Friday, October 30, 2009

Flying With An Infant: Or NOT When You Fly Southwest

San Jose mom and 2 year old kicked off Southwest flight

You read the headline correctly.  Southwest kicked a woman and her son off a flight before takeoff due to a little yelling.  Some of you may be cheering the crew, and I'm sure some of the passengers on that flight cheered too, but I am infuriated.  Southwest should give this woman and her child free flights for life.  It's hard enough to fly with a child without getting dirty looks from passengers and feeling horribly guilty.  But to be kicked off a flight for a little yelling is absurd.  The airline industry has its issues, but booting families from flights doesn’t seem to be the answer.

We've flown to San Diego (3 months), New Jersey (5 months) and Baltimore (7 months) with Henry, and had mixed results.  When he was 3 months old it was relatively easy.  I nursed him at take off and landing.  Although it was a long flight, we got through it by passing him back and forth.  He napped intermittently.  He was an angel apart from the mid-flight fussiness that lasted 30 seconds.  Of course, even with his amazing demeanor we still got a dirty look from a middle-aged man sitting behind us.

At 5 months, on our return flight from NJ I flew alone with Henry, which was more difficult.  There was a large man in the seat next to us, and nursing was difficult to do without Henry's toes touching the man.  He was kind and refrained from giving us any dirty looks.  The flight was a success and I was relieved when we landed.

At 7 months, Henry was getting more mobile and antsy.  It was hard to keep him occupied, so I nursed him almost the entire flight.  He fell in and out of sleep, and by landing I was out of milk.  He screamed the entire descent.  Chris wanted to help, but there wasn’t much he could do.  The flight attendant kept asking me to nurse him, and all I could do was tell her I was trying.  The grandmothers and mothers around me were glaring at me as if to say, “If I were you, I’d be doing …”  I avoided eye contact with everyone knowing that I would probably burst into tears.  The second we hit the tarmac the flight attendant sighed on the intercom "We made it."  At first I felt horrible for the passengers, but after some thought, I felt horrible for Henry.  He was in pain and didn’t know why.  It made me angry that people couldn’t understand.  Next time I know to give him water if I run out of milk.

Now that he is crawling, we might have to show him movies on my iPhone or iPod, or bring lots of toys and books on the plane with us.  Although, if our next flight is on Southwest they may not allow us to board.  Perhaps it’s time to start mapping out our next road trip.

Our Family Photography Session: The pictures are back...for now

Although yesterday I took down all of Henry's pictures from “Babies In The Wilde,” I’ve reneged on that decision and posted a few from our professional photography shoot.  The shots were so spectacular that I had to share Arlene’s talent, and she very generously offered up a few digital shots especially for this site.

It was Henry’s first official photo shoot.  The sky was blue, the air was crisp and the leaves were starting to change color.  It was a perfect fall day.  We met Arlene in the beach parking lot.  She was ready to go, tongue farting to make Henry giggle.  I think I might have giggled too.  The lakefront was buzzing with runners, sun worshipers, bicyclists and walkers.  We immediately began shooting under the shade of the trees with the skyline behind us.  Henry plopped himself down in the grass.  “Maybe we should put him in front of that lady,” Chris joked.  A couple was having their engagement photos taken nearby, which I've always assumed is uncomfortable.  The woman was posing, leaning her back against the wall with one foot up.  We turned our focus back to our photo shoot, which had the opposite feel: natural and fun.  Chris hoisted Henry up into a tree, and Arlene suggested we take off Henry’s shoes.  The Huck Finn effect was adorable.  Little Henry sitting up in a tree barefoot with his pants rolled up – Chris was propping him up from behind.  Next we stood him up holding on to a young tree, which he proceeded to lick.  We did a variety of shots that afternoon:  Henry alone; Henry and Dad; Henry and Mom; Mom, Dad and Henry.  Typical first time parents, I know, but who cares!  I loved all the shots, and it was so difficult to choose the prints.  Arlene did an amazing job.  As some of you know, I didn’t have the best experience with our wedding photographer, and it was refreshing to work with someone so professional.

I would recommend doing a professional photo shoot to all first-time parents.  We waited for Henry to grow out of the squishy wrinkly newborn stage and until he could crawl and stand.  This provided more options for Arlene to shoot a variety of angles.  Now we will have beautiful shots of our family, which is particularly nice considering we have very few good pictures of Henry and me together – I am the photographer in the family.  Whether you do it on location or in a studio, it is priceless.  The baby year goes too quickly and I love that Arlene took such spectacular snapshots of this time in our life.    

Please see for more information on our fabulous photographer, Arlene Byster.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Where Did the Pictures Go?

If you’re wondering why I removed the fun pictures of Henry from the blog, please see last Friday’s New York Times article, “Guardians of their Smiles.”  It’s articles like these that create panic in the parenting world.  I wouldn’t go so far as saying it’s fear mongering, but it definitely freaked me out.  I flip flopped on whether I should remove all the pictures or just those with Henry in his diaper.  After talking it through with Chris, we agreed to remove most of Henry's World Wide Web pictures.  We decided certain pictures online are fine, but it didn’t stop me from taking down the pictures and locking up my Picasa web albums.  Considering “Babies in the Wilde” currently draws an average of 55 visitors per day, I’m 99% sure those pervies will be going somewhere else.  But if I’m wrong, SCAT SCAT!  There’s nothing for you here but Judgy McJudgersons.   

Thanks C for the information!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mr. and Mrs. Judgy McJudgerson

All parents judge other parents.  It is a fact.  We all think our way is the best way.  But some parents are guilty of doing so with disdain.  I call them Mr. and Mrs. Judgy McJudgerson.  I admit I’m the original Mrs. McJudgerson.  I’ve found, however, that being judged by others has led me to keep my Mrs. McJudgerson thoughts to myself. 

