Day in the Life – 6.5 Months

Good morning!  It’s hard for me to believe that another month has gone by, but indeed it has, and lots has changed as James has become so much more mobile and gotten really into eating solid food.  This was our day yesterday.

We’ve been working with James on sleeping “through the night” lately.  I suppose you could call it mild sleep training, but I honestly hate the word “training” in reference to children.

He was going to bed on his own just fine, but had started waking up habitually at 9-10, and sometimes other times, wanting to nurse or be soothed back to sleep.  I knew he wasn’t really hungry because when he sometimes went back to sleep with just a little soothing, he woke up many hours later happy and playing.

Last night, he did pretty well!  He woke up once at around 2:45 and started scooting out of bed.  I admit I love watching him doing this on the monitor – it is both entertaining and kind of amazing to watch.  I went in and moved him back into the middle of his bed and he cried for maybe 2 minutes.  He sucked his thumb and kicked the wall for a while, not fussing, and fell back asleep.  He woke up again at 5:20.  I fed him and he went back to sleep.

I ate breakfast, read blogs, and worked on some bachelorette party planning for my sister (so excited!).  I often workout during this time, but wanted to run on my treadmill today and all of my stuff was in with my sleeping husband, so I decided to wait until nap time.

James woke up right at 7:00, which is great because, according to Dr. Weissbluth (more on that on Friday), children waking up at the same time every day helps their overall sleep.  James seems to naturally wake up around 7 most days, so we’re shooting for that.

He is so happy when I go in.  One thing I love about his floor bed is that I can lay next to him and snuggle in the morning.  I get him up, change his diaper, and get him dressed for the day.

We then go out to the backyard to “greet the world”.  There are lots of interesting bird noises this morning and little snails out from yesterday’s rain.  It’s fun to see him start to notice smaller things like bugs and snails.  He was intent on trying to pet a tiny spider on its web the other day.

We go in to say good morning to his Dad, but James is more in the mood to roll around so we soon give up on morning cuddle time and go play in his room.  He chooses his elephant shaker off of his shelf.  He also bumps his head on his shelf, which he doesn’t seem to care about, but it leaves a red mark that makes me sad.

He starts sounding grumpy so I nurse him, which cheers him up.

I then put him down to play in the living room while I make his breakfast.  I heat up his leftover oatmeal with banana from yesterday and fry a couple of egg yolks in avocado oil.  I cut the egg into strips so he can easily eat it.  He ate a lot more than what’s on his place mat, but I give him a little at a time so it doesn’t all wind up on the floor.

He is playing happily by himself, so I leave him alone while his breakfast cools off.  I quickly change into my running clothes and get the treadmill set up so I can take full advantage of his likely short nap.  He is still happy by himself so I load the dishwasher.  I really try not to interrupt him when he’s busy playing because I want to encourage his concentration and his ability to entertain himself.

Eventually I interrupt him because we’re running out of time for him to eat breakfast before he naps.

He was much more into the oatmeal today than he has been in the past and is getting so good with his spoon.

He’s gotten much more stable in his little chair, so I can sit across from him now and eat with him sometimes, which is really nice.

Mealtime is fun and messy as usual.  I place him on a blanket nearby while I clean up and talk to him about what I’m doing (washing his place mat, putting the extra food away, etc.) so that he at least starts to become aware of the process.

James is yawning by the time I finish cleaning up so I get him ready for a nap, sing him a song, and place him in his bed a few minutes after 9:00 AM.  He falls asleep within five minutes and I book it to the garage for a treadmill run.  I bring the monitor in case he wakes up.

I run three miles at a quick for me pace (8:10 minute miles, though my speed was all over the place).  I was getting tired in the last mile, but my desire to have time for a shower kept me motivated.  I watched Lilo and Stitch on Netflix while I ran because I haven’t seen it and I’m basically a five year old inside.

I rushed through the run and the shower and then realized James was still asleep, woohoo!  Way to go little buddy.  I’m so happy he is taking a real nap, not just 35 minutes, so he will be rested.  I finish booking the place for my sister’s bachelorette.  It is a house / B&B in the Texas wine country and has alpaccas…I’m pretty excited about it.  I then work on this post – a fun and productive morning so far!

James wakes up a little after 10:30, an hour and twenty minute nap, which is great for him lately.

We sing songs and play in the mirror for a bit before I nurse him.  Then we’re off for a walk!  It looked like rain this morning, but the sun came out and it is a beautiful day.

We walk for a little under an hour.  James starts mildly protesting after about 40 minutes so I book it home as fast as I can.

