Looking Back – The First Six Months

James turns six months today.  I’ll post his 6 month update soon, but I admit I got a bit teary writing it (this could have been because I’d been up since 4:00 AM…hard to say…)

I wanted to take some time to share some of my favorite pictures and moments of his first six months.

You were born a pretty big baby at 8 pounds, 10 ounces, but you still seemed so very tiny.

Seeing you cuddled up with your Daddy was almost too much, too impossibly good.

You were so sleepy the first week, I would excitedly alert everyone when you opened your eyes.

Even your littlest clothes seemed so very big.

You wanted so desperately to get (and keep!) your hand in your mouth.

It meant I got nothing done, but I loved how you fell asleep on me all of the time.  You rarely do this nowadays, but I cherish how time slows down when you do, leaving nothing in the world but me and you and your sweet little breaths.

You were often grumpy in the evenings the first few weeks, but would stop grumping to play with your Daddy.

You changed so quickly with each passing week.

You made me so tired, but so impossibly happy; I barely slept because I didn’t want to miss anything.  I wouldn’t change a thing.

I wanted you to stay a newborn, but you were so much fun when you started smiling and laughing.  I didn’t know it would get even better.

I enjoyed dressing you in little old man clothes.  You’re welcome.

Everything seemed more special because it was your “first”.

You had many hats, but favored the ones you could lick.

You instigated (and seldom won…) wrestling matches with many blankets and stuffed animals.

You were so, so busy, dancing and kicking and jumping and always, always trying your hardest to reach the next step.  While I willed time to slow down, you willed it to fast forward, frustrated that you couldn’t do more.  It’s unbelievable how much you’ve grown in six short months, and I can barely imagine how you’ll be in six more.  I know they won’t, but I hope they go by more slowly than the last my little one.

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Looking Forward To….

Good morning!  I hope you’re having a great week so far.  Is anyone on spring break?  My mom is a teacher on spring break and she and my Dad are in Costa Rica right now.  My husband and I were planning to go there last year, but then found out I was pregnant a few weeks before we were set to go and cancelled because of the whole Zika thing.  I still really want to go there some day and am looking forward to seeing my parents’ pictures and living vicariously through them!

While no spring break trips are happening here, I do have quite a few things I’m looking forward to over the next few months:

SPRING!

Okay to be fair, it has kind of felt like spring here for the last couple of months.  With bluebonnets and wildflowers everywhere though, it now feels official.  I’m excited to be spending more and more time outside with the little guy.  Being outside in the sunshine makes me so happy.

I got a baby pool and the cutest swim suit for him at Target and it is pretty much the best thing ever.  I don’t have any pictures of James in the pool yet because he can’t reliably sit up by himself so I’ve been holding him up.  As soon as I can though, I’ll share a picture of what may be the cutest thing ever 🙂

Camping

Two years ago, we went camping on the beach at Padre Island National Seashore.  Because it’s a national seashore, there are no hotels / trinket shops, etc. lining the beach.  While Texas beaches are by no means world class, this is a pretty nice one.

We’re going to attempt to return this year for James’s first camping trip.  I’m super excited and mildly terrified at the same time.  We will have a hotel in mind for a backup plan for sure.

The main thing I’m concerned about is naps.  James still very much needs naps throughout the day to function, but he is often too excited to nap when he is somewhere new. He will sometimes fall asleep in the Ergo, so that’s my backup plan if he won’t nap in the tent.

James’s Baptism

James is getting baptized at my childhood church in Houston on Mothers Day.  I’m excited to for the baptism itself, and also to celebrate my first mothers day.  My little brother is flying in from Chicago, so that will make it extra fun!

Family Time this Summer

I know I just said I’m excited for spring, but I’m also excited for summer because my mom and sister will be off from work for much of it.  They will be able to visit for longer stretches of time and I’ll take James to Houston too.  I’m excited to take him to the Houston Zoo, and maybe the aquarium.  I don’t have a copy of it, but one of my favorite pictures from when I was little is of me noticing the giraffes at the zoo for the first time – I can’t wait to see James’s reaction to the big animals!

