Category Archives: reader questions

Reader Question: How Does a Second Child Change Things?

Jessica writes:

I am pregnant with our second. We have an almost-3-year-old with a speech delay and sometimes I feel like we are barely holding it together. We both work outside the home. Can you (and maybe readers) tell me how having a second child changes things? I am really scared.

This question gives me an immediate split response as I remember how HARD it was at first, and how FINE it was in the long run. What I remember about having a toddler (Rob) and a newborn (William) is walking around thinking endlessly “This can’t be done. This can’t be done. This can’t be done.” (When it happened again when Henry was born, I concluded that it’s something magical about the toddler-plus-newborn combination.)

But then after awhile things got more comfortable and familiar and I thought, “Oh I get it: this is what people mean when they say ‘the new normal.'” I couldn’t really remember anymore what it had been like before the new baby arrived, and when I TRIED to remember I found I was imagining it must have been a blissful relaxed time with “only one” child, and how oh how did I fill my time? But as you know, and as I knew, it had NOT been like that. In fact, it had been pretty much the same as I felt now: busy, and sometimes barely keeping things together, but other times things working okay.

It would be hard to say SPECIFICALLY what changes, or how it changes, or what that’s like. Remember before you had your first baby? People could tell you what it was like for them to bring home their first baby, and what changes that made in their lives and marriages, but they couldn’t tell you what it would be like for you—and they couldn’t really explain even their own experience well enough to give someone else a true picture of it anyway. There was nothing for it but to wait and see for yourself. Nevertheless, I can tell you some of the things that changed in our house, and others can tell you what changed at their houses.

One thing that changed for us is that it’s harder for one parent to give the other a break. With one child, one parent can take the child to the store, or play with the child in another room, and the other parent can be free. With two children, one parent can still do these things with both child, but the perceived burden will be significantly higher.

On the other hand, I found that in my particular marriage, this led to my resentment levels dropping considerably: with one child, I felt like Paul was always free to go off and play on the computer or something, figuring (rightly) that there wasn’t much for him to do while I was nursing the baby; with two children, it made sense to both of us that each of us should be taking care of someone. I would be dealing with the baby, and he would be busy, too, playing a game with the toddler; or I would be bathing the toddler, and he would be holding the baby. It gave me a feeling of balance and fairness that led to a happier household overall.

Another thing that changed for us is that a number of things started feeling more “worth it”—I’m thinking of as the younger child got older. Getting out all the painting stuff for one child seems like a lot of work; for two, it seemed like I was getting double value for my time and effort.

A fun change was how endlessly fascinating we found it to notice the similarities and differences between the two children. This was a game we hadn’t been able to play with just one child. Taking pictures of them together was also surprisingly entertaining, as was dressing them in coordinated outfits. Geez, I know this sounds lame. BUT IT WAS FUN. Really, a very pleasing side effect of two or more.

Another change was how big our older child seemed all of a sudden. It was like he was a baby that morning, and a totally competent walker-talker that afternoon. I felt like the new baby gave me a much greater appreciation for the older child’s skills—things I hadn’t noticed so much before, like how nice it was that he could tell me what was wrong, or point to what he wanted, or be set down anywhere without slumping over like a cute little slug.

And the flip of this was also true: I found I could appreciate my second child’s babyness so much more, because I could see it in contrast to the older child. Instead of feeling like his babyness was practically all used up at 6 weeks (as I did with my firstborn, although to be fair that was in the middle of a hormonal cry fest), I felt like he seemed small and cute endlessly. And I could appreciate the simplicity of his needs: he needed food, or warmth, or a new diaper, or snuggles—he didn’t need a twentieth “Why?” answer, or to have it explained why he couldn’t have my coffee, or to have me to decide how much television he could watch.

Oh dear, I don’t feel like I’m answering your question AT ALL. Perhaps now is a good time to get the comments section going.

Update! Jessica writes:

Hello! A couple of years ago I sent you this question.

I wanted to tell you how incredibly reassuring this post and the subsequent comments were. I sadly ended up losing the pregnancy I was writing about, but got pregnant again a few months later and we had our beautiful second son in May 2012.

I think the biggest lesson I learned is that babies are DIFFERENT. Our first son was a difficult, difficult baby. Everything was hard — feeding, sleeping, awake time, going out, staying in. Therefore, I fully expected our baby experience to be replicated, except also with an older version running around wreaking havoc and demanding attention.

