Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Skills that will help you to be a good parent

Madeline Levine mentions "the trinity of change" or three skills that will help us to grow and change along with our children.  The first is self-reflection or the ability to make sense of our own lives in order to help our children make sense of theirs.  By doing this, we can use the best of what we learned from our parents and change the things we want to.  The second is empathy - an "accurate understanding of another person's internal experience."  The third is flexibility, which means being thoughtful, but not a pushover. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Seven Important Coping Skills

This is from Madeline Levine's book "Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success."

1.  Resourcefulness: the ability to proactively and independently solve problems and seek help from others
  • Do: create opportunities to develop coping skills
  • Do: share how you solve your own problems (modeling)
  • Do: teach that there are multiple ways to solve problems
  • Do: teach how to self-soothe, have emotional control
  • Don't: jump in too early or become impatient; give them a chance to problem solve
  • Don't: become so stressed that you are unable to model resourcefulness
2.  Enthusiasm: encourage children to find something that really interests and excites them

  • Do: model enthusiasm by expressing it often and over a range of activities
  • Do: remember that entitlement kills enthusiasm
  • Don't: expect your child's way of expressing enthusiasm to be the same as yours
  • Don't: use your love or approval as a way of manipulating your child's interests
3.  Creativity: encourage nimble, flexible, and innovative thinking
  • Do: keep materials that encourage creative expression easily available
  • Do: encourage open-ended activities and unstructured play
  • Do: encourage problem-solving
  • Do: limit screen time
  • Don't: lose patience with the skeptical child
4.  Hard-Working: having a good work ethic
  • Do: model enthusiasm for hard work (and feeling a sense of accomplishment)
  • Do: make sure the work they are expected to do is reasonable and not overwhelming
  • Don't: expect all kids to put in the same kind of effort
  • Don't: insist on their best effort on absolutely everything
5.  Self Control: or developing ways to wait
  • Do: model self management yourself
  • Do: allow them to experience moderate levels of distress/challenge/struggles
  • Do: show you value their ability to go against the crowd
  • Don't: expect them to learn without your guidance
  • Don't: dismiss or minimize their negative feelings (help them deal with anxiety)
6.  Self-Esteem: feeling that one is worthwhile; gained through competence
  • Do: encourage them to work outside of their comfort zone
  • Do: let them know you have confidence in their abilities
  • Do: help them break goals into smaller, more realistic goals
  • Don't: allow them to shift responsibility for difficulty to others
  • Don't: praise indiscriminately
7.  Self-Efficacy: believing that we play a role in determining how things will turn out for us in life
  • Do: help them to appraise their capabilities realistically
  • Do: provide opportunities for them to contribute successfully to the family
  • Don't: project your own anxiety on them as they move forward
  • Don't: protect your child from failure 

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Happiest Toddler on the Block

10 basics for raising a happy toddler by Dr. Harvey Karp

1.  Think of your toddler as a caveman: Their brains are still developing and primitive.  They are not yet good at language or logic.  Emotion and impulse are more dominant parts of their brain.

2.  Know their temperament: laid-back, cautious, or spirited? Know this can help you anticipate their needs and reactions.

3.  Give yourself a break because parenting is hard: You don't have enough help.  Your buttons get pushed.  Your personality might not mesh with theirs.

4.  Be an ambassador for your toddler: Handle them with respect, kindness, and diplomacy when you set limits. 

5.  Practice the fast food rule daily:  When they are throwing a tantrum, spend time echoing their needs and feelings back at them before you tell them something.

6.  Speak in toddler-ese: Use short phrases.  Repeat yourself several times.  Use animated gestures and an expressive voice to mirror their feelings to connect with them emotionally.

7.  Encourage your child's good behaviors with
      - Time-ins: attention, play, praise, gossip, hand checks, etc... at least 20 minutes a day  
      - Confidence builders: offer them choices, play the boob
      - Teach patience: patience stretching, magic breathing
      - Routines: bedtime sweet talk, special time
      - Planting seeds of kindness: fairy tales, catching others being good, role playing

8.  Curb annoying behaviors by
     - Connecting with respect: fast food rule + toddler-ese
     - Offer win-win compromises
     - Give mild consequences: clap-growl, kind ignoring

9.  Put a stop to unacceptable behaviors: time-outs; giving a fine

10.  Prevent most tantrums or stop them by
       - Fast food rule + todder-ese
       - Avoid problem situations
       - Connecting with respect all day long
       - Feeding the meter: time-ins, playing the boob, routines, etc...
       - Teach patience-stretching

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Our trip to Asia

Here it is, pages 22 to 25 from Olivia's first photo album - her first trip to Asia!  I can't believe I'll be taking her back again in a month - eek!  She will be even more wiggly this time around.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Olivia's First Year

Little O is almost 9 months old and I want to make an album to commemorate her first year.  I've been trying to take a photo a day, and thought I would use them to make a "comic book" style album about her first year.  Here's the first page.  I'm trying to decide if I need more words than these.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cultural Exchange, part 2

Here's the one I made on Korea.  We had many more photos of Olivia out and about here because she wasn't sick with a cold and it wasn't so hot and sunny.  Also, there wasn't anyone at home to hang out with because they were all busy working.

