Thank You Parking Lot Mom

I’m still experimenting with the best way, for me, to take James to the grocery store.  I’ve tried wearing him in the K’tan wrap, but sometimes he’s fine with being in there…and sometimes he’s not.  So I’m always a little anxious if I go that route.  I also haven’t used the wrap all that much so, while it seems pretty simple, I definitely prefer to have a mirror handy while putting it on to make sure I’m doing it right.

The other option is keeping him in his car seat and putting it in the grocery cart.  He always seems okay with this, but it leaves little room for groceries, especially at stores with smaller carts, like Trader Joe’s.  So lately, I’ve put him in the cart and carried two reusable bags over my arms and simply put the groceries in there.

I went to Trader Joe’s on Friday, but as I was attempting to put his car seat into the grocery cart in the parking lot, the cart kept rolling away out of reach.  After this happened two or three times, the nicest mom of a toddler came over and so kindly helped me…without making me feel like an idiot 🙂  I’m sure I would have gotten him in there eventually, but her kindness, lack of judgement, and the fact that she bothered to help when she had her hands full with her own busy little guy, made my day.

I had heard so much about the “mommy wars” and about how judgmental mothers can be of each other, and I must say I have not seen this.  I’m sure it is out there somewhere, but all I’ve seen is empathy, understanding, and humor.  Maybe I’ve just been lucky so far, (or maybe I’m too tired / preoccupied to notice the judgmental ones…) but I wanted to say thank you to all of the experienced mothers out there who are helping out us newbies.  It makes such a difference.

 

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Preparing for Solid Food

Preparing for Solid Food

I can’t believe it’s almost time to start giving James solid food!  While our pediatrician said it would be okay to start now, we’re following the WHO guidelines and waiting until six months (or at least close to then).  I want to wait until he’s sitting up on his own anyway.  That doesn’t mean we haven’t started preparing though!  I’ve been doing several things to start familiarizing James with food and the eating process, and so far it’s been lots of fun.

Grocery Shopping

For a while, I was grocery shopping on my own, usually early on a weekend morning while James was asleep.  This was certainly easier and quicker.  However, I do think that involving children in grocery shopping and cooking can really encourage them to be adventurous eaters, so why not start now!  I admit, I feel a bit spacey when I take him grocery shopping, mainly because I’m trying to get it done quickly, but I do try to talk to him a little about what we’re buying and show him some of the beautiful produce.  I may get some crazy looks from other shoppers as I talk to little James about sweet potatoes, but that’s okay 🙂  I’d like to make it to the farmers market with him soon too, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Including him in Cooking

I love to cook and can’t wait for the days when James can help me in the kitchen!  For now though, I try to include him by placing him on a blanket right outside the kitchen, in a way that he can see me.  If he’s not busy doing something else, I’ll bring over the ingredients, especially fruits and vegetables, for him to look at.  I also talk to him about the smells and sounds he may be noticing.

Including him at Meal Time

We do not always manage to eat dinner before James goes to bed, but at least a few nights of the week, we try to have a “family dinner,” where James sits on my lap.  It’s so sweet to watch his eyes intently follow my fork to my mouth as I eat.  He’s just started trying to grab my food off of my plate too (though he grabs everything, so I’m by no means assuming that he’s trying to eat it).  This may be a less relaxing way to eat dinner, but it is definitely entertaining.  When we don’t manage to have family dinners, I at least try to eat a snack while sitting with him at some point during the day.  He always seems highly interested.

I have no idea if any of this makes a difference, but I enjoy it and see no reason not to include him in daily life as much as possible.  It seems to me like maybe eating will be more fun and make more sense when the time comes if he’s already somewhat familiar with how it works.  I would also love to find some beautiful photos of food to give him, or a book about food with great pictures, but haven’t done that yet.

Does anyone have any tips on including babies / children in meal time and preparation?

