Sunday, January 31, 2016

Charlotte is two!!

Darling girl, happy second birthday!! You are no longer a baby, but my heart holds you as my baby forever and ever and ever. I am so proud of the big girl you are becoming. I love to watch you learn and grow and laugh and explore. You make my heart sing, Charlotte Adeline Alberts.

Growth/ development: Charlotte is a very tall girl: 36.5 inches! She weighs about 27 pounds and wears size 3T pants because 2T is too short! She wears size seven sneakers and her shirts are a mix of 2T and 3T. She is very slender and her hair curls up right around her chin. The biggest growth Charlotte shows lately is her vocabulary and verbal communication.... She makes 4-5 word sentences and I can't even begin to count how many words she knows. She is very good at making herself understood, but gets super frustrated if someone doesn't understand what she's trying to say. Some of my favorite things she has learned this month: "Bye, bear. Back two minutes." :) And, "Charlotte hungry. Eat dinner now!" 

Schedule/sleep: Charlotte takes one nap almost every day, for about 1.5 or 2 hours. She usually gets up for the day between 6:45 and 7:45, then naps around 12:30 and goes to bed between 7:30 and 8. She takes at least 30 minutes to fall asleep; before that she plays quietly with the menagerie of stuffed animals she keeps in her crib ;) Speaking of that, she is still definitely sleeping in her crib. We have the toddler bed all set up in her room, but she is happy in her crib and hasn't tried to climb out, so we are continuing with a good thing. On vacation, she did just fine in a twin bed but fell off a few times and just generally didn't sleep as soundly. 

Charlotte likes: being outside, pushing toys like a plastic airplane or her bus or her shopping cart, watching Daniel Tiger on the iPad, practicing letters, cooking in her little kitchen, pretending to make/drink tea, reading books, taking care of her stuffed animals, sharing with Asher, taking baths, pouring water from one cup to another cup, eating lunch, wrestling with her dad, being loud and silly, using play dough, having her back rubbed at bed time, balls, French fries, lime aid, using the KitchenAid mixer to make cookies or muffins with Momma, snacks, garbage trucks, and hanging out with her family. 

Charlotte doesn't like: sitting at the table when she is done eating, being made to clean up when she wants to move on to another activity, going inside before she is ready, not being understood, and sitting in time out for hitting Asher (or intentionally being too rough with Asher).

Charlotte knows: almost all her letters! She doesn't recognize Q, R, U, or V yet, but she knows what word is associated with every letter if I prompt her. She can also "count" from one to thirteen, with a few numbers skipped, of course ;) She knows all the most common colors and even sometimes remembers gray! She is still working on shapes- only recognizing triangle because it comes up in an episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, ha!

TWO is such a fun age! We love being your parents, Charlotte girl. HUGS and kisses! 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Favorite things: two year old edition

Charlotte has been doing a lot of independent play lately. I'm frequently nursing Asher or putting him to bed, or we are doing house projects, etc. etc.

She definitely has times that she needs some company, or a helping hand, or just a chance to run around outside. But overall, she does a great job entertaining herself and we feel really pleased with how confident and curious and brave she has become. 

Fortunately, we have some great things that help keep her occupied; some are toys but most are just regular household items that she uses to play (which really, at this age, is work!)

Without further ado, here are some of our favorite things, for life with a two year old: 

1. Water. Charlotte REALLY likes to play in the sink with running water, or to sit in the bath all day long, which just isn't practical or resourceful. So sometimes I fill the kitchen sink part way, and dye it green (see photo below!). Or sometimes she gets her bath toys in a bucket on the bathroom floor, or sometimes she gets the foam soap dispenser and a few containers so she can "wash hands" to her heart's content. Water is a great thing to help practice pouring and it's very easy to clean up! I almost always put a big towel underneath her, to help keep the floor slightly dry. Her clothes usually get wet, but we change them the next time she needs a diaper change, and hang them up to dry and be worn again. 

2. Beans. My mom brought her some hand-dyed blue and orange beads months ago and Charlotte was playing with them almost every day. I finally got tired of having them randomly around the house, so I put them away for about a week. But then I got her some dried dark red kidney beans from the bulk bin at the grocery store and marketed them as "new purple beans"! She only plays with them on a silicone baking mat in the kitchen. She uses measuring spoons and plastic cups and a metal travel mug and whatever other containers she can find. She scoops, she pours, she transfers, she dumps. These "new" beans often buy me 10-20 minutes of independent play time. [Note: Twice this week I had friends over and both of their kids put a bean in their mouth! I was a bit surprised, since Charlotte never does that, but I remember her trying it once when she first started playing with beans. All I did was to explain that these beans aren't cooked, so they aren't for eating. They are hard and make a good noise and are easy to scoop; if we put them in our mouths they don't work very well anymore. That's solved the issue and now she only uses them for playing.]

