Category Archives: Baby

My favorite gifts for newborns

I received a gift card from Marshalls in exchange for this post.  All opinions are my own.

Did you know September is the month with the most births in the U.S.?  According to The Daily Viz, the days between September 9-20 are the most popular birthdays in the United States over the past twenty years.  It’s statistically probable (something I rarely have confidence saying, but I think we’re good…) one of you is celebrating a birthday or the arrival of a newborn, so congrats! And if you’re celebrating neither, but you like cute stuff… I’ve got you covered too with plenty of my favorite gifts for newborns, new parents and older siblings.

Throughout the month of September, Marshalls is offering an expanded selection of (really!) adorable baby items at incredible prices.  I have zero chill when it comes to baby things, so when I stopped in earlier this week to pick up a few gifts for an upcoming baby shower, I could barely contain myself.  

Whether you’re shopping for your own children, a family or friend, or getting a jump on holiday shopping (please mentor me), September is a great time to hit up Marshalls for baby gifts.

Here are a few of my recent finds (isn’t that the best part of shopping at Marshalls and other TJX stores?) and recommendations.

MY FAVORITE GIFTS FOR NEWBORNS

The staples

my favorite gifts for newborns

You can’t go wrong with bibs, burp cloths and swaddling blankets.  Our children are 3 1/2 and 21 months and we are still using all three in heavy rotation.  

Something soft

my favorite gifts for newborns

Marshalls has the best selection of blankets (many come beautifully packaged and ready for gift-giving).  I picked up two cotton quilts in gender-neutral grey and striped chambray that would be great for keeping a newborn warm in a stroller or car seat, but could also be used later on in a toddler’s crib or bed.

*Gentle reminder: please check out the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on safe sleep for babies here.  

Books and educational toys

my favorite gifts for newborns

You can’t go wrong with a good book (and it’s never too early to read to children).  I love this Baby Animals book because it’s interactive (lots of flaps and textures) and the bold graphics are perfect infants.  Marshalls has a great selection of books and educational toys at unbelievable prices.  Most books and toys are labeled for age appropriateness, taking the guesswork out of shopping.  I found a few of my kids’ favorites while I was there– Grace especially loves giving copies of her favorite books to her younger cousins and friends.

Looking for book recommendations? Here are a few of our favorite summer reads.

Something sort of ridiculous but incredibly cute

my favorite gifts for newborns

This two piece knit set had me swooning.  Is it practical?  Probably not.  Most parents register for the things they actually need… so why not include something over the top cute with that box of diapers or crib sheets or onesies?  This set would be perfect for newborn photos or snuggling at home during those first few sleepy weeks.

Unconventional nursery decor

my favorite gifts for newborns

How fun would this light box (a definite #marshallssurprise at less than $10) be in a nursery?  You could use it for monthly photos (something I forgot to do… every single month… for both children), post love notes, or simply write out your child’s name.  In a pinch, it would also make a decent nightlight at 3 AM.  

Don’t forget about mama

my favorite gifts for newborns

Don’t forget about mama!  Marshalls has plenty of small gifts for new mothers, too– and anything you can do to encourage moms to care for themselves will surely be appreciated.  Time for self care feels limited in the early days, so consider keeping things simple.  This rose water hydrating mist would be a lovely addition to any baby gift.  I love the minimalist packaging and super subtle fragrance, and it’s something a mother could use one handed… in the wee hours of the morning…

And something for older siblings

my favorite gifts for newborns

Okay, maybe don’t give a toddler a harmonica, especially when there’s a newborn in the house (says the woman who put a tambourine in Grace’s Christmas stocking just weeks after baby Nick was born… I blame lack of sleep…).  But I know those older siblings appreciate being showered, too!  These infant and “big kid” toys featuring characters from our favorite books would be such a fun gift for a family with more than one child… and soundproof walls.  

Seriously, though.  Skip the harmonica.  I stand by everything else.  Happy Birthday, September babies.

Also On Tap for Today:

What is your favorite gift for newborns, new mamas or older siblings?

Grace is 3

Grace is 3… and what an incredible three years it has been.

Grace is 3

I could not be more grateful to be her mother. She is kind, sensitive, and endlessly curious. She is full of spirit and compassion.