Cultural Exchange

I've been busy trying to get back into life at home and thinking about next year when I go back to work, eek!  I also signed Olivia up for a cultural exchange.  It's a bit premature, but I figured I could keep the stuff for when she's a bit older.  Here's what I've prepared so far on the Philippines.  I didn't take enough photos on our most current trip, so I also used photos from previous visits.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Feeding Baby Solids

eating jjajang-myeon (noodles with black bean sauce)

     Traveling for 3 1/2 weeks around asia with a baby starting solids caused us to let go of the normal routine followed with introducing solids.  Before we left, Olivia had done 3 days each of simple fruits and vegetables.  We started with avocado and moved on to bananas, apples, and carrots.  We also tried rice cereal and breast milk with and without blackstrap molasses (for iron), but that was the one food Olivia wasn't interested in.  However, on the road, it wasn't practical to cook and mash up fruits or vegetables, so we began to feed her what was readily available.

     On all of our flights, we contacted the airlines ahead of time to request baby meals.  For each meal, the airlines provided us with 2 cans of Gerber baby food and a small bottle of juice.  I guzzled the juice, and gave Olive some baby food.  She wasn't interested in any of the weird smelling "mixed" flavors, but was okay eating the really basic ones like sweet potato and banana.  

     We started out in the Philippines hanging out with my Lola, and it turns out food that is favored by my 98-year-old grandmother is also fitting for a 7 month old baby.  We started out with lugaw, which is filipino congee, or rice porridge.  My lola has this with every meal instead of regular rice.  Lunch and dinner always includes sabow (soup).  We mixed some of the soup broth with rice or lugaw.  If our meals contained appropriately cooked meat or vegetables, we added it to the soup and rice as well.  Fish was often available and was easy to flake into small pieces, as long as there weren't too many bones.  Sometimes the soup contained soft, easy to mash vegetables like squash, or vegetables with small leaves like kangkong. Her favorite dish while were there was mongo, a soup made of mung beans.  The beans are perfect for baby because they are tiny, like lentils.

     In Hong Kong, we became more comfortable feeding Olivia while eating out since we weren't staying with family, but in a tiny Airbnb room.  Our good friends who live there, shared their favorite spots with us (many of them dives), and we were happy to have extra arms to hold and/or feed baby O.  I would have to say that 4 adults to 1 baby is a good minimum ratio!  While we were there, she got her first taste of egg tart.  This is also when we discovered that chopsticks are better than baby spoons (if you're skilled at using them like my husband).  Olivia got so into eating while were there, that she would get upset if we got too engrossed in eating ourselves and didn't feed her with enough frequency.  M discovered that sometimes just sticking the chopsticks in her mouth empty kept her happy as we ate.   

     In Korea, we had a mix of home-cooked meals and restaurants.  M's imo cooked many delicious meals at home and enjoyed feeding her as well.  Her gomo-halmoni also discovered that a shot glass is the perfect size for a baby water glass!  Since we didn't have a high chair with us, it was often easier to just sit her on the floor when we fed her.  It was also great when we were able to eat at a restaurant where we sat on the floor as Olivia could sit on her own and the floor was also relatively clean if she felt like crawling around a bit.  While in Korea, she got some of her first taste (just small ones) of dessert foods including frozen red bean, deli manjoo (fresh corn cakes stuffed with cream sold at subway stations), cheese cake, and hodo kwaja (walnut shaped cake stuffed with red bean and walnuts).       

     I'm glad that our trip happened at the time it did as it helped us to be a little more adventurous with O's introduction to solids.  Being busy traveling kept us from worrying too much about being perfect or following all the rules and let us have fun.  It also gave us a chance to share the experience with friends and relatives who loved helping us introduce her to foods and witnessing the crazy faces that babies can make when they first taste something new. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Raising Baby Green

Seattle baby guru Ann Keppler has mentioned Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician at Stanford, a few times during her Birth and Beyond workshops and I decided to check out his books, Raising Baby Green and Feeding Baby Green.  They had a few good nuggets of information I want to remember for future reference.