3. Blocks. Charlotte has multiple sets of blocks, but we usually only keep one accessible at a time. She has awesome magnetic Tegu blocks, some beautiful hand carved wooden blocks, blocks shaped like letters, and lately-- the blocks from the game Jenga! She doesn't play with blocks for long periods of time alone, but if one of us is with her, she'll do all sorts of things with them. Making towers, making snakes, lining them up next to each other, knocking down the towers, "counting"... 

4. Art supplies. Charlotte got some dot markers for Christmas and she loves using them on solid white paper. She also has watercolor paints, colored pencils, and crayons. We got her some of these for her birthday, but I'm saving them to use on the airplane next week. Like blocks, art materials only hold her attention for a long time if someone is "painting" or "coloring" with her, but every once in a while I can set out the paint set and she'll use it alone for 5-10 minutes. Plus-- totally washable!

5. Busy Toddler Instagram account. This is where I get a LOT of ideas for things to play with Charlotte. 

6. Play kitchen. Joel's dad made us a play kitchen last winter and Charlotte LOVES it. She does all sorts of imaginary play there-- making soup, serving breakfast to her bear, baking cookies, "washing" dishes or her hands, "cutting" sushi with this cute set my mom gave her, etc. 

7. Push toys. We currently have three great push toys, two given to us by friends. One is a shopping cart that we bought her for an early Christmas present. She LOVES pushing the cart around, loaded to the brim with play food, stuffed animals, books, etc. She also loves this little pink bus that someone gave us- it's both a push toy and a ride-on toy. Charlotte likes to take it up and down the street outside, alternating between riding it and pushing it. And asking me to push her on it, of course ;) We let her use the bus inside, too, since it rains every day all.winter.long here. She's not allowed to ride it next to Asher's door when he's sleeping, because it can be really loud, but she uses it in the kitchen, living room, dining room, etc. Highly recommend these as a toy for kids her age-- I think they can be found pretty easily at yard sales or on Craigslist type sites. 

How about you?! What fun things has your toddler been enjoying during the cold, dark days of winter? 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Baby Led Weaning: Melanie's experience

Today's post is written by my good friend Melanie. She's sharing her experience introducing solids with baby led weaning (BLW). Since Asher is almost four months old (!!!), BLW is on my mind again and we plan to start him on food this way, once he turns six months. I hope you enjoy reading about how much Melanie and her family have loved BLW!
Hi, Melanie! How did you get started with baby led weaning? 

To be honest, I kind of dreaded the idea of doing baby purees. I really didn't want to buy them from the store because of cost, but I cringed at the thought of having to make them. I didn't feel like I had the energy or patience to do it (the clean up of blenders and food processors is not fun, let's be honest). In retrospect I 'd only really seen babies fed in the movies and I also think the idea of it left me unimpressed: messy, fighting to get food in your baby's mouth and tedious. I'm sorry if I offend anyone who loves feeding their baby purees! I'm sure there are fun parts to it, too.

Anyways, I had barely time to consider the food issue once our daughter was born, but low and behold a good friend with a baby girl six months older was trying out this approach called baby led weaning (anyone know the revolutionary Kelly Alberts?). Hearing about her positive experiences really piqued my interest. As much as I love to have someone explain their experiences (and certainly I appreciated having someone to refer to and use as a sounding board), I also like to process decisions with as much information as possible. So I also searched out the resources in the library to guide me and actually ended up purchasing one key resource explaining the idea to go through thoroughly myself. The Baby Led Weaning Cookbook was really easy to read very practical and having a copy on hand was reassuring: I could refer to it throughout the stages and build my understanding of how to foster a fun eating experience and confident eating skills! (The book guides you through first signs that your baby is ready to begin BLW and then suggests appropriate food for the physical skill levels your baby it at. For example, if baby is just working on grasping food, cut food into long strips or offer food with handles. It also addresses concerns such as allergens, salt-intake, choking hazards. The BLW mantra also takes the emphasis off calorie intake, suggesting that 'food before one is just for fun,' as mother's milk or formula provide enough nutrients to sustain the baby.)

Tell us about your daughter, Gabriella... how old is she, what does she love to eat, etc. 