On one cold rainy Chicago evening I took Henry to an open play session at a local kids’ playhouse.  I was so excited for him to crawl and climb with other kids.  The setup was fully equipped with plush carpet, soft balls, Little Tikes cars, stuffed rocking horses, cushy climbing stairs and tunnels.  Fun kids’ music floated through the air, and paper cutouts of butterflies hung from the ceiling.       

Enter Mr. and Mrs. Judgy McJudgerson.  They were doting on their daughter, mini-McJudgerson, constantly smothering her and preventing her from playing with other kids.  Henry smiled at her and crawled over to greet her.  I noticed his nose was a little runny, not because he was sick, but because he was teething.  The McJudgersons noticed too, and they scowled at me.  Their glare said, “How could you bring your sick kid here.  You’re going to infect our perfect little angel.”  BARF.  I awkwardly avoided eye contact, and watched as Henry and mini-McJudgerson interacted.  Another symptom of teething is excessive drooling.  Henry’s glob of clear saliva slowly dribbled nearby mini-McJudgerson, and Mr. McJudgerson squealed, “EW!”  He glared at me again and ran to sanitize the area.  For the rest of our playtime the McJudgersons avoided us, and each time mini-McJudgerson wandered in our direction, they quickly picked her up and brought her across the room whispering in each other’s ears.  I couldn’t help but feel like a horrible person.  And poor Henry, he was just trying to be friendly. 

I’m sure I’ll bump into the McJudgersons again, and if not those particular McJudgersons, another pair of judgy parents waiting to make me feel like an inadequate mother.  I can only hope that the McJudgerson in me stays tucked away.  We’re all doing our best – well, most of us anyway.

-- Signed The Original Mrs. Judgy McJudgerson

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sleep Training: I'm the Baby Drill Sergeant

“I love sleep training.  I love sleep training.”  This is what goes through my head every time Henry sleeps through the night.  “I hate sleep training.  I hate sleep training,” is what goes through my head every time he doesn’t.  With Henry’s pediatrician’s go-ahead, we started sleep training him at 4 ½ months.  Sleep training requires persistence and consistency, which happen to be the two things I obsessed about daily in my pre-baby life.  Routine is my middle name.  Starting around 2 months we had already implemented a nighttime and naptime routine of feeding, books, song and sleep.  At that time, he was not yet on a schedule, but the second I saw signs of sleepiness (eye rubbing, yawning, fussiness) I would start the routine.  Henry’s naptime and bedtime routines are similar, except at night he gets a bath every other day.  Each time, I zip him up in his sleep sack, we sit in the rocker, read a few books, I put him down in his crib, turn out the lights and sing him a song.  He pops his thumb in his mouth, hugs his Ugly Doll, Babo, and falls asleep. 
Starting from birth, I charted Henry’s feedings, poos, pees, and sleep.  Once he started showing a general pattern I would put him down before he showed signs of tiredness.  Two weeks before we started officially sleep training; I night weaned him.  Each night I nursed him for a few minutes less and prolonged the time between feedings.  The start of sleep training coincided with the end of Henry’s pacifier, which was a relief, as running into his room 10 times a night to replace the nook each time he lost it was getting old.  He barely noticed it was gone. 

Once we began a blend of the Weisbluth and Ferber cry it out methods, it took 3 nights.  On night 1 we let him cry for 3 minutes, then went in to pat his chest and said, “Momma loves you,” and left the room.  If he continued crying we let him cry for 5 minutes, then went in and repeated the comforting ritual.  If he continued, we let him cry for 10 minutes, etc.  Each time he woke crying, we would begin the 3, 5, 10 and 15-minute increments again.  On night 2 we used increments of 5, 10, 15 and 20 minutes.  On night 3 we used increments of 10, 15, 20, and 25 minutes.  On night 4 he slept from 9pm until 5am without a peep.  Hallelujah, it worked!  Once he was sleep trained at night, we moved on to sleep training him for his naps. 

What was peculiar about our sleep training experience was that Chris was not allowed to participate.  This is odd considering Chris is an extremely hands on father.  He loves getting down and dirty with the baby.  Normally, moms don’t participate in night sleep training, due to the fact that the smell of her breast milk might upset the baby even more.  Although he did everything he could to help, we discovered that Chris has a mental and physical affliction in the middle of the night – he can’t use his brain to direct his bodily functions.  He would forget to put on his glasses and rush into Henry’s room clumsily.  On multiple occasions he walked his lanky frame into doors, lamps, bookshelves, walls, etc.  He often woke up franticly feeling around for Henry in the bed telling me to be careful, even though we never slept with Henry in the bed.  Chris even picked Henry up out of his crib once, which is a big fat no-no according to Dr. Ferber.  If you pick up baby during sleep training, he will think that if he cries long enough, he will get what he wants – and all that crying he did the last few days would be for nothing.  We finally came up with a rule that Chris was not allowed out of bed between the hours of 11pm and 5am.  His job at night was to give Henry his last bottle of the evening and occasionally wake me up when Henry started crying – I am a very heavy sleeper.  

Choosing to sleep train is equivalent to selectively fighting in a never-ending war. He sleeps great for two weeks, and then when he is sick or we are traveling he gets off schedule, and we have to sleep train him all over again.  On occasion Henry wins – I give in and rock him back to sleep (last night), but for the most part we hold the victory flag (this morning he cried for 20 minutes during his nap and fell back asleep).

Listening to his cries gets more heartbreaking as he gets stronger and more stubborn.  As his screams get progressively louder and more dramatic, I feel a knot in my stomach.  I imagine that he’s thinking “Momma, where are you?  Momma come snuggle me!”  It is agonizing.  It sounds disturbingly similar to some sort of baby boot camp, and I’m the drill sergeant, but I know he’s OK in the end, because he wakes up giggly and spry.  I suppose Henry is more regimented than most kids he knows, and it’s probably because I’m obsessive about feeding him and putting him down for sleep at almost the same time every day.  It’s an interesting balancing act.  When he’s off schedule he gets overtired and fussy, but we have to be flexible when we travel and when we visit with family and friends.

