Registry and Gift Ideas for New Moms and Babies

I remember being quite overwhelmed when I was starting the process of building my registry.  I asked around a lot and I did my own research, exhaustively.  A book called “Baby Bargains” was recommended (Thank you Dolly) and it was a super valuable resource. I also recommend this if you are looking for a “Congratulations! You’re pregnant” gift for a first time Mom or Dad.  You can find it here. I used that book and website as a starting point combined with lots of parents forums and baby stores on the web.  And I researched and researched some more.  I agonized about safety, prices, what did I actually "need" and where we're put everything. 


Recently a number of friends have gotten pregnant (yay, babies!) and asked for advice putting together their registries.  Or friends of pregnant friends have asked what I really used most when they need to buy a gift. I have waxed poetic and passionately on this subject, (like so many new moms) more than a few times and thought it might be handy to write it all out before I forget.  And like all things, there will be newer, better, and handier things all the time, so I expect this will have a short shelf-life.  It also looks like a spam bot page to me, and I assure you it's not, it just took a long time and I got lazy.


If you stumble across this randomly and are putting together your registry, first of all CONGRATULATIONS! The most important part is that baby growing inside you. This is about stuff, and it’s just that. You may have less, you may have more, but it’s about that baby, and he or she won’t care how much stuff they have. These are the things that helped make life easier for me and my partner, and that my baby most seemed to appreciate as much as a baby appreciates “stuff” (hint, not very much). It's also exorbitant. I was lucky to have insanely generous family and friends and I work really dang hard. The baby bargains book offers really nice options for different price points and the pros and cons for each. There are so many factors when buying a gift or making your registry, these are just my personal opinions and trial and error lessons, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll be helpful for you. Like all advice you’ll receive, take it with a grain of salt. If you have a recommendation, please add it to the comments.


Also, most of the links are amazon affiliate links.  If you’re buying these for a shower, please buy items off the mom to be’s registry.  They'll thank you even if you don't, but they might be a little more thankful if they don't get duplicates, triplicates or quadruples of the same thing and have to waddle around returning things. If you’re just looking for ideas and this helps, I spent a lot of time (and money often buying what was wrong for us, or the time to return them) the 10% of your purchase I’d get would just be a nice bonus. For Moms, Dads, Grandparents, etc… another awesome option is second-hand baby stores, they seem to be popping up everywhere these days and are great resources.  Another great resource your community might have are free swaps or "Mom Fairs".  My parents are in suburban NJ, and a number of the towns around them alternate times of year hosting these. I've gotten some great stuff at these sales at a fraction of the cost.  Also, check out yahoo and facebook groups for Mom's in your area.  A little baby safe soap and elbow grease, you can make something as good as new at a fraction of the cost.  Just be sure if it's a toy or piece of furniture to do some research to be sure there are no recalls.  These are all my opinions and no brand is paying me to pimp their wares.




Washing machine

When we first had our baby boy, we were living in a tiny apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  I have to say the single most important investment we made was to buy a second-hand top loading mini-washing machine.  It meant we had a constant batch of laundry hanging from our shower rod (and a small fan propped in our tub drying them) which was sometimes annoying, but going to the laundromat right after having him simply wouldn’t have been possible for me.  I had an unexpected c-section, and you’re not supposed to carry anything heavier than your child for the first few weeks.  Heffing a stroller up and down stairs and venturing out in January was daunting and I did a little happy dance every time (sometimes twice a day) as I used mine.  If you’re on leave from work, the new expenses from the newest member of your family add up fast and laundry pick-up and delivery would cost us about $50 a pop.  This washer payed itself off in weeks and was the single most valuable “thing” we bought in advance.  So my first piece of advice –  if you don’t have a washer and drier, consider buying a washer.  I never heard anything good about the washer/drier combos because the drier function often takes hours and uses a ton of energy in the process.  


If you’re in NYC, Brooklyn, or in a similar city-environment and don’t have a washer hook-up, we connected one like this to our sink and it suited us just fine.  



I’d say it was the single most valuable “thing” as a new mom.  




Summer Infant Contoured Changing Pad


We didn’t have the room for a changing table at first.  I do wish we figured out a place to put one, because after we moved into a bigger place I wound up getting one, and I personally found having one a lot easier than not. But, for the first four months we used the couch, our bed, or the kitchen table.  The pad was necessary and I even used in on particularly weird nights when the only safe option seemed to be to sleep on the floor with him (once he was rolling around and attempting to dive off the bed from in between us). 



I had 2 covers in rotation and never needed more.  




Swaddling blankets

I’d rate these even higher than a crib in terms of must haves in the early weeks.  We became excellent swaddlers and had a ton of blankets to do it.  Our guy seemed to make a game of getting free within the first couple of weeks and I was always afraid he’d manage to get himself tangled up. We all slept better once I discovered these, and we bought them in every size, and used them every time he slept until he could roll over. They seem like little baby straight jackets, and well, they kind of are.  But our baby slept better in the womb-like comfort and they helped keep him from scratching up his face.


When you get home from the hospital, you'll probably also want a few pairs of those baby gloves too.





