I’ll never let toys take over my house and other lies I told myself. 

There are toys all over my house. I actually strategically place toys in each room of the house. So not only do I do the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I said pre-baby, I do it on purpose.

There are lots of great reasons to not let toys take over your house.

  • It’s not attractive.
  • It’s not welcoming to your adult friends, who you still want to hang out with you but struggle to make time for.
  • There is no child-free area. Nothing feels sacred anymore.

But alas there are toys in Haines’ room, toys in our living room, toys in our guest room (just extra books and a single wooden puzzle), toys upstairs in my office/craft area (I’m still waiting for my creative juices to come back so I can utilize this space), toys in each bathroom and toys in the kitchen.

Yes, it sounds awful. If you do not have children or your child is young enough to have not taken over your house, you might think I’m crazy. But I have shit to do. In every room of my house.

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Our living room is where we hang out and is where there is the most space so that’s where a lot of Haines’ toys are. Eventually I want to get to a place where they be easily hidden, but right now it’s just a goal.

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In the kitchen we have one lower cabinet that I have let Haines take over. Every time he leaves a toy out in the kitchen, that’s where it goes. I have also moved all his baby bottles there. He likes to throw them all over the floor. It’s not as annoying as it sounds. We’re working on him picking things back up. I’d say it’s a 30% success rate.

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I originally put these shelves in here for cute things like plants or towels. Ha!

The bathroom is one of the most important places to have toys. Sometimes your bathroom business is not quick. Sometimes you need a few minutes. It’s not as though your 18 month old can just wander around the house safely entertaining himself. No, he has to be in the bathroom with you. He might be satisfied taking your tampons and pads out of the bottom drawer for a few minutes but now you need to wash your hands, brush your teeth and check your hair. Time for a police car that makes siren noises and a book.

 

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To be totally honest, I only have toys in my office as part of my fantasy where I’m going to do work up there and Haines will entertain himself. This has never once happened. I only work up there during nap time and “work” is really cleaning up the piles of bills and other things I let stack up for weeks at a time. A girl can dream.

So I have toys all over my house.

Sometimes I also feed my child fruit when he refuses to eat the dinner I made him. Berries mostly. Yep, he throws food on the floor and then I give him fruit. Sometimes I cry about it too.

Several times a week he watches Sesame Street or Daniel Tiger, another thing I said I’d never rely on before he was born.

Even though I thought I’d only expose my child to awesome musicians that Tyler and I love, we listen Pandora’s Toddler Radio or Family Folk Songs every single day. In fairness, watching Haines try to do all the gestures to Wheels on the Bus makes my heart explode. Who knew, right?

 

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Baby’s First Year Survival Tools

One of the things expecting mothers always panic about is all the things. You feel you need all the things! In reality, you won’t need half of what you end up with when you have a baby. A lot of people will try to give you things. You’ll most likely accept everything  thinking, how am I to know what I need? You don’t, so cut yourself some slack. I don’t know what you need either, but I do know what I used to get through HEB’s first year. If we have another baby we’ll probably need totally different things! But hopefully not because we’re not buying anything.

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Newborn hell (or 0 to 3 months):

I have to be honest, those newborn days that everyone (without a newborn) glows over… those are pretty intense. Even if you are not breastfeeding you may start to think, surely this is impossible! Horribly enough we all started off as extremely needy, up all hours of the night, feeding every 2 hours, adorable little babies.

  • Netflix– get it, gift it, don’t judge yourself for binging it.
  • Chicco Keyfit stroller caddy– We loved this for the ability to plop our carseat right in and start strolling without ever disturbing our sleeping babe. There’s also tons of storage underneath so I could throw his diaper bag in there. I preferred using this for grocery shopping (heavy things in the caddy, light things in a basket) rather than a cart when he was small.
  • A breastfeeding station- Find yourself a Boppy or a Brest Friend or whatever and keep it near your comfiest chair or couch. Near that fill a basket with granola bars or easy to eat snacks, your kindle or your TV remote and remember to bring water when you’re sitting down to feed. Two minutes in and you’ll suddenly remember you’re DYING of thirst.
  • Rock n Play– Haines slept in the Rock n Play for the first 4 months of his life and absolutely loved it. Admittedly though we never put the batteries in so it didn’t rock him on its own. I would reach out and rock him to sleep in the middle of the night if needed, but never used the actual function. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to stop.

