Free to Be You and Me at The Library

I almost fell into the trap myself; paying for activites to do with my son. When he was an infant, I was still pretty isolated. I didn’t yet have the playgroup to hang out with and no real mom friends. So I when I would see local advertisements for Baby Yoga, $10/class I would start salivating. It sounded so appealing, being in a calming class with other new mothers and my new bundle of joy; however, I literally did not have the $10 to spare. So I didn’t pursue it.

As I noticed how many paid baby activities there were in my neighborhood and in New York City in general, I started to feel like maybe there was something wrong with me. Perhaps I had to pay for activities to do with my baby to have a good time. So I hung my head down and went home.

Out of sheer curiosity, I began researching free baby activities online. At first I couldn’t really find much. But then, I remembered my best friend, who recently graduated from an Early Childhood Education program, telling me that the Public Library had a great Early Childhood program.

Boy was she right! First I tried to attend a Story Time program at one of the Manhattan branches, but because of my perpetual lateness, I missed the program. This was after lugging my son and his stroller on the subway to West 4th Street.

But I didn’t give up. I found out that The Grand Army Plaza branch of The Brooklyn Public Library was having Story and play Time for ages 0-5 Saturdays from 10am – 11am. This program was absolutely totally FREE.

The Story and Play program is awesome. All the children and parents gather in the children’s room of the library which is very warmly decorated and carpeted. The librarian reads three stories, sings many songs, and then the kids are free to roam around and play with copious amounts of plastic toys! How wonderful! And it didn’t cost me a cent.

The same library, at Grand Army Plaza, also has the Story Time/Babies and Books program for babies from 0-18 months. This takes place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10am, 10:30am, and 11am respectively.

Each of these programs runs for 30 minutes. But beware, there are limited seats so you have to get there early to get a ticket for the program you wish to attend. It is similar to Story and Play except there is no play time. It is just reading books and singing songs. But there are puppets involved too!

I am so happy to have found the library. It’s a great place hang out with your baby and it won’t cost you a dime!

http://www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/first5years/events/

Trusting Your Inner Mom

I went to the library today with my son for their Story Time program as I usually do on Tuesdays. I was feeling a bit stir crazy, since we didn’t get out yesterday, so we went to the 10am program. My playgroup buddies were missing in action, as both their babies were taking naps at unceremonious times. So I was there solo.

After the program, I was approached by a lovely woman carrying a six month old infant in an Ergo baby carrier.

“Excuse me?” she asked “Can you do me a favor? Can you help me fasten this?” She was referring to the back strap of the carrier. She was unable to reach the strap herself to click it together securely.

“No problem!” I said and I obliged.

“You know, I had actually had the same issue with the Ergo carrier myself, but I learned a trick.” I told her.”Pretend like you are fastening your bra strap together.”

“Oh!” she replied with surprise. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

She tried my trick, and it worked. She was thrilled.

We got to talking, so I asked her out for coffee.

She told me about the issues she was facing with her son, starting solid foods, his unwillingness to nap etc. I commiserated with her on all of the things she was bringing up. Here was an intelligent competent woman just trying to do the right things for her son. I felt I was looking at myself just a few months ago.

It was really reassuring to know that I’m not crazy. That the issues that I was facing six months ago are common ones among mothers. That’s what meeting this mom reminded me of.

Babies don’t come with an instruction manual. As much as we would like to think that we know what’s best for our kids, we are all (to some extent) flying blind. We can receive advice from many sources but ultimately, the way we raise our children is up to us as mothers.

I remember the day that I came home from the hospital with my boyfriend and our son. We got into the apartment. We put our baby in the crib. We looked and each other and thought

“Now what?”

We had no idea what to do. But the point is, you figure it out. My son has survived one year with me stumbling through, trying different things, figuring it out.

And that is what I will continue to do. I have to remind myself that all I can do is try.

Cloth Diaper Update

I’ve written to a bunch of cloth diaper companies asking for samples. Here is what I said:

To Whom it May Concern:

I am the mother of a 11 month old, and I am heavily considering the cloth diaper option. I currently have blog where I am beginning to review baby products. http://oldschoolnewschoolmom.blogspot.com/

Would it be possible for your company to send me a sample cloth diaper to try?

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Sarah Fader

*************************************************************************************

The responses I’ve received so far have boiled down to this; we can’t send you a sample because our company is too small and we would go broke if we sent out samples to everyone who asked for them.

I have included the current responses I’ve received below.
————————————————————————————-
Good Morning Sarah,

Thank you for your interest in Thirsties!
Unfortunately, as a small Mom and Pop company, we are unable to send out samples.
You could watch our Outlet Store at www.thirstiesoutlet.com, or find a retailer on our wholesale site: www.thirstiesbaby.com.

Best wishes in your endeavors!
Sonya
Thirsties Customer Support

————————————————————————————————-
I am sorry but we are a small company and we are unable to send out samples to everyone that asks for them. We get this request 5-10 times every single day and doing so would put our small business out of business.
Good luck with your blog, I stopped by to check it out.
Linda Byerline CEO
MLB Industries Inc
www.happyheinys.com
www.babyfrenzy.com

————————————————————————————————
I understand their position; however I don’t want to purchase a product before I know what I’m getting into.

