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Parenting

Wednesday by Leah: The Hard Parts

Most of the time, I really love being a mom. More than I expected to, actually. But of course there are hard parts. There are some really difficult days. And this whole journey has been surprising. I thought I’d start working when Jonah was 3 months. Then 6 months. Then a year. Well, here we are at 14 months and – while I do work SOME, on both our business and some contract social worky stuff – it’s FAR less than I thought I would. Because I want to be hanging out with Jonah.

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I went to a great college. I spent time abroad. I got a Master’s degree and a job after grad school that most people would envy. My husband and I have a successful photography business. It’s not like I don’t have options. It’s not like I don’t have student loans.

I’d just really rather play with my son. MOST of the time. But then there are times I want to hang out with friends. Or write. Or I just really want to clean ALL THE THINGS at once instead of in bits and pieces over the month. Or I want to go out to dinner with JUST my husband. Or I just want a break from being a mom.

And that’s when things get hard, because that’s when the Guilt Monster comes to visit. I feel guilty because I don’t bring in much money, and – while I’m insanely lucky to have access to free childcare, it’s not all the time, so a lot of the time we do have to pay a sitter to watch Jonah. And how is it fair for me to be SPENDING money I haven’t earned just so I can take a break? From something I’ve chosen and wanted to do? I wouldn’t have this issue if I was a working mom. It seems totally fair to me for working moms to pay for childcare AND pay for a sitter to have downtime and date nights. I mean, gosh! They are WORKING! And then they need a break from all the WORKING! Plus, they have their own income, so of course they should spend it as they see fit. It even seems totally fair for OTHER stay-at-home moms to hire sitters. Because of course they need date nights and down time and they probably have way cleaner houses than I do, too. So why am I the only mom NOT deserving a break? Or some me time?

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But actually, I worked through a lot of that. Yup. We have a lovely friend who comes to watch Jonah twice a week, for around 3-4 hours at a time. I also have a mom’s support group I go to every other Wednesday, AND I have an awesome meditation/spiritual development class I’ve been going to on Tuesday nights. And Mark regularly takes Jonah and tells me to go do my own thing – blog, take a bubble bath, have a long phone call with a friend, etc.

Yay, right? Problem solved! Except… it’s *still* not enough. I still feel unbalanced. I still feel like I’m not getting enough time to do the cooking and cleaning and the reading and writing and the meditating and socializing and and and and….

Apparently, I need more “ME” time than 12 hours a week. And when I look at it like that, it doesn’t seem SO wrong or bad. I literally only have 12 – or sometimes fewer- hours each week solely to myself. That breaks down to 1.7 hours per day. Obviously, it’s a slightly different ratio given our current childcare arrangements. And some moms get WAY less than that, I know. But for me, it’s just not the right balance and even if it sounds super selfish, I want and need more time than that. So we have to figure out a way to make that happen. Paying for MORE childcare, scheduling regular date nights, Mark rearranging his work schedule (and basically, working fewer hours) to spend more time with Jonah. It’s gonna happen. And I’m going to work on NOT feeling guilty about it.

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Which, for me, is one of the hardest things about being a mom. It’s SO easy to feel guilty. Especially because I *chose* to do this full-time, so what right do I have to complain? I love my child. I love that I get to spend so much time with him. But I love me, too. And I need to spend some more time with myself. And my adult friends. More than I already do. That way, when our lovely friend/sitter comes to watch Jonah, I’ll actually go take time for myself instead of talking her ear off for an hour because YAY FRIEND! I will use that time productively, and then I will socialize when I’m not asking her to come over and watch my kiddo.

14 months into motherhood, and I’m STILL struggling to find a balance. But it’s a process. And I’ll get there. I’m on my way.

Wednesday by Leah: Everyday Adventures

One of my favorite things about having a kidlet is getting to turn mundane errands and outings into grand adventures. Yes, it takes longer to get stuff done, but it’s also a lot more fun, and by slowing down and stopping to smell the roses, BabyRoX gets a better chance to learn about our wacky and wonderful world.

