Big Day for a Little Guy (And Something Else I’m Working On)

Baby Brother is rounding the corner to his half birthday, and in this house, that means he is able to start having some “solid” foods.

**I say “solids” because, let’s be real:  there is nothing solid about baby food.**

At about 2.5 times his birth weight, this guy has been better at gaining weight than his sisters were.  And at 5 1/2 months he was already sitting well unassisted.  Over the past couple of days, I offered him an empty spoon to see what he would do with it.

Of course he put it directly into his mouth.

Homeboy doesn’t play.

So this morning, just eleven days short of his sixth month, our little guy enjoyed some mashed avocado.

It’s too soon to tell whether he enjoyed it or not.  It seems each of our babies has made a face of disgust when tasting food other than breastmilk for the first time.

Starting solid foods brings a whole host of new things into the job of caring for baby:

  1.  You always have to make sure you have baby food on hand.  I have made all my babies’ foods except for the odd squeeze packet bought on a road trip here and there.  I intend to continue this trend by making and storing all of our own baby foods for Baby Brother.  This morning the girls helped me prep three different kinds of puree, and in addition to these I always have bananas and avocados on hand for easy mashed baby food.  I find once I get in the hang of making baby food, the process goes quickly, and I make purees in large enough batches that I have at least 10-20 1 Tbsp servings to put in the freezer.
  2. Babies who get solid foods need water.  This is pretty simple to take care of.  I had to grab a couple boy-colored sippy cups for Baby Brother.  Not that he couldn’t use the pink ones I had from the girls, but they had already been used for two kids.  The plastic spouts tend to wear from use, and if I’m buying new ones anyway, Little Guy can get blue.
  3. Solid foods in, solid poops out.  Now, this doesn’t happen immediately.  Thank.  Goodness.  But once solids become an established part of Little Guy’s diet in a few weeks, I will no longer be able to just toss his whole cloth diaper in the wash any longer.  I’ll have to actually put solid waste in the toilet, then put the diapers in their bin.  It’s not that painful of a process, but it does take an extra step.  An extra messstep.
  4. More laundry.  Is that even possible?  I’ll be washing more bibs, more of Little Guy’s clothes, more of my own clothes, plus a few more cloths that I use to wipe up spills.  It doesn’t sound like much, but in the course of a week, it can really add up.  I would say I am adding an extra load of laundry per week when I have a a baby eating baby foods.

Regardless of the extra work, introducing a baby to foods for the first time can be so exciting.  I’m thrilled to be doing this all over again, and I can’t wait to find out Baby Brother’s tastes.

In other, almost related news.  I have been working on a new project.  I am creating a downloadable menu plan that is both healthy (think whole foods) and inexpensive (about $50/week depending on how big your appetites are).  Having lived on one income for the vast majority of our marriage, our family is very accustomed to stretching a dollar in the grocery budget.  I have learned a few tricks along the way that I’d like to share about how to eat healthfully without breaking the bank.  Stay tuned for this menu plan to be available within the next two weeks!

I Am Not a Single Mom, But I Play One at Bedtime

Disclaimer:  This title is not meant to offend anyone, not single parents, not military spouses, nor my own spouse.  It is simply a funny way to say I get my kids in bed by myself most nights.  Relax and enjoy some humor.  It’s good for your cardiovascular system.

With a spouse that works second shift, I am almost always on bedtime detail by myself.

How, oh how do I get stuck on bedtime detail alone every time we have an infant?

If you recall, when Squishy Bean was a little Squish, my husband was working until 11 pm, so I was putting a toddler and an infant (and sometimes a friend’s toddler) to bed alone.  Bedtime with multiple small children can really be tricky, especially the more children you add.

Now that we have three of our own little people, I have had to create two sections of our bedtime routine:  Baby Brother’s bedtime and the girls’ bedtime.

Since I am primary parent on duty from mid-afternoon until late morning the next day, I am a firm believer in decently early bedtimes for everyone and the strategic use of a digital clock to teach staying in bed until a specific time in the morning.  It is truly a sanity saver for me.

Our bedtime routine, then, typically starts around 6:30 pm, after the girls and I have eaten dinner.  Baby Brother has probably been hanging out with us at the table, either in my lap or in the pack and play with some toys.  By 6:30, the Little Sir is getting quite tired.  He has begun to wake at night again, so his nighttime sleep isn’t as restorative as it had been.  Because of this, I am trying to get him down and asleep by 7 pm.  (More on why this isn’t happening currently but what I’m doing to help make it happen eventually).