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3-6 months:

This was a pretty tough time for me. I went back to work and Haines’ sleep had really gotten worse so the level of fatigue was high. At the same time though H started to interact with us. He was alert and playful. It really lifted me up.

  • Bouncy chair– This is something we didn’t know we really needed. It was a hand-me-down (as is everything else) and I wasn’t even sure why we would want it. Um… you want to carry this lightweight all over your house so you can get things done! This is what baby lays in while you cook dinner, go to the bathroom, type your blogs- all the important things.
  • Frozen meals- I had fixed some items in advance and my mom and Natalie also stocked my freezer as well. The first few weeks/months we were the beneficiaries of a meal train but that comes to an end well before the fatigue does. Having the world’s easiest meals on hand is very helpful. I also froze muffins to help me with my constant need to snack.
  • Ergo– We started out with a 2nd hand Chicco carrier which worked okay, but it was a huge upgrade when a friend gave us an Ergo. After a little while you start to want options for going out and having some sort of baby wearing device is a must. (Also, I tried a wrap and found it to be an enormous pain the tush.)

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6-9 months:

The first turning point! Everything was fun during these few months (minus sleep training and ear infections). Haines was excited for everything- food, Clara, being outside. There were also so many milestones during this time. He sat up, crawled and walked all between 7 and 9 months.

  • Kiddo food trays- I LOVED using these to make Haines’ baby food. I made all of his food at home which was much easier than I anticipated. When he napped on the weekend, I would dump all the veggies into a steamer before blending in our Nutri-bullet. Any blender will do. The only downside here- HEB moved on from purees pretty quickly. He wanted to feed himself!
  • Baby proofing- This turned out to be much more in depth than I would have expected. We had to get rid of several pieces of furniture that we deemed being too annoying with a baby to keep. If you’re going to try to limit your “No! Don’t touch that!” conversations than I will suggest going beyond outlet covers and cabinet locks. Every trash can in your house should have a heavy lid, your toilet paper should be moved near the ceiling and any knick-knacks resting within 3 feet of the floor should be moved. Probably just get rid of your blinds now.
  • Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes Musical Toy- For months this was Haines favorite toy. It could entertain him indefinitely. This is probably the only thing we ever tore up the house looking for.
  • Nursery rhymes- Start practicing now. This was the only way we could get perk up a cranky baby during diaper changes or going into his carseat.

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9-12 months:

This was the second turning point. We have a routine. We can mostly anticipate Haines likes and dislikes. He’s fussier and harder to console but also easier to distract. Children are weird.

  • Alphaprints book & The Itsy Bitsy Snowman are Haines two favorite books right now. They are guaranteed to lift his mood!
  • Bathmat– If your baby wants to crawl all around the bathtub then I recommend getting a non-slip bathmat for the tub. It has cut down on his falls tremendously and ours has a hook so it can hang on the shower to dry.
  • Spoutless sippy cup– Haines has struggled with all the other cups we’ve given him but took to this one right away! (Full disclosure: we still use a bottle most of the time, but this cup has helped a lot).

 

If you’re stressing about needing all the things, don’t. Get a carseat. Figure out a safe place for the baby to sleep. Buy a few diapers (and expect many more in gifts). Collect every hand me down you can. You’ll figure out the rest.

And remember, for better or for worse, this is only temporary.

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Capturing Baby’s First Year: A Calendar for Dad and Relatives!

Last Christmas I scrounged together an idea of a gift for Tyler just in time. It was to spend the day canoeing (we never went). Haines was only eleven days old on Christmas day and gifts were low on my priorities. Despite all that Christmas week last year I had a lightbulb moment- the best possible gift for a new dad.

It wasn’t an expensive gift and those expenses I did incur were mostly optional. The only difficulties were planning and planning is hard because it involved a baby so buck up.

