When Mike and I first got married, I ran to a local thrift store to get us a few things on the cheap to make our house look at least a little bit festive. One thing I found was a porcelain nativity set. It was painted in oranges, browns and greens and made you pretty much want to puke when you looked at it. But I saw the potential, took it home and gave those figurines the makeover of their lives by spray painting them all white (Mary has been thanking me ever since).
But three years ago when I picked up that ugly nativity scene, having it be baby-friendly was the furthest thing from my mind and porcelain is anything but baby-friendly. As I pulled it out from storage to set it up this year, I started to realize that Eli wouldn't be able to play with it, let alone touch it for a long, long time. One thing I really want to do with Eli (and any future kiddos) every year is take time to act out and set up the nativity scene. There are tons of ways to incorporate a nativity scene into the Advent season, so I figured this year is the time to try to find one that's child-friendly. As I've searched the internez, here are some good options I've found.
My First Nativity Scene by BuboBUBOmini on Etsy - A nativity scene that's more on the modern side, but it's the most interesting one I've seen yet. It's such a fun concept as all the pieces fit inside the wooden frame "stable" like a puzzle for storage, and the blue background is actually chalkboard paint, so kids can draw a new scene each year.
Christmas Nativity Set by PegBuddies on Etsy - A super cute set of figurines, and I especially love the stable that comes with! The seller has a note that the Jesus and small sheep represent a choking hazard, so this might be better for children that are a bit older.
Little People Nativity Playset - Every kid I know loves Little People, so I'm sure this set would be a hit with all children. The only bummer is it doesn't come with the shepherds or wisemen, making it tough for the kids to act out the entire story. If you want all of them, you'll have to upgrade to the "gift set" - but warning: it's a bit intense.
Melissa and Doug Nativity Set - A pretty wooden set, it is definitely the most budget friendly at $30.00. Sounds like people's only complaint is that the figurines are a bit narrow, making them hard to stand up on their own.
Olive Wood Nativity Set - If you're looking for something a little less childish-looking, an olive wood set might be a good choice. Bonus your kids will never really "grow out" of it and you'll have it for a long time. If you just want the figurines, here's a good olive wood set.
Feeding: Nursing as well as supplementing with breast milk from my (small) stash and formula. Eats four times a day, 7-9 oz at each feeding. Also eating solids, loosely following Baby Led Weaning.
Clothing: 12 - 18 month
Bedtime: 8 p.m., although this has been creeping up to 7 or 7:30 many nights when he doesn't get his evening nap. Sleeps 12-13 hours consistently each night.
Nursing: Well, last month I had a feeling my supply was dwindling, and my hunch was correct. I had to start supplementing from my frozen stash (which was VERY small) towards the beginning of the month, and pretty soon I had to supplement with formula. It grows every week how much formula he needs, but right now at the end of the month I nurse him for as long as he wants, then I supplement with anything from 4-6 oz. He usually takes about 8 oz. total, so I assume I have about half a feeding for him. This is a bummer for sure, but I think I'll write more in depth about this in a different post, since the last nursing one was so popular.
Baby Led Weaning: Baby Lead Weaning is still going really well. I'm not too intentional with anything, he probably gets one or two meals a day when it's a "regular" day home with me. We traveled a TON in November, and were with a lot of family, so that means a lot of days he ate his weight in regular food. We had some issues with constipation (TMI? Probably not if you're a mom. Everyone else, just skip to the next section.) after flying, plus I think he was eating SO much regular food it was hard on his tummy. He went on pretty much an all pear diet, and I also started having him eat my oatmeal every morning with me - the flax and chia seeds are both digestive aids, and I think that - more than pears - got him regular again.
This month, sleep was a little crazy - again just from all the traveling. He actually slept pretty well when he had the chance, but he wasn't really on a schedule. I tried when I could, but I also didn't want to be too crazy about it and be the mom that everyone rolls their eyes at, so I tried to be flexible. Although at some points I'm sure I was. But suffice it to say, we had lots of delirious laughter turned to spontaneous bawling because he was so exhausted. It took him a couple days each time we returned home to get back to taking a full two-hour nap, then we'd usually leave again mixing up his schedule, so the poor kid had a lot of schedule-whiplash.
I'm still contemplating how/when to really drop that evening nap. I'll probably try in January, with the holidays here, his schedule isn't getting any better, so I don't want to do it this month. When he missed it this month, I did often move his bedtime up to 7 or 7:30 p.m. and it works okay, but I can just tell he is absolutely exhausted by then and I don't love doing that to him. I found this article on how regular bedtimes are good for kids interesting- and in the eight short months we've had Eli - absolutely true.
