Tuesday, September 17, 2013

This is What Toddler Jet Lag Looks Like

We recently returned from a nine-day trip to England and Scotland, and while Baba G did really well with the six-hour time-zone difference while we were gone, he's been having a rougher time adjusting now that we're back.

Exhibit A:

He is the definition of inconsolable once he gets going.

We're hoping he'll finally get back to normal tonight or tomorrow night (we returned Saturday). For me, I always seem to take three or four days to sync up to my old schedule again, so maybe it will be the same for him.

For the past three nights he's slept from 7 p.m. to 3:30 a.m., but then wakes up every 30 to 40 minutes after that point. Normally he sleeps from 7 p.m. to 7 or 7:30 a.m. (I know, we're lucky).

The good news is that some tasty mac 'n cheese seemed to help get him out of his funk shortly after his freakout above.

We learned A TON about traveling with a toddler during this trip, so stay tuned for more on that front soon!

- e

Monday, August 12, 2013

Unsolicited Advice: Lessons Learned During BG's Third Flight

Yeah, I think I want to go run around that field.
I think I'd like to go run around on that field...
In March of this year we went back to Arizona (his first trip there, which you may remember, was over Christmas; his first vacation overall was to the Dominican Republican and was the worst). From the picture to the right you can see that we did indeed make it to Arizona and enjoyed a Cubs' spring-training game one nice afternoon in Mesa. But unfortunately we had a bit of travel drama during our flights there and back that I'll cover today so that hopefully someone out there can learn from our mistakes.

At the time of this vacation, Baba G was 14 months old and was now using a convertible car seat instead of a baby car seat. Meaning that this was our first time bringing a convertible car seat onto a plane.

As we had for both of our other trips, we bought BG his own seat because there's just so way we'd be able to keep him under control otherwise. He has always been, and I think he will forever be, one busy little dude.

But before we needed to worry about getting him into his seat on the plane, we had to worry about NOT MISSING our flight in the first place. We drove to the airport and arrived with not much time to spare. When we got to the parking structure closest to O'Hare, it was full. Talk about panic setting in!

He LOVED all the stones!
Morning yard walk with Grandpa
Then my husband drove around again and went up to the structure one more time. We saw some security guards and they took pity upon us (totally because of BG, I'm positive) and let us go in because there were, in fact, still a few open spots. This is but one perk of traveling with a baby or toddler. You can leverage them in situations like this.

It thankfully didn't take us too long to park. But then my husband couldn't get the car seat out of the car. Because he had NEVER taken it out of the car before — he'd only put it in. Once. Like I said, at that point it was fairly new. Which leads us to...

LESSON #1: Practice taking a convertible car seat in and out of the car at least a few times before you go to the airport.

Baba G's baby car seat had doubled as an overall carrier that we were always taking in and out of the house, attaching to the his stroller, etc. Whereas the convertible car seat was a whole new animal. It was much bigger and bulkier, and it always just stayed in the car. So we spent a very tense 10-15 minutes in the parking structure while my husband tried everything — finally needing to consult the manual (which we were really lucky he thought to bring along) — to get the car seat out.

Next came the problem of attaching the car seat to the new travel cart we'd bought for the occasion. You may remember that one of the huge FAILS of our first vacation with BG was that we'd bought this "Traveling Toddler" device that was supposed to easily and securely strap a car seat onto your wheeled luggage. Except that when the time came for us to leave we realized that strap only worked with full-size car seats, not baby car seats.

So now that we had a full-size car seat, why didn't we use the Traveling Toddler? I actually wanted to try, but my husband didn't feel like fooling with it. He wanted to use a straightforward cart, so he bought this one from Britax:

This contraption is $80, believe it or not. But it works with most LATCH-system car seats and folds down so that you can put it in a plane's overhead compartment. Our car seat is not a Britax, by the way, and worked just fine with this cart (um, eventually. Read on...).

Now, most people buy this sort of cart so that they can actually lug their kid (in their car seat) around the airport on it. We didn't do that because my husband couldn't connect the car seat onto the cart at first. It was total mayhem that morning, I tell you. The car seat kept tipping off of the cart and we were really struggling to haul everything over to the check-in area from the parking ramp. So my husband decided to tote BG around in our Catbird Baby Pikkolo carrier.

Once we were in the airport and a little calmer, my husband figured out how to simply click the car seat onto the cart. I promise you it IS easy to do, but you do need to read the instructions first. Ahem.

LESSON #2: Don't try to figure out any of your travel gear for the first time on the day of your trip. Especially if it's an early-morning trip and you're rushed and have a toddler with you and are going to be stressed out anyway. And bring manuals for everything you haven't used before.

