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February 2017

    Baby, Resources

    Great Baby Gear for Babies 3 to 6 Months

    Having a baby rapidly accelerates the accumulation of STUFF, which can be an issue when space is at a premium. Joys of city living! So when we find things that are above and beyond awesome, it feels like: YES, this was worth it.

    I’ve said before but it’s worth saying again: the amount of things marketed to moms as “MUST HAVE” makes me kind of nauseous. You don’t need much at all to raise a happy, healthy baby. Besides coffee. These are simply things that have made our lives a little bit easier or more fun over the past few months.

    Without further ado, here’s our faves!

    Baby Bjorn Chair

    We love the Baby Bjorn Bouncer. In the early months, we’d recline it all the way back and gently bounce Hudson to calm him down or even lull him to sleep for a nap. (And sometimes, that bouncing was done with my foot while eating or reading, if we’re being honest here!) These days, Hudson’s figured out to kick his little legs to just the right rhythm to get it bouncing himself—proving that he is indeed the genius I’ve always said he is.

    But the real beauty of this seat is that you can put it anywhere. Bathroom floor while I’m getting ready for work? Done. In the kitchen while I’m prepping dinner? Chop chop. Baby gear is surprisingly heavy for such little people, so the ability to pick it up one-handed and deposit it wherever I need to put him safely for a while is invaluable. Plus, since he’s bouncing himself, I totally think it counts as exercise. Bonus points for not being bright yellow/red/blue.

     

    Skip Hop Playmat

    We have hardwood floors throughout our whole condo. In the early days of playtime on the floor, I’d layer up blankets for him to lay on. But as he got more active, I wanted something with a little more cushion for that big, beautiful baby head. Amazon turned up a handful of frightening mats with a variety of animals and primary colors, and while I’m accepting more of the baby toy/color aesthetic into my home and heart these days—mama’s gotta draw the line somewhere. Upon further research, I came across SkipHop’s version which I consider reasonably inoffensive and actually even cute (for his room.) So far, it’s been a great purchase and we’ve split the tiles into two mini-mats with one in our living room and one in Hudson’s room.

    Unfortunately, our cat loves it as much as we do and I’ve yet to find a way to keep him from sticking his little claws into the soft foam.

     

    Skip Hop Foot Muff

    Since J and I are still hanging on tight to our car-free lifestyle, the stroller is our only set of wheels and gets a lot of use. The cold weather threw me initially, but this footmuff— which is the weirdest name for a stroller sleeping bag ever—has kept our strolling game strong.

    With this, I can put Huds in his stroller wearing only his normal clothes. That way, when we get into a store or restaurant, I just unzip the little vent and he won’t overheat like he would in a big puffy coat. I also don’t have to deal with wrestling him in and out of a baby snowsuit when I take him out of the stroller when we’re out and about.

    Birdie

    Since we’re friends here, I’ll be honest with you: this birdie haunts my dreams. He sings, “I’m a birdie, a cute fluffy birdie. Chirping, cheeping, tweeting, singing just for you!” in an impossibly annoying voice.

    However, Huds LOVES this thing. At this age, toys fairly interchangeable, but if given the choice he always goes for his birdie. It’s the lights, the singing, the crinkly wings—Hudson’s big smiles when he sees this guy are worth me singing the cute fluffy birdie song in my head all day. And out loud.

    Aden & Anais Breathable Bunny Lovey

    When we buckled down to do a little sleep training with Hudson around 5 months, I wanted him to have a lovey that he could sleep with for a little bit of comfort. (I know, that’s the definition of a “sleep prop” and the opposite of what I should be introducing during sleep training, but here we are.)

    We started off with a stuffed bear but watching him pull it over his face caused me so much anxiety that I put in an immediate order for this breathable muslin bunny from Aden + Anais. Thankfully, it did the trick and then some: the bunny is now a major part of his nap routine and he usually naps with one bunny ear in his mouth and the blankie part covering his eyes. Three cheers for safety and being adorable!

    Aquaphor

    When I was pregnant, I recall seeing approximately three thousand advertisements for Aquaphor and receiving half as many samples. Turns out, that’s because it’s awesome. I really, really wanted to like the Honest magic balm for Hudson’s excema, but… it just didn’t do anything for us. When I finally picked up a tub of Aquaphor, the dry patches on Huds’ face were markedly improved within hours, and it’s become our go to. It also makes my cuticles look great, which is helpful because I can’t remember the last time I got a manicure 😃

    Water Wipes

    There are a few mom stereotypes that I’ve wholeheartedly embraced, like wearing leggings too often.

