Homeschool

Preschool Ocean Unit Study

We finished up Jameson’s first year of homeschool preschool a few weeks ago (hooray!) but we were only done for a few days before he was begging me to do “more school” haha! I’d been planning on doing a unit on the ocean for a few months now, sometime in between preschool and the start of his pre-k year. I thought I’d give us a couple of weeks of break before diving into the ocean (heh. get it?) but Jameson was adamant about starting ASAP as possible (The Office reference. Anyone? Anyone?). I wasn’t about to deny that so I quickly gathered some last minute supplies and forward we charged!

Some evidence of a very fun time with this unit! 😊

It turned out to be such a fun two weeks that I decided to write up a whole post about the topics and activities we covered. The nice thing about planning your own unit study is that you can choose activities specific to what you know your kids will enjoy and specific to what you know they need to work on. Some homeschoolers choose to teach primarily through the unit study approach, but I see our unit studies as a way to expand upon on our structured curriculum and/or go deeper with specific things that spark curiosity. The planning process can take some time up front but I’ve found that interspersing the unit studies throughout our usual curriculum gives us the chance to explore those certain topics more thoroughly while also giving us the chance to enjoy a change of pace. One of the beauties of home education! We’ve done a unit on farms, a unit on bees, a unit on France, a unit on trees, and now a unit on the ocean! I’m hoping that by writing out my lesson plans for this unit, it’ll help take some of the planning out for someone else.

We did seven days total, three the first week and four the following. Each day centered on a specific ocean topic (coral reefs, tide pools, cool critters, etc.) with fun activities planned around those topics and chosen to target the major preschool subjects and areas of development:

  1. Read Alouds
  2. Phonics
  3. Math
  4. Fine Motor Skills
  5. Gross Motor Skills
  6. Science/Art/Sensory (rotated or combined depending on the day)
  7. Practical Life Skills
  8. **Morning Time, which we do over breakfast, includes Bible, music, poetry, and calendar work

I made sure to label each activity in the lesson plans below so you know exactly which area you’re targeting! Although most of the time, one activity will naturally help your child work on several different skills at once. 😊

This is a mostly complete photo of the books we used for this unit! There were a few others I added to the stack as our requests came in from the library, and as I found them from amongst the hordes of other books in our home. 😅

We used the Usborne “Big Book of Sea Creatures” (which was sort of an impulse buy at the Homeschool Convention a few weekends ago) literally every single day. We also used “Nature Anatomy” by Julia Rothman frequently to look up specific facts.

And I really can’t say enough wonderful things about “A First Book of the Sea” by Nicola Davies! I picked it up from the library on a whim, not really knowing what it contained but figuring we could find some use for it during the unit. Oh my! We used it every single day during our morning time for poetry! It’s an absolutely gorgeous collection of short poems/stories and the loveliest illustrations that truly captured our hearts and delighted us to no end! You’ll see it listed in each morning time section below. I would flip through it the night before and find a few selections that pertained to our daily theme and we’d read those, and usually several others because they were just so lovely. I will likely add this book to our permanent collection!

We also enjoyed a variety of YouTube videos on specific topics, watched “Finding Nemo” for our family movie night the first week, and watched all of the original Magic School Bus episodes (via Netflix) pertaining to the ocean throughout those two weeks as part of the kids’ 25ish minutes of daily screen time.

Anyway, enough blabbering from me. Let’s dive on in, the water’s fine!

DAY ONE – INTRO TO THE OCEAN

Morning Time

Read Alouds

Daily Activities

Phonics/Practical Life Skills: Find the names of the major oceans in our map book and then label them on our large world wall map.

I had Jameson look at the names of each ocean and tell me which letters to write on the Post-It. Then we found the right placement for them on the wall map above us.

Math: Sort and count ocean animals; identify numerals.

We used our Safari Toob ocean animals, plus a few other ocean animals we had lying around the house, and worked on sorting them into categories (marine mammals, fish, etc.). Then Jameson counted how many animals were in each category and assigned the correct numeral card to them.

Fine Motor: Place ocean animal stickers in the ocean zone they are typically found in.

We looked at “Wish for a Fish” for this one and tried our best to put the animals in the correct zones, although we didn’t have too many for the Dark Zone or the Abyss. Jameson loved this one and Nora loved putting stickers all over. 😊

Gross Motor (not pictured): Ocean animal actions. I called out the name of an animal and an action it might do and we all ran around the house attempting to do it haha! (Ex: dive like a dolphin, chomp like a shark, slither like an eel, wiggle like a jellyfish, etc.)

Science: Ocean zones in a jar.

This was a fun one! We followed this tutorial. I do wish we had used just a bit less food coloring for the Abyss because it was hard to see, but it was still cool to learn about density and water temperatures and sunlight levels in the ocean. Plus another fun way to learn about what types of creatures live in each zone. Again, we used “Wish for a Fish.”

DAY TWO – TIDE POOLS

Morning Time

Read Alouds

Daily Activities

Phonics/Fine Motor: Starfish letter match.

I drew a few little starfish guys with different letters on each arm (mostly letters I thought Jameson should review) and wrote the corresponding upper or lowercase letters on clothespins. Then Jameson matched them up.

Math: Crab claw game (identifying numerals).

I wrote out numerals 1-10, placed a shell on each one, and then had Jameson flip over his numeral cards one by one. He would identify the numeral, locate that same numeral on his sheet, and then use some salad tongs (aka a crab claw) to pick up the shell that was on top.

Gross Motor (not pictured): Tide pool actions. Like with the ocean animal actions, I called out the name of a sea creature (ones that like to hang out in tide pools) as well as an action it might do and then we had fun trying to act it out. (Ex: stretch like a starfish, crawl like a hermit crab, snap like a clam, etc.)

Art: Seashell discovery and paint.

The kids just loved this one! I set up a little discovery station for the shells and we had so much fun trying to classify the types we had and enjoying all the pretty designs and patterns that God has created! I let the kids try pressing them into kinetic sand and later we got out the paints and the kids went to town creating some lovely shell art.

Practical Life Skills: Tide pool sensory bin. (I classified it as “practical life skills” because #1, they were learning together about tide pools and the creatures that live in them and #2, a certain toddler had to learn some self-control and remember to not splash water all over the kitchen).

Did you know the the epaulette shark can come ashore and “walk” across the sand and through tide pools?!

This was a favorite activity for both kids! I did the work of setting it up using sand, plastic plants, some rocks, sparkly gem stones, shells, and of course tide pool creatures. Then I added water and the kids had a blast exploring!

Additional activity: Wise Man vs. Foolish Man experiment.

I got this idea from my sister who recently did an ocean unit with her kids! In the story we read during our morning time from Matthew 7, we learned about the foolish man who built his house on the sand and the wise man who built his house upon the rock. When the rains and the floods (and maybe the tides?) came in, the foolish man’s house sank into the sand and was destroyed but the wise man’s house stood firmly on the rock (the Lord!). We had a great discussion about this and I think it helped Jameson to see it for himself.

DAY THREE – CORAL REEFS

Morning Time

Read Alouds

Daily Activities

Phonics: Feed the Shark Game using letters and sounds.

This wasn’t in my original lesson plan but I thought it would be a fun addition! The kids had a blast with it! I printed and cut out a shark (which you can find for free here), glued it to a cardboard box we had lying around the house, and then set out our letter flashcards and gem stones. Jameson and I took turns rolling the letter ball from Scattergories and identifying the uppercase letters and their most common sound(s). Then we found their corresponding lowercase magnetic letters and fed them to the shark!

Math (not pictured): Play “Go Fish.” What a great game for practicing math skills!

Fine Motor: Coral Reef Sensory Bins.

I gave each kid a little container with kinetic sand and set out some cut up pipe cleaners (to represent the coral), some shells, and some sea creatures who might live in a coral reef. I watched as they created their own coral reefs! Corals come in so many gorgeous shapes and colors so I encouraged the kids to get creative with how the bent and twisted the colorful pipe cleaners.

Gross Motor: I didn’t really have a specific gross motor activity planned for this day, but that’s okay! Kids get tons of practice with these skills just by playing and being kids. 🙂

Art: Coral reef blow painting.

We followed this tutorial for the coral painting, used the book “Swimmy” as inspiration for adding some lace watercolor seaweed (it didn’t work too well), and then finished off the project with stickers of animals who might live in a coral reef. I had fun painting up a quick copy of Mister Seahorse from Eric Carle’s book. 🙂

Practical Life (not pictured) : Watch a YouTube video on the Great Barrier Reef, locate the reef on the wall map, and label it. We learned that the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world (also it’s where Nemo is supposed to live haha!) and that it supports life for a huge variety of sea creatures.

DAY FOUR – SHARKS AND MINNOWS

Morning Time

Read Alouds

Daily Activities

Phonics/Gross Motor: Fishing for letters.

This is a tried and true way that we review letters and their sounds! I set up the laundry basket and gave Jameson the trusty salad tongs as his fishing pole and then set out the letters (aka fish) around his “boat.” His job was to catch a “fish” and then tell me its name and its sound. He loves any kind of phonics review that involves gross motor skills as well. And Nora made a good first mate. 😉

Math: Hungry Shark Math.

