Lately…

A lot happening in these parts. Back to school night tomorrow, then mini starts her twos program next week. As a first-time mom, I have been mildly overwhelmed by all the preparations for school, including several parent education nights (and coordinating sitters for them), a home visit from her teachers (!), an extended “phase-in” period that means I need to be available to bring mini to school for an hour or two at a time for several days — unless she snaps right in, in which case I can leave her for increasingly long increments (all of which in turn means quite a bit of maneuvering and contingency planning with micro’s breastfeeding schedule), and all of the paperwork and coordination that goes into her first week (including a “stroller parking application” so that we can leave her umbrella stroller at school when Mr. Magpie drops her off in the morning and either I or our nanny can pick her up with it in the afternoons — and is that not the most New York thing you’ve ever heard?)

Meanwhile, we’ve been doing our best to mentally prepare mini for school. I have been favoring my usual crutch: books that explain and depict transitions (mini loved this and this for toileting and this for adjusting to life with a little sibling). We have been reading a lot of Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School, Splat the Cat, and The Kissing Hand. I also really appreciate this What to Expect at Preschool book. It’s overly text-dense, but I always abridge and add my own language (i.e., swapping “preschool” for just “school” and “teachers” for “guides,” the lingua franca at Montessori) and it provides a lot of great prompts for conversation about school (i.e., “what is a teacher?” “will my parents come with me?” “what’s a classroom?” “what if I need to use the toilet?” etc.) We also printed out a “school countdown” page and taped it to her bedroom door. Every morning, we cross off an extra day (she does it with a crayon and loves this task) and talk excitedly about how many days are left until she goes to school. The key thing I took away from the parent education night on “separating” at mini’s school was that it’s important to talk frequently about what’s coming down the pike to mentally prepare them and set expectations. This jives with some of our observations about mini’s behavior, in that we noticed that she hates transitions, even just moving from one activity to the next or going from dinner to the bedtime routine. We have been doing a lot of “Emory, you have five minutes until it’s time to brush our teeth. You can play or finish your dinner, but you have five minutes.” And then we set the timer using Siri, and when the alarm goes off, it’s go time. It’s not foolproof but it’s helped with preventing colossal meltdowns.

Anyway. Thought I’d share all of the items I ended up buying for mini for the school year:

STATE BAGS MINI LORIMER IN TOILE

SADDLE STITCHES LUNCHBOX (SHE DOES THE BEST MONOGRAMS!)

YUMBOX SNACKBOX

SISTEMA TUPPERWARE AND BEABA TUPPERWARE

STASHER BAGS IN A FEW SIZES AND COLORS

MONOGRAMMED WET/DRY BAG FOR SOILED CLOTHES

REGATTA BLUE NATIVE SHOES (HER SCHOOL REQUIRES THEM — ALL KIDS WEAR THEM IN THIS EXACT COLOR WHILE AT SCHOOL)

STUCK ON YOU IRON-ON LABELS FOR CLOTHING

PREPPY PRODIGY LABELS FOR HER TUPPERWARE/LUNCH STUFF

CAMELBAK WATER BOTTLE

THIS CHALKBOARD AND THESE LIQUID CHALK MARKERS FOR HER FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL PICTURE (THIS IS WHAT SHE’LL WEAR)

A few other cute finds that you might like: these personalized reusable sandwich bags (I’m already stocked up on stashers), these personalized medicine bags for kids with allergies/medical needs, and this airplane backpack for a little boy.