Even after we got the cart working properly, we decided to keep BG in the carrier because we were bringing so much carry-on luggage that it worked better to load things this-a-way:

BG is like, "What the heck is going on?"
Action shot! (And remember I'm also lugging two wheelies, a backpack and duffel bag.)

Yes, we are ridiculous.

So we finally get on the plane. We paid extra to be allowed to board a bit earlier on Southwest, and it was worth it because we were already so high-strung at that point.

This was going to be my husband's first time attempting to load the bigger car seat onto a plane seat. Obviously this one ISN'T something you can practice beforehand. But it did end up working OK. (I'd still advise reading the manual thoroughly, though, just in case.)

The drama that went down on that flight was that Baba G was really cranky and wouldn't sleep at all (we'd woken him up about 3 hours early that morning and had hoped he'd sleep on the plane).

Instead he finally conked out on the short shuttle ride to the rental-car station. Classic:

Hertz so good.

One thing we forgot to do on both the flights there and back was take this bar thing off of the bottom of the car seat (by BG's feet):

Not so comfy looking.

This bar CAN be removed, but we just forgot to do it before the seat was already in place. Taking it off would have allowed the person in front of BG to recline more. Thankfully the row in front of us was full of extremely tolerant people who were not fazed by BG's less-than-ideal behavior.

What I'm referring to is on the flight back, which was already past BG's bedtime, he basically cried the whole way home. I had offered everyone around us earplugs, but no one seemed as bothered as Dustin and I were, to be honest!

We learned a major lesson that night:

LESSON #3: If you know your kid is tired and is cranky BECAUSE he's tired, just let him cry it out hardcore because it'll take like 5 minutes and then he'll fall fast asleep. DO NOT do what we did, which is attempt to console or distract him for a full three hours first, leading to constant wailing and the increasing grumpiness of everyone involved.

So the picture above (and below) is of BG falling asleep AFTER WE LANDED back in Chicago. Yep. As soon as we stopped trying to keep him quiet for everyone else's sake, he had one screaming fit for about 5 minutes and then just gave up and fell asleep. It would've been better if we'd just let that happen at the beginning of the flight.

Parents just don't understand.

We're gearing up for a trip to England and Scotland next month, so I'm sure there will be another round of travel advice coming after we return. This time we'll get to deal with the joys of jet lag, too — hooray!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Unsolicited Advice: You Probably Already Know This About Diapers, Though

About a year ago I bemoaned the fact that Baba G was always peeing through his diapers overnight and would either be so uncomfortable that he'd wake up hollering in the wee hours, or he'd stay asleep but be a soaking mess in the mornings. That always made (and still makes) me feel bad.

Unfortunately it continues to happen on occasion, despite our best efforts, which have included:
  • Moving him up a size for his nighttime diapers as a friend advised. I guess the theory is that larger sizes hold more pee or something?
  • Giving him his last shot of liquids an hour earlier than we used to. He's totally off of bottles finally but up until a month ago (he's 18 months old now) were still doing what you're not supposed to do and rocking him to sleep after he drank an 8-ounce cup-with-straw of milk. So now we give him milk and water about an hour before his nighttime routine (plus just another quick swig of water right before bed) and that has definitely helped. He's peed the majority out before his bath. (Or maybe it's happening in his tub? I prefer not to think about that, even though it's usually my husband handling bath time!)
But the lamest thing that was probably contributing to the problem was my basic lack of understanding about how diapers work. One night my husband just casually mentioned something about ensuring "the inner elastic" was in place as I was putting on BG's nighttime diaper. I was like, "What?"

Then my husband showed me how he always runs a finger around the  part of the diaper that circles BG's legs to make sure that the inner elastic band was positioned correctly and cradling BG's legs/butt and not folded in on itself, which would definitely seem to encourage leaks.

I'm talkin' 'bout the purple parts

I felt so dumb, because it was like I knew there was that band there, but I never messed with it — I always just made sure the top was secured snugly and had been convinced all the pee was seeping through that area. Now, sure enough, almost every time I run my finger around the inner elastic band by his legs it is messed up and in need of correcting.

So I'd like to think that doing that every evening has helped in some small way. But since BG still is face-down with his knees and legs tucked under him and his butt high in the air through most of the night, there's only so much one poor diaper can do to fight gravity.

Friday, July 19, 2013

He Has WHAT?

At some point between now and when I last posted, Baba G started acting strangely. Not only was he having sleeping issues again, but he acted like he didn't really want to eat and was making weird faces. Our nanny said that she thought he had a hard time swallowing, and we also noticed that he seemed to be running a slight fever at times.

AND SO, we hauled him back into the pediatrician's office.

She took one look in his throat and declared him to have Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.


Immediately my mind flashed back to this "incident," which had taken place two days prior:
It started out innocently, gazing at the petting zoo animals from afar.