If I had to do it all over again, I would.  I hear too many stories of babies who wake up to feed in the middle of the night at 12 months old, and I thank my lucky stars that Henry has been sleep trained since he was 5 months old.  I need my sleep too.

Tip:  The darker the room, the better baby will sleep.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Baby Gift Ideas Part I: Baby shower and Infant Gifts

We are fortunate to have such generous and thoughtful friends and family, who have showered Henry with love, affection and so many gifts.  Avoid being that guy/girl who gives the gift that ends up at Salvation Army -- we love you all the same, but you know who you are, or do you?  You may think it’s adorable, but mom and dad will likely think the opposite.  And if you still insist on being "that friend," remember a gift receipt. 

REGISTRY REGISTRY REGISTRY.  If mom-to-be registered for her baby shower, check it out.  If there isn’t anything on there you want to purchase try some of the items below.  See also Preparing for Baby’s Arrival: Everything you’ll need

Gift baskets are a great idea, but most of those available – especially online – are filled with cutesy cheapy cliché items.  Try putting one together yourself from the baby section at Target or Babies R Us – special thanks to Steph for the most handy baby shower bathtub gift. 
•    Baby bath tub
•    Baby shampoo/soap in one
•    Washcloths
•    Bibs
•    Reusable diapers – for burp cloths
•    Aquaphor
•    Lansinoh
•    Baby bottle
•    Bottle brush
•    Baby nail clippers and file
•    Infant Tylenol
•    Baby hangers
•    Diaper rash cream
•    Pacifier
•    Teether
•    Rubber finger toothbrush
•    Q-tips
•    Bath toys: without squirter – hard to clean and mold haven

Other Favorite Gift Ideas
Babba Co. cover (winter) – shelters baby from the cold wind
Babba Co. cover (summer) – helps baby nap and protects from the sun
Books, books and more books – see our favorite books post
Personalized puzzle stool
Under the Nile Fruit and Veggies:  great for baby to suck on
Vulli Sophie the Giraffe: pricey, but worth it
Haba Toys
Beaba Baby Cook:  great for making baby food purees, and re-warming
Sandra Boynton’s Bath Books:  Soft bath books that float!
Tiny Love Gymini
Pottery Barn Kids Personalized Hooded Towel
Parents Magazine Bee Bop Band
Soft Blocks
Baby Einstein Count and Compose Piano
Lamaze toys
Handmade quilts, blankets, hats, mittens, etc.
Baby Bjorn Babysitter Balance:  Grows with your infant, and isn't just for sitting.  I give Henry a mani/pedi every other day in his chair.  In typical baby and boy fashion, he does everything possible to hinder the process. 
Ergo Baby carrier

WARNING:  If you’re going to buy baby clothes remember to consider the season and the baby’s age.  Don’t buy a 0-3 month snowsuit for a baby born in June.  Also try not to buy clothes for a newborn for years down the road.  Baby could be gigantic or miniature, and sizing is rarely exact.

Mommy and Daddy’s favorite school/sports team: baby can never have enough
Alternative Apparel onesies and t-shirts: soft and forgiving
Children’s Place zipper pajamas

DO NOT be shy about re-gifting your kids’ old toys and clothes.  New parents will love them.  Quality + Quantity = YAY!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Tight Curve and Wet Pavement

I meticulously checked the buckle of Henry’s giant car seat, gave him a peck on his little button nose and jumped into the front passenger seat.  We were off on our first road trip since Henry’s birth!  It would be a five hour drive to Door County, Wisconsin.  Door County is a popular summer getaway for Wisconsinites and FIBs (a not-so-nice term that Wisconsinites use when referring to Illinoisans – Chris is a proud Wisconsinite, born and raised in Milwaukee).  He and I have always enjoyed car rides together, chatting and listening to music or sports.  On this stormy August afternoon we listened to the Brewers game and chatted about our plans for the weekend.  Soon I nodded off, as I always do when listening to baseball in the car.  Henry was sound asleep.  At the moment we reached the south part of Milwaukee, and a very tight curve, I opened my eyes to an eerie screeching sound.  We were hydroplaning.  Our trusty Subaru Outback was floating from the middle lane of the highway towards the left lane and the median.  Chris whispered, “I have no control over the car.”  I braced myself for impact as we crashed against the median, spun and swiped the median again.  The Subaru came to a screeching halt perpendicular to traffic.  I frantically unbuckled my seatbelt and dove into the backseat.  Henry looked at me with his signature smirk and cooed.  Relief.  He was unphased, and even better he was safe.  Chris was shaking.  It was a wonder that the cars in the two left lanes stopped behind us.  Without blinking an eye, he restarted the engine and carefully pulled off the highway.  We left the scene of the accident in silence.  The cars that had stopped behind us were still frozen, the passengers’ jaws were still dropped.  We parked outside a small town diner.  Aside from the car damage, which took three weeks to fix, we were all safe.  We sat on the sidewalk clutching our eight month old boy.  An old man on his way into the diner saw our shaken crew, and started walking in our direction.  He sidled up to us, handed Chris a gold $1 coin, and said “Put this in your baby’s bank.”  We looked at each other in disbelief as he walked away.  “Are we dead?” Chris asked.  “Did that just happen?”  We both held the coin and examined it.  We felt so lucky – or should I say “fortunate” (per Stephanie’s preference).  Our car could’ve flipped.  The cars behind us could’ve smashed into us.  We could’ve hit the median head on, or on Henry’s side.  But none of these things happened.  Once we regained our composure, we turned around and went home.  This was enough excitement for one weekend.  Door County would have to wait.  Now each time we drive to Milwaukee, we look at the median where we hit, and count the scuff marks left by others who have faced the same fate.  We remember Henry’s first car accident, and with sweaty palms Chris carefully guides the car around the bend.  Phew.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Traveling With Baby Part I: Packing Baby’s Bag For A Weekend Trip

I’ve always looked at parents in airports and wondered “why do they have so much stuff?”  Now I see.  See for yourself below.    