OK. So, that’s what’s happening on that front. At the same time, we are hunting for apartments and have at the time of this post seen six candidates. The good news is that all of them could, technically, work and are substantially larger than our current apartment. The bad news is that somehow even though we are only a month out from our desired move-in date (October 1st — our current lease ends October 15th, and we’re comfortable with that overlap, as it would make the moving process a lot simpler), a lot of the units are looking for tenants who want to move in immediately. We may need to pay double rent for longer than we’d like. It simply boggles my mind that the NY market moves this quickly. In college, I remember signing a lease for a unit in, like, April that wouldn’t start until September. Even Chicago was more spaced out. Here, you need to find a unit and somehow magically coordinate a move within days?! How do people with children do this?! Anyway, I digress. I’ve had two quotes from moving companies for full packs of our apartment (best money we ever spent in our move to NY and totally essential this go around) and feel prepared on that front. Incidentally, I re-read my post on the move to NYC and — wow. I still have PTSD from the experience. It in part explains why we have decided (at the moment) not to engage a broker. This means we spend a lot more time scouring Streeteasy (NYC-specific platform for rentals and sales) for listings and coordinating for viewings, but — it saves us a ton of money and frustration. And, frankly, we’re doing just fine without one, especially having been through the rental process here in the past and knowing what to ask and where we can push to negotiate. It would be nice to have someone coordinating all of this for us (“just show up here at 11 am”), but last time, the broker’s ineptitude caused us substantial duress and money (like, thousands and thousands of dollars in hotel bills and temporary storage) and we are highly skeptical that even a skilled broker would be worth the fee (typically one month’s rent).

One thing we’ve decided as we’ve looked is that we are going to be flexible on neighborhood. We’re looking all up and down the West side and have seen apartments on the UWS, Chelsea, West Village, and TriBeCa. As each day ticks by, I’m growing increasingly impatient, but I know we have time in this crazy New York market and I trust we will sort this out.

All the while, I am horribly sleep-deprived. I try my best to avoid whining about this because it’s a part of motherhood, it’s a temporary season of life, and I am in some ways in control of my destiny. I *could* carve out time to nap during the day while the nanny is here. I *could* hire a night nurse. I *could* let him “cry it out.” I *could* go to bed at 7:30 P.M., when micro typically gets his longest stretch of sleep. But I choose not to do any of these things and therefore feel unjustified complaining in any measure. But, this is the fact of the matter: I am exhausted. I am going on three months of waking at least once, and often thrice, each night. In the morning, I find myself doing the depressing math as to how many hours of sleep I gained the night prior — and it’s usually around five, broken up into 1.5-2 hour segments. This does not a healthy or happy mom make. My doctor has assured me that he can go for longer segments without eating and that he does not need to be fed more than once at night. (In fact, some say they can go a full twelve hours at this age.) I know this, I know this, I know this. I am in a peculiar bind because I feel like I might have more of the emotional stamina to let him cry it out (I could not bear it at this age with mini!), but until we move to a three bedroom, it’s rather challenging to accomplish when he is screaming literally a foot from my face in his bassinet.

At one point, though, I felt so run-down that I decided to re-read “Moms on Call,” as about half of my mom friends swear by its schedule/approach and have babies happily sleeping through the night by three or four months of age. One friend said, matter-of-factly, over drinks the other day: “It just works. It’s foolproof.”

OK. Foolproof?! I’ll give it a try.

I re-read it and remembered all the reasons why it wasn’t for me with mini. I feel as though it doesn’t live in the real world — or at least the reality of my world. For one thing, we don’t have a separate bedroom (or, for that matter, crib) for micro that will be consistently quiet and dark. For another, I have a second child and I work from home and sometimes sticking to their schedule is insanity-inducing. I attempted to adopt her schedule for a few days and drove myself mad. For example, I found myself attempting to put micro down for naps at the suggested times rather than following his cues for sleepiness as I normally do, and then would find myself either continuously returning to his bassinet to shush and soothe him or walking around with him in my arms for thirty minutes at a stretch. If I had just waited for his telltale “I’m ready to sleep” signals — red eyebrows, squirms, fussiness — he would be out in a matter of minutes and down for a nice stretch of sleep. For another thing, bedtime is insane with two kids if I’m trying to stick to their program. I was literally racing through mini’s regimen, speed-reciting her prayer, in order to get to him for his bedtime bath before his nighttime feed — and OH. For what, Jennie?! Suddenly I was not only sleep-deprived but stressed and constantly checking my watch and my day — which already belongs entirely to my children and especially to my breastfeeding son — was doubly not my own, as I was not only beholden to my children, but to the schedule of the book.

