Lessons from Running and Parenting

I was on a great, but very hot, run last saturday and my mind started to wander to all of the parallels between what I’ve learned in running and parenting.  So maybe these are just life lessons?  I don’t know, but as soon as I started thinking about it, I thought of so many things that apply to both.  Of course I forgot half of them by the time I got home, but these are the ones I remember.

Do what you can sustain

I believe it was this book (which I don’t love) that said “start as you wish to go on” or something like that.  In regards to parenting, it meant don’t start a bunch of bad habits that you’ll just have to get rid of later.  I definitely did this with letting my little guy fall asleep while he was nursing.  I honestly don’t necessarily regret this, because the memories of him sleeping on my chest are some of my favorite from his newborn days, but I am also really glad we broke the habit before it became a big issue.  We’ve also mostly avoided a bottle and a pacifier, in part because I didn’t want to have to deal with weaning him off of them some day.

With running, I need to work on this in terms of pace!  I’ve never been good about this, but it’s gotten so much worse now that I run less often and am more excited to run.  I go out way too fast at a pace I can’t sustain and then feel like I’m going to throw up for the last mile.  I honestly often recognize this at the beginning of the run, but am having too much fun going fast (for me) to care.  Still, as I start to do longer runs in the next few months in preparation for my half marathon, I need to work on starting at a pace I can sustain.

Take a Break

There were SO many times right after James was born that my husband would try to get me to go lay down or take a break while he hung out with the baby.  I almost always said no.  I didn’t want to miss anything (story of my life).  I felt like James spent so much of his awake time eating and I wanted to be there for the other stuff he did (like open his eyes occasionally…) too.  I now realize that I am a much better and happier mom when I take breaks.  This can mean ignoring the house work that needs to be done during nap time on occasion, or asking my husband if I can go lay down for 15 minutes.  It usually doesn’t take long for me to feel refreshed and semi-energetic again.

The same goes for running, especially in this heat!  I will often finish faster and go further, and certainly feel better, if I take a 1-2 minute walking break when I need to.  This is especially true as I start to increase distance.

Gear is not the Answer

Oh my goodness it is so tempting in both parenting a baby and in running to get all of the gear and gadgets to solve the problem at hand.  I find though that I do better with fewer, higher quality things that I really want.  I never bought a baby swing or bouncer because James didn’t cry much and we didn’t need them, but I knew I wanted a great stroller I could run with.  I know it’s important to have good quality running shoes to avoid injury, but I don’t really need anything else to run.

Consult the Experts but Trust your Gut

This is definitely a hard one for me.  When all else fails, google it.  It is so amazing to have endless information available at the click of a button, but I know I also need to filter it for myself to determine what works best for my body / my baby.

Numbers and Tracking are Useful to an Extent

I’ve always loved math and I really love numbers.  I can easily get caught up in tracking paces or nap lengths to the point where it is unhelpful.  I think numbers are a useful reference and tracking details can be helpful on occasion, but only to a certain extent, because we are not robots.  I may not be able to hit a certain pace on a certain day just because a training plan says so and my baby may not get the “minimum” amount of sleep every day because I can’t force him to sleep, I can only give him the opportunity.

Preparation is better than Planning

This one is really hard for me.  I am a major planner and always have been.  I try to prepare rather than plan though, because running, babies, and life are unpredictable.  I’m trying to remember this and to be more flexible.

Fartlek!

This is what made me think of this topic in the first place.  I want to parent like a fartlek.  A what???  You can read all about it here if you’re not a runner / not familiar with the term, but basically it means “speed play” in Swedish.  A fartlek is a more fun, flexible way of incorporating speed / making progress than say interval training.  To me, it’s like running as a kid, sprinting all out and then slowing down when you’re tired, rather than tracking each speed interval to the second.  It’s less rigid, less scientific, and more about heart.

Do you like to run?

What’s a parenting / life lesson you’ve learned from a hobby?

 

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Six Baby-Friendly Places in Austin, TX

We moved to Austin 4 years ago and one thing I love about living here is that lots of people come to visit!  We’ve gotten to see so many friends who were in town for one reason or another, or who had always wanted to come to Austin and seized the chance to visit.

Today I wanted to share some of my favorite baby-friendly places here that will still give you that Austin vibe if you’re in town.  I’ve always lived in central or south Austin, so that’s where these are focused.

Moontower Saloon

Located in South Austin, this is a great place to go if you’re visiting with small children, but still want to see some live music.  This is a mostly outdoor venue with tons of shade from live oak trees and water misters and fans to keep everyone cool.  Every sunday afternoon, they have live music (usually at 4 PM) and you’re allowed to bring children on Sundays.  This place has a great, very “Austin” atmosphere.  We’ve been going almost every week and love it!

Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza / Jester King Brewery

This has been one of my favorite places since way before we had James, but it is also very family friendly.  It is a pizza place on a farm just outside of Austin and there is also a great little brewery that shares the location.

