Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo….

That song has been stuck in my head all weekend.  If you don’t know it, I do not recommend that you look it up….

I hope everyone who had Memorial Day off enjoyed the long weekend, and everyone who had to work is hanging in there.

I spent the long weekend with my family in Houston.  As you may have guessed from the title of this post, one of the highlights of the weekend involved taking James to the Houston Zoo.

I had no idea whether or not he would notice the animals, but he generally enjoys seeing new scenery and loves people watching, so we figured it would be fun either way.

Oh my goodness though, it took about twenty minutes to drive to the zoo…and about 45 minutes to find parking.  It was pure madness!  We almost turned around and went home, but my sister was meeting us there and had already parked, so we kept on looking.  It wasn’t even that crowded when we made it into the zoo, but a bunch of the parking was blocked off for some reason.

The first thing we went to look at when we got in was the sea lions.  He got the biggest smile on his face.  I guess he noticed them!

The whole time we were there, James seemed to be having the best time (as were we all).  I’m not sure how many of the animals he noticed, but I think he loved watching the big kids run and play and enjoyed looking around at all of the pretty trees.

It got pretty hot while we were there, but we took breaks inside or in the shade when needed.

One highlight for everyone was feeding the giraffes.  We were given big lettuce leaves to feed to them.  We were basically face to face with the beautiful animals, but James just stared at the lettuce.  I think he was too busy hoping for a bite to notice the huge animals right in front of him.

One thing he definitely noticed though was the petting zoo!  I tentatively brought James over to a friendly looking goat with no other children around, not sure how he would react / whether he would be scared.

He loved it so much!  Watching him smile and laugh as he pet the gentle goats was pretty much the best thing ever.

We were probably only there for about an hour and a half before we needed to leave so James could nap, but it was 100% worth it.  I can’t wait to take him back this summer and watch as he becomes more and more aware of the animals all around.

Does your city have a nice zoo?

Austin doesn’t have a normal zoo, but has a rescue center zoo.  I haven’t actually been there yet, as it’s outside of town.

What was the highlight of your weekend?

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Friday Snapshot #2

Happy Friday!

We are having a great week in Houston.  I can never get enough of seeing my little guy with my family and am so thankful we live within driving distance now.  I hope you all have a great long weekend full of sunny summer weather and time with loved ones.

Without further ado, another Friday snapshot / haiku:

Oh little buddy

The weeks fly by too quickly

Slow down, won’t you please


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Maintaining Identity in Motherhood

I have always wanted to be a mom and am completely okay with that being a big part of my identity at the moment.  At the same time though, I think it’s important to maintain some sort of identity outside of motherhood.  While I may not have as much time (or energy…) to devote to my hobbies as I once did, it’s important to me to not completely give them up.

Running Trail in Fort Worth, TX

A few years ago, one of my favorite hobbies, and a big part of my identity, was running.  I started running in high school to stay in shape when it wasn’t basketball season (I played on our high school basketball team…we were very, very bad, but I loved it).

I didn’t love running right away, it felt so hard, but sometime in the college years, I fell in love with it.  It didn’t hurt that I went to Georgetown in DC, which is surrounded by great running trails.  Also though, as an introvert, I craved solitude, which can be hard to find in college.

Running gave me that outlet and felt so freeing.  I ran somewhat sporadically in college.  I started training for a half marathon a couple of times, but kept injuring my foot, probably because I was playing lots of basketball with friends around the same time, and was not at all careful about preventing overuse injuries.

After college, I signed up for my first race, the Virginia Beach Half Marathon, and from there I was hooked.  I am a super competitive person and, while I am not fast, loved competing with myself and reaching new goals.  Especially as a newer runner, there are always new time and distance goals to strive for.

Spectating the London Olympics Marathon Trials in Houston – Go Kara!!!

I ran four marathons and a bunch of other races, and loved them all.  I briefly joined an early morning running group in DC, but quickly realized I really prefer running alone.  I would 1000 times rather listen to music while running than have to think about talking.

Walt Disney World Marathon with My Little Brother

I had a few injuries over the years, but they were all gone within a couple of months.  One day, I was running in Wisconsin while we were visiting my husband’s family and my left foot started to hurt.  I kept going.  I may have taken a day or two off, but then went back to it.  It wasn’t excruciating, just a nagging pain.  It got worse and worse and I kept on running.  I still wonder how things would have turned out if I had just stopped and gone to a doctor, or at least taken more time off.