As it turned out, our second is the proverbial “easy baby” and our very difficult toddler has matured into a only moderately difficult preschooler.

Because of my paranoia, we had arranged for a young babysitter to come play with our older son for a couple of hours a day during our baby’s first few weeks, and that made a huge, huge difference, especially as I recovered from a c-section.

But my fretting was mostly unwarranted. Older son LOVES the baby, and we haven’t experienced too many alarming backslides in his behavior. He tries to be too rough with the baby — of course — but that’s pretty easily handled. Our days are intense, but joyful.

So thank you to you and the commenters for helping me through the fretful anticipation period. As is almost always the case, the worry turned out to be much worse than the reality.

Reader Question: Sleep Issues 3

Jessica writes:

Please help me! I know you don’t do these often, but you do them sometimes. Will you do one now? Will you HELP. ME? I’m hoping you and your fantastic readers can help. Ava is 10 weeks old now and the kid does. not. sleep. She still wakes up every 2-3 hours to eat. And it takes her 45 minutes to eat a 4 oz bottle, so if you do the math (I can’t, I’m sleep deprived) I think I’m getting like 18.4 minutes of sleep at one stretch. My boyfriend works out of state, so he’s rarely home so it’s just me and my 10 year old and I’m pretty sure asking her to get up with the baby is a bad idea. I read “Becoming Baby Wise” because a friend swore that it helped her get her baby to sleep…I read it, and I don’t get how it helps your baby sleep. In addition to her constant waking at night, she also doesn’t nap. She’ll take a 15 minute cat nap here and there, but that’s it. I’ve tried letting her sleep in her bouncy chair and her swing, doesn’t make her stay asleep longer. I’ve tried laying her down in her bassinet or her crib when she’s looking sleepy, she wakes RIGHT up and is pissed. I’ve tried letting her “cry it out”, and I hate it. I did it for 30 minutes and she just got more and more mad to the point where she started choking. (Can’t do that at night anyway, because the 10 year old will wake up!) The only way I can get her to sleep during the day is if we run an errand (but it has to be longer than a half hour), she’ll fall asleep in her car seat and then I just leave her in it when we get home (I know, I’m mean). I realize she’s only 10 weeks old and she’s BRAND NEW, but when I read that 10 weeks old require 15-18 hours of sleep, I want to cry. Here’s what we’re doing now: 9pm, bottle, bed time routine & asleep (was doing 7pm, but she wakes up at 10) She’s up at 11, 2, 5 and then 6:30 (we never leave the nursery when she wakes) and SOMETIMES I can get her back to sleep until 8. I’m exhausted, my parents have offered to come over during the day to let me nap, but I am seriously incapable of sleeping during they day, unless I drug myself into it, and then I’m a mess the rest of the day. I have to go back to work soon, and there is no way I’ll be able to function like this. Do I just have to wait, or do you have some killer advice? I’m hoping between you and your readers, someone can help! I’m going crazy. I realize this email is all over the place, but my brain function is limited these days. If it helps to know, she’s bottle fed (formula).

Oh, dude, I SO WISH I had AWESOME EXPERT FIVE-CHILD ADVICE for you, but do you know, I don’t think I EVER successfully solved a sleep issue, or at least not without another issue cropping right up. I consider them NIGHTMARES to handle. I will tell you EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT SLEEP, and it will not take long:

1. That thing I read a few other places, about the baby’s first nap of the day being about an hour and a half after the baby wakes up. This BLEW MY MIND because it seemed so counter-intuitive: why would the baby go back to sleep again so soon after waking? But indeed, if I put my babies down at about that interval, they DID go to sleep. (This does not mean it will work for your baby; see #2.)

2. That babies are SO DIFFERENT about sleep, and that what works for one person works for someone else only by SHEER COINCIDENCE. This can be excruciatingly annoying when you’ve got a Poor Sleeper and a friend is telling you that if you would “just” do X and Y, YOUR baby would sleep like HER baby did. When actually what it was, was that she got a Good Sleeper and is crediting her Awesome Techniques for it, and/or that her baby happened to respond well to the particular technique. This is one of the areas where I feel like working in a daycare did me HUGE FAVORS: the more babies a person handles, the more a person is forced to accept that some babies work one way and some babies work another way and there isn’t much that can be done to change that.

