Wednesday, July 30, 2014

six months old!

Happy 6 months, Charlotte! Mom and Dad love you so much!

Charlotte weighs about 16.5 pounds. We don't have an official height measurement but according to my measuring tape she is 28 inches long (!!!). She wears mostly cloth diapers, but in disposables she wears size three. Her six month onesies are stretched down at the neck so she mostly wears nine month clothing, like last month. Her hair is starting to grow (finally!) and she's getting some serious rolls on her legs.

Charlotte has been rolling up a storm this month! She is a total pro at going from back to tummy, to both sides (for a while it was just to the left). Going from tummy to back is rare, which means she still sometimes sqwaks for help, but most of the time she just plays happily on her belly.
She can also sit up on her own for short periods of time. It's very sweet to watch her start to tip over, but then self-correct and get back upright. Once she falls, though, she's stuck :) We are regularly impressed with her strength and coordination. Maybe every baby does this, but lately she has started leaning forward while sitting up and she puts her weight on one or both hands and tries to play. She eventually gets tired and makes noises to show she is annoyed. Ha! 

Charlotte typically wakes up between 6 and 7am. She takes her first nap about 1.25 hours later (often around 8 am). Her second nap is at roughly 11 or 11:30am and her last nap starts somewhere between 2 and 3pm. She's still eating 5 times a day, usually, and goes to bed around 6:30pm. Since I'm nursing most of the time, it's hard to measure how much she eats, but I think the first and last meals of the day are about 7 ounces while the others in between are 4 or 5 ounces. She is growing SO well-- getting some chub on her little cheeks, arms and legs :)

Like last month, Charlotte still sleeps between 11 and 12 hours straight at night, which is awesome. There have been a couple nights where she wakes up, probably in between sleep cycles, and cries because she is on her tummy. We try to flip her back over quickly and sometimes she just falls back to sleep. Sometimes, though, she's awake enough to think she's hungry and has a 2am (or 4am) snack.

For about three weeks this past month, nap time was HORRIBLE. Lots of screaming and crying and me being stressed. Then Charlotte would only sleep for 20-45 minutes. Finally, though, I decided to put her to bed sooner (usually about 1.5 hours after she last woke up- longer in the afternoon, slightly shorter in the morning) and to be consistent with my response to the crying. We have had a lot of successful naps lately (like, 1-2 hour naps!!). I can't believe how much it helps to be consistent!

Here's the routine: Change her diaper, put on her sleep sack, give her the owl, sit quietly in the rocking chair to read a book (if she's still really hyped up, I read two books), sing a quiet song, hug her, put her in the crib, say goodnight, and leave. Many times she screams or cries when I walk away, but I usually wait 5-10 minutes before going back in. When I do go back in, I don't pick her up. I smile and whisper, "I love you, Charlotte," and hold her hand or give her a couple kisses. Then I leave again. It breaks my heart if she is really crying hard, but I rarely have to go in again. She's usually asleep within 15 minutes after I go in to check the first time.

While it feels really bad to not pick up my sad baby, I really believe it works. We found that picking her up often woke her up (when she was already starting to put herself to sleep) AND made her super mad when we put her back in the crib. Every once in a while this doesn't work and she ends up taking a nap while we wear her in the Ergo, but most days she falls asleep happily on her own. I feel really proud of our sweet girl. She is getting good sleep and waking up happy and content.

Awesome stuff!
Over the last month Charlotte has ventured into solid food. She began by chewing on a watermelon rind and licking a few of the foods we eat for dinner (dill pickle, watermelon, pasta). One night a couple weeks ago she "ate" her first food- sweet red pepper! She has also eaten egg, banana, red onion (!!), strawberry, and corn on the cob! Everything (except the corn, of course!) has been sliced into long strips and she can hold them in both hands and gnaw with her little gums. She even swallowed a couple bits-- what a big girl!

