Thursday, April 29, 2010

sarah's silks: imagination play

I'm really into simple "toys." I try not to over-stimulate Ruby with a lot of lights and noises in the things she plays with (for example, in her Jumperoo, I never turn on the music and lights) because I want her to interact and play with people and to build her imagination on her own. Ruby's favorite things to play with these days are upturned kitchen bowls as drums and almost anything fabric-based that she can play peek-a-boo with. A favorite is this "playsilk" from Sarah's Silks. It's great because:
  • the silk is so smooth and soft and it feels nice on Ruby's skin (at night, before bed, I sometimes just rub her with it or lightly swoosh it over her belly)
  • it's big, but the silk is so thin that it can be crushed up into a ball the size of my fist to smash into the diaper bag
  • it can be used for a million things--right now, Ruby's so young that it's all about peek-a-boo and hiding, but I imagine that down the rode it will be a great item in her dress-up box or for building forts (one of my favorite things to do, even now)
  • it entertains her for long periods of time

Monday, April 26, 2010

a perfect compact, lightweight stroller

In the city, you need to invest in a good quality, sturdy, lightweight, and compact stroller for being out and about with only one adult and a not-yet-walking baby. Getting up and down stairs (especially the narrow stairs at the subway stations) without the help of a second person is close to impossible with a clunky stroller. I researched a lot and read a lot of reviews before I ended up with the UPPAbaby G-Luxe. I got it in early February and haven't looked back.

Here's what I love about it:
  • It's very lightweight in comparison to other strollers of similar size and functionality.
  • Not only does it fold up quickly and easily, but it stands upright by itself once it's folded. It also has a built-in carrying strap. All of this made it super easy to travel with when we took the train to Washington, D.C.
  • It's a good lookin' stroller and the colors it comes in are unisex for future babies. I'm not saying that it being cute is the most important thing, but you know it counts for something.
  • The cup holder holds all sort of things...I don't drink coffee, but I use it for my cell phone, mama snacks, etc.
  • It rolls smoothly and got me through many snowy sidewalks this winter.
  • Ruby is comfortable in it. She's never had a problem napping in it and she loves to swing her little legs.
  • The sun visor is pretty good--it angles different ways and had pretty expansive coverage (though I still slather her up and put a sun hat on her, too).
  • The basket for stuff underneath is decent (for a compact stroller) and I can fit Ruby's changing stuff plus some farmer's market veggies and goodies in there no problem.
Here's the munchkin in her swanky ride.

Friday, April 16, 2010

where are we pumping, ladies?

So, the other day I was at a work conference in Manhattan at a large law firm (that was generously donating their space for our meetings). We had access to a beautiful conference room with views of Times Square, a nutritious and delicious lunch, and polite and attentive support staff. I completely forgot (I plead mommy brain) until late the night before that I was going to need to have access to a space where I could pump during the day. I emailed our staff members responsible for organizing the day's event and--voila!--when I arrived on-site in the morning, I was told that anytime I needed a "lactation room," all I needed to do was talk to the people at the front desk and they would have someone escort me.

What I found when I was cordially escorted to my "Mothers' Room" (as the plaque next to the door read) blew my mind.

Now, I regularly work in a friendly office of 60+ full-time employees, but I am one of only two parents there. Issues of pumping and milk storage are pretty foreign to most of the people I work with, though everyone is very accommodating when I speak up about my needs. At this point, I am very used to my little hole of a room where I sit three times a day to type one-handed on my computer while I pump. And--since it is an office "telephone room" that everyone can use if they book it on their Outlook calendar--I spend a significant amount of time each week scheduling (and inevitably rescheduling around other meetings that get booked or rescheduled) my three times a day spread far enough apart that I can maximize the amount of milk I can pump but working around other people's schedules and/or having to schedule other rooms for people so that we can swap when they have my pumping room booked already during times when I need it. I'm not going to lie--it's a real headache, not to mention an annoying time-suck. As for the room itself: pros are that it has mini-blinds on the glass door to hide me and a lock on the door; cons are that it is so small I have to turn sidesways to slide inside the door because it can't be fully opened if there are two chairs inside and there are no windows. If you have ever pumped milk or breastfed a child, you know that your body temperature rises while it is working hard enough to express milk, so I get very claustrophobic and hot in my little room!

But then, this law firm comes along and I get a real eye-opener. Holy cow! I forget that there are places of work with designated rooms just for this! It was a shock to my system to get a glimpse into the family-friendly environments that some lucky mothers have. I snapped a couple of pictures to show the range of its features.

A coffee table stacked with parenting-related magazines (my favorite touch):

A bulletin board displaying information on La Leche League of Manhattan:

Private refrigerator:

A rocking chair:

A lounge chair:

However, it cracked me up that, as I was leaving the room after one of my three pumping excursions that day, a woman stopped to comment on the leather bag I was carrying. "Oh my God, they didn't make pumping bags like that back when I was using that room!" she said. I assured her that this was a bag I had owned already (not the one that came with my breast pump!), but then made the comment to her that this room was incredible. She looked at me like I was completely crazy and said: "Well, I guess it's not that bad." I was confused and told her that it was lightyears better than the one I used at my own office and she shrugged and said: "I guess this one could be worse." Yes, yes, true. Could definitely be worse.

