Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Eleven months old!

I seriously wanted to put a question mark immediately following the exclamation point in this post's title. How in the world is Charlotte eleven months old?!?!

This has been a full, challenging, busy month for Charlotte (and her parents!!). I'm actually quite ready for December 2014 to be over because it was a whirlwind. Phew. We had a LOT of activity and travel this month, and not much sleep to help us through it. 

Alright, enough of that. Let's get down to business. And by business, I mean Charlotte's eleven month update. 

This month Charlotte started waving, going up the stairs, and got a new tooth. She also JUST figured out how to clap! It's one of the most adorable things ever!

In the beginning of December, the activity of choice, all day every day, was taking things OUT (of the basket, the hamper, the toy bin, etc.) Then just two weeks later, we noticed Charlotte had taught herself how to put things back IN. She started to get the hang of putting blocks into the shape sorter and she would flap the clean clothes around before putting them back into the laundry basket. I found myself staring at her as she played... What a fascinating little girl she is becoming. 

We don't have measurements for Charlotte, but she barely fits in her medium sized sleep sack, which is for babies up to 32inches tall. She weighs about 19 pounds, we think. She wears 12-18 month clothing and just barely fits into size three disposable diapers. She has two bottom teeth and three on the top; we think one more top tooth will appear any day now.

This month Charlotte's hair grew A LOT! She seemed to be bald for so long and then all of a sudden she has this full head of soft, blond, sometimes curly hair. We love it!

For about two days this month Charlotte had a fever in the 100-101 range. She was waking up a lot at night and being super fussy and clingy. She had a runny nose, too, which made us think she was teething or had a cold. We don't know why the fever happened, but she recovered quickly and we all lived through the sleep deprivation. 

We are tired in this house! I think this month of sleep was the worst so far. Well, I guess we probably get more sleep now than we did last February, but it feels worse now... Probably because I thought sleep would be more consistent now. Argh. We went over a month without a full night's sleep. Since the middle of November, Charlotte has been waking up crying to nurse at least once, sometimes as many as four times a night. It has been rough! 

I can't really even say what time Charlotte wakes up, as it totally depends on the day. Sometimes she wakes up around 5 am, ready to face the world, and I can't get her to settle down again before our alarm goes off. On these days, we bring her downstairs to play while we eat breakfast and then her first nap starts around 7 am. If it's a good day, Charlotte will (sleep entirely through the night and then) get up around 6:30. These are easy days to manage because the first nap will go from about 8:30 to 10. We will have a big chunk of time mid-day and her afternoon nap will go from about 2-3:30 or something like that. Charlotte's best time of day is right after her first nap. She is alert and cheerful and has a lot of fun playing. The late afternoons are Charlotte's most difficult time; it's also the time where I'm the most stressed and least patient. Tough combo!

(Since originally writing this post, we've done some night-time sleep training. For the last two nights, Joel has gone in whenever Charlotte wakes up at night. He snuggles her and tells her he loves her and puts her back down into the crib. She SCREAMS and cries but falls asleep within fifteen minutes. As heartbreaking as it is to hear her cry, it's better for all of us if she isn't dependent on nursing to put herself back to sleep.)

Awesome stuff!
Charlotte is really interested in books nowadays. She used to tolerate only a few chosen few, but lately has really gotten good at turning the pages and she seems to pay attention as we read just about anything. She also LOVES to rip pages out of magazines and newspapers. She thinks it's the funniest thing to pull the pages apart and toss them around the room. Then she crawls excitedly through the piles of paper and rips them all again. We just sit and laugh at this funny girl. 

We are very happy that our little lady continues to be a good eater. She nurses 6 times a day and eats three solid meals. In the past, she would barely nibble at breakfast, but just last week she started to actually get some calories in at breakfast time. Dinner is definitely her best meal; she is usually very hungry when we sit down together at 5:30(ish). She usually has a snack after her afternoon nap, which holds her over until we eat dinner together.

As Charlotte grows and her personality develops, it becomes more challenging to parent her in a godly way. I find myself growing impatient and speaking harshly more often than I would like. When she disobeys or tests the limits, I have started telling her NO firmly and once or twice have given her hand or leg a light spank. She usually looks surprised and sometimes stop doing whatever she wasn't supposed to do. Other times, however, she goes right back to it and I have to tell her NO again and redirect her attention.