Everyone always asks me if he is crawling yet, and the answer is nope - he's not even showing any real signs of wanting to crawl. He sits up like a champ and will reach and grunt and reach and grunt for a toy that's too far away, but quickly realizes it's not worth the effort and will sit back up straight and look around for another toy to play with. He doesn't seem to be super motivated to try to get something yet. I put him on his stomach a lot and while he tolerates it, he flips on his back pretty quick and is content to suck on his toes.
He's starting to understand object permanence (picked up that term from my Baby Center updates!) and he'll look around for something he's dropped. It's a blast to play peek-a-boo with him as he waits and watches for me to pop out from behind something. He used to always look away between "pop outs" but now he waits and watches the spot he knows I'll return to. He has the absolute best laugh and I love how he first looks terrified, then dissolves into giggles a second after. He literally will throw his head back and laugh - it is the cutest. At the end of the month, right around Thanksgiving, he also started to wave. At first we thought it was a fluke, he waves his arms around all the time, but pretty soon it became obvious it was intentional so of course, Mike and I can now be found waving at Eli like goons all the time.
He still talks all the time, lots of babbling, tongue clicking, fake coughs, raspberries, whisper voices and he's just started trying to blow. We blow in his face and hair all the time and he now attempts to blow back at us.
This month, Eli turned into a real bouncing baby boy. This kid loves to bounce. He absolutely goes to town in his jumper. He'll stay in there for a good 20 minutes bouncing like a mad man. He does it with such intensity - head down and feet slamming into the floor - you'd think his life depended on how hard he jumped. He has this adorable one footed bounce that ends up spinning him in a circle while he does it. Sometimes I'll help him bounce a little higher by pushing up and down on the jumper and he just goes nuts. He also loves to bounce when he's being held, he'll bounce on my lap and I'm always a little surprised at how strong he is. Usually when he gets going in my lap, I know it's time for the jumper - which saves my arms from being sore the next day.
He loves looking out the windows and watching people and cars pass by. The first thing we do when he wakes up is open up the shades in his nursery and look out - he always has the biggest smile on his face. He also loves hanging out in the kitchen with me, I'll pull his high chair in while I cook dinner and he usually plays with the whisk, measuring spoons and unopened bags of whatever food I have on hand, like rice or chocolate chips. He loves to watch anything be mixed up or even watch water boil - let's just say he's pretty easily entertained.
New This Month:
Let's start with the biggie: First plane ride and first visit to the ocean! He actually did really well on the plane - he didn't nap at all which made it tough, but he also didn't have any major meltdowns. Even though he didn't sleep, I think I ended up more tired than him at the end of the flight, just because it took so much work to keep him off the ledge. I talked a bit about his first visit to the ocean here, he wasn't a huge fan, but he warmed up to it eventually. He loved getting to play with his cousins while we were down there and was completely entertained by them - it was fun to see them all together.
He also experienced his first Thanksgiving, and was a HUGE fan of the smoked turkey his Grandpa fixed in the Big Green Egg. He also had a couple sleepovers at Grandma and Grandpa's house and all reports tell me he did amazing and was requesting to stay every night until the end of time.
I love being Eli's mom. I think I thank Mike three times a week for letting me stay-at-home with him. Being Eli's mom is the best job I've ever had and I'm so grateful that I get to hang with him all day. Everyone told me it would just keep getting better and better and they were right. Mike told me the other day, "This is it. This is my favorite stage. He's so awesome and so much fun." And he's totally right. I love watching Mike and Eli interact, they actually play games together now. Watching them roll around on the floor or sprint around the house (Eli on Mike's shoulders of course) makes my heart so full I think it could burst. Being a parent is awesome - it's not dull, boring or even restricting like so many people think. (Even I thought it would be - at least a little!) There are moments, of course - but really it's so exciting and fun to watch your baby change and grow, and even though you have to be home for bedtimes and nap times, you WANT that. You want to give your kid the sleep he needs, the schedule he needs, so it's not hard or inconvenient, it's just your life now and it's so worth it that you don't think of it as intruding on your needs and wants, because your kid's needs and wants ARE your needs and wants. It's weird. But awesome.
A few weeks ago, I participated in a Jesse Tree ornament exchange with 24 other moms. Eli's a little young to understand, but, let's be real. He doesn't really understand anything yet besides food and sleep. With all that talk about traditions the other day, this is one of them I do want to implement this year (mostly because I actually have everything to do it) and I figured we could swap this with his bedtime read of the Jesus Storybook Bible, to help us get into the mindset of Advent.
