Wednesday, December 23, 2009

hungry mungry

We thought we were going to wait the widely-recommended 6 months before we gave her anything besides breastmilk, but Ruby was showing so many signs of being ready earlier (speck of a tooth coming in, lunging for our food with her mouth wide open, and insatiable appetite) that the pediatrician told us to go ahead and give her some rice cereal. So, at 5 1/2 months, Ruby has officially ended her liquid-only diet.

First thing we needed: a high chair. We couldn't fathom adding yet another stand-alone object to our little apartment, so this Fisher-Price space saver was a great find! It fits securely onto most standard chairs and Ruby seemed comfortable and happy in it from the first time she sat in it.

Next order of business: a bib. Because we don't have a washer and dryer in our apartment, we need to conserve throwing stuff into the laundry as much as possible. The Bumkin waterproof superbibs are actually exactly what they are called: superbibs. They are cute and functional and can be wiped down between feedings rather than laundered.

Next, we can't actually feed her if we don't have any food. Jude--a chef--has for months now been making all her fruit and veggie foods that she's going to start eating in January. He wants her to eat local and organic foods, so he thought to start making (and freezing) the foods this fall so that she can have more variety than what's available at the farmer's markets in the dead of winter! For starting to eat, though, we chose rice cereal (the most common starter food) because it can be mixed with breastmilk and it's very unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. We chose HappyBellies brand brown rice cereal (below link is for 6 canisters, which will last a long time).

We have a couple of beautiful silver and/or stainless steel spoons that Ruby was given as baby gifts, but those will be used later. For now, we needed to find a spoon with a soft tip so that--as she learns to chew and eat--she doesn't damage her tender little gums. My other criteria, of course, was that it had to be BPA-free. These inexpensive spoons from Munchkin did the trick.

And lastly, we got these matching bowls--also BPA-free--for her cereal. Pretty cute, and so much cheaper than most of the other dishware out there that is advertised as BPA-free.

jetsetter baby

Let's be honest: the prospect of flying with your infant is terrifying, especially around the holidays when planes and airports are chaotic and full of anxious travelers. I have heard lots of people recently talking about giving their children Benedryl or other sedatives for flights, but I am wholeheartedly against giving anyone--much less a BABY--any medications that they don't need. Clearly, if I can break my foot while 4 months pregnant and walk around in a cast in NYC for two months without even taking one Tylenol, I am not somebody who is about to shove chemicals down my baby's throat for a plane ride! I also recently read about a plane that had to be diverted for an emergency landing because a sedated baby stopped breathing (no, thank you)!

That being said, a whole day in airports (with an almost 4 hour layover in Detroit--yuck!) with a 5-month-old is not exactly my idea of a fun day.

My biggest worries are Ruby's safety in my lap (we did not pay for an extra seat) in the event of severe turbulence, her ears popping upon takeoff and landing and scaring her into a crying fit, diaper changes in an aiplane bathroom, and her ability to nap in the bright airports and aircrafts.

Here are some things I am carrying with me to combat said worries:

1) Safety Harness

This is a pretty clever little tool that allows your baby freedom of movement on your lap, but holds her close in case of intense turbulence. To me, it's worth the price to have an added safety measure in place.

2) Pacifiers

During take-off and landing, I think breastfeeding is the best option to both soothe baby and help keep her ears clear. However, if baby's not hungry, a pacifier will help do the trick. Also helpful in the airport and for getting to sleep on the flight. For travel, I like the Haba chains that clip to the baby carrier so she can't knock her pacifier to the ground. Also, the soothie pacifiers are BPA-free and my daughter LOVED hers from the first time we offered it. Wubbanubs are also great--they have a Soothie pacifier attatched to a little stuffed animal that makes it easier for baby to hug and hold onto it.

3) Hooter Hider

Breastfeeding is definitely the easiest way to feed (not to mention soothe) baby on the flight). No need to worry about how much milk you're bringing with you in case of delays or layovers. The Bebe Au Lait covers are great because of the boning at the neck to help make a line of vision between you. However, I love-love-love the Busy Baby Wrap because they are simple and stylish enough to leave on as an extra layer on-flight or could double as a blanket for baby.