She also got a taste of lime juice (hilarious!!) and some sips of water. She has two tiny shot glasses that we put on the table for her to sip water from. She often drops the glass or spills the water, but the look of pride on her face when she actually gets a little drink is PRICELESS!

Also awesome- the smiles, the giggles, the sitting up, the squeals of delight, the playing with toys, the eye contact, the way she looks around, how her beautiful eyes light up when she sees her Daddy, the grabbing, the reaching, the way she taps on books when we read and accidentally turns the pages, how wonderfully she did in the car on our big road trip(s) this month.

Not so awesome- baby's first shiner! We can't figure out how she got this black eye, but it lasted for about 2.5 days! Poor thing didn't seem a bit phased by it, but we felt so sad!

Monday, July 28, 2014

we bought a zoo (membership)!

In late February (Charlotte was 3 weeks old!) Joel's brother came to visit on an unseasonably warm, sunny weekend. We wanted to do something different while he was here, but we weren't interested in wandering around a dark museum or seeing a movie or show when the weather was so gorgeous.

Knowing that Joel loves animals, I suggested we visit the Philadelphia Zoo. Neither of us had been before, even though I've lived in the Philly suburbs for over 5 years and Joel's lived here almost 9 years. Joel went online to figure out ticket prices and parking, then announced that it was almost the same price to buy a year's family membership as it would be for the three of us (plus baby Charlotte) to go for the day. We decided immediately to get a membership, thinking we'd take Charlotte a few more times as the year went by.

We were right; we've taken Charlotte four times already, but it's funny to justify buying such a thing for a baby who at the time wasn't even a month old. :) She hasn't shown much interest in the animals yet, but she loves sitting up in her big girl stroller, watching the people walk around, and listening to all the commotion going on.

There are two really awesome aspects to the zoo membership package:
1.  We get free parking, every time. Parking alone costs $15 so having that included every time makes a big difference in the cost.
2. We can bring two guests, every time. This is such a great deal! 

I decided recently that I wanted to document each of Charlotte's visits to the zoo with a photograph, even if it's a hand-held selfie, taken at the very last second before we leave. 

Visit one: 3 weeks old. You can barely see her head inside the Ergo, where she slept the entire time, except for waking up to nurse once.

Visit two: 2.5 months old. She slept a lot this trip, too, but was often jostled around by junior high kids pushing her stroller precariously.

Visit 3: almost 5 months old. We went as a family shortly after school got out.  Charlotte looks HUGE to me, especially in comparison to the first photo!

Visit 4: almost 6 months old. We went with our friends and spent most of the watching their little boy run around and have fun! Charlotte was awake the entire time, but napped in the car both coming and going :)These pictures show her sleepy self right before we left the zoo (note the ear pulling in the first picture... definitely a sleep cue!).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

First food: red peppers!!

Even though I was adamant about waiting until Charlotte turned 6 months old to start solids, desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures. And dinner time can be a desperate time. Charlotte is almost always fussy, I'm starving, Joel's patient. Things can be chaotic & rushed.

We have been keeping thin slices of watermelon rind in the fridge because we know she likes them, but one night I didn't have any ready. Charlotte was antsy and Joel was still trying to finish his food. I asked if he was okay with giving her some food, he agreed, and we grabbed some slices of red pepper we had in the vegetable drawer. 

Charlotte was thrilled! She gnawed and nibbled on the pepper sticks happily while we finished our dinner. She was sitting on my lap and grabbing the pepper with both hands. At one point she got a small bit in the back of her mouth, looked surprised, coughed, swallowed, and kept going. We were so proud! That's exactly what we want her to learn! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Road trip preparations

We're leaving on Friday morning for a big road trip to the Midwest. We'll drive 10 hours to Ohio on Friday, then 5+ more to western Michigan on Sunday. This is by far the longest time we've traveled with Charlotte in the car and I'm more than a little nervous about it.