I'm trying to reserve a strong no for things that are serious and/or dangerous (standing up in the slippery tub, grabbing plants, crawling toward the stairs, etc.) and I do my best to word things in the positive, as I was taught in classroom management (ie: saying "we sit down when we play in the tub, Charlotte," instead of "don't stand up!"; or "come over here to play" instead of "stop going over there"). Parenting is awful and wonderful and crazy and amazing all at once. I think the word sanctifying is the most accurate description of this journey we are on...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dear Charlotte, 9

Dear baby (big) girl,

This week I have been overwhelmingly proud of the way you are growing up. One morning I cried as I told you how much I love you and admire you. Your puzzled face as tears flowed down mine made me giggle, but still I cried. 

Here's what did it: you have this fun stacking toy from IKEA that you've been using for months, but only to tip it upside down and dump all the pieces on the floor. Your dad thinks it's hilarious and tries to re-stack it again quickly before you come back to dump it again. :) 

But one day this week you started putting it back together With much concentration and very careful effort, you put each piece onto the peg and (over time) filled the whole toy with the rings. I was impressed with your dexterity, but what really struck me was the way you persevered...

Because the rings in the holes are small, it takes a lot of work to get the rings onto the peg perfectly. You have to get an exact aim and balance, all at once. Over and over, the ring would fall onto the floor and you would pick it back up and try again. And then again. And again. You played with that toy for over fifteen minutes, babe, and only at the very end of that time did you get frustrated and whimper out of annoyance. It kind of broke my heart to see you frustrated, but I was really amazed at how long it took for that to happen. 

You blow me away, Charlotte girl. I love to watch you play and learn and grow and develop. I am so proud of the way you keep trying when things are tough and I respect your positive attitude in the midst of frustration. You inspire me to be more patient, kinder, and gentler. You are bringing out my best parts, and I am so grateful. 

I love you sweet babe, 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Spices in BLW

The other day I heard of a friend who had been making purees for her baby and was wearing herself out with all the prep work. She said she was hesitant to try baby led weaning because she uses a lot of garlic in cooking and didn't want to just share her dinner with baby.

I did my best not to respond with sarcasm or annoyance, but it was kind of a struggle.

I couldn't understand where she got the idea that she shouldn't feed her baby real food simply because it contained garlic... Maybe pediatricians are pushing bland, mushy, texture-less, flavor-less foods because of all the allergies they see. Or maybe people just genuinely believe that babies LIKE bland, texture-less foods. Or, I don't know what. It's bizarre to me. 

Garlic doesn't hurt babies. There's nothing unhealthy about garlic. In fact, garlic has all sorts of immunity boosting properties! My baby loves things flavored with garlic, and I really don't think she's all that unique or even a super-human eater (okay, I kind of do think that...). 

According to the baby led weaning cookbook, as soon as babies are ready to start solids (any time after six months of age, for healthy babies who were born full-term!), they are ready to have spices included in their food. We have followed that guidance ever since we started BLW with Charlotte. 

Here are some things I use: 

1. Cumin and chili powder: I include both of these delicious spices when I make tortilla soup. Charlotte LOVES tortilla soup, which we give her without the broth so she can pick up all the pieces. (P.S. Try this recipe! It is my favorite soup of all time!)

2. Curry powder: the BLW cookbook has a wonderful recipe for butternut squash soup and it includes about a teaspoon of curry powder. The curry brings out a delicious taste in the squash and Charlotte will devour this soup like her like depends on it.

3. Garlic powder, paprika, and ground pepper: yesterday I baked a whole chicken in the crock pot and seasoned it with ground pepper, garlic, paprika and a tiny bit of salt*. The chicken was moist and delicious. After I sliced the chicken and gave Charlotte a couple of pieces on her tray, I put a tiny bit more salt on my own chicken. She didn't miss the salt in her serving, though; she ate the entire portion and made noises requesting more. ;) I'm giving credit to the garlic, paprika, and pepper.