I’m glad the book has worked for other moms. I love the idea of a consistent routine. I applaud and celebrate any tool that empowers any woman to be successful in her motherhood. I am happy for (and envious of) my friends with babies who sleep through the night. But I could not bend myself around it and it only worsened things for me temporarily. I should have known better: I tend to feel best, and most successful as a mother, when I am following my instincts rather than a rulebook. On the upside, it did make me realize that my instincts are not far afield from the ones espoused by the book, which made me feel good. I was already intuitively following the eat-play-sleep cycle, just on a more flexible rotation, i.e., sometimes he went four hours between feeds, sometimes only two and a half. On lucky days, almost five. He does sleep at least a little bit during each “cycle,” though a number of his naps are in the stroller or carrier out of necessity, and sometimes they are 20 minutes and other times, two hours. We tend to be feeding around the same times they suggested in the book. And “bedtime” follows a lot of the patterns in the book, though sometimes I only bathe him every other night, and usually I feed him an hour before I put him down, waiting for him to show me he is tired before I swaddle him.

Is this too detailed? Ha. Catharsis via the pen.

Anyhow, I am still struggling with the sleep issue. I am thinking that I will persist with the status quo until we move and micro has a proper bedroom and crib and can then pursue a more stringent “close the door and do not go in” policy to drop one of the nighttime feeds.

My other thought is — maybe he is going through a growth spurt? For a few weeks, he was sleeping consistently from 8 PM – 2 AM or sometimes 3 AM and that felt doable. Now we’re waking at 12 PM, 3 AM, and 5 AM and then he’s fussy until around 7. Maybe he is just hungry? Could he be teething already (he’s drooling a LOT)?

Such are the cyclical musings of moms around the world, I know. I am tired with you, my friends.

And so concludes my rambling update on life lately.

How are things with you? Anyone muscling through the experience of sending her little one off to school, or struggling with sleep with a baby, or moving in Manhattan? Or something else?

Post Scripts.

+You know that Ulla sweater I’ve been drooling over? Check out this similar style for under $100!

+This would also be a super cute gift for a daughter going off to school — you could wear one and she could wear the other.

+I wouldn’t say I belong to any one “school of thought” when it comes to parenting, in part because I don’t do well reading books on the topic, as noted above. They cloud my thinking and stress me out! I do borrow elements from slow parenting and have mused over “free-range” parenting. Mainly, I love this parenting advice.

+This octopus costume!!!

+Love this white blouse. I can never have enough little white tops!

+A girl can dream

+In love with this nightgown and this robe.

+Do you agree with this advice for young women?

+A chic shower curtain for a preppy bathroom (<<on sale!).

37 Comments

  1. I don’t have much to offer in the way of baby sleeping advice — not having any of my own! — but I do know that the SNOO was a game-changer for both of my nieces. One of my siblings was initially not on board with it, but after 3 weeks they caved & their daughter is sleeping SO much better. But I would definitely measure Hill and see if it’s something that makes sense, since they are good for smaller babies (from what I’ve heard from family & friends). My older niece had a purchased SNOO but my younger niece is in a rented one — by the week! — which is such a great idea.

    Ah, the broker thing. I had 3 different apartments during my 8 years in NYC, used a broker for the middle one, and NEVER AGAIN. I can see why it would be helpful if you had an endless supply of cash and/or severe schedule restrictions, but … no thanks. My middle apartment was in Cobble Hill and IO was told over & over that going with a broker was the only way to do it in that neighborhood, and the process sucked, was expensive, and the apartment wasn’t that great in the end. Bleh. Wishing you luck and a smooth transition to your new place, once you find it! 🙂

    xx

    1. You don’t know how reassuring it is to hear fellow (current and former) New Yorkers approve of our decision to forgo a broker. It’s been working out great so far, especially given my flexible schedule. So happy to hear this corroborated!

      Thanks also for the intel on the Snoo!!

