Sunday, March 21, 2010

spring fever = baby fever

When you live in a place where there are distinct weather seasons, there is nothing better than those first few days of spring (you know the ones I'm talking about: when you do all of your favorite warm-weather things like eat ice cream on the street and lay on the grass in parks...and you wear your favorite warm-weather clothes like flip-flops and summer dresses...and, even though you are actually quite cold because it's never as warm as you think it's going to be, you hold your head up high and stick to your lofty plans because you are delirious with spring fever). Inevitably, spring makes makes me think of all things bright and shiny and cuddly. And, now more than ever: birth, babies, and happy laughter. Here are photos from last year's spring, full of hope and promise and, of course, this year's spring, full of my bright and shiny and cuddly baby!

Spring fever 2009 (already huge at the beginning of my third trimester, a few months before giving birth to Ruby!):

Spring fever 2010:

Along these lines, birth has been on my mind. It's baby season in Brooklyn, plus I have had a few people tell me recently that they are pregnant.

Here is a book, Birthing From Within, that my friend Emily (doula, soon-to-be-midwife, all-around amazing birthing expert) gave me last year while I was getting ready to give birth to my daughter. I love this book because it's very holistic and inclusive in its approach to birthing. And because I think it really got me into a good mindset somewhere in between "planning" how I wanted to give birth, and also understanding that I wouldn't be able to control it all and that I would need to be flexible in my expectations in order to have the wonderful experience I wanted. This helped me immeasurably when push came to shove and the complications of my labor kept me from being allowed to give birth in the natural birthing center that I had planned for and I had to give birth in the dreaded hospital (not at all what I had in mind). Much of what I had taken away from Birthing From Within helped me to shift my mindset in the moment to quickly get over my disappointment and still have a beautiful, memorable, drug-free birth in my little hospital room after 36 hours of sleepless labor.

As I write this with my windows open and Ruby sleeping soundly beside me, I can hear the voices of all the neighborhood kids squealing in delight at the playground down the street. It is one of the unmistakable sounds of spring and the fruit of our hard labors (literally)!

Hope your spring is sheer bliss!

Saturday, March 6, 2010, those Swedes are clever!

Maybe it's because I grew up in Singapore and our weekly Sunday family ritual included church, dim sum, and then a trip to Ikea to play in the "many balls." Or maybe it's because I'm a major nerd and I am tickled by simplistic innovation (read: I actually enjoy building IKEA furniture). But one thing is for sure: from sitting in their cafeteria and eating 99 cent cinnamon rolls and downing free refills of carbonated lingonberry juice to waiting in line with a giant flatbed cart full of twice as many things as you meant to buy, I get a wind of excitement from a day at IKEA!

Love it or hate it (I know I just raved about how much I love it, but I also spent one of the most miserable afternoons ever at the IKEA in the Netherlands on the outskirts of Amsterdam a few days before Christmas that was so chaotic and hellish that my dad looked at me afterward and solemnly said: "never again." The only thing tha redeemed our day were the warm and delicious aebleskivers being sold out of a truck in the parking lot--brilliance!), IKEA is a necessary staple for many of us city folk on limited budgets! If you live in a major metropolitan area in the U.S., the chances are pretty good that you have fairly easy access to an IKEA.

Last winter, Jude and I were deciding what to do about baby furniture in our then-one-bedroom apartment. We knew we needed a crib and a changing table and at least one new chest of drawers to accommodate all the new "stuff," and that we wanted it all to be affordable and compact. I found the giant cribs with the even bigger pricetags at places like Pottery Barn and the like to be downright laughable. I mean, long is this kid going to sleep in there? I couldn't justify the space or the cost for a designer crib or a fancy tabletop to wipe my baby's bottom. The answer was simple: IKEA, IKEA, IKEA. We don't have a car, so we rented one for a day and zipped around Brooklyn running errands, having food at normally-inconvenient locales, and, of course, a few hours at IKEA to deck out our digs for the newcomer.

I alluded to it earlier, but I will scream it from the mountaintops: IKEA furniture is amazingly simple and I find the pictures-only directions to be just so darn clever! I have built a ton of IKEA furniture over the years to furnish apartments in Chicago, LA, and Brooklyn, and I have yet to find any directions that didn't work out perfectly if followed exactly. Jude loathes building furniture, so he cooks me fabulous meals while I lay out all the pieces on the floor and get to work. I built a crib, a changing table, and two dressers in three days at six months pregnant--phew! I had just read an article about how babies hear things from in the womb and sounds they hear a lot become second-nature to them by the time they are born, so we always laughed about how Ruby will always feel at ease in her lifetime to the sound of hammering.

Here is our changing table all set up before Ruby was born. The cool thing about this is that the overhanging part that makes it a changing table is actually only a $20 separate add-on, so, when we no longer have need for a changing table we will remove it and have a regular dresser. This is the Leksvik cabinet ($149 as a dresser, $169 with the attachment to make it a changing table).