When we get home, James plays and rolls around the living room.  I sit by him and fold laundry.  He decides to come help and laundry turns into peekaboo.  Fine by me.  After a while, James starts getting sleepy eyes and goes down for nap # 2 around 1:00 PM.  He falls asleep quickly and without much protest.

I eat a quick lunch while he naps and start to do some cleaning.  I don’t get much done though because James takes an exceptionally short 30 minute nap.  I’m not too surprised because I noticed he had fallen asleep on his arm in a way that didn’t look too comfortable.

I go to greet him and we go sit in the backyard in the sunshine for a little while.  At times like this I feel so, so thankful that I get to stay home with him.  It’s so nice to just be together outside on a Tuesday afternoon.

Eventually we go in and I nurse him.  We read a few stories from the Bible I got him for Easter and he plays in his room.

After a while, I bring him to his little chair for a late lunch of sweet potatoes, which he loves.  I roasted them in lots of avocado oil and turmeric.  He really loves sweet potatoes and is good at eating them, so I try to load them up with some extra goodness.  Turmeric is the first spice I’ve introduced since it’s so mild and has so many health benefits.  I’ll probably try ginger and garlic next.

He eats seven sweet potato rounds – looks like I’ll need to go back to the grocery store for more sweet potatoes tomorrow!  He can’t get enough.

Cleanup is relatively easy because very little sweet potato made it onto the floor.

I place James on a large blanket in the living room with a couple of toys, but he often seems more interested in exploring the house than toys these days.

Eventually it is time for his last nap of the day.  Some days he only takes two naps, but since his second one was so short, he took three today.

This nap was also short, about twenty minutes I think?  This was strange because James’s short naps are almost always 35 minutes to the minute, so I don’t know what was going on today.

Regardless, he got up, I nursed him and he played some more in his room.  Soon my husband got home and played with him until it was time for dinner.

James had avocado (he ate almost half of a pretty big avocado) and pear slices.  He eats dinner around 5 and we’re not usually ready to eat that early so we sometimes compromise and sit with him and eat a salad so it’s more of a family meal.

After dinner, James played a little more and then took a bath.  He is so cute and curious in the bathtub.  He likes splashing in the water, but also really wants to explore the surrounding area.

After bath time, I nursed him again, gave him a massage, and my husband read him Goodnight Moon.  I sang him a song and put him in his bed.  He didn’t protest at all and fell asleep in about ten minutes.

We had leftover falafel (frozen from Trader Joes – I highly recommend it!) for dinner, so I didn’t need to cook anything.  As I mentioned, the last couple of weeks were a little rough, but so far, this is shaping up to be a great one!

What was the best part of your day yesterday?

 

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A Very Happy Easter

Good morning!

I hope you had a good weekend, and a happy Easter if you celebrate.  We had a wonderful long weekend with my family in Houston and it was just what I needed.

We left Thursday evening after James feasted on sweet potatoes.  He is increasingly enthusiastic about eating and it is so fun to watch!

James fell asleep in the car, but woke up ready to party when we got to Houston.  Bedtime was a little rough, but it was worth it to get there Thursday night and have more time with my family.

We had no plans Friday and just hung around at home and went for a nice walk with my parents.  I love walking around their neighborhood because there are lots of long streets with beautiful old trees.  Even when it’s hot out, there’s plenty of shade and beautiful flowers due to the semi-tropical weather.

Friday afternoon, my husband stayed home with James while he napped and I ran errands with my mom.  It felt so weird to be out without James for so long.  It was great to hang out with my mom though and do some fun birthday shopping for my sister.

Saturday I was excited to go to one of my favorite restaurants, Backstreet Cafe, to celebrate my sister’s birthday.  James took a short morning nap and would normally have gone down for a second nap right when brunch started, but he handled it so well.  He didn’t fuss at all, though he was clearly tired and just rested his head on my arm the whole time.  He also enjoyed a few slices of avocado I stole off of people’s plates.  I had my hands full, so didn’t get any pictures of the food, but it was delicious and included a warm chocolate orange brioche bread that I could eat for every meal.

James and I woke up before everyone on Sunday and enjoyed a quiet start to Easter Sunday.  I gave him the children’s Bible I got him for Easter and read him the Easter story.  We then went for a morning walk to get outside before it was too hot.  It was a nice start to the day.

After his morning nap, we went to church and James was downright giddy to be there.  He loved staring at chandeliers, bouncing to the music, and flirting with the little girl in front of us.  He was ready to go by the end, but definitely had some fun.

James took one more nap in Houston while we had a great brunch with my family.  He seemed a little overwhelmed by all of the people when he woke up, but the drive home went surprisingly well.

