Change of scenery

It’s been killing me sitting on this for the past few weeks, but we here at HSM have a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT…

We’re moving…

…TO INDIANAPOLIS!

John accepted a job in Indy, so these little southern folks are headed up to America’s heartland. I am excited, mostly because this is a great opportunity for John and our family. But I’m also terrified. Change is always scary and this is a huge change. I’m a southern girl. Yes, I lived in Boston for a while, but my heart and home have always been Louisiana. Plus the main reason (other than being close to John) that I left the great northeast was because it was so frigging cold. I hear Indiana gets pretty chilly too. And it snows.

John will be on his way within the month, but A and I will be hanging out here for a little while longer. I really want to celebrate her first birthday here, where everyone who loves her can be there. This means I have five-ish months to figure out how I’m going to get all our worlds possessions up there as well as square everything away down here.

I never thought I would live in the Midwest. If you asked me in January if I thought this year would involve a move like this, I would have laughed. But I am and it is, so I’m trying to get ready for it. Anyone have some awesome tips for moving out of state with a baby/toddler or living in Indy? I don’t know ANYTHING about Indianapolis or Indiana, or living in a non-coastal state, so I will take any advice I can get.

Best baby toys as approved by Baby A (and HSM!)

**This post is not endorsed by any of the products mentioned or linked to, although God knows I wish it was.**

Keeping it light and fun today, folks. I’m in no mood for serious conversations, and I’m sure you aren’t either. John is out of town, so A and I are having a girl’s weekend. I think we’re going to lay low this weekend, maybe do some grocery shopping, some laundry, and a lot of playing.

Speaking of playing, I’ve been meaning to write about the toys that have been a huge hit for Baby A. Now seems like a great time to do that. What could be more fun or lighter than playing?

A has A LOT of toys. Some she plays with over and over, but most haven’t seen a lot of action. In general, I’ve found the smaller and more simple the toy, the more she loves it. I’ve thrown together this list with the following qualifications: Popularity, size/portability, and price. Obviously, A has to love it, but Mama has to love it too, which means it needs to travel easily and be relatively inexpensive. All of the following can be purchased (or made) for $10 or under.

So, without further ado, here are the toys playing on repeat at Chez Baby A:

1. Baby Einstein’s Take Along Tunes (~$8)

This has been one of A’s favorite toys from the get go. She has always really loved the flashing lights and the music. I’ve always loved it doesn’t play super annoying songs. Now that she can press the button and make it go on her own, I love it even more.

2. Oball rattle (~$6 at Target)

Baby A plays! And reaches for her real favorite toy: Mommy's iPhone.

Baby A plays! And reaches for her real favorite toy: Mommy’s iPhone.

This is a great one because babies can hold onto it right away. It’s also versatile. It’s a rattle! It’s a ball! It rolls! It shakes! And if you’re Baby A, you are bound and determined to get it into your mouth, some how, some way. Plus, it can’t break no matter how hard your baby throws it, which if they are like A, is pretty damn hard.

3. Taggies blanket (price fluctuates depending on how you make it, but I’m sure this can be done for $10. Taggies blankets at Target retail for about that much.)

What is it about tags babies love? A loves shoving the tags on the edge of this blanket in her mouth. Ours is quickly becoming a favored “lovie” as she often rubs the fleece and tags when she’s falling asleep. If you are very crafty and into DIY, you can make one yourself (this seems like a pretty easy tutorial). Or you can just have a friend who is good at these things and let them make one for you. Which is what I did. Or you can buy one. Whatever floats your boat.

4. Jacques the Peacock (and other Lamaze sensory toys) (~$10)

I’ve said before how much A loves her peacock toy from Lamaze. It has a rattle, a squeaker, crinkly feathers, a mirror, and it’s super fun to shove his face in her mouth. This toy is so popular with A, it’s definitely made the “taking on the plane” cut next month. We also have “My Friend Emily” which is a big hit, too. These toys really are awesome, they’re light and soft so they can be shoved in a diaper bag, they can attach to a stroller or car seat, and there’s a ton of things for baby to discover on them.

