Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Traveling with baby (packing)

If you're approaching the first trip with baby and you're anything like me, you're probably making lists and fretting over forgetting something. Since I've now made at least 30 trips with my 18-month-old, though, I'm just too tired for lists these days! But I'll provide some sample packing lists, which have changed as Cora has aged.

For a five-day trip with Cora at 0-6 months:
-10 outfits
-6 onsies/pjamas
-6 paris of socks
-25 burp cloths (she used to spit up a lot!)
-(8*5=) 40 diapers
-a refill pack of wipes
-a large handful diaper trash bags (I don't have time to count all those!)
-breastpump in Medela bag, with pump-and-save bags and charger!
-5 bottles and nipples
-nursing shawl
-at least two blankets, one thin and dark to create shade for a nap
-travel-sized baby shampoo, lotion, and wash cloth
-sunscreen & hat
-children's Benadryl, Tylenol, thermometer, and medicine dropper
-a couple of interesting rattle toys and soft books
This stage is hard because you're probably a new mom and still trying to get a handle on feeding and naps at home, both of which harder on a trip! The strategy with little ones is just covering their necessities. They don't really need to be entertained yet. I always traveled with a Medela breast pump, just in case. I travel with one bottle for each feeding during the day. You may choose to travel with fewer and wash them throughout the day. I also traveled with all the burp cloths I would need because washing while traveling is stressful to me. I'd rather pack to many and wash them all when I get home. Bring blankets for tummy time or nap time.
My essential travel gear at this age: a baby Bjorn (or similar), an inflatable bathtub, a tent for naps or nighttime in rougher conditions! We also brought an ipod shuffle/speaker to play music, so that she could fall asleep with some familiar sounds.

For a five-day trip with Cora at 6-12 months:
-8 outfits
-6 pajamas
-6 pairs of socks
-one/two pairs of shoes
-5 burp cloths
-10-15 bibs
-(6*5=) 30 diapers
-a refill pack of wipes
-diaper trash bags
-enough formula for the whole trip*1.3 (you use formula faster than you'd imagine!)
-4 bottles
-one sippy cup
-3 spoons, 3 forks (wash as needed)
-10-15 jars of baby food (enough to last the trip)
-also consider these cool tubes of baby food!
-at least two blankets, one thin and dark to create shade for a nap
-travel-sized baby shampoo, lotion, and wash cloth
-sunscreen & hat
-children's Benadryl, Tylenol, thermometer, and medicine dropper
-toys and books! more important as baby ages
This is a hard age. They're still having breast milk/formula, and they're adding in solids, they need more entertainment, and they're mobile! We took Cora to Europe for 3 weeks at 7-8 months. Difficult, but it can be done.
My essential baby gear for this age: an Ergo carrier (better weight distribution for babies 18-30 pounds), the inflatable bathtub, the tent, and the ipod shuffle/speaker.

For a five-day trip with Cora at 12-18 months:
-6 outfits
-6 pajamas
-6 pairs of socks
-one/two pairs of shoes
-10 bibs
-two spoons, two forks (wash as needed)
-straws (for a thirsty kiddo who can't handle a regular cup and sippy cup is dirty)
-sippy cup
-2-3 juice boxes
-2 bottles (yes, she still drinks milk from a bottle...)
-(6*5=) 30 diapers
-a refill pack of wipes
-diaper trash bags
-nonperishable snacks: goldfish, crackers, banana chips, etc.
-two blankets, one thin and dark
-travel-sized baby shampoo, lotion, and wash cloth
-sunscreen & hat
-children's Benadryl, Tylenol, thermometer, and medicine dropper
-toys, toys, toys! (so important at this age!)
This age is hard because entertainment is crucial. (Notice: every age is hard, just a different sort of hard, ha.) I carry a tote bag devoted to toys to use on the plane, in a restaurant, and any other situation we might be faced with. I'll do a separate post on toys. Milk and food we buy on the go.
My essential gear for this age is the Ergo baby carrier, a tote bag for toys, and the ipod shuffle/speaker. I don't bother with the tent because she is old enough to just let us know when she's up. I don't bother with the bath tub because she can stand in a shower now.