Then one of the zoo employees invited us for a closer look.

Dumb me was trying to snap a pic when BG put out his hand...

... and succeeded in petting the goat right on his nose.

I felt like a total delinquent because the zookeeper chick had specifically asked people to only let their kids pet the animals' sides or backs. No face-touching was allowed. It happened in a flash when I attempted to take a picture . . . which I was really only doing because both my husband and I had funny pictures with goats when we were kids.

So as soon as our pediatrician said BG had Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, I was like "Holy crap it's because he touched that damn goat."

Of course, two seconds later she said what I'm sure she says to everyone who immediately assumes this is the crazy-scary animal disease from Europe: "This is not the same thing as Hoof-and-Mouth, or Foot-and-Mouth. Only animals can get those."

We went on to learn that Hand, Foot and Mouth is an especially common virus in our neighborhood during the summer, and that—like all viruses—there wasn't much we could do about it except try to keep BG comfortable with some fever-reducing meds. We were also told to give him only soft and mushy foods for a week, after which time everything should be cleared up.

I'm still blaming the goat!
The good news is that BG must have had an extremely mild case, because I never saw any of the typical sores that develop around kids' mouths and on their hands and feet. His remained in the way, way back of his throat and that was it. He was acting totally back to normal in a few days, though we still kept him on soft foods for a full week.

I was thankful that none of the adults in his life ever caught it, either, because we were told it was pretty contagious, and have other friends who suffered from it much worst than their toddlers did.

Another health scare behind us!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Get Low

I'll jump outta my crib to watch the Stanley Cup Finals!
Since I last posted, we took Baba G back to the pediatrician for his rescheduled 15-month appointment (a month late, because of his previous ear infections). I held my breath as she checked his ears, prepared for the worst. It was mixed news: the infection is gone on both sides, but he still has a little fluid in both ears.

As they don't like kids to have fluid in their ears for more than six months and we know it's been there since at least the end of March, if she can still see any when we come back for his 18-month checkup in early August, it's off to the Ear, Nose & Throat specialist he goes. The possibility of having tubes put in seems likely. I'm going to keep hoping that doesn't happen, but apparently my husband used to have a lot of ear infections as well, so it might just be Baba G's lot in life.

He's still waking up a few times in the middle of the night, but the pediatrician didn't seem to think that would be because of the fluid, since — once again, it's not infected or swollen or anything. We have noticed that he's peed through his diaper and onesie (which is under a heavier microfleece onesie — his room's pretty cool at night) on several occasions, so my husband's started changing him in the wee hours if he cries and seems really upset for more than a few minutes. After he's dry, he'll usually sleep through the rest of the night.

Being a little wet never used to bug him at night, but I'm assuming that the older he gets, the more conscious he'll become of whether he's comfy or not!

There was still the problem of him attempting to jump out of his crib, however. Once the pediatrician learned that he'd actually succeeded in flipping himself out and onto the beanbag twice, and that he was still trying despite our various attempts to distract him, she advised that we switch things up. Usually they don't like kids to move into a toddler bed until they're 2, but the issue is that Baba G is already as big as a 2-year-old. Her suggestion was that we put a toddler mattress on the floor and just ensure the room was baby-proofed. So he'd be able to run around the room if he woke up.

We thought we'd be able to baby-proof well enough to pull this off, but upon further inspection of both Baba's nursery and another room that might've been an option, we realized it just wasn't gonna work. As we were trying to brainstorm solutions, I asked my husband to see if he could remove the crib's mattress platform so that the mattress would be on the floor but the railings would still keep BG in.

It worked, kind of. There's a gap between the top of the mattress and the lowest horizontal bar, so we stuffed a bunch of really thick pillows and blankets in and hoped for the best. Here's the before (with the mattress on the lowest setting) and after (with the mattress platform totally removed):



We were able to switch to this set-up the same night as BG's appointment, during which he also had three vaccine boosters. Watching the video monitor the first time BG woke up and discovered he could no longer reach his leg up to the top was at first really comical, and then a little sad. I got a glimpse into how my husband's mind works when he whispered, "Baba probably thinks those shots today shrunk him."

What?!? Um, OK... SURE he thinks that.

ANYWAY... Baba got REALLY mad at his inability to escape. But eventually he found his stuffed animal and gave up and went back to sleep. Since we look at the monitor to see what's going on whenever he cries, we've been happy that he hasn't messed with the pillows we stuffed into the gap. Yet.

The biggest problem issue with this new set-up is that it's pretty much impossible for me to put BG down in the crib horizontally without having to drop him an inch or so. The bars are too high and the mattress is now too low for it to be physically possible for me to do this. At least I think — I've tried a "mock drop" with BG while he was awake, but since my husband normally puts him to bed at night, I haven't actually had to do it for real yet. Both our nanny and my mom, who are shorter than I am, have been able to do it, though, so maybe I'll be fine when the time comes.

