Clever Girl

In just the past few days, M has figured out consonants (‘Dadadaydayba-pbbbfft!’), how to put toys into other people’s mouths (a bigger developmental leap than it might seem), and how to drink out of a straw. She’d tried that last one several times in the past with no success, but today she wanted to taste some of my smoothie, and — tada — no problem. It was only a handful of months ago that she was a little lump, and today I looked in the rear-view mirror to see her turning the pages of a book in her car seat. Babies, you guys. Highly recommended!

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Lemon Cake

Our local little supermarket has been making some changes lately, as far as what they stock, and I’ve been really impressed. There’s a freezer case of vegetarian meals and products, a gluten-free grocery section, and now an organic produce case. Pretty good for such a small supermarket in such a small town!

Anyway, I bought a bag of little organic lemons because I like to drink lemon-y water, but there were so many that I knew I’d need to use them another way before they started to rot. So — cake! I pulled out Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess, since I know she has some gerat loaf cake recipes in there, and I made the lemon-syrup cake. Here’s a post with the recipe on a beautiful blog that I’m now going to have to check out further! I started the cake before M’s bedtime and then popped it in the oven when she let me know she was ready to sleep (her bedtime routine is quick). I should have checked the cake after thirty-five or forty minutes, because it seems just a little dry (having baked for forty-five minutes). But the crumb is very light for what’s basically a pound cake — the book recipe calls for cake flour — and the lemon syrup is so bright and sweet-tart. I like it! I had to brew the ‘good tea’ (Fortnum and Mason’s Household Blend Tea, which makes me laugh because… whose household?) to go with it this morning.

I STILL haven’t painted the cupboard doors, but I had to do the appliance garage door by hand — that was actually the very first thing I painted, to get it out of the way. So if I crop things just so, we can pretend the cabinets are all painted and finished!

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Eight Months

M is eight months old! For some reason, nine months has always seemed like a landmark age to me, and it’s hard to believe she’s almost there. It feels like this last month has gone really quickly — I guess we must have been having a lot of fun! Rob was here for a couple of weeks, and we had a great trip up to Grand Marais. We also met up with some friends and went over to the neighbors’ place — it wasn’t the first time M had been over there, of course, but it was the first time she got up close to the horses!

Size: M is about 18lbs8oz (60th percentile) and 27” long (55th percentile), with a head circumference of around 18” (95th percentile) — I had to get my own measurements, so who knows how accurate they are! I’m not sure if she went through a growth spurt, but it sure seemed like it — she suddenly started eating a lot more!

Likes and Dislikes: She is such a happy baby that it’s hard to pick just a few things that she likes. We started swim class last week, and she seems to enjoy being in the water. She’s very good at wriggling around and kicking her legs, and she doesn’t even mind being dunked. (I did her eight month photos in her swimsuit, since we’ve had such fun swimming!)

She seemed to love having Rob here — every time she saw him, she’d get a BIG smile on her face. I don’t know if she actually could remember him from the last time she saw him (in Texas when she was five months old), but she definitely lit up instantly when he came back. She likes being out and about and seeing other people, generally, although she’s starting to get a little nervous when other people hold her. I think her grandma and Rob are the only people besides me that she seems really comfortable with. (She loves her grandpa, too, of course, but he always thinks she’s going to cry if he holds her — she won’t!)

She’s amazed by all the pets, but she especially loves the cats. Maybe it’s because they’re so soft! Beany has figured her out and usually scoots away when she gets too close, not wanting to have her fur pulled. Birdy is actually much more patient with her, surprisingly! We’re still working on gentle pets — she’ll stroke nicely with just her fingers for a bit, but then I think it gets to be too much for her, and she just wants to GRAB. The dogs are harder to get a hold of, but she think it’s funny when Nova jumps all around, and she gets a kick out of watching the dogs wrestle with each other.

She spends a lot of time trying to blow raspberries with either her lips or her tongue, and she thinks it’s really funny when I do it to show her how. She likes to touch my tongue, and when she does, I shriek and pretend to be grossed out — which makes her laugh. Sometimes when she’s having a bottle, she’ll repeatedly stick her hand up into the air for me to gobble up, which also makes her giggle.

Eating: When she started eating more during the day, I started the process of weaning her from her night bottle. She never took more than 4oz at night, so I just dropped an ounce every few days. On the second night at 1oz, she slept straight through to the morning! I don’t know if she decided it wasn’t worth waking up for such a little bottle or if she was just extra tired from swim class, but I was very excited! She hasn’t needed a night bottle with milk since then, but she still wakes up some nights and then gets herself back to sleep with no crying. If it’s taking her a long time to fall asleep again, I’ll give her an ounce of water, and the routine is enough to get her back to sleep.

