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Preparing the Activity

I got Ze a simple rattle yesterday with the intention of encouraging his grasp. I would have loved to get a little wooden rattle but they are so expensive. Plastic will have to suffice in this instance. He has only just been grabbing toys successfully in the past couple weeks, but most things are too big for him to hold with just one hand. This morning he was experimenting.

At first I was trying to wrap his fingers around the rattle the “right” way and then let him shake it, but he almost instantly dropped it that way. I found that if I held the shaker part of the rattle above his chest, he would bring his hands midline and grab the rattle himself. Sure, his grasp wasn’t perfect but doing it this way: 1) showed me that he was interested in holding the rattle as he had to make the effort to bring his hands to it, and 2) allowed him to practice on his own what kind of grasp would and wouldn’t work with this item.

I realized the importance of letting him experiment for himself. I was amazed to find that he was holding the rattle out to one side at certain times and starting to roll towards it. He has been working on rolling back to front for awhile and it is so interesting to see how he works so hard and tries to contort his body in different ways to achieve this goal.



This month Brad and I have been trying not to eat out at all. It’s been difficult because we are surrounded by incredible restaurants. I must stop for a moment and give props to all our favorites: Pot Pan for Thai food (oh, wonderful Thai tea!), Kyu Sushi (where the owner greets us by name), Caffe de Luca (I’ve been craving their cobb salad), Sultan’s Market (Brad’s fave: he goes their at least once a week), Birchwood Kitchen (has the best sandwiches), the taqueria (not very fancy but cheap and delicious!), Piece (New Haven style pizza)….I could go on and on. Seriously all these places are within a 10 minute walk. The city is amazing! I haven’t even mentioned all the places we still have to try.

I love that we have all these restaurants nearby and I want to continue going there to support our local businesses and the development of our community. However, I also want to be a bit more protective of how often we eat out. Living simply means enjoying meals at home, not to mention saving money for the most important things (though sometimes a great meal out is at least a little important). So, in light of all this…Last night I made falafel.

I did several things wrong: I overloaded our food processor so it couldn’t successfully mix everything. I tried to make the “dough” at 5:00pm, when Ze is most cranky. I forgot that heating oil in our oven always sets off our smoke alarm. My wonderful husband rectified the situation by taking the babe for a walk (and picking up hummus…AND FLOWERS) while he was out. So, the process was not so fun but the falafel turned out wonderfully. It’s even mostly healthy since it is not deep fried.

So next time I will prepare most of this during Ze’s nap, but there definitely will be a next time. It was good-oh!

I followed this recipe from a friend:

2 T. olive oil divided
1 can 15 oz drained, rinsed chick peas
1 C diced onion
3 cloves garlic
1/4 C cilantro
1/4 C parsley
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 C all purpose flour
1 egg beaten

  • Coat a 9×13 pan with non stick spray and 1 T olive oil and place in oven. Preheat to 375.
  • Pulse everything except flour and egg until minced not paste. Transfer to bowl and stir in flour and egg until fully incorporated. Drop golf ball sized balls onto hot baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes.
  • Brush falafel with remaining olive oil, flip and bake another 15-20 minutes until golden.
  • Serve with pita, hummus, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and cucumber slices.

The Local Market

This place, Olivia’s Market, is my new favorite little store in my neighborhood. They have a little bit of everything and it is so neat and tidy. I could walk the same distance and be at a Jewel, but I would rather go here and support a local business. Okay, I know Jewel is technically a local business but it feels so big-box-chain-store to me. Olivia’s Market carries a lot of organic food, not so much local stuff as far as I can tell, but most of their products are quality things. They have a tiny deli and freezer section, a little table stocked with fruits and vegetables, maybe 10 rows of grocery items. Every time I go there I find something new: like the little wall of Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning products or the Nice Cream in their freezer. They also have a small bulk food section. Honestly, they carry almost every product that I buy on a regular basis. Their prices are a bit higher than Stanley’s and Trader Joe’s, where I’ve been doing my regular grocery shopping. I don’t know that I’m to switch to do all my shopping here, but I’m pretty certain it is the place I will walk to when I’m out of milk or some other necessity.

