Top Five in the First Five Months

It hardly seems possible, but little James turns five months old today.  (Five month update coming soon!)  I still clearly remember being pregnant and trying to sift through the ridiculously long lists of things you “need” before bringing baby home, so I thought I’d talk about the top five baby items that have stood out so far for us in these first few months.

These are certainly not the items I would have predicted, but they have been the best for us. I am by no means an expert and of course each baby has his or her own preferences.

Note: I did not include the floor bed, which has absolutely been a favorite, as I discussed it in detail here.

Thick Blankets

Everything I read when I was pregnant emphasized that you could never have enough light swaddle blankets, especially these Aiden and Anais ones.  I don’t know why, but I feel like we barely use these.  Sure, we tuck one around James in the stroller, but I seem to have about five times as many light blankets as I need.

We have far fewer thick blankets, but use them much more.  These are the ones we lay James on when he’s playing.  This may be because we have hard wood floors, but we often double up so he doesn’t bang his head when he rolls over.  My very favorite is the one that my friend and former boss, Lisa, made me.  It is soft and thick and was especially perfect when James was learning to hold his head up and often lost control and hit it on the floor.  There were no head bumps or tears when he was on this blanket.

Independent Black and White Books

I love to read, and absolutely love reading to James.  It is one of my favorite things.  When he was a newborn, I would lie next to him on the floor and read to him.  He now sits and my lap as we read.

As much as I love reading books with James, I really appreciate the books that he can look at independently.

Two of these we’ve particularly loved are the Black & White board book and Art for Baby.  The Black and White board book unfolds like an accordion so that the baby can look at the images independently.  James LOVED this as a newborn.  He would lay and stare at the images for the longest time.  It was the first thing I saw him really concentrate on.

We didn’t have the Art for Baby book until he was a little older, but he still loves that one now at five months.  It features black and white images from different well known artists.  It is much larger than most board books and quite sturdy so that it’s easy to stand it up opened to a certain page to allow your baby to look at it on his own.

Mirror

This was a relatively inexpensive item that I can see us using well into toddlerhood and beyond.  It is probably my number one favorite baby item – and we almost didn’t get it!  While I always loved the idea of having a mirror in James’s room, I got a little overwhelmed trying to figure out what type to get and how to mount it to the wall.

I was concerned about the safety of having a glass mirror in his room, since he could potentially bang toys on it and break the glass when he gets older.  (I wouldn’t have worried about this if he didn’t have a floor bed / freedom of movement or if we were going to put it in a playroom rather than his room.)  On the other hand, many reviews of acrylic / unbreakable mirrors complained about distorted images.

In the end, we ordered an acrylic mirror from Home Depot (our Home Depot didn’t have them in the store, but they do have them online).  I couldn’t be happier with it!  Is the image perfect?  No.  Does James stare into it and smile and gaze with fascination?  Yes!  He does this every single day.

He has been transfixed by it since we first showed it to him as a newborn.  If you look into the mirror from across the room, the reflection does look slightly distorted, but from his close up vantage point, it looks great.

Skwish

This is the only toy to make the list – James loves it!  He has been given so many beautiful rattles and toys, but this one definitely stands out as his favorite.  My mom gave it to him for Christmas because she remembered it as one of my little brother’s very favorites when he was a baby.  It has not disappointed!

This was one of the first toys James could reliably grasp and hold onto.  He also loves putting the knobs in his mouth.  We have the one with colored knobs, but there is also an unpainted natural wood option.

Boppy Infant Lounger

This was something we added to our wish list just for fun, but it turned out to be so helpful in the first couple of months.  While we mostly put him down on a blanket when he was awake to allow freedom of movement, he did sometimes seem to enjoy the change of perspective of being in the lounger.  It let him get a better view of the Christmas lights or watch us as we were eating dinner.

As much as I have loved these items, even they have not really been necessary.  I’ve been amazed by how engaged James is just looking around the room, watching us go about daily tasks.  He has also been captivated by household items like the ceiling fan, a red and black plastic cup we got from a bbq restaurant, and, perhaps his favorite, a beautiful blue silk scarf given to me by a friend (thank you Lisa!).

In the end, we certainly have a few things we haven’t used (the bassinet…), but I’m so glad we didn’t rush out and get everything on the lists.  Each baby is so different and you just never know what they will love!

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Four Highs and a Low

It’s been a great week!  I wanted to take some time to share a few of the highlights (and one low just to keep it real).  Happy Friday!