3. That it also matters what works for YOU the parent. As you’ve noticed, some people can nap during the day and some can’t. People have different levels of tolerance for crying, and different abilities to adjust to different levels of sleep. People also vary tremendously in their willingness to do certain things such as swing sleep, tummy sleep, car sleep, on-me sleep. What works for you will be different than what works for another parent, just as what works for your baby will be different than what works for another baby. And this may change over time.

4. It is worth continuing to try things. There are so many stories of families that struggled and struggled and struggled and struggled, and then they tried their hundredth thing and THAT worked for THEIR baby.

5. But if it DOESN’T happen like that, see #2.

6. Are you able to doze in a recliner while you feed her at night? I did that for a lot of night feedings, but I know people vary in their dozing abilities. I used a lot of pillows to prop everything securely, and then I’d drift off. Sometimes this meant I woke up in the recliner in the morning, baby asleep next to me.

7. When you go back to work, will she be in daycare during the day? I’ve heard encouraging stories of daycares sleep-training the child during the day, which then results in better nighttime sleep as well.

And now let’s turn it over to the group, because THAT is where I think the valuable advice is: when you can see a huge pool of advice like that, you can see the amazing variety of possibilities and you can pick-and-choose and try different things.

(You can also look at the comments from two previous sleep-issue questions: this one is my favorite and I say a bunch of things I would have also said to you except I felt self-conscious about repeating myself, and this one is also my favorite, for the same reasons, and the comments sections on both posts are SO GOOD.)

Reader Question: Preparing a 2-Year-Old for the Birth of the New Baby

Bird writes:

I have a reader question for you and your amazingly helpful readers:

I’m due to give birth in the next 10 days and I will most likely have another c-section. I have a 2.5 year old son already and I’m wondering how much/what I should tell him about mommy being gone for a few days when I give birth. We’ve been talking about “the baby” for a long time and I think he’s aware enough to understand that there is a baby and its in mommy’s tummy but I haven’t really broached the subject of actually going to the hospital, having the baby and re-couping for a few days. Most likely he will be in the care of a neighbor-friend for an afternoon/evening until my mother gets into town so the birth will be accompanied by a change in his routine and a
sleepover which I’m sure will give him some anxiety as it is. I’ve never been away from him for longer than a school day so I think my 4 day absence will be hard on him (and probably me as well). Currently, he thinks people go to the hospital to “be fixed” but I don’t want him to think that I’m broken, or something bad happened to me from the baby and that’s why I have to be at the hospital. Any advice on what we should say/explain? Thanks!

The book I remember being helpful when I was expecting my second baby was Za-za’s Baby Brother by Lucy Cousins, which I see is out of print. It’s not so much that the book was so awesome; instead, it’s that I felt like it did a good job setting up the timeline of a new baby—rather than just focusing on the feelings feelings feelings FEEEEEEELINNNNNGSSSS of the older child. In some books (Berenstain Bears and Little Critter, I am looking in your direction), the mom just vanishes and reappears an hour later with a smiling baby, and it’s all about how jealous the sibling is, or how the baby is too little to do anything, or how the baby is so awesome.

But in Za-za’s Baby Brother, the mom is pregnant, and then grandma comes to stay with the child while daddy takes mommy to the hospital (we see them leaving in the car); then the child visits tired/happy-looking mommy in the hospital and brings a present for the baby; then mommy comes home and is very tired, and the daddy is very busy (and then there is the usual mention of the older child’s feelings of being left out and neglected).

Anyway, I think that’s the gist of how I’d present it to a 2-year-old: The baby is growing in mommy’s special tummy (or however technical you get with that part), and soon it will be time for the baby to be born. You will go to the neighbor’s house (add details here about maybe having a meal, maybe watching a video, maybe playing toys, maybe even sleeping there—whatever) and mommy will go to the hospital where doctors will help the baby be born. Then mommy and the baby will rest at the hospital for a few days while grandma takes care of you, and then they will come home and all of us will live together. Mommy and daddy will be tired and busy at first while we all get used to having the new baby live with us, and it might be weird and loud to have the baby around at first—but then before long it will seem normal to all of us.

