Wrapping Up November With Thanks and Joy

Season’s greetings! Is it too early to say that? I’m in the Christmas spirit early this year, and genuinely want to share with everyone the joy this time of year brings to me.

An Easy and Special Thanksgiving

gathering greenery

We had a happy Thanksgiving. This year, we stayed in town and celebrated with my husband’s side of the family who live in town, too. Not traveling or hosting allowed us to make the day our own, and it was a day that really did remind me that there is so much in my life for which to be thankful.

Knowing that I needed greenery to make Christmas decorations, my husband surprised me with a special plan when Bitsy and I woke up Thanksgiving morning: we would be going to a friend’s horse farm to gather greenery. We dressed and got coffee on the way. It was a beautiful morning: sunny and mild, just cool enough for a sweater or light jacket. The farm looks beautiful in the fall, with all the colorful leaves and the evergreens getting their time to shine.

gathering greenery fun

Bitsy had a wonderful time. We watch her closely but give her plenty of room to play. At one time, we were in a fenced-in area where we could gather holly branches and let her explore. She walked alongside us and played her heart out. By the time we finished gathering, she was falling asleep in my arms. I got great exercise carrying her and the baskets full of branches, leaves, and pine cones!

farm finds

A Simple Sidedish: Kale Salad With Apples and Dried Cranberries

We came home in time for me to prepare the simple side dish I was bringing to Thanksgiving dinner: a kale salad with warm cranberry vinaigrette. All I had to do was wash and tear the kale, cut a couple Honeycrisp apples into thin slices, and prepare the vinaigrette (olive oil, garlic powder and 2 cups of dried cranberries, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of honey, juice & zest of half a lemon and half an orange, a pinch of brown sugar, and salt & pepper to taste) in a saut√© pan, massage the kale with olive oil for about 90 seconds, then toss in the cranberry vinaigrette mixture and top with the apple slices and pecans. Bitsy napped the whole time I was preparing it–something else for which to be thankful! Those who like kale loved the salad, and those who don’t ate some to be polite ūüôā What more could I ask for?

My Most Precious Blessing

This was Bitsy’s second Thanksgiving, but the first since she started eating table foods. She loved the food, and had a wonderful time playing with cousins and made new friends with my sister-in-law’s brother-in-law’s children who are close to her age. She ran played, squealed, and laughed with the purest joy until she was all tuckered out.

And the Prettiest Sight You’ll See is the Holly that Will Be On Your Own Front Door

Christmas wreath

I’m usually not one to put up my Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving. I like to wait until it’s officially Advent to even begin decorating for Christmas. Beautifying my home with Christmas decorations is part of my observance of Advent. “Make your homes fair as you are able,” says my favorite Advent hymn, “People Look East,” as we prepare for the coming of our greatest Christmas guest, Jesus Christ. This year is different because I’ve already collected all of this beautiful fresh holly, pine, and magnolia, and must go ahead and put it to use. I made my wreath and put it on the front door Saturday, and we are all enjoying it. For this one, and most Christmas wreaths I make, I used a metal wreath form, attaching the pieces with floral wire. Whenever I hang a wreath, Bitsy likes me to open and close the door so she can keep getting a look at it. I have plenty left over for more decorations, so I’ll be pretty busy decking the halls.

Loving the Fall and Looking Forward to Winter

It’s still fall for a while longer, but starting to feel like winter. Just a couple weeks ago we were enjoying the pleasant days of early fall, with lots of playing outside. I guess it wouldn’t be right to skip through the season without the obligatory toddler-playing-in-leaves blog post, so here we are having some family fun time outdoors a couple Sundays ago:

The day was still warm enough for bare feet, especially for my child who hates to wear socks and shoes.

leaves on porch

After helping Daddy with a little yard work…

approaching leaves

…it was time to play in the crisp dry leaves.

in the leaves xi

in the leaves 6

in the leaves xii

in the leaves xiv

Bundling Up

Now that the cooler weather is here, I’m happy we get to start wearing our coats and sweaters. I love this trench I got from¬†Stitch Fix¬†(this link will get each of us $25 off when you sign up and order your first box!) I got it two years ago, but it’s such a classic and high-quality piece that it should last me for years to come.

