Wednesday, July 31, 2013

fourteen months

I'm kind of thinking I'll keep doing bi-monthly posts about Nell, because she's cute, and surely no other baby in the history of the world has done the things she does.

Also, it's important to make any future siblings of hers jealous when they sit around in their hand-me-downs wondering why they didn't get as many blog posts.

Perks of being the eldest, Nell.

{Although, truth be told, all but approximately two of her outfits are hand-me-downs, freecycled, or thrifted, so... we don't seem to be in the business of raising a diva so far.}

Nell has four molars now, making twelve teeth altogether, I think.  It's hard to be certain because anytime I try to look in her mouth she acts as though I'm trying to murder her.

Nell is a busy girl these days.  She can stack her blocks on top of one another, loves playing with her purple ball, crawls everywhere quite fast, and pulls herself up on everything - including my skirts sometimes, which makes me feel like we're always living on the edge around here.  She was sick a lot just before turning one, and after that, it seems she was intent for a while on making up for the lost time of that month of viruses and ear infections and fevers.

Her favorite activities include dropping things over the edge of our bed, dropping things down from her high chair, and shoving things down the crack between our bed and the wall.  Faced with a basket of toys, she'll almost always choose to hold on to a tube of mascara, a lip balm, or a wooden spoon instead.  We've taken to calling my mascara her "security object."  Other babies have security blankets; Nell has security... makeup.

Nell gets immense enjoyment out of copying everything Mama and Daddy do.  For one thing, anytime she sees a phone, she goes for it with glee.  She picks it up, slams it against her ear so hard we wonder why it doesn't seem to hurt her {Nathan jokes that maybe she thinks that's how you activate it}, and starts babbling, always starting with "Haaaa!" (Hi!).

She is amused by non-verbal sounds, too, like clicking her tongue, sucking in air on a high-pitched screech, and making a "woo woo woo!" sound by clapping her hand over her mouth.  {We used to call it an "Indian" sound when I was little.  Now I'm sure nobody calls it that anymore.  Native American something or other?  Help me out here.}

Nell LOVES music, and whenever she hears it in any form, she stops whatever she's doing and begins waving her arms as if to conduct.  She learned this from watching her Dad and her Uncle Andrew imaginatively conduct recordings.  She also dances to the music.  Undeniably the cutest thing ever.

About a month ago I had a phrase from the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra stuck in my head, and kept humming or singing it absentmindedly.  One day I noticed that Nell was approximating that little tune - a descending fourth followed by a descending fifth - after hearing me humming it.  She likes to sing!

I've been sporadically doing some baby sign language with her, and she's great about showing me when she's "all done!"  The others are pretty hit or miss, although she can sort of do "more" and we're working on and "potty" (because we do Elimination Communication around here, but that's another post for another time).  I should really be more consistent about teaching her signs, but let's face it: I'm not one of those moms that has it all together in life, and this is only one of many things falling through the cracks, I can assure you.  

One of the most hilarious things about Nell right now is that she gets very jealous whenever Nathan and I hug.  Any time she catches us hugging each other she starts yelling or crying, sometimes weeping dramatically and sometimes yelling angrily!   We then quickly include her in a family hug, but to tell the truth, it's hard not to laugh at this particular trait.

Nell has quite a few words now that she uses regularly and I can pretty easily understand.  My personal favorites are probably "Nuh," for Nell, and "Nuh," for nursing.  There's just something cute about the fact that she uses the same word to refer to herself and to her favorite activity.  Oh, and she also has a cute, conspiratorial way of drawing near to me and whispering "duhbuhduhbuhduhbuh..." in a way that makes me grin.

Nell's Words:
Bah! (ball)
Mama (used specifically)
Dada (used specifically)
Na-na (Hannah)
Nuh (Nell)
Nuh (nurse)
Uh! (up)
Da *snort* (that)
Buh *snort* (book)
Bah *snort* (block)
Duh *snort* (duck)
Haaa! (hi)
bah-bah (bye-bye) (accompanied by hands waving)

She also imitates "woof woof" for a dog and "oo oo, aah aah" for a monkey pretty effectively.

{Oh, and if you're in the dark about the snorting thing, you might need to go watch this video.  Nell's working on her ending consonants.}

Dear Ellen,

It's been a wild ride these past couple of months.  I got mastitis -- twice -- and you got your molars in and then you had a cold and for a while you thought you should stay up until 10:00 pm and/or wake up at 5:00 am and then I got what might have been thrush or might not have been but in any case everything seemed difficult for a while and I even thought about quitting nursing.  But here we are, both still alive, and I think we're on the upswing - for now at least.  

