Unsolicited Advice for Parents-to-Be

I have about a million pregnant friends right now. Here’s the new parent advice post no one has asked me to write. Because if there is anyone who gets unsolicited advice, it is new moms.

The first few months might totally suck, or they might not.

Some babies come out cooing adorable blobs who sleep and smile and are generally great. These are called “easy” babies, and I hope you have one. But you might not. Some babies just are not happy with their lot in life. For the first few months my daughter had two states: crying and sleeping. She almost never slept. When people told me to “just enjoy” the newborn phase I wanted to punch them in the face.

I’m not saying this to scare you. Most babies are not as hard as mine was. But if yours is, it’s OK to not like it. It’s OK to wish your miserable grub would hurry up and start becoming a sentient being. The good news is they will grow out of it, and quickly. It’ll feel like an eternity while you’re living through it, but it’ll pass. Really. Once Bitmap got mobile she was like a totally different (happy) kid.

If the newborn stage sucks, just hang on. It’ll get better. And don’t be afraid to ask for help in the meantime.

You will feel like you are screwing it up. Maybe a lot.

worlds_okayest_mom_mugIn a world of mommy blogs and pinterest familes, it’s easy to feel like you’re fucking up. Whatever your parenting “style” is, you probably won’t be able to live up to it 100%. There will be times when your kid eats nothing but kraft cheese, or watches TV for 2 hours straight, or stays up till 10, or you’re just too goddamned tired to get out of bed to rock him to sleep for the 27th time. This doesn’t make you a bad parent, it makes you a human. It’s OK to be less than perfect. Shrug it off and try to do better next time.

Your instincts know better than Dr Sears

Parenting book are great for the “what the hell do I do when…” stuff, but don’t let them override your gut instincts. You know your kid better than any book does, and if something doesn’t seem like it’s right for your family, just don’t do it. Parenting books are written to help manage the average child, but no child is actually average.

You’ll run into this a lot when talking about anything sleep-related. Let them cry. Never let them cry. Co-sleep. Never co-sleep. Every kid is different, just try stuff until you find something that works.

Take care of yourself

A kid whose parents are insane from sleep deprivation or running around like crazy people isn’t gaining much. Not every naptime needs to be spent making organic baby food puree. No one who has actually done this before will judge you if you grab a jar of Gerber and pour yourself a glass of wine every now and then. Find a qualified babysitter and get out of the house on occasion. Yes, it’s expensive, but not as expensive as the years of therapy your kid will need if you start resenting them for ruining your life. Don’t wait until your kid is off to college to have your first postpartum date night.

Speaking of postpartum life, stand up for yourself if something feels off. Giving birth is a huge thing for your body to go through, and it’ll take a while to recover fully but you shouldn’t feel totally broken. Occasionally, weird stuff happens. If it’s been a few weeks and things aren’t getting back to normal, body-wise, talk to your doctor and insist they take it seriously.

Find yourself a village

Raising a kid is about 8,000 times easier if you have a local network of people you trust. If you have a group of friends with kids around the same age, you can trade babysitting services on credit and have a social life without breaking the bank. For some people, family is a godsend. If your family sucks, you might find your village at church. If your’e not religious, try a local parenting group.

If you’ve been thinking of going back to church/temple, now is a great time. Being pregnant or having a young child is a pretty good ice breaker. Also, if you go to a new church and no one talks to you, find a church that sucks less. It’s OK if it’s not the same denomination as what you grew up with, the basic principals are usually the same. Finding friendly people who share your general world view is more important than going somewhere you agree with the priest or rabbi on every bit of religious minutiae.

If you’re not strongly religious, but like the idea of a church community, try Unitarian Universalists (sometimes described as church for agnostics) and if you’re atheist try the Secular Humanists.

Cover all upholstered furniture

Seriously, babies are puke factories. That tiny burp cloth is adorable, but ultimately useless. Just cover the whole damned couch with a waterproof mattress pad and some cheap sheets from Target. You can reunite with your couch once your kid’s stomach valve has figured out how to close.


Congratulations, you now know everything I do about parenting. Good luck.

