Thursday, December 1, 2011

Beautiful Bitter-sweet life.

I am never shocked but always amazed at the bitter-sweet nature of life. In blog-land my work is fickle but my life is rich with so much I want to share and think useful to…but often time doesn’t permit, or more accurately, like most moms  I need to constantly prioritize. Thus, sadly there are always many things that must get the shaft in this process. However there are days like today that the culmination of so many things is unbearable and I must share.

In my physical life I am a high school English teacher who also advises our school’s Key Club. One of my close colleagues decided she wanted to start a charitable drive called the Pillow Pet Project and asked if I could help out and get my club members involved—I loved the idea and eagerly agreed. She came to speak to my students during our Wednesday afternoon meeting and explained the task and result: Sell school bracelets in order to raise money to purchase Pillow Pets for all of the children in our local hospital's cancer ward and a few days before Christmas she will take the toys to the unit along with entertainment from student performers.  She was inspired by a video of a young boy Jake McConahay and his zeal for the toys. She recommended we watch the video and because my day was wrought with its own set of nuisances I did not watch the video. Then today while I was teaching my first class she sent a student to my room to get my attention and from down the hall she revealed that in trying to show her students the video on the Smartboard she learned that the boy had passed away. She was devastated. I will admit, I could barely react. My class knew enough to be curious so I took the teachable moment and discussed a multitude of pertinent issues that serendipitously relate to the text I am about to teach (Nectar in  a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya) which also has an example of infanticide among other tragically real circumstances. My colleague was afraid that students involved would be discouraged by the news of the boy and not feel passionate about helping others, but I disagreed, I felt the kids would put in extra effort out of appreciation for their own lives and for those still living.

Some Thanksgiving beauty--headband made by me and later destroyed by baby.
The point in sharing this story is two-fold. For one, I send so much love and prayers to Jake's family. I am still processing how much my life has changed now that I am a mother and thank the universe daily for the beautiful and healthy child I have been blessed with. The other reason is because thematically speaking, with tragedy also comes profound realization of all that is beautiful. The last week has been rather challenging, I have had anxiety that has manifested itself in physical ways mostly because I have had to deal with overall abrasiveness from my child’s father. This upset mixed with the story of poor Jake actually inspires me to appreciate the good even more--sometimes because I need that to be able to handle a life with so much sadness implicit in it. This is a lesson I try to impart on my students and one Markandaya vividly portrays in her novel.  In the epigraph she writes: "Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, And hope without an object cannot live." I would go as far as to say that a life without hope, or more accurately without the cognizance of beauty is not really a life at all.

For me I need to make beauty from suffering. I need to find ways to create karmic balance on my path. I am lucky that the universe often manifests it for me. Despite everything I wrote, today was ultimately better for me because it was not yesterday (which involved being grossly disrespected) and when I entered my classroom, not only were my books for this marking period delivered, but they were done so artfully. I was mesmerized and beamed from my love of random acts of awesomeness.

book art! 

Then later in the day, despite the upset of the Jake story and my lingering anxiety two students walked in the room and made my day with the following surprise. Some set up is necessary: These two students are very animated and funny in a post-modern ironic but also ridiculously goofy kind of way. These same two sophomores told me yesterday that they wanted to bring me an apple because that’s what one is supposed to give a teacher, I laughed and nodded them off. Today they walked into class and said “We couldn’t find any apples so we brought you oranges” and handed me these:

This shiz is bananas.  
Naturally I laughed and spent the rest of the day recounting these two unique incidents to mark this day as something special, particularly because all of the events of the day starkly reminded me that life is very sad but it is also unbearably beautiful too. If I ever leave this earth before my time, I want to acknowledge that I am blessed for my experiences, my mind and especially my daughter, and I hope to always find a way to make something beautiful in even the darkest of days.

beauty. and books. and boogies. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011


There's a lot out there to be thankful for. Just this one thing brings me more joy than I can fully fathom:

This has been a year of firsts, of facing challenge after challenge with as much grace as I can muster, of healing from the past, of dancing and laughing and playing. From Halloween to Christmas I am full of holiday spirit and pensiveness. The beginning madness of returning to work while adjusting to motherhood (especially single motherhood) has been so time consuming that I didn't pay close enough attention to documenting Halloween (though I did make Addie's costume, she WAS Yoda, and we did have a lovely evening despite it being an exhausting Monday), and I barely paid mind to the Day of the Dead (which is sad because we lost some people close to us this year)...but I will not let my other favorites and Addie's firsts slip away. Right now I have the opportunity to create a new vision of what family means to one little life. Despite our circumstance not being what I "planned" (I'm sure you all know that word is laughable), it is as great as I can make it. I look forward to the traditions we create, the joy we share, the love we spread. In our home those things are real, and I am happy we are making our lot truly beautiful.