For now I'm just happy he can still technically be in his crib for a while longer.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Saved by the Beanbag

I can't believe it's been 1.5 months since I last wrote! There's been some drama with Baba G during that time, so I'll post about that today.

I'm gonna get you!
Shortly after my last entry in mid-April, Baba G started waking up in the middle of the night, screaming his head off and looking like he'd just seen a ghost. I mean, it was the freakiest thing ever. As soon as we'd hear him, we'd flip on the video monitor and see him bolt up in his crib and frantically run from side to side like he was desperate to escape. The good news was that within 5 minutes he'd drop back down onto the mattress and appeared to be sound asleep once more. I had been convinced it was "night terrors" (not the same thing as nightmares), but not everything fit that definition. He seemed too young, the episodes didn't last that long, they occurred later in his sleep cycle, and he WAS consolable. The first few times he did this, my husband rocked him for a bit, and that worked. With night terrors, he wouldn't have even recognized my husband, and nothing would've been able to calm him down.

We put three nightlights in his room, figuring that perhaps when he woke up and found himself in the pitch-blackness of his nursery, it was scary and he panicked. For one evening the soft lights seemed to distract him when he awoke and stood up. But after that night he went back to crying and crying.

This whole mysterious process went on every night like clockwork for a week or so, and then one evening I sensed something different about his wails. It just may have been the only moment in his 15 months with us so far that I truly felt some sort of "mother's intuition" kick in. So I told my husband to switch on the monitor again and after he did, he bolted out of the room without saying a word. Then I grabbed the monitor and saw that sure enough, BG had one leg over the railing and was about to flip out.

I could hear my husband running like hell through the condo to get to the nursery, and it was like I was watching BG in slow motion as he was dangling on the crib railing. I am not proud to admit that I let out a blood-curdling scream at that point ... but thankfully my husband got there in time. (The next morning I actually asked the neighbor two floors above us if I'd woken him up — that's how crazy my scream was. He claims he didn't hear a thing.)

The rest of that night none of us slept. My husband rocked BG for a few hours while my mind whirred about everything that could've gone wrong. Then I went to relieve my husband in the wee hours, and finally we put BG back in his crib and he decided to stay put. The next day we called the pediatrician.

Not Baba G, but I love this kid's face.
At his appointment it was revealed that he had a nasty ear infection in one ear, so of course my husband and I then felt terrible. We had just taken him in to get his ears checked less than a month prior, so I guess I didn't think that could've been the issue. He went on antibiotics for 10 days... and nothing got better. I mean, he didn't succeed in jumping out of his crib, but he did keep trying and he was still waking up screaming almost every night.

So we took him back to the pediatrician and now the infection was in both ears. WONDERFUL. They switched up his meds and we hoped for the best. By this time we'd also moved a big beanbag into the nursery and positioned it where we thought BG would fall, should that ever happen.

It's a BIG beanbag.

Fast-forward to a week ago. That night BG woke up screaming again, my husband turned on the monitor and bolted ... but this time he was too late. He found BG face-down on the beanbag. I didn't actually know this until about two hours later, because my husband had taken the video monitor with him (he didn't want to bust into the nursery if BG went quickly back to sleep on his own or was no longer trying to escape, and it's hard to know what's going on in there otherwise). When he had successfully put BG back down he told me what happened, and you can rest assured I didn't sleep at all the rest of that night. Again.

So last Saturday we went back to the pediatrician, assuming the ear infection was still raging in both ears. But it wasn't — everything had cleared up. I hope this doesn't sound awful, but in a way I'd almost wished that had been the answer. Now we just had to figure out why BG was trying to fling himself out of the crib.

That evening he slept through the night... but then on Sunday he did it again, this time landing on his back on the beanbag. This past week he's tried it one more time, and my husband used the microphone on the video monitor to holler "No-no! Go back to sleep!" while he was simultaneously running down the hall. It worked. BG snapped out of his hysteria, looked around his crib, found his stuffed monkey and snuggled down with him. Phew.

I feel like I need one of those signs factories have that say "We've gone X days without a safety incident!" We're at 5. Let's hope that number grows. I'd like to return to BG challenging us in other, less-injury-courting ways, like this:

Sure, I can feed myself.

Wish us luck, and have a great Memorial Day weekend!

- e

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Baba G's Second Trip + More Travel Advice

I am pretty sure that every time we travel with Baba G, we're going to learn some lessons. But the thing with kids is that the lessons you learn can really only be used for a short period of time... or until/unless you have another kid.

