Camping with Toddler

First, let me get this off my chest. I’m afraid my mother-in-law thinks I’m trying to kill her (I’m not). She and my father-in-law come over once a week to spend time with Gabriel and join us for dinner. She has an allergy to mammal meat. A few weeks ago, I made a stir fry with rice. The stir fry sauce recipe I adapted called for chicken broth, and then I used some of the same broth to make the rice. We quickly realized something had gone awry, and I realized after dinner that I had used beef broth, not chicken broth. The following week, I baked chicken thighs. I even used a thermometer to check the temperature of the meat (which I don’t usually do when it’s just my family, but when I have people over, I more often do). But my mother in law cut into hers, and asked if we thought it was done. Everyone, including me, agreed it looked fine – and it did. It had a little color which I chalked up to it being dark meat and having some BBQ sauce mixed in, but I suggested she cook it a bit longer if she was worried (which she did). Part of the way through my own thigh, I realized that part of it was NOT cooked through. And the remaining thigh in the dish was also NOT cooked through. Sigh. I chalk it up to the fact that they hadn’t totally thawed when I put them in the oven, so they cooked unevenly. Word to the wise. Anyway, MIL – I promise, I’m not trying to kill you.

Whew, ok. I previously wrote a post about Camping with Babies, which I’ve shared with several people recently. But in doing so, I realized that the considerations when camping with toddler are different than they were when we were camping with baby. So I thought I’d write a new post with new information. And to just record these fun trips.

We’ve been on three camping trips since my camping with babies post. Gabriel has been a walker for all of them, and while not officially a talker, is increasingly capable of making his thoughts, feelings, and preferences very well known. In general, we’re still car camping. I’m afraid we’ve missed a window for backpacking. We still have the backpack carrier for him, and we’ve used it for lots of hikes, but he’s getting quite big for it. He likes it still, but also wants up, then down, then up, then down. I don’t know that we’ll be able to use it much longer, with him so heavy and mobile. So if we’re not using it, then we’re limited by how far he can walk, which isn’t far. Dunno. Maybe we’ll just have to wait a few more years.

Without further ado:

Trip #4 (with kiddo): Sherando Lake in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, Virginia

This trip was a good 3.5-hour drive from Baltimore. We again planned to meet our friend who’d camped with us in Wolf Gap in the spring and his wife, who were driving from Knoxville, TN. It was much further for them. We went for two nights, but they could only join us for the second night (which turned out to be extra unfortunate for them). My parents were visiting us in Baltimore at the time, and my father came with us on the camping trip and drove. I don’t remember much about the drive or setting up camp, but I do remember that the first night was quite cold. We went in mid-October. The next morning was also quite cold, and Gabriel was in reasonable spirits until he realized how cold his hands were because he refused to wear his mittens, and then he literally cried for an hour for the entire campground to hear. I held him and walked around with him for a long time, to no avail. He was just cold and uncomfortable. Once he got over that, everything else was fine for the day.

Dan and I took Gabriel with us on a hike in the morning. We were able to start on the trail from the campground, and it was pretty steep up for the first bit. We lost Gabriel’s hat and the dog’s leash along the way. Looking at this map, I believe we hiked the west part of the Blue Loop trail and then west on the Torry Ridge Trail. We had planned to have my father meet us where the trail intersected with the Blue Ridge Parkway, which actually worked out well, despite general lack of cell service (but good pre-planning!). My dad actually backed quite a ways up a gravel road (I think Slacks Trail in that maps) and met us partway. The hike was 5.45 miles overall for us. I was a little concerned about the length and nap time and all that, which is true of every hike we try to go on with Gabriel. I always feel like we bite off more than I think we should try to chew. But of course it was fine.

I assume Gabriel napped just fine, but have no memory of it. Our friends finally arrived that afternoon. They and Dan went back up the same hike to look for our dog’s leash, then came back another way to arrive at Sherando Lake, and I met them there on the far side of the lake with Gabriel. I think that hike for them (up the steep bit of Blue Loop Trail, east, down the other side, around the lake, and back to camp) was probably about 2.5 miles. Then we all had dinner and hangouts together around the fire, which was lovely. Then we went to bed.

And it started raining. Pouring, in fact. And our friends’ tent started leaking. And we heard them pack up at 3 in the morning, get in their car, and drive away. They’d spent maybe 10 hours total at the camp site, and had at least 10 hours of driving total. Sigh. It continued pouring into the morning with no sign it would abate any time soon, so we quickly took down camp around 8 or 8:30, put everything (including ourselves) soaking wet into the car, and drove away. Sigh.

The logistics:

  • Sleeping: We again used the mansion tent, and Gabriel slept in the Guava Lotus pack and play inside. Since it was cold, I think he slept in the navy Columbia puffy onesie (as the outer layer of possibly several) you see in the pictures below.
  • Food: He eats what we eat. So, hot dog. Oatmeal. Clif bars. Crackers, cheese. We probably had several fruit/veggie pouches as well.
  • Eating ‘stuff’: Still highly recommend the bib with pouch (seen in pictures – this one is BabyBjorn but there are lots of options out there). And we brought his silicone bowl.
  • Milk: We brought a cooler with milk and his sippy cup. We were still giving him milk at night at that time in his sippy cup (for the record, we stopped that when we potty trained him at the beginning of May, so about 23 months).
  • Hiking: Deuter Kid Comfort child carrier.

Trip #5: Owens Creek Campground in Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland

We spent a night at Owens Creek Campground in mid to late June, when Gabriel was about two years and one month. This trip was originally scheduled for the weekend of May 1 and had been scheduled for months. We were going to go with another couple and their daughter who is around Gabriel’s age. Coronavirus through a wrench in those plans, though. Maryland state parks cancelled all reservations in May (or at least that early in May… but I think all of May). As the date neared, we looked for other options and were actually able to make a reservation for Caledonia State Park in Michaux State Forest in Pennsylvania… but it was also cancelled a few days before the trip. We considered doing an airbnb somewhere (like the quarry one we’d been to the previous year), but ultimately decided to spend that weekend home potty training. Fun alternative.

We ended up finally getting a reservation at Owens Creek Campground for later in June, as did our friends (they may have gotten theirs first, in fact). Strangely, their reservation was cancelled on them, but ours wasn’t. So they found a different site in Cunningham Falls State Park, which is nearby (which, also strangely, I’m pretty sure I had looked at before booking Owens Creek and there hadn’t been any availability).

We drove up on Saturday during nap time and met our friends at their campsite at Cunningham Falls State Park. After their daughter woke up from her nap, the kids biked on their Strider bikes for a bit, then we drove down to the lake in hopes of a swim. But right as we got into the water, there was a bit of thunder, so we all had to get out. We never got back in and went on a short hike to the waterfall instead. The kids ran or biked the whole way, they had a blast. After that, we left the state park to go to Owens Creek, set up camp, had dinner, and all that lovely stuff. We had a great fire. The next morning, we met our friends again for a four-mile hike from the Catoctin Visitor’s Center to Chimney and Wolf Rocks and back to the Visitors Center before driving back to Baltimore. The snake (pictured below) was at Chimney Rock, and was actually further away than it seems from the picture, below us, under a rock we were on.

The logistics were essentially the same, except:

  • We didn’t bring the backpack carrier (we did a lot of carrying Gabriel on the hike, though)
  • We did bring the Strider bike.
  • No more milk at night, and no more silicone plates.
  • We brought his BabyBjorn potty! He went either in there or in the campground restroom when we went and brought him with us.
  • Our little guy is growing up!!

Trip #6: Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland

Have I said before that I hate the beach? Well. I do.