He fell asleep for about thirty minutes and we played and sang songs.  He became pretty desperate to get out of the car in the last 20-30 minutes, but that’s not bad for a three hour drive.

His mood immediately changed when we got home.  He was babbling and laughing and rolling all around.  I think he was happy to be home and to have some time to just move around.

I feel so fortunate to have my family close by so that we can easily go visit for holidays and random weekends.  Now we just need to convince my husband’s parents to move down here!

What was the best part of your weekend?  Do you celebrate Easter?

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Happiness 911 (or what to do when your child takes crappy naps)

Photo courtesy of AustinEventPhotographers.com

Good morning and happy Friday!

Our weekend began early as we drove to Houston last night to celebrate Easter weekend (and my favorite sister’s birthday) with my family.  I am feeling very happy as we have lots to look forward to this weekend, but as I mentioned on Monday, the last couple of weeks have been a little rough.

It’s a little sad how much my current happiness depends on how well the little buddy naps, but he is seriously a different person when he doesn’t get enough sleep.  He actually has been falling asleep very easily for naps, just only staying asleep for 35 minutes and waking up still tired.  I’m wondering if he’s teething, but I’m not really sure.  Regardless, when he doesn’t nap well, it means:

1) There’s no break in the day

2) He is GRUMPY and requires a lot more attention and entertainment from me to keep it together

3) It’s hard to go do things due to the aforementioned grumpiness

4) I feel like I’m failing at life

However, naps or no naps, I realize I’m so lucky to have him and I want to enjoy this time of life as much as I can.

I know that I’m in control of my own happiness, and each morning I tell myself it will be a good day.  Still, I found myself losing it a little bit, and needed to take some more concrete action.  This is inspired by my favorite podcast (forgive me if I mention this obsessively, but it really is that good!), Happier, by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.

In this episode, Gretchen talks about having a “happiness 911” song, which of course is just what it sounds like – a song you can listen to to instantly boost your mood when you need it.  Even better, you can search for the happiness 911 playlist on Spotify, where listeners’ happiness 911 songs have been compiled.  There is naturally a huge range in the type of songs included but, while I don’t like every song, it definitely gives my mood a boost.

This got me thinking, what are some other little things I can do to instantly boost my mood?  I’ve written out a list and am going to run through it whenever I feel my optimism slipping.  Sometimes just having a list / plan makes me feel better…I’m a little type A.

Here is my list so far, but I’d love to add to it so please share what little things make you happy / give you a mood boost!

  1. Put on music – sometimes I really do listen to the happiness 911 playlist, sometimes I play Bob Marley (or Moana…), anything that makes me happy, bonus if I know the words and can sing along with no one but my grumpy baby to hear me 🙂
  2. Light a candle – I can at least pretend to be zen by lighting a favorite candle.

    Story Time Shenanigans
  3. Take pictures – Getting out the real camera and having a mini photo shoot helps me focus on the moment instead of running through a list in my head of all of the things I’m doing wrong that are leading to crappy naps.  Also, taking pictures helps me search for the beautiful parts of even tough days.  This obviously only works if he’s minimally grumpy and not on the verge of losing it.  I’m not sitting there snapping pics while my baby cries like a detached news reporter.
  4. Fake it ’til you make it – It is too easy (for me at least) to give into the grumps and just hang on until the next nap time, but I know that everyone will be happier if I put in more effort and try to cheer up the little guy.  For us, this usually involves singing songs with him, having a dance party, or getting out his favorite scarf that I save for emergencies and playing silly games with it.  This takes more energy than I sometimes feel like I have, but almost always helps!
  5. Give into the grumps – opposite of #3, if I’ve tried everything, I need to accept that he is just going to be whiny for a little while, it’s because he is tired, and there is sometimes nothing I can do about it.  Just as only I can make myself happy, I can’t force anyone else to be happy, even if that someone is the size of a teddy bear.
  6. Go outside – I love to go for walks.  If James is rested and in a good mood, we can go for around an hour and he is fine with it, but if he’s in a bad mood, even short walks can send him over the edge.  However, I can always go sit with him in the backyard for a few minutes or go for a “nature walk” around the yard and let him examine different trees and flowers.  This puts us both in a better mood!
  7. Get out of the house – It is much harder to get out and do things when the little guy is grumpy because, well, he remains grumpy while we’re out and this stresses me out.  However, getting out for even just thirty minutes can make a big difference in the day.  I can take him to the grocery store and get a treat (for me), take him to Starbucks and get a fix, or take him to the bookstore and just look around.  The key here, for us, is avoiding anything that will take too long or where the expectations are too high – I’m not going to take him anywhere I really want to stay for more than 15-20 minutes when he’s over-tired.
  8. Call my mom – If it’s been a rough day, talking to my mom on the phone in the late afternoon while the little guy plays never fails to boost my mood.
  9. Go for a short, fast (for me) run – I have a treadmill in the garage and sometimes completing a short, speedy run during his nap time makes me feel like myself and re-energizes me.
  10. Pour a glass of wine the size of my baby – I kid, I kid.  But looking forward to a glass of wine or a beer with my husband at the end of the day can be so relaxing if it’s been a rough one.  Fortunately, James now reliably goes from bedtime to 4-5 AM without nursing, so I can do this without stress.