The Search For a Playgroup

When my son was around four/five months old, I was going a little stir crazy. I wasn’t employed and I had no real mom friends. My only friends that had babies lived too far away to visit on a regular basis. So I hung around the apartment with him a lot. My dad noticed that I was going a little nutty being in the house all the time.

“Why don’t you try to meet other moms?” He asked. “Join a playgroup? You guys used to be in a playgroup when you were younger BLAH BLAH BLAH playgroup…”

So I indulged him. I looked online for playgroups. And the majority of the playgroups I found cost money. I was astounded. It seemed counter-intuitive that I should have to pay for my child to play with other kids. Plus, I had no money to spend on such things. My boyfriend and I were barely making ends meet as it was. So I kept looking.

I contacted a local children’s toy store to inquire about playgroups. They informed me that they organized mother’s groups by birth month. Great! Could I join it? Yes, for a mere $30 fee. So I succumbed and paid the cash to have some social interaction with other mothers. They added me to the email list.

So I sent out a mass email to the moms on the list. I told them who I was, and that I’d like to meet up and get to know them. We arranged to meet at a local coffee shop. I carried my son over in my Baby Bjorn. When I arrived, nearly the first words out of one of the mom’s mouths was:

“Is that comfortable?” She was referring to me carrying him in the Baby Bjorn.

“No, actually,” I replied “He’s getting really heavy now. So it’s not really that comfortable anymore.”

“Well, you could get the Ergo baby carrier, but it’s kind of expensive,” she replied. Now this comment may sound innocent, but it was loaded. She was making an allusion to the fact that I might not have the money to afford to buy this pricey infant carrier. I was already turned off and questioning why I had left the house.

After several other disparaging comments including chastising me because my son doesn’t like to take naps during the day, I felt my head was about to explode. Suddenly, one of the quieter moms abruptly stood up and announced that her daughter was fussy and she had to leave.

I followed her out the door and we immediately started chatting about how rude the other moms had been. We bonded fast and soon began taking stroller walks in Prospect Park together with our babies. And then after a two months of hanging out, she moved upstate with her family and I was alone yet again.

I kept up the stroller walks, and because I had no money I searched for free activities that I could do with my son.

When my son was 9 months, I disovered The Brooklyn Public Library.
The Brooklyn Public Library has an amazing Eary Childhood Education program.

One Saturday I was looking online for free activities to do with my son and I found that The Grand Army Plaza branch of the Brooklyn Public Library was having a Story and Play Time session that day for ages 0-5 years old from 10am – 11am. So I hightailed it over there with my son.

We were late, of course, so we missed the story portion of the program. But we made it in time to play. My son and I walked into a large room filled with children and toys. He was in heaven. He promptly shoved every toy in his mouth (at least once) and crawled around like a maniac.

Then, admist the crowd of unfamiliar faces, I recognized one of the women there. It took me a minute as I was rudely staring at her to try to remember where I knew her from. Suddenly, it dawned on me; I went to High School with her!

“Hey, did you go to LaGuardia?” I asked her

“Yes, did you?” She replied.

“Yeah, I think we were in the same math class!” I said, so happy to see a familiar face.

Upon further conversation, we realized that we both were drama majors at LaGuardia. For those of you who are unfamiliar with LaGuardia, it is a conservatory based arts high school where students major in drama, dance, music, vocal performance, or fine art.

Our sons were only two months apart in age. Her son (at the time) was 11 months and my son was 9 months.

After the Story and Play time was over, we continued to hang out and she and her son walked me home. She told me that she had met a woman from Norway at the library program, whose son was 10 months. They had been hanging out a lot because they were both still on maternity leave from their jobs. She said that I would love her friend too. And I did!

I was thrilled! After meeting a sea of unfriendly people, I had met the one friend that I had needed all along.

With that a playgroup was born. The three of us began hanging out weekly and sometimes multiple times during the week, and I didn’t have to pay a cent for it.

The Power of Cheerios

When my son turned nine months I started introducing what they call “finger foods.” That is to say foods that babies can pick up with their fingers. My friend (and mother of three) Alana informed me that Cherrios were the perfect first finger food. When I was over at her house with my son we plopped him in a high chair with a bunch of Cheerios and waited to see what he would do.

At first he just pushed them around and played with them. After a while he realized that he could pick them up. And then eventually he grabbed a Cheerio, shoved it in his mouth and ate it. Alana and I cheered. He was thoroughly encouraged and began eating more and more Cheerios.

The love affair had begun.

At 11 months he is still obsessed with Cheerios.

  • They are a source of nutrition
  • They also serve as a form of entertainment when he throws them on the floor and laughs
  • Not only does he eat them, but when he is finished with them, he starts feeding them to me as well
  • When he is in his car seat for a long ride being fed Cheerios makes him feel at ease.

I actually wrote to Cheerios to tell them how much my son loves them. I have yet to hear back but will keep you posted.

