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?

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

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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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Day in the Life – 9 1/2 Months

Good morning and happy Friday!

Here is a look at our day yesterday:

I woke up at 5 for some reason, but I slept super well all night, so felt great.  Now that James sleeps through the night, I don’t usually get up super early anymore, but I kind of love it when I naturally wake up early and have time to ease into the day.

I poured some cold brew coffee (super easy if you have a french press – just add one cup coffee ground to a french press, fill with cold water, and let sit over night) and started working on this post.

A little while later I make some oatmeal.  (I’m not good at food photography, but is looked like a bowl of oatmeal…or a “bowl full of mush” for my fellow Goodnight Moon aficionados 😉  I’ve been really trying to eat my meals with James, but he doesn’t eat breakfast until around 8 and I don’t want to wait three hours today.

I read a few blogs and then work on a personal writing project.  It feels so good to get something done before the little guy wakes up, I may start setting an alarm for 5, we shall see….

He starts peeping around 6:30 so I give him a few minutes to wake up and talk to himself (so cute) and then go greet him to start our day!

He gives me a big smile and a big hug.  I love going in to see him in the morning.  I breastfeed him and change his diaper.  We just started doing stand up diapering, which I’ll talk more about next week.  I get him dressed and he plays in his room.

He almost always takes everything off the top of his shelf to start.  He plays for a while and then he goes over and chooses a book.  He gets a big smile on his face when I read him Polar Bear Polar Bear, one of his current favorites.  I read it twice and read some other books too.  He sits and watches and listens and turns the pages.  Reading books is one of the only times he is still!

We play in his room for about an hour.  Toward the end, my husband comes in and plays with him while I make breakfast and empty the dishwasher.  James eats half of a banana and some oatmeal.  He seriously loves this picture of a group of chefs on the back of one of my cookbooks and gives it the biggest smile every time he sits in his chair.

He plays with an empty oatmeal container while I clean up.  After breakfast, we go for a morning walk around the neighborhood.

Some days lately it’s already felt super hot in the morning, but it feels pretty nice today!

When we get home I change his diaper, read a couple more books, and he takes his morning nap.  I work on this post and an upcoming post for next week.  I generally use James’s morning nap for “computer stuff” (blogging, writing, working on his baby book, planning our upcoming vacations) and his afternoon nap for “house stuff” (prepping dinner and cleaning).

He wakes up around 10:00.  I change his diaper and we play in his playroom for a while.  He races over to choose Hello Bugs right away.  I had put this book away for a while and just got it out again a couple of days ago.  He is SO excited it is back; we read it about one million times a day right now and I don’t mind a bit.

We read some more books and look out the window for a while.  He plays with some toys.

After thirty minutes or so, I breastfeed him and then we head out to Barnes and Noble.

James LOVES crawling around Barnes and Noble.  Despite his current love of books, he has pretty much no interest in sitting to read books when we’re there, there is MUCH too much to see.  Crawling around the store, examining things, and watching the big kids was probably the highlight of his day.  I have no pictures because I was following him around and trying to keep things out of his mouth.  I also got Starbucks while we were there.  I try not to get it too often, but I am loving iced soy lattes this summer.

We come home just in time for lunch.  Both James and I have avocado toast with eggs and “cherry plums,” a new fruit I found at Trader Joe’s that we’re both loving.  I’ve never been much of a plum fan, but these are great!  James also eats peas and a few Happy Baby puffs while I’m making lunch (fun fact: I interned for Happy Baby in college, love them!)

James makes it pretty clear when he’s done eating.

I clean up as much of lunch as I can while he’s still in his high chair, talking to him about what I’m doing.  I then speed clean the rest with one eye on him while he crawls around.

After I’m done cleaning up lunch, I watch James explore the living room, pulling up on tables, playing with coasters, and examining the blinds.  Then it’s time for nap #2.  I’m so thankful that he rarely cries now at nap time and bedtime.  He just talks to himself for a few minutes and passes out.

