Happy Mail updates

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As busy as things have been recently, I'm happy to report that I've been able to sneak out a couple of Happy Mail deliveries, both to the kids of friends.

My friend E. has almost-two year old twins who are obsessed currently with dustpans. They can scoop AND be used as guitars! So, when I saw plastic dustpans with bear and frog faces on them in the dollar bins at Target (I think, but it may have been at Dollar Tree...), of course I grabbed two and slapped stamps and labels on them. Only one of them made in intact, the other broke in transit, but I'm told the twins were thrilled with their mail and are happy to share.

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More recently, another trip to the $1 Spot at Target (one of my favorite places!) netted me some super cool Crayola coloring rolls and washable mini markers:

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A quick snip of the plastic on each end of the tube and I could hide the markers inside, then tape it back up and slap on some labels! A set each went out to the two young sons of another friend. They haven't arrived yet, but I remain hopeful they'll get there intact!

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Sent any surprise mail lately, Happy or otherwise? I still have a ton of ideas for these little bombs of joy, so I am hopeful I can keep it up!

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In which I (fail to) become an extreme couponer

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So I decided recently that I needed a new hobby. And that hobby should be extreme couponing. I watched the show, I loved the idea of saving big money on things we use, and I loved even more the idea of getting high dollar things that I could donate for pennies. How hard could it be, right?

Turns out, it's kinda harder than it looks. I read some blogs about it, but didn't finish most of them, as I got bogged down in following a breadcrumb trail to search for stores that double and considering my position on the various coupons: buying and selling? debates. That or I just got bored. Too much instruction! I decided. I'll just figure it out myself. Print out a bunch of coupons, carry them around until the items they're for are on sale, then reap big savings!

I printed out coupons. I learned about catalinas and how you can go back and re-print once, but typically not more than that. I wrote to some companies and gushed about how much I love their stuff, then waited for the envelopes to come rolling in (one baby food company gave me three coupons for $.55 off, one gave me a half dozen free item coupons--guess which one of those I now prefer?) I liked the Facebook page and printed off some more. I filed them in a little accordion file. And then I went to Target.

At the end of my first big coupon-fueled shopping trip, I had spent $79.14 and saved $43.46. Not great, but not the huge savings I'd been hoping for. For my $80, I got:

-a pair of Merona shorts for myself
-a Merona tank top for myself
-two boxes of Kashi granola bars
-a box of Market Pantry cookies
-a tube of Gud lotion
-a box of generic Claritin
-ten Plum Organics baby food items
-two eight roll packages of store brand paper towels
-three tubes of Burt's Bees Lip Shine

Not quite the haul I'd hoped. So back to the drawing board, I guess? Are any of you great couponers? Give me some tips!

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Essential Baby Gear: 10 Months In

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The last time I made a post about baby gear we're finding essential, my baby was 10 weeks old. I'd intended to do one every couple of months, but time management and intentions rarely match up these days. So I'm coming back to it now, with a nearly ten month old baby. The only things mentioned in my ten week baby gear posts that are still in heavy rotation are the AppleTV and the Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bras--things for me more than for him (though the AppleTV has become a delivery vehicle for vintage Sesame Street episodes). Things change fast when you're a baby! Lately, we have a whole new bunch of essential items.

Essential Baby Gear at Ten Months

Essential Baby Gear at Ten Months on Polyvore

1. aden + anais Muslin Dribble Bibs/Burp Cloths: we received a bunch of these as gifts before Buzzy was born, and during the first few months, they were ostensibly to be used as burp cloths. They weren't all that useful then, because he almost never spit up and I rarely used burp cloths at all. Now, they are my best friends. As bibs, they have two important elements (besides just being cute)--they close with a snap instead of Velcro (my talented child has no problem ripping off a Velcro closure bib) and they wrap around, providing more coverage to his clothes. We pretty much never use any other bibs.

2. Evenflo Triumph Convertible Car Seat: I did a lot of research before I pulled the trigger on buying Buzzy's first non-bucket car seat, and considered a number of models that are significantly more expensive than the Triumph, but the Triumph ultimately seemed like the best value for the money and we're extremely pleased with it. So much so that we actually bought two, one for each vehicle! It's a sturdy seat, easy to install, with a reasonably high rear-facing weight and height limit. The best part, though, is the side knob you use for tightening the straps. Not hand-tightening the straps is so, so great. That alone makes this seat worth more than it costs.

3. cloud b Twilight Turtle Constellation Night Light: OK, so this one is a nice-to-have, but it's really nice to have it, and well worth the $25 or so it costs. This little guy sends a whole wall and ceiling full of light-up stars up for 45 minutes after we put Buzzy down in his crib, and looking at them definitely helps him go to sleep/back to sleep when he's not quite there. As any infant parent knows, things that help them go to sleep? Worth their weight in gold.