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Thoughts on a Floor Bed

I have pretty much zero talent with design.  I am simply not a visual person.  However, I very much believe in the impact of a well-designed environment, on adults and children alike.  I certainly saw this when teaching in a Montessori classroom, where simple tweaks in the organization and flow of the room could alter behaviors and classroom dynamics.  Thus, I was excited to design the little buddy’s room when I was pregnant.  I read many blog posts and articles about Montessori baby rooms, and couldn’t wait to put it into practice.  One thing I was the most excited, curious, and anxious about was the floor bed (a simple bed or mattress on the floor, rather than a crib).  I loved this idea, but wasn’t sure how well it would work in real life.

While I planned to use a floor bed, I had read that new babies liked to be in more confined spaces.  I also wanted to keep James close for the first few months, so we chose a lovely bassinet, gifted to us by my parents.  We set up James’s floor bed in his room, and put the bassinet in our room by our bed.  I chose one of the larger bassinets, with hopes that he could stay in there longer, until he was ready for his floor bed.

Things did not go as planned (shocking, I know).  When we brought James home from the hospital, he slept terribly the first few nights.  I put him in the bassinet awake; I put him in asleep; every time resulted in crying within a few minutes.  I thought he just had his days and nights reversed, as happens with many newborns.  One night, when he started crying, I took him into his room, figuring that at least this way, my husband and I could take turns sleeping.  There was no reason we should both be up all night.  This was what led me to first put him in his floor bed as a newborn.

It was an instant change!  He still of course woke often to eat, but he slept for hours at a time, for the first time since we’d brought him home.  No more constant wake-ups and tears!  I couldn’t believe it.  I’m still not sure what he so strongly preferred about his floor bed versus his bassinet, but he certainly made his opinion clear.  Perhaps the mattress was more comfortable, perhaps he liked being closer to the ground, perhaps he could see me better and felt safer.  I have no idea.  I feel so lucky though that we had that option available, or who knows how long it would have taken him to accept sleeping in the bassinet.

Another benefit has been the ease of comforting him when he has trouble to fall asleep.  It is so easy to lie next to him and put a hand on his belly (or back, now that he rolls over), without having to pick him up.  I think this has helped him learn to fall asleep independently (though this is still a work in progress).  I imagine this would be far more difficult in a bassinet or crib.  Also, since he has been sleeping in his own room from the start, we won’t have to deal with the struggle of transitioning him out of our room when he is older and more aware.  As he goes to bed around seven o’clock, we don’t go to bed with him, so he is already used to going to bed in there on his own.

The only downside has been that, due to the SIDS prevention recommendations of sleeping in the same room as the baby for the first six months, either my husband or I sleep next to him on the floor on a camping mattress.  This is obviously not ideal, but it’s only for a few more weeks.  We considered moving his mattress into our room, but didn’t want to create a future challenge of transitioning him to his own room later.

So far, our experience with the floor bed has been overwhelmingly positive.  I’m curious to see if this remains true as he gets older.  James is fighting every day to become more mobile.  His crawling attempts right now look more like swimming, with only his belly on the floor, limbs flailing, but I know it won’t be long until he’s moving about freely.  I very much hope that he adjusts well once he’s mobile and that the floor bed continues to work so well for our family.  We shall see!

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Four Months – A Day in the Life

James is just over four months old.  The past nineteen weeks have been both a blur and an eternity.  While some days are hard (for instance, Tuesday, when he barely napped), this is one of those rare times in life when I’m able to recognize, right in the thick of it, that these are the “good old days,” the ones I’ll look back on when I’m old and remember with aching fondness.  I remind myself of this often.  Yet despite trying to appreciate each day, I’m already finding it hard to remember the details of the early days…back when James was “little,” ha.  I’m hoping that periodically recording a “day in the life,” just a normal, mundane day, will help me remember once the fog of sleeplessness has lifted and these sweet days have slipped away.

As is currently typical for him, James woke up once in the middle of the night (2:40 AM) and once in the early morning (5:07 AM).  I always get up after this early morning wakeup while he sleeps a little longer.  Thankfully, this has shifted from the four o’clock hour to the five o’clock hour recently.  I find I have a much better day if I have a little time to myself (and a lot of coffee), before being “Mom”.  I ate breakfast and watched an episode of the West Wing – it was a good one.