I used this free printable and slipped it inside one of our reusable dry erase sleeves. I wrote out a few math problems for him and we used goldfish as our counters. I was expecting it to be more for practice with identifying numerals and as a brief introduction to written subtraction problems, but he caught on shockingly quick and ended the game by writing out a problem for me to solve! Then we snacked on the yummy fish. 😋

Science: How sharks float experiment.

So much fun!!! We followed this tutorial and learned that one of the ways sharks can float so easily in the water is that they have very large, oily livers. Since oil is less dense (aka lighter) than water, the sharks are able to float more easily. I filled one balloon with dish soap (to make it more obvious that it would sink) and one with canola oil. I also drew some very artistic sharky faces on each of them. I asked Jameson what he thought might happen when each was placed in the water and then we tested his hypotheses.

Art/Fine Motor: Rainbow Fish paper plate craft.

We used our beloved Crayola Washable Tempera Paints to paint our fishies and stamp on rainbow scales with a cut up paper towel roll. We glued on googly eyes, fins, and a shiny tin foil scale to finish them up.

Practical Life Skills (not pictured): Act out “The Rainbow Fish” story and list ways to be kind to others. Narration and list-making are both important skills throughout life so we practiced both using “The Rainbow Fish.” We acted out the story with Jameson as the Rainbow Fish and then came up with a list of other ways to show kindness to others and treat them as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

DAY FIVE – COOL CRITTERS

Morning Time

Read Alouds

Daily Activities

Phonics (not pictured): Practice rhyming. This wasn’t necessarily ocean-themed (although we did rhyme with the word “fish”) but rhyming is a very important precursor to fluent reading so I like to sneak it in whenever I can.

Math/Fine Motor: Jellyfish bead stringing (identifying numerals and counting).

I made a couple of silly jellyfish using a paper plate and some pipe cleaners and then encouraged Jameson to identify the numerals above each “tentacle” and string the right number of beads for each. He got tired of this after the first few tentacles so I helped him finish and he counted along with me.

Gross Motor (not pictured): Play octopus hide-and-seek. One of the coolest things we learned this day was about how octopuses can change their colors and textures to blend in with their surroundings. We practiced this skill by trying to camouflage ourselves around the house in a game of hide-and-seek.

Art: Ocean salt process painting.

This was a super cool one. Jameson made a design using liquid glue on some cardstock and then I sprinkled it with salt. He used watercolors to drop on the salty glue and we watched as they spread and blended together.

Practical Life Skills (not pictured): Look up jellyfish facts. I always like to encourage Jameson to look in a book when he has a question so we used our “Nature Anatomy” book to discover some facts about jellyfish.

Additional activities (not pictured): Look up videos on cool critters that sparked interested (octopuses, jellyfish, etc.) and complete our Jonah and the Big Fish Floor Puzzle (always a hit!).

DAY SIX – SEA TURTLES & OCEAN CURRENTS

Morning Time

Read Alouds

I had some trouble finding good sea turtle books from our library for some reason! But we filled in the gaps with a couple of YouTube videos. 🙂

Daily Activities

Phonics (not pictured): Trace the alphabet. Not ocean-themed but I wanted to work this into our schedule since Jameson enjoys it.

Math: Count turtle eggs from sensory/fine motor activity (see below).

Sensory/Fine Motor:Life Cycle of a Sea Turtle Sensory Bin.

The kids love any sensory bin and this was no exception! I used our kinetic sand and blue gem stones (for the water) to set it up and added in our turtle figures as well as some white beads to represent the turtle eggs. We learned about how sea turtles come ashore to lay and bury their eggs and how the babies make their way back to the ocean to grow up and then start the process again later in life by laying their own eggs on the same beach where they were hatched. The kids had fun acting this out and Nora kept shouting “CUUUUUTE!!!” at the baby turtle. 😂

Gross Motor (not pictured): Act out the life cycle of the sea turtle. Similarly, we acted out a sea turtle’s journey ourselves! We pretended to be sea turtles hurtling through the ocean on currents to get places faster, then pretended to crawl ashore and bury some eggs. Then we pretended to be the baby turtles hatching and following the moonlight to the sea, battling seabirds and crabs and other enemies in the sand along the way. Once we made it back to the big ol’ blue, we pretended to zoom around the house on ocean currents again as adult sea turtles.

Science: Ocean Current Experiment.

This was kind of a bust, but you can try it for yourself using this tutorial. The warm red water (representing the currents) was supposed to created swirly current patterns when poured into the cold blue water (representing the rest of the ocean). But maybe our temperatures were a bit off because we got a few little swirls but not enough see some real currents. Jameson still had fun playing with his ocean current animals though. 😊

Practical Life Skills (not pictured): Find the East Australian Current on wall map and label it. I wrote this activity in mostly because we had watched “Finding Nemo” that week as part of this unit and we all love the sea turtle scene on the EAC. 🙂

DAY SEVEN – ARCTIC AND ANTARCTIC SEA LIFE

Morning Time

  • Read the story of Jesus walking on water in children’s Bible
  • Song (“Peace like a River“) – my kids loved this one and requested to listen multiple times!
  • Poetry from “A First Book of the Sea
  • Calendar work

Read Alouds

Daily Activities

Phonics: “If I lived in the ocean…” writing prompt.

I love any chance to encourage story telling and critical thinking in kids so this was a must! I saved it for the last day of the unit so that he’d have some good information to center his thoughts on. I asked him the question, had him dictate his answer to me while I recorded it on my phone so I wouldn’t miss anything, and then wrote it down for him. Then I read it back to him. He LOVED hearing his thoughts read aloud from the paper by me!

Math (not pictured): Feed the Shark using numerals. Like the first day we did this I set up our cardboard box shark, but this time we used numeral cards and our gem stones. Jameson and I took turns flipping over the cards, identifying the numeral, and then feeding the shark the correct number of gems.

Fine Motor/Gross Motor: Arctic Sea Animal Rescue.

Old faithful right here, folks! My kids ADORE this activity! The night before, I grabbed some of our arctic animal toys and froze them in containers filled with water. Then I gave them some play tools and we went outside to try and “rescue” our animals from their frozen captivity. I encouraged the kids to try a variety of methods for rescuing the animals (smashing the ice, dropping the ice from different heights, and using warm water to melt the ice). This activity is really so good for so many concepts and kids just love it!

Science: Salt Water Egg Float.

Nora made an appearance. 😂

Pretty standard but still fun as a visual! We learned that the ocean is made up of salty water, and the salt makes the water more dense than freshwater. We filled one glass with regular tap water and the other with tap water/salt added in and predicted what the egg would do in each. Then we tested!

Practical Life Skills (not pictured): Act out “The Three Snow Bears.” Another great opportunity to recall and retell a story (aka narrate it). This story is a take on the classic “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” but with polar bears in the Arctic! I set up stations around the house (three soup bowls, three pairs of shoes, and three beds) for Jameson to try out, just like Aloo-ki from the book.

Additional Activities (not pictured): Look up YouTube videos on animals that sparked interest (for us that was polar bears, penguins, and beluga whales. Nora once again kept screaming “CUUUUUTE!!!” at all the animals).

To finish up the unit (as we do with most of our unit studies) we had a little themed snack party at the end! We worked together to make sugar cookie dough and then cut the cookies out using ocean animal cutters. Then we enjoyed our treat along with our current chapter book read aloud, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl. 😊

I hope you enjoyed perusing our journey through the sea with this unit! We sure had a blast learning and playing together! Have you ever done a unit study? Which of these activities might you try with your own kids? I’d love to know! 😊

Happy sailing!

All Things Curly, Helpful Tidbits, Products + Reviews

Curly Hair Care (Nora’s Routine // 16 months)

It’s been a bit since I’ve written for my blog. It’s been a bit since I’ve written anything at all (besides the occasional Facebook post). Life is busy with my two busy little ones. The best kind of busy of course! But busy nonetheless. I feel like we’re always on the go and nap times rarely overlap for very long. So you could say that I’m not exactly drowning in free time.

I’ve come to realize, though, that if I keep waiting for my ideal time to write…kids both napping, quiet house, sunlight streaming through the window, perhaps a light breeze, cup of coffee resting beside me…it just ain’t gonna happen. So instead, here I am, sitting on the floor of Nora’s room, typing this post on my phone as she crawls literally all over me and pulls the blinds down onto my head.

I’m writing, though, THAT’S WHAT COUNTS! And at least I’m by a window. Even if I could maybe do without the blinds smashing into my head.

The reason I feel like it’s so important that I write today is summed in two words: CURLY HAIR. I’ve been meaning to write something on this topic for awhile now but alas, the whole waiting-for-unobtainable-picturesque-writing-conditions was happening and I kept putting it off. But I’d really like to keep a running summary of Nora’s curly hair journey — or, more likely, this straight-haired mama’s journey in figuring out how to care for her daughter’s really curly hair.

To be fair, in my research of this topic I’ve come to discover that my hair is not actually straight like I always kind of thought. It’s pretty wavy in fact and, with some work, actually has a few random ringlets underneath. But it’s nothing compared to the gorgeous (albeit, strong-willed) curls sprouting up from all angles of my daughter’s head. And, besides, I’ve been treating my hair like it was straight all my life anyway so I came to this situation — a truly curly baby girl — with absolutely no experience and NO idea what I was doing.