Our Thanksgiving mantle. Quick garland of cardstock leaves with little thankfuls on the back. 

I love any reason to stop and list what I am thankful for. Here is a short little list of my present gratitude:

1. Addison Rose: my sage, my comedian, my deep-thinker, my dare-devil, my love.
2. Those family members who know the real meaning of family
3. My beautiful friends!
4. Birth Right Now and the amazing community developing around it
5. Seriously I am thankful for my MacBook and my iphone. Life is easier, more fun, and so much more functional because of these luxuries.
6. Being able to eat healthfully because of the options available to us
7. Our lovely comfortable home that keeps evolving
8. My career and Addie's daycare being right next door
9. Addison's caregivers and little buddies!
10. All of the beautiful babies being born around us!!
11. The increasing momentum to create again!
12. Autumn leaves, air,  and the rich glow of the afternoon
13. Laughter...every day in so many ways
14. The inspiration that lives in every corner...
15. A new day.

I am thankful for so much and I count my blessings every day. Today I hope to meditate a bit and resound all that I deeply appreciate about my life, from the material to the spiritual. Here is to many more days of being grateful. Love to all of you out there.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Approved Awesomeness: Misha Lulu Style

I get all gooey over Misha Lulu's aesthetic. I can stare at images of their clothes for hours and imagine myself as a kid again frolicking through bohemian forests while wishing on dandelions and building beautiful pillow forts. Just enchanting.

I swear this could be Addison in a few years!
Beautiful Billie Holiday dress from the surplus store.
I adore the photography and COLORS!
Taken from the Misha Lulu blog
Bohemian baby. This is from an old collection
but all of their stuff is worth looking through for
the sheer artfulness and whimsy.
And now they have collaborated with the
iconic Hello Kitty for even sweeter vintage infused fashion!
The childhood I dreamed of.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Missing Niche

Hello dear friends! Remember me? I barely do so I understand! Well, another great lesson that time has taught--I am still a flaky blogger and NOW I totally get why my kind doesn't seem to exist in the blogosphere: SINGLE WORKING MOTHERS have NO TIME at all. For reals. Was I surprised when I couldn't find a single blogger who truly represented me? Yes. Am I now? No way. All of those women are constantly weighing out what to do with the banked minutes, and reeling from the few moments of quiet time that for me translates into an existential trance or a race to get as many things done as possible.

I have stories. I have new epiphanies, anxieties, milestones to gush over. I have cute photos (though my camera makes them far from great photos). BUT...I also have the hot new tired look that I can't seem to shake..and I seriously can't remember if I washed my hair during yesterday's shower. (Mind you it's the weekend, so I may get a shower today too.) I also have little time to share all I wish to share with other mama's out there...to be part of the larger culture, the discourse, and to hopefully find some others just like me.

But you know what? LIFE IS GOOD...truly, even when it is type HARD! AND how could it not be when I am given the gift of this face every day:

My little boho-baby at the awesome 'Pirate Ship Park" wearing a shirt
by Misha Lulu. Addie is 8 months, crawling like mad, standing and squatting,
babbling up a storm, and loving all that is life.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Maximizing an Apartment Entry Way/ Foyer

 I strive to be a super-organized mama. It is important for me to have designated places for everything, reminders, systems, or what-have-you in order to A. keep sane, B. actually keep up with a busy life, C. to feel peaceful, and D. to amp up productivity (a word that is rarely used during the summer months). I love homes that are streamlined and get goose-bumps over clever methods to make managing life smooth. Some may not see life as something that needs to be 'managed' and "summer Jenn" loves to rebel and live like a total bohemian....so that Type A Jenn can take over for most of the school year. Now that I have a child I feel it is even more important to SIMPLIFY and keep up with organizational systems or anything that can make life easier and neat so that I can be present as much as possible.