What I mean is that I don't think many of the tricks that we used during our first and second trips with BG are going to be helpful for future vacations — as evidenced by the fact that his attitude toward traveling had already drastically changed on our most recent trip, even though he was only three months older.

In November and December, he was just learning to walk, and therefore was fairly content to chill in his car seat during the flight. He was still having bottles every four hours, and so it was easy enough to tweak his schedule so that we could give him a bottle to help pass the time and/or help his ears when it was time for takeoff. He was also easily entertained.

I'll be back with new and updated tips for flying with toddlers shortly, based on our trip to Arizona at the end of March. But for now I thought I'd share a few more lessons we learned during our second set of flights with BG in December. (Tips from our first flights with him are here.)

Once again, we had early-morning flights, and BG quickly fell back asleep once he was in the car to the airport. Both outside on the curb and in his car seat in the middle of the crowded terminal, he snoozed.

The ability to sleep in loud places is a skill I hope he maintains forever. Needless to say, he was a little groggy when we had to wake him up for the security line.

Not having it.
So... we flew on Christmas Day, because some friends told us it was a slow travel day.


It was perhaps the busiest I've seen the airport in a long time. Someone must have hired a Santa to go around and attempt to cheer people up, but Baba G let him know that he was NOT THE ONE.

What a face.


We were on Southwest, and quickly cursed their "unassigned seat" system. Long story short, while other major airlines might have a "preboarding" option for families with small kids, Southwest attracts SO MANY FAMILIES that they reserve this particular cattle call until after a good chunk of passengers are already on board (families can board between groups A and B... but group A is pretty huge).

This STRESSED me and my husband out majorly, especially because we had bought a seat for Baba G and were hauling his heavy car seat around. I was worried we wouldn't find three seats together, and/or that we wouldn't find a window seat (car seats must be installed in window seats).

My worries were unfounded because we did find seats together and get settled in just fine, but the level of stress my husband and I experienced beforehand led us to pay additional charges during our trip last month in order to be guaranteed early boarding. It was worth it.

But back to the Christmas vacation. We once again brought some new toys, and hung one of them on his car seat bar. That kept him occupied for a little while. Lots of finger-food snacks were involved as well.

Hard to tell from this picture, but that thing is a little plane with spinny parts.

We had his soft yellow blanket on hand, and when he appeared to be getting sleepy, we just left him alone and then threaded an Aden & Anais swaddle blanket over his car seat bar to shield him a tad more from both light and noise. It worked!

We had a great trip and uneventful flights on the way back to Chicago, too. Probably because Baba G decided to forgo looking at the scenery in Phoenix and nap on the return ride to the airport instead.

Our trip back to Phoenix over Easter didn't go QUITE so smoothly.

Details on that — as well as thoughts on what I think we should've done differently — very soon!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Baba G's First Flights + Travel Advice

As we're currently gearing up for a trip to Arizona to visit Baba G's grandparents and other relatives — plus go to a Cubs spring training game — I thought I'd write about what worked for us when we traveled with BG last year.

You might remember that our very first trip with him ended in disaster, with all of us catching some sort of awful stomach virus in the Dominican Republic. The good news, however, was that the flights to and from the Caribbean went smoothly. We changed planes in Atlanta both times, so he went on four flights in total for that trip.

We carried all of BG's stuff on-board, with toys/food/formula I thought we'd need during the flight in a big duffel bag that I kept under the seat in front of me for easy access. The picture below shows just some of these "essentials." (Those of you who've read my other blogs through the years might remember that my poor kitchen table is never clean. This is what it looked like while I was working on my book.)

Not even 1/4 of all of his stuff
We had to wake BG up around 5 a.m. to leave (he normally gets up between 7 and 7:30 a.m.), so he was pretty out of it once we got to O'Hare.

Welcome to your first security line!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here in Chicago, people go pretty nuts about St. Patrick's Day. You know, dyeing the river green and whatnot.

Even though Ireland is one of my favorite countries, I've never been that into the holiday. We did, however, have a "First St. Patrick's Day" outfit for Baba G last year when he was less than two months old (before I started this blog). So here is a blast from the past to wish you a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Even got the green pacifier -- how ya like me now?

Shamrock Shake Shake Shake Your Booty!

For those of you who are going to be downing some green beer or green eggs and ham or whatever other weird things you eat and drink in honor of St. Pat, have fun and be safe!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Kid O Sorting Primary Colors - Rings

When Baba G was a newborn, I remember how hard it was for me to imagine him ever being able to move on his own. It seemed impossible that he would one day walk, much less crawl ... much less roll over.

Same thing went for his toys. I just couldn't picture the day when he'd understand how to match up shapes, stack blocks, or put things into containers. So when he received the Kid O Sorting Primary Colors - Rings for his first birthday, I thought, "He is NEVER going to actually stack those things."

