Favorite books for a 9-month old baby

I read to our daughter pretty regularly from the very beginning, but only recently has she started showing a real interest in books. She’s nine and a half months old now, and about a week ago, she actually started “asking” to be read to. (As an avid reader, my heart melted on the spot!) Not only does she ask to be read to every day, she also lets me know really quickly which books she likes and which she doesn’t.

Here’s the list of her top five favorites:

The Napping House is her absolute favorite at the moment. She asks me to read it multiple times in one sitting.

She showed now interest in Little Blue Truck until a couple of weeks ago, and now she can’t get enough. She is starting to understand animal sounds, and she squeals with delight when I’m reading this book to her.

I have to admit, I’d never heard of The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss until my mother-in-law purchased it for our daughter since she’s teething. I wasn’t sure if she would understand that the book is about teeth, but she points to the teeth in the pictures and absolutely makes the connection.

Let me start by saying that my daughter doesn’t watch CoComelon, so that’s not a prerequisite for liking this book. She does, however, love the song The Wheels on the Bus, which is why CoComelon The Wheels on the Bus is such a hit. The book is also shaped like a bus, and you guessed it, the wheels actually turn, which is really fun for her.

My aunt, who was in Early Childhood Education, has gotten my daughter several finger puppet books, and they are amazing. The stories are simple but my daughter is enamored with the puppets and squeals and claps when we read the books and they “say hi” to her.

What I learned from our first trip with baby

My husband and I recently took a short three-day trip to the beach with our daughter, who is nine months old. We stayed in Seagrove, Florida, which is about five and a half hours from where we live in Atlanta. Considering the longest we’ve been in the car at any given time is two hours, it was

I’d give us a B+ overall on trip planning and execution, with some definite room for improvement. I’ve included our observations and learnings from the trip below:

  1. Find accommodations that offer baby-related amenities. We rented a condo through Airbnb and chose it in part because of the amazing baby equipment the owners provided: a Pack ‘n Play and high chair. When you’re packing for another human, the less you have to bring from home, the better. Other must-haves were a bath tub (a must for our night time routine), a large beach umbrella (important for that delicate baby skin) and large-ish bedroom that had enough space for our daughter to sleep in the room with us. Our one regret with our lodgings was that the bedroom window didn’t have curtains, so the room was really bright during the day…not ideal for naptime.
  2. Plan out your car ride. Since our daughter is so good in the car, we never expected the extent and magnitude of meltdowns that we experienced during our drive. Chalk it up to us being naïve. Only you’ll know what works for your baby, so the only advice I’ll leave you with is: build in stops along the way to get out of the car and reset, load up on toys/entertainment and way more food than you expect to need.
  3. Arrive early. I really regret arriving at our destination so late in the afternoon. We got to the condo about an hour past our daughter’s bedtime, so we rushed through bath time and put her to bed (or tried to) immediately when we arrived in an attempt to keep her on schedule. Big mistake. We woefully underestimated how curious she was about her new surroundings and unsettled she was after spending most of the day in the car. In hindsight, we should’ve arrived with ample time to show her around and get her comfortable in her environment before sticking her in a dark room by herself.
  4. Replicate your normal routine to maintain some degree of familiarity despite your new surroundings. We were very intentional about which toys, blankets and bath time equipment we took with us, specifically those that are bedtime associations for our daughter. At nighttime, she always takes a bath, has her favorite bath time toys, wears the same PJs/sleep sack, has the same white noise, etc. We did our best to replicate her morning and evening routines, with tons of flexibility for fun and exploring during the rest of the day, to anchor her and help her day feel familiar.
  5. Consider your typical schedule and plan your meals accordingly. This is mainly an issue if, like us, you typically have most meals at home. In other words, none of us is accustomed to dining out. We took into account our daughter’s sleep schedule, our condo’s proximity to dining options, whether they were kid friendly and their hours. We also had to factor in a one-hour time difference since we crossed time zones going into Florida. Bottom line, meals can get complicated and you can end up hangry and in a bit of a lurch like we did on the first night. Ultimately, we prepared breakfast at our condo every day since we expected to be up by 5:30 am local time; we at lunch out and we got takeout for dinner each night since our daughter’s bedtime was about 5:00 pm local time. The ability to comfortably eat meals where we were staying was such a life saver.