If you're not familiar with the Jesse Tree, it's a Christ-centered advent countdown with each ornament representing the family tree, or genealogy of Jesus and is the story of God's salvation plan. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1, "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit."
There are lots of ways to get the ornaments for the Jesse Tree, you can print them (here's a great list of FREE printable kits), you can purchase them from a shop like this or this on Etsy, and even Walmart sells them, or you can make them. But since I would probably fail miserably at trying to make 25 different ornaments that are creative, child-safe and something I would actually want to display, an ornament exchange is BRILLIANT. Basically in the exchange, each person is assigned a different ornament and tasked with duplicating it 25 times, then the group all gets together for a night to exchange them so each person goes home with 25 different ornaments. It's way more efficient and affordable this way, and bonus, you come home with a ton of ornaments that are way better than anything you could have made on your own.
There are several books associated with the advent calendar that you can purchase, such as The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean (on my Christmas list), or you can just use the scripture associated with each day and read from the bible. There are also a couple free resources online such as, Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree Devotional and Jesse Tree Devotions. (A quick word of warning on this one - while it's very child-friendly, it doesn't follow the same days as the ornaments below. It's the one we started out with, but pretty quick, we just switched to scripture.)
There are a handful of ideas out there for ornaments, but in my search for examples, I didn't find a lot, so I thought I'd share them here if anyone needs inspiration. If you have any questions on hosting an exchange or have other ideas for implementing The Jesse Tree into your family traditions, please let me know, I'd love to hear from you!
Story of creation: Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-4
Day 2 – Apple and Snake
Story of the First Sin: Genesis 3:1-10, 23; Isaiah 53:6; 1 John 1:8-10; Isaiah 59:2
Day 3 – Ark with a Rainbow
Story of the Ark: Genesis 5-9:7; Romans 6:23; Joshua 23:14
Day 4 – Camel and a Tent
Story of the Call to Abram: Genesis 12:1-7; Hebrews 11:8; Matthew 1:1
Day 5 – A Lamb
Story of Isaac and the Lamb/Ram: Genesis 22:1-13; Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29; 1 Peter 1:19
Day 6 – A Ladder
Story of Jacob’s Ladder: Genesis 27:41-28:22
Day 7 – A Colorful Coat
Story of Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors: Genesis 37-50, especially 50:18-21; Romans 8:28
Day 8 – A Tablet with Numbers
Story of Moses and the Ten Commandments: Exodus 1-15; 20; 32:15-18; Psalm 119:11; Galatians 3:19
Day 9 – A Cluster of Grapes
Story of Canaan, the Promised Land of Blessings: Numbers 13-14:38; 24:17; Psalm 103:2
Day 10 – A Sheaf of Wheat
Story of Ruth and Boaz: Ruth 1-4; Matthew 1:5
Day 11 – A Slingshot
Story of King David: 1 Samuel 16-17
Day 12 – A Scroll or Bible
Story of Josiah Finding the Law: 2 Kings 22-23:25; Psalm 119:105
Day 13 – A Stump with a Fresh Shoot or Leaf
Prophecy of a Shoot from the Stump of Jesse: Isaiah 11:1-5, 10; John 1:14a; 1 Samuel 16:13; Revelation 5:5
Day 14 – A Lion and a Lamb
Prophecy of the Lion and the Lamb Resting Together: Isaiah 11:6-10; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 21:1-7; Philippians 2:9-11
Day 15 – A Dove and a Crown
Prophecy of the Prince of Peace: Isaiah 2:2-4; 9:2-7; John 14:27
Day 16 – A Lamb and a Staff
Prophecy of a Gentle Shepherd: Isaiah 40:9-11; Psalm 23; John 10:27; John 10:11-16
Day 17 – A Cross
Prophecy of a Suffering Servant: Isaiah 53; Luke 2:8-18; John 19:11-18; John 10:15; Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22; Romans 5:9-10
Day 18 – A Heart with Writing on it
Prophesy of the New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:31-24; Acts 16:31; Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Hebrews 8-10
Day 19 – Bethlehem
Prophesy of Bethlehem: Micah 5:2-4; Luke 2:1-7
Day 20 – A Fiery Furnace
Story of the Exile: 2 Kings 17:1-23; 25:1-17; Daniel 3; Jeremiah 1:8
Day 21 – A Brick Wall
Story of the Return to the Land: Ezra 1; Nehemiah 6:15-16; Malachi 3:1; Revelation 22:20
Day 22 – A Star
Story of the Star: Matthew 2:1-12; Numbers 24:17; Revelation 22:16; 2 Peter 1:19
Day 23 – A Candle or Light
Story of the Light of the World: Luke 1:26-56; 2:21-33; John 1:4-9; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Isaiah 42:6; John 8:12; Revelation 21:23-24; Isaiah 60:1-3
Day 24 – An Angel
Story of Angels Proclaiming the Coming of Christ: Luke 2:8-14; Hebrews 1:1-4; Psalm 91:11
Day 25 – A Baby in a Manger
Story of the Birth of Jesus: Matthew 2:1-7; Luke 2:1-21
As I've mentioned before, I like dressing Eli like a little man, which means VERY tight pants when you cloth diaper, which also means Eli looks like C-3PO from Star Wars when he moves. So when Eli and I are home for the day, I change him into sweatpants so he'll be more comfortable - just like I used to do when I worked all day and would come home for the night. (Please tell me, do they INTENTIONALLY make dress pants uncomfortable?) Eli often looks like my Instagram picture below. Please notice the fancy argyle cardigan on top, and casual striped sweats on bottom. I like to think of it as "fashion forward." I mean, did you see his socks with lime green toe caps?