Months later, I eventually went to a specialist and it turned out I have an extra bone in my foot, called an accessory navicular.  It’s a tiny little bone, but can cause tendonitis, which is partially what was causing me pain.  The bone itself hurt too.  The doctor recommended some different shoes and insoles and told me I should I go to physical therapy (which I did not do…).  There is a surgery to remove the bone, but it is largely unsuccessful.

I stopped running for months.  I would try again periodically, but even going for walks was really painful, which was one of the hardest parts.  I was teaching at the time, and was on my feet a lot, which probably didn’t help.

Anyway, this a long way of saying, I did not stop running because of James.  I actually started running again for the first time in a long time in my second trimester.  Probably because I had been resting more than usual, my foot finally started to feel a little better.  I was going slowly and only about once a week, but it felt SO good.

Similarly, I started running about once a week six weeks or so after having James.  I would either go on my treadmill in the garage or outside on the weekend while my husband was home.  Now that I can run with the stroller though, I can finally run outside more often again.

It feels so, so great to be out running semi-regularly again.  It also has me itching to do a race.  I want to sign up for either a ten miler or half marathon for sometime next Fall.  I know this is probably not smart in terms of my foot – but I’ve also mostly given up on it ever getting 100% better again and am not okay with never doing a race again.  I want to do at least one more and ten milers / half marathons are my favorite distance.

Now I just need to research and choose a race, which I love doing!  Any recommendations?  I’ll keep you posted…

Do you like to run?

Have you ever had a long-term injury?

If you’re a parent, how do you maintain your identity outside of parenthood?

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Baby Led Weaning – High Chair versus Weaning Chair

As I mentioned here, after much discussion and general wishy-washiness, we ended up getting both a high chair and building a “weaning chair” (a weird name for a baby-sized chair).  Now that we’ve been using both for about a month and a half, I wanted to share our experience for anyone else out there feeling indecisive on the matter.

Weaning Chair

My husband built this little chair for James and I love it so much.  He usually eats breakfast and lunch in his little chair.

Some of my favorite things about the chair:

Independence: I love that James will be able to get in and out of his chair by himself when he’s a little older, since he’s not strapped in.  I also love that he’ll be able to help set and wipe the table later since the table is at a height he can reach.

Balance: I’m sure this depends on the specific chair, but ours does not hold him in as tightly as the high chair.  This was a challenge when he first started using it, but in a good way.  James is not too interested in sitting, always wanting to be on the move, so sitting in his chair for meals was one of the only times he really practiced balancing while sitting.  Will sit for food!

Food Waste: The way the chair is built with the tall sides, much of the food James drops winds up on the seat of his chair, rather than the floor, so that I can give it back to him.  This results in much less food waste and a less messy floor.

The things I don’t like as much about the weaning chair:

Harder to Clean: I love that it’s made of wood, but it is a lot harder to get it fully clean than his plastic high chair, especially after something like oatmeal or avocado.  I used a natural beeswax wood polish, but maybe I need to apply another coat?

High Chair

We have also been enjoying our Ikea high chair (only $20!).  We use this mostly for James’s dinners.  The things I like about the high chair:

Family Meals: As I’ve mentioned before, we aren’t really doing family dinners right now since James needs to eat early to protect his early bedtime.  However, my husband often gets home while James is eating dinner and comes and sits with us at the dining table.  I can easily sit on the floor at James’s little table, but it’s too small for two adults and a baby, so the high chair lets us all sit together for a meal.

Easier to Clean: The high chair is very easy to clean. It is a simple one with no fabric and not too many pieces, which makes it easy.  If it’s been a particularly messy meal, it’s easy to carry it to the backyard and hose it off.  I will say the food spreads out further on the floor though since he is dropping it from a greater height.  I also like that I can keep James in there while I clean up to show him more of the process.  He is not stable enough in his little chair for me to leave him there while I clean up after a meal.

All in all, while I definitely don’t think both are necessary, I love having both the weaning chair and high chair for James and think we’ll likely keep using both for years.  As far as I can tell, James doesn’t seem to have a preference – he’ll eat anywhere as long as sweet potatoes are involved 🙂

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A Friday Snapshot

I was listening to this episode of the Happier podcast while walking around the neighborhood with James the other day.  One idea they talked about was making up a haiku in your head every day as a mindfulness practice.  I thought it was a fun idea and thought I might try it as an occasional blog post.