She usually eats 30oz+ of milk during the day, and she has some baby oatmeal in the morning and some other puree for ‘dinner’. She’s fairly patient with the purees but not really very interested. After a few spoonfuls, she gets bored and starts looking for something more interesting, and it becomes a chore to get her to eat more. I think baby-led feeding was more fun for her, but she keeps choking on even the smallest pieces that she tries to swallow.

Sleeping: She still takes her two naps at 9:00am and 1:30pm, and she usually sleeps for 1.5hrs both times. I would like to move her bedtime from 6:00pm to 7:00pm, so that she’ll sleep a little later in the morning, but she’s usually SO ready to go to sleep by 6:00, so it’s tough. She’s a very good sleeper, able to get herself to sleep on her own, although she usually falls asleep while eating a bottle. If she doesn’t, I’ll put her in her crib, and she somehow amuses herself with Kitty Cat Doll until she gets tired enough to sleep.

Working On / Accomplishments: She got her brace off! Well, she still has to wear it while she sleeps, but that’s no big deal. I think she is having much more fun now that she doesn’t have to wear it while she’s awake. She doesn’t tip backwards when she sits up, and she can finally work more on trying to crawl. She KNOWS that she wants to get here or there, but she hasn’t figured out how to move herself quite yet — but she hasn’t been able to practice up until now.

I’ve already mentioned some of her other accomplishments: sleeping through the entire night, eating (some) purees, and going swimming for the first time. Every day, she just seems cleverer and more interested in the world around her. When she’s in her high chair, and something clatters to the floor, she looks over the edge to see where it’s gone. She’s always been observant and curious, and that just gets stronger as she gets older. It’s hard to believe that she couldn’t even hold an object just a short while ago, because now she’ll lean over to grab something and turn it all around in her hands — to find the best part to chew on, of course!

Other Stuff: As she gets older, she gets even cuddlier. Now that she can move herself around a little bit, she leans over and reaches out when she wants a hug or a cuddle. Sometimes it’s like she’s trying to climb up me to get on my lap. She gives very nice hugs and (I think) tries to give kisses, too. When she’s in a sillier mood, she likes to ‘get me’ by grabbing my legs or arms or whatever is near. Then she looks up to see my reaction and does it again. She’s such a funny, joyful baby!

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Well, we went to the doctor yesterday, and the news was good! M gets to move to part-time wear of her hip brace, which means only during nights and naps. I’m so excited for M, and she seems plenty happy about it, too! She has always been a little wiggle baby, and now she can wiggle to her heart’s content. It’s so nice to be able to play in the tub longer, without watching the clock to make sure she gets back into her brace on time. (She previously was allowed one hour per day out of the brace, which was usually 15min for a bath and then a longer break around dinner, so she could play in her saucer and then do a little tummy time.) Now she can wear overalls and shorts (and those skirts with the ‘undies’ built in). She rode in the front of a shopping cart for the first time today and seemed to really enjoy it — especially the part where I let her hold the noisy box of pasta!

I really didn’t think she’d be down to part-time wear this quickly. It’s been two months; I wonder if I’d known it would be ‘only’ two months from the start, whether it would have been easier to deal with. I’m not really sure how long she’ll have to continue to wear the brace while she sleeps — last month, the doctor said probably for another year, but the latest ultrasound seemed to show that the joint was more or less normal. She’ll have an x-ray in two months’ time to have a look at how the bone has formed, and I wonder if we’ll get more good news. I think I mentioned last time that the dysplasia was/is quite mild, but that it was caught much later than they like (grrr). I googled ‘mild hip dysplasia’ (or something) a little bit ago, curious to see what the treatment had been like for other babies, and instead I found a lot of people saying that they’d chosen not to treat their babies’ mild dysplasia. What! They were all, ‘Oh, she’s two years old now, and she’s walking just fine.’ Well, yeah. That’s why it’s missed in some people until later in life, when they’re plagued by pain and facing surgery. How stupid to ignore it. As sad as I was about M being in a brace twenty-three hours a day, I was glad it was helping her, and I was very strict about keeping it on exactly as long as it was supposed to be. I didn’t really realize a parent would feel there was any other option. And now M gets to play and play and play without her brace — and her hip is looking great. Hooray!

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M’s Room

I’ve been tidying up the house in anticipation of visitors at the weekend, and with less mess everywhere, I thought I’d take the opportunity to snap a couple of shots of M’s room. I did a post about her room before she arrived, and it’s kind of interesting to see how it’s changed since then.