Here is Ruby's simple little Leksvik crib. It may be small and simple, but it is also surprisingly versitile. It starts with the mattress high when you first build it. I recently had to lower the mattress which I was able to do by myself one afternoon (though it was a little bit of a pain to not have a second set of hands when I had to turn the crib over and balance the boards while screwing in the bolts). When Ruby gets bigger, we actually have two other boards stashed away in a closet that will allow me to turn this into a toddler bed! All for $159!

We also now have a few other dressers and pieces from the Leksvik line for Ruby's things.

I haven't really bought much else for Ruby there--they have adorable feeding and bathing accessories and fun toys, but I didn't buy any of them while I was there because I hadn't done any research into what kinds of materials they use for things that would potentially go in baby's mouth or be used with soaking. If anyone happens to know whether their cute froggy dinnerware is BPA-free, let me know! They have a simple folding highchair, too, that is a great space saver.

One thing I find drool-worthy that Ruby is still way too young for is their adorable play kitchen and all of the accessories. So so cute!

Anyway, if you're looking for simple and affordable baby things that are also appropriately small for your small baby in your small urban home, don't forget IKEA!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

pub crawler controversy ran an article today, entitled "Brooklyn brewhaha: Babies in bars," about the controversy raging in my lovely city around parents bringing their little bundles of joy into their favorite watering holes. I find this topic fascinating and I can totally commiserate with the people on both sides of the issue. We ourselves have never had Ruby in a bar (unless you count a restaurant that happens to have a bar), but I can totally understand how it would be practical to meet a friend out for a drink with the munchkin tagging along.

Here's the thing: when you have a baby in this city, you are, essentially, giving up your right to leave your home alone. The first time I walked out of my apartment without Ruby attached to me or in a stroller was when I went a few blocks away to get a haircut at about six weeks postpartum (and I wept as I walked and talked incessantly about Ruby to the hairdresser and skipped out early on the hairdryer). I went back to work when she was three months old, but, besides the office three days a week, I have been out in NYC without the baby a total of five times (a haircut, three dinners with Jude, and one dinner with girlfriends) in her nearly eight months!

It's hard to find dependable childcare if you are city implants like us and don't have family around. We have been incredibly lucky to have an awesome situation with a close friend for the weekdays when I'm working, but our amazing caregiver is not really available on nights or weekends. Plus, it's hard to fathom: a) wanting to spend any more time away from Ruby than we have to, or b) spending more money on childcare when we're not getting paid for our absence. So, if we want any adult social interactions, our options are limited to either inviting our friends over to our place or dragging Ruby out with us. We do both. But if we take her out, it's to restaurants, museums, coffee shops, etc. Something feels strange about bringing Ruby out to a bar. Part of it is probably because I went to college in Madison, Wisconsin when it was still legal to smoke in public indoors and, even though it's not true at all in Brooklyn, I still picture the stinky dives full of cancer air that I used to hang out in when I think of a bar. Another part of it is that I don't drink while I'm nursing (which means that, with a few recent minor exceptions, I haven't drank alcohol since finding out I was pregnant about 16 months ago!), so a bar is not particularly enticing to me at this point anyway. For Daddy, on the other hand, I could see where this could present itself as a viable option.

The parents who are pro-baby barflies in this debate are not talking about getting trashed and stumbling home pushing a stroller. Nor are they talking about bringing them to loud, wild scenes at night. The issue is, for example, whether or not it's acceptable to bring your sweet kid to a calm bar while you have a drink and chat with a pal in the middle of the afternoon. If there's zero smoke indoors and you're not getting tipsy, what is the problem?

Well, for non-child-toting adults, there are a few potentials problems in this scenario. In the CNN article, I think Juieanne Smolinski says it best: "I will get up on the subway for kids. I will be tolerant of them kicking the back of my seat while seeing a G-rated movie. But let me have my bars." A pub is where you go to kick back and relax--not to worry about a little one overhearing your sailor mouth. And certain not a place where you want to trip over a stroller and be glared at for it. And not the place to feel pressured into having to make goo-goo faces with a jolly little micro-person who keeps looking at you.

As I am writing this, I just learned that Jude did, in fact, sort of take Ruby to a bar in Brooklyn. Apparently, he was waiting for his food order at a restaurant in the neighborhood and it was going to take a while, so he went to the outdoor part of the bar and sat at a table with Ruby in the Bjorn. He ordered one drink from a waitress while he waited for his food next door, but he says that he felt strange about it and didn't consider going inside to the bar-bar.

I usually know my hard stance on an issue right away and am stubborn enough to generally hold steady with that opinion. However, I feel like I could be swayed here one way or the other with some more compelling arguments. I'd love to hear your thoughts!