beforeMass Missal for Toddlers

Something to Read

In this pic we were just getting ready to leave for Mass. The book you see in the picture,¬†¬†A Missal for Toddlers, is a recent purchase I’m so glad I made. Bitsy loves the book (as you can see her clinging to it in the picture), so it’s a great way to a) start getting her interested in what’s happening at Mass, and b) give her something to entertain herself with if she gets restless during Mass. This board book is hardcover, but soft enough (almost like a padded feel) that it won’t be noisy if your toddler bangs it against the pew. The language is simple and relatable for little ones, and the illustrations are adorable. I highly recommend it for Catholic families with small children.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time…

It’s a busy but happy and invigorating time for me as the semester winds down and the holidays approach. I have one last big assignment to do for my collection development class, and so much decorating to do! We have to come up with a plan b for our Christmas tree this year, since we don’t have a good way to baby-proof it, and Bitsy’s too young to understand that it’s off limits. I know it’s just the type of thing she’ll want to explore, from the water in the tree stand, to the branches, lights, and ornaments. Right now, the plan is to have a very small tree on an end table. I’ll check in again soon with more decorations, recipes, and holiday cheer!

(This post contains affiliate links.)

 

Some Updates

(This post contains affiliate links.)

October is off to a nice start.

buggy cover

We’ve been using the¬†Very Hungry Caterpillar shopping cart cover¬†I bought after¬†the shopping trip¬†a couple weeks ago that taught me why we needed one. As you can see, Bitsy seems to be really happy in it. The cart is more comfortable for her now, and there are loops to attach some of her favorite toys. It’s great to have some things for her to play with that she can’t throw out of the cart. Since she has her butterfly and fox, she won’t need to try to play with the groceries! And I feel more confident that she is secure in the cart.

buggy cover toys

The toys don’t come with the cart cover. These were some fun developmental toys gifted to me from my¬†baby registry. They’re soft and cuddly, and are good for sensory development. Different parts make crinkly sounds when touched, and they have different textures and colors. The butterfly has a mirror, and Bitsy is sooo into mirrors right now.

Baby Rosary

baby rosary

We go to a mothers and babies playgroup each week. The children play together while the mothers chat. The head of family outreach does a wonderful job with this ministry. She creates a handout each week with the upcoming Sunday’s gospel, her own reflection and discussion questions. We read these together and pray together while the children play. This week we did this wonderful baby rosary craft. It was very easy, and gave us moms something creative to do with our hands while we talked. We used string, a plastic crucifix, and beads. Tape on the end of the string made it easier to run the string through the beads. The babies will enjoy feeling the different textures of the beads, and as they grow can say very simple prayers, like “I love you, Jesus,” “I love you, Mary,” for each bead. Now Bitsy gets to have her own rosary like Mama.

Fall is Coming Slowly

BITSYWALKING

Even though October is here, it’s still pretty hot. The mornings and evenings are a little cooler now, so family walks with Bitsy are much more pleasant now. Having her walk in shoes is going to be a process. They still feel awkward to her, and she prefers to be barefoot. She loves being outside and exploring. She chases her shadow, and stops to look at every little thing. She’s been reading¬†The Poky Little Puppy¬†a lot lately, so I tell her she’s like the Poky Little Puppy, stopping to learn about whatever she sees, hears, and smells. I tell her this is a good way to be: curious, and taking time to experience the little things.

I’m getting excited about Halloween. I don’t like to put up decorations too early. I’ll wait another week or two before I put up a Halloween wreath. I’ll make it in the next few days. Last year, Bitsy was adorable in her¬†Wonder Woman costume.¬†I’m really looking forward to taking her trick-or-treating this year, now that’s she’s so social.

Wonder Woman baby costume

Things are pretty busy with school right now, but I’ll get a little break between big assignments in a couple weeks. I’m taking Collection Development this semester. I’m working on a weeding assignment in which I choose items from a particular section of the library to weed. Weeding is one of the things I miss the most about working in the library, so this is like a dream assignment for me.

