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Shopping for My Girl

By Allison Slater Tate, who can also be found blogging at allisonslatertate.com/

When my first baby was a boy, my husband breathed a sigh of relief – not because he didn’t want a girl, but because he was under the (somewhat mistaken) assumption that I would spend less money buying clothes for a baby boy than I would for a baby girl.

I swear I’m not a completely shallow person, but I love me some shopping. I can’t help it. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I don’t drink… much. But shopping is cathartic for me. I try to window shop, or the Internet equivalent, most of the time. I try to be practical. But I admit it: I do love shopping. Since having kids, I love shopping for my kids. My poor, frugal husband has had to accept this fact.

As we proceeded to have baby boy number two and then baby boy number three, he believed he was largely in the clear. As much as I did and still do enjoy shopping for my boys, I was forced to pare down my shopping habit and embrace the concept of hand-me- downs. I mean, I’m not completely ridiculous. Ahem.

Tracy Hougham PhotographyBut then it happened: our last baby, born in April 2012, was a girl. Lucy.

Game on.

My husband’s saving grace is that this baby is my fourth and not my first. I am now at a point in my life when I appreciate less STUFF – less laundry, less clothing, fewer toys. I have six mouths to feed now. We are staring down four college tuitions. I’m ready to be pickier about my shopping habit. I still enjoy shopping just as much, but now I am ready to find things I love and can afford.

[My girl Lucy photographed here by Tracy Hougham Photography. Find more here: tracyhougham.com]

I was familiar with zulily before I had Lucy. I bought a few gifts – I love the personalized plates, for instance – and I had bought the boys several super cute T shirts that stood out from the pack of usual boy clothes fare (stripes, stripes, and a side of stripes). But after Lucy was born, zulily became my playground.

For years, I had pressed my nose against the store windows, both virtual and real, staring longingly at the dresses, the tights, the bows, the little ruffled bottoms and the bloomers and the tulle skirts that only belonged to the girl side of the aisle. I dreamed about tiny ballerinas, fairy gardens, and mary janes. I memorized the names of the girl brands I loved – Baby Nay, Baby Lulu, Jelly the Pug, Trumpette, Mud Pie, Kissy Kissy.

The past six months, I have been a kid in a candy store. I have the sweetest baby girl, and I have had so much fun snuggling her and learning who she is. But I cannot deny that I have also had a ball dressing her. Thanks to zulily, I can afford to buy her some of the special things I used to covet: Hair bows. Smocked bishop dresses. Ruffled floral rompers. Lucy now has quite an impressive closet, stocked in a variety of sizes and colors and styles. I adore every single piece.

I still love baby boy clothes, and I find dressing my boys both a challenge and an adventure. I still hunt for the perfect witty T shirt, sweet corduroys, and fun hoodies for them. But now I have the baby girl I had started to believe I would never have… and the tiny hair bows and the ruffled bloomers never get boring. Neither does the precious baby they adorn.

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the newbie: Late Walkers

By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

June is almost 16 months old, and she’s still crawling. She stands up regularly, takes a step or two when encouraged (sometimes), but mainly she thinks the whole walking thing is overrated.

This means a few things for me:

First, her clothes are all insanely dirty. Muddy pants, sloppy sleeves, shoes that look like they’ve been run over by a dump truck. Forget the cute dresses in her closet—they cannot be worn until she’s upright.

Second, I have to handle the “Is she walking yet?” question with finesse. “She’s not,” I say. “But we’re not worried.” Because the thing is, we’re mostly not. She’s a healthy, happy kid with fine muscle control. But lots of people seem to think we should be concerned. Everyone has an anecdote about the kid who walked late, but most people say it with a little gleam of worry in their eye (or maybe I’m projecting).

Third, I’ll admit it: I just want her to stand up on the playground and toddle off with the other kids. And I want to make use of those cute dresses.

Anyone else have a late walker?

the newbie: Volunteering with Kids

By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

Our beloved New York City got hit very hard with Hurricane Sandy, but luckily we live on high ground in Brooklyn and our neighborhood was spared the brunt of the storm. We feel so lucky to have power, water and dry floors, and we’re looking for ways to help our neighbors deal with the destruction they’ve faced.

This particular moment has caused me to look for opportunities to volunteer with baby June. Surely there are things we can do together—cleanup in the park, visiting nursing home patients, caring for animals in a shelter. But what I’ve found is that kids aren’t allowed to come with their parents to volunteer. I’ve applied to a few places, asked around, and searched online to no avail.

I will try to find time to help out when she’s with her dad, but does anyone have any tips on how to volunteer with kids in tow? Or do I just have to wait until she’s a little older?

the newbie: Halloween!

By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

I know that, at 15 months, June is too young to remember this Halloween. But still, how can we resist dressing her up and taking her door to door?

My husband is getting out of work early on Wednesday, we’re bundling up our baby girl in a strawberry outfit that’s cozy and cute, and we’re collecting candy! (Whether June gets to eat any of it remains to be seen.)

This year, I think we’ll just do some trick-or-treating on our block, but I’d really like to make our family holiday celebrations special starting next year. My mom used to peel grapes so they felt like eyeballs in the dark. And cold cooked spaghetti sure can pass as a bowl of brains when you’re young and impressionable!

Happy Halloween!

Please share: Do you guys have any Halloween traditions that you do with your children? Does your neighborhood have an event? Also: What are your little ones dressing up as this year?

the newbie: Screams from the Stroller

By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

This week, we’re experiencing tons of shrieks on the part of Miss June. Whether delighted, angry, frustrated or excited, she’s reacting at top volume. Her babysitter told me they’d been asked to leave Barnes & Noble because of these cries, and that made me laugh. I try to react mainly with smiles and a calming voice, but I’m hoping this stage ends soon.