Mattress Pads (and a word on Diapers)

We bought A TON of these and probably used ten a day in the beginning.  Looking back, it may have been because newborn diapers leak, or maybe we weren’t putting them on right… these came in handy for everything.  I still keep one under his sheet in his crib, even though his mattress is covered in plastic.  Babies pee, hopefully…a lot, and when it goes everywhere, it’s nice to have an extra barrier.


I personally liked the IKEA ones best and recommend getting at least 6.

Len IKEA mattress pad


After my shower we had every brand of diapers and tons of them (THANK YOU).  I’ve used Huggies, Pampers, Honest Company, Toys R Us and Luvs.  For us, Pampers Swaddlers worked the best, especially in the early months.


On the subject of diaper cream, our baby's butt likes Honest Company Healing Balm best.  We got every possible brand at our shower and went through much trial and error (poor diaper rash guinea pig) in the first months.  





Bassinet/Co-sleeper and Pack 'n Play

To my surprise, I learned most don’t actually use a crib for the first few months. We had ours set up in our cute little nursery and he slept in it sometimes for naps or we’d play with him in it for a change of scenery, but I’m not going to talk about cribs, because I really think your nursery furniture is such a personal choice and there are so many factors (like everything else really) .  But, while I'm sharing what worked for us, our guy slept in our room for the first 6+ months.  


Take a look at the guidelines, do what’s most comfortable for you, and of course, what’s safest for your baby. Well intending family and friends may offer their old cribs, just be sure they’re up to the most recent codes (manufactured after June 28, 2011) and that you’ve researched any possible recalls.


We LOVED the Arm’s Reach mini co-sleeper.  All babies are so different when it comes to sleep.  But, I (probably foolishly) attribute the excellent sleep we all got in those early months to this sleeper.  It is small, it fit very nicely in our small apartment, and he was at eye level with us when we slept.  If you breast feed, you can actually strap it to your bed and make it a sort of extension to your bed, but I liked keeping it mobile.  It was on wheels, so during the day I’d wheel it into the living room for naps and when I needed to put him down to grab a glass or water or go to the bathroom. We used the storage underneath for extra mattress pads, and changes of clothes and diapers which was handy in the middle of the night. We got three covers for it, but really only needed two (probably because we were using the mattress pads).  I think you’d be fine with the one it comes with and one extra.


Because it’s small and our guy is extra big, I think he grew out of it in 6 months and then we just used the Graco Pack ‘n Play as we had been using the co-sleeper.  Again, I LOVED this particular bassinet and I tried others when staying with family.  We personally went for the Arm’s Reach and the no fuss Pack ‘n Play.  I know there are play yards that are like Transformers, with bassinets and changing tables, but those maxed out at smaller weights for the add-ons and we would have been up the creek a lot sooner than we were with this one, and very luckily we didn't have any transition issues for the little guy when it came time for the Pack 'n Play, and luckily again when he went to his room in the crib.  Plus, we still continue to use the play yard as a play pen.





The Pack ‘n Play didn’t come with a cover sheet, but we found the IKEA crib sheets fit it just fine.





Rock ‘n Play

A very close friend raved about the merits of this rocker (Thank you Missy) and I echo all her raves tenfold and then some. I do recommend you research this one as it has proven to be dangerous to allow your child to sleep in it. For us, this was a godsend for naps and “chill time”. We used this when we were able to supervise him at all times and he AND we LOVED it. I never used the music option that came with it, but the rocking motion – our kid loved it and we pushed the outer limits of weight and height limit because we didn’t know what we’d do to keep him happy once we couldn’t use it anymore. He did just fine and we did too once it was time to retire it.  But, for all the months we made good use of this, it was truly priceless.





Boppy Nursing Pillow

Your arms and lap will thank you whether you breast feed or not.  We got an extra cover for ours.





Bath Time

This is probably the area where the list of things we tried and hated far exceeds what we actually used.


Angel Care bath support – We loved this because all you had to do was put it in your tub and put the baby on it.  We felt the most safe using this one and our little guy loved it.  You can use it until your baby is 30lbs.  We had to stop using it a little sooner when our guy got too tall and wiggly, but we got a lot of miles using it.



Primo bath – After using the Angel Care support our little one was still unable to sit up on his own and wasn’t quite ready to freestyle it in the bath.  He was and is a big baby, so we needed one of the old school baby baths, but I had a hard time finding one that he wouldn’t grow out of within a matter of weeks. I did a ton of research and this one suited us the best. One side of the tub gave him the same lounging position he was used to and once he was able to sit up, the other side gave him a safe place to sit up in.



Skip Hop Moby Bath Mat – Now that we’ve graduated to the actual regular tub, we use this mat.  The only thing I don’t love about it is that our tub has a slightly textured bottom, so the suction cups don’t entirely work as intended.  But it is nice and big and once he’s seated on it, it does it’s job




Washcloths – You can’t have enough.  We’ve learned the super tiny thin ones don’t hold up that great.  Go for soft, with a little thickness and you’ll be fine.  


Towels – The little hooded ones are cute and good, but we needed two to actually cover him properly after he was like two months old.  We long ago started using one of our own towels against us when we lift him out and then use one of the hooded ones to keep his head and back covered from the tub to the changing table




Wearable blankets

We love these as much as we once loved the swaddlers.  I believe guidelines don’t recommend using pillows or blankets until a child is over 2 years old (don’t quote me on it, do your research), but it helped us make the decision not to ask for, or splurge on a decadent and expensive crib set, those strollers and car seats are expensive enough.  Our guy also oddly seems to hate the feeling of a blanket against his legs and feet and will kick and kick until he’s free of it.  