Trip to Wisconsin

We’re planning to take James to my husband’s home state of Wisconsin for the first time this summer.  My husband’s parents haven’t seen him since he was about three weeks old, so this should be super exciting!

He’ll also get to meet my best friend Ali for the first time.  Wisconsin is so beautiful in the summer and hopefully we’ll go to my husband’s family’s lake house where I spent my “retirement” for part of the time too.

Visiting a New National Park

Visiting national parks is very high up on my list of favorite things to do.  I have a goal of making it to every national park, at least in the continental US (there are so many beautiful ones in Alaska and Hawaii, but I’m not sure it’s realistic for me to go to each of those).

My husband and I actually got engaged at Denali National Park in Alaska!

We’re taking a trip with my mom (and hopefully my Dad if he can make it with work!) to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor in Maine this August.  We’re renting a cute little house right on the water that’s only a mile from the town center.  I’m already dreading the flights a little bit (there are no direct flights, so it will be a long day of travel for a baby), but I think the trip itself will be really fun and relaxing.  I’m excited to go hiking and kayaking and eat lots of lobster and ice cream 🙂

I didn’t realize how long this list would be; I have a lot to look forward to over the next few months!

Do you have any fun trips coming up?

Any advice on camping with a baby?

Has anyone been to Maine?  Any recommendations?

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Baby Books About Food

You guys, my mom is just the best.  Seriously, if you knew her, you’d agree.

When I went to Houston recently she had the best gift for baby James.  She read in my post about preparing James for solid food that I was looking for some baby books about food.  I use the term “looking” loosely, as what I was really doing was wishing I had some and doing nothing about it.

She gave us four beautiful books about food / eating and we have been loving them.

I’ll start with the best one.  During a particularly busy week where she had parent teacher conferences until 6PM every night (and she gets to school at 7 AM…), my Mom went to Whole Foods after work to get some beautiful produce, went home and photographed it, and made the most beautiful book on Shutterfly.

Again, this is something I’d mentioned wanting to do, but I was clearly not actually making it happen.

This is the best book, not only because it is homemade, but because the images are clear and vibrant against a white background, the best for baby to see.  It only has one food per page, which I think is ideal for a baby.  It is simple and full of foods he is likely to eat in the early days.  I also like that it is large enough that I can prop it open to a certain page if he seems particularly interested in a specific image.

Next up is Eating the Rainbow.  This one shows different babies and toddlers from around the world eating a variety of foods.  I love this one because it combines babies’ interest in faces with their interest in food.

Eating the Alphabet is slightly more “advanced” I would say.  It has beautiful illustrated images of food.  One thing that’s great about this book is that it includes familiar foods as well as more exotic ones like kohlrabi, figs, and persimmons.

I actually think it would be super fun to use this book for a scavenger hunt of sorts with a toddler / young child.  You could choose a few new foods to try each week and search for them at the farmers’ market or grocery store.  Hey, I think I’d even enjoy that!

Lastly, she gave us My First abc, which is not strictly about food, but includes many images of different foods as well as other every day objects.

I’ve already had so much fun with these new books and I see us enjoying them for years to come.  Thanks Mom!

Do you enjoy books about food?

I personally love looking through beautiful cookbooks, a hobby I definitely got from my Mom.

Do you know of any other great children’s books about food?

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Out and About

Good morning!

I’m still trying to get in the habit of taking more pictures when we do fun things, but I actually have photos of two outings we went on recently, so wanted to share.

Pizza Farm

Jester King Brewery and Stanleys’s Farmhouse Pizza together form what I fondly refer to as the pizza farm.  Less than thirty minutes outside of town, this farm feels like it’s completely out in the country.  It’s been one of my favorite places ever since we moved to Austin, but this was the first time we made it there with James.

We had a friend visiting from Wisconsin, so it was a good excuse to go.  It was cloudy, but nice out, and it turned out to be a great day to go because it wasn’t too crowded.

 

I failed to get any pictures of the pizza, but it was delicious.  My favorite thing about this place though is the atmosphere.

