Thursday, April 28, 2011

Early "Potty" Toilet Training

Before Henry was born, I read this post about Elimination Communication and decided to give it a try. I skimmed Diaper Free and Elimination Communication websites and learned that you basically come up with two different sounds to make when your child pees and when your child poops. Then, you pay close attention to your child to figure out the small signals they give off when they are about to pee or poop. When you notice the cues, you quickly take off their diaper, hold them over a toilet, and make the sounds.

We tried to do this from birth, but we quickly realized that it was way too traumatic for Henry. The process of whipping off his diaper and urgently moving toward the toilet was too frightening, so we promptly stopped.

But recently, we've been trying again, with much greater success. My Montessori teacher explained that at about six weeks, she starts siting her children on a child-sized toilet after every diaper change, as a way to help them associate the toilet with what goes on in their diapers. She also recommends holding them over the toilet during common times, like before a bath, first thing in the morning, and after nursing. Soon enough, you'll start "catching" pees and poops.

We've definitely caught some pee and poop, although the ratio is still very low. It's a work in progress!

And, as a side note, we use the word "toilet" instead of "potty" because we try to use real words as often as possible as we help Henry build his vocabulary.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NPR: Local Natives Tiny Desk Concert

I can't stop listening to this NPR Tiny Desk Concert with Local Natives. The last song (there are three total) is my absolute favorite.

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Essential Montessori Infant Products

Henry's whale mobile (from his nursery tour)

A friend of mine from my pre-natal yoga class asked me what baby products are useful when trying to implement the Montessori philosophy at home with an infant. After I spent way too long replying to the e-mail (I should have just picked up the phone!), I realized that I should also write a post about it.

We've only been implementing Montessori for eights weeks with Henry, but here's a list of things that have been really useful to us:
  1. A movement mat: Henry spends a lot of his awake time on his movement mat, looking at mobiles, looking at his black and white accordion book, or wriggling around on his stomach. Ideally, you would have one of these mats set up in every room you spend time in with the baby. Because our bungalow is so tiny, we use the IKEA crib mattress in his bedroom (where we spend much of the day) and then we have a portable movement mat made out of foam and a cotton cover (which I had made by a local seamstress). In a Montessori environment, movement mats take the place of many other baby products on the market, like infant seats, swings, play pens, etc.
  2. A mirror: Babies love to see other babies (even if that "other baby" is actually themselves!). Attaching a long mirror on its side along the wall next to the movement mat gives babies endless entertainment and allows them to see the room from a different perspective.
  3. Simple mobiles: Mobiles are an integral part of an infant's early development. They help babies develop visual discrimination and tracking, as well as focus and concentration. Since babies have "absorbent minds" and take in so much from their surroundings, Montessorians believe it's important to keep mobiles simple. Henry loves his high contrast whale mobile, his butterfly mobile, the black and white cards I hang from his metal clip mobile, the black and white images hanging from his wooden arch, and his Gobbi mobile. We also have a wooden ring when he's ready for it. The mobiles are all "simple" in the sense that they move with the air currents (rather than any mechanical mechanisms), they do not produce any sounds, and they only have 3-5 elements.
  4. Rattles: Once babies have more control of their hands, we introduce rattles. Henry has a variety of rattles--all made from natural materials like wood. We purchased most of them from Etsy. He's not ready for them yet, but they are still out on his shelf. In a Montessori environment, you include the things they are currently working on, as well as the next materials to pique interest and build motivation.
  5. Child-sized toilet: Montessorians start toilet training early by simply associating the toilet with diaper changes (I'll write another post about the process later!). We use this toilet with Henry, and it seems to be the perfect size for his little body.
  6. Cloth diapers: Montessorians prefer cloth diapers because they make toilet training easier. The idea is that children are more motivated to learn how to use the toilet when they can feel the wetness against their skin. Because the chemicals in disposable diapers do such a good job of wicking away wetness, children feel dry, even if the diaper is full of urine. Henry uses organic, all-in-one cloth diapers.