That’s right: walk. I love that my neighborhood is so walkable and I need to start taking advantage of it. I strongly believe in neighborhoods where all the resources you need to live are within walking distance. We need more neighborhoods like this in Chicago: where people can get fresh produce just as easily as potato chips, where people can walk to a cafe and enjoy time with friends without having to burn more fuel and cause more traffic by driving, where people can get to know their neighbors as they walk to the library or clothing store or (in my case) yarn store. So there’s my soapbox for the day, I guess. It will be harder in the winter, but for now I’m making a commitment to walk or take the bus to as many places as I can and Olivia’s Market is one that I will be frequenting often.

“New” Table

I found this project on Apartment Therapy last year and mentioned it to Brad. He was thoughtful enough to give me, as a Christmas gift, his labor on refinishing our table. We got this table maybe four years ago and I have been disappointed in it from the beginning. Anything you put on the table top made an instant mark that could not be removed. So it looked nasty from the start (imagine 20 or so water rings). For the past year I’ve had to just cover it up with a table cloth, which I was having to clean after almost every meal. Here’s the Before shot (which is actually after Brad sanded the table):

And several coats of primer and whiteboard paint later:

I was a little concerned about having a stark white table top. I thought it would be impossible to keep clean. But so far it is so much easier than having a tablecloth. Everything wipes off instantly. I’ll let you know how I feel about it when we have a little one that is eating solid food.

And the best part:

You can write on it with dry-erase markers! I have learned that OLD dry-erase markers don’t wipe off so cleanly. The trick for that is to color over the mark with WORKING dry-erase markers and then wipe that off. For some reason, the dry erase markers “activate” any other marks, making them erasable. Neato!


This past weekend we drove 2 hours north to Delavan, Wisconsin and spent 2 lovely days with our church family. It’s amazing how much more complicated things become with a baby. I was constantly trying to match up Ze’s naptime with when we would be in the car, so that he would sleep instead of scream during our traveling times. Our church has had a huge baby boom in the past year, with at least one baby born each month, and this in a church of about 150. So there were lots of other parents chasing 2 year olds or bouncing babies during our gathering times.

Since Ze was born, going to church has been an entirely different experience for me. On the one hand, it has been fantastic getting to know the other parents in our church and learning from them. On the other hand, I have had to rethink what worship means to me, as it is almost impossible to connect individually with God and really focus completely during the service. Usually I’m standing near all the kids who are jumping and running during the music time. I have learned so much about joy watching them sing and clap their hands and about loving others, as I see them grabbing each other’s hands and forming little circles. I’m learning what it means to come to worship God as a corporate, rather than personal, experience.

So the retreat wasn’t exactly a restful time but it was an inspiring and encouraging time. I left Wisconsin feeling more committed to building relationships with people in my church. The city can be such a busy place that real community is difficult to grasp. It’s simply hard to travel through crazy traffic, long waits for buses, and no parking spaces to meet up with other people. Add kids and their different nap and bed times to the mix and life can become so isolated. But I’m making more of an effort to build those connections and find a way to have a strong community in the city. Right now that means sending lots of emails, making lots of phone calls, taking meals to families with new babies, just getting out to the park and talking to other moms. Some times it’s exhausting and I feel like I’m not keeping Ze on much of a schedule (though thankfully naps are much better!). But when I see my church family growing together and I get to hug lots of people on Sunday morning and pray for them throughout the week, I realize that community takes a lot of work but it is worth the effort.

Cloth Diapers: The Stash

This is the cloth diaper corner of our house. It’s a funny little nook in Ze’s room that fits two IKEA DVD shelving units. By the way, I am highly recommending the Billy bookshelves from IKEA. We’ve had 5 units for the past 6 years and they still look brand new, hold hundreds of books, and we’ve used them in 4 different set-ups for all sorts of different things.

Back to the diapers…This is the top of the shelf where we have (some not pictured because they were either in the wash or on Ze’s butt) 6 Cuteybaby all-in-ones, 3 sposoeasy all-in-ones, 4 Cricketts, 1 hemp prefold, 2 medium Bumkins covers, and 3 small Thirsties covers. Here’s my thoughts on these dipes:

Cuteybaby: We haven’t tried these yet because they are too big still. They look well made and I’ve read good reviews. I’ll have to give my feedback later.

Sposoeasy: Really simple to use, just snap them on the baby. No leaks in these.

Cricketts: These are the diapers we use at night with a Thirsties cover. We have to be careful that no part of the diaper is sticking out from the cover. Ze’s butt looks huge when he has these on and they are soaked when I change him in the middle of the night. But that is the point of these diapers: to absorb everything. They work great! I think they’re too big to use during the day but perfect for nighttime.