As you can see, we’re definitely still beginners at this, so please share your tips as well!

Reframing your parenting challenges

This week, my husband has been away on a work trip. This marks the first time he and I have been apart since February 2020, and the only time I’ve been home with our daughter for an extended period of time without him. I’m spoiled in a big way.

I won’t lie; leading up to this week, I was definitely nervous. What if she had a tough growth spurt week? What if my patience faded under the pressure of around-the-clock care? What if I couldn’t juggle our daughter, our dog, managing the house and being pregnant? And aside from all of that, I actually like spending time with him 🙂 Spending that much time apart after so long seemed so abrupt and lonely.

On the first day he was gone, everything was business as usual. I stuck to the baby’s routine and before I knew it, I was starting her bath time. I was so relieved and felt confident that things would continue to go smoothly.

On the second day, something shifted. Our day flew by, and as I was putting her to sleep, I got really emotional. I wasn’t ready to put her to sleep and was struck by the realization that I was enjoying her companionship. Our relationship has shifted from caretaker and baby. We genuinely have fun together. We communicate with and without words. We laugh. And this is just the beginning of a lifetime of creating memories together.

As a new parent, it’s so easy to get hung up on the caretaker role…which is in many ways a thankless job. You can easily lose sight of the big picture and the future under the strain of the day-to-day grind, the monotony and the stress. That’s why I thought of this week with trepidation: I was focused on how I would manage. By reframing it as getting to spend more quality time with my daughter, just the two of us without dad around, it shifted from something stressful to a memory I’ll never forget.

Reframing can be a powerful tool in parenting, moving your perspective from…

….frustration about a baby’s sleep schedule to gratitude for seeing every sunrise.

…feeling unproductive in how much you accomplish every day to appreciating the opportunity to slow down.

…missing your old self and former life to welcoming growth, transformation and the new you.

It’s not always easy to reframe while you’re in the thick of a challenging situation, but if you set the intention, the right perspective will come to you!

A bonus tip for introducing your baby to your dog

Several months ago, I shared 3 tips for introducing a new baby to your dog. They worked so well for us when our daughter was born, and I’m so thankful that we spoke to a professional dog trainer in advance.

Last week, we went on a road trip to the beach, which was the first time the three of us and our dog Kona were in the car together for an extended amount of time.

It got me thinking that while we prepared Kona for the changes a baby would bring to our home (the smells, noises, new gadgets, etc.), we never prepared him for changes in the car. So I’m adding a fourth tip for introducing your baby to your dog….

#4 – Get your dog comfortable with riding beside a car seat. Kona is a large dog (husky mix), and before our baby was born, he was accustomed to having the entire backseat to himself. In hindsight, I wish we’d installed the car seat earlier so that he could get used to having less space. And since I’ve often ridden in the backseat with our daughter if she’s especially fussy, I also wish we’d let Kona practice riding in the front passenger seat as well. Introducing him to a new seat with much less space during a stressful car ride with a screaming baby (like we did last week) doesn’t set anyone up for success.

So take it from me…play out different scenarios of who will be in your car, where they’ll sit and what you’ll want on hand to keep them happy beforehand, and you’ll be much less likely to compound an already difficult situation.

What’s the origin of your fear?

Yesterday, I had my 15-week prenatal appointment with my midwife. During every appointment, she goes through a checklist of questions related to my physical and emotional wellbeing. This time, when she asked about how I’m doing emotionally, I paused. I told her about the anxiety I’ve felt related to violence in our area, particularly gun violence related to kids. I also talked about how my fears around COVID really flared up around the holidays and into January.

As she let me ramble, I had a major realization: my anxiety and fear actually had very little to do with COVID and the violence we’ve seen on the news. Rationally, I know that we’re safe. We make thoughtful choices, and we’re not taking many (if any) risks to put us in harm’s way. I realized that I have some unaddressed fear as a new mom that’s been compounded by the fact that I’m pregnant again. Out of shame for not living up to my own standards, I wasn’t allowing myself to express that fear, so instead I attached it to two very real, widespread and acceptable fears…COVID and gun violence.