The first sign of curl, Nora at 1 month old.

I researched here and there when I noticed Nora’s very first curls (“Hmmm, that’s odd,” I thought. “Her hair doesn’t lie flat.”). I picked up a few good tips…NEVER dry brush curly hair. DON’T EVEN THINK about washing it every day, or even every other day (unless something really gnarly gets gunked up in there). TOWELS = FRIZZ. Skip the shampoo and moisturize, moisturize, moisturize with conditioner instead. And for goodness sake, DO NOT RAKE YOUR FINGERS THROUGH THE RINGLETS. Unless, of course, you enjoy the look of a dandelion.

When Nora was about 9 months old I picked up a container of Shea Moisture Kids Coconut Hibiscus Curling Butter Cream (phew! that’s a mouthful) and used it for containing the frizz. But still, I was way out of my element. I didn’t know what I was going to do once Nora’s hair got a bit thicker and longer.

(Some of my first attempts at using product in her hair pictured below)

Luckily a friend of mine (who has really curly hair) introduced me to the Curly Girl Method before the stakes were very high with Nora’s hair. This friend (bless her!) added me to the Facebook group for the Curly Girl Method and I devoured the information. I read everything posted in the albums, scrolled through tons of posts from real life curly girls, and moved on to YouTube to learn more. I cobbled together information on everything from the general rules of the method (no silicones, no sulfates, no parabens, no high heat) to products and techniques. And I’m still nowhere close to having it figured out!

Nora at 11 months.

I’ve since read “Curly Girl: The Handbook” by Lorraine Massey, which is where this whole method stems from. (Side note: I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about healthy hair care in general, but especially to those with curly or wavy hair. Or those like me who have a child blessed with beautiful curly locks that you desperately wish to bring out the best in.)

Baby curls just waiting to bloom! Nora at 8 months.

Fortunately everything I was using in Nora’s hair was already “curly girl method approved” so I didn’t have to change much. I switched out her shampoo for a co-wash (aka “conditioner wash,” which is more hydrating for curls) and added a leave-in conditioner (which was the thing that made the biggest difference of all). I kept the Shea Moisture curling butter cream.

Getting the hang of things! (12 months old)

Her hair routine is very simple with just one product plus a leave-in conditioner, and I’m planning on sticking with it for as long as it works. But I do realize that curly hair is an ever-changing glorious beast so I’m sure I’ll be following up with this series whenever we switch things around.

I want to keep track, in part, for my own benefit in case I have another child someday with equally curly hair and I need to reference back to products and techniques I enjoyed. But I also want to do this in case it can help anyone else struggling to find something that works for their curly babe. Much of the information I found in my initial research was either for older kids, or for babies with multicultural hair. Some of the tips still applied but Nora’s hair is totally different in texture and curl type (and thus, its needs) and the technique is way different on a baby with very little hair versus a child with long, thick hair.

So here it is, Nora’s hair routine. If you’ve read this far I am both honored and impressed. 😂 I know I can be long-winded about things I care about but I do hope this information is helpful to someone else just starting out on their curly journey!

NORA’S CURLY HAIR ROUTINE – 16 MONTHS

Background Info

  • Hair density: very fine
  • Curl type: 3a/3b with what I think are some cute little 3c’s by her neck (more info on finding out your curl type can be found here)
  • Porosity: medium/normal from what I can tell
  • Protein/Moisture Levels: balanced
3a curls on top, 3b all around
3c curls by her neck

Wash Routine (once or twice a week)

  • Fully wet hair and cleanse with As I Am Coconut Cowash if she needs it, otherwise skip to the next step…
  • Condition with a pump of Not Your Mother’s Naturals Curl Defining Conditioner (pink bottle)
  • Use fingers to detangle and work conditioner through. Then use a mini Wet Brush to comb and disperse the conditioner evenly throughout her hair.
  • Slick it back and twirl it into one large curl (she looks like a 1950’s greaser at this point) and let the conditioner sit and do its thing for a few minutes while I wash her body.
  • Rinse some of the conditioner out but leave enough in to keep it feeling smooth.
  • Gently pick up small sections of hair (which has been slicked flat by water) and twist them a bit to get the curl formation back all over her head.
  • Pat dry with clean t-shirt or other cotton material.

Product Application & Styling

**If starting with dry (aka fuzzball) hair…I spray her hair with water until very wet, gently grabbing small sections of hair in my hands and pulling up and out to smooth the curls back into their natural clumps and lift the hair from sticking to her scalp. (Sort of the roping technique, modified for short hair.)

  • Spritz in 4-5 small sprays of Not Your Mother’s Leave-In Conditioner (yellow bottle) to soaking wet (or at least very damp) hair, concentrating on the back/thickest parts of her hair.
  • Pull up gently on sections of her hair and twist to re-clump the curls into their natural pattern. (Finger coiling technique)
  • Take about a dime-sized dollop of Shea Moisture Kids Curling Butter Cream and emulsify it in palms then use a combination of the roping technique + finger coiling to make sure every curl is covered. **I avoid raking my fingers through her hair as this separates her curls too much and makes her hair poofy when it dries.
  • If she’s still sitting nicely after all this (hahahahaha good one) I will finger coil more of her curls to get them into bigger curl clumps.
  • Air dry until it’s like 110% dry, then fluff out the curls (scrunch out the crunch technique, but for short hair) and separate a few of the finger coiled curl clumps to add more volume.
The spring factor is real, y’all.

That’s it! It kind of seems like a lot written out but it really only takes about 5 minutes on no-wash days. Maybe a little longer when I have to chase her around the house applying product haphazardly as she giggles and wiggles her little self away.

Again, we only use the one product (Shea Moisture Curling Butter Cream, I don’t count the leave-in conditioner as a product) and it’s providing enough hold for now since her hair is still baby-fine.

The more I research and learn, the more in love with curly hair I fall — especially the curls on my daughter! Her hair is everything she is…wild and free-spirited and strong-willed and unique and tons of fun. And…absolutely beautiful. I hope, one day, she sees her curls as a gift to be so thankful for. I’m glad that I get to be the one to remind her just how lovely they are.

Until next time, friends! Stay curly.

Nora Monthly

12 Months of Nora

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Woooowwweeee am I late on this! Like almost a month late?! Definitely the latest I’ve been on any of these updates, but it’s the last one soooo…. Oh well. Nora is officially ONE (and has been for almost a month hahah) and we’re headed straight for toddlerhood! I feel like we were just here with Jameson and now it’s Nora’s turn. It goes so so quickly!

Here’s what’s new for Nora in her twelfth month!

Weight & Length: She had her one-year-old well visit to the doctor just after she turned one and everything looks great! She’s in the 17th percentile for height (2 ft, 4.25 in) and the 32nd for weight, weighing in at 18 lbs 11 oz. Little peanut! This was actually about a pound less than last month which either means my home scale isn’t too accurate or she lost a little weight (could be possible with how active she is/how she’s scaling back on her nursing). Our pediatrician isn’t concerned at all, though, and Nora is meeting or exceeding all of her milestones.

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Clothing: Still in 12 month or 12-18 month things, although some things from Old Navy have to be the 6-12 month size since she’s tiny. I finally got her some long-sleeved shirts and dresses since it’s cooling down over here, especially in the morning. But I cannot find shoes for her that I like! I feel like this shouldn’t be too hard but it is. Her feet are small and skinny that almost everything in her size I’ve found is like…a fake shoe. Like the ones you put on infants. No support or padding whatsoever, just these flimsy little pieces of cotton. And the few other options I’ve found in her size are covered in hot pink glitter or gaudy flowers and that ain’t gonna fly with me. So the hunt is still on for Nora’s first real pair of shoes and I’ll keep you all posted because I know this is absolutely riveting.

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Eyes & Hair: The two things she gets complimented on the most. 🙂 I would say the hair even more so these days because of how insanely curly it is! I’ve been researching in my spare time on how to care for curly hair and it’s way more intense and technical than I ever would’ve thought. High porosity versus low porosity, protein needs, the science behind sulfates and silicones and parabens…not to mention all the categories of curly hair types. I think I’ve figured out that her hair is type 3a/3b and I know I’ll be avoiding anything with sulfates/silicones/parabens to try and keep her curls as healthy as possible. But that’s about it so far. Her hair is still very babyish and not grown in thickly enough for me to do much else yet. And besides, I realize that curly hair is an ever-changing beast anyway haha! I’ll probably be trying new products and techniques for as long as I’m in charge of her hair care. Hopefully I find something that works well so I can give her a good start on loving her curls.

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How it looks just after a bath.

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Such beautiful baby blues!

Sleep: We had a rough patch of sleep this month where she was napping 40 minutes per day TOTAL for almost a week straight. It was absolutely exhausting for all of us. But she’s since gotten back into the swing of things, napping for maybe 3 hours total per day split into two naps, although not necessarily split evenly. She sleeps fairly well at night too but still wakes up eaaaarly, like 5:30-6am. Yay.