Earlier this year, I was in a situation where I was at another external organization for an all-day event and the person a the front desk tried to tell me to use the bathroom (plugging in at the shared sinks and standing there while my co-workers--including someone I managed--could walk in and out). I didn't know what else to do, as I was a guest at this office and I had to pump, so I reluctantly plugged in my pump at the sink and started putting my equipment together. Just then, though, a woman came out of a stall and gasped: "Did somebody tell you to pump in here?" I explained and she was appalled. Turns out that she was a mother herself AND the president of the organization! She apologized about a million times that anyone should have suggested I do something so unsanitary and degrading as pump at the public sinks in their bathrooms and then gave me her private office to use then and again later in the day.

It has been fascinating seeing all these different setups (or lack thereof) and has made me wonder what kinds of spaces other mommies use at their places of work. I'm sure that my stuffy little room probably sounds like the Shangri-La to some people. I'd love to hear about them all!

deals on designer duds at Zulily

I was recently introduced to Zulily. It's a cool site that has daily deals in children's (and sometimes even mothers') clothing, accessories, furniture, and equipment from unique designers and companies. It's basically like an online sample sale with a few new limited-time sales opening each day. I signed up to get the e-mail once daily telling me which sales are opening. To see the items for sale, you have to have an account (free setup).

I have found it iteresting to be introduced to new designers I'd never known before, plus have a chance to snatch up a couple great items here and there of brands I already knew, too. Best of all, it's pretty much all brands that I could never afford to pay full price for, so it's a treat to have a chance to buy them at such a discount. That being said, these still are not cheap items, so it's a little bit dangerous to look at the sales each day--just because something is half off doesn't always make it affordable! I have to really keep myself in check and only get a little something here and there that I think is truly special (see below).

Last month, I got Ruby the most adorable Kate Quinn Organics belted coat for $29.99 from $62. She will look so adorable in it next fall!

Today's deals included Cabana Life sun-protective swimsuits and beach attire for boys, girls, and women and great maternity clothing from Everly Grey. I picked up this adorable 50+ UV protection swimsuit combo for Ruby at $27.49 from $68 for next summer.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

does your baby love to destroy books and magazines as much as mine does?

We were in Washington D.C. this weekend and Ruby got to visit with her Auntie Coco (my best friend, Coral). Coral gave her a present that was the hit of the trip (and, thankfully, the train ride back to NYC): an "Indestructibles" book. I read somewhere recently that "exploring" books through trying to rip them up and chew on them is actually an important step in the early (very early) literacy process. So these books are great--Ruby can "explore" it all she wants, but it stays intact, the materials and dyes are non-toxic, and the pages won't rip. She can slobber all over it to her heart's content and it just wipes dry no problem. It is soft and floppy--almost like a magazine or a pamphlet for your baby (not like a book-book).

The one that Ruby got was the book entitled Flutter! Fly! and she is in love with it. She spent a half an hour the other night trying her best to destroy it, but the thing will just not tear, rip, or come apart! Of course, it does crinkle, so she gets a laugh out of crumpling it up. These are just brilliant. Now I want the one called Mama and Baby! (available for pre-order only right now). It looks adorable.

These are pretty darn inexpensive, too, considering how much Ruby loves them. It's got a great amount of excitement to the dollar!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

going rogue: unique baby gifts (not on the *gasp* registry!)

When I get invited to a baby shower, I always stress about whether to just get something off the registry or to go rogue with my gift. Of course, the answer to this question depends on a number of factors. First of all, how well do you know this mother-to-be? You need to know her (or her family) well enough to go off the grid with a present that you know she'll want, need, or at least like. Some people are very particular about only wanting items on their registries. My advice to you would be to check out their registry and see how much stuff they put on there and what kind of things they seem to be gravitating toward. Also, see how much of it is actually getting purchased. If it's a week before their baby shower and almost nothing is bought from the registry, then maybe you should go with one of the items they picked out. On the other hand, if it's a week before the shower and there are only dredges left, feel free to get them something different!

Personally, I feel strange creating a list that says what you can buy for me (or the baby), and only did it for our wedding and when we had Ruby because of peer pressure (ie. there are a lot of people out there who want a list that tells them what to get because they aren't particularly excited about picking out a present on their own!). I, for one, am more than happy to receive gifts that are not on my "list."

That being said, make sure you take into consideration the size of your item and whether or not the new family will have space for it in their home. Space is a common problem for many urban parents, so this is a real concern for many of us. Obviously you're not going to buy furniture items unless someone registered for them. But the same goes for bulky things like cute soft chairs for babies (like this bunny chair from Pottery Barn Kids that I actually put on my registry and love), play equipment, or large toys.

