Naptime Chill Out

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There always seems to be a pile of bills waiting for me during Veronika’s nap (adulting never ends), but as she moves into a longer, more predictable afternoon nap, I’m reminded that this is a necessary time when I can make room for my own headspace.

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In case you’re struggling to do the same with a baby of about 9 months old, here are a few of my favorite ways to┬áchill out while Veronika naps:

  • Drink an espresso.
  • Do the crossword. You could also read the news, but chances are that might just stress you out more. I stick to the puzzle.Body and Soul (2)
  • Listen to my music. This one is key if we’re on the go during her nap. When it’s just Veronika in the car, her music class CD is always going. When big brother rides along, pop music dominates. But when the kids sleep… mama music! I’m going to date myself but admitting that that means classic rock or classical music on repeat.Body and Soul (3)
  • Finally, remember to do nothing. There is always a room to clean, or a list to make, but sometimes your body and soul benefit best from a little nothing. In five minutes, she will wake up, and I will go back to being a mom. In five minutes, I will be needed again. But right now, I just am.Body and Soul (5)How do you pause and chill out when baby naps? Learn a new language? Meditate? Please share in the comments!

Baby Led Weaning: 9 Months

Veronika is on the brink of eating “real” recipes, which I’ll likely post as separate blog entries. So here is a final round-up of the Baby Led Weaning foods she’s enjoyed in the past month.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Carrots

Sweet Potato Carrot

Peel 1 sweet potato and 2 carrots and cut into 2-inch strips. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Tofu and Mango Dinner

Crumble 1/8 package firm tofu into a bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup mango puree.

Tofu Mango Dinner.JPGThis makes the slightly dry tofu easier for Veronika to swallow, and she loves scooping up the mixture by the handful!

Apple and Plum Compote

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Veronika loves this so much more than regular applesauce! Peel and chop 1 apple and 2 plums. Cover with water and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and mash with a potato masher until chunky, then stir in 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon.

Chick’n, Banana & Coconut

This was her first Gardein meal! Cook 3 Gardein chick’n strips, and mince until about the texture of crumbled tofu or lentils. Combine the chick’n in a bowl with 1 small mashed banana and 1 teaspoon coconut milk.

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A fast favorite!

Chick’n, Carrot & Sweet Onion

For a more ambitious chick’n dinner, toss 4 Gardein chick’n strips, 1 peeled and julienne-cut carrot, and 1/8 cup thinly sliced sweet onion with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Serve as finger foods, or finely chop into little pieces on the tray.

Chicken Carrot Onion

Butternut Squash Sticks

Cut butternut squash into 2-inch sticks. Cover with water and bring to a boil; continue to cook for 10 minutes, until very soft.

Butternut Apple

Dip these into a homemade or store-bought purees. Veronika likes them dipped in apple, pear, or carrot! Sometimes she prefers me to mash up the squash and stir the puree into it instead, which she can pick up by the handful.

Butternut Pear

Poached Tempeh

Slice 1 (8-ounce) package tempeh and cook in boiling water for 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and process until finally chopped. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the tempeh for about 10 minutes, until golden.

Stir in applesauce to taste so the mixture isn’t too dry. I use about 1/2 cup applesauce per 4 ounces tempeh.

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This also works with canned pumpkin puree in place of the applesauce!

Tempeh Pumpkin

Baby’s Song

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There’s a reason educators use songs as teaching tools so often; lyrics are remembered long after spoken words are forgotten, and simply hearing a familiar tune can become a cue when it is consistently attached to a specific activity. Today, Veronika and I focused on specific songs for specific occasions.

You can make these up entirely for your baby as long as you are consistent. We like to use the songs from Baby Signing Time, which helps connect word signs to specific moments. Like mealtime…

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Or playtime…

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Or diaper time, or bedtime, and on and on.

I always sing the same song when she wakes up (Frere Jacques) which helps her understand the day has begun, and it’s no longer night.

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If you make up your own song, try a familiar melody. At bathtime, I always sing the following to the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”:

“This is the way we wash your hair

wash your hair

wash your hair.

This is the way we wash your hair

While you take a bath”

Similarly, I have a wordless melody that I hum to Veronika before her morning nap. It works like a charm every time, and I love that we made it up and it’s unique to the two of us.