Each month I dressed Haines up as something or someone that Tyler loves and create a calendar. It was a challenge to come up with 12 feasible ideas at first but once I involved a couple people, the ideas started flowing!

I had intended for the ideas to correlate with the months of the year but… that got a little complicated. I had grand plans that I would take the picture on the day he turned 1, 2, 3, months old etc. but that quickly became unrealistic (like, almost immediately).

January- Fishing

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January was a struggle- there’s a learning curve with this people! I set a fishing scene- blue blanket, gummy worms and a fish at the end of a homemade pole. Every time I see some sleeping newborn in a fishing basket looking perfect, I think…. this is why newborn photographers get paid the big bucks.

February- Bookworm

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Okay, I admit it. This month was for me. I love a baby bookworm. BUT I used Tyler’s favorite children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, so it’s all good. This was one of the easiest photos to do. I popped out the lenses in some free, cheapo sunglasses I had and paired with a onesie made at my baby shower- done!

March- Baseball

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Tyler’s obsessed with baseball and even bought Haines a tiny Louisville slugger before he was born. I couldn’t get Haines to stop chewing the bat.

April- Chef

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My all time favorite! I ordered a chef’s hat and apron (unnecessary but it came in a set) via Amazon and popped baby HEB in our pressure cooker. He happily sat in that pot for like ten minutes! I threw in a dish towel for color and a wooden spoon to occupy him. Be still my heart!

May- Virginia Tech Hokies fan

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Tyler comes from a Virginia Tech family and his mom used to make these awesome “Mad Hatter” Hokie hats. I requested one and paired it along with one of the THREE Tech onesies we received as a gift for Haines. Three!! That seems insane but Haines was pretty pumped about the whole thing.

June- Golfer

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Tyler used to work on a golf course (okay, several) and is a huge golf fan. I stole one of clubs and this putting practice green thing to make this photo work. Haines is also wearing Tyler’s Masters hat but I couldn’t get that in the picture.

July- Clara

Two years ago we adopted Mrs. Clara, our lab beagle mix. I put Haines in black footie pajamas to match Clara but getting the two in a photo together was the worst! My dog and my baby are too active for this. I had to settle for the only slightly adorable photo we have of the two of them together.

August- Glenn Danzig & Bruce Campbell

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If you’ve never seen Tyler without his shirt off then you probably don’t know he loves Danzig and Bruce Campbell (hint, hint: multiple tattoos). So here we have featured Haines’ Misfits onesies in front of Tyler’s prize Army of Darkness poster with Bruce Campbell.

September- Scuba Diver

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90% of our photos looked like this.

Pro tip: do complicated costumes during months 3-6! Haines was too mobile by the time we got the scuba diver costume. He wouldn’t hold the pacifier in his mouth that I’d blackened with sharpie to look like a respirator. He also wouldn’t keep the goggles on his head. It was a disaster. In the background, I had toy fishes but you’d never know.

October- Beach Baby

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My mom made a onesie out of a T-shirt fromTyler’s job. It’s so stinking cute! You can’t tell but in this picture Haines is on the verge of hysteria. Still, cuteness overload.

November- David Bowie

Tyler is an enormous Bowie fan. So I found a DIY Ziggy Stardust costume on Pinterest and did my best. Yes, face paint would have taken it to the next level but have you tried to put face paint on a ten month old??? It’s challenging, that’s all I’m saying.

December- Snow Bear

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Snow Bear is Tyler’s childhood bear. He’s a VIP in our household and I made Haines a matching outfit. He struggled with sitting still but still managed to be a bit cute and cuddly with Mr. Snow Bear.

Tips for creating your baby calendar:

  • Only take horizontal photos. Vertical photos don’t work on most calendar formats.
  • Three to six months is your baby photography sweet spot. Any outfit that’s complicated should be taken then. Otherwise you’ll have a baby who refuses to suck a pacifier colored to look like scuba respirator or a baby who won’t cuddle with the dog (dog and baby photos will always be difficult).
  • Use large blankets/quilts or sheets for backdrops.
  • Get another person involved if at all possible. You think you can do it, but.. you need help. I involved only a few people. Regrets!
  • Use MPix to put together your calendar. I tried Costco for maximum cost savings but I needed more options to customize what I wanted. MPix ended up being inexpensive but more user-friendly.