For all ages, I use packing cubes like these and these. I have 7 in a variety of sizes for outfits, onsies, socks/shoes, diapers, toys, etc. Keeping all the little baby things in separate cubes helps keep me organized and sane. Have a bag of some sort (even a plastic trash bag) for dirty clothes.

One last note on packing for travel with baby: Try not to be intimidated! Your first trip, in particular, will be difficult. You'll forget something. The baby will cry in some embarrassing situation. Naps will be missed, meals will be missed! It's okay - you'll survive and so will baby. Every time you take a trip, you'll get better at it.
Any other tips from traveling moms/dads/caretakers? Please, chime in!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Traveling with baby (by plane)

In the first 18 months of her life, Cora has traveled close to 60,000 miles by plane, and several thousand by car and plane. So, some of my friends have pegged me as a go-to person for traveling with baby advice. I don't know that there is any perfect way to travel with a baby or toddler, but since it's an intimidating prospect, I thought I'd offer a few posts (this being the first) on my "advice," such as it is. Keep in mind that every child's different. Every time you travel, you'll learn something you should do next time.

By Plane
The biggest struggle for plane travel is baggage, in my opinion. You need to be able to get through security, boarding, and settling into your seat without too much baggage juggling. I usually pack a small rolling suitcase (my luggage), a small duffel (Cora's), a diaper back/purse, and a backpack. I carry Cora in a Baby Ergo carrier. I used a Baby Bjorn until she was about 18 pounds, then I went to the Ergo. A baby carrier is an absolute necessity, especially if you're traveling alone with the baby. I try to avoid taking a stroller or car seat, but if I'll need them at my destination, I check them at the check-in counter. I also check my rolling bag and duffel. (Being Gold status at American means my bags are free, so be informed of any checked bag fees. Stroller and car seat should generally be free, on any airline.)

While at the check-in counter, I ask if there are any other seats available that might give me some extra room, like two empty seats together. As long as you're nice, the airline employees will usually be nice to you! American often reserves a row for handicapped or baby travelers, so it's definitely worthwhile to ask.

I head to security with Cora in the Ergo, a diaper bag/purse, and backpack. Be aware that you'll need to take off baby's shoes and jackets, as well as your own. You'll also have to take the baby out of the carrier and run the carrier through the x-ray machine. You can take liquids, like milk and juice, but store them in a bottle or sippy cup. TSA will run a chemical test on them, but it's totally sanitary and saf. If you're flying international, most airports will also allow baby liquids, but the UK will require that you take a sip of any liquids you bring on, to show that they don't contain hazardous material. Don't ask me why the UK just doesn't do a chemical test!

Once at the gate, I make sure all both of my bags are ready for the plane. I know I'll put the diaper bag in the overhead bin and the backpack under the seat in front of me. I make sure the backpack has these items:

-full sippy cup
-bottle, ready to go
-small tupperware of snacks (strawberries or cereal)
-cheese stick, Cora's favorite filling snack
-several books for Cora, especially liftable flap books
-small spiral notebook and pencil, for Cora to draw
-stickers, for when the drawing gets boring
-other plane toys - I'll post separately on toy strategies
-a blanket
-my book
-my cell phone

The diaper bag has the other essentials that I want with me but that I won't need access to immediately on take off. If I have to change her diaper on the plane, I'll have to get up anyway, so I leave her diaper-changing things in the overhead compartment, along with:
-a dose of children's Benadryl - you never know!
-extra juice
-extra snacks
-empty bottle
-change of clothes
-my purse items, like wallet and camera

Once I make sure everything's in place, I'm ready to board the plane, with Cora in the Ergo. I find my seat, put the diaper bag above, put the sippy cup in the seat pocket, slide the backpack underneath, and plunk myself into the seat. Whew - we made it! I take Cora out of the Ergo, and set her on my lap.

If you get this far, you're as ready as ready can be, and now it's just a matter of surviving. Small babies will need to nurse or suck on a bottle at take off and landing to pop their ears, although I think take off is most important. Plan carefully, so that your baby will still be sucking 5 minutes after the wheels have lifted from the ground. If you're nursing, heaven help you, because it's hard in those narrow seats! But it can be done. I was never good at keeping the shawl on while nursing on the plane, so you might have to just do your best and be okay with showing a little boob. Other passengers will live, and no one will be obnoxious enough to complain about you nursing a baby. Older babies (8 months+) can do just fine with a sippy cup to pop their ears.