Seating is all outside and very spread out under a pavilion and in a field.  There are also lawn games set up and they sometimes have live music.  This may be my favorite pizza ever, it is SO good!

Deep Eddy

I briefly mentioned this place last week, but it is a really nice pool right on the Colorado River.  I believe it’s spring fed and it is zero entry, so great for kids.  I had actually never been here until recently because we used to live right next to Barton Springs, so always went there, but I think I may like Deep Eddy even better.

Unlike Barton Springs, the pool is paved, and because it has a big shallow end, parts of it are not as cold (Barton Springs is spring fed and SO cold).  It is super family friendly with lots of kids around.  The parking lot here fills up on the weekend, but there is plenty of parking around in the neighborhood.  If you go here, I definitely recommend hitting up Juiceland on your way out, I love their juices and smoothies!

Zilker Park / Zoo

In addition to being a huge park with plenty of space for picnics / playing catch / crawling around, Zilker has some hidden gems.  It has a really cute little free zoo with rescue animals.  This is by no means your typical zoo as it only has native Texas animals, but it’s free, so definitely worth stopping by.

Zilker also has a train that goes through the park (we haven’t done this yet, but are thinking of doing it for James’s first birthday) and it has some great short hiking trails over by the zoo.  I’ve never seen these trails crowded and there are some pretty nice views.

Kerbey Lane Cafe

Austin is so casual and so many places have outside seating, that almost any restaurant here is somewhat baby / kid-friendly.  I love Kerbey Lane though because as soon as baby is eating finger foods, you will be able to order them something.  They have lots of breakfast sides, so you can easily order one scrambled egg, or toast, or fruit for a little one.  They also have a kids menu and we just discovered kids eat free on Tuesdays!  This was also one of my favorite restaurants before having a baby.  They have breakfast all day (as in 24 hours) and $2 mimosas.  Everything on the menu is good.  It does get really crowded at brunch time on the weekend though, so I recommend checking it out for dinner or during the week.  There are several locations now.  The original (not surprisingly, the one on Kerbey Lane) is the cutest and has the best vibe, but they all have delicious food.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

This is somewhere I didn’t discover until we moved further south last summer, but I love it!  This place has beautiful trails and a really great kids’ space where children can water the flowers, build structures out of bamboo, etc.  I also love the Arboretum trail, which leads to a big space full of wooden swings under oak trees.  There is an admissions fee, but it is worth it!  It is especially beautiful in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom, but this is also when it’s the most crowded.

Honorable Mentions:

Clarksville Splash Pad – This is a really nice park and splash pad in a cute neighborhood that is worth checking out.  At least during the week, this is surprisingly not very crowded.

Phil’s Burgers – At least the South Lamar location has a nice playground and is attached to an Amy’s Ice Cream (delicious).

Book People – This is a great bookstore right next to the flagship Whole Foods near downtown.

McKinney Falls – This is a small, but really great, state park within the Austin city limits.  It has some trails, but most people go for the swimming holes.

Austin Greenbelt – This is a trail running all throughout Austin with many different entrances.  At times, there are great natural swimming holes along the trail, but they dry up when it doesn’t rain.

Lady Bird Lake / Town Lake Trail – This is a nice trail for running, walking, or biking.  It does get crowded on the weekends, but has some nice views of the skyline.  You can also rent canoes or kayaks at several points along the trail.

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James at Ten Months

This has been such a happy month.  For the most part, James has been really happy and independent and we’ve fallen into a really good rhythm lately.

Eating

James continues to love to eat!  The big change this month has been family meals.  We’re finally eating dinners as a family, and loving it.  I always wanted to do this, but when James was napping so poorly, he needed a super early bedtime and he was eating dinner by like 4:45 a lot of days.  My husband wasn’t even home from work yet, so family dinners weren’t possible.

James still goes to bed early, but has dinner at 5:30 or 6:00, depending on his naps that day, so while it’s earlier than we’d ideally want to eat, we can swing it.  It’s interesting to see how much better James eats when we eat as a family.  He’s always been a good eater, but he seems to really enjoy dinner time more when we all sit down together.  I suppose I wouldn’t want to eat with people just staring at me either 🙂

His favorite food was avocado for a long time, but lately his favorites seem to be bread, yogurt, peas, carrots, bananas, and fruit in general.

Sleeping

I left sleeping out of his updates for a while because it was stressing me out and I didn’t want to dwell on it or continually complain about it.  Sleep is finally going pretty well!

I’ve come to terms with the fact that James will likely never be an epic napper (spell check suggests I say rapper instead of napper, but I don’t want to count him out just yet ;), and that’s fine.  He is on a pretty good two nap schedule now though, generally napping around 9:00 and between 1:00 and 2:00.  He usually takes one short nap and one long nap (for him – an hour to an hour and a half).  He needed a third nap a couple of times this month, but he had a cold, so wasn’t sleeping as well in general.