We use lots of other things on a daily basis, which you can check out on our registry, but these six are the most relevant to the Montessori approach.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Book Club: Chapter One

I'm so glad we're doing this together! A little community of accountability. I started to read this book six years ago, and the chapters that I read truly revolutionized my life. But, for some reason, I never got around to finishing it (which is the opposite of being a highly effective person!).

Perhaps I should pose some questions to make this a bona fide book club?

Let me see:
  1. Which ideas from the chapter resonated with you?
  2. Did you disagree with anything?
  3. How will your life be different now that you've read this chapter? In other words, what are you specific action steps that you generated from reading this chapter?

And here's my personal reflection (please leave yours in the comments!):

I love the idea of "inside-out." I think it's another way of expressing the concept of "feeding the soil." In other words, we should focus on cultivating healthy, fertile soil in our lives, and then good things will grow. I believe this in so many ways. For example, I believe Covey's argument that "if you want the secondary greatness of recognized talent, focus first on primary greatness of character." In terms of the work I do as an educator, I believe that if we focus on providing a solid and rich learning environment for our children, then they will do well on the state tests (as opposed to focusing exclusively doing "test prep" to prepare students). And in gardening, I do believe that you should invest in good soil as a foundation for healthy plants. In terms of our physical health, I believe that good nutrition, hydration, physical activity, and rest are the foundation for optimal functioning. Etc., etc., etc. The foundation matters; the inputs affect the outputs.

I found Covey's brief analysis of the "character" versus the "personality" ethic to be very interesting and in line with trends I've observed in society, but I like how he identified the continuum of development as dependence-->;independence-->;interdependence. I think a lot of the character ethic literature focuses too much on independence. I like that Covey cites "interdependence" as the goal.

In terms of relevant quotes related to those ideas that resonated with me:
  1. "There is no real excellence in all this world which can be separated from right living."--David Starr Jordan
  2. "Search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life."--Psalms
  3. "What you are shouts so loudly in my ears, I cannot hear what you say."--Emerson

I'm eager to work on my character as the first step toward becoming an effective leader. Of course, good character isn't just something you achieve and then move on to something new. It's something that has to be maintained day in and day out, situation after situation.

I have had bosses in the past who have tried to cover their mistakes with deception or by blaming someone else. As soon as I realize what's happening, I lose trust in those people. I think it is so, so important to live with integrity and to apologize for the mistakes we make. It's inevitable that we will make mistakes--everyone does. But the difference between an effective leader and an ineffective one is that the effective leader admits and apologizes for those mistakes.

I also liked the idea that "most of us know the truth of what we really are inside." I feel like I'm often my best version of myself, only when others are looking. For example, I was cleaning out the fridge yesterday, and we had a little bit of lettuce that needed to be disposed of. If someone had been there, I would have composted the lettuce. Since no one was watching, I instead just threw the lettuce in the trash because it was easier. (Of course I then had a whole conversation with myself about how I need to be my best self for myself and not just for others, so I took the lettuce out of the trash and instead composted it.)

I found the section about paradigms and assumptions to be interesting, too. Covey says, "We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be." It left me wondering what my assumptions are, as well as how my paradigm limits my ability to see the world. I know I have a tendency to see the world in a very "black and white" way. I'm compelled by Covey's idea that if we want to change a situation, we often have to start by changing ourselves. And if we want to change ourselves, we often have to start by changing our perceptions.

Right now, I'm not sure which of my perceptions I need to change. I guess I should think first about which situation I want to change. Since I can't really think of a situation I want to change, I will try to keep this framework in the back of my mind for when I do want to change something: perspective-->self-->situation.

How My Life Will Be Different / Next Steps
  • Create a page of quotes and ideas that I reference often (so all this self-help stuff doesn't go in one ear and out the other). I can slip it in the back cover of my Life Binder (which is the binder I carry with me everywhere)
  • Be my best self, even when no one is looking
  • Pay attention to my tendency to see the world in a "black and white" way and actively try to see the gray

I can't wait to hear your thoughts!

