“Eyes” and the letter “i”

I’ve asked our nanny to do more educational activities with Kaia since we came back from Australia, things like coloring, writing, identifying colors, shapes, body parts; counting, the alphabet. Kaia has a puzzle of her own name on it that was gifted for her birthday by a friend. And so our nanny has been using our play mat and the puzzle to teach her the alphabet, while also doing exercises on identifying her eyes, nose, mouth, and other body parts. Now, when our nanny asks Kaia where her “eyes” are, though, Kaia confuses this and thinks her “eyes” are the “i” in the name puzzle! At first, I didn’t quite get it, but then I realized that her name puzzle has an “i” in it for her name, and then I got the connection and confusion. It’s always interesting to look at these learning moments from a baby’s developing view. She actually isn’t totally “wrong,” but we just need to see it from her perspective.

Always with her walker

In just the last two days, Kaia has gone from walking hesitantly with us guiding her to wanting to walk with her walker literally everywhere. On Thursday, when she was in another kid’s play room, every time she saw a walker, she would charge over and take over it, walking everywhere she could. All she seems to want to do now is walk back and forth with it in our apartment. And while she struggled and didn’t quite know how to turn with it, once she figured it out within a day of us showing her how to turn, she started getting the hang of it. Now, she’s turning pretty effortlessly and walking faster and faster. I wonder when she’s actually going to let go of the walker completely and just run!

It’s been very gratifying to see her development every day, but it’s always so cute when the development seems to come in these huge bursts, seemingly overnight. She’s eager to take over this entire apartment, so it will be interesting to see her once she’s confident enough to let go and actually take her first independent steps, fully on her own.

“All done!”

Kaia absolutely adores her books. It makes me so happy to watch her sort through her books, turn the pages, and demand that we read her a selected book by pulling one off the shelf and handing it over to us with expectant puppy dog eyes. It does not always make me happy to watch her attempt to destroy her books with regular paper pages or try to disassemble the pull-out features of her more interactive books, but I suppose that’s just part of her learning process.

Last night, Kaia did her usual routine. She knew it was bedtime, so as soon as she finished her milk, we got into her room and she selected a book for me to read. She handed it over to me to read. We went through the book, funny voices and all, and when we finished, she wasn’t quite done; she closed the book, then pushed it into my lap. She was trying to indicate that she wanted to go through the book again. So I told her we’d go through the book again one more time. When we got halfway through the book, she immediately grabbed it, closed it shut, and then declared, “all done!”

My little baby is growing by leaps and bounds. I just can’t believe it sometimes. Sometimes, I still just stare at her face in wonderment and think about how thankful I am that she is here. My sweet miracle baby is life’s most precious gift to me.

Snot sucking: a true highlight of early parenthood

When a baby body care box that included a snot sucker (Nose Frida) was gifted to us from our registry, I figured that this manual snot sucking contraption would come in most handy if and when Kaia would fall ill. What I didn’t realize is that snot sucking would need to be a nearly daily task that I’d have to do for Kaia. And it would be especially hideous when Kaia would actually be congested.

Since Saturday, Kaia has had a little cold. She’s been stuffy, runny, and having endless snot stuck in her system. On the bright side, she’s still maintained good spirits and has still eaten well, so we haven’t been too worried. But I have had to increase snot sucker usage from once a day before bed to 3-4 times a day. On the worst night, I had to wake up three times in the middle of the night to clear her system out.

Today, I cleared her out before breakfast and again before lunch. Both times, it took longer than I would have preferred, which means Kaia was angry and trying to break free of our nanny holding her down in place, and I was getting out of breath and tired. And when you looked at the results of the snot sucker post suck, you’d really have to wonder… how can this much snot and nasal yuckiness come out of such a tiny human?

Kaia learns more and more and expresses herself

One thing I’ve been doing lately when I feed Kaia is putting food that is a little too hot slightly out of reach on her tray. Of course, being the hungry “Hoji” that she is, she still tries to reach for the food and sometimes is successful at getting it. However, this means that usually, she touches the food when it’s too hot and recoils, looking at me with a confused expression, and then I tell her that it’s “too hot” and that she needs to wait. She eventually comes back for the food when it’s a good temperature for her to grab.

Granted, I’m not a “mean mommy” like our nanny teasingly accuses me of, and the food is no where in the realm of being able to burn or boil Kaia. It’s just too hot for her. And so she’s realized what “hot” means. In the last day, Kaia has hesitantly not touched any of the food our nanny has placed on the tray for her to eat until our nanny sits down in front of her. Then, with this anticipatory look on her face, Kaia asks her, “Hot? Hot?” to which our nanny laughs and responds, “No, Kaia. Not hot.” Then Kaia gets excited and digs right into the food voraciously.