There are always lots of families and kids running around.  There are lawn games and sometimes live music.  You sit outside at picnic tables in the sunshine.  It is pretty much the best.  We stayed as long as James could stand it, and then went home so he could nap.

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

James and I celebrated the first day of spring with a visit to the nearby Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.

My husband and I first went here the week before James was due and I remember thinking how fun it would be to come back with the little guy in tow.  That day finally came!

Bluebonnets and other wildflowers have been popping up all over Austin so i figured this would be a particularly nice time to go.  The wildflower center has lots of nature trails, an outdoor cafe, a lookout tower, and a super fun area for kids and families.

In case you missed the sea of blue flowers….

As expected, the bluebonnets were everywhere.  It was so pretty and smelled like spring.

My husband and I didn’t check out the children’s area last time we were here, but it was wonderful and I had fun daydreaming about bringing James back when he’s older.

There is a “cave” that you can sit in and look out at a waterfall.

They also have two over-sized bird nest replicas that the children can go in.

Butterfly benches peppered the garden.

The outdoor workout setup would certainly be a way to mix it up from the gym.

They had a spot with little watering cans so the children could water the plants.  There was also a sandbox area with toys and a couple of little teepee type structures in the woods.  I had fun walking with him and watching the families, imagining our future.

The Wildflower Center is only about 15-20 minutes from my house.  I bought a membership and can’t wait to go back many times!  I actually already have plans to go back twice this week – once with a friend and her baby and once with my sister.  I want to spend as much time outside as possible for the summer heat comes.

Have you gone anywhere fun lately?

Is it nice outside yet where you live?

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I Saw the Sign…Baby Sign Language

I officially apologize for getting that song stuck in your head 🙂

Something new we’ve just started doing is introducing baby sign language.  If you’re not familiar with it, baby sign language allows you to communicate with your pre-verbal baby through signs.  The theory is that this lets them communicate earlier so that they can tell you what they need before they can talk.

This is an idea I’ve been in love with ever since seeing it in action with some of the babies / young toddlers at the school where I taught.  Some studies do show that it has benefits for both cognitive and emotional development…but I also just think it looks so fun!

We just started signing to James last week, so I am by NO means an expert.  I wanted to share some of what I’ve read though in case anyone else is thinking of using baby signs.  Please chime in in the comments if you have any experience with baby sign language; I would love any advice you may have!  I’ll do an update in a few months too, after we know how James takes to it and if we see any benefits.

When should I start signing to my baby?

It’s never too early…or too late!  Many people recommend starting around six months though.  Every baby is different, but if you sign consistently and often, you may see your baby start signing back around the time they start waving hello and goodbye.  If you think about it, that is just a simple sign!

From what I’ve read, this is often around 8-9 months, so if you start signing around 6 months, they’ll have plenty of exposure before they’re ready to sign back.  If you sign consistently though, your baby may pick up on it much sooner.  For instance, if you do the sign for “eat” every time you feed him, he will likely see that sign much more frequently than he sees someone wave.

We started now (at five months) because I know it will take us a while to remember to do the signs.  Hopefully we’ll be doing them consistently by the time he’s six months old.

How do I introduce a new sign?

Simply start doing the sign when it’s relevant throughout the day.  For example, I sign “milk” before I feed James, saying the word “milk” at the same time.  There is no need to give any sort of formal lesson, they watch everything you do!

How many signs should I start with?

I’ve read that 3-5 is a good number.  You can introduce more once they start to sign back.

Which signs should I start with?

We’re starting with “more,” “milk,” “sleep,” and “eat”.  The daily life words are the easiest to start with because they come up the most often, so your baby will see you do them constantly.  You could also start with “Mama” or “Daddy,” things that are relevant to their lives.  For instance, you could do “dog” if you have a dog, but if you don’t have one, it likely won’t come up enough to sink in at first.

What if I don’t know sign language?

