{P&V Must List} October 2014

1 Oct

Though I continue to find signs of summer at the farmers’ market (like seriously wonderful dry-farmed tomatoes from Happy Boy Farms and Lucero Farms strawberries my daughter gobbles up by the basket), the arrival of October is an undeniable sign of fall. And you know what, after a summer full of more sunshine than I’ve experienced in 14 years (adios, Karl), I’m ready for the change of seasons. Here’s what’s on Priss & Vinegar’s must-do list this October:
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Miss out on an excuse to put up a holiday wreath? Please. The only decision here is whether to go handmade candy corn or big ole’ bow.

After a daring naptime escape out her bedroom window, I’ve been in the market for a constructive outlet for my daughter’s, ahem, prodigious climbing skills. This apple picking cheat sheet on Mother Magazine has me inspired to plan a mother-daughter apple picking date in nearby apple mecca, Sebastopol. I’m seeing some butternut apple soup (and perhaps fewer dangerous naptime escapades) in my very immediate future.

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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass hits San Francisco this weekend! Though we may not be able to ride our bikes there as in years past {tear}, it remains an unmissable event for my country music-loving husband and the girl who adores him.

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Speaking of essential San Francisco events, buy your tickets to the California Academy of Sciences SuperNatural Halloween Party ASAP. It’s hands-down the most fun family Halloween event we’ve attended yet. (And my kids’ costumes killed last year thanks to my sister’s ninja sewing skills.)

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I’ve met a record number of vegetarians since moving to the East Bay, which means I finally have an audience for my all-time favorite Moroccan Vegetable Tajine. It’s certainly not the prettiest thing I cook but this sweet-warm-spicy pile of vegetables is so delicious, so nourishing, that the smell of it cooking in my home always makes me smile.

The Six Postpartum Essentials You Don’t Have (And Need NOW)

29 Sep

postpartumessentials

Huzzah! You’re headed home with your dreamy new baby. The brand-spanking-new nursery is stocked with diapers, burp cloths and the tiniest clothes imaginable, but uh, you forgot something. These are the postpartum must-have’s you won’t find on any baby registry but are (I assure you) just as essential:

  • An insulated travel mug. Coffee is on every exhausted new parent’s must list, but as I’ve mentioned before, every stroller should come with a set of Contingo travel mugs for said coffee. No matter how secure your stroller’s cup holder may seem, coffee always manages to splash out of to-go lids onto your pristine new stroller. Upon discovering this, my husband said I wasn’t “allowed” to have hot beverages in the cup holder while pushing our newborn daughter. (He’s so adorable when he’s INSANE.) You may also find that you can’t always get to your coffee when you’d planned, so having an insulated mug keeping it hot for hours on end is just heavenly.
  • A comfortable (and presentable) pair of pants. I don’t understand women who wear tight yoga pants home from the hospital or while receiving guests given the, ahem, bulky undergarment situation postpartum. A better (but equally comfortable) choice would be my new favorite Lululemon “Jet Crop” pants, which look dry clean-only but perform like every other brilliantly stretchy pair of Lululemon exercise pants in your wardrobe. Paired with a nursing tank and a cozy, shawl-style sweater, you’re ready to head home with your dignity as intact as it possibly can be after giving birth in front of a zillion strangers.
  • A baby carrier you like *and* can use without an assist. Were I to calculate the price-per-use of every baby item I’ve ever purchased, my Ergo and Baby Bjorn carriers would invariably prove the best buys to-date. I never expected to be such a baby wearing enthusiast, but I probably wore my daughter every single day of her first year. For quick coffee runs, grocery shopping, family walks on chilly days, cooking supper, returning emails, walking stairs for exercise and basically everything else, it’s my go-to mode of baby transport. Be sure to take time to learn how to use it comfortably and without help so you can get in (and out) of whatever contraption you choose. (And don’t even get me started about how much you need baby carriers when you have subsequent children. It’s SURVIVAL.)
  • A quick, nourishing meal. There’s the initial rush of lasagna and takeout from gracious family and friends, but in between those offerings you may find yourself needing quick, simple, healthy meals. (There exists no hunger quite like breastfeeding hunger.) Greek yogurt parfaits with fresh berries and granola were my postpartum go-to, but other terrific choices would be overnight oatmeal, chia seed pudding and avocado toast. (I favor mine with a squeeze of lemon juice and a generous sprinkling of Jacobsen Salt Company Smoked Ghost Chili Pepper salt.)
  • That unspeakable Amazon order. As the end of your pregnancy draws near, it’s time to make the purchases you’ve been privately dreading: Dermaplast (or Earth Mama Angel Baby “Bottom Spray” if you want your bathroom to smell like cucumber gimlet); serious business overnight pads; Tucks to chill in a discreet corner of your refrigerator; and Motherlove Nipple Cream. You may not need them all, but when you do, it’s so much more pleasant to already have them instead of awkwardly asking your father-in-law to make the most embarrassing Walgreens run of all time.
  • An electronic device stocked with your must-watch (or listen) list. Spoiler alert: breastfeeding is boring, especially in the early weeks when nursing sessions can last upwards of 45 minutes. Gazing at your baby lovingly stops being entertaining pretty quickly (especially in the middle of the night when you’re fighting to stay awake), so I liked to listen to audiobooks via Audible or watch shows on our iPad. You probably have your device out to time feedings and record diaper output anyway, so popping on a show requires zero extra effort. I hadn’t expected it, but watching “Gone with The Wind” in snippets with my newborn daughter has become a treasured memory from our earliest days together.