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Eating: She is such a joy to feed! Complete opposite of her brother at this age. She will try anything and likes almost everything, even broccoli. I’m writing this a little after her first birthday/party so she had her first official dessert (a piece of cake) and she loved it of course! Her favorite food in the world is probably blueberries but she’ll seriously eat whatever and gets mad if you don’t share. She’s starting to notice if I give her something different than the rest of us have and boy does she get peeved. She usually nurses before naps but that’s about it. The rest is solid foods!

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Milestones: She’s walking so much these days! In typical Nora fashion she just up and decided she could do it out of nowhere, with barely any warning. One day a couple weeks ago she decided she preferred walking to crawling and now exclusively walks around the house. She can stand by herself straight up from the ground and her balance is getting better too, although she’s still adorably clumsy. She points at everything as if asking the names for things, and likes to copy the words I say. She has six teeth total now (four on top, two on bottom) and can climb stairs (and into the ottoman) at lightning speed!

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Communication: She knows the sound for lions (“What does the lion say, Nora?” “Rrrrrr!”) and said her first official word this month, “up!” No surprise there haha! Now she says a few things independently (“mama” and “dada” and “no no” and “ah dun” for all done) and will say “Jame” for Jameson if I model it for her. And like I said, she’ll copy many of the words we say. She is so careful to observe my mouth when I’m talking to see how I form the sounds and I can tell she’ll be quite the chatterbox when she’s older. She’s sooo loud and pretty much constantly chattering on about something or other in her own language (“weedoeweedoe!”). It’s adorable and her little voice is so cute and small. She understands so much of what we say and it’s been fun to interact and play more!

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Loves: Climbing inside our big ottoman to play with the DVDs, crawling all over the bed or couch, climbing up into Jameson’s toddler bed and jumping, moseying around under the kitchen table and chairs, trying to get inside the dishwasher, taking all the wet clothes out of the dryer as I’m trying to load it up, reading books, playing outside, FOOD, shouting about things, dancing to music, Alex’s guitar playing, climbing inside the fridge and/or freezer, and bath time.

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Hates: Crawling on grass (she bear crawls so her knees won’t touch, or just stands up instead). When I tell her no about something she was psyched about (she will just fold in half and lay her head on the floor and cry, it’s so sad and ridiculous). When you strap her into her carseat (after we get going she’s fine). And sitting still for more than a few seconds (church time is heading into the challenging stage since we have family-integrated services and keep the kids with us for the whole time). She also hates when I am not holding her almost 24/7.

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Things I want to remember: How you copy everything that Jameson does and laugh every time Jameson laughs (even when you don’t know what was funny). How you crawl really fast with your mouth in a wide open smile, breathing really loudly, towards exciting things. How you point at everything and say “da” quite confidently, as if that is the name for everything. How proud you get when you walk around by yourself. The way you gently rest your little fuzzy head on Daddy’s shoulder when he comes home from work. How you jump away all wide-eyed from contraband items when you’re caught and I shout, “Hey Nora what are you doing!!!!” The way you dance along to goofy songs or beats I make up on the spot. And that hilarious/creepy face you keep doing with your tongue (you stick it out just a bit and wiggle it really fast back and forth hahaha).

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The creepy tongue face haha!

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From when we went to Mother Nature’s Farm on her first birthday.

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Nora, this year with you has been so filled with love and fun and giggles and happiness. You bring SUCH joy to our lives and complete our family in ways we didn’t even know we needed. I’ve learned so much about who God is calling me to be through knowing you and for that I am forever thankful. I hope you had a wonderful first trip around the sun, my littlest love! Here’s to year two! ❤

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Nora Monthly

Eleven Months of Nora

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Well this is it, folks! The last Nora update before she turns ONE!!! (*sob*) After that I’ll switch to yearly updates for her like I do with Jameson. I’ll still post other things here and there and I’m hoping to keep up with some school-related posts too, since I just started homeschool preschool with Jameson this week. 🙂

This year has honestly gone by so fast. Twelve months is nothing. It absolutely flew. Here’s what’s new for our sweet NoJo girl at eleven months old…

Weight & Length: She’s right around 19 pounds (about a pound more than last month) but I won’t know about her length and percentiles until next month at her one-year-old appointment (I honestly thought I typed that by mistake for a second, HOW IS SHE ALMOST ONE THO?!).

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Clothing: She’s in 12 month clothes for the most part now unless it’s from Old Navy or Gymboree and then it’s their 6-12 month size. I have yet to buy her (or Jameson) any fall/winter clothes since it’s still soooo hot here. Like 100 degrees every day. In a way, though, that’s good because by the time we need long sleeves and pants in AZ all the fall stuff will be on sale so I’ll be able to buy it for cheap! Probably the only good thing about missing out on the nice fall weather. 😦

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Probably my favorite outfit that she’s ever worn. Or that anyone has ever worn.

Eyes & Hair: Eyes are still blue and hair is still wildly curly! As my sister put it the other day, “Wow, Nora’s hair is getting so…tall.” Hahaha. It is. It’s tall. And wide. It’s becoming a bit of a fro, actually. And if there’s no product in it she looks like a fuzzy little dandelion. I love it though!!! I love seeing her big fluffy hair bopping all over the house! Just kills me dead. We switched to curly-hair-specific shampoo this month but I haven’t gotten her any conditioner yet. It seems to be working for the time being, as long as I also put some of her Shea Moisture Kids Curling Butter Cream in it. The problem is her hair is so fine that it doesn’t hold product very well. That, combined with the fact that she’s a baby and she’s constantly wrestling and rolling and smashing her head into pillows or whatever, means that her hair is most often a giant fluffball. I feel like we’re just going to be in a kind of awkward fuzzy stage for awhile until she gets more volume and length. Which, because her ringlets are so tight, could be a loooong time.

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How her hair looks with no product in it haha! My little dandelion. ❤

Sleep: Her naps are fairly consistently good (an hour and a half in the morning around 9am, and an hour and a half in the afternoon around 1 or 2). She goes to bed for the night around 7:30 and is up and at ’em by 6am or 6:30 at the latest. She quit waking up and trying to party in the middle of the night, but she does still wake up around 4am wanting to nurse. Alex brings her into our bed and we snuggle until she wakes up for real a little later. I’m giving her until she turns one with this habit and then I think we’re going to try and break it. She definitely doesn’t need to nurse during the night but I know it’s more of a comfort thing so I’m okay with it for a little while longer.

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Eating: She looooves to eat! She’ll shout at you if she notices you’re eating something and not sharing with her. We’ve let her try most everything we eat by now, except for peanut butter, honey, and desserts. She’ll get a cupcake on her birthday, though, and I’m so excited to see how she reacts! She doesn’t even know that kind of food exists! She still nurses here and there throughout the day, and still likes her 4am feed like I said. No end in sight for breastfeeding and that’s just fine with me!

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Milestones:  She’s standing independently for long periods of time now and has even attempted to take a step several times! She doesn’t quite have the balance and coordination for it yet but it’s coming soon. She got THREE new teeth this month (the top two and the one right next to them on the right…I have no idea what it’s called hahah). She’s also still getting the one on the left. It’s been…rough. Teething makes for a cranky and clingy Nora, who is already inclined to clinginess. She’s been in my arms most of the month and it’s been exhausting. But she’s got three new teeth to show for it and hopefully after this last one busts through she’ll be in a better mood.

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Communication: I can tell she understands a lot of familiar words and I think I’ve seen her sign “milk” a couple of times. She also tries to wave her finger for “no, no, no” and will remind herself of the off-limit areas just like Jameson used to do when he was a baby. Her babbling has changed this month and sounds more like jargon (“weedoe beedoe” instead of just “dadada” or “mamama”). She copies Jameson as often as she can and she loves to play “Where’s Nora?”

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Loves: Food and drinking water from her sippy cup, wrestling Jameson, music and dancing, pulling all the books off the shelves (especially the paperback ones), throwing all our DVDs out of the ottoman, chasing the vacuum, playing with things she shouldn’t touch, baths, reading (favorites are “Brown Bear Brown Bear” and a touch and feel baby animals book we have), and jumping on the little trampoline my parents have at their house.

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“Why can’t I go in yet?!”

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Hates: When I leave the room without her, when we make her lay still for diaper changes, and being left out of things. She’s also getting a lot more sensitive to things that are a little scary (she got scared watching the movie “Up” the other day).

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The face she makes when I do something so rude, like chop vegetables instead of pick her up.

Things I want to remember: How you come a’running immediately after you hear the bath turn on. How you do the choreographed moves that Jameson and I made up to the end of “A Spoonful of Sugar.” How you wiggle excitedly when I get a book out to read to you. How you love to share everything with me (if you’re chewing a toy, you’ll give me a taste. If you’re enjoying your meal, you’ll hand me a bite). How sometimes you hand me nothing at all but wait and stare expectantly at me until I say thank you. How you give me a kiss every time we get to the bunny page in your touch and feel book. How cute you look playing “Where’s Nora” with your dress during diaper changes. How you can hold your own during wrestling matches with Jameson. And how you love to give Daddy hugs when he comes home from work.

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J & N

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Beggin’ for food.

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She always bear crawls outside haha!

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Would plummet off the couch if I let her.

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Oh Nora baby, I can’t believe you’re almost one! This year has been the best of our lives because of you. I can’t wait to see how much you grow in this last month before your very first birthday! We love you so, sweet girl.