A little vignette of my entry display shelf. I made the drawing a few years
back and the oil burner is an oldie from The Body Shop.
I am a believer in the whole concept that the state of your home is a reflection of the state of your mind (or inner self). If my house is a mess my mind is a mess and vice versa.  Often some time and forethought is needed to establish home systems that work for you, but I find projects fun, especially when they are finished! Here is a look at how I maximized the efficiency and also personalized the little entryway of my apartment (which will likely evolve as Addison gets older).

I would love more color in the entry but as a renter 
there are times that I need to weigh out how 
depth I want a project to be, so I easily settle with 'near' perfect.
I love coming home to inspiration and personal trinket as
much as I like a streamlined functional space.

DIY Dry Erase Boards! I used glass frames from Ikea with patterned scrapbook paper. One is for Daily/Weekly(ish) Checklists and another to randomly write down reminders and things I remember to buy. They make me happy.

A message by the door. My first attempt at cross-stitch.
What are some techniques you use to make life more organized?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Todaycare: Transitioning into Working Mother

The transition period has come upon us and you know what...not a tear (by me) shed though they certainly welled up a bit. To my surprise the last two days have been pretty amazing in that awe inspiring life is changing and we are facing it tall kind of way. Yesterday I struggled to wake up as early as I would have liked, but we got to the daycare center (which was at an alternate though closer location) slightly before 8am (my goal is 7:30am...we will see how that goes). Once we entered we were met by Addy's new teacher Karen who acclimated us to the environment (although temporary) and chatted me up for hours. She let me ask every question imaginable, made me feel completely at home, and talked shop about what I deem 'professional parenting'. There are sadly people who do not fall into this category, and working mom or not, to me, my real full-time always-on-call job is MOTHER.
Day One: Addison decided to try to mimic the other babies.
While at the center I got to meet tons of staff, participate in feeding time, nurse Addison in a rocker (which I don't have at home), hang out with everyone during yard time (while Addison shockingly napped), watch Addy interact with new babies, and talk away with all of the ladies who will be part of our extended family. The entire day felt like one huge hug. One of the highlights of the experience for me was when I got to talking with the educational director Jane and I learned that I taught her son last year. Not only that, but instantly I recalled him because he was one of my stars, a real gem of a teen. As I was leaving she told me, "You had my baby and now I have yours." I love when life has those beautiful full-circle moments.

On the door of the infant room--Addison existing outside of my world!!
From 12pm-2pm I left Addison and decided to stop by my school to get a feel for coming back and make mental notes about what needs to be done. I am like a kid myself in that I NEED to go back to my job earlier than the start date to literally soak up the aura and acclimate myself to going back. I feel a recharge from the energy and depending on the 'air' of the building I can have a sense for the type of year that lay ahead. My feelings for this year= AWESOME. Shocked? I am too. Not only do I have a well balanced program I am in my own room (as in the same as last year AND no one else is teaching in it) AND...DRUM ROLL please: I have a smartboard in my room. I felt jilted for the past few years as I, a tech-savvy chicka, had not been put in rooms with smartboards and was forced to schlep equipment all over or not use any at all. All of these factors are SERIOUSLY heaven for a teacher....I could wax on and on but the key point-- I will be able to be more present for my daughter and I am SO THANKFUL. AND, honestly I felt invigorated and inspired to work again...which made me, for at least a moment feel like wonder woman.

Warning, quasi-bragging alert! To add to all of the good fortune of the day everyone at the center raved about Addison--even calling her the perfect baby on many occasions. The staff was shocked at how alert and observant Addison can be, how petite yet developed she is, and they kept telling me that she will do everything fast. I kind of knew that and brace myself every day. However, I also know Addison gets extra attention because she is going to be the ONLY girl in her class so all of the ladies were lavishing her with love and praise and ooey-gooey gaga adoration immediately.

Now I definitely don't need to have one at home!