    2. That is really nice to know! Also, I paid my broker close to 14% of the annual rent on the new apartment (significantly higher than just a month’s rent, which was hard to stomach). UGH it makes me mad to think about it, even now, 8 years later! Haha, I need to let bygones be bygones…

  2. The phrase “drowsy but awake” was invented to torture new moms and make them feel like they missed some magical sign from their baby that would make all the sleep troubles melt away.

    Also, my mantra: Humans have been to the moon and understand quantum physics. If there was one ‘foolproof’ way to get all babies to sleep we would know about it and it would work.

    1. OMG I laughed out loud when I read this. You are so right! I don’t know if I’ve ever seen my baby like this. HA!

      THANK YOU SO MUCH for this reminder, though. Going to keep on trying…

  3. I feel very similar to you about the scheduled baby books. With my oldest I really did try, however sleep training was not for me and as he got older I let it all go and trusted he would sleep and he did. My second I was confident and knew I’d cosleep, and he didn’t sleep through until I night weaned after his birthday! But, I wasn’t as tired since he was eight by me and I was just nursing to sleep and barely waking either of us.

    Micro is still so very little, chances to self soothe are great! But remember many of these books are not written for breastfeeding mothers, it is not a bad tool to nurse to sleep, you will be able to break that “habit” nature and biology gave it to us! Milk even changes in the night to have sleep hormones! Feel confident and know that he will sleep, don’t envy mothers with wildly scheduled babies and find ways to rest and savor this season. He may not sleep through for a while so figure out what works for you!

    1. Thanks, Brooke, for sharing this perspective and reminding me that there are MANY ways to raise a little baby. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on some secret mom wisdom or that I am a contrarian floating on my own island, but your note reminded me to follow my instincts and do what works for me. I also was reminded of the fact that I have several friends from different cultures who co-sleep with their children for YEARS and they all sleep…so…”cry it out” is not the only way to get through this! Thank you, friend.

    2. Of course! I totally get it, it can feel strange and contrarian to not do or even concur with what other mothers are doing. I really struggled with that in the early days as it felt very odd to cosleep and breastfeed past one in our very (I am struggling for the word here… maybe waspy… old school southern) circle.

      I have found other moms that are “softer” like myself and that has helped immensely to trust myself. I think sometimes the confidence in ourselves as mothers can be somewhat shaken up with the adjustment to two children! You are doing wonderfully, I can feel your love for them through your words constantly.

    3. Thank you so much for writing this. You are so sweet. It was so helpful to read an alternative approach to this topic and remind myself that it’s never ONE SIZE FITS ALL. xxx

  4. I second Taking Cara Babies! Also, totally agree about the broker situation…it almost felt like a scam to me when I was navigating the NYC rental market! Best wishes for a smooth move and in the meantime, more sleep!

    1. Thank you on both counts — was not familiar with this but will look into it, and — thanks for reassuring me that we’re not crazy for forgoing the broker! Very very reassuring!! xx

  5. Lots of sleeping advice here so you probably don’t need more, but maybe you have your husband wake and do one of the feedings? It’s the best way to determine if your baby is actually hungry or just seeking to be soothed by you. Then you decide whether you want to pacify that need or let him cry (or perhaps if you’re lucky he will just start sleeping for that stretch if he knows the bottle is the only thing available).

    1. Interesting – had not heard of this approach!! I literally created a list with all of these incredible ideas and am going to go down it one by one. Willing to test anything! Thanks, Amy! xx

  6. I see you already have several suggestions for sleep training, but I will throw my two cents in anyway, as I swear by this method: Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano. I could chalk some up to lucky when it worked with my first (who was not an easy baby by any means) but when the book worked like a charm for my second as well, I was a convert.

    In a nutshell, the method involves spacing out feedings to 4 hour marks and shortening nighttime feedings by a few minutes every few days. Eventually the child catches on and really makes that bedtime feeding count. There is also a suggested nap schedule (one hour in the morning, two hours in the afternoon). Both of my kids were on the schedule of feedings at 7am, 11am, 3pm and 7pm and then slept through until 6:30 the following morning. They would nap from 9-10 and then from 12:30-2:30.

