Saturday, November 28, 2015

Henry's Montessori Bedroom - Two Year Update

I can't believe my little baby is now a full fledged toddler! Henry just turned two years old last month and we are loving the terrific twos! (I wrote about my anticipation of the "terrific twos" here)

With his ever growing independence, Henry's room is changing right along with him (click here to see how we had it set up at 10 months and click here to see how we had it set up at 18 months!) Here is how his Montessori style room has been arranged for this season of life:

We've switched this corner from a creative play area to a larger reading nook. Henry loves books and I love that he can get any book he wants whenever the mood takes him! There are also 3 blue baskets on the bottom shelves that have finger puppets, trains and train tracks in them. The top middle basket has our musical instruments in it.

Henry still sleeps on his floor bed! My husband and I switch off cuddling Henry to sleep each night. It is truly a cherished time for all of us, and we will continue to spend those precious moments with him as he falls asleep until he does not need it anymore. He still wakes once a night around 4:30-5:30 (night waking is actually normal until 5!) and comes into our bed at that wake up to cosleep with us for the rest of the night, usually waking up for the day around 7:30am.

This corner was the reading area and now houses a toddler bed! I am a nanny and so when children come over to my house they often take their naps in this bed while Henry sleeps in his floor bed. Sometimes Henry will ask to sleep in this bed...maybe once a month. In the right corner we have a bin of his favorite stuffed animals, which he is SO INTO right now! He picks about 5 or 6 of them to sleep with at night now. It's very sweet :) We also have that awesome road rug - Henry often plays with trucks or trains on that great rug. 

Our bookshelf has the bottom two shelves accessible to Henry. They have a hammer toy and a basket of toy foods, and a drum and a basket of sensory bottles and juggling scarves. The top shelf has the diapers and his socks and hats. 

I just recently put up this adorable mirror (which he calls a "camera"...too many selfies I think! Ha!) He absolutely adores this and loves to talk to himself or show his stuffed animals what they look like. Eventually I want to have a self care section where he can get dressed on his own and use the mirror to brush teeth and hair by himself, but space is limited! 

This sleep journey and figuring out what works best for our family has been a wonderful experience. There are so many options so have courage that you will find something that feels right for you!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Terrific Two's

Two is hard.

Picture this: a frazzled looking mom juggling groceries in one hand, diaper bag in the other, desperately trying to hold onto the hand of a screaming toddler who has half their body flailing on the ground and the other half clawing at the mothers grip. And then an old lady appears from the shadows sharing that age old phrase with warning in their voice "Uh-oh! The terrible two's. Good luck!" and she walks away as quickly as she came, leaving them in the middle of the grocery isle.

I mean, this is what two's are all about, right? Two is terrible tantrums and ear piercing screams! Two is "mine mine mine!" and "no no no!" Two is awful. But is it? Two is HARD, yes. These precious beings are growing into their independence, learning how to navigate language, exploring boundaries. They have big feelings in a little body, and they are processing so much.

If you expect two's to be terrible, they probably will be.

My son Henry will be two years old next month, and honestly I'm not scared. I'm not afraid of how I'm going to handle that famous age everyone has been warning me about. I am EXCITED for two!

My mom is a wonderful and warm human being. When I was growing up all I ever heard about the two's was how much my mom GUSHED over them. When each of us (4 children) were two years old she would scoop us up, showering us with hugs and call us her "terrific two's". Because yes, two is hard.

But two is magical.
Two is full of wonder.
Little details.
Running in the rain.
Smiles that reach all the way up to their ears.
Giggles deep in their bellies.

Two is hard.
They yell.
They learn anger.
They learn to hit.
They learn "no!"

They learn that they are a person too.
They learn to whisper.
They learn to hug so tight you think your heart will explode.
They learn love.

Two is hard.
But two is glorious.
Two is beautiful.
Two is fun.
Two is silly.

Two is terrific.

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!


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.  


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!


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 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!!)