Friday, July 3, 2015

Henry's Montessori Bedroom - 18 Month Update

When my son Henry was 10 months, we decided to rethink where and how he slept. After talking with others about our options for a gentle sleep solution, we decided on a Montessori style floor bed and bedroom set up. Read here about how we set up his room from 10 months old -18 months old and the philosophy behind a Montessori bedroom. As he is growing we have changed the room to fit his needs. Here is a quick 18 month update on how we've set it up now!

THE BED


Henry still uses his floor bed but now we have his own toddler sized pillow and blanket made by his great grandma. He is obsessed with dogs! We still cuddle to sleep for every nap and night time (my husband and I switch off every other night). When it's my night to cuddle we nurse before drifting off to sleep. Recently he began sleeping all the way through until morning about 3 times a week. The other nights when he wakes up in the middle of the night, my husband gets him and he joins us in our family bed for the rest of the night.  

PLAY AREA


This area was his quite reading corner and has been turned into an exploration/play area! We moved the puzzle mats that were around the bed over to this area and connected them to make a big square. We still love cozy pillows in this corner too!

READING CORNER


This area use to be a place Henry could read books in our laps or cuddle and rock as we sang songs. He soon learned to climb up on that rocker by himself! So for safety reasons, and wanting to keep things developmentally appropriate, we changed it to his own little read.ing area with a small toddler sized reading chair and his books right at his level. We also decorated with a poster from one of my very favorite children's books, "Where the Wild Things Are." He loves it!

We are so thankful that we found a bedroom layout and sleep time routine that works for our family. There are so many options out there! We love his floor bed and our cuddles goodnight, and so does our sweet toddler. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

My 10 Baby Must Have's (and some we didn't need)

As our first year with our first baby comes to an end I've been thinking about what baby items we really loved and used during those early months and through the year. These are of course what worked for us, and every family is different! What are some of YOUR top baby items?? Let me know in the comments!

Here are our top 10 baby items:

10. Empty water bottles - If you already have a kid, you know these pieces of trash are GOLD! They are basically Henry's favorite toy. I even made a few sensory bottles with pipe cleaners and sand in them, but seriously just give your baby an empty water bottle and watch the fun happen! Who knew!?

9. MAM pacifiers - Henry had a strong need to suck from the get go, and with the go ahead form our lactation consultant we introduced pacifiers. We tried every single one, and Henry would ONLY take MAM's. I think they are super cute, and it's awesome that they are the same shape all around - doesn't matter if the baby accidentally puts it in their mouth upside down!

8. A backpack diaper bag - Any backpack would work, but we LOVE our backpack diaper bag. I need to use all the hands I can get, so with this on my back, my hands are free! We got the Eddie Bauer one which we like a lot - very durable with nice organized pockets.

7. Aden and Anais muslin swaddle blankets - I used these for EVERYTHING. Baby need a place to lay on the ground? Pull out a muslin blanket. Baby need swaddling? Pull out a muslin blanket. Baby just spit up everywhere? Pull out a muslin blanket. Love love love these.

6. The jungle mat - Any of the play mats are awesome! Henry loved to try and reach for the dangling toys, look at the twinkling lights, and listen to the music. This would entertain him forever!

5. Scratch-me-not sleeves - These saved our lives when Henry was going through his reactions to dairy and egg (before we pin pointed the problem). He would scratch his head and body all night long, and would rip off socks or mittens we tried putting on his hands. Seriously, if you have a child with eczema or an itching problem these are a MUST HAVE!

4. Coconut Oil - This is seriously THE BEST. Got dry skin? Chapped lips? Need a leave in conditioner? Baby scratched his face? Put coconut oil on it! Amazing. Jut google uses for coconut oil and you will be floored.

3. A bouncy seat - We used several (one in each room) and they were awesome for Henry. Even if you are a hippie dippy crunchy mama (which I sorta am) you've got to put the baby down sometimes! And this was a spot Henry could sit in for awhile and stay entertained! He loved to be in the reclined position that the seats offer so he could see everyone, and when he moved, it bounced so the movement helped soothe him.

2. Rock'n' Play sleeper - Henry slept in a rock'n'play sleeper for the first 3 months of his life. He had intense gas pains (which we now know was food allergy related) and being in a reclined position helped him feel some relief. I kept it right flush to the side of the bed. It was also nice because it's super light and portable, so I could pull it into any room I was in so he could lay down or nap next to me. This didn't work for much older than 3 months, but it was awesome!