He is also sleeping through the night!  James had been down to eating once at night, between 3-4 AM for a long time.  I knew he probably didn’t really need to eat at this time anymore, but it was honestly just easier to go in there and feed him so I could go back to sleep.  All of a sudden though, he was wide awake after I went in to feed him, and taking up to an hour to fall asleep again.  I knew it was time to stop.  I phased it out a little bit, but feeding him for less time each night so I would be confident he wasn’t starving.

James never cried when he woke up at night, just started talking to himself, so it was relatively easy to not go in there.  Still, I was worried he would just be up for the day at 3 AM or get upset after a while when I didn’t go in.  I was prepared for the worst, but it was totally fine!  The first night he talked to himself for ten minutes or so and then went back to sleep.  For about a week, he still woke up between 3-5 and chatted for a while, but he never started crying.  After a week or so, the habit was broken and I haven’t needed to go in there at night since.  I probably should have done this sooner, it is so nice to sleep all night again!

Physical Development

James is becoming more and more confident and capable with standing and cruising.  He can pull up on walls without anything to grab onto, and he comes down so carefully.  He will sometimes bend down to get a toy from the floor and stand back up again.

He will also lean on his shelf or the couch without holding on so that he can use both hands to play.  He sometimes stands for several seconds without holding on to or leaning on anything.  It is so amazing to see his independence growing.

We don’t have any stairs at home, but he can also go up and down the little steps at Barnes and Noble with ease.

James graduated to the big bathtub, and a big kid car seat, this month.  He is getting so big!

He has started banging two toys together with both hands.  He is also getting better and better at using his fingers to turn the pages of books.  He loves picking up a string with his two little fingers.

He does not yet sign back with any of the baby sign language.  He is super verbal and I’m curious if he’ll ever use the signs.  He also doesn’t wave or clap or point yet though, so he may just not be there yet, which is fine.

James also got his two bottom teeth this month, which is the cutest.  He is a big fan of brushing his teeth, and finds the experience so funny 🙂

Personality

I feel like that picture says it all….

He is super confident and friendly.  He crawls right up to strangers, children and adults alike.  He made friends with a couple of seven year olds at the pool last week.

He is SO HAPPY.  James got his first cold this month and he was such a trooper.  He did not get the memo that babies are supposed to hate the nose frida thing (basically you stick it in their nose and it sucks out the snot since they don’t know how to blow their noses yet).  He thought the thing was hilarious.  I have this baby chest rub I put on his chest at night too and he found that equally hilarious.  His default is definitely joy.

He is super independent.  He is on a mission to explore and is absolutely happiest when he has the freedom so crawl around and touch and taste everything in sight.

He loves books, as long as we’re at home.  If I ever try to read him a book at the library or Barnes and Noble, forget it.  There is much too much to see there.  At home though, reading books is one of his favorite things to do.

If I could freeze time at one age, this would absolutely be it (so far).  He is super interactive, but also independent and able to entertain himself.  He is so sweet and happy and flexible.  He is exuberant and talkative and curious and brings us so much joy.

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Friday Favorites

Good morning and happy Friday!

I don’t usually do a Friday Favorites post, but so many little things are making me happy this week, I wanted to share.

The Best Birthday

It was my birthday last week and it was seriously the best day.  My husband took the day off of work and planned a whole day of fun things he knows I love.  He is not a planner by nature, so honestly just the fact that he planned things made my day.  We went to Starbucks in the morning and it was actually nice out so we could sit outside.

After the little guy’s morning nap, we went to Deep Eddy (a great pool in Austin) and Kerby Lane Cafe, one of my favorite restaurants.  We hung out at home in the afternoon, so as not to torture the little guy, and then my husband got happy hour supplies so we could have an at home date night, which I love.  He got cheeses and crackers and wine and the cutest little birthday cake and we just hung out and listened to music and played cards.  Also, my friend Laura had her beautiful baby girl so we share a birthday!  It was a wonderful day.

Running App

I mentioned recently I signed up for a half marathon with my brother.  It’s not until January, but I am already SO excited because it’s been a really long time since I’ve run any races.  I lost the charger to my Garmin GPS watch, but just started using the app called Running and really like it so far.  I have no idea if this is the best one, I just chose a free one with really good ratings.  I don’t really know how accurate it is, but it seems in line with my general paces on the treadmill, so it’s good enough for me.  I feel like the “current pace” is all over the place, but the per mile pace and distance seem about right.  It’s nice to have some way to track my running progress again!

Pineapple Shorts

(Image from Old Navy Site)

I’m a little bit in love with these shorts I got last week at Old Navy.  They are having the biggest sale and I went in to get a few longer shirts to wear with leggings, but couldn’t help picking up these shorts too.  I’m obsessed.

Your Self-Confident Baby

I know I mentioned this book, by Magda Gerber, earlier in the week, but I just finished it and really love it.  I’m considering doing a post on the differences I saw between RIE and Montessori because I find it really interesting.  This has also inspired me to go back and re-read some of my Montessori books we well.

