Friday, December 21, 2012

Notes about an 11 month old

I feel like Natalie's development -- gross motor skills, fine motor skills, verbal skills, personality -- has really been taking off lately. Here's a little window into our present normal.

Sleeping in
I know this is destined to end shortly, but this week Natalie has been waking up at 7 a.m. and then calmly lying in her crib until 8 a.m. This is absolutely amazing. She is happy to roll around and talk to herself and play with her stuffed animal, so I have been doing something I have wanted to do for over 11 months: take a shower first thing in the morning. Rather than waiting until her first nap of the day to shower and change clothes, doing this at the start of the day makes me feel like I'm more productive simply by being in different clothes and not looking horrible. Thank you, Natalie.

I think we are in the final pre-walking days. For the past month, but especially for the past week, Natalie has been standing on her own for increasingly long periods of time. She's not holding on to furniture or me. I try not to make a big deal to her about the fact that she's standing because I feel like she doesn't even realize what she's doing, and often when that moment of realization sets in she'll plop back down on the floor. I keep trying to coax her into walking to me. She is almost there.

Natalie's awareness of others seems to be increasing. She likes to hand me books and toys, particularly her blocks from a new favorite toy (this Melissa and Doug Shape Sorting Cube). I keep saying "thank you" and using the word "sharing," but I also know we will hit the toddler "mine" stage somewhere down the road. I think our play group helps Natalie with the concept of sharing, but she is also known to gladly take toys right out of the hands of her little friends, so I know this will be an ever-developing skill. In the last week Natalie has started feeding me Cheerios. If you want to witness something heart-melting, see the smile on my baby's face when she puts a Cheerio in my mouth. It is my second favorite new thing she does.

Rejecting food
But, speaking of food, this has been a major source of tension these last few days. Many foods that Natalie gladly ate in large quantities are no longer cool with her right now. These foods can be homemade or store-bought, they can be finger foods or purees, they can be healthy or not-so-healthy -- it really doesn't matter, she's not interested. I hear this is a phase and we appear to be in it. 

I've been pointing at pictures and words in books for all of Natalie's life, and now she is starting to mimic this action. Watching her "read" her books has been quite entertaining.

Another heart-melting moment came last Friday when Natalie started saying "mama." Although I wish she didn't exclusively say this when crying (and therefore turn it into "mamamamamaa mama") I appreciate the cuteness of the fact that she seems to be aware of me and my name.

Hands down Natalie's best trick is dancing. It started last week when we were listening to music while feeding her dinner, and Matt and I started throwing our hands up in the air. Natalie started throwing her hands in the air, and we kept repeating, "Let's dance! Let's dance!" Then a day later Natalie started dancing by bobbing her head from side to side any time one of her musical toys started playing. Now, most of the time, she will dance on command with some combination of head bobbing, arm throwing, knee bouncing, giggling and squealing. Sometimes I feel like I'm treating Natalie like a sideshow monkey when I tell her to dance, but watching her sheer joy is overwhelmingly worth it. It is my absolute favorite.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

It's a (baby) sign

In the late summer, when I was anticipating cooler temperatures and more days spent indoors, I searched our county's rec center courses online. There are not many options for babies under one year old. Deciding to hold off on baby swim classes until the dead of winter (when chlorinated indoor spaces remind me of my time spent on my high school dive team), I opted for the only other baby class option: Baby Signs and Music. I was keen on the music part and the part about the price -- $80 for two-and-a-half months of classes compared to the exorbitant Gymboree fee of $80 per month. I could take or leave the signs part of class, but Natalie seems to like music (like most babies) so that sounded good.

Fortunately, the class structure involved about 10 minutes of baby play time with various toys strewn across gym mats while moms "learned" a few signs each week. This was followed by about 35 minutes of singing and dancing with our babies. So, heavy on the music, light on the signs -- just what I was hoping to experience.

