Soaking in the baby life

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I was studying Tiffany this morning and realized that the little black hairs growing on the tops of her ears are gone. I didn’t even notice when that happened. So I thought I should write about my favorite things about Tiffany these first four months so I don’t forget.

Tiffany is a sweet, cuddly, smiley, chatty, active baby. She likes to move and also make her opinions known. When she starts talking, you can’t make her stop. And she can get really loud.

Clarissa is probably her favorite person. Life is just better when her big sister walks into the room. Sometimes she is inconsolable with me or Tim and Clarissa comes over. The tears instantly stop. She thinks Clarissa is hilarious and Clarissa is not afraid to do something crazy in order to make Tiffany laugh.

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I don’t have pictures of all of these things. But I should probably try in case she stops doing them.

  • When I change Tiffany’s diaper, she likes to lay there with her hands behind her head. She often sleeps this way too. Also, she kicks like crazy when I try to change her diaper. This is why Clarissa gave her the nickname “Squirmy Wormy.”
  • When I lean down and get ready to kiss her, she opens her mouth really wide, like she is going to eat my face.
  • When Tiffany smiles, she has a dimple under her right eye.

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  • Her hands are her favorite part of her body. She sucks on her hands if she is tired or hungry or bored… Her hands are usually in her mouth. She even tries to put her hands in her mouth while nursing and while sucking on her pacifier. Sometimes she puts her hands in too far and she throws up.
  • She has a cute way of sucking her thumb. She doesn’t put the whole thumb in her mouth, just the top part to the bottom of her nail.
  • Tiffany would not take a pacifier until we got home from our Christmas trip. Now I can give her a pacifier at naptime. The only trouble is that when the pacifier falls out, I have to put it back in. If it falls out after she has fallen asleep, she wakes up. Her daytime naps usually only last about 30 minutes for this reason. I tried giving her a pacifier with a giraffe stuffed animal attached, but when she played with the giraffe, the pacifier came out of her mouth. Now I give her the giraffe pacifier for her hands and put a normal pacifier in her mouth. Generally at night, she nurses to sleep so she doesn’t use a pacifier.
  • I have yet to be able to tame Tiffany’s hair. It seems curly after the bath and when I brush it down, it does not go completely flat. I originally tried brushing it forward so she didn’t look bald. But really, part of her hair just sticks up. All. The. Time.0127200843d1355197495079266315.jpg
  • She pulls my and Clarissa’s hair every chance she gets. I pretty much live in a pony tail for this reason.
  • As a general rule, Tiffany does not like to be alone. She gets frustrated if I put her anywhere and then take more than a minute to come back. When she was still sleeping in our bedroom, she would not go to sleep for the night until Tim was in bed snoring.
  • Sometimes when I rub her back, she tries to rub the back of my arm.
  • She doesn’t hate the car seat as much now as she used to. I have learned the formula. I have to nurse her within an hour of leaving the house and change her diaper immediately before entering the car seat. The music also has to be on and we can’t sit idle for very long so the highway is preferable to a route with many stop lights.
  • When she was a newborn and she was upset, she would get your attention by saying, “Eh, eh, eh.” Now she has a much wider range of sound.

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Also, Tiffany’s four month check up last week was the first time she was on the growth chart in all areas (she had previously been off the chart in height). She is now 18 pounds 2 ounces (98th percentile) and 25.75 inches long (94th percentile). Her head circumference is in the 97th percentile.

What my c section taught me about rest (and asking for help)

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The first month or two of Clarissa’s life, I was pretty miserable. She would pretty much only sleep if someone was holding her, which was fun during the day but frustrating at night. Most nights about 3 AM I would question why I became a mom. I remember several mornings, Tim would wake up for work about 6 AM and walk by me in the nursing chair and I would say, “I have not slept yet!”

Then, magically at two months old, Clarissa learned the difference between night and day. By that I mean that she started sleeping consistently from 2 – 7 AM. Once I started sleeping, I was so glad to be a mom.

Some days in the first few weeks, I was really tired and sore so I spent most of the day on the couch watching Netflix with Clarissa and Josie. Other days I felt pretty good so I would vacuum and clean the house. I always overdid it so the following day was usually a couch day to recover.

Going into the end of Tiffany’s pregnancy, I planned to relax more. Tim was planning to be home for two weeks and then Mom was planning to stay with us for a week as well. I wanted to relax and heal the first two weeks and then hopefully do some fun things with Mom before I was home alone with two kids and getting used to our new normal.

I was really tired and sore towards the end of my pregnancy with Tiffany. My belly was huge so if I did a lot of walking, I really felt it and I also had some carpal tunnel. I was still cooking and doing laundry. But Clarissa and I were definitely watching a lot of movies and I was trying to give myself grace for not keeping the house super clean.

After about 44 hours of labor, Tiffany was born by cesarean section. That was not really on our radar. The original plan was for Tim to be in the hospital with me for our entire stay. That didn’t end up being what was best for Clarissa so they left shortly after Tiffany was born. They did not even get to hold her the night she was born.

Since I was on my own that first night, I really had to rely on the nurses to help me. I could get Tiffany out of the basinet when she cried but I couldn’t get her back in to the basinet. But the nurses were great so I would call them and they would swaddle her and put her back in the basinet for me.

The next morning, they did the usual blood work and decided that I needed a transfusion. Apparently I lost a lot of blood during the surgery and my iron count was at transfusion level. There was talk of a second transfusion, but we ultimately decided on iron pills instead.

The first two weeks that Tiffany was home, Tim was off of work. He entertained Clarissa and did the cooking, dishes, and laundry. I basically camped out in our bedroom with the baby and watched TV all day. It wasn’t how I originally envisioned my recovery, but a c section and stairs don’t mix. I went downstairs a couple of times per day to eat, but Tim carried Tiffany up and down the stairs for me.

