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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to a man I could never picture as a father when we started dating (it didn't help that you said ABSOLUTELY NO KIDS!), but when you became one, it was perfection and so right. Each day you amaze me with just how damn good at it you are.  You love Carys with all your being, and seeing the two of you together is my happiness. I love you and Carys together so much; it makes my heart swell.


...and now.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

9-12 Month Baby Gear Guide

To start, we are still using some things from previous guides. Rather than listing them again here, I'll just make note of what is still useful: 

What are we still using religiously from the Newborn Gear Guide at one year old? 
Portable night light 
Sleep Sheep 
Diaper bags 
Cloth diapers 
Beco Gemini baby carrier 
Sprout towel 
Breast pump 
Nursing camis/tanks/bras 
Graco Blossom high chair 
Sassy Look Book 
Rainforest bathtub (yep, we're still bathing her in the plastic tub and not the full bath - save water and time as long as we can!) 

What are we still using religiously from the Six Month Gear Guide at one year old? (Some are listed above and here because I didn't think to cross-reference the guides when I first did them.) 
Britax B-Agile stroller 
Graco Blossom high chair 
Boon Bendable spoon and fork 
Smock bib 
Travel chair
Disposable place mats
Nuby sippy cups 
Books (oh, god, the books) 
B Zany activity cube (a HUGE favorite still) 
B Zany soft blocks 
Munchkin Caterpillar 
Stacking Blocks 
Breathable Bumper 
Sprout towel 
Leap Frog Learn & Groove Table 
Weeble Playset Britax 
Boulevard/Evenflo Triumph 

Hey! We have an (almost) one-year-old. And that one-year-old likes stuff.  Here's some of the stuff that she likes. This list is super short compared to other lists, because she's still using and enjoying a lot of the toys from when she was younger, and she also is even MORE into "real" things that aren't toys. Like her sock drawer. She loooooooves that sock drawer.

Note: This could actually also be considered a 9 month gear guide, because a lot of the stuff she started using around that age.

1. Fisher Price Love and Learn Home (or Kitchen) 
Lifespan: Used from 9 Months +
 Do not buy this new! Well, I mean, unless you're rolling in dough, in which case send me some and if there's any left over, buy it new. But these are on Craigslist or in consignment stores all the time. There's also a kitchen version which isn't available for sale now, and of which one version was recalled - but you can get a free upgrade/fix kit from Fisher Price's website, and that one is great too. You can also get a parts replacement kit for like $5 if yours doesn't come with the balls and shapes (most used ones don't). We got both the home and the kitchen for $30. GREAT deal!  We keep one upstairs and one downstairs and swap them occasionally (since she's upstairs more than down).  They are fairly large, so if space is a premium, choose one (the kitchen takes up slightly more space than the house, I think).  She really enjoys playing with both. Even without the batteries in, there is a lot to do, which is a requirement for toys we have.

12 Month Update: Still a hit!
16 Month Update: Not as in love, but still plays with regularly. The kitchen has become a favorite over the house.
2 Year Update: These are in the garage for Craigslist. We still love them, and surprisingly if we're in the garage she'll play with them, but they take up too much room to store until the next baby is ready. When the next kid comes along, I'll hunt them down and buy them used on Craigslist again!

2. Melissa and Doug Alligator Walker 
Lifespan: Used from 9 Months + 

Or if not this walking toy, any walking toy! We got this one from a store liquidation sale, so didn't pay full price, but it just might be worth it! She loves walking up and down the hallway over and over and over and over with this. I like this one in particular because it's baby powered without any extra frills (no batteries!). It does take some getting used to, but I think that's true with all walking toys - they need to learn to push down and out on the handle and not just out (or it will shoot out from under them). A few trips down the hallway with me holding onto the handle and she had the hang of it.

12 Month Update: Uses pretty much daily. Expert by now, and loves putting stuff on the alligators to push around. 
16 Month Update: Rarely uses anymore now that she's a ninja expert walker, but still will pull it out just to hear the alligators clack around.
24 Month Update: Put away for new baby, but I'd still recommend it. 

3. Wallet 
Lifespan: 9+ months
The kid's favorite activity is to get in my purse, pull out my wallet, and empty it. I keep all the important stuff in a zippered part she can't open, but thanks to her I've still lost both my ID (since found!) and a credit card (lost to the annals of history).  In a flash of brilliance that took FAR too long, I bought her a wallet of her own and filled it with expired gift cards and hotel room card keys. I just got a cheap $5 one from Target that has snap/magnetic closures on both sides, so she can open it and close it herself. She LOVES this thing. It has a 95% success rate on stopping car seat meltdowns and a 100% success rate in deflecting her from getting into MY wallet.  Making sure that it's fairly child-safe (no small parts they could pull off easily and durable) and is easy to open/shut are key. I can't find the exact one we have, and in looking for it I guess it's actually considered a "clutch" or "wristlet" but you get the idea, hopefully.