    Do you remember the indignity you’d feel when your mother wiped, tissued, and even LICKED HER FINGER then rubbed something off of your face? Well—greetings, motherhood! I’m all over it. I can’t stop myself from trying to clean up Hudson’s face, which is a futile and unrewarding endeavor. In addition to the usual cocktail of drool and milk that coats a baby’s face, Hudson has a blocked tear duct, which means that eye waters a lot—to the point that there’s often one big, fat, adorable tear rolling down his cheek. I was looking for something safe enough to clean up his face when we’re out and about that I wouldn’t freak out about getting too close to his eye.

    I found these Water Wipes, which are just water with a tiny percentage of fruit extract. While I meant to use these only for his face and hands, I accidentally put a pack into the wipes dispenser on his changing table, and they are way more effective at cleaning up a messy baby than all of the traditional and “all-natural” wipes we’ve been using. I have no idea how they work so well, but I love knowing that I’m not smearing a bunch of chemicals all over his little bod. As soon as I go through the literal thousands of normal baby wipes that we have stashed in a closet (thank you, Amazon Pantry) I’m switching over to these for everything.

    Skip Hop Stroller Organizer with Zip Off Pouch

    I believe the last time I carried an actual purse was when Jason and I went to see a show and had dinner over the holidays. And if we’re being honest here—the bag I’ve been using for work is actually a diaper bag. (It’s huge, and it has lots of pockets!) While I should really invest in a new work bag for morale, I’m good with my purse-free life on most days when I’m with Huds, and it’s mostly thanks to this nifty organizer.

    I keep my wallet, keys, chapstick, hand sanitizer, Hudson’s Mr. Noggin rattle, a pacifier, and a backup pair of gloves for both Hudson and I in here, and we are ready to take on the world. (And I am laughing to myself as I’m typing this for seriously overdoing it because I also keep a full diaper bag with us—and we are honestly never going more than 5 blocks.) There’s a front pouch that zips off, so on the rare occasion that Hudson and I separate ourselves from our wheels, like at the Children’s Museum, I can put my wallet and phone in the zip off wristlet to carry with me and say a little prayer that Mr. Noggin will waiting for us in the stroller upon our return.

    I will say that they advertise it being a cupholder and unless we’re talking about a very small bottle of water, it’s not that.

    Zutano Booties

    All this time, I’ve believed that among Hudson’s many gifts is a particular talent for removing socks from his feet within seconds despite not having mastered using his hands. He’s like a sock ninja.

    I recently asked for some advice on one of my Facebook mom groups and included a picture of Hudson with my post. While I got lots of great advice, I got an equal number of moms asking: but what are those booties!? So… apparently all babies are born with this gift, then? #stillspecial!

    He happened to be wearing his Zutano booties in the picture, which were a gift from friends, and total game changers for our cold weather. The snaps actually keep them in place—Hudson has not yet managed to get these off of his feet. And he doesn’t seem to be trying, either, probably because they’re super soft and cozy.

    So that’s it! And can I just ask how I suddenly have a six month old baby?!

    Mamas with older babies, what were your favorite toys or gear for the first six months? What about for the next six months?

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    Chicago, Resources

    The Chicago Children’s Museum and the Pritzker Playspace for Babies

    Despite his skeptical expression, Hudson is actually super excited to be here!

    Photo of the museum entrance from the CCM’s Facebook page

    Photo of the Pritzker Playspace from the CCM’s Facebook page

    As of yesterday, the Beans are officially members of the Chicago Children’s Museum. Exciting times, my friends!

    I’d been scouring the internet looking for walkable baby music or gym classes (gotta maximize those between nap windows when we are still in three-nap-a-day jail) when I realized that I was forgetting about perhaps the city’s biggest resource for kids, right in my own backyard.

    My mom used to take my sister and I to the Children’s Museum when it was farther north, and while I don’t exactly remember it, I do remember the smell of chlorine from the water room and a giant piano that you’d play on the floor. Even though it’s in a different location now at Navy Pier, I still love knowing that what was my playground as a baby is now my son’s.