Check In
Pack ‘n Play – many hotels have cribs, but the mattress can be old and uncomfortable
Pack ‘n Play sheet (2) – in the event he wets the sheet
Sleep Sack (2) – in the event he wets the sleep sack
Stuffy/Snugly – we have 3 of the same Ugly Doll as a backup and a backup to the backup – B.H. (Before Henry) we frequently misplaced things – this tendency has worsened in the era of A.H. (After Henry).
Car Seat
2-3 Outfits for each day
Pajamas (2) – in the event he wets his pj’s
Bulb Syringe
Baby Tylenol
Instant Read Thermometer
Baby Monitor – you can put him to bed and spend time with friends/family in another room nearby
Baby shampoo/soap
Phone charger

Flight Carry On

Infant Car Seat – very convenient if it is compatible with your stroller – and if there is an open seat on your flight, they might even give baby a seat for free
Baby Carrier
Nursing apron
Diaper Changing pad
Bundle Me and/or Lightweight baby blanket: to lay baby on the floor or keep baby warm
Breast Pump
Breast Pump Shields, Tubes, Bottles or Bags
Breast Milk Cooler – TSA will test your breast milk with a strip
Cooler Ice Pack – You can ask the hotel if they have a fridge in the room, and if they don’t you can use the ice machine and ice bucket to store the milk for 24 hours
Formula: if applicable
2 Bottles:  Medela sells quick clean wipes to clean bottles and pump accessories
Medela Quickclean Wipes
Baby Wipes
Diaper rash cream – keep in the clear bag plastic bag
Changing Pad
2 Books
2-3 Favorite Toys
Sippy cup – (for babies 4 months+ - fill with water once you’re through security
Snacks for Mom:  granola bars are lightweight, satisfying and take up little space
Extra shirt for mom

Solid Food Eaters
Baby Food

Winter Extras
Winter Hat
Shoes or Booties
Bundle Me

Summer Extras
Bathing Suit
Swim Diaper
Sun Hat

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

“Henry Looks American, His FATHER must be American …”

On one of our weekly diaper supply trips to Target, the checkout lady ooed and awed over my chubby little cherub.  People love babies.  They will smile, make faces, ogle, coo, jabber and even tickle a strange baby – all without ever making eye contact with the baby’s caregiver.  The interesting thing is that when someone does look at me, he or she usually has a confused or pensive expression.  Apparently, everyone thinks I’m Henry’s nanny.  The checkout lady was not any different.  She cocked her head, furrowed her brow and asked, “Oh, is he yours?”  She proceeded to tell me that Henry’s father “must be American,” because Henry looked American and didn’t look anything like me.  Isn’t it a requirement to tell a new mother that her baby looks just like her?  I politely smiled and chalked up the “American” comment to ignorance.  She meant well. 

That same day, I pulled into our garage and there was a vagrant loitering outside our stoop drinking a Busch Light and smoking a cigarette.  He showed me his toothless grin, and said “Hi Nanny.”  I was sure I had misheard him, and said “Pardon?”  He said, “You’re the Nanny, right?”  I was irritated.  Twice in one day?!  I sternly said “No, I’m the Mommy” and thought to myself, “if he doesn’t get off my stoop soon I’m calling the cops.”  I can no longer count how many times someone has looked at me with a cocked head and asked, “Wait, is he yours?”          

My parents emigrated from Taiwan, and I was born and raised in New Jersey.  However, throughout my life I’ve been approached by people speaking slowly and loudly asking me things like, “Dooo (pause) Yooou (pause) Knooow (pause) Wheeere (pause) Broooadway (pause) Iiis?”  Why would things change now that I have a son?  Hopefully Henry's resemblance to his "American" father will allow him to avoid these types of confrontations.  And if not, at least he'll have a few good stories to tell.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Interviewing Nannies and Babysitters

Interviewing nannies and babysitters can be awkward and stressful.  You are looking for a caregiver who can meet the same standards you hold yourself to – these would be tough standards for anyone.  Henry has a sitter once a week for 2-4 hours, and these few hours have made a big difference in my sanity.  I feel much more balanced, and Chris and I have fewer arguments now that we have a sitter. We have more than one sitter to ensure that we can spend a few nights a month out on our own – there are only so many Saturday nights that our friends are willing to come over to play nerdy German board games – and let’s face it, there are only so many nights we can spend playing nerdy German board games.  I found our babysitters through referrals and  In Chicago, many parents looking for sitters use Neighborhood Parents Network (  When doing a nanny search parents often use an agency.  Agencies will charge a flat fee ranging from $1800 to $3000.  I’ve heard that the following website is great for helping with nanny taxes, government filings, etc.

I have a few sample Caregiver Agreements (for nannies).  I would be happy to send them to you.  Please email me with any requests.

A good test for demeanor and personality is to see how he/she interacts with your child/children, but don’t forget that you will also have a relationship with this person.  An open line of communication is important to maintain a conflict free rapport.  The most difficult part of this relationship is remembering that she is an employee.  The lines will get blurred between friend/family and employee, and this is when drama may arise.  Regardless, it is worth it! 

Below are some questions you might want to ask during the interview process.  Note:  it will save you and the applicant time if you ask most of your questions over the phone before having a face-to-face meeting.

What is your schedule? – This is often a deal breaker, so best to get this out of the way before you get into more detailed questioning. 
What hours can you work? 
How many days a week?
Are you flexible? 
Are you looking for a long-term arrangement or something temporary?
Where are you from?
How many years of experience do you have in childcare?
Have you cared for more than one child?  Twins – if applicable?
Why are you a nanny?
What other jobs will you be working, if any?  What is the schedule for those?
What level of education do you have?
Why did you leave your last position? 
Tell me about the last few positions you have held?
Do you smoke?
Do you have First aid/CPR training?
Do you follow a schedule for feeding and sleep?
Do you have allergies?
Are you willing to do light housework while baby is napping?
Do you work evenings or weekends?
Would you be available for overnight babysitting or travel?
Are you married?
Tell us about your family:  do you have children, how old, grandchildren?
What are your hobbies?
How do you feel about children watching television? 
Do you play music for children?
What would you do if the child is injured or sick?
How will you get to our home?
Do you have a driver’s license?
Do you have a car?
Have you ever been in a car accident?
Do you have any speeding tickets?
Have you ever committed a crime? 
Do you have any health issues?
How much did you make at your last job?
How much do you want to be paid?
Do you mind if we pay in cash?

