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Written by Mama Monday

Blog posts written by mamas on cloth diapering, green living, natural parenting.

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It’s an interesting challenge when you have a new baby around the holiday season. Aside from the physical issues of healing, exhaustion, and so forth, you also have to attend to…y’know…the holidays! If the baby is your firstborn, it may be totally acceptable to forego the fun for one year. But, if you have one (or two or three…) other children, it’s nearly impossible to skip.

In our case, we’re lucky that our little lady came about a week and a half before Thanksgiving. Because of this, we could enjoy a small day of thanks with just our small family of four. Now, with Christmas (very!) quickly approaching, we’ll be heading to see family galore, all while doing our own special celebration at home. In order to maintain the “Christmas magic,” it’s important to us that Santa include Baby Harper along with Big Brother Hadley in his stop at our house. We wouldn’t want inquisitive minds to start questioning, now, would we? 😉

But, what on earth does Santa bring a brand new baby? What do you buy your little one when you’re still getting to know each other?

Today, I thought I’d share just a handful of last-minute gift ideas for a newborn. Whether it’s for your own bundle of joy or a friend or relative’s new baby, maybe these ideas will help with any last-minute baby shopping.

newborn_christmas

A keepsake. Considering that a baby can’t “do” much with ANY gift you offer her, offer an item that will make her feel special for years to come. A baby book to fill with memories, a cool framed wall print featuring the baby’s name, a modern quilt, an heirloom blanket, or even a handkerchief-turned-bonnet for the baby’s christening (to be used again as a handkerchief at their wedding or other important occasion). The ideas are plentiful; just consider the family’s style and traditions as to whether a particular gift is appropriate.

Cloth diaper paraphernalia. Of course Santa knows whether your little one has fluff on the bum – he sees all! If your stash is all set, a cute stocking stuffer might be a jar of ointment like Booty Love. Or, if the gift is for someone else’s child, give the family a gift certificate for your favorite diaper seller so that they can select their own style of diaper to try. If you know their favorite diaper, go ahead and pick a super cute print or two to round out their stash.

Eco-friendly toys. While I don’t expect every person who gives us gifts to go out of their way to find BPA-free, sustainably-made toys, I can’t say how much I appreciate it when we DO receive them. So, when I know that I’m giving to a like-minded family, I try to find a toy like a Sophie the Giraffe, soft book with crinkle noises and a mirror, or colorful woven rattle that the baby will grow into. It may sound silly to buy toys for a baby who can’t even hold onto them, but remember that the baby will be making use of such stimuli in the upcoming months and years, and can already be interested by bright colors and cool sounds.

Investments in her future. By opening a Roth IRA and/or 529 Plan, you’ll literally be giving your child a chance for a successful future. Make it a habit to add to it for special occasions, like Christmas and birthdays, in addition to regular small deposits. Plus, did you know that non-parents can invest in the same way? We requested that our parents open similar accounts and, instead of massive amounts of gifts, suggest that they put a percentage into investments instead of overflowing our closets and toy boxes. It may sound greedy, but we all agree that it’s actually a wiser option for us.

Books, books, and more books! I cannot reiterate enough: it’s NEVER too early to start reading (or to build a child’s library). As a school librarian, I may be biased, but our husband started reading with our son when the little guy was 2 weeks old, and it has become a nightly requirement. Not only has it created for a special family bonding experience but it has created an incredibly verbose 3-year-old. So, sure, our daughter is already being held to observe the colors, text, and ensuing conversation of our nightly reading sessions.

Outfits. Okay, so some folks will be outfitted-out (especially if they had a baby shower before the baby’s arrival), but hear me out. I can’t count how many outfits our son never ended up wearing because a) he had outgrown them the minute he was born (he was 10+ pounds, so newborn was out of the question), b) the outfit wasn’t the correct season or c) the style of the outfit just wasn’t practical (who wants buttons and appliques and just general gaudiness on a newborn?). So, I always try to consider the upcoming season (heavy outfits or short-sleeved), the family’s general sense of style (traditional or modern, basic neutrals or super colorful), and the baby’s next stage (I always like to get comfy stuff for crawling/standing/walking stage and size up whenever necessary). Also, classic pieces like white onesies for under outfits and white socks are always nice. I always know that these things will get plenty of use.

What gift ideas do you have for a newborn’s Christmas? Do you feel that a new baby should “celebrate”?

Last week, I talked about the fact that we’re paring down our holiday festivities this year, and a few weeks back I shared how we planned to simplify Thanksgiving this year. So, today I though I’d chat about what we ARE doing to celebrate our holiday. After all, what’s Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice…) without SOME form of tradition?

simplified_christmas

There’s a lot that we simply aren’t doing this year, with a newborn and super active toddler in tow. Given that our little peanut, Harper, is just around 3 weeks and this is a super germ-filled time of year, we’re being those paranoid parents and sticking close to home with her, for the most part. So, most of our shopping was done well before she came along or online, and we’re skipping some of our admittedly favorite activities: namely, our annual schlep to a living history holiday celebration called Candlelight Evening, featuring THE St. Nicholas. (Yes. The REAL one! ;-)) The baby and I are even skipping my husband’s annual reading of “The Polar Express” at our local Barnes and Noble. We’re lucky that my in-laws were willing to take our son, Hadley, along, but I was sad to miss it. I try to remind myself that we’ll have a blast next year with a 4-year-old and 1-year-old along and able to enjoy things on a whole different level.