    I think most locals consider Navy Pier a slightly embarrassing bummer of a tourist trap. Not to sugar coat it or anything, haha. It has so much potential to be awesome with such primo waterfront real estate, allowing for rare eastward-facing city skyline views… and yet, it’s just not. I think it’s biggest sin has been the terrible food options—this is the city of GREAT eating! And it’s anchored by a BUBBA GUMP SHRIMP HOUSE. And a Margaritaville. Furthermore, a big stretch of it was taken up by a STAINED GLASS MUSEUM. Literally nothing could sound like a bigger snooze. So clearly, I’m not without criticism, but I have to admit that some of the recent renovations have been an improvement. Namely the food court bringing in local options, like the Goddess and the Baker, DMK, and Freshii. And there’s even one cute bar I’ve seen called the Tiny Tavern that I would totally check out with J sometime.

    So while perhaps I was subconsciously blocking out the Museum for being associated with Navy Pier, I’m glad I put my snobbery aside to check out it. And not just because of the Oreo rice krispie treat from Goddess and the Baker.

    The first time we went, the aide in the room introduced herself to me and when she found out we live pretty close, said, “Oh honey. Just go ahead and get that membership.” And so, after one visit, it was clear that she was right on the money and we did. As long as we live in the area, I can’t imagine us ever NOT being members—it’s a good deal, and it’s probably how a great many city moms survive being trapped indoors with toddlers in the winter. I get slightly scared thinking of a mobile Hudson with energy to burn in our 1400 square foot condo in winters to come 😃 But thankfully, this museum will totally grow with us—I never, ever want to wish away any of his baby stages, but I do get so excited imagining all the fun he’ll have on the ropes playground or with the fire truck exhibit in the future.

    The Museum has a special room called the Pritzker Playhouse for the very littlest: infants to 2 years old. The Playhouse is only open for limited hours each day, and while it is fun to stroll Hudson through the rest of it so he can look around, most of the museum is designed for kids that are at least walking. Or you know, sitting 🙂

    We’ve visited the Playhouse a few times now, which is basically sensory heaven for babies. Think bins of feathers, stuffed animal puppets, funhouse mirrors on the walls, different textured carpets, tubes to crawl through, etc. At 6 months, Hudson is still immobile, so most of the room is out of his grasp.

    However, my little bud is not a huge fan of loud noises (as in, he sometimes cries when we sneeze) and also demonstrates a visible distrust of most strangers with an intense baby side-eye. While I find these traits endearing, I also think that it’s good to get him out of his little Streeterville bubble in the sky once in a while and expose him to new things. So for now, “going to the museum” means us sitting in a corner and him staring, open-mouthed at the “big kids.” He did get pretty interested in a bucket full of plastic buttons one time, but since then I’ve failed to entice him with any of the toys because he’s been too busy checking out his peers. Which is okay by me, because as he’s still in firmly in the toy-to-mouth stage, my new-mom germaphobia is in high gear and I want to die a little bit thinking about what must live deep inside the skunk puppet’s fur. (For the record, this is me being insane and the museum is totally clean and sanitary! They have a special sink where you drop toys if they go in your kid’s mouth and they clean it. It’s just the puppet fur that really gets me…)

    There’s a definite crew of regulars in there, likely thanks to the limited hours, but I’ve found the vibe to be pretty welcoming and friendly. Since Hudson’s home with either me or grandma, I’m excited to see him start interacting with other kids as he gets more comfortable with the whole setup. Right now, he’ll occasionally look up at me to confirm that I’m still there and also give me this questioning look like, “what is this loud, bright place full of tiny, rambunctious people?!” But hey, we grow outside of our comfort zone, Hudson William!

    So—all in all, the Children’s Museum has been a huge win and a great new activity for the Hudster. Three cheers for fun baby activities within walking distance! Nap jail’s got nothing on us 🙂

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    Life Lately

    Three Little Things

    Unrelated to anything in this post, but—the cutest.

    My New Year’s resolution was to write every day. And as resolutions so often go, I’ve posted what, maybe twice now? Starting the year strong!

    But I’m renewing my commitment to write more often. Between the avalanche of scary news and Chicago’s perpetually gray skies, I’ve been feeling pretty blah, and writing or working on an illustration always cheers me up. Also, I’m pretty sure my Bravo addiction is not helping me feel great about myself, so let’s redirect those hours, shall we, Laura?