Then came today: phase two. I brought Addison to the regular center and spent close to an hour bringing in all of her things, talking more protocol and routine with the teacher, and helping the baby become acclimated to her new daytime home. I marveled over all of the things with her name on it, watched her interact in a new world, and basically felt like I was having an outer body experience. At points I waned to cry from the gravity of it all, but I felt calm and also antsy to get things done and let Addison adjust. I decided I would leave her for four hours and get as much accomplished at home as I could (as if four hours were twenty). While at home I tried to pump at around the times I will try to at work and got a lot less done than I wanted (not surprised) but enough that I didn't get too down on myself. I managed to pump a good amount and was happy that when I went to pick her up she had not drank the second back up bottle I had left (which felt like I had just gotten the lead in a race). BUT, what was not so great was hearing Addison SCREAMING when I go there. My tiny pterodactyl showed her other side. Her teacher laughed and said I was right to call my daughter vocal. It turns out that she cried for a good portion of the time I was gone though there were some bright moments too. My gut reaction was to feel AWFUL, especially because I left with such ease since she was having  a great time and didn't notice me. I was red-faced with guilt, shame, anxiety...you-name-it...but I also knew that this was all part of the process. The teachers reassured me and caught me up about her day. It literally killed a piece of me to see Addison's eyes so puffy from tears...but I let her be rocked by one of her teachers and I offered only comfort not total solace as usual. I realized that my girl, who is naturally so independent needs to learn to feel secure somewhere other than in her mama's arms. I thwarted any feelings of resentment and stayed positive since we really have no other choice. I must go back to work and this daycare is not only highly coveted but also right behind my school (granted there is a football field sized parking lot in between BUT seriously I couldn't have found something more convenient).

Plays well with others...
After what felt like an eternity I took Addison and nursed her there. Ms. Karen made it clear that they want us to feel like we are all family and to take comfort in the space. So, as much as I wanted to run home crying and then cuddle my baby we both relaxed ourselves (as much as we could with the cacophony of crying babies) and during that time my mind went to so many places. I felt very sad and disillusioned during some rocks but also hopeful and happy that my daughter would learn so much more than I can teach her alone. Another life conundrum.

After Addy was fed and happy again I realized she was back to herself and so I followed suit. The rest of the evening was productive (of course not as much as I wanted it to be) but it was full of continued routines, optimism, love, and lots of baby laughs. I surprised Addison with a new addition to our living room--a much larger matted surface area for her to play on--AND a visit from one of her four sets of grandparents. She was so happy and even took steps while I was holding her up!! Leave it to this little one to snap me back to the reality that life moves so fast and if you focus on the joys of the present moment or the fact that painful experiences can also be fleeting then life can be so very beautiful.

Addy's surprise upon returning!

Happy baby with a smile that lights up room, takes breaths away, and cures
almost any ailment I can think of.

S.M.I.L.E.//L.9: The Poops They Are A-Changing...

I planned this "lesson" before the experience of yesterday's post but enjoy the word play nonetheless. Either way, if you can't find ways to laugh about poop then your life just stinks. Haha. Toilet humor and puns, I can't blame my bad taste on motherhood. I watched Louis C.K. on The Daily Show and he said, "You don't have to be smart to laugh at fart jokes, but you have to be stupid not to." However, I will tell you what is NOT A JOKE....


Mamas who formula feed this will not come as such a shock for you, but breastfeeding mamas...let me tell you BRACE YOURSELF!! In Lesson 4 I address that breast milk excrement becomes almost pleasant to the olfactory system. I will go so far as to admit, breastfeeders become TOTALLY spoiled for so many reasons and for someone like me who has a stunted sense of smell to begin with, I have appreciated the mild aftermath Addison has left for me in her diapers. And then...I knew it would happen because all of the sadistic parents who have come before me have loved to chuckle over the solid poop phenomenon. Let me spare you the complete sensory experience and exclaim that I now understand why people buy diaper genies. The odor of those diapers can melt a plastic trash receptacle and disintegrate nose hairs within room's distance. 

Rather than using actual photos (the concept of poop=funny; actual poop=NOT funny) I will use puppies to deliver my message:


My dad always says, 'Even in a room of perfume, you can smell an ounce of 'sh**'.
I think this sums up what you can't disguise.

What makes matters worse is that as you introduce new foods you secretly pray your baby will go twosies so that you don't have to deal with the anguish of constipation...and believe me you will want to kick yourself for those wishes when you see what is in store for you. Perhaps you may want to buy some gloves, keep some tongs next to your changing area, and maybe keep some holy water nearby. So far I have had to change Addison's outfits quite a few times, NOT because she leaked but because the stench was so potent it poisoned her little pants.