Let's talk about the next two chapters next Monday (May 2): The Seven Habits--An Overview and Be Proactive.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Etsy Find

I fell in love with this image of basket containers via Martha Stewart and then later that day I saw this basket on the front page off Etsy for $12.50. I snatched it up with my allowance money. But later, when I showed the photo to Matt, he said he really liked it and he was fine if we used our joint funds to buy it. Woo-hoo!

There are a few parts of our house that need work. Every time I pass by them, they bother me, and yet I haven't yet done anything about them. Argh! As I said a while ago, it often only takes 15 minutes to turn my aggravation into appreciation, and yet I somehow don't set aside the time to just do it.

Perhaps if I make a very specific list about what I want to fix:
  • I want to get everything that's on top of our kitchen cupboards out of sight. It looks so cluttered!
  • I want to do something with the IKEA chair in our living room. I want to keep it, but it simply doesn't fit in our current house. Maybe I could find a friend to borrow it indefinitely until we move into a bigger house...
  • We need a new rug in our living room. It's stained and the corner folds up. Argh!
  • We need to go through our bookshelves again and purge, purge, purge! Then we need to "style" our bookshelves with some interesting objects.
  • We need to get some shallow tupperware that slides under our bed. That way, Matt can store stuff under his side of the bed instead of letting it accumulate on the bedside table.
  • We need to deflate the birthing ball and get it out of our dining room. Aaaahhhh!
  • We need to get new dishes and glasses.
  • I need to replace two of the plants that are not growing well in our house.
  • We need to get our gift card situation under control. We still have one from our wedding nearly three years ago. Plus, we just got a ton for Henry.
  • We need to take down the porch lights that don't work.
  • We need to find a tray for the coffee table.
  • I need to recover one of our chairs.
  • We need new pillows for our couch.

Okay. Having the list makes me feel better. The beast feels conquerable!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How to Get a Baby Passport

Yes, we are getting Henry a baby passport. No, we don't actually have an out-of-country trip on the horizon.

Then why the passport? Well, they can take so long to get. By the time we actually plan a trip, we might not have enough time to get one.

Here's how to do it:
  1. Find a place that will take baby passport photos: Definitely call ahead! I called ahead and still had problems. When I called the Walgreens photo department, they confirmed that they do take babies' passport photos. When I actually showed up to hold them to their promise, it was another story. The teenage photo clerk took one look at Henry and said, "Oh, no, he's too young." Since I am a struggling new mother and getting my baby out and about is an accomplishment all by itself, I was not going to leave without the photos. It turned into quite the ordeal. I had to kneel on the tile ground in my skirt and hold my massively dense baby (remember he was 9.4 at birth!) above my head, which--of course--caused him to look down at me rather than straight ahead at the camera. I kept asking the clerk to talk to him to get him to look at the camera, but the clerk apparently didn't want to talk to my baby. He just kept saying, "This isn't working." I kept saying, "We're going to make it work!" Two female clerks got involved and started coaching the guy, "Click it now! He's looking!" And of course the dude's camera battery ran out, right when Henry decided to look at him. Once the batteries got changed, I asked the female clerk to hold Henry so I could talk to Henry. Then I started taking the photos myself. When we finally got one stinkin' photo uploaded into the computer, the clerk said, "Oh, this won't work. Your hands are showing in the picture." Argh! We had to go through the whole ordeal again. I recommend that you dress your baby in a shirt or a dress--rather than a onesie, so that your hands can slide under their clothes and out of sight.
  2. Find a place that accepts passport applications and make an appointment, if necessary: You can go to this website and enter in your zipcode to find locations nearest you. Also, some of these places actually take passport photos, too (although, in my experience, they were more expensive than Walgreens). Keep in mind that both parents have to be present.
  3. Drop off your application: Bring your photos, drivers' licenses, and the baby's birth certificate. Voila!

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

To Every Mother Who Didn't Overwhelmingly Love Her Baby Right Away

What a title, huh?

I have to confess that I didn't feel overwhelming love for my baby right away. When my bonus father (i.e., my father-in-law) asked Matt, "Could you ever imagine yourself loving someone so much?" right after Henry was born, I was just thankful that he hadn't asked me. I didn't want to lie, but I also didn't want to seem like a bad, indifferent mother.