I do not know sign language, but I’m confident that I can learn a few signs at a time.  Also, you don’t have to use formal American Sign Language (ASL) – your baby won’t know the difference 🙂  I figure I might as well use ASL when possible because he may retain it later in life, but if a particular sign is too difficult for your baby to use, you should feel free to make up a different one that makes sense.  I’ve also read that babies will sometimes make up their own signs after they’ve been signing for a while.

We also got this book to help us.  That way, there’s something both my husband and I can reference to make sure we’re using the same signs.  It was very inexpensive and easy to look at.  This particular book does not give any background information on signing, but I had already read enough about it that I was just looking for the actual signs.

Will signing delay my child from starting to speak?

This is a concern some parents have – does providing babies with another way to communicate take away the drive to start speaking?  Everything I’ve read says no.  In my opinion, I think babies want to communicate like we do, and in a much richer way than just learning some basic signs gives them.  I don’t think signing takes away the drive to speak any more than crawling takes away the drive to walk.  You also always say the word out loud along with giving the sign, so it does not take away from your baby’s exposure to verbal language.

Also though, I don’t really care if using sign language means James won’t say his first word for an extra few weeks.  Of course I’m eager to hear him talk, but I try not to get too hung up on racing to get to the next milestone.

I would really love to hear about any experiences you have with baby signs!

Have you used baby sign language?

Do you know sign language?

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Weekend in Houston

Happy Monday 🙂  We had the best weekend!

The highlight was definitely spending time with my family in Houston, but I want to start with Friday.

I implemented the things I mentioned in my Operation Bring Friday Back post (minus the happy hour because we left for Houston that evening), and it was the best day.

I started with a simple ten minute yoga video in the morning and it made me feel SO good.  Just ten little minutes and what a difference it made to the start of my day.  I felt so ready when I saw James start to squirm on the monitor, so ready to greet him and really be there with him.  We even had a Bob Marley dance party at 8:30 in the morning…what better way is there to kick off the weekend?

Along with the self-care theme, I also took a bubble bath and read on the back patio with some tea.  It was glorious.  Despite the winter theme of my mug and book, it was in the low 70’s and beautiful.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is acoomplished” Lao Tzu.  My teabag was wise 🙂

I felt great and I had so much more energy to be present with my little guy – a win-win for sure!

Someone else enjoyed reading outside too 🙂

We left for Houston at around five and James was a trooper.  He hung out and played with his crocheted mushroom for the first couple of hours and slept the rest of the way.

He transfered easily to bed and I proceded to hang out with my Dad until 1:30 in the morning…whoops!  After waking up at 4:45 Friday morning, that was quite a long day, but so worth it.  I knew I wouldn’t get to see him much the next day due to all of the girly things we had planned, so wanted to make sure I got to spend time with him while we were in town.

While I was a little tired Saturday morning, I was also super excited because we were going wedding dress shopping for my sister!  We started with scones and mimosas at her house before going to her first appointment.  One of her best friends / bridesmaids came too, so it was great for me to get to know her before the wedding.

My husband and my sister’s fiance hung out with James while we went to the first bridal boutique and then we all met up for brunch.  James decided there was way too much exciting stuff to see at my sister’s house and barely napped.  Fortunately, he was still in a great mood!

I brought James with us to the second appointment and he enjoyed flirting with all of the ladies at the wedding dress shop.  My sister looked so beautiful in all of the dresses and I have to say, it was way more fun to watch her try on dresses than it was choosing my own a few years ago.  I can’t share a picture of it, but she found her dress and it is absolutely perfect for her.  I’m so happy I got to be there for it!

I crashed hard Saturday night and then was up bright and early Sunday for a class at our church.  James is going to be baptized at the church I grew up in in May (on Mother’s Day!) and my husband and I needed to take a pre-Baptism class first.  It was nice and they gave us a lovely board book for James, explaining Baptism.

James stayed home with my parents and took a great nap.  He was in a very happy mood when he woke up and we all went out to get Indian food, my favorite!  Despite his solid nap, I think the little guy was still catching up from Saturday, because he fell asleep on me, which he hardly ever does anymore.

He used to fall asleep on me all the time, which made it very hard to get things done.  Now that it never happens anymore though, I love it when he does this, it is so sweet.