James thankfully took a long (for him) nap after a couple of days of short naps.  I worked on this post, cleaned the counters and floors, and most importantly, settled on a race to run with my little brother!  We’re planning to run the 3M Half Marathon in Austin next January.  My brother lives in Chicago and I’m so exited he’s coming down, and so excited to be running a race!  It has been years since I’ve done one due to my injured foot and I am really looking forward to it.

James woke up around 2:20 and I breastfed him again and then went to the library for baby play time!  Baby story time is on hold for the summer, but the very nice children’s librarian still puts out toys and books for the babies on Thursday afternoons and we always have so much fun there.  Its been more hit or miss as our little ones have gotten older and nap times have changed, but the stars aligned and all of our little buddies were there today.  James was in a great mood after a good nap and I think we both had a lot of fun.

We got home a little after 4:00, I breastfed him again and then my husband came home!  A lot of people in his office are on vacation this week and he’s been able to come home a little earlier the last couple of days, which has been so nice.

James crawled around the living room, playing with coasters, exploring ice cubes, sorting through my recipe cards, and examining a deck of cards.

Eventually I make dinner.  We had leftovers from yesterday’s burrito bowls, so it was super easy.  James had a deconstructed version (black beans, brown rice, avocado, tomato with green onion, and fresh mozzarella because we ran out of cheddar).  I also gave him greek yogurt with some easy blueberry chia jam I made yesterday since a lot of dinner was smaller / harder to pick up foods.

My husband cleaned up dinner while I read a few books to James and then James had a bath.  He’s recently transitioned out of his baby bathtub and he seems to really be enjoying crawling around the big tub and having more space to move.  He is in a really great mood tonight.

After bath time, I breastfeed him one more time, we all read Goodnight Moon together, I sing him a song and he goes to bed a little before 7:00.

I am finishing up this post, and then will likely watch an episode of my latest Netflix obsession, Friday Night Lights.  Yes, I’m a little behind the times.

After a couple of days with short naps and afternoon grumpiness, today was such a fun and happy day!

How has your week been?

What was the best part of your day yesterday?

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Four Developmental Milestones you Won’t Find in Baby Books

It can be hard not to get caught up in the “milestones” baby should be achieving.  I try to ignore these largely arbitrary markers though, as I have no real concerns that my son won’t be sitting or walking when he goes off to college.  I don’t really care if he sits at six months or nine months, as long as he’s making progress and getting the opportunities he needs to work on these skills.

I’m not saying these indicators of healthy development should be totally ignored, as there are of course instances where there may be a developmental delay that needs to be addressed.  I’m talking more about the semi-competitive “my child rolled over at two and a half months” type of thing where people obsess about achieving these markers by a certain date.

Instead, I try to focus on the life skills that I believe will help him be successful in whatever he decides to do.  I watch for the development of these skills as he plays and I try to provide opportunities to help these skills grow.  For me, the following are much more important “milestones” of development than those found in most baby books:

1. Concentration

Protecting children’s growing concentration is a huge part of any Montessori classroom.  I believe it is equally important to do this at home.  Sometimes James floats from toy to toy, activity to activity, busy as the little bee he likes to carry around with him all day.

But sometimes, time stops, all is quiet, and the beautiful look of concentration takes over his little face.  This happened recently as he tried to put the purple ring on his new wooden ring stacker toy.  He usually just takes the rings off, which he enjoys very much, but this time he was determined to get that purple ring back on.  He tried and tried, not making a sound, not looking at me, not paying attention to anything else.  I sat very still and watched him.  Though I was tempted to take a video, to capture this moment, I refrained because the smallest of distractions, even just seeing me moving out of the corner of his eye, could easily break the newly developing concentration.

Was he successful?  No.  Does that matter?  Not at all!  He concentrated on the task for several minutes before moving on, which is something I love to see.  I watch for this so that I can provide opportunities to expand this skill.  Observing the types of things that captivate him allows me to provide toys and experiences that may spark this type of concentration in the same way in the future.