1. A baby carrier (specifically the ergo) - My life saver. If I had to pick ONE baby item this is it. The ergo is perfect for keeping baby close while giving you free hands!! Throughout this year I have used the ergo almost every single day, especially during teething or any time Henry isn't feeling quite right and just wants to be held. He also naps in it (still!) a few times a week when I am nannying at different houses. I put him in the ergo, do what I need to with the other children and Henry falls asleep within 15 minutes. I can then just unbuckle the carrier and lay it and him down on the floor under some blankets and he naps happily right there!



And a quick list of 5 items I thought I'd need (and bought) but were a waste of space (for us)!

1. A crib - Henry literally never slept in his crib! Thank God the crib we bought turns into a toddler bed!

2. A changing table - The bed is amazing, especially when you've got a wiggle worm.

3. A diaper genie - Seriously, just use your trashcan.

4. A nursing cover - Aint nobody got time for that! (especially Henry)

5. A wipe warmer -hahahahahahah

Friday, October 3, 2014

Henry's Montessori Bedroom

As parents, we are all doing what we can. We look at our families and our children and see what works. For our family a family bed is wonderful! Except at nap time.

My 11 month old is a busy babe. He was always active in the womb and has proven to be a mover here on the other side. He is a master crawler (started at 7 months) and walker (first steps just before 10 months) Watch out world, Henry is coming for you!

This was making unsupervised sleep times (naps) a challenge! Henry has always been a light sleeper and wakes often, and now that he is mobile he will INSTANTLY shoot up and crawl or walk - and fast! I use to just cuddle him to sleep for naps in our bed and then put up a barrier of blankets and pillows around him in case he rolled. But but I was increasingly worried that he might fall off the bed. Even though we have a video monitor, I would run into the room as soon as he woke up. We needed a new strategy.

I sought some opinions from other parents and evaluated our priorities (moving our mattress to the floor is non negotiable for my husband who has back pain, and this kid would scale any railings we could put up)....and I was getting discouraged until I heard about an option for a Montessori style bed and bedroom.

What is a Montessori Style Bedroom

You may have heard of the Montessori education philosophy and schools of the same name. Although primarily an education model, these principles can be taken into the home as well. A Montessori model of education sees the child as a unique individual who is intelligent, curious and competent - teaching the child how to be independent, self-sufficient and allowing them to work in a meaningful way. 

A Montessori style bedroom would follow that same philosophy. The bed room is styled in a way that is child safe, child sized, and child-centric. Everything the child would need is at their level, including the art hung on the walls. 

Some things commonly found in a Montessori room include:

- A bed on the floor for easy and safe access in and out of the bed
- Mirror for child to see themselves
- Decorations and art hung at child's level
- Toys and books at child's level in neat and organized places

Why This Style is Perfect For Our Baby

We needed a bed that was low to ground, that Henry could get in and out of on his own. Henry is also a very sensitive sleeper. If we try to lay him down in a crib after getting him to sleep, the motion will wake him up and then it's over. Once he's up he's done sleeping. With the Montessori style bed, we can cuddle him to sleep laying right next to him, and just scoot away when he falls asleep! (Note that there is a pillow on his bed in the pictures below - that is for us while we cuddle him and when he is asleep we move it away for a safer sleeping environment)

The Montessori style set up for the rest of the room is wonderful for my active and very independent boy. He knows just where all his toys and books are and can get them all by himself.

Our Set Up

Henry moves quite a bit in his sleep, so we decided to use a full sized futon mattress on the floor (as opposed to just the crib mattress), and put large foam puzzle pieces around the perimeter as an extra precaution since we have hardwood floors. Since Henry was about 7 months old I have taught him to turn around and go feet first when going off of a "high" place, so he has absolutely no trouble getting in and out of this bed. We are working on not walking and running while on the bed, but he's stubborn!




 After seeing so many pictures of Montessori rooms including a mirror by the bed - and after snagging this one for free from a neighbor who was moving - we decided to give it a try! Henry loves it!





We also set up a quite reading area with comfy pillows and a rug that our dear friend Katie made for Henry when he was born. We decided to leave our rocker in the room so Wes has a place to sit and read with him too. Next to the rocker is a smaller bookshelf at his level with three baskets. One basket has soft stuffed animals and "loves", another has a few toys he enjoys, and the last has a few board books. They are at his level and all the things have a proper place.

We also have a larger bookcase to prop the monitor on top of. Henry likes to pull wires so we needed a safe place for it to be! The top shelf has hats and socks and bibs, the middle shelf holds the rest of his books, and the last houses a few more toys.

