My New Favorite Spot in the House

We’ve updated James’s nursery as he’s grown and the most recent update has become my favorite part of the house.

I’ve loved to read ever since I can remember.  I’ve also always loved reading aloud for some reason.  Even in high school, when I was super shy and would never raise my hand to comment in class, I would volunteer to read aloud in English class.

When teaching at the Montessori school where I worked, reading books to the children at group time was always one of my favorite things.

All this to say, I naturally couldn’t wait to read to James when he was born.  I’ve read to him ever since he was a newborn.  I used to read to him laying side by side on the floor.  Then, I would sit him in my lap to read books together.  Now he sometimes sits in my lap to read (usually before a nap or bedtime), and sometimes crawls around while I read, stopping to look at the pictures periodically…he is a busy guy.

We took the glider out of his room when he became mobile because, especially since he was using the floor bed at the time, I wanted his room to be completely baby proof and was worried he’d hurt his little fingers under the rockers.  Even now that we’ve put a pause on the floor bed, I think it’s important for him to have a space of his own, where we don’t have to tell him “stop” or that things are unsafe for him.

Without the glider though, we were lacking a cozy spot to read.  I decided to make a little reading nook for him, and we are both loving it.

Both the pillow and super soft rug came from Ikea.  I will add a book shelf when he’s older, but for now, a little basket of books is enough.

I switch out the books every week or so and I love seeing which ones catch his interest!

I very much hope that James grows up loving to read as much as I do and I will read to him as much as he wants for as long as he lets me!

Do you love to read?

Did you love to read as a child?

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Super Food Baby Oatmeal Recipe

Good morning and happy Friday!

I wanted to share what has easily become James’s favorite breakfast.  If you’re not into baby food, this is also a delicious grown up breakfast, just sub rolled oats for baby oatmeal (or not…you do you 😉

When James first started solids, he didn’t seem that into breakfast.  He only started regularly eating his food in the morning, when I started serving him this oatmeal.  At first, I tried just giving him rolled oats.  He wasn’t into it.  I then tried putting them through the food processor to change the texture.  Still not having it.  I finally bought this baby oatmeal and he loved it.  Go figure.  They also sell it at Target.

After some experimentation, we’ve settled on a combo he loves.  The first morning I made this for him, I had to go quickly make another serving because he gobbled it up so quickly.

I never actually measure things when making this, but here’s the basic recipe we’ve been using:

Tips:

I buy frozen wild blueberries from Trader Joes – They’re much smaller than farmed blueberries, so I don’t have to cut or mash them before giving them to James.  Plus, wild blueberries are even healthier than farmed, with twice the antioxidant capacity!

I like to combine hemp and chia seeds in an empty spice shaker (mine is from Ikea), so you don’t have to add each separately.  You could of course add flax seed too.

On the occasional morning when he’s not into breakfast, I just save his extra oatmeal and mix it with yogurt at lunch time – food waste avoided!

I buy things like hemp seeds, chia seeds, coconut oil, etc. from Thrive Market (referral link) – they have great deals!

What’s your favorite breakfast?

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Montessori Floor Bed Update

Good morning!

I’ve been somewhat scared to write this post as it seems like anytime I start to write something about James’s sleep improving, I jinx it and the improvements immediately disappear.  In an effort to overcome my superstitions though, I wanted to share an update on James’s sleeping situation, his naps, and specifically, the floor bed.

I wrote here about the reasons for using a floor bed and how it was working for us.  In short, it worked GREAT for the first six months or so.  James hated his bassinet, and loved his floor bed.  I liked that he could look around his environment and that we could comfort him easily without taking him out of bed.

Not surprisingly, everything got a little more challenging when he became more mobile, around six months.  Obviously I knew this time would come and he would some day be able to get out of bed.  I did not know how that would impact his sleep, but figured we’d deal with that when the time came.

At first, it was fine.  Bedtime and nap time were a little more challenging, as he’d scoot out of bed a few times (on purpose, very cautiously, he never hurt himself this way).  I would go in and silently put him back in bed without making eye contact to avoid stimulating him / making him think this behaviour would lead to play time with mom.

With some experimenting, I learned that if I went in right when he got out of bed, it quickly became a game for him.  So instead I would wait 4-5 minutes and then go put him back in bed.  This often worked and he’d go to sleep after a few round of this.  Sometimes for naps though, he would get too riled up and excited so I would help him go to sleep.  I would sit next to him silently with a hand on his back, avoiding eye contact or stimulation.  This worked well, but I did feel like it was a step backwards since he had previously been falling asleep on his own.  Still, I hoped that it would improve with time as he adjusted to his new freedom.

I should also mention, I removed all toys from his shelf whenever he went to bed so that there was nothing too enticing in his room.  Still though, he easily amused himself by looking in his mirror or playing with his rug or window shade.  No toys needed!