Yesterday we went to the grocery store. I had about 15 items on my list. Normally, it would take me 10 minutes to get those items and check out. But we were having a sensory and linguistic adventure! So it took around 45 minutes. We felt the drops of moisture on the celery stalks. We felt the smoothness of the butternut squash and the roughness of the pumpkin stem. We shivered in the dairy aisle and warmed up by the hot bar. We tasted the pears on the sample tray. I talked about each item, the colors and names and textures. BabyRoX chattered back, pointing at things and exploring each item I handed him.

I’m not immune to the parental guilt/pressure to provide my child with the perfect balance of stimulation, education, free play, and chill time. Does he have the “right” toys to encourage creativity and development? Does he have enough social interaction with peers and other adults? Are Mark and I playing the “right” games with him?

But then I step back and watch how fascinated BabyRoX is with clapping his hands, catching bubbles, touching a pumpkin. I don’t need to get him any fancy toys or sign him up for special classes. He is 11 months
old and everything around him is new and exciting. I just need to slow down and give him the opportunity to take it all in. To climb up and down the stairs 5 times. To play with his food.

I’m a pretty high energy, fast-paced person and I have a really calm, mellow child who likes to study things and people intently. Almost daily, I have to remind myself to slow down, to follow his lead, to sit for a moment and take in the world, to listen and observe.

He’s a great little teacher, and I love our everyday adventures. Today we are going to play with leaves and rocks. And hopefully not swallow any. Well, at least not any rocks. I think leaves will digest a bit better.

Wednesday by Leah: Cuteness

Some weeks I have a lot to say.

Other weeks, I just want to post cute pictures of my baby.

It’s one of those weeks.

=)

Wednesday by Leah: What’s with the necklace?

BabyRoX wears a necklace sometimes. It’s a Baltic amber teething necklace. I get asked about it all. the. time. People ask me if it has special meaning. Or if it’s a thug chain. (?! Y’all crack me up.) Other parents who know about the amber teething necklaces ask me if it works. So here’s a little post about a.) what an amber teething necklace is and b.) if it works.

I tend to approach most of my parenting choices with a mix of lots of research, lots of anecdotes from other parents, and a little bit of “if it doesn’t hurt to try it, and it might help, then why not?”… and I ultimately make a decision based on my intuition. It’s a powerful thing, intuition. I think it gets even stronger when you become a mom. Really. I have no evidence to support this claim, just personal experience. But it’s my blog post and I say so.

Anyhow, the amber teething necklace is supposed to help with the pain, inflammation, and general irritability of teething. Amber, and Baltic amber most specifically, contains succinic acid. Your body also produces succinic acid and it works as an anti-inflammatory. The theory is that when you wear amber against your skin, the succinic acid is leached into the skin and helps reduce inflammation. There is one study that shows it also reduces stress-induced temperatures in mice. But there aren’t many studies about Baltic amber or succinic acid in general. Lots of people in Lithuania swear by it, though. And lots of moms recommended the teething necklace to me.

Point of note: the necklace is NOT meant to be chewed on. BabyRoX couldn’t chew on it because it’s not even long enough for him to get it into his mouth. The necklace is meant to break easily in case he ever gets it caught on something while wearing it, and each bead is individually knotted so that they don’t all scatter everywhere/land in his mouth and choke him if the necklace ever does break. And of course I keep an eye on him when he’s wearing it, so he’s not in great danger.

Ok, back to the research. Like I said, there isn’t much. Here are the studies some other lady found in response to this blog post expressing doubt as to whether the necklaces work (she makes a lot of valid points, so I recommend reading that post… I like hearing from all sides, even if I don’t agree with everything):

References

i) Gough, L. J. & Mills, J. S. (1972).
‘The composition of succinite (Baltic amber)’. Nature 239: 527-528. (doi:10.1038/239527a0)

ii) Mills, J. S., White, R. & Gough, L. J. (1984)
‘The chemical composition of Baltic amber’. Chemical Geology 47, 15-39.
(doi:10.1016/0009-2541(84)90097-4)

iii) Alexander P. Wolfe, Ralf Tappert, Karlis Muehlenbachs, Marc Boudreau, Ryan C. McKellar, James F Basinger and Amber Garrett. (2009).
‘A new proposal concerning the botanical origin of Baltic Amber’. Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences 276: 3403-3412
doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0806