We've done this trip in the past, without a baby, and by the end I'm completely exhausted and so darn tired of sitting in the car. I can only imagine that Charlotte will be fussy and really tired of sitting in her car seat. And, I have no idea how long it will actually take, once we add in diaper changes, nursing sessions, weekend traffic, coffee breaks, etc.

In addition to praying away my anxiety, here are a few things I'm planning to help make the trip go smoothly.

1. Have a blanket handy so Charlotte can get out and "play" whenever we stop. Most rest areas have grassy spots so if we're eating our picnic lunch, Charlotte can stretch, roll around and practice sitting up.

2. Bring small amounts of milk in a few different bottles. I read this idea recently. Not that we regularly encourage "snacking" but if Charlotte is fussy and needs to fall asleep but isn't hungry enough for a full feeding, I can sit in the back seat with her and give her a little milk to "top her off" without having to make an extra stop.

3. Change her clothes at every stop. She gets super warm in the car seat and I think she'll be far more comfortable if she isn't sitting in her own sweat the entire drive. On the same page: put her just in a onesie (lighter weight!)

4. Surrender our time line and any expectations about when we'll arrive.

5. Get a book on CD from the library. Joel and I don't always like reading the same books, but I'm going to try a book on CD to see if listening to a story will be good entertainment for both of us.

Have you driven a long distance with your baby? Any more road trip tips?

Monday, July 21, 2014

baby favorites: six months in

Some of these are also on the lists I made at three months, or at two weeks. I'll just skim over the repeats and add a few more things we are absolutely loving at Charlotte's half birthday (what?!!).

1. BOB stroller. Adore it. That's all.
2. Cloth diapers. Such a great investment!
3. IKEA play gym. I wrote about this when Charlotte was three months old and she's still a huge fan. Lately she's been annoyed to stay on her back because it's such fun to be upright, but she can't sit on her own quite yet. So we prop her up with a couple pillows and let her grab at the play gym pieces. We also trade out the original parts for a few fun toys that connect using links (a ball, a bright crinkly blanket, a clean loofah I had sitting around--ha!)
4. Sakura Blooom ring sling. This is perhaps my favorite baby product! We love our Ergo, also, but it's too hot in the summer. My sling is made of linen and is relatively cool, even with a warm baby attached :)
5. Non-toys... an empty baby wipes bag, toothbrush travel case, burp cloths, blankets, etc.
6. Aden & Anais swaddle blankets. They are lightweight and PERFECT for so many things! We use ours as a stroller cover when it's time to nap, as a nursing/anti-distraction cover, to wipe spit up, to make a soft place for playing in the grass, for a fussy baby to chew on snuggle, etc. etc. I can't find the exact pattern we have, but I like these.
7. Sleep sacks. Charlotte has grown out of her medium size cotton Halo sleep sack and now uses this HUGE sleeping bag at night. It looks hilarious because it's way too wide for her, but she needs the length. She is so cozy at night in this thing, which is great because we run the AC in her room for cool/ noise coverage.
8. Links! We have this exact set and use them constantly. Charlotte can hold them easily (either one at a time, or a whole bunch connected together), she chews on them, they hold toys onto her car seat, we can attach them to her swing, etc.
I think that's it for my list... What are some of your favorite baby products?

Friday, July 18, 2014

summer bucket list: updated!

I wrote my summer bucket list about 2 months ago and we've already checked a few things off.
Summer 2014 has been good to us. Lots of sunny days, flexible schedules, a bouncing baby girl...