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Jameson Monthly

3 Years of Jameson

Snapseed 20Happy birthday to our THREE YEAR OLD!!! Three is dirty knees, scrapes and bruises, wonder and imagination, lots of make believe, picture books, BIG emotions, plenty of poop jokes, silly conversations, sweet conversations, deep conversations, questions I can’t answer, dance parties, sweaty arms wrapped around my neck, and more exclamations of “Mommy, watch this!!!” than I can ever hope to keep track of.

Three is the best. Except for when it’s the hardest. And sometimes it’s really, really hard! Jameson is learning to be gentle and kind even when he’s annoyed; he’s learning patience and good sportsmanship; he’s learning to share; he’s learning to work through more complex emotions like jealousy and ungratefulness and being afraid to fail; he’s learning empathy and consideration; he’s learning responsibility and taking pride in doing good work; he’s learning that as wonderful and adorable and fun as he is…the world is full of other people to serve. He’s learning about who God is and what the Bible says about every one of us. Sometimes I find myself lost on how to teach him truths that feel too big for even me to understand. Sometimes I don’t know whether to deal with an issue or give him grace. It’s a lot of learning for both of us. But I go to bed every night feeling ever so thankful for the boy who made me a mother and for every moment I get to spend with him by my side. These are the good old days, right now.

Here’s what’s new for Jameson at three years old…

Height and Weight: At his three-year-old checkup he weighed in right at 30 lbs and stands 3 ft, 1 inch tall. This puts him in the 32nd percentile for weight and the 40th for height. A bit on the smaller side, but still growing well and very healthy. 🙂 He’s meeting (or exceeding) all of his milestones and our pediatrician was happy with his growth over the past year.

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Clothing: He’s in the 3T size now, although some of his 2T clothes still fit him if the brand runs a little big. His shoes are size 8, and (*drumroll please*) no more diapers! We started potty training about three months ago and it really only took a week and a half from start to finish. He was ready. And you better believe I was too haha!

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Sleep: In general, he sleeps fine. He’s still napping for about an hour and a half to two hours every afternoon (praaaaaise the Lord) and his bedtime is around 8pm. He sleeps until 6:30am, sometimes a bit later or earlier. Occasionally he’ll wake up during the night and shout for Alex to bring him water (lol) and there have been a few nights since we switched his crib to a bed that he welcomed himself into our bed in the middle of the night. Alex has found him out on the couch in the living room too haha! But mostly he stays in his own bed and it’s not an issue.

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Eating: Stiiiiiill such a picky eater. He complains a little bit when we make him eat things he doesn’t like, but he still gets it done. Breakfast and lunch are never issues; it’s really dinner that takes the longest. But he’s expected to eat what we eat and he does. His favorites right now are French toast, strawberries, oranges, veggie straws, broccoli, chicken nuggets, Pirate’s Booty, yogurt, PB&J (or peanut butter and honey), tacos, smoothies, pasta, pizza, and quinoa or rice. He’ll also never say no to a hot dog or some ice cream.

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Speech & Language: He’s absolutely full of questions these days and asks “why” about everything. His language skills are better than his speech skills (he’s a little lazy with his articulation of certain sounds) but Alex and I can understand everything he says, even if unfamiliar listeners can’t. He surprises us almost every day with a new vocabulary word, many of which he gets from the stacks and stacks of books we read every day – he’s a total bookworm! ❤ He’s super goofy and has recently been really into making jokes and figuring out humor. Sometimes it’s hilarious and sometimes I’m like, “Okay, enough with the poop jokes. Eat your dinner.” But overall he continues to make progress in this area and it’s a delight to watch him learn and experiment with language! I have a running list on my phone of all my favorite Jameson quotes. 🙂

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Milestones: Like I mentioned before, potty training was a big one this year! He can also identify most of the alphabet and some of their sounds now. We play spelling games where we try to figure out what the first letter of words are (“What does ‘pig’ start with? Hmmm…p, p, p…” and he’ll shout out “P!”). He can identify a few numbers by sight as well, and can count to 15 (although he sometimes skips 14 for whatever reason haha). He can verbally spell his name almost (he often says “J-k-m-e-s-o-n” hahah) and can recognize it when it’s written out. He knows the full answers to two catechism questions and has about six Bible verses memorized. He rides his tricycle with ease and climbs and jumps on ev.ery.thing. He loves doing “cool tricks” and frequently does one-legged headstands and flips off the couch onto cushions below. He’s always trying to impress us. 😉 His fine motors skills are improving and he can color within the lines better, although lately he hasn’t been super into coloring anymore, which is sad to me because I love coloring with him! He’s also able to do 24 piece puzzles independently. He just sees how things go together, sometimes even before I do!

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Loves: His family, superheroes (especially The Avengers, but Batman too), READING, all things high-action (running, jumping, doing cool tricks, being tossed around, wrestling daddy and/or Nora), sweets, making people laugh, playing pretend (especially dressing up like superheroes or running his pretend restaurant or being a doctor), swimming, hanging out with his grandparents, music (especially when Alex plays guitar or when we listen to our hymns during morning time), dancing, and helping me cook.

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Doesn’t like: Many foods, trying new things when he’s not sure how it’ll turn out or when he’s afraid to fail, sharing toys he’s super into at the moment, getting his face wet (in the pool or bath, although he has been improving), and getting his hands dirty (which we are also working on haha).

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Things I want to remember: How I often find you with a book on your lap, quietly flipping through its pages. How you’re always trying to get Nora to laugh. Your goofy jokes and the way you change lyrics of songs to try and be funny. Your little voice shouting “I AM ALL DONE POOPING, MOM!” from the bathroom. The way you still love to run around in a circle while Daddy plays guitar during family worship (I’ll be so sad when you outgrow this!). Listening to Daddy read books and do funny voices with you in our big bed every night before bedtime. Watching you and Nora giggle and wrestle each other. The way your curious mind wants to know the answers to every question. Our morning time routine during breakfast (prayers, catechism and memory verses, Bible reading, poetry or Mother Goose rhymes, and listening to hymns). And how you still say “jump on the booka bookas” when you want to jump off the couch onto the pillows.

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Trying to hold up three fingers in a creative way.

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“Thwip!”

Jameson, we love you SO much! Just knowing you is such a joy. We feel incredibly blessed to be the ones who get to raise you! We pray daily that you come to know and love the Lord, that you grow to become a good man and a servant leader, and that you fill this world with proclamations of the Gospel. We’re so proud of who you are! It’s the greatest gift to watch you learn and grow. Happy third birthday, baby. ❤

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Nora Monthly

Ten months of Nora

IMG_3712Another month with this little beauty and life is so sweet! Nora is so different from her brother at this age in so many ways…she’s much gentler, much more snuggly, much more cautious about things. While Jameson loved to be tossed in the air as high as we would let him go, Nora prefers to be in my arms or quietly reading a book on my lap. I love getting to see her personality and experiencing this stage in parenting all over again with her unique qualities.

Here’s what’s new for Nora at ten months…

Weight & Length: No well visit until her one year old appointment so I’m not sure of her percentiles at this point, but I weighed her at home and she’s right around 18 pounds! About half a pound more than last month. 🙂

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Clothing: She’s still in size 4 diapers and the 9 month range for clothes, but I’m guessing she’ll be heading into 9-12 month stuff soon if I can find it. She might just have to jump into the 12 month size though. Getting soo big!

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Eyes & Hair: Blue eyes and curly brown hair…and getting curlier by the day! I’ve been using Shea Moisture Kids Curling Butter Cream (which smells amazing) to help define her curls, because otherwise the frizz is unreal. I love it when she wakes up from a good nap, though, and her hair is sticking up in fuzzy ringlets haha! So cute. We’ve found that washing her hair just a couple times a week is enough, whereas Jameson’s hair used to get greasy in like a day. Too much washing dries Nora’s hair out. I’m planning on switching her to a curly hair specific shampoo/conditioner product soon, but the Honest Company body wash is doing the trick for now. Her hair is still baby-fine so it’s not a huge deal yet.

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Sleep: Her nap schedule is just fine (an hour and a half in the morning, an hour and a half in the afternoon, occasionally a 40 minute catnap around 5pm). But she’s been waking up preeeetty consistently around 5:30am every morning. Or earlier. It’s been rough. There have also been a few nights where she woke up at like 2am for no particular reason and was just…awake. Ready to party. We’ve never had to deal with this before and I have to say, I’m not a fan. Jameson had his rough patches where he’d wake up a few times a night, but he always went right back down. Nora on the other hand…Alex has literally taken her out to the living room and just let her play for an hour or so in the dead of night because she was just wide awake. I’m not really sure how to fix this. Mostly I’m just waiting and praying it’s a phase haha! But if it doesn’t resolve on its own soon, we’re going to have to take some drastic measures because we all need more sleep around here.

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Eating: This has been the biggest change this month, I think. Nora LOVES food!!! It is so strange and joyous to have a child who actually enjoys eating. We haven’t found anything that she doesn’t like, besides bananas. Literally anything else we put in front of her she chows down on…all types of vegetables, super savory meats, and especially fruits. She will actually YELL at us if we don’t share what we have, or if we don’t give her more food instantly when she’s finished what’s in front of her. I still let her nurse whenever she wants to (usually right before naps) but she eats the rest of her meals with us, usually just sharing food from my plate or Jameson’s. Right now I’m trying to take advantage of her willingness to try a wide variety of things and give her plenty of healthy options!