What musical cues or songs do you use during your baby’s day? Please share in the comments!

 

7 Fun, Wet Water Balloon Activities

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Because we don’t have a hose and a water balloon nozzle, this summer staple of fun is not something Travis has enjoyed very often. Cue the water balloon hand pump! Now that I’ve invested in one (from Amazon), there are so many backyard games to play with our little water balloons. And some are even educational!

First: Sort by Color. Purchase a few buckets from a local dollar store in a variety of colors and have your child fill the correct bucket with the correct balloons.

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Easy for Travis!

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Second: Number Race. I numbered 10 balloons with sharpie and Travis’s job was to move them from one bucket to another in the correct order.

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This one involved a few slippery balloons running away before the task was complete.

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If two or more kids are playing, make it a race!

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Third: Target Game. Now we got a bit messier! I drew a bull’s-eye and we each had three balloons to toss.

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The person with the highest score wins, extra points for a big splash!

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Travis adored this.

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Which led us to…

Fourth: Balloon Toss! You can’t go wrong with this classic. Just toss back and forth and see who gets wet.

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It meant lots of exploding balloons and lots of giggles.

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Fifth: Relay Race. If you have a group, make it a true relay; balance a balloon on a cup and make it from point A to point B. Since Travis and I were playing just the two of us, we timed ourselves to see who could do it faster.

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Sixth: Balloon Sensory Tub. Float a few balloons in a baby bathtub. Even baby sister Veronika got to enjoy a (supervised) feel. Travis loved throwing the balloons into the tub for a big splash, of course!

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Seventh: Balloon “Parachute”. Place a few filled balloons on a sheet or large towel and pop them like popcorn.

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And with all those games said and done, Travis really just loved splatting them onto the ground for maximum splashy fun!

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Add your own favorite water balloon games in the comments!

Farmers’ Market Corn and Peach Salad

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This salad is the direct result of a trip to the farmer’s market. I hesitate to give an exact recipe, since the hope is that you tailor your family’s meal after what you find at your market! So consider the recipe below as a guideline only.

We set out with the intention of making a Corn, Nectarine, and Blueberry Salad that I’d spotted in a magazine, and I printed Travis a picture of each ingredient we hoped to find. This turned it into a neat scavenger hunt.

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Any similar hunt will be a great way to engage kids with the market and the sellers! If you don’t have exact ingredients in mind, then challenge your kids to find things you spot along the way: “Find me a root vegetable” or “Find me something red!” you can say.

Don’t forget to check out the other fun that a farmers’ market has to offer while you’re there.

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Travis got to sample fresh lemonade, pick out a toy made from organic catnip for our cat, check out homemade crafts, and more. Nibbling a bite of fresh basil was a must!

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Babies love the scents and sounds of a farmers’ market, too, so consider adding this to your summer hit-list of baby field trips!

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As it turns out, we couldn’t locate everything on our scavenger hunt ingredient list, but we did find perfect corn, and the biggest scallions we’d ever seen!

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So when we got home, we improvised the salad. We had beautiful local peaches in place of the nectarines, and no blueberries (but the salad was just fine without them!), and added lots more basil and scallions than called for since we had a big bounty. I present to you, our Farmers Market Corn and Peach Salad.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 ears fresh corn
  • 2 peeled and chopped ripe peaches
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice
  1. Cut the kernels from the corn cobs and place in a large bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

DIY Star Wars Sun Prints

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Travis has been obsessed with Star Wars lately, so we used a favorite summer art activity (sun prints) to make DIY room decor!

Print out templates of your child’s favorite characters heads. Favorites around here include Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, but many of the character’s heads or helmets will make iconic shadows.

Cut out the templates and place on colored construction paper. Set in the sun for at least a few hours – the longer the better!

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Travis loved the shadowy images we achieved and proudly hung them in his room.

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Don’t forget you can play this game with plenty of other objects, too. Cookie cutters make cute decor for Veronika’s side of the room.

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Crawl Space Race

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Big brother’s toys are so tempting to Veronika, but I usually keep her in a safe playroom filled only with baby toys. When she manages to break free into the hallway, she looks immensely satisfied with herself. Today, I indulged her desire for freedom and turned it into a little game. Here comes trouble…

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Definitely only play this game with toys that are safe for a baby even if they belong to a big sibling. We set up a few large superheroes as the grand prize. You can cover them with a blanket or basket for extra excitement.