iv) Si Wei Chen, Qin Xin, Wei Xi Kong, Li Min, & Jing Fang Li. (2003)
‘Anxiolytic-like effect of succinic acid in mice’.
Life Sciences 73: 3257-3264

v) Davidson, P. Michael, Sofos, John N., Branen, Alfred Larry (eds). (2005).
‘Antimicrobials in Food: Third Edition.’
Taylor & Francis

vi) Xu, Jun, & Guo, Bao-Hua.
‘Microbial Succinic Acid, its polymer Poly(butylene succinate), and applications’. Page 347 in Chen, Guo-Qiang (ed) (2010)
‘Plastics from Bacteria. Natural Functions and applications’.
Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg
ISBN 978-3-642-03286-8

So, that’s about it. Not enough to make a truly educated decision on whether the necklaces work. So I decided to try it. BabyRoX had one tooth come through without the necklace. The other three have come in with the necklace being worn. He’s also been significantly less fussy with those three. That could be attributed to a number of things: he’s more used to teething, they just didn’t bother him as much, etc. Or the necklace could help. I have no way of knowing. But since it isn’t causing any harm and doesn’t bother him, and there’s a chance it might be helping, and – hey, I think it looks cute! – I’ll keep putting it on him when additional teeth start to come in. I have hunch the necklace is helping. I’m gonna go with it.

If you’re interested in acquiring one of these, I ordered ours here. According to my mom friends, THIS is another reputable source of authentic (and safely made) amber teething necklaces.

Questions? Comments? Shoot!

Wednesday by Leah: Did I do that?

A few days before BabyRoX was born, Mark and I went to pick up some baby items we needed. It was during this shopping trip that I discovered the NoseFrida. It’s basically a straw/tube thing that parents can use to suck snot out of their kid’s nose.

Image courtesy of Fridababy.com

“Gross!!,” we jointly exclaimed. We would never suck snot out of our kid’s nose! Who does that?

Haha. Think again, naive almost-parents. Think again.

Except I never purchased a NoseFrida… I got one of those blue bulb syringes, and it seemed to do the trick on tiny BabyRoX. But then he started crawling. And since his nose was usually pretty close to the ground, he got dirt and stuff in it, which mixed with mucous and made these super sticky and SUPER stubborn boogers. Nothing would get these boogers out! His nostrils are very tiny, so even my pinky finger can’t fit in there. Wet wipes didn’t work either. Nor did saline drops. And no way was I going to put a Qtip near my wiggly, grabby lil guy’s face. It would probably end up lodged in an ear or eye or nasal cavity. So… I sucked. Yup. Gross, I know. But I put my mouth over that little nostril with the stubborn boogers and sucked them right out.

And that is only one of a number of yucky things I have done since becoming a mother. I’ve thrown a sheet over pee in the bed and slept
on it. For more than one night. I regularly eat soggy, sucked-on pieces of food that BabyRoX discards. And don’t get me started on the poop. Ohhh, the poop.

What? I poop, ok?

Anyhow… I might be investing in a NoseFrida. My birthday is on Saturday, if anyone needs gift ideas…. =)

Wednesday by Leah: BabyRoX Does Stuff!

When BabyRoX was a newborn, he mostly just slept and ate and looked cute. And I loved him and I stared at him for hours on end. And everyone told me how fast the time would go by, and at the time it didn’t feel fast but now those days are getting fuzzy in my mind and he has outgrown 3 seasons of clothing and I can’t believe he even used to fit into those tiny little diapers and onesies anymore.

Now, my sweet little baby DOES stuff. Lots of stuff! He crawls – up on his hands and knees (no more army crawling with his belly on the ground!), he climbs – furniture, staircases, you name it! He spends half the day standing and cruising from one piece of furniture to the next. He signs “milk” when he wants to nurse. He wakes us up by patting our faces and giving us kisses and blowing spit bubbles everywhere. He laughs and sings and gets angry and LOVES to eat food. Real, solid food. And he waved “bye-bye” for the first time this week. I swear he said it two weeks ago, too, but there hasn’t been a repeat. He has waved bye-bye a number of times since the first time, though, so I know he “gets” that one. I know it is such a simple little thing, waving goodbye, but the excitement I felt was enormous. Each time he accomplishes a new task, I feel ridiculously happy. I’m so proud of this beautiful little creature. I’m so amazed at all he can do, at the many ways he can communicate with us, at his growing independence. I see how happy he is when he does something for himself – the confidence that grows daily as he is able to get around, to feed himself, to clearly communicate his needs and preferences. It is an absolute honor to watch him learn and assist in his development. It’s like I have second chance to discover the world – to him, everything is new and interesting. Each day is such an adventure, even when all we do is pet the cats and splash in the sink and roll a ball around and eat a mango.