I hope you’ll all have a happy October. Even though I’m so busy, I will be slowing down and taking time to enjoy this fun season, and I hope to have plenty to share with you here.

 

 

Learning As We Go

I’m someone who’s been reading about child development since I was a child. I’ve always been interested in the subject intellectually , and knew I wanted to be a parent. I believe in preparing. When I found out I was having Bitsy, I started seriously researching the best baby products right away. My husband and I spent two weekends in Birthing From Within classes (a class and¬†book¬†that I highly recommend–It helped me advocate for the kind of birth I wanted, while also accepting that the birth didn’t happen according to my plan). I believe in doing all of these things, while also accepting that as parents, there’s so much that we learn by doing.

When I created my baby registries, I did not include a shopping cart cover. It just seemed so unnecessary. I’m not fussy about germs and public spaces. I thought I was too smart and cool to fall for the marketing of another new purported necessity.¬†My child¬†could handle sitting in the shopping cart like all the children of yesteryear.¬†My child¬†need not be afraid of the world.

That was before I had a wiggly toddler. 

A scary experience I had today showed me how wrong I was. I was grocery shopping with Bitsy today. She loves shopping with her Mama, looking around at all the colors, the people, the stuff on the shelves that must seem so amazing to someone for whom everything is so brand new. I was walking along, happy to find really great items in the clearance section, sales on items we needed, rebates on Ibotta, and beautiful fresh flowers to take home and arrange. I talked to Bitsy about everything we saw, and narrated what I was doing. All was well.

Then we approached the checkout line. She’s been a bit wiggly in the baby seat of the shopping cart, but I’d watched her and turned her back around when she twisted to look in the direction we were going. Just as we were getting in line, she got very fussy. I unbuckled the seat belt and tried to lift her, but somehow she had gotten her leg stuck between the bars of the cart. I tried but couldn’t get her leg out of there. She got scared and cried louder. I got scared, too. I told myself, okay if her leg would fit in here, we must be able to get it out, right? Some ladies saw our predicament and came over and tried to help. I started to freak out. What if her leg gets broken?! What if she loses her leg?! I had tried to keep calm for my daughter, but now I was crying. There were some paramedics in the store, and one of them came over to help. He had a little trouble at first, but finally we got her positioned just right, and he was able to carefully slide her leg out of there. I was so happy to have her out of the cart and hold her close. It all happened in a matter of minutes, but those minutes of fear and pain felt so long.

Bitsy fell asleep in the car, and I carried her safely on me in the¬†ErgoBaby¬†at the next store. When I got home from my errands today, I shopped online for a shopping cart cover. Those who know¬†our love for The Very Hungry Caterpillar and all things Eric Carle, will not be surprised at how happy I was to find this wonderful¬†Very Hungry Caterpillar Alphabet shopping cart cover. I was even happier when I saw that it is 20% off on Amazon today! I ordered it, and with my 2-day¬†Amazon Prime¬†free shipping, it will be here before we need to go shopping again! I’m so relieved.

cart cover

As we raise children, parents will find over and over again that we were wrong about some of our ideas and expectations. We have to be willing to learn. We also can’t let it hurt our egos. It doesn’t bother me that I learned I really need a product that I thought was a little silly and fussy not so long ago. We don’t know it all, and that doesn’t make us bad parents. I’m just glad that everything turned out okay today, and that there’s an easy solution to prevent it happening again. As a mama, I’m going to keep reading child development literature, keep preparing, but remain flexible enough to keep learning as I go.

This post contains affiliate links. 

Something We Read: Baby Faces Books

babyfaces books.jpg

This post contains links to Amazon listings for products discussed. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

Now that Bitsy can walk and bring me books to read to her, I’m really enjoying seeing which ones capture her interest–the ones she wants to read over and over again. Babies love looking at pictures of other babies, and lately Bitsy has been bringing me her¬†books with photos of babies quite often. These are very appropriate books for her at this stage. It can be hard for a new walker to be still and focus for a long time, but these books are short and sweet, and the babies’ faces capture her attention. I love seeing her react to the babies’ different facial expressions.