Cooking, Family

Making Baby Food Pouches

Remember how I gave up on making baby food because it was crushing me emotionally? Well, these days I have a toddler brimming with teeth, and even a few molars in there. You’d think I’m well past the woolly world of pureed vegetables. You’d think that at 15 months, my daughter would be shoveling finger food into her mouth. And you’d be wrong.

Vegetables, she has decided, are not finger food. Vegetables are for throwing on the floor. I tried burying shredded broccoli in mac and cheese. She took a bite, chewed it, reached into her mouth, and pulled out the offending plant. She then handed it to me with a look that said “I think you lost this, here it is.”

Pouches of pureed vegetables (preferably with fruit mixed in) are the only way I can get most veggies into this kid. As a bonus, they’re fairly clean and she can self feed them. As an anti-bonus, they cost a goddamned fortune. Amazon’s Subscribe & Save brings the price down, but not nearly enough.


We saw the Infantino Fresh Squeezed system at Target, and I was intrigued by the idea of not having to mortgage our house to get Bitmap to eat some veggies. I also happened to be at Target for some post-miscarriage retail therapy, so I was totally into the idea of buying some stupid baby food thing I don’t really need. RevolvingDork was less convinced, but for $20 was willing to try it if it meant I would stop pouting at him. Oh and the reviews online were all very positive.

You guys, I am totally in love with this thing.

It is really weirdly satisfying to shove puree into little pouches with a plunger, and even more exciting to see Bitmap consume things like carrots and spinach. I’ve been making purees of pretty much everything. I’ll give her a store-bought pouch to sample, and if it’s a hit I will recreate it in my food processor. So far it’s great. She can eat them without my help, they’re relatively tidy, and oh thank god she is eating vegetables.

The pouches are disposable (though they do make a reuseable one), and they do cost a little more than I’d like. It’s still not a cheap way to feed your kid. But if I think of it as a bribe for eating vegetables it almost seems reasonable. And it’s still a hell of a lot cheaper than the store-bought pouches (most of which range from $1.25 to $1.90 per pouch).

Various purees ready to eat
Various purees ready to eat

I throw equal parts cooked veggies and applesauce/pearsauce into the food processor and blend until smooth. If you are a super amazing mom who loves her children more than her sanity, you will probably pick some organic produce from your hobby farm and steam it lovingly before smashing it for your child. If you are like me, frozen or canned veggies are totally fine. Also, it turns out pre-made applesauce is WAY CHEAPER than buying fresh apples and saucing them. Just make sure to read the labels on everything to make sure there’s no added salt / sugar.

A can of pears + a can of peas is enough to make 4 pouches of food. They’re around $1 per can. Four disposable pouches works out to roughly $1.30. So add that all up ($3.30) and the cost per pouch is $0.82. More than I’d like, but far cheaper than the store bought ones.

I also make some yogurt + fruit pouches, which I keep in the freezer and serve as smoothies. Either run them under warm water for a bit or let them warm up in the fridge before serving. We gave one to Bitmap this evening after she bit her lip. It cured her hysteria instantly.

She's gonna make it after all
She’s gonna make it after all

Here are some “recipes” that Bitmap likes. I use either fresh, frozen, or canned food as it’s available. Fresh veggies are great, but I won’t judge you if you’re too tired to do anything but crank the can opener. Smoothies are a good use for fruit that is looking slightly over-ripe. You may need to add a little water to get the consistency you’re after.

Strawberry Spinach Smoothie (makes 4-5 pouches)

1 cup greek yogurt
2 cups whole strawberries
1 cup steamed spinach (or kale)

Spinach Applesauce (makes 2-3 pouches)

1 cup steamed spinach
1 cup applesauce

Applesauce / Pearsauce and Veggies (makes 4-5 pouches)

1 cup steamed peas
1 cup steamed green beans
1.5 cups applesauce or pearsauce


Loss and Hope

A few weeks ago I found out I was pregnant. I admit I wasn’t entirely thrilled at first, having hated being pregnant the first time around. But I slowly came around to the idea, and started getting really excited about adding another little blob to our family.

On Friday I went to the midwife’s office, and everything looked normal. Because I wasn’t exactly sure how far along I was, we scheduled an ultrasound to date the pregnancy. On Wednesday I popped into the hospital for a quick ultrasound. Forty-five minutes later we were still waiting for the “result” from the radiologist, which was a red flag to me, but I shrugged it off as paranoia. Then I got a call from my midwife, who let me know our fetus had no heartbeat.