    Yesterday at work, a colleague related a conversation with a writer in our company. When asked how he found the inspiration for his work, he replied that he does not rely on inspiration–that he is a professional and has a process: sit down, then do the work.

    It occurs to me that there was something to be learned from this professional. Besides how to limit my use of exclamation marks, smiley faces and “haha”s as parts of sentences.

    I have such short, precious windows in which I can sit down and work on this blog, and I often find myself searching for something big to say. But the reality is, life isn’t very big these days. Not how I used to think of it, anyway.

    I’ve realized that in our pre-baby lives, time for Jason and I used to be marked from trip to trip, dinner to dinner. Both travel and dining out—two of my greatest passions!—are extremely limited these days. As it turns out, it’s possible to never leave a two block radius if that radius includes a Whole Foods and Target. Especially if it’s January in Chicago, and you’re completing a Whole30.

    But despite our days looking pretty uneventful if viewed through my pre-baby lens, the truth is that I’ve never been happier. (Despite my winter blahs :))

    Maybe while I can’t find anything traditionally big to say, I should just sit down every morning, and start writing. If my intention with this blog is just to capture life as a new mom, travel, and restaurants, well—I can do one of the three really well right now. Especially if my suspicions and Pinterest posts everywhere are true, and the little moments are the ones that matter the most.

    So on that note, here’s three little things on my mind lately.


    Despite being pretty okay with our—shall we say “limited”?—social calendar, we’ve interviewed and liked a babysitter.

    We’re goin’ out! 5-10PM this Saturday. Watch out, world! I’m obviously excited for some one-on-one time with Jason, but I also think this is an important development for another reason. According to the almighty Internet and a few recent meltdowns, Hudson has reached the age at which separation anxiety begins to rear it’s head. If I’m honest, I sort of love the idea that a little human loves me so much he cries when I’m gone.

    However, the grown-up in me recognizes that a.) it’s actually horrible for all involved and b.) it’s time to expand his world a little bit beyond six-ish people. The amount of skepticism in his assessing stares when meeting strangers is apparent and hilarious, so I have my fingers crossed that the pro we found will help both Hudson and Jason and I navigate The First Time We Leave Him With A Babysitter That’s Not Family. I have high hopes for all involved! And for a great glass (or three) of red wine and two open bar stools for J and I.


    Speaking of red wine, I just wrapped up the Whole30, a 30-day healthy eating “challenge.”

    Jason and I first did this in January 2014, and by the end of the month I’d dropped ten pounds, felt amazing, and preached the magic of Whole30 to anyone who would grant me a soapbox. In the years since, we’ve stuck with eating Whole30-ish about 80% of the time. We decided to do it again in full this January, and it’s been a completely different experience for me; thank you, breastfeeding hormones.

    I have to eat so much healthy food to keep up my supply for Hudson that I did not lose a single. pound. And while I used to proclaim the many benefits beyond weight loss (energy! great skin! great sleep!) during my Whole30 missionary work…. let’s be real. If I’m not having a single glass of wine for a month, that needle on the scale better be heading to the left. Since it didn’t, I am now totally convinced that there is no point in fighting my hormones on the weight loss front until I’m done breastfeeding.

    So: it’s over, I did it, go me. But, ugh. I’m not eating a sweet potato for a month.


    And finally—making friends as an adult is hard. And weird.

    This could totally be a full post (or a sad, sad series of posts) but I’ve been trying to find mom friends in my neighborhood. My best friend in the world has a beautiful baby girl just six weeks older than Hudson, and going through this experience with her has been a total life-saver for my sanity. But our pregnant dreams of regular playdates with our baby besties have been crushed by the reality of Nap Jail: the early months in which babies nap 3-4 times a day, with no regularity, and without which are tiny but terrifying monsters. So despite them living just a few neighborhoods away in Wicker Park, they might as well live in Alaska.

    Eventually, I know this will work itself out, but in the meantime, I have been on the hunt for a mom friend within a few blocks’ radius for short playdates and walks. It has been spectacularly unsuccessful, despite really putting myself out there (barf) with multiple mom groups. Jason reminded me that it’s sort of like college or high school again: just being in the same boat (in this case, new motherhood) isn’t necessarily enough to forge a real connection with everyone in else in your vessel, but eventually–you find your people.

    I don’t think I have another awkward group play date in me, so here’s hoping for a meet-cute at Starbucks with another new mom and baby.


    Cheers to the little things, friends! Hope you’re having a great week.

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