Our wonderful neighbors recently moved which means we no longer have access to a lawnmower.  Dr. Greene had some good suggestions for baby-friendly lawn alternatives (more ideas are found here:
- Baby's tears (soleirolia soleirolii): It has small leaves, and tiny white flowers in the summer.  It prefers shade a moderate moisture, and will die back during the winter in colder regions.
- Irish moss (sagina subulata): Its tufts of slender stems form a velvety soft green carpet, and has small white flowers in the spring.
- Blue star creeper (isotoma): forms a flat ground cover and blooms with blue flowers from spring to frost.  It's easy to grow and maintain.

I absolutely don't have a green thumb, but I always aspire to more plants (if only to replace the ones I've killed).  Dr. Greene gave a list of the top ten air-filtering plants (as found by a NASA study - these are most effective at removing formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air):
chinese evergreen
- bamboo palm
- chinese evergreen
- english ivy
- gerbera daisy
- janet craig
- marginata
- mass cane/corn plant
- mother-in-law's tongue
- pot mum
- peace lily

Dr. Greene included a biodiversity checklist in Feeding Baby Green to make sure your family's diet is varied enough:
1. Mushrooms
2.  Amaranths: beet, buckwheat, quinoa, spinach, swiss chard
3.  Umbrellifers: carrot, celery, cilantro, parsnip
4.  Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, chinese cabbage
5.  Bromeliad: pineapple
6.  Composites: artichoke, lettuce
7.  Bindweeds: sweet potato, water spinach
8.  Gourds: cantaloupe, cucumber, squash, watermelon
9.  Heath: blueberry
10. Legumes: black beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils, peanuts
11. Lilies: asparagus, garlic, onion, shallots
12. Woody: bananas, plantains
13. Sesames
14. True grasses: brown rice, corn, oats, wheat
15. Rosy plants: almond, apple, apricot, blackberry, peach, pear, strawberry
16. Citrus: grapefruit, lemon, orange
17. Nightshades: eggplant, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes
18. Grapes
19. Laurels: avocados, cinnamon
20. Myrtles: allspice, cloves, guava
21. Loosestifes: pomengranate

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

What do you do all day? Revisited

 Staying at home with a baby means a lot of time you are unable to account for in the way you could if you were working outside of the home.  There is no typical day, but here is my attempt  to make an accounting of yesterday:

    1:30 - 1:50 am: get up and feed baby
    1:50 - 5:45 am: sleep (or try to fall asleep while thinking about everything I forgot to do 
                             and/or worry about baby)
    5:45 - 6 am: get up and change and feed baby
    6 - 6:45 am: try to get baby to fall asleep while also trying to rest
    6:46 - 9 am: fall asleep, intermittently waking up to make sure I haven't rolled over and    
                        smothered baby and/or keep her from scratching herself
    9 am - 10:40 am: put away dishes, do laundry, take a shower, clean/pick up house, eat
                           breakfast, catch up on e-mail, etc...
    10:40 - 11 am: change and feed baby, get her dressed for the day
    11 - 11:40 am: play with baby and eat a snack
    11:40 am - 12 noon: leave for story time at the library
    12 - 12:50 pm: story time at the library, feed baby, change baby, talk with friends
    12:50 - 2:10 pm: walk to and eat lunch, play with baby while eating lunch and talking with
    2:10 - 3 pm: walk around, stop at toy store to get her new toys, walk back to car
    3 - 3:20 pm: drive home while singing to crying baby
    3:20 - 3:40 pm: carry sleeping baby in car seat, put away dirty diaper, look at mail
    3:40 - 4:20 pm: change and feed baby, swaddle and put her down for a nap
    4:20 - 5 pm: wash dishes, fold laundry, watch tv, stop to nurse baby and attempt to get her
                        to nap longer
    5 - 5:40 pm: comfort crying baby and play with baby, video chat sister
    5:40 - 6:30 pm: drive around with napping baby running errands
    6:30 - 7 pm: come home to husband (home early, yay!), leave baby with him, take out trash, sweep
                         driveway, clean litter box
    7 - 7:20 pm: heat up leftovers while husband plays with baby
    7:20 - 7:40 pm: eat dinner with husband while baby plays in jumper
    7:40 - 8 pm: give baby a bath and get her dressed in pajamas
    8 - 8:50 pm: feed baby and put her to bed
    8:50 - 10 pm: feed cat, copy down recipes from library cookbook, clean up music library and add to
                          baby's lullaby playlist, catch up on e-mail, talk to husband, brush teeth, take vitamins
     10 pm - 1:50 am: sleep