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Travis knelt down next to Veronika until I gave the green light. And they’re off!

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She had no idea she was having a race, of course, she was just having a blast! Meanwhile, Travis had the thrill of a chase and the satisfaction of winning.

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Now it was Veronika versus mommy! I crawled along at her pace to her absolute delight, and we reached the toys together.

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You can also deliberately let your baby crawl ahead of you, which gives you the chance to tickle little toes.

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There are lots of variations on this game. Introduce silly concepts like “The last one there is a rotten egg!” or have the race be to a person instead of a toy.

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What games do you play with your little crawler? Please share in the comments!

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Refresh Your Wardrobe

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Today’s activity is one of those for mama, not baby. The goal: to refresh your wardrobe.

I knew I needed this challenge! My go-to dresses all summer have been the same ones I wore last summer (i.e. maternity clothes) because they are loose and are perfect for nursing. But it was also nice to think about shopping for clothes that were just for my body, not for a body that’s pregnant or lactating.

I headed off to the mall, but somehow this didn’t feel right, too indulgent. At least Veronika was napping so the mall was a nice cool place for it!

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I kept getting distracted by baby stores; I was out of the habit of indulging myself since I only buy kids’ clothes these days!

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I backtracked to a local store, because it always feels good to shop local. Veronika was awake now, and loved playing in the dressing room.

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And mama got a little wardrobe refresh after all. In sum, take the time to do these things for yourself. Baby gets a fun outing, and you get to practice some self-care.

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Meteor Meatballs

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These meatballs were the second recipe in Travis’s cosmic cuisine-themed Raddish Kids, meant to mimic meteors from space (and get it meat-ier meatballs?). We made ours with Raddish’s excellent vegan suggestion for chickpeas in place of chicken.

To start, Travis helped peel 3 cloves of garlic. I minced them and we put in a large bowl. Finely chop 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves and add to the garlic.

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Next I showed him how to grate zucchini against a box grater; he loved it! Add 1 cup to the garlic mixture, along with 2/3 cup canned or frozen corn.

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Next we made a flax egg: whisk 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed into 3 tablespoons water and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir into the zucchini mixture, along with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

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Add 1/4 cup vegan Parmesan sprinkles and 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs. Finally, drain 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas and pulse in a food processor until crumbly. Add to the mixture. Time to get messy! I was so proud of Travis, getting his hands right in there to mush it up, and I showed him how to roll a meatball.

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Arrange the meatballs on a baking sheet covered with foil and greased with cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes.

Travis ate – I kid you not! – half of the recipe in one sitting. This either means he’s having a growth spurt or speaks directly to how awesome the meatballs are. Or both! We served with onion ring “Saturn rings” for a fun veggie side dish.

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As he dined, we read the recipe card facts about various space rocks (meteoroids versus comets etc.), and learned a bit more about meals in space for astronauts.

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For a little dessert fun, we repeated an old favorite: marshmallow constellations!

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All you need are marshmallows (try Dandie’s for a vegan brand) and toothpicks. This time, I really challenged Travis to follow along with a provided diagram and piece together one of the simpler star formations.

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After some puzzling, he was able to put together Libra!

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Meanwhile, mommy worked on some intricate ones, like Ursa Major and Scorpius.

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Travis then decided he preferred to make his own, and soon had this stick person constellation.

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Don’t forget to clean up – by eating them, of course.

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Express Emotions

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Veronika had a tough day today. My hunch is because of teething, or perhaps a Wonder Week, but sometimes babies just have fussy days and we as parents just ride them out.

But it was a good reminder to focus on emotions, not just teaching her the positive ones, but also giving her words for the sad ones. So today, when I felt happy (or Veronika did), I made a big show of it on my own face.

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And when she was sad, I mirrored that. “You’re feeling sad,” I commiserated.

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You can do the same throughout the day (or any day!) with surprised, angry, scared, tired, or any other emotion that crosses your baby’s face. Here she is a bit worried by loud noises.

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If you’re looking for inspiration, flip through some children’s magazines or books together and point out the various emotions.

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Either way, it’s healthy for your little one to learn about all these emotions. And maybe a happy face in a book will cheer Veronika up!

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