4. Cinnamon: I love sprinkling cinnamon on roasted sweet potatoes. This is actually one of the side dishes I cook most frequently and Charlotte is a big fan. Cinnamon brings out the flavor of sweet potatoes really well! 

*As I mentioned previously, salt isn't good for young babies (because their bodies can't process it the way adults' bodies can). I very rarely add salt to my cooking and I have started to avoid foods that already have salt added. 

However, babies don't necessarily want bland foods any more than adults do.  Spices add great flavor to foods! They make the eating experience much more enjoyable and help babies to grow accustomed to trying new things, textures, and flavors. Don't be afraid to try BLW and please please please don't be afraid of using a little bit of spice! 

Monday, December 15, 2014

On holiday traditions (or the lack thereof)

The other day I started this pity-party blog post about how we don't have any traditions of our own because we always travel for holidays. I was feeling sorry for myself and the post was oh so whiny. Fortunately, after reading two great posts about Christmas traditions, my eyes re-focused and my perspective changed a bit. So here's an edited version of my original post, without all the drama. ;)

Joel and I have been married for four years and this Christmas will be our first with a child. I wrote about the tradition we're starting with gifts; this tradition is one I'm SUPER excited about and plan to maintain forever. Besides the gift giving, and the fact that whenever we buy a Christmas tree it's from the VFW where we had our wedding reception, our tiny family doesn't have any traditions that are just ours. 

BUT! We have the privilege of spending time with our families during the winter holidays and the best part of that is getting to share in their traditions, or to create new ones alongside them. It is awesome to combine Thanksgiving and Christmas with my parents and brother! I love getting most of my shopping done by mid-November and I also love playing elf on my dad's behalf, buying things for my mom with dad's money :) I LOVE that my mom used to give us new PJs on Christmas Eve and that she's continuing that tradition in a new way by giving Charlotte new cozy jammies for an early Christmas gift. I also really love that Joel's family has a big get-together which includes dinner and an auction where all the proceeds are donated to a specific charity. 

Really, being with our families is tradition in itself and I think it's time to own that and treasure it and mull it over with much gratitude. 

want, need, wear, read

Alternate post title I considered briefly: avoiding the chaos of too much stuff
Second alternate post title I considered: kids don't need so many toys!
Third alternate title: how I want to approach gift giving at Christmas

Really, all the titles would have been appropriate. The main idea I want to share about today is captured in each of the above titles (as well as the one I ultimately chose). The way we (as a family) approach gift giving really lays a foundation for raising kids without the chaos of too many toys & too much stuff.

Don't be fooled: this idea isn't original. I've read numerous blogs by families who take a similar approach (here's one good example & here's another). Some of them may have slightly different motives, or a varied method to their madness, but it's the same basic thought.

The reasons we want to avoid too much stuff (especially toys!) are multifaceted, but here are a few:

1. We want to raise Charlotte, and any other children we may have some day, to recognize the difference between want and need, and to appreciate the value of quality time, creativity, imagination, and a love for the outdoors. We also want to instill gratitude in our children... we want them to learn to be thankful for each gift they receive; I know from experience that receiving too much makes it very hard to be truly thankful. Excess is distracting and quite stressful.
2. Our culture worships excess. But we worship Jesus and we want our home and our life to reflect this truth. Plus, excess is unnecessary and unhealthy.
3. Nine times out of ten, Charlotte would choose to play with something else, rather than an actual toy: Watches, boxes, cups, wallets, keys, etc.
4. Selfishly, I don't like having toys strewn all over the place. It's hard to keep our home neat and tidy, which adds stress to my day. I recognize that kids and messes often go hand in hand, and I'm learning to get used to that, but if I can limit the chaos and disorder, then I'd really like to.
5. It's simply too expensive to buy gift after gift after gift. ESPECIALLY considering how quickly kids tend to move on from one toy to the next (great post on the subject here!).

SO, this Christmas, Charlotte is going to get four gifts from us.
Something she wants (we'll decide for her this year since she's too young to tell us!), something she needs, something to wear, and something to read.

Here are her gifts: a wooden toy camera and a new lift-the-flap book. She'll get the new water bottle I bought earlier this fall as the thing she needs. She already has the thing to wear (because they came in the mail last week and I couldn't wait to open them!): a beautiful set of handmade headbands from Little Hip Squeaks.