I didn't beat myself up (literally or figuratively) about the fact that I didn't feel overwhelming love for my son when he first entered the world. I know that I can't control my emotional reactions to things; I can only control my actions in response to those emotions.

So I acted as if I loved my son more than anything when he first arrived. I doted on him and treated him gently and talked to him and rubbed his back and breastfed him (a lot!) and cuddled with him and smiled at him. But inside, he felt a little like a stranger to me.

That's the thing. I did love my son--when he was growing inside me. I spent nine months getting to know and love(!) "Coconut."

But then when he came out, he didn't feel like the same person. And I had to tell myself that it was okay; I would just have to get reacquainted with my son as he really is--instead of who I thought he was. I also had to give myself time to heal from our 45 hours of labor. I also needed to adjust to the stark difference between my old life and my new life.

It didn't take long for my love for Henry to grow (kind of like the beautiful weed outside our dining room window that grows faster than anything I've ever seen and now towers over our house).

Each passing day gets easier and easier. We've created a beautiful daily rhythm together, breast feeding has finally gotten easier and less tender, Henry smiles, and I feel honored to help my son reach his inner potential day in and day out.

Even as I write and reread this post, I cringe at the thought of admitting all of this to the wide, wide world. Are you going to think I'm a horrible mother who's not worth of the honor of raising a child?

But the best I can do is be honest and speak about the dark parts. There might be someone else out there who felt the same way (or will feel the same way in the future), and these words might help them to not feel so alone.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Birthday Presents!

Oh how I love life when I have time to think of good birthday presents for friends and then wrap them. Hooray! One of my intentions for this month was to put together a good present for my friend's birthday party. Well, I went ahead and got a good present for my other friend, too.

The first friend works for a non-profit organization that coordinates farmers' markets and school gardens throughout Houston. I thought she might like this book, written by the folks over at Sunset Magazine:

The One-Block Feast: An Adventure in Food from Yard to Table

My other friend works as an instructional coach and leader at a charter school for economically disadvantaged children. Since he has to juggle a lot, I figured I would get him one of the books that revolutionized my approach to time management and organization:

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Sadly, we had to miss his birthday party because it was at a bar and we couldn't bring Henry (Matt actually called to check). It was at the 4-week mark, so we hadn't yet figured out the baby sitting and pumping situation. (As a side note, we've started a mini-baby-sitting co-op with our friends; we'll take turns watching each other's babies while the other couple goes on a date night.)

We wanted to make it up to our friend by having another celebration in his honor, so we created a list of options for him to choose from. So fun!

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

DIY: Picnic Blanket

Henry performing his post-nap stretching routine on our favorite quilt

Sadly, this post is not a tutorial about how to make your own picnic blanket; it's a request for tutorials!

Henry and I are still following the routine I learned from Baby Wise: breastfeed, awake time, nap time approximately every three hours. During at least one of Henry's awake times, we love to spread a blanket out on the grass and just stare at the trees (well, Henry stares at the trees; I usually try to get in a little reading).

The problem is that our lovely blanket (a quilt I picked up at a flea market while I was doing the work study program at John C. Campbell Folk School during my self-subsidized sabbatical) is way too heavy. I can't maneuver Henry (although thankfully he came out of the womb with a surprising amount of head control--perhaps that's what he was working on those extra two weeks?), the heavy quilt, the door, and my book (I'm forced to leave my water bottle behind, which is terrible).

Yes, I could solve the problem by making two trips, but I am not a two-trip kind of person. Two trips out means two trips in, which quickly becomes four trips a day or twenty trips a week. Okay, I'm scaring myself with my mathematical efficiency analysis.

So I want to make an outdoor blanket. I'm thinking I should use oil cloth (or that other form of laminated cloth) for the bottom, so that grass and leaves won't stick to it. I'm not sure what to do on the top. Maybe something like flannel? I'd also like to make carrying straps, so I could fold it up and hang it on a doorknob for easy access.

Have any of you seen any good tutorials for picnic blankets?

After a quick search, here's what I was able to find:

I think I will combine these ideas, unless you all have seen something better!