High: Time with Family

My mom and sister (who are also Montessori teachers!) had Presidents Day off and came to visit last weekend.  It was so much fun to see them.  We went to lunch and went for walks and did all of the simple things that are more wonderful with family around.  We also went to the mini zoo that has local Texas rescue animals in Zilker Park.  James didn’t seem to notice any of the animals, but it was a beautiful day and fun to walk around somewhere different.  We used to live walking distance from Zilker, and definitely miss that.

Low: Being SO Tired

I had the best time with my family last weekend, but I was so unbelievably tired by Monday afternoon.  I’m not sure what it was that did me in, but I was beat.  We were out and about more so James took more naps in the car.  This made him a little grumpier and also meant I didn’t have his nap times to get stuff done.  I stayed up a little later than normal and didn’t sleep very well.  I had the best time chatting, but had little time to myself which, as an introvert, tires me out eventually.  Whatever it was, I felt like I could hardly move by Monday evening.  My wonderful husband took James for a walk and I just lay in bed and zoned out for thirty minutes.  I went to bed early and felt like a new person in the morning.

High: Beautiful Weather

I know I should be concerned for what this means for the summer, but oh my goodness, I’ve been fully enjoying the beautiful weather we’ve been having!  It has been in the 70’s and 80’s and sunny, and I cannot get enough.  Our daily walks have been a little longer than usual, and I’ve also been bringing James outside in the backyard to spend some time in nature and soak up some sunshine.

High: Out and About

I am an introvert and a major homebody.  That said, I didn’t realize how much I missed getting out of the house more the first couple of months with James.  I know I could have taken him out more, but it just seemed hard with how often he needed to eat and nap.  I’m sure this is because I’m a first time mom.  I definitely enjoyed our slow days at home, but I’m enjoying this stage even more!  Now we regularly go to the library for story hour, meet friends for lunch, and run basic errands like grocery shopping that include a bit of adult interaction.

High: Photography

One of the reasons I wanted to start blogging was to learn something new.  Gretchen Rubin, one of my favorite authors, talks about the importance to happiness of living in an “atmosphere of growth”.  I arguably already had this as I’m constantly learning something new with the little guy and growing into my role as a mother, but I wanted to learn and grow in other ways as well.  I have always been interested in photography, since I got my first pink camera for my birthday as a little girl, but I’ve fallen into the trap of just using my phone camera.  I honestly didn’t realize how low quality the pictures were until I started this blog and looked at them on my computer instead of my phone…yikes!  I thank you for your patience as I try to transition to using my husband’s DSLR camera more and my phone less.  It is something I really want to learn, but there’s definitely a learning curve.

What was a highlight from your week?

Does anyone have any tips for learning to use a DSLR?

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“Don’t be such a Dory, Dory” – Positive Self-talk

I usually try to do something productive during James’s long morning nap…but sometimes, if it’s been a rough night, I am just too tired.  Last week I was having one of these days and decided it was the perfect time to watch Finding Dory.  I love children’s movies and was way too excited when I saw that this was available on Netflix!

I absolutely loved the movie, but one line has really stuck in my mind for some reason: “Don’t be such a Dory, Dory.”  For those of you who haven’t seen the movie (you really should!), the main character says this to herself when she is frustrated by her inability to remember something.  Maybe it was just my sleep deprivation, but this line made me so sad and really got me thinking about the importance of cultivating confidence and self-love.  There are a few things I’m trying to do to help little James develop a positive self-image.

Modeling Positive Self-talk

I see James watching me constantly and know that he is taking in everything around him.  What an awesome (terrifying?) responsibility to be someone’s role model for how to be in the world.  With this in mind, I’ve been trying to be intentional with how I talk about myself.  I admit this feels a bit silly sometimes.  For example, I might say to him, “I’m proud of myself for running this morning when I felt really tired.  I feel so strong now.”  Negative self-talk is so prevalent in our society and I want to show him that it’s okay (even great!) to feel proud of himself and to be confident.  Along similar lines, I try to mention when I’ve “failed” at something or made a mistake, and state that it’s okay.  For example, “Whoops, I left too late for story hour and now we’re late.  That’s okay, I’m sure they’ll still be happy to see us.  We’ll just leave earlier next time.”  I personally have a huge fear of failure, which has definitely held me back from trying new things at times.  I want to do what I can to show him that mistakes are a part of life and the important thing is to learn from them.

 

 

I also absolutely love a music company called Growing Sound.  Their goal is to spread positive self-talk in children through song. I loved using their songs in the classroom when I taught and love playing them / singing them for James.  It’s definitely worth it to buy their cds, but you can also stream all of their music online for free, which is pretty amazing!  They have a song called “I Can do It,” and I actually heard one of the girls in my class singing it to herself when she was struggling with something one time – it was pretty incredible!