If you’ve narrowed down your list to one or two caregivers, it’s time to call the references.  Calling references can be tedious.  You are essentially asking a favor of a stranger who is already busy with his or her family.  There will probably be chaos in the background, and you want to be polite and patient.  You might feel rushed or awkward, but you will do your best to be thorough.  The references I called were all very helpful, and asked me to call again with additional questions.   

Questions To Ask References:
Overall were you satisfied with her performance?
How old was your child when she cared for him/her?
How did she play with the child/children?
How did she interact with your children?
What did she do that disappointed you, if anything?
Was she always punctual?
Was she reliable?
Did you feel confident when you left your children with her?
Why did you end the relationship?
How long did you employ her?
Did you speak to her references? 
Was she able to follow your instructions? 
Did you have a good relationship?
Was she difficult in anyway?
What did you like most about her as a caregiver?
What was your least favorite thing about her?
Was there anything negative about your experience with her?
Did she follow the schedule that you outlined for your child?
Was she able to follow your sleep training guidelines?
Was she able to successfully feed your child?
Did your child smile when he/she saw the caregiver?
How often did she cancel at the last minute?
How many sick days did she take? 
Did she take your child to the park?
Did she arrange play dates? (for nannies)
Did she give you advance notice when she took vacation? (for nannies)
Did she agree to the arrangement that of the 2 weeks vacation she took, you picked the date for 1 of the weeks?  (for nannies)

I used a number of similar questions phrased differently.  The lawyer in me wanted to ensure that I uncovered anything negative, and asking the same question in a different way can expose new information.  These questions are not exhaustive, and you will obviously have questions that will be particularly applicable to your situation.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Extreme Sports For Babies: Bed Diving

Apparently every mom goes through this moment: the I’m my baby’s protector, but I’m the one who knocked his head against the doorway and I feel sick that I caused him pain.  I'm sad to say that I have been that mom, multiple times.

Folly #1
Henry (circa 7 months) and I were playing on the bed as usual.  He flip flopped back and forth, giggling and grabbing at my hair.  He wasn't crawling yet, but was already very active.  I decided to strategically place a toy in the center of the bed while I whizzed across the room to the vanity mirror to examine a whitehead that had recently settled in the crease between my nostril and cheek.  Before I could have any negotiation with the mini-pustule, I heard a thud.  Oh No.  I whirled around to find my little angel, faced down in the carpet wailing.  I checked every precious digit, limb, roll, and found no evidence of trauma.  But I knew there was trauma.  Trauma to my confidence as a mother.  I have heard so many mothers tell stories about their babies falling off the couch, bed, changing table, and I always knew I would never let that happen to my H-bomb.  Apparently, the mommy gods knew differently.  I wondered:  should I call the doctor?  Does Henry have a concussion?  Did he hit his head?  I watched him intently for signs of injury – nothing.  He went down for bedtime without a hiccup.  I decided to re-enact his suicidal dive off the bed.  Henry had introduced me to an extreme sport: bed diving.  I throttled myself from the mattress trying different scenarios.  First I rolled off sideways.  Then I tried head first.  Did he roll off from belly to back, from back to belly, side to belly?  Did he scoot off forwards or backwards?  I deduced that based on his landing position – perpendicular to the bed on his belly – that he had scooted backwards and just barely missed hitting his head on the bed frame.  This scenario I could not re-enact.  My eyes welled up with tears of guilt.  My poor little chicken pot pie could be dead because of my vanity.  Shame on me for succumbing to the silly oil pustule burrowed under my skin.  I said to myself over and over "Never again, never again."

Folly #2
Dive number 2 went down when we were in Milwaukee at Henry’s grandparents’ house.  I laid him down on the hundred year old antique bed to change his diaper.  As I reached down to rummage through his diaper bag, I saw him out of the corner of my eye sliding off the bed.  Before I could turn to grab him, he landed face first into the weaved carpet and the hard wood floor.  He suffered a few scrapes on his forehead, but nonetheless survived extreme dive number 2.

Folly #3 
Henry attempted extreme dive number three a week later.  Now that I had witnessed Henry’s true passion for bed diving, I never left him alone on high altitude terrain.  I knew I had to watch him like a hawk.  He has eczema, and his skin was looking particularly red with dry patches that day, so I reached over to the night stand to grab the tub of Cetaphil (we have a tub in every room).  I was standing next to the bed blocking him from any dive attempts – you could say I was dive blocking him - and grabbed a gob of Cetaphil.  As I reached down to slather the white goo on his face, he slipped out of my grip and did a head first dive into the floor.  Seriously?  That’s exactly what Chris said when I told him of dive number 3.  Thankfully, I had just thrown a pillow down on the floor, and he gracefully landed into the fluffy artificial hypoallergenic feathers.  For a second he froze, face down in the feathers, then he lifted his head and laughed.