Our daughter is nearly 19 months old. She is an adventurous girl, easy-going and loves looking after her dolls, going on walks, singing and music, being spun or tossed in the air and loves watching people. Gabriella also loves reading, looking at pictures of herself and she loves dogs. She has about 40 words under her belt, now runs to hugs us, gives kisses, has a recent interested in keys and locks and loves play food.
Gabriella loves fruit of course, inhaling blueberries, oranges, grapes to name a few. Beans are our go-to protein, especially chick-peas and black beans. She loves pasta, nuts, cous-cous, rice, peas, avocado, yogurt, oatmeal, green smoothies, and eggs. She'll eat most of my spiced dishes, but I have to be careful that they aren't too hot! She's confident with a fork and getting better with a spoon. We have practiced using a butter knife to cut a banana together as well. She uses a small plastic cup (open on top) for water and usually use a sippy cup for milk.

In your experience, what are the most significant reasons to introduce solids using baby led weaning?

There are so many reasons we have loved doing BLW with our daughter. Here are a few:

- baby's engaging with not only tastes of food, but exposed early on to textures, smells and the experience of eating.

- baby is sharing in mealtimes with us. This has been such an easy transition into the routine of mealtimes and instills the importance of eating meals together as a family

- there is little rush to eat. The emphasis is on experiencing and enjoying food. It's helped both my husband and I to also slow down and engage over the shared meal experience

- cooking foods for baby to share in has really encouraged and propelled me in my own exploration of healthy eating. It's become a lot more vegetable based and it's helped me become much more aware of processed foods and other dangerous additives that not only do I want to avoid exposing my daughter to, but now myself (dyes, added sugars, excess salt). It also inspires me to keep offering a variety of foods.  I've also been more adventurous in trying new foods for the sake of introducing them to our daughter! That's fun! Okra anyone?

- Independence! I think this method is so empowering to baby! Baby has so many opportunities to develop a range of skills including hand-eye coordination, grasping, and handling food confidently in her mouth. Baby also gets to explore food at her own pace, which makes it so much more fun for her!

- We've actually been able to do some baby sign language with our daughter it seems like the dinner table is one of the easiest places to consistently introduce some basic signs. I think the BLW process has allowed flexibility in learning these signs and as baby is already learning independence in eating, learning to communicate during this process seems to compliment this process. Signs we focused on early on included: more, water, all done, eat, milk, and hot

-I imagine that baby-led weaning is probably how most of the world feeds their kids and certainly it is how it was done in the past. I appreciate this, especially as it offers a simplicity to how we feed our kids and really is one of the first steps in instilling independence. The shared experience of food and groundwork layed for a healthy attitude and approach to food for our kids' lives can't be underestimated; I truly believe BLW is an avenue which makes this possible.

What are some of the challenges of baby led weaning? Specifically, please address your experience with gagging, choking, etc. 

The first few months of BLW were probably the most tentative for us as parents in the feeding process. The BLW method makes this differentiation between gagging and choking: gagging means baby is working the food in her mouth (learning how to move it around and eventually how to swallow), so there will be noise. Choking means that there is no sound at all and thus the throat is blocked. It's also important to note that babies have a gag reflex in their mouths which is further forward, so they would gag on food further in their  mouths than adults. As frightening as it is to hearing gagging, it is a good sign. The method encourages you to hold off if you hear those sounds and watch to see baby work out the food. This is an important step in the learning process of managing food in your mouth. It was certainly something to get used to. Our daughter had a little motor sound that accompanied eating in the first months as well.  Yet in the whole experience so far we have never seen her choke. We gave her back a few thumps, but that was more than likely due to our over-protectiveness. She's been a champ with food and has come a long way. We're very confident in how she handles food. I also wanted to note that compared to purees this process reverses the order of feeding skills: rather than learning how to swallow first as purees focus on, baby is learning how to move food around and then swallow.

Another hurdle, which can be a big tester, is the messiness factor. BLW is messy (don't say I didn't warn you). We are currently in a rented apartment completely covered in carpet. It was a huge risk to take on BLW, praying that we'd leave behind no stains (we need our damage deposit back!). Our best efforts in keeping the floor clean was purchasing a mess mat. It's a round plastic mat we bought specifically for babies from Toy R Us.
It's honestly been so easy to clean up and covers a good amount of space! We also bought full sleeved plastic bibs. These have been a huge help in keeping our daughter's clothes clean (especially in the intitial months), and again, have been really easy to clean up. Lastly, we bought a really simple booster seat which is completely plastic (no cloth), so it's very easy to wipe down. The other bonus is that it's small and can easily compact for us to take it places. We did use a bumbo chair and tray in the first month but without ridges on the tray it was very difficult to keep food on the tray and get the necessary 'scoop' of food. The nice part about the bumbo is that our daughter sat in the middle of the table right in the action when we first started. That was fun!