We’ve been using wearable blankets since graduating from swaddlers and he let's us know if we missed putting it on before going to bed by not going to sleep.  We’ve gotten these in all all sizes and zippers, on the front are the best (really, clothing makers – why would you put snaps, on the back, have you dressed a child?).  At times I had more than I needed.  Now, I probably could use an extra one.  I’d recommend at least (2) for each size. We started with the IKEA ones and as he’s outgrown their largest size, I get them from Amazon and am starting to get nervous because there isn’t a larger size from the one he’s in now (Yikes).  Once they can stand, I recommend the ones that have separate leg holes so they don’t trip in the sleeping bag style when they stand in the crib, because they will.

IKEA link




Car seat and Stroller

I was determined not to need multiple car seats and strollers. As you begin to wade into this decision, I can only sympathize. There are so many!  We went with an infant seat from Britax, the City Mini jogger, and used these in combination for about the first 8 months. You can actually ditch the car seat sooner and just use the stroller, but we didn't check back with instructions for awhile. The car seat had a base that we snapped it in when we used it in the car and we’d snap it into the stroller on the go.  Our decision was about limited space and wanting to streamline as much as possible. When babies are really new there are not a lot of strollers you can just plop them in “as is”.  The City Mini requires an adapter to use the Britax seat in the stroller.  We also got the tray add-on and rain cover for the stroller, and a cup holder for us.  I like the City Mini because you can collapse it with one hand, but the underneath storage is somewhat lacking.  If there was one thing I could change, it would be this.  It is a great safe and sturdy stroller and we’ve put countless miles on it as city dwellers.





Now that our little one is walking, we’re eyeing a slightly smaller and more minimalist umbrella stroller for the next stage, but we might be able to get away with using this one for the long haul (it maxes out at 50lbs).


When he started outgrowing the car seat, we went with the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Infant Convertible car seat.  We may have been able to use it from the start, but it's heavy and didn't have the option to combine with our stroller.  We were long past our shower and the price stung, but after doing my research I felt the most comfortable and safe with this one.  Our little guy gets very sweaty and I liked the construction and thinking put toward his comfort.





Summer Infant Touchscreen Baby Monitor

Another intensely personal, expensive, and mind boggling option-filled decision to make.  This is the one we have loved most.  Even after a year when it conked out because we accidently used the wire for the camera for the monitor and vice versa and I cursed everything about it for that.  We did a ton of research, got recommendations on facebook and tried a different type that worked (or rather din’t work) with only our phones…we hated it and just wound up buying this one again.  It killed me, but it’s been good to us and we can also use a phone as a secondary monitor.





Graco Blossom 4 in 1 High Chair Seating System

I like Transformers because there’s more than meets the eye. I like to call this high chair a Transformer because it has everything for my kid’s eating needs for years.  It comes with a separate booster seat, but for now we most use the second tray top it comes with when he starts throwing food.  It allows us to quickly stop the food fight of one with a clean surface to either start over, or just give him some toys to play with while we finish eating.



You’ll also need bibs, baby plates, bowls, cups with covers, lots of plastic spoons, a nice baby fork for when ready, but you’ve probably got a little while for this.  In fact, we didn’t even get our high chair from our parent’s house for months after our guy was born.




A few other random things we've gotten the most use out of…


Brica Baby Mirror



Lamaze shape cube because children's toys often become projectiles



Stacking cups



Excersaucer Any one will do



Sophie teether



Gates I'd recommend you start looking at gates now, especially if you can find them second-hand.  Gates for your Christmas tree (if you will have one), gates to put at the tops and bottoms of your stairs, or any place you're not going to want them to have free access to when they're crawling or walking




Baby Carrier/Backpack

Yep, we have one, I do recommend one. But, I never really knew if I made the right choice, there were things we liked and things we didn’t about it.  I tried a few (sorry for all the returns Buy Buy Baby), but I felt like Goldilocks on this one.  There is a store in Brooklyn who offers a baby wearing class every once and again.  I’d take a look at their schedule if you want to try a few, and get great advice.  I wish I had gone when he was littler and we were wearing him a lot more often.

Wild Was Mama




Online Support


Support can't be bought (fine, yes it can be), but I found so much value in some online groups that I will be eternally thankful for.

  • Brooklyn Baby Hui is a group for North Brooklyn Moms and you can find it on Yahoo Groups
  • What to Expect Groups are amazing.  I personally joined one for my local area as well as the month and year my son was due.  
  • Everyone knows The Bump, so I'll play Captain Obvious
  • And, of course there's google, which will be your greatest friend and foe




I'm not going all mommy blogger, in fact I really don't even blog anymore.  Just wanted to save all my "mommy advice" in one place and well, I've gone on long enough.

A Few

Missy, Alex, Jim were the friends I was closest to 12 years ago.  I wasn’t planning on going out, but we did the weekend before.  I was embarrassed because I was dressed sloppily; I was planning to spend the night in.  We raced bumper cars and went to a particular bar in Morristown that became my favorite for years.  I remember that Friday or Saturday night so clearly it could have been last weekend.  I completely lost touch with Alex and Jim many years ago.  Missy was with me the Tuesday after. 