The other cute thing Kaia has done with our nanny in the last several days is that she’s done things to indicate she understands their daily routine together. After lunch, and after our nanny has finished cleaning up after her, Kaia will charge over with determination towards the stroller, stand up to reach and grab her jacket in the stroller seat, then crawl back to our nanny with the jacket in hand to help her put it on. She knows that after lunch and cleanup, it’s time to go out, and going out means 1) putting on her jacket, and 2) getting into her stroller.

My baby is growing up so fast, too fast. Now I get it when other mothers and parents express this bittersweet sentiment of wishing their babies didn’t grow up, that they want to keep them little forever to cherish these sweet moments. But I suppose if they did not grow up, we’d never be able to embrace and watch these new skills and habits that our tiny humans learn.

Vocabulary explosion at 15-months

In the last week, Kaia’s new words have just exploded. I was already having a hard time keeping track of all the words, but just in the last week, it’s gotten a bit out of control in a good way.

I keep a cup of water for myself by my bedside table each night, and I’ve also kept Kaia’s water cup on the same stand. Yesterday, she started charging toward the table to grab my phone, and I called out, “Pooks, watch out!” She looked at me and giggled, responding, “Watch out!”

She’s said, “oh no,” and “no, no, no!” more times than I can count. She points at her pacifier and yells out “paci!” She goes into her sock drawer, pulling all the socks out, yelling “socks!” over and over again. She pointed at my bowl of dinner and repeated “rice” many times. She knows what beets are and how to say them. She even said “mian,” Chinese for “noodles” multiple times, and said “xi shou,” Chinese for washing hands, when I brought her to the sink to wash up. When she occasionally tries to throw food off her tray and our nanny wags her finger at her to admonish her, Kaia giggles and yells back, “oh, no, no, no, no!” She says “e i e i o” after the “Old McDonald Had a Farm” song, almost at the right pitch. And she also sings the first part of the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” song — “Up above (the world so high).” When we practice walking together, and I say “up, up, up!” she repeats after me. She also loves to yell, “go!” And of course, she is never shy about asking for “more?” when it comes to her very favorite foods.

My chatty baby is learning so much and is a human sponge. I can’t even properly express in words how proud and happy it makes me. Sometimes, I look at her face, and I can’t believe how freaking lucky I got.

Children’s Museum and the cost of giving one’s child a well rounded cultural experience in New York City

A friend who has young children recently told me about the Children’s Museum on the Upper West Side. It’s on 83rd and Amsterdam, so about 23 blocks north of where we live, and he said it would be a great place to consider getting a membership for once Kaia was a little older (walking age). He said most of the activities would be fun for children once they can walk and run around, so I figured I would wait until Kaia was walking confidently. The reason to consider getting the annual membership ($275) is that the admission fee, even for babies, is pretty steep: it’s $16 per person, regardless of age. So even if you took your 6-month old here, they would still be charged the SAME admission as you, an adult. That means every time a parent/caregiver were to bring their baby, it would be $32 each visit, which really adds up if you are planning to go often! The annual membership covers admission for two adults and up to four children each time, assuming you either had multiple kids, or wanted to bring other kids as play dates.

I had posted multiple times in several local parent groups asking about free activities for babies and young toddlers, and the only thing that seemed to come up was Story Time at the local library. Everything else cost… a lot of money per activity, at least $35-45 per 45-minute session of anything, whether that was music class, gymnastics, or swimming. Apparently this season, Story Time has been cancelled. In the early winter, it was so competitive to get a spot because parents and caregivers would line up about TWO hours ahead of the scheduled Story Time event, and because it was held indoors in the library, they had a head count cut-off given COVID and potential illnesses. It’s frustrating to know that we live in a city where we pay really high taxes, yet I cannot seem to get anything “free” to do for Kaia during the day and still have to pay even more. Everything seems to cost hundreds of dollars on end. The music class I am considering signing her up for is $35/session and asks that to lock in that rate, you pay for a whole “season” up front, so 13 classes. But if you want to do a la carte, it will cost $45-50 per class. That’s an ouchie, isn’t it, especially spending on your child who is so young that they won’t even remember you ever did this for them?

The city and country (if not world) we live in is a world of haves and have nots. You either have money to do these things, or you do not. I could do what my parents did for Ed and me…. and sign my child up for literally no activities, no extracurricular anything, and make my child think we’re just poor. But, well, I’m not planning to repeat the mistakes of my parents.