James actually took a great nap yesterday and was in a good mood all day so fingers crossed this lasts!

I would love to add to this list.  What are some little things you do when you’re having an off day or need a boost?

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Independence Day

A couple of days ago, James made such major moves toward independence that I felt like he was about to head off for college.  I kid, sort if, but I really was amazed!

The first was at story time at the library, which we go to every Thursday afternoon.  For a little background, I first took James to story time when he was four months old.  He sat in my lap the whole time, completely silent and almost completely still.  He seemed stunned.  He is often like this when he is in a new situation – he doesn’t act scared or cry, but is super serious and just takes it all in.

Over the weeks, he’s become increasingly active at story time, bouncing and squealing and reaching out to touch other babies.  This past thursday though, he went off to play by himself for the first time.

After songs and the story, the librarian puts out a bunch of toys and blows bubbles.  I set James down in front of me and after a minute, he rolled off to the middle of the room to check out some scarves and go see the librarian.  I realize this probably seems like a super minor event, but I felt so proud of his independence!  I was happy to see him feeling so comfortable on his own, even when a much older baby came over and started messing with his feet (lol).  I honestly also was a little sad though…I know this was only the first of many steps of him moving away from me.

Later that day, he made another bold move and chose something off of his toy shelf by himself for the first time!

He was playing with a ball on the big rug in his room.  He lost interest in the ball and started to roll around.  He then rolled right over to his toy shelf, surveyed the options, and chose one!  He chose an empty tray, which I suppose makes sense since it was the only thing on the shelf he hadn’t played with before.

Since then, he’s been going to choose his own toys.  He isn’t crawling yet, but has become quite expert at pivoting so he can role in a specific direction to get where he wants to go.  There’s no stopping him now!  He even put a toy he was done with back on the shelf a couple of times, though I know this was likely just coincidence and not an innate sense of tidiness at six months 🙂

James also showed his newfound independence in one less desirable, though hilarious, way.  One night at about 3:30 AM, he got out of his floor bed (he doesn’t roll out, but lies on his back and very slowly and carefully scooches out, pushing with his feet), rolled across the room and started banging on the door.  It was pretty funny…as long as it doesn’t become a regular thing.  We shall see….

Were you independent as a child?

I think I was in some ways, but I’ve also always been pretty shy and tentative in new situations.

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Out and About 2 – The Farmers’ Market

This weekend was kind of rough.  Actually much of last week was kind of rough to be honest.  James has been taking very short naps for some reason, which understandably puts him in a less than stellar mood.  He is generally a very happy baby, but he needs his naps.  Don’t we all.

Focusing on the positive though, we did have a lot of fun Sunday morning.  After a very short nap, we took advantage of the extra time in the morning and went to a new to us Farmers’ Market.

His face accurately reflects how he feels about being in the carrier (or contained in any way…).

We used to always go to the downtown Austin farmers’ market before we moved – it was a long walk or short drive away.  I love farmers markets and my husband tolerates them because they make me happy.  Last week at story time, the librarian mentioned that they do story time at the Mueller Farmers’ Market, so we thought we’d check it out.

It was great!  They have many of the same produce / hot food stands as the downtown market, in addition to some other ones.  They also had story time, a little petting zoo, and live children’s music.  I could definitely see us going regularly with little James for years to come.

We didn’t get too much because I just went grocery shopping on Friday, but I did get a GIANT stroopwafel (those little dutch cookies with caramel inside).  The ones I’ve had in the past were maybe the size of a half dollar…this one was maybe the size of my head?  They make them hot and ours had strawberries and nutella inside, in addition to the standard caramel.  It was so good.  I did feel kind of sick after though…that was a lot of sugar on an empty stomach.  Whoops.

James was reaching for it big time.  He knows what’s up.

Did you have a good weekend?  What was the best part?  Eat any cookies the size of your head?