The reasons those fears have persisted and evolved into anxiety is because I hadn’t addressed their root cause. By allowing myself to be honest about the more vulnerable cause – motherhood can be scary – I continue to accept my whole self and show myself some grace. I also have the opportunity to evaluate my own expectations. Do I judge other mothers for their fears as parents? Absolutely not. So why do I judge myself?

All that to say, our fears as parents are valid. But there’s a big difference between recognizing fears, taking proper precautions and letting them go and what I was doing…taking proper precautions and then continuing to worry.

If you find yourself caught in a fear-based cycle of feeling anxious and attempting to control situations, it’s worth checking in. Have you taken precautions? Are you still worrying? What can you let go? Know that your fears are valid, but they don’t have to control you.

One piece of advice that’s worked for me is to find an emotional anchor that you can come back to again and again when you feel yourself slipping into anxious mode. For me, that’s a deep conviction that the house we moved into a couple years ago was divine intervention. The timing, the features and the neighborhood were exactly what we wanted. We are meant to be there as a family and so we are safe.

Parenting as a catalyst for personal growth

Topics related to personal growth and parenting have been on my mind a lot lately: how we’re raised as people pleasers, how to recognize childhood trauma and ways that postpartum healing is as emotional as it is physical.

Digging deep to explore your psyche, separate your true self from learned behaviors and heal old wounds is so incredibly important, especially during the challenging and transformative phase of parenthood. Under the stresses of parenting, you feel conflict (within yourself and with others) more easily and recognize really quickly when things just aren’t working. You’re reminded of your childhood and spend more time contemplating how your wounds and beliefs directly impact another person. Conflict with immediate family members might arise. Anxiety and fear often become more extreme, but so does love. It’s a time of coming to terms with a stark duality: you are both the best and worst versions of yourself.

While parenting can serve as a catalyst for deeper transformation and healing, these lessons and this work aren’t just for parents. In fact, waiting until you become a parent to begin your personal growth journey isn’t ideal; you’d likely set yourself up for a lot of added stress as well as strain on relationships with those closest to you.

That said, if you’re already a parent or about to become one and you haven’t started your journey, it’s absolutely never too late. Take it slow and give yourself permission to feel whatever arises without judgement. The results are so incredibly rewarding and will dramatically change your life.

If you’re looking for a place to begin, I highly recommend The Seeker’s Manual by Arda. You can find other resources for seekers and parents under my resources tab.

30-day writing challenge: manifesting your goals

Several years ago, I was in a job that made me very unhappy, and the message I kept getting from the Universe was “have faith and quit.” I knew that was the right approach, but I was stuck on the question of what I would do with my time once I quit. I wanted to make the most of it. I set a date in my mind of when I would resign and gave myself a month to come up with a plan.

My mind was swirling with different scenarios, so each morning for a month, I pretended like I’d already quit my job and wrote a page or less on what I was doing with my time that day. I wrote in present tense (for instance, “I am designing” instead of “I will design”) and really explored each scenario as if it was actually happening. I tried to free myself from limiting thoughts and write about not only what I did, but how I felt.

By the end of the month, I had 30 detailed examples of how I could use my time and felt so confident in my decision to quit my job.

Writing challenge tips

This process could be applied to anything — your next job, relationship, health goals, financial aspirations, etc. If the idea of an open-ended topic feels too unwieldly, you could always choose different themes to write about each week; for instance, if your goal is a new romantic relationship, your weekly themes could be: how we met, the first trips we took together, little ways we show each other unconditional love and how we plan for our future.

If you do decide to commit to the challenge, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Try not to cover too many topics at one time. By focusing on one scenario at a time and exploring each idea fully, I was able to silence the chaotic chatter in my brain and unlock my creativity.
  2. Write around the same time each day. By writing everything down at a designated time, I set my intention with the Universe and kept my mind from spinning on the topic throughout the day. I’m not a morning person, but first-thing in the morning worked best for me.
  3. Not everyone is a writer. If the idea of sitting down to write seems daunting, you can explore other creative forms of expression like bullet journaling or drawing.
  4. Don’t overthink it. The goal here is tapping into your inner knowing and setting intentions, not perfection. If you find yourself getting stuck or self editing before you even begin, just start writing. You can even write about your writer’s block or frustration, just get something on paper, and I promise, ideas will start to flow.