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cultivating Independence in Children

Henry watching the mobile above our bed

Independence is at the heart of the Montessori approach, but not in a Puritanical-I-can-do-it-myself-and-don't-need-anyone way.

To a Montessorian, helping children cultivate their ability to do things for themselves is how we respect children. We honor that they are capable of doing things for themselves and that they are eager to learn how to do those things.

For example, at my Montessori class last week, my teacher explained that her three children (ages 6.5, 4.5, and 2.5) each pack their own rolling suitcase and backpack when they go on a trip. Then they are responsible for rolling/carrying their own luggage through the airport. She told us that she starts this habit when they are very young, so it's something they want to do; it isn't seen as a chore. She went on to say that children want to do what adults do.

I believe that helping children develop independence, self-direction, and agency is the best way to help them develop self-confidence and a high sense of self-worth. If we try to build our children's self-esteem by giving them affirmations (e.g., "You're so smart!" "You're so great!"), then they learn to depend on external assessment from others. If, instead, they see through their own actions that they can set goals and accomplish them, that they can make things happen, that they impact their surroundings, then their self-esteem comes from an internal place and is more stable.

At least that's how I see it. And I believe that cultivating independence needs to start at birth. The primary way I do this with Henry (who is now six weeks old!) is to allow him independent time to interact with his mobiles (which is pretty much his primary activity at this age).

When I'm showering, for example, he hangs out on a towel on the floor underneath his wooden arch that has hanging black-and-white images. I periodically peek out the shower curtain and he is happily staring at those images and moving back and forth among the three of them. Occasionally, I will talk to him (especially when he's making a lot of sounds), but otherwise I try to respect the fact that he is concentrating and focusing on his "work."

One of the hallmarks of a Montessori home for young babies is a movement mat on the floor with a long mirror alongside it and a mobile hanging within the child's range of sight (which is pretty close for an infant). While Henry is happily watching his whale mobile on his movement map in his room, for example, I'll fix myself breakfast. Because our house is so small, I can hear him from the kitchen. Then I eat my breakfast and do my work on the couch in his room. He is quite content to work alone for 15-20 minute stretches of time (his awake time follows breast-feeding and a diaper change, so two of his essential needs have been met). I don't take it upon myself to endlessly entertain him. I am convinced that giving him this time away from me helps him develop his independence and also helps him develop his trust in me. If he starts to get fussy, I immediately go to him to see what he's trying to communicate. He is learning that he can be alone but that I will be there for him if he needs me.

But don't worry. In addition to this independent time, Henry gets plenty of interaction and cuddling!

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Book Club: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

One of my big, hairy, audacious goals in life is to start a public, Montessori charter school in Austin, TX. For those of you who aren't too familiar with charter schools, the short story is that they are free, public schools that receive per/pupil funding just like schools in districts but they are not part of the school district. They do not have to use the same curriculum, the same hiring and firing procedures, the same technology, etc. They are still held accountable by the same state assessments that the children take each year, but beyond those required tests, they are pretty much free to innovate.

There's a lot of anti-charter sentiment out there, even in circles I admire (like academia). Many people argue that charter schools represent an abandonment of the public school system. They argue that charter schools "skim the cream off the top" and recruit the highest-performing children away from their zoned schools.

My support of the charter school model (notice I didn't say "charter schools," since there are a lot of bad ones out there) comes from the past twelve years of working in education for economically-disadvantaged children. I've worked with AmeriCorps, Teach For America, KIPP, YES Prep Public Schools, Teacher U, Achievement First, and three school districts. I have experienced firsthand--over and over again--how difficult it is to shift the direction of the bureaucratic behemoths that school districts can be. I have wasted tons and tons of energy fighting the system--energy that would have been better spent on creation and innovation.

As I understand it, the original purpose of charter schools was to create "incubators" where new ideas could be implemented and tested on a small scale and then shared back with school districts. That's why I believe in charter schools. I don't want them to take over and cause the dissolution of school districts, but I do want them to show districts that there is a better way.