One thing we may add is some kind of experience gift. It was awesome to have a zoo membership this year and we've considered giving other things of this kind: seeing a show downtown, a trip away to a new place, children's museum membership, pool passes, etc. 

P.S. For birthdays, we may decide to do one big gift (maybe something awesome/hand made like this play kitchen!), or a few small gifts, or something entirely different. I think we'll approach it similar to the way we approach Christmas, though, keeping in mind the values that we want to teach our kids.

P.S.S. Here are some high quality toy makers I really love & will do my best to support in the future. They make the coolest things: Hape, Bannor Toys, Melissa & Doug, Plan, Haba Toys, and Alex Toys

P.S.S.S. Please look at this beautiful child. Who needs toys when there are leaves and grass to enjoy?!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What Charlotte eats, 5

Sunday- chicken sausage (she is really doing well with these since we started cutting them into small chunks instead of "finger shaped" sticks), edamame (1st time!), Israeli couscous salad
Monday- Greek yogurt, grapes (1st time! loved 'em!), chicken, white sweet potatoes, cauliflower
Tuesday- roasted butternut squash with curry powder, grapes, Monday's leftovers
Wednesday- mashed butternut squash (tolerated a few bites), Greek yogurt, mandarin bits (loved them!), chicken pieces
Thursday- baked mini shells with spinach and ricotta, mashed potatoes, cucumbers, grapes, celery with almond butter (SO messy! See photos below!)
Friday- grapes, baked sweet potato (wasn't very interested), cucumber slices, cut spaghetti with turkey quinoa meatballs

For an afternoon snack, Charlotte usually eats raisins. They're small enough that I don't feel the need to watch her like a hawk while she eats them, so I often make dinner while she sits on the kitchen floor with her raisins. Her pincer grasp is REALLY good now- we're so proud!

We have noticed a bit of sass at the dinner table lately. Even though we try to wait until the last second to put Charlotte into her chair, she is very impatient (and vocal!) when she doesn't get to eat right away. We always pray together before we eat, and often try to hold her hand. She does NOT like to hold our hands, though she is often quiet while we pray. The sass also appears when she's done eating and starts to play. She will fling food and drop her glass, then look down at it on the ground and start to whine.

Charlotte is really starting to communicate with us in regards to eating. She makes loud noises to get our attention when she wants something else to eat and hums loudly and stares at her water glass when she gets thirsty. It's frustrating to figure out what she wants; we hope she'll start using some of her signs soon! We've been trying to teach her: more, please, thank you, food, water, and all done.

Please note the serious, concentrated faces this girl makes. Eating is hard work. :)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Plane travel with a babe

This summer when I flew alone with Charlotte, things went very smoothly. Both times were short, one-way flights and we didn't have a layover. She was so young that she fell asleep nursing and slept heavily (aka: things didn't wake her up!). All I had to do was bounce or walk for 5 minutes and she would be out like a light. 

We recently did a bit more plane travel, and now that Charlotte is ten months old, I knew our experience would be quite different than the last time. 

So I prepared. I pinned a few blog posts on traveling with kids and toddlers. I bought a box of Cheerios. I packed both of our carriers (the ring sling and Ergo). I tried my hardest to pack lightly. Anyway, things went pretty smoothy and I want to share a few things we did that helped make the experience a success. 

1. Pray to the Lord that your babe is her usual friendly, sweet, curious self for the duration of your plane travel. Really, this had nothing to do with my preparations or planning, it's just fortunate for us that Charlotte is a great baby. 

2. Do not pre-board. I repeat: do not pre-board!! I got this tip from a blogger I love and it is seriously invaluable. This was actually much easier this time because Joel was with us. He took both of our backpacks and boarded when our zone was called. He got stuff all set up and secured a place for our carry-on suitcase. I waited until the absolute last second and stayed at the gate to let Charlotte crawl around, explore, visit with people, etc. Once we got on the plane, she was very interested in looking around the plane and we didn't have to entertain her while seated as long. Before our second flight, I knew Charlotte was exhausted and wouldn't fall asleep if I was just sitting down holding her on the plane, so I put her in the Ergo and covered her with the hood. I stood on the gangplank and bounced her to sleep while everyone boarded. Then I stood in the aisle next to our seat while the flight attendants did all their last minute preparations and just sat down once we were ready to take off. 

