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.

Clarissa weaned herself

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Clarissa has always enjoyed breastfeeding. Honestly, I have mostly enjoyed it as well. I like the alone time we spend together and the bond that we share. I wasn’t sure how long she would want to nurse. She didn’t seem to be losing interest at all and so I decided that I would wean her when she turned three. At two and a half, I told her that one day she would be too big to nurse. I said that she could nurse until she turned three but if she wanted to stop before then she could. She said okay, but I didn’t think much of it.

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 have more protein in her diet. She then started nursing only about 10 minutes most nights.

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.

I enjoyed breastfeeding Clarissa. But I am enjoying our new evening routine. Clarissa is starting to ask to pray more when Daddy does the bedtime prayer. Her first prayer went something like this, “Dear God, thank you for pink elephants and purple heffalumps…” I don’t remember everything. We were trying really hard not to laugh.

Tim and I have an additional hour in the evenings together now, which means that we have more options for activities. I really enjoy our time together after Clarissa goes to bed, so it has been fun.

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..

The age of independence

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It is amazing to me how much Clarissa has changed in her short 17 months! Around 16 months she entered what I am calling her “age of independence.”

She wants to do everything by herself. She wants to do it her way and it has to be right now.

For example, one day she had to play with her toys while wearing her hat and mittens.

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She has to play with my squirt bottle while (and after) I change her diaper.

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She learned how to climb the dining room chairs and she seriously spends hours each day standing on them.

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She has to have her arms filled with stuffed animals at all times. These animals also must sit correctly on whatever chair, table, or other resting place Clarissa chooses.

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Clarissa says several words now. She has also noticed loud noises more. We live near two Navy bases and an airport. Every time a plane flies over (or a firetruck drives by), she says “Oh.” and covers one ear. It’s pretty cute.

Clarissa has become a picky eater. Sometimes food becomes acceptable if it is on mommy’s plate. I would be more concerned about what she refuses to eat if she wasn’t still breastfeeding or eating fruit every day.

Her bedtime nursing is different too. She used to nurse for over an hour and eventually nurse herself to sleep. Lately, it’s nurse five minutes, roll off, try to climb through the baby gate to get to Tim or Josie, nurse the other side and repeat six or eight times until she is really tired and I let her cry it out (thankfully it’s usually only five to ten minutes of crying). She is determined to stay up and play.

Clarissa seems so grown up now. So much more like a little girl instead of a baby. There are definitely challenging moments in our day. But I am really enjoying watching her learn new things and seeing her unique personality develop.

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!