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!

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.

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.

Validating your trauma

The term “trauma” gets thrown around a lot in the context of personal growth. When I first started on my journey, I believed that trauma resulted from a catastrophic event or unhealthy environment…that it was reserved for victims of extreme suffering brought on by poverty, physical abuse or being raised by a parent battling addiction. I struggled to see how healing from trauma could be relevant for me, because I didn’t believe I had any.

While extreme poverty, abuse and addiction are certainly examples of situations that can breed trauma, the human experience itself exposes us to trauma. Growing up in an oppressive household or culture. Getting bullied. Experiencing complicated family dynamics. Living in a misogynistic culture. We all have trauma, and a lot of it stems from our formative years as children. Just because other people might have more acute trauma doesn’t mean that our own is invalidated or unfounded. Like me, you can’t address trauma until you know it’s there.

It’s so easy to let that pain – whether we acknowledge it or not – fester as adults. We see patterns in our lives like finding ourselves in the same types of relationships, work environments or stagnant situations, but don’t understand why. Until we identify the culprit, the fear, the insecurity that’s become our inner compass, we will continue to attract and find ourselves in these unhealthy situations, time and time again.

If we don’t acknowledge our trauma and work to heal it, we find ourselves letting it dictate the direction of our lives. We give it power.

As new parents, my husband and I have been very conscientious about working on ourselves, not only because it’s healthy for us individually and as a couple, but also so that we don’t pass our trauma on to our children. If allowed, trauma will spill over into every aspect of our lives, including our ability to parent; the work we’re doing will help ensure that the cycle of patterns ends with us and doesn’t get passed to the next generation.

If you’re interested in starting or intensifying your own journey, I highly recommend The Seeker’s Manual by Arda. The book, along with Arda’s one-on-one teachings, profoundly changed my life.

Parenting choices and repeating patterns

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we show up as parents based on what was modeled for us as children. As I look around at the people closest to me, I see example after example of either parents trying to replicate their own childhood or parents desperately trying to create the exact opposite of their own childhood. A selfless, guilt-ridden mom, like her own mom was. Another mom trying to create structure and order for her kids because her own childhood home was unstable. A dad who started therapy when his wife was pregnant to address and undo the trauma he experienced as a child.

We have an enormous opportunity as parents to learn from our experiences and put an end to these cycles. But it takes a great deal of strength, persistence and courage to do this work. It demands that we get really honest with ourselves about our childhood experience, a process that can be incredibly painful, especially when abuse, addiction, loss or absent parents are involved.

Usually, looking back a few generations can help you to notice patterns of behavior and better understand the present. An acquaintance of mine mentioned offhandedly that three generations of women in her family (herself included) had gotten pregnant without being married and had become single moms. I don’t believe that’s a coincidence.

In my own family, I’ve noticed a lineage of women who married unhappy, abusive men. I’ve asked myself questions like: How did those women attract that negative force into their lives? What was their father figure like? What was their lesson? How did that experience affect their children? Did their children recreate that pattern for themselves, or take a different path? Notice that these are neutral questions, not emotional ones. This is not about judgement or anger; it’s about compassion and understanding.

Give some thought to your own family and any patterns you see. Remember, the patterns you’ll find aren’t necessarily bad; consider them all as information for you…clues into your family history and yourself.

What experiences are you bringing in as a parent?

What unresolved hurt or trauma are you holding on to?

What can you let go of?

What do you need to do as a parent to end unhealthy cycles for your children?

This can be an incredibly healing meditation or journaling exercise, but I also recommend seeing a counselor, therapist or life coach if that’s an option for you. There’s a lot to be said for professional guidance and not going through the process alone. Although the process can be long and sometimes painful, you, and future generations, will be so much happier for it.

Gift for mom to honor a rainbow baby

I’m not a huge fan of the term “push present,” a gift given by a loved one marking the occasion of “pushing” a baby into the world. But I love the sentiment of honoring the birth of a baby and mom’s transition into motherhood.

My husband and I agreed that I would look for something I liked to commemorate our daughter’s birth, but after eight months of looking on and off, I’ve really struggled to find something that captures her essence.

Today, I came across a really unique rainbow necklace by Bryan Anthonys that might work perfectly. Our daughter is a rainbow baby, a baby that was born after a pregnancy loss. But she’s more than that definition. She’s our miracle. Like a rainbow, she brings so much light and joy. Her birth brought heaven down to earth. Like childbirth, rainbows can be explained by science but they’re still downright awe inspiring. They’re both a reminder of the sacredness and beauty of life.

How are you commemorating the birth of a baby?

2 great resources for your child’s learning & development

Since our daughter was born, I’ve become very interested in how to keep her engaged throughout the day and the best way to support her cognitive growth based on where she is developmentally.

I’ve found two really incredibly helpful resources:

  • Busy Toddler – Susie Allison’s parenting philosophy is that you shouldn’t spend all your time narrating and guiding your child’s play; they need time and space to create, learn and play on their own. And don’t let the name fool you; Susie Allison’s tips includes babies. Her website, Instagram account and newsletter have a ton information about creative but simple learning activities for kids. I love how she distinguishes between one-hit-wonder toys and toys that will grow with your children. Her ideas aren’t revolutionary but the genius lies in their simplicity and effectiveness. They just work. I’m adding her book Busy Toddler’s Guide To Actual Parenting to my list.
  • The Wonder Weeks – The Wonder Weeks is the #1 best selling baby app worldwide. A friend of mine with three children recommended it, and I’m so glad she did. The content is focused on your baby’s developmental “leaps,” and it provides so much context on growth milestones and behaviors that might accompany them. In my experience, so much of parenting in the first six months has been troubleshooting, and this app has led to several aha moments when our daughter was fussy, clingy or not sleeping well, seemingly with no explanation. According to the app, fussy phases tend to indicate that a new leap is about to begin; we found these phases to be spot on and to correlate almost exactly with our daughter’s development and behavior. Having the knowledge that setbacks were due to a phase and not some huge mistake in our parenting was incredibly liberating. In addition to explaining current behavior, the app has also helped preview developmental milestones; I read a few weeks of our daughter’s last leap that she could start waving in the next leap, so we started waving to her regularly, and wouldn’t you know it; on Christmas morning, she waved for the first time. We absolutely wouldn’t have thought to start waving to her without the nudge from the app.