4. Carlson Extra-Wide Walk Through Gate with Pet Door: We tried a cheaper gate before we bought this one, but it was flimsy, hard to open and close, and the pet cut-out in it was nowhere near big enough for our largest cat. This gate, however, is perfect. It's super sturdy, easy to open and walk through, and the pet door is a real pet door--even a small dog could fit through it easily.

5. Ikea Antilop High Chair: This thing is a cult classic for a reason! It's not beautiful, but it's structurally sound, super easy to clean, and dirt cheap.

6. Infant's Advil Dye-Free Concentrated Drops: Four teeth and one ear infection in, I worship at the altar of Infant Advil. Three packs of it from Costco, dude.

7. Diono Easy View Back Seat Mirror: Some people think back seat mirrors are a distraction. I think not being able to see if the noises my kid is making mean he's choking or singing is a distraction, so I love this mirror. It attaches easily and is really maneuverable, so it works in both our small car and our mid-size SUV/crossover thing. We had another type of cheaper mirror for a while and it wouldn't stay in place and drove me nuts. This one doesn't do that. It makes life better when things just work, you know?

8. The First Years Gumdrop Slim Neck Bottles: Once the slow-flow of infant bottles started making Buzzy angry, it took us several tries to find a bottle he liked. I was so happy he decided these were the way to go, though--they're cute, cheap, don't have any dumb characters on them, and the mouths are the correct size to attach directly to the pump, so no pump bottles are needed. Yay for fewer bottles to wash!

9. Carter's 3-Piece Jersey PJs: Pajamas were a little bit of an issue around here for a while. Buzzy has a very long torso and was growing out of one-piece footed pajamas bizarrely fast, while simultaneously deciding that he hated having his clothes changed. Many two piece pajamas worn tight, to reduce fire danger or somesuch. These are almost impossible to get on to the body of a squirming, pissed off, chunky baby. Enter these wonderful, loose sets from Carter's, which come with a t-shirt style shirt and coordinating shorts and pants. They're lightweight, easy on and off, and also adorable. We seriously have five sets.

10. Plum Organics Baby Food Pouches: Buzzy has been eating an increasing amount of solid food, mostly in the form of purees, since he was about four months old. For the most part, I make it myself, but nothing beats the convenience of a shelf stable pouch, especially for traveling. There are several decent brands that use organic ingredients and nothing that sketches me out, but Plum is my favorite. They have some great combinations, including raspberry, spinach, and Greek yogurt (pictured), and my personal favorite, sweet potato, mango, and millet.

Add to my list! What are your essentials for a baby at this stage?

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The Working Mom Mirage

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Catching sight of myself reflected in the glass door on the way out of the day care, I'm shocked. The woman is weighed down, a baby on one hip, lugging a diaper bag and a purse. Her keys dangle precariously off her finger. At first glance, she's what is often called "put-together," with office appropriate slacks and heels, everything fitting correctly, everything coordinated. If you look closely, though, you notice the makeup settling in the fine lines between her eyes. You notice errant strands of silver escaping the blown straight brown plane of her hair. You notice the kind of bags under her eyes that come from an undergrad pulling an all-nighter, or from the concentrated lack of sleep of infant parenthood. She looks like something in an ad, perhaps encouraging you to buy frozen food, a time-saving appliance, or a magic app to help you organize your busy day. You know, without seeing it, that her practical car is littered with Starbucks cups, that she's tried to remember to re-run the load of laundry that's molding in the washer for the last three nights running, that the baby on her hip will almost certainly get a balanced dinner tonight, but she's been hitting the drive through a lot lately. I hardly recognize myself, looking at her--she's so completely the Working Mom.


In my previous ignorance, I'd assumed the Working Mom was an intentional construct, something women decided to become. I saw them, at Target or the library or in cars I passed, their smooth veneers plucked and polished and ironed, the barely contained disorder underneath very rarely visible to my glance. Somewhere in the back of my consciousness I admired them for their ability, still theoretical to me, to balance the spheres of their lives and keep all the balls in the air. Much like one is often told childbirth and nursing will just come naturally, because they're "what you're made to do," I believed, in some dark and not well examined part of me, that they were what I was meant to become. I thought I'd have a baby, go back to work, and slip squarely into their not-too-high heels. Armed with my cell phone and my caffeine addiction, I'd flit from meetings to doctor's appointments to soccer games, always in an appropriate outfit. It wouldn't be without effort, but it would feel innate. There would be no learning curve.


To the strangers and acquaintances I pass as I'm hustling my kid from the day care to the car, calculating that if traffic isn't too bad, I'll have almost an hour once we get home to get him fed and bathed before bedtime, it probably looks as if I did slip naturally into this role. I'm not crying, I'm not babbling, I'm not even wearing stained yoga pants or leaking through my shirt. Sure, a close inspection will make clear I'm a little tired and in a bit of a rush, but who isn't? To the extent that success means convincing those around you that you're capable, competent, even thriving, I've got this. But the chaos underneath bubbles so vigorously that I'm not convinced it will ever feel normal. It certainly doesn't now. 