5. Where’s Baby’s Belly Button? And other favorite board books (~$5-7)

A has really gotten into books lately. She especially likes ones with bright colors and things to “do”. Lift the flap books are a big hit, as are books with mirrors, different textures, etc. Other favorites include It’s a Small World: Guess Who?, DK Touch and Feel books, and this look and find by Baby Einstein (lots of colors, fun to chew on). She also loves the $1 board books from the $1 section at Target. Go figure.

All of these toys have withstood the test of time and have been favorites since A was a smaller baby. She plays with them over and over, and some combination of them usually go where we go.

Honorable mentions (excluded from the top 5 for price/size): Activity gym, jumperoo/exersaucer. Both are awesome for keeping babies entertained while you get some things done. Both can be pricey (a basic activity gym can be found for about $20), and take up a lot of room and aren’t travel friendly. But they’ve also been huge hits in our house. A loves her FP piano gym and her FP jumperoo. And I can do the dishes and cook dinner again. It’s a win-win!

What are some of your baby’s favorite toys? What toy is your absolute go to? Let me know in the comments and I’ll post links in my next post!

 

Normalcy

It’s been a pretty awful week.

A has been cranky, work has basically been hell, and life in general has just been difficult. I’m exhausted and don’t feel well, but I can’t figure out what’s wrong. I’ve been in a funk since Noni passed away, so all of this has just been adding to my general bad mood.

And then the Boston bombings happened on Monday, too. (And then explosions in Texas yesterday. Good god. What is going on in this world?)

I haven’t written a post here about Boston, because honestly, it saddens me to my very core. I love that city. I had some of the greatest times of my life while I was there, I met amazing people, and I was able to get to know my family in a way that would not have been possible if I hadn’t lived there as an adult. If I had to pick anywhere else to live in this world, I would choose Boston.

So it’s unfathomable to me this could happen in such a great city on such a special day.

I hurt for my second home. I hurt for its amazing people. I hurt for everyone who was hurt or lost someone they love. I hurt for my friends and family still there. I hurt for myself and my daughter who will never get to know the Boston I knew.

Right now it just seems like everything sucks.

I want to get back to normal, but is there even such thing anymore? When is it acceptable to write about diapers, baby toys, and the infant feeding debate again? I don’t know, but now doesn’t feel like it.

I’m just…sad. And overwhelmed. For a lot of reasons. And that’s okay. Sometimes I forget it’s okay to feel what you feel no matter why you feel it, and I don’t need to make excuses for my emotions. So I’m just gonna be sad for a little while, and hopefully soon I’ll feel better.

I will be back to our regularly scheduled mama drama soon. Promise.

Night and day

I’m not entirely sure when it happened, but at some point in A’s short life, a switch flipped, and she became the world’s happiest baby. It was almost literally an overnight change. The past few weeks we have been enjoying what seems to be a brand new baby. One that naps well, sleeps through the night, and sleep in her own bed.

Seriously, she naps twice a day, an almost three hour nap in the morning, then one to two hour nap in the afternoon. She goes down without a fuss. Then she even sleeps 12 hours at night! Gone are the days of her waking up at random times in the night wanting company. Gone are the days of her crying for hours on end. Gone are the days of wondering what I ever did to deserve this.

A lot of people ask me what made her change, thinking it must have been the transition to formula feeding or starting solids, but I assure them neither one of those things contributed. She just…grew up enough, I guess. I know sleep is psychological, not physiological, so it makes sense. She was simply mature enough, finally, to sleep all night, so she finally did.

It’s just a big fat bonus she does so in her own crib.

Of course none of this means I’m sleeping through the night. I wake up several times wondering if she’s okay, and if I can go check on her without waking her up. And if I’m being entirely honest, I kinda miss having her in bed with me. She is a very sweet cuddler.

So, since we’ve been enjoying such an amazing baby lately, I guess we were due for a bad day. Or weekend, as it’s turning out.

A has been, for lack of a better word, a mess this weekend: Fussing non-stop, crying way more than usual, and not wanting to go to sleep, for naps or bedtime. I took me three tries to get her down last night. And I was woken up via her screaming bloody murder over the monitor. Guess who slept with Mommy and Daddy last night? Yep. I was almost a little excited about snuggling, but she is now flipping and rolling A LOT at night, and her flailing limbs made sleep hard to come by.

