too childish or sophisticated.  So that is still in the works.  Hopefully I’ll find what I’m looking for before baby dos comes.

So the new and improved play area!  Hooray!  Next up, a gallery wall.  GASP!!!

Pregnancy Woes

So I’m about 6 weeks pregnant, which is nothing to write home about.  The risk of miscarriage is still pretty high, which is why we haven’t told any of our friends and family about it.  I have noticed subtle differences from my first and this one.  Most notably I feel as though I’m not as crazy as I was with my first.  I remember consulting the Mayo Clinic’s Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy every other day because there were times I didn’t feel pregnant or had weird feelings I was unsure about.  There are times where I do feel as though I may not be pregnant, but they are few and far between.  I think it’s mostly cause I’m battling terrible allergies whilst chasing around Baby Monster.  The book is still very helpful, even the second time around.  There’s a lot you forget about pregnancy, perhaps your mind telling you that you can have another one.  But as of right now, it’s not as terrible as the first.

Wonder Weeks

We are a generation that tends to read and learn in preparation for anything, and being a first time parent is no exception to that rule.  I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that families (in the Western World at least) are more nuclear families, either by choice or because of other circumstances like work (which is our case).  And because of that child rearing isn’t learned through extended family members.  Thank goodness for the internet and books!

A few of our friends are pregnant with their first child, and I have been asked for recommendations for their respective baby registries.  The one book that both my husband and I give a ringing endorsement for and highly recommend they put on their registry  is The Wonder Weeks.  It is written by two Dutch psychologists and the book is based on psychological research (that has been empirically tested; SCIENCE!).

Why we love this book above all others?  It’s based on science, it isn’t patronizing, and, for the most part, spot on regarding our son’s mental development.  I think my husband loves it more because it also provides activities parents can do with their child to help them through each developmental leap.

The book was recommended to us by other friends, and now we are paying it forward to future parents out there.  Go get it!  You can get the app, which is a great succinct version of the book.  But if you want to be completely thorough I highly suggest you order the book from Amazon.  You don’t have to read the book in one go either.  You can just read the chapter when your kid is about to enter their next developmental leap.  And if you sign up for their e-mail alerts, they will e-mail you a week before they are entering a leap to remind you to read up.

Infant Flying Tips

 

Oliver_beachBaby Monster is a traveler like his parents, taking his first trip to Puerto Rico at the tender age of 2.5 months.  My husband and I were invited to a good friend’s wedding in Puerto Rico way before Baby Monster was conceived.  We went back and forth whether or not to go to the wedding with a newborn.  In the end, we bit the bullet and booked everything.  Our decision to go was made easier because my mom and brother came too (to enjoy Puerto Rico and help with the baby).

It sounds overwhelming to travel with a new human being, especially flying.  Baby Monster is now 18 months, and we’ve flown to Europe twice, across the country almost a handful of times, Puerto Rico, and to Seattle.  Of those times, Baby Monster and I (meaning without husband) have flown together twice.  It’s scary, but doable.  I still freak out and I swear I won’t fly by myself again, but we do it.  I always get told by other passengers that my son is very well behaved, meanwhile I think he was a hellion.  Anyhoo, here are some tips (other than packing lightly) to the parents out there that are freaking out about flying with an infant.  These things worked for our family, and hopefully you may find them helpful for yours.

1.  Book flights on Wednesday or Saturday

Why Wednesday or Saturday?  They tend to be the least busiest, meaning more empty seats!  Business travelers tend to fly Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays.  And your young friends tend to fly on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays, sometimes Mondays if it’s a long weekend.  So yes, Wednesdays and Saturdays (for the most part) are not quite as busy (although I think in summer all bets are off).  A full flight is the worse with a baby!

2.  Book the aisle (and window if you can)

Most planes now have rows of three.  If you fly by yourself with your infant, book the aisle.  You get quick access to the bathroom for the diaper changes.  And if your infant is a crawler, he can crawl in the aisle.  If your partner is flying with you, book that window seat!  The last seat fellow travelers will want is that dreaded middle seat.  So unless your flight is fully booked, the likelihood of having a free row increases when you book aisle and window.  If there is someone who ends up getting stuck in the middle, they will happily exchange for the window seat so you and your partner can sit together.

Some planes, especially international flights, offer a bassinet if you sit at the bulkheads.  Don’t book these when you buy your tickets because they charge extra (unless you want to of course).  When you are at the desk getting your bags checked, ask if the bulkheads are available.  If they are, they can change your seats to the bulkhead free of charge (both United and Virgin Atlantic).  There are pros and cons to the bulkhead.  The pros are the bassinet is super super nice to have your baby nap in instead of your arms (the bassinet also has a harness to keep them strapped in there), and there’s more room at your feet so your little one can just play on the floor in front of you.  The cons are if your baby already rolls over in their sleep the bassinet is pretty useless, and you can’t keep your baby bag in front of you because bags need to go overhead.  So keep that in mind.  For shorter flights, I could live without the bulkhead.  For long flights (5+ hours), the bulkheads are probably best.