Crib railing comes down

Over the weekend, Chris took down the front railing on the crib and blew up an air mattress to place right by the crib. Given that it’s been about two months of Kaia avoiding her crib and refusing to sleep in it, meaning she has to co-sleep with us, I decided we really need to start cracking down on this. On Saturday, we successfully got her to nap on the air mattress and even sleep on it for about 2.5 hours at night. On Sunday, Chris got her to sleep on the actual crib mattress for about 1.5 hours. These are all baby steps, but steps in the right direction of getting her to sleep independently. On Sunday, I tried to have her nap on the crib mattress, but she wouldn’t fall asleep or get comfortable unless she was on the SAME mattress I was on. She was happy to go up and down from one mattress to the other to the floor and play, though. So it seems her aversion for the crib is dying down. This is really about addressing separation anxiety and just comfort with this room in general.

The things parents go through during their children’s development — it’s like every single day, I gain more and more respect for people who choose to become parents. Being a parent definitely gives you a perspective you’d never quite understand until you became one. And no, being a dog or cat parent is just not the same.

The Montessori method gone awry?

Ever since I became pregnant, pretty much everywhere I looked, I see the Montessori method of child-rearing mentioned. Toy companies trying to market more aggressively label their toys “Montessori” to increase their perceived value (and price). Everyone talks about encouraging children to be their own independent selves, and the way to do that is to have the child “lead,” whether that’s through baby-led weaning (which is inherently “Montessori”), skipping a sippy cup and going directly to straws and open cups; and having children choose their activities vs. having the parents push activities on the children.

In a nutshell, the Montessori method has five principles:

  1. Respect for the child
  2. The absorbent mind
  3. Sensitive periods
  4. The prepared environment
  5. Auto education

What this all means is: education should revolve around “child-led activities” versus “work.” Even without seeing the label of “Montessori,” I’m already very pro Montessori concepts like baby-led weaning, like skipping a sippy cup in favor of a straw or open cup drinking, like encouraging Kaia to problem solve instead of fixing all her problems for her. But at some point, the Montessori method really does go too far, and when I say “too far,” what I mean is this:

I recently got suggested a Montessori parenting handle on Instagram where the mother had a somewhat radical idea when it came to feeding babies. She suggested that instead of giving babies and young toddlers metal, plastic, or silicone plates, bowls, and cups to instead give them ceramic dishes and ceramic or glass drinking cups. The idea behind this is that if you allow the baby to throw or drop a glass or ceramic cup/plate, the mere scary sound of the crash/shattering would be so startling to the child that they would immediately re-think ever throwing or intentionally/accidentally dropping a plate/cup ever again. That way, we “respect” the child by allowing them to do what they want, and at the same time, they come to realize on their own through these loud sounds that throwing/dropping is wrong, and to never do it again. And — that’s ultimately a Montessori approach to feeding young children and teaching them that plates/cups stay on the table!

Ummmm, no. No, no, and no. I’m not going to spend endless money on replacing glass cups and ceramic plates just to do the “Montessori” method of feeding. No, I don’t want to further add to the world’s landfill. And no, I don’t want to constantly clean and sweep up broken glass and ceramics, I don’t want to expect Chris or my nanny to do that, and I especially do not want to risk Kaia getting punctured or injured in the process. Sometimes, these suggestions are truly just beyond stupid. Those who are constantly obsessing over whether they are truly following the “Montessori” or any other method need to get a grip of themselves, calm down, step back, and just be in reality for a second. There’s no reason to get your panties in a bunch because you’re not the perfect parent; no one is, and no one ever will be!

Kaia learns to drink with an open cup

A lot of people asked if I was planning to get Kaia a sippy cup. Many people just assumed this, including our nanny and parents on both sides. For the longest time, sippy cups were the “normal” thing to introduce babies to after they weaned off the bottle or breast. But the more I read about sippy cups, the more I realized that getting Kaia to learn to drink from one would allow her to gain no real long-term skills. The real skills she needed to learn from 6 months onward when it comes to drinking fluids is drinking through a straw and open cup. She mastered a straw after just a few tries. An open cup has certainly been more challenging, but she does seem to understand the mechanics more or less. We do still expect a number of spills, so to conserve things like soup or milk, we have her practice with water.

The cutest thing happened today while I was encouraging her to tilt her cup more. She was being a little conservative, and she wasn’t tilting her cup enough. So I kept repeating gently, over and over, “Tilt it more, Pooks! Tilt it just a little more! You can do it! Tilt it!”

Out of nowhere, she looked me in the eye and exclaimed, “I know!” in response. Chris stopped what he was doing and looked up, and I looked at him in shock.

Did she actually just know what she said? It’s unclear. But what is clear is… I know for a fact that I’ve got a very, very cheeky Kaia Pookie on my hands.