Misc. Motherhood Dispatches.

By: Jen Shoop

+My boy is two months old tomorrow, and I can’t bear it. His firsts and lasts slay me, especially as I usually take stock of them late at night, in the quiet of a 3 a.m. nursing session, when I am prone toward weepiness anyhow, and I realize with some combination of remorse and mawkishness that it is far harder to keep tabs on the minute evolutions of this little soul with an active, demanding, in-the-midst-of-learning-to-use-the-toilet toddler around. I am fairly sure Hill will be our last child and so — oh. The tenderest to realize that not only is time flying, but it is flying by occasionally without a tenth of the notice and devotion I afforded mini’s early weeks. And so, shelving or donating his too-small clothes (he has already outgrown a small crop of them) wrenches my heart.

+I once told a room full of women here in New York that having a double stroller in Manhattan is “unseemly.” I was cavalier, uninitiated, stubborn, and though I was angling for a laugh, it was an inelegant thing to say anyhow. (Though, in my defense, I have been run over or boxed out by one too many of them in my time here, and the double wide strollers take over entire sidewalks, forcing other pedestrians into the street.) At any rate, we are making do just fine with our combination of Bugaboo, Yoyo, and Baby Bjorn Mini carrier. Most days, mini is out with her nanny in the Bugaboo and, when I need to go out, I put micro in his Nuna carseat, which has been conveniently strapped into the Yoyo using these new-fangled adapters. Not the prettiest sight, but it works and it’s incredibly lightweight and it’s meant we can get by without purchasing a third stroller or being beholden to the carrier when we want to take long walks. (Also, I rather like the zippered pouch in the back of the Yoyo — most days, I don’t even carry a baby bag with me when I’m out with micro on my own, and I just keep my wallet, key, phone, and emergency pacifier in there, as we never venture far from home and are never gone for more than an hour at a time because he’s still nursing every three hours. More products for a hands-free parenting life here.) When we take both kids out together, we either take both strollers and each push one or one of us carries the baby in the carrier. The Bugaboo ride along board we optimistically purchased for mini (as the Nuna carseat also snaps into the Bugaboo base) has been used a grand total of once or twice. Mini will occasionally sit on it out of novelty but it’s maddeningly useless when we need to quickly leave somewhere and need her strapped into a seat instead of dramatically wailing and leaping off a kick board. Maybe its utility will increase with her age, but…

+I prattled above, but the truth is — I do wish I had one of those “unseemly” Bugaboo double strollers. I’d order one in a flash if we lived anywhere but here, and if Mr. Magpie wouldn’t possibly blow a gasket if I introduce one additional piece of baby gear to our massive collection. We used to be so good about keeping baby gear and toys to a minimum in our apartment. At night, save for the monstrous stroller parked in our foyer, it was as though no child lived in our home. All toys were hidden in compartments, larger items broken down and stowed, candles and trinkets returned to their rightful places on coffee tables. Now, we’ve lost the battle. There is a children’s table in our living area, permanently littered with crayons and Little People. There are two overflowing baskets of books and toys whose mountainous contents continue to escalate in height with dizzying alacrity. The bath tub in our master bathroom has become the permanent home to a tangle of bath toys, micro’s Puj (<<more on this later) is seemingly always air-drying on its floor, and its tile is forever adorned with bath crayon scribbles from our beloved. Our closets might implode from the collective weight of baby gear and clothing. There is nearly always a small stack of neatly folded laundry on the dining table. Etc. At any rate, at this point, I think we have made do long enough with our travel stroller, Bugaboo, and carrier permutations, but oh how I long for the double stroller when I am with both on my own. How convenient! How simple! How much less hack-y! But, there isn’t much of a lifespan for such a splurge anyhow, as mini is off to school in a month and a half and suddenly the number of times I will be out with both on my own will be dramatically reduced, I think.

+But still. I’ll admit to a gear-aholic envy when I see one of those Bugaboo doubles roll by…

+One of my girlfriends commented, with no small amount of (undeserved?) admiration, that I put Hill “down to sleep” at under a month of age. I had forgotten that, with mini, we never really demarcated between night and day until she started going for longer stretches between feeds — perhaps at around three months? — as it didn’t really seem to matter. It’s a feeding “lather, rinse, repeat” routine no matter what time of day with a newborn, right? With micro, though, I usually feed him around 7:30-8, bathe him and change him into his pajamas, draw the blinds, turn out the lights, and put him to sleep in his bassinet, positioned like a sidecar on my side of the bed. On good nights, he will sleep his longest stretch at that point — until around 2 a.m. It’s a lovely gift, even if he then does tend to wake again at 4 and again for the day at 6:15. (Odd, but he nearly always wakes me at 6:12, 6:13, or 6:15. Like clockwork.) Upon reflection invoked by my friend’s comment, it dawned on me that perhaps his delightful habit of sleeping from around 8/9 to 2 was owing to our bedtime routine? Hm.