Backyard Play Time

Now that we’ve been staying home more, we’ve been enjoying more time in the backyard.  Yes, it has been ridiculously hot, but our backyard has a lot of shade so it’s not too bad.  I bring a big blanket out and some books and things for James to play with.

Sometimes I also fill up the kiddie pool so he can go in there if he wants.  He spends some time on the blanket and also crawls around inspecting sticks and trying to eat leaves.  We both really enjoy it!

Jessica Smith TV

Other than walking and running, I’ve kind of gotten out of the habit of other workouts.  I think it started with the great short nap fiasco that occurred when James was around six months.  I just never really got back into the habit.  Honestly, running and hiking and walking are the only workouts I truly love doing.  But, I know strength is important, especially as we get older, and I do like it when I feel stronger.  So I’m trying to get back into doing other workouts, but I want them to be short and sweet since I don’t love doing them.  I’m loving the twenty to thirty minute HIIT and strength workouts on JessicaSmithTV.  I also love FitnessType.  I was all about her ten to twenty minute HIIT workouts right after I had James and his naps were super unpredictable.  She has a wide range or easy to hard workouts too.

What’s making you happy this week?

Do you have any favorite online workouts I should try?

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On Staying Home More as a Stay at Home Mom

You would think that being a stay at home mom would mean you’re at home all the time.  This is often not the case though and I recently found myself spending less and less time at home.

At night, I would start to get a slightly panicky feeling if we had nothing planned for the next day, and try to think of something we could go do together.

I think this happened for a couple of reasons.  James has gotten to an age where it’s really easy to take him out and about.  He is also awake for much longer stretches of time now and I think it can be daunting to think about three hours at home with nothing to “entertain” the little one.

Also, while I used to largely sit back and watch James play fairly independently, I had gotten out of the habit of doing this when he started pulling up to stand.  I was a little bit terrified when he started pulling up because he would just let go and fall straight backwards and hit his head.  So I followed him around constantly.  While this may have been necessary for a week or so, it is certainly not necessary any more.  He’s super capable of coming down gently and intentionally now and rarely falls.  When he does fall, he almost always catches himself with his hands.  I just needed to retrain myself to take a step back again and let him be.

I started reading Your Self-Confident Baby, by Magda Gerber, because I was curious about the RIE philosophy and how it was similar to / different from Montessori.  I am loving the book and it really reminded me that 1) children need long, uninterrupted periods of time to play and 2) to interfere as little as possible when a child is playing / working on something.

These two things are definitely emphasized in Montessori as well, I just needed a reminder.

So last week, I took a step back.  And we were both so much happier.  I chose a spot to sit in the room and let him play without hovering to make sure he didn’t fall.  He played happily and periodically came over to check in with me.  He would usually come over very briefly and climb up on me for a hug before zooming off again.  Sometimes he would choose a book for me to read him before continuing on his own.  It was so fun and interesting to watch him play.

I also realized, while it seemed like James was getting “bored” playing in his room or playroom for a long stretch of time, I think this was really “false fatigue”.

False fatigue is a term we used to describe how the children behaved late in the work period at school.  In a Montessori classroom, the children have three-hour long work periods where they choose work independently.  Often around 10 AM or so, some of the children would start to act a little bit crazy and would stop working.  They would wander around aimlessly chatting with other children and getting silly.  It would seem as if they were done for the morning.  In reality, they were a little fatigued from all of their hard work and needed a little help settling back in.  After connecting briefly with a teacher, many of the children would settle back in to do some great work.  I’ve seen the same thing with James.

He will start “rage crawling” as we call it around the room, not choosing anything and grunting or whining.  It will seem as if he’s totally over playing in that room.  I’ve found that I can often help him settle back into playing by connecting with him.  First, I just talk to him about what I’m seeing, what he may be feeling, and some things I see that he may enjoy doing.

I also find it helps if I put all of his toys back on the shelf where they go.  Since he doesn’t yet restore his own toys, the room is a mess after a while.  I think it becomes visual clutter to him when everything is on the floor and it’s as if he can no longer see anything interesting to work with.  As soon as I put the toys away, he often sees something that strikes his interest.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll read him a couple of books or sing a couple of songs with him and then help him get started playing with something, before backing away and letting him play on his own.

These things usually work really well, unless it’s late in the day, at which point he just may be too fatigued to be as independent as he is most of the time.  At that point, I’ll continue reading books with him or singing songs as long as he enjoys doing it, or take him outside for a change of scenery.

When he is playing happily on his own, I try to really observe him, which is a big part of Montessori as well as RIE.  Honestly though, I don’t find myself able (at this point at least) to just sit and observe him all morning.  So I also bring a book or a notebook and read or write after observing him for a while.  I find that if I have nothing else to do, I often wind up jumping in when he doesn’t need my help.