3. Bring "new" books and toys. Make sure they are small and lightweight. This made a big difference. I bought Charlotte a second hand book that had flaps, which she loves. I kept the book packed until our trip so it was new and interesting to her once we boarded. I also had a big ziploc of things that I could pull out I brought a small bunch of duplo blocks my mom gave us, a toilet paper tube, two small shaker toys, Cheerios, and her pacifier with owl clip (she loves to chew on the paci, even though she doesn't use it for comfort at all). 

4. Nurse or bottle feed during takeoff and landing. This really helps with the pressure changes, which apparently are especially hard for babies to handle. Fortunately for us, Charlotte was sleepy enough that she fell asleep while nursing on the descent of our last flight and stayed asleep even while the plane was emptying. This definitely made the whole waiting for our luggage and checking out a rental car process much smoother, since we had a well-rested girl on our hands. On our return flight, I nursed Charlotte during taxi/takeoff and kept her snuggled in the Ergo afterward; she ended up napping for over an hour, which was crucial in making the 4+ hour flight seem less, well, long. 

5. Get up and move around when the seatbelt sign is off, as much as possible. On our return flight I stood in the back galley, waiting to use the bathroom with a diaper changing spot. One of the kind flight attendants offered to hold Charlotte and talked to her and let her play with her necklace the whole time. Charlotte was thrilled to be engaged by someone other than Mom and Dad. Plus, it was a nice break for me, even though I was right there talking to the flight attendant myself. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The cold and rainy days

Today has been one of those days.

You know, the kind of day that is cold and rainy. The kind of day that starts at five am (45 minutes before your alarm) because a poopy diaper woke your daughter up from her peaceful dreams. 

The kind of day where the first nap starts at 6:30 because everyone is exhausted, but then ends at 7:30 because of yet another poopy diaper. And it's still cold and rainy. 

There are a few metaphorical rays of sunshine in such days... Lunch from Panera generously delivered by a friend who wants to talk about cloth diapers. A FaceTime date. A quick visit with the neighbors to drop off a recipe and admire their week-old babe. That same poopy diaper girl grinning from her crib. Some fun play times with new toys. A good Christmas play list on Pandora. And more. 

But the day is still cold and rainy. And the second nap only lasts an hour. And half of it is spent on the phone with various companies figuring out confusing details of miscellaneous sorts. And the second half is spent researching how to make sloppy joes from scratch and wondering whether it's possible with current pantry supplies but without that important little can of sloppy joe mix. 

And then a third nap is required because of the early morning start, but then gets delayed by yet.another.poopy.diaper. Which results in your baby screaming in her room because even after a diaper change she isn't interested in snuggling down in her warm cozy crib for a nap. Which results in offering to nurse, which of course settles her right down, but then spending the next 10 minutes worrying about how she will ever wean and whether you are ruining her for life by nursing her to sleep at ten months of age. 

But then the day turns into one of those days where you get to hear your baby breathing slowly and feel her body relaxing and see her eyelashes flickering as you slowly place her into the crib. Where she stays asleep. Miraculously. 

It's still cold and rainy. But the day can be considered successful because the precious girl is safe and healthy and cared for. She knows she is loved and she loves in return.

There will be sunshine some day soon and an occasional warm front will blow through and more metaphorical rays of sunshine will appear tomorrow, too, and the day after that. And the baby will grow and learn and play. And this (mostly terrible) cold and rainy day will mostly blend together with the rest of the days, cold and rainy, or warm and sunny, or whatever the case may be.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ten months old!

How is it even possible that my tiny worm is ten months old already? I can't believe it. But somehow it's true. Check this girl out! 

Growth/ development
Charlotte is about 30 inches tall. She was close at her nine month doctors visit, and I'm guessing she's grown since then. 