The two we’ve been reading a lot this week are¬†Goodnight, Baby¬†by¬†Rourke Board Books¬†,and¬†Hugs & Kisses¬†by¬†Roberta Grobel Intrater¬†from the¬†Scholastic Babyfaces series.¬†Hugs & Kisses¬†features real parents and babies showing affection. I like to read her this one we snuggle at nap time, night time, or when we wake up in the morning.

Goodnight, Baby is one we borrowed from the library that will be hard to return because she has gotten pretty attached to it. I may have to order a copy, which we often do when she loves a library book this much. Fortunately, there are used bilingual English/Spanish editions editions available on Amazon for under $6.

The pictures and text in¬†Goodnight, Baby¬†are adorable and sweet. It’s perfect for helping a baby or toddler settle down for the night. I let my voice get softer as I read each page, and this seems to be very soothing for Bitsy. My only complaint is that in two places, the book ends sentences with prepositions. I’m just picky about stuff like that, but Bitsy and I enjoy this book so much, I’ll have to let it slide. I just correct it as I read, saying “Put away your toys,” in place of “Put your toys away.” I’m nerdy. My husband calls me Diane Chambers.

Bitsy also loves seeing babies’ faces in her favorite Youtube video. It’s video of the Suzuki Songbook 1 for violin, with toys, animals, and children smiling & playing. Bitsy is very interested in music, and we enjoy this video together almost every day. She smiles back at the babies, and laughs, claps, and points when she sees the toys and animals she likes best. Give it a try with your little one here:

 

 

Something We Read: Family Storytime With Winnie the Pooh: Surprise Tails

Bitsy is fascinated with her books. She is now at a stage in which she finds a book and brings it to me, saying, “Read!” in that sweet baby voice. A book-loving mama could not be more pleased!

Yesterday, one of the books she brought me was Winnie the Pooh: Surprise Tails, which turned out to be a fun surprise for us.

Winnie the Pooh Surprise Tails.jpg

Bitsy’s daddy was home for a lunch break. He heard us reading this story in which Eeyore is the main character, and having recently found his old harmonica, played a blues lick for each of the old grey donkey’s lines! This was so fun for all of us. The music enhanced the story, but most off all it was fun for the three of us to be goofy, laugh, and share a story together. You don’t have to be musicians–we aren’t–to include a little music when reading to your baby.

The touch-and-feel features in this board book are so interesting to a baby. The first page has a tiny mirror, and Bitsy is soooo amused by her reflection now. My favorite is the wooly tail Kanga knits for Eeyore.

kanga

Sharing this little moment together was so special for us. I hope you’ve been finding little ways to make reading to your baby fun for the whole family. If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

This post contains a link to an Amazon listing for the book discussed. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

 

Bitsy’s Very Hungry Caterpillar First Birthday Party (Part I: Birthday Fun for Little Ones)

Celebrating Bitsy’s first birthday brought so much joy! Some may feel¬† a first birthday party doesn’t matter much because the little one doesn’t understand she’s having a birthday party and won’t remember it, but I feel differently. A birthday isn’t just an opportunity for one to celebrate another year of one’s own life. It is also a chance for those who love you to celebrate you. Family, friends, and neighbors were happy to gather together to celebrate their love for Bitsy, and when she gets older she may happily look back at pictures from her first birthday party. Besides, I can honestly say that even though she may not have understood that a party was being thrown in her honor, she really had a great time! I made sure to have baby and toddler-appropriate activities that she and her guests would enjoy, and those activities really were a hit! Here’s what worked:

Ball pit

ball pit

This one was such a hit! The age range of most of the kids at the party was 11 months to 3 years. Even the one older kid had fun playing with the babies in the ball pit. Here’s what I did:

I ordered these play balls. They were one of the best deals I found on play balls, plus I liked that they’re BPA-free and the colors went well with the Very Hungry Caterpillar theme (more later on choosing the theme).