    I can’t recommend it enough! My kids are now 3 and 16 months and are amazing sleepers, every night, without fail.

    1. Thank you, Joanna! Honestly, this “schedule” is very close to the one Hill and I are already on, and I do think I can stretch to four hours. We’ve done it when I’ve had a bit more bandwidth to rock/distract/pacify until we get to the four hour mark and that has told me that he can definitely make it. I hadn’t thought of shortening the nighttime feeds — super smart. Definitely going to try this.

      xoxo

  7. Have you given any thought to the SNOO bassinet??? They hold 35% off sales frequently; have a rental option; and a quick Craigslist peek shows 5 in NYC. Hoping you get to a better sleep pattern soon and the apartment finds its way to you soonest!

    1. The SNOO is wonderful and amazing, but take into consideration the size of your child before making a purchase now. My daughter grew out of it by the time she was 16 weeks old. It was A LOT of money for something we only used for 4 months.

    2. Ooh. Interesting. OK, will be sure to measure before testing. Hill is SUPER tall so I’m thinking he’s outgrown it. Thanks for this caveat!!!

    3. Hi! I’ve seen this! Did you use one? I’m hesitant to buy/rent one at this stage since I’ve heard they are best for smaller babies but…never say never. Definitely going to keep this on my radar. Any other magpies with Snoo reviews — please weigh in!

      Thanks for the suggestion and encouragement. xxxx

    4. I second the comment on making the move to the every 4 hour feedings. My little one is a little over 3 months and we are also on the 7am, 11am, 3pm and 7pm schedule. Down to one night feeding, which we are slowly decreasing. Naps at 9am and 1pm and bedtime right after the 7pm feed.

      Also, my older one is also starting 2s preschool this week and I am a sobbing mess!

      Loved this post and good luck with everything! XO

    5. Thank you, Katie — RIGHT THERE WITH YOU. I am so emotional about mini leaving for school! I can hardly stand it. I literally burst into tears at Eataly the other night describing the bracelet I’d bought her with her nickname inscribed on one side. AH. She will do so well, but I can’t bear the thought of not hearing her little voice in my home throughout the day, even though I am often trying to work and she is highly distracting…oh, Katie! We will get through this though. We will! xxx

  8. I just love this post. It feels like an email I’d receive from a friend giving me an update on their life 🙂

    My life lately has revolved around our house. We just installed a new fence in our yard, had our gutters taken down, the house has been pressure washed and is being readied for paint – which will hopefully happen in the next few days, then new gutters are going on, and following that new cedar shake siding will be installed above the garage door. (Ha, I obviously don’t live in NYC!) It’s a bit stressful coordinating all of that, but we’ve been in our house for 3 years and this is the first round of major projects we’ve done so it’s very exciting!

    I love hearing about the pending move, good luck! Maybe once you’re settled we can get a new apartment tour?! I got several good decor ideas for my own house from your last one 🙂

    1. You had me at “cedar shake siding.” YOU are a true adult and your house sounds incredible. I don’t even know how one comes to the conclusion to take down gutters but it sounds very impressive. GO YOU. It also sounds like a lot of work! Wow!

      I will for sure do an apartment tour with our new space! Already excited to spruce it up with some new furniture purchases and can’t wait to share what those are.

      Finally — you are so kind with your first comment. I feel like I am sharing my life with a bunch of friends, too! I mean, look at all this advice and feedback. INCREDIBLE. I am too lucky to be able to share some struggles and immediately get reassurance and advice — gently and kindly. THANK YOU and thanks to all the readers who took the time to write in today. Feeling all the feels.

  9. Have you looked into Taking Cara Babies? It is an e-course, although the Instagram account has a trove of useful tips and saved highlights (@takingcarababies). It is not something you need to bend to, but may supplement things that you are already doing and feel right to you.

    As a fellow anticipator, I can only imagine how taxing this month will be for you. Hoping you can find some moments to be gentle with yourself.