But, there’s a lot that we ARE able to do, and I’m downright giddy about the simple things. Here’s what we’re still excited about:

Getting a Christmas tree. We’re not going to the same place that we usually do since it’s much further away and would take TONS more work to pick up, but we’re still getting a real one! They’re actually more eco-friendly and it was silly to plop down a chunk of change for a new fake tree if we’d only use it for one year. So, we’re trying out a place that’s about 15 minutes from home (rather than 45+ minutes) and will be far quicker to get home. And, this year, I know our son will be FAR more interested in helping to hang the ornaments and Harper’s going to love the lights. Win-win!

Baking cookies. Hadley’s been craving one-on-one time with me lately, so I try to find something to do with him regularly – even a quick play session. I can’t wait to whip up some cookies and let him cut out whatever shapes his little heart desires. Plus, I’ve got a sweet tooth, so he and I will eat our weight in cookies. Can you tell I’m excited? I am.

Movies + snacks. We’re movie people. Literally. My husband actually wrote, directed, and performed in numerous indie movies in his younger days, and I’ve got one of those “old souls” (I’m a borderline expert on many classic films and even have a Katharine Hepburn autograph), so we’ve got a list of “it’s not Christmas without watching…” movies. Add to that the fact that I make some killer wassail (inspiration from the aforementioned Candlelight Evening) and homemade hot chocolate and the hubs is the popcorn maestro, and you’ve got a fun, stay-up-too-late night! So, here we come, It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and the slew of TV specials on our flash drive!

Basic decorations. We’ve already got some simple white lights strung outside, but on the inside I like to do a little more than just the tree. So, I’ll scroll a Christmas-y saying on our chalkboard, hang our stockings early (along with a banner for all the cards that arrive), and use some of the extra greenery our tree always seems to give us with an orange or two to deck the halls a bit more. If it’s away from our son, I may fill a vase with some bulb ornaments and call it a day.

Family! Christmas is all about family for us. I know it’ll be tiring, especially when straying from the routine, but we’re going to make an effort to celebrate as we normally would with our families. This means a lovely dinner and gifts on Christmas Eve with my in-laws (a small get-together but always a wonderful time), Christmas morning to our own devices, and the rest of the day with my larger, more boisterous clan. The most exciting part is that my husband’s brother and his wife welcomed their first child and my sister’s family welcomed their second child this year. So, there are THREE babies less than one! Of course, Harper’s the newest, most floppy-headed of them all (and the only baby girl), but it’s definitely a year we’ll all remember!

Are you guys planning a simple holiday season this year, or are you doing it up big-time?

I’d love to hear how you celebrate!

One of the best parts of the holiday season is tradition. Traditions can give our holidays a sense of consistency, and help us reach back to warm, love-filled memories of our own childhood. Sometimes we even get so caught up in maintaining our favorite traditions that we find we bury ourselves in a ton of (unnecessary) stress and even lose sight of what the season should be.

I try to remember this when looking ahead on our calendar this upcoming month or so, knowing full well that, this year, something’s gotta give. With a newborn tossed in the mix along with a super active (at times challenging) 3-year-old, I’ve given myself permission to tone it down. Upon making up my mind, I decided to look into the actual meaning of the word “tradition.” Here’s the definition according to Merriam-Webster:

tradition

One thing that stands out to me here is the phrase “for a long time.” It doesn’t say “performed annually” or “strictly adhered to on a yearly basis” or any variation like that. So, who says a tradition has to be an annual event? The calendar? Our families? Our church? Ourselves? Everyone’s answer here may be different, but I know that most of my own traditions are self-imposed.

I understand why we adhere to traditions, I do. Heck, there are some that give me a twinge in my heart to miss this year. But, we’re doing our best not to give up every single tradition. We’re just not going to beat ourselves up if we’re unable to get to them all. Or half. 😉

Next week, I’m planning on sharing what our “priority” traditions are (and what’s being tossed aside – at least for this year). Ultimately, though, in our process of simplifying life, I’ve learned a couple of things:

#1 – You don’t have to give up EVERYTHING; it’s okay just to slim it down. Say, instead of making a dozen different types of cookies, try asking your family for their top three and make those. Or, instead of getting folks a million gifts, go for one awesome present per person. Just analyze what your family deems to be traditions and reflect on which are “musts” and which aren’t quite as imperative.

#2 – Just because it’s a simple tradition doesn’t mean it’s any less of a tradition. Embrace and enjoy these simple ones. Staying up late to watch a Christmas special and eat a family-sized bowl of popcorn? Totally counts as tradition – and it doesn’t even have to be the same special every year. I still fondly recall watching some horrible New Kids on the Block Christmas special when I was a kid alongside my mother (regardless of the ones we usually watched annually), and it’s not because of the quality of the show. Most of my memories involve incredibly simple tasks – stringing popcorn and cranberries, frosting cookies, basking in the glow of the tree, the feeling of choosing the perfect gift (and having it well received), and so on. The simpler, the better.