+With regards to infant bathing: this time around, I only bought micro the Puj Flyte, which is sort of like a travel version of the Puj tub. I honestly don’t know why anyone would get the full Puj at this point. The Flyte is less expensive and less bulky but better constructed (I far prefer the material of the Flyte, which is a heavy rubber, instead of the easy-to-scratch foam of the full-size Puj), and I swear it is the same size tub? Meaning that micro will soon outgrow it (as mini did the full-size Puj, at around 2-3 months), which is fine, because I have the Boon ready and will be able to use it now that I’ve healed from the c-section and bending over is no longer an issue. But so — the Flyte! I love it! Also folds in half and can easily fit into a suitcase. Strongly recommend.

+Micro had a mild case of cradle cap and though I know it goes away on its own, I am horribly vain on behalf of my children, and I learned from the sweet Colombian nanny we had back in Chicago how to treat it. It disappeared within two days of the following regimen: massage baby oil (she also advised olive oil, if you don’t have any Johnson’s on hand) into baby’s hair and let sit. Then loosen and brush out the flakes using this little brush (note the 1,500 five star reviews). Then massage in additional oil and let it sit for an hour or so before bathing him with this shampoo. Voila. I share this boring remedy because I would have had no idea how to deal with it had I not had a lovely nanny show me the way, and maybe it will strike someone as helpful.

+Deciding to toilet train mini while micro was under two months of age was not…my most brilliant decision. But I had told Mr. Magpie I simply could not take on anything else while I was a million months pregnant, and I had also promised I would get toilet-training started prior to the start of the school year–and so mid-July felt like the right time. (Plus, our life is generally chaotic and messy and out of focus right now; why not add one more thing to the plate? Ha.) Our school does not require children entering the program be toilet-trained, but they strongly encourage it, and — well, the truth was, mini had been giving us signals she was ready. Beyond that, though I generally do a decent job of blocking out parenting peer pressure (“oh, your daughter hasn’t been taking Mandarin since the age of six months?” etc), I will admit that I felt anxious to keep up with the joneses on this front, as I would never want mini to feel weird or behind her peers, and I knew that some of the kiddos she pals around with were either toilet trained or in the process thereof. I will dedicate a longer post to the…adventure (carefully selecting my euphemism there) of toileting once it’s more firmly in our rear-view mirror and I am confident we’ve gotten to a reliable place with it, but let me just say here that toileting is kind of like breast-feeding in that everyone has different advice and strategies and no one possibly knows what will work best for you, your family, and your child. I had a lot of moms tell me to just give up if mini wasn’t “getting it” by day two and return to it a few months down the road. I had other moms tell me to stick to my guns, as waffling back and forth would be very confusing. There were urgent claims about the three-day-pants-free method, and others about only using underwear (no pull-ups ever, even at night!); others about the danger of using bribery, and still others advising a lollipop as a reward for each successful trip to the toilet. And those are just a handful of the bits of advice I absorbed, wide-eyed and confused. My point is this: sift through the advice and forge your own path, as even the best-intentioned suggestions of others often fail to account for important ancillary details, like whether you are able to stay at home with your child consistently for, say, a week, or whether you have a nanny who can relieve you and support you in your process when you think you might rip out your hair (ha) or whether your child is in a proper bed or still in a crib or whether you have any major events or trips coming up that might throw a wrench into things. I’ll lay out our strategy in a future post for those interested, but I will say that the biggest takeaway for me was to think of “progress” in very different terms than I’d initially imagined. For us, it turned out to be less important that mini successfully use the toilet for the first few days and more important that the number of accidents decreased (i.e., she was becoming more aware of “holding it”) and that her comfort with sitting on the toilet increased (i.e., she seemed to be less intimidated by the concept). Every day, we saw small, incremental shifts in her attitude and physical awareness, and then, on the fifth day (yes, fifth — even my nanny thought I was insane for sticking with the program), it just seemed to click.

+This book, the Sesame Street episode on toilet training, and the Youtube video “Potty Monkey” (thank you, W.!) seemed to grab mini’s attention on the topic of using the toilet. Again, every child is different, but I found these helpful as a way of explaining the process with visuals — and as a conceptual hook for reiterating things. (Mini would even say things like, “I want to pee like Elmo” and make the noises that the monkey makes while sitting on the toilet — ha!) I had also heard good things about this “body puzzle” as a tool for explaining things, but we never bought it. We also did not use a chart or formal rewards system, which seem to be the convention among most of my mom friends, so who knows what the hell we’re doing…to each her own, again.