I alternate observing him with reading or writing, and always put down my book as soon as he comes over to me.  I choose a book because I at least think that it’s beneficial to model reading and writing, rather than being on my phone.  I think that seeing adults read helps children want to read, as they want to do everything we do.  I hope that, with practice, I’ll be able to observe him for longer stretches of time.

While this is just a change in outlook, it has seriously made such a difference in our days.  I enjoy being with him at home so much more, and I no longer feel like we have to have something to go do every day.

I also believe that a baby is part of the family and that involves compromise.  So if I’m going crazy being in the house, I will take him for a walk in the stroller, which he seems pretty neutral about, but I really enjoy.  I try though to make sure he has some free time to play in every block of “awake time” throughout the day, and that he has at least one really long stretch of time every day to play freely.  So far, so good!

Do you like being home a lot or being out and about more?

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

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What is Stand-up Diapering?

We made another change to James’s room last week and I’m pretty excited about it.

My husband flipped James’s mirror so it’s vertical (it’s attached to the wall with 3M strips, so this was pretty easy), and added a pull-up bar.  We’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but life has been busy!

You can purchase pull-up bars from Montessori shops or Etsy, but honestly, it is so simple to make yourself with some basic supplies from Home Depot (I say it’s simple, my husband did it, but it did not take him long).  We used this tutorial as a guide.

James can already pull up on the mirror with no bar, by walking up with his hands, but we wanted a pull-up bar so that we could start doing stand-up diapering.

Are you familiar with stand-up diapering?  If you have / have had a baby, you likely know the FIGHT that diaper changes can become.  Once baby becomes mobile, he no longer wants to be laying flat on his back (at least this has been true for James).  James started to really fight diaper changes and he is very strong!

Once baby can stand, many Montessori classrooms and homes switch to stand-up diapering.  The child holds on to something and you change the diaper while the child stands.  We installed a pull-up bar, but I have also heard of children holding onto the bathtub or a low shelf or table for stand-up diaper changes.

The idea is to recognize baby’s new developmental stage and to help him be a more active participant in the diaper changing process.  Doing things with baby, rather than to / for baby, is a big focus in Montessori.  I really like having the pull up bar in front of a mirror so that James can see what I’m doing as I talk about it.  Right now, he helps by carrying his diaper from the closet over to the bar.  Eventually, he will be able to help more by undoing his diaper tabs, pulling down his pants, etc.  I also talk through each step of what I’m doing.

If you have an older baby / toddler who fights diaper changes, it can also be helpful to have two designs of diapers and let them choose: “Would you like an Elmo diaper or a Big Bird diaper?” so that they feel they have some say in the matter.  We’re not to this point yet, but I’ve definitely seen it help with toddlers.

Right now, we are still getting used to the process and it can be a bit tricky at times.  James is very steady standing with one hand holding on, but sometimes he doesn’t want to hold on and chooses to sit down.  I sometimes need to support him with one hand while I finish changing his diaper.  It’s still easier than wrestling with him on the floor though and he seems happier about it.

While this is very new in our home, I used to be an assistant in a Montessori toddler classroom before I got my 3-6 certification and stand-up diapering worked wonderfully there!  I cannot imagine trying to lay down one of those big two year olds to change their diaper, that sounds so much harder to me!  I’m hopeful that this will keep diaper changes from becoming a regular battle in our house.

As a reminder, I am Montessori trained for 3-6 year olds, but not for infants and toddlers.  I found this article from the American Montessori Society website very helpful for Montessori diapering / toileting.

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Day in the Life – 9 1/2 Months

Good morning and happy Friday!

Here is a look at our day yesterday:

I woke up at 5 for some reason, but I slept super well all night, so felt great.  Now that James sleeps through the night, I don’t usually get up super early anymore, but I kind of love it when I naturally wake up early and have time to ease into the day.

I poured some cold brew coffee (super easy if you have a french press – just add one cup coffee ground to a french press, fill with cold water, and let sit over night) and started working on this post.

A little while later I make some oatmeal.  (I’m not good at food photography, but is looked like a bowl of oatmeal…or a “bowl full of mush” for my fellow Goodnight Moon aficionados 😉  I’ve been really trying to eat my meals with James, but he doesn’t eat breakfast until around 8 and I don’t want to wait three hours today.

I read a few blogs and then work on a personal writing project.  It feels so good to get something done before the little guy wakes up, I may start setting an alarm for 5, we shall see….

He starts peeping around 6:30 so I give him a few minutes to wake up and talk to himself (so cute) and then go greet him to start our day!

He gives me a big smile and a big hug.  I love going in to see him in the morning.  I breastfeed him and change his diaper.  We just started doing stand up diapering, which I’ll talk more about next week.  I get him dressed and he plays in his room.

He almost always takes everything off the top of his shelf to start.  He plays for a while and then he goes over and chooses a book.  He gets a big smile on his face when I read him Polar Bear Polar Bear, one of his current favorites.  I read it twice and read some other books too.  He sits and watches and listens and turns the pages.  Reading books is one of the only times he is still!