2. Problem Solving Skills

This is another area we always watched for in the classroom, and I try to foster problem solving skills at home.  In the classroom, it would be things like does the child immediately ask a teacher if he can’t find paper, or does he look around first?  Does he always ask for help as soon as he gets stuck on a math problem, or does he try different things before asking an adult?  When working on problem solving skills with children, we would ask them leading questions instead of giving an answer right away:  “Hmm, you need paper to write your equation on.  I wonder where you could find that.”

I try to do the same thing at home.  Lately, this has looked like James reaching across the coffee table for something out of reach (often a coaster….).  I could of course just hand him the coaster, problem solved.  But is that what he really wants?  No, I don’t believe so.  I think he wants to be able to get it himself.  So I muse aloud, “hmm, that coaster is too far away to reach.  I wonder what else you could try to get to it.”  I get out of his way so that there’s a clear path for him to edge around the table to get to it himself, which he is totally capable of.  I try to help him see that just because he doesn’t see how to do something right away, doesn’t mean he can’t figure it out.

3. Resilience

Babies and children are constantly trying to do things that are just out of reach of their current capabilities.  This is how they stretch and grow and reach the next level.  When James is trying something new and challenging, I watch to see if he gets frustrated and gives up right away, or if he keeps trying even though something is difficult.

I think babies naturally have a lot of resilience – they almost have to, as everything starts out hard for them and they have to keep trying or they’ll never get anywhere.  I do think though that there are things we as parents can do help encourage this skill:

  • Don’t help too soon – I think it’s important to walk the line so that the child is trying on his own…but not to the point of having a meltdown.  The goal is for the child to push himself, but not so far that it’s a negative experience and he won’t want to try again in the future.
  • Timing – Everyone’s resilience is lower when they’re tired and a child (or any human) may need more help at the end of they day.  He may be able to crawl across the room by himself in the morning, but need to be carried late in the afternoon, and that’s fine.
  • Balance – No one wants to feel like everything around them is hard.  I try to balance James’s toys so that there is something challenging available, but also some easy things that he’s familiar with.  We try to do this with his food too – sure, he loves picking up peas, but he also wants something big and east to hold so that not every bite is a challenge.

4. Creativity

Creativity often brings to mind art and music, but people can be creative in everything they do.  For babies, I think this means letting them explore (safely) in ways you may not have intended.  This may mean letting them combine different toys or build with their shakers instead of their blocks.  I think this gets trickier as they become toddlers and it can be too easy to say “no” before really considering if something is harmful or unsafe.

I try to take a moment to see if James really needs to be stopped, or if he’s just exploring creatively.  Can he play in the grass?  Sure.  Am I going to let him eat a bunch of it?  No, probably not.  But I can redirect him to our basil plant or rosemary bush if he wants to explore what eating leaves is like.  I try to think about what it is he’s trying to do and how can I meet that need in a way that is safe and acceptable.

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

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A Montessori Play Space

Recently, a friend asked me where to buy “Montessori stuff”.  While there are of course specialty stores and catalogues focusing on Montessori-friendly items, I think it’s a common misconception that Montessori means lots of expensive stuff.  On the contrary, Montessori-friendly spaces are generally quite simple and it is just as much about the layout of the room as the items available to the child.

So a few months ago when we decided to turn our “office” (aka random room we never used, but called an office because it had a desk in it) into a playroom for James, I had a few things in mind:

  1. Plenty of open space to explore
  2. A low shelf with limited options that the child can choose from himself
  3. Art hung at the child’s level (as opposed to the adult’s level)
  4. A cozy space for reading books

We just finished the room this past weekend (as much as it will ever be finished, as I’m sure we’ll continually adjust as he grows), but have been using it for the last month or so and it has been great!

James has gotten to the point where he gets sick of being in his room; he wants to explore.  He loves crawling around the rest of the house, and we certainly let him, but it is also really nice to have another space that is his.

This room is also our guest room, so has a large couch that folds out into a bed, but this has actually been nice because James likes cruising along the couch and it is soft, so we don’t have to worry about him banging his head on it.  This isn’t as much of a concern now, but it was especially great when he first started pulling up.

We kept the room simple.  There is a reading nook in the corner and I really love the little bookshelf (from Ikea) because it is easy for James to see and choose the books and it is a good size for him.