In the midst of all that, we've been having some good times this summer, you and I.  We go out to yard sales every Saturday morning together, and have found quite a few great deals on things you love or will love when you're a little older.  I found you a little toile armchair for $5 and you climb in and out of that thing at least a dozen times a day.  It brings you so much delight.

Every day when the weather is nice, we go sit on the front steps for a little while in the sunshine.  Sometimes we eat fresh berries or some other small snack, sometimes we look at the flowers in the flower pots, sometimes we watch for the rabbits that hop through our yard.

I know it's cliche to say, but you help me look around and enjoy the little things in life, like comfy chairs and blueberries and flowers in bloom, and I like that.  Getting to share the good things about summer with you makes it all the more fun.



Monday, July 29, 2013

life lately: motherhood decisions

linking up with wild and precious today.

This girl!  She really, really wants to communicate.  She has quite a few words, but she's keenly aware that there are far more that she doesn't yet have in her vocabulary, and it frustrates her.

The result?  A lot of yelling around here.  "Uhhhh!  Uhhhh!"

I spent a few days mulling the whole thing over: Should I say, "No yelling"?  "Mama doesn't like that voice"?  "Can you use a nicer voice"?  In the end I just decided to say what I think she's trying to say, and to say it in a nice voice, and to not address the yelling per se.  So our conversations go something like this:

Nell: Uhhhhh!  Ahhhhh!
Sarah: "Water, please, Mama!  May I please have my water cup?"

Nell: Ahhhhhh!  AAAAAHHHHH!
Sarah: "Book, please, Mama!  Will you read me a book?"

Sarah: "Help me, please, Mama!"

And so on.

I'm actually less bothered by the grating sound of her yells now that I've consciously decided I'm not under some sort of parental obligation to do much of anything about it.  She already has at least a dozen words... the others she's looking for will come in time, right?

I know, it's a long, long process, this helping children find their words.

But I like to hope that by the time she's eighteen she'll be able to eloquently express her feelings with honesty and accuracy.

Oh Nell, we love you so.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

at the park

My friend Melissa and I walked to a nearby park on Saturday, our babies seated in strollers packed with diaper bags, sunscreen, hats, and of course, cameras.  Because every park experience is bound to be photo-worthy, right?

{Especially if you're a bad mother and don't take your kid to the park often enough.}

So without further ado: Nell and Luci at the park!

{Nathan saw the above picture and said, "Fierce, Nell, fierce."}

Friday, July 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes

I'm doing 7 Quick Takes and linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary for, oh, maybe the second time ever.  Because let's face it, this blog is a little lacking in content lately.  I really want to be blogging more regularly -- to remember the little things, the moments, the thoughts, the daily life stuff.

Not to mention the fact that all of you readers are hanging on my every word, of course.

- one -

Considering that I work part time, and am only teaching two to three days a week during these summer months, it's astounding how little I seem to be able to get done.  The kitchen it always messy, the floors always need to be mopped (my crawling baby girl's dirty knees attest to this fact), and I'm at least three loads behind on the laundry on a regular basis.

- two -

Nell looks so much older to me recently.  She's not walking yet but aside from that rather integral part of toddlerhood, she seems more like a toddler than a baby now.

She's gone from smiling at everyone to scowling with a bit of reserve.  She's got opinions about everything, and while she may not have the words for them yet, she expresses them nonetheless.

She can still light up a room with her smile though, and she gives open-mouthed slobbery kisses that would just about stop your heart.

- three -

I sold two items on eBay this week.  Put them in the mail and made a quick $25.

Impressive, right?


Still, feeling oddly pleased about it, despite the fact that that's less than I usually make in 30 minutes.  I've listed some more things for sale, and am also busily cleaning and organizing spare rooms, closets, and our basement in the hopes of having a yard sale before the summer is over.  Our very own yard sale!  I've never had one before, but I am a serious and hard core attender of others' yard sales every Saturday in the summer months.  So, I figure that my love of yard sales combined with our over abundance of stuff (much of which was left in our basement by the previous homeowners, actually) means we really ought to have a yard sale.  Any advice for a first-timer?

- four -

A friend linked to this on facebook and I found it a really thought-provoking read: Rethinking Service by the Revd. Dr. Samuel Wells.