+Both because mini is in the midst of toileting and because her school sent a (40 page!) parent handbook outlining appropriate attire among other regulations, I have been hunting for outfits that are easy for mini to get on/off, easy to wash, and — as the parent guidebook said — optimized for movement and play. This has been a hard pill to swallow as I have always subscribed to the belief that I would dress mini up and then let her play — and so she has cultivated quite the reputation for personal style among the nannies and their charges with whom she plays on a weekly basis. (Ha!) I’ve had other moms express judgment on this front (“you must spend all your time ironing” and “don’t you ever let her dress in play clothes?”), but harrumph! I have never seen her outfit impede her from play, and I’m never overly precious either: never have the words “don’t get dirty” escaped my lips. I want a rough-and-tumbly kind of girl, though she may be dressed in smocked dresses and crisp bubbles — and so was distraught when, on our trip to the Hamptons, she expressed squeamishness over running through the backyard with bare feet after stepping into a mound of mud on one such sprint. We got her over the hump, but — oh! I want a child who plays in the dirt, lets popsicle juice drip down her arm, and whose clothes return with the markings and stains of a good time out-of-doors. But still. I feel I owe it to her to find more cotton play dresses and shorts for the near term. Below, the items I’ve either ordered or am eyeing so far:











Post Scripts.

+Mini loves these little $2 sticker activity books. I bought a whole bunch and have scattered them throughout my bags, in the stroller, by the toilet she uses, etc. (She also still loves these.)

+The lopsided dance of motherhood.

+Micro absolutely LOVES this hideous floor mirror and the little balls on his rocker. He must spend a good hour each day gazing at either/both before drifting off to sleep. (Also, the rocker is getting SO much use — micro loves it! Every baby is different, but this really works well for him.)

+I love this post reflecting on the matrilineal line in my family.

+Mini has been obsessed with nightgowns lately. I ordered this one and this one for her, but her long-time favorite is this one (and I could EAT HER UP when she wears it — too, too precious).

+The best baby gear.

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8 thoughts on “Misc. Motherhood Dispatches.

  1. We also recently potty trained our toddler when my infant was almost 2 months old! Maybe not ideal timing but you do what you gotta do sometimes 🙂

  2. Comparing your description of your apartment to all of my friends’ who have children in Manhattan — it’s totally normal to have the detritus of young children (somewhat) all over the place! I think it’s just part of childhood in small spaces and this season of life.

    Love those options for play clothes for mini. I am a proud aunt to two nieces and you always have the best picks for clothing for little ones! xx

    1. Thanks! I love love love shopping for little ones if you haven’t noticed 🙂

      And glad to hear that I’m not alone in the baby gear explosion!


  3. Ugh the potty training – I agree, though, you need to find what’s best for your child (and I am
    still working on focusing on the smaller signs of progress…).

    And yes to the play clothes. Mine seems to be perfectly happy making a mess in whatever she’s wearing (and will proudly come home from childcare saying “I got really really messy today” to which I say “hooray, it sounds like you had fun!”). It honestly took me awhile to be okay with the messy stage, but now I just spritz her stained clothes with stain remover and let them soak in a tub until I’m ready to wash them (have found this cute down drastically on stains sticking around).

    Love your nightgown recs – mine too has recently started loving wearing them, and it kills me how grownup she looks!

    1. Jen! Re: toileting — I should also mention that it’s not been a straight line with us, either. Steps forward and back. Making it extra hard to celebrate the smaller signs of progress. HA! This is no joke the most hardcore part of parenting thus far, with the exception of caring for a sick baby, which I am also doing right now 🙁 It’s been a rough week. But we’re getting there.

      Love that response — “hooray, sounds like you had fun!” What a sweet thing to say.


  4. I have found that having more children is a more humbling experience… for me! When I thought I was when my first slept through the night, at 3 months, I just knew it was from everything I did. Yet, when the same method proved vastly different results for my 2nd (and 3rd!) I realized… I still have a lot to learn. Carry this into many, MANY other aspects of parenting and life!!

    1. Anna — this is so, so true. I’m totally humbled and honestly have no idea whether what I’m doing is working or more self-directed/related to the child’s personality. All we can do is try and then respond to whatever is put in front of us. Interestingly, my mom told me that when she was toilet training the third of her five children (!!!), she was running into issues and talked it over with her pediatrician. The doctor said: “Let me tell you something — B.R.I.B.E.R.Y. Try it. Doesn’t work for everyone kid and shouldn’t be used for every kid but it sounds like you’ll get where you need to go using it with this one.” I thought that was so enlightening and, honestly, guilt-relieving…


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