My office was closed for a week or two afterwards.  I don’t remember what I did with all the time off except for four  things.  I called local employment agencies to try to keep busy and to make some money to donate. The "bubble had burst" just as I graduated college and there was no temp work to be had.  I saw “Glitter” in the movie theatre. I went to the local “smoke shop” with Missy to buy postcards of NY that had pictures of the skyline as it had been before.  I went to Hoboken and then Union Square with my mom and saw walls and bus shelters covered with pictures and fliers of missing people. 


I moved to Jersey City a month after.  If I left the windows open my sheets would smell like acrid smoke.  If I slept with them open, my hair would smell in the morning.  I remember the smell vividly, it was terribly specific.  At work, at home, it was everywhere I was for months.


I thought I had Anthrax that winter and went to my doctor.  A few weeks later the street I worked on was closed while men in hazmat suits taped up the subway grates and rinsed off in emergency portable showers on the streets below me.  We were evacuated again.  It wasn’t Anthrax in either case.


I saw a psychiatrist a few months after because I couldn’t sleep.  I woke up screaming every time I heard a plane.  I was declined a referral to see a therapist.


I started a fight with a perfume merchant on the train for mixing bottles of unlabeled liquids and refusing to tell me what he was doing.  


One day a few months after, as I was going down the stairs at the Christopher Street PATH station I was shoved around a corner and almost knocked down an Army or National Guardsman with a large gun in his hands.  I took the ferry most of the time to avoid subways.


I have worked once on that day and I prefer to take the day off each year.  I avoid tvs and computers and try to do something that makes me happy.  Today I will sit on the beach and swim in the ocean.


This past winter, months after Hurricane Sandy, Matt wondered if anyone would talk about anything else again.  I talked about how it was after 9/11, and told him I was pretty sure we would, eventually.


It bothers me that I didn’t document my move before a big giant hurricane swept through and really fucked everything up.  It’s not like I couldn’t remember why we moved here, it just got hard to remember BHS (Before Hurricane Sandy) AHS (After Hurricane Sandy) when everything was in upheaval.  


Every time I talk about those first crazy months AHS, I have to state that we were lucky.  Insanely “we might need to start going to church” lucky.  One of us said that aloud just a few minutes after we opened our door holding our breath and expecting to see everything in our home floating and water logged.  Yet, somehow, other than the mess I made while lifting everything up several feet before we left, our house was exactly as we left it BHS.  I still have trouble comprehending that.  Sure, the grade in front of our home is a few feet higher than street level.  Sure, starting with our house, a few blocks directly above us didn’t flood (on the ocean side, the bay side did).  All the houses directly behind us flooded, homes to the right and left of us flooded.  We were told that when the ocean rushed up our street it took a left turn and completely inundated everything behind us.  I’m still not sure how that works, but it was the only explanation our neighbors who rode out the storm could provide.  Luck is random, and we were randomly spared any physical damage.


But, in my darkest hours I wished that maybe we hadn’t been so lucky and then beat myself up for thinking that way.  An insurance check would have given us an out and we wouldn’t have had to endure the isolation, the uncertainty, and the horrendous commute that followed.  The hardest part of life AHS for me were those internal battles and the guilt that followed.  Constant mental exhaustion with the desperation to leave, the lists and math to make that happen, the worry I was being too hasty, the feeling of quitting amidst the resilience I saw all around me, the love of my neighborhood, the want to call it home again, penance, hope, rinse, repeat.  Add to this equation the other half of  "us" and "we".  Both of us were going through the same miserable psychological spin cycle.  At times we fell out of sync and turned against one another.  Luckily, four and a half months out,  we've settled back into our groove as a team and so goes the cliche that I think our love is a lot stronger for it.  But at times, I worried that I'd lose my relationship – which is a lot more important than my apartment, where it is, or anything in it.


The last night BHS we went shopping at Target for some non perishables, batteries and a raft.  Yep, a raft.  We’d been stalking some fringe weather blogs the week before and expected the worst, and yet, I wanted to buy a fucking raft.  Hurricane a-coming – get me a raft.   Sometimes even I can't explain my logic.  If I ever doubted for a second that Matt is my favorite person on the planet, the fact that he humored me with the whole raft thing, is one tiny example of how much I love this man.  In the end, I’m glad we didn’t find a raft that night, we might not have evacuated the next day.  I might have been stupid enough to use it when our street flooded, I might have been swept out to sea.  If we hadn’t left, I can only imagine how terrifying a night it would have been as we watched the water come down our street and consume everything around us.  Our car would have been destroyed like everyone else’s, and we would not have been able to get out for weeks.


We left when we were told – and I am glad we did.  We moved to a barrier island in July, and for the first time in a long time – I can say that I’m glad we did.  I’m a realist and a bit of a pessimist, I knew this could happen, I think I partially expected it to.  I’m pretty sure I pay for every possible rider you can get with renter’s insurance – if an earthquake hits, I’m covered.  I just couldn’t have imagined all the peripheral things it would affect for so long after.  There were amazing times between then and October and, I’m starting to remember them without the bitter taste of the misery and isolation of what came after.  Homes which have been gutted now have walls and people are living in them again, restaurants have been re-opening more steadily, laundromats are back and we even have options, there is talk of new businesses, roads are finally being repaved, street lights are coming back on and we're going on local adventures again. 