My mom came for two weeks when Tim went back to work. She took care of the cooking and cleaning so I could continue to recover. She was available to drive to Tiffany’s appointments and to Co op so the girls and I were able to get out of the house some. But I didn’t last very long on my feet anyway.

Four weeks was the first time I was home alone with both Tiffany and Clarissa during the day. I was still really sore and was taking the stairs more so we ended up having a lot of movie afternoons and book snuggles on my bed. Tim took the laundry up and down the stairs for me after work. I started making dinner again. But that was about it for the next two weeks. My pain level actually got worse because I was doing more.

I didn’t start driving again until after Tiffany was 6 weeks old. I did reach a point a few days after the six week mark that I started to feel much better. I went from taking ibuprofen every 4 hours to once or twice per day.

Clarissa and I didn’t start school again until the six week mark either. It took a few days to find a groove with Tiffany. Eventually I learned to wear her while Clarissa and I did school.

Tiffany is two months old now and we are still trying to find our new normal. Thankfully she is a great sleeper. But I do spend several hours per day nursing. So between nursing, trying to give Clarissa attention, and school, I am back to mostly doing cooking, dishes, and laundry like I was before she was born. Thankfully I can drive now, but we wait for the weekend to run most of the errands with Tim.

If I had delivered Tiffany vaginally, I think I would have felt the need to keep up with the housework. I would have asked Tim to help, but not to the extent that I did. The pain level from a c section in addition to my anemia from the blood loss, left me unable to do many things so I had to ask for help. And I learned that people usually want to help you, they just don’t know how so you need to ask.

I am also learning to have grace for myself (and my family) for needing to rest. Sleep and down time are important. I am still only about 10 weeks out from major abdominal surgery so my body is still healing. It will take a while to be completely pain free and have the stamina to be active all day like I could before.

Our favorite books for babies and toddlers

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I have been reading to Clarissa since before she could talk. At first, she chomped on the books as I read them. But eventually she learned to sit and look at the books. We had several favorites when she was really small. These are our favorite books for babies and toddlers.

  • Time for Bed by Mem Fox
    I loved the repetition in this book. “It’s time for bed little sheep, little sheep. The whole wide world is going to sleep…” Clarissa loved the animals in the book. I would say goodnight and call her a different animal every night.
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
    Clarissa really liked this one, I think because of the bunny. It rhymes and has decent pictures. As a bigger kid, she was confused about why they said goodnight to so many objects because “you don’t need to say goodnight to air.” But as a baby, she loved it.
  • God Made Me
    Clarissa loved this one because of all the animals. She liked to tell me the names of the animals in the pictures. I liked that she was learning that God made everything.
  • Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman
    This is another rhyming book with wonderful pictures. I loved that this book taught Clarissa that no matter what, Mommy would always love her. And that even as a grown up she would know that she was loved.
  • On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
    Clarissa preferred this one because of all the adventures the animals had on the “wonderful, marvelous night she was born.”
  • God Gave Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren
    This is one in a series of books about Little Cub and her family. This one explains how Mommy and Daddy were excited that God was giving them a baby and some of the anticipation they had for baby’s birth and then what life was like when they brought baby home. She liked the bears.
  • Time for a Hug by Phillis Gershator and Mim Green
    This was Clarissa’s favorite book for about a year. She loved that the bunny and her mom had a hug like every hour of the day. I think she also liked that Daddy would hug her every time it happened in the book. This would also be a great book to teach little kids about a schedule.

Packing the Diaper Bag

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The contents of my diaper bag has changed as Clarissa grows.

When she was small, and we were still living in Virginia, I had a normal diaper bag.

Her first few months, I would make sure the following items were packed:

  • an extra shirt for ME! (Either my breasts would leak or she would bathe me in some kind of liquid)
  • a baby outfit for every two hours I planned to be away from the house
  • a diaper for every hour I planned to be away from the house
  • a washcloth (wipe) for every hour I planned to be away from the house, plus one extra
  • my wetbag for dirty diapers
  • my mini spray bottle for diaper changes
  • two burp cloths and two bibs
  • my nursing cover (if you don’t plan to nurse, I would recommend a bottle for every two hours you will be away from home)

Breastfeeding timeline

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When I decided to breastfeed Clarissa, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. While I have enjoyed this journey, sometimes I have wondered how long it would last. As we near the two year mark, I thought I would share a timeline for moms who may be wondering what it looks like to breastfeed your child as they grow.

Newborn

My milk came in really quickly. The first night we came home from the hospital, I already had more milk than Clarissa needed. Pumping would have been helpful at that point, but my pump didn’t fit correctly, so I struggled with engorgement for the first few weeks.

For the first few weeks it seemed like she nursed every 1-2 hours. After a couple of weeks it became more managable and she would nurse every 3 hours or so. By the time Clarissa was four months old, she could go about four hours between nursing sessions.

Five to nine months

We introduced some pureed vegetables to Clarissa during these months. She would nurse every 4-6 hours and then eat one serving of vegetables in the afternoon when I was working. By about seven months we added a serving of baby cereal as well. During this time, she was still waking up to nurse once or twice during the night.

Ten to twelve months

Clarissa would wake up and nurse first thing in the morning and eat some baby cereal. Then she would have some pureed fruit or vegetables, some baby crackers, and nurse before naptime. She nursed after nap as well. She would eat some vegetables and jarred food with meat with us at dinner time and then nurse before bedtime. She would wake up once 1-2 hours after she went to sleep to nurse before sleeping for 8-10 hours straight.