It holds about four board books and I rotate them regularly.

Eventually, I’d like to get a cozier rug and cushion like his reading nook in his room, but for now this is working well.

He has a toy shelf with two levels, which is working great now that he can pull up.  I would only use a shelf with one level if he were not yet pulling up.  I originally planned to get the same shelf he has in his room, but Ikea is really far from us and the shipping was really expensive so I got  this one*on Amazon.  It is listed as a closet organizer, but is working really well for this relatively small room.

I rotate the toys regularly, not on a schedule, but according to what he’s playing with.  I observe him playing and, when I see that he no longer chooses a certain toy, I take it off of the shelf and add something different.  I also try to include both toys that are easy and familiar to him, and some that are newer or more challenging for him.

I got this road rug at Ikea when I was in Houston.  I think it was $15, so much less expensive than other ones I’ve seen.  It’s pretty small, but a good size for this room.

I originally wanted a white rug…but then I realized his spit up is now a whole array of colors since he’s eating solid foods and that was impractical.  Also, while he’s obviously too young to play with cars on the rug, he really likes patterned rugs and stops to examine different parts of it as he plays.

One of our favorite parts of the room is the big window, which James loves to look out.  Unfortunately, the couch blocks it and there really isn’t another configuration that works, but when James goes over to the window, I help him get onto the couch to look outside.

Lastly, I wanted to hang some art at his level.  I got a simple Winnie the Pooh Art Print for his reading nook.  I wanted something literary themed, and while I know some prefer to not include any children’s books with unrealistic talking animals, I like to make an exception for the classics because they are so wonderfully written and such good stories.  I have a very old copy of Winnie the Pooh that belonged to my grandmother and can’t wait to read it to him some day.  I also liked the simplicity of the image.

Since he can pull up now, I also wanted something for him to look at when he was standing at his shelf.  I decided to get 12×12 frames so that I could use calendar pages.  This is super inexpensive, especially if you buy calendars from past years, and allows you to easily change out the images as the child’s interests emerge and change.  I went with clouds for now.

Lastly, I added some black and white images to the inside of his shelf.  These are from this Art for Baby – it comes with a fold out of all of the images and I simply cut out a few that he seemed to enjoy from the book.  He sometimes sticks his whole head in the cube to get a better look and touch the picture.

While we’re using the room daily now, there are still a few things I would like to add:

  • Plants!  I would like to add at least one hanging plant.  I have the plant actually, I just need to figure out how to hang it.
  • A cozier cushion and rug for the reading nook
  • Either a mobile above his reading nook (I’m working on one, but am not sure I’ll ever finish) or some type of pretty glass hanging in the window

I really just thought the playroom would be a fun use for a room we never went it, but it has seriously been so great to have another space for him to play!

*Please note this post contains affiliate links – I get a small percentage if items are purchased, at no cost to you.  I only include items I have and love.  Thanks for your support!

Do you enjoy home design projects?

If you could redo one room in your house, what room would it be?

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Easy Homemade Baby Toy

I’m pretty much the least crafty person on the planet, so this will not be a “Pinterest worthy” creation.

I was not even planning on sharing this, it was something I threw together on a whim one morning, hoping it would occupy my little guy in the kitchen while I cleaned up his breakfast…but he loved it!  So it is now on his shelf and I have another variation in the works so thought I would share.

There are so many expensive baby toys out there, but I’ve purchased some that I think are beautiful and interesting…and he’s never given them a second glance.  And then he goes and falls in love with our coasters….  So while I want James to have things that stimulate him, I also try not to spend too much on toys.

This is a super simple shaker toy.  I think he likes it because it is a good size for his hand, and it is clear, which most of his shakers are not.  I had an empty sprinkles container after making my mom’s birthday cake and simply filled it with some dried chickpeas.

I then realized I had a couple of other empty spice containers (because after teaching in a 3-6 year old classroom, you don’t throw these things away!), so filled one with black beans and one with yellow water.  I would have used blue, but apparently I only have yellow food coloring…whoops.

