Holiday gift guide: Books for babies

Halloween has come and gone, which means Christmas is right around the corner—at least if you’re listening to radio commercials and shopping, um, anywhere. (I swear the Christmas displays were up before I could stalk the aisles for discounted Halloween candy.)

But with all the tasks I’m juggling, I’m a big fan of getting holiday shopping done early. You too? Well, good news: here’s our baby-tested holiday gift guide, books for babies edition.

The 10 best books for babies: This gift guide makes your Christmas shopping list easy for kids in the family! Ten Thousand Hour Mama

(This post contains affiliate links, which means clicking and buying gets me a few pennies.) Read more

Make the most of new moms’ group

When Kiwi was three weeks old, I packed a diaper bag, strapped her into her car seat and drove to a nearby new moms’ group. I felt shockingly good for being just a few weeks postpartum. I had put on mascara. My nursing tank was clean. I felt ready to meet new people, build a village in a relatively new community and offer the wisdom I’d already gained, having done this whole newborn thing once before.

In the coming weeks and months, though, that I can do this! attitude crumbled under the weight of sleep deprivation, Kiwi’s silent reflux and my own postpartum depression.

In those months, the new moms’ group became a lifeline.

Joining a new moms' group can offer support, ideas and the amazing friendships that will last your kids' entire childhood. Here's how to make the most of it. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Why join a new moms’ group?

A friend of a friend who was expecting once scoffed at the idea of a new moms’ group. “Why would I ever pay to join a group where people would tell me what I already know?” she asked. I didn’t know her that well, so I kept my mouth shut.

But here, I’ll tell her what have gained going to a new moms’ group, both with Kiwi and Peeper. I got:

  • Unconditional support. My fellow mamas were there every week, and they listened to me no matter what.
  • Ideas. I have a new question nearly every week, from how to transition a baby out of a swaddle to how to make sure your cruiser doesn’t faceplant in the tub. Brainstorming ideas with a room full of experts—aka moms—gives me more tips to try.
  • A chance to help others. Especially now that Kiwi is older, we have been through much of what moms with younger babies are struggling with. I, then, can chime in with what worked for us.
  • A reason to get out of the house. Having a newborn can feel like living under house arrest. It feels good to leave the house—and even better if you get to interact with people other than the checkout lady at Target.

Joining a new moms' group offers a lifeline in one of the most challenging parts of your life. Here's how to make the most of it. Ten Thousand Hour MamaThe families you meet at new moms' group will become your village—and your baby's besties! Make the most of the group you join—here's how. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Win at new moms’ group

Not all new moms’ groups are the same, but I have been unspeakably fortunate to have found the communities within the moms’ groups for Peeper and Kiwi.

That said, it takes a little effort to make the most of a new moms’ group.

New moms group night out

Based on my experience, I offer these suggestions to connect deeply and build your village.

  1. Be vulnerable. Motherhood is not easy. No one expects you to be that uber together mom. (Does she even exist? I don’t really think so.) And, as the wonderful facilitator who runs my new moms’ group says, “Being vulnerable is a gift. By opening up, you allow others to be vulnerable, too.”
  2. Start a Facebook group. Crises always seem to strike at 3am, and having a place to vent/ask questions/post a picture of your baby’s weird poop—at any hour of the day—helps you stay sane.
  3. Don’t leave without getting someone’s number. Exchange numbers with at least one person each time you go to new moms’ group. Then don’t be shy to text.
  4. Keep a standing date. Every week after new moms’ group, a handful of mamas and babies go to lunch together. There’s no strict commitment—we attend as our schedules (and kids!) allow—but we know the option of grabbing a bite or heading out for a picnic is always on the table.
  5. Plan play dates. Every so often, one mom hosts a play date. The get-together gives our kids a chance to play/poke each other’s eyes and gives us a chance to catch up.
  6. Introduce your families. In new moms’ group, we see our mom friends and their tiny babies. Most of us have a partner, and some of us have older kids, too—none of whom come to group. Meeting the whole family, like we did for a holiday party and a giant brunch potluck, strengthens our ties. Some of the dads are becoming friends, too!

All the babies! Joining a new moms' group will build your village when you most need it. Ten Thousand Hour Mama

I’m still friends with many of the women I met during the new moms’ group I attended when Peeper was born. It’s been a beautiful experience watching their babies grow from tiny peanuts into preschoolers.

I feel so fortunate to have built this community—this village—of moms. But don’t take my word for it. If you have a new baby, test out a new moms’ group for yourself. It’s in your power to create a nurturing, supportive, loving and fun community to raise your baby—and yourself as a new mama.