Separately from this, we had the nap struggles I mentioned many times.  James had always taken a long morning nap and two short afternoon naps.  Suddenly at about six months, almost all of his naps were short (35 minutes).  This had happened a few times in the past for a period of a few days, but this time it went on and on for weeks.  I went a little bit crazy….

I read everything I could find on baby sleep, circadian rhythms, ideal durations between naps, ideal times for naps, etc.  I tried keeping him up longer, keeping him up shorter, putting him on a nap schedule based on the information in Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child.  Nothing worked….

I tracked all of his naps, trying to decode what went right when he occasionally took a longer one.

Possibly the funniest, but worst strategy I tried was what I fondly refer to as “poking the bear”.  I read that sometimes babies just get in the habit of short naps, and if you can interrupt their sleep cycle by gently nudging them a few minutes before they wake up, they will sleep longer.  Yeah, this was a disaster for us.  He just woke up, understandably pissed off, turning a 35 minute nap into a 25 minute nap.  NOT GOOD.

Honestly, I think this was a total missing the forest for the trees situation.  I was so focused on the details of his sleep times and trying to get it exactly right that I failed to take a step back and consider the broader situation.

James had always stirred at 35 minutes – if I watched the monitor, he would turn his head or move his hand, but go right back to sleep.  This was just when his sleep cycle naturally transitioned.  However, once he became mobile, he would pop his little head up and get right out of bed to explore.  He was just too curious, too drawn to roll, and then crawl, around his environment.  Who needs sleep when the big wide world awaits?  Everyone, that’s who.

It felt a bit like giving up, but I decided I needed to try something other than the floor bed for naps.  My friend Laura had told me about the Lotus travel crib and I liked it better than a traditional crib or pack and play for several reasons.  It’s on the floor and James is used to sleeping this way – I didn’t know how he would react to suddenly being up high and wanted to minimize the disruption of the change.

It also unzips in front.  I like that I can unzip it and let him come out on his own when it’s time.

Lastly, I love that it travels!  We have several trips coming up and I love that I’ll be able to bring this with us to help the little guy sleep as well as possible on vacation.  It folds up very small and the case can be worn as a backpack.

I had been thinking of trying this for a few weeks, but I had no idea if it would work and it was a little bit expensive, so I was hesitant.  I got desperate though and decided to try it.

It was like magic!  The very day I started using it, he took his normal two short naps, but then slept for an hour for his third one!  It’s been two weeks since then and there has only been one day that he did not take at least one long nap.  Things have actually been getting gradually better too, with his morning nap lengthening to an hour and twenty minutes many days.  There have been several days where he’s taken two, hour plus naps and not needed the late afternoon cat nap.  It seemed like this would never happen!

I was so stressed about him getting enough sleep, not to mention how unpredictable our days were and how difficult it was to do things with him always on the verge of being over-tired and needing to nap.  This thing has been a life saver!

After a week of excellent (for him) naps, I decided to use the Lotus for night time sleep too.  He was sleeping okay at night, but it was sometimes taking him a really long time to fall asleep at bedtime.  After seeing how well it worked for him during the day, it was an easy decision to move away from the floor bed at night, for now.

This is by no means meant as a knock against the floor bed – I’ve seen it work well for many babies at the school where I taught!  It was just a great reminder for me to remember to observe my own specific, unique baby and do what works for him.

Maria Montessori was a scientist who observed children and tried things based on what she saw.  I don’t believe she would ever say that one thing worked for all children or that a method should be blindly, rigidly applied without considering the individual child.  She wrote of following the child and of giving the child freedom within limits – I think James needs more limits than the floor bed gives him right now, and that’s okay.

The great thing about it is, it’s just a twin mattress, so it’s not like I bought an expensive piece of baby equipment that is going to waste.  We’ll just put it away for now and watch him to see when he’s ready to give it another try.

I definitely don’t regret using the floor bed, but I am SO happy to have moved on to something that’s working for us now!

 

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June Goals

May was such a great month!  Looking back though, I really did not hit most of the goals I set…and I don’t really care.  We had a wonderful, fun month and were in Houston for three out of the four weekends, so it was just not a routine time, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Still, for the sake of accountability, here’s a recap of my May goals:

Read More – This was the only goal I actually accomplished.  I finished Memoirs of a Polar Bear, read the Magicians, and started The Hundred Secret Senses.  Not a ton of books by any means, but considering the traveling we did, I feel good about it and really enjoyed all three books.

I also listened to Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, part of Neverwhere, and The One and Only on Audible.  If you’re not familiar with Audible, I highly recommend it!  It lets you get one audiobook a month for $15.  I think they have other options too, but that’s the one I get.  I started using it when I had a really long commute and it makes driving SO much more enjoyable.  I also listen to audio books during walks with the stroller and while I cook and clean.  It makes mundane tasks infinitely more enjoyable for me.

Write More – Nope, not even a little bit.  Whoops….