I want to keep blogging, but with James’s short naps recently, it’s become more difficult to find the time.  This lets me share a snapshot / moment in our day, even when I don’t have time for a longer post.

I came up with two while we were walking, and they really did help lift my mood and help me recognize the good in the current moment.

Quiet cloudy day

Looking down at tiny toes

What a precious sight

Walking now with you

The loop I walked when pregnant

Now we walk as two

Have a happy Friday and a wonderful weekend!

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Day in the Life – 7.5 Months

Here was our day yesterday – it was an interesting one….

We’ve fallen into a general pattern of staying home (apart from walks) about one day a week, running errands a couple of days, and doing things just for fun a couple of days.  This was a just for fun day.

James slept really well last night (or so I thought…), waking up at 4:30 to eat, but otherwise sleeping soundly.  I used to always get up for the day if he woke up around 4-5 to eat, but I’ve been really tired and decided to go back to bed.  I get up for real just before 6.

I eat oatmeal and drink coffee (delicious cold brew from Trader Joe’s – this stuff is SO good) while working on blog posts.  James wakes up at 6:45 and I go get him at 7:00.  I find him playing in front of his mirror when I go in.

I change his diaper, nurse him, and put his toys on his shelf so that he can play.  I’ve started putting his toys up at night to minimize distractions from sleep since he can now easily get out of his floor bed.

I thought James slept well, but he is pretty grumpy and seems tired this morning so I suspect he was quietly awake for a while, just not fussing or making noise.

He started army crawling last week and zips around his room.  He crawls back into bed for the first time this morning – I’m glad to know he can do this now since he’s been able to get out of bed, but not back in, for a while now.

At around 7:30, we go in to see his Dad – always a happy time.  I take a shower and make James’s breakfast while he plays with his Dad.

James eats baby oatmeal mixed with applesauce, coconut oil, cinnamon, chia and hemp seeds, and wild blueberries.  I used to think he didn’t really like breakfast until I started giving him this concoction, which he LOVES.

He usually finishes it, but is still seeming tired and is not that into it this morning.

James plays on a blanket nearby while I clean up his breakfast and then we go play outside in the backyard.  Now that the days are getting hot (already!), I’m trying to get outside with him in the mornings more when it’s still pleasant out.

Being outside seems to calm him down and he plays and explores quietly until it’s time to go inside and get ready for a nap.

We read The Runaway Bunny and I sing him a song and put him in his bed for nap time around 9:00 AM.  He gets out of his bed twice and I go in to put him back without any words or eye contact.  He then settles down and goes to sleep.

I get dressed, get a second cup of coffee, work on this post, steam some green beans for James, and load the dishwasher while he naps.

James woke up a little before ten after sleeping for around 40 minutes.  I know this is not enough sleep for him considering how tired he was all morning, so I try to help him fall back to sleep.  This works sometimes, but not today!

I change his diaper and nurse him and we get ready to go meet some friends at the Wildflower Center.  This is where things got interesting…

We were in the car ready to go, but the car wouldn’t start.  It just made a bunch if clicking noises and flashed a bunch of lights.  Change of plans.

This was disappointing, but luckily my husband was working from home today, so he could take a look at it (I know nothing about cars).  Even though he was home, we share a car since he bikes to work, so we were still stranded.

James played in his room for a bit, still tired and grumpy, but holding it together.  I then made him lunch.  Today he had green beans, whole wheat pita bread with olive oil, and red lentils cooked with ginger, red onion, and coconut milk.  These are all things he likes, but he didn’t eat too much today.  I knew this might happen since he was tired, but thought I’d at least try.

After lunch, we went for a stroller walk around the neighborhood.   As you can see, he was thrilled 😉

I listened to Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child on Audible, but soon realized it was making me feel really depressed that James has been napping so poorly, so I turned it off and listened to Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman instead.  I mostly kept thinking about naps though and now have no clue what is going in the book.

After we got home, one of my husband’s friends came and jumped our car.  My husband then took it to an auto shop and it turned out it needed a new battery.  I’m glad it was an easy fix.

James played a little more and then I read him a story and sang him a song and put him in bed for nap # 2.  He doesn’t get out of bed at all this time and passes out almost immediately.

While James naps, I work on this post and eat lunch – leftovers of this delicious pasta salad (we used half chickpea pasta, goat cheese instead of feta, and added chicken and basil – so good!) and some cherries.  Then I waited anxiously to see if James would take a good nap….(spoiler alert: no, no he would not).