If baby falls asleep during take off or landing, I say leave him asleep! Even when Cora was small, 9 times out of 10, if she fell asleep during pressure change, she was totally fine when she woke up.

The time between take off and landing is the real challenge. All I can say is the difficulty depends on your child. If your child can walk and is used to going wherever she wants, whenever she wants, you're going to have the flight from hell. If you have training time before you leave on your trip, schedule time during the day for your child to sit in her high chair for 20-30 minutes. She must stay there, but you can sit next to her, giving her books to read or toys to play with. If she can't stay in a high chair for 20-30 minutes, well, you have a problem. Try to do this every day until your flight. If she can stay in the high chair for 20-30 minutes, you will probably be alright on the plane. All children have a short attention span, though, so you'll need to rotate toys every 10 minutes or so on the plane.

Once you can move about the cabin, you can take baby for a walk, but don't plan on being able to do that the whole flight, because flight attendants and other passengers need to use the aisle too, and there's rarely a place to stand that's out of the way.

Hopefully, you'll only have to entertain baby for up to an hour before it's nap time. Cora still takes 2 naps a day, so whether it's a morning or afternoon flight, she generally sleeps 60-90 minutes on the plane. If it's a long flight, and your kiddo can't calm down, I think it's totally okay to resort to children' Benadryl. If under 2, give a half dose. When Cora was little, we'd put a half dose in her take-off bottle. It makes them tired quickly, and cranky, so they'll probably cry as their settling down, but if the crying lasts fewer than 5 minutes, most passengers don't mind too much.

We'll talk plane toys strategy and packing strategy another day, but those are my first thoughts for traveling with baby by plane.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hoboken vs. Brooklyn

Today, I had to go back to Hoboken for some miscellaneous errands (pick up dry cleaning, return cable box, etc), and the 5 hour trip gave me some time to think about life in Hoboken, and how life in Brooklyn is different so far.

Hoboken is..
..small and easy to navigate. (It's only a square mile, remember.)
..car-friendly, in that many apartment buildings have parking.
.modern, or apartments there at least have the modern conveniences, like dishwasher, disposal, central A/C washer/dryer.
..safe enough that I felt comfortable walking about a mile to church Sunday evenings.
..cheaper than living in Manhattan.
..baby-friendly, since at least half of Hobokenites have kids.

As a mom in Hoboken, I liked having my car. I liked driving to Wal-Mart/Sams, Pier 1, and Ikea. However, it also meant that I usually couldn't walk to the things I needed. The grocery store was just a little too far (8-9 blocks, I'm a wuss, you don't have to tell me). The hair salons in our neighborhood were way too expensive. I didn't even know where a hardware store was. The closest coffee was Dunkin Donuts, and we were near any restaurants, either. Granted, we lived in the deserted Northwest corner, but that's where the good deals were. All the haps are in the Southeast corner of Hoboken, but it's expensive to live down there, and you still aren't in the city - you have to take the PATH, the subway-like train, and then transfer to a subway. Heck, we didn't even live near the PATH, it took me at least 25 minutes just to get to the PATH, then 20 minutes on the PATH, then transfer to a subway. You're talking 60-90 minutes from our apartment to a location in the city.

However, I will say that I liked the open sidewalks, the park 3 blocks away, the friendly neighbors (when I saw them), the elevator in our building, and having a washer/dryer in the apartment. I also liked our leisurely weekend afternoons, when we could walk to the water and see the Manhattan skyline - you can't beat Hoboken's view of the city.

Brooklyn is..
..close to the city. We live within three blocks of four subway lines, which means that I can walk to the one I need and take it to my destination, without transferring. Of course, we do live with the sound of one of those subway lines, rumbling underneath the floorboards, but it just sounds like distant thunder...underground.
..cool all on its own. With Prospect Park, the Botanic Gardens, the Central Public Library, a home-grown brewery, and more bars/restaurants than you can shake a stick at, Brooklyn is a tourist destination.
..full of neighborhood conveniences. There's a little market down the street, or I can walk to the giant (seriously, Texas-sized) grocery store four-five blocks away. There's a pharmacy across the street, a hardware store across the street, a laundromat around the corner, an awesome nail place around the corner, it goes on.
..expensive! Eesh, we are paying through the nose to live here.
..part of New York City, and that means you pay city taxes, grr.
..old, which is a plus and a minus. It's a plus because I love, love our tin-impression ceilings, decorative archways, and aged wood floors. It's a minus because we don't have a dishwasher, garbage disposal, central A/C, or washer/dryer.
..totally hipster, which is also a plus and a minus. Hipsters love local beer, tasty food, fresh produce, and crafty fairs (all of which I love too), but they do weird things like raise chickens in the tiny brownstone backyards.