I have been interested in camping on Assateague since I moved to Maryland. Wild ponies, seashore, camping, what’s not to love? Well, in July: 95-degree weather, having to lug all your stuff across very hot sand to the ‘walk-in’ beach camping spot, mosquitoes, and… well… the beach (and salt and sand). That’s what’s not to love. Also a toddler who didn’t nap and woke up every hour over night.

Sigh.

I had no idea what to expect on this trip. It wasn’t this. Dan’s colleague had reserved the spot and had raved about camping there earlier in the season. We drove 3.5-ish hours to get to the island and then sat in a single-file traffic line for an hour to go less than a mile to enter the National Seashore via the entrance booths. Which put us past Gabriel’s nap time (we were hoping to arrive and have camp set up for nap time, and had been on track for that, until we actually got there and had to wait in that line). Then we had to haul all our stuff to the walk-in spot and set up camp, which took another hour-ish. And it was effing hot, and moreso in the tent where we had planned to have Gabriel nap. So we set up his pack n play on the sand under the shade canopy by the picnic table. He was not interested in napping, but seemed like maybe he was getting closer until Dan’s colleagues arrived and had to lug all their stuff to the site, and with all the commotion, a nap was just not in the cards.

That went mostly okay until bedtime. With the rest of the afternoon, we all went in the water, which Gabriel loved, wearing his life jacket for the first time. Over a month after this trip, we took a family trip to Lake Powell where we knew he would have to basically live in his life jacket. Life jackets are apparently made for infants up to 30 lbs and then toddlers 30-50 lbs. Gabriel was right at (or a pound or so under) 30 lbs, but it didn’t make sense to get an infant life vest. So we got the bigger one, and it was a little too big. But still, it was fine. Dan did all the research before selecting one. I forget what it is. O’Neill something? After that, Dan’s colleague, his girlfriend, Gabriel, and I did a short walk along a boardwalk to a nice view. We also made dinner (hot dogs of course for us… Dan’s colleague and his girlfriend had fish and potatoes, yum), shared wine. Then we put Gabriel to bed. And he cried for a really long time in a way he hasn’t cried since he was like six months old. It took an hour or so of going in there to soothe him before he finally settled down. And then, seriously, woke up every hour over night, and I comforted him back to sleep. Ugh.

All the same logistics, plus the fan that I’d purchased for his stroller when he was an infant in 95-degree Baltimore summer. It was essential. Oh, and the Coleman shade canopy and sandbags (for weighting it down) that I purchased specifically for this trip when I saw an image of the campsite and realized for the first time that there would be no trees or shade of any kind. And it was July.

I am never camping in Assateague in July again. Maybe April. Maybe October. Maybe not ever again. Gabriel will, though. Despite the sleeping issues, I think he had a blast.

And that’s that. We are going camping again in early October for one night at Gambrill State Park. Another couple and their son are also coming. We just purchased a sleeping pad and sleeping bag for Gabriel, so I think we’ll leave the pack and play behind and see how that goes! We’ve laid it out for him and had him get in his sleeping bag (and I got in mine next to him). He’s sort of into the idea. We’ll see.

Lately – May 2020

I think it’s been 2.5 years since I did a ‘lately’ post. December 2017. I was pregnant. Tomorrow, my son will be two!

I’m sitting in my living room with the windows open. It’s Memorial Day. Our celebrations (grilling on the roof and margaritas my dad made) wrapped up around toddler bedtime, but others’ are just getting started. The neighbors across the street are listening to early 90s jams. Right now it’s Closing Time by Semisonic. I’ve also heard Waterfalls by TLC and I Do it For You by Brian Adams. I still know all the lyrics. Crazy.

Also crazy: Covid-19 and the world these days. I am one of the very lucky ones who 1) is still employed; 2) has a spouse that is still employed; 3) has full-time childcare (provided by my parents who have been unexpectedly living with us for 2.5 months now). Our house is full, but we are happy and healthy. My sister had to graduate from her masters program virtually, thousands (millions?) of seniors had to miss their senior proms, and definitely millions of people have lost their jobs. 100,000 people in the US have died. I first became aware of coronavirus on our annual ski trip in late mid-late January. We were in Tahoe, and I believe the death count in China reached 800 while we were there. That feels like forever ago. I can’t imagine the world ever being like it was then.

And yet, this is life. It’s not on hold. I’m still living it, and it’s going by. In the past 2.5 months, Gabriel has learned to ride a balance bike, recognizes all the letters of the alphabet, and counts to four (though he usually skips ‘2’). I can’t speak of as such accomplishments for myself. Let’s see. Dan and I ran a 10K in April since the Sole of the City was cancelled. (We were also supposed to run the Bolder Boulder 10K today.) I hired and onboarded someone at work. I not only survived living under the same roof as my parents for 2.5 months (and who knows how much longer) but rather enjoyed it. So did my husband.

And I’ve continued most of the other things I usually do. Here’s a summary.

Things I’ve been reading:

  • The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. Dan’s aunts gave me this for Hannukah (they always give us books). I’m enjoying this a lot, but I had to stop 100 pages in to read….
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. This is our book club book for tomorrow night. I finished it Saturday. I couldn’t remember who had recommended it or how we had settled on it for a book when I started reading it, and I was VERY confused. It’s written about the early 1900s in England. It was enjoyable, but I couldn’t imagine who had suggested we read it. I didn’t know anything about it, and so for all I know it was written last year. I found out after I finished that it was written in 1948, and the author also wrote 101 Dalmations. Both of those facts totally change how I view the book. I’m much more… forgiving now.
  • The Baltimore Sun. I finally got a subscription to my local paper. Elections are around the corner, and I wanted that coverage on that and also local coverage on coronavirus.

Things I’ve Been Watching:

  • Frankly, I’ve been annoyed hearing about all the people out there who are alone and bored and tapped out on Netflix. I mean, I get it. I really do. I think being alone during this time and not able to socialize as normal would be really hard. My experience has been the opposite though. I am daily, constantly, interacting with more people that normal. I am never alone in my house. I am never alone, period. I’m busier than ever. And I’m certainly not binging Netflix. That said….
  • I did find time to watch The Morning Show on Apple TV.
  • And Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu.
  • And 10-20 minutes of Sesame Street with Gabriel some mornings.
  • And I’ve watched a few episodes of Season 4 of Workin’ Moms in the past couple weeks.
  • So okay. I’ve made some time.

Fitness I’ve been doing:

  • CrossFit. My gym has been awesome and has lent out equipment and continues to program daily workouts. Most of the workouts are with kettlebells or dumbbells, but they also let me borrow a barbell, and I’ve been using that. It’s nice, but not the same. I do it in the driveway, in nearby park, or behind Under Armour on the water. I don’t take as much time to warm up or cool down and really just try to fit it into the shortest amount of time possible.
  • Murph. The annual CrossFit (and military) Memorial Day workout. I’d never actually done it before. I did a modified version this morning. We have a pull-up bar in our nearby park that is really rickety so kipping pull-ups aren’t an option, so I did sorta-strict pull-ups for over half of the pull-ups and leg raises for the others. (Sorta strict means that I was doing a lot of singles and using my knees kicking up to give me momentum over the bar.) I also did pushups from my knees for most of the pushups. Anyway, it was fun.
  • Running 1-2 days a week. Slowly. Somewhat painfully (both my feet hurt in different ways). But still getting out there.

Hikes I’ve been on:

  • A month or so ago, Dan, Gabriel, and I did the Ridge Trail in Patapsco State Park.
  • We’ve met Dan’s parents at Patuxent Wildlife Refuge (both the north and south tracts) a few times to pick up Gabriel from them.
  • This morning, we met up with friends near Lake Roland and did a walk in the woods with our kiddos.