Now I just need the A train to come back.  Lately, like a recurring dream, I remember coming home from work BHS, walking through our train station on a summer evening and smelling sun tan lotion, sand and sea.  And though I might not want to spend another hurricane season or winter out here on this island (maybe that will come, I’ve learned patience).  I am starting to remember the details of the things I loved most about last summer, the things that inspired us to take a chance and try to live out here for both the warm and cold seasons.  The memories are a start, but it’s going to take a lot of people walking through that train station wearing sunblock to bring back that exact moment of “home” that got me giddy every time.

Just another night

I haven't written much.  I suppose I've been waiting for something good to happen or to feel like Hurricane Sandy is far enough behind me that it's not still affecting me every day.  I hate getting stuck, like a skipping record…but I am and I've been for so many months now that the ache has grown to fear.  Will I get through this?  Like seriously, will I get through this…safely?  Almost every commute to work and every commute back is a reminder, a battle, and has depressed me to the point of not wanting to talk or share beyond random kvetching on twitter.  And I'm stuck there too in 140 character bursts on twitter, reduced to pleading with the MTA for help.  So much has returned to functional, yet getting where I need to get each day and back, seems to be a process that gets worse each week.


Since October life has been a sort of spectrum of struggle.  First there was not knowing and assuming we lost everything.  We didn't.  Yay!  So there was the lull of realizing there were far worse things in life than living in an area decimated by a storm, while we still had an undamaged home.  I basked in that feeling of luck for all of a minute until the reality that our neighbors, family and many friends were not so fortunate.  There was petty complaining about LIPA and our electricity – because our house felt like a delicate husk that could burn, flood, be robbed, or disappear into a sinkhole.  And, though the structure was indeed still there – the anger was tangible, something to throw our energy toward (and re-electrifying was a test of sorts in itself).  There was helping where we could – because we had to do something – and feeling like I could never do enough. 


Eventually, and overlapping some of those initial fears, there have been the attempts at normalizing.  Trying to find little joys again, starting to recover, and trying to distract ourselves.  This often led us outside our community (because so little was open and we hadn't lived in the area long enough pre-storm to have made local friends or even routines).  Then came the resignation that the logistics of just getting to and from where we live is often more trouble than it's worth.  So there we are, back in our husk spinning the same maddening questions over and over.


Like any spectrum, it's a scale that leans positive on one side and negative on the other.  Some days have been great, some days are okay, some include normal levels of stress.  All things I can deal with.  But, most days are far off any sanity check, okay there is no normal, life is hard kind of spectrum.  Those moments at their mildest are "Our friends in Brooklyn and Manhattan lead somewhat normal normal lives, not all their conversations are about hurricanes and they have restaurants, laundromats and gyms just over the bridge". On the other extreme end – "It's cold, I'm soaking wet, I've been commuting for three hours for the third time this week and I just want to lay down on the sidewalk right here and give up."


This is some of the complaint I just filed with the MTA.  Since it was sent in haste, I made some tweaks in what I pasted below.  I'll spare you the letter I sent to the CEO of my insurance company, because that is a whole other battle that just exhausts me, and I am beyond tired…


Tonight I took the A to the Q52 at Rockaway Boulevard as I do every day.  It’s a transfer I dread, it’s rarely pleasant, but I do what I have to get to work and back.  The trip seemed uneventful until we got to Broad Channel when I noticed the bus was going very slow.  We were in the right lane and I stood up a few times over the course of a few minutes to see if there was traffic blocking the way.  There was not, cars were swerving around us.  I noticed fellow riders were also starting to stir and trying to figure out what was going on. 


After a few more minutes I started to worry that perhaps the driver was ill or in distress. I got up and asked the driver if he was okay.  I looked as his speedometer and noticed we were going 10-15 miles per hour.  He told me that he was frustrated that the stop button kept getting triggered and no one was getting off the bus.  There are not many stops through Howard Beach –  and I hadn’t noticed at all.  I was annoyed that I was being punished for what could have been accidental or even mechanical failure of one of the buttons.  That didn't stop the driver from slowing down and waiting for his protest to be noticed.  I noticed, I worried he might be dying, I checked on him and was confronted with a situation I had not considered, and so I returned to my seat.


I didn’t expect that some of the other passengers would react as they did.  What had started as a questionably dangerous situation quickly escalated to one.  Passengers were screaming at the driver, the driver was screaming back.  Cameras were shoved in his face while he continued driving the route.  Threats were made.  It was awful.  I regretted saying anything, even though my purpose was out of sincere concern for the driver.  I felt like I had triggered what followed.


I thought of the passengers, what they might still be going through, how disrupted our lives still are, and how awful our commute has been from the Rockaways without the A.  I wondered where the driver was from, what his life might be like, I mean we all have "things" and surely he had stuff that might be causing him to act out beyond what he told me was bothering him. 