James woke up right at 1:30.  Honestly, this was really discouraging, but I tried to rally and enjoy more play time with him.  He was actually in a surprisingly good mood, but was still tired, and took another nap at 3:00.

I prepped his dinner and did stuff around the house while he slept.  He slept a record 24 minutes….

I sat outside with James for a little bit and then gave him an early dinner.

He ate ground beef with onions and tomatoes, avocado slices rolled in hemp seeds (to make them less slippery), green beans, and pear slices.

He ate surprisingly well considering how over-tired he was by this point.

He had a little more play time, then a bath, and a super early bedtime.  Hopefully this extra sleep will help him be more rested tomorrow!

I’m so happy my husband got the car fixed earlier today because I had dinner plans with a good friend I hadn’t seen in a while.  This was actually the first time I went out to dinner without the little guy since he was born.  It may be time to find a babysitter!

It was a great, much needed end to a kind of rough day.  On days like this though, I try to remember that even the hardest days with James are so good and so worth it.  Here’s to a better tomorrow!

What was the best part of your day yesterday?

What was the hardest part?

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The Weekend We Celebrated All the Things

Good morning!

We are back from our whirlwind weekend in Houston, feeling a little exhausted and very happy.

It was a weekend full of celebrations.

We left Austin in the late afternoon on Friday.  We hit a ton of traffic, but eventually made it, all in good spirits.

We only give James a pacifier on road trips, so I always have to snap a picture because I think he looks so cute 🙂

I must say though, I’m driving back to Houston next week without my husband and I am not looking forward to doing the drive alone with James.  He did pretty well, but definitely required a steady stream of toys / distractions to keep it together in the car for three hours.  Oh well, it will be worth it!

We got to Houston in time for little James to do a little light reading and play with his grandparents a little before going to bed.

Saturday we celebrated my little brother’s (also named James) birthday.  He flew in from Chicago for the occasion.  I hadn’t seen him since Christmas, it was so great to catch up!  I totally failed to take pictures, but we went out for a great, long lunch at an Italian place called Giacomo’s.

My husband then took James home for a nap so that I could go shopping with my mom, sister, and brother for some things for my sister’s wedding – so fun!  We went to BHLDN, a store owned by Anthropologie that specializes in wedding dresses, accessories, and decor…so many pretty things.

I did not get much sleep Saturday night, but woke up excited to celebrate James’s baptism Sunday morning!  It made for a very special first mother’s day for me and it meant so much to me to have my whole family there with us.

I want to re-dress James in his little outfit soon to get some better pictures.  We had to rush to the church right after he woke up from a nap and he was really ready to go by the time the service was over.  I think it’s safe to say his favorite part of his outfit was the bow tie.

We went back to my parents’ house for brunch while James took one more nap before we hit the road.  It was such a quick trip, but so, so fun.  And it wasn’t too sad saying goodbye since I’m going back in less than a week!

Do you live close to your family?

What was the best part of your weekend?


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Thanks Mama

Good morning and happy Friday!

We are busy getting ready to head to Houston for the weekend to celebrate Mother’s Day, my brother’s birthday, and James’s baptism…should be a busy and fun weekend!

Before returning to packing though, I wanted to stop in and say happy Mother’s Day.

Funny story – when I was signing into the hospital to have James, I had to fill out a few forms even though I had pre-registered.  I don’t really remember what they were for, but one of them required a parent signature.  I was super annoyed – why do I need a parent signature, I’m 30 and about to have a freaking baby?  Oh, right.  I was the parent.  They wanted my signature.  Whoops….

All this to say, I still kind of forget that I’m a parent half of the time.  To me Mother’s Day is still very much about celebrating my own mother, as it should be!

So I wanted to take a minute to say thank you to my Mom, the very best mom I could wish for.

Thank you for being completely unselfish.  Always.  I am honestly much more selfish than my mom and I worry about that sometimes.

Thank you for driving us all over town to whatever activity / friend’s house we wanted to go to and never making it seem like a burden.

Thank you for making everyday things fun and for always making time for us.

Thank you for always taking my side, no questions asked.

Thank you for making me feel like what I had to say was important and interesting, even when I was small.

Thank you for answering the phone to talk to me no matter what you’re doing.

Thank you for putting up with me as a teenager.

Thank you for showing so much love to little baby James.