Feel free to share poopy horrors or ridiculous metaphors.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Changed Times

Another Proustian moment today involving tears that cannot be blamed on hormones....unless Bob Dylan causes the release of chemicals I am unaware of. It's amazing how the combination of the just-right-NOW song and some other random trigger can transport me into a series of epiphanies. (Ahem facebook flashbook updates!!) On this day in 2009 I was going to Philly to see Explosions in the Sky and The Flaming Lips and one year ago I was coming out of my depression and for the first time EVER I was thrilled to go back to school/work for the distractions and reminders of the woman I once was. Combine these two 'status updates' with Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing" randomly playing on my iTunes and cue eyes welling up and the need to hold Addison tight to me and sway in a bittersweet dance marking the end of the life as we've known it. My time as a SAHM (Stay At Home Mama) is closing.

Today would have been the first transition day into daycare but residual effects of Irene have left the building without power....and thus, one.more.day. I will say that I am relieved because I COULDN'T sleep for the life of me last night. I tossed and turned and my mind raced...mostly through places of anxiety and around dark corners that shouldn't be visited, even in the daytime. I find myself obsessing before bed, thinking about things I can't change or do anything about in the middle of the night. I focused on breathing, tried to channel peaceful deities, tried to fantasize, cuddled with my baby, and sleep eventually found me, but only the kind that allows you a semi-slumber in preparation for awake time. I dreaded that 6am alarm, even more than the 545am teaser alarm. Around 630am I got the call from Addison's teacher and I was mixed with both unease and overabundant joy. My anxieties and what-ifs returned but the graciousness to get some sleep and cuddle up for a little bit more trumped those other jitterbugs. 

Despite the extra two+ hours of down time I cannot escape the fact that my 'dream' world is coming to an end. There has been nothing more I have ever wanted out of my life other than to have a family, primarily one in which I could be the homemaker for the early years of child rearing. This dream is preparing for its hiatus and as much as I am accepting the fate I've been given, I feel tearing at my heart strings. With new chapters come so many mixed emotions. I will admit that going back to work offers some excitement for me. As much as my job batters me at times, I also feel a huge self-esteem boost from accomplishing things (and anyone who knows me intimately knows I could use that). The work year also forces me on a schedule that albeit forces the inner bohemian in me to be replaced by a type A version of myself, also allows me to commit to many better-for-me-overall habits. I desperately want to be one of those women who has it all together--healthy eating habits, spiritual time, clean home, crafting/decorating, strong relationships, pristine looks, fulfilling jobs, all that jazz....maybe this will be the year? HAhaHA. crack fizzle pop. Moms, how DO YOU DO IT???? Do you sleep ever? What are your secrets? How can I shield myself from hiding in a stall and crying on my first day back???

   How do you/did you handle full-time jobs and full-time families? What suffers the most??

HELP or I will continue to listen to non-stop folk-singers until I choke on tears or hitchhike outta town. 

Addison's Five Favorites: Newborn+ Edition

Shopping for toys is overwhelming for me, especially when babies are at an age in which they barely understand play. Addison is starting to love playing and discovering, but before her real awakening, she had some favorites as a newborn.


I love this toy so so much and forgot who bought it for us. Besides the eye-catching geometric shape and bold colors, this Skwish is made of wood and the pieces are all attached with soft elastic cord that makes the tetrahedron bendable. Some of the larger wooden balls slide which makes a delightful sound while being rattled about. I just remember Addison being so fascinated with this contraption and I felt very safe with her playing with it because of the wood, lack of sharp edges, pliability, and overall design.

Another gift that keeps on giving. Addison seems to love all things elephant and this one is fun because it makes a shaker sound and has chewable hands and feet that make for a fun dance routine. The rattle has a reflective inner surface and beads inside that give them a a soft maracas sound. Then there are the two teethers and keys that Addison has only recently shown interest in.

This was Addison's first favorite toy. I love the face on this cutie and Addison loved the soft rattling sound, the grab-ability, the crinkly leaves, and the bold colors. 