He is strong and healthy, and I am oh-so-thankful for that. He hasn’t been sick once, not even a cold. He still has an unbelievably calm temperament and his precious, toothless smile that melts my heart. He is the most easy-going baby I have ever met and I keep wondering where he gets it from. Maybe it’s the Reiki. Maybe the Hypnobirthing did it. Maybe it’s just how he is. All I know is that we are incredibly lucky to share our lives with this sweet little person.

I’m so looking forward to the months and years ahead, but I’m also really enjoying the here-and-now. I don’t want to forget these days. They ARE going by so fast, and I need to make more time to jot down just how awesome and special this journey of parenting is.

Wednesday by Leah: Treasure Boxes

I love watching BabyRoX explore the world. It’s so fascinating to me how he engages with each new object, how he explores textures and tastes and functionality. I love giving him simple toys and watching how he chooses to use them (as opposed to loud, plastic toys that buzz and beep and play 5 different songs and he can’t really understand cause and effect because every time he touches the toy something new happens!). Since he is older now, and able to sit up on his own, handle toys, and understands object permanence, I’ve started giving him treasure boxes to explore each day. I purchased several different types of boxes at Michael’s craft store and each week I fill them with different items. One box has colorful pom poms in it. Another has a variety of wooden shapes – a sphere, a cube, an egg, a peg. Another had feathers but I just changed it and put different types of string and yarn in it. We set aside time each day for focused exploration. In the Montessori tradition, children sit on a work mat – I haven’t gotten him a work mat yet since he usually only spends 5 minutes or less with the treasure box, but I should probably start using one soon so he gets used to the ritual of putting away his other toys and having some focused time exploring different objects.

I give him the treasure box and sit a little ways away and just observe him. Sometimes he is more interested in the box itself. Sometimes he dumps everything out and then chooses which item to put in his mouth first. Other times he takes items in and out of the box. Everything goes in the mouth at this stage, and that’s an important part of his sensory exploration, so I try to give him items that are safe for mouthing, but I also let him play with items that aren’t necessarily infant-friendly. I watch to make sure he isn’t going to hurt himself or choke, but I also want him to explore on his own. I wish I could see his thoughts!

In the grand scope of the day, this is just one adventure of many for him, but he seems to enjoy opening the box and discovering what is inside. It’s amazing how intently he can focus on the objects, turning them over and over, passing them from hand to hand, exploring the taste and texture with his mouth. As he gets older, I plan to introduce items to practice fine motor skills with – jars with lids for opening and closing, or little slots for putting coins or beans in… keys and locks… different sizes and shapes of buttons to sort… the possibilities abound! It’s a simple activity and it costs very little money and hardly any time to put together. And I could seriously watch him for hours! I can’t wait til he is talking and telling me what goes in that lil brain of his.

I always love suggestions of other fun, age-appropriate activities – please share!

Adventure Awaits | Alex & Brett

One of the greatest compliments a photographer can ever receive is a recommendation. It’s huge, really. To go out on a limb and vouch for someone, with enough faith in someone’s talent or ability and about something so personal as art, is just awesome… and humbling. I’ve been lucky enough, in my journey as a photographer, to have met such incredible people that turn into clients- fun, funny, kind- and then those clients’ friends become my clients too. AWESOME. To anyone who has ever gone out on that limb for me, thank you. So much.