Spring is a wonderful time for manifesting and new beginnings. Please let me know if you decide to try the writing challenge and how it goes for you!

Celebrating your whole self

Imagine this scenario: a 10-year old girl has curly hair that she loves. She’s the only person in her class with curly hair. It’s the one way she feels unique and special. It’s a major part of her identity. It’s the one thing about herself she wouldn’t change.

Then one day, her grandmother comes to visit. The little girl has on her favorite dress. She runs to give her grandmother a hug, and her grandmother makes a comment to the girl’s mother about her wild, frizzy hair. The little girl is devastated by her grandmother’s offhanded comment. She feels ashamed of her hair and embarrassed that it’s not like the other girls in her class. She starts asking her mom to blow dry it straight for her. Every day is a battle to cover up her true self. Years go by. When she’s in high school, a well-meaning hairdresser suggests a Brazilian blowout to chemically straighten her hair. The old belief that she’s not good enough is reinforced…

Now imagine the same story, but replace her curly hair with a quirky sense of humor, a “nerdy” hobby, below average athletic skills or any other quality that might set a child apart. We all have experienced childhood trauma in some form. We all have had a moment or moments like this one that profoundly changed how we viewed ourselves and how we in turn presented ourselves to the world.

The details don’t matter. What matters is that those viewpoints are lies…lies that we initially believed because we were young and impressionable. More often than not, they came from someone else’s hurt….their feelings of inadequacy. Maybe the little girl’s grandmother was told by her own mother that her hair needed to be straight, so her pain trickled down to haunt another generation. The lies start small, but they compound as the years go by.

It’s so incredibly healing to trace those lies back to their origin…to the moment they all started…and see them through the eyes of an adult, not a child. Recognize that the person who said them was weak and hurting and that their actions or comments actually had nothing to do with you. Let that sink in: they have nothing to do with you.

This process takes time, but once you see your past in a new light, you can’t unsee it. You will become more accepting of yourself, the real you. You’ll proudly show that side of you to the world. And when that happens, you will stop attracting situations and people that reinforce the lies you once believed. It will dramatically change your life and set you on your true course.

How we’re raised as people pleasers

I’ve written before that I’m a fan of Gretchen Rubin and her podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. You might know her from her book The Happiness Project, which is one of those classics that I revisit periodically.

Several years ago, Gretchen wrote another book, The Four Tendencies, that examines what motivates people. She outlines four personality types – Upholder, Questioner, Obliger and Rebel – based on how different people respond to expectations, both external expectations from others as well as internal expectations from ourselves. It’s such a fascinating framework, particularly as you set New Year’s resolutions, raise kids, navigate politics at work and pretty much any other aspect of life that requires interpersonal skills. If you’re curious, you can take the quiz to determine your type here.

Gretchen states that:

  • Upholders want to know what should be done.
  • Questioners want justifications.
  • Obligers need accountability.
  • Rebels want freedom to do something their own way.

As I was taking the quiz, I remember feeling a familiar conflict welling up inside: how we respond to expectations from others, from a sense of duty, from the pressure to put others first. I was a people pleaser for most of my life, but that wasn’t my true nature. I felt trapped, unfulfilled and impotent. If I felt pressured into doing something I didn’t want to or if I worked long hours for a boss I didn’t respect, I lived for mini rebellions like showing up late, missing deadlines or doing something entirely for myself instead. I felt caught yo-yoing between feeling helpless and feeling selfish; during several particularly repressed times in my life, I let the people pleasing go so far that I had to take drastic action to recover (like calling off a wedding, moving to a foreign country, going to a large out-of-state college where I could feel anonymous).

It’s been years since I felt that way, but taking the Four Tendencies quiz took me back to those moments. I felt some unseen pressure to respond the way I was “supposed to” rather than how I actually felt. Because of the work I’ve done to get to know myself over recent years, I know those obligatory “supposed to” answers are not me; they’re a product of my upbringing.

I grew up in a very small, conservative, religious community. I was under constant surveillance and unforgiving scrutiny by adults in the community, and I felt enormous pressure to fit in and not step out of line. The people pleasing started there. The fear of standing out started there. And after almost 20 years of not living in that environment, I still feel its tug. Those are the lingering effects of childhood trauma.