As soon as he woke up, we drove back to Austin.  James entertained himself with some new books my mom got him (more on these wonderful books soon!).

We hadn’t done this much in a single weekend since before James was born.  We were all pretty tired by the time we got home, but it was such a wonderful weekend with my family, and so worth it.

What was the best part of your weekend?

Do you live near your family?

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Operation Bring Friday Back

Happy happy Friday!

I hope you had a great week and have some fun plans for the weekend.  We are heading to Houston to take a class at my home church that we need to do before getting James baptized.  I’m also going wedding dress shopping for my sister…I could not be more excited!

For a long time, Friday was my favorite day of the week.  Everyone was in a little bit of a better mood.  Things seemed a bit more relaxed.  All of the anticipation for the weekend was there.

My husband and I would usually go out to dinner and watch a movie.  We were not big partiers even before the little guy 🙂

The thing about being a stay at home mom though, is that in a way every day is Friday and in a way Friday never comes.  For me anyway, all of the days can sort of run together sometimes.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, as for the most part, the days are very good.

I am still excited for the weekend of course because it means spending time with my husband.  But I want to bring back that relaxed, celebratory Friday feeling I used to have.  And I’ve got a plan.

1. Use James’s afternoon nap to do something fun

As all parents know, nap time is crucial for getting things done.  I usually have a plan going into each nap time for exactly what I want to accomplish so that I don’t waste any time thinking about it.  I want to celebrate the start of the weekend though by doing something relaxing.  Ideally, I want this to be something other than watching tv, something like sitting outside and listening to music, coloring, reading a book, or taking a bath.  Yes, nap time is important for getting things done, but James’s late afternoon naps are usually about 35 minutes long…I think I can spare 35 minutes for my happiness 🙂

2. Yoga

I’m pretty sure I haven’t done yoga since I was pregnant.  Now I was never a devoted yogi by any means, but I do feel better when I take the time stretch and breath and be still.  I particularly love Yoga by Adriene.  My best friend Ali turned me on to her.  She has a bunch of free yoga videos and she is funny and doesn’t take things too seriously.  I’m not going to be overly ambitious here, but I would like to do at least a short video every Friday, preferably first thing in the morning.

3. NO work Friday night

I’ve recently started doing some freelance writing work, which I’m excited about, but I’m still finding a balance with it.  I have limited and unpredictable amounts of time to get the work done.  Also, whatever the opposite of a procrastinator is, that is what I am.  I feel a ridiculous need to get the assignments done ASAP, even if I have several days until a deadline.  This has led to some unnecessary stress lately.  I want to SLOW down a little.  I’m going to make sure I set aside all work Friday evenings and just relax and spend time with my husband.

4. Get something easy / fun for dinner

I think the days of going out to dinner Friday nights are over for us for a while, and that is just fine.  It’s much easier and more relaxing to take our little buddy out to lunch.  He’s generally in a better mood earlier in the day and we’re not rushing to get home for bedtime or trying to keep him from falling asleep in the car.  I pretty much never feel like cooking dinner Friday night though.  I grocery shop Friday mornings, so I’m going to make sure to get something easy to make for dinner that night.  Or we could order takeout, but we pretty much never do that for some reason.

5. Have a fun drink

Yes, I’m bringing back happy hour!  Now this does not have to be alcoholic, it could just be kombucha or a fun mocktail, which I love.  It will probably be beer or wine though, preferably enjoyed out on the patio with snacks.  Nothing says the weekend is here to me more than a good, old fashioned happy hour 🙂

That is the plan!  We shall see how it goes.

Do you have any rituals to get you into the weekend spirit?

What is your favorite day of the week?

Any fun plans this weekend?

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How I Left the Corporate World for Montessori – Part 2

If you haven’t read part 1, you can find it here.

 

I was accepted to the UT MBA program (hook ‘em horns!) with a large scholarship.  I grew up loving Longhorn football and all things UT, so this was very exciting.

I left my job pretty much right away to take some time off before business school.  My husband works in IT and his company agreed to let him work remotely, so we decided to move to Wisconsin, where my husband is from, for six months before heading to Austin for school.