Tell us about some reactions you got from others... Was your husband on board? How about your parents? Friends?

My husband was interested certainly and supportive when I told him about BLW, but his initial reaction was, 'can't we still feed her some purees?' I think he realyl liked the idea of sitting down with our daughter and spoon feeding her. Although purees were an option, I knew I wanted to give the BLW approach our best effort and purees seemed to defeat the ultimate goal and perhaps would even interfere. My husband now loves BLW and loves how much fun it is to eat with our daughter, both for her and for us! Other family members were also supportive, although it still takes time to get used to eating with a noisy and very messy baby. My mom said she wishes she had thought of doing it when we were younger. I have a twin brother, so I'm sure it would have saved her a lot of time! I have also had a few friends interested in BLW, but I think it's easier to explain sometimes when they see BLW in action. I hope this write up gives a better picture of our experience with it.

All that to be said, we still have a typical toddler and some meals she's not interested in what's be served, can be picky, and still makes a mess sometimes. Food in hair? Ick! She has food preferences and we still work hard to ensure she has a well-balanced meal. Developing good eating habits take effort, patience and persistence!  

Anything else you'd like to add? Some cute pictures of Gabriella covered in delicious meals that she is feeding herself, perhaps?! ;)

Lastly, just to note, we didn't begin BLW with all three meals. We chose to start with dinner as both my husband and I would both be there. This was especially helpful for peace of mind: our thinking was that we'd have two sets of hands if we needed to quickly extract our daughter from her chair and help her if we thought she was choking. We could also talk through the shared experience this way and tag team the clean up. Today, it's still easier to have one person wipe hands while the other grabs the tray! After a month and a half or so, I felt confident enough to add another meal. Breakfast ended up being my easiest meal to prepare for our daughter, as we often eat from a rotating selection including blueberry pancakes, oatmeal (with raisins, seeds and a variety of other good stuff), on rare occasions cheerios & milk, and one of our other favorites, a cooked quinoa cereal. Yogurt 'yo', is mixed in with the hot cereals to quickly cool it down. My least creative meal was added to our schedule at around 9 months. Lunch is also often a rotating schedule including left-overs on occasion, pasta & tomato veggie sauce including chick peas, eggs in many forms, wraps with avocado & refried beans, green smoothies, raw veggies & hummus, and grilled cheese sandwiches & soup. Dinners vary quite a bit, but right now we're eating a lot of vegetarian meals including lentil patties, bean soups and stews. I really like one-pot meals, but try to do some sides a few times a week with fish or another meat. When we do eat meat, we're careful to use good quality organic beef, chicken and pork. We usually have one snack a day and it's in the afternoon. It can include things like apple & peanut butter, applesauce, rice cakes, cheese, dried fruit & dry cereal, fruit of any kind, nuts and yogurt & berries.


Thanks so much, Melanie! It's so fun to read about someone else's experience and I'm beyond thrilled that BLW worked so well for your family! (Readers: you can find more about how Charlotte learned to eat using BLW here)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Stitch fix: eight weeks postpartum

It has been a very, very, very long time since I posted about Stitch Fix. It's actually been a while since I got a fix, but not because I don't love the company (I do!), and not because I wasn't on the hunt for great clothes (I was!). Just. You know, life... Packing up and moving across country, a newborn, a toddler, husband getting a new job, renting for five months, buying a new (but pretty old) house, waiting for renovations, moving into the new house. All of that kept me just a little bit busy. 

So! I scheduled a fix to be delivered in early November, estimating that I would be about a month postpartum and starting to get used to my new normal. My new normal body, and my new normal of nursing a baby round the clock. Unfortunately, I never changed my shipping address, so my fix arrived in Glenside, only to be sent back to the company. Ugh. Mom brain fail!

Fortunately, Stitch Fix is awesome and they let me change my shipping address and reschedule my fix for no extra charge. But it meant I had to wait about a month and by that point I had already purchased and been given some new clothes for the fall/winter season that fit my post-baby body and worked for breastfeeding. 