 

Please forgive all of the newborn-centric posts lately. I’m about to become an auntie for the first time (!) and can’t help thinking about my dear sister-in-law and brother-in-law, and all of the things I want them to know so their early days of parenthood can be as wonderful as humanly possible! HDF

How To Survive Pre-Toddlerhood in Six Easy Steps

25 Sep

My son is fourteen months old today and exiting infancy as quickly as his meaty little legs can take him. He is increasingly verbal (including recent favorites “No” and — of course — “Poop”), eats with a linebacker’s gusto and smells more like sandbox than sweet milk. It’s a developmental stage I struggle to define: Twinfancy? Pre-toddlerhood? This running, babbling, exuberant child certainly doesn’t act like a baby, but he nuzzles his bottle and needs his mommy more than any independent toddler would dare.

And, oy, pre-toddlerhood is hard. Playing bodyguard to a newly-mobile child with no common sense? ExhaustingFood throwing and public meltdowns? Mortifying. And that precious baby you brought home from the hospital? Vanished, which the first time around left me with a profound sense of loss. Had someone crept into my home overnight and switched children on me? It felt like I was suddenly tasked with raising a tiny stranger. I longed for my baby.

But don’t freak out! The best thing about being an experienced parent is that, the second time around, I saw all of this coming. My son’s pre-toddlerhood hasn’t been a rude awakening from the rosy, sweet-smelling love affair of his babyhood; because I was prepared, it’s actually been a lot of fun. Take the lessons I learned and you, too, can survive (even enjoy) your child’s pre-toddlerhood:

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Literally plowing his dinner.

1.  Feed the beast. That precious baby who used to sit sweetly in his carseat for long lunches and museum visits? Yeah, that kid just exited stage left. Pre-toddlers will only sit still for snack traps, squeezy pouches or raisins. So, basically, food. Pack the diaper bag accordingly.

Give tantrums the raspberry.

Give tantrums the raspberry.

2. Don’t sweat tantrums. Your pre-toddler will probably rock his first real-deal, Holyfield tantrum around this age. Limited verbal ability, sudden physical development and burgeoning awareness of the world around him are a one-way ticket to meltdown town. Here’s where being an veteran parent has made me more zen (or possibly just blasé): when my son recently pitched his first proper tantrum at a public park, other mothers offered the comfort that “We’ve all been there,” when frankly, it hadn’t even *occurred* to me to be embarrassed.

I mean...

I mean…

3. Appreciate how flipping adorable they can be. What pre-toddlers lack in motor skills and language, they make up for in unbridled enthusiasm. The squeals of delight, spontaneous dance parties and sweet smiles almost make up for the tantrums. My husband and I were, in fact, so taken with our daughter’s cuteness at this age we thought, Hey, let’s have another!

If marriage has taught me anything, it's that true love means sharing your food.

If marriage has taught me anything, it’s that true love means sharing your food.

4. They love you SO hard. After months of lamenting to my husband that our son didn’t seem appropriately attached to me, I am suddenly the most important person in his tiny universe. It makes leaving them with caregivers a little more challenging, but please, you’d have to be a monster not to love every second of this.

Not the most fun any of us have ever had, but real life isn't a never-ending circuit of zoo visits and playground sessions.

Not the most fun any of us have ever had, but real life isn’t a never-ending circuit of zoo visits and playground sessions.

5. Keep doing “normal” things (even though it’s way harder). Dining out, air travel and running errands are all much less pleasant once your child gains free will and the mobility to do something about it. Here’s your decision point: stop doing those things until your child is more civilized, for which the general public may thank you but then you risk your child becomes accustomed to only doing things centered around his enjoyment. Or, you keep on keeping on, managing your child’s public behavior as diligently as possible and expecting him to rise to the occasion.

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They always look like babies when they’re sleeping.

6. Trust me: she’s still your baby. I recall thinking my daughter was *so* grown up at this stage, only to look back at photographs of her and think, my god, she was still such a baby. (And we put her on a ski lift! Were we insane?) Confession: I still slather my son with Mustela baby lotion nightly that he does not need just so he smells like baby. Letting go of babyhood is always hard, but embracing your child’s new capabilities can be a terrific chapter, too. Really.

 

Five Girly-Girl Children's Books That Won't Suck Your Will to Live

24 Sep

picmonkey1Without fail, my daughter darts for the pinkest, sparkliest, most obnoxiously feminine section of every bookstore we enter. I get it: she’s three and it’s completely normal for her to want to gender identify right now. (I could not need to read “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” more.)