So anyway, you may have noticed this post is about a book club--not a manifesto about charter schools (did you think I just titled it incorrectly?). If I'm going to be an effective leader of a public Montessori charter school, then I have a lot to learn, and I'm going to start by rereading a book that revolutionized my life six years ago: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

I'm going to talk about one chapter a week. I'd love it if you'd join me!

Here's how it's going to work:
  • If you want to join us, please leave a brief comment (something as simple as "I'm in!"), so I have a sense of how many people are interested. It's fine if you comment anonymously.
  • I'll post my discussion of the first chapter "Inside-Out" (which is approximately 30 pages in my copy of the book) on Monday, April 25 and we can discuss it in the comments. We'll do one chapter per week (gotta keep it manageable!).

P.S. Mica, I got your awesome e-mail message. Thank you! This book is definitely on my list of books that shifted my paradigm. I'm going to start another book list in the left sidebar of my blog, as I think of other ones.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer

I have to confess that I didn't have a chance to thoroughly read The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. I still use two hands to breastfeed, which means I only get to read when Henry is napping. Since I had to return some books to the library, my reading time was only about an hour. So I guess I should call it a "Book Scan" instead of a real "Book Review."

Based on my one-hour glimpse through the book, I would definitely recommend this book to those of you who are trying to learn more about living with newborns. The author takes a very moderate approach between the "cry it out" end of the spectrum and the attachment parenting side.

According to her theories, Matt and I are instilling bad habits in Henry by walking him around in the Moby or the Ergo to get him to sleep and then holding him throughout his entire nap. She argues that we are setting him up to be too dependent on us. Although I agree that at some point we have to wean Henry off this kind of dependence, I just don't think he's developmentally ready yet. I'm thinking the 3-month mark might be the time (since that marks the end of the "fourth trimester"). I have stopped walking Henry around and even swinging on the front porch swing, since the teacher at my Montessori class explained that we shouldn't get him dependent on movement to fall asleep. Instead, I just put him in the Moby and sit down with him, while he sucks on a pacifier. I've also had some success with laying next to him (as if we're breast feeding) and letting him suck on his pacifier. I think this is the strategy I will use to try to transition him to napping on a bed instead of the carrier.

I liked the author's overarching emphasis on meeting both the baby's needs and the family's needs. I think that kind of balance is really important. If Matt and I don't get some of our needs met, then we won't be in the best shape to help Henry get his needs met.

Here were some of the key points from the book:
  • Above all, parents need confidence. They need to see that they can understand and meet their baby's needs.
  • It's important to bring consistency and routine into a baby's life.
  • It takes six weeks of post-partum time to heal fully from birth.
  • In between the "cry it out" end of the spectrum and the "follow the baby" end. She says the former doesn't respect the baby and the latter doesn't respect the rest of the family.
  • E.A.S.Y. Routine: Eat, Activity, Sleep, Time for You
  • From birth to three months: 25-40 minutes of eating; 45 minutes of activity; 15 minutes to fall asleep and a nap of 30-60 minutes.
  • Observation is the key to learning about your infant!
  • There are different categories of babies: Angel, Textbook, Touchy, Spirited, Grumpy.
  • Sleep Routine: Create a consistent routine, such as closing the blinds and saying certain expressions. Start the routine at the first sign of a yawn (definitely by the third). It's okay to rock a baby or snuggle with it during this time, but only as a way to wind down--not to put the baby to sleep.
  • Once you put the baby down, you can pat him/her if s/he is fussing, but stop as soon as the fussing stops.
  • A pacifier can be used to aid sleep during the first three months. When the child spits it out, don't put it back in unless the baby shows sign that s/he really needs it.
  • It can take 20 minutes for a baby to fall asleep--don't rush the process. A loud sound can move the baby more toward awake, and you'll have to start the process all over again.
  • When a baby is six weeks old, cluster feed every two hours before bed (for example, at 6 and 8pm) and then again at 10:30 or 11:00. That way, they have enough calories to sleep longer through the night.
  • Instead of holding a baby endlessly, pick him/her up when s/he starts to cry, but put him/her down as soon as s/he is calm. If the baby cries again, pick it up. When the baby gets quiet, put it down again. You might have to pick up the baby 20 or 30 times, but you're saying, "I'm fine. I'm here. It's okay to be on your own."