In that moment I felt like the world ended. I went straight into denial. Surely it was a mistake, since the fetus was measuring right where we thought it would. I cried and cursed and begged the radiologist to admit that this fell within some sort of margin of error, and that everything was actually OK. At only 8 weeks along, they must have just missed the tiny heartbeat. There was no way it wasn’t there. I knew in my heart they were right, but I held on to every shred of denial I could.

I asked if I could see for myself, and the radiologist obliged. Back up on the ultrasound table, I could see our little proto-human, with its big head and lizard-like tail. The tech showed us where she looks for heart movement, and I recalled how on my 6 week ultrasound with Bitmap we watched her little heart beat furiously. Fetusaurus just had a black dot. She pulled up an overlay which showed blood flow, and my body lit up like a blue and red Christmas tree. Fetusaurus remained an island of grey on the screen, sitting serenely among the hustle and bustle of my insides. In that moment I acknowledged the truth: Fetusaurus was not going to grow into Baby #2.

I did a lot of crying that day, and have a lot of crying yet to do. But I’m also starting to get some perspective. Tragic as it is, these things happen. At this stage, we have no reason to believe I won’t be able to carry another child to term. We didn’t have to jump through any medical hoops to get pregnant, and my first pregnancy was totally normal (if unpleasant).

My friends have rallied around me and I feel truly blessed to have such a wonderful support network. Many of them are pregnant as well, and due around the same time I was. I thought I might feel some resentment towards their pregnancies, but it turns out I’m just happy to have some good news to contrast mine.

A friend of mine told me her mother had eight miscarriages before she was born. Eight. I can’t even imagine how one goes through that, but her mother maintains “I knew it was you every time.” The idea of a persistent soul trying to find a viable vessel is comforting to me. And makes about as much sense as any other religious explanation. So while it may not be Christian canon, I’ve adopted it for myself.

Baby #2 will have to wait a little longer to meet us, but I know it will eventually. I’ve learned over the years that families grow in a huge variety of ways. Some of them happen the old fashioned way, some require the help of medical intervention, and some are made through legal declarations. But as I wade through my haze of grief I know that this is a setback on the road to growing our family, not the end.



Photo by Liz Paradiso
Photo by Liz Paradiso

At 13 months, Bitmap is starting to talk. Her first word was “Bye” a few months ago, which she now says emphatically any time she’s tired of being somewhere. She has a vocabulary of about 8 words: hi, bye, mama, dada, more, banana, cracker, and doggy. She says ‘nana for banana, and has yet to differentiate between mama and dada (but knows that they’re words for her parents). Additionally, she’ll clap her hands and say “yay” when she’s happy.

We still sign a little, which helps differentiate between what she’s trying to say. Mostly she says ‘more’ while making the sign, because she always wants more food. Unfortunately she’s also a picky eater. I try to sneak as many veggies in as possible (peanut butter and kale sandwiches are our current go-to toddler snack) but she’s pretty willful about not eating food she doesn’t like.



Travelling with a baby

Recently RevolvingDork and I headed to Detroit for a wedding. We have been doing a lot of traveling with Bitmap recently and we’re finally starting to get good at it.

At the airport and on the plane

Bitmap had her own seat on the plane, and we brought along her car seat to use. We have a Safety 1st infant seat and it fit in coach just fine, although the flight attendant said Bitmap had to have the window seat.

I carried Bitmap through the metal detector, and they pulled her bag aside for a hand check since it had bottles, formula, water, and baby food in it. In addition to her car seat we brought the folding stroller frame it fits in, which we gate checked. Gate checking is perfect for things like strollers; you drop the item off on the jetway so you have it right up until departure but don’t have to deal with cramming it into the overhead bins.

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Bitmap was REALLY into the water feature at the airport

The flights themselves were pretty uneventful, although after a delay on our flight home Bitmap was getting tired of being in her car seat.

At the hotel 

We called the hotel ahead and found out that they had pack-n’-play cribs available, making for one less item we had to lug on the plane.