Things I’ve been listening to:

  • These 90s jams are killing it. Gettin Jiggy With It right now. 3am by Matchbox 20 was also in there. Oh, man, wouldn’t be complete without Dave Matthews Band.
  • This is Joy and Claire with Joy and Claire, formally of the Girls Gone WOD podcast.
  • Make Me Smart with Kai and Molly podcast.
  • The Daily podcast… I’ve finally listed to a few episodes, after what feels like years of being advised to.

And yes, I’ve been making sourdough along with everyone else. My bread, as it has for years, turns out tasty, but doesn’t rise as much as I would like. Everyone else is perfecting their sourdough method, and I’ve tried a few different thinks, but mostly just doing what I’ve been doing for over a decade. Nothing new to see here. Oh, and I made this cauliflower tabbouleh (added feta cheese) for our Memorial Day dinner this evening.

Cheers.

Another kind of disaster preparedness

Or maybe the same kind, who knows. I didn’t realize when making my last post on emergency preparedness that Covid-19 would turn into quite the thing it has and that almost everyone would be interested in preparing for some sort of emergency. I do wonder if everyone knows quite what they’re preparing for. Self-quarantining for two weeks? Mass chaos? Who knows?

On a podcast I listened to this morning, one co-host suggested that everyone take this as an opportunity to do the sort of disaster preparedness they’ve been meaning to do but haven’t done yet. One example she suggested was creating a will. She said, “I have been meaning to make a will for years,” or something like that. This echoed more than one conversation I’ve had with friends recently who, like me, and like the podcast co-host, have at least one kid. The, gosh, I’ve-been-meaning-to-do-that-but-just-haven’t-gotten-around-to-it conversation. We do have a will, so each time I hear this, I say (or want to say), it’s really not that hard.

We do have a will. We finalized it in January 2019, when Gabriel was about 8 months old. It wasn’t that hard. It required:

  1. Emailing other new parents I knew to see if anyone had a recommendation for a lawyer to work with (only one of the five I emailed did).
  2. Contacting said lawyer. We had a brief, initial phone conversation about the process; an in-person meeting (both Dan and me) at lawyer’s office to go through a series of his questions; review of the document and some back-and-forth clarifying emails; and a final in-person meeting to sign the documents.
  3. Deciding who we would want to take care of Gabriel in the event of our untimely deaths and who we would want to be in charge of his finances, and a few other related decisions (like what age all of our assets should be made available to him). All of these are personal decisions, but they weren’t hard for us. Our lawyer was able to provide recommendations on some of them (like the age one).
  4. Maybe a total of 3-4 hours of time over about two months.
  5. $1,600. (We had pretty standard/basic arrangements set up. I believe this would be more expensive if we deviated from relatively standard arrangements.)
  6. That’s it.

As part of the same process, we also established advance medical directives and power of attorney for Dan and me.

There are online templates and services that help individuals set these up without working with a lawyer also. We thought of going that direction, but I think we just wanted to assurances a lawyer could give that we were doing it ‘right.’

Separately, the other thing we did to prepare for our unexpected deaths was get life insurance. We actually did this while I was pregnant. We got enough for each of us to allow Gabriel and the living parent to maintain our current lifestyle should the other parent die. I knew a lot more about the considerations and options when we were going through the process of making decisions about this. This was also a fairly painless process (though getting used to the automatic monthly debit from our account that we’ll hopefully never need to use took some getting used to), but it was eased very much by the fact that we have a financial advisor who led us through the entire process. He facilitated the quotes, presented the options, provided recommendations, did all the paperwork, complimented us on our excellent health scores from the physical exam we had to do that resulted in great rates, etc. The thought of having to figure all this out without a financial advisor does indeed sound overwhelming, but hey, people want to sell services, so hopefully it’s pretty straightforward.

I’d also like to acknowledge that I feel very privileged to have resources both to devote to this process and to protect on my son’s behalf.

Anyway, all this to say, especially if you have kids, I encourage you to take the steps to get a will and ensure your child or spouse’s financial future should you (and/or your spouse) have an unfortunate event. I really think the effort it takes to do it is MUCH less than the effort it takes to worry about it and wonder how you’ll do it. And if the Covid-19 outbreak gives you extra encouragement, well… ok.

Emergency Preparedness

Sometime in the last year, I decided that having some level of emergency preparedness was important, and things like ‘go bags’ (aka ‘bug-out bags’) were not just for families like the one the woman who wrote Educated grew up in. Dan and I discussed it a few times, but never made moves to do anything, so I decided to give him a fully-stocked Go Bag for Christmas.

I primarily relied on Wirecutter’s guidance for the contents, though the Federal government’s Ready.gov Build A Kit guide is also useful, and you can google any number of other resources for additional ideas. As for the bag itself, I hadn’t really settled on a bag of choice. I also got Dan a 45-L Black Hole Duffle for Christmas, which is what I put all the stuff in, but I didn’t expect him to ultimately use it for the Go Bag, though I think it could have sufficed just fine. In the end, we ended up finding a military backpack at the tianguis (outdoor market) in Chapala, Mexico when we were visiting my parents after Christmas.

In addition to the bag and its contents, I also put some thought into what would be priorities for grabbing from the house that we wouldn’t necessarily want to (or in many cases be able to) store in the bag.

After receiving the gift, Dan did his own research and added to the bag. He also made the list of items in the bag and that we would want to also grab nice and pretty and laminated it and attached it via carabiner to the outside of the bag.

Making a Go Bag is a bit of an investment, and sort of sad to get all these fun things and not use them. But I guess it’s like life insurance… money out the door each month that you hope to never have to rely on.

In addition to the bag, we have several emergency preparedness things we still need to do, including:

  • Stock the house with emergency water and food for at least 3 days
  • Make a plan for where we will convene if we are not together at the time of emergency and in the event we don’t have phone service
  • Elaborate on our communication plan. We have a list of family contacts in the Go Bag, but may want to put more thought into this.

If you’re interested, you can find additional recommendations at Ready.gov.

Without further ado, our Go Bag contains:

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  • Emergency radio
  • First aid kit
  • Headlamp
  • Flashlight
  • Batteries (AAA, AA)
  • Whistle
  • Glowsticks
  • Compass
  • Paper roadmap (for Maryland and Delaware)
  • $500 cash
  • Checkbook
  • Multitool (Leatherman)
  • Rope
  • Carabiners
  • Water bladders
  • Water tablets
  • Emergency blanket
  • Duct tape
  • Lighter
  • Weatherproof matches
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Baby wipes
  • 2 heavy duty garbage bags
  • Diapers
  • N95 Dust Masks
  • iPhone charger
  • Lip balm
  • Sunscreen
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Floss
  • Tampons
  • Small soap
  • Infant ibuprofen
  • Pens
  • Clif Bars
  • Jerky
  • Dog and cat food
  • Laminated copies
    • Passports
    • Global Entry Cards
    • Drivers licenses
    • Social Security cards
    • Birth certificates
    • Marriage license
    • MD licenses
    • Family contact info

Other items we’d want to grab, if reasonable:

  • Wallets
  • Original important documents file
    • Passports
    • Global Entry cards
    • Drivers Licenses
    • Social Security cards
    • Birth certificates
    • Marriage license
  • Computers (w/chargers)
  • Hard drive
  • Water
  • Water filter
  • Diapers
  • USB battery charger
  • Sunglasses
  • Small tent
  • Sleeping bags (including our dog’s)
  • Long underwear
  • Hat: ball cap or cold weather hat
  • Gloves
  • Rain jackets
  • Wool socks
  • Underwear
  • Change of clothes
  • Human food
  • Pet food
  • Pet bowls
  • Leash
  • Tether
  • Cat carrier
  • Pets

Good luck to you if you decide to make your own bag!