My husband’s family has a house on a lake a few hours northwest of Milwaukee and they graciously let us live there for a few months.  It was the best.

I fondly refer to this time in my life as my retirement.  We moved there at the beginning of February, which provided just enough winter to enchant this Texas girl.  I went sledding daily right outside the house.  We went for canoe rides where my hands were aching from the cold, but it was worth it to hear the slow drip of melting snow and see the animals deprived of their hiding places with no leaves on the bushes and trees.

We saw countless deer, sandhill cranes almost as tall as I am, foxes, river otters, raccoons, and so much more.  It was like my favorite kind of vacation, extended for six months.

I sat on the deck and read.  I experimented with cooking.  I wrote a book that will likely never be published, but that’s okay; that’s the sort of thing one does in retirement.

I spent hours walking the country roads and thinking.  I came to have a favorite cow, a favorite barn.  The kind people of Arkdale would stop and ask me if I needed a ride.  I guess they thought I was lost.  And I sort of was.

As much as I was enjoying my retirement, I began to feel a sense of dread.  It started small enough that I didn’t even recognize it.  Does that ever happen to you?  I often get a funny feeling, a shadow of uneasiness, before I realize what I’m anxious about, or even realize that the anxiety is there.

As the months went by, I started getting emails about orientation and new student trips.  All I felt was dread.

Now I am a worrier by nature, so at first I thought this was just a fear of change, a fear of being thrown in with a bunch of new people.  But there was no excitement to balance it out, not even a little bit.  This was not a good sign.

I began to doubt that I should go to business school, but I felt trapped.  I had no other skills, no other plans.  I had quit my job, spent a bunch of time and money applying to school, gotten my family excited about it, and moved us across the country.  It didn’t seem right to just say “uh, sorry guys, just kidding.”

But it also didn’t seem right to dig myself deeper into a career I knew in my heart wasn’t for me.  If I hadn’t had the luxury of those long days to think and reflect and pray, I know I would now be the proud recipient of an MBA, going to an office each day and trying not to question it.

But in those long hours, it just sort of came to me.  And it seemed so very obvious.  Of course this was what I should do.  I had always loved school, loved children, loved Montessori.  I had taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School with my mom and loved it.  Most importantly, it was something I believed in and knew could make a difference.

 

It was May by this point though and with schools letting out for summer, I had to act fast.  I quickly researched and contacted every Montessori school in Austin I could find.  We decided to still move to Austin, as we love the city and it’s near my family in Houston.  Plus, you know, Austin rocks.

We flew to Austin to look for apartments and I interviewed at two schools.  The first one was just not right and my heart sank a little bit.  I really had no backup plan.

I pulled up to the second school, Hawthorne Montessori, and knew immediately it was the kind of place I wanted to be.  The first thing I saw was a child peacefully painting at an easel outside among the trees.  Peeking through the window of the 3-6 classroom, it reminded me so much of my own wonderful days in an early childhood class.  The head of school was wonderful and I tried to remain calmly enthusiastic and not beg for a job.

She took a chance on me and for that I’m forever grateful.  I was an assistant in the toddler and 3-6 classroom for a year, took my training and interned, and then taught at this wonderful school.

I look forward to going back to teaching someday, but also feel so lucky to have had this experience before having my son.  I learned so much about myself, about children, and about the importance of giving yourself the gift of time to explore this beautiful world and find your place in it, the place that calls to you, the place you’re truly meant to be.

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How I Left the Corporate World for Montessori – Part 1

Inspired by my friend and mentor Natalie, I wanted to share how I came to Montessori.  This turned out to be quite long, so I’ve broken it into two parts.  Stay tuned for Part 2….

It all started 26 years ago…I’ll try to keep this part short.  Don’t worry, I’m not pulling a David Copperfield on you 🙂

I have a sister who is 15 months older than I am.  As a little girl, I of course wanted to do everything she did right when she did it.  I pretty much followed her around begging her to play with me, but that’s another story.