Hemp prefold: I haven’t used this yet but my plan is to use it at night. I’ll have to test it out during the day though. I’m always paranoid about using new diapers at night because I don’t want to rock the system. I want him to sleep as long as possible.

Thirsties covers: Love these! As long as the diaper is fully inside the cover, they keep in everything! If I were starting all over I would just get Thirsties covers and prefolds in different sizes.

Bumkins covers: I haven’t used these yet but will use them when he grows out of the Thirsties covers. They feel much more “cheap” and flimsy than the Thirsties covers but…we’ll see how well they work.

Here we have (again, some not pictured): 12 infant prefolds, 1 mama-made pocket, 7 Happy Heineys one-size pockets, 8 GroBaby covers, and 18 GroBaby inserts.

Infant prefolds: We used these with a Snappi and an x-small Thirsties cover when Ze was new (started using cloth the day his cord stump fell off). They worked really well. Now I use them with the small Thirsties cover and no Snappi. I just lay them in the cover. They are much harder to put on this way but I don’t want to buy larger prefolds when we have all the other diapers. These are mostly back-ups when the other dipes are in the wash.

Handmade Pocket and Happy Heineys Pockets: We mostly use these at night or when the GroBabys are dirty. They are harder to put on because they snap. Also they tend to get detergent build-up on them after about a month of use so they get less and less absorbent. Theses are the only diapers I’ve really had leaks in. I wouldn’t use these at night but they are easier to put on in the dark than the Cricketts with a cover.

GroBaby: I love GroBaby! They have a new name – GroVia – now but are basically the same. Each diaper comes with a cover and a snap-in insert. You can also buy more inserts and disposable inserts. I’ve never had a leak with these diapers, even when Ze’s legs were skinny. They are easy to put on. The only problem is that Ze was pooping so often, the poop often got on the inside of the cover so I was washing the covers a lot and would run out of diapers. If he just pees or only poops a little, it stays on the insert and I can just change that instead of the whole cover. Oh, the inserts do stain a lot but if I lay them out in the sun for a day they are perfectly white again. Also, these dipes are super cute! Here’s Ze modeling a GroBaby diaper in mandarin (and the cutest hat ever that my friend found at a nearby thrift store). So freakin’ adorable I can’t stand it!

So far we love cloth diapering. I got a little obsessed with buying different kinds. I probably have a bunch more than I really need, but now I’m committed to not buying any more unless absolutely necessary. The whole process is a lot easier than you would think and I love the way his little butt looks in cloth. I’ll have to write more about the process later when the little guy’s not distracting me with all his cuteness.

The Hardest Thing about Parenting So Far

We are going through some sleep issues here. It’s amazing how all-consuming and exhausting it can be just to try to get a baby to nap. I tried all day Friday and all day Saturday. Sunday things evened out because we spent a lot of time in the car driving to and from Milwaukee. Today, after reading applicable parts of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, I am determined to help Ze achieve a more appropriate sleep schedule. The AP part of me hates letting him cry a bit to sleep but the Montessori part of me wants to help him help himself to sleep. So far in his life we have only ever walked him until he is sound asleep and then carefully, carefully, carefully put him to bed. It has worked until now, but now he seems to want to be awake and take in the world. He fights sleep when he is clearly tired.

Sleep is THE area where every parent has their own opinion, and I have basically been feeling like a bad mama for walking him for hours to put him to sleep, like a bad mama for letting him cry, like a bad mama for having him sleep in his own bed, like a bad mama for letting him sleep a few hours in the morning in hour bed…I don’t want sleep to be a horrible thing for Ze. So I’m making in my goal to be very, very consistent with naptime this week and with the two or three things I do to soothe him to sleep. Hopefully these will start to become cues that it is sleep time. And hopefully we can slowly encourage him to fall asleep on his own without tears.

It’s such a difficult line to walk: caring for your child that you want to protect him from pain but also helping him stay healthy and strong and hopefully preventing sleep battles in the future.

By the way, that thing he is sleeping in is called a Woombie, and it is the best swaddler I have found. Ze got out of every other swaddler, even the velcro ones by 6 weeks. I have tried to put him down without a swaddle but he is such an active baby that it seems he cannot keep himself from moving and waking up instantly. The Woombie keeps his limbs pretty secure but he can still move his hands around inside. He’s not stuck in only one position like other swaddlers.