My schedule will be some variation on this today, but there was no tangible big accomplishment.  Instead there were little things I was happy about:
      - she got in a good morning nap (and so did I) - yay!
      - watching her practice rolling over from back to front - finally!
      - getting out of the house and socializing with other adults and babies
      - finding her the baby maracas/rattle that she liked playing with in music class
      - getting some disposable diapers at a good price from another mom for our upcoming
        trip out of town
      - husband home earlier than usual from work 
      - finding a moment in the balmy Seattle evening to sweep the driveway

Yeah, not life changing events, but I'm glad I can enjoy these moments.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Sleep and babies

Sleep seems to be an obsession with all parents.  It's amazing, because I was not that concerned about sleep until about five months ago when Olivia was born.  Before that, I rarely suffered from sleep deprivation or insomnia.  When we announced we were expecting, all the parents we knew told us to enjoy our sleep while we could.  I was skeptical about this advice because I wouldn't say that I've ever valued my sleep, but instead took it for granted.  As soon as she was born, I finally understood what the hubbub was about.  Those first few weeks of delirium and sleep deprivation certainly taught me to value sleep as I never had before.

Now that I am not as sleep deprived, I have become more focused on Olive's sleep patterns.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), infants need about fourteen hours of sleep a day.  Last week, after several days and nights of fussiness and interrupted sleep, I started tracking how much she slept using an app on my phone called Total Baby. I quickly realized that she wasn't always getting enough sleep.  (The worst day, shown below, coincided with swimming class, and I do think that's related.)  

When she was younger, little O was really good at falling asleep in the moby, in her car seat, and in the stroller.  Now that she has become more aware of the world around her, she is generally wide awake in all of those places and I've realized I actually have to put some effort and thought into getting her to nap.  Sleeping at night hasn't usually been a problem and I think that's because we generally have a routine.  This involves a bath (sometimes), changing into pajamas and a night time diaper, swaddling, singing and then one last night time feed in a dark nursery.  (Sometimes a few books on sleeping and saying good night will be added in.)  She generally does fall asleep at the breast, and then sleeps through the night or wakes up once on average.  My mom, a pediatrician, chides me for feeding her when she wakes up (usually around 1 or 2 a.m.), but when you're exhausted and the baby is wailing, it is a fast and easy fix. 

Last week, Olivia began waking up more frequently, and I started to regret not heeding my mom's advice.  Some sources I've read do say that by sometime between four to five months, babies should be able to sleep "through the night."  (This means about five to seven consecutive hours.)  I asked local baby guru Ann Keppler about it, and she said that she felt it was appropriate to still feed babies in the middle of the night up to about six months. When she cries in the middle of the night, I usually wait a few minutes to make sure she doesn't just fall back asleep on her own,  If she doesn't, I try to keep night time feedings efficient.  I don't change her diaper or unswaddle her.  I just feed her and put her back down to sleep.  Once I do this, she has slept anywhere from one to eight hours more, with the norm being somewhere in the middle.  

I am also trying to pack more calories into her during the day to try and prevent the mid-night wake ups.  She's so easily distracted now and I realize that she isn't always eating as much as she used to.  (Seeing our cat or hearing her dad's voice will stop her eating.)  This means I need to make a conscious effort to go to a darkened room and not interact with her as she eats.  (Ann also recommends not feeding solids after 3 p.m., something to keep in mind for the future.)

As I logged sleep times, I realized the biggest place where Olivia was not getting enough sleep was during the day.  The first two days of trying to promote a proper nap time were tough.  She and I endured more than forty-five minutes of on and off crying, as I tried to teach her to nap.  I only did this once each day.  During the other nap times,  I let her sleep in my arms after falling asleep nursing, which sometimes lasted two hours.  (This meant sore arms, but a peaceful baby.)  On the third day, the crying only lasted about fifteen minutes, and she began napping for 90 minutes to two hours.  Mirroring the night time routine of a fresh diaper, swaddling, singing, a darkened room, and white noise also helped signal to her that it's nap time.  

The one downside to increased naps is that we are no longer as mobile and I'm finding it's harder to make plans to socialize outside the house, especially since her naps aren't yet at a regular time, but fall 90 minutes to two hours after she last woke up.  The up side is worth it though, since it means a happier, less fussy baby.  It's also giving me more time to get stuff done around the house.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Water Babies vs. Aqua Tots

We started swimming "lessons" with Olivia three weeks ago, and it hasn't been as successful as I was hoping.  Her reaction to the water is to curl up like she's a newborn again for the entire half hour we are in the pool. I thought maybe she was overwhelmed by all of the people and noise, but she usually likes this and can often be lulled to sleep by it. Local baby guru Ann Keppler said it's the temperature of the water and suggested we try water babies because the pool is much warmer. I was reading about them and it also sounds like the other parts of their facilities are also more baby friendly.