Egg Bites

I have to write this, because I’m now making egg bites in the Instant Pot for the third or fourth time, and each time, I scour a variety of recipes online and never find just one to follow. Several call for cottage cheese or other ingredients that I never have on hand, and just frankly aren’t what sounds good. So I make it up each time, and each time I wonder what I did the previous time. Fixing that now.

These days (now that I’m back at work), I make a big batch at a time to store in the freezer. That way, I can grab a couple for an easy breakfast for Gabriel and me before we head out the door to daycare. It took me a while to figure out the best reheating method, and I’m still not sure I’ve perfected it (so send me all your tips!). My current method is to put a cloth napkin (or paper towel) in a bowl, add the frozen egg bites (I usually do three at a time, two for me and one for Gabriel), and cover them with the cloth. Then I microwave for 1:45 (okay, 1:44 because I’m lazy). The cloth absorbs the liquid that would otherwise collect at the bottom of the plate/bowl, but the egg bites aren’t too dry.

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I have two silicone trays, each with 7 molds, and my goal is to make two sets. Most recipes I see online are for one tray/7 molds, so essentially, I’m making a quadruple recipe. However, both times I’ve done that, it’s actually produced five trays (or 35 individual egg bites).

It contains:

  • 20 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1 cup vegetable (today I used shredded Brussels sprouts, but I’ve used spinach and red pepper in the past)
  • Spice (I think paprika would be good, but we have rosemary today that needs to be used, so I cut up maybe… 1-2 tablespoons… and added that)
  • 1 lb sausage, cooked

Steps:

  1. Cool sausage on stovetop, crumbling as you go.
  2. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl. Whisk to scramble eggs.
  3. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup (or your tool of choice) to scoop the mixture and pour it into the molds. Fill each mold about 2/3 high, maybe a little less.
  4. Add a spoonful (like, a regular eating spoon, roughly teaspoon sized but, you know, bigger, especially for those you like me who have silverware from Pottery Barn) of sausage crumbles.
  5. Pour 1 cup water into Instant Pot. Add trivet to hold silicone tray off the bottom, and put first tray on trivet with its top slightly askew. Add the second silicone tray directly on top of the top of the first one, also with its top slightly askew.
  6. Close the lid. Pressure cook on high for 8 minutes and either release the steam after five minutes of natural release, or just let it totally release naturally.
  7. Remove trays, turn molds upside down on top of a cooling rack. (I put a sheet pan underneath to catch any drips). Let cool for at least 5 minutes.
  8. Wrap each egg bit in some parchment paper and throw into a gallon-sized ziplock bag. The parchment doesn’t stay around it perfectly, but whatever, it mostly keeps the egg bites separate from each other.
  9. Repeat with the rest of the mixture as many times as it takes to finish it.

Now a note on trays. I bought this Instant Pot set, and I separately bought these silicone trays. The silicone tray that came in the set is far superior to the trays in the second order. I don’t use any non-stick stuff, but the egg bites fall easily out of that tray. Also, it is slightly firmer and just generally seems to have more structural integrity. I tried to look into whether that tray can be bought alone, because I’d like another like it and to get rid of my other ones. Egg gets caught in them and I end up with 80% of an egg bit instead of a whole one. But no luck. Sigh.

 

Cauliflower Potato Sausage Collard Soup

Well. I guess I could use a better name for this soup, but that’s not my skill set. It’s finally feeling like Fall here in Baltimore, and thank God, because I hate hot, muggy weather and I was getting depressed. (Aside: Dan and I took our first trip together without Gabriel. We went to Moab for five nights and mountain biked, hiked, and rock climbed. And missed Gabriel. It was 95 degrees in Baltimore the day before we left, but it’s been in the 70s or lower since we got back, thank GOD.) Also, I love soup. And Fall activities. Like all of the Fall activities at Gaver Farm where my mom and I took Gabriel last Saturday. And football games. And camping (which we’re doing this weekend).

I’ve said before that I don’t write recipes, and that’s true, but there wasn’t really any single inspiration for this soup, I kinda just made it. My inspirations were: an abundance of russet potatoes from a large Costco bag that were starting to go bad; a beautiful head of cauliflower from our From the Farmer bag; an equally beautiful bunch of rainbow chard from that same bag, made less beautiful in my eyes by the fact that I didn’t have a plan for it and didn’t know what to do with it; and a little bit this recipe that I had seen several days before and had been thinking about.

I’d baked the potatoes the previous day just to have done something with them (to hopefully delay the going-bad process). For this soup, I partially peeled them (partially rather than fully mostly due to laziness) and cut them up. I roasted the whole head of cauliflower in some olive oil at about 350 for 30 minutes. I chopped up one small onion and the white and light green parts of maybe 6 green onions. I peeled 4 cloves of garlic. I chopped the bunch of chard. And I defrosted my last almost-quart of bone broth.

I sautéed the onions in olive oil, then pressed in the garlic. Then I added the potatoes and roasted cauliflower. I added the broth, but it wasn’t enough to cover the vegetables, so I added water til they were mostly covered. I also added in 3/4 cup coconut milk for some creaminess. I would have used heavy cream if I had it or was going to the store, but I didn’t. I let that come to an almost boil, then I used my immersion blender to get it all pretty smooth. Meanwhile, I also cooked one pound of pork sausage in my cast iron skillet.

After it was smooth, I added salt and pepper til it tasted right, and then I emptied my entire spice cabinet looking for Italian seasoning. Turns out, we’re out. So I put in some pinches of dried tarragon, basil, rosemary, and thyme, and some red pepper flakes. Then I added in the sausage and chard and stirred and stirred. Then I added lemon juice – first just from 1/2, then the other 1/2, then a whole other. It might have a liiiiiitle too much lemon in the end, but maybe not.

I ate what didn’t fit into the four Tupperware dishes I’d gotten out for storage. I garnished with cheese and the green parts of green onions, and I dare say it was quite good.

Roasted Carrots

Sometimes, the most basic of things is the best.

Quite a while ago (definitely weeks, and maybe months), I bought a very large bag of carrots. I don’t dislike carrots, but I don’t really like them either. Even though I gave up peeling them years ago, I still find them a lot of work. I usually scrub, since I don’t peel. They’re so hard, you really have to chew them. They’re annoying in salads (they fall to the bottom, they’re tough to chew, etc.) unless you shred them, and that’s a lot of work. But Dan likes carrots a lot. However, I was overly optimistic about Dan’s ability to go through this huge bag, and four large carrots sat in our drawer for a very long time.

They were still there when my mother, before her arrival from Mexico, asked me to have carrots on hand for her during her visit. I didn’t want to offer her weeks- (or months?-) old carrots, so I wanted to buy new ones for her, but I also didn’t want to throw away food that might still be edible. So I did what I often do with vegetables I don’t otherwise know what to do with or particularly like: I roasted them.

Wow.

I Googled roasted carrots just to get a sense of cooking times and temperature (someday I will trust my gut on these things, but not yet) and found this recipe from Delish. Chopping was chopping. No getting around that part. But super quick toss with olive oil, spread on a pan, bake, and voila. I didn’t stir them partway through or anything.

They were delicious! Have I never had roasted carrots before? Is there something magical about Delish’s time/temperature combination? I ate half with some tahini thinking I would save the other half for later, or for my son, but nope. Ate them too. Yes, that’s four carrots, all eaten very quickly.

