A. is Nine Months Old!

Dear A.,

You have now reached the milestone of being outside my tummy for as long as you were in it. Wow!

The first half of this month was probably the roughest since you were four months old. For about a week, you slept through the night. Amazing! Then you learned to stand up well and started doing it in your crib at every opportunity. At first, you knew how to stand up but not how to sit down! On top of that, you were going through some amazing mental leaps. This seemed to undo all the progress we had made by sleep training you. You were cranky and clingy all day long. But once that regression passed, you turned into the happiest baby in the world and you were a joy to play with.

This month you picked up a few new dance moves and also learned to clap, which you will do happily for hours. You have always been very friendly with strangers, but you can now instantly wrap anyone around your finger by smiling, waving, and clapping, which you do to almost everyone.

You also really started to love books this month. I was so happy since I love to read too! You now enjoy sitting and looking through books all by yourself. Books with flaps to lift or fuzzy things to feel are your favorites. You also love when I read to you, although you can be picky. Your favorite are books with words and pictures you recognize.

You are really starting to recognize so many words! You can point to a dog in a book when I ask you where the doggie is. You wave when you hear the words hello, goodbye, night night, or wave (even sometimes when I am singing and the song has one of those words). You will clap when you hear the words clap or yay. You will grab your doll’s hands or feet when I say those words. You will kiss your doll when I make the doll say I love you. It’s so exciting now that you are really starting to communicate!

You no longer seem bothered at all when I consume milk products and you’re even able to consume some yourself. You continue to enjoy all sorts of foods – even spicy ones! We gave you a lemon and you liked it! Your favorite is trying anything new. If I give you something you haven’t tried before, you’ll eat a ton of it, then turn up your nose at the leftovers the next day. You definitely don’t get that from me!

I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown by. I’m already starting to plan your first birthday, but at the same time I’m wishing I could magically freeze you at this age.

I love you so much and every day with you is a joy.

Love,

Mama

A. is Eight Months Old!

Dear A.,

Wow, another month that flew by! This month has been a big one – you learned to crawl and to pull to standing. I first suspected something was going on when you kept waking up with red knees. You were practicing in your crib! After a few days, you started crawling a few steps on the carpet, and then a few more, and then you were off! You love to explore the house, giggling as you discover new things.

We visited your cousin D. this month. It was so fun to see the two of you interact and to see how you are both alike and different. You’ve always been a very active baby, but D. is in a whole new category of activity! D. would crawl all over the room, stand up, and pull toys out of the shelf as you watched. She was very interested in you, but you were more interested in the adults. At one point, you got very jealous and burst into tears when I was paying too much attention to D. Luckily, you both were friendly and gentle with one another, although you did enjoy tapping a block on D.’s head!

We all enjoyed the nice weather while we were in Washington, D.C. You got to swing in a swing and feel grass for the first time. You were very interested in trying to eat sticks and leaves!

While the trip was a lot of fun, unfortunately it threw a wrench into our sleep training. You had a hard time going and staying to sleep in a strange environment. One night, we left you and D. with a babysitter and came home to find you wide awake and happily playing with her. This was not a surprise – in fact, we realized that has happened every time we left you with a sitter except for once!

You learned to dance this month, which is one of the cutest things I have ever seen. You will dance to all kinds of music – baby music, the radio, or my singing, but your favorite is your lantern toy. You love to spin the roller and then dance to the song that plays.

You have also really started recognizing words this month. You definitely know the words “daddy” and “mama.” You also know the words “hi,” “bye,” and “night night” and will wave when you hear someone say them. I think you also know the word “kiss” (you will sometimes kiss me when you hear it) and the words “hands” and “feet” (you will look at them when you hear those words). There are a lot of other words that you definitely recognize even if you don’t know the exact meanings – when you hear them, you will look at me and often smile or laugh with recognition. Those words include milk, eat, more, and all done. I’ve also started saying, “What does the fishy say?” and making fish lips. You think that is hilarious!

You’ve continued babbling, although you are not a huge talker. Your favorite sound is still “dada,” although you don’t use it to refer to daddy yet. I haven’t heard you say “mama” yet, much to my chagrin!

You still love to eat and will eat pretty much anything. We’re hoping you stay this good of an eater! You even seem to enjoy spicy food. You definitely prefer adult food over baby food and want whatever mom and dad are eating. You are very good at feeding yourself and even learned to reach down into the container of puffs, grab a puff, and eat it. You also recognize a lot of food containers and will reach for them or fuss when you want a snack. Some of your favorite foods are Cheerios and berries. We have given you pretty much everything that doesn’t involve honey or dairy, including peanut butter and eggs. Your dairy sensitivity has improved a lot and I can more or less eat as much dairy as I want. We will probably let you try dairy in the next month.