I find it very helpful to read a variety of books and pull out the pieces from each book that resonate with me.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

DIY: Happy Birthday Flag

I decided to jump on the blogger bandwagon and take photos of my son to commemorate some of his age milestones. I'm not as diligent as the folks over at Young House Love, so I will not be taking his photo every single week. Instead, I'll do it once a month for the first year and then once a year for every subsequent year. The vision is that he will sit in the same chair and hold the same flag each year. I can already see his begrudging 13 year-old face when I ask him to pose for that year's photo...

I wanted to make the project as simple as possible--no time for complexity these days! So during one of my breaks when Matt was on Henry duty, I grabbed a dowel we had from another abandoned project (I thought I wanted to make a Montessori Gobbi mobile, but I will be buying it off Etsy instead!), some fabric, and posterboard.

Here's how I made the flag:
  1. I folded the fabric in half with the good sides facing each other.
  2. Using a ruler, a cutting mat, and a rotary cutter, I cut out my flag triangle, intentionally making it a little bit bigger to allow for the seams.
  3. I sewed up both sides of the flag, but left the bottom open.
  4. I turned the flag right side out and used a pencil to poke out the tip.
  5. I cut some posterboard to fit inside the flag to help it stick out and keep its shape.
  6. I folded the bottom over and sewed a little tunnel for the dowel to slide into.
  7. Finally, I sewed across the top, so the dowel would stop when it got to the top of the flag.

Aside from the fact that I accidentally dumped the entire contents of my sewing tupperware on the ground, the process was very smooth (primarily because I didn't care about the little details). I knew the flag would only be looked at from a distance.

Oh, I almost forgot. The final step was to ask Matt to use Photoshop to put the number in. Voila!

And while I'm here, I'd like to pay homage to Henry's guitar rocker outfit. It was the last time he'll be fitting into it. [insert sigh]

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Enter to Win

Henry - The Gambler from Sara Matthew Hoss Hop-sing Clem on Vimeo

My zany Partner in Awesomeness is hosting a Dance/Sing Along Video Contest over on his blog!

[Editor's Note: Please don't ask me what the prize is. It's the same kind of thing Matt gave me for birthday after birthday and Christmas after Christmas until I finally decided that I couldn't stomach a lifetime of said present and I finally had to have the baby-I-love-you-but-you-need-to-get-better-at-picking-out-presents-since-we're-in-this-for-the-long-haul conversation.]

You can view our entry above and head over to his blog to enter!

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Savoring This Stage

The difficulty of those first few weeks of new motherhood is already starting to recede into the horizon like tall buildings shrinking into dots as our train barrels ahead.

We dance to the same rhythm each day. We breastfeed on the couch in Henry's room. I caress his wispy hair, always smiling at his perpetual bed head. Then we move into his awake time. Sometimes he lays on his stomach, straining to lift his head to look at the black and white accordion book stretched out all around him. Other times, he is on his back, learning to track movements by watching his mobiles. Or we plop ourselves on a blanket outside and Henry's wide eyes soak up everything, while I read or drink the breakfast smoothie that Matt made for me before leaving for work. I shower during his awake time, while Henry lays on a thick towel on the bathroom floor and occupies himself underneath his wooden archway with dangling black and white images.

When I've counted a couple yawns, I wrap the Moby around my body and put the little piglet into his pocket. I sit on the front porch swing and sway him to sleep. Then, with about an hour and a half of time to my marsupial self, I decide what to do with my quiet time. I usually reference my ongoing list: write blog posts, finish thank you cards, schedule appointments, etc.

Our cycle repeats about every three hours. I usually try to fit in a visit with friends, often during one of Henry's naps in his piglet pocket, pressed against my chest.

I worked really hard to convince Matt to take a paternity leave. He took two full weeks off and then had another full week for spring break. Then he had two weeks of half days (which, for him, is a five-hour day). So when he comes home early, he becomes kangaroo dad, and I use one of the nap cycles to sleep all alone. Heavenly!