That was a couple weeks ago now. I just made a second batch – not because I had carrots laying around, but because I was craving them. I cut them in coins instead of diagonal across as the recipe recommends (and as I did the first time), and I left them in the oven after baking for a while because I was busy with other things, and I admit they are a little overdone. Still tasty, though. This is probably a new every-time-of-year favorite, but definitely a new Fall favorite. 🎃 🥕 🍁

Washington State – with Toddler

Dan, Gabriel, Dan’s mother, and I spent eight days in Washington State. We arrived home Sunday night – which was only five days ago, but already feels like a lifetime. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster of a week so far. Our cat, Penelope, seems to have gotten out of the house Tuesday morning (possibly Monday night, but we think we saw her Tuesday morning, and there was a clear opportunity for her to leave on Tuesday), and we haven’t seen her since. I’ve posted to our community’s facebook group about it and posted a few posters around the neighborhood with a picture and my contact info. I’ve asked at the local vet that everyone around here seems to use, including us (they also posted a picture in their office for us), and I’ve visited and filed a lost pet report at the local shelter. No luck so far. It’s been at least three days since we saw her. She’s gotten out maybe 4 or 5 times in her 13 years and has always come back, but this isn’t looking good.

And then Wednesday morning, I got Clio out the door at 5:45am to go for a run (which had the double purpose of looking for Penelope – slow run!), and two blocks away she suddenly yelped and could no longer walk on her front right foot. Dan thought she’d been limping for a while, but this made it suddenly really bad. I took her to the vet; he thinks she has just a bad sprain and is on pain medication. It seems to be doing better – she can walk on it and some of her steps seem normal… but she won’t move much! Which is understandable… but I took her out at lunchtime yesterday to go pee in front of our house, and she just laid down on the ground! Not usual behavior.

Anyway. We had a lovely time in Washington (and our pets were well-cared for by my good friend who housesat). We spent the first several days near Wenatchee State Park and Lake Wenatchee, about 30 minutes north of Leavenworth, which is a cute, Bavarian-themed town. Dan’s cousin got married near there, which is why we were there.

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The day after the wedding, the wedding guests were invited to hang out at Tierra Retreat Center for the day, and Dan and I got a chance to do a 2-mile burner of a loop hike while Dan’s mother watched Gabriel (side note: traveling with family willing – and excited – to be temporary caretakers = very good idea). Very steep uphill and even steeper downhill.

After that, we drove to the Olympic Peninsula and stayed in a house on Lake Sutherland, just west of Port Angeles and east of Lake Crescent. We took a FERRY as part of our travel, and it was AMAZING.

We visited the Olympic National Park visitors center in Port Angeles on our first half day there and walked the nature trail there. Gabriel was able to walk most of it on his own!

On our first full day, we drove to the Hoh Rainforest Visitors Center and did two hikes/walks. The first was the 1-mile ish Hall of Mosses trail that was a loop near the Visitor’s Center. For the second, we walked along the Hoh River Trail for about a mile, then walked back (in the pouring rain). That trail actually goes about 18 miles and has significant elevation gain if you do the whole thing. Gabriel mostly preferred to be carried in the hiking backpack that day, but did some walking on his own as well.

Instead of driving straight back to our house, we took a detour off Highway 101 near Forks and went to Rialto Beach on the Pacific. It was SUPER windy, and high tide. Gabriel (water baby) wanted to be near the water (that is, crashing waves), and I got soaked once by a particularly large wave right after scooping him up into my arms. We walked along the driftwood for a bit, then returned to our house.

On our second full day there, we went to the Hurricane Ridge area, outside Port Angeles. On the drive up Hurricane Ridge Road, Dan’s mother dropped Dan and me off (but kept Gabriel – have I mentioned that traveling with grandparents is definitely the way to go?!), and we hiked up Switchback Trail (~1.5 miles), past a trail intersection that went toward the Hurricane Ridge Lodge, to Klahhane Ridge. We walked along the Ridge for about 3/4 mile, then returned and hiked from the trail intersection to Hurricane Ridge Lodge where we reunited with Gabriel and Dan’s mom. The view from the top of Klahhane Ridge was amazing. It was a super clear day, and in one direction we could see the Strait of Juan de Fuca (with Mt. Baker rising in the distance!); Victoria, BC across the water; and the valley below us, including Port Angeles. In the other direction, we saw mountains for days, including Mt. Olympus. The hike was about 6 3/4 miles in total with decent elevation gain (especially the Switchback trail – oof).

On our last full day, we went first to Lake Crescent and hiked the 1-ish mile to Marymere Falls. Then we went to the Sol Duc area and hiked the similarly 1-ish mile to Sol Duc Falls and then took Gabriel into the hot springs. They weren’t that great. Sort of crowded and not that hot, especially the pool that kids were allowed in. But I wanted to do it, so we did. The hikes were nice, though! Gabriel did a fair amount himself, but also wanted to be carried a bit.

One of the evenings, we took Gabriel on his first kayak ride on Lake Sutherland using one of the kayaks the house provided! He loved it, and wanted to do all the paddling himself.

On our last partial day, we stopped at the Dungeness Spit for an hour or so and walked along the ‘spit’ (a narrow piece of land jutting out into the strait). We also stopped briefly in Bainbridge Island on our drive back to Seattle to see Dan’s uncle’s family and the town a bit. Then we ferried back to Seattle (!!!) and flew home early the next morning.

 

Smoky Chicken Salad

As evidenced by this post and this post, I am clearly, though begrudgingly, a fan of chicken salad. I also recently made a curried chicken salad from Week 6 of Cook Once, Eat All Week, which I didn’t document. (It was good, but maybe not as good as the curried chicken salad that my friend’s mom made for a post-Frederick-half-marathon picnic we had at Black Ankle Winery in May… yum.) I still think of it as a novelty and something that I don’t really like, but I should probably officially put it in the regular rotation, because I do like it. It’s versatile (Put it on lettuce! On bread! On other vegetables! Eat it fresh, eat it as leftovers, as a main, as a side, etc.) and delicious. And there are so many different ways to make it and flavors! I don’t have a favorite.

Most recently, I made the Smoky Chicken Salad from Diane Sanfilippo’s 21-Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide. I have not done the 21 Day Sugar Detox, but I considered it once. I don’t know, my days of food elimination/reintroduction programs (or food programs in general) may be over. I learned a lot from my various Whole30s and the Fed&Fit project and other programs, but I’m not sure I have much more to learn, and now it just feels like unnecessary deprivation and a head game.

Anyway, the chicken salad! I was poking through the Daily Guide the other day to get some meal inspiration, and this chicken salad was the second day’s recommended lunch. It used Diane’s own recipe for a smoky spice blend, which used both smoky and sweet paprika, among other spices. Which was perfect, because my parents recently did a river cruise in Europe and brought me back both types of paprika. The spice blend also included chili powder, so it was a little spicy! We didn’t give any to Gabriel. He’s realized recently that more-than-very-mildly spicy food makes him cranky. The recipe also included other standards – mayo, red onion, and celery. No fruit.

And it was good! I tripled the recipe from the book (which was only for two servings), so we had it in the fridge for a few days. I ate some on homemade sourdough (yep, doing that again – I finally let my previous starter that I had for 8 years die, but I’ve started another), on lettuce, and by itself. Dan brought it on a sandwich to work several nights – and even praised it. I think he also thinks he doesn’t like chicken salad and is surprised when he finds he does.

 

In other food news, at the top I mentioned Cook Once, Eat All Week, which I’ve been really enjoying! Maybe I’ll do a post on it, but in the meantime, just know that it’s worth it, buy it. #notsponsored, duh, I’m not that cool. It takes the planning/thinking out of what to do for dinner most nights of the week, and I’ve been able to manage most of the prep during nap time on the weekends (was able to do even before I quit my job).

Did I mention, I quit my job?! I’m currently funemployed and going back to a full time job (still with the government, still in health policy,  but now in Baltimore instead of DC!) in November.

Cheers!