Clarissa didn’t have any teeth at 10 months. But by 12 months she had 8! So we probably introduced finger foods later than most due to her lack of teeth.

Twelve to fifteen months

Once Clarissa had more teeth, we added finger foods to the mix. She would nurse upon waking and then have some scrambled egg with baby cereal for breakfast. She was eating more of a lunch and not nursing consistenly before naptime. She still wanted to nurse after naptime. She would eat dinner with us and nurse before bed. At this time, she was still waking up 1-2 hours after falling asleep for one last feeding, but then would sleep ten hours straight.

Fifteen to eighteen months

When I went back to work, I was nursing Clarissa three times per day. Once in the morning, after naptime, and at bedtime. But one day I forgot to nurse her when I got home and she never reminded me. So we dropped the midday nursing and she started sleeping through the night. If I had known that, I may have dropped it earlier! At this point she went to nursing only upon waking and before bed. She slept about 12 hours at night.

In January, Clarissa started playing a lot during her bedtime nursing and I was tempted to stop nursing before bed. But at that point, I knew we were moving to Korea and I wanted to be able to nurse if she needed it with all of the changes.

Eighteen to twenty one months

I was glad that I had kept with the breastfeeding when we got here. Breastfeeding during the flight kept us (and the passengers around us) sane. Then, Clarissa caught a cold like a day after we got here. We were nursing like four or five times a day again. After she got better, I weaned her down to morning, before naptime, and before bed. When we were settled in to our apartment, we went back to twice a day. She has been sick a few times since we have been here and so then we go back to 3-4 times a day and I have to wean her back down to two. But it is consistent. When she is only nursing twice a day, she sleeps through the night.

Twenty two months

Once she hit twenty two months, she shifted in her breastfeeding. Her morning nursings have been inconsistent. She will nurse one day, skip a day, nurse, skip two days, and then nurse, skip three days. I don’t think we have nursed two mornings in a row for the past month. But we haven’t made it more than three days in a row without nursing yet either. So we will see when she finally decides that she is done with the morning nursing. But her bedtime nursing has become very business like. She nurses about ten to fifteen minutes on each side and then goes to bed without a fuss.

Twenty three months

The day she turned twenty three months was the last day that she nursed before breakfast. Now she only nurses at night. I will say that since giving up the morning nursing session, her naptime is longer.  She still nurses between twenty and thirty minutes before bed. One day she decided that she wanted to nurse in the middle of the night to make up for not nursing in the morning, but I told her she was a big girl and she could only nurse before bed (sounded harsh in my head, but I know she needs to eat more during the day if she is actually hungry since she is almost two. I was fully prepared to let her cry for twenty minutes before nursing her). So we cuddled for a minute, I changed her diaper, and put her back in her crib. She cried about five minutes and went back to bed. She hasn’t woken up in the middle of the night since, even on days when I thought she would because she didn’t eat as much real food.

Two years and six and a half months

I noticed a pattern with Clarissa this winter. The more she ate during the day, the less she would nurse before bed. After she turned two and a half, she started drinking soymilk and some smoothies during the day. Not every day, but I was thankful that she was starting to make healthier choices in her diet. She started consistently nursing about 10 minutes at night. A week before she turned two years and seven months, she asked for milk in a cup during her bedtime story. I explained to her that if she drank from a cup I would not nurse her that evening and she was fine with that. That was a Monday night. Tuesday night she asked for her milk in a cup. On Wednesday night, I handed her milk and she refused. She didn’t nap or eat well that day and she wanted to nurse. That was ten days ago. I think it’s safe to say that she has weaned herself.

International Travel with a toddler

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We just moved to Daegu, South Korea. Before beginning our travel adventure, I researched traveling with a toddler. There are several websites and blogs out there, but I thought I would throw my experience into the mix.

Due to the fact that we were moving and not just going on a trip, we had a ton of stuff. We were allowed six checked bags and six carry ons. We ended up with five suitcases, a pack and play, five small carry ons, a toddler car seat, and a stroller.

What to pack in your carry on

We had five carry ons, but they weren’t all for the baby. Two were for my husband.

The first carry ons was the diaper bag.

  • Diapers and wipes

Clarissa usually uses cloth diapers, but two months of diaper laundry during hotel life seemed too daunting when I didn’t know what my laundry situation would be. I knew we would be traveling for about thirty hours. I packed twenty diapers just to be safe, but only ended up using about ten. One blog that I read recommended overnight diapers for the fourteen hour flight, so I did that. But it really was a waste. I ended up changing her diaper every 2-3 hours on the plane anyway and now I am out of overnight diapers!

I packed a small pack of wipes as well. We used the wipes for diaper changes, washing her hands before meals, and washing her face after meals.

  • Clothes

She wore a long sleeve shirt, long pants, socks, and shoes onto the plane. I packed three extra shirts, three pants, socks, and a pair of footed pajamas for the trip. I only used two of the extra outfits. Clarissa never got sick during travel. But she definitely got messy while eating or trying to drink from my cup on the plane since she didn’t really want to use a bib. Choose your battles right?

  • Blankets

I packed a soft blanket for her to snuggle with and a receiving blanket for if it was cold. She never used either one.

  • Pacifiers

I had five pacifiers in my house, so I packed them all. Clarissa really hasn’t used a pacifier since our trip to Connecticut last summer. But I thought I would bring them for the take off and landing of the plane. She played with the pacifiers, but wouldn’t really put them in her mouth. She didn’t seem to have a problem with her ears anyway.

The second carry on was my bookbag.

I had a few things for me in there; my tablet, cell phone, a couple of books, and some pens. I also had some things to keep Clarissa occupied.