There are many ways to capture a baby’s first year but I prefer dressing him up in costumes that may be embarrassing to him one day!

P.S. The calendar was a huge hit with Tyler. 🙂

Baby’s First Year: Surviving the Boring, Busy, Magical Days

On Thursday Haines will be a year old. No really, a whole 12 months will have passed since his tiny peanut self entered the world. It’s insane! I see this quote on a lot of parenting sites, “The days are long but the years are short.”

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Babies are boring. Really boring at first. Yes, they’re incredible to look at and completely adorable but also, they can’t do anything. They can’t really lift their heads, eat without assistance or put themselves to bed. I spent all my first days in a fog of wonder (Who made this baby? Did I make this baby? Oh, how neat…), fatigue (Who will teach this baby to sleep? Anyone? I’ll pay you.), and boredom (Hey baby, do you have any hobbies?).

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It gets better of course. Haines walks, babbles and plays now. He doesn’t just cute yawn or stretch anymore. He plays all over the house. Sure, it doesn’t entertain me as long as it entertains him but I laugh and watch all the same.

Even in the most boring of moments, baby life also feels incredibly busy. Not that long ago I was breastfeeding every 60 minutes. So on one hand maintaining a tiny life, and on the other hand sitting and watching back to back episodes of A Chef’s Life. Now I often feel as though I only leave the house for work but I’m also chasing Haines constantly around. We play peek-a-boo, read the same book, play with toys, walk around the yard, run an errand, fix meals and snacks and so on. The only down time is those few precious naps where I typically catch up on some aspect of life. Nothing stops and yet nothing really happens either.

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A very cute baby being as exciting as he can muster. 

I’ve been surprised at how small our world has become. Our living room rug has become the center of all things. It’s where Haines turned over, crawled and walked for the first time. All the while, both of us impatiently waiting for the next move, cameras at the ready. Now I pile his toys along the edge in baskets and he drags them out all over the floor.

At times our small world has felt claustrophobic. I have felt less connected to my friends and family but also can’t remember to reach out. I can’t remember to call anyone very often. Sometimes I don’t remember to leave the house.

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In other ways our world has opened up. While I have always had sympathy for others I have not always had empathy. This is growing rapidly in me, every day as I experience life both as a parent and through Haines. The way I view things, the way I register information… I’m not a different person but I’m also not the same.

I knew I would love Haines but I really didn’t understand what that would be like. When I was pregnant I felt affection for the little fish swimming around in my belly but my love had not yet developed. When he was born even I didn’t have that immediate love at first sight moment that so many mothers describe. I wasn’t in awe of him. I was scared and overwhelmed. It sometime on day three or four when I realized I was in love with Haines and it was when he went into the hospital that I felt the place in my body where we are connected. It’s deep in my chest and when he hurts in big or small ways I can feel it contort and tug and yank me to him. I imagine it will remain forever, no matter how far away he goes from me one day (an idea that I love and hate all at the same time).

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Happy 7 months baby!

So yes, the days are unbelievably long, boring and busy. And yet despite all that I’m not looking for anything else. I’m not wishing for a new life. I’m not perfectly content but I’m glad to be here. I wish it was easier to go see a movie or get basic life chores done. I wish running errands was less a project management task and a little more spontaneous, but that’s okay.

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I refuse to apologize for needing a break or wanting to leave the house alone. Nothing less should be expected. I will not pretend this year has been all joys. It has made clearer my weaknesses. It has made clearer my strengths. It has tested and improved my patience. It has pushed my marriage in ways I both did and did not expect. But I choose to have a baby with a good person and a good partner. I feel lucky and grateful to be in this place. Above all else I have a healthy child which is the luckiest thing of all.

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Photo credit: Kathryn Falconer

 

So, we made it! We survived. This year old little guy is starting the next year of his life and I can’t wait for (most) every moment of it.

Ten Months Old?! or Where did October go?