For example, at the local park district pool, there's only one changing table in the bathroom and there's always such a crush of people waiting for showers, that little O is freezing before we get one. They have two family bathrooms, but these are usually taken, and by people with kids who can dress themselves even though they are supposed to leave them open for younger kids. Poor Olive is so cold and stressed by the time we leave, and acts funny the rest of the day.

Water babies claim to have changing areas poolside where it's warm. Some of their pools are even saltwater which could be less irritating than chlorine. Their classes also seem to be more geared towards babies whereas the one we've been going to are really for toddlers. Of course, then park district's classes are 1/3 of the price.

What have been your experiences with babies and the water? Has anyone tried water babies? Is it worth about $20 per class?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Baby Supplies for the first few weeks

Since I had over two months off before baby O was due, I went a little crazy nesting.  I definitely over bought both clothes and gear.  I thought it would be useful to re-visit those first few weeks and figure out what was really essential to get before the baby came.  Everyone says not to bother buying clothes because you get so many as gifts.  I would say that wasn't totally true for us.  I was especially concerned because we didn't have any family to pass clothes down to us.  However, we had many generous friends with kids who gave us outgrown baby clothes, which was wonderful.

One of our favorite items were the little snap up gowns like the one baby O has on below.  For newborns, this was a great second layer over a onesie or shirt to keep them warm and is also easy to put on because you don't have to worry about putting it over their head.  Some people complain about all the snaps, but I didn't mind.  The flip over arms to cover her little hands so she wouldn't scratch herself (and to keep them warm) was also nice.  It was long enough to cover her feet so we didn't necessarily need to put socks on her.  These also convert to rompers when they are a bit bigger, but we mostly used it in gown form.  

Like many people, we were also fans of the little side-snap t-shirts.  They were great to wear before the umbilical cord stump fell off in lieu of a onesie.  Later on, they were also a great underlayer for extra warmth under the onesie.  I preferred the long sleeve ones for this reason, and because they have the little flip up hand covers.  We were able to use these longer than even the newborn onesies since they didn't outgrow here as quickly and were great for layering in the perpetually cool Pacific Northwest weather.

At our baby shower, we had our friends decorate onesies, which was a lot of fun.  Even better, is to have them decorate onesies of several different sizes.  That way you don't need to worry about them growing out of them before you can wear them all.  I would say they don't need more than half a dozen or so in each size.  (Of course, our little one didn't spit up much, so we don't go through them as quickly as some might.)  I try to take her picture in each one as she wears them and send it as a thank you to whomever made it.

My sister, a post-partum nurse, suggested I get the "my brest friend" nursing pillow.  The name kind of threw me off, but once she showed me how to properly position it, this was great to use when baby and I were both new to breast feeding.  It's also supposed to be good for those recovering from a c-section, which I was at the time.  It was convenient to be able to clip this on and then be able to walk around if I forgot something without having to re-position it.  The one place this didn't work that well was in the nursery rocker, since it's kind of wide.  This was definitely more comfortable to use on a couch.  I bought a second cover for this, and did end up having to change it a couple of times after spit ups and diaper blowouts.  Little O did outgrow this after a couple of months, so a used one might not be a bad idea since you can wash the cover.  
We gave little O sponge baths, and then proper baths once her umbilical stump fell off, in the tub below.  The sling was great for when she was really tiny, especially for sponge baths.  Once the stump was off and the belly button area was healed, we stopped using the sling and sit her on the infant side, where she was able to lean back.  This tub also happened to be the perfect size to hang lengthwise from the sides of our bathtub, which made it easier to bathe her.   
While still in the hospital with little O, my husband and I practiced swaddling her with the hospital blankets.  We couldn't get it down as well as some of the nurses who were expert swaddlers.  When we  got home, we loved using the velcro swaddlers by Summer infant and Halo, because they were quick and secure. My mom gave us some and I also bought some used since they grow out of them so quickly.  Little O would fight the swaddle initially, but it really did help her to sleep better since her random limbs flailing would end up waking her up.   
When she was tiny, O loved spending time napping in a vibrating bouncy chair, like the one below. The toy bar comes off, which makes it easier to take them in and out.  She loved the vibrations and there were many nights in the beginning when she would only sleep in this. It's also easy to carry around the house so you can keep an eye on the little one while eating or doing housework.  One of our friends, was kind enough to pass theirs down when they were finished with it.  Otherwise, these are easy to find used, and don't seem worth it to buy new since they outgrow it so quickly.  It's easy to remove the seat and throw it in the wash.  The only downsides to this chair are that it's easy to forget to turn off the vibrating and we stubbed our toes on the wide base all the time.
While she was in her nocturnal phase, my husband found that a swing really helped him soothe the baby.  (In addition to the other S's suggested by Dr. Karp.)  This can be a lot bulkier than the chair above, but we were able to fit it in the nursery and used it to help her nap when swaddling and white noise wasn't enough.  O liked it better in the position not shown below, where you can swing front to back rather than side to side.  We took off the play console and she's never used it.  They also make more compact versions of this that sit lower to the floor.  I wouldn't spend the money to buy this new since it's only used for a short period of time.  They are easy to find used on craig's list and easy to clean.  I was able to wash the entire seat portion in the washing machine, as well as the toys on the mobile. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Getting ready for baby: Maternity "Gear"

