Five Years Together

5 years of marriage, 4 homes, 3 new jobs, 2 cross-country moves, and 1 baby later….

As I mentioned briefly last week, my husband and I just celebrated our five year wedding anniversary.  I cannot believe it has been five years and so much has changed.

I have the best memories from our wedding, obviously because I got to marry my best friend, but also because our families and friends are spread out across the country and it was so special to have all of the people we love together.

Both my sister and brother are engaged right now and I cannot wait to celebrate with them soon!

I spent some time looking through our wedding pictures and wanted to share a few of my favorites.  All were taken by Jennifer McCarty, whom we absolutely loved.

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September Goals

As one of my favorite authors, Gretchen Ruben, says, “September is the other January.”

While it still feels like summer here in Texas, something about seeing school buses on the roads and pumpkin recipes popping up online makes it feel like a good time for new goals.

This month I’m hoping to:

  1. Set an alarm clock – For many, many months, I was up by five or so, no alarm clock needed.  James would wake up to eat between 4-5 and go back to sleep and I would get up for the day.  This was pretty exhausting, but I also really enjoyed the time to myself at the start of the day.  Now that he’s sleeping later, I’ve been sleeping later too.  It felt so great to catch up on sleep, but I feel like I’m falling behind on everything else (including blogging!)  I plan to set an alarm for 5:30 Monday through Thursday.  I’m a total morning person and super unproductive in the evenings, so I will get more done this way than by trying to get things done at night.
  2. Run twice a week – I think I mentioned I signed up to run a half marathon with my little brother.  It’s not until February, so I don’t need to start an actual training plan for a while, but I would like to gradually build up to running slightly longer distances.  Because of my foot injury, I don’t want to push it and risk injury, but hope to run twice a week.  I’ll likely do one stroller run with James and one longer run by myself on the weekend.
  3. Finish Jame’s Baby Book I’ve been making James’s baby book on Shutterfly throughout the year.  I’m super uncrafty so this has been a much better option for me than an actual scrapbook.  I update it every month, but I want to go through and edit it so that it’s ready to order.  I’ve included about a million pictures so it’s going to be pretty expensive, but Shutterfly often has crazy sales.  I want to have it ready so that I can purchase it when there’s a 50-60% off sale.
  4. Plan Backyard Updates I’ve been enjoying playing in the backyard with James SO much lately.  Most of our birthday presents for him are backyard-focused.  However, I would like to make some changes to make our outside time even more enjoyable.  Both houses we rented in Maine had beautiful yards with nice, soft grass.  I don’t know what is up with our grass, but our yard feels very scratchy.  I have no clue about anything yard related, so I want to take some time to research what would be involved with improving our yard / getting a different type of grass planted.

And that is all!  I know it’s going to be a busy month with James’s birthday and visits from family so I want to keep it simple.

What are your goals for the month?

Does it feel like Fall yet where you live?

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Such a Strange Week

This last week was a weird one.  I grew up in Houston and my family still lives there and it has been strange hearing about and seeing pictures of the insane flooding and damage.

It often floods in Houston and it is not unusual to hear over the top weather predictions on the news.  They are usually much exaggerated or the flooding winds up happening elsewhere, so this took me by surprise.

I am so, so thankful that family and their houses are totally fine.  We were so lucky.  My heart goes out to all of those who were less fortunate and honestly, my stomach drops when I think about the next time I drive to Houston and seeing all of the damage in person.

This article outlines some ways to help.  A silver lining has definitely been seeing how the community has come together to help the people most impacted by the hurricane.

On the plus side, my sister and fiance stayed with all week and it was so much fun to have them here.  They are getting married in December and looking forward to having their own little ones, so it was really fun to see them interact with baby James.  We had a great time, though it felt a little weird enjoying the beautiful spring-like weather when we knew it was a result of such devastating circumstances.

They also babysat for us one night so we could go out and celebrate our FIVE year wedding anniversary, which is so hard for me to believe.  I want to share some of our wedding pictures, but I have no idea where on my computer they are, so I have to wait until my IT guy (i.e., my husband) can help me find them 🙂

This is a bit of a random, rambling post, but I wanted to stop in and say hi before hopefully resuming more regular posting next week.

I hope you have a wonderful, safe weekend and spend some time hugging your family and enjoying all of the beautiful things in life that it’s so easy to forget to be grateful for.