Henry has yet to attempt dive number four.  He seems weary of the edge these days.  He’s started to show fear, and gazes with yearning over the edge.  Just in case, I line both sides of the bed with pillows and block whichever side he’s heading for with the length of my body.  I’m sure he will regain the courage to take up bed diving again, but when that day comes, I’ll be ready.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Packing Your Hospital Bag For Labor And Delivery

Getting ready for the big day?  2 big ticket items to take care of in advance:  1) Install the baby car seat and 2) pack your hospital bag.  We looked like bumbling idiots when we walked into the labor ward -- the nurses actually asked us if we were moving in.  Avoid over-packing by using the list below.
  1. Health Insurance Card
  2. Ipod/Ipod/Iphone Charger - Labor mix
  3. Snacks for your partner
  4. Camera/video camera/charger
  5. Cell Phone/charger
  6. Laptop/charger - many hospitals have wifi
  7. Books/magazines
  8. Folder or Envelope to organize hospital and birth papers
  9. Bag to bring home hospital issue blankets, diapers, etc.
  10. Gifts for nurses -- they will be so helpful, and you will want to express your gratitude
  11. Breast feeding pillow
  1. Hair brush
  2. Shampoo
  3. Face wash
  4. Toothbrush
  5. Toothpaste
  6. Makeup -- you'll want to look nice in your pictures?
  7. Deodorant
  8. Ponytail holder
  9. Contact Lenses
  10. Contact Lens Solution
  11. Contact Lens Case
  12. Glasses
Clothes for Mom
  1. Socks
  2. Slippers
  3. Robe
  4. Underwear (2) - you will probably wear the hospital issue disposable underwear as you'll bleed for a few days
  5. Nursing bras (1) - you probably only need it to go home, you'll be in your gown the entire stay
  6. 1 outfit for hospital, although you will probably wear the hospital gown until you are discharged
  7. Going home outfit - comfy loose pants and roomy shirt
  8. Nipple ointment - although they will probably have samples at the hospital
  9. Breast pads - for going home
Clothes for Baby
Baby will wear hospital issue kimono shirts, hats and swaddle blankets.
  1. Going home outfit - zip pj's is probably the best option
  2. Babba Cover for car seat in winter
  3. Bundle Me for Infant Car seat - you won't need a snow suit if you have this.
Clothes for Partner
  1. Slippers - you can't walk around the hospital without shoes
  2. Socks
  3. 2-3 Underwear
  4. Sweater/Jeans/Sweatshirt
  5. T-shirts
  6. Extra pillow
The hospital will likely issue you disposable diapers for Mom, squirt bottle, disposable underwear, sanitary pads for bed/car/chairs, baby diapers, gauze and vaseline for circumcision dressing, swaddle blankets, hat, kimono shirts.  The hospital may also issue you a bag to take things home, breast shields and tubing, SNS starter kit, formula, and nipples.

Good luck!

Preparing For Baby's Arrival: Everything you'll need

See Abbreviated Version

It’s true – babies require a lot of stuff, but don't let the list overwhelm you.  You'll find below our comprehensive list of everything you might need before you bring baby home.  This over-exhaustive list includes items I found helpful and useful.  They aren't necessarily essential.  I referred to Baby Bargains regularly for tips on brands.