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Montessori Peace Education and Babies

Montessori is not just a method of education, it is a philosophy and a way of being, and peace is at its very core.  Maria Montessori lived during a time of war and turmoil and she viewed children as the hope for the future.  Thus, peace education was and is an extremely important part of Montessori.

When I think about peace, I picture concentric circles with peace radiating outward.  It all begins with inner peace, peace with one’s self.  Then comes peaceful interactions with people you know.  Global peace, or a peaceful outlook toward other countries and cultures and humankind, follows.

This may seem like a lofty topic for babies, but how could it ever be too early to incorporate something so essential?  The early months and years are when a person forms his sense of self, who he is going to be.  What better time could there be to think about peace?

With that in mind, I’ve been trying to incorporate some peace “activities” into our routine.  I really believe that so much of this comes from modeling – children watch how we treat people at the grocery store, they listen to how we talk about people when they’re not there, and they sense how we feel about “others,” or people outside of our own culture.  Still, I think there are some things we can do to intentionally incorporate peace as well.

Cultivate Silence

This may seem impossible with young children, but if you catch them in the right frame of mind, it can be beautiful.  I feel like people often think of children as silly and playful, which they certainly can be, but they also have such deep, beautiful souls if you give them the chance to show you.

In the Montessori classroom, children play the “silence game”.  This is NOT like when an adult challenges a rowdy child to be silent for as long as possible.  The thing about the silence game is you have to catch a child when they can succeed.  If you asked me to be silent when I was in the middle of excitedly telling you something…or right after my second cup of coffee, I would fail too.

But if you notice when a child is already calm and peaceful, you can stretch this and cultivate that sense of peace by sitting in silence.  In the classroom, we would sometimes use a candle or an hourglass timer to mark the game.  We would also sometimes play it while sitting outside and then talk about the sounds we heard.

Obviously this looks different with a baby, but I like to take James outside and sit in silence when he is peaceful.  Often we do this first thing in the morning.  He will eventually start to babble and then we sing songs or talk about what we see outside, but I want him to know that it’s also okay to just be still, to sit without words.

Use Peaceful Language

To encourage peaceful interactions with others at this stage, I just try to use peaceful language.  I know that he’s always watching and listening and I strongly believe that he will pick up more from watching us interact in the world than from us telling him to “play nicely” when he’s older.  I also talk to him about being “gentle” when he reaches out to touch his baby friend (or tries to roll right into her…)  I have no idea how much of this he understands right now, but I figure it’s never to early to start.

Explore Other Cultures

This is a fun one!  I think familiarity with other cultures is a big part of avoiding prejudice.  Some of my favorite memories of attending Montessori preschool as a child are of celebrating holidays from other cultures – exploring their dress, trying their foods, and listening to stories and songs from other countries.

With James, I’m loving the book Global Babies right now.  It shows babies from countries around the world and talks about how they are all beautiful and loved.  He likes looking at the pictures of different types of faces.  I also try to sing peaceful songs with him and look forward to introducing him to foods from different cultures as he continues his journey with solid foods.

For older children, Same, Same but Different is an excellent book.  I also remember loving this book when I was a child and hope to do more things to celebrate different cultural holidays as James gets older and becomes more aware.

These are just a few easy things we try to incorporate into daily life.  Hopefully we can do more as he gets older!

Were you exposed to different cultures as a child?

If you have children, do you have any tips for incorporating peace / any book ideas?

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Throwback Thursday – Childhood Memories

I’m so fortunate to have had a great childhood that was a perfect balance of adventure and stability.  I have wonderful parents and as I think about the kind of parent I want to be, I find myself reflecting back on what made my childhood a good one.

As I look back, I find myself focusing on specific childhood memories rather than my parents’ “parenting philosophy”.  Was that even a think when we were kids?  I hate the pressure to pick a parenting style as if it’s a black and white, either / or type of thing.

I grew up in Houston, Texas.  If you’ve never been to Houston and picture Texas as all desert and cowboys, Houston definitely doesnt’ fit this image.  In addition to being a huge city, it is wet.  Very wet.  Houston is considered in the subtropical zone and it rains a lot.  We had flood days instead of snow days when I was a child and I distinctly remember wading through a parking lot in water past my knees one time to get to our car.  I remember stopping at a restaurant to wait out the rain, but their power was out so they had a very limited selection.

One of my favorite childhood memories was on one of these stormy nights.  We were thankfully at home for this one, both of my parents, my sister, brother, and me.  The power went out and it was after the sun had set, but before bedtime.

My parents lit candles around the house and I felt a sense of mystery and excitement.  We sat on the floor and talked and played board games (still one of my favorite pastimes).  We played for what seemed like hours, I assume until it was time to get ready for bed.