You can put in tons more detail if he likes that kind of thing: you can say things like “And then Grandma will give you dinner, and you will go to bed, and when you wake up mommy and the baby STILL won’t be home! And then you will [whole day’s routine], and then you will go to bed, and when you wake up mommy and the baby STILL won’t be home!”—and on and on, for as long as he’s interested and you can stand it. I think this is a good way to give toddlers a feeling for the passage of time.

Our firstborn (he was 2 years 2 months when the second child was born) was pretty oblivious, but he enjoyed the endless repetitions of the story of what would happen and when and how. Our hope was that even if he didn’t really understand it ahead of time, then when it DID happen he would recognize it from the story. (The funny thing was that he continued to want us to tell him the story, even long after the baby was born.)

More tips and ideas and advice for Bird? How did you prepare an older child for the birth of a baby and the accompanying schedule upheaval?

Reader Question: Who Should Be on the Christmas Card List?

Melissa writes:

What is the standard for sending Christmas cards? I send them to out-of-town friends and family, but I don’t send them to people I see often (say on a weekly or even monthly basis). Is this rude? Should I send them to everyone? Of course, if an in-town friend or family member send a card (this happens VERY rarely), I send one back, but I don’t have them pegged in my original Christmas card list. Thoughts?

My GUESS is that there is no standard at all: i.e., that every person you ask will have a different answer, ranging from “I don’t even send one to my mother” all the way to “I also send one to each kid at our bus stop, and to the UPS guy, and to the grocery store manager.” And I’ll bet there are tons of different things like “I send to aunts/uncles but not to my cousins” and “I send to friends but not co-workers.”

It probably depends a lot on a person’s reasons for sending cards: a card can be a wish for a happy holiday, or a way to keep in touch, or way to meet an obligation, or a vehicle to transport new family photos, or all kinds of things. And it probably also depends on a person’s feelings about cards: some people think of it as a holiday chore, and some people love it and look for excuses to add to the list. And it probably depends a lot on The Way Things Are Done in a person’s circle of acquaintances.

The GOAL, I think, is for both people in each relationship to be pleased with whether they exchange cards or not. I have some people I see often that I DO send cards to, and some I don’t. I definitely don’t think there’s anything rude about NOT sending a card to someone.

But now I am VERY INTERESTED to hear how everyone else handles holiday card lists: who’s on it, who’s not, and do you have categories of people you send to or don’t send to?

Reader Question: Hospital Bag for a C-Section

Tara writes:

I need some assistance packing my hospital bag! My c-section is scheduled for the morning of December 22 (28 days!). Is there a difference in a c-section hospital bag from a regular hospital bag? Do you have a maxipad recommendation? Pajama/nightgown/slipper situation? Recommendations for in-room entertainment for 3 days at the hospital? Since we’ll be checking out to go home on Christmas, should I bring my husband’s Christmas present to the hospital or wait till we get home? We don’t currently have any other children, so my husband will be with me at the hospital for the most part; will he need a separate bag or will he go home to shower/brush teeth/change clothes? I’m just at a loss here and kind of frazzled. :) Any help you can provide would be MUCH appreciated.

You have probably noticed while shopping for baby things that some people will say “OMG GET A SWING YOU MUST HAVE A SWING!!!!” and other people will say, “All I can say is definitely don’t waste money on a swing—totally useless!” It is the same with hospital bags: one woman will say that for the love of all that is holy, bring your own pajamas—and the next woman will say DEFINITELY use the hospital pajamas.

I can tell you what I brought, but I think it would be more useful to do it in General Principles rather than in Specific Checklist:

1. Hospitals and couples vary, but at the hospital where I delivered, the spouse wasn’t allowed to use the hospital’s shower and was discouraged (“discouraged” = the intake nurse saying to Paul “If we can see the patient in the room, we know it’s safe to barge into the bathroom without knocking. Just so you know”) from using the room’s bathroom (it was strongly suggested that everyone except the patient keep their germs out of there, and there was even a separate sink for non-patient hand-washing). So if it’s the same at your hospital (you can ask on the tour, if you’re taking the tour and haven’t taken it already), this means your husband will be going home once a day. This FURTHER means that if there is anything you suddenly realize you need, he can get it for you. I remember feeling as if I were packing for a deep-woods isolation trip, but if you forget something, there are ways to get it. (Most ways = spouse fetching.)