  • Small toys

I had a ziploc bag of small toys for Clarissa to play with. I packed a few toy cars, finger puppets, a couple of plastic animals that would fit in her hand, and a pair of sunglasses for her. She played with a few toys on the shorter flights, but didn’t really play with them on the long flight.

  • Books

Clarissa’s favorite book right now is a touch and feel book about puppies. We read that on one of the shorter flights. I brought five other paperback picture books, but we didn’t read them at all.

On the first flight, I treated myself to a magazine. She pretty much confiscated that until she fell asleep.

  • Notebook, pen, and stickers

Clarissa likes to write with a pen. She definitely spent some time on my lap writing in a notebook. She also had fun putting stickers on the page. Then, she tried taking them off the page and putting them on me and her daddy.

  • Tablet

Tim locked down a tablet for Clarissa with parental controls. He put a couple of movies on it for her. She sat on my lap and watched a few minutes of a couple different movies. She also spent some time watching the movies provided by the plane. She didn’t really like the headphones though.

The third carry on was snacks. I used this bag for snacks for all three of us.

Clarissa ate a lot on the plane. She ate two fruit pouches, a jar of chicken and vegetable baby food, almonds, craisins, and cookies on the plane. She also nursed three different times. She wasn’t thrilled with drinking from her sippy cup when mommy and daddy were drinking from clear plastic cups.

What we did

Clarissa is under two, so technically, she could have been a lap infant. But the government paid for her to have her own seat, so I didn’t complain. We decided to go ahead and buy a toddler car seat that was FAA approved for the plane. We don’t plan to own a car in South Korea but thought it would be a good way to contain Clarissa for a fourteen hour flight. We can also use this car seat when we come back to the United States to visit as she will need a car seat on those visits.

We bought a cart and bungee cord to wheel the car seat through the airport. We are so happy that we did. Our original flight was delayed due to weather so we were rerouted a different day to a different city. We had to switch airlines and had a ten hour layover so they wouldn’t let us through security and we ended up in Time Square. I don’t think we would have made it without this cart!

Security in our home airport was the hardest. I packed jarred food for Clarissa and some food pouches that were above the 3.4 ounce liquid limit. I wasn’t sure if they would make it through but decided to try because they let you follow different rules when you are traveling with a baby. They did let me keep everything, but they did a very thorough pat down and wanded my hands. The security lady said I could have had more items if I wanted to, but the problem was the size. So if you don’t want the pat down, just keep the pouches to 3.2 ounces or smaller. They didn’t care that the jarred food was more than that because the jars were clear. JFK and both Korean airports didn’t care as much about my items, though I may have fed her the larger pouches by that point so I wouldn’t have to do that again.

Our first flight was only about an hour. I buckled Clarissa into her car seat. She was seated on the aisle so that she could see everything going on around her. She definitely enjoyed kicking the seat in front of her until the plane took off. It didn’t really matter what I tried. She read her puppy book, read some of my magazine, but ultimately kept kicking. Then, she fell asleep once we took off.

During our long layover, I fed her a few times. I also let her run up and down the terminal for about an hour. Our flight didn’t leave until 12:50am, so I was hoping she would sleep well on the flight. I nursed her in the terminal as well. We tried a cover, but Clarissa didn’t like it. So we were as much in the corner as we could be. At that point, it was after 11pm and most of the people in the terminal were asleep anyway. I figured that feeding my baby and keeping her happy was more important than making sure the cover concealed everything.

I made sure to put on a new, overnight diaper before we got on the plane. We decided to put her car seat by the window, me in the middle, and Tim on the aisle. She did really well for the first hour or so. She stayed in her car seat and watched some of a movie on the back of the seat in front of her. She didn’t really like the headphones so she just watched the picture. I fed her some of the jarred food and she also had some cookies. She didn’t fall asleep even though she was clearly exhausted because the lights were on and the flight attendants were walking around giving drinks.

Then she started to get fussy so I took her out of the car seat. She spent a lot of time playing while sitting and standing in the area in front of her and my seat. The flight attendants then presented her with a gift. A little bag with a coloring book and colored pencils. She didn’t really color much. But she enjoyed taking the colored pencils in and out of that box.

After becoming fussy again (because it was now about 3am), I changed her diaper and decided to nurse her since she normally nurses to sleep at night. I didn’t worry about a cover since the flight attendants were beginning to serve dinner and I was sitting in the middle of the row anyway. By the time she was finished nursing, the lights in the cabin had been turned out. She of course, nursed to sleep. Every attempt that I had to put her in her car seat ended with her screaming. So I gave up and let her sleep on me.

She did actually sleep for about 6 or 7 hours. The problem was that she was sleeping on me so I couldn’t really sleep. Every time I moved to get comfortable, she started to cry. In the middle of her sleep she did get fussy so I changed her diaper again and then she slept another few hours until they turned the lights back on and started serving breakfast.

For the next couple of hours, she didn’t want to go back in her car seat. She spent a lot of time on the floor. She enjoyed playing with her car seat and eating snacks. She nursed again. Clarissa also spent an hour or two sitting on my lap. She watched about twenty minutes of a movie on her tablet. She also wrote in a notebook and played with stickers. She watched a movie on my lap as well.

I made her go back to the car seat for the landing, but she wasn’t happy about it. She did fall asleep during that time in the car seat.

When we arrived in Korea, we had to go through immigration. Tim waited in line while I chased Clarissa around the area. Her favorite thing was the moving sidewalks. The only problem was that she didn’t understand that they only moved in one direction. So she would get halfway and try to turn around and run the opposite direction. So I would pick her up, explain that we had to go this way, and then get off and come back on the other sidewalk. She would kick and scream. Thankfully most people thought she was adorable and didn’t seem too irritated with us. Eventually a man saw us with the baby and opened a new line just for us. I think that irritated everyone though! He called over everyone else with a baby too.