I don’t remember who discovered it, but someone flicked a switch and exclaimed that the power was back on.  My mom is the sweetest, but does not have a very good poker face.  She tried to act surprised.  We all knew.  She had realized hours before that the power was back, but hadn’t told anyone because it was so nice to just spend time as a family without “technology”.

This was before the age of smart phones mind you.  We may have had one family computer by then, I don’t remember.  Even then though, back in the dark ages, there was apparently a longing for quality time without distraction.

It would have been easy for my parents to complain about the inconvenience, to let the circumstances ruin the evening.  But they didn’t.  They turned that stormy night into an adventure for us as children.  That’s the kind of parent I want to be, and I have to say, it somewhat goes against my nature.  I’m not always the most carefree or spontaneous person, but I’m certainly going to try to bring a little fun and adventure into our every day.

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April Goals

Inspired by this post and this post, I want to formally document some goals for April.  I have about a million things in my head that I want to get done, but the weeks go by so quickly and I know organizing and sharing my thoughts will help me accomplish more.

Home: Conceptualize Playroom

I’ve decided that I want to turn our “office” (aka useless room full of junk that we never use) into a playroom for James.  I want to do this for two reasons: 1) He is getting more interested in toys and I know his toys will get larger with time; I’d like to prevent them from taking over the house.  2) Since he sleeps on a floor bed, I plan to remove most toys when he starts to crawl to support him in sleeping at night.  I’ll leave some books and calming toys, like a stuffed animal, but don’t want anything too stimulating in there as he adjusts to his new freedom to move around the room.

I plan to keep it very simple with a couple of toy shelves and a reading nook.  All I want to do this month is start cleaning out the office and identify / select what I want to purchase for the room…keeping it manageable over here 🙂

I’ll share pictures when it’s through but in the meantime, if you’re looking for inspiration, check out this post – I love her ideas!

Home: Prepare Garden Beds

I’ve mentioned before that I am terrible with plants.  However, I think gardening is such a great activity for children and have grand visions of working with James in the garden when he’s older.  I feel like I should have some clue as to what I’m doing before I involve him, so the time is now.  Thankfully, my mom has agreed to come help me start a garden (woohoo!).  Outsourcing, my friends.

She’s really busy and traveling a lot in April, so we’re going to try for the beginning of May.  This month, I want to prepare the garden beds so that everything is ready to go.  I want to plant two small flower beds around trees in our backyard, and one medium herb / vegetable garden.  I have no idea whether I should do raised beds, or what to plant, so I have some research to do!

Family: (Re)Start Family Dinners

In my former life, I really liked to cook.  I enjoyed the whole process from browsing recipes, to grocery shopping, to the actual preparation of meals (and obviously, the eating).  These days, it honestly seems more like a chore and we have lots of nights with no set plan where I eat eggs and my husband concocts some sort of taco creation.

We’re both fine with this, but I’m hoping to get back into cooking real meals at least 4-5 nights a week so that we can model family dinners for James now that he is beginning to eat solid food.  I’d like to get back into the habit of this now, rather than waiting until he’s ready to eat what we’re eating.

Leisure: Watch less TV

I have three episodes left in my current Netflix obsession (The West Wing).  I’m committing to not starting a new series at least for the month of April.  It’s so easy at night when I’m tired to just zone out and watch tv, but I know I would be happier if I spent more time reading or just hanging out and chatting with my husband.

Reading over this list, I kind of feel like I should strive for something loftier, but I’m going to resist that temptation.  For now, I’m going for manageable.  If I check these off the list this month, maybe the momentum will help me accomplish more the next month.  Or maybe not.  For now though, this is enough.

Do you have any goals you’re working on?

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Weekend Highlight – Adventures with Watermelon

A lot of our weekend was spent at home, which was nice, but you probably don’t want to see photos of us lounging on the couch or playing on the floor 🙂

We did get out on Saturday for something really fun though.  My husband’s company had a “family day” event.  Their offices are in a series of old houses in a great Austin neighborhood, so the event was held in the front yards.  There was a summer camp theme and it was super cute.  They had a rock climbing wall for the older kids, a gourmet hot dog food truck, a smores station where you could roast marshmallows, crafts, etc.  There was also a photographer, so I’m excited to see his pictures of James soon.

We had such a nice time chatting with everyone, introducing little James, and meeting others’ children.  James saw another baby, got the funniest surprised look, and insisted on reaching out to touch her.  She did not seem pleased.  I thought his look of surprise was funny since he sees lots of babies at story time every week, but I suppose it was out of context and he wasn’t expecting it.  I imagine him saying, “Oh look!  One of my people is here.  Thank goodness, I thought I was alone.”