Baby’s Room

  1. Crib:  allow 5 months for delivery.  Note:  there are some beautiful cribs that you will find “special,” as we did, but you will also find that “special” cribs are not always compatible with crib toys, bumpers, etc.
  2. Rocker:  Allow 5 months for delivery.  We use our rocker (brand – “Best”) everyday for feeding and reading.
  3. Foot stool for rocker:  It is much easier to nurse and rock when your feet are propped up - particularly if your legs are on the short side.
  4. Graco Pack n’ Play:  For the first 3 weeks Henry slept in the bassinet of the Pack ‘n Play in our room.  Now we bring it on trips and visits to friends and relatives’ houses – he gets his naps and we get to leave the house.
  5. Quilted Pack ‘n Play sheet:  it softens the bedding.
  6. Ultimate Crib Sheet (2):  attaches to the crib slats, is waterproof, and lays on top of the fancy fitted sheet.  Easier to wash and replace than the fitted crib sheet.
  7. Sleep sack (2):  Halo is the go-to brand.  I like the sleeveless sacks, because baby’s long sleeved pj’s will be bulky underneath a sleeved sack.  You’ll need a spare for when you do laundry.  If you have a winter baby get the fleece.  As baby grows you can determine which size he’ll need next and what material depending on the season.
  8. Dresser:  Ikea has a great dresser.
  9. Changing table:  you can also use the dresser as a changing table.
  10. Diaper Caddy:  You’ll need diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream at your fingertips.
  11. Changing pad:  Get a few changing pad covers.
  12. Decorate the Room:  Put up pictures of family, books, toys, etc.  Wall decals are cheap and easy to apply.  Baby will be entranced by everything around him after a couple weeks.
  13. Crib sheet, bumper, blanket set (optional luxury).  These sets are pricey.  You can buy individual crib sheets if you’re not going to use a bumper.  We put the bumper in after 4 months to prevent Henry from bumping his head into the slats.  He has never used the blanket that came with the set, but of course the sets are adorable. 
  14. Baby hangers:  25-50
  15. Hanger accessory that provides another rod for hanging.
  16. Labeled hanger separators to arrange clothes by size.
  17. Cool Mist Humidifier:  babies get really congested and have trouble expelling the goo on their own.
  18. Crib music toy
  19. Night light or dim lamp:  keeps it dim for baby when you nurse in the middle of the night or need to comfort him back to sleep.
  20. Laundry hamper:  you will be changing baby’s clothes many times a day due to spit up, poo and pee explosions.  A place other than the floor to throw soiled clothes is a good idea.  The bag that comes with the crib bedding set will be too small.
  21. Storage bins:  weaved baskets are a cute way to store toys, baby products, etc.  However, consider durability and dust.  Reisenthel storage containers have a zipper/velcro cover (keeps baby out), are collapsible and washable.
  22. Clock:  You will need a clock in view of the rocker or wherever you are nursing to keep track of the start time and length of each feeding.  One with a light that can be shut off is ideal.
  23. Log of sleep, feedings and poo/pee.  There are formal logs available.  We just a blank notebook.
  1. Baby wipes
  2. Diapers: Size N or 1.  N is the same size as 1, but leaves a dip for the umbilical cord.  The hospital uses size 1, and folds the front down.
  3. Diaper rash cream:  Boudreaux’s Butt Paste or Aveeno.  Desitin has a medicinal smell.
  4. Moisturizer (tub):  Cetaphil and Aquaphor
  5. Saline drops for congestion.  Although you can make your own, store bought saline comes in an easy to administer bottle.
  6. Bulb syringe: for use after saline.
  7. Infant Tylenol: For fever and pain relief (teething and also good for pre-medicating baby before immunizations).  Ask your pediatrician for dosing instructions.
  8. Children’s Benadryl (for allergy emergencies)  Henry had an allergic reaction to egg whites before he was eating solids – I dropped some on his face by accident.  Whoops!  Ask your pediatrician for dosing instructions.
  9. Children’s Motrin (for pain relief when baby gets older (9+ months) – better for pain relief than Tylenol)
  10. Instant Read Thermometer – practice practice practice
  11. Baby file and nail clippers:  I have to clip his nails every other day, otherwise Henry scratches himself.
  12. Hooded Bath Towel: I like the Pottery Barn Kids hooded towels.
  13. Baby bath tub
  14. Washcloths (4-8)
  15. Baby soap/shampoo in one.  Mustela foaming baby shampoo seemed to do a good job warding off cradle cap.  We like Aveeno all in one.  
  16. Soothie pacifier (2) for newborns.  Henry was off the pacifier after 3 months, but it was a lifesaver while it lasted.
  17. Toothbrush:  Summer Infant has a great 3 piece oral set
  18. Teether
  19. Hair brush: helps reduce cradle cap
  20. Q-tips: to clean around outside of ear
  21. Mustela No Rinse:  Cleaning fluid that doesn’t require water.  Wiping baby’s face constantly with washcloths can cause dry patches. 
  22. Gauze and petroleum jelly for circumcision dressing – for boys.
  23. Diaper Can:  Dekor is convenient because you don’t have to change the bag every time you take out the diapers, but you have to purchase specialty bags.  I purchased them at www.diapers.comThe Diaper Champ is a favorite, because you don’t have to purchase special bags.  
  1. Boppy vs Brest Friend?  I liked the Brest Friend for feeding.  It has better support.  The Boppy is great for tummy time, lying down at an angle, etc. 
  2. Bibs:  Soft bibs for newborns (15-20).  You will use a new one for each feeding, and using dirty bibs can cause a rash.  Bumkins bibs for solid feeding – easy to wash and dry fast.
  3. Burp cloths: disposable diapers take up little room in your bag and dry quickly
  4. Baby bottles:  3-4 4 oz bottles to start.  You may want to get 1 of each kind before you commit – some babies are particular about bottles.
  5. Bottle cleaner – has a special nipple cleaning attachment on the handle – you can find these at your grocery or convenient store.
  6. Drying rack for bottles and pump accessories.
  7. Breast Pump:  Pumping helps your milk come in faster after birth, and is great to build up a supply of milk in the freezer.  The pump in style takes 4 minutes and is convenient for travel.  
  8. Breast Pump Accessories:  Some pump kits include all the accessories you'll need, but if you not you'll need:  Medela Breast Pump Accessory Set - shields, valves, bottles.  Some people require a special breast shield size (if you have smaller or larger nipples, you may need to consider this). 
  9. Pump bottles:  I pump into Medela brand bottles and transfer the milk into milk storage bags for freezing when needed.  The bottles screw right onto the breast shields.  Careful not to over pump!  It can cause clogged milk ducts.
  10. First Years milk storage container for the freezer.  A spring pushes the milk pouches flat for efficient storage.
  11. Lansinoh Breast Pads: very absorbent
  12. Lansinoh Freezer Milk Storage Bags:  bigger than Medela storage bags, although the Medela bags have a paper sticky attachment.
  13. Lansinoh nipple ointment:  supposedly if you apply the cream before baby arrives, you can avoid cracking
  14. Nursing bras:  Mimi Maternity without underwire.  Get 2 and get measured!  You’ll need more after baby arrives, but your size will change once the milk comes in.  The bras I purchased were too small and I got clogged milk ducts – very painful.  Underwire can also cause clogged ducts.  Loose fitting clothes can help prevent clogged ducts.
  15. Nursing apron:  Bebe au lait, Hooter Hiders have cute patterns.  If you can nurse in public, you will be more likely to stick with it.  Otherwise, you will won’t feel comfortable going out.
  16. Bumbo: a great assisted sitting option before baby is ready to sit up on his own.  A tray attachment can be purchased separately.  Henry ate his first rice cereal in the Bumbo.  
  17. High chair:  Ikea has a cheap plastic seat/tray that is easy to clean and lightweight.  We have the Stokke Trip Trappe, which is nice – it grows with baby until adulthood and has baby eat at the table with the family.  However, it isn’t easy to clean, and our dining table has also suffered.
  18. I would hold off on solid feeding items until baby is ready, which won’t be until around 4-6 months.
On The Go
  1. Stroller:  Will you have 2 strollers?  1 for travel and 1 for home?  Do you have a place you can store your stroller at home so you don’t have to fold it up everyday?  If so, perhaps the convenience of the folding mechanism isn’t an important feature.  If you are small and/or weak consider size and weight.
  2. Umbrella Stroller:  I like those that recline all the way so that baby can use it from birth, plus baby can nap on the go.  We have the Inglesina Swift.
  3. Infant car seat:  some babies use their infant seats until 7-8 months.  Baby will sleep a lot, and you will often be on the go with a sleeping cherub.  The seat makes it easy to transport your sleeping baby.  Seats with a base can also be strapped in with a seatbelt when you are riding in someone else’s car.
  4. Infant car seat head support:  Baby’s head will wobble in the seat without support.  Usually people use towels, but these head supports are easier and more effective.
  5. Babba Co. Infant Car Seat Cover:  Excellent way to shield baby from the bitter cold or the hot sun in the summer. 
  6. Infant Bundle Me Bag:  Attaches to the infant car seat, keeps baby warm.  There is also a lightweight version for summer.
  7. Convertible Car Seat:  Britax is the go-to brand.  We have the Britax Boulevard – I love that I don’t have to thread the straps through to adjust – just turn a knob as baby grows.  I had it installed at a church by two burly cops for free.  The seat hasn’t budged – not even in a high way hydroplane accident.
  8. Travel convertible car seat:  We got a $50 Cosco Scenera seat.  It’s lightweight, we don’t have to remove our Britax, and it’s even great for carpooling locally.
  9. Baby Carrier:  The ERGO has much better support for you back than the Baby Bjorn, but the Bjorn has better neck support for newborns - there is an additional insert for a newborn.  It’s nice to wear baby while you do laundry, etc. 
  10. Mirror for the back seat headrest in the car.  Great to see baby while you’re driving.
  11. Window Shade for the car:  The sun will shine in baby's eyes and drive him crazy.
  12. Diaper Bag
  13. Portable Diaper Changing Pad:  Sometimes comes with the diaper bag and/or Diaper Caddy
Toys Toys Toys - newborns don't need much in the toys department
  1. Baby Gym:  Tiny Love and Fischer Price make great baby gyms.  If you have a hard floor, try putting some blankets underneath for some extra cushion.
  2. Baby Seat: motorized or not, baby will need a place to hang when you’re not holding him.  Henry outgrew his Bright Starts buzzer seat around 6 months, but still uses the Baby Bjorn seat, which he used at birth.
  3. Swing
  4. Board books:  some of our favorites:  Anything by Sandra Boynton and Dr. Seuss, Good Night Moon, The Bear Snores On.
  5. Colorful flash cards
  6. Lamaze Toys
Baby Clothes – the bare necessities – the extra is just fun!
Remember the first few months, baby will grow out of things really quickly.  Once baby’s growth plateaus (around 9 months) clothes will last a bit longer. 
  1. Pajamas:  Children’s Place and Just One Year (by Carters) have great zipper pj’s with feet.  Baby will wear them exclusively for the first few weeks – that and the hospital issue kimono shirts.
  2. Baby mittens:  to prevent scratching
  3. Many Onesies – short sleeve and long sleeve.  Layering is key in cold winter months.
  4. 3-5 pairs of pants/skirts/shorts
  5. 5-10 shirts (choose easy fit over delicate head and neck) – you will get a few hospital issue kimono shirts
  6. Socks – no need for shoes unless it’s cold (although even in the cold baby will be bundled up) or baby is crawling/walking.  Socks with tread are the best so baby can jump in your arms.