12 Month Update: Must-have. This is one of the few things that keeps her occupied in the car still.
16 Month Update: Same as above. Love it.
2 Year Update: Still loves it!

4. Green Toys Dump truck 
Lifespan: 8+ months
She loves pushing this around the floor and saying "vrooom vrooom" and filling and dumping the bed of the truck. I love that's all recycled materials and it's totally free of "bad" stuff! Not to mention it's imagination-fueled - no batteries! Win-win.  

12  Month Update: Loves it!
16 Month Update: Loves it!
2 Year Update: Doesn't play with it as much, but she still definitely gets it out every once in a while.

5. Weeble House 
Lifespan: 6+ months
Holy cow, does she enjoy the crap out of this thing. She started playing with it when she first was sitting up alone, but REALLY got into it around 8 or 9 months old. We got it during an Amazon Flash sale, and paid less than half price, but I'd say it's worth even the full price. She absolutely plays with this nearly every day. She loves hitting the big red button to make the music play and dancing along to it, as well as pushing things through the windows and into the holes. It's a huge hit.

12 Month Update: Still really enjoys this. 
16 Month Update: Still plays with regularly. She now can do everything on it like you're supposed to.
2 Year Update: Not played with quite as often, but still enjoys. 

6. Lamaze Soft Shape Sorter 
Lifespan: 9+ months
This seemed to me like it'd be something for smaller babies, but she really started to enjoy it around 9 or 10 months. She loves opening the top (even though the velcro is pretty sticky and she needs help sometimes) and putting the shapes in, and then pulling the shapes out the sides. I'm actually pretty surprised this is as big of a hit as it is!

12 Month Update: Not as into it.
16 Month Update: Packed away. She saw it the other day when I was putting some stuff away and wanted to play with it again, though, so....
2 Year Update: Packed away for the new baby.

7. B. FunKeys 
Lifespan: 6+ months

Of course, the fact that she LOVES keys means that she shouldn't have them, because they are usually full of lead. Wonderful! We got her a set of B.Zany FunKeys from Target, which are wonderful because the key part is actually metal - and trust me, she can tell the difference. She won't have anything to do with plastic keys!

12 Month Update: Loves these keys still.
16 Month Update: Battery died! Still likes them though. 
2 Year Update: Still likes pretending to drive with these.

8. Bouncy Bee
Lifespan: 8+ months
This has low reviews on Amazon.com because the antennae don't bounce and it's made of plastic instead of wood like the original toy was. True facts, both of them. But those don't affect her love of it (or mine, for that matter). And also the short pull string, which I do agree with, but that's an easy fix. However, she LOVES this thing and LOVES pushing it around all over the place. I take it to playdates all the time because it's pretty small and it's always a HUGE hit, with all of the kids vying to push it around.  When she starts walking I'll add some length to the string so she can pull it.

12 Month Update: Thinks it's hilarious. 
16 Month Update: She loves running up and down the hall with it.
2 Year Update: Packed away for the new baby. 

9. Munchkin Shampoo Rinser
Lifespan: 12+ months

We actually have been using this since she was born - I need to add it to the newborn list. I like this for the intended purpose, but she LOVES it for her favorite game of putting-stuff-into. The big handle is easy to grasp, and the soft shape means that she doesn't get frustrated trying to get stuff into it since it conforms to the shape of the item more easily.

12 Month Update: I can't find it anywhere!!!?! WTF?
16 Month Update: Still can't find it. Need to get another one!
2 Year Update: Bought another one, yay! Still love!

10. Foam shapes and letters for bath 
Lifespan: 8+ months
We've had these forever, but she just started showing interest in them at around 8 months, when she figured out how to stick them to the tub walls and knock them off and stack them. Now one of her favorite activities is stuffing them in the Munchkin shampoo rinser mentioned above. She also likes to chew on them. I let her chew on the BPA-free ones from Boon but try not to let her chew on the others. I love spelling things with the letters and sorting them into color groups for her. I'm not sure she really "gets" that yet, but sometimes she'll put a blue one in the blue pile and I like to pretend that's evidence she's a genius.