P.S. If you’re looking for something more substantive to read, please stop by and read my recent article on Motherly!

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A Mainely Relaxing Vacation

Last week we took our first vacation with James.  We traveled to Maine, a location we chose pretty randomly based on where Southwest flies, wanting to go somewhere we’ve never been, and the presence of a national park.  I choose many travel destinations based on national parks as exploring new (to me) ones is one of my all time favorite things in the world.

It did not disappoint.

Months before the trip, I was really looking forward to it.  My parents traveled with us and I would talk on the phone with my mom about how much fun it would be.  Weeks before the trip, I wasn’t so sure.  I was still excited, but all of the travel logistics seemed really daunting.  James is not one to sleep on the go, he barely sleeps on road trips, so I had visions of him awake for all of the flights and getting crankier and crankier.

Thankfully, that was not the case at all!  I think the three things that made flying relatively easy for us were:

1. Fly when baby is tired: We had to wake up at 3 AM for our first flight.  This was exhausting, but it worked so well, as James slepts for half of the first flight and most of the second flight and was in a great mood for the rest of the day.  for the return flight, we left at 5:30 PM and he slept for almost all of the flights home.  I couldn’t believe it!

2. Bring forgotten favorites: I’ve read the tip to bring new books or toys for baby on the plane, but the thing is James doesn’t really like new stuff.  He isn’t generally interested in a new toy until it’s been on his shelf for a few days and he doesn’t love a book until we’ve read it a few hundred times.  So about a week or two before our trip, I put away all of his favorite books.  When I got them out on the airplane, it was like Christmas morning.  He could NOT have been more excited to see his favorite books again.  They kept him happy for all of his awake time on the flights.

3. Bring small finger foods: I think snacks keep everyone, children and adults, happy when traveling.  For us, puffs, cheerios, and peas helped the most because he eats them one at a time so it takes longer.  We brought more substantial food as well, but he tends to inhale things like pouches in about thirty seconds.

Those three things made the flights pretty easy!

We stayed in AirBnBs for all except the last night of the trip.  Both houses we stayed in had a great outdoor area with lots of grass.

Also, staying in an AirBnB allowed us to hang out after James went to bed, rather than sitting in silence so as not to wake him.  The only downside to renting houses was that they were not nearly as dark as James’s room or a hotel room, so he woke up around 5:30 every day when it got light.

This wasn’t totally terrible, as it allowed us to see some of the things that get really crowded, like popular beaches, when they were almost completely empty.

We were definitely tired by the end though.  When we stayed in a dark hotel room the last night, he slept 12 1/2 hours until 7 AM.  It was glorious.

Honestly, I had read that traveling with babies / small children is more of a trip than a vacation, but with a few exceptions, this was one of the most relaxing vacations I’ve ever taken.

I tend to be very go, go, go when traveling because I want to see everything, but having a baby who naps twice a day really forced me to slow down and spend time reading outside in the beautiful forest where we were staying and simply spending time with my family.  It was wonderful.

We didn’t do as much hiking as we normally would, or see every little thing there was to see, but we did get to slow down and really experience somewhere new.  We got to just be there, instead of rushing around and it was wonderful.

We just booked our next trip, to see family in Wisconsin, and I cannot wait!

Do you like to travel?

Are you go, go, go on vacations or more relaxed?

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Lessons from Running and Parenting

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

Do what you can sustain

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

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

Take a Break

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

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

Gear is not the Answer

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

Consult the Experts but Trust your Gut

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

Numbers and Tracking are Useful to an Extent

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

Preparation is better than Planning

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

Fartlek!

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

Do you like to run?

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

 

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Six Baby-Friendly Places in Austin, TX

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

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

Moontower Saloon

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

Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza / Jester King Brewery

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

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

Deep Eddy

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

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

Zilker Park / Zoo

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

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

Kerbey Lane Cafe

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

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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James at Ten Months

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

Eating

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

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

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

Sleeping

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

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

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

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

Physical Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personality

I feel like that picture says it all….

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday Favorites

Good morning and happy Friday!

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

The Best Birthday

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

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

Running App

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

Pineapple Shorts

(Image from Old Navy Site)

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

Your Self-Confident Baby

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

Backyard Play Time

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

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

Jessica Smith TV

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

What’s making you happy this week?

Do you have any favorite online workouts I should try?

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On Staying Home More as a Stay at Home Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What is Stand-up Diapering?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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