So, if all that's left on the parents' registry are socks, bottles, diapers, and a boring old bathtub insert, consider these other, fun options that will be sure to please mama and, more importantly (well, that's debatable), the baby-to-be.
1. If you're crafty or otherwise creatively-inclined, make something special for the baby. Not only will it be unique and unlike the rest of their cookie-cutter presents, it will be something that will be much more likely to be saved and cherished for years to come--maybe even become family heirlooms! We are lucky enough to know a lot of amazingly creative and talented people, and Ruby was showered with really special homemade gifts. From a beautiful blanket knit by my Aunt Connie to an adorable hat crocheted by our friend Keri, she has so many special things that I will be setting aside for future babies and/or grandchildren. You don't have to have a special talent or skill (like sewing, knitting, quilting, etc.) to make something special. Last year, I put together a play list of soft songs (adult songs that may not be as annoying to listen to over and over again) and designed a CD label for lullabies to give to some parents-to-be.

In the pictures: 1) the most amazing baby quilt you will ever see, made by our friend Mary, 2) two stuffed monsters (modeled after the Ugly dolls), made by my best friend, Coral, 3) an adorable sweater, knit by my Aunt Rita, and 4) a funny bib, embroidered by Coral's mom.

2. If you don't have the time, energy, or skill to make something yourself, buy a homemade (just not in your home) craft on Etsy. Ruby got a bunch of neat things from Etsy from her cousin Stella at Christmas this year and they are some of her favorite things! I'm warning you, though: getting hooked on Etsy can be addicting!

Some of my favorite shops on Etsy for baby things:
  • Allthenumbers: cute baby girl clothing (some of which are upcycled from adult clothing)
  • Icing on the Cupcake: cute lovey blankets
  • The Fakery Bakery: stop it! These felted play foods are just too much!
  • mymarketstall: knit hats, inspired by nature...Jude was so excited for Ruby's radish hat last fall!
  • Handmade Pretties: Ruby loves her personalized recycled sweater ball from here that her cousin Stella gave her for Christmas!
3. If you're like me and just cannot resist adorable baby clothes, try to buy a unique clothing item that the parent might not come across on their own, or splurge on a pricey clothing item that a new parent would love but not think to spend their hard-earned diaper money on! If they don't have any clothes on their registry, I think any clothing is fair game. If they did register for clothing, try to avoid buying clothing from the same store that they registered at if it's not on thier list (ie. they intentionally passed up registering for that item, so you know they either: a) loved it so much they already bought it themselves, or b) don't want it).

Also, when buying baby clothes for a shower, keep in mind when this baby is going to be born and what sizes will match up to what seasons! Unless you know your friend is taking her baby on a beach vacation mid-winter, do not buy a tank top and sun hat that will fit a New York City baby in mid-February!

For unique clothes, try Etsy or small boutiques and baby stores in your area. Here are a couple of cute hats that Ruby got as gifts from friends:

If you travel, pick up cute clothes on the cheap from markets--some of our favorite clothes for Ruby came from friends' and family members' trips to Mexico, Hawaii, Panama, and Ecuador!

If you live in a big city, check out sample sales. In New York City, I've gotten some steals on expensive brands like Rowdy Sprout, Rachel Riley, Jacardi Paris, Imps & Elfs, etc. at the Clothingline sample sales in the garmet district.

A couple of my favorite baby clothing lines that are too expensive for me to buy at full price for Ruby, but I have either given and/or received as gifts, are:

4. If you want to go with toys or things for the baby's entertainment, be sure that they are non-toxic (BPA-free, at least) and they can return or exchange it if they already have the same one. Just because something is sold as a toy does not mean it is non-toxic (in this country, at least)! Be sure that anything that is plastic-based (especially things meant for bath time, meal time, or for sucking or teething) is BPA-free and, preferably, PVC-free, too. It would be a shame if you bought some cute toys that the baby will never get to play with because the parent is educated about the dangers of such chemicals to their child's health. If gifts I received didn't specifically state the materials it was made from on the packaging, I looked up each item individually to find out if it was something I would give to Ruby. Unfortunately, there were a few gifts that never made it her way.

The Soft Landing is a great website and online store to use to learn about and/or purchase items that you know will be made from materials that are not known to be harmful.

Below, Sophie the Giraffe is always a favorite. I feel like every kid in NYC has one. Ruby LOVES her art cards given to her by a friend when she was still a tiny baby. She has been mesmerized by them since she was 2 months old and now loves to bang them together and chew on the edges!

5. Want a gift that will be fun for you to buy and has the potential to be cherished for years to come? Buy some of your favorite childhood books, or pick out some recent award-winners. Just be sure to include a gift receipt, in case they already have them. Board books are more practical for a new baby, but get the classics in hard cover!

6. Give your favorite life-saving baby product that you had or used for your own child. My new go-to staple item that I can talk about until I'm blue in the face is the NoseFrida. I've had other friends do this, too: our friend Leah, for example, sent a Taggies baby blanket, saying that her two sons have them and they were the only can't-live-without-it items for them. My cousin sent me her baby girls' swaddle blanket.

7. Gift certificates and/or cash money: never a bad idea! Gift certificates to Target always get used on the basics. Others to try: Pottery Barn Kids, The Soft Landing,, iTunes (for lullabies and/or apps for iPhones), etc. And money comes in don't need me to tell you why.