I'm so excited that a couple of my friends are expecting, and I've been thinking about what
stores and items I really loved when pregnant.  One thing you're not prepared for is how sensitive your breasts get. You don't want anything touching them, so it's hard to sleep sometimes.  I loved these maternity/nursing tanks from Cantaloop because the material was really soft.  It also provided coverage and stretched over my huge belly.  It's also been great now that I'm nursing.  They were on sale on zulily, so I didn't have to pay full price for them, which was even better.  Cantaloop also made a great support belt that I wore like a belly band.  It helped keep my pants up and made my belly feel a bit less heavy.

I used to love wearing spanx pre-pregnancy to smooth away all the lines and bumps under clothes, but I didn't want to squeeze my poor baby.  I was happy when I found maternity "spanx" from Motherhood Maternity.  They were less expensive than the actual spanx brand, and they worked just as well.  Even better than smoothing out lines, it also gave me much needed support when I was wearing dresses.  Without these, I often felt like my belly was dragging downwards during my third trimester.

Speaking of dresses, these were the most comfortable things to wear, especially during the summer when my belly was huge.  I found that a lot of the empire waist and wrap dresses that were already a part of my wardrobe worked just fine.  For example, none of the outfit below was maternity - except maybe my tights.  Since the weather in the Pacific Northwest is mild, and my third trimester wasn't until the summer, I also got away without buying a new winter coat.  Instead, I wore my regular coat unzipper and/or wore sweater coats like one below, also undone. 

My propensity for empire waist clothing, also paid off when it came to tops.  Believe it or not, the top below is from Anthropologie (as many of the tops I wore while pregnant were), and managed to stretch out and accommodate baby quite well, even towards the end. 

I did buy quite a few maternity items though, particularly pants (like the grey jeans above).  I found that full maternity panel, skinny jeans worked best.  Some of my friends managed to wear a belly band with their regular pants throughout their pregnancy, but this only worked for me through part of the second trimester.  After that, I tried the low rise and knit/stretch panel pants, but these did not work so well because they just don't stay up.  This is also why I favored the skinny jeans.  In addition, it is impossible to find petite maternity clothes, and skinny jeans were easier to avoid hemming.  Instead, I just scrunched them or folded them up. 

I didn't want to spend a ton of money on clothes I'd be wearing for just a few months, so my favorite places to shop were Old Navy, Gap, Target, and H&M, which all sell maternity clothes in some of their locations.  (I only bought a couple things online, as trying them on was important, since my body kept changing.)  Old Navy had great basics.  I got one of my favorite pair of jeans there as well as some tops and summer dresses.  Gap was a bit pricey, so I only bought things on sale here.  However, this was a good place for more work-appropriate clothes.  I found a great black wrap dress here, as well as the grey jeans I was wearing above.  

I love Liz Lange's line at Target.  I also shopped here the most frequently because every store carries maternity.  I got some great dresses and tops here, like the one above - I can't believe I was that big towards the end!  I also found really comfortable maternity tank tops which were nice for layering.  I also got a cute bathing suit here, although Old Navy's are definitely lower priced.  H&M's maternity line is called Mama, and they carry some cool and stylish options.  I loved their jeans, but they didn't work fit me as well as Old Navy's, but the price was not that much higher.  It's also harder to find a store that carries it, so I more often bought regular tops that worked with the belly, at my local, non-maternity carrying H&M.  I was interested in checking out Forever 21's maternity line as well, but none of my local stores carry it.  (I read somewhere, that it's only carried in states with high teenage pregnancy rates, so I guess Washington isn't one of those states?)

Towards the end, my foot swelled up and I could no longer fit in my regular shoes.  I am so grateful it was summer by then and that school was out, because it meant I was able to live in flip-flops.  I also had more dressy and supportive sandals, similar to the ones above, that I wore whenever I needed to leave the house.   