12 Month Update: Still loves these in the tub.
16 Month Update: Still a fan!
2 Year Update: Still love these!

11. Snack catcher cups 
Lifespan: 6+ months
Once they start eating on the go, these things are fantastic. NOTE: They are not 100% spill/leak/whatever proof. Your kid still might spill puffs all over the car. But they definitely help contain the mess, and I think they help limit the number that they get out at a time as well. She loves toting these around!

12 Month Update: Still use all the time.
16 Month Update: Use them all the time still!
2 Year Update: Still use these when she needs a snack sometimes, though we often use reusable snack bags now too.

12. Blue Lizard sunscreen 
Lifespan: 0+ months
Another thing I should add to the newborn gear list! This is technically sunBLOCK, not sunSCREEN, so it's safe to use from birth. Regular sunscreen has a lot of nasty chemicals, and they say not to use it before a year (or maybe it's six months?). But this is safe from birth. Another brand I've heard great things about is Badger Baby sunscreen - another technical sunBLOCK that is safe from the time they are born! I don't think Blue Lizard smells bad or is too greasy, and it covers really well. If you're interested, here's a great discussion on the difference between sunscreen and sunblock and recommendations for babies.

12 Month Update: Still use and love this.
16 Month Update: It's been chilly and not as sunny so hasn't gotten as much use. But we still love it when we need it!
2 Year Update: Still using and loving!

13. Little Tykes Climber/Slide
Lifespan: 9+ months
I would probably not recommend buying this full price. We got it for free from a friend (YAY!) but I'd say if you could find it on Craigslist for $100 or less it'd be worth it. She loves it! She'll go down the slide and climb UP the slide for an hour solid.  Maybe I'm just cheap though. 

12 Month Update: Huge hit still.
16 Month Update: Seriously, she loves this thing.
2 Year Update: Still loves this a ton!

There are a couple things I'm looking to get her, and if I do, I'll let you know what I think of them!

1. Prince Wheely Bug 
This might be the cutest thing I've ever seen!

2. Wagon
Tote the kid AND a six-pack of beer around? WIN!

Got this, but haven't used it yet to be able to give a recommendation.

1. Foam letter mat
Although our house is almost entirely carpeted, when I saw a great deal on this I couldn't pass it up. I baby-sat a little girl who had these and we played with them constantly - making giant blocks, houses, forts, playing with the letters, spelling things - I think when we get the basement cleared out and made into a play area it will be a great addition!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Letters to Carrots : Month Eleven

 May 7 - June 7, 2012
Dear Carys,

You. You, you, you.

You are eleven months old.

Let me say that again, so it sinks in.

Eleven. Months. Old.

Pardon my French, but: WHAT THE HELL?

This is your last month as a baby. Next month, you're officially a toddler (although I think some days, you look positively MONTHS older and so toddler-ish already).

And...surprise...toddle you do! You have officially started walking.

You will take anywhere from 2 or 3 to 10 or 15 at a time, depending on your mood and who you're walking too, and at the very end of your tenth month you do it regularly.  Not to brag, but you'll almost always walk to me because you obviously love me most. You'll walk to others on your own terms, but you almost always will come to me. If you don't feel like walking, you buckle your legs and collapse to the floor in a hilarious dramatic move. But this is rare. You always. want. to. walk. ALWAYS. You have this way of grabbing someone's hand, and before they know it they're trapped walking you around the house forever. You won't let go, and if they force you to (by peeling your fingers off of their fingers), you'll do the aforementioned collapsing move and cry while looking for someone else to trap. Not that we don't love walking you around, darling, but it is hell on the back after five minutes.

You spread the "hunched over backache" around to many family members this month who were gathered here for your Aunt Jenna's wedding, which was the big event this month. So many events for the wedding!

The Adkins girls (now Hanlon and Kessell) at the rehearsal dinner.

With the beautiful bride

With dada at the wedding

I loved your little dress, and you loved my bouquet.


The wedding was beautiful and their love was beautiful and your Uncle Jared was VERY happy by the end of the night...


...but the best part of the whole thing was seeing my Aunt Mary Jo and Aunt Theresa and cousin Erin who we don't get to see very often, but who we miss wildly. We hung out almost every day they were here, and it was all I could do to let them leave. I miss them already. It was the first time Mary Jo and Erin had met you and you, of course, charmed their socks off.

You are such a good, funny, sweet baby. You offer up these shy smiles (deceptively shy!) and anyone who is on the receiving end is just a total goner.

What else are you? A TOTAL MESS MAKER. You know that Fiddler on the Roof song? "Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match..."? I sing that to you, only it goes, "Messmaker, messmaker, making a mess...". You're a little tornado.

You also got to see your cousin (second cousin) Anika quite a few times - she's straight up walking everywhere, so you have three weeks to catch up with her to stay even!  At one point I took both of you to the zoo and pushed you around a double stroller and delighted in everyone thinking I had (very) fraternal twins.