These are on the shelf in his room now and he really likes them, though his clear favorite is the chickpeas.  As soon as I procure food coloring, I’m going to make a separate liquids set that has blue, yellow, and red.

I have one other homemade toy in the works for him and I’ll definitely share if he likes it.

Do you ever make homemade toys (or gifts if you don’t have kids)?

Are you crafty?

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Monthly Meal Planning Experiment

As I mentioned last week, I’m rethinking how I meal plan and grocery shop.  I’m doing this for three reasons:

  1. I started hating to cook.  I’ve enjoyed cooking since I was a little girl, but it started becoming a task I semi-dreaded.
  2. I like going to Trader Joe’s, but I don’t love buying meat there (not as good of selection or prices in my opinion).  I like buying meat from either Sprouts or HEB (huge local store), but I really don’t like going to more than one grocery store a week.
  3. We were eating the same boring things all of the time.  I wasn’t thinking at all about recipes until the night / hour before grocery shopping and so just made the same things over and over again.

It was clearly time for a change!

I decided trying to meal plan on a monthly, rather than weekly basis.  This way, I could get my cookbooks out once instead of every week, which clearly wasn’t happening.  Also, I could make a consolidated list of everything I needed from a non-Trader Joe’s store and just go there once a month, instead of debating every week which store to go to for what we needed that week.

So far, it is working great!

The initial process of going through cookbooks and making a grocery list for each week was time consuming, but it was also fun.  I chose a few cookbooks and then chose one recipe per week from each book.

This month, I used Thug Kitchen, Oh She Glows Every Day, Salad Love, and America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.

I also chose some things to make from my Baby Led Weaning Cookbook and The Big Book of Recipes for Babies, Toddlers, and Children.  James can now eat a lot of the same things we do, but it was fun to find recipes tailored to him and things like healthy sugar-free muffins, etc.

I chose four recipes per week, because we tend to have leftovers and just like to do our own thing some nights (e.g., my husband makes tacos and I make eggs or some kind of grain salad bowl).

After choosing the recipes, I made grocery lists for each different week, and then a separate list of things I’d need from HEB.  My husband graciously went and got the HEB stuff because it gets super crowded and it’s huge and I kind of hate going there.

This is our third week of the new plan and so far it is GREAT!

I’m back to grocer shopping once a week and I’m actually excited about the things I’m making again, woohoo!  I didn’t track this, but I’m fairly confident it’s good for the grocery budget too since fewer grocery trips means fewer impulse kombucha purchases on my part.

I’m already looking forward to choosing cookbooks and recipes for next month.

Do you meal plan or just wing it?

Do you have a favorite grocery store?

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5 Easy First Foods – Baby Led Weaning

I’ve been meaning to write about this for so long.  The time has finally come!

When I first started researching baby led weaning (BLW), what I most wanted to know was HOW.  As in, the details.  As in exactly what foods to start with, what shape / size to cut them in, and how / how long to cut them.

While I loved the idea of BLW, I was also a little fearful of choking.  I read plenty about how the baby’s gag reflex is further up on their tongue to prevent choking, but I was still a little scared.

I am by no means an expert (please talk to your doctor if you have any questions / concerns about how to feed your baby), but I wanted to share what foods worked well for James when he was first beginning, and the best ways we found to prepare them.

1. Avocado

We chose avocado for James’s first food because a ripe avocado is so squishy that I didn’t worry about choking.  I of course also love that it is a super healthy food full of good for you fats.  I also liked that I didn’t have to worry about cooking it to the right consistency.  Easy all around!  Reflecting back, I think avocado is a fine first food, but maybe a little bit difficult for baby to grasp due to how slippery it is.  You can coat the slices in ground flax or something similar, but I didn’t want to introduce two foods at the same time at first, so we didn’t do this for a while.

James found a solution by bending over and slurping the avocado off of his place mat like a catfish…so it all worked out in the end.  Next time though, I would probably start with something else like….