Clarissa did well in the airports. Even when she was really fussy on a flight, she was excited to be looking around once we got inside the airport. She enjoyed looking at people and investigating things in the airports.

Don’t waste your money on toys

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Once Clarissa started standing and walking, the need for toys greatly diminished.

First, she discovered the cabinets. Shortly before her first birthday, she realized that she could open them. One day, she realized that she could take things out of them. The next day, she crawled in!

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At this point, rational moms probably baby proof their cabinets with locks. But I just rearranged my cabinets so that everything in a bottom cabinet was okay for her to play with. She spent several months playing in the cabinets.

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Another of Clarissa’s favorite activities is to transfer things from one place to another. It doesn’t matter what the item is ; bears, books, straws, pots… At first she would transfer things between containers. But as she has become older (and more mobile), the piles moved greater distances. She would move her bears from her room to the other end of the house. I learned to only put away said piles when Clarissa was asleep. Otherwise there were repercussions (she would tell me off in Clarissaese and then immediately put the pile where she originally left it).

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Around Christmastime Clarissa learned to climb. She can climb many things but her favorite seems to be the dining room chairs. Sometimes she climbs up to reach whatever clutter is on the table. But sometimes I think she just likes feeling tall and looking down at things. Today she figured out how to climb on top of the table. Now that was scary!

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We have French doors that are mostly windows. Clarissa and Josie spend a lot of time looking out the window. I think they look for birds and squirrels.

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We also like to walk around outside and look at things.

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Clarissa also likes to play with remotes and cell phones. She is smart. You can’t trick her with a broken one.

Another favorite is playing with water. She could play at the sink all day. I just put a chair in front of the sink and she splashes and plays with measuring cups and other random kitchen items. Although I think I need to change the routine and do this in the morning while she is still wearing her pajamas so we don’t have to wear two outfits every day. Clarissa, the chair, and floor are definitely soaked by the end of it.

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I enjoy this age of exploration Clarissa is in right now. An added bonus is that she mostly plays with items already in the house so I don’t need to spend money on toys..

Sleep Victory

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Thanksgiving is this week.  I am thankful for many things.  My beautiful family.  Health.  Jesus… Another thing I am thankful for this week is SLEEP.

My husband and I have never been good sleepers.  Ever.  Though there was a time not so long ago that I would fall asleep as soon as my head would hit the pillow and stay asleep until my child started crying again…

Apparently fifteen months is the magic age.  Clarissa has finally learned to sleep through the night.  We have had seven awesome nights.  In a row.  This is her longest streak ever.  And I am believing (hoping beyond hope and crossing my fingers as hard as I can)  that this is permanent.  She has even had three days in this same week that included two hour naps.  Normally,  I am lucky to get a one hour nap out of this kid!

Rest assured tired moms,  your sleep will come.  You are doing it right!  Your child just isn’t ready yet.  Remember that your child cannot read the books by the sleep experts.  He doesn’t know what he is “supposed”  to do.

Clarissa has had the same bedtime routine for months.  Truth be told,  she has been sleeping well for a few months.  She would fall asleep between 10-11 each night and would wake up to nurse once.  I have not changed her evening routine at all.

The only thing that has changed is that she gave up her mid-afternoon nursing.  If I had known it would be this easy… I would not change a thing.  I enjoy our time together.  I like watching her little personality grow and change.  I knew she would do it when she was ready.

So hang in there mom.  It will happen eventually.  In the meantime,  enjoy this season.  And take all the naps you can get.  There is no shame in sleeping when you can. Drink coffee and ask for help when you need it.  Do what you need to do to take care of yourself so you can take care of your family.  You are doing an awesome job!

Continuing Solids

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Clarissa didn’t get her first tooth until she was 10 months old, so we did purees for a long time.

I started with rice cereal and vegetables. I wanted her to get a taste for vegetables before I added fruits because they are sweeter. I wanted to make sure she would eat her vegetables!

Bananas are quick because they are easy to mash with a fork. She also really enjoyed applesauce.

I made my own applesauce. It was actually pretty easy. I would peel three apples. Then I would cut them into small pieces and put in a saucepan. I poured in just enough water to cover the pieces and covered the saucepan. Then, I would bring it to a boil and then simmer for about twenty minutes. It smelled so good when I took the lid off! By that time, the apples are soft. Drain the water from the pan but keep it. Put the apple chunks in a blender. Add the water from the saucepan as needed to make it the consistency you want. Then, I would take the puree and pour it into an ice cube tray.

(I usually did this at dinner time or at night, so the ice cubes would be ready in the morning.) In the morning, I would take the ice cubes and put them in a plastic bag.

To serve the applesauce, I would take an ice cube and put it in one of Clarissa’s bowls. Then I would put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. It usually took that long before it was fully melted. But it was usually too hot to eat for a few minutes. So I would serve her rice cereal while waiting for the applesauce to cool.

I mixed two tablespoons of rice cereal and two tablespoons of breast milk or water. Clarissa would eat that at room temperature.

At this point, she would eat solids twice per day. She usually ate once after her nap in the afternoon and then again at dinner. She continued to nurse 5 times per day.

The book Top 100 Baby Purees gives recipes of fruits that you can mix together if you want ideas.

Note: The only time I have ever given Clarissa juice is when I make applesauce. I just take the extra water that I don’t use and put it in a bottle for her. She will drink a little at a time for a few days. I figure that it’s okay for her since it’s just apples and water, no added sugar.

Introducing Solids

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At Clarissa’s four month check up, the pediatrician said that any time after 17 weeks I could begin to introduce solids. I had not planned on introducing them that early. My original plan was to wait until she was six months old.