Go Somewhere New Every Week – I did not track this, but definitely went several new places.  My favorite was the sculpture gardens we went to, but I also went to a new fun restaurant with a friend and a new grocery store (exciting, I know…).  I’m going to continue this effort because while it’s often much easier to just go the same old places, I enjoy the little bit of adventure that comes from doing something new.

Wear Sunscreen – Another major fail.  I remembered sometimes, but definitely not every day.  I’ve started keeping the little guy’s sunscreen by the stroller and am going to do the same with mine to help me remember.

Onto June!

Introduce Daily / Weekly Checklist: I want to make / start using a daily checklist to help keep me accountable for the things (like wearing sunscreen!!) that I want to do regularly, but slip through the cracks.  If I come up with a good system, I’ll make sure to share it!  I love lists and organizational tasks of all kinds, so am nerdily looking forward to this 🙂

Delete Email Subscriptions: This sounds minor, but I’m subscribed to about a million emails that I don’t want to receive.  This is a minor annoyance every day and also causes me to want to buy things I don’t need and wouldn’t otherwise know about.  I want to unsubscribe from them all!

Complete the Playroom: I left this off of last month’s list because I knew we wouldn’t have time, but I did pick up some really fun items at Ikea while I was in Houston.  Now that the little guy is constantly on the move, I’m looking forward to having another room that is 100% baby proof for him to crawl around in.

I’m stopping with just three goals for this month because I know summer will be busy, so want to keep it simple / realistic.

Do you have any goals for the month?

What are you looking forward to this summer?

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James at 8 Months

Happy 8 months little buddy!

James turned 8 months old this past Saturday – time flies, etc., etc.  For real though…

Eating

This little guy loves to eat!

He’ll eat pretty much anything at this point, but his favorites include apple cinnamon oatmeal, avocado, sweet potato, pear, and watermelon.  He also likes yogurt, ground beef, and salmon.

He is increasingly able to eat modified versions of what we eat (for example, ground beef with spinach and cheese last night when we ate tostadas), which is great for me!

He eats three meals a day now.  I find that lunch time is the best time to introduce something new, as he is the most alert and energized for this meal.  He is occasionally uninterested in dinner and just throws his food on the floor, but he usually eats well.

I plan to post some of his favorite recipes soon!

Gross Motor

The big change this month was that James started army crawling at 7 1/2 months!

I wasn’t sure if he would bother with crawling since he was so good at getting around by rolling, but he’s army crawling all around the house now, and also getting up on his hands and knees and rocking, so I suspect real crawling is not far off.

He can also almost sit up from laying down, he just keeps one hand on the floor.

This is funny to me since he still usually won’t sit if I sit him up – he is on his own little timeline and I love it.

Fine Motor

I observe the most changes in his fine motor skills through watching him eat.  He can now pick up fairly small pieces of food, using his thumb and two fingers, though he can’t always get them into his mouth.  He also has so much control now when holding his little glass to drink water.  He is so focused when he does this, it is amazing to watch.

Sleep*

James very reliably wakes up once per night to eat, between 3-4:00 AM and then goes back to sleep until six or seven.  I may try to wean him off of this middle of the night meal…but I may not.  It’s honestly by far the best he eats all day, as there are no distractions and he’s half asleep.  He’s often too curious and busy to be bothered with nursing for more than a couple of minutes during the day.

We have had great progress with naps just in the last week or so (I had a hard time typing that…don’t want to jinx it!).  I’m going to write a separate post on this, but things are FINALLY looking up!

*I wrote this last week and have to say James slept HORRIBLY when we were in Houston last week!  He woke up many times at night and I was so, so tired.  Thank goodness though, he has been back to normal the past two nights we’ve been back home.  I was getting worried!

Size

I don’t know how much he weighs / how long he is as he hasn’t had a doctor’s appointment since 6 months, but he is looking huge!  When he woke up yesterday, his big toe was poking through his 9 month pajamas….

He is a long little guy with some big baby feet!  We got him some 12 month clothes last week and they are fitting scarily well….

Personality

Oh my goodness, he is such a happy and charismatic guy.

I’m not sure at what age it usually develops, but he definitely does not show any fear of strangers at the moment.

While in Houston last week, I brought him to the school where my mom and sister teach several times.  The children were so sweet and respectful, but he was still basically swarmed by enthusiastic 9-12 year olds wanting to play with him all at once.  He took it in stride, giving big smiles, and crawling over to check out shoe laces and other interesting objects.

He is happiest when he is either outside, watching people (especially big kids), watching cars, or freely moving around and playing.

He also loves music and literally lights up when I start singing certain familiar songs.  His favorite toys right now are balls and a set of stacking cups he has.

He loves rolling them around (both the balls and the cups) and chasing them around the room.  He also tries to drink out of the cups, even though they’re always empty.  The world must seem so confusing.

He seems to be getting his first tooth, so I hope that doesn’t impact his happiness too much in the coming weeks!

This little guy amazes me every day and I am so happy to be his mama 🙂

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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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