She loves trucks, farms, creatures, stickers, rocks, art projects, gymnastics, grocery shopping and adventures. She speaks up for others (often suggesting that Clark needs some “peace and quiet from our noisy fun”). She is observant and remembers everything.  She captures the smallest details and delights in things I might completely miss if it weren’t for her wonderful declarations about birds nests and police cars and seagulls.  

Grace is 3

Without fail on our morning drives to school, she tells me she will “be a good friend, a good listener… and not take a nap.” She recently told me she couldn’t eat beans because she “is a human bean!”

She favors rules, routines and order. She loves her brother and wishes he wouldn’t do “tricky, dangerous things” like climbing on the table.  

Grace is 3

Grace wears a size XXS leotard, but her heart is so big it fills the whole house.

She is the best motivation for speaking kindly, clearly and honestly. She is the best motivation for seeing good + God in all things, and in all people. She is the best motivation for doing what I can, when I can to make this world worthy of her, her brother and all children.

Happy Birthday, Grace! I love you beyond measure.

Also On Tap for Today:

Who motivates you most? And how?

Nick’s 1st Birthday

Today is baby Nick’s 1st birthday.  

In the fastest, most wonderful year, he’s traded this hat:

Nick's 1st Birthday

for this (ridiculous, but I couldn’t help myself) hat:

Nick's 1st Birthday

I love this beautiful, curious, adventurous, and sweet boy with all my heart.  

Also On Tap for Today:

Are you a hat person?

Today: State of the Union.

My fellow Americans (and other people too, obvi),

I missed President Obama’s final State of the Union last night.  I was wide awake, and just feet from the television, but was preoccupied by one event (that sounds nicer than crisis) after the next, most of which involved diapers.

On one hand, I’m disappointed because I really wanted to watch it.  I wanted to see Dr. Hamo seated with the First Lady.  I wanted to pretend I was high-fiving Vice President Biden every time President Obama said something great.  I wanted to watch it so I had something normal to talk about today, in case I was lucky enough to encounter another human over the age of two.

State of the Union

This photo sums up my life at the moment rather perfectly.

But I didn’t watch the State of the Union, because I was taking stock of our own union and serving as Commander and Chief of  “No, I don’t think we’ll see Santa at exercise class.”  (Side note: I will be *fingers crossed* cleared to work out after my postpartum checkup on Thursday.  In the meantime, I need to come up with something cooler and less geriatric to call it than “exercise class.”)

I was folding enough onesies to clothe a small nation (small, because its citizens would need to fit into size 3-6 months), and cleaning up enough cereal (like… how on Earth did it travel from the kitchen and end up in the sofa) to feed an army.

If our condo were a country, it would be called something like The Land of Unfinished  Projects.  Or, Island of Perpetual Laundry.  Or,  What Is That Smell?

I would be in charge, not because I’m especially capable, but because I am always awake… And I was the only one who voted when I held an election at 3:45 this morning (while writing this post on the Notes app of my iPhone…)Being awake seems like a good qualification for being in charge.  Or a decent start, at least.

And in my State of the Union address, I’d say this:  Things are kind of wild right now, but they’re bound to level out.  In the meantime, we’re doing okay.  Some days are more okay than others.  I can only hope my children and husband go to bed every night knowing just how loved they are.

And I’m increasingly hopeful about tomorrow and a month from now and a year from now.  But I don’t want to look too far ahead, because I cry when Grace and Nick outgrow their tiny pajamas… so I can only imagine how I’ll feel when they can read or drive or go to college or whatever.  That’s just too much right now.  Then again, 18 years from now, I hope to be averaging more than 3 hours of sleep a night.

It may take us 2 hours to leave the condo for a 15 minute trip to the library, and I sometimes forget to shower, and I’m not sure when this bone-deep exhaustion will pass… but I feel lucky and grateful and happy…  all good (emotional) states to occupy.

Also On Tap for Today:

What would your State of the Union address sound like?

Today: Goodbye, 2015. Hello, 2016.

On one hand, I try not to buy into the New Year’s hype too much.  The “new year, new you” stuff sort of gets under my skin.  But on the other hand, I love a fresh start.  A clean slate.  A chance to set new goals and intentions.  And an opportunity to reflect on all that has transpired in the past year– the good, the not so good, the in between.

goodbye, 2015. hello, 2016.