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Probably about to eat that blade of grass.

Milestones: She can stand by herself for brief amounts of time now! Usually only if we stand her up and prompt her to, though. It’s sort of like how she was with rolling and crawling…I knew she could do it before she actually gave it a shot. I think she just likes to be a little more confident before she tries things on her own. She can also cruise around the furniture, crawls super fast, and climbs up stairs. She’s getting really good with her fine motor skills (she’s especially good at finding minuscule items off the floor to shove in her mouth), and…drumroll please…SHE HAS TEETH! Her two little bottom ones popped through this month, finally! Her smile already looks so different with those little chompers and I’m excited for her to get more. Although…not excited about all the side effects of teething, heh.

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Teeth!

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Communication: She claps, waves, gives kisses, and responds with gestures to certain things (“How big is Nora?” she lifts her arms up for “soooo big!”). She babbles (and shouts) all the time; she’s really so. dang. loud. Even when she’s happy haha! She’s starting to understand a lot of what we say, and I’ve been working somewhat consistently on showing her some Sign Language. Simple stuff like “more” and “all done” and “milk” for now. I’m hoping she’ll pick up on some of them soon so she can quit yelling at us about food hahah.

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“Sooo big!”

Loves: Food and her sippy cup, bath time, her family, reading books (especially “Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See”), music, playing with my wallet, climbing stairs, going swimming, playing with things she’s not supposed to touch, trying to climb into the dishwasher, flipping through our paperback books, riding in the laundry basket when I pull her and Jameson around, playing in our DVDs, and whatever toy/book/literally any item at all that Jameson is currently holding.

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Hates: When I’m not holding her, when you take away contraband items, sleeping in past 5:30am.

Snapseed 30IMG_3161Things I want to remember: How you drink from your sippy cup like a little hamster, how you peek over the side of your carseat and giggle at Jameson in the car, how you crawl to my feet and then just sit there waiting for me to pick you up, how you swing your head around wildly looking for Jameson when I take you out of your room after a nap, the way you crawl all over the big bed with excitement and then shriek with glee when I grab your leg and pull you back towards me, and how you lift one arm to me in a wave and smile your cheesiest smile whenever you do something you’re sure is really cool. 🙂Snapseed 26Snapseed 27Processed with VSCO with b3 presetSnapseed 22Processed with VSCO with b3 presetSnapseed 23Processed with VSCO with b3 presetIMG_3171IMG_3165IMG_3218IMG_3333IMG_3365IMG_3405IMG_3463IMG_3497IMG_3500IMG_3530IMG_3581

 

 

 

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Nora’s first ponytail ❤

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We adore you, sweet girl! You’re even cute when you wake up at 5am. But let’s work on that this next month. 😉

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Nora Monthly

Nine months of Nora

IMG_3139I’m writing this a little late but I wanted to wait until Nora had her nine month well visit at the doctors to see where she lands in the percentiles. I feel like this month was a big one in terms of her milestones, and we’re getting to see more and more of her sweet personality each day! Of course there have been some tough moments this month too (thank you, teething) but for the most part Nora is just the cutest ball of joy around!

Here’s what’s new this month…

Weight & Length: At her appointment yesterday Nora weighed in at 17 lbs, 5 oz which is only a few ounces more than last month. She seems to be slowing down a bit in her weight gain but still moving along! She’s in the 42nd percentile for height, 34th for weight, and 30th for head circumference. A little on the smaller side but still very healthy. 🙂 I can’t believe her next appointment will be her one year checkup!!! What!

Clothing: Still in size 4 diapers and 9 month clothing, unless it’s from Gymboree or Old Navy which both have the 6-12 month size. I just got her some cute new stuff from Gymboree’s big summer sale (since, you know, it’ll still be 500 degrees here until October) and I love her in everything. She’s wearing one of the outfits for these pictures actually.

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Eyes & Hair: Eyes are still a gorgeous blue and her hair has exploded into ringlets this month! I mean we knew it was curly but it was mostly just on the top of her head before. Now there are curls eeeeverywhere! I’ve been researching curly hair care because I’m a nerd and also because I have no idea where to even begin with curls. I’ve never dealt with this before. Apparently it’s an entirely different ballgame. Special shampoos, special conditioners, detanglers, combs, leave in products, curling creams, ah!!! It’s like a new species of hair to me. SO many rules, too, like don’t towel-dry it and only wash it once or twice a week at the most and NEVER go near it with a brush unless you want your child to look like a frizzball. We’re still getting away with our regular head-to-toe baby wash stuff but we’re almost to the point now where I know I’m going to have to find something curl-specific. I can tell it dries her hair out to use. I bought some of the Shea Moisture kids curling cream stuff to use when I need her hair to calm down before we go out into the world (because otherwise she looks like little orphan Nora) and it works really well but I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of trial and error in this department before we figure out what works best for her hair. The main thing is, though, I really want her to love her curls. Not just tolerate them. I want her to be so thankful God gave her curls. I know too many people who hate their curly hair because they’ve grown up thinking it was a hassle or too frizzy or too BIG. I want to find what works well for Nora and teach her to love this beautiful hair because it really is so beautiful already. I can’t wait to see how it grows in. 🙂

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Sleep: We’ve had good days and bad days this month. Mostly, I think, due to teething. (I swear she’s getting her bottom teeth in finally, it’s just a matter of time haha!) She takes two naps a day in general, one around 9am and another around 1-2pm depending on how long the morning nap was. Then she’s down for the night around 7:30 or 8. Occasionally she’ll still add in a short evening nap around 5pm if she’s had a crappy napping day but I try not to let her do that if she can make it to bedtime because otherwise she has trouble settling down for the night. She wakes up around 4am still to nurse, at which point Alex brings her to me in bed and she finishes off the night with us until around 6-6:30am. Or, you know, she’ll just wake up at 5 and be ready to party. Good times. When do kids start sleeping in? Never?

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She still naps in the Ergo when we’re out and about. 🙂

Eating: Good news, people!!! Nora likes food! I would even say (in hushed tones, so she doesn’t hear me) that she actually enjoys when it’s time to eat. There are very few things that she actually spits out now. Her current favorites are blueberries (really all fruit except bananas), plain Cheerios, chicken, applesauce, oatmeal, any type of bread, Puffs, yogurt melts (but oddly, not really regular yogurt), and last week I let her try some of Jameson’s French toast and she was really digging that. Basically she likes anything that isn’t pureed and preferably that she can pick up and eat by herself. She’s not a fan of spoon-feeding, which is quite fine by me. She doesn’t eat enough of anything to actually fill her up, it’s really more for exploration at this point and we breastfeed for the rest of her meals.IMG_2793IMG_2340Milestones: She started “normal crawling” (as opposed to her army crawling) just after 8 months and she’s gotten pretty fast now! She can get from crawling to sitting and back to crawling with ease. She pulls herself up on ev.ery.thing. She cruises left to right on furniture and can stand up on her own if she’s holding onto something with one hand. I thought she was going to take her time with all of this but it’s like as soon as she figured out she could crawl, she got super brave and everything else followed quickly along! She has so much more freedom now with being able to move around the way she wants to and loves roaming around exploring, or following me and Jameson all over the house. Still, though, no teeth! I keep thinking one is going to bust through any day because her bottom gums are super swollen, but nothing so far! I like her gummy bear smile though. 🙂

Processed with VSCO with g2 presetProcessed with VSCO with b1 presetSnapseed 21Communication: She can clap and wave, “sings” along whenever music comes on, gives kisses when you ask for them (sometimes), and has certain sounds she makes at certain times…kind of like “pre-words” I guess. For example, she always says “mama” when she’s sad. Based on what I know from my schooling as a speech-language pathologist, I know that true words don’t emerge until closer to a year old. But it’s still cute that she’s starting to get there. 🙂 She can understand quite a bit now too and I’ve started working on teaching her some sign language, since babies tend to be able to communicate with that several months before spoken words. IMG_2399Loves: Finding wires, trying to play in Charlie’s dog food and water, books, the little toy piano, music, snacks, playing in our DVDs, sleeping on her side or belly, playing in the diaper bag, BLUEBERRIES, her sippy cup, anything having to do with water, and her family. IMG_2255IMG_2962

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Just loves being near her brother so much!

Hates: Loud, sudden noises. Being away from me for too long. When Jameson has something she wants (which is always).

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“Why haven’t you picked me up yet?!”

Things I want to remember: The Chubby Mermaid (when you lay on your side and sort of prop yourself up with one hand like a chubby little mermaid), your new tongue face (lips pursed, tongue just barely peeking out), the “bababa” thing you do when we start taping your lips with our palms, how Jameson brings you toys when you’re sad and says “I tryin’ to make Nora happy,” the kickstand (when you sit up but hold yourself there with one hand), all the funny (and not-so-funny) ways you wake me up in the morning (pulling my hair, sitting above me and shouting, smiling wide and breathing heavily just inches from my face), and the way you and Jameson are becoming real buddies.

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The tongue face.

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I call this one “teething sucks.”