And for a month, I was right. He had a blast throwing the rings all over the place, but stacking them onto their designated pegs wasn't gonna happen.

Until one day, he did it.

Slow and steady...

No big deal.

And from that point on, he would both throw the rings around the condo AND take a few precious moments to re-stack them.

I can do it without even looking!

And, of course, he would carry them around in his mouth, like he does with almost everything. He is part boy, part doggy. Thankfully this toy is free of all the toxins that are usually in plastics.

I swear the red ones taste better.

Here's a short video of Baba G in all of his stacking glory:

So the moral of today's post is that your kid IS going to learn to do things you can't imagine them ever being able to do when they are teeny babies. And no, it's not like I had no faith that BG was going to figure out how to do anything besides throw stuff, but it really was hard to envision nonetheless. It's easy to think every phase of development is going to last forever when you're in the thick of it.

The bottom line: Kid O is a really, really cool company that makes a ton of awesome stuff. (You can rest assured I'll be buying Baba G this Fox Wobble when it hits stores later this year.)

The Primary Colors Stacker - Rings is a great product that will help test your kid's patience (a good thing), build his fine motor skills and — eventually — teach him how to match up colors. Baba G hasn't gotten to that last part just yet, but hey, he's already come a long way in just a few weeks since he got this toy.

I personally love how bright the colors are and how simple and clean the design is. And as I mentioned above, the rings and base are BPA, phthalate and toxin-free.

Amazon sells the Rings (with a different, wooden base) for $15.30. The all-plastic version I have seems to go for around $19

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"Catching Up" Guilt

I have a pretty bad memory, so I have no idea why this particular moment has stuck with me so vividly: it was the summer of 2006, and I was in a sort of lobby/holding-area room at the Chicago Board of Trade, awaiting my first interview with HR. There was a stack of magazines on a coffee table, and the one on top had a cover that screamed "Mommy Guilt."

I didn't understand what that phrase meant at the time. I don't think I even read the article, but there must have been something else on the cover that clued me into the phenomenon of hard-working, loving and responsible mothers who believe they're failing on multiple fronts. Now all I can figure is that my mind stored that memory away on purpose, because it knew that one day I would want to remember that I'm not alone in feeling this way.  

"Hey, 2013 self! It's me, your 2006 self. Don't you remember that I saw a magazine article about this? A cover story, no less! It is real — you're not the only one!"

To say I've been overwhelmed by the different types of guilt I've experienced these past 13 months is putting it lightly. So yep, I think I'm going to have to make this topic a regular column. Today I'll start with a kind of guilt that doesn't even have anything to do with failing as a parent, but rather failing as a friend/relative/confidante/message-responder/what-have-you.

A few months ago a friend who I worked with at the Board of Trade, as it were, called me because she had two job offers and wanted my take on the pros and cons of each. If there's one thing I'll admit to being good at, it's giving advice. (Ha! Doesn't everyone think that, though?) But seriously, I could be a life coach ... to everyone but myself.

Or at least there was a day in the not-so-distant past that I could have been a life coach, but not anymore. I didn't return my friend's call. Not when she first left me a message, or a few weeks later when she called (and emailed) again. After she accepted one of the positions we were finally able to meet up for breakfast, and I apologized. But I was frustrated with myself, because this wasn't the first friend who's wondered if I've dropped off the face of the earth.

I'm not going to say "I just don't have time," because that's the most annoying phrase ever, and technically I do have time. So if I'm being honest, I'll say, "I have ALWAYS hated talking on the phone, but since I've had Baba G that hatred has reached new levels. Unless it is an emergency, something for work, or my Grandma calling, I would rather not catch up via phone. Oh, and if you email me, Facebook-message me, text me or write me through Twitter, it'll still probably be a good long while before I respond to you. Sorry."

Yet THE GUILT I feel about this realization. THE GUILT. It is always, always there. Every second I am not doing something for work, spending time with Baba G or crossing a task off of my To Do list, I'm thinking, "Should I call X back? Should I check in with A, B, or C? Should I go through emails and other messages and reply to those that fell through the cracks? Does X hate me?"

This summer I finally made a concerted effort to stop worrying about those things. It took a delayed postpartum depression to make me wake up. I think the depression had its roots in my feeling like I just couldn't keep up with everything anymore. This is a nearly impossible thing for a Type A person to admit that you can't "handle" something, much less everything. I'm also the kind of person who worries extensively about letting other people down. But I just had to stop. I stopped because I have learned there are feelings way worse than the guilt of failing your friends and relatives. And those feelings are extreme bitterness and resentment that result from using your precious few spare moments of the day to do something you really don't want to do because you'd really rather just completely turn off your brain and watch last night's Smash. Or skim Entertainment Weekly. Or spend 5 minutes scrolling through Facebook or Twitter. Or make a huge bowl of ice cream with berries on top (you know, to be healthy) and just sit in bed and eat it in silence.