Not surprisingly, the Four Tendencies quiz told me I’m a Rebel. I act from a sense of choice, authenticity and freedom. I don’t rely on others for guidance or power; I get them from within. And my heart breaks for that little girl, that powerful little girl, who was robbed from knowing her own strength for so long.

Learning & development toys for newborn – 7 months

As I’ve written before, I regret not including more learning and development toys on our baby registry before my daughter was born. It wasn’t the end of the world, but as a first-time mom, I was really surprised how quickly she was ready to engage with her environment, and I felt a bit unprepared. The good news is, you can have a lot of fun with some pretty basic toys and items from around your house!

There’s absolutely nothing magical about this list. These toys and activities worked for us based on our daughter’s developmental timeline. I highly recommend these two resources on learning and development to help with your journey. A note on this list: one item is included for each stage; the month listed is the month we introduced the toy to our daughter, but she’s continued to play with each toy (and still does today at almost 9 months).

Newborn – 2 months: Black and white art cards

There’s not a lot that you need during those first two months, but there is evidence that visual stimulation, particularly during the early months, may have a profound effect on baby’s development. As newborns, babies can only detect large contrasts between light and dark, so unfortunately those serene pastel nurseries aren’t doing much for them. That’s why products like Black Wee Gallery’s Art Cards for babies are so helpful. The company recommends placing the cards in a baby’s crib, above the changing table or any other place the baby spends time. It also describes how the cards facilitate a baby’s development over time, from birth through the first year.

3 months: Touch and Feel Board Book

Right after the newborn stage, our daughter starting showing an interest in textures. A friend of mine gave her the Jellycat Baby Touch and Feel Board Book If I were a Kitty. Each page of the book features a different texture, and the book itself has a curly cat tail. Unlike the other board books in our rotation during those early days, this one actually held her attention. If cats aren’t your thing, Jellycat makes the same book featuring bears, sloths, dragons and just about any other creature you can imagine.

4 months: DIY ribbon rattle

At around 4 months, our daughter started developing more motor skills and began showing more interest in her toys that made sounds, like rattles. Drawing inspiration from this post on DIY sensory shakers and noise makers, I made filled a plastic bottle with rice and colorful pom poms and attached ribbon to the lid. She likes her other rattles, but to this day, this one is her favorite because of the ribbons and all of the different colors.

5 months: DIY sensory bowl

Our daughter began to show a lot more curiosity at the 5-month mark. Coupling her increased interest in her environment with more awake time, and we found that it took more to stimulate her and keep her active. I started reading about sensory play, and got the idea to fill one of our mixing bowls with items from around the house that had a unique texture (sometimes called a sensory bowl or treasure basket). I went from room to room looking for candidates, but you can also find lists online. We started with a whisk, loofah, ball, wooden hairbrush, silicon cupcake mold, a board book and a few of her bath toys. I periodically rotate out her bowl friends to keep things fresh. I’m not exaggerating when I say we drag this bowl out every day, even now.

6 months: bath time animal stickers

At around 6 months, our daughter started to reliably sit up on her own. Up until that point, we were giving her baths lying down in the bath tub, but she loved her bath time, and I wanted to find a way for her to safely be able to splash around and play more. After doing some research, I got a Munchkin Sit and Soak Baby Bath Tub that we absolutely love. It has a built-in seat with back support so my husband and I can focus on washing and playing instead of trying to keep her in a seated position. That bath tub enabled our 6-month MVP: Weird and Wonderful Animals Bath Time Stickers. She always enjoyed bath time, but she’s absolutely obsessed with these foam stickers. They cling to the bath walls when they’re wet and float on the water surface if they fall in. My favorite feature is that the animals each come in three pieces, so she’ll have fun being silly and mixing and matching them once she’s older.

7 months: Bubbles

At 7 months, we faced a bit of a teething crisis. Our normally very happy girl started to get very cranky around 4 pm every day. I’d heard that babies love bubbles, so I ordered these Bubble Tree Sustainable Bubbles and saved them to play with during the most challenging part of each day. They immediately shift her mood and get her moving. I’m also really glad we didn’t introduce bubbles until we were having teething and crankiness issues; the novelty makes them even more special.