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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James at 6 Months

I have all sorts of thoughts and feelings about the six month mark.  I can be overly sentimental and six months sounds SO old to me right now.  Halfway to a year.  Is one year the end of babyhood?  I’m not sure, but it sounds dangerously close….

I must say though, it has been a wonderful month.  We’ve gone on lots of little adventures and also had many quiet days at home and in the backyard.  Now that it’s so much easier to get out of the house, I really enjoy the days we spend at home too.

Before we had kids, I told my husband I thought six months was the cutest age for babies, and I must say, it’s pretty darn adorable.

Enough sappiness though.  What has James been up to?

Stats:

Weight: 17 lb 10 oz (53rd percentile)

Height: 27 1/2 inches (85th percentile)

Head circumference: 44.6 cm (85th percentile)

It always makes me laugh when the doctor says he’s a “long and lean” baby…his thighs!  This is actually the highest his weight percentile has ever been though, so that made me happy.

EATING!

More on this soon, but we gave James his first solid food last weekend.

We went with avocado for his first food and it was…messy.  So much fun though.  My sister was in town for the occasion, which made it extra special.

He’s been grabbing for my food the last few weeks and he really seemed to enjoy having some of his own.

Gross Motor

How I found him in the morning….

James is still all about learning to move.  He can quickly roll across the room now and also spends lots of time on his tummy “air swimming” and getting frustrated that it’s not getting him anywhere.

He’s been a proficient roller for quite a while, but I feel like he just realized that he could use rolling to move around the room and get where he wants to go.  There is no stopping him now!

On that note, does anyone have a natural floor cleaner they love?

I’ve seen the most change this month in his ability to bear weight on his legs while we hold him.  This kid is ALL about bouncing.  Bouncing while we hold him up is his number one hobby (in conjunction with spitting…).  It is his happy place.  He gets the biggest grin and sometimes sticks his tongue out while he bounces up and down.  It’s pretty great.

He is not, however, very interested in sitting up.  When I sit him up to practice, he’ll often rock back and forth, trying to scoot, as if to say, “this surely must get me somewhere, or why would mom insist that I try it?”  Sometimes he’ll just bend down and suck on his toes lol.

Lately though, he often lunges back or to the side as soon as I sit him up, clearly making his opinion on sitting known.

The exception to this is when we’re at story time, where he easily sits by himself.  He once sat up for like twenty minutes there, I was shocked.  I think it’s because he was busy watching and listening, and so was not jerking around trying to move.  I try to mimic this by sitting him in front of the mirror so he has something interesting to look at, which sometimes works briefly, but he’s really not that into it.  I suspect that as soon as he’s interested, he’ll be able to sit unassisted no problem.

Fine Motor

James now passes objects back and forth between his hands.  He’s also able to pick something up and rearrange the way he’s holding it to get the desired part in his mouth.  It amazes me to watch his little hands at work when it seems so recent that all he could do was ball them up in little fists.

Personality

James is so happy and funny!  He cracks me up every day.  He is a little scientist, so eager to explore his world.

He takes solid naps more often than not, but hangs in there really well if we’re occasionally off schedule when we’re traveling or have a busy day.

He loves being sung to, playing with scarves, looking in the mirror, and playing games like peekaboo or making silly faces together.  He also tolerates long walks on the beach..er around the neighborhood, which has been great since I love to walk and to be outside.  I worry that it’s already getting hot for long walks though; he’s so warm when I take him out of the stroller!

He has a little baby friend from the library and they are so cute together.  They don’t interact too much, but he definitely seems to recognize her and they reach out to touch each other and smile at each other.  It makes me happy to see him with a little buddy.

He is super chatty when we arrive home after going somewhere new.  He’s often silent when we’re out, just taking it all in, but then he tells me all about it when we get home.

Things I Want to Remember

How he gives me the biggest smile when I go in to greet him in the morning.

How he goes about life with his tongue sticking out, hoping to taste something interesting.

How he sleeps in the strangest position with his little butt in the air.

How he grabs my nose while he’s nursing or while I’m singing to him before a nap (LOL).

How soft his skin is.

How he grabs his belly rolls in the bathtub.

How he looks in the smallest little swimsuit I’ve ever seen.

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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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Montessori Baby – What’s on James’s Shelf?

Good morning!

I wanted to share an update on James’s nursery today.  I set up his toy shelf before he was born, but it was really just for looks in the first few months.  In the last month or so though, James has been much more interested in toys.

He is all about using his hands and bringing things to his mouth these days.  Now that he actually plays with the toys on his shelf, I try to rotate a few of them at the beginning of each week.  Here’s a snapshot of what’s on his shelf now at five and a half months.

As a side note, Montessori has a big emphasis on using natural materials and I hope to collect some small baskets and wooden trays to hold his toys.  In the meantime I’m using these colorful boxes my Mom had from Birchbox.  I got the idea to use these as storage from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

This basket of books is the newest addition to his shelf and I am absolutely loving it.  There is a closet with built-in shelves right outside James’s room and we keep his books there.  However, I’ve been remembering to read to him a lot more now that there are a few right there on his shelf.  I rotate these each week, except for Goodnight Moon, which is a permanent staple as we read it each night before bed.  This basket is right next to the glider so it is super easy to sit with him there and choose a book to read.

Gund Fuzzy Frog

This has a special place in my heart because I spent way too long browsing stuffed animals and trying to pick the perfect one for him while I was pregnant.  He does not yet show any particular attachment to a stuffed animal, but he does seem to enjoy reaching for them and “wrestling” them.

Crochet Vegetable Rattles

I love these because I think they’re adorable, but I also like that each one offers a different way to grip and a different level of challenge.  For instance, James could grasp the mushroom right away when we gave him these at 3 months old, but the tomato and radish are more difficult.

This Etsy shop has some other really beautiful wooden and crochet toys as well.

Montessori Grasping Toys

These are classic Montessori baby toys, gifted to me by the head of school where I taught.  The one with two discs is great for passing back and forth from hand to hand and James loves to hold the one with wooden beads and work one of the beads into his mouth.

Haba Rainbow Clutching Toy

This seems to be one of James’s favorites.

It is easy to grasp, but also interesting as it bends and has lots of fun colors.  I love Haba toys in general.

Haba Rainbow Ball

Another Haba favorite.  I love this ball because it has lots of interesting textures and colors.  It also rolls away, but not too far, so James can still see it and reach for it.

When James is a little older and can crawl over to the shelf by himself, I will likely have fewer items on each tray (for instance, one or two vegetable rattles instead of all of them).  At this point though, I’m just bringing him the toys, so I can bring him one at a time.

If you have children, do you have any baby toys you recommend?

Are you more of a minimalist or do you like to fill your house with many things you love?

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