Later that night, Sunny dropped Charley off for a little bit, so for a short period of time it was like I had triplets! It went smoothly until it was bedtime - then I was glad your Aunt Kimber was there to help! But the cuteness of three babies overwhelmed.

During the wedding craziness, I got the chance to go out with Erin and her boyfriend Mike and some other family members a few times WITHOUT YOU. I know. WHAT? I've been out without you a handful of times before - shot a few weddings, gone to a bachelorette party, gone on a few dates with Dada - but this was easily the most time away from you in the shortest time frame.  (Honestly? I know it makes me one of those moms, but most of the time we'd rather go out with you than without you - but you're not exactly appropriate for a pub crawl!) Your dad got to hang with you a few times, but your Nana really pulled through for us and watched you quite a bit. She took you to the zoo while Dada and I went to a movie and had sushi (your future favorite food if you want to remain my daughter).  Shortly before that, she took you to the botanical gardens with Mary Jo and Theresa while your dad and I took a flying lesson (yes, Carys, if you're reading this in the future, back in the day, we were that awesome).

Nana just loves you SO much and you are so good for her every single time. You've yet to cry for  her and she always raves about how great you did. You so rarely cry, period, that it shouldn't surprise me.  Seeing your bond grow this summer after she has been so far away for much of your live has been so fulfilling, and her leaving at the end of this summer to go back to work is going to rip my heart out, I know.  Kimber, however, remains your FAVORITE EVERYTHING OF ALL TIME, EVER and you will go to her over me at times. Sob. No, no, it's fine. I'm sure it's just that you see me all the time so it's a special treat to get to hang out with her and that's why you choose her over me. But she can't give you milk and I can, so overall I STILL WIN.

Reading with Immer

Besides walking, the big development this month has been sleeping through the night with nary a peep. You had been going to bed at 8:30ish and waking up about 8:30ish, with maybe 1-2 wake ups a night (three if it was a bad night, zero on good ones). If you woke, you'd latch on and immediately zonk out again most times, though there were a few bad nights you'd want to be up for a couple hours, and on those nights I seriously considered selling you to the Gypsies. But overall the wakings didn't bother me too much. I'm a light sleeper and get up that often anyway, and the brief time you were awake didn't seem to affect the overall amount of sleep I got. So I didn't actively try to improve it or do anything to make you to sleep through the night. And you were still getting plenty of sleep. But suddenly a few weeks ago, you just...DID IT. Nothing I did contributed - you were just ready. (After watching 100 women in my mom group go through every possible sleep issue and type of sleep training, I am pretty sure most of a kid's sleep patterns are based on the individual kid and not anything the parents do or don't do.)  It did move your wake-up time up a little, so now you usually wake up between 7:30 and 8 instead of between 8:30 and 9, which I could do without, but hey! You sleep through the night every night (knock on wood)! We'll take it. Although I am sad to report that I don't feel any more rested thanks to the previously mentioned light sleeping.  You still nap once in the morning for two hours like clockwork, and usually have a second two hour nap a few hours after the first one ends (sadly, I can't take advantage of your naps - I'm not a napper and just can't sleep during the day).

We did got bit of grief from a family member or two for not letting you cry it out, but while that works for a lot of people, it wasn't for us. Or you. I gave it a shot once or twice, but you would get so worked up it took longer to calm you down when I eventually had to go in than if I'd just gone in and nursed you back down.  In the long run, it just wasn't something I saw as a problem and I knew you'd get there eventually, so it wasn't something I tried to "fix."

I'm desperately hoping that cutting the rest of your teeth don't mess up your sleep schedule too much. You just cut your third top tooth (fifth total) and I can see teeth numbers six, seven, and eight on their way in as well. You are constantly chewing your hand because of it, and you bite sometimes. Arms, legs, clothes.

Thank GOD, however, that you've only ever bitten me while nursing once. My squeal of pain was enough to scare you to the point of tears and you never did it again. I'm thankful, because if you'd kept biting, we might have had to stop, and I love nursing you - it's the one time you'll settle down and let me cuddle you!  You've learned the sign for "milk" and you'll sign it, making sure I see it by waving your fist in my face, and then lean in for the nursing session. It's probably the most adorable thing I've ever seen, you purposefully putting your little baby fist up in the air and opening and closing those chubby fingers, and KNOWING what you're doing and what it means and what will happen. We're so close of making it to my first goal of nursing a year, so YAY US!  Besides the whole "birthing you thing" that's one of the things I'm most proud of.  (When you're reading this as a 15 year old are you mortified that I'm talking about nursing you? Would it mortify you more if I told you that you are a TOTAL boob-monster and you love nursing?).