Baby Stuff

Once upon a time, I said that I planned to do a post on the items we had on our baby registry. I never got around to it, which is probably better, because what we registered for is not necessarily what we ended finding most useful. So now, fourteen months in, I’m finally sharing our baby stuff, with plenty of commentary. I couldn’t wait too much longer, because there are constantly new products becoming available, and who knows if this will all be outdated soon. Feel free to contact me with any questions or more in-depth information on our experience with any of these.

You’ll notice a theme for a preference for limited chemicals. We have been intentional about this when it made sense, but not religious about it. A few resources I used when determining what to get:

Also – just a plug here to recommend getting stuff used as much as possible. I know, I know. I was that mom. I just wanted the best and the newest for my little kiddo. But now I’ve spent fourteen months trying to figure out what to do with perfectly good stuff. There’s a constant inflow, and in our house where we try to not hoard much stuff, a constant outflow. But what to do with all of it? It’s agonizing knowing that something is in great condition, a ton of resources were put into manufacturing it and distributing it, and it may not ever get used again. I’ll comment below on what I’ve done with some stuff, and where we’ve chosen to get stuff used.

Nursery

  • Crib: Ikea Sniglar – Chose this for the real, natural wood and lack of paint and chemicals
  • Dresser: Ikea Hemnes three drawer, white stain – Low cost, fit in the small space
  • Bookshelf: White Ikea Kallax shelf unit with Ikea Branas Baskets for the bottom two shelves
  • Monitor: Philips AVENT SCD630/37 Video Monitor with FHSS – nothing too fancy (ie, no wifi or remote video watching), but has a video screen and sound. I think it was recommended on some list of high value (ie, lower cost, but decent quality) monitors.
  • White noise machine: I’ve used white noise since I was 13. This was a definite. We registered for the Dohm, which is what we used in our bedroom when Gabriel slept there (even though we’d used a fan before he was born, and a fan was what I’d always used). I liked having a machine instead of a fan so much that once Gabriel moved to his own room, we kept the Dohm in ours and I got a Hatch Rest for Gabriel. I went with the Rest instead of getting another Dohm because it could also double as a light (for bedtime and overnight feedings) and a green light to rise (or whatever those things are called). The light is unfortunately not bright enough for bedtime book reading, so I still have to keep the hall light on for that, but otherwise I’ve liked it. And a word about the Dohm, which may be true of any white noise machine, or maybe this is a word about new mothers: when we first moved Gabriel into his room and were using the Dohm in our room… I swear, it had this subtle pitch that sounded like baby crying. I honestly couldn’t tell sometimes if I was hearing the Dohm or baby crying. I don’t hear it now. I don’t even know what I could possibly have been hearing. But the monitor frequently confirmed there was NO crying baby, and yet I still heard crying baby, unless I turned the damn thing off. WTF.
  • Glider and Ottoman: Used Dutalier glider and ottoman – A dutalier glider came very highly recommended from a friend whose opinion I trust. I hadn’t yet put thought into what sort of chair I would want, so I avoided doing so and just went with her recommendation. I found one used for $100 on Facebook marketplace and drove pretty far out of my way to go pick it up. It’s not much to look at, but it certainly did the trick during all those late night nursing sessions. Now that we’re finished with nursing, though, I’d like to change to something more attractive at some point. Hopefully I can resell this used, because it’s still got life!
  • Small fridge: Any kind would probably do, if at all. Two sets of friends/parents recommended we have a fridge in the closet of our nursery. We even made sure our house builders for our new house put an outlet in the closet so we could do so. In the end… we hardly used it. We just didn’t have to store milk up there very often, if at all. We didn’t do bottles overnight – I always breastfed. When I pumped during my telework days, I would occasionally stash milk in there for a few hours, but I often wanted to freeze it, so I would bring it downstairs soon after anyway. We probably use it a bit more now because we are giving Gabriel a sippy cup with milk at bedtime, which he drinks very little of, so we store it in his fridge over night and offer it to him again in the morning. But we’ll probably stop doing that soon too. We bought this used and will probably keep it for now.

Sleeping

  • Crib – see above
  • Bassinet: Guava Lotus bassinet conversion – This is what Gabriel slept in in our room next to my side of the bed for his first 3.5 months. We’ve passed this on to other friends with a younger son, although they also have a Halo Bassinet, so maybe only use this to travel.
  • Bassinet sheets: Two Lotus Bassinet Organic Cotton Fitted Sheets and one totally adorable other one off Amazon with mountains and foxes that we liked so much we got the same one for our crib… but can’t find it anymore. We probably only needed two sheets total. There may have been once that we (and by we, I mean Gabriel) dirtied two in quick succession requiring a third before laundry was done, but I don’t remember for sure.
  • Mattress:  Naturepedic No Compromise Organic Cotton Classic Crib Mattress – no harmful chemicals including chemical flame retardants. And it is waterproof. Interesting. See mattress pad info below. What is the point of it? I don’t know.
  • Mattress pad: Pure-rest wool moisture protection mattress pad, portacrib size – Hm, doesn’t look like the portacrib size is sold anymore, and Green Mountain Diapers says the company Pure-Rest closed their business! Too bad. But anyway, wool is naturally moisture resistant, while also being breathable. Ours doesn’t fit the whole size of our mattress, but does cover most of the surface area that Gabriel sleeps on. Doubled up, it fit in our bassinet. We’ve never brought this in our travel crib, but it would fit there if we did. Maybe we’ll need to do that when we start potty training, although the travel crib has a waterproof mattress cover, I think. Hm. Not really sure what the point of this is, actually. But it’s been on his mattress since he was born all the same.
  • Crib Sheets – Two Kaydee Baby 100% Organic Jersey Knit Fitted Baby Crib Sheets (fox and bear prints) off Amazon and the one referenced above in bassinet sheets. Again, three is probably too many.
  • Sleeping clothes and other items:
    • SwaddleMe swaddles – we got a bunch of these handed down to us, and they were great. I wouldn’t have thought to register for them, but they were pretty indispensable. I never could effectively swaddle in those big cloth rectangle swaddles (Dan could), but I could get these pretty tight. Until he started breaking out of them around two months or something, and we quit the swaddle (which I feared, but was fairly painless). I’ve since passed these on to another mother in the neighborhood, I think (I think for free, or maybe I sold an entire bag of newborn stuff for some amount of money. Those were the early days. Now I just post bags full of stuff for free – my main concern is it getting used again, not the money. Said the privileged mother.)
    • Aden and Anais muslin swaddles, pack of 3 – As I said, I couldn’t effectively swaddle with these, but these were still nice to have to cover the stroller when Gabriel was sleeping and wrap him in in the stroller bassinet. Once Gabriel reached almost a year old, I started putting one in his crib and covering him with it at night. It has now become his blanket, it seems. This is a recent development. He hadn’t shown attachment to any particular thing til recently, but I think this is it!
    • Sleep sacks – we transitioned from swaddles to sleep sacks pretty quickly. We started with the Swaddle Up 50/50 Transition Bag, which allows the arms to be constrained in like a swaddle or zipped off… but we just kept them zipped off after, like, a day. We also had a couple Halo sleep sack swaddles that we used through the transition, and two Halo sleep sack wearable blankets (one heavier for winter). Before summer fully arrived, we also got a Burts Bees one in a larger size to provide warmth, but now Gabriel sleeps in just shorts/t-shirt two-piece pajamas in his room that is 78-79 degrees overnight. I have sold or given away all of these (except for the Burts Bees, which I think will still be useful in the Fall) to other new mothers, either via Facebook or just directly.