2. I liked using the hospital’s garments. They had nightgowns with nursing panels, and robes, and they were made of this cotton stuff I thought was EXCELLENT—kind of ROUGH but in a very cozy pleasing way. And that way I didn’t have to worry about various blood/disinfectant stains on my own clothing, or about the nurses fussing at how inconvenient it was to check me. But I DID pack a lot more socks and underwear the second time around, because I found I wanted to change the socks more often than I would have thought, and I hated hated hated the net-stocking underwear the hospital used. And I didn’t mind throwing socks and underwear out if necessary. I also brought slippers, because the nurses LOSE THEIR MINDS at the idea of anyone getting into the beds with socks that were just on the floors.

3. My hospital provided pads: HUGE ones for at first, and slightly-less-huge-but-still-freakishly-huge for when things slowed up a bit. I made sure to open a fresh bag of pads shortly before leaving: you can bring home any opened bags.

4. I always managed to overpack entertainment. I don’t know where the time goes, but I’d somehow manage to spend 3 days in a hospital room and read about one article in a People magazine—and books were too heavy, even if they were light. I found that what we needed was stuff for PAUL to do: I was on pain meds and hormone surges, and gazing at the baby and learning to nurse and taking naps and getting my vital signs checked and answering embarrassing questions, but he was his normal self and so time was moving normally for him. He set up a jigsaw puzzle, and he brought books, and he brought some DVDs but I don’t even remember what they were. If you DO finish your magazine, your spouse can bring you another; if you find you want to watch DVDs, again the spouse can fetch.

5. This is something else that varies from hospital to hospital: FOOD. At the first hospital where I delivered, patient meals were provided but everyone else had to eat in the cafeteria. At the hospital where the other children were born, each patient was allowed one free extra meal (per mealtime) for the spouse or other guest. So depending on how your hospital does it, you may want to have your husband pack snacks.

6. I wanted my own pillow.

7. Another thing that varies from hospital to hospital is toiletries. Both hospitals I’ve been in had shampoo, conditioner, body wash (or, more accurately, a 3-in-1 that claimed to do all those things), bar soap, toothpaste, and toothbrush. But I preferred to have my own (not only because I preferred them, but also so the baby could get used to my usual scents), so I brought travel sizes and my own toothbrush, and also deodorant because they didn’t have that. They had lip balm but again, I preferred my own. They also had little tubes of Lansinoh, but I brought my own so I’d have it even if they forgot to offer. And I brought a brush, and some ponytail holders, and my pouf because I prefer it to washcloths.

8. You’ll want an outfit to bring the baby home in, and you also need clothes for yourself. I bring lounge pants (or yoga pants, or flannel pajama pants) and a t-shirt and slip-on shoes—in fact, I usually wear home the same clothes I wore to the hospital.

9. And the car seat, and a blanket for babykins.

10. I wouldn’t bring the Christmas presents: anything you bring, you’ll need to lug home again, and you’ll be home for Christmas anyway. And thinking back to how I felt in the hospital, I think trying to celebrate a holiday there would have been too overwhelming and hard to concentrate on.

11. CAMERA. (Thanks, Alyssa!) And that reminds me, I brought my journal.

What have I forgotten? What did you guys want/need or NOT want/need?

Reader Question: Group Teacher Gifts

Laura writes:

I turn to you in the hopes that you will be able to give me your opinion on this gift giving question. Will you please, if you are inclined, let me know what you think of this pitch from the kindergarten room parents at my daughter’s school?

One of the standard practices at Blank Elementary is to collect money from parents to pay for gifts for Ms Smith during Teacher Appreciation week, around the holidays, and at the end of the school year. Parents find that doing a group collection is an efficient way to handle gifts. The Room Parents put together an budget for how the money will be spent during the year and determined that $35 per child is the right amount. As each event comes up, we’ll ask for ideas and and opinions so the gift-giving will be a group decision. If you’d prefer not to take part, that’s perfectly fine, but please let us know so we can plan accordingly.

I have never heard of such a thing, but I am new to Massachusetts and perhaps they really -do- have a “standard practice” like this. However, this is Ms. Smith’s first year at the school, and so I am skeptical (in addition to being slightly appalled).

Oh, I’ll tell you what I think all right: ACK. That is what I think: ACK. My coloring is HIGH PINK right now. I don’t like the tone of it; I don’t like the wording of it; and I think $35 per child is a ridiculous amount. If there are ten students, that’s THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS for teacher gifts in a single year—and in my kids’ kindergarten classes there have been more like fifteen (FIVE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS) or twenty (SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS).