2. Roasted Sweet Potato

This was James’s favorite food for a long time and I think it was in part because of the taste and in part because it was so easy for him to eat.  The first time I made sweet potato for him, I cut it in thin strips and roasted it.  This didn’t work well for him, probably because I cut the strips too thin (again, fear of choking).

I then started cutting them in rounds with a crinkle cutter and true love was born!  I coat them in lots of coconut oil or avocado oil (using lots of oil makes them softer…and delicious) and roast at 400 degrees for thirty minutes.  Sometimes I sprinkle with turmeric or cinnamon.  I leave the peel on and James has learned to spit it out, but I would probably remove the peel if I offered it as a first food.  I think roasted sweet potatoes would make a great first food!

3. Steamed Broccoli

This is a messy one, but James has always loved it and still does today.  It is super easy for baby to hold the stem of the broccoli and gum the florets off.  I tried roasting because I think it tastes better, but at least for James, it was much easier to eat when steamed because it gets softer.  I got a steamer basket and I steam it for about ten minutes, until a form goes easily into the stem part.  I like to drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic.  I buy frozen broccoli (and also frozen green beans) so that I always have it on hand and it takes very little time to prepare.

4. Banana

A ripe banana is super easy for baby to eat.  I read that you could just give baby half a banana, removing a ring of peel around the top, so that it’s still easy for them to hold (as in the above photo).  I tried this, but James was taking huge bites and it made me nervous.  I now separate the banana half into three sections using my fingers – this is easy if it’s ripe.  At first, I would cut these three sections in half length-wise to prevent choking, though this may be totally unnecessary depending on how ripe the banana is.

5. Melon

We didn’t plan it, but one of James’s first foods was seedless watermelon.  We were out at an event and they had some beautiful looking watermelon and I realized how easy it would be for him to eat.  He loved it and I actually think that’s where he really made the connection that food is to eat and tastes delicious because he was much more into eating, rather than just playing with his food, after that day.  He ate pretty much the whole slice…and was covered in sticky juice.

He still loves melon of all kinds and I think it’s a particularly great food to offer during teething.  It can take James a long time to eat a big piece of melon, and if it’s cold from the fridge, it seems to be a good way to help ease the discomfort on his gums.

These are of course just a few foods you could begin with, as many doctors are now saying it is safe to give baby most foods from the beginning, if they are starting solids 6 months or later.  I think the biggest thing I learned was to experiment with the shapes / cooking method to find something that works for your individual baby.

We didn’t offer it until recently because I just didn’t think of it, but I also think beets would be a great first food (golden beets if you don’t want the mess).  They sell pre-steamed beets with no other ingredients at Trader Joe’s that I’ve started buying for James and he loves them!  Other early foods we had success with included thin strips of pears (microwaved a bit if not soft enough) and egg yolk (fried and cut into strips, or scrambled once baby can grasp smaller pieces).

If you eat meat, salmon and meatballs have been the easiest forms of meat we’ve found for James (I used the meatball recipe in the Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook).

Now James can eat pretty much anything, but I have very fond memories of his first adventures in eating.

I should also mention, we wound up doing a hybrid of BLW and offering foods with a spoon, which I’ll likely write more about soon.

If you have kids, did you try baby led weaning, spoon feeding, or a mix?  What was baby’s first food?

What is your earliest food memory?

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July Goals

Happy belated 4th of July!

How it is July already, I have no idea, but I believe it because it has been HOT.  We are all about early morning walks and playing in the kiddie pool these days and I don’t see that changing for some time.  I can’t handle being inside all day, so we make it work.

Anyway, along with a new month comes new goals.

First a recap of last month’s goals:

Introduce Daily / Weekly Checklist: Definitely did not do this, BUT, I did finally start wearing sunscreen on my face every day, which was one of the reasons I wanted to start a checklist.  The key was to get one I love. I love anything rose scented, so love how this one smells and enjoy putting it on.  It also feels really light.  The only problem is if I put it on and go running, it gets in my eyes and really stings.  Does anyone have a recommendation for a face sunscreen that doesn’t sting your eyes?