He continued dozing and quietly entertaining himself for quite a while, so I completed this 40 minute strength workout before going to get him.  He was still calmly playing when I went in, but was clearly wide awake at this point.  Going in to get him in the morning is one of my favorite things.  He always looks at me blankly for a couple of seconds before registering that it’s me and giving me a big smile.  I pick him up and cuddle with him for a few minutes in the glider.  He is such a busy baby, always on the move, and doesn’t like to be held for long unless he’s just woken up, or is getting sleepy, so I cherish these times.  I changed his diaper, got him dressed, and he played for a little while in front of his mirror, looking at himself and his mobile, and practicing rolling, while I straightened up his room.

We then went in to have cuddle time with his Dad before he went to work – another one of my favorite parts of the day.  We do this most mornings and it is so nice to have some time all together before the day gets going.  Before too long, the little guy was getting restless, so I fed him, changed his diaper again, and he had some more play time in front of the mirror (this time with his crocheted rattle), before going down for his first nap at 8:45.  He fell asleep independently (something he’s been working on) within five minutes.

While he napped, I unloaded the dishwasher, showered, and got dressed for the day.  His naps have been a bit unpredictable since he started rolling.  He always wakes up after thirty-five minutes, but sometimes goes back to sleep for two hours or so.  Once it was clear he had fallen back asleep, I made another cup of coffee (obsessed with the Nespresso I got for Christmas) and got to work on this post.

At 10:15, I turned off the white noise app that helps James sleep.  I don’t usually do this, but I wanted to take him to story time at the library later, and knew if he kept sleeping, he’d be ready for his next nap right when it was time to leave. He woke up within a couple of minutes and I went and snuggled with him and fed him.

After feeding him and changing his diaper, we went for a walk.  We normally do this in the afternoon, but it was ridiculously nice and sunny out.  When we got home, James had some play time.  We usually move to a new room in the house for each different play time, just to mix up the environment a bit.  This time, he was in front of a window in my room.  I like to give him a chance to play independently at the start of each play time.  I set him up in front of a mirror or window and put one or two toys, or a book propped open to look at, nearby.  He looks out the window, practices rolling, tries desperately to crawl, and reaches for the toys.  I either sit by him while he does this or do some type of house work in the same room.  He eventually asks for attention, or gets frustrated by his crawling attempts, and then we play together.  I sing him songs, which he loves lately, read him books, help him grab a toy, or talk to him about what we see out the window.  After singing lots of songs, he eventually got sleepy eyes, and went down for another nap at around 12:30.  He needed a little help falling asleep this time, so I rubbed his back, avoiding eye contact so as not to stimulate him.  His afternoon naps are usually short (35 minutes…on the dot), so this timing worked out perfectly for making it to story time at the library…woohoo!  While he slept, I made a smoothie and got everything ready to go.

He woke up just in time and we went to a nearby library that has a story time for babies under one year old.  They sing songs and read a short book and then the librarian puts out toys and blows bubbles.  James sits in my lap, stunned, looking around at the other babies (“I’m not the only one!” I imagine him thinking.)  I go mostly for selfish reasons, to get a chance to talk to other moms, but I do think he gets something out of seeing other babies sit and crawl and walk.  He fell asleep in the car on the way home…and I drove around for thirty minutes to let him get a decent nap.  He used to keep sleeping if I brought him in from the car, but this is no longer the case.  The day before, he fell asleep for five minutes and was utterly convinced that counted as his nap.  I was listening to an audio book (The Happiness Project, one of my favorites) so I did not mind the extra time in the car.

When we got home, I fed him and changed his diaper again and then we had some more play time.  Nick got home a little while later and joined us.  James started getting a little grumpy, so we started bath time, which always cheers him up.  I then fed him and Nick did the bedtime routine, which we take turns with.  For bedtime, we give him a massage with lavender lotion, read him a book, sing him a song, and place him in his bed.  Sometimes he goes to sleep on his own and sometimes he cries, in which case one of us stays with him and pats his back / rubs his tummy until he is calm or asleep.

It was a completely ordinary, extraordinary day.

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Welcome Little One!

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On September 27 we welcomed little James into the world.  He arrived at 10:31 AM at 8 pounds, 10 ounces.  This is the story of his birth.