Clarissa got sick for the first time at Christmas. She had a cold and was miserable. It was difficult for her to nurse and she wasn’t thrilled with a bottle. So Clarissa tried peas for the first time. She couldn’t figure out how to eat off the spoon, so I put some mashed peas on my finger and put it in her mouth. She loved it! Kept trying to eat off my clean fingers.

I did find the book 100 Baby Purees helpful. The beginning section explains how to introduce solids and also has 100 recipes (obviously).

Basically, I used frozen vegetables because that is what Tim and I eat. I would pour about 2 cups of frozen vegetables into a sauce pan. I would then add just enough water to cover the vegetables. Then I would bring the water to a boil. Then I would turn the heat to low for a few minutes. Next, I would drain the water, but keep it. Put the cooked vegetables into a blender. You can use the water that you drained from your saucepan to add liquid to the blender as needed. After I pureed the vegetable, I would pour the puree into an ice cube tray. (I usually did this at dinner time or at night, so the ice cubes would be ready in the morning.) In the morning, I would take the ice cubes and put them in a plastic bag, labeled with the vegetable name. I didn’t really bother with dates after a while because I knew that I would use it within the month.

To serve the vegetable, I would take an ice cube and put it in one of Clarissa’s bowls. Then I would put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. It usually took that long before it was fully melted. But it was usually too hot to eat for a few minutes. So I would serve her rice cereal while waiting for the vegetable to cool.

I started with a tablespoon of rice cereal and two tablespoons of breast milk or water. Clarissa would eat that at room temperature. As she got older and more used to solids, I used the same amount of cereal as breast milk.

I made my own baby food for budget reasons. But also because I wanted to know what was in her baby food. There is no shame in buying jarred baby food. Do what works best for your family.

In the beginning, Clarissa really liked peas, carrots, and broccoli. She definitely made a stink face when I tried to make her eat green beans. I gave up on that one pretty quickly.

She did eventually learn to eat from the spoon. I needed at least two spoons (sometimes three) at mealtimes. I needed one spoon for me so that I could feed her. But her little hands needed to be busy. She needed at least one spoon to play with. Often, she required one spoon for each hand!

In the beginning, she ate this way once per day. She liked sitting in her high chair at dinner time just to be with us, so I fed her after I had finished eating. She continued to nurse 5-6 times per day.

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Flying solo with an infant

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Clarissa and I flew to Connecticut without Tim in July. She was eleven months old. Flying alone with a young child wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Either God was just really gracious to me, or people do genuinely go out of their way to help you if you are flying alone with an infant (when does she become classified as a toddler?)

Anyway, these are my tips for a good trip.

1. Only pack what you need.

In our case, we were going for a five day trip to visit family. My goal was to just do carry on luggage so I would not have to pay the baggage fees.

I didn’t even want to try cloth diapers on this trip. First of all, it would take up a lot of room. Secondly, I wasn’t sure how someone else would feel about washing my diapers in their washing machine. So, I just packed a few disposables for the plane ride. I knew I could buy diapers when I landed.

According to tsa rules, you can bring milk and jarred baby food in your carry on luggage. For most people, it might be easier to buy baby food with your diapers. But in my house, we have food allergies. It is harder than you think to buy gluten-free baby food with meat that also has no onion. So I packed Clarissa’s gluten-free puffs, two bottles of pumped milk, and a jar of pureed chicken for each night of the trip. I knew I would be able to supplement with fruits and vegetables at my aunt’s house.

I packed one outfit and pajamas per day for Clarissa with one additional outfit. I also brought her bathing suit, a swim diaper, four bibs, and two wash cloths. I packed a pair of socks for each day too, but we only used the socks on the plane. For myself, I wore jeans on the plane, packed a pair of jean shorts, a skirt, a shirt for each day, a sleep shirt, sleep shorts, pants for lounging around the house, socks, and underwear.

I also brought Clarissa three books, a teddy bear, and a pacifier. Everything fit into a small duffel bag and a bookbag, which made my life easier.

2. Logistics of travel with a baby

Most airlines will let you check a car seat for free. You can either send it with the normal luggage or check it at the gate. My family had a car seat available for me to use, so I didn’t worry about this.

However, my stroller made life so much easier. I read that you could check umbrella strollers at the gate, so that is what I brought. It worked well because I could push Clarissa, hang the duffel over the handles in the back, and wear the bookbag.

I did see other moms with normal strollers. If I had to do it over, I think I would have used my normal stroller to gate check. It is easier to maneuver than my umbrella stroller. I could have also put the duffel in the bottom rack. I was at a slightly awkward angle while pushing the umbrella stroller with the duffel hanging over the back.

3. Tickets
If your child is under two years old, they can fly for free. They do need a ticket though. They are called a lap infant.

The airline will tell you that the safest thing is to pay full price and buckle your child into a car seat in their own seat. However, I am of the opinion that if the plane crashes we are all in trouble. The likelihood of that happening is very small. So Clarissa was definitely a lap infant.

No one asked to see her birth certificate. They just wanted her ticket. Also, it may have been coincidence, but I was unable to do online check in. My theory is that it was because Clarissa needed a special ticket.

4. Keeping baby happy

Clarissa is a very social baby so she was content to people watch a good portion of our trip.

I made sure to change her diaper before getting on the plane, once we landed in Philadelphia, before boarding in Philadelphia, and once we arrived in New Haven.

We read some books while we were waiting. I also let her crawl and climb a bit. She had a bottle and some puffs in the airport in Philadelphia.

I was concerned about her ears on the flight. But I gave her a pacifier during take off and landing. She did not have any problems. She even took a nap on the second flight.