In our home, someone gets a bath every night, but not every one gets a bath every night.  Baby Brother takes baths on his own, since he cannot sit up, and the girls take baths with each other.  Once Brother can sit up more confidently (much closer to 12 months old), he’ll join the girls in the bath.  But for now, his bath alternates days with the girls baths.  If it is a night for him to get a bath, I let the girls either look at books, color, or watch a short television show while I bathe their brother.

I know a lot of people that like to involve older siblings in bathing baby, but that is simply not for me, nor is it for Baby Brother.  He is a very alert, very extroverted little guy, and his sisters stimulate him so much.  He loves them and laughs at them constantly.  Having them help bathe him is just too stimulating and prevents him from settling down well.

After a bath and some lotion, I diaper and pajama the Little Guy, read him a short book, and nurse him.  Unfortunately he doesn’t fall asleep nursing.  Bitsy Girl always did, and it was a cinch to put her down to bed at night; Squishy Bean was hit or miss, but when she did fall asleep nursing, life was easier.  Baby Brother finds his last little bit of energy after nursing, so I often find I have to swaddle and rock him to sleep.  This usually takes only 10-15 minutes.

(Added Bonus:  Standing while swaying and rocking a 17 lb baby is an excellent oblique workout.  I should write a post on postpartum fitness.  Haha.  Just kidding.)

Theoretically, if all has gone well, Baby Brother is asleep in his crib by about 7 pm.  If not, he is laying in his crib with some nighttime music playing, talking to his stuffed monkey.  (Desperate times call for desperate measures, folks.)

It’s at this time that I round up the girls if Baby Brother has gotten a bath that night.  If it is a night for the girls to get a bath, I let their bath fill up while I’m putting pajamas on the Little Guy.  Once it’s full, I let them hop in and play a bit while I nurse and rock their brother.  Fortunately, the bathroom is right next to the nursery, so I can hear them giggling, playing, and splashing.  I usually instruct them to keep their fun to a dull roar.

After Baby Brother is in the crib, it is time for the girls to either get clean or get pj’s.  Bitsy Girl is very self-sufficient in the bathtub, so she can wash herself fairly well.  I do often help her condition her hair since she has so darn much.  Squishy Bean can wash herself just fine, as well, but she needs to be supervised in order to do so.

Once I have two clean girls, they hop out of the tub, dry off, go potty, brush teeth, and put on pajamas.  Then we tiptoe (like ninjas, of course) to the girls room to read a story.  On nights when they don’t bathe, we can read a longer book; on bath nights, I ask them to pick shorter books.  Most nights they ask for ridiculous numbers of books.  Suffice it to say, we are big fans of reading before bed.

After a book, we talk about our favorite things and least favorite things that happened that day.  I love having these few minutes to connect with the girls and to get a window into their little minds and souls.  Having an infant often means the older siblings get less attention than they had previously.  Setting aside time to talk about the day forces me to look them in the eye and hear what they have to say.

We usually finish our bedtime routine with a prayer.  We used to ask each girl to pray for themselves and others, but recently I read this blog post, and we have been trying to read Psalm 121 each night.  It’s simple enough for the girls to understand, and short enough to read in its entirety before bed.  Plus I love that they ask me every night where Israel is; then we have to check our world map in the morning to see, again, where Israel is.  They are often disappointed to find out it is, in fact, not in Wisconsin.

Then we kiss, hug, shnuggle, and I remind the girls that they need to stay in bed, stay still, and stay quiet.  I turn on some nighttime music, and leave the room, hopefully by 7:30 pm.

There are days when I check back in a few minutes, and both girls are asleep.  These are few and far in between.  Most days I have to check in several times, reminding the girls (ok, just the Bean) to stay quiet and still.  On a good day, everyone is asleep by 8 pm.  On a bad day, I have to grab Baby Brother and nurse him to sleep laying down (which is not as convenient as it sounds).  Then they are all asleep by 9 pm.

At which point I have to face the sink full of dishes.

 

Our Natural Family (at this Point in the Journey, at least)

Today I’m going to kick-off a series that I have had rolling around in my head for months.  I finally decided to put it to paper, and I realized I’ll have quite a few posts and goodies to share with you guys.  I’m seriously excited about this.