A lot of angst seems to be tied to the stroller—she wants to get out of it, even though she’s still not walking; she’s still crawling like mad and trying to stand. Still, being in the stroller seems to be a huge inconvenience for her. I feel like I’m punishing her when I strap her in—she sometimes kicks and screams like a wild bull—but we have to get from place to place!

I wonder if anyone else has dealt with this type of stroller revolt. Is it best to try to talk her down? Soothe her in some way? Ignore her cries? Taking her out of the stroller really isn’t an option most of the time.

Any advice?

the newbie: Sick!

By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

I don’t know how many times I’ve knocked on wood when I’ve said, “June has never gotten sick!” but I must have missed one, because she’s congested and snotty and coughing up a storm of phlegm this week.

I know it’s normal, but it’s also heartbreaking to hear your little baby cough, right? Maybe I’m a wimp. In any case, the worst part is that, at 14 months, she doesn’t understand that she’s sick, so she’s trying to play and bounce and babble just like any other day. What she really needs is rest, rest, rest, but tell that to a baby who’s on the cusp of walking and can’t hear a beat without clapping and dancing.

We’ve been playing in the bathroom with the hot shower running to help clear up her congestion, we’ve tried a little baby vapo-rub and I’ve even used the snot sucker (June screams and I feel like a medieval torturer). She’s waking up at night, cranky in the day and just generally, well… sick.

I’d love to hear what other moms have done on sick days to encourage rest and recovery. (After June does that, I’ll need a day for R&R of my own!) Thanks, Mamas!

the newbie: Got Games?

By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

It’s been raining a lot this fall, and now that June is 14 months old, I’m having to get more sophisticated in my entertainment efforts. She enjoys setting Pandora to “Call Me Maybe” radio and having dance parties in front of the mirror. She also loves tearing up a roll of toilet paper, piece by piece. I know I probably should take it away from her but it seems a small price to pay for half an hour of peace on an afternoon when we can’t get out to the park.

We also have a floor full of toys, animal flash cards and a music table, naturally. Usually a giant cardboard box is more appealing than any of that. The day when the diaper shipment comes is like a trip to Disney World—that box is huge!

But sometimes I feel like the court jester—trying everything to make the Queen laugh and laugh, and fearing her inevitable turn to the Cranky Dark Side.

I’d love to hear what other moms do to make their little ones happy on an indoor day.

the newbie: Ditching the Bottle

By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

At the 12-month visit our doctor advised us to move to full-time sippy cup usage and get rid of bottles. I was excited to stop washing out bottles and dealing with all the various parts involved—big step! As for the transition, I thought, “No problem!” June’s been drinking water from a sippy for months now, so I figured she’d be comfortable with it.

Boy, was I wrong.

When it comes to milk, this girl wants bottle, bottle, bottle. She throws the sippy cup with milk in it, refusing to drink. I’ve started giving her a big smoothie so she gets enough milk, but having her drink milk on its own is a real struggle without the “baba.”

I think she got dependant on the bottle as a comfort object, and I know we should break her of that, but it’s proving hard. I wonder if it’s just a matter of making bottles disappear altogether, or a gradual process…

Has anyone else handled this transition in a way that worked well?

the newbie: Separation Anxiety

By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

While June has had a lot of time with Grandma, her regular babysitter, and the other parents and babies in our apartment building, she’s starting to get a little clingy with me — even in familiar places! Last week we went to our usual appointment at the YMCA, where I drop her off in the childcare room and then get a workout in, and she clung to me in terror and screamed.

It seemed so strange — she knows this room and these babysitters. She usually sniffles a little bit but then gets distracted by all the great toys they have and the enthusiasm of the staff, not to mention the other kids, who mesmerize her. But this time, she cried and cried as I left the room. I felt awful, but I told myself that she would be fine. I was sure that I’d return to find her happily playing with the dollhouse or the cars.

No go. About 20 minutes into my Total Body Fitness class, one of the childcare providers came to get me to tell me that June was still crying. I put away my equipment and went to get her — she looked so fearful and worried that it broke my heart.

I know that separation anxiety is normal, and she’s almost 14 months old so maybe it’s just really taking hold of her now. Still, what’s the best way to deal with it? My instinct is that I need to continue to walk away and give her experiences where she has to work through this new fear, but that’s awfully hard to do!

Any advice?

the newbie: Food Play!

By Melissa Walker, who can also be found blogging at melissacwalker.com

June is now over 13 months old and eating three meals a day, along with some whole milk. I have to admit that I’ve never been much of a cook, but suddenly it feels very important to be making balanced, nutritious meals for her (as opposed to heating up ravioli, which is what I do for myself if my husband isn’t home—he’s the chef in the family).

If the baby had it her way, she’d eat bananas 24/7 (the girl asks for “nana!” all the time). She eats berries, too, and even pomegranate seeds, so we’re okay for fruit, I think. Snacktime is like a fruit explosion!

I’ve found some ways to have her eat vegetables—spinach in scrambled eggs, pureed broccoli under the cheese in a pita pizza—but I’m definitely looking for new recipe ideas. I even got the Jessica Seinfeld cookbook, but I’m not sure how much I want to use purees; I’d definitely like her to try the full vegetables, but I don’t want her to spit them out (she tends to do that).

I would love to hear what other moms do for their kids to have them try new flavors, eat well and enjoy mealtimes.