For me, anyway, A slept great.

In her defense, she is not feeling well this weekend. At all. We’ve been speculating for a while she may be cutting a tooth, but it looks like this may finally be it. Her nose is stuffy and runny (at the same time!), she has been running a low grade fever, everything is in her mouth and she is REALLY chewing, and yesterday I tried to check her bottom gum with my finger and she whipped her head away and screamed.

At least that’s what I’m banking on. Otherwise, we’re going to have to to the doctor again and I am sick and tired of that waiting room.

Hopefully this cranky alien baby who has invaded the body of my sweet little angel vacates premises soon. I miss my happy girl.

**Who has really good teething remedies? We’ve tried freezing wash clothes, traditional teethers, teething tablets, and of course infant Tylenol. I’m willing to try anything to help make this girl feel better.**

Happy Blogiversary!

A year ago today I started this little blog as a project to document my pregnancy.

Today it’s a virtual baby book for Baby A, but it’s also helping me grow as a writer, and plant some stakes for my future.

I’ve had a lot of blogs in my life. I’ve never been able to keep one up for very long, so this is a huge deal for me. I can’t tell you how proud I am of this little blog. I can never express how thankful I am for every view, every like, every comment. They all mean more to me than you could ever know.

When I started a year ago, I just wanted something to do after work, something I could later show A so she could see how we prepared for her. I hoped I would still find the time to blog after she arrived, and I’m very happy that I have kept it up. The fact that other people enjoy it? Well, that’s just icing on the cake.

In the next year (and beyond) of HSM, I hope to blog more (at least three times a week, hoping and trying for five), and adding new features. I’ve been wanting to try out video blogging for a while now, and this seems like a great time to start. I’m thinking a weekly, “Ask Hot Shot Mama” video, but I’m open to suggestions.

Thank you again for helping me get where I am today. Here’s to the next year (and beyond!) of Hot Shot Mama.

Hot Shot Mama’s Essential Bottle Feeding Gear

I’ve been bottle feeding A for almost two months now. It was a difficult decision to come to terms with, but in the end I do feel it was the best decision for our family.

I felt guilty about this choice for a long time. I’ve finally accepted it, which has lessened the guilt (and thank goodness, ain’t nobody got time for mama guilt), but I still feel pangs of it whenever someone I know who has breast fed successfully says something on Facebook or their blog. I especially feel it whenever I read articles on “Breast is best” (I have learned not to read the comments of these articles as they only incite rage).

I do miss nursing, but bottle feeding does have it’s pluses. It does alleviate a lot pressure from me. I hated pumping, and I always felt so worthless when I would pump and pump and pump and only get an ounce or two. I can’t tell you how much happier I am not pumping. Making the trek to my car three times a day, and sitting there, literally counting my milk drop by drop, praying to get enough for half of a feeding, and inevitably not getting it, was extremely stressful. Eliminating that from my life has made me  a better, more patient mother and wife.

I’ve decided it’s time to be at peace with this decision. I would love to be the crunchy granola mom who cloth diapers and breast feeds at least a year, but that is not and won’t be me (at least this go round). In order to support other bottle feeding mamas, I’ve made a list of things that have made bottle feeding easier for me (as well as general bottle feeding advice).

(Breast feeding mamas, don’t feel left out! I made a list of essential nursing gear back when I was BF’ing exclusively)

1. Some sort of bottle drying apparatus

A goes through anywhere from four to six bottles a day. Most of her bottles have several parts. A place to dry bottles that isn’t scattered across your kitchen counter makes using your kitchen a lot easier, especially if you have limited counter space like we do. I use this one made by Munchkin, and a lot of people swear by these really cool grass looking ones. Find one that works well in your kitchen.

2. Nipples in a variety of flows

Generally speaking, there are three levels of bottle flow: Level 1 for 0+ months, level 2 for 3+ months, and level 3 for 6+ months. This is not a strict guideline, by any means. A is almost seven months old now, and we mostly still use level 1 or 2 nipples. I have nipples in all three flows though, just in case. It’s also good to have extra nipples because they tend to tear after extended use. I found this out the hard way after A had formula streaming out of her mouth because it was coming so fast.