Furthermore, “group decisions” on gifts tend to SUCK. If my previous experience with such things is a guide, what will happen is that the room parents will come up with several ideas nobody likes (including the teacher), and no one will be up to arguing about it, and so the room parents will just make all the decisions and everyone will feel dismayed at the way their money is being wasted.

I would absolutely “prefer not to take part.” I would say, “No, thanks, we’d prefer to do our own shopping for gifts!” in a cheery voice. I would also talk with other parents if I knew them: I’ve found that with things like this, sometimes everyone thinks everyone else is okay with it and they don’t want to be the only one “preferring not to take part.” I don’t mean starting a bitchfest behind the room parents’ backs—just a casual, “Did you get the thing about $35 per kid? I’m not doing it, are you?” Some parents probably WOULD find it easier (and even a relief) to just write a check for the whole year, but a lot of parents are going to be thinking what we’re thinking, which is “WHUH???”

If the suggestion were, “Look, we all know the teacher would rather have a $100 Target gift card than twenty $5 ornaments and boxes of chocolate, so let’s pool our dough,” I would be IN—and also HAPPY, because this seems sensible. But that’s not what this is. This is the room parents asking for, say, six hundred dollars of other people’s money, which they will then have control over—and in the process removing the actual feelings of generosity and appreciation from the gift-giving occasions. DO NOT LIKE.

Reader Question: Labeling Clothes

Rachel writes:

My first son has just started preschool and I’m supposed to label his extra clothes, jackets, etc. However, some of his clothes are hand me downs (mostly labeled with sharpies) AND I have a second son who will be wearing all of these items in a year or two. Any great suggestions for labeling clothes that can then be “relabeled” for a future child???

Thank you so much for any tips.

ACK, I KNOW, this drives me NUTS!! My eldest went on a one-week sleepaway trip and they wanted Every! Single! Item! labeled, including SOCKS, I am not even kidding. And some clothes have no tags for writing on, or the labels are black or whatever, and some stuff (sleeping bags, pillow cases) belongs to the whole family so I don’t want just one person’s name on it.

What I do for most stuff is write with fine-tip permanent marker our surname only, no first name so it can work for handmedowns, on the label or even on the fabric itself if there’s no label or if the label has already been written on and I needed to scribble it out.

For things with no place to write (or things I don’t want written on), I use a strip of masking tape and write on THAT—but then that has to be replaced a few times as it curls up and/or peels off, or if the item needs to be laundered.

For spare clothes, I put them in a gallon-size Ziploc baggie and I write on the baggie instead of the clothes.

Can anyone add some more tips? And has anyone tried iron-on labels or other solutions?

Reader Question: What’s a Day With a Baby LIKE?

Lauren writes:

I was feeling pretty calm about this whole pregnancy thing (especially now that the barfiness has mostly passed) until I read the information packet from my midwife, wherein they recommend we check out of the hospital and go home (accompanied by the midwife) within 2-3 hours of delivery. All of a sudden I realized WE HAVE TO TAKE THIS BABY HOME. And I have no idea what life will look like after that happens. I understand that at first you’re just feeding and changing and sleeping and trying to stave off a nervous breakdown, but I have no idea what the days look like after the first weeks or months are over. I’ve asked a few friends and they’ve all said they don’t really remember. What do you DO all day long? What does a typical day look like? Is there even such a thing as a typical day? It tends to be the unknown that freaks me out, so I feel like if I can visualize this a bit, I will feel a lot better about the whole situation.

Back when Rob was a baby, I wrote little monthly updates on him in my journal: what he was eating, how he was sleeping, a sample day, etc. These updates were draining and boring and time-consuming to write, but it was ALL WORTH IT FOR THIS MOMENT.

So let’s see, we are looking for information about the stage AFTER the Newborn Craziness. Shall we say…3 months? (I’ll use photos of 3-month-old Henry for decoration, because I’ve got those digital already whereas Rob’s would need scanning.)

One thing you will notice right away is that I WAKE THE BABY UP in the morning. This was not because I was crazy, but rather because Paul and I shared a car and if I wanted the car I had to drive him to his car pool pick-up.