Carrying/Strolling

  • Cloth wrap: Solly baby wrap – This may be the thing I think was most valuable. I used this for the first time when Gabriel was only days old, and I used it probably every day until he was about three months. It was a) the only way I could get stuff done around the house (and I don’t mean housework… I mean feeding myself, and yes, going to the bathroom); and b) an almost fail-proof way to calm down a fussy Gabriel. I think it didn’t work only once. This came everywhere with us, and I freaked out if we didn’t have it, because if Gabriel freaked out and we didn’t have it, what would I do? (Side note – I think back now on all the freaking out I did about the potential for my baby to freak out, and I wonder what all the freaking out was for?! I mean, babies cry. People know that. So what? Was it that crying usually meant hungry and I didn’t want to be put in a position where I unexpectedly had to breastfeed? Was it that I was worried he would start crying and people would think I was a terrible mother? I really don’t know what it was. It seems irrational now.) (More relevant side note – I think any wrap would probably have sufficed. Nothing specific about the Solly, except I want to support the mom-owned company!). I gave this to the same friend who we gave the Guava Lotus bassinet converter to.
  • Structured carrier: Ergobaby 360 ‘with cool air mesh’ – I think I perseverated over this decision quite a bit and don’t recall how we landed here. We like it! My friend let us borrow the infant insert.
  • Regular stroller: Uppababy Vista – This is probably the decision I spent the most time, energy, worry, etc. on. And I went back and forth a lot. I mostly was between the Uppababy Vista and the Nuna Mixx, but also the Vista vs Cruz. I finally landed on Uppababy for a couple reasons: 1) Nuna was in the middle of changing their product and no longer had a bassinet option for the Mixx. I wanted the flat bassinet. I thought it was important for baby to lay actually flat. 2) The Uppababy infant carseat (Mesa) could be purchased in a material (Henry) that does not use chemical flame retardants. Nuna also had an infant carseat at the time that was made without chemical flame retardants, but only the Pipa Lite – which was super light (awesome!), but could not be seat belted into cars. The base was required for installation. The slightly less light (but still lighter than the Mesa) Pipa could be seat belted in, but was not naturally flame retardant. So I went with Uppababy system. As for Cruz vs Vista… I don’t know that we made the best decision here. I don’t think it matters much. We’re not having another kid (the Vista has the option to become a double stroller, the Cruz does not), and the Vista has been great on any terrain we’ve taken it on… but the Cruz would ahve been a little lighter and smaller. But the Vista hasn’t been a problem. Anyway, we love it.
  • Jogging stroller: 2015 Bob revolution – purchased used on Facebook marketplace. We didn’t get this til Gabriel was around 9 months. A couple months before that, my parents brought us an Expedition jogging stroller they’d found for free on the side of the road. It was not in the best shape, but it was useful for determining whether I’d actually be interested in a jogging stroller. Turns out the answer was yes, so we decided to invest in one in better condition.
  • Travel stroller: GB Pockit. Lightweight and folds up small! Which is awesome. However, ours malfunctioned after being used only a handful of times (the handle up/down mechanism stopped catching). I called the company, and after a bit of a runaround, they sent us a new one and had us send the defective one back. Hooray!
  • Hiking carrier: Deuter Kid Comfort. We just bought this! The Ergo was no longer cutting it for hikes. We went on our first hike last weekend, and it worked great! It was comfortable to wear, Gabriel took a nap in it. Perfect!

Feeding

  • Breastfeeding Pillow: Boppy and BrestFriend – preferred the Boppy and sold the BrestFriend before I’d finished breastfeeding. A friend lent me a Boppy (I’d registered for the BrestFriend), but I returned that to her when Gabriel was about six months and bought my own. It’s still upstairs in the closet. Need to get rid of it.)
  • Pump: Spectra S2. It was between this and the Medela one that everyone likes (I forget the name). My insurance covered both. They unfortunately didn’t cover the Spectra S1, which is battery powered rather than corded, but that was never a problem for me anyway. I went with the Spectra because I’d heard it was quieter. I liked it a lot (as much as someone can like something that turns them into a dairy cow). I gave it away to a pregnant colleague in case she wanted one to keep at work. I tried hard to sell it on facebook or find a place to donate it, but no luck. (Facebook kept denying my post… not sure why.) I was happy to give it away. Hopefully she uses it! Places like Goodwill won’t take them. I also used a Medela… Symphony? at work. I just bought the pump pieces for it. I brought those home to wash everyday, but I could have also washed them at work and left them there. That pump is hospital grade. And it was fine, but I actually think I produced more with my Spectra. Or maybe I was just less stressed when I pumped. Pumping at work was stressful.
  • Manual pump: Lansinoh. I brought this to and from work every day in case I ever got stranded at Union Station trying to come home and desperately needed to pump. As it turned out, I didn’t really ever need to use this. I chose to use it a couple times at the very end of breastfeeding when I was weening off the final feeds (I was only doing a couple minutes a day, and this was easier to get out then set my whole pump/pumping bra stuff up). I sold this to a neighborhood mom through Facebook. Even though I didn’t use this much, I am really glad I had it. It could have been bad news if I was ever stuck in DC and didn’t have a way to pump.IMG_5831
  • Bottles: Mostly Dr. Browns plastic bottles, both narrow and wide mouth. We tried the wide-mouth glass ones. They leaked. Also, our glass ones were only 5 oz., and we transitioned to 6 oz bottles very shortly after we got them, so only used them a handful of times. Also, daycare wouldn’t let us provide glass bottles, only plastic. Gabriel started daycare shortly after he was 3 months old. Before then, we did bottles occasionally (even once a day sometimes) and would usually use the 4-oz capacity Dr. Brown’s bottles. But once he started going to daycare, we used the 8-oz capacity ones (I think we started with 5-oz bottles when he started daycare, and shifted soon to 6 oz), and that’s what we used until he stopped using bottles at a year. So, we probably only needed a couple 4-oz ones, and we had 6x 8-oz ones (3 narrow, 3 wide-mouth). We used preemie nipples early on, and once he went to daycare, we used 1s. I think we switched to size 2 around 6 months. I tried a size 3 once, but it seemed silly to do that instead of a sippy (the flow seemed similar), so we just worked on a sippy. I gave all of these away to someone through Facebook.IMG_5836.jpeg
  • Drying rack: OXO Tot Bottle & Brush Cleaning Set. Was this necessary? The brush, yes, absolutely. The drying rack… sure, I guess so. We kept this in the upstairs bathroom next to Gabriel’s room rather than down in the kitchen. We usually fed him his bottles in his room and would then wash the bottles up there and dry the on this rack. So it was nice to have a rack up there. Did we need it? Mm, maybe not. A towel probably could have sufficed.
  • Burp cloths: Burts Bees 5-pack. Since we had a ton of diaper pre-folds, these probably weren’t necessary. But they’d been on our registry, and someone gave them to us, and I am actually so glad. They are so soft. We still use them. We always have one or two with us in the diaper bag to use to wipe hands or faces or whatever. We definitely used them for burping, also. They’re lower profile (thinner) and softer than the pre-folds, so really nice to have.
  • High chair: Stokke Tripp Trapp – this came highy recommended by our friends form the Netherlands, and we love it. We also got the baby seat, tray, and a cloth cover for it. Gabriel’s still not crawling up into it himself and we still have the baby seat in, but he mostly just eats at the table (rather than from the tray) now. One downside is that the tray is not huge like some, so the silicone plates we have that are supposed to suction to their surface don’t fully fit flat on it, and therefore don’t suction. Hasn’t been a big deal.
  • Cups: Nuk, Dr. Browns with weighted straw, Munchkin 360, and now Bobo&Boo bamboo open cups. We switched off trying the Nuk, weighted straw, and 360 cups when we first introduced a sippy around 6 months. He finally got the hang of them maybe around… 8 months? But he associated the 360 with water and didn’t like milk from it, so we’ve always done only water in the 360 and milk in the Nuk and straw cups. We still give Gabriel milk before bedtime in the Nuk or the straw cup, and also when he first wakes up, sitting in the Dutalier rocker with him. Not sure when we’ll stop this. We’re working on the open cups. He can do several sips of water or milk if there’s not too much in the cup. Then he’ll set it down, usually gently without spilling. But then he’ll either put his fist in it, or dump the whole thing down his front or on his plate or on the floor, and then we take it away.
  • Plates: We’ve had an ezpz silicone tray/bowl and another silicone plate whose sections look like a pig. We also got some reusable bamboo plates for Gabriel to use at daycare.