My true friends and the people who really care about me will understand. Months might go by, but we'll pick up just where we left off like no time had passed. The others who might get upset or can't deal with my new communication methods and timeframes? Those people will probably fade out of my life. But if they made me feel bad about myself in the first place, then so be it.

Around the time my friend from the Board of Trade was facing her career dilemma, someone posted the article below on Facebook. This person doesn't have kids, but her sister does, and I can only assume she shared it as a sign of support and understanding. It made me feel worlds better, so in case it helps someone else, I'm continuing the share-fest!

I am not a stay-at-home mom (I work from home and have a nanny) and still feel the type of mental and physical exhaustion described above. So I think ALL moms feel this way, no matter what their overall situation is. And rest assured I'll cover "working-mom guilt" and "stay-at-home-mom guilt" in the future, because I am cursed with having both!

In the meantime, don't call me and I won't call you. Hee hee.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Onesie Extenders

One of my friends has three boys and generously passed along bins and bins and bins of beautiful clothes for Baba G. When I was going through all of this loot a few months ago, I came across these little things and had NO IDEA what they were.

Now tell me truly, if you hadn't read the title of this post, would YOU know what these white squares with snaps were for?

My best guess was that they were some sort of toddler cufflinks. I'm not lying.

But then two days ago it hit me after I came across them again. They're onesie extenders. I should've immediately known this, because they're very similar to the bra extenders I bought while pregnant:

Why does this skinny chick need a bra extender, pray tell?

I wish I had realized I had extenders in the house when BG's dad brought him home this ill-fitting souvenir from the Big Apple back in April:

That's one deep V

The bottom line: If you're like me, basic oneies are a staple in your kid's wardrobe. And if your kid is like Baba G (tall for his age, or simply just growing like gangbusters), it's nice to have a way to lengthen the lifespan of those onesies. Enter onesie/garment extenders, which can be purchased in multi-packs and also seem to be made in different sizes.

How many people knew about these already? Or how did you come to learn they existed? If it wasn't for my friend's loot, I still wouldn't know.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Motorola Video Baby Monitor

You could call this product a video monitor... OR you could call it by its official name:


The Motorola MBP36 Remote Wireless Video Baby Monitor with Infrared Night Vision and Zoom!!!

(I added in the !!!)

I think I'll stick with just "video monitor."

You might remember when I asked for video monitor recommendations after Baba G started pulling himself up in his crib. I was hesitant about getting one because I didn't want to grow obsessed with watching it, nor did I want to be freaked out by any Paranormal Activity-looking flickers or glowing eyes and whatnot.

Before I solicited advice, I didn't realize that the video screen can be turned off while the audio monitor stays on. Um, that's kind of a key feature! So just imagine this thing on my nightstand with a black screen, because that's what it looks like 95% of the time. If you want to turn off the audio, you'll still have the colored dots at the top that light up horizontally to indicate the noise level in the room. If all of them are lit, that means your kid's a-screamin' his head off. Ours normally has three or four dots lit because of the white noise machine we have in the nursery:

His head's in the left corner + typical "booty-up" pose

We ended up going with the Motorola version because I'd heard so many good things about it from others (and thanks to BG&Me commenter Cindy for her thoughts on this model as well). A close second was the Summer Infant monitor, but we liked how Motorola used a technology that was supposedly less likely to interfere with other signals in your house (more on that in a second) and also showed the room temperature. BG's nursery is unfortunately in the coldest room in our condo, so it was important for me to ensure he wasn't freezing down there. We've been able to adjust our furnace so that his room stays around 70 degrees even in the depths of winter (like right now).

Funny thing is, it also helped us realize that his room was way too HOT while on our disaster vacation to the Dominican Republic. Of the many things that went wrong on that trip, one of the biggest was that the air conditioning in our suite was broken (and it was around 95 degrees that week). We'd brought the monitor with us, and that's how we knew that despite setting up two extra fans in BG's room, it remained a stuffy 77 degrees:

Before The Sickness struck!

Here's a little video I took of Baba G walking around a bit before hitting the hay. I clumsily attempt to demonstrate some of the monitors features...

The bottom line: For us, a video monitor ended up being a must-have gizmo. Right now we're not on the same level as Baba G's nursery, and so it's key for us to be able to see what's going on in there before we open up the door and risk waking him up for good. A lot of times he's really loud when he's shifting positions, and if we couldn't see what he was doing, we might think something was wrong.