 I chose the 'boy' pattern because it is WAY cooler than the girls' and seems rather gender neutral to me. This activity mat has a fun bohemian feel with the mixture of patterns and earth tones. I love how kitschy the animals are and how easy this is to store. The bars are soft and pliable. The giraffe plays twinkle twinkle. The only warnings---the pillow is very slippery and is NOT meant to be used under a baby's head (yes I learned this the hard way) and the mirror is more of the circus variety and may scare your baby (also learned the hard way).

Tummy Time Soft Books

The one we were given  is called "I See Shapes" and even though there are tons of these types of books it seems that this company is impossible to find. Addison LOVED her book so much and it definitely helped her with her tummy time since she had something to look at. This book also stood up on its own and gave Addison ample entertainment when sitting up or laying down. She loved to manipulate its accordion shape, gnaw at the edges, and squeal over the colors. I was amazed at how long she could stare at the same things for so long, but luckily the book is two-sided so I could 'change-up' the story line here and there.  

Honorable Mentions
(though I love these even more than Addison does):

Aren't these so beautiful? I love all of the colors, the crinkly sounds, and all of the little bits to play with...Addison is so so about these. Some days she loves them, some days she could care less. Now that she is older she is moving away from some of these toys and on to new things. Soon we will do a 6month+ toylist.

What are some toys that your newborn responded to?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Five Essentials: Newborn+ Edition

I would love to be a minimalist, but the truth is I do like to have some stuff...not a lot, but the things I love I REALLY love or tend to be super thankful I had those things. When it comes to babies and children in general, I am a believer in less is more (though I don't want Addison to feel like she is 'without', but she did have more fun with a large plastic cup the other night than with anything else I've seen to date). I digress...Here is a list of some of mine and Addison's favorites (particularly those things that were the best during her newborn days).


Of the two covers I have this is my favorite!

This is hands down my favorite item in the land of baby care. The boppy is perfect or nursing, propping a baby for naps/tummy time/sitting up, cuddling, mama backaches, the cases are easy to remove/put on AND the pillow is also washable. One of the only things I would say is a MUST have.

Baby burrito!!

I received four of these (the one pictured included) as shower gifts and I have to say these were SUCH a lifesaver. Too often Addison managed to unravel herself from her blankets no matter how tight we wrapped her...heck, she eventually figured a way out of these! Granted you may feel like you are putting your baby in a straight jacket, but Addison was snug, warm, and slept much better in the sack.

Wipes/Diapers Case and Changing Pad
JJ Cole Collections: "Cocoa Tree"
I have the changing pad pictured but not this particular case
(although it is lovely!)

These may seem like 'luxury' items but I found that I really didn't need to lug a whole diaper bag around as much as I needed my essentials--wipes (for all things messy), diapers, and a clean surface. I was always able to fit the latter in my larger-than-life purse (it beats having two bags) and have relied upon that changing pad in every imagined circumstance. I have also used the pad to lay Addison on while hanging out--remember, this is the newborn edition--as in this was perfect for a baby who just lays there.

Sound Sleeper
The one pictured is the Dex Baby Sound Sleeper.
I was given this based on my friend Laura's experience with her own baby.
Addison loves the sounds of the ocean waves the most. 

The sound sleeper helped me as much as it helped the baby. This little machine has an array of soothing sounds to emit some white noise in order to lull your newborn to sleep.  I like that this machine has a function that has a half-hour timer so that you can fall asleep!

Travel System Stroller

The one I have here is the Chicco Cortina Discovery.

 Having a travel system makes life easier and also gives you more bang for your buck. If you drive you need a car seat (heck, they won't let you leave the hospital without one) and the beauties of this bucket car seat is that it comes with a newborn insert and head rest, it serves as a rocker (perfect for napping and letting baby hang out and watch you while you are trying to do...other things)/ The seat also clicks right into the stroller so it is easy to transfer the baby. I chose this system because in the upright position this stroller can last you for years. The main stroller is super easy to open and close (all with one handle), has an adjustable handlebar, bottom storage, multiple cup holders, and it is the lightest of its kind. 

The wheels can get awkward at times (I am a bit of a stroller spaz) and with the seat in the full recline it is hard to access the storage basket...BUT I have managed to do a ton of food shopping/errand run using the stroller, the two canopies are perfect for protecting baby from the elements, and seriously, when there aren't any changing tables in sight (which there rarely are) then using your stroller in the total recline position is great!

All of the above are just my personal favorites! 
What has been something you are happy you had for your baby?