Sleep (or lack thereof)

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I know that I once wrote that I would never give advice about sleep. While Clarissa still fights going to sleep every chance she gets, I do have some ideas on how to put your child to sleep. Or maybe how not to…

I was so blessed that I was never alone at the hospital. Either my mom or Tim was with me the whole time. I also had several visitors. Needless to say, Clarissa was held constantly in the hospital. The only exception was when the nurses would come to do vitals or take her to the nursery for check ups. No wonder Clarissa wanted to be held constantly when we brought her home!

The first few days at home were really rough. On top of learning how to breastfeed, I could not figure out how to get Clarissa to sleep on her own. She slept wonderfully while I was holding her. Then when she fell asleep and I would try to put her flat in the Moses basket and she would immediately wake up screaming. After a few nights, I tried putting her in the rock and play bassinet. That was way better! As long as I put her down asleep, she would sleep for a while. The problem was that she needed to be asleep. So when she had her days and nights confused, I was out of luck. Thankfully my mom lives nearby so she would come over and hold Clarissa for a few hours each day so that I could sleep.

She did get herself into a pattern of sleeping most of the day and being awake most of the night. The problem was that I held her during the day while she slept, which meant that Clarissa was always happy and rested but I was exhausted. Eventually, I learned to take a nap with her from 8-11pm because I might not get to sleep again until 6am. She was great at sleeping from 7-10am as well.

I remember the first 6-8 weeks being so hard that I questioned why I wanted to be a mom in the first place. I read articles about sleep online. I knew I didn’t want her to cry it out at six weeks. I just felt stuck. A friend recommended The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy. I actually agreed with the psychology of the book. It seemed like something I could try. The book has a program, but said you can’t really put baby on a schedule until six months. It did have some recommendations for better sleep. The book had great ideas. The problem was that Clarissa never read the book so she didn’t know what she was supposed to do!

A friend told me that when they turn two months it gets easier. She was right! Magically at two months, Clarissa started sleeping from 2am-noon, only waking to nurse and then go back to sleep. She also started sleeping for longer stretches. I remember the first time I woke up to go to the bathroom before she cried. I realized that I had slept for five hours straight and freaked out! I kept checking her to make sure she was still breathing! I woke her up in the process. That happened a few days in a row and then I started sleeping better. Of course, it probably helped that I could see and touch her in the bassinet from my bed!

Once she was sleeping 8-10 hours at night, she stopped napping during the day. I had a two month old who refused to nap. But I was a way happier mom because I was finally getting some good sleep at night. I really felt like we were getting into a good groove.

So if you are tired and frustrated, I feel for you. But it should get better!

Looking back, there are a few things I will do differently with the next baby.

1. Let the child sleep in the bassinet at night. I know that I will want to snuggle my baby during the day. But in the evening, she needs to start sleeping in the bassinet or crib.

2. Put the baby in the bassinet before she falls asleep. If I always wait until the baby falls asleep, she is not going to learn to fall asleep on her own. Along with this, I would start a bedtime routine when the baby is really young so she starts to understand what happens before she is supposed to fall asleep.

3. As much as possible, sleep when the baby sleeps, even if it means sleeping several hours in the middle of the day. Until that baby learns the difference between night and day you might not sleep otherwise.

I am also going to be better about asking for help. I am not weak or high maintenance for needing sleep. Besides, I am sure I can find someone who will love to hold my baby for a an hour or two so I can sleep.

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Clarissa’s first travel adventure

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At my baby shower last summer, someone had a word that Clarissa would be an adventurer. Other than observing her be curious and into everything, we did not really test that until last week. Last week, Clarissa and I took a plane to meet my parents and introduce Clarissa to all of my dad’s extended family in Connecticut. I was looking forward to seeing the family, as I have not been up there in five years. But I was honestly dreading flying by myself with Clarissa, especially when the airline switched us to an earlier flight. We had to wake up four hours earlier than normal.

Clarissa did amazingly well. She was not thrilled to be up that early at first. But, by the time we arrived at the airport, she was fine. She was looking around during check in. She looked at all of the machines as we went through security. The first plane ride was actually pretty exciting for her. Thankfully the man next to us liked kids, because she kept trying to touch him and give him her pacifier! She took out all of the magazines in the seatpocket in front of us and he tried reading them to her. She enjoyed looking at the pictures!

She had fun people watching in the Philadelphia airport.

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Once we got on the plane to New Haven, she fell asleep. I actually forgot what it was like to have her sleep on me for hours at a time. She used to do it all the time, but now she does most of her sleeping in her crib. It was a nice change for me.

She had a great time meeting her great aunts and uncles, as well as all of her cousins. Unfortunately, she would not let them hold her if my mom was in the room. Clarissa was all about Grandma. She even wanted her over me most of the time.

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Thankfully my parents left a few hours before we did, so everyone did get a chance to hold her.

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Clarissa enjoyed playing with Matthew. One of her favorite things was seeing the dogs at Bill and Danielle’s house.

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Photo credit : Dana Comstock

She also played with Faith in her first baby pool.

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But she liked the big pool better. Loved it!

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It was a great first vacation for Clarissa. She got to experience new things. I learned that she loves watermelon. She also likes Blueberry muffins (they have a gluten-free bakery there) and potato chips. The plane rides didn’t bother her a bit.

She even slept well. I was concerned because it was a new place with lots of people around. She also slept in a pack and play for the first time. The first night was a little rough, but after that she slept better than she does at home. She took two or three naps every day! And slept well at night. What?! I am thankful because it seems that our trip shifted her schedule an hour or two. Makes our daily routine more manageable.

I had a good trip too. It was strange for me to see everyone all grown up and married with their own houses. But I am glad I went.