But as anyone who’s ever experienced the exquisite torture of reading “Barbie Butterfly Tea Party” knows, these books are the WORST: insipid plots, tedious prose, and a moral compass I’m not totally comfortable with. (Like when Princess Barbie’s mother tells her to stop reading books because no one will dance with her at the royal ball. Oy.)

I hesitate to impose personal preferences on my child when she’s, you know, showing an interest in reading. But as the person doing the actual reading, I just can’t with these books. So our family is working on a library of books that meets both our daughter’s need to remind the universe she’s a GIRL and our desire for smart, amusing content.

  • Birdie’s Big Girl Shoes” by Sujean Rim. Birdie desperately wants to wear her mother’s high heels, only to discover they might not be as marvelous as she’d imagined. (To be fair, Birdie’s mother’s shoe collection looks like the Vogue shoe closet. I’d want in on that action, too.)
  • Olivia” by Ian Falconer. Olivia the Pig is my kind of girl: she adores accessories, doesn’t really get the fuss about Jackson Pollock, and has a poster of Eleanor Roosevelt hung above her bed. Think all the audacious sass of Madeline and Eloise without the pesky abandonment issues.
  • I Had A Favorite Dress” by Boni Ashburn. As the mother of a child who has many, many favorite dresses, this story hits home. The “Mama, dear!” reprise is something my daughter delights in repeating and I never tire of hearing.
  • Tallulah’s Toe Shoes” by Marilyn Singer. OF COURSE my kid loves every pink-hued, ballet-themed volume in the “Tallulah” series, but what I love are the sweet messages about patience, hard work, and sharing the spotlight, all wonderful virtues both on and off the stage.
  • Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine” by Gloria Whelan. My daughter can be easily conned into reading anything about royalty, so this non-princessy book slipped into the mix merely because of its title. The illustrations are quite pretty and there are some humorous moments, but what I keep coming back for is Victoria and Albert’s timeless love story.

10 Things Expectant Parents *Actually* Need to Know

17 Sep

Forget swaddling technique or determining which diaper works best; any clown will eventually figure that stuff out. And EVERYONE is going to tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps, accept every gracious offer of help, and when all else fails, babywear. (All valuable bits of advice.)

But there are some things only hindsight can teach. After spending last weekend alone with my son while my husband and daughter camped, I was reminded of how {gasp} EASY it can be to care for a single, healthy, normal baby. Why did it take having two children to appreciate the joy of just one? Does this mean I have to borrow a third kid for the weekend to make caring for my two kids suddenly feel like vacation?

In that spirit (and because two people very special to me are about to become parents themselves), here’s the list of things I wish Current Heather could go back in time and tell Clueless First Time Parent Heather because, man, it would have made those early months more enjoyable.

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Carseat: check. Pimm’s Cup: check, check.

10.  There is a finite window of time during which your baby has no real “bedtime” and can sleep anywhere. Live.It.Up.

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Safety in numbers.

9.  You might not hang out with your childless friends as much anymore. And it’s not because you’re suddenly an a-hole who only hangs out with other parents; sometimes it can be stressful bringing your fussy/messy/unpredictable baby into an all-grown up environment.

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Just looking at this picture makes me sweaty.

8.  Your baby’s crying bothers you 100 times more than it bothers anybody else.

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Dreamy.

7.  There are certain things you can *only* do with your first child, like long neighborhood strolls while baby sleeps, 8:30 p.m. dinner reservations with a carseat in tow, NAPS, and mommy & me classes. 

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Good luck with that.

6.  I don’t care how solid, mature, and loving your partnership is: you might be sleepy jerks who hate each other for a little while. But then you won’t. Really.

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An advanced maneuver: taking your sleeping newborn to one of the most notoriously crowded joints in town.

5.  Good god, woman: don’t spend all day at home weeping in your pajamas. Go to museums, head to a café to read a book, meet friends for lunch. (And if you’re sweating the crying thing, please see No. 8 above.)

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Baby in the front; ski gear in the back.

4.  Don’t listen to creeps who say your life is over: it will amaze you how much your “normal” life can continue, albeit with more preparation and trickier logistics. (Like, don’t forget the baby’s sunglasses when you go skiing. Whoops.)

Don't get any ideas, dude: I literally JUST had your baby.

Don’t get any ideas, dude: I literally JUST had your baby.

3.  You know how female family and friends have shared their wisdom/horror stories about pregnancy and birth? Well, guess what: all of your husband’s friends have told him about “the six-week appointment.” Do with this what you will.

 

"Your birth plan is *how* many pages?"

“Your birth plan is *how* many pages?”

2.  I hated everyone who told me my birth plan wasn’t sacrosanct until (predictably) it went up in flames. Think of your birth plan more like a wish list and be open to the guidance of people who do this stuff everysingleday. There’s a difference between being very informed about your birth and, you know, a doctor.

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1. Try not to get so caught up in sleep schedules, feedings and tantrums that you forget why you had a kid in the first place. This is supposed to be FUN, after all. And it is. Really.

 

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