18 Random Pieces of Toddler Magic

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It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here, mostly because the whirl of mom-life is like a vortex that sucks me in. Every day is so full of Zaza that everything else takes a backseat–and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Life as a parent is packed–not only with to-do lists and errands, but with golden memories that happen in a minute, but will last a lifetime.

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With that in mind, here are 18 random moments of toddler magic that bring a smile to my face on a rainy day–literally or figuratively.

  1. Stroking her soft rosebud skin and silky ringlets as we snuggle and nurse.
  2. Waking up next to her every morning and asking her what she dreamed about.
  3. Indulging her curious mind by answering her many questions. (Her current favorite, “What is this?”)
  4. Her pure, sweet laughter as I push her higher and higher on the swing or spin her around in circles when we dance.
  5. The surprisingly tight grip of her little arms as she squeezes me in a loving hug.
  6. The feeling of her tiny hand in mine as we navigate life’s adventures together.
  7. Inhaling the earthy, mammal-y musk of her hair after a long day of playing outside.
  8. The way she closes her eyes and says, “That’s delightful,” when eating her favorite foods.
  9. Letting the sand exfoliate my feet the natural way as I chase her through the sandbox and climbing frames at the playground.
  10. Seeing her eyes glow with delight when she interacts with animals, whether at the zoo or with random dogs at the park.
  11. Joining her in a state of toddler zen when she basks in the sun and plays in the sand at the beach.
  12. Wondering what she’s dreaming about when she smiles or giggles in her sleep.
  13. The high, sweet tones of her voice as she hums and sings around the house.
  14. Her enthusiasm and eagerness to help with ordinary household chores like cooking, vacuuming, and dusting.
  15. The way that she makes even mundane things like going to the car wash into super fun and exciting events.
  16. The funny and random things she says sometimes, i.e. “I’m going to Central Africa,” and “Milk is my superfood,” and “I like to wake up next to you.”
  17. Getting lost in a good book with her—and listening to her “read” her books from memory when she doesn’t know I’m watching.
  18. And finally, my favorite: The soft touch of her little fingers as she strokes my face and says, “I love everything about you, Mum-mum.”

Parents out there, I hope these made you smile. What are some of your favorite magic moments with your little one? I’d love to hear them!

How I Started Unintentional Baby Led Weaning

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The introduction of solid foods is one of the most important–and potentially fun–milestones in baby’s development. I say “potentially fun” because it’s amazing to watch baby discover new flavors and textures in food…except when it’s not.

Let me explain. When we first started Xaviana on solids, she ate everything we offered, and seemed to love every bite. I used the Baby Bullet to concoct a variety of fresh and delicious purees, and she happily ate them right off the spoon. It was an immensely pleasant experience for all involved, and people often marveled at Xaviana’s adventurous eating.

Then, around month 10, she began to refuse spoon-feeding. If I let her hold the spoon and feed herself, she was fine (although covered in food). But if I tried to help her eat, she usually cried and grabbed for the utensil.

At first I thought she just needed something to occupy her busy hands during feedings. After all, she enjoys rubbing and pinching my skin while nursing. (It feels awesome, almost like a myofascial release massage, but that’s a subject for another blog post.) So I tried giving her toys or a spoon while using another spoon to feed her. This worked for a while, but unfortunately, my little monkey is too smart to accept that trickery for long. I decided that I would simply let her feed herself, and we thus began our unintentional journey into the world of baby led weaning.

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Baby led weaning (BLW), sometimes called baby led feeding, is the technique of introducing solids into baby’s diet as soft finger foods, without using a spoon or making any purees. Non-finger foods may be offered with a spoon so that baby can learn to use one. I was skeptical of this approach when I initially introduced solids, mostly because Xaviana was eating so well from the spoon, but since her mini-rebellion, BLW has been a lifesaver.

Technically, we’re doing a variation of BLW, since I still serve Xaviana some of her favorite purees, like sweet potatoes and avocado, but I let her go to town with them instead of spoon-feeding her. She eats these, as well as her Greek yogurt and oatmeal, with a combination of her fingers and a spoon. I also began serving her small portions of the family meals, such as salmon, chili, and chicken, either cut into small, manageable chunks or shredded in the Baby Bullet. Finally, I introduced her to veggie spears, baby carrots, fruit chunks, toast strips, pita bread, and other easy-to-munch finger foods.

Our mealtime flexibility paid off–Xaviana seems to love self-feeding, and she’s getting better at it every day. Sure, some food gets dropped, but I’ve noticed that more and more has been making it to her mouth lately. Yesterday, she fed herself a heaping spoonful of sweet potatoes–yay for hand-eye coordination! Mealtimes are more pleasant, and best of all, Xaviana is eating well at the table and at the breast!

Moms out there, what are your experiences with introducing solids? Are you a fan of BLW, traditional spoon-feeding, or a fusion of the two? I’d love to hear your experiences!

Our Babies, Our Moods: How Our Little Ones Pick Up on Our Moods

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My seven-month-old daughter Xaviana is a happy little person. She smiles and giggles her way through each day, and rarely fusses. Even as her first two bottom teeth began to poke through, she remained pretty much unperturbed.

One day last week, however, she was super-whiny. She didn’t want to play, or nap, or do much of anything, for that matter. I’d started my morning in a grumpy mood as well, and as the day progressed, I became more tired and grouchy by the minute. I don’t know whether the root cause of my bad mood had been hormones, lack of sleep, or the “May-gray” that had hit San Diego with a vengeance, but I was definitely not feeling like myself.

Happy mom = happy baby!

Happy mom = happy baby!

I discussed my random irritations with Antonio, and he was able to lift me out of my doldrums. He said something that made me laugh, and Xaviana, who had been watching the whole exchange, looked at me and giggled, too. At that moment, it hit me: my bad mood had rubbed off on her. She’s used to seeing her dad and me relaxed and upbeat, and my annoyance with nothing in particular had caused her to be just that.

It turns out that there’s a scientific basis to this phenomenon of mood mirroring. A recent study measured the heart rates and emotions of 12 to 14-month-old babies whose moms were given stressful tasks, and found that the little ones seemed to “track” their moms’ stress responses. Moms’ and babies’ stress responses (increased heart rates) mirrored each other. Researchers theorized that moms’ cues, such as vocal tension and facial expression, had influenced their babies’ moods.

Moms out there, do your good and bad days seem to coincide with those of your little ones? Have you heard of any other interesting studies on mood tracking in moms and babies? I’d love to hear your thoughts!