4) In-flight Entertainment

The key to bringing toys on the plane is that you want stuff that is small enough to pack and also quiet enough to not bug your neighbors (ie. not rattles or squeaky toys). Here is an assortment of some non-toxic toys and teethers that fit the bill.

5) Clean-Up and Cuddling

They are a splurge, but I adore Aden & Anais muslin blankets. They are oversized, which makes swaddling easier, but they are so thin that they can fold up tiny in your bag. I use these for everything--burb cloth, wiping up spit, peek-a-boo, swaddling, cuddling, sun shade, nursing cover, etc. Plus, they're adorable.

6. Diaper Station

There's not a lot of room to change a diaper on an airplane. Keep everything in one place so you're not dragging baby plus five other things into the lavatory.

jumperoo? don't mind if I do!

Ruby has been loving her jumperoo since she was 4 1/2 months old. She bounces around like a drunken sailor and giggles and coos. At 5 1/2 months, she is still slightly too short for the contraption, so we put a yoga mat and a board game box underneath her feet to give her a boost. This was incredibly quick and easy to put together, too!

Ruby enjoying her jumperoo at about 5 months old:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

it's the most wonderful time of the year!

I'm writing this a lot later than I wanted to, but I have been busy moving apartments (moving + full-time jobs + baby + Thanksgiving weekend + jury duty + painting old apartment back to white = chaos; thank goodness for my mother-in-law's help!). Now that we are settled in, though, I can focus more on my favorite time of year: the winter holiday season.

Starting a family has made me and Jude start thinking more carefully about what kinds of family traditions we want to uphold in our household. We want Ruby to have a sense of her own history and have consistent things to look forward to that punctuate her years with warmth, kindness, and excitement. We've thought about our own family traditions that we celebrated growing up and some others that we want to start on our own to be special to our new little family. One great place to start getting your creative juices flowing is Cafe Traditions. Their website and blog have all sorts of fun things from crafts to ideas for traditions for different holidays and occasions.

One of my favorites that we do here is directly stolen from a Cafe Traditions reader. The year we got married, Jude and I bought a simple journal (we chose one that doesn't have pictures or designs on it so we won't get sick of it and it won't go out of style) and wrote on the first page: "giving thanks." That year, we each--separately--wrote a journal entry in it on Thanksgiving about everything we were thankful for in our lives and in the past year. Now, each year, we do the same. We have had three Thanksgivings so far in our marriage and it's so much fun already to look back and read what we wrote before. This year, of course, we added Ruby to our family, so there is a lot to be thankful for. As time goes on, Ruby will eventually write entries, too, as well as any other family members we may add in the future. Our hope is that this piece of history becomes a coveted family heirloom for generations to come.

My mother-in-law is starting a nice tradition this year. She got Ruby a special Christmas ornament at an art fair in California and said she will continue to give Ruby a new special ornament each year at Christsmas so that she has her own collection of ornaments. I love this tradition, and there are so many variations. Maybe when Ruby gets older, the two of them will do art projects and make Christmas ornaments as well. If you're looking for unique holiday decorating, I love all the handmade ornaments on Etsy.

Mothering magazine's most recent issue had a great article entitled: "Sustainable Season's Greetings" with lots of wonderful ideas for making a warm and merry holiday season with green practices for entertaining, cooking, and decorating, as well as interesting traditions borrowed from various cultures and different winter holidays. They are selling a digital reprint (immediately available for download and/or printing from your own computer) of the article, along with a collection of staff favorite holiday recipes and tips, on sale for $3.99 this month!

Jude and I try to make a unique gift each year to give to family and friends who we see during the holidays. Two years ago, Jude jarred picked shallots and an herb mustard and I made little paper baggies with the dry ingredients to make my favorite ginger cookies (see below for recipe). We use to create the stickers for packaging. Last year, Jude canned a sweet apple butter and a savory apple butter and I made all-natural holiday apple crisp layered soaps.

Jude's parents have a holiday party almost every year at their home in Los Angeles. In the past few years, my mother-in-law has begun to make some sort of craft each year for the guest to take home with them. Two years ago, she made hair clips from found objects around the house. Each guest could choose one. Last year, she used up old scrap quilt materials to make various pot holders everyone could choose from.