When we were sitting down to eat, we noticed someone with watermelon and looked at each other.  I hadn’t thought of watermelon when brainstorming first foods for James, but it’s easy to hold, easy to eat (this one was seedless), so why not?!

I think it’s safe to say that this was James’s favorite food so far (although he seems to really like broccoli too).  Usually he’ll explore the food for a little while and eat some, but then be decidedly done and ready to move on.  With the watermelon, he clutched it tightly, protecting it, and ate almost the whole big slice!  I was amazed.  One of the guys at the party mentioned that cold watermelon is great once they start teething, so I’m going to keep that in mind as well.

We are still very early in the process, but so far, are loving baby led weaning!  It’s so fun to be able to make James healthy meals at home, but also see him enjoying impromptu treats when we’re out and about, just part of the family enjoying a party on a Saturday afternoon.

 

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Baby Led Weaning – The Beginning

Last Saturday, we began the journey of solid foods for James.  This was something I had been looking forward to all month and it was just as fun / entertaining as I thought it would be!  After reading a lot about it, we decided to try “baby led weaning” (BLW) where you basically skip spoon feeding baby purees and go straight to finger foods, allowing them to feed themselves.

When I was researching and trying to decide whether to try BLW, I loved reading specific examples of how different families did it.  I found a lot of the information out there to be theoretical and vague, and this type A mama wanted specifics.  So I wanted to share our BLW journey as we go along, in case it’s helpful to anyone else.

As a disclaimer, if BLW doesn’t work for us, I’ll definitely try something different.  I’m open to everything at this point!

The Chair

Are you familiar with weaning tables / cube chairs?  They are baby sized chairs and tables, low to the ground, that can be used instead of high chairs.  They allow baby to sit close to the ground and use furniture that is just his size (a big thing in Montessori).

Also, when baby is a little older, he can get in and out of the chair independently.  I think this is great practice for staying seated during a meal.  Using a table low to the ground can also be a lot less messy because if baby drops (or throws…) food off of the table, it doesn’t go as far as if it were dropped from a great height.  Physics, my friends.

For all of these reasons, I really wanted a cube chair.  I almost ordered this one off of Etsy.  But we decided we also wanted a high chair, because I think family dinners are important and I want James to be able to join us at the table for dinner.  I plan to use the cube chair for breakfast and lunch and the high chair for dinner.  Since we were getting both, I was hesitant to spend too much on a cube chair.

After a lot of indecision (story of my life), we made it to this past weekend with neither a cube chair or a high chair.  Whoops.  We had been planning to go to Ikea Saturday morning to get a high chair ($15 and I’ve read good reviews!), but I thankfully checked their website before we went and saw that it was out of stock at our store.  I’m glad I checked because Ikea is quite far from us.  I ordered the high chair, but it won’t arrive until April 4.

After looking forward to this all month, I really didn’t want to wait an extra week, so what to do?  Enter my husband, saving the day once again 🙂  He is an excellent creative problem solver and can always seem to make what we need from what we have.

He quickly made James a little table and chair like it was no big deal.  We had an old Ikea table and he sawed the legs off to make it 11 inches tall.  He then followed this tutorial to build James a little cube chair.  I love it all the more knowing he made it for little James.  I read that you can use beeswax and coconut oil as a natural wood finish, so I just need to find some beeswax to coat it with and we’re good to go!  At this point, James is just as interested in licking the chair as he is in tasting the food, so we definitely need a safe, natural finish.

The Set-up

As my friend Natalie writes about beautifully here, grace and courtesy is a huge part of Montessori.  One small part of this is mealtimes.  In Montessori, meal time is a lovely ritual where set-up, clean-up, and conversation are all just as important as the food.  I’m trying to keep this in mind from the beginning.

One part of Montessori mealtime is using real dishes, even for babies.  I do plan to do this with James, but wanted to introduce the food first so he’s not too distracted by the plate, etc.  We’re using this place mat.  I like that it’s white because the food really stands out.  It’s also large and stays in place well.  I have also used a ramekin when I gave him mashed sweet potatoes and it worked well.  We’re using a little shot glass for water, which may sound funny, but they’re the perfect size and are thick, so less likely to break if dropped.  Using real dishes (e.g., small glasses instead of sippy cups) helps the child learn control of movement – they know that if they drop it, the water will spill, which is hard to learn from spill-proof cups.