6:00-6:25 a.m. wake baby up, change him, nurse him on one side

6:25-6:50 a.m. baby and I take Paul to his car pool

6:50-7:00 a.m. nurse second side

7:00-8:00 a.m. play with baby, then give him his play gym and put him on the bathroom floor while I take a shower

8:00-9:00 a.m. baby fell asleep while playing, so he naps in bouncy seat

9:00-9:15 a.m. baby wakes up with blow-out diaper and needs major change

9:15-9:40 a.m. nursing

9:40-9:45 a.m. tummy time until crankiness

9:45-10:15 a.m. ran errand; baby fell asleep in car

10:15-11:50 a.m. baby napping at home still in car seat

11:50 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. woke baby up so I could change and nurse him before baby group

12:15 – 3:30 p.m. baby group (one nursing and one changing) [note from Swistle: was baby group really THREE HOURS? That seems unlikely. It was probably 2 hours plus driving time and I forgot to write something else down, like maybe my lunch, or maybe he napped starting at 2:30 instead of 3:30 or WHO KNOWS.]

3:30 – 4:30 p.m. baby napping

4:30 – 5:30 p.m. baby changed, nursed, played with…

5:30 – 6:00 p.m. oh never mind, the day is too complicated and the summary ends up too inaccurate.

6:00 – 6:30 p.m. pick up Paul at car pool

6:30 – 7:15 p.m. take turns eating dinner and holding baby

7:15 – 7:45 p.m. baby bath

7:45 – 8:00 p.m. nursing

8:00 p.m. baby to bed


See how I lost hope around 5:30? I remember how I’d keep trying to guess how long something had been but then that wouldn’t seem right at all and nothing added up and FORGET IT. But I’m still glad to have it, because it’s a lot closer than what I would have been able to recreate at this point. I see I tried again the next day, and I’m glad I did or I would have thought I always woke the baby up in the mornings:


5:00 – 5:10 a.m. baby laughing and silly during diaper change

5:10 – 5:30 a.m. nursing

5:30 – 5:40 a.m. baby snuggling with Paul while I rinse diaper and scoop cat box

5:40 – 5:50 a.m. baby crying and uncooperative for tummy time

5:50 – 6:25 a.m. ?

6:25 – 6:50 a.m. taking Paul to car pool


And that’s where I gave up that day.

In fact, that “?” at 5:50-6:25 probably sums up “a day with a baby” better than any other part. SO MUCH of the day is “getting interrupted”—like, if someone had followed me and done the documenting for me, it probably would have been stuff like:

8:45 – 8:46 a.m. fold several pieces of laundry

8:46 – 8:48 a.m. have to stop because baby is crying to be changed

8:48 – 8:49 a.m. fold several pieces of laundry

8:49 – 8:50 a.m. move baby from bouncy seat to bed where I’m folding laundry

8:50 – 8:52 a.m. search fruitlessly for baby’s binky

8:52 – 8:53 a.m. change toys on baby’s play gym

8:53 – 8:54 a.m. fold several pieces of laundry

8:54 – 8:55 a.m. pick baby up and pat him; does he need to eat yet?

8:55 – 8:56 a.m. change shirt baby spit up on

8:56 – 8:57 a.m. fold several pieces of laundry

8:57 – 8:58 a.m. find a chewing toy for baby

8:58 – 8:59 a.m. maybe binky is in the car?

8:59 – 9:00 a.m. try to nurse baby; baby not interested

9:00 – 9:01 a.m. fold several pieces of laundry

And so on. And then I would try to record that in the schedule, and it would have to be:

8:45 – 9:00 a.m. ?

More reports and opinions and rememberings, please: What’s a day with a baby (after the crazy newborn stage) LIKE, would you say?

Gifts for a Sick Friend

My cousin Lee writes:

I have a good friend from college who has had a bone cancer disease and it is getting the best of her now. her entire face from the nose down had to be basically taken apart to get the cancer out of the jaw bone.

She only drinks liquids now…and can’t smell very well.

So here’s my question for you and possibly for your blog readers if you want to pose it….

I want to send her a care package. Smelly things are out….food is out….

What could I assemble that would bring her joy and happiness?

She loves flowers…but flowers die quickly….I want some things to cheer her up.

and I need help figuring this out.
I’m stumped.

Are you on it for me?

Aw, GEEZ, Lee, this is really SAD! And a little gross BUT MOSTLY SAD.