Sharing a room with a baby can mean little sleep for anyone. Bitmap and I are light sleepers. White noise has been a godsend. Having white noise in the room makes it possible for RevolvingDork and I to flush the toilet or rummage around in a bag without waking the baby.

We use the ‘pink noise’ file from You can play the sound from their site directly, download an app, or load the mp3 file onto your ipod. We chose the last option. I have an old portable ipod dock we pack in the baby bag. Many hotels have ipod docks these days, but I find it’s nice to have our own.

Of course, my mother in law has a much simpler solution: turn the radio to static.

There’s a free baby monitor android app we use which will call the number of you choice if the baby cries so you can listen in. I leave my phone in the room (plugged in so it won’t run out of battery) and set it to call RevolvingDork. But usually when we travel she’s so tired it isn’t an issue at all.


Bitmap travels pretty well. She’s at an age where she’s generally accepting of strangers, and loves to explore new places. The hotel room itself was fascinating enough we didn’t have to get out any toys. I’m not dying to jump on an airplane with her again any time soon, but it’s totally doable.



So this happened


While sitting in traffic on the way to daycare this morning, I got rear-ended. The guy behind me accidentally nailed the gas instead of the brake, which sent me careening into the car in front of me. Oof.

My first instinct was to panic. I had no idea what to do so I called the first grown up I could think of: my father in-law who also happens to be a police officer. He called up my local district and had them dispatch an officer to the scene.

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It took us about an hour to exchange information and get everything straight on the police report. Everyone was very pleasant, if a bit irritated about giving up their morning. My car suffered the most damage by far, having been in the middle of a automotive sandwich. I was able to drive it home (one whole block away) and I think we’ll be able to limp into the auto repair shop.

Bitmap was in the car and seemed unconcerned. She was strapped into her carseat which looks more like a NASCAR harness than a baby carrier. I have some whiplash, and a headache, so I went to the hospital to get checked out. They said I’ll be sore for a few days, and to watch out for signs of internal bleeding (yikes!) but I’m otherwise OK.

So other than the irritation of getting to spend the rest of my week playing phone tag with the insurance company, I’m OK. It’s just not how I’d planned to spend my Thursday morning.


Tantrum Time

Bitmap is just about a year old now! She is celebrating by being a jerk.

Ok, fine, not a jerk, she’s just little. And she has opinions. And she expresses them, constantly. I feel very much in tune with the blog Reasons My Son Is Crying, where such offenses include “we let him play on the grass” and “the juice is not milk.”

Here she is being cute. Which, to be fair, is most of the time.
Here she is being cute. Which, to be fair, is most of the time.

I’m trying to keep from letting it stress me out. I have to accept that it is not possible, and probably even not good, to keep her happy 100% of the time. Sometimes, she will have to cope with less-than-ideal situations such as playing with HER toys instead of MY toys. Because I need those keys to drive the car.

I read the book Bringing Up Bebe, which I have mixed feelings about, but it did make me realize I need to stop hovering over her all the time. And that provided she is not bleeding, it is OK to finish what I am doing before tending to her.

So now when she starts throwing a fit because I closed the refrigerator door, I offer her a toy. And if she rejects it I shrug my shoulders, say OK, and go back to what I was doing. I presented her an option, play with a toy or cry, and she chose to cry. That’s her prerogative. It doesn’t mean I have to stop everything and present her with every toy in the house until she finds one she likes. She knows where the toy box is. Dumped out in the middle of the room.

We’re starting to do the same thing with food. You want a snack? Have some veggies. Oh you don’t want veggies? Let me offer you every food item in the kitchen get you down from your high chair because you must not be that hungry after all.

My mother asked me “does it work?”  Well, sort of. Has she magically transformed into a broccoli eating, even keeled delight? No. She still throws tantrums, and eats way more white bread that I’d like. But I’m spending less time freaking out because she’s crying. She’s spending more time exploring things on her own, and as a side effect I’m also starting to hone my “mom voice.” Sometimes when I say “no” she even pauses before smiling (it’s more like troll face) and going back to what she was doing – and overall we’re much happier.


9 Months!

I guess my inability to post more than once a month disqualifies me for mommy blogger of the year. The truth is, between parenting, my new gigs, and trying to have a little bit of a life it’s really hard to find time to write.