Alex and Brett are freaking adorable. And they’re having a baby! Alex has the most perfect basketball belly, the two of them are seriously cute as a button together, and when I suggested a sunrise session for their maternity photos (SUNRISE. As in leaving the house when it’s still dark out and readying yourself for photos at six o’clock in the morning.), they were ALL OVER IT. It was actually the first time I ever even suggested a sunrise session to any client, ever, and Alex and Brett set the precedent by being game for anything. And because it was sunrise, the lighting was some of the most gorgeous I’ve worked with in the history of Ever.

 

Maternity sessions are so interesting to me- especially for first babies. Every couple has a certain dynamic all their own, and when you add a baby, everything shifts. Your whole life- your entire existence, really- is about to change, and in so many bigger ways than just who has diaper duty. For a lot of couples, it’s your first big adventure together. And even if you’ve been adventuring together already- first homes and new careers and travels abroad- parenthood is undoubtedly the biggest, craziest adventure you two will ever tackle. (Really. Even getting out of the house somewhere in the neighborhood of being on time is an adventure. But worth it. Because babies are cute.) I love watching the giddiness of couples who are about to have a baby. It’s this nervous energy, tripping over baby clothes and baby shoes and big decisions. You’re savoring the last few weeks or months of it being just the two of you… and [im]patiently waiting for the biggest, most symbolic marker of your relationship: your baby. I remember those days. And watching the person you love become a mother or a father often brings back that flood of dizzying new love that you first felt way back Before Baby: in the very beginning. It’s kind of cool. You get to fall in love all over again, only multiplied by about a million. (And with extra pints of Häagen-Dazs. Very important.)

Alex and Brett, thank you for trusting me with something so important as capturing the last few weeks while your sweet girl is still cozied up on the inside. Don’t forget to pack a fan for your hospital stay, guys. 🙂 You. Are. Awesome.

Wednesday by Leah: Cloth Diapering

I’m often asked questions about cloth diapering. There is TONS of information online about the various cloth diapering options, and it can definitely be overwhelming. What works for our family might not be the best option for yours, but I’m going to do a post on what I’ve learned and the kinds of diapers we prefer. We also practice Elimination Communication (EC) which I’ve also posted about, so I don’t go through as many diapers in a day as someone who isn’t doing EC, but we still do our fair share of diaper laundry. We’ve tried almost every type of cloth diaper out there. For a good overview of all the different cloth diaper options, watch this awesome video series on YouTube.