I also place a little sponge in the top left corner for spills and a wash cloth to wash his hands before he eats….and his entire body after he’s done.  I want to involve him in the clean up as much as possible from the start to show him it is part of the process.  Right now, that looks like keeping him at the table while I wipe it and say “when we’re done eating, we wipe the table”.

I was tempted to add fresh flowers to the table, but decided it would just be a distraction at this point.  Let’s face it, he would probably want to eat them.  I definitely plan to do this once he’s in the groove with eating though.

I want to sit across from him to make it more like a normal meal time and to help demonstrate how to hold and eat the food, but at this point, James needs some support as he gets used to his chair so I’m sitting next to him.  He sometimes gets tired of sitting in the chair and winds up in my lap.  He’s already looking more comfortable in there after a few days of practice though.

As soon as he can stay in his chair safely and comfortably, I’ll sit across from him and set a place for myself to eat with him.  I really think practicing the mealtime ritual is just as important as the food, especially in our rushed culture where “lunch” is often a granola bar in the car for many adults. (Not judging…this is definitely me some days).

The Food

After scouring the internet and talking to our pediatrician, it seems like you can start with almost any food, assuming your child has no medical conditions and allergies don’t run in your family (most previous restrictions have been lifted, apart from salt, honey, and cow’s milk).  With BLW, you just want to begin with something that will be relatively easy for baby to hold, and something that will be gentle on their digestive system.

We decided to start with avocado.  I liked that I wouldn’t need to cook the avocado, so didn’t have to worry about getting it the right consistency before giving it him.  While I’ve read that choking is no more common with BLW than with purees, I’m still a little paranoid and avocado seemed very low risk due to it’s squishiness.  That’s a technical term.

So far, he’s tried avocado, roasted sweet potato, and pear.  I plan to offer steamed broccoli next.

For the avocado, we simply sliced it and put it on his place mat.  For the sweet potato, I’ve given him roasted strips (french fry sized), and also mashed sweet potato.

For the mashed, we tried “loaded spoons”.  This is where you put a little on the spoon and put the spoon on the table for baby to use if he wants.  I also put a ramekin with a little mashed sweet potato on the table.  He used the spoon and also ate some with his hands.  I was pleasantly surprised with how successful he was with the spoon!  I plan to use loaded spoons for foods that adults would eat with a spoon – so yes to oatmeal, apple sauce, mashed potatoes, no to pureed chicken.  That’s just my personal preference and could certainly change depending on how things go!  I like the idea of him getting used to using utensils though, where appropriate.

For the pear, I gave him about 1/4 of a very ripe pear, with the peel on.  This may have been his favorite so far.

It was a little slippery, but he tried different strategies for getting it into his mouth, including holding it on the table and bending down to suck on it.

I was surprised by how much of the pear was gone when he was through!

The Experience

James had the funniest strategy for eating the first time we gave him avocado, it took me by surprise.  Obviously avocado slices are slippery and hard to pick up.  I thought he would just squish them and lick them off of his hands, which he did some.

He also though bent his head down to the table and sucked up the avocado like a little vacuum cleaner…it was quite entertaining and surprisingly successful!

He tried this same strategy with the sweet potato strips though with less success.  He could pick up the sweet potato strips, but had some difficulty getting them in his mouth.  I may have cut them too thin due to my fear of him choking.  I also got a crinkle cutter to make the pieces easier to hold and totally forgot to use it.  Next time.

He wound up holding one while he sucked his thumb several times.  He honestly didn’t seem too pleased with the experience when he did get one in his mouth, but I have a feeling that will change with a little more practice.

I look forward to his meal times each day and I must say, it’s actually been less messy than I was expecting.  Of course, he gets covered with food, but it’s easy to wipe him off with a wash cloth.  Some gets on the floor, but we pick it up as we go and its no big deal.

Resources

I found Brittany’s post and others on her site to be one of the most helpful resources.  She goes into the practical details that I found were missing on many sites, like what shapes to cut the food in and how big.

I also purchased this BLW recipe book.  From the reviews, this cookbook sounded way more useful than their introductory book which it sounds like is mainly theory / the benefits of BLW.  We’re starting with one food at a time, so I haven’t used any of the recipes yet, but they look great!  There is a lot of variety and recipes from different cultures, which I love.

I also found this post comparing the Montessori approach to eating with baby led weaning.  I read this after we already started, but it looks like we’re doing sort of a hybrid.

I plan to post updates on BLW and how it works for us.  I’m curious to see what foods James will like and to experiment with new recipes.  So far, we’re having a ton of fun with this new adventure!

Did you / would you try baby led weaning?

Were you a picky eater as a child or more adventurous?

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