We decorated the room with a set of woodland creature drawings I made for Henry in the quiet area, a banner with his name on it above the bed that was made for him at my baby shower, a Van Gogh print, and a few things to remind him of California :)


                                     





How It's Working For Us and Where We Go From Here

This room is AWESOME. Henry loves to play in his room and has taken all his naps in the bed beautifully. And I don't run as soon as he wakes anymore because I know he is safe and happy! We started with only napping in his bedroom, and now we have decided at bedtime to start him out in his room, and bring him into the family bed when he wakes up in the middle of the night where he spends the rest of the night with us. All of us still really enjoy the family bed at this point! We will slowly decrease the time in the family bed when we feel that he is ready. We've been doing this routine for naps and at night for a couple of months now and it's working perfectly for us! Henry has also gained so much confidence at bed time - several times this week rolling away from us and falling asleep on his own. I am so happy to see this style of bedroom be so positive for Henry and his particular needs surrounding sleep :)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Because I'm Happy

"We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do."
"Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
- Mother Teresa 

My 8-month-old son can't do much right now, but there is one thing he does better than anyone I've ever known - this boy can SMILE. If Henry had a theme song it would most definitely be "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. Henry's love is contagious and infectious. He is so small, but his joy is so big.


















Yesterday our church participated in a service project where we were sent in groups to do different things - serve in a soup kitchen, install new carpeting at a local school, and pack school bags to be sent to children in need. Wes, baby Henry, and I were asked to go with a group of people to sing hymns at a local assisted living center. 

Henry has a thing for old people. One could argue that Henry loves everyone, but we've noticed he has a special love for those older and wiser ones among us - and they love him something fierce right back. So hearing about the opportunity to serve at an assisted living facility seemed great for Henry! But to be honest, I wasn't looking forward to it.  Old people have always kind of scared me. They are fragile. And they can't hear you. And what are you suppose to talk about? And sometimes old people are mean! But this wasn't about me. This was about Henry.

As soon as he walked through the door he put on that Henry charm! As we sang, he distracted several older patients with his smiles, and they were delighted. My eyes welled up with tears at one point as he literally lit up the room. People who looked so sad a moment ago could gaze at my boy and feel joy. People wanted to touch him and talk to him...he made them feel alive. It was worth my discomfort to see their smiles. Needless to say, I have a feeling we will be taking him back to visit again. 

My sweet baby is already an inspiration to me. He reminds me of the important things in this world (and the important people). All we really need is to be present with one another. That is the beauty of grace and love. We don't have to do anything - we just have to be willing to BE with each other. 

I want my son to always know that before he could do anything else - before his words or any other kind of action - his smiled changes lives. Some day when he has nothing to say and doesn't know what to do, I want him to remember that he can smile, and maybe that's all he needs to do. 



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Being Kinda Crunchy

If you've never heard the term "crunchy" in relation to parenting/birth (like I hadn't before a couple of years ago) let me give you some context before you keep reading.

"Crunchy" or "Granola" are ways people identify a certain type of lifestyle/parenting style. It's very natural, holistic, and often child led. Check out this website for a general overview of what a crunchy parent might look like from the blog "Pistachio Project".

I definitely identify with this crunchy lifestyle, but...I'm not all the way crunchy. I'm just kinda crunchy. I pick and chose what works best for us. But being only kinda crunchy sometimes makes it hard to feel like you fit. I'm not one extreme or the other, so I can get flack on both sides for not being enough like them.

I honestly believe that each family is so unique. We as parents and people are vastly different, and you're also throwing in a baby who is also beautifully different than any other baby. No one set of philosophies will work for your special family. The most important thing about finding a parenting style or choice for your family, is to INCLUDE THE WHOLE FAMILY! Look at the needs of every one in the family, and listen to the thoughts of your partner. It was crucial for me to include Wes in our decision making so we all felt comfortable with what was happening.

Here's a list of where I'm crunchy, and where I'm not. Every family has to choose what works for them, and here's why we choose the things we do. (And as a note, all of these are fluid. As parenting should be!)

My Crunchy Side:

I Exclusively Breastfeed
We exclusively breastfeed and feed on demand. Henry has always been quite good at letting us know when he is hungry, and now at 6 months is even starting to sign "milk" to us! (I'm one proud mama!) We choose to listen to the one whose tummy is telling him he needs more milk, not to a set schedule. We will also nurse as long as both mama and baby are happy doing it. When one or both of us are done, we will end it. We may extend breastmilk (even if it's in a sippy cup and not in the form of actual nursing) longer than maybe what is the "norm" (that seems to be the 1 year mark) because of Henry's dairy allergy too. I feel SO BLESSED that I only need my husband to watch our baby for 5 of my 30 hours of work a week (two days split into 2.5 hours - the rest of time I get to take Henry with me!) so he doesn't even need a bottle! I just nurse right before I leave, and nurse again when I get back! I don't even remember the last time Henry had a bottle....