Since last month Charlotte has become an incredibly proficient crawler and has mastered pulling herself up to standing on all sorts of things (coffee table, open dresser drawers, baby gate, ottoman, etc.) She can sort of cruise along the edge of sturdy surfaces but isn't confident. She can also "walk" holding onto our hands for a few steps. One of her favorite tricks is to pull herself up, then slowly lower herself down and crawl somewhere new. :) 

Charlotte's communication skills have developed this month, too. She says "dada dada" a lot, as well as babbling and sometimes calling out "nananana." She understands the word "water" and immediately looks at her glass when sitting at the table. She also recently starting waving her arm, which we think is a greeting because she does it at appropriate times to say hello (like when Joel gets her up and brings her to our room and she sees me for the first time that morning). So cute!! 

Charlotte got her two top middle teeth this month. She top right has taken quite a while and has caused us some trouble. There were many nights and naps where falling asleep was a a big production, but overall I would say Charlotte handled it well. She is still wearing her Amber teething necklace and we have a bottle of Hylands teething tablets on hand to help with the pain. She likes the tablets and happily sucks on them until they dissolve under her tongue. She also likes to shake the plastic bottle they come in, but that's another story :) 

This month also brought a pretty bad cold, which happened to show up the morning after Charlotte got her flu shot. Argh. We discovered anew that our girl HATES the NoseFrida snot sucker as well as getting her runny nose wiped. A couple of days I would walk in to find her standing in her crib crying and with her nose flowing like crazy. Poor, pitiful babe. 

Charlotte can FINALLY stay awake a little longer before her first nap! We are glad to see this transition happening. She usually wakes up around 6:30 and nurses, then eats breakfast around 7:15. Then 1.5 to 1.75 hours after waking up, she's ready to start prepping for her first nap. She nurses again and sleeps for roughly 1.5 hours. 

In the late morning we have a nice big window of awake time! We often go for a walk, run errands, or visit friends between the hours of 10:30 and 1:00pm. Charlotte eats solids for lunch and takes her afternoon nap at roughly 2pm. Sometimes it's more like 3pm. 

This month we successfully dropped the 4:30 nursing session and I am SO glad! When I was teaching last spring, I always wanted to feed her as soon as I got home, but lately have been finding it very tricky to navigate welcoming Joel home from work, making dinner, and nursing Charlotte at that time of day. One day I decided to feed her at 3:30 and see if she could go until dinner without nursing again. Guess what-- she could and she did and she has ever since! Yay! She is hungry at dinner time, and eats her meal well, then nurses around 6:30 before going to bed.  

We noticed recently that Charlotte has been playing in her crib for a while after we put her to bed, so we're wondering if bedtime should be pushed back a little bit. We do like having that quiet time to ourselves around 7pm, but it's pointless to put her down then if she isn't quite tired. We shall see how things progress with that. 

Many nights Charlotte sleeps from about 7:30pm to 6:30pm without waking up, but we still regularly hear her transitioning between sleep cycles in the early morning (2-4am ish) and sometimes she wakes up fully and cries, so I feed her in the dark and put her back in her crib where she puts herself to sleep very quickly. 

 Awesome stuff! 
Charlotte is a friendly, happy girl and we love her so much. She loves: crawling, exploring, hanging out with people, taking everything out of a basket/drawer/box, eating, nursing, being outside, listening to music, drumming on anything & everything, waving (so cute!!!), animals, big kids, babies, opening/closing doors, splashing in the bath, toys that make noise when shaken, and her family.

Charlotte doesn't like: being in her car seat for a long time, books with busy illustrations, the feeling of a messy diaper (who can blame her?), waiting for her meals, excessive hugs or kisses. 

This month required more "discipline" than ever before. We had about two weeks where Charlotte was constantly trying to grab our two big house plants. We debated moving the plants or getting rid of them, but we decided to try just redirecting Charlotte and telling her no. At first she would look at us, then immediately reach for the plant again, almost as if she was being defiant. After about two weeks, though, she would either stop when we said no or just ignore the plants and crawl right past them. We'll see how things continue from here. 
I'm finding myself emotional sometimes about how fast our girl is growing up. I am so proud of her and so excited for every single milestone and new adventure. But it's bittersweet, knowing that she won't ever be a tiny little thing again. In my sad moments, I recommit myself to being present and intentional and engaging. In my happy moments, I just sit down on the floor and play play play.