You eat full on real people food now. Not that we ever did cereals or purees, but you eat everything we eat, no matter how spicy or flavored. If we're eating something really shitty in terms of health (which is more often than it should be) I'll make you something else, but you've had everything from Indian food to steak to sushi. I'm sure we'll go through a "ketchup and jelly sandwiches only!" phase at some point, but for now it's so gratifying to see you exploring new foods and textures and flavors. You love turkey meatballs and noodles and peas, and all fruit.  And cheese, much to my chagrin. You also love trying to eat with a fork, which is hilarious since you obviously can't, you know, eat with a fork. Dexterity is lacking and all that. But you'll try your damnedest to stab something and get it in your mouth. When that fails, you'll use your other hand to hold it on the fork and then bring it to your mouth that way, which is brilliant and so adorable.

You've been "dressing yourself" for a while - meaning that if I put a shirt over your head, you can find the arm holes and put your hands through them. One of your favorite things to do is to keep your hands inside the sleeves until I ask, "Where are your hands??" and then you'll pop them out and laugh at your own cleverness and ability to trick Mama.  You love to clap and you love to wave and you LOVE to point at everything (but mostly the dog). You've re-discovered "peek-a-boo" and delight in hiding your face until I ask, "Where's Carys?" and you pop out and giggle.

This month was full of trips and outings.

Children's Museum with Dad, where you went on your first carousel ride.

Zoo with Max (goats!).


Westroad's play area with the playdate babies...many times. We usually hit it up once a week or so. Which means that I've become addicted to Scooter's Coffe smoothies.

Feeding frenzy at playdate (babies aged 9 to 15 months, which is hilarious 
since you're all pretty much identical in size)

Park and fountain with more of the playdate babies.

You were SO brave and loved the water. 

You are so gentle and loving. You love Riley (your dad's gotten you guys to play tug of war and you both are so gentle with each other, and after you wake up in the morning the first thing you do is lean over the bed, point to Riley, and say, "Dog! Doggie!"). You love Nissa, Nana and Grandpa's cat. You love the goats and rabbits at the zoo and Aunt Ana and Funcle FJ's new puppy Kaikala (if we're being honest, so do I!). Anything soft and fluffy. You gently pet them, stroke their ears, you rub your face on their fur, you kiss them (your wonderful open-mouth baby kisses). You've even taken to rubbing stuffed animals on your cheek. And I can't forget your newest "stop-my-heart-it-is-so-sweet" move - the head touch. You softly tilt your head towards the lucky recipient and rest your forehead on them. Sometimes it's a forward tilt, sometimes a side tilt, sometimes a back tilt. You've done it to all of us, Great-grandma, the dog, the cat, your favorite book...anything you love.  And it is heart-stopping-ly precious.
Aunt Ana and Funcle FJ with their new puppy

Your dad taught you to run your finger over your lips to make that "lub lub lub" sound. You'll do it yourself, but you like us to do it for you. You'll start making the sound then come over and put your mouth on our hand until we do it for you. You think it's just wonderful.

You've REALLY discovered music and love to shake your head and dance to it. You push the button on your Weeble house over and over until a specific song comes on and will bop around for the ten seconds it places, then repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

We got you a cheap wallet from Target, because your favorite thing is to empty mine. We filled yours up with expired gift cards and hotel card keys and it positively captivates you. You fill and empty it over and over and over and it's your all-time favorite toy.  You also love books, still, and your Laugh N Learn house, and things you aren't supposed to have, like my computer and camera and charging cords.

For a while, you were testing this new theory you'd developed, where you believed that responding to something being taken away from you with tears would get you the object back. We didn't acquiesce, so it petered out in seconds, but it was amusing to see you test it. And I wonder how you ever thought that would work or how you knew to try it?  Or, on another note, when and how you figured out that the word "dog" refers to dogs of all shapes and sizes. Or that bopping your head around to music was a thing to do. I wish I could be in your brain for just a day to see how it works. I'm sure it's completely amazing.

How could it not be? YOU are amazing. You are just pure sweetness and light.  Every moment I'm with you I have to refrain from squeezing you and biting your delicious cheeks and kissing you in that spot on your neck that makes you squeal with laughter.  You're totally enchanting, and we're all under your spell. In fact, just writing this and thinking about how wonderful you are makes me want to go wake you up for one more cuddle.

Kid, I love you so much. Don't ever doubt this.


Hugs and kisses and kisses and hugs and love and love and love,