Delete Email Subscriptions: I’ll give myself a B+ on this one.  I was really diligent at the beginning of the month and unsubscribed from a bunch…then I was told by several people that there are things that will do this for you automatically.  I have not yet signed up for one of those, but hopefully my husband will read this and do it for me (he is my personal IT guy, I am terrible at all things technology).

Complete the Playroom: Yes!  I am super close on this one and I love it!  I just need to hang the final pictures and I will do a post sharing it soon.  It is simple, but it has been wonderful to have another space that’s really set up for James, especially with limited bursts of outside play time in this heat.

Okay, onward and upward, July goals!

Complete my Monthly Meal Plan Experiment:  I’m posting more about this soon, but I was feeling a serious lack of creativity in the cooking department.  That coupled with always feeling like I was running out of things and needing to make multiple grocery trips each week led me to rethink the way I was meal planning.  My goal this month is to stick with the new plan and hone it a bit more for efficiency’s sake.

Write (apart from the blog) 3 Times per Week:  After maybe a year’s hiatus, I’ve finally gotten back to a personal writing project I started some time ago.  I think because of the mental effort required, I’m always resistant to working on it, but always feel so good when I do.  I’m going to try to work on it three times a week this month.  I’ve already put it on the calendar, so I think that will help as I tend to stick to things once they’re scheduled.  I’m still working on how to balance this with blogging, hence the skipped posts recently.

Reflect on the Next Year:  This one is a little vague, but probably the most important.  I always said I wanted to stay home with James for the first year, but then what….  I’m feeling very torn about whether / when to go back to work right now.  I visited the school where I taught last week and it felt SO good to be there and see all of the wonderful children and coworkers I love.  Then I have great mornings at home with James and think about the more rushed pace that would be necessary to get out of the house early each morning.  I am SO fortunate in that I could go back part-time, and in that my husband doesn’t care either way whether I go back.  I just need to spend some serious time thinking it over!

Do you have any goals for July?

If you have kids, did you go back to work right away or stay home with them?

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Birth Reflections – Why I’m Glad I got an Epidural

I thought about not writing this because I know this is a hugely personal decision and people have strong opinions.  In the end though, I decided to share.

There are so many (beautiful) birth stories out there about natural births, which is wonderful, but when I was pregnant, it made it almost seem (to me) like it’s the only legitimate way to give birth, like if you have an epidural, you should just keep quiet about it.  This may just be because I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, I don’t know, but that’s definitely how it seemed to me.

I went into the whole birth experience unsure of whether I wanted to get an epidural.  I didn’t really have any strong feelings against it, but my head was also full of all of those natural birth stories I’d read…gotta love the internet.

I wrote more about James’s birth here, but in short, I was induced and did not react well to the medication.  I started having strong contractions just over a minute apart right away and they eventually had to pull the medication and give me some kind of shot because the contractions were so strong and frequent for so long that James’s heart rate was dropping.

Things continued to be painful, but not unbearable until my water broke (about 15 hours later).  After that, I “gave in” and got the epidural.  I wish I had gotten it sooner.

When the pain subsided, I immediately felt so happy and excited to welcome our little guy into the world.  Before the epidural, there was no way I could sleep because it hurt too much.  After it, there was no way I could sleep because I was too freaking excited.  It allowed me to be present and take in the moment.  I lay awake just daydreaming about what he would be like and have the fondest memories about the hours before his birth.

The epidural may have also helped move things along for me, as before it I was hardly dilated at all and a few hours later I was 9 cm.  I know this can happen sometimes as it calms you down, but I also know things may have just moved along because my water broke…who knows.

All Smiles Right Before Pushing

The happy mood continued all the time through the pushing stage.  I was joking with the nurses in between contractions and continued to be unbelievably excited.  Granted, I had a pretty easy time of this part of labor and it only took around 40 minutes.  Still, I’m pretty sure I would not have felt so happy and light if I hadn’t gotten the epidural.

Again, this is just a reflection on my personal experience, but for me, “giving in” and getting the drugs turned a stressful / really tense night into an extremely happy and exciting time that I cherish.  Would I get one again next time?  Who knows, but I will certainly put less pressure on myself not to.

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