 The cheapest option out there is the prefold with cover. We have a bunch of those. We used those a lot at first. They work great and are relatively easy to use… you usually don’t have to wash the covers as often, either, which means less laundry. But my fave diapers are FuzziBunz One Size Elite, which is a pocket diaper – meaning you place the insert (microfiber or minky or bamboo material) inside the cover in a large pocket. The outside of the pocket that touches baby’s skin is fleece, which wicks away moisture, and the insert absorbs it. So it’s soft and fuzzy…and they come in a range of bright colors, so they also look super cute! You can add extra inserts for added absorbency, too. The new Elites are less bulky than the originals, which means they fit better under clothing, too. And I like the one-size because you can adjust the leg and waist elastic, and snap it differently, so that it fits a wide range of sizes and grows with the child. I have 12 Elites that I purchased for around $200, and 2 FuzziBunz originals, and that is plenty for at least 3 days usually. If your kiddo doesn’t ever go on the potty, you’ll probably want to have closer to 20 diapers, though. I wash the diapers at LEAST every two days if not every day, because I don’t want bacteria to grow or the diapers to get all funky smelling. Then I go ahead and stuff the inserts in once everything is dry, and it’s just like a regular disposable diaper – easy to put on and take off, no fiddling with prefolds trying to get a diaper and cover assembled while baby is squirming around.
Some people think cloth diapering means tons more laundry, but really, if you have a little baby in the house, you are going to be doing laundry way more often than you are used to anyways – from sheets to burp cloths to clothing (yours and baby’s!) – spit-up and milk and pee and poop… and later, solid foods – just get everywhere, so it’s not hard to throw some diapers in with the mix, or run an extra load at the end of the day. Since we have a washer and dryer in-home, it’s really not a problem for us to do the extra laundry.
I use Charlie’s Soap for our laundry. It’s natural, biodegradable, and doesn’t cause much build-up, if any, on the diapers and we’ve been happy with it. A little goes a long way! I’m still on our first container of it, actually, and I bought it when BabyRoX was born. That was 7 months ago! And I do laundry pretty much every day. For poop stains, I run a couple extra rinse cycles or an extra wash cycle, and that usually takes care of it. If the stain is still there, however, I just hang the diaper or clothing in the sun (still wet! don’t put stained clothes in the dryer!) and let the sun bleach them. It totally works. Try it.
I usually throw both my FuzziBunz covers and the inserts in the dryer on low heat, but once in a while I’ll hang the covers and just dry the inserts. Low/no heat is supposed to help the waterproof PUL liner last longer. If I’m washing the diapers with other clothes and there are just some wet diapers in there, I don’t always run hot cycle. But I do a good, thorough cleaning with a hot cycle followed by a cold cycle once a month to deep-clean the diapers and keep them absorbent and bacteria-free.
Finally, I don’t use any diaper ointment! Luckily, BabyRoX hasn’t had a diaper rash in forever – he also doesn’t have super sensitive skin AND we don’t leave him in wet/dirty diapers for very long. He either goes on the potty or we change him soon after he goes in his diaper, and he’s good about letting us know he needs a change! But if you DO need diaper ointment, keep in mind that most ointments are NOT OK for cloth diapers. They will ruin the diaper. We love using Indigo Bath and Body’s Bazic Skin Stick, which is all-natural with shea butter and olive oil, and keeps BabyRoX’s heiny fresh and soft, plus it’s super convenient and I don’t have to get my fingers all greasy. You can also just put some olive oil on a q-tip and rub that around the diaper area, too. But don’t use the Desitin or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste or any of those other products on cloth diapers. If you do by accident, you’ll have to scrub it out with Dawn dish soap and strip the diapers. Again, there’s tons of info online about cloth diapering, so I won’t go into all of that here – just Google diaper stripping!
Oh, and we also have cloth wipes, so those get thrown in the wash, too. I’d estimate that we save at the very, very least $20/month on diapers and wipes. It would be even more if BabyRoX wasn’t also using the potty 50-75% of the time. So. That’s how we cloth diaper, after trying almost every type on the market. FuzziBunz wins. I’ll still use the others, especially the prefolds and covers, from time to time, but we mainly use FuzziBunz now. Let me know if you have any questions that I didn’t answer here!

BabyRoX 7 Months from LeahAndMark.com on Vimeo.

Wednesday by Leah: Finding our Rhythm

I am not a very scheduled/routine type of person. I find routines very boring. Other than my morning coffee, there isn’t anything about my day that is routine. Sometimes I shower in the morning, sometimes at night. Sometimes at 2 pm. Some days I do yoga, other days I go swimming. I usually eat around the same times each day… not always, but generally. I do NOT like eating the same things from day to day (Mark, on the other hand, would eat the same thing for every meal for 3 months on end!).

I thought once I had a baby I would magically morph into a routine-type person. I used to be a daycare teacher, after all, and we had a set schedule every day. Baby eats at these times. Baby sleeps at these times. Etc.  That’s just how you do things when you have kids, right? Except…. that is SO not how I live my life, and it was a lot harder to change than I thought. So here’s what has actually happened:

Birth – 3 months: BabyRoX sleeps most of the time. I change diapers (and usually outfits) when he’s awake. Then he eats. After he burps and/or spits up/pees everywhere, I put him in a cute new outfit, take a picture, then we have Tummy Time. Then he falls back asleep. I stare at him in a haze of love and awe until I fall asleep. I usually go out at least once per day to eat/visit with people/buy groceries/meet with clients. Rinse. Repeat. 24/7.

3 months – 6 months: Each month has been a little different, so it’s hard to lump them all together. BabyRoX has been napping less and less…except some days he naps more, because he was teething and didn’t sleep great the night before, or because we went swimming and he’s extra-tired, or…just because! He’s a growing boy! But from 3-4 months he was generally napping 4 times a day and nursing 2-4 times overnight, and from 5-6 months it’s been 3 naps a day and nursing 1-2 times overnight. During the day, he typically eats every 3-4 hours. It’s closer to 4 hours now that he is 6 months and we’ve also introduced some solids.