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Nora, you are just so much fun! You make us laugh and fill us with joy and add so many wonderful things to our family. We love you forever, sweet girl.

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Nora Monthly

Eight months of Nora

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I can’t believe I’m writing this already! Nora is far too close to her first birthday than I would like her to be. In my head she was just born the other day…but then I look at her compared to my friends’ brand new babies and oh my, she’s just so big already! I realize she’s not as much of a baby as I think she is.

Of course, I love all the things she can do now; I’m so proud of my sweet little NoJo girl. But her babyhood is going so much faster than it even did with her brother’s and it’s just not fair! Someone tell me how to fix this?!

Anyway, here’s what’s new for our Nora Joy this month…

Weight & Length: Again, I won’t know her percentiles until she has her 9 month appointment (although I’m guessing she’ll still be ranking taaaaallllll for her age). But I weighed her at home and she’s right around 17 pounds, about a pound bigger than last month!

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Clothing: All 9 month stuff now, or 6-9 month if it runs big. Only if it runs big. She’s so long! Summery girl clothes are where it’s at, man. They’re so easy. A cute snap-on romper and a bow and you’re really all set. It’s so much fun dressing her in bright patterns and pretty florals!

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Jameson’s face in this one hahaha

Eyes & Hair: Blue-eyed and cuuuuurrrlyyyy! So so curly! It’s starting to curl up all over her head but especially on the top. There is no containing it anymore. If you try to brush it down, it flies back up in an angry frizz. Someone is going to have to teach me how to style these curls because I have a feeling I’ll be way out of my element as soon as it grows in more haha! I love it so much, though, my sweet curly girly.

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Sleep: She’s somewhere between two and three naps a day, depending on the times she goes down and the length of each nap. She naps for a couple of hours in the morning and then a couple more hours (or longer) in the afternoon. Sometimes she’ll supplement this with a quick 40 minute nap around 5pm to get her to bedtime around 7:30. It just depends on the day. At night she sleeps for her long stretch in her crib and then Alex or I will bring her to bed with us when she wakes up to nurse around 4-5am. Then she’s up and at ’em by 5:30 or 6am which is SOOOO FUNNNN. Actually it’s usually not too big of a deal because Alex is up and getting ready for work by then anyway so he’ll just hang out with her in the living room until Jameson and I get up around 6:30. It’s still too early for my liking but this is where we are in life haha.

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Eating: I want to say we’ve made a breakthrough with solid foods but that might be a bit of an overstatement. We have made some improvement though! Basically we discovered that Nora just flat out hates baby food. All baby food. Doesn’t matter which kind. We tried so many. But she does enjoy trying regular table food. I think it must be something to do with the texture of pureed baby food and if I’m remembering correctly, Jameson wasn’t one for the pureed stuff either. He just wasn’t so darn dramatic about it haha. So now we’re trying more of a baby-led weaning approach (although still nowhere near cutting out breastfeeding), letting her discover foods on her own and giving her small bits of the things we eat. So far she likes apple slices, rice, bread, blueberries, Cheerios, really most fruits (not too many veggies yet), and of course the infamous Puffs. I never met a kid who didn’t like Puffs. I’ve been nursing her at her normal times and then letting her play and explore different foods each time Jameson and I sit down for a meal. It’s been working fairly well but hopefully next month I’ll have a much longer list to share of the things she likes because it’s still pretty limited at this point.

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Milestones: She’s getting better with her fine motor skills from all that practice with self-feeding. She’s also so fast at army crawling now! She can sit up completely independently and can move from sitting to laying down/army crawling whenever she wants to (albeit, not very gracefully). She gets up on her hands and knees all the time and can move one of her legs forward but still hasn’t figured out the mechanics of regular crawling yet. I bet within the next week or two she’ll have it down. She does this funny plank thing now where she’ll hold herself up on her hands and toes and just sort of stay there suspended in the air for a few seconds haha. She can climb onto my lap if I’m sitting on the floor near her (which she pretty much always chooses to do because homegirl is mama-obsessed) and sometimes she tries to pull herself to stand if there’s something sturdy (or not-so-sturdy, ugh) in front of her. I’m thinking it’ll be awhile before she gets that mastered, but she has surprised me in the past. It’s crazy to think back on Jameson at eight months because he was full-on standing up on his own by this point and cruising around the furniture. He took his first independent steps the following month! Nora is taking it slower which I’m so thankful for because it was absolutely terrifying watching my eight month old trying to stand and walk and climb all over everything haha.

Ps, no teeth yet. She’s still the gummiest gummy bear in all the land.

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Plankin’

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Her little tongue is my fave

Communication: She’s such a chatterbox and loves watching my mouth form sounds and words. I think she might be trying to figure out waving but it’s hard to tell whether she’s really copying or her arm is just flailing around. She knows her own name for sure and I think she’s starting to understand a lot of the other things we say too, like “hi” and “no touch” (although she pays no heed to that).

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Loves: Mommy. Nothing else compares. She whines when I leave the room, when I walk past her without picking her up, when someone else is holding her but she can see me close by. She wants to be in my arms at. all. times. My hip is permanently sore from carting her around but I can’t say no to that face! So she ends up coming along with me for almost everything. But she does also love baths (and now the pool!), playing with books, watching Jameson or our dog Charlie, listening to Alex play guitar, chasing this rogue yellow balloon we have roaming around our house (leftover from Alex’s birthday back in March, lolz), army crawling around to explore (especially the playroom where not much is off-limits to her), banging out “tunes” on the baby piano, gnawing on raw carrots, and sleeping on her tummy (which is adorable).

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Hates: Getting her ears cleaned. When you wipe under her chins (yes, chins). When you take away a toy or other item of interest from her. When she has to get dressed. When I’m in her line of sight but not holding her. When the Puffs are gone. (so sad.)

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Real peeved about something.

Things I want to remember: The way you smile and let your little tongue hang out as you army crawl as quickly as possible toward something cool, the way you check over your shoulder as you crawl away from me to make sure I’m still there and how you crawl back to me as fast as you can when I sit down on the floor, your extra gummy smile (when you clamp your gums together and smile as hard as you can), how I can hear you start kicking with excitement when I walk into the room you’re in, the fact that you have the absolute stinkiest farts ever, the way you and Jameson play so happily and giggly together, the way you follow me around everywhere doing your army crawl (which your daddy calls your zombie crawl), how happy you get when you see me and Jameson coming to pick you up from a nap, the way Jameson has to climb into your crib with you and kiss your cheek when you wake up (“stop movin’ your face around and I can kiss you, Nora” he says), and the way you hold hands with me as you’re falling asleep nursing. I think it’s my very favorite thing about you. (But then again, I say that about everything about you.)

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Father’s Day ❤

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Meeting her “Super Papa”

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Meeting her “Bisnonna” (Great-Grandma, in Italian)

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I still sometimes can’t believe you’re ours, sweetheart. You are everything and more! Just  the most perfect addition to our family. We all adore you so so much, baby love! Happy eight months!

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Personal Writing

The first man I ever loved

“Jessica!” I hear his voice echo through the empty church. “Come on, it’s time to go!”

I peek my head over the smooth edge of the wooden pew and see my dad heading towards me. Running my hand along the back of the pew as I move easily through the tiny aisle, I skip over to meet him. His big, warm hand envelopes my small one and together we walk through the doors.

This is my first memory of my dad. I was probably two or three years old at the time, and I don’t have a clue as to the context of the memory. I couldn’t tell you which church it was, what city we were in, or even why we were there. But I can still remember the feeling, even after all these years, of hearing my dad’s comforting voice and not really caring about anything else. It didn’t matter what came next – lunch, maybe, or home to see my mom; we were together so I was happy.

1011857_10152246234597474_1089348598_nFast-forward a few years. I’m seven or eight now, watching my dad as his fingers skip quickly and effortlessly across the ivory keys of our old piano. The melodies blend beautifully with his voice and the sound floats through the high arches of our piano room, amplified by the wooden floors below. He sings words he wrote to the tunes he created and I watch with fascination as I try to sing along. My dad never had a lesson in his life, I think. Will I be able to create music this good when I grow up? His eyes catch mine and he beckons me to come sit with him. I climb up on the thin cushion of the piano seat and together we sing his songs… “I believe that God made the ocean, then He came and was baptized in the sea. I believe that God made the mountains and led up there to be tempted by the enemy. I believe that God made the forest, then was crucified upon a tree. And I believe that God will return, in Jesus Christ, to glorify His redeemed.”

1530421_10152246234642474_1790361373_nNow I’m ten or eleven. New York is experiencing some of the worst thunderstorms I’ve ever seen in my short life. My sister and I lay shivering in our shared room, hiding under the covers as lightening slices through the night sky and thunder cracks deafeningly overhead. “Do you think the roof is going to crash in on us?” I ask my sister, whose bed is pushed against mine. The door creaks open a bit, shedding a sliver of light that breaks up some of the darkness. I see my dad’s silhouette tiptoeing in and breathe a sigh of relief as he climbs to the middle of our beds and lies between my sister and I, putting a big strong arm around each of us. He starts to sing “I Love You, Lord” and a sense of calm relaxes my body. My eyes droop shut and I fall asleep against his chest, listening to the echoing vibrations of his softly singing voice.