I kept my eye out for inflatable pools in end-of-summer clearance sales, but wasn’t finding any. I thus ended up buying the inflatable pool the day before the party. The pool I found was a lot bigger than I’d hoped for, but a very helpful Walmart associate helped me get it for almost half off the price by tearing the box a little for me! I guess it helps to shop with a cute baby ūüôā

So I would say the one mistake I made regarding the ball pit was buying the pool after I bought the play balls and too late to order more play balls in time for the party. The one box of play balls I ordered didn’t fill up the pool,¬†but¬†that was totally okay. I added some bouncy balls and small pillows to fill up more of the space. In the end, I think it may have been better that way since it gave the little ones more space to crawl around and play.

The parents and kids loved this, and it ended up being the central activity of the party. The pool is 9-feet wide and parents could sit close by and supervise in the shade while the little ones could safely play in the ball pit. I highly recommend this idea for any baby/toddler party.

Feed-the-Caterpillar Tossing game

feed caterpillar

I wanted¬† to give a good party, not reinvent the wheel. Much of the planning of this party was done using Pinterest, and this is one of those ideas that originated there. It’s also important to me, once I get an idea from Pinterest, not to get too caught up in imitating it exactly. Start with the idea, then use the resources you have access to and your own creativity to execute it the best way you can. I used cardboard shipping boxes, two pieces of red poster board, construction paper, scissors, a box cutter, and my trusty hot glue gun to build this activity. The¬†toy fruit for tossing into the caterpillar’s mouth was entertaining enough on its own for the youngest babies, and Bitsy’s been enjoying playing with it ever since the party.

fruit to toss

Bubble machine

This was an additional, last-minute touch I added when I saw the¬†Blitz Bubble Blowout¬†on sale. If you have little ones, you know how much they love bubbles. This added a lot of excitement to the party, and the bubbles were so pretty! My honest take: I’m glad I bought this. It was great for the party and will be fun to use for a long time to come. The one drawback is the frequency with which you have to refill it. One fill-up gets you several minutes of bubbles. You have to have some other activities to redirect the kids to so you’re not constantly refilling the bubble machine. The bottle of solution that comes with the machine got completely used-up during the party. If you’re going to use this toy, it’s a better deal to go ahead and buy the large refill bottle. I didn’t break into the big bottle yet, because when I ran out of the small bottle, the parents and I just told the kids that bubbles were over for the day. They were fine with it, because by then it was time for birthday cake!

I also planned a couple crafts in case it rained or the kids got bored and needed a new activity, but we ended up not needing them. I kept some of the craft materials to use later and returned others.

As you can see from the links, I got several items for the party from Amazon and recommend those items to you. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

In the next post, I’ll talk about the birthday party theme, decorations, and food.

First birthday, first blog post

1 birthday

Hello and welcome! I’m a stay-at-home mama to a daughter we’ll call Bitsy, a graduate student of library and information science, and a person who loves to celebrate special occasions, milestones, changing seasons, and the small beautiful moments that make up our lives. I am so grateful to be able to stay at home with my daughter–it gives me the chance to experience so many more of the sweet, small moments of helping her grow–but one of the things I miss as a stay-at-home mama is having co-workers with whom to talk shop. A lot of what I’ll do in this blog is talk the shop of parenting and homemaking with my readers. I don’t pretend to be an expert. I’ll just share my experiences and talk about what works and what doesn’t in my own home and family.

I saw my daughter’s recent first birthday as a good occasion for writing my first blog posts. I want to share the experience of throwing her first birthday party and, over the next few days, reflect on her first year of life and my first year as a parent. I’ll look back at how different phases felt, the time I spent back at work, caring for a baby while taking classes, and what products from my baby registry were most useful. Some posts on this blog may include affiliate links for products and services I actually like and recommend. I hope this blog will be a space in which we can learn from one another and share joy in the small things that make life so meaningful.

Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing. ‚ÄĒ Therese of Lisieux