I honestly cannot remember when this journey began, but for the past few years I have been working towards eliminating different man-made, chemical-laden products from our lives.  I know part of this journey, for us at least, has had to do with cost.  Many times store bought products like cleaning products, bath and beauty products, and baby care can be very costly; even generic brands can really add up if you are cleaning your home and bathing regularly!

So both in an effort to relieve some pressure on our budget and journey towards eliminating chemicals from our lives, I began to research natural things I could replace commercial products with.  I would often start on Pinterest or Google, and I would acquire the ingredients necessary to make whatever natural replacement I’d found.  Many times I wouldn’t be satisfied with the final product, but I would tweak, adjusting recipes, adding essential oils, or changing the steps in a method to get something I was satisfied with.

I’m now pleased to say that we have replaced over 20 commercial products in our lives with a natural alternative.  These replacements can be found in my cleaning repertoire, my bathroom, my purse, and our bedrooms.  I can estimate that we have saved at least $30/month on bath products alone, and another $15-$20/month on cleaning products since moving towards homemade products.  I find the ingredients I buy are often inexpensive (though some of them are definitely not), and they often last much longer than products I would buy in a store.  I’ll be posting more this week about each product I have mastered making for our family.  Stayed tuned this week!

Teaching a Perfectionist

(My husband will seethe over this, but I’m starting with a quote.  From his least favorite inventor.)

“I have not failed.  I have only found 10,000 ways that do not work.”

-Thomas Edison

Since September, our family has been “lightly homeschooling”.  Our oldest is only 3 1/2, so we are just doing basic preschool things, but it seemed more fitting for our family than sending her to preschool since we hope to homeschool (more formally) eventually.  She is a smart little girl, and really loves to be engaged and challenged, so my husband and I knew she would love learning new things.

What we hadn’t anticipated is that our oldest daughter tends to be quite a perfectionist, even at this tender age.  As a self-proclaimed non-perfectionist, it is very hard for me to wrap my head around a lot of her behaviors.

She will attempt putting puzzle pieces together once, but if she cannot get it on the first try, she gives up.  She will refuse to “guess” a letter or number if she isn’t 110% sure she knows what it is.  She will ask the same question several times over to make sure she understands the answer.

I, on the other hand, am happy with a poorly-made bed, just so that there are some sheets on there and the comforter isn’t crumpled up.  Although I try my hardest, I don’t wash all the dishes in the sink every night before bed.  I don’t put away laundry immediately after folding it.

Seriously, who does that?

Madeline probably will.

My husband and I are finding that in a lot of areas of her life, we have to coach Madeline to even try something new.  In roomfuls of other children, she will often shy away from trying what is being taught.  I have seen this first hand in the preschool-aged Sunday school class at our church.  I used to have a group of five year olds, and during worship time, all kids 2-5 worship together.  I watched as Madeline sat in a corner, not singing, nor dancing, watching the other children.  Having seen her sing and dance these songs with exuberance at home, I gently asked her to join everyone else, to which she refused.  She did not like to sing and dance with the other kids, she explained.

It is taking careful words and lots of conversations to help Madeline realize she can give things a try and fail a few (or many) times.  Even in front of friends or strangers.

I know perfectionism to some degree has its benefits.  I know that when Madeline tries to do something, she works very hard to do it right.  She will not leave me a mess to clean up (most of the time).  She will not leave a sloppily made bed in the morning.  She makes sure she does chores in the order she always does them (first she feeds the dog in the morning, THEN she gets the vitamins; she cannot switch the order).

As her mom, I pray I have the strength to encourage her in her strive for excellence, as well as the ability to teach her to give herself grace for her own short comings and mistakes.  She is not perfect, and never will be.  She needs to know that.  But she needs to know that she can improve any number of skills by trying, falling down, and getting back up again.

 

How Toys Become Real

The other night Madeline asked to read The Velveteen Rabbit. Our copy is the same one I read as a little girl. I can prove it; my five-year-old self wrote my name in the front cover complete with backwards letters “f”.

The story is about a stuffed rabbit that wishes to be “Real”. His friend the Skin Horse tells him how he became “Real”: by being played with and loved for many years by a little boy. The rabbit soon begins to play with and be loved by the nephew of the Skin Horse’s boy. He takes the rabbit with him outside to play in the fields and the bracken; he builds him burrows in his bed sheets at night. After months and months of love, the velveteen rabbit’s fur begins to become dingy and worn. His seams are coming loose. But it does not matter; for the boy has decided that the rabbit is “Real”.