The monitor also came in handy when we finally broke down and decided to stop going in his room every time he cried, so as to get him out of the soul-crushing habit of wailing for us at 4 a.m. every morning for no apparent reason. The first night we didn't come in, we used the monitor to watch him get angrier and angrier and stomp around his crib for about 15 minutes. The next night, he protested for 5 minutes. After that, the few times he's woken up in the wee hours have been when he's actually sick.

I don't think I could do without a video monitor at this point, and would highly recommend one to anyone who thinks it might make their lives a bit easier. The best thing about the Motorola one is its ability to be remotely controlled. So we can be in our bedroom and pan the camera in all directions, as well as zoom in and out. The worst thing about it is that it definitely seems to mess with our wireless connection. Not the hugest deal, but we have to have the monitor completely off if we're planning on watching any streaming TV shows or movies.

It's also on the pricey side: about $240 on Amazon. For us it was worth it!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ab Binders and Wink Shapewear

My best friend
Today's post is dedicated to my friend MBG, a new and proud mom of twins. She also inspired the idea for this post, because after hearing that her son and daughter were delivered via C-section (I believe her toddler came into this world "the old-fashioned way"), I felt compelled to email her and ask if anyone at the hospital had given her an ab binder yet. And now I feel compelled to tell anyone out there who's pregnant about these magical accessories. (Is that the right word? Probably not.)

I had a C-section with Baba G after 24 hours of unsuccessful labor. I had read NOTHING about the procedure and remember just closing my eyes as they wheeled me into the operating room, thinking, "Here goes nuthin'." So in the days that followed, I had no idea that the lower half of my body would swell up like I was a character in one of Eddie Murphy's fat-suit movies. It was CRA-ZY. They strapped these pneumatic boots onto my legs that were constantly massaging my calves in order to help deter blood clots and reduce the swelling. I loved those things. I'm gonna look into whether or not I can buy some, now that I think of it!

ANYWAY, on the last day before we were checking out of the hospital, one of the doctors in my OB-GYN's practice (the only guy, as it were) gave me an ab binder. I was like, "You are insane if you think I'm letting anything NEAR my incision any time soon." I could barely even stand to think about it. All he said was, "Some people find it's much more comfortable with this on."

He was right. An ab binder is just a thick, rectangle-shaped piece of fabric that uses some heavy-duty Velcro to close. It looks like this, and can be used by anyone post-delivery, C-section or not:

I never wore it directly on my skin, and I can't imagine anyone would want to. What it does is help you feel normal again, even though you might not LOOK normal for quite some time. You won't be afraid to laugh or cough or move the wrong way. And if you're like me, it might even serve to help your self-esteem a bit since otherwise most women still appear to pregnant for quite a few months after the kid is on the outside.

For that very reason (and because I loved the hospital-grade ab binder so much), I started to look into what else was on the market that might be easier to wear once I actually had to go out in public. That's when I came across Wink Shapewear's site. Here's what caught my attention from their FAQs page:

"You can start wearing your Wink™ Shapewear slimming garments immediately after a normal delivery. Our exclusive patented fabric is made for post-surgical procedures, which makes them ideal for a post-cesarean delivery. In fact, our slimming system can actually help with recovery. Our patented specialty fabric will aid in healing, discourage fluid accumulation and encourage you to engage your back and core muscles."

Yep, even this.
SOLD! I basically went nuts and ordered like 5 of their products (which aren't cheap) in the size I thought I should be based on their guidelines. Imagine my depression when I could barely fit a toe through those items. (But in my eternal optimism I kept that stuff and re-ordered everything in the next size up, spending another crapload of money. I never wore the originals.) Thankfully, the bigger size worked out.

I became obsessed with these products and had them on 24 hours a day. I couldn't stand the feeling of my stomach just hangin' out without a binder or one of Wink's products on. I wore them for months, well into the summer (BG was born in January), which was when I learned that the Wink stuff wasn't exactly breathable and could make one quite sweaty and miserable in hot weather. I then realized that while I still had a ways to go to get back to my "before Baba G weight" (STILL not there... hmm, I never go to the gym, so what's the problem here?), I could finally pass for a normal, not-pregnant person again without any secret undergarments.

The bottom line: If you're pregnant or plan on having another kid and didn't use any sort of ab binder product the first time around, TRY ONE. I cannot recommend them highly enough. Ask for one while you're still at the hospital, because then you might get it for "free." (HA.) If you can't get one in the hospital, it looks like Walmart sells them for around $16 (I'm sure a ton of other places do, too). If you are going to be hanging around the house for a while, it might be all that you ever need. But if you want something that's a little more manageable with out-in-public clothes, you could look into Wink's products or any of the less-expensive-but-probably-just-as-good brands out there. The point is, get something to help you feel more comfortable in those early weeks.

Anyone use/like a different brand aside from Wink?