I love Babywearing
I wear the heck outta this baby!! It is a godsend for him and I, as I get to take him to work with me as a nanny. He naps about 3-4 times a week right there in my ergo. It makes walks fun, and keeps him close to me if we are out and about. Did you also know that babies who are worn don't need to have as much tummy time? Henry has always had excellent neck strength and I credit the ergo carrier!

We Have a Family Bed
I wasn't planning on a family bed before our sweet one was born but for us, right now, it just makes sense. Henry has dealt with so many allergic reactions as we were trying to find out what he was allergic to, that he wakes up very very often in the night with pain from itchy skin or painful gas - and that's on top of still nursing every 2 hours. It made sense to keep him as close as possible to comfort him - and I love it! (And so does he! He's a very social people person, so he enjoys that close touch) We will slowly and gently transition him into his own crib when the time is right, but for now we all safely co-sleep together.

I Chose to Have an Unmedicated Birth and Use Midwives
I wanted to try and have a natural unmedicated birth, and in the end, that's what I got. And I do want to note that I left it open to mine and my midwife's discretion to suggest an epidural if we felt it was appropriate, and if I hadn't been 10 cm and ready to push when I got to the hospital I may have had one (it was tempting, guys). We chose to deliver at the local hospital with a midwife, which before getting pregnant I would have never even thought about doing! But I am so SO SO thankful to have used our midwife group. They were so gentle yet strong, and caring and such advocates! I am so glad I was able to have my son unmedicated and would do it a million times over. It changed me in ways I have no words for.


My Not-So-Crunchy Side:

We Use Disposable Diapers
I thought about cloth diapers, and even acquired some free used ones from a friend, but in the end after talking it over with my husband, it just made sense in our family to use disposables. I can barely keep up housework at all and I just knew with my personality those dirty cloth diapers would be sitting in that wet bag for weeks....and that's just gross :)

I Don't Make My Own Baby Food (yet?)
I am extremely awesome at being a mom, okay? But there is literally no one worse than me at being domestic. I can barely microwave food without messing it up. Wes is the cook in our family (Thank God I found you!!) and for now I'm not interested in making our own pureed baby food, (except for banana and avocado, cause even I can do that one). I may change my mind on this later (because I was given a baby food maker recently), but for now we get Earth's Best organic baby food and that's good enough for us :)

We Vaccinate on Schedule
I know this can be a controversial conversation, but we feel it is important to vaccinate on schedule with the national recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics and felt that it was best for our family based on research we did. We will though be having a conversation at our next appointment to see if any of the vaccines have egg in them, as that is Henry's biggest allergy, and see if that will be an issue. (I didn't even know that some vaccines had egg in them until I found out about Henry's allergy!!)




















Sunday, January 12, 2014

Reflections on Communion - My Baby

Communion is special to me. I have always felt so connected to the gospel story when I receive that sacred sacrament of the body and blood of Christ.

So it was fitting that the week I found out I was pregnant, it was communion Sunday. I was filled with emotion as I received that communion. The body and blood of Christ, this very special eucharist meal, was nourishing this body - my body. It was giving me life, and in turn, it was being passed to my child. I see communion in very physical terms. It is deeply spiritual, but it is also physical for me. So as my body ingested communion that day, I cried, knowing that as this food literally sustains me, it helps my body grow this precious life. I was able to pass that beautiful gift of communion onto my son before he even left my body. I continued to receive communion throughout my pregnancy and it was a cherished time for me. 

Last Sunday was the first Sunday Henry was outside of my womb and in Church on a communion Sunday. I held him close. This moment was special to me. I knew it was special for my husband as well, and he asked to hold him as we walked up to receive the sacraments, but I selfishly shook my head. "I want him this time." I whispered. He can hold him during communion any other time, but this first one - this one is special for me. It was the first time he was really here with us, receiving communion as a family. We had shared that together, just the two of us, for so long and now he would  get to expeiece it with the Church. We walked up and after I received each element, the pastor put her hand on my sweet baby's head and said "Henry, this is the body of Christ broken for you," and the intern next to her proclaimed "Henry, this is the blood of Christ shed for you." It was a beautiful moment I will always hold dear to my heart.