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Crafts: Sewing Kid's Clothes

Before baby, I was in frantic nesting mode, and sewing for friend's babies and my future baby.  One day, my friend Liz came over and we had a crazy sewing day.  It was great sewing with her because she just dives in, which helped push me along to get more done because I can be quite poky and too precise about it.  I managed to make a skirt and a dress that day.

Here's one of the finished dresses.  I realized afterwards, that i managed to sew it so the fabric pattern is upside down, but it's still a cute dress!  I used this tutorial and some math skills to make it.  Of course, little O won't be wearing this for awhile. 

I also made the skirt above for our friend's daughter.  This may have been the tutorial I used, but I'm not sure now.  Looks cute, but the proportions were funky.  I learned that it's hard to make clothes for kids when you don't have them there to measure!

During another crafting day with my friend Becky, I made this cool travel blanket, using this tutorial.  It's not perfectly straight, but the beautiful echino fabric I used makes up for my lack of sewing skills.I have yet to use this with O, but she's getting attached to her toys, so it might be good to start using it soon.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hungry Monkey

I just finished reading a terrific book called Hungry Monkey: A food loving father's quest to raise an adventurous eater.  The title made me think of how I think M wants to raise our little one.  I also have food on the brain since it is about time to introduce little O to solids.  My mom, who is a pediatrician, has been pressuring me to start since she was four months because she thinks O is ready.  Meanwhile, my sister-in-law (another pediatrician), and O's actual pediatrician say I should wait until six months so she can get the maximum benefit from breastfeeding.  Ann Keppler, local baby guru, also thinks we should wait until six months.  Many of her reasons are given here.

The book was an enjoyable account of the author's first few years with his daughter.  He lives in Seattle, in the Capitol Hill area, so he often referenced local places, which made it even more appealing to read.  Every chapter concluded with a few recipes that his daughter liked, and also gave suggestions of how little ones could help with the cooking or baking.  As a new parent, it's reassuring to read about how other parents actually introduce solids and handle diet and pickiness.  I know some of my friends think I'm a bit crazy to worry so much about it and that it's all just common sense.  However, I don't get the same information from everyone, which makes it confusing.  My husband was allergic to a lot of things as a kid, so I worry that O might be the same way.  Also, I was an extremely slow and picky eater as a kid.  My parents used to time me and it would often take me well over and hour to eat.  Sometimes I'd get sent to the garage or outdoors to finish if it took too long.  I'm not sure if this worked or I just got over being picky, but I'm a world champion at speed eating now. 

I want to wait the six months, but O is definitely fascinated with watching us eat, which makes it tempting to start sooner.  I bought some whole grain rice cereal, as O's pediatrician recommended, last week.  (Ann Keppler is anti-rice cereal, but if we do start her on solids before six months, it seems like a good place to start.)  We haven't started her on the cereal yet, despite continuous pressure from my mom to do so.  I have given O a spoon to hold and suck on as she watches us eat dinner from her bumbo.  I've practice giving her a bit of water from the spoon and from a glass, and she seems to enjoy that as well.  

Lately, O seems to suffering from some teething pain, and has taken to furiously rubbing her pacifier, her sophie, or one of our fingers rapidly across her first tooth and gums.  This is a little hard on my finger.  I've also been reading Baby-led Weaning: Helping your baby to love good food,  which inspired me to give O a baby carrot to hold.  She held it and soon brought it up to her mouth to rub against her tooth and gums.  Her little tooth was like a grater and she soon had tiny carrot shavings on her sleeve and bib.  I'm not sure if she actually ate any of the carrot, but she enjoyed sucking it and rubbing her tooth and gums on it.  (To make sure there was no danger of her choking on it, I only gave it to her while she was sitting upright in the bumbo and I kept an eye on her the entire time.)  Eventually, the carrot got too slimey with saliva for her to hold and she kept dropping it.  Does this count as her first food?  I'm not sure, but she had fun holding something and gnawing on it while we ate, and we certainly enjoyed watching her.

I'm still trying to decide how important it is to start with rice cereal, or even purees.  I'm not sure if I'm totally on board with baby-led weaning, but I like the idea that not everything has to be spoon fed and mushy.  I am still unsure about seasoning too.  Should the food be left pure and bland, or is a little salt or other flavoring okay?  My husband wants to make her some jook (rice porridge), which I'm sure a lot of babies in Asia start off with.  What was the first food you gave your little one?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Little O is almost 5 months old!