Here's the updated list:
  • Take Charlotte for a walk on the Wissahickon Trail
  • Play on the grass in our backyard
  • Make drinks using the mint in our backyard
  • Make meals using the basil in our backyard (I made a bunch of pesto and some bruschetta!)
  • Have friends over for campfires
  • Catch up on Parenthood (via Netflix; I hope I hope I hope!)
  • Go swimming! Charlotte has two tiny bathing suits calling her name! (Her suits no longer fit so she has another new one calling her name!)
  • Introduce Charlotte to lots of Joel's college friends and extended family in Michigan
  • Have date nights (Joel's father's day gift was for a big date, which is coming up soon! I'll take pictures and report back!)
  • Give Charlotte solid food (not until she's 6 months old, but that will be soon!)
  • Utilize our Philadelphia Zoo membership even more (Today will be Charlotte's 4th time!)
  • Ride bikes (this will have to be a date-- Charlotte's still too little & we don't have a seat for her!)
  • Transition Charlotte from her car seat base to actually sitting in the stroller w/o the car seat
 Recently added:
  •  Buy Charlotte some hilarious baby sunglasses. Put them on her adorable face. See how long she'll play happily before realizing it's far more fun to chew on sunglasses than to actually wear them.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Things I'm reading

With a relaxed summer schedule and a babe who's at least trying to nap regularly, I've spent a few minutes at my computer screen lately (basically it's right next to Charlotte's room so I can go help her turn over when she gets stuck on her tummy during nap time!).

Here are few fun things I've been reading:

1. Trader Joe's recipes link-up via my friend Julie's blog
2. This amazing post about postpartum depression anxiety/rage. Can'
3. A sweet little guy rode a bike for the first time. Before his third birthday!! (I think the balance bike helped!)
4. These guidelines and this cookbook. SO excited for solids-- Charlotte is pumped!
5. My friend Meg's blog. I love seeing what her little guy is up to.
6. Eight tips (and some great perspective!) on camping with kids.
7. I tried her recipe, but adapted it to add some lactogenic ingredients. The cookies tasted good, but turned out flat. Not sure whether to blame the heat or the oatmeal/brewers yeast/flax I sneaked in. Next time I'm just making the cookies without worrying about boosting milk supply. Ha.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ode to a ring sling

I've had my eye on the linen ring slings from Sakura Bloom for at least three years. To me they seem so luxurious and stylish... at the same time they are completely practical. My parents generously gave me this one for Christmas and I was beyond thrilled to try it out!

Sadly, it didn't get enough use the first month of Charlotte's life. Every time I tried to put it on to soothe an unhappy baby, my fumbling around made her cry more! The layers of fabric were super soft but I couldn't figure out the best length and positioning.
I wore her in the sling successfully a few times when she was already calm. She would sleep peacefully snuggled up to me, or just look around quietly while I did whatever task needed to be completed. However, the frequency with which I used the sling was far less than I had originally planned. 
Lately, though, my ring sling and I have become BFFs

I have totally gotten the hang of tucking Charlotte in quickly and tugging the fabric into place. She can sit in multiple positions, against multiple parts of me, and my hands can be completely free. She ADORES being able to look around while we traipse all over creation.

I think I've worn it every day since last Wednesday... In the airport, on the plane, on the train, into the basement with a laundry basket on my hip, down the street to pick up vanilla extract at the neighborhood market, in the backyard to get the dry diapers, around the grocery store, in the kitchen while I cleaned up, in Charlotte's room, into the front yard to get the mail, etc. etc. etc. 
Though my time as Momma has been short so far, I'm a die hard fan of ring slings and I'm definitely partial to the Sakura Bloom company. Their Facebook page is full of beautiful images and their slings are excellent quality. My ring sling was a wonderful gift and I look forward to many more years of snuggling to be enjoyed and memories to be made.

Monday, July 14, 2014

vacation with a baby: it's worth it

On our drive to Rhode Island last week, Charlotte was screaming and I was sitting in the backseat, leaned all the way forward (for 25 minutes) so she wouldn't be able to see me and could fall asleep. I was seriously questioning our sanity and thought, "Is this worth it?!"

The long drive. The traffic jams. The torture device car seat. The upset nap schedule. The crying. The nursing pit stops. The fussiness. The screaming. The packing. The unpacking. The inconsistency.