Thursday, January 2, 2014

Moments

Last year I participated in One Word 365 in picking one word for the year. Last year my word was "Generous"Their website (oneword365.com) says it best:

"Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Scrap that long list of goals you won’t remember three weeks from now anyway. Choose just one word. One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long.
It will take intentionality and commitment, but if you let it, your word will shape you and your year. It will guide your decisions and help you grow. Discover the big impact one word can make. One word. 365 days. A changed life."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The last few months of last year, as my sweet son has come into our lives, I have been bombarded with the word "moment". Live in the moment. Cherish this moment. This moment won't last forever. Last year it took a while for me to pick my "one word" but this year the word seemed to pick me. 

My sweet baby boy is now almost 10 weeks old as I write this. In those first few weeks of his life I was utterly exhausted (No surprise right? Sleep deprivation is the inevitable christening of parenthood). Those midnight feedings...oh God...they were hell to me. Saying that I love sleeping is an understatement. I freaking LOVE to sleep. I use to tell people I'd be totally happy if I could sleep all the time and just dream about the real world. My bed was my happy place. I love sleep. And my son had other plans. Henry nursed every single hour for the first 3 weeks of his life. And the next few weeks it was every hour and a half. And then every 2 hours, and finally at almost 10 weeks old, he has stretched his feedings out to every 3 hours. If you would have told me a year ago that I would REJOICE over only having to wake up every 3 hours I would have laughed at you. I knew a new baby would wake up to fed at night...but...I had no idea it was like THIS. I am beyond elated right now that (for now) my son wakes up at 12:30, 3:30 and 6:30. But this is not what I want to write about.


In those early days of nursing every hour, I was angry.  I was angry at my baby. I was so desperate for sleep that after feeding at 1:00am, when 2:00 would roll around and he would be screaming, I would get so close to his face and I would shush and shush and shush and say "Please go to sleep, please go to sleep. I just want to sleep" over and over. Wes would often "rescue" me and without a word, just take him out of my arms and leave the room. Motherhood is hard. Sometimes we do things and think things we wish we didn't. And I am sad that I wasted so much time trying to shush my boy. 


I have followed Megan Tietz over at SortaCrunchy for several years now, and picked up her book "Spirit-Led Parenting" when I found out I was pregnant. During those tough first weeks I opened up her book and read the chapter on sleep. The words that Megan and co-author Laura wrote spoke straight to my heart.




"In truth, our roles as parents do not end in late evening and pick up again when the sun rises. The way we parent our children at night is just as crucial to their development as the way we parent in the day time hours." 
"...could I possibly conceive of the idea that these moments alone in the dark and quiet at night were a gift from [God]?...Rather than viewing these little interruptions at night as exhausting drudgery and empty sacrifice, perhaps I could use them as pockets of solitude and prayer and scripture meditation...The nights that once held heartache now held the promise of peace and the comfort of communion with [God]." 
"...these new baby days (and nights) do not last forever, and there is more rest just around the corner... and there is a part of you that will someday miss sitting in your cozy recliner in the nighttime stillness with a baby snuggled up in your arms...you may find yourself drawing your little one just a bit closer to you in that big chair, thanking God for the gift of that moment."

I began to challenge myself in those awful midnight feedings. Instead of dreading them - being on Facebook while I nursed my baby, trying to pass the time quickly, I began to stop and pray. Staring at his sweet face, noticing that his eyelashes are growing. Seeing a milk-drunk sleep smile as he unlatches. Thanking God for this beautiful boy, thanking God for this moment that I have with him. I will never have this moment, right here, ever again. In this little routine of midnight feedings, with just one small change in my thinking, I have actually begun to enjoy these times. And so now those moments I use to hate have become moments I love and hold dear to my heart. 


I have a song that I sing to Henry almost every day. It's a song from the 70's that my sister found when I was pregnant. "This song is for Henry!" she told me as she showed me this video. And it is. The words are simple and sweet: "If I had words to make a day for you, I'd sing you a morning golden and new. I would make this day last for all time, give you a night deep in moonshine" The whole song repeats this refrain. I've been singing this song to him since before he was born, and it is the perfect reminder to me to cherish these moments. 


Warning: this song is epically 70's. I sing it to him in a much more acoustic and folksy way ;)

So for this year I want to focus on the moments. Not only to be present in the sweet and easy day time moments but to cherish the ones I don't even yet realize are moments I won't want to forget (like the way he may wake up crying, but I'm the one who knows exactly how to comfort my child and make him feel so loved).  


So my one word is MOMENTS. And I don't want to miss a single one. 


Henry after nursing in the middle of the night.