BUT!! I really really really liked some of the items I got in my fix, so, though I didn't keep anything this time, I definitely plan to order another fix in the spring and I want to show some (terrible!!) photos of me wearing the items Stitch Fix sent. I highly recommend getting a fix, and I highly recommend using my referral link, which I'm posting here. If you try it out using my link, I get $25 credit, which I can use to schedule my own future fixes, or can put toward an item I want to buy. Win, win, really. (Direct link: 

Ugh, these photos! Please don't let the quality of my pictures dissuade you from trying the company. I was functioning on VERY little sleep, had just showered, my toddler was running around like a maniac, and I was holding my breath knowing that Asher would wake up wanting to nurse any second. Not the best circumstances for a photo shoot, right?! 

But anyway... Let's talk about the clothes. In my fix I got three shirts, a pair of jegginggs, and an awesome navy jacket. If I had the money, I would have kept the jacket in a second. It was my favorite item, by far. Alas, I bought a rain coat in August and couldn't justify spending money on another coat again in December, especially since it wasn't a winter coat. The jeans were really sturdy and a great color, but the elastic waistband reminded me of maternity jeans, which I was still wearing in early December but didn't really want to be wearing any longer. 😉 (I've since purchased a pair of skinny jeans from J Crew Factory and love them, FYI!)

All three tops were really nursing-friendly... Loose enough to be pulled up or moved aside whenever necessary. The gray one was my favorite, but I have lots of gray in my wardrobe and didn't really want to add anymore. The first top pictured had great texture and the back was interesting, but it was the exact color of a sweater I had just purchased. Bummer. I felt like the stylist really paid attention to my preferences and wishes on this fix. In addition to leaving a detailed note about recently having a baby and being in the midst of breastfeeding, I also gave a link to my "capsule wardrobe" board on Pinterest. There I have some ideas of styles I prefer, and specific clothing items I love. Stitch Fix suggests this as a way to help your stylis get an idea of how to pick things you will love. 

So what are you waiting for?! Sign up for your fix! Use my referral link! 
Ready, set, go (as Charlotte loves to say!!) 

Also- I really can't stress enough how incredibly easy it is to get a fix. Seriously easy. The best part, in my opinion, is how simple it is to return any items you don't keep. The fix includes a pre-paid mailing bag where you put anything you want to return. Stick the bag shut and drop it in a mailbox (or give it to your mail carrier, if that works for you.). You don't have to pay for return shipping and you don't have to go to the post office. I repeat- you don't have to go to the post office. So easy, people!! 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Chats with Charlotte 2

Charlotte's making some solid sentences lately. She is cracking us up and blowing us away with her incredible conversational abilities. She's basically a genius. ;)

Momma, hold you, now! (Screamed from her crib when she doesn't want to go to bed!)
Charlotte, hurt, ankle. 
Charlotte, hurt, elbow.
Uncle Allen, hurt elbow. 
Scary loud noises! 
Oh, yook, emineminems. Red, green. Hi, emineminems!! One. Eat it. #M&Ms 
Asher come too. 
Me come too. 
Go outside now! Play now! 
Daddy cook. Daddy wear apron. 😄😄
Asher's awake. Hold him now. 
No mail today. Sad! 
Daddy's home. See him! 
Alpaca, horse! run with Dad.
Play markers now. 
Play car now. 
Mixer. Make cookies now. 
(Can you sense the urgency in all her conversations!? Everything is NOW!!) 


One of my New Years goals is to blog more regularly. I wrote down "blog at least once per week", giving myself lots of wiggle room, though I hope to post even more frequently than that . Blogging took a back seat during the "fourth trimester" as we juggled a newborn, a toddler, and a new house that needed a lot of TLC. 

But now it's 2016 and Asher is a bit more consistent and our house is coming together. So here goes nothing-- more blogging! 

I've seen many versions of "Currently" blog posts and have decided not to try and meet any specific formula. I'm just taking the plunge to give a quick update and to have a record of these cold, rainy, winter days in the first year of my baby's life. 

Currently reading: All the Light We Cannot See. Got it for Christmas and have read... Oh, about ten pages. Ha. But it's intriguing so far. 

Currently loving: the sunshine outside today! It's only about 40 degrees but I can't remember the last time I was home for a sunny day. We went to the playground instead of to Costco, because SUN!!

Currently cooking: spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner. And green beans, because Charlotte loves them. 

Currently anticipating: the Internet service person to show up and give us wifi. The company called yesterday and re-scheduled the appointment to get it connected for this afternoon. We've been borrowing from the neighbors since we moved in, but it only works on the outer wall of our bedroom and in Charlotte's room. 

Currently staring at: photos of my gorgeous children. I can't get enough of their sweet little faces.