Flowering plants are good, if you think she’d be up to caring for them. When Henry was born, my parents brought me a gorgeous shiny splendid geranium for my room. Admire:

Also admire little Henry on the bed.
How eensy is he? VERY eensy.

In fact, indulge me for a minute. Look at THIS:

I took this from behind my own head, and it is SO evocative for me. The familiar fabrics of the hospital! The way the bendy, birdlike newborn feels all curled up and rumpled and falling out of his clothes, and the way his entire butt plus both feet fit into one hand. That “Oh my god, you’re HERE!!” feeling. The soft, soft newborn hair, and the way it feels during snuffling.

…Where were we? OH YES. Gifts for a friend. So, a big shiny geranium. Or, our supermarket has some really nice Gerbera daisies. I bought one on impulse and finally had to re-pot it because it’s getting so big. Cheery, and they seem to do well indoors, or at least mine does. Or one of those cute little tea-rose plants!

Or a small framed picture of flowers might be nice. I’ve framed greeting cards before, and it doesn’t cost much (especially if you find a frame on clearance, and I saw some nice colorful ones on clearance at Target the other day).

Or stationery? I always like pretty stationery.

A paperback, maybe, or a whole bunch of them if your library does cheap book sales like mine does. And those can go book-rate which is pretty cheap, if you send them by themselves.

Oh, a journal!

Or a “learn to” book: I had a lot of fun doing Drawing for the Artistically Undiscovered. It comes with the pencils, and you draw in the book itself, so it’s like a drawing kit.

Which reminds me of a journal by Sark I FLIPPED over when I was in high school. I’m pretty sure it was this one. I haven’t seen it in years so I don’t know if it would appeal to adults as well.

Music! A tape of you playing songs she likes?

Okay, next idea. There are sites that offer support to people with illnesses, and what they do is they assign a “mail sender” to each person, or else they post mailing info for all the people and anyone can send them mail. The idea is that getting regular little surprises in the mail (a letter, a postcard, a greeting card, a little gift like soap or a box of tea or stickers, a medium gift like a mug or a hat or stationery or a $5 gift card) is good for morale. I can’t remember any of the names of these sites (it seems like all of them involve the word “angel”) (oh, here’s the one I read about in People awhile back, and here’s one for children), but it’s the sort of thing you could do for her yourself: a steady stream of small things in the mail might have more impact (on your postage budget, too, unfortunately) than one big package.

Furthermore, you may be able to recruit others to work on this with you. I can’t even tell you how much I love buying gifts and mailing them, so I’d LOVE to help—and maybe other bloggers/readers or others of your friends or her friends/relatives would want to help too.

Reader Question: Decluttering the Wedding Dress

Christy writes:

I have a decluttering/wedding dress question. I’m in the midst of a huge declutter, and I can’t decide what to do with my wedding dress. I’ve been married for 11 years and haven’t once looked at my dress until I embarked on operation get rid of stuff. I need opinions. Keep or donate? I can’t decide! What did you and your readers do?

Oh, neat question! My first wedding dress I intended to keep, and I wondered about maybe dyeing it a different color so I could wear it again. It wasn’t a wedding dress per se, just a white lacy dress bought off a clearance rack in the Better Dresses department—on clearance because it looked wayyyyy too much like a wedding dress for anyone else to buy it, is my guess. And dyeing it would not have worked, I don’t think, but it didn’t matter because the marriage ended Embarrassingly Soon, and I donated the dress to Goodwill, or maybe I threw it away, I can’t remember. Anyway I got rid of it.

My second wedding dress was even LESS weddingish: Paul and I got married with a justice of the peace and no guests, and our goal was to wear clothes we could then wear to other people’s weddings, so he wore nice khaki pants and a white oxford and a tie, and I wore a dark green dress with a floral pattern. We did in fact wear those outfits to a couple of weddings, which was fun and sentimental. I still have the dress even though it’s too small for me now. (This is the problem with losing weight for a wedding.)

But neither of these was a Big White Dress situation. I think that if I’d had a BWD, I would have gotten rid of it during one of our moves. They take up so much space, and have so little use. I think I’d do what the decluttering books advise and “Keep the pictures, not the item”: that is, since there are lots of photos to remind you of the dress, no need to keep the dress itself.

On the other hand, I am the one holding onto a dress that no longer fits me.

What have you guys done with your wedding dresses, those of you who had wedding dresses?