- five -

I've been devouring blogs and articles and websites about parenting recently.  I stay up too late reading about discipline, teaching, positive parenting, natural consequences, etc. etc.  Sometimes I just come across the best suggestions... I almost feel like I need to memorize the scenarios and scripts of suggestions for handling situations so that I can remember it all in a few years when I'll no doubt need it.  It's a good thing life comes one day at a time, you know?  Because thinking about tantrums and disobedience and such things is pretty overwhelming, and just getting Nell to sleep at night feels like all I can really deal with for now.

- six -

Speaking of sleep.  Nell's sleeping has been nothing short of weird lately.  For one thing, there was the night we thought she might be having night terrors.  But even on the 'normal' nights, she crawls in her sleep, sleeps fitfully, cries without seeming to really wake up, oh, and sometimes refuses to fall asleep until 10:30 pm.  

The different phases come and go so quickly, and just when we've settled into a routine the kiddo goes and changes it.  I remember when a swaddle and a pacifier did the trick, and we could leave that little bundle lying in her co-sleeper and she'd fall asleep.  BY. HERSELF.  Then she outgrew the swaddle, and nursing her to sleep became my new go-to trick.  But now she doesn't usually fall asleep while nursing anymore; instead after nursing she wants to crawl and climb all over me, flail and fling herself around if anyone attempts restraint (i.e. holding her), and grab at my face and laugh.  

Currently we're thinking she just can't fall asleep easily for the night with it still so light out during these summer days.  In general we're all well and happy, but sometimes I stress myself out wondering how we'll handle the next change, and the next one after that.

- seven -

A couple of week ago Nathan had what I suppose anyone would consider a Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day.  He subsequently mentioned that there was too much healthy food in the house and not enough junk food for him to eat.  Later that day I was doing the grocery shopping, and there was a deal at Stop & Shop that made Breyer's ice cream work out to only $1.80 / carton -- but only if you bought ten of them.  So, naturally, I did.  And we've been working our way through flavors like Thin Mint, strawberry, coffee, Snickers, and other deliciousness.  Not so good for the waistline, perhaps, but surprisingly effective at lifting the spirits.

our summer CSA share: week four

I'm a bit behind on the weeks here, but in a way I like it that way, becasue it's fun to look back at my photos from a week or two ago and remember the yumminess.  Here are a few things we had with our bounty from week 4:

A kale and fennel salad similar to this one, with apple chunks and pepitas and a simple lemon olive oil vinaigrette.

Garlic scape pesto served over farfalle pasta.  And would you still be my friend if I told you that Nell ate this pesto by the spoonful, just plain?  And couldn't get enough of it?  Isn't that weird?

What to do with leftover pesto?  Why, put it on a pizza of course!

And finally, because there's a little bit of southern girl in me, I picked up a bunch of mustard greens (sometimes we get to choose between various options at the farm) and I made balsamic glazed chickpeas and mustard greens.  It doesn't get much more southern than mustard greens, does it?  Well, my Mom is from Virginia and my Dad is from Missouri, so there you have it.

Although I doubt either of them would have eaten their mustard greens with chickpeas!  A vegetarian twist on a southern meal, if you will.

That's what we've been eating around here lately.  What about you?  Have any good summer recipes to recommend?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

the curious case of the snorting baby

Nell has quite a few words these days.  However, about a week ago she stopped saying most of them and started snorting, instead.  We were a little mystified.  No longer could I get her to charmingly repeat words after me on cue.  "Mama" all but disappeared from her little vocabulary.  Now it's all "ba-*snort*" and "da-*snort*" all day long around here.  Well, she had a cold recently, we reasoned, so maybe she's just trying to clear her sinuses.

And then I realized that she's trying to put ending consonants onto her words!

It may not be the most feminine sound in the world, but I think it has a charm of its own, in a way...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

our summer CSA share: week three

In case you haven't seen kohlrabi before, this is what a kohlrabi looks like:

Interesting little critter, isn't it?

I put last week's kohlrabi in a stir-fry along with snow peas, also from our CSA, and broccoli, which was just in my fridge needing to be used.

It was good, but next time I think I'll put any kohlrabi I may get in a salad.  I actually preferred the taste of it raw to the cooked flavor and texture.

We got a head of napa cabbage, and I proceeded to make myself four salads (one napa cabbage makes a lot of salads) all following this recipe from Food & Wine.  If you're making salad for one, like I usually am, I recommend making the dressing and keeping it separate, then chopping the cabbage, cilantro, and scallions you want freshly each day.  Add slivered almonds and your dressing, and voila!  A crunchy, delicious salad.