Growth mindset – Praising Effort

We talked a lot about growth mindset in my Montessori training, and also used the concepts in the school where I taught.  I can’t do this justice without making this a ten page post, but the basic idea is that it is important to praise effort rather than results.  This helps instill in children the belief that they can improve and the understanding that making mistakes is part of that improvement.  I have found this to be more difficult with my own son than it was in the classroom – I want to tell him he is wonderful and amazing all of the time!  I try to focus on acknowledging his effort though.  I tell him I see him working hard at learning to crawl and that he should be proud of himself.  I am obviously proud of him every day for ridiculously simple things, but I don’t want him to get the idea that he needs to do things to make me proud.

Avoiding Name Shaming

This is the idea of protecting a child’s name as a key part of his identity, and thus avoiding using it in a negative way.  To protect his name, you would avoid using it in a negative way or when correcting behavior, to prevent the child from having negative associations with his own name.  This honestly hasn’t come up yet, as James is much too young to “misbehave”.  I do think it is important though and plan to try my best to avoid it as he grows.  For example, I would try to say, “we walk in the grocery store,” instead of “Stop running James!”

I don’t know how much of a difference any of this makes at this point.  I do know that I am forming my parenting habits and language now and it will be easier to start these practices from the beginning than to change habits later on.  I want to do whatever I can to keep him smiling when he sees his reflection in the mirror 🙂

Does anyone have experience with supporting self-confidence in children?

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Thank You Parking Lot Mom

I’m still experimenting with the best way, for me, to take James to the grocery store.  I’ve tried wearing him in the K’tan wrap, but sometimes he’s fine with being in there…and sometimes he’s not.  So I’m always a little anxious if I go that route.  I also haven’t used the wrap all that much so, while it seems pretty simple, I definitely prefer to have a mirror handy while putting it on to make sure I’m doing it right.

The other option is keeping him in his car seat and putting it in the grocery cart.  He always seems okay with this, but it leaves little room for groceries, especially at stores with smaller carts, like Trader Joe’s.  So lately, I’ve put him in the cart and carried two reusable bags over my arms and simply put the groceries in there.

I went to Trader Joe’s on Friday, but as I was attempting to put his car seat into the grocery cart in the parking lot, the cart kept rolling away out of reach.  After this happened two or three times, the nicest mom of a toddler came over and so kindly helped me…without making me feel like an idiot 🙂  I’m sure I would have gotten him in there eventually, but her kindness, lack of judgement, and the fact that she bothered to help when she had her hands full with her own busy little guy, made my day.

I had heard so much about the “mommy wars” and about how judgmental mothers can be of each other, and I must say I have not seen this.  I’m sure it is out there somewhere, but all I’ve seen is empathy, understanding, and humor.  Maybe I’ve just been lucky so far, (or maybe I’m too tired / preoccupied to notice the judgmental ones…) but I wanted to say thank you to all of the experienced mothers out there who are helping out us newbies.  It makes such a difference.

 

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Preparing for Solid Food

Preparing for Solid Food

I can’t believe it’s almost time to start giving James solid food!  While our pediatrician said it would be okay to start now, we’re following the WHO guidelines and waiting until six months (or at least close to then).  I want to wait until he’s sitting up on his own anyway.  That doesn’t mean we haven’t started preparing though!  I’ve been doing several things to start familiarizing James with food and the eating process, and so far it’s been lots of fun.

Grocery Shopping

For a while, I was grocery shopping on my own, usually early on a weekend morning while James was asleep.  This was certainly easier and quicker.  However, I do think that involving children in grocery shopping and cooking can really encourage them to be adventurous eaters, so why not start now!  I admit, I feel a bit spacey when I take him grocery shopping, mainly because I’m trying to get it done quickly, but I do try to talk to him a little about what we’re buying and show him some of the beautiful produce.  I may get some crazy looks from other shoppers as I talk to little James about sweet potatoes, but that’s okay 🙂  I’d like to make it to the farmers market with him soon too, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Including him in Cooking

I love to cook and can’t wait for the days when James can help me in the kitchen!  For now though, I try to include him by placing him on a blanket right outside the kitchen, in a way that he can see me.  If he’s not busy doing something else, I’ll bring over the ingredients, especially fruits and vegetables, for him to look at.  I also talk to him about the smells and sounds he may be noticing.