483761_10101018516082656_2077340170_nBitmap is getting HUGE. She’s crawling like crazy, and starting to stand up independently. She’s so good at crawling though that she doesn’t really seem that into walking. But we went to the play area at the local mall and she had a blast.

I wanted to get a jogging stroller now that it’s starting to thaw out, but didn’t want to drop $200+ on something I wasn’t sure I’d use. So I asked the local mom’s mailing list if anyone had one I could borrow for a week. I got 3 offers from people who had unused joggers they just wanted out of the house. So for a grand total of $0 I got two joggers, one for here and one to keep at my in-laws’ house down at the shore. Which is good because neither of them fold very easily so I’m not sure how I’d fit them in our car.

The calm before the shots.
The calm before the shots.

She had her 9 month check up and everything looks good. She’s up to 18 pounds, 8 ounces which is average for her age, and 2’3″ long. Also she still has a 90th percentile head. I guess she’ll grow into it?

Meanwhile I’m doing a bunch of knitting, and finally finished a sweater I made for a friend’s baby. Bitmap was gracious enough to model it for me before I put it through the wash to soften it up.


My next big project is to organize my office, which is a mess because there isn’t a place for everything so I just put it all on the floor. But every time I sit down to do some organizing I get overwhelmed and quit, so we’ll see if that one happens any time soon. Right now Bitmap isn’t allowed in my office because there are way too many things that could hurt her, and she gets in to everything.

Oof, I can’t believe it’s March already.

Crafting, Family

Sick Baby

Poor Bitmap has a cold, she’s been bringing them home from daycare on a regular basis. Which means that I’ve also had a cold pretty much nonstop for the last month. This one has hit her the hardest, she spent most of yesterday snoozing.

Bitmap and her dad


I did finally get around to making her a new hat. She outgrew her biggest one months ago, and I’ve been getting lots of dirty looks from nosy mothers who can’t believe I have her outside without a hat.

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The good news is that Bitmap is sleeping much better these days. She goes to bed at 9 and usually sleeps until about 5am, when she nurses and then goes back to sleep until 8. So I’m finally starting to get enough sleep to think straight. Which is good because I’ve picked up some more freelance WordPress dev work.

Aside from bringing home every germ on the planet, she’s really liking daycare. She’s pulling herself up to standing, and can walk around if she’s got something to lean on.

We still spend Mondays together, and maybe if it stops raining today we’ll go on a walk through the neighborhood. I can’t wait for spring.

Crafting, Family



Christmas is practically a week-long event in our family, and this year was no exception. It’s our first Christmas in our new house, and we were very excited to get a tree.

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Our first stop of Christmasfest 2012 was a Christmas Eve dinner at RevolvingDork’s grandmother’s. She moved into an “active seniors” community last year and I think the ~20 of us overwhelmed some of the other residents. Bitmap, who has been in a much better mood the last few weeks, charmed everyone.

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She also stole the spoon from the dining room. Bitmap is really into spoons lately. It’s been great – we went out to dinner and she entertained herself the entire time with a spoon and a couple packets of sweet ‘n’ low.

We went to mass at 8pm, and although Bitmap was in a good mood she was LOUD so we spent most of the service in what RD calls the “baby penalty box.” It’s a plexiglass-walled room off to the side with the audio from mass piped in. It had an attached bathroom with changing table. It’s like the Catholic church is used to babies or something.

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Christmas morning was pretty exciting, we got Bitmap two toys and some clothes. She was mostly excited just to rip the paper off the packages.

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She also got some baby rice crackers in her stocking.

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She’s not really sure how she feels about them, but she ate the whole thing.

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After breakfast we went to RD’s parents’ for Round 2, and his other grandparents’ for Round 3. By the end of the day Bitmap had at least quadrupled her toy collection. Although to be fair she didn’t have more than a dozen or so toys to begin with.

I knit gifts for a few people each year, and this year my husband and in-laws got knit items. My father-in-law got a pair of handknit socks and a bottle of scotch.

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My own parents came up to visit the day after Christmas, and somehow I managed to not get any photos of their visit despite (or perhaps as a result of) getting a new camera body from my dad. It’s been a wonderful, exhausting week.