You’ve always loved your mom, but have really been attached to me this month in particular. Your favorite thing in the world is to climb on me. When I’m standing somewhere, you usually crawl up to me, grab my feet, and laugh. Sometimes you don’t even let daddy feed you – only mom will do! You are very friendly with people you have met before – even people like grandma and grandpa that you don’t see that often. You have gotten much more wary about strangers. One time you started crying when a strange man tried to talk to you! It touches me how much you love me and I wish you could know how much I love you and how my heart burst with joy every time you do your happy wiggle.

Some of the things I never want to forget include: you and your cousin studying and patting each other, the time you climbed up on me and your cousin decided to join you, the way you laughed hysterically when I pushed you in a swing for the first time, and the way you dance to everything, and the way you smile and wiggle while I feed you in your high chair.

A. is 7 Months Old!

Dear A.,

It seems like each month flies by faster than the last. All of a sudden you are 7 months old!

This last month your personality has really started to emerge and it has been so fun to see. You are very silly and we can often make you giggle just by smiling and talking to you. Your newest trick is tilting your head to the side. We don’t know why, but you love to do it and then laugh, or get other people to do it back and then laugh.

You continue to be extremely alert and curious, as you have been almost from birth. People continue to comment on your bright, alert eyes everywhere we go!

You are pretty fearless and love when we throw you in the air, bounce you on the bed, or turn you upside down. You’ll often throw yourself backwards when you are in the mood to go upside down. Luckily we have always caught you!

The one thing you really hate is having your face wiped. You cry almost every time we clean your face, even if we use a soft, warm washcloth and sing to you. You also don’t like us to touch your ears, mouth, or nose. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem except that you currently have an awful cold and your nose needs wiping constantly, including several time in the middle of meals to prevent you from eating snot. You were so mad about this today that you cried whenever I put you in the high chair and turned your face away from the spoon like I was trying to wipe you with it.

I was very excited at your 6 month doctor visit when the doctor said I could start reintroducing dairy to see how you tolerate it. You definitely did better than before, but it still did seem to bother you. So I am still mostly avoiding dairy, but not as strictly as before. It has made life a lot easier for me!

You have continued to enjoy eating food this month. You can now feed yourself crackers, toast, Cheerios, puffs, and soft cooked carrots. You’re still eating mostly baby food and cereal, but have started to transition to foods with more texture and flavor. I even made a big batch of salt-free pea soup that we could all eat for dinner. Unfortunately, you hated it! You have learned how to drink from a straw cup and from a water glass (with our help). Every time you see us drinking water, you reach for the cup and pull it to your mouth!

Your sleep has been thrown off a little this month because of being sick and traveling. You are back to waking up twice most nights and falling asleep at naptime is a struggle. You were doing great with your schedule last month, but I may need to revisit it since it’s stopped working very well for you.

This month you’ve started moving around and we’ve started baby proofing. You can creep forward a few feet at a time and turn around very well. You love to chase the vacuum (which you were once afraid of)! No crawling yet, although you are close – you can easily pop up on all fours and rock. You also finally learned how to roll over both ways.

It’s been very fun to see you start to grasp the beginnings of communication this month. It really started with the head tilt – you would tilt your head until we did it, watch us tilt our heads, and then smile and tilt yours back. You’ve started imitating a lot of other movements and sounds too. The other day I banged two blocks together and then you tried to do the same. I think you are starting to understand a few words – you pretty reliably look at Daddy when I say Daddy, and you get excited when I am feeding you and I sign “more”. Your favorite sound is “dada” and you will say it over and over, very delighted with yourself, although you don’t use it to refer to your dad yet.

Some more things from this age that I never want to forget: the way you smile at me in the morning when Daddy gets you up and brings you in to me, the way you happily wiggle your body side to side while sitting in the high chair, the way you look when you steal the spoon and wave it around, the way you reach out to touch all sorts of things when I carry you around, and your laugh when we play together.

I love you so much and there’s nothing better in the world than holding you tight for a snuggle and a hug. I hope you still love to cuddle me even as you continue to learn how to explore and investigate the world.

A. is 6 Months Old!

Dear A.,

I really cannot believe that you are 6 months old today – that’s half of a year!

A lot has really come together in this past month and we can’t believe how quickly you’ve grown and matured. You’re not yet sleeping through the night, but over the past week you’ve started waking up just once a night, with the occasional bad night thrown in. You’ve learned to put yourself to sleep really well at bedtime, and pretty well at naptime, as long as you don’t disagree about whether you should be napping! You also have started taking longer naps.