Including him at Meal Time

We do not always manage to eat dinner before James goes to bed, but at least a few nights of the week, we try to have a “family dinner,” where James sits on my lap.  It’s so sweet to watch his eyes intently follow my fork to my mouth as I eat.  He’s just started trying to grab my food off of my plate too (though he grabs everything, so I’m by no means assuming that he’s trying to eat it).  This may be a less relaxing way to eat dinner, but it is definitely entertaining.  When we don’t manage to have family dinners, I at least try to eat a snack while sitting with him at some point during the day.  He always seems highly interested.

I have no idea if any of this makes a difference, but I enjoy it and see no reason not to include him in daily life as much as possible.  It seems to me like maybe eating will be more fun and make more sense when the time comes if he’s already somewhat familiar with how it works.  I would also love to find some beautiful photos of food to give him, or a book about food with great pictures, but haven’t done that yet.

Does anyone have any tips on including babies / children in meal time and preparation?

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Thoughts on a Floor Bed

I have pretty much zero talent with design.  I am simply not a visual person.  However, I very much believe in the impact of a well-designed environment, on adults and children alike.  I certainly saw this when teaching in a Montessori classroom, where simple tweaks in the organization and flow of the room could alter behaviors and classroom dynamics.  Thus, I was excited to design the little buddy’s room when I was pregnant.  I read many blog posts and articles about Montessori baby rooms, and couldn’t wait to put it into practice.  One thing I was the most excited, curious, and anxious about was the floor bed (a simple bed or mattress on the floor, rather than a crib).  I loved this idea, but wasn’t sure how well it would work in real life.

While I planned to use a floor bed, I had read that new babies liked to be in more confined spaces.  I also wanted to keep James close for the first few months, so we chose a lovely bassinet, gifted to us by my parents.  We set up James’s floor bed in his room, and put the bassinet in our room by our bed.  I chose one of the larger bassinets, with hopes that he could stay in there longer, until he was ready for his floor bed.

Things did not go as planned (shocking, I know).  When we brought James home from the hospital, he slept terribly the first few nights.  I put him in the bassinet awake; I put him in asleep; every time resulted in crying within a few minutes.  I thought he just had his days and nights reversed, as happens with many newborns.  One night, when he started crying, I took him into his room, figuring that at least this way, my husband and I could take turns sleeping.  There was no reason we should both be up all night.  This was what led me to first put him in his floor bed as a newborn.

It was an instant change!  He still of course woke often to eat, but he slept for hours at a time, for the first time since we’d brought him home.  No more constant wake-ups and tears!  I couldn’t believe it.  I’m still not sure what he so strongly preferred about his floor bed versus his bassinet, but he certainly made his opinion clear.  Perhaps the mattress was more comfortable, perhaps he liked being closer to the ground, perhaps he could see me better and felt safer.  I have no idea.  I feel so lucky though that we had that option available, or who knows how long it would have taken him to accept sleeping in the bassinet.

Another benefit has been the ease of comforting him when he has trouble to fall asleep.  It is so easy to lie next to him and put a hand on his belly (or back, now that he rolls over), without having to pick him up.  I think this has helped him learn to fall asleep independently (though this is still a work in progress).  I imagine this would be far more difficult in a bassinet or crib.  Also, since he has been sleeping in his own room from the start, we won’t have to deal with the struggle of transitioning him out of our room when he is older and more aware.  As he goes to bed around seven o’clock, we don’t go to bed with him, so he is already used to going to bed in there on his own.

The only downside has been that, due to the SIDS prevention recommendations of sleeping in the same room as the baby for the first six months, either my husband or I sleep next to him on the floor on a camping mattress.  This is obviously not ideal, but it’s only for a few more weeks.  We considered moving his mattress into our room, but didn’t want to create a future challenge of transitioning him to his own room later.

So far, our experience with the floor bed has been overwhelmingly positive.  I’m curious to see if this remains true as he gets older.  James is fighting every day to become more mobile.  His crawling attempts right now look more like swimming, with only his belly on the floor, limbs flailing, but I know it won’t be long until he’s moving about freely.  I very much hope that he adjusts well once he’s mobile and that the floor bed continues to work so well for our family.  We shall see!

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Four Months – A Day in the Life

James is just over four months old.  The past nineteen weeks have been both a blur and an eternity.  While some days are hard (for instance, Tuesday, when he barely napped), this is one of those rare times in life when I’m able to recognize, right in the thick of it, that these are the “good old days,” the ones I’ll look back on when I’m old and remember with aching fondness.  I remind myself of this often.  Yet despite trying to appreciate each day, I’m already finding it hard to remember the details of the early days…back when James was “little,” ha.  I’m hoping that periodically recording a “day in the life,” just a normal, mundane day, will help me remember once the fog of sleeplessness has lifted and these sweet days have slipped away.