I still cry easily, although I tend to cry much more from joy than despair these days. I'm working really, really hard to savor the stage I'm in.

I've done a lot of work around the concept of savoring the stage one's in. As someone who enjoys planning, I'm always looking ahead, making lists, dwelling in possibility. Even though I continue to let myself keep one part of my
brain in the future, I also try to dip myself into the warm waters of the present and relax a bit. When I was pregnant, for example, I tried to truly embrace the experience and fully enjoy that stage without wishing for Henry to hurry up and get here. When we were trying to conceive, I also tried to enjoy our life as it was, even though I was eager to get pregnant.

I think the trick to minimizing your suffering during the hardest parts of adjusting to an infant is to surrender. You have to surrender to the experience as it is and not try to change it.

Unfortunately, I was not able to do that for the first several weeks. I spent so much time preparing myself to surrender during the labor and delivery that I neglected to realize I would have to continue surrendering once he arrived.

At so many other points in my life, I've been able to avoid or go around suffering. In college, for example, I never pulled an "all-nighter." Either I planned out my time well in advance, or I opted for a lower grade. It just wasn't worth it to me to suffer from sleep deprivation.

But in this experience, there's no way around the suffering. You simply have to go straight through it. Even though I was able to do a lot to minimize my suffering by planning and preparing so much ahead of time, there were still things that I couldn't work around. I had to suffer through my post-partum pain. I had to suffer through a breast infection and a stomach virus--all while learning to breast feed. I had to work through the shift into my new role as mother.

As Anne Lamott writes in Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year, "You've already gone ahead and done it before you realize you couldn't possibly do it, not in a million years."

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Monday, April 4, 2011

April: Reflection & Rejuvenation

What a month! I seriously can't believe Henry was born in February (granted, it was the last day of February) and now it's already April. I'm going to have to gobble up all of this infant time while I have it!

Here were my intentions for March:
  • Heal, heal, heal! I did a really good job of this for the first three weeks, but then I started to push it by walking Henry to sleep too much. My midwife advises against a lot of walking until the bleeding stops because too much exertion can cause the wound to keep opening. I've started swaying him to sleep on our front porch swing instead, and I've noticed that my bleeding is really lightening up.
  • Rest, rest, rest! Our days definitely have a restful rhythm to them. I try to get out once, so I can maintain my sanity, but other than that, I haven't been pushing myself too hard (with housework or any other kind of work).
  • Love, love, love my son! Yep! I love him more and more with each passing day...
  • Figure out breastfeeding: We're getting there. It's been a somewhat difficult road, but I met with a lactation consultant again, and we're on a good path.
  • Attend a Montessori class with Henry: The class got postponed two weeks, so we'll start this in April.
  • Start promoting the next Purposeful Conception course: Yep! The class started yesterday. Good times! I always get to meet the most interesting people through the course.

And now it's time to set my intentions for April. I always love this part!
  • Savor my time with my son, Henry, despite the difficult parts
  • Send printed photos to the grandparents, like I promised to do every month for their Christmas presents last year
  • Study Spanish for 20 minutes every weekday (I do this while breast feeding)
  • Attend a Montessori class twice a week with Henry and learn as much as I can
  • Actively participate in the Purposeful Conception community
  • Make a great dish and present for my good friend's Potluck Picnic Birthday Party
  • Continue to strengthen my partnership with Matt through each interaction and passing day
  • Figure out how to pump and store breast milk
  • Go on a date night with Matt
  • Continue to meet up with other new mothers frequently
  • Take time to be by myself and go on outings
  • Nap! Nap! Nap!
  • Send birthday cards to my friends/family
  • Start going to yoga once a week and running twice a week (when my midwife clears me)
  • Finalize my book outline

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Last Chance to Register!

Henry would be very happy if you would register for the next Purposeful Conception Course: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy that starts this weekend.

Okay, not really. The things that currently make him happy include breast milk, naps in the Moby wrap, the outdoors, pushing poop out the side of his diaper, and peeing on his parents.

But we have been working on his smile. Do you think he's getting it?

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