So, what are the traditions you’re looking forward to most this year? The ones you couldn’t slim down or skip for even a year?

harper_quinn_announcement

So, we are officially the proud parents of two littles. That’s right – on Friday, November 13th, we welcomed our daughter, Harper Quinn, into our silly little nuthouse.

I thought I’d share what we’ve learned in the brief time that we’ve officially been “not quite outnumbered but each have full hands” parents of two (and as second timers on “Team Green” – surprise gender!). Let’s see if any of you parents of 2+ agree or have dealt with any of these things!

Surprises

It’s a Girl!!! Everyone – strangers, family, coworkers, even me at points – INSISTED it would be another boy. I carried the same way, had a completely identical pregnancy, and the baby was “all in front.” Ha. As we walked into the hospital at 5:30am, we saw a terrified new daddy wheeling his juuuuust born little (I mean little) girl by us and I had my first twinge of “I kinda hope it’s a girl…” I had told people that we’d be super surprised (and ecstatic) if it turned out to be a girl, but that was the first time I allowed myself to have a wishful feeling about it. So, needless to say, the cheer we gave when the announcement was made was glorious. Plus, my husband is from a two-boy family, so it was about time they got a little lady in their lives.

This time, I watched. Since our practitioners don’t advise VBACs and our son was 10+ pounds (and super late), we opted for a second C-section. I wasn’t necessarily pleased with the choice, but I was resolved to simply have a healthy child. But, one thing I did try this time? Asking the couldn’t-be-sweeter anesthesiologist to hold a mirror so that I could watch the birth. Oh. My. Goodness. I’m so grateful that I was told about this option in advance! It was a total out-of-body experience and the tears flowed (then the joy, when her gender was announced). It definitely helped me connect to the experience more completely.

The pain. Okay, since I already had a C-section with our son, I thought I knew what to expect. However, with a toddler to chase and life still in full swing, I’ve definitely felt more pain and twinges all over the place, with little extra time to rest, or heal super calmly. And, while we’re at it, I’m way more hormonal this time. Lots of tears (no baby blues or PPD as far as I can see!) over stupid little things.

Her personality. We all know how special our kids are, right? Our son is super intelligent, precocious, slightly high-maintenance, active, and sweet. I found myself hoping that our next child would be a carbon copy and having a hard time envisioning someone NOT like Hadley. Being from a family of four and knowing that all of our personalities are different told me that the odds weren’t in our favor. So, of course, she is *so far* incredibly different. Calm, good-natured, quiet, pensive, aware of her surroundings…but, also super sweet and adorable. 😉 Plus, they look a heck of a lot alike, so that’s pretty awesome.

Parenting worries are totally different than what we had expected. We knew it’d be a tough transition for our son, no matter how much he really does show that he loves “his baby.” For the most part, he ignores her and doesn’t have blatant issues with her being around whatsoever. But, clearly there’s a transition happening, and he’s acting out in the brattiest, most disappointing of ways. On the other hand, we had expected to completely forget the ins-and-outs of caring for an infant. Surprisingly, though, it came back pretty much immediately. Plus, her low-key demeanor doesn’t hurt the situation, either. *whew* Thank goodness for small miracles.

Not-So-Surprises

Transitions are not a toddler’s favorite thing. As I mentioned above, we had expected to have a bigger challenge on our hands with the baby. But, the challenge, so far, has been solely in the toddler realm. In some ways, it’s exactly how we had expected it to happen; in other ways, it’s far, far more difficult. Dealing with an obstinate 3-year-old (especially with an unhealed C-section incision) is tough, but we’re trying to remember his side of things in the meantime. The best parenting lesson I know, thanks to Hadley, is that everything is a phase. Some phases are just longer than others, but this, too, shall pass, and we’ll miss this when he’s a teenager. Maybe. 😉

Less attention. We’ve had a lot less attention from friends and family and, ohhh, it’s generally a wonderful thing. There were a few visitors in the hospital, but the stay was overall far less stressful and packed. We knew not to schedule a million visitors upon returning home, and those who come are super helpful.

Advice is still to be taken with a grain of salt. The first time around, we got SO MUCH ADVICE about EVERYTHING (gotta love when someone with zero breastfeeding experience gives their two cents…). This time? My husband has been told numerous times “wipe front to back.” Um. Thanks. And that was literally the only thing he had already known about baby girls, so it’s not super helpful. The generalizations are pretty annoying – the “wait until she’s a teen” and “buy a house with an extra bathroom” (okay, that one may be true…we’ve only got one) – and make me think, like, I’M A GIRL. And I had brothers. Our teen years were all very different, but our behaviors were markedly similar. So, why don’t people say those things about boys? Ah, so it begins.

What about you guys? Were there any huge surprises for you the second (or third or fourth…) time around? Anything that you were better prepared for?