As is currently typical for him, James woke up once in the middle of the night (2:40 AM) and once in the early morning (5:07 AM).  I always get up after this early morning wakeup while he sleeps a little longer.  Thankfully, this has shifted from the four o’clock hour to the five o’clock hour recently.  I find I have a much better day if I have a little time to myself (and a lot of coffee), before being “Mom”.  I ate breakfast and watched an episode of the West Wing – it was a good one.

He continued dozing and quietly entertaining himself for quite a while, so I completed this 40 minute strength workout before going to get him.  He was still calmly playing when I went in, but was clearly wide awake at this point.  Going in to get him in the morning is one of my favorite things.  He always looks at me blankly for a couple of seconds before registering that it’s me and giving me a big smile.  I pick him up and cuddle with him for a few minutes in the glider.  He is such a busy baby, always on the move, and doesn’t like to be held for long unless he’s just woken up, or is getting sleepy, so I cherish these times.  I changed his diaper, got him dressed, and he played for a little while in front of his mirror, looking at himself and his mobile, and practicing rolling, while I straightened up his room.

We then went in to have cuddle time with his Dad before he went to work – another one of my favorite parts of the day.  We do this most mornings and it is so nice to have some time all together before the day gets going.  Before too long, the little guy was getting restless, so I fed him, changed his diaper again, and he had some more play time in front of the mirror (this time with his crocheted rattle), before going down for his first nap at 8:45.  He fell asleep independently (something he’s been working on) within five minutes.

While he napped, I unloaded the dishwasher, showered, and got dressed for the day.  His naps have been a bit unpredictable since he started rolling.  He always wakes up after thirty-five minutes, but sometimes goes back to sleep for two hours or so.  Once it was clear he had fallen back asleep, I made another cup of coffee (obsessed with the Nespresso I got for Christmas) and got to work on this post.

At 10:15, I turned off the white noise app that helps James sleep.  I don’t usually do this, but I wanted to take him to story time at the library later, and knew if he kept sleeping, he’d be ready for his next nap right when it was time to leave. He woke up within a couple of minutes and I went and snuggled with him and fed him.

After feeding him and changing his diaper, we went for a walk.  We normally do this in the afternoon, but it was ridiculously nice and sunny out.  When we got home, James had some play time.  We usually move to a new room in the house for each different play time, just to mix up the environment a bit.  This time, he was in front of a window in my room.  I like to give him a chance to play independently at the start of each play time.  I set him up in front of a mirror or window and put one or two toys, or a book propped open to look at, nearby.  He looks out the window, practices rolling, tries desperately to crawl, and reaches for the toys.  I either sit by him while he does this or do some type of house work in the same room.  He eventually asks for attention, or gets frustrated by his crawling attempts, and then we play together.  I sing him songs, which he loves lately, read him books, help him grab a toy, or talk to him about what we see out the window.  After singing lots of songs, he eventually got sleepy eyes, and went down for another nap at around 12:30.  He needed a little help falling asleep this time, so I rubbed his back, avoiding eye contact so as not to stimulate him.  His afternoon naps are usually short (35 minutes…on the dot), so this timing worked out perfectly for making it to story time at the library…woohoo!  While he slept, I made a smoothie and got everything ready to go.

He woke up just in time and we went to a nearby library that has a story time for babies under one year old.  They sing songs and read a short book and then the librarian puts out toys and blows bubbles.  James sits in my lap, stunned, looking around at the other babies (“I’m not the only one!” I imagine him thinking.)  I go mostly for selfish reasons, to get a chance to talk to other moms, but I do think he gets something out of seeing other babies sit and crawl and walk.  He fell asleep in the car on the way home…and I drove around for thirty minutes to let him get a decent nap.  He used to keep sleeping if I brought him in from the car, but this is no longer the case.  The day before, he fell asleep for five minutes and was utterly convinced that counted as his nap.  I was listening to an audio book (The Happiness Project, one of my favorites) so I did not mind the extra time in the car.

When we got home, I fed him and changed his diaper again and then we had some more play time.  Nick got home a little while later and joined us.  James started getting a little grumpy, so we started bath time, which always cheers him up.  I then fed him and Nick did the bedtime routine, which we take turns with.  For bedtime, we give him a massage with lavender lotion, read him a book, sing him a song, and place him in his bed.  Sometimes he goes to sleep on his own and sometimes he cries, in which case one of us stays with him and pats his back / rubs his tummy until he is calm or asleep.

It was a completely ordinary, extraordinary day.

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