Clarissa is such a good traveller. I guess we need to start planning the next trip…

What you really need when baby comes home

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Having a baby can seem overwhelming. What do you really need when baby comes home from the hospital?

Car seat. I went to a baby Expo before Clarissa was born. They said that every car seat on the market has to pass certain standards, so get what you can afford. Also, if you have more than one car, I recommend buying a base for each car. Makes life easier.

Onesies

Sleepers. A lot of my friends raved about swaddle sacks. Clarissa didn’t like feeling confined. She was also born in August, so it was hot anyway. I really liked footed pajamas with a zipper. Way easier than snaps for middle of the night diaper changes. Tiffany has learned to sleep in a sleep sack.

Burp cloths

Receiving blankets

Somewhere for baby to sleep.

A place to feed baby.  Find something comfortable for you because you will spend a lot of time there.

Somewhere to change diapers. I have an oldschool changing table from a friend. But you can put a changing pad on a dresser or even on the floor.

A few bottles. Even if you will breastfeed, you will want bottles so that someone else can feed baby while you sleep.

A breast pump. You can read more about the benefits of pumping.

Diapers and wipes. If you want, you can read about how and why I cloth diaper my baby.

A place for dirty baby laundry

Baby shampoo or body wash. I say or because the ingredients are typically the same!

Baby lotion

Optional :

Socks. Unless it is winter, I would not worry about socks. Clarissa moved her feet so much that they kept coming off and then I was losing them all over the place.

Bibs. Clarissa hated bibs! She would scream when I put them on. In the beginning, I had too much breastmilk and it would spray her face and get on her clothes. But I had plenty of clothes, so I just changed her onesie after a feeding if I needed to. If you want to try bibs, get cloth bibs that snap or velcro. It is hard to tie a bib on a wiggly baby and when you are finished with the bib, you can just throw it in the wash.

Baby towel and wash cloth. You can always use the normal adult ones.

Baby bath tub. We washed Clarissa in a wash basin in the kitchen sink until she outgrew it. Then we moved her to the bathtub in the bathroom. We have a baby bathtub for Tiffany and it’s much easier.

Baby monitor. If your baby will be sleeping in a different room, you will want a baby monitor. A simple sound monitor will do. It doesn’t need to be fancy.

Stroller.

Pacifier. Clarissa randomly took a pacifier at six months and again at ten months. But other babies take them all the time.

Baby Carrier. Tiffany really likes my Tula. But Clarissa never took to it.

 

Surviving the first few weeks of motherhood

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Having lived through it myself, I can tell you that I understand why they give you six weeks of maternity leave after having a baby!

The first couple of months are very difficult, even if you have help. I just want to encourage you that you are doing a great job and it will get easier!

Clarissa did not learn the difference between night and day until she was two months old (which unfortunately, is kind of normal). Which meant that I didn’t start getting any real amounts of sleep until then. When you don’t get the sleep that you need, your emotions are all over the place. Add the fact that your body is in recovery and in pain to that and it is not a good combination. There were so many nights that she would still be wide awake at 3am and I would think, “I don’t want to be a mom anymore.” What a difference sleep makes! I remember the first night that I woke up to go to the bathroom before she cried and I freaked out thinking, “She’s been asleep for five hours! Is she still breathing?” The first few nights, I actually woke her up while I was checking on her. Then I realized that sleeping five or six hours at a time would be the new normal. I remember posting on facebook, “Apparently five hours straight of sleep is different than five hours total.” At that point, I felt like a completely different person and loved being a mom.

There are a few things I plan to do differently when we have another baby.

1. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Everyone says this, I know. But I really didn’t do it. I had a really hard time sleeping during the day because Clarissa really wanted to be held ALL. THE. TIME. She would sleep just fine during the day if I was holding her. She was so cute. And I loved cuddling with her. So I would hold her all day and then just hope that she would sleep at night so that I could sleep myself. But since she was sleeping during the day, she was wide awake from like 10pm-6am. Eventually, I did learn to take a nap with her in the evenings. She would sometimes sleep from 11pm-1am or so when she was about a month old. I would often have to call my mom in the morning and ask her to come over because I hadn’t slept at all. She would come over and hold Clarissa while I slept for a few hours during the day. It was an awful cycle. But, magically, the day that she turned two months old, she started going to bed at 2am consistently.

Also, don’t pick up the baby the second she starts crying. Wait a minute or two. I think that sometimes Clarissa may have gone back to sleep on her own because she was half asleep on the changing table.

2. Arrange meals ahead of time. You are not going to want to/be able to do a lot of cooking in the beginning. Yes, your husband can make dinner. But that gets old and he is tired too! It would be great to have friends who will make dinner for your family and bring it over or give you gift cards for takeout. If that isn’t happening, make some meals ahead of time and freeze them.

3. Really rest. Tim was off for the first week and a half that Clarissa was born. But when he went back to work, I tried to do more of my normal stuff. I felt okay the first day so I tried doing dishes and laundry. I don’t remember if I made dinner or not. All I know is that I would often over do it. I would feel good and do something and then barely be able to move the rest of the day because I was so tired and sore. Either arrange for a friend to come over and vaccuum or let your husband do what he can after work or just let your housework get really behind. I think that I would have healed a lot faster if I would have just allowed myself the grace to rest in the beginning. You really start to feel better once you stop bleeding, which for me took six weeks. If I had rested more, I think it would have been less time.

4. Take pain medicine when you need it. I would wait to long and then be in tears from the pain. Keep up with the ibuprofen. I didn’t really do the tylenol with codine unless I had someone to watch Clarissa. It made me sleepy. So if I took it and she didn’t sleep, then I was even more exhausted than normal.