It has almost been five months, and I have been sadly remiss about writing about how little O has been progressing.  Sometimes it seems like time is moving so slowly, but my husband, M, who doesn't get to spend all day with her, often reminds me how much she is changing.  She is no longer the curled up little pill bug sleeping the day away, but is definitely becoming more alert and aware of the world around her.  The easiest way for me to remember how much has changed is to do a review in the form of photos:

Since my last update almost 4 months ago, little O has spent countless hours happily snoozing as I wear her.  I can't believe she was once small enough to hang as she is above, in the moby.  We have transitioned to mostly using the ergo since she is over fifteen pounds and heavy!  Now, she is big enough that I have a hard time signing receipts when I'm shopping or eating lunch, as her head is almost covering my face at this point.  I also want to practice wearing her facing out in the moby more, as O is sometimes awake and looking around now, rather than automatically falling asleep when I'm wearing her.

Little O has now spent many hours out and about and seems to greatly prefer being out in the world, rather than being cooped up at home all day with me.  We've continued going to Friday dinners with our friends, and I am grateful that some of them are happy to hold her to give me and M time to scarf some food down ourselves.  She doesn't seem to mind being held by others yet, although I have noticed a preference for Asians, since those are the faces she sees the most.  She has spent more time at sports bars watching football with her Appah than I have, and I am grateful for M for taking her out, and for the bars for allowing it, as it has given me a little bit of time away to just breathe and do my own thing again.

Little O has gotten to meet other babies her age thanks to PEPS.  It's also been great for M and I to get to meet parents who are going through the same thing as us.  We've been meeting every Wednesday evening and it's been interesting to see the change in all the babies. In the beginning, most of us held our sleeping little ones and/or fed them during those two hours.  Now, we often put them on the floor together and get distracted as we watch them squealing and batting one other.

Little O got to visit the places where both M and I work.  It was fun to introduce her to everyone and so cute that she got her own name badge.  Looking at this photo, I can't believe she was ever to cute and tiny!

Since the last update, little O has already had three roundtrip flights!  I even did one of those legs solo with her.  During these trips, she celebrated her first Halloween, her first Thanksgiving, her baptism, her first 100 days, and her first Christmas.  The best thing about all of it is getting to surround her with the loving arms of all of our friends and family.  It makes the loss of routine and a good night's sleep worth it.  Little O also has her own passport now and we will soon be taking a long flight to Asia for an extended stay so she can meet her great-grandparents and many more relatives and friends.

We have been trying to give little O as much tummy time as we can, although she often doesn't look as happy as she does above.  She was also diagnosed with mild torticollis, which meant a couple of visits to a physical therapist and some neck exercises to do with her.  Her neck seems to be okay, and now I just worry about her funny shaped head, but I can't complain about her long hours of sleep, even if it might be leading to flat spots.  She has also learned how to roll, albeit mostly in one direction and only front to back.  I know I shouldn't, but I worry because she is not as advanced a roller as other babies her age, but we practice every day!

O is loving time in the bumbo, as well as her exersaucer and, most recently, her jumper.  I've heard that all these things are not necessary and can be detrimental to her development, but it's a nice break from floor time, although I try to make sure it isn't a substitute for it.  It also gives me a chance to rush around and do a few chores around the house before she starts crying. 

Little O has had numerous facetime and skype video chats with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and great-grandparents.  I find it amusing how often my dad will take screenshots as we chat, and how often he accidentally hangs up on us.  Her mood varies from chat to chat, but M's mom got the nickname "poop grandma", because for awhile O was regularly and loudly pooping during their video chats.  The trend has not continued, and lately she cries since she'd rather be walking around instead of staring into a computer screen.

Little O and I have spent quite a bit of time taking classes.  We took a wonderful mommy and me yoga class where I got some stretching and muscle work in between feeding and playing with her.  We tried one gymboree class, but found it to be a bit pricey (and I think clowns are creepy).  Currently, we are singing songs in Spanish while learning American Sign Language, going to a world music class, and will soon be starting swimming lessons.  Seattle Parks and Recreation has been a wonderful resource for affordable classes.  We've also attended a few workshops with Ann Keppler, baby guru, and Birth and Beyond.

Little O has been the recipient of many baby gifts, particularly from her lola, who has gone crazy shopping for her.  My favorite are the handmade items, especially these cute ducky booties knit by her tita.  Soooo cute!!

Little O has had some baby play dates, which are really opportunities for me to socialize with other adults.  She does love seeing new faces and places, but has a tendency to make other babies cry - hilarious, but unfortunate.  It is great to see friends with babies, I only wish they all lived nearby.  I remember in middle school I used to dream my best friend and I had houses next door to one another connected by a bridge, and that all of my friends lived on an island with me.  I still kind of wish for that.