Did you find a supportive community when you were a new parent?

Filling my bucket: A kids-free beach weekend

In the depths of winter, when every day as a mom of two felt too hard to endure, I had this kids-free fantasy: I’d check into a hotel, I’d lie down in the king size bed, and there would be no one there to touch me. I would take a shower and eat a meal someone else cooked. Maybe I’d watch some TV. But mainly I’d be away.

The fantasy always felt cruel because it seemed utterly unattainable. I had a toddler who cried whenever I picked up my baby. I had a baby who was often in pain from reflux, who hardly slept, and who wouldn’t take a bottle. Even though we had the means to pay for a hotel for a night, I couldn’t go.

I felt trapped.

I remembered this fantasy a few weeks ago when—wait for it—I spent an entire kids-free weekend at the beach with friends.

I remembered the pain, the desperation, the dark hopelessness of those teary days. But the memory didn’t sting like a fresh cut; rather, it was an ache of a more distant pain. And the salt water of the Oregon coast helped heal me.Girlfriends kids-free beach weekend minivan Read more

A poem for my water bottle

When Peeper was born, the folks at the hospital gave me a giant double insulated water jug. I reveled in its 28 ounce capacity and brought it everywhere. I drank water like it was my job because, for a breastfeeding mama, it was my job!

Then one bad no good horrible day, I left the jug on top of the car and drove away. The jug was smashed. My heart was smashed. I missed that hunk of plastic for months.

I told this story to the nurses at the hospital where I delivered Kiwi. Not only did they gift me a new one, they gave me two.

Maybe they were angling to get Kiwi named after them.

Well played, nurses.

Anyway, the other night I was trying to keep myself awake and amused as Kiwi nursed, so I composed a little ditty in honor of my favorite drinking receptacle. (What, isn’t that what everyone does?) I give you:

My Giant Water Jug

You’re my beautiful big water jug
Night and day you allow me to chug a lug
I fill you with ice
Splash in water so nice
And continue to breastfeed my little bug

Now I’ll just wait for the poetry contracts to roll in.

The Baby Survivalist Room: Stocking up pre-baby

You’d think that since I’ve done this whole pregnancy thing before that I’d have it down by now.

Ah, if only.

Here I am at 34 weeks—that’s a month and a half from my due date for anyone who can’t be bothered to do the math—and I still feel largely unprepared for the tiny person who’s about to make our family a foursome. Perhaps part of me has gone all laissez-faire about it because I figured I have everything we used with Peeper; perhaps I’m just more focused on things like taking care of a toddler to make fastidious to-do lists and register for layettes.

(Still not entirely sure what a layette is.)

This past week, though, I finally got my widening butt in gear—at least a little. Read more

A (very unconventional) baby shower for #2

When my sisters emailed me about the need to start planning a baby shower for Kiwi, I told them no. “People don’t throw a shower for second babies,” I told them.

The idea of registering for things we didn’t need, playing games and opening a mountain of presents in front of guests—read, the usual baby shower—didn’t appeal.

Undeterred, my sisters convinced me by proposing a thoroughly unconventional baby shower (or sprinkle, as some folks call the more minimal baby showers).

Pirate Putt-Putt Baby Shower Black light putt putt baby shower Read more

Super-protein quinoa enchiladas and coconut-pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies

When you have a baby, all your attention hones in on feeding the newest member of your family. Moms keep track of feeding times and lengths, visit the lactation clinic, figure out latches or bottle flows, and worry if Baby is getting enough to eat.

Brand-new moms spend a lot less time working on feeding themselves, and that’s no good: Parents have enough on their plates without being hangry on top of everything.

So when two friends had babies a few weeks ago, I took the first opportunity to bring them each a meal. Since I’m not terrific at feeding myself, either, I chose recipes that would feed all three of our families!

These precocious baby buddies are already perfecting their secret handshake.
These precocious baby buddies are already perfecting their secret handshake.

When flipping through my Pinterest boards, I looked for functional foods. I decided on this super-protein-packed quinoa enchilada slow-cooker dish because research shows protein is crucial in repairing damaged tissues—something especially important for mothers who had c-sections.

I also made these coconut-pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies. Yes, it’s important for dinner to meet all your nutritional needs, but in those early weeks of raising a newborn, sometimes a bite of something sweet can get you through that moment when your munchkin poops all over you the second you’re showered and wearing clean clothes for the first time in a week. I added a salad, threw in some tortilla chips and called it a meal. Read more