As a mom in Brooklyn, I love all the kid-friendly activities that are literally in our neighborhood. I haven't gone to any of them yet, because we're still unpacking and traveling quite a bit, but there's music in the park, story time at the library, and yoga for toddlers down the street. I love the Burrito Bar across the street, with its delicious happy hour margaritas and super kid-friendly service. They tie a balloon to the highchair for your kid to play with! I love the fantastic coffee shop down the street. I love that we now live between two parks, one on the way to the Texas-sized grocery store, and one on the way to boutique shopping.

However, I do not love lugging the stroller up and down stairs all the time. My arms are going to be awesome in a few weeks. We live on the second floor, so all our groceries and laundry go up and down, up and down, along with the baby and the stroller. Speaking of which, I do not like doing laundry at a laundromat or washing all the dishes by hand. I also am still uncomfortable with out my trusty SUV. We had to do Ikea exchanges (twice!), and we had to hire movers to pick up, take to Ikea, and bring back. That gets inconvenient and pricey.

So, I'd say Brooklyn wins, which is good because now that we're close to unpacked, there's no way I'm moving again any time soon!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Colorful New Apartment

My amazing sister slept on our couch for two weeks (!) so she could be here to help pack, paint, and babysit. Let's just say she has a great, big IOU coupon coming in the mail!

I've moved many times, so the packing isn't very exciting, but the painting, now that was exciting. The new apartment has three spaces, which we're using as living, dining, and library, separated by decorative, flat arches. The ceiling of the living room has an impressed tin ceiling that was painted white. We knew we wanted to accentuate the arches and the tin ceiling and that we wanted color. This is terribly mean of me, but I'm not posting pictures of the actual rooms just yet. Once I clear out the boxes, I'll post pictures. In the meantime, here are the colors from the Benjamin Moore Historic Colors line:

Living Room, Wythe

Library, Stratton

Dining Room, Georgian Brick

And then for the master bedroom, which also has a decorative, impressioned tin ceiling, we went with Rockport Gray.

Pictures of the actual rooms coming sometime, but unpacking with a baby is a little slow-going!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Moving to Brooklyn

It's really happening, folks! We're moving to Brooklyn in June. It's a beautiful, three-bedroom place, with high ceilings, two non-working fireplaces (all the fireplaces up here are plugged up, mostly for liability reasons), a living room, a dining room, and a room that we'll make into a library. Also, it's very close to the subway that Chad will take into work, so his commute will only be 20 minutes. For Cora and I, the apartment is close to a couple of playgrounds, the giant and beautiful Prospect Park, and the public library, which has a huge children's reading area. We're giving up a few modern conveniences, like a dishwasher and a washer/dryer, but I'd say that for all the other things we're gaining, it's totally worth it!

Since we're hoping to be settled in Brooklyn for the rest of our time in NYC, I'm officially going on the job hunt. So, if you know of an awesome place to work in the New York area that is looking for someone to write, edit, research, and maybe do some fun design work, let me know. =)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Breaking into card-making

I made my first card! Several of the people who do scrapbooking blogs I love also make cards, so I've been seeing others' beautiful designs for months now and contemplating throwing my hat into the card-making ring. As of this morning, my hat is in the ring, and here's the proof:

A graduation card for a friend made with a plain white card, some scrapbooking paper, an my cricut. I do love my cricut. And it was refreshing to have a small project that I can start, complete, and hand off to my friend, all in one day. Scrapbooking is a bit more of a long-term, involved process. In fact, I'm working on one now, I suppose I'll post about that next time.

Friday, May 6, 2011

House-hunting in Brooklyn

Now, if you know me in rl, as my mmo player buddies used to say in reference to someone they knew in real life, you have probably already heard something of my house-hunting woes through facebook or some other online outlet. If you're my mom, you've heard every tear-inducing incident over the phone. (Thanks, Mom.)