In short: yes, it's worth it!

Vacation is worth all the hard work, all the packing, all the unsettled-ness. Because time with family is a very sacred blessing in the midst of life's craziness.

It was so beautiful to see my dad singing to Charlotte while she hummed along happily. My heart melted to watch Charlotte hanging out happily in my brother's arms and smiling at his voice. My mom had so many fun toys and spent tons of time playing with Charlotte and talking to her sweetly.

Living far from both our families is one of the hardest parts of parenthood. Vacations are the few times a year when we have large chunks of time for Charlotte to get to know her extended family members, see new places, and experience new things.

So, yeah. Vacation is really hard but it's totally worth it!

Friday, July 11, 2014

a week of firsts


Last week we drove to Rhode Island on the 4th of July. Joel came back to work on Sunday, but Charlotte and I had three extra days with Grandmom, Granddad, and Uncle Allen. Charlotte had a wonderful time and checked off a lot of new first time things.

  • First bugbite
  • First time taking a walk in her big girl umbrella stroller
  • First time refusing ALL three naps in one day
  • First time falling asleep exhausted at 6:15pm (!!)
  • First time sleeping through fireworks right outside her window
  • First time gumming on a watermelon rind
  • First time sitting in a high chair (so big!!)
  • First drive through New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island
  • First visit to Grandmom/Granddad's house
  • First plane ride (spoiler: she did GREAT!!)
  • First train ride
Vacation and time with family is so refreshing. I'm grateful for the chance Charlotte had to get to know some family members a little better. Plus, being away from home for a little while makes home that much sweeter. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

working mom: making it work

People keep being surprised or impressed that I finished out the school year starting when Charlotte was just seven weeks old. Here's what I tell them about how mommy-life and working life can go hand in hand:

Praise God for providing loving friends and family members to watch your baby girl.

And there you have it, folks.
That's the only way we made it work.
And we are unbelievably grateful.

Monday, July 7, 2014

daily steps we are taking

Sometimes in the quiet moments I get to thinking about parenting. About raising this daughter. About the challenges I know lie before us. About my weaknesses and strengths. About success and failure.

I think, "What kind of mom will I be?," and "Which things will I hold to tightly, and which will I let go?," and "How will I react when __________ happens?"

I wonder how we're influencing Charlotte in the small, daily things.

How we hold her hand when we pray at dinner, even though she tries to pull away because she is The fact that we send her to the church nursery even though there's a chance she won't nap and our Sunday will be long and stressful. How we have many people in our life who have cared for her while we work outside the home. How we let her cry a little so she learns to fall asleep, but how we go in to comfort her and let her feel our presence when she's absolutely miserable (or stuck on her belly!). The way I cheer and grin when she rolls onto her tummy and looks around proudly. Or how Joel flies her into the air above his head and smiles as wide as can be at her happy face. Our morning routines and our bedtime routines. Our nursing sessions and our play times and our giggle fests and our diaper changes and our household chores.

This parenting gig is hard! Being a mom is hard! Charlotte is an amazing, sassy, funny, stubborn little girl. We love her with our whole hearts but parenting her is real Kingdom work.

I desperately want to raise my baby well. I want her to know Jesus and to love others. I want her to be kind and patient and compassionate and brave and generous. I want her to rejoice when others rejoice and learn that life isn't fair. I want her to forgive quickly and serve with a happy heart.

Though there are many things we do intentionally and with great care in raising Charlotte, much must be left to faith. Parenting requires letting go and trusting God's good care. I think we're taking baby steps in this, but daily steps we are taking. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Happy 4th!

Our little family is excited for some time with extended family this weekend! Charlotte is such a social, delightful baby and we are thrilled when she has a chance to interact with other relatives ( besides boring old Mom and Dad :) )

Charlotte has been showing her patriotic side by wearing red, white, and blue. And playing, smiling, and taking some naps on Mom and Dad.