I haven’t blogged in for-fucking-ever. No really, it’s been weeks. This has happened before (hello, new baby!) but normally I’m obsessively thinking about blogging. Every time something happens I think that’s a post! Blog it! That’s still been happening, but…pretty minimally.

I’m not sure where the mental shift began. I just started living in the present which feels pretty positive except I’m not taking the time to reflect on it. That sounds hippie dippy, I’ll admit, but I like taking my time and working out my feelings on life in a blog post to be read by approximately 12-25 people. It’s how I shared my travels through Australia. It’s how I made it through my twenties in Austin and it’s how I make the transition into being a mom.

Being in charge of someone else’s ability to survive on this planet initially felt like quite a shock. Everyone describes it as this burst of uncontrollable love but I definitely approached it with more caution. The weight of Haines’ entire world resting on my shoulders felt, as it should probably, immense. Now, I’ve built up my mom muscles. My shoulders feel stronger, ready to help his world rather than suffer under the weight of it. I know they’ll only get stronger as his needs become more complex. (At least I hope they do.)

Still he’s past the ten month mark and things barely feel normal. Being a parent is just starting to seem routine – making decisions for another person, providing their needs, scheduling my life around them, etc. I still can’t help but think, “There’s more to this?! Oh, dear.” If you’re the parent of a grown child (or I am your grown child) you should rightfully say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

This October has been BUSY. I took Haines camping sans baby daddy which was… difficult. Pro parent camping tip: bring a pack n’ play. Don’t think your baby will sleep soundly on a sleeping pad. That’s a lie you’ll regret telling yourself. It was also hotter and more humid than I was expecting so my patience was thin for all things.

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First ones up at camp!

But Tyler and I also went camping sans baby for one night to celebrate our anniversary, which was amazing. My mom drove up for the weekend and watched H while we went out to eat Friday night and then while we camped. We were only gone for about 24 hours but it was so relaxing. Sure we tried to take a boat through low tide in the world’s most shallow waterways and had to drag the boat a long ways but there was also reading on the beach, cocktails in plastic cups and listening to the ocean while we fell asleep. And baby H was safe and sound with his Nana.

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Admittedly the next morning I was almost immediately ready to go. It was a struggle to enjoy the sunrise when I wanted to get home so badly. Next month we’re taking another trip sans baby for two nights- hopefully we can enjoy it!

To top the month off we visited one of my very first friends in life in Charlottesville. She hadn’t met Haines and I hadn’t met her newest, Miss Maebh (pronounced Mave). It was so incredible to see actual hills and fall colors and feel crisp, cool air. I love my life in Wilmington but if I could just move our house, jobs and friends to the mountains, I wouldn’t hesitate.

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In another news, H is full on walking now. He can also climb stairs (ah!), clap his hands and give kisses. So, it’s been a month.

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Baby’s first Halloween: Skunk!

A Bad Case of Jealousy

I will start with the requisite disclaimer: I really like my life. I have a great husband, a happy baby, a sweet dog, a cozy home and a good job. I am undeniably one lucky lady. But…sometimes I get a case of overwhelming jealousy.

Over the last couple weeks friends near and far have gotten new jobs, visited old friends, explored far away lands, and so on. And I feel a little…stuck. Neither babies nor corporate jobs lend themselves to lifestyles of travel. Every tiny thing in baby life is new and yet each day is mired in repetition and routine. Every day Haines shows us a little bit more of what he is capable of. He gets more food in his mouth. He imitates and repeats our actions. He stands on his own two feet a few seconds longer, a tiny balancing person.

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Each little thing he does makes my whole body feel lighter. I actually can feel the physical sensation of joy filling me up. It’s so much more than I ever could have imagined.