But, this is a blog about what it's like to be a mom in the NYC area, and moving is a very big part of that! Especially when you move as much as we do. Since we were married in 2007, we have lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Denver for one month, a two-bedroom apartment in Nashville for 12 months (with a summer stay in a one-bedroom apartment in Berlin in the middle of that lease), a two-bedroom duplex in Nashville for 14 months (with a two-month stay in a one-bedroom apartment in Buenos Aires, immediately followed by a two-month stay in a different shared three-bedroom apartment also in Buenos Aires in the middle of that lease), and now a two-bedroom apartment in Hoboken, NJ for the last 8 months. Oh wow, let's all just take a deep breath...and re-read that because it looks like craziness...

Since we are dangerously close to breaking our record for longest stay in a single place, we're really itching to move again. Just kidding, that's not it. The real issue is that it still takes Chad 45 minutes to get to work, even when he takes the expensive ferry, and it takes me 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours to get anywhere in the city. The times are nearly doubled if it's a night or a weekend because Hoboken is a commuter town. We like to go to the city during times other than 8am-7pm, though!

So, we've set our sights on Park Slope in Brooklyn, the coolest, cutest little neighborhood that is juuuust barely within our financial budget, assuming I continue to cook every blessed meal of every day. Or until I get a job, ha. Anyway, we've also decided that we really, really need a three-bedroom apartment. It sounds so greedy! But the third bedroom can be tiny, as long as it fits a desk and a crib, that's all! Guests may have to sleep on the couch - sorry!

We have figured out all the logistics, though: train times, monthly budgets, selling my car, parks in the area, grocery stores in the area, everything. All we need now is the place. Enter realtors. Dun, dun, DUUNNNN! (I really need a more interactive blog for this kind of storytelling.) Realtors have this peculiar arrangement in Brooklyn. Landlords release information to realtors about an apartment for rent, 4 or 5 different realtors post to craigslist and such, and potential tenants call/email/text realtors for access to the apartment. Realtors, at their leisure, respond to potential tenants, arrange for a time to see the place, accept deposits, and handle the contracts.

Keep in mind, the potential tenant (ie, myself) is the one who has to scour craigslist and such, harass the realtor into finding time to show the place (because the realtor is SOO busy with 300 other apartments on the market), be stood up by the realtor (who is still SOO busy with other apartments), arrange another time, almost get stood up again, find out that the realtor went to the wrong address (300 addresses to keep track of!), and finally meet the realtor at the desired apartment. The potential tenant (again, me) then has to ask many questions about utilities, when the place is available, laundry, and such, only to find that the realtor knows 10% of the answers (because it gets confusing with so many apartments). Then, because there are 3 other potential tenants who are going to see the apartment in 15 minutes, the first potential tenant (me) must decide very quickly whether or not to put down a deposit because there's a 95% likelihood that the next person who sees the place will.

AAAAND the potential tenant is supposed to pay the realtor's fee! That's 12% of the annual rent, which, at $3000/month is somewhere around $4,320! WHAT?!? You make me do the research, harass you into meeting me, and not expect you to know anything about the apartment, AND you want me to pay you over $4,000 dollars!!! What's worse, the other potential tenants don't seem to mind. We've lost several apartments because we tried to negotiate having the landlord pay the realtor's fee, and we were scooped by some other louse who would.

The realtor is bad, but sometimes the landlord is just as bad. Every single time you ask to see a place, the realtor asks who is moving in, to which I reply, "Myself, my husband, and our child." 60% of the time, the realtor reports back that the landlord does not think the apartment is suitable for one trivial reason or another, and I begin to get the feeling that the landlord simply does not want children in his building (I won't say his/her because it's always "his").

Even when the landlord "allows" me to see the apartment, we travel 1 1/2 hours to Brooklyn, we wrangle the realtor into meeting with me, and we love the place and put down the deposit, still - STILL - there are problems. The last landlord didn't like our financial paperwork because Chad had only been working for 3 months. He has a job at an awesome law firm in Manhattan, and that's not good enough?! The sleazy landlord rented it to someone else, and we're still working on getting our deposit back.