Materials used: Cold pressed watercolor paper, watercolor paint (Winsor and Newton professional tubes, Ivory Black), small round brush.

Goodbye, 2015.  Hello, 2016.

2015 seemed to be marked by change (almost all good, but a bit unsettling nevertheless).  I left my career to be home with Grace and welcomed a second (equally adorable) baby to our family.  I found new ways to engage creatively, new ways to fit in exercise (while toting around a toddler), new concealer to hide the ever darkening circles under my eyes, and new ways to pass the time waiting for our little one to arrive (did I tell you about the time I hired a graphic designer in Pakistan to help me Photoshop Clark into a picture with the President and VP?).  I’m leaving 2015 feeling both grateful for all we’ve experienced, and relieve to be moving on to the next chapter.

And I’m greeting 2016 feeling hopeful.  I’ve got a few specific goals in mind for the year, and will share those soon.  In the meantime, I’m filling a Champagne glass with ginger ale and toasting to the year ahead.

I hope you have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve, and a lovely 2016.  Thanks for all of the love and support during 2015.

Also On Tap for Today:

How are you feeling about 2015?  And 2016?

 

 

Today: My heart doubled in size.

On Saturday morning, we welcomed our son Nick to the world.

And my heart somehow doubled in size.  

BRB… soaking it all.

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s filling up your heart these days?

Today: Revisiting the pre-baby to-do list.

A little while back, I shared my pre-baby to-do list.  Since then, I accomplished most items and added about seventy more.  We’re currently in “Is he coming today?” mode, to the point that I can convince myself just about anything– from an eyelid twitch to a foot cramp– is a sign of impending labor.  

I’m a reaaaaaaal joy to be around.

In addition to being mental, though, I’ve also been productive.  Most importantly, I’ve been enjoying as much quality time as possible with my little lady.  We’ve taken quite a few adventures lately, and I’m soaking up every second alone with her.  (Cue the preggo weepiness.)

And then there are the practical things that have to get done.

Revisiting the pre-baby to-do list:

  • Go through Grace’s old clothes and pull out, re-wash and put away anything that is neither extra hot pink nor extra ruffly.  (At the very least, I think there are a few sets of gender neutral pajamas in there.)  The rest will go back to storage for a future niece or friend.  //  Didn’t do this… but our niece was born two weeks ago!  I’m looking forward to going through Grace’s very frilly, very girly clothes and passing them along.
  • Buy and wash any wardrobe basics and other staples we are missing // Question: How does Carter’s stay in business and/or How do they have 50% off sales every day?  Regardless, we are all set with a few newborn basics and plenty of 0-3 month clothes, sleep sacks, onesies, socks, burp cloths, hats, and blankets.  Oh, and Santa pajamas.
  • Move co-sleeper to our room (this will be a last minute thing) // Not yet, but I did move it to the front of our storage room, and watched six YouTube videos on how to set it up.  So, I feel at least 40% confident that I can handle this… and 100% confident that Nick will actually be the one to do it.  But it’s fun to pretend.
  • Order double stroller (with car seat adapter) and second Pack ‘N Play // Both have been delivered and we’ve had some practice with the new stroller, which I love.  We got a Baby Jogger City Select with the second seat (and adapter) and the infant car seat adapter (for our Britax B-Safe infant seat).  We’ll use the Pack ‘N Play for the baby’s naps and diaper changes during the day (we got the one with the Cuddle Cove rocking seat and changing station).  If I had a magic time machine, I would have likely picked these two items when I was pregnant with Grace, but… you live and learn and make even better choices the second time around.  I think.  Who knows.
  • Install infant car seat base in my car (again, probably a last minute thing) // The base is in my car (along with a seat protector and mirror), but has not actually been installed.  Maybe today.  Maybe not.
  • Buy a box of size 1 diapers (and potentially a small package of NB — Grace was in newborn diapers for about a month, but who knows…) and extra wipes // My sister sent us a box of diapers via Amazon, which was such a nice surprise (and, frankly, it motivated me to get my act together).  I also have a box of size 1’s ready to go, and plenty of wipes.  We’ll likely rely on diapers.com and their insanely fast shipping (which we use for Grace’s diapers and pull-ups), so I didn’t go crazy with stocking up.
  • Reorganize Grace’s closet (she’ll be sharing with her brother) // This was an undertaking and a half.  But it’s done.  And it makes me happy just looking at their little clothes side-by-side.
  • Stock up on family basics (toiletries, paper goods, Grace’s diapers and pull-ups) // Done.  Unless I’m pregnant for another two weeks, in which case… we may need to re-stock.  
  • Make all midwife/doctor’s appointments between now and our due date
  • Holiday shopping // 80-ish percent done.  
  • Schedule flu shots for Grace and me // The whole family has been appropriately vaccinated (flu shots, another tdap for me… and a rabies booster for Clark)
  • Get Clark’s yearly check-up and vaccines squared away
  • Make a plan for Clark to board with one of his pals while we’re at the hospital // This is sort of up in the air.  Unless I go into labor this week (during the busy travel/Thanksgiving time), he will stay with our friend and dog walker, which would be ideal.  We also have back-up plan involving someone picking him up and bringing him to the kennel we occasionally use (which would also be great).  Loose ends like this sort of make me nervous… but hey.
  • Make a grocery delivery list for easy ordering during the first few weeks we’re home // Nope.
  • Stash a few freezer meals // Does ice cream count?  If so, done.
  • Clean out pantry, closets and cabinets (not really baby-related, but clutter is making me mental) // Is there any sight more blessed than an empty shelf?
  • Get a handle on my third trimester wardrobe (because it’s neither warm enough or socially acceptable to continue wearing maternity bathing suits and sundresses) // I ended up doing really well with just a few basics — short and long-sleeved tees from the Gap, Gap maternity leggings (which are heaven), several open-front cardigans, Target maternity tanks, and lots of fun necklaces.  I also bought a couple dresses from Loft for weddings and parties, and made good use of the Bella Gravida items that were sent to me.
  • Pack a hospital bag for me and Nick, and a Party with Grandma and Grandpa! bag for Grace // Grace’s bag was the easiest to pack, and is actually already at my parents’ house.  Nick and I are mostly packed, with just the last minute things that need to be stashed (glasses, phone chargers, makeup, etc. — and yes, I said makeup)
  • Get a pedicure (wishful thinking) // The pedicure didn’t happen (though I have been trying to keep up with polish changes at home, despite not really being able to reach my toes this time around), but I did get a great prenatal massage.  Oh, and I got my eyebrows waxed.  Don’t want to have a unibrow when we meet our son for the first time.

Oh… and I decorated for Christmas.  I couldn’t wait any longer.  And looking up at our mantel to see five stockings this year… it’s just the best.

Also On Tap for Today:

What sort of plans and lists are you making lately?

Today: Halloween 2015 | A strawberry and a lobster.

I sort of have a love/hate relationship with Halloween.  Actually, it’s more of a hate/hate relationship.  Like, aren’t people creepy enough already, without having to dress up like zombies and murderous clowns?  

Also, I’ve said it before, but I’m not a fan of fall decor.  I have already promised Nick that if and when we move to the suburbs, I will not be decorating our lawn with punny tombstones and fake spiderwebs.  I just won’t.  And I’ll probably want to turn our lights off at 5 instead of give out candy on Halloween… mostly because I don’t want teenagers and their serial killer costumes to give me nightmares.

I’m the Grinch that stole Halloween.  Except that I’ll leave three very important elements behind:

  1. Candy (obvi)
  2. Babies in costumes
  3. Dogs in costumes

The rest is no good.  But these three things? These three, I embrace.

I had every intention of dressing Clark as a banana, to complement Grace’s strawberry costume (#fruitsmoothie)… but his, shall we say, robust figure did not fit into any of the peels I found.  The poor guy was almost off the Halloween hook entirely (and if anyone deserves a break lately, it’s him), but when I spotted a lobster costume tucked in among the Christmas decorations (Yesssssssss!  And no, it’s never too soon for Christmas!) at T.J. Maxx on October 30th, back on the hook he went.  

I’m basically keeping this costume accessible year round.  It’s just too good.

Grace’s strawberry costume got lots of use last week too, from gymnastics to running around Nick’s office, to actual Halloween.  She kept telling people, “This my costume.  A strawberry.”