3. Wide neck bottles

You can formula feed with any type of bottle, standard or wide neck, but wide neck does result in less formula spillage. Trust me, you spend so much on this stuff, you’ll cry when it spills on the counter.

4. Baby friendly dish soap/dishwasher basket

John and I run the dishwasher maybe once a week (sometimes only once every two weeks), so for us the easiest way to wash bottles is in the sink. At the end of the day I just dump all my rinsed out bottles and pieces into the sink with hot, hot, HOT water and some baby friendly dish soap and let them soak. I adore BabyGanics Dish Dazzler foaming dish soap. It’s a little expensive, but it lasts forever. (I actually adore all of BabyGanics products. We use their bath soap/shampoo, face/hand wipes, and baby wipes on a daily basis. They just came out with their own diapers, so if they’d like to send me some for me to review I would totes be all over that, BabyGanics. Just sayin’, holla atcha girl).

If you do use your dish washer regularly and wash your bottles that way, one of those dishwasher baskets is a must. Trust me, all those small pieces are easy to lose.

Finally, a piece of general advice (which also applies to breast feeding): If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Bottle feeding requires a “can do” attitude (much like breast feeding). It requires a lot of patience, especially when you are trying to find a formula that works. I tried several different brands before finding one that worked for A (which ended up being a store brand, luckily for the budget). You might get lucky and have a baby that can eat anything, or you could have a baby at the opposite end of the spectrum. If you need a good online resource/support for bottle feeding, Fearless Fomula Feeder and Bottle Babies are both excellent.

Remember you should never feel guilty for how you’ve chosen to feed your baby, and why you’ve made that choice. Everyone has the right to choose which method of infant feeding is best for them and their families. What you’re putting in their bellies isn’t nearly as important as what you are putting in their hearts and minds.

Good luck, mamas, you are all amazing and you all rock!

The Be-s

One of my goals for the new year was to “enjoy life more.” At the time, I’m not even sure I knew exactly what that meant. In the past three months, I’ve decided this “goal” is multi-faceted. So far, I’ve defined it as having three separate but equally important parts. I call them the “be-s”.

  1. Be more patient.
  2. Be more conscious.
  3. Be more present.

Being more patient is something I have always struggled with. I have always wanted things now, and waiting always seems like such a hassle. When am I going to get a better job, when will we make more money, when will A sleep through the night, etc, etc, etc. The answer, of course, is “It will happen when it’s supposed to.” (So far I don’t know the answer to the first two questions, but A is now STTN, in her own bed, for what it’s worth.) I lose patience often with my job, my family, my friends, and myself, but I’m working on it and happy to say it’s getting better.

I’d say my patience with my child is really good, and that’s more important than my patience with everything else. Those horrible, sleepy, weepy days of having a newborn are a cloudy and distant memory, thank god. Every day is a challenge, but I find myself meeting them with excitement and readiness, rather than continually getting flustered. Part of this comes from my new mindset of “rolling with the punches.” Some people call this whatever works parenting. Once I learned to embrace this, my patience and productivity improved ten fold.

Being more conscious, to me, means being more aware of the impact I am leaving. On everything. The impact I make at my office. The impact I make on my husband. The impact I make on my friends and family. The impact I am making on my community and the community at large. And most importantly, the impact I am making on my child. It’s important to leave positive marks on everyone and everything you come into contact with. I want to live the kind of life my Noni led. It’s important to me that when I pass on, people say the kind of things about me we all say about her.

Lastly, I just want to live in the moment more. I have a bad habit of living in the future, which has produced a serious anxiety disorder. I can’t tell you how many nights of sleep I have lost worrying over things I have little to no control over, or even worrying about things I do have control over. If there is one thing I have learned in life, it’s that in the end, everything ends up okay. If it isn’t okay, it probably isn’t the end yet.

I love a good flow chart.

I love a good flow chart.

I want to be present in my life, and in A’s life. When she looks back on her childhood, I want her to remember a mommy who was always there with her, not carried away, thinking and worry about things that could happen tomorrow.

This is definitely a work in progress, but who’s life isn’t? I’m happy to say that things seem to be on the up and up with this particular goal, which is good because I am doing not so well at some of the others. Luckily, there’s still time to turn it around.