I've heard other moms talk about the benefits of signing with a baby, in particular how it can reduce some angst around the dinner table. I went into the class hoping to learn a few signs involving food and manners, and I walked out with that basic knowledge. I could have spent time learning the names of virtually all foods, colors, animals, and baby activities under the tutelage of our knowledgeable instructor. I chose not to use up too much mental energy, and I always have the handouts to look back on if I'm really curious.

We started the class in September, and after a couple make-up classes to account for incidents such as bad weather and election day, we finished the class two weeks ago. The instructor would ask every class if the babies were using the signs, and the universal answer from the moms of these babies between the ages of 6 months and one year would be "no."

Then suddenly, during the final week of class a couple weeks ago Natalie started signing "more" and "all done." We're presently working on "please" and "thank you."

Although it's hard to distinguish the sign for "more" from the way Natalie claps her hands, she at least primarily claps when I say "yay" and primarily does "more" when I ask her if she wants more.

Similarly, she will sign "all done" when I ask her if she's all done, but then she'll keep wanting to eat.

Meal time is still riddled with moaning and grunting and generally unpleasant sounds from our baby, but now that she recognizes these terms and seems to be learning how to apply them, I hope she'll demonstrate better table manners.

Baby signing is supposed to, in some people's opinions, be helpful for encouraging language development. Too much of it, though, can in some people's opinions reduce early talking. Who knows. I'm just trying to reduce crying and screaming. And, if nothing else, it's a neat party trick.

Monday, December 3, 2012

What to read (while you avoid the malls)

I like to call the day before Thanksgiving the last day I go to the mall that year. (I recognize that this year could be different as I search for ways to entertain a baby during the day.) I hate malls and shopping centers during the winter holidays. Thank goodness for online shopping. During the days spent mostly indoors, hopefully away from retail madness, you might be looking for some fun materials to read. Never fear. My husband, who has read the entire Internet, is at your service.

I wish I was kidding. Matt sends me the best stuff to read, so I really can't take credit for all of this, but I thought I'd compile the materials I've been enjoying of late.

Although I tend to hate the New Yorker, I can totally appreciate this little take on Goodnight Moon -- Goodnight Nanny-Cam. Here's a fun game: how many of the items listed apply to you? It's OK to admit. I count 11 for our family. (Another Goodnight Moon parody -- Goodnight iPad.)

I'm a sucker for all articles and information related to the rise of c-section rates in America. This Harvard Magazine article provides a good summary of lots of information I've read and heard elsewhere.

In the world of videos, here's something that's just too adorable to pass up. I normally find babies/kids acting like grown ups annoying, but it just works perfectly in this Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros video.

Here are a few Matt can't take credit for:
Although it's been around for a while, in case you missed it this Huffington Post parenting blog entry that went viral offers a sweet moment of reflection about parenting "lasts."

Another Huffington Post parenting blog entry, this one about advice to new parents. I do not agree with all of it, but it definitely sums up some of my main philosophies, including this line: "You don't need a title for how you parent." (Something I disagree with from the post? "This homemade baby food nonsense ends with you." It's really not difficult to puree some peas. We've made our own purees when we could and when we couldn't Natalie has enjoyed the great range of packaged baby foods out there.)

And when you feel like you're a bad parent, which chances are about four times per day, you should read this entry from Pregnant Chicken about Why You're Never Failing As a Mother. Don't have time to read the whole thing? This paragraph was what spoke to me most: "If you think about it, if you had a baby thousands, if not hundreds of years ago, you would have had your mother, all your sisters (all of whom were probably lactating), and your nieces all taking care of your baby. They would help with food preparation, show you how to manage, and make sure your baby wasn’t eaten by a bear. Your kid’s feet probably wouldn’t have touched the ground until they themselves would be able to carry around an infant." The idea of a bunch of lactating women living together makes me laugh, but also sounds pretty great. Also, it reminds me of The Red Tent. (Oh, and if you're looking for a novel to read and you're female, I'd recommend that one. Beware, dudes: if you read it you will probably get your period. This is especially true if listening to it on CD while driving cross country with your wife.)

What have you been enjoying lately on the interwebs?