We spent the evening with friends in Charlestown checking out the festivities around the monument, and I’ve got to say… Halloween wasn’t all that bad.  In fact, it was pretty great.  But now it’s time to get the Christmas boxes out of storage.

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s the best Halloween costume you saw this weekend?

 

Today: The pre-baby to-do list.

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for BellaGravida. I received a complimentary subscription and promotional item to thank me for my participation.

That post title has two too many hyphens.  And I am too pregnant lazy to come up with something better.  My apologies.  As I shared earlier, I’ve been feeling a bit scattered lately.  Some days it feels like I will be pregnant for another 8 months.  Some days it feels like our baby boy will be here tomorrow.  And, this being the second time around, there are things that I feel like we have a good handle on.  But I worry about having a false sense of security… like there are things I am completely forgetting about.

Kick up your heels and make a list!

While it’s not exactly go time, there are a few things I probably should get done, not only so our little guy comes home to a stash of tiny diapers and plenty of burp cloths, but so I can quiet my brain a bit and enjoy this last trimester (and Grace’s last weeks as our one and only) as much as possible.  Making a list seemed like a good start.

The pre-baby to-do list (a work in progress…)

  • Go through Grace’s old clothes and pull out, re-wash and put away anything that is neither extra hot pink nor extra ruffly.  (At the very least, I think there are a few sets of gender neutral pajamas in there.)  The rest will go back to storage for a future niece or friend. 
  • Buy and wash any wardrobe basics and other staples we are missing 
  • Move co-sleeper to our room (this will be a last minute thing)
  • Order double stroller (with car seat adapter) and second Pack ‘N Play
  • Install infant car seat base in my car (again, probably a last minute thing)
  • Buy a box of size 1 diapers (and potentially a small package of NB — Grace was in newborn diapers for about a month, but who knows…) and extra wipes
  • Reorganize Grace’s closet (she’ll be sharing with her brother)
  • Stock up on family basics (toiletries, paper goods, Grace’s diapers and pull-ups)
  • Make all midwife/doctor’s appointments between now and our due date
  • Holiday shopping
  • Schedule flu shots for Grace and me
  • Get Clark’s yearly check-up and vaccines squared away
  • Make a plan for Clark to board with one of his pals while we’re at the hospital
  • Make a grocery delivery list for easy ordering during the first few weeks we’re home
  • Stash a few freezer meals
  • Clean out pantry, closets and cabinets (not really baby-related, but clutter is making me mental)
  • Get a handle on my third trimester wardrobe (because it’s neither warm enough or socially acceptable to continue wearing maternity bathing suits and sundresses)
  • Pack a hospital bag for me and Nick, and a Party with Grandma and Grandpa! bag for Grace
  • Get a pedicure (wishful thinking)

I’m sure I’ll think of 70 more items to add, but this is a start.  And it feels good to start checking off items.  I’m getting a bit of help with the wardrobe issue thanks to Influence Central and the chance to try out BellaGravida, a new service that provides a virtual revolving closet to pregnant and nursing women.

I consigned nearly all of my maternity clothes after Grace was born (most were office attire… and I was sick to death of them), and sadly, beach season is over… so this opportunity comes at the perfect time.  I’ve found it nearly impossible to find affordable, well made, non-ugly maternity clothes this time around.  I’ve been hesitant to buy anything beyond a few pairs of maternity leggings and long tanks, which are kind of amazing even when you’re not pregnant (trust me).  

I am hoping BellaGravida (which means “beautifully pregnant” in Italian) will help fill in the gaps in my maternity wardrobe and take the stress out of finding something to wear for the upcoming weddings and parties on our calendar this month.  

A few highlights of the newly-launched service:

  • Flat, monthly fee (subscriptions begin at $39/month)
  • No return deadlines
  • Unlimited exchanges
  • Laundry service included
  • Dozens of maternity designers and brands available

I’m looking forward to sharing my experience with BellaGravida with you in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, I’ve got a list to tackle.

Also On Tap for Today:

  • I should probably be paying attention to the weather (what’s that I hear about a hurricane?)
  • Great read: Stop Googling.  Let’s talk.  from The New York Times
  • Halloween costume planning for Clark and Grace muhahahaha

What’s missing from my list (besides “take 900 naps”)?