The situation has been escalating seemingly every week over the past 3+ months.  Lines are longer, people are running on fading patience, fumes really.  Two weeks ago I was caught in between two men fist fighting after the man behind me shoved an older man in front of me (the man in front of me was walking with a cane, who does that?)  I've sat next to a grown woman bullying a larger man in front of us for taking up two seats.  Seats are a rarity – I've been pushed over by an elderly lady with a grocery cart jumping the line because she knows no one will offer her a seat up front reserved for the handicapped or elderly as they should.  During rush hour the trains are packed door to door, there is no visible white line to protect the passengers or the driver.  There are no lines, there is no order while waiting.  Civility has started to disintegrate on the Q52 and I believe it is only a matter of time before I witness or am caught up in something worse.


Taking the bus from the Rockaway Boulevard stop takes less time than other alternatives for those of us in my part of Rockaway, but a lot more time than anyone who lives within MTA serviceable routes plans for.  I feel confident in speaking for the passengers on the peninsula that we are tired.  I have no doubt your employees are too…and I would hope that your drivers aren’t goading passengers on when something as annoying as being asked to stop when no one gets off happens.


Before I exited, I stopped to tell the driver that I was sincerely worried about him.  That I hadn’t imagined he was trying to punish us for what one person may have done that upset him, and that may have even been because they were lost, or that maybe the bus itself was malfunctioning.  The driver then started yelling at me, about how people were shoving their phones in his face and yelling at him and how wrong it was.  I agreed, but also disagreed with how he handled it.    Then I just started sobbing and asking him to try to understand what life is like for all of us out here.   This was not how I expected my Friday evening to go, for my commute to end being yelled at by my bus driver.   But that’s the direction it went in when I boarded the Q52, bus number XXXX and found myself in the midst of a fight around Xpm on Friday, February 15th.



What I'd add if I hadn't already sent -


I’d ask that drivers on the Rockaway route (and others) get some extra support and perhaps sensitivity training for areas affected by life altering circumstances.  I ask that all drivers announce bus stops ahead of time.  When it’s raining and dark – you cannot see out the windows.  I have been that passenger who pressed the button ahead of my stop before.  In areas I am familiar with and areas I am not.  I ask that drivers understand customers may be confused by routes they are not familiar with.  This is not my first time dealing with a hostile and unapologetic bus driver.  I ask for more buses to ease rider’s frustrations, most of which I suspect are fear and actual pain from having to stand and balance, stuffed in like sardines, traveling on roads that have been deteriorating since Hurricane Sandy.  I ask for an ETA and commitment on a date for the return of the A and more communications on it’s progress. was great to check in for updates through December, but they have stopped updating on the situation in the Rockaways.  I ask to not have regular fear for my safety, other passengers, and for your drivers. 


This was not the first time, but it was the worst yet.  This cannot be the new "normal", there has to be a better way while the A will be closed for months to come.  Please help your customers and your employees get through this, it's escalating.  It is not working, it is broken


Because there is no option but to move in some direction, I try to move forward.  I try not to be angry, throw tantrums and otherwise sulk when services are still limping post-Sandy (this extends beyond the MTA).  I know you can't stop the world because you want to get off.  Life will deal harder hands still if I'm blessed to live a long life.  I know I can't dictate new bus lines and schedules.  I know our spectrums are skewed by any number and sorts of disasters.  And as a disaster implies, our spectrum is more likely to lean on the negative side.  I know I can't snap my fingers or click my heels together and have a lease dissolve or a painless, inexpensive move without sacrifices and risks.  But, I also think sometimes you have to stick up for yourself and file a complaint instead of carrying it and hoping things will change.  Maybe not scream "Uncle"  Uncle!-  but allow myself to cry a little.  I've lost track, I don't know if some of what I've been dealing with is normal, I don't know if my take is skewed so far in a direction that it doesn't make sense outside my day to day.  I honestly just don't know anymore.  And, I think that might honestly be the hardest part.


Of all the things that have played on my mind over the past three months, one of the things that has troubled me most is that I don’t think I have expressed or could ever really effectively express my gratitude.  I’ve woken up in a panic more than a few days over the past few weeks over the intangible – when saying “thank you” just feels insufficient or that it’s been awhile since I’ve heard from someone and that I need to check in them; or the tangible – that I still haven’t returned a friend’s keys or that I simply never even responded to so many generous offers of places to stay just after the storm.


With the holidays now passed, I wish I had planned better, done more thoughtfully.  If Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s feel like they sneak up most years…this year they didn’t creep, they felt more like a sucker punch.  In December I thought it was still October most days.  It was as if I lost weeks of time, but time kept on going as time is wont to do.


In contrast I can’t help but think of the year I moved to California.  I made the decision to move in October, the same month Sandy rearranged my life this year.  I moved in December.  Of any time in my life I’m proudest of those two months in between.  I was present with friends and family because I knew those moments would be fewer and further between after I moved.  Life was busy; I had a full time job, freelanced part time, and was packing to move cross country.  I was busy, that hasn’t changed -yet, I found the time, I took the time, and I was more thoughtful.  I poured heart and soul into my holiday gifts that year, this year I didn’t even get holiday cards out.


I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I know when something doesn’t feel right – it's time to change it.  It's not about gifts or cards, it's about slowing down, picking friends and family over chores and spending less time focused on the same old problems.  I have so many unfinished journal entries, blog posts and podcasts and many of them were about how I felt changed.  How I didn’t want to forget the kindness I saw among people, neighbors and strangers.  Now that the shock is wearing off and life is normalizing…it’s time to make good on that. 