We headed to the doctor’s office on Monday, September 26 for a regular morning appointment.  Nick decided to come along for this one, since it was getting close…thank goodness!  My doctor told us the disappointing news that I had made no evident progress toward going into labor.  I was two days away from 41 weeks, when they normally induce, but the doctor said she could do an ultrasound to see if baby could hang out in there a little longer.  The ultrasound showed that he was running out of fluid and I would need to be induced that day!  This was a bit of a shock but I was so excited!  I had been waiting for this day for so long and couldn’t believe we were going to meet him so soon!

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We went upstairs to the hospital and were told we were in for a long day of waiting around.  Since I was hardly dilated at all, they were giving me a drug called Cervidil to try to move things along.  I would have to be on that for 12 hours before starting Pitocin, the main induction drug that prompts contractions.  It sounded like a long day of waiting around, so Nick headed home to get the iPad so we could watch Longmire, our Netflix obsession of the moment.  By the time he got back an hour or so later, I was in so much pain!  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had had an extremely strong reaction to the drug and was having intense contractions about a minute apart.  I didn’t even know they were contractions because I could not feel any break between them.  This was unusual as this drug does not even usually cause contractions.  I stayed on this drug from 10:45 AM to around 5:30 PM, at which time the baby’s heart rate dropped, a million people rushed into the room, and we went through one of the scariest moments of our lives.  A nurse pulled the drug, put an oxygen mask on me and someone gave me a shot to slow down the contractions.  They were too frequent and intense, and it was cutting off the baby’s oxygen supply.  This was terrifying as no one told us what was going on, since they were rightly focused on making sure the baby was okay.  I searched the room for Nick, but all I could see was medical staff and equipment.  I was so scared for the rest of the night and prayed that he would make it out safely.  My contractions continued steadily, so I did not need the Pitocin for another twelve hours.

My parents arrived soon after the scare – it was so nice to have them there!  They hung out with us for a few hours and then were back first thing in the morning to await the baby’s arrival.

My water broke at around 2:30 in the morning, making me throw up and shiver all over even though I was not cold.  It was a very strange feeling.  This made the contractions even more intense and I asked for an epidural, which they agreed to even though I was discouragingly only two centimeters dilated.  I had been having strong, frequent contractions for about sixteen hours at this point.  Fortunately, I had my favorite of all of the wonderful nurses during this part of the night and she made me feel one thousand times better.

The epidural brought immediate relief.  I still couldn’t sleep, but I rested and thought about all of the excitement to come.  At this point, I was thinking I might have to have a C-section as I didn’t seem to be making any progress and the baby’s heart rate would periodically drop, though never so dramatically as before.  My doctor arrived to check on me at eight in the morning and let me know I was nine centimeters dilated and it was almost time to start pushing!  After virtually no progress the entire night, this was exciting news!  Things moved quickly from there and once I started pushing, he was born in about 40 minutes.  I was so determined to get him out before his heart rate dropped again.  I could not believe how perfect he was when he was placed on my chest.  I have never been so excited and happy in my life.  Things have only gotten better since then, as we adjust and welcome the newest member of our little family.

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The Nursery – AKA, My Favorite Room in the House

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When I found out I was pregnant, we were living in a one bedroom apartment and knew we would move before the baby was born.  We decided to buy a house and the process took months.  While the search was sometimes exhausting and frustrating, it did give me plenty of time to research the type of nursery I wanted to have.  Since I couldn’t do any real nesting to speak of, I poured all of that pent up energy into researching Montessori infant rooms.  When we finally moved into our house when I was just over 30 weeks pregnant, setting up the nursery was fairly simple.

Right now, the room has four basic areas: sleeping, playing, diaper changing, and nursing.