I never knew that moving could be so horribly hard. I've been actually very lucky because Cora's been in Texas with grandparents for almost 2 weeks, but most of my time has been fruitlessly wasted on this house-hunting business in Brooklyn. I feel sorry for little Cora because she's about to get dragged to Brooklyn every day. At least she likes the subway and being outside. It's warm, so maybe we can play on dirty doorsteps while we wait to be stood up by realtors.

Sorry this is such a downer post, but finding an apartment in the City when you have a kid is no fun at all. I know it will all work out in the end; it always does. I just want the end to come soon! And then we will host lots and lots of guests in our cool Brooklyn apartment and show them all sorts of fun in NYC. Just have to keep my eye on the prize.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What do you do with a one-year-old?

Yes, I'm still wondering what to do with my one-year-(and-three-months)-old. Paper dolls always seems like a fun activity, but she's far too destructive for paper products to last long.
Then, I remembered that my friend had given me magnet dolls - genius! And Cora did love taking them off the filing cabinet, putting them in a different place, and watching as they still stick. She doesn't really get that the outfits go on top of the little people, but I let her organize the world as she sees fit. Here's what the set of 8 people and 8 outfits looks like:

This inspired me to make another spin on the paper doll - the felt doll. Normal felt does stick to itself/other felt, but Cora really loves velcro. So, I thought why not stick velcro on the back of stiff felt? Works like a charm! I got the patterns to cut out from the smile and wave blog, and after a little tracing, cutting, and applying self-adhesive velcro dots, here was the finished product:

Well, not quite. The doll actually had a blue wig, but Cora put in her "secret stash" somewhere, so for this picture, I just stuck on one of the shapes I'd cut out.

Truthfully, Cora could care less that this is a cute doll with a fashionable little dress on. So, I'll have to weigh the pros and cons for future cut-outs. Do I painstakingly carve out flattering dresses, skirts, pants, and shoes for our little doll? Or do I just cut out your basic triangle, square, pentagon shapes and slap some velcro on them, let the kid entertain herself with the mere "scrrnch" of ripping velcro over and over and over again? Probably some of both. I think I'll do a board, like the smile and wave blog did, and have a couple dolls with some outfits, along with quite a few random shapes.

Bottom line: success! One-year-ish-old entertained by both magnet and felt dolls for 15 minutes!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fresh Direct

Maybe I really am an urban mom - a few days ago, I ordered groceries online and had them delivered the next day! It's been pretty frustrating to get to the grocery store with Cora, especially since she still needs two naps a day, and because of horrendous commuter traffic, I can only go somewhere in the car between 10:30am and 2:30pm. So, I've been going to the local store, which is expensive enough that I thought it was worth checking into Fresh Direct, a grocery delivery service that started in NYC and is spreading to NJ and CT. I was surprised to find that although certainly more expensive than Wal-Mart, is competitive with our local store. Then, I found an awesome coupon online, and that sealed the deal.

 While Cora napped, I clicked through a checklist of produce, dairy, meat, even canned goods. 30 minutes later, I'd hit send and she was just waking up. Instead of dragging her through traffic and a Wal-Mart in the suburbs, we played with puzzles, much more preferable. The next morning, groceries delivered! I popped our dinner in the slower cooker, and life felt manageable. Now, if I can just find more of those coupons, we might just do this again. Or their promo campaign of getting first-time users hooked by the convenience of it all just might work. Even more amazing, my shopping list is saved, so to order the same two weeks' worth of meals would only be a click away...
Then, the baby ran away with the tomatoes, hehe.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Girl Needs Bacon

Our pediatrician informed us that Cora needs to gain weight. She's in the 5th percentile for her age group - nothing like being way on the short of the statistical norm to make you feel like a bad mama!

I came back from my weekly night class to a wonderfully quiet house that smelled...a little greasy. I asked Chad how everything went with Cora and what she ate for dinner. He said, "Tonight went fine. She had 4 pieces of bacon and milk for dinner."