    1. No, I hadn’t!!! Immediately looking this up. Thank you so much and for the generous words and well wishes. I love hearing from my fellow anticipators 🙂 You feel me, I know it.

      xx

  10. Have you tried a “dream feed” with micro? Obviously may not work! But with us, my son eats at 7p, down at 8(ish). Then my husband feeds him again at 11p – keys are to get to baby before he wakes up hungry and not wake him to eat. My husband goes to bed around 11:15 regardless so doesn’t disrupt his sleep pattern. I’m in bed by 10 so this extra feed gives me more time to sleep before the next feed. Obviously you’d have to tweak the timing to work for your situation.
    In other related news, my other son just started Montessori at age 3 here in N. Va. No orientation, home visits, nothing! So different from NYC. And honestly, we’d have liked at least a little more intro…ah life 😉

    1. Jenn, I love this idea. I had kind of thought of doing something like this last night, waking him to try to get in a final feed before I go to bed, but didn’t know that it was called a “dream feed” and like the idea of trying to time it *just right.* Thank you so much for sharing this!

      Interesting re: Montessori! I was surprised and kind of overwhelmed by all of the steps to integrating her into the school but am glad we have them in place!! Thanks for writing in to remind me to be grateful for this.

      xxx

    2. I do something similar, feed baby right before going to bed (8:30ish) and he is almost sleeping through the night at 3mos. I hear him wiggling around at 3 or 4 am and “dream” feed him before he fully wakes up and loses it.

      However, I fully subscribe to doing what works for you and your baby! Henry kind of fell into this schedule so we went with it!

    3. Interesting that you have what I would consider a “later” bedtime for him — maybe I need to start putting him “down” for the night a little later so that we get that first, longer stretch of sleep a little later in the evening. More food for thought…

    4. Also, feeding him more often and larger quantities (he goes to daycare where they give him bottles) during the day leads to him sleeping more at night.

      Thank you for creating this forum, I love reading all these tips and insights from fellow mamas!

    5. Hi Jen — Thanks for these suggestions and ideas! It just dawned on me (…duh) after reading through your comments and the other ones posted here that if I can manage to feed him more at each feed but space the feeds out a bit more, maybe I can reduce the number of nighttime feedings to begin with, i.e., if he’s used to drinking more every four hours, maybe he will only wake up once in the middle of the night and be able to make it the final four hours until daylight. So much good stuff to consider here. THANK YOU! xx

  11. I hear you! My kids were 8 months and 15 months before they slept through the night. I thought I’d never get a full nights sleep again.
    Now they’re grown. Take each day as it comes. Power through with love. You’ve got this!

    1. Cynthia — I just love you for writing this: “Power through with love.” I thought of those words this afternoon when I thought I might pass out from exhaustion. Thank you thank you thank you. xoxoxo

  12. Hang in there, Jennie! What a busy season you’re in… a couple of things came to mind as I read this. One, if your mini feels loved by her teachers, everything else will fall into place (I’m a preschool director, former teacher, and I see this happen EVERY year). When they feel loved, they feel secure, and then the learning and thriving can happen. 🙂 Two, have you heard of “Babywise?” Saved my life when I had 3 under age 5… had my youngest sleeping for long stretches at night by 3 months and through the night by 5 months. Lastly, be kind to yourself. You’re doing a great job, mama. xo

    1. Thank you, Heidi, for all of this — I am especially dialed in on this quote: “When they feel loved, they feel secure.” Tremendously reassuring to hear that. Thank you. And, have not heard of “Babywise” — thank you! xoxo

    2. I love this post! It really does feel like catching up with an old friend. Also, I second Babywise! I thought the schedules in Moms on Call were way too strict and Babywise lets you be more flexible with timing.
      Heidi, so helpful to hear your perspective. My 18mo just started a mother’s morning out program and the first day didn’t go so well. But I know she has great teachers so we’ll power through!

    3. Loved reading this exchange 🙂 Also interesting note about Babywise v. Moms on Call re: flexibility. xx

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