Thank you for showing me how to be a mom.

Do you have any fun plans for Mother’s Day?

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What is the role of a parent?

There are a lot of things I want to be for my child.

Above all, I want to be a loving, safe place for him where he always feels welcome and knows he can be himself.

I want to be someone who challenges him to push himself, to not give into his fears, and to always strive for his best.

I want to be the person hugging him, or sitting quietly by his side, when his best falls short.

I want to be a scientist, always observing him so that I can know him better and know what he needs.

I want to be an architect, shaping his environment so that it offers him a place to thrive and grow.

I want to be a librarian, reading to him for hours on end and planting the seed for a love of books.

I want to be his travel agent, planning adventures near and far to open his eyes to the world.

I want to be an explorer, discovering whatever worlds his yet to be determined interests lead me to, so we have common ground.

I want to be his chef, cooking him healthy meals and baking cookies with him on a Sunday afternoon.

There is one thing though that I do not want to be: I do not want to be an entertainer, making sure he’s always occupied, never bored, constantly engaged in something fun or “educational”.

I believe that boredom is needed for creativity, that quiet times of nothingness are where imagination sparks and ideas are born.  I believe that the ability to entertain yourself is a life skill, one that is falling away now that we have constant entertainment in our pockets.

So while I of course play with him, after all I’m his only available playmate most of the time, I don’t interact with him 100% of the time he’s awake.  I look for those moments when he’s inside his own head and I sit quietly while he entertains himself.

I watch as the time he can do this stretches and I hope it serves him well as he grows.  I watch as he discovers shadows on the floor and tries to capture them.  I watch as he stares at his reflection in the mirror and watches himself move.  I watch as he stares out the window at the beautiful world, captivated by the leaves dancing in the wind.

I watch as he starts to get frustrated or want attention, and then I watch a little bit longer, until it’s a little uncomfortable, walking that line so that he knows – he doesn’t need me to entertain him.

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Being Present and Some Modern Art

I have a tendency to be overly sentimental about time passing.  I think I started worrying about getting old when I was about 15.  I was not one of those kids who wanted to grow up; I knew being a kid was where it’s at.

Anyway, I spend a lot of time fondly remembering (romanticizing?) the past and wondering what the future will be like.  I am not always great about being in the moment.

When I stop to think about it though, this time, this particular moment, is definitely one I will be remembering fondly some day.  This is an especially enjoyable stage of life and I’m going to really try to stay focused on that and not worry too much about what’s to come.  Any tips?

James is at a really fun stage where he is still largely accepting of anywhere we take him, but has long enough stretches of awake time that we can really go do stuff.  It’s pretty great.

Saturday was one of the most relaxing days I can remember since he was born.  I read outside in the morning with a giant cup of coffee, and I read at night before bed with a glass of red wine.  The in between parts were pretty great too.

James took two, hour-plus naps.  I only did one productive thing during these naps (made James some healthified zucchini bread), and spent the rest of the time reading.  Sure, this was vaguely irresponsible, but so, so worth it.

We also went on a little adventure.  One of my goals for the month is to go somewhere new every week.  When looking for places to go, I came upon this excellent list of baby / toddler friendly places in Austin.  A bunch of them look great, but the first one to call my name was the sculpture garden at The Contemporary.  I’m glad I listened.

So I feel kind of like an idiot for not knowing this place existed, but it was super uncrowded even on a sunny Saturday, so maybe it’s not that well known?  I don’t know.  Anyway, Austin’s modern art museum apparently has a couple of satelite locations, one of which is an art school with a large, woodsy sculpture garden.  There are also indoor exhibits, but we didn’t do that part this time.

This is not a big open garden, but rather consists of little winding trails through the woods and along Lake Austin where you’ll be walking and then discover a big sculpture.

I think it’s the feeling of exploring and discovery that make this place particularly delightful.  It reminded me of a time my freshman year of college where I went to the National Cathedral at night with some new friends – totally different place, but it gave me the same feeling of entering a different world.

For those familiar with Austin, this place is right by Mount Bonnell.  I highly recommend it if you feel like wandering, contemplating, or staring off into space and looking like you have a purpose.

As a bonus, it was right next to a great looking park and nature preserve that may be next on my list of new places!  It has a peacock crossing so that has to be a good sign.

Thanks to my husband for many of the pictures in this post 🙂

What was the best part of your weekend?

Do you ever play tourist in your own city?

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