It is really important to me to make sure he’s getting adequate sleep. His brain is developing SO rapidly and he needs that sleep time to process everything he’s learning. At first I thought I needed to stay home every day to make sure he was getting his naps. But, being a very non-routine, non-homebody person, that was driving ME crazy. I didn’t want to plan my whole day around my child’s nap schedule. Plus, with our business, each day is different – some days we meet with clients for breakfast. Some days we have a midday shoot. Etc. But all the reading I was doing about sleep, daily routines, etc. was making me feel like I *HAD* to have a routine for my child or else he wouldn’t be able to develop healthy sleep habits or have a sense of stability. Then I read something about a rhythm vs. routine. That resonated with me. Routine, to me, is just too rigid. But of course I want BabyRoX to get plenty of sleep, to eat at regular times, to know that his needs will be met each day and that life isn’t SO crazy that he has no idea what to expect from day to day. And each day for me DOES have a rhythm, if not a routine. So I’ve found a pretty awesome compromise – made possible, in part, because BabyRoX is a very portable/adaptable kiddo and doesn’t need complete silence, or darkness, or anything in particular to sleep well.

 

Here’s how we do things: he almost always takes a 60-minute nap about 2 hours after waking up. We wake up between 6:30 and 7:30 each day.  On the days we have to go somewhere, I get him dressed once he wakes up and potties. On the days we are staying home for the morning, I leave him in his nightgown (and usually stay in my PJs. Don’t judge!). If we are going somewhere, I bring the stroller or the Ergo carrier so that he can nap uninterrupted while I do whatever I need/want to do. I bring a little lovey for him because it acts as a sort of nap-time cue, and he likes to fall asleep holding onto something. One lovey is just a burp cloth/cloth diaper that he likes to suck on/nuzzle. It doesn’t have to be a specific animal/blanket thing. At least not for my child. When I know he’s getting sleepy, I pat his back and tell him it’s nap time, and make sure he’s comfortable. If I have the stroller, I lay him down in it with his lovey. If he’s in the carrier, I tuck the burp cloth lovey beside his cheek. He’s good about falling asleep and staying asleep even if we are somewhere noisy, but I also try not to jostle him too much or switch from a bright/noisy environment to a quiet/dark one…or vice versa. I try to keep things more or less status quo throughout the nap.

If we are at home for nap time, we read a story and I put him to bed, pat his back, and give him his lovey.

He then takes a midday nap – it used to happen around 12:30, but with the sun going down later, we’ve pushed his bedtime back from 7:30 to 8:30 pm, so nap time is now between 1:30 and 2:30. Usually this is his longest nap of the day – between 2 and 3 hours (usually 2 hours, sometimes 3 on the extra-tired days). Same rules apply for whether we are out vs. at home, but since this is a longer nap, sometimes he naps for part of it in his car seat on the way home. If I time it right during his sleep cycle, and he’s in the heavy-sleeping phase with limp limbs, I can put him in his car seat without waking him up.

And then I follow the same routine again for his late-afternoon nap, which happens between 4:30 and 5:30. I also make a point to be home for at least one, and usually two, of his daily naps so that he gets a “quiet time” nap each day. So that’s our rhythm… eating happens after sleep. Playtime happens after eating. We have “active” playtime for the first bit, and then as it’s nearing another nap time, we transition to quiet playtime, where we read stories, sing quiet songs, cuddle, etc. If we’re out, I start patting his back and stop interacting with him as much (“Look at that! Oooh, what’s over there? Etc.). I don’t watch the clock or force him to nap if he’s not tired – and there are some days he’s just not ready for a nap at the usual time – notice how I’ve said “almost always” and “usually” throughout this whole post!

 

Yes, we have a rhythm and I’d say 80% of the time that’s how the day goes, but NOT ALWAYS. And that’s ok. Missing one nap isn’t going to cause my child to become cognitively impaired. And while each day IS different for us, I still make sure I am meeting my child’s needs, observing his cues, and dancing to that rhythm from day to day, so that even though our schedule changes  - or, really, doesn’t exist at all, there is a still a more or less predictable flow. One day he might be napping in the park and the next day in bed, one day we are out of the house all morning, and the next day all afternoon, but there is a flow to each day that works for us, and that flow shifts as BabyRoX changes and grows.