* If this post seems vague, it is because it originally contained a litany of specific things and people I was thankful for.  As I have been trying to actually live life more presently and not just talk about it, the draft fell on the back burner because I knew I was leaving things and people off "the list".  Just posting the many thanks here was not the point.


I’ll keep trying, but in the meantime, quotes do it better

Last night I struggled with my end of the year video.  "Struggle" is the wrong word – having reached my creative end probably comes closer.   It's such a goofy, self indulgent little exercise, but I enjoy spending a few hours each December reflecting and summarizing.  Usually I can figure out the "story" and how to tell it pretty easily…  I mean, it's been unfolding all year, right?  But, this year I am stuck.  I've been working on it for days and I'm ready to throw it in the virtual trash bin.   It's an endeavor I do for fun, but I'm not enjoying it, because it speaks to something bigger.  So much has happened over the last 12 months and yet – one day, one effing storm has my whole life feeling as though it's been thrown into a state of limbo – no pictures, no videos, and no words can sum up how ridiculously overwhelming it still feels.


I guess in some way I keep feeling like if I could just aptly portray just one small bit of how it feels, maybe those bits could relax, and the rest of me might follow.


Bob Hardt's NY1 Blog does a better job of explaining some of the subtler aspects of life in Rockaway these days.  It's an odd comfort, but I return to it several times a day.  He wrote this earlier :


"Rockaway Beach has reached a “life during wartime” stasis where things aren’t quite working but they’re not totally broken either. There’s some sort of mass transit service off the peninsula. Some stores are back open for business and there’s sort of a daily workflow on the streets that have been made muddy and dirty by all the sand deposited by the storm."



"There are plenty of signs posted everywhere. Signs promising free things to hurricane victims, signs touting demolition and construction, and plenty of signs for businesses that are still boarded up and may never be coming back.


Plunked down on top of all this near the boardwalk on Beach 94th Street is a massive Christmas tree that’s been donated by a Long Island nursery. But – like most things Rockaway – there’s an argument going on about where exactly the tree should be placed. And like most things right now, it’s a little bit beautiful and confusing."


Tuesday 12/11/12, 10:30 a.m., NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt



The other day I wrote the date as October.  I have done that a bunch of times through November and now into December.  I know it's the 12th month of the year, not the 10th, but part of my brain is still stuck.  It's well into another month, and still I want it to be October, I want to un-lose that month in there.  I realize there is no going back to before this storm, it happened, I just miss so many of the things we had before.  Mainly laundromats, restaurants, and peace of mind…not small things, but some of those things will come back.


Most of all, I miss the A train.  The MTA has offered alternatives.  The three solutions, so far as I've seen -


  • The "H" shuttle.  The A train currently terminates at Howard Beach.  There you can get a bus to the beginning of what used to be the A train at Mott Street.  From there, you can board the H train which is running the route along half the peninsula

  • Seastreak is running a ferry from 108th street to Wall Street and East 34th

  • The Q52 and Q53 buses continue to run from Rockaway to the A train at Rockaway Boulevard.  The MTA has started running the Q52 more regularly than before.


Those are the most objective ways I can state the transit "alternatives".

The realities -

I live in the middle of the peninsula.  So….

  • I can take the A train, transfer to a bus at Howard Beach.  Normally home would have been just two stops later.  Two long but lovely stretches across the bay, those are the parts of the A train's tracks that have fallen into the water and are otherwise are out of commission until the Summer (likely the earliest).  The bus doesn't just run the old route of the train, that would be bearable.  Instead it runs directly 7 stops (or across the bay and then over 70 blocks) to the end of the line.  At that point I'd get to re-board the train and back track 6 stops.  This easily adds 45 minutes to well over an hour to my commute
  • I can and do take the ferry.  I drive 15 minutes to the dock.  I could take a bus, but I'd have to give myself at least 30 minutes to get the 30 or so blocks there.  I love the ferry.  I get to take a boat to work!  It takes about an hour to get to Wall Street, where I then walk a few blocks to the subway, which takes roughly 20-30 minutes to get within 2 avenues of my office.  If I miss the ferry, I may have to wait over an hour for the next one.
  • I can and do take the A train to Rockaway Boulevard.  Walk to an island in the middle of some crappy traffic patterns and board the Q52.  On a good day, I get a seat on the bus that arrives shortly after I do.  But, I have waited in excess of an hour on that cold island in the middle of a junction of what feels like 4 different throughways.  So, it's a crap shoot to say the least.