Baby Led Weaning means Eli feeds himself with his hands, which also means I'm often handing him a hunk of banana or a chunk of broccoli that fell on the floor with my hands. All too often I then turn to eat my own meal - with my hands. I've usually shoveled down three handfuls of fried rice before I catch myself.
When talking about Eli's sleep schedule, Mike and I often ask each other, "What time did Eli go down at?" Or when he wakes up in the middle of a nap talking we say, "Just give him a minute, he'll put himself back down." Lately, when Mike and I talk about hitting the hay I'll say, "What time should we go down?" Or even worse, I once said, "Let's go nigh-nigh." WHA?
On the topic of acting like a child, I have also begun referring to myself as "mommy" when I talk to myself. "Okay, what does mommy need to do next?" can often be heard while I'm cleaning the kitchen - when Eli is upstairs taking a nap - so I can't even play it off like I was talking to him. WHO AM I?
I've been getting lots of questions on how many cloth diapers to get, how to treat diaper rash and what else to have on-hand, so I thought I'd pull together a quick follow up post with all the cloth diapering "must-haves" as a one-stop post for all you need if you choose to cloth diaper and use cloth wipes.
- Cloth Diapers (20-24) - The system you choose is definitely a personal preference and how many you need really depends on what brand you decide to go with. We have bumGenius and Fuzzibunz brand, both detailed out here. If you go with one-size diapers (meaning, they'll grow with your child) I'd recommend getting about 20-24 diapers, so you can go a couple days between washings. You can certainly get by with less, but I don't think you could air dry them as they take a couple days to fully dry. If you think about how much money you're saving in the long-run, the investment up front really isn't bad.
- Two Large Wet bags - We have the Planet Wise wet bags and have never had an issue with them. No problems with leaking and they do a good job keeping the smell contained - which was my biggest concern. I'd recommend getting two large wet bags to keep in the nursery, so you can use one while washing the other.
- Two Small Wet bags - The small wet bags are great for cloth diapering on-the go. They hold up to two diapers at a time, as well as a couple cloth wipes. Again, I'd recommend two so you always have one on-hand.
- Diaper Sprayer - We have the bumGenius diaper sprayer and it works great.
- Cloth Wipes - Don't spend any money on the "real" cloth wipes. Just use old washcloths or make your own. We probably have about 30 wipes.
- Wipe Solution - There are tons of options out there for homemade solutions. We use Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap mixed with water. Here's more information on how our cloth wipe system works.
- Laundry Detergent - If you cloth diaper, you'll need to purchase special detergent because the traditional kind creates buildup on the diapers, which causes repelling. We use Rockin' Green Soap.
- Hemp Inserts - If you use cloth diapers that you can change out the inserts (like the Fuzzibunz) hemp inserts are a good option for the heavy wetter (gah, can't believe I just typed that) or for overnight when the baby sleeps longer. We have the BabyKicks by Joey Bunz and they are super absorbent. My only complaint with these is that they get a little "crunchy" when they are air dried and not dried in the dryer.
- Cloth Diaper Safe Diaper Cream - A lot of people have asked about how to treat diaper rash or what diaper cream to purchase. To be honest, I've never had to use diaper rash cream on Eli when he has been in cloth. I did purchase Grandma El's diaper cream before Eli came because it is safe for cloth diapers, but I've only used it in disposables. Either way, it's a good diaper rash cream!
- Cloth Diaper Liner - Even though some diaper rash creams are approved as safe for cloth diapers (like Grandma El's), the manufacturers still recommend using a cloth diaper liner. I've actually never purchase this, since I haven't needed to use the diaper cream in cloth, but just wanted to give you a heads up!
Hopefully this list helps!