Well, I guess that'll pack on the pounds!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


The Etsy lab is in Brooklyn, a mere hour and fifteen minutes by bus and subway from Hoboken! They offer classes/workshops every Monday night in different crafty things. Yesterday, there was a drawing class, geared especially for people who don't draw. That would definitely be me. So, I took my bus to my subway, and popped up in DUMBO, "Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass," a previously-industrial-renovated-gentrified-and-polished-up-for-wealthy-hipsters area. The Etsy lab is on the 7th floor of these cool warehouse buildings.
The drawing class was surprisingly fun. The artist, Carol, started us off with a left-handed portrait of the person sitting across from us, great because it reduced expectations and introduced us to someone. I lucked out that the guy sitting across from me had lots of easy-to-draw facial hair. The second set of exercises was drawing objects without lifting the pen from the paper. That was hard and I refuse to show any of those, ha.
The third involved taking something we'd drawn in the one-liner exercise, redrawing it, and detailing it with thicker/thinner lines and color. She did a demo of this. After 15 minutes of concentrated effort, I had a rather cute pink elephant to show. All-in-all, pretty fun, and I hope to go back for another Monday craft night at Etsy.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Entertainment Attempt #1

Crayons are classic, right? Even better than classic crayons are these baby-fied crayons, which have a little sponge at the end and liquid in the tube part. You have to smush the spnge several times to make the (washable!) colored liquid flow. The benefits are no lid, no wax to eat, no paper to tear off, and it dries up. I was fascinated by these nifty baby crayons. Cora was more interested in dropping them on the floor. Most of the marks on the page are mine. She made a few dots before she decided to drop the crayons and pull at the pages in the sketchbook.

Mild success. I was entertained. Cora was intrigued for about 3 1/2 minutes, but she stayed in the chair without fussing for at least 10 minutes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What do you do with a one-year-old?

(Sing above title to the tune of the 80s Klondike Bar jingle.)

I ponder this question every day, what to do with my curious, active, demanding almost-toddler. First, I'll give you a rough sketch of what our days look like. On a good morning - and today was the first good morning - I will wake up early, work out in the gym downstairs from 6:00-6:45am, and run upstairs to take a quick shower before Cora wakes up a little after 7:00. Of course, more often, she wakes up closer to 6:30 and Chad has to deal with her, which usually involves Cora playing with toys while he dozes on the couch. Anyway, so then it's Chad's turn to work out downstairs while I give Cora some milk, make my coffee, and finish getting myself ready. We all eat breakfast together, and Chad leaves the house around 8:15.

Cora and I then have two hours before her next nap. We drag out every toy that is stored in the living room. She picks her favorites, and I put them on the couch for her. She climbs up on the couch (using her little stool), and we watch the news together. Then I can usually do some of my more active chores, like dishes, laundry, or cooking while she climbs up and down on the couch and picks through all her living room toys.

10:15 rolls around, and Cora starts making the sign for bed (hand on the side of the head and leaning the head). She goes down without a peep, and I bee-line for the computer to do email, finances, and any google search/information gathering I had intended to do. If there's any leftover time before 11:30, I work on homework for my Monday night graphic design class. All of this productivity is, of course, on a good day. On a not-so-good day, I take a nap too.

11:30 she wakes up, and I get her settled with a toy from the closet (the reserves) while I make lunch. We eat together for about 30 minutes, then we pull another toy or two from the reserve closet. I sometimes try to sneak in more computer time, but Cora generally gets impatient with that and cries at my pant legs from underneath the chair until I come play with her. We go back and forth like that for a while. Occasionally, I attempt to woo her with children's TV programming. She didn't take to Curious George or Clifford, but she likes the Backyardigans and a Swedish program called Pingu (about a clay-mation production about penguins). I say, "likes," but that means she dances to the intro song and laughs, then returns to toys or pestering me to play with her and her toys.

Just to change it up, we go into her room, where she pulls all the board books off her little bookshelf while I try to read some of them to her. That's plenty entertaining until 2:30 nap time!

She goes back to bed, and I try to clean up a bit (why? I don't know...). Then, I do homework, return phone calls, make various travel arrangements, plan meals, check facebook, etc. Sometimes I even manage to go through some of the photos and videos I've taken recently or read the blogs I subscribe to. You'd be amazed how quickly the time goes. Wait, I'm sure you know.

3:45-ish, and she's up again! If we haven't gotten out by this point, we'll try to go out for coffee, make deposits at the bank, stroll through the library, or run to the store, all of which involve at least a half-mile to mile walk each way. Sometimes we do this after lunch, in which case you could switch this paragraph with the two describing her post-morning-pre-afternoon nap segment.