This is my new reality.  Is your head spinning, are you a little confused?  Welcome to how it feels every morning when I try to figure out which route to take, or every afternoon when it's time to head home.  Where I chose to live in a somewhat remote far flung edge of a borough, I did it because it was only one train, I hate to transfer.  But, life can be about adjusting to what you hate, I'm not going to be all "Wah, I have to transfer".  My house didn't burn down, it could be worse.  On a good day it took me just under and hour to get to work, on a bad day, about an hour and a half.  While I am thankful that the MTA offered up different routes post-Sandy, it is so hard not knowing if my commute will take 1.5 hours or 3.  It is exhausting and keeps me from making any plans after work.  The monotony of going to work and running right home before I turn into a pumpkin gets old, and makes me feel old.  I feel stuck at home and stuck at the office, with no time to just enjoy being unstuck in between.  This is monotony, certainly not the biggest problem in the world.  I work damn hard have a career and live in a city I love, but this…this makes me love it all a lot less.  It feels like the last time I had to commute and I fought like hell to change that situation, to do what it took to fix it.  I put in the time and the effort to change that, but it was freaking hard.  I am just so damned tired, and it may be temporary, but it is draining.  Then I think, I'm lucky I have heat, and so I suck it up and do it all again.  And that is the current setting in which I am stuck.

so this is Christmas

Last weekend I got one of my "nesting" impulses.  They started happening a lot after we moved to the suburbs and having a nest large enough to ing in, I wake up inexplicably wanting to paint or shop for curtains on a pretty regular basis.  It felt slightly unfamiliar having been disconnected from all things "home" for weeks and I welcomed the feeling and dreaded it.  It was both comforting and alarming.


The comforting part was that I wanted a Christmas tree.  From the first time I sat in our living room I had the space picked out in my head.  This was going to be the year I would have a "proper tree."  My definition of proper is far from idealistic imaginings involving chopping one down in the countryside or picking the fattest and tallest from a city lot and the pine scent that comes with the season.  In reality, my dream just involved a fake tree taller than me, I'm not fancy.  I have been deathly allergic to trees since I was a kid and after a few years of winding up in the ER around Christmas, my family finally realized real wreaths and trees were the culprit.   But, I never begrudged Christmas, it's the time of the year when everything shitty is magical, right?


Also, since I've lived in very small apartments most of my adult life I never had a Christmas tree over a foot tall, and for much of that time I had no interest in traditional things like that anyway.  But, this year was different.  Over the summer when I realized the winter out here on the beach would be long, cold, and dark, I imagined tricker treaters at Halloween and making some Christmas traditions of our own with great romance and excitement.  Halloween never really happened as Hurricane Sandy landed just a few days before and the Rockaways have been very much a disaster area since.  A few weeks ago my parents were over, and they brought me a bunch of old ornaments that I had either made or were given to me when I was a baby.   Christmas was ON and it was going to be super sentimental and sugar coated, I couldn't wait.


The Sunday after Thanksgiving it was time to get our tree.  I needed Christmas cheer, and damned if I have no idea where we will be this time next year, I wanted a tall artificial pre-lit monstrosity.  No matter what.  So I started calling around and found that our local Walmart still hadn't opened post-storm.  But, there is a mall just across the bridge in a relatively unscathed part of Brooklyn.  So, after much hyping how much we "needed" this and how it would make us feel better, Matt lovingly trekked out with me to take advantage of the post-turkey sales.  He thoughtfully and very cautiously reminded me that seeing as though we might have a lot less space in the future, might I consider a smaller 6ft tree?  No!  I wanted the 7.5 foot tree!  And, then of course I needed a star, so add on another journey to spend a birthday gift card to pick up ornaments, an advent calendar, and more than one star "just in case"… an hour later I was sitting in the back seat of our trusty Corolla, riding bitch to a Christmas tree, buyers remorse started to set in.


I  had done it, I got my big girl Christmas tree.  Even disassembled in it's box, takes up a lot of room.  Where on earth would we store the box, and then the tree after the holidays?  Right now we have a somewhat ridiculous spacious 3 bedroom apartment, but it all feels so temporary.  I had just spent over $100 on yet another thing for our home, that has been feeling less like a home daily for the past month.  It didn't feel very good.  Without digging very deep, I could name family, friends, and a bunch of charities that need that money far more than I should have tossed on a plastic suck on our already high electric bill.  By the time we had fluffed the branches and plugged all the lights in, and gotten some ornaments on it, I resented it. 


I stopped decorating it just about half way through due in part to not having Matt's ornaments and losing interest, it feels more than incomplete.  It offers no comfort, only questions.  So, we have a big apartment in an area cut off by subway service.  We loved it here, but without facilities for laundry, and just about every local resources we need and no longer have…how long can we keep it up knowing that just across the bridge life has all but returned to normal?  With so many kids in the area not having things like homes with heat and walls and basics, why the F do we have a Christmas tree?  This thing that was supposed to bring comfort just leaves me feeling spoiled, decadent, wasteful, and utterly gross.  I never thought that finally getting a holiday tree would feel like this.  Then again, I never thought within a year of moving near a beach, the big one would hit.  So, most days I don't want to even plug it in, if a tree could mock me, ours does.  It brings questions and seems to scream them from the very corner I had picked out for it. 

A morose scrapbook

Putting all the various links I keep digging back to reference in one place…


The video Matt put together on our first walk around town that makes me cry every time I watch it…



NYT – A Survey of the Flooding in N.Y.C. After the Hurricane


WNYC Flooding & Flood Zones – How Sandy flooded the NY & NJ coastlines, with storm-surge predictions by hurricane size. Sandy was downgraded from Category 1 before landfall


NY1 Blog: NY1's Bob Hardt Reports On Sandy From Rockaway Beach–ny1-s-bob-hardt-reports-on-sandy-from-rockaway-beach


MTA Rebuilding the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy


NYT – A Much Criticized Pocket of the Rockaways, Built to Survive a Storm


Daily News – The Rockaways, on solid ground