We play in his room for about an hour.  Toward the end, my husband comes in and plays with him while I make breakfast and empty the dishwasher.  James eats half of a banana and some oatmeal.  He seriously loves this picture of a group of chefs on the back of one of my cookbooks and gives it the biggest smile every time he sits in his chair.

He plays with an empty oatmeal container while I clean up.  After breakfast, we go for a morning walk around the neighborhood.

Some days lately it’s already felt super hot in the morning, but it feels pretty nice today!

When we get home I change his diaper, read a couple more books, and he takes his morning nap.  I work on this post and an upcoming post for next week.  I generally use James’s morning nap for “computer stuff” (blogging, writing, working on his baby book, planning our upcoming vacations) and his afternoon nap for “house stuff” (prepping dinner and cleaning).

He wakes up around 10:00.  I change his diaper and we play in his playroom for a while.  He races over to choose Hello Bugs right away.  I had put this book away for a while and just got it out again a couple of days ago.  He is SO excited it is back; we read it about one million times a day right now and I don’t mind a bit.

We read some more books and look out the window for a while.  He plays with some toys.

After thirty minutes or so, I breastfeed him and then we head out to Barnes and Noble.

James LOVES crawling around Barnes and Noble.  Despite his current love of books, he has pretty much no interest in sitting to read books when we’re there, there is MUCH too much to see.  Crawling around the store, examining things, and watching the big kids was probably the highlight of his day.  I have no pictures because I was following him around and trying to keep things out of his mouth.  I also got Starbucks while we were there.  I try not to get it too often, but I am loving iced soy lattes this summer.

We come home just in time for lunch.  Both James and I have avocado toast with eggs and “cherry plums,” a new fruit I found at Trader Joe’s that we’re both loving.  I’ve never been much of a plum fan, but these are great!  James also eats peas and a few Happy Baby puffs while I’m making lunch (fun fact: I interned for Happy Baby in college, love them!)

James makes it pretty clear when he’s done eating.

I clean up as much of lunch as I can while he’s still in his high chair, talking to him about what I’m doing.  I then speed clean the rest with one eye on him while he crawls around.

After I’m done cleaning up lunch, I watch James explore the living room, pulling up on tables, playing with coasters, and examining the blinds.  Then it’s time for nap #2.  I’m so thankful that he rarely cries now at nap time and bedtime.  He just talks to himself for a few minutes and passes out.

James thankfully took a long (for him) nap after a couple of days of short naps.  I worked on this post, cleaned the counters and floors, and most importantly, settled on a race to run with my little brother!  We’re planning to run the 3M Half Marathon in Austin next January.  My brother lives in Chicago and I’m so exited he’s coming down, and so excited to be running a race!  It has been years since I’ve done one due to my injured foot and I am really looking forward to it.

James woke up around 2:20 and I breastfed him again and then went to the library for baby play time!  Baby story time is on hold for the summer, but the very nice children’s librarian still puts out toys and books for the babies on Thursday afternoons and we always have so much fun there.  Its been more hit or miss as our little ones have gotten older and nap times have changed, but the stars aligned and all of our little buddies were there today.  James was in a great mood after a good nap and I think we both had a lot of fun.

We got home a little after 4:00, I breastfed him again and then my husband came home!  A lot of people in his office are on vacation this week and he’s been able to come home a little earlier the last couple of days, which has been so nice.

James crawled around the living room, playing with coasters, exploring ice cubes, sorting through my recipe cards, and examining a deck of cards.

Eventually I make dinner.  We had leftovers from yesterday’s burrito bowls, so it was super easy.  James had a deconstructed version (black beans, brown rice, avocado, tomato with green onion, and fresh mozzarella because we ran out of cheddar).  I also gave him greek yogurt with some easy blueberry chia jam I made yesterday since a lot of dinner was smaller / harder to pick up foods.

My husband cleaned up dinner while I read a few books to James and then James had a bath.  He’s recently transitioned out of his baby bathtub and he seems to really be enjoying crawling around the big tub and having more space to move.  He is in a really great mood tonight.

After bath time, I breastfeed him one more time, we all read Goodnight Moon together, I sing him a song and he goes to bed a little before 7:00.

I am finishing up this post, and then will likely watch an episode of my latest Netflix obsession, Friday Night Lights.  Yes, I’m a little behind the times.

After a couple of days with short naps and afternoon grumpiness, today was such a fun and happy day!

How has your week been?

What was the best part of your day yesterday?

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Four Developmental Milestones you Won’t Find in Baby Books

It can be hard not to get caught up in the “milestones” baby should be achieving.  I try to ignore these largely arbitrary markers though, as I have no real concerns that my son won’t be sitting or walking when he goes off to college.  I don’t really care if he sits at six months or nine months, as long as he’s making progress and getting the opportunities he needs to work on these skills.

I’m not saying these indicators of healthy development should be totally ignored, as there are of course instances where there may be a developmental delay that needs to be addressed.  I’m talking more about the semi-competitive “my child rolled over at two and a half months” type of thing where people obsess about achieving these markers by a certain date.