My dad is the very best person I know. His heart for Jesus and for people is truly unmatched by anyone I’ve ever met. He was the first one to share the Gospel with me and he is the one who has helped me and guided me in my personal walk with Jesus all these years. I can remember dancing around the living room with him, making up songs to help me remember Bible verses…and then reciting those same verses in my head whenever I was feeling lost. I can remember running through mock evangelism conversations with him while we sat side by side on the front step of our house in New York…and then using some of the ideas I learned from him to talk to my friends about Jesus. I can remember family Bible studies, reading through missionary books together, and one-on-one prayer times. My childhood was more blessed than I ever could have realized at the time, and my dad is most of the reason why.

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Growing up, we never had the biggest house on the block, we never had the fanciest new car, and my parents were always trying to find creative ways to save money (e.g., getting Internet through the Comsewogue Library?? I still don’t know how that worked). But we had more than most and more than we needed. My dad gave up his dreams of stardom and musical fame to make a living for my mom, my sisters, and me. I’ve watched him graciously suffer through jobs he hated, awful bosses, and terribly long hours – all with a smile on his face and the love of Jesus in his heart. He has sacrificed everything – so much more than I deserve – to give me the beautiful life I’ve had so far.

I have very few memories of my dad where he isn’t smiling or laughing or making up very silly songs or playing funny1005559_10151772575327474_1475014998_n jokes on people. He instantly becomes friends with everyone he meets and genuinely invests in their thoughts, ideas, and even worries. When you talk to my dad, he honestly makes you feel as though you are the single most important thing in the world to him. Like absolutely nothing but your immediate conversation is of any significance. Like maybe whatever you’ve been struggling with isn’t so hard, after all. Maybe, because he believes you can take on anything, you should believe that you can too. And if it doesn’t work out? That’s okay. God has a better plan for you anyway.

He has a way seeing through people’s facades, knowing what they need, and bringing Jesus’ pure light into even the evilest darkness. There have been countless times where I thought I was putting on a good show and had everyone fooled by my fake smiles and empty laughter. And maybe I really did have most people fooled, but not my dad. He would just march straight into my room and sit with me while I cried, helping me fix my broken heart and reminding me again to fall on my Savior.

Sometimes, late at night when everyone else is asleep, I walk down the silent hallway to fill my glass with water, and through the cracked back door I see my dad wrapped in his soft brown blanket, looking up in wonder at the stars that dot the sweeping Arizona night sky. I never know what he’s thinking and I never want to intrude and ask. But I imagine that maybe he’s thinking about Abraham from the Bible as he gazes up at the same stars and prays to the same loving Savior. I bet sometimes he’s praying for me, because that is just how he is.

Today on your birthday, Daddy…I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for everything you are and everything you’ve been for me. I’m sure I don’t even realize all that you’ve done for me yet, but the older I get the more immeasurably thankful I become for every bit of what you’ve given me. Thank you for your advice, your wisdom, your jokes, your honesty, your sacrifices, and your love. You are one of the greatest blessings I’ll ever have and I couldn’t be more grateful to God for letting me be your daughter. This letter to you doesn’t come close to saying everything in my heart, but I hope it shows you just a little bit of how much you mean to me. No matter where I go or who I become, you will always be the first man I ever loved.

I love you more than words, Daddy…and I’ll always be thankful that you loved me first, too. Happy birthday. ❤

Love always,

Jessica Joy (I’m a girl, not a boy)

P.S. Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and you are my dad. They call me The Rhymer. I make good rhymes.

my dad, dressed in his best to impress his neighborhood crush.

Originally posted on Becoming Mrs. Iwanski (February 25th, 2014)

Nora Monthly

Seven months of Nora

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Seven months old! It makes me want to cry if I think about it too much, so I really can’t let myself. I’ll be planning her first birthday party before I know it.

This month has been so good. Some things have been hard of course, but Nora is such a sweet presence in our lives that I forget all the difficult stuff the second she goes to sleep at night. Like right now all I can think about is snuggling her up and feeling her tiny little hands wrap gently around my cheeks. She’s so cute you guys. I can’t stand it.

Here’s what’s new for little miss NoJo this month…

Weight & Length: I’m not sure of her percentiles or height (her next doctors appointment isn’t until 9 months) but I weighed her at home and she’s 15.8 lbs, which is just a bit more than she was last month. And three pounds less than her brother was at this age!

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Clothing: All 6-9 month now at least. Some brands only fit if they’re in the 9 month range. My sister just gave me a whole bunch of my niece’s old clothes and it’s like Nora got a whole new wardrobe! I’ve been loving seeing her in all of my niece’s little outfits. It seems like just yesterday I was seeing Madelyn in these things and now it’s Nora’s turn! It all goes by so quickly. Gah I’m so sentimental today.

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Eyes & Hair: There is no stopping the curl on this little girl’s head. It hardly ever lays completely flat anymore and I love it! I can’t wait until it’s grown out a little more so we can see just how curly it’ll be. Her eyes are still such a pretty blue and sooo big haha! She has the roundest eyes I’ve ever seen.

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Sleep: She’s a pretty scheduled baby at this point, pretty much all by her own doing. She takes 2-3 naps a day (depending on how long they are) for several hours each. Her third nap (if she needs one) is still typically 40 minutes and really just to hold her over until bedtime around 7:30. She gets up for the day preeeetty consistently around 6am, although sometimes it’s before then (wah). I know she wakes up at least twice a night to nurse but it’s all a blur to be honest hahah. She may only wake up once sometimes, or maybe more and I just can’t remember. Who knows! We’re just starting to transition her to her own room at night. She sleeps for her first stretch in her crib and then I just bring her to bed with me when she wakes up wanting to nurse late in the night. Eventually I’ll probably go into her room and nurse her in there before putting her back down, but I honestly love having her with us at night for right now. I remember being so darn stressed about getting Jameson to sleep through the night in his own room by this point but it’s so different this time around. She’ll do it when she’s ready. She still seems so little to me that I don’t mind a bit. And…there’s always coffee.

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Eating: Breastfeeding is going just swimmingly but solid foods on the other hand…I wouldn’t describe it as a “disaster” per se…but it kind of is hahah. She has hated everything so far. Bananas, sweet potatoes, applesauce, rice cereal, pears, blueberries, grapes. Hates ’em all. Just spits them straight to the floor the second they touch her tongue, all while making the most dramatically disgusted faces she can muster. She even figured out how to clamp her gums together so I can’t get the spoon in there, which is simultaneously hilarious and incredibly frustrating. I’ve found that she tends to do better when I give her food in her fresh food feeder, but even then she’s making grossed out faces the entire time. Oh brother. We’ll keep trying!

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Don’t let this excited face fool you. She was really only happy to bang the fresh food feeder on the high chair tray.

Milestones: She’s such a little wiggle worm these days, rolling all lengths of the living room and scooting herself in different directions (although not very far and not very fast yet). She can sit up by herself for short periods of time but has a habit of simply forgetting to hold herself upright, at which point she’ll just launch in one direction towards the ground. So basically I never leave her sitting up alone. She loves being upright in her walker or bumper jumper and the other day I actually watched her try to pull herself up to stand! What in the world. I’m not ready for that yet. Figure out how to crawl first, Nora. 😉 All in good time.

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flop.

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Big girl!

Loves: Tags on toys, all types of music (most especially Alex’s guitar), playing on our toy piano, mommy mommy mommy, Jameson and all things having to do with Jameson, when you dangle a blanket over her face (I don’t know, okay? she loves it hahah), peekaboo, baths, being outside and going for walks in the stroller, and watching me put on my makeup (she loves to sit on my lap the whole time and watch me carefully in the mirror).

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Hates: Food. Being by herself. Really being away from me in any capacity. Even if I’m sitting right next to her, it doesn’t take long before she starts whining to be in my arms. She’s a liiiiittle obsessed with me.

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So pissed I left her to wash the dishes.

Communication: She babbles all the time (and I adore it) and she watches my lips so closely whenever I’m talking to her. I can tell she really wants to know what I’m yammering on about all the time. She also started copying certain things this month… when we shake our heads and say “Nora, do ‘noooo'” she’ll shake her head back at us. It’s so cute! But she really only does it when she’s in the right mood, otherwise she just stares blankly at us like we’re a bunch of lunatics. Real judgy, this one.

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Things I want to remember: The way you hug my face, how you start breathing really fast and excitedly when we dangle a blanket over you (lol), how I sometimes catch you staring quietly up at me when you’re on my hip (and then you smile so sweetly and bury your face in my shoulder), the way your face breaks into a gigantic grin and you squeal so loudly whenever I kiss you or talk to you, the way you laugh at everything Jameson does (even when he’s being cranky about something…which subsequently makes him sort of mad. “It’s not funny, Nora!” But it kind of is funny), the way you try to swipe whatever is in my hand if I’m holding it near you, the way you smash your fresh food feeder on the highchair loudly and proudly, and how cute you look when you’re determinedly scooting towards a cool toy (or, you know, something you’re not supposed to have).

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Nora Joy, we love you little sunshine girl! You are so smart, so much fun, and getting more and more beautiful by the day. We can’t wait to see how much you learn and grow this next month! ❤

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