Listening to Grandma

As a new mom, I would like to think I have it all figured out; I don’t need anyone’s help. It doesn’t matter that I’ve never done this before. I know my son. I understand him. Every single time he makes a peep realize exactly what he wants. I never crack under pressure while he’s crying his head off. Can you tell I’m being facetious?

Let’s face it. There are times when I have no idea what my son wants. He’s crying, so I try to feed him. Oh wait! He’s not hungry, maybe he’s tired? So I nurse him. But he doesn’t want to nurse. Perhaps he has a dirty diaper? Nope, all clear. Okay, no problem, maybe he’s bored. I’ll play with him. Nope, he doesn’t want to play. What is it?! What does my son want?!

The point is, at these crucial times its okay to accept help from those who have been there before; the grandmas.

Recently, my son had a terrible virus. He had a fever and was horribly congested. He was so congested, in fact, that he could hardly nurse and could wake himself up in the middle of the night coughing. Once again, I adopted my “I can do anything I’m Super Mom” attitude. I tried everything:

  • I aspirated his nose
  • I gave him saline drops
  • I steamed him in the bathroom
  • I put books underneath his mattress to elevate his head so he could breathe easier
  • I went took him to see the pediatrician three times in two days.

Nothing worked!

My mom saw how exasperated I was becoming. She popped her grandma head into the picture and announced

“Can I make a suggestion?”

Normally when my mom says this it is not a suggestion at all but a “you really need to do this.” I all but rolled my eyes. Through clenched teeth I replied

“What, mom?”

She smiled and said

“You should get him a humidifier. You guys used to sleep with a humidifier when you were sick and it really saved you. BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH humidifier…”

Needless to say I ignored her suggestion and kept trying things that didn’t work. Until I got a call from my mom at 7:30pm at night after spending the entire day with a miserably sick baby.

“I have something for you. Can I come up to your apartment?” She asked.

“Sure.” I said totally exhausted.

The door opened. There was my mom standing there with a Vicks Cool Moisture humidifier.

I gave in.

Even though my son was already asleep we managed to covertly place the humidifier in his room without waking him.

Guess what? She was right. It was the best night he, my boyfriend and I had had in three days. My son didn’t wake up once during the night. Thanks to the humidifier.

Grandmas can be annoying. They think they know what’s best for their grandchildren and no one can tell them otherwise. But sometimes, they are absolutely right. So the next time your mom tells you

“Put some socks on him! Its cold in here.” Even though it may be 75 degrees, indulge her. She may save your life someday. (Or at least your sanity).

To Cloth or Not to Cloth That is the Question

When I was pregnant, I thought a lot about diapers; how extraordinarily expensive they are, how I barely had money to clothe myself let alone waste money on a perpetually disposable item that unfortunately was a necessity.

I thought about cloth diapers. I really did. I considered the option. But then I thought about the prospect of washing excess poop in the bath tub. Yuck. So I vetoed the cloth option.

Now that I have nearly a one year old son, I am thinking about diapers, again. I spend $34/month on them. That’s $408/year. Considering my household income, that is a lot of money.

So now I am thinking about cloth diapers again. My best friend recently told me that her parents used cloth diapers on her. This was nearly 30 years ago. They, like my boyfriend and I, had very little money. So they never touched disposable diapers.

This brings to the forefront an interesting issue; if disposable diapers are so expensive, why do the majority of the parental population use them? Convenience? Less mess? What did people do before disposable diapers? They used what was available to them; cloth diapers.

I’ve decided that I cannot live in ignorance of the cloth diaper any longer. I need to sample this animal and see what it is all about. Perhaps I will even save myself a little money in the process.

Complaining About/Praising Products

I’m the sort of person that gets excited about a product that I really like. On the on the other hand I am also the kind of individual that gets upset when I feel a product has let me down. I recently rediscovered the concept of calling various companies to let them know what I thought about their products. I used to do this often before I had my son, and now that I have a child I have acquired a new found fervor in contacting corporations to let them know what I think.

For example, I recently was making a box of Annie’s Home Grown Macaroni and Cheese for my son. I really like Annie’s Home Grown products because a lot of them are certified organic, they are delicious and (most importantly) my son loves them. I went to open the cheese packet and found that it already been slit open a crack. Being a nervous mom, I called Annie’s Home Grown to inquire about this open package. The representative was so pleasant and helpful on the phone. He apologized immediately and offered to send me coupons for Annie’s Home Grown products.

And it’s not just Annie’s Home Grown. I’ve found that many companies I have contacted have granted me coupons for my trouble. When I called Stoneyfield Farm Organic to tell them about a puncture in the safety seal of one of their smoothies, they sent me nearly 20 coupons for my trouble.

Companies respond not only to criticism, but also to praise. I wrote to Entenmann’s to tell them how much I enjoyed their 8 Rich Frosted Donuts. They sent me two one dollar off coupons in the mail in exchange for my praise. A similar situation occurred when I called Laura’s Lean Beef to tell them about how much I enjoyed their lean steaks. I recevied coupons in the mail from them as well.

The moral of the story is, when you like a product, tell the company. When you have a problem with a product, tell the company. Chances are you will be rewarded for your efforts.

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