And since arugula was in my share, it was a foregone conclusion that I would have to make the arugula, carrot, and chickpea salad that I made for Nell's birthday party.

It just had to be done.  I love that salad so much!  Again, I subbed farro for the wheatberries.

I ate it with oven baked red potato 'fries.'  A delicious meal that Nell enjoyed, too!

And then we both ate leftovers of the farro, chickpea, dressing mixture for lunch for a few days.  Mmm.

Monday, July 8, 2013

when your baby is a picky eater

Nell had her first taste of solids just before she turned eight months old.  We introduced them on the "late" side of normal -- partly because I had heard and read that there can be a benefit to delayed introduction of solids if food sensitivities / allergies run in your family (they do in mine!) and partly because she just wasn't expressing any interest in foods.

Her very first food was mashed banana.  We got the camera ready.  I envisioned her taking some time to adapt to the new experience, but then gobbling up this delicious new treat.

Well, that wasn't quite how it worked out. 

I'm not sure if it was the taste or the texture, but the banana caused Nell to gag and shudder from head to toe, spitting it out and pushing away any further offers.

Suffice it to say, she was not impressed.

I kept offering her foods over the coming months: avocado, sweet potato, applesauce, pears, yogurt, egg yolk, peas, carrots, oatmeal, and more.  My initial attempts were all homemade (pureed or mashed), but as Nell continued to reject them all, I eventually tried a few store bought baby food varieties to see if she liked those better.  {She didn't.}

{action shot of the shuddering!}

I'd be lying if I said I didn't worry a little.  You see, my husband, Nell's Dad, is among the worst of picky eaters.  He doesn't eat fruits or vegetables, and I mean, he really doesn't.  Not even corn on the cob or apple pie or strawberry ice cream.  So I began to wonder if Nell was taking after Daddy Dearest.  her doctor said we'd give it some more time, and then consider a sort of sensory processing abnormality if it came to that.

More than a few people told me I ought to be giving her rice cereal or cheerios or baby puffs because she just had to eat solid foods, but I was resolved that she would eat veggies and fruits come hell or high water, and we'd just keep nursing day in and day out until she was ready.

I kept nursing her every three hours or so throughout the day and offering her tastes of healthy, wholesome foods a few times a day.  Sometimes something pureed, more often something mashed or a little bite of something I was eating, or something she could pick up and explore and try on her own terms.  Any bite of food she had, she'd gag, shudder violently, and push the food away.  I didn't cajole or force the issue.  I didn't try to trick her into opening her mouth or eating.  Some days I didn't even offer her solids, not wanting to be pushy and turn her off to the idea of them.  I waited.

I'm so, so glad I stuck with it and didn't offer less healthy alternatives.  Around the time she turned eleven months old, something clicked for this girl, and she was really, truly ready to be eating foods.  Some roughly mashed avocado, and bits of a whole grain ak-mak cracker enticed her one day.  And sweet potato the day after.  She ate some pears.  And then became a big fan of my plain, unsweetened homemade yogurt with little pieces of banana stirred in, and blueberries or raspberries, too.  And cheese!  She decided that she loved cheese.  And hummus.  And corn.  And tomatoes.  And black beans, kidney beans, and black eyed peas.

These days, at 13 months old, Nell eats virtually anything.  She's had mushrooms, farro, goat cheese, feta, chickpeas, asparagus, cilantro pesto, quinoa, and many other 'unusual' foods you might not think of a baby eating.

I guess you might say we ended up doing a sort of "baby-led weaning" type of thing.  Nell never wanted purees. But when she was ready, she wanted anything and almost everything her Mama was eating!  So she eats what I eat, and I help her if it requires a spoon, or she feeds herself if it can be picked up.  She loves mealtimes, and when I open the refrigerator she comes crawling into the kitchen saying, "Mmmm!  Mmm!  Mmmm!"  It's pretty cute.