3.  Gate check your stroller and car seat

Many people don’t know this, but you can check your stroller and car seat free of charge when you are traveling with a baby (and children!).  Some people can live without the stroller and prefer a carrier, but we do both.  Sometimes we carried Baby Monster and used the stroller to push around our carry ons.  But most of the time Baby Monster likes to zip through the airport terminal in his stroller.  It definitely gets you to your gate faster.

You can also check your car seat at the desk when you do your check baggage.  You can buy a car seat bag (we use the Brica version) or use a garbage bag.  You want to cover your car seat to protect it from the elements and grime of plane travel.  But before you check your car seat, ask the desk people if your flight is fully booked.  If it’s not, and you happen to have an empty row (they really do try to keep rows with lap infants free) you can bring the car seat on the plane with you for free (if your car seat is FAA approved, and it should say so on the side or in your manual).  This is great when your baby is super young and they easily sleep in their car seat.  It becomes trickier when they are more active, e.g. start rolling, crawling, etc.  You have to put your car seat in the window seat, which is fine.  You can also do this with a convertible car seat, but it’s trickier (doable, but trickier).  Another pro tip is you can stick extra diapers or clothes in the car seat bag if you are checking the car seat in.

Why gate check vs. normal check?  The likelihood the airline/airport loses these essential items are minimized if you check them at the gate.  Airlines manage to lose luggage or forget to put luggage on a plane.  Can you imagine finding out you don’t have your car seat when you get to your destination?!  Also your stroller and car seat can easily get damaged from the 50 lb. bags that come shooting out of the baggage carousel.

4.  Bring enough food for the flight and more!

It’s actually not that difficult to fly if your baby is strictly on breast milk because their food supply will never run out.  If your baby is starting solids and you have formula to boot, it just involves extra planning.  You basically need a bottle for take off and a bottle for landing because the sucking helps the babe’s ears deal with the changing cabin pressure.  I also find it soothes them during a crazy (and loud) time during the flight.  You can also use a pacifier for times like these.  Try to keep your baby on the feeding schedule they are used to (home time zone of course).  And then plan for extra feedings or food if they get fussy in the middle of the flight.  And as a traveler you should know that delays happen (Baby Monster and I dealt with a 2 hour delay last week).  So you want to prepare for that as well.  You can never have enough food with you.  It’s a hassle to get it checked at TSA, but it’s worse when your child is hungry and you are in the air and they can’t eat the wine and cheese plate they are offering for $12.

5.  Bring light toys and books

I pack 2 or 3 of his smallest and lightest toys he enjoys.  I only take them out one at a time.  When he’s bored of one toy, we move on to the next.  This usually entertains him for most of the flight.  You don’t have to, but I also buy a small light toy or book he’s never seen before.  This usually entertains him twice as long because it’s new and exciting.  Save these toys and books for the flight.  Don’t pull them out before you board.

6.  Run around the terminal

Before you board your flight, let your baby explore the terminal especially if they are active!  They’ll have more room to move about and the terminal is just as exciting as any toy you brought along.  A lot of airports now how safe kid spaces for children to play in before you board.  Check to see if your airport offers one.  Even if your baby isn’t active, walk them around and point and talk about the new and exciting things they see.  The idea behind this is to exhaust and stimulate them that they will be sleepy by the time they get on the plane and you give them that bottle or nurse them at take off.

7.  Bring the infant carrier or Ergo

I know it may seem like over kill when you have a stroller and car seat to deal with, but you should bring it.  We use the Ergo when we go traveling, but bring whatever you are most comfortable with.  Traveling domestically in the US, you can have your baby in a carrier when you go through the metal detector.  For international flights you must carry your baby.  Having the carrier is super super helpful when going through security because it keeps your hands free.  Once TSA checks our boarding passes and IDs and we are about to hit the security bag check, I take Baby Monster out of the stroller and strap him in the Ergo.  I then have free hands to get my shoes off and put that in the bin, etc.  Depending on how quickly we need to get to the gate (or how comfortable he is), I keep him in the carrier and load up our stuff in the stroller.  When they make that announcement at your gate that boarding will begin in 5 minutes, I put him in the Ergo and put our hand carry in the stroller.  Again, you have your hands free to fold the stroller and set it aside by the plane, and again when you have to put your hand carry away.  We still use the Ergo at 18 months.  Do this–you won’t regret it!

I think those are all my pro-tips regarding air travel with a baby.  It’s doable.  I curse myself every time I have to travel by myself with Baby Monster, but I did it again.  And it’s so so so easy flying when they are really young.  Flying to Puerto Rico was by far the easiest flight we have ever taken with him.  It gets progressively harder as they get older and I hear it doesn’t get better until closer to 3.  But don’t let it  stop you from traveling because it is doable!  And remember the reward you get for traveling!!!