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I’ll start with the one that I spent the most time researching: sleeping.  I knew I was interested in a floor bed, especially after seeing them work wonderfully in the infant room at the school where I teach.  I was unsure of the actual logistics of this though, particularly making sure that it was safe.  I researched floor beds and mattresses, but honestly didn’t find a whole lot of specifics, mainly just accounts of how a floor bed worked or didn’t work for different families.  I did read somewhere that Ikea had a thin mattress lower to the ground than most, and that is what we decided to go with.  We wanted a twin mattress that would give him more room to move and that would grow with him.  The Ikea mattress (I believe it was this one: Minnesund) seemed firm and was under 4 inches high, so that when he does eventually roll off, he won’t have too far to fall.  We also placed a rug by the bed to soften the landing.  While a bed frame is totally unnecessary, I fell in love with this one from Etsy.  When we assembled it, there was a small gap between the mattress and the frame, so we decided to wait until he’s a bit older to use the frame for safety reasons.  I’m not too upset about this though since, as it’s a twin sized bed, he will still get plenty of use out of it into the toddler years.  The flag bunting hanging over his mattress came with the bed frame.  One other note, we could not find sheets that fit the low mattress tightly enough for an infant, but used sheet suspenders (I believe these) to pull the sheets nice and tight.  We plan to start him out in a bassinet in our room, but to transition him to the floor bed for naps fairly quickly so he can begin getting used to his space.

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For the “playing area”, we hung an acrylic, shatter-proof mirror on the wall (pictured above with the bed).  We purchased it from Home Depot.  They have all different sizes and it was very easy to hang.  It is very lightweight, so there is no fear of it falling and hitting the baby.  We hung the black and white mobile above the mirror so that he can watch the reflection of the movement for added interest.  We were so fortunate and a wonderful Montessorian here in Austin gave us the beautiful mobile.  My mom is also making a more traditional Munari mobile, which I’m so happy about, as I love the Montessori mobiles, but am decidedly un-crafty myself.   I can’t wait to see him interact with both the mobile and the mirror!  Along the lines of play, we also have a low shelf from Ikea with a few books, toys, and photos on it.  The black and white rattle was part of a lovely giftset of Montessori baby toys I received and the pictures are photos my husband has taken.

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For the changing station, I knew I wanted to have this on the floor for a few reasons.  Since I know it won’t be long before he is mobile and crawling around the room on his own, I wanted to minimize furniture that may not be safe later on.  I also plan to do stand-up diapering as soon as he can stand holding onto something, so did not want to invest in a piece of furniture we would use for such a short time.

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Lastly, nursing: I was not planning to purchase a glider / rocking chair for nursing, but a wonderful family at the school where I teach gifted us this one and I could not be happier about it!  It is the most comfortable chair and I already sit in it all of the time to read.  Once the baby starts to crawl, we will likely need to move it to a different room so that he doesn’t hurt his fingers under the rockers, but for now, it is a great comfortable spot in the room where I’m sure we will spend lots of time over the next few months.

I’m sure this room will go through many iterations as we observe the baby in it and as his needs change.   Right now I just can’t wait until he’s here to test it out!

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The Beginning

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Two weeks ago, I left my job (for a while, not forever) and am now sitting at home in an empty baby nursery waiting.  Waiting for my first baby to make his appearance and looking around the room wondering what else should be done.

I am a Montessori teacher, AMS certified for children 3-6.  I also attended a wonderful Montessori school from preschool through middle school.  My mom and sister are Montessori teachers as well.  Now that I’m a little over 39 weeks pregnant, I am thinking a lot about how to apply the Montessori method with our little one when he arrives.  This blog will chronicle my attempts to transfer the philosophy I love and believe in to raising our son.

In my last few weeks of teaching, a few of the parents commented that I must be so prepared after working with so many young children.  Yes and no…I feel very prepared for a three or four year old, not so much for an infant.  I know that the philosophy is the same, but in terms of specifics, I have a lot to learn.  My hope is that I can share what I learn along the way, while gaining advice from others.  I also plan to post copious amounts of baby pictures and general life updates, because I know I won’t be able to help myself.

Why the “ish”?

At the heart of Montessori is of course observation and experimentation and that is how I plan to approach this next step in my life.  I assume that this will often be in line with traditional Montessori ways…and sometimes not.  I’m definitely going into this journey with an open mind, rather than following a set formula for how to raise a child “the Montessori way”.  I will always do what I think and believe is best for our family, and will share our struggles along the way.

Thank you for joining me and welcome!

Up next…the nursery, Take 1

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