Not long after, the boy falls ill with scarlet fever. The rabbit sees the boy through the illness, and comforts him during the sleepless nights. Once the boy is well, the doctor and nanny decide to burn all of the boy’s toys and books that he used while ill, including the rabbit. After narrowly escaping a bonfire due to the gardener’s busy schedule, the rabbit encounters the Nursery Magic Fairy. It is she who makes the rabbit REAL. His shabby velveteen becomes real fur, and his body, once sewn as one piece, has front and hind legs that allow him to run, jump, and hop.

 

The Velveteen Rabbit was one of my favorite books as a child because I had a bear that was “Real” to me. My grandmother gave Teddy, or later Theodore, to me for my first Christmas, and he never left my side all through my childhood. I took Teddy with me everywhere: he went to the grocery store, he went to school, and he played outside. I took Teddy to college with me, and he even ventured abroad with me to England. When I tell you Teddy looks worn, he looks worn. That bear has had his face eaten not once, but twice, by my childhood dog, and he has been dragged by one paw so long that the seams on that arm are loose.

There had been times over the course of my childhood when I thought I had lost Teddy. The story of the Velveteen Rabbit was always a comfort to me. The Nursery Magic Fairy would surely turn him into a real bear, since I had loved him so much.

Now that I have children, they have their own stuffed animals, of course, but I have added Teddy to their collection. He sleeps on Madeline’s bed, and I notice her hugging him in her sleep sometimes. In my mind, I imagine that Teddy is like the Skin Horse. He is old and wise, and I have already made him “Real”. I picture him talking to Madeline and Clara’s stuffed animals, explaining to them lovingly that being hugged tightly, dragged around, and squished in bed are all part of the process of becoming “Real”. Teddy is the newer stuffed animals’ mentor, just as the Skin Horse was the Velveteen Rabbit’s mentor. He is further along in his “journey of life”, and he has much wisdom to share.

I had to grow up and face reality eventually. Teddy isn’t Real, and he isn’t “Real” either. He is just a stuffed bear that has been loved so much his eyeballs have fallen off. That doesn’t mean, though, that I can’t remember fondly the time in my childhood when my imagination was so active that I felt like my Teddy was my best friend. I can only hope that Teddy is “teaching” my girls’ stuffed animals to play along, too, so they can have a special friend like I did.

There’s a Lesson in Everything

Today the girls and I met my sister-in-law and nephew for lunch at a chain fast food restaurant, and after we ate, we let the kids wear themselves out in the play area.

Seriously, whoever invented play areas attached to restaurants must have had preschoolers in mind.  Eat.  Run.  Sleep.  That is how it should go at lunchtime everyday.

The three cousins didn’t have the place to themselves, though.  There were two brothers in there playing as well, the oldest of which couldn’t have been older than 7.  They were sweet kids, playing well together and with Madeline.  One of the little boys noticed Clara’s stump, and immediately called his brother’s attention to it.  I hadn’t been paying attention at the time, so I didn’t realize what the two boys were talking about.

“That girl’s hand is broken.  Look!”

One of the brothers stepped out of the play area to get his mother to look at it.  His face had confusion and genuine concern.

When his mother and grandmother came in, they of course realized what the little boys had been talking about.  They handled the situation very well, explaining that God makes little children of all shapes and sizes and each is unique from the rest.  It was a new lesson for those little boys; I could tell.  They clearly hadn’t seen anyone with a different looking limb from the general population, or at least not one that they had noticed.

Things like this happen often.  Little children are so truthful and blunt, and they are often not ashamed to say out loud some things that adults would normally keep to themselves.  Kids ask me all the time about Clara’s little stump:  they ask what happened to her hand, where it went, why she doesn’t have it.

Clara isn’t old enough to respond herself yet, but I know one thing for sure:  I want to teach her to respond gently and with love.  I realize that for each of these children that ask me, and for some of their parents, too, meeting Clara is a little bit of a learning experience.  It’s putting a real face to things we may hear about or see pictures of on the internet.  It’s seeing that a little girl can crawl, walk, climb, clap, drink from her cup, and do anything anyone else can do with just her little hand and her stump.

This little girl doesn’t know it yet, but God has plans for her that will blow my mind.

And hers.

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