Obviously, her crib is in there, so stuff has been shuffled around a bit to make room. Her little purple bookcase is up in the living room now, holding books and toys (when I manage to get her mountain of baby stuff in order, anyway). You can’t see it, but the bench in her room is now to the left of the twin bed, sandwiched between it and the wall, to hold her diaper stuff. I usually change her on the bed, as that’s the most comfortable place for both of us.

I want to make a cushion for the back of the rocking chair, since that’s where we sit for M to have her bottles before naps and bed — it’s not very comfortable at the moment! The white baskets on top of the cabinets have most of her clothes in them. I used to try to put stuff away in dresser drawers and on hangers, but then I’d wind up grabbing whatever was closest for her to wear (which was never the stuff neatly put away). This way, I can at least have things folded and organized AND handy, without them being in piles on the bed. You can also see the ‘sign’ I made on her chalkboard door. I must have done most of that right after she got her hip brace and was in the carrier a lot. I kept erasing parts and redoing them — eventually I decided enough was enough and that I was done with it. Here’s a better look at the door.

Oh! It has nothing to do with M’s room, but I might forget to mention anything if I wait: swim class started on Monday, and it’s going great! M acts like she’s been going swimming this whole time, doesn’t mind the water one bit. I remember when she hated her baths, and I thought she’d never have fun swimming (but, of course, she likes baths now, too). She’s very good at kicking her legs like a little frog when she’s on her tummy in the water, and today I dunked her under — she was surprised, but not upset. She’s a water baby!

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Expectations vs Reality

I think everybody who has children goes into parenthood with some expectations (maybe not those ladies who somehow give birth to a full-term baby without having realized they were pregnant!). I try my best not to be dogmatic about much of anything, because you only wind up looking foolish if you’re wrong, and nobody likes a sore winner if you’re right. But I’ve been thinking lately about what sorts of things I expected or planned for before M came along and how they compare to the reality now that she’s been out in the world for almost eight months.

Solid Food: Ever since Em did baby-led weaning with her son, I figured that’s what I would do, too. It makes a lot of sense to me, and it just seems a lot easier than having to shovel purees into a baby’s mouth. M and I started down the BLW path, but her surgery has made it too difficult for her to swallow little pieces of things. I’m hoping it’s a coordination/learning issue and not a physical one (40% of esophageal repairs like hers result in a stricture which has to be dilated, often more than once). The plan for now is to give her food she can manage (mostly purees) and wait to see if her swallowing gets better as she gets bigger.

Cloth Diapers: These have turned out to be so much EASIER and BETTER than I had expected! Mainly, I was worried about the work of washing them, but since I’ve discovered what works (and now that M is a little older and goes through fewer in a day), there’s not much to it. Cloth diaper sites are full of complicated wash routines, but I just do a cold soak, a hot wash (with Rockin’ Green detergent), and then tumble dry on low heat. They don’t look much different than they did when they were new! TotsBots Easy Fit are my favorite diapers, by far. They’re very soft and absorbent without being bulky.

Newborn Care: I spent a lot of time reading about cord (stump) care and this and that, but since she was in the hospital for two and a half weeks, it wound up not mattering. I had also specified that I didn’t want M to get the Hep B shot after she was born, as I wanted to spare her a needle poke that I saw as unnecessary, but the universe was all, ‘Ha ha, now your little baby has to have surgery and get IVs and blood drawn every day for weeks!’

Sleep: At first, I thought I’d be able to get M on a night routine where she wasn’t eating every 2-3 hours (by around six weeks). But she actually needed to eat during the night for a lot longer than that. Once she was here and at home, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to move her crib out of my room. I figured she’d still be sleeping with me as a toddler, as her room felt so far away. Once I DID move her crib (out of a desperate need for better sleep), there was no looking back. We’re so happy being in our own rooms!

Bottles: Obviously, it’s just foolish to have an opinion on what anybody else does with regard to breastfeeding/bottles/formula. But I assumed that nursing would work out for us, especially when we got off to a good start. To be honest, I think it probably would have been fine if the doctors hadn’t been insistent she be able to take a bottle before she left the hospital (I’ve since heard that forcing bottles is a big problem in NICUs). But I’m happy with where we’ve ended up, even though I never imagined I’d be exclusively pumping. It works for us!

Cuteness: I assumed that there would be a certain level of cuteness — I was cute as a baby, after all. But she puts my baby photos to shame! She’s got such a perfect, round face, and her personality is just amazing. I have a hard time gauging whether people walk up to all babies to coo over them (I think they do, though), but I loved when a guy in Grand Marais came over to say, ‘She could be one of those babies in the commercials!’ (You know, the commercials for babies.) It feels sort of vain to think my own baby is so cute (since she must have gotten at least half of it from me — although all the donor siblings are pretty dang cute, too).