Some days she doesn't want what I serve, and that's okay.  One day she'll gobble down fresh strawberries, and the next day, she'll taste each little piece I've cut for her and then spit them out and discard them one by one.  She can't get enough of whole wheat rotini, and a few days later, she rejects penne pasta.  But she's trying and tasting a wide variety of foods, and she's getting some pretty decent nutrition, I think.  {She still nurses, too.}

Now, obviously there are babies and children that are picky and maintain their pickiness into childhood and even adulthood.  And we'll never know if my methods specifically affected our outcome, or whether Nell would have outgrown her initial pickiness naturally either way.  So I can't say that I have solutions for all varieties of picky eaters, or even that I have much advice for parents.  If you are the parent of a baby who is very picky or even doesn't seem interested in eating any solids at all, I can only say this:

1. Be patient.  Keep offering healthy foods.  If you're doing that, then you're probably doing the right thing.

2. If your baby isn't eating what you're offering, don't feel like you have to try mac & cheese or cheerios or sugary baby yogurts instead.  In my opinion, even things like rice cereal are over-rated!  After all, who doesn't love their carbs?  I wasn't worried about whether or not Nell would learn to love bread and cereal; I wanted her to learn to like fruits and veggies first and foremost.

{Nell does eat Cheerios, by the way!  I just chose not to offer them instead of fruits and vegetables, and didn't introduce them until she was eating her fruits and veggies eagerly and reliably!}

3. Don't force it.  Don't resort to trickery or bribes or begging or pleading.  Just make the food available, and then wait and see what happens.  Don't make a big deal out of it.

If and when we have another baby, I'll know to worry less than I did with Nell.  In retrospect, my worry was a waste of time!  {Isn't that always the case with worrying?}  In fact, I might skip the purees altogether -- after all, food processors are a very recent invention, and the human species managed to survive without baby bullets and jarred baby food for centuries.

The six-month time frame for introducing solids is just too early for some babies.  Some little ones need a little more time.  At least, mine did!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

our summer CSA share: week two

Week two of our CSA share included kohlrabi (a new experience for me), salad greens, golden beets, pick-your-own strawberries, stir-fry greens, and more.

My favorite meal of the week was probably the farfalle with golden beets, beet greens, and pine nuts recipe I made.

I followed reviewers' advice and added a bit of lemon juice to the recipe; also, I roasted the beets and the onions in the oven rather than boiling the beets and sautéing the onions.  The result was delicious!  Nathan was a not a big fan, but Nell and I loved this dish and enjoyed the leftovers, too.

I enjoyed the stir-fry greens sautéed in a little sesame oil, with garlic and a bit of chili paste for heat.

Easy and quite tasty.

The strawberries needed no recipes or preparation -- Nell and I enjoyed the majority of them just as they were, fresh from the farm.

Monday, July 1, 2013

twelve months

I posted about Nell's birthday party, but also wanted to jot down a few memories of what she was like at twelve months, before I lost those memories in a fog of how much fun she is at thirteen months, combined with how much "fun" she is while her mouth is under siege by multiple molars.

A year old!  Insert a half dozen clichés here, like "where did the time go," and "how can she be one already," and "it goes by so fast," etc.

Nell at twelve months became obsessed with pointing at everything.  Pretty cute.


She likes to "dance" whenever she hears music, a sort of ab-crunching, hand-waving dance that I promise I did not teach her.  She came up with it on her own, and it makes everyone laugh!

She received this little chair for her birthday from soon-to-be-aunt-Hannah's parents, and was so very pleased with it.  She loves to sit in it and survey the living room from her elevated perch.

She started getting that other foot out behind her and doing a "regular" crawl occasionally instead of scooting everywhere with one foot behind and the other one folded in front.  She still preferred the scoot, though.

She had six teeth, if I'm remembering correctly - three on the bottom and three on the top, with two more top teeth looking like they'd be emerging any day.

Her favorite sound was still "Da da da," occasionally uttered as a drawn-out exclamation of excitement or joy: "Daaaaaaa!"  People comment on how sweet her little voice is, and I am inclined to agree.

Nell weighed in at 24 lbs, 6 oz at her 12 month check-up.  She started taking showers with Mama sometimes, since she was rapidly outgrowing the kitchen sink for baths.

Her doctor told me she was so cute I ought to get her into commercials or something.  "No, really," he declared, "I know you think that she's cute, but you think you're probably just biased.  I'm telling you she is really that cute."  I was pleased by this.  I suppose every mother likes to hear her baby's cuteness extolled.  It's not because we mamas are superficial; it's because we don't necessarily feel like we have much else to show for our mothering efforts yet.  Virtue and character, education and ability will {we hope} be instilled in our children with the passing of years, but during these tender early years, the cuteness is what we have to show the world after hundreds of diaper changes and nearly as many night wakings.  So by all means, comment on the cuteness.  Thank you very much.

Dear Ellen,

I know you won't remember your first birthday party, but I hope you'll always know we planned that party because we love you so much, and we think your life deserves a real celebration.