Once we're home again, I start dinner, while she sorts through the tupperware drawer. Cora would say, "Mama never organizes the tupperwares right, so I have to come in and fix it every day! Sometimes several times a day." Chad usually walks in the door around 6:20 (thankful for that!), and he helps with Cora. We all eat dinner together. Every other night, Chad gives Cora a bath, and then it's PJs, book, and bed. While they do that, I clean up dinner and the day's disaster aftermath.

By 8:30, Cora's sound asleep. Chad and I collapse on the couch with a beer to catch up on the news or watch one of our shows. We recently finished Dexter and are on the look-out for another. We rarely make it passed 10pm, and we're out too. For those of my readers who remember us from our student days, both of us asleep by 10pm would have been unimaginable, more like 3am (Chad at least). Now, we're parents.

Cora and I are about to embark on a series of new crafty activities. After a recent trip to the craft store, I'm armed with crayons, kid scissors, construction paper, pipe cleaners, and big wooden beads. I'll let you know what works.

**There are a few consistent differences in the above "day in the life of." I go to graphic design class Monday evenings, Wednesday morning we go to an indoor play class, Wednesday afternoons the babysitter comes so I can run errands, and once a week Cora and I meed Chad in the city for lunch.**

Saturday, February 19, 2011

We went outside!


Every kid (and nanny/mom) in the neighborhood turned out for the first warm day in months. It was absolute madness. Little kids, big kids, and over-protective moms, all climbing around the play space and dragging the slush in with them.

But Cora had great fun! She also looked super cute in her little coat, a gift from her birthday buddy (also born January 8th, although about 25 years earlier), Kathy.

My mom also gave me an awesome pocket-sized video recorder, so I looked just as nutty as the parents in the jungle gym, following Cora around and filming her attempts at climbing ladders and such.

I guess we both had fun.
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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cora's First Birthday: Travel Theme

Why do people always say children grow fast? They don't! Cora's first year has been the longest year of my life, and she has seemed to grow remarkably slowly. I guess, though, looking back, time always seems to pass faster than when you're in the moment. No matter how quickly or slowly the year seems to have passed, however, every 365 days (roughly) demands a birthday party! And we delivered.

Cora's first birthday party was travel themed. Here was the invitation:

Now, I did not design these lovely invitations. Jennifer of Nounces on Etsy.com (plug: http://www.etsy.com/transaction/40790734) customized her design for me for a mere $15, then I could print as many as I wanted. Genius. I did have the paper cutter, corner rounder, and perforated-line cutter to add those realistic touches.

For decor, we had a map with pins showing all the places Cora had been this year, a sign saying, "Thank you for flying CM Airlines" with a bowl of peanut/pretzel baggies, and plastic cups with the CM Airlines logo, most of which was handled by my awesome sister, Darcy.

The big hit of it all was the cake made by Lauren, my talented sister-in-law, who flew in that night and stayed up till all hours of the night, finishing this masterpiece: a partial globe with a cute fondant airplane and a trailing streamer reading, "Happy Birthday Cora!"
For the remainder of the decorations, my wonderful mom handled flowers and balloons in the blue, pink, and green colors of the party. So, yes, team effort was the key word here! Cora conveniently woke up at 12:45 from her nap, almost as if she knew her cue. She was happy as a clam for nearly three hours of BBQ lunch, bubbles, candles, singing, cake-eating, and assisted present unwrapping. Cora made out like the baby bandit that she is with a plane full of toys and was proud of it.

Lastly, I did actually make the party favors, pocket-sized passport photo albums. The first page has her actual passport photo, and each of the rest of the pages has a picture of Cora traveling (in a carrier, baby bjorn, gift sack, rolling bag, cannon, backpack, etc.).

If you would like to DIY, here's the gist: I ordered these little passports from JoAnn's. (http://www.joann.com/joann/catalog/productdetail.jsp?CATID=cat2607&PRODID=prd27727)
Then, I picked out 13 photos, resized them in iPhoto (crop to iPhone 2x3 size), printed the photos out on sticker paper (available at Staples and such), and peeled and stuck! Well, it was pretty tricky to cut them all out and peel them all, so I got help from my very large family. We had a passport-making evening. 4-6 hours of work split up among 4-6 people worked very well. And now everyone has a pocket-sized photobook of Cora's travels.

Happy birthday, baby!