Influence: Even though I recognized from the start that babies are who they are, I’ve wound up REALLY feeling like not much is down to what I do or don’t do. I’d love to take credit for how well M naps or how easy-going she is, but I truly feel like that’s just down to her — I’ve just done my best not to get in her way. Or I guess I should say that I’ve tried to give her the easiest path, and I’ve been lucky that she’s chosen to take it. (I fully believe that I could have done the exact same stuff with a different baby, and it wouldn’t have worked — which is the scary thing about the idea of having a second child!) I WILL say, though, that both M and I are silly people, which is very handy. Imagine having a boring, serious baby. Or a poor, silly baby with serious parents.

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Baby Stuff

My silly girl. It was rainy yesterday, so we spent most of the day playing on the floor (while I watched episodes of Treehouse Masters and dreamt about becoming a carpenter). I usually try to get us out of the house (either in the car or just walking around outside) between M’s two naps, but it was nice to have a slow day — because swim class starts this week! It’ll be a busy week, anyway, as I’d like to make some major progress on painting the kitchen cabinet doors (the cabinets themselves have been painted for a while now…), AND I have to get the house tidied up for visitors this weekend. AND AND M has a few appointments on Thursday — keep your fingers crossed for good hip news!

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Grand Marais 2014

We’re back from beautiful Grand Marais (the MN one)! I’ve been really hesitant to travel with M since our trip to Texas — she did pretty well then (at 5mos old), but it was very stressful for me, trying to make sure she slept and ate enough and trying to help us both adjust to a different routine (or lack thereof). I’ve actually cancelled a few trips I had planned for the spring because I just wasn’t ready to do it all again. But I’ve been wanting Rob to see Grand Marais for a while now, and a trip up north seemed like a good testing-the-waters type mini-break. It’s a 3.5hr drive, and we went away for two nights. And… it was great! M was such a champ, and we had the most gorgeous weather while we were there.

We stayed in the same suites that my mom and I stayed in last year. GM in June is MUCH different than GM in May, though! All the stores were open, and it actually looked like almost-summer instead of mostly-winter. The hotel is right across the street from World’s Best Donuts, and I’ll betray Tobies and say that they ARE actually, maybe the best. Their cake donuts are different from any I’ve had before — sort of springy and light. And since I made the donut run right when they opened, the donuts were super fresh. I let M taste the mini jelly donut (she just licked the powdered sugar and filling), and she seemed to enjoy it. She also ate guacamole at the taco place — and smeared a lot more of it around the restaurant’s high chair.

When we went to Texas, M never managed to nap for longer than thirty minutes (very short for her!), but she really stuck to her usual schedule while we were away this time. I have to remind myself that I don’t believe in jinxing whenever I talk about M’s sleep — she’s a great napper (and not bad at night). The rest of the time, she had a blast playing in the suite or exploring Grand Marais. I’m glad I brought her BOB stroller on the trip, even though it’s inconveniently large for going in and out of shops — it’s just so easy to push around, and she seems comfy inside. She let me know that she wanted to get out whenever we were looking around shops, though; it’s fine being chauffeured from place to place, but she likes to be closer to eye level when there are other people around! Everybody in GM thinks she’s very cute, in case you were wondering.

Here’s one last photo of M, back at home. She’s playing with my new wallet that I got at Stone Harbor — I had been looking for one that would also hold my phone; this one is perfect. And we stopped in Duluth for lunch on the way home, and I had to buy her this plush fox (part of this collection) at the bookstore (I also got her a Moomin board book). And while I’m linking to things — and talking about bookstores — Maris loves this book, which we got at Drury Lane Books in Grand Marais. She’s very into books right now and loves to turn the pages, so this one has been a particular hit with its bright colors and cutouts.

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Rhubarb Pie

Making a rhubarb pie wasn’t the only thing we did today, but it did take us from morning to late afternoon. My rhubarb is looking great this year! It had a rough time after I transplanted it last year, and then it looked strange earlier this spring, but my main plant is huge right now, and the stalks are nice and slim and tender. I picked a bunch a few days ago and made rhubarb crisp using the recipe I always use (from the Betty Crocker cookbook), but the crumble topping came out really weird. I don’t know if I mis-measured something, but I just couldn’t eat it. So I tried again with a pie, this time using this recipe. I haven’t had a chance to taste it yet, since it has to cool completely, but it sure looks good!

p.s. — You can see a couple of little peeks of the new lower cabinet color (the uppers are white). I still haven’t done the doors yet, which is why they’re missing. And here’s my little kitchen helper:

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