When she was five, my sister Kathleen started kindergarten at our local public school.  I begged to go too.  I was apparently so persistent (err, annoying) that my parents gave in.  Since I was too young for public school, they put me in a nearby private school for the year, School of the Woods Montessori.

As eager parents often do, my parents would ask us daily what we did in school.  My sister would say things like “we learned the letter J,” or “we sang a frog song”.  I would say things like “Pluto is the smallest planet and furthest from the Sun”.  Hmm….

The difference between the two schools quickly became pretty obvious.  I want to note that this is in no way a knock against public or traditional schools.  This was just not a good one.  They actually switched my sister into a class that was taught almost entirely in Spanish…no bueno.

My parents switched my sister to School of the Woods.  They had planned to send me there for a year, but we both stayed all the way through middle school.  I can’t tell you how fond my memories are of that school.

I have the clearest, most joyful memories of learning to read and of my first experiences with math.  I loved the little boxes of perfect miniatures used to match to written words.  I LOVED golden beads and the “bank game” (a hands-on material used to show the decimal system all the way through division).  I loved the handwashing work, where a child completes a very precise set of steps using beautiful materials to wash his hands, scrub his nails, apply lotion, etc.

Did I love every teacher I had through the years and want to go to school every day?  No.  But I did cry when I got the chicken pox and found out I had to stay home.

When I was in middle school, my mom, who was a lawyer in a previous life and then stayed home with us when we were little, decided she wanted to become a Montessori teacher.  I remember going with her to her training sometimes that summer.  I strangely remember two nice ladies in her training, both named Debbie.  The things we remember are strange….

My mom came to teach at School of the Woods, and is still there today.

So after having such a wonderful experience, did I know in my heart that I was meant to be a Montessori teacher too?  No.  That would have been so simple.

You would think the countless days I spent play-teaching my little brother, or my ongoing childhood experiment of trying to teach my bunny rabbit English would have been clues.

But it’s so complicated for children today.  There is so much talk of money and success and so many confusing role models.

When I applied to colleges, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do.  I tried to imagine different careers, but everything was so vague and unfamiliar.  I really think high schools should have a class devoted to explaining different careers and having people from those careers some speak.  Did anyone’s school have something like this?

I applied to a business program because it seemed highly practical, but I really had no idea what a career in “business” would look like.  I think I’ve mentioned before my strong fear of failure.  Whatever “business” was, it sounded like something I could get a job with.  Wow, what a way to choose your life’s work.

I had the best time at Georgetown University (Hoya Saxa!).  I learned a ton, both from my excellent professors and from moving to a part of the country I had never so much as visited before freshman orientation.  I enjoyed exploring DC and all that it had to offer.  Upon graduating, I got a job in strategy and management consulting (sticking with the vague theme…) and loved it.  At first.

I was working with highly intelligent and motivated people to solve interesting problems.  We were working with federal government clients and I enjoyed the travel involved in my first project.  I think because of the novelty, the wonderful people, and how much I was learning, I really enjoyed this job for some time.

The thing is, I could never see where it was going.  I couldn’t picture myself going into an office every day for the next forty to fifty years.  I was restless.  Despite all of our hard work, I couldn’t really tell you anything meaningful we were accomplishing at the end of the day.  I most certainly couldn’t tell you that strategy and management consulting was my passion.

So did I quit in a heartbeat to follow my dreams?  No.  That is so not my personality.  I am a type A planner to the core.

I applied to business school.  That was the logical next step if I wanted to make a change.  Because hey, if an undergrad business degree hadn’t gotten me a career I cared about, a graduate degree was sure to, right?  I don’t regret applying to B. school for a second though because I know that it’s what I personally needed to do in order to quit my job.

I could not simply quit such a promising career with no plans for the future.  At the same time, I could not find the space I needed to figure things out while immersed in that world.

To be continued….

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Top Five in the First Five Months

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

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

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

Thick Blankets

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

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

Independent Black and White Books

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

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

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

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

Mirror

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

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

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

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

Skwish

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

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

Boppy Infant Lounger

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

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

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

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