  1. Baby blankets:  we use them all the time to lay Henry down so we can read books, do tummy time, etc.  I have a blanket in every room in the apartment.
  2. Swaddle blankets:  you will get a few hospital issue.  There are swaddle me blankets, but be careful in buying too many.  Our Henry didn’t like swaddling after 2 weeks, and we gave away all his swaddle me blankets.  The hospital issue was all we needed. 
  3. Music:  we have it in every room.
  4. Books:  Baby 411 and What to Expect the First Year were my go-to books.  After reading these books, you should decide if sleep training is for you, and if so, which method you want to use.  We used Dr. Ferber’s method, and although it is a constant battle, Henry sleeps really well.
  5. Video camera:  We have a Flip HD Video recorder, and we also use our point and shoot, and which has a video feature.
  6. Dreft baby detergent or fragrance free/etc. detergent – wash all your baby clothes before baby arrives.  Don’t use dryer sheets. 
  7. Tessera Baby Book:  Keeping a record of your pregnancy experiences and baby’s firsts is a fun way to memorialize the special moments.
Mom’s Recovery
  1. Postpartum diapers for mom:  Soothae brand is great.  You can find them at your drugstore or grocery.
  2. Absorbent pads for anywhere Mom sits or lies down.
  3. Thin maxi pads for when the bleeding lightens.
  4. Take the prescribed painkillers – they work.
  5. Prepare for the giant Iron pills + prenatal vitamins if you are nursing

Welcome Henry!

On December 31, 2009, at 10:30am on the dot, Henry Guang-Hao Anderson was born.  My doctor induced me exactly 1 week early due to a preeclamptic condition.  The magnesium they administered - to prevent seizures - prolonged my labor and made me lethargic, sweaty, and exhausted.  My poor husband Chris, sister Elaine, and brother Michael stayed up with me all night.  They fed me ice chips and continuously changed the cold towels draped around my face and neck.  They pressed the epidural button once every ten minutes.  It is all a blur, but I remember four things very clearly:  1) Chris dozing off by my bedside and almost grabbing the IV's out of my arm as he caught himself; 2) Elaine, jumping up and down in the background cheering me on as I pushed, "You can do it Joyce, you're almost there!" -- she succeeded in hiding her true thoughts, which were "How is she going to get that baby out of her little body?  This is not happening."; 3) I remember asking Michael as he quietly cheered me on, "Wait, are you watching the birth?"  He replied, "NO.  Of course not, I'm facing the wall"; and 4) I remember our perfect little Henry.

After 22 hours of labor Henry arrived pink and swollen.  There was an initial scare - a half dozen doctors and nurses whisked him away for tests, but all was well in the end.  We spent four nights in the hospital: one night getting induced; one night having surgery to drain a hematoma in my nether region; and two nights recovering.

The first month was physically exhausting.  I have never been so fat.  I had gained 40 pounds during my pregnancy, and my entire body was ridiculously swollen from all the IV fluids and antibiotics.  Let's not forget the stitches to repair the tear and the drained hematoma.  I was a mess, but a happy hot mess.  Thankfully, ten private kickboxing sessions and 9+ months of nursing magically transformed my body into something better than it was before.  My girlfriends are all considering the pregnancy and delivery weight loss plan -- could this be the next fad?  

Many thanks to our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends who brought us food, hand-me-downs, advice, love and well wishes.  Without their love and support Henry would probably be sitting in a gutter somewhere eating guppies and bathing in sewage - he would be thrilled.  

Best tip I received for the first month:  Get out of the house with or without the baby.  Thanks E!