I also love making holiday cards. Usually I put a lot of thought into making a fun and unique card, but this year there was too much going on with work and the move to find the time. So this year we just took a family photo (with a tripod) and I'm just doing a simple photo card through Kodakgallery.

One of my many favorite things about the holidays is holiday music. I tend to sing Christmas carols year-round, which--quite simply--drives Jude totally nuts. Now that it's December I have the green light on "Silent Night" as a suitable lullaby to put Ruby to sleep. One of my favorite winter music albums is The Hotel Cafe Presents: Winter Songs with a lovely assortment of sweet songs by various artists. My favorite is "Winter Song" by Sara Bareilles. Another is This Warm December: A Brushfire Holiday, Volume 1.

And what is the holiday season without baked goods, really? My mom comes from a big family of people of who love to bake. She herself is a great baker, too, but she rarely graces us with her talents. Thanksgiving and Christmas, however, are another story. Each year growing up, I so looked forward to "helping" mom make cookies and pies and cakes and bars for the holidays. By helping, of course, I mean standing around ready to pounce on the leftover batters and doughs to lick from beaters and scrape from bowls. And, naturally, making snickerdoodles by taking the excess pie crust scraps and dousing them in cinnamon and sugar to bake into cookies.

I have turned into my mom in this respect--I can bake pretty well, but I only do it for these two favorite occasions. My all-time favorite cookies were aptly-named "Ginger Delicious Cookies" in our household growing up. My mom got the recipe from a "crazy lady" she knew when my parents lived in Beirut. Below is the recipe. Enjoy!

Ginger Delicious Cookies
½ cup oil
2 t. baking soda
1 cup sugar
¼ t. salt
¼ cup molasses
1 t. cinnamon
1 egg
1 t. cloves
2 cups flour (plus a pinch more)
1 t. ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Form small balls. Roll in sugar. Place round balls on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes. Pull them out before they start to brown and let them cool on baking rack. These should be moist and chewy.

Makes 3-4 dozen small cookies.

Tip: I highly recommend you use a mixer to form the dough – I can never get the texture right by hand!

no, you won't get a booger in your mouth

I'm not going to beat around the bush on this one: my sweet little daughter has a LOT of boogers. She has since the day she was born. Jude and I have worked tirelessly to keep her little nostrils clear, but it's taken a lot of patience (both from us and from Ruby). We had a nasal aspirator that came in a baby care kit we were given as a gift. We would stand over her at the changing table and squeeze and squeeze and squeeze, but it would take up to 10 or 15 tries before the booger blockade that was restricting her airflow would dislodge and be close enough to the outside that it could be grabbed and pulled out. I can't tell you how many times this sentence has been uttered in my apartment: "How can something so big come out of that little micro-face?" We tried a couple of different drugstore aspirators, but nothing worked well.

The NoseFrida changed everything.

This little contraption is everything I love in a product: a common-sense idea-turned-incredibly-useful-and-simple gadget. It was originally created in Sweden by pediatricians and ear, nose, and throat specialists. All the thing is is a little plastic tube compartment that you place at the edge of baby's nostril. That is connected to a longer, skinny, soft tube that runs--yes, it seems strange--to your own mouth. There is a little rubber mouthpiece there for you to suck the snot and boogers right out of your baby's nose.

Clearly, the first reaction to this is: what?! I may be her mother, but I don't want her boogers in my mouth! But this is the beauty of this get to control the amount of suction to clear your little darling's nose, but there's no way you could get anything but air into your own mouth.

Firsts of all, you'd be flattering yourself if you thought you were powerful enough to get anything more than an inch into the plastic chamber that catches the nose treasures. Second of all, there is a filtering sponge that separates the plastic chamber from the long skinny tube that goes to your mouth, so even if you are a human vacuum cleaner, you're still safe.

The NoseFrida is easy to use, clean (dishwasher safe), and store (comes in it's own little hard case). And, best of all--it's safe for baby and works significantly better than a regular bulb syringe aspirator.