And yet… it doesn’t negate the feelings of jealousy. I still am at a point where I am:

  • Figuring out how to make our routine fit my needs too. Every morning we try to find that perfect mix of play and get shit done. Each evening we try to unwind while keeping Haines entertained and hopefully giving Clara some attention too. When we break away from our routine for some social occasion it’s worth it but we often pay a price. Weekends are more fun now that Haines is more interactive, but still each day follows a fairly strict schedule. We wake up at the same time bright and early and follow the most important rule: fit nap time in whenever possible. When I can get a few minutes of Haines playing by himself or napping I work in vacuuming, baby food making, writing, bathroom cleaning and other things that aren’t particularly exciting. Still they’re essential for mental health.
  • Learning how to incorporate adventure into our lives. We don’t have the funds or the time to plan a European trip but we are finally starting to travel with baby HEB. We’ve visited all our parents (minus one that lives overseas) and have a trip to Charlottesville in the works next month. We’re even going to take our first overnight trip sans baby which is nerve wracking but incredibly exciting. When I feel downtrodden I don’t venture out as much but I know to stay upbeat I need long walks outside on the beach or in the park and so forth. I’m working on making outdoor, physically active time a required part of the weekend.
  • Reevaluating my career. This is easy to do being a new mom back at work. I have struggled over the last 6 months to feel confident in my abilities as a professional. When you are sleep deprived and feeling completely blinded in your home life, it spills over into your work life. Still even when I am feeling confident as a contributing member of my workplace, that often means I feel as though I’m taking away from my time or my focus at home. I don’t plan to leave my job or stop working but still I find myself changing the way I think about work and how it adds value…or doesn’t… to my life as well as I add value to my work.

One of my friends recently learned she’s pregnant and while she’s over the moon elated she also expressed feelings of apprehension, fear and general “what have I gotten myself into”. Everyone gets this idea that you can’t be both grateful and scared, happy and doubtful all at the same time, but every day I’ve experienced so far since becoming a parent is somehow a mix of total elation, frustration and a little jealousy.

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Yesterday Haines was asleep when I picked up from daycare and laid his head on my shoulder as we walked to the car. I could relive that one simple moment all day, with his soft chubby cheek on my shoulder, his sweet baby smell right next to me, his body normally wiggling, finally quiet. So I may, from time to time, mourn freedoms I used to have but I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

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Eight Months Old: Babies Grow Up

Haines turned eight months this week. Eight months. Eight months! This feels like the most incredible shock to me. How has he been in our lives for eight whole months?

Eight months is a baby that wants to get into everything. He’s crawling and pulling up on everything. Stand up with him and he’s walking a few wobbly, happy steps at a time with hands tightly grasping on for help. Each move forward is a little dance- the bouncing of feet and a swivel of the hips.

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Eight months is listening to non-stop babbling and laughter, punctuated by inconsolable wailing. It is teething and a faucet of drool that only stops for spit up. His spit up has reached new heights of grossness as it now comes with food and not just milk.

Eight months is watching the most adorable strawberry blonde tufts of hair peek from behind boxes and toys. The hair isn’t hurrying to grow in but his cradle cap makes it look like more.

Eight months means we finally have a night time sleep schedule with a solid ten hours of uninterrupted baby sleep. It doesn’t mean we have a nap schedule. Sometimes it means bouncing a baby for the whole afternoon while he whimpers. Sometimes it means driving around the lake for an hour. It is still being shockingly tired.

Eight months is less about mom and baby and more about family. There are still struggles to shift responsibilities from one parent to another but mostly, often, it feels good. Mostly it feels like we are partners and not only that, but that we have space for one another again.

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Eight months is a baby whose face is full of love. He watches his dad move around the house with total admiration and fascination. If I smile at him his eyes are so full of light and joy. Do we all start out like this, so in love with the world?

Eight months is having a small sense of routine and how things are supposed to go. There are predictable cries, predictable times of the day and things that just make sense. He’s asking for milk. It’s time for a nap. That whimper means he’s going to start wailing soon. It’s getting to know him.

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Eight months makes it harder to say goodbye in the morning when he’s so playful and interactive. I’m still glad to be at work and to have this outlet but I thought it would get easier to leave him in the morning. It doesn’t.

Eight months means my brain is still foggy but the visibility has improved. I see now how quickly this time passes. I can see now that I’ll get my brain back one day and in the meantime I’m doing fine with what I’ve got.

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My living room at the time of this post. 100% embarrassing- don’t care. 

Eight months is blogging while I hold a sleeping baby with a double ear infection. It is stressing all week about my workload until he’s sent home from daycare and now? Totally letting go. It’s not that important.

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