Instead, I try to focus on the life skills that I believe will help him be successful in whatever he decides to do.  I watch for the development of these skills as he plays and I try to provide opportunities to help these skills grow.  For me, the following are much more important “milestones” of development than those found in most baby books:

1. Concentration

Protecting children’s growing concentration is a huge part of any Montessori classroom.  I believe it is equally important to do this at home.  Sometimes James floats from toy to toy, activity to activity, busy as the little bee he likes to carry around with him all day.

But sometimes, time stops, all is quiet, and the beautiful look of concentration takes over his little face.  This happened recently as he tried to put the purple ring on his new wooden ring stacker toy.  He usually just takes the rings off, which he enjoys very much, but this time he was determined to get that purple ring back on.  He tried and tried, not making a sound, not looking at me, not paying attention to anything else.  I sat very still and watched him.  Though I was tempted to take a video, to capture this moment, I refrained because the smallest of distractions, even just seeing me moving out of the corner of his eye, could easily break the newly developing concentration.

Was he successful?  No.  Does that matter?  Not at all!  He concentrated on the task for several minutes before moving on, which is something I love to see.  I watch for this so that I can provide opportunities to expand this skill.  Observing the types of things that captivate him allows me to provide toys and experiences that may spark this type of concentration in the same way in the future.

2. Problem Solving Skills

This is another area we always watched for in the classroom, and I try to foster problem solving skills at home.  In the classroom, it would be things like does the child immediately ask a teacher if he can’t find paper, or does he look around first?  Does he always ask for help as soon as he gets stuck on a math problem, or does he try different things before asking an adult?  When working on problem solving skills with children, we would ask them leading questions instead of giving an answer right away:  “Hmm, you need paper to write your equation on.  I wonder where you could find that.”

I try to do the same thing at home.  Lately, this has looked like James reaching across the coffee table for something out of reach (often a coaster….).  I could of course just hand him the coaster, problem solved.  But is that what he really wants?  No, I don’t believe so.  I think he wants to be able to get it himself.  So I muse aloud, “hmm, that coaster is too far away to reach.  I wonder what else you could try to get to it.”  I get out of his way so that there’s a clear path for him to edge around the table to get to it himself, which he is totally capable of.  I try to help him see that just because he doesn’t see how to do something right away, doesn’t mean he can’t figure it out.

3. Resilience

Babies and children are constantly trying to do things that are just out of reach of their current capabilities.  This is how they stretch and grow and reach the next level.  When James is trying something new and challenging, I watch to see if he gets frustrated and gives up right away, or if he keeps trying even though something is difficult.

I think babies naturally have a lot of resilience – they almost have to, as everything starts out hard for them and they have to keep trying or they’ll never get anywhere.  I do think though that there are things we as parents can do help encourage this skill:

  • Don’t help too soon – I think it’s important to walk the line so that the child is trying on his own…but not to the point of having a meltdown.  The goal is for the child to push himself, but not so far that it’s a negative experience and he won’t want to try again in the future.
  • Timing – Everyone’s resilience is lower when they’re tired and a child (or any human) may need more help at the end of they day.  He may be able to crawl across the room by himself in the morning, but need to be carried late in the afternoon, and that’s fine.
  • Balance – No one wants to feel like everything around them is hard.  I try to balance James’s toys so that there is something challenging available, but also some easy things that he’s familiar with.  We try to do this with his food too – sure, he loves picking up peas, but he also wants something big and east to hold so that not every bite is a challenge.

4. Creativity

Creativity often brings to mind art and music, but people can be creative in everything they do.  For babies, I think this means letting them explore (safely) in ways you may not have intended.  This may mean letting them combine different toys or build with their shakers instead of their blocks.  I think this gets trickier as they become toddlers and it can be too easy to say “no” before really considering if something is harmful or unsafe.

I try to take a moment to see if James really needs to be stopped, or if he’s just exploring creatively.  Can he play in the grass?  Sure.  Am I going to let him eat a bunch of it?  No, probably not.  But I can redirect him to our basil plant or rosemary bush if he wants to explore what eating leaves is like.  I try to think about what it is he’s trying to do and how can I meet that need in a way that is safe and acceptable.

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

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A Montessori Play Space

Recently, a friend asked me where to buy “Montessori stuff”.  While there are of course specialty stores and catalogues focusing on Montessori-friendly items, I think it’s a common misconception that Montessori means lots of expensive stuff.  On the contrary, Montessori-friendly spaces are generally quite simple and it is just as much about the layout of the room as the items available to the child.

So a few months ago when we decided to turn our “office” (aka random room we never used, but called an office because it had a desk in it) into a playroom for James, I had a few things in mind:

  1. Plenty of open space to explore
  2. A low shelf with limited options that the child can choose from himself
  3. Art hung at the child’s level (as opposed to the adult’s level)
  4. A cozy space for reading books

We just finished the room this past weekend (as much as it will ever be finished, as I’m sure we’ll continually adjust as he grows), but have been using it for the last month or so and it has been great!