Now that your naps have gotten better and more predictable, we’ve started doing a lot more. I started exercising a couple of mornings a week at a place with child care. You’ve gotten into the swing of it and really enjoy the excitement of visiting a different place and playing with other kids. And all of the people there absolutely love you! We also started swim lessons downtown at the Y. You liked your first swim lesson but you were pretty cranky afterward in the locker room. Luckily Auntie Munch came along for the first lesson to take pictures and to help us out afterward.

Because of our morning activities, most mornings you are awake between 7 and 10:30, which is really too long for a baby your age. You do just fine, but are ready for a nap the second we get home. Because of the long morning, most days you only get two naps.

This month was both your first Hannukah and your first Christmas. As the first grandchild on both sides of the family surrounded by people who love and spoil you, you were showered with gifts! It was a bit overwhelming for both you and me. This Christmas was also your second trip to Iowa since you were born. You had a much harder time adjusting this time, but settled right back in as soon as we got home.

You, me, and Daddy have been passing colds back and forth all month so it’s been a bit of a cranky month for all of us. You’ve been in a surprisingly good mood despite your cold, although you scream bloody murder every time we try to wipe your nose, let alone use the snot sucker.

You’ve continued eating solids and have added a lot to your palate this month – spinach, broccoli, green beans, peaches, and oatmeal, among other things. You’re still a great eater and love your vegetables as well as your fruits! You haven’t shown any interest in feeding yourself yet, although you do sometimes try to steal the spoon. In general, you don’t put a lot of things into your mouth, including toys (or not until you have thoroughly examined them, at least).

This month you suddenly started sitting up. You hadn’t shown any interest and then one day, boom, you could sit! At first you toppled pretty easily, but now you are quite stable even when leaning over to reach for things. You’ve also started getting up on your hands and knees when you can keep your knees under you, and even sometimes on your hands and feet! You haven’t rolled over from back to tummy yet, although you can with just a little help.

Although you laughed occasionally before, you’ve started laughing a lot this month. When you’re happy, sometimes you smile and your whole body spasms with happiness – it looks like you’re doing the worm or the butterfly. When you’re unhappy, you sometimes bring out an icy glare that could freeze the Sahara. You mostly use it on strange men, and one time on Grandma when she tried to talk to you while you were pooping.

Some of the things that are hard to capture on video but I never want to forget include: that happy body spasm, the little sigh you make sometimes when you are asleep at night, the way you look into my eyes with wonder and contentment when you nurse, your sweet little voice when you babble, and the way you smile with recognition when you see me after I’ve left you with someone else for a little bit.

A., I continue to love you more and more each day and nothing makes me happier than seeing you smile, laugh, and play. These 6 months have been an incredible journey – full of exhaustion and joy. I am excited to see you continue to grow up but I also never want to forget what you were like right now, at this moment.

Dairy Free Baking: Avoiding Salt Overload

cowsBefore I started the Elimination Diet, I frequently used unsalted butter for cooking and baking. Since I eliminated dairy from my diet, I’ve had to replace that with a dairy-free substitute. Olive oil is great for many tasks, but has a very different taste and different consistency, which limits its application. Unfortunately, many kinds of margarine contain dairy, including I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (which should be renamed I Can’t Believe It Still Has Dairy In It) and most kinds of Smart Balance.

I’ve found that Earth’s Balance margarine makes a pretty good substitute. I probably would not enjoy it plain on bread, although I never really buttered my bread in the first place. But it tastes pretty good melted inside a baked potato, which I consider the ultimate test. And unlike some margarines (ahem…I’m looking at you, Smart Balance), it does not smell like fish when melted.

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Who Are You and What Have You Done with My Daughter?

sleepPlease rest assured that as I write this, I am knocking on several objects made of wood – I think we have finally passed the four month sleep regression.

A. is a very punctual baby. She was born on her due date and has been right on target with most milestones. And the very day she turned five months, I really started to see changes in her sleep habits.

The past few nights A. has only woken up to eat twice and a few times has fussed but GONE BACK TO SLEEP. She’s also been going to sleep at bedtime pretty well, with either no crying at all or a few minutes of crying after I put her down just to complain.

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List of Places you Don’t Want to Run Into Your Pediatrician

stethoscope-29309_6401. At a cider tasting bar where you have brought your five month old baby that you are breastfeeding and where you are standing in line at the bar (to get food! I swear!) and you smell like a homeless person (no offense to homeless people – I’m a Democrat, I support social services!) because your baby puked down the front of your shirt on the way there.

I don’t know what #2 is because #1 was embarrassing enough!