I don't really have trouble leaving my son at day care. I know he's well cared for, he seems to enjoy it, and our schedule means I don't often have to do drop off, so even if there were dramatics with that, I would mostly miss them. I don't feel guilty. I don't think strangers are raising my kid. The adjustment from seeing him all day every day to seeing him for only a couple of waking hours a day during the week is bracing, but I believe that if we're not both better for it already, we will be before too long. The part I expected to be hard isn't that hard at all. Unfortunately, the part I expected to be easy is pretty rough. Things that don't sound at all difficult--making sure all the fiddly pieces of my breast pump make it into my bag every morning, keeping my son's newly running nose wiped, buying dog food--are suddenly overwhelming. Days are no longer made up of hours, but of the mere minutes in between needing to be somewhere and needing to do something. It will be easier once we have a routine, I tell myself at least ten times a day. It will be easier once he's weaned. It will be easier once he sleeps through the night. Likely it will be. But time is needed, too, to make those things happen. Time and patience, concentration and effort, and all of these are things that are in shorter supply than I'd have guessed possible. 


I am, on the whole, enormously lucky. I have a job I like, which provides me with both a very good salary and the flexibility that is so important to parenting (and so hard to come by). I have a partner who loves his work, who has taken to parenting quicker and more completely than I'd expected, and who pulls much more of his weight than I'd feared. I have a day care provider whom I can afford (if barely...), who already loves my son. Most of all, I have an incredibly happy, healthy, adaptable baby. With the exception of our lack of local family support (which we feel keenly), my family's situation approaches the two -working parent ideal. But even in these prosaic circumstances, it is highly unlikely that I'll ever really become the Working Mom I appear to be. Things may well get easier over time, but they aren't ever going to get easy. We may well find our groove, but we'll never stay in it for very long before something inevitably changes. It's possible that I'll find time to cover the gray in my hair, or at least remember the laundry before it gets musty, but something else will come up. It's clear to me, even though I am only at the beginning of this journey, that the woman I thought I was meant to be, the Working Mom from the magazines, doesn't exist. We're all just doing the best we can, trying to keep the pieces together and give the impression of serenity. The trick, I think, is in learning to accept the behind the scenes bedlam, to consider it a messy junk drawer that isn't waiting for a free moment to be put to order, but rather is intended to stay that way. We try to remain unruffled, if unsleeping, and rediscover every day that all we can do has to be good enough.

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Notes on the return to work

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Things that are easier than I expected about returning to work:

  1. Figuring out what to wear.
  2. Feeling like my kid is being well taken care of in day care.
  3. Pumping.

Things that are harder than I expected about returning to work:

  1. Having to talk to people all day.
  2. Only spending an hour or so a day with my baby.
  3. Making my brain focus on one task at a time.
  4. The tightness of the get the schedule.
  5. Figuring out when the hell I am going to do all the things I was doing during the day while I was home.

Intellectually, I know that all of my current angst is completely typical newly back-to-work mom stuff. I feel like I'm missing out on the baby's life and not seeing him enough. I feel like there are no hours of my day that aren't spoken for. I feel like I'm divided at all times, with half my brain in my cube and half wondering how the baby is, what he's doing, etc. I feel constantly breathless and just on the verge of panic. I'm told this will all get easier as time passes, and I absolutely believe it will, but, like much of the rest of this first-year-of-motherhood roller coaster, the meantime is pretty overwhelming.

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Hair hair hair

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So, in the midst of the general body related angst post-pregnancy life brings, there is one bright spot. I really, really love my hair.

This is not typically the case for post-partum women, who lose hair in big handfuls after their babies are born, which is then replaced by "dumb baby hair"--little whispy growth around the hair line that doesn't look right. And I've experienced both of these phenomena, but I am still in hair love. I'm sure this is partially due to my hair being so thick to begin with that the post-partum loss doesn't even bring it down to a normal amount, much less make it thin. It also has to do, probably, with my hair being one of the less effected parts of my body--unlike the rest of this mess, it feels like it's still more or less what I started with. Mostly, though, I think it's down to prenatal/nursing vitamins. Those things are healthy hair magic.

I've had virtually the same hair cut for at least four or five years now, and I'm not sick of it. It's long, layered, and when I can be bothered, blown straight. Even back in my pink hair days (remember those?) it was more or less cut the same way it is now. I've been thinking lately, though, that I ought to try to branch out a little bit with styling. That's where this great tutorial comes in. Watching it, I actually believe I, with my hands all full of thumbs rather than nimble fingers, could maybe create that style (well, I'd have to buy the tools/products first, but after that). Doesn't she make it seem easy?


After you watch the video, be sure to enter the contest! And if you try this style, find me on social media and show me how it turned out!

Sweeps rules:

http://www.blogher.com/hair-sweepstakes-official-rules-week-4

Prizes & Promotions page on Blogher.com:

https://www.blogher.com/blogher-tv-weekly-hair-style-sweepstakes

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