James has gotten to the point where he gets sick of being in his room; he wants to explore.  He loves crawling around the rest of the house, and we certainly let him, but it is also really nice to have another space that is his.

This room is also our guest room, so has a large couch that folds out into a bed, but this has actually been nice because James likes cruising along the couch and it is soft, so we don’t have to worry about him banging his head on it.  This isn’t as much of a concern now, but it was especially great when he first started pulling up.

We kept the room simple.  There is a reading nook in the corner and I really love the little bookshelf (from Ikea) because it is easy for James to see and choose the books and it is a good size for him.

It holds about four board books and I rotate them regularly.

Eventually, I’d like to get a cozier rug and cushion like his reading nook in his room, but for now this is working well.

He has a toy shelf with two levels, which is working great now that he can pull up.  I would only use a shelf with one level if he were not yet pulling up.  I originally planned to get the same shelf he has in his room, but Ikea is really far from us and the shipping was really expensive so I got  this one*on Amazon.  It is listed as a closet organizer, but is working really well for this relatively small room.

I rotate the toys regularly, not on a schedule, but according to what he’s playing with.  I observe him playing and, when I see that he no longer chooses a certain toy, I take it off of the shelf and add something different.  I also try to include both toys that are easy and familiar to him, and some that are newer or more challenging for him.

I got this road rug at Ikea when I was in Houston.  I think it was $15, so much less expensive than other ones I’ve seen.  It’s pretty small, but a good size for this room.

I originally wanted a white rug…but then I realized his spit up is now a whole array of colors since he’s eating solid foods and that was impractical.  Also, while he’s obviously too young to play with cars on the rug, he really likes patterned rugs and stops to examine different parts of it as he plays.

One of our favorite parts of the room is the big window, which James loves to look out.  Unfortunately, the couch blocks it and there really isn’t another configuration that works, but when James goes over to the window, I help him get onto the couch to look outside.

Lastly, I wanted to hang some art at his level.  I got a simple Winnie the Pooh Art Print for his reading nook.  I wanted something literary themed, and while I know some prefer to not include any children’s books with unrealistic talking animals, I like to make an exception for the classics because they are so wonderfully written and such good stories.  I have a very old copy of Winnie the Pooh that belonged to my grandmother and can’t wait to read it to him some day.  I also liked the simplicity of the image.

Since he can pull up now, I also wanted something for him to look at when he was standing at his shelf.  I decided to get 12×12 frames so that I could use calendar pages.  This is super inexpensive, especially if you buy calendars from past years, and allows you to easily change out the images as the child’s interests emerge and change.  I went with clouds for now.

Lastly, I added some black and white images to the inside of his shelf.  These are from this Art for Baby – it comes with a fold out of all of the images and I simply cut out a few that he seemed to enjoy from the book.  He sometimes sticks his whole head in the cube to get a better look and touch the picture.

While we’re using the room daily now, there are still a few things I would like to add:

  • Plants!  I would like to add at least one hanging plant.  I have the plant actually, I just need to figure out how to hang it.
  • A cozier cushion and rug for the reading nook
  • Either a mobile above his reading nook (I’m working on one, but am not sure I’ll ever finish) or some type of pretty glass hanging in the window

I really just thought the playroom would be a fun use for a room we never went it, but it has seriously been so great to have another space for him to play!

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

Do you enjoy home design projects?

If you could redo one room in your house, what room would it be?

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Easy Homemade Baby Toy

I’m pretty much the least crafty person on the planet, so this will not be a “Pinterest worthy” creation.

I was not even planning on sharing this, it was something I threw together on a whim one morning, hoping it would occupy my little guy in the kitchen while I cleaned up his breakfast…but he loved it!  So it is now on his shelf and I have another variation in the works so thought I would share.

There are so many expensive baby toys out there, but I’ve purchased some that I think are beautiful and interesting…and he’s never given them a second glance.  And then he goes and falls in love with our coasters….  So while I want James to have things that stimulate him, I also try not to spend too much on toys.

This is a super simple shaker toy.  I think he likes it because it is a good size for his hand, and it is clear, which most of his shakers are not.  I had an empty sprinkles container after making my mom’s birthday cake and simply filled it with some dried chickpeas.

I then realized I had a couple of other empty spice containers (because after teaching in a 3-6 year old classroom, you don’t throw these things away!), so filled one with black beans and one with yellow water.  I would have used blue, but apparently I only have yellow food coloring…whoops.

These are on the shelf in his room now and he really likes them, though his clear favorite is the chickpeas.  As soon as I procure food coloring, I’m going to make a separate liquids set that has blue, yellow, and red.

I have one other homemade toy in the works for him and I’ll definitely share if he likes it.

Do you ever make homemade toys (or gifts if you don’t have kids)?

Are you crafty?

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