Diapering

  • Changing pad: Leander Matty Changer – Dan got a recommendation from a friend for this. Other friends had recommended the Keekaroo. Both are not cloth and easy to wipe down. We liked the Leander. It’s wide, so the surface needs to be big enough for it. Our Ikea dresser just barely is. But… I have used cloth/foam/whatever ones that friends have, and they seem so comfy and cozy. Maybe Gabriel would like his diaper changes better if we had one of those. (Probably not.)
  • Cloth diapers: See my post on diapering. My favorite are Thirsties naturals. We bought one newborn Bumgenius all in one diaper that was absolutely the cutest thing ever. He grew out of it in like a week or two.
  • Disposable diapers: For disposables, we use mostly Honest. We’ve also used the ones we got for free when he was born, which I think were Pampers?, and Seventh Generation. They all work.
  • Wipes: Water wipes
  • Wipes holder/warmer: Not sure of the brand, but yep, after a week of scream-filled diaper changes, we got this used from one of Dan’s sister’s friends. We didn’t think we would want/need one, but definitely glad we have it.
  • Diaper pail: Ubbi for our cloth diapers, Dekor for our disposable diapers and other trash.
  • Diaper cream: Natural Boudreaux’s butt paste. Also used Primally Pure Baby Balm early on.

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Travel

  • Infant car seat: Uppababy Mesa, discussed above. We transitioned out of this right around 12 months. We’re about to take our first trips without it. Traveling with an infant car seat is logistically so much easier. Sigh.
  • Convertible car seat: Nuna Rava. No chemical flame retardants.
  • Carrier: covered above. For our early trips, we brought the Solly on the plane, and Gabriel stayed in there pretty much the whole time. Then we transitioned to the Ergo. But he gets fussy in there now, so I think we won’t bring it on the plane going forward, but may still bring it on the trips.
  • Backpack carrier: covered above. May travel with this now.
  • Travel stroller: covered above. We haven’t actually taken this on a plane yet, as we’ve traveled with our Vista. But now that we will be traveling without the infant car seat, I think we’ll switch to bringing the travel stroller.
  • Travel crib/pack n play: Guava Lotus – LOVE this.

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Clothes

I’m not going to list out all the clothes we got or used here. But I will say again, for clothes especially, get them used as much as possible. We did not register for any newborn clothes, except to ask for used items. (Oh, except we did register for non-skid socks, which we got, and which we used a ton.) We of course still got a bunch of newborn clothes (mostly onesies), which we expected – and used, and we also got an entire suitcase full of used clothes from Dan’s sister’s friend. It was amazing. I picked out like five different outfits to bring to the hospital for us to choose what to bring Gabriel home in (ha – see the picture of tiny baby Gabriel drowning in his carseat below. That’s what he ended up wearing. Including the non-skid socks!). I don’t even think he got a chance to wear all of the clothes we were given before he grew out of them, but we had plenty to last us the first three months at least. This lot included the SwaddleMe swaddles I mentioned above. Since then, I have had to buy some clothes, we continue to get some as gifts (and my mom often brings new or used ones from Mexico when she comes to visit), but I also posted a plea for used clothes on Facebook and was given an entire bag of 18mo and 2T clothes for free. That’s mostly what he’s wearing now. I wouldn’t have bought a lot of it myself (there are like 3 jumpers I wouldn’t have thought to buy, but they are so cute), but since I have it, he wears it. When I have bought clothes, I’ve opted for sort of fancy stuff because I buy so little of it (and gosh, it’s just so soft), mostly from Monica & Andy and Finn & Emma.

Bath, etc.

  • Wash: Beautycounter Baby Gentle All Over Wash
  • Sunscreen: Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen at home and Babo Botanicals Baby Mineral Sheer and Gentle sunscreen for at daycare.
  • Towel: Channing & Yates, and Dan’s sister made us one. Still using these.
  • Baby tub: We didn’t get a baby tub. We bathed Gabriel in the sink for the first several weeks, and it was absolute hell every time. He hated it and was slippery and he screamed, and it was just awful. So we transitioned to the big tub pretty early on. Friends had given us (accidentally, as it turns out – they meant to throw it away) this… thing. It was a very thin pad, maybe 18×24, with a foam pillow and two foam sides that velcroed on to it. It was the most unsophisticated basic thing imaginable, but it was great. We would lay Gabriel on it on his back. The foam things would keep him from rolling over. We’d fill the tub an inch or two with water. And we’d bathe him, and that was that. He totally didn’t mind that at all. I’ve searched Google to find something similar, but haven’t and don’t know what to call it. We stopped using that thing around when he could sit up on his own, or maybe a month or two later, and just sat him in the bath in several inches of water. He loves the bath.
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste: I bought the Baby Buddy finger toothbrushes and the MAM Learn to Brush brushes early on. Gabriel started drooling a ton around 3 months, but didn’t get any teeth until ten months. He still only has six, and most of his peers have at least 8, if not more. But he still drools like crazy, all the time. Daycare has nicknamed him ‘Juicy.’ Anyway, I bought these in anticipation of those first teeth coming in, but they sat in a drawer for a long time. When he finally got his first bottom teeth, we used the finger brushes every night before bed. But we soon moved on to the Learn to Brush brush with Jack N Jill Natural Toothpaste because daycare required us to send a brush and toothpaste with him at 12 months. We use it every night. He hates it every night. We absolutely are not getting his teeth effectively brushed any night. Please send me your suggestions. (I don’t think daycare is using what we sent.)
  • Nail clipper: Fridababy. I have to say, this has worked great, but I personally still don’t get it. Dan has cut Gabriel’s nails every single time. He used to do it while I was breastfeeding, now he just does it. I have never tried. It has this weird slanted edge that… doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe if I tried once I would understand.
  • Snot sucker: Yes, this is necessary. And yes, we registered for and got the Fridababy one that so many people recommend. And yes, we used it. Once. Every other time, we’ve just used the bulb suction thing we got from the hospital. It only requires one hand! The fridababy requires two – one to hold one end in your mouth, the other to hold it in the baby’s nose… and what hand are you supposed to hold the baby whose nose you’re shoving something up down with? Bulb suction all the way.

Other Items:

  • Boppy Newborn lounger: A friend recommended this. Was it necessary? Nope. But I was glad to have it. I would often place Gabriel in it when I was home alone and needed to shower, or when I was pumping in the morning while still on maternity leave and he was sitting beside me. Sometimes he liked it, sometimes he didn’t. Once he started rolling over, it had to go.
  • Rock n Play: Yep, we had one of these for about six weeks. I got it used through Facebook. Gabriel would occasionally nap in it in the kitchen while it vibrated and while I worked in the kitchen. Once he started to want to flip over, we sold it.
  • Activity Mat: Had this for most of G’s first year, but we didn’t use it much after six months or so. Did a lot of tummy time, but he never loved laying on his back (still doesn’t – he started to sleep better when he learned to flip to his stomach from his back around 12 weeks).

I may add more (or more commentary) to this over time, but that’s what we got for now! Enjoy and let me know if you have any questions!