Of course, I also have an easy-to-transition, laid-back type of baby… if I had a child that required a predictable routine, or lots of time to transition, or the SAME sleep environment to be able to sleep, this probably wouldn’t work. But I only know my own kid and my own life, and this is how we do things around here.

If you are mostly at home with your kid(s) most days, how do things flow for YOU?

 

Wednesday by Leah: Anniversary!

Today marks 3 years of marriage for me and Mark! And the first Friday of this month was our 7th year together. When I look back over our relationship, I can’t believe that I was just 23 when we met. I wasn’t thinking about marriage then. Mark was just supposed to be a guy I dated for fun until I moved to Nepal. Because I was going to have an adventurous, exciting, and kinda crazy life… and I thought I needed to move to Nepal to do that.

Oh, 23-year-old Leah, you have no idea just how awesome life can be, and you don’t even have to be living in Nepal.

There are many things I love about Mark, and many reasons I decided not to move to Nepal, but one of my favorite things about Mark is what a great father he is. I knew he would be. It was one of his most attractive qualities, really. Even before I was considering marrying the guy, I was sure he would be an amazing dad. I loved how he treated kids with respect and humor. I loved how kids loved HIM. And I loved the fact that even at the age of 26, even just 2 weeks into dating, he openly voiced his desire to be a father. There was no wavering, no “maybe in 10 years I’d like some kids”… it was just an enthusiastic YES! OF COURSE I WANT TO BE A DAD! I love his certainty in the face of something so terrifying and life-changing and huge. It helps me get through my own fears and doubts. YES! WE ARE GONNA ROCK THIS PARENTING THING!

Photo by Arrow & Apple

Parenting is hard work. I’m glad I have a partner who is up to the challenge. Who understands that it IS okay for boys to cry or play with dolls or wear colorful leg warmers. Who knows the importance of dreaming big and working hard and playing harder. Who isn’t afraid to say I love you or admit mistakes. Who will raise our son with integrity, respect, and an unbelievable amount of love.

Happy Anniversary, babe! I love you!

(Wedding photos courtesy of Jason Spruill and Bonnie Heath!)

 

To My Son | Wednesday by Leah

To my dear son,

Thank you for making me a mother. Not just any mother, but YOUR mother. For you are a radiant and joyful being, serious yet happy, intense but filled with light. You take my face in your tiny hands and stare so deeply into my eyes… focused, probing. I wonder what you see there. And then you break into a smile so huge (and toothless!) that I wonder if your look of intense concentration was just a figment of my imagination. How do you switch so quickly from seriousness to levity? Perhaps one day you will tell me.

Atlanta Photographers LeahAndMark.com | Wednesday by Leah | Parenting

This is an imperfect world, and as you begin to encounter some of the harsh and painful aspects of it, I hope your seriousness will allow you to give each issue, each feeling, due consideration. And I hope your levity will help you continually find the joy of this world, to shine light into the darkness.

Atlanta Photographers LeahAndMark.com | Wednesday by Leah | Parenting

I love you with a fierceness that scares me at times, and I will use that ferocity to fuel my efforts to make this world a happier and more just place. I will be your protector, your biggest champion, your most adoring fan, and hopefully one of your best and most favorite teachers. I will listen. I will ask questions. And sometimes I will talk too much and sometimes you will humor me and sometimes you will let me know that you have your own answers and I need to trust you.

Atlanta Photographers LeahAndMark.com | Wednesday by Leah | Parenting

We will have grand adventures and more ordinary ones, but I promise that each day will be an adventure.

Atlanta Photographers LeahAndMark.com | Wednesday by Leah | Parenting

One day you will not need me so much, and I will be enormously proud and incredibly sad at the same time, and I hope that I will smile and wave you on your way and I hope you will remember to look back and blow me a kiss, to call and write and visit, because at this very moment I cannot imagine a single day without your sweet face greeting me, your tiny hands cupping my cheeks, your serious eyes staring into mine, and your smile lighting up my world.

Atlanta Photographers LeahAndMark.com | Wednesday by Leah | Parenting

Love you always and then some,

Your mother