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When Sophie Started Solid Foods

 Tiny Sophie loving her carrots.

Tiny Sophie loving her carrots.

Sophie was five months old when her pediatrician asked what plans we had for her first solid meals. 

For months, I had dreamed of giving Sophie what I remember my mom feeding my baby brother: banana, gently scraped with a tiny spoon. I checked books and websites, and they all said this was good.

"I'll give her banana," I told Sophie's pediatrician.

With a warm smile, he wrote a note down and asked me what else. 

"Rice cereal," I said. This was another romantic one for me. My childhood friend and I fed our dolls (and ourselves) papilla de bebé.  

The doctor took note again.

"Is that good?" I asked. 

Looking straight into my eyes with his warmest, most enthusiastic smile yet, he said, "No."

Like so many other times since Sophie appeared on the horizon, my mind hiccuped a little. The way to this doctor who gives consultation in Manhattan only one day a week happened in a way that felt divinely inspired. Plus, he came highly recommended by both my midwife and my Ob-Gyn. I listened.

"You're going to start her with vegetables."

Okay now my mind exploded. 

"First you're going to give her root vegetables: sweet potato, carrot..."

He kept telling me one by one the veggie groups to introduce while writing down the list for me:

1. Root vegetables

2. Cruciferous

3. Sea veggies

4. Other

5. Green leafy

"No fruit until they are in season. No avocado. No banana. No cereal." he wrote on his prescription pad. 

The root vegetables, cruciferous, and sea weed were easy. When we got to #4, the squash and the peas made her tummy runny. This made me worry a little, but soon her body was fine and took the food well.  

Later, when Sophie was seven months old, her pediatrician wrote in detail how to gradually introduce broths and meats. He told me not to give any grains until nine months. Whoa! 

Although trusting, I confess I was a bit skeptical at times. But now I see the reasons for this different way of weaning. Sophie eats everything. She loves her veggies! A very common complaint for older babies and toddlers is constipation, especially during potty training. Thankfully, Sophie's tummy works very well. And she's not a carb addict like her mom.  

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The day is here

I thought it was so far away. But six months flew faster than the blue jays who come visit us.

Sophie's new teachers came to visit us on Friday. I'd attended a "separation workshop" already, and following its suggestions, I let Sophie standing, watching me open the door, instead of what I always do, which is hold her in my arms. Instead, I held Lola so she wouldn't go wild.

The truth is, I did it because I was nervous. No -- I was freaked out. 

In said separation workshop, it finally sank in that I WON'T be there with Sophie in her class. I won't be there as she transfers beans and water and sweeps and polishes. Not even for a few weeks, till she feels comfortable, and I can leave her on her own. I'm just supposed to come with her and read a book, so I don't distract her.

So the teachers came in, and Sophie became very uncomfortable. They asked questions about Sophie, while I served them glasses of water, and Sophie became suspicious in daddy's arms.

The whole thing was too unfamiliar and different from what we usually do when we have visitors.

In the end, I had to go with her to her room, to her activity closet, to our bedroom… there she'd become curious about the teachers and talked about them, and I'd bring her back to the living room, but she still wouldn't be comfortable.

The time came for the teachers to leave. Sophie waved bye bye and said, "teachers." Then she wanted to see them again, peeking through the door while she waited for the elevator. Then she wanted to open the door 

It was a rush of emotions for me, and I wasn't able to see what I'd done, and what I should have done, until it was over.

 

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There is one person I'd like to meet...

Until recently, my answer to the question "If you could meet anyone, Who would it be?"  was "Nobody." 

I mean, I love Leonardo DaVinci, but I heard his hygiene wasn't top notch. I used to be crazy about Geddy Lee, but even at my craziest I didn't really want to meet him (what if he sunned me?). I won't even go to Egypt because I want that country to stay the way it is in my imagination. 

But then there's Maria Montessori. If she could come back to life, or if I could travel in time, I would so invite her over and serve her tea in beautiful white cups. I'd offer her a slice of the bread Sophie and I had just baked. And I would just sit there and listen to her. And I would learn so much just from observing her interact with my little girl. 

Oh, and I'd tell her, "Thank you. You changed the world. You still are."

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Sophie Fashion

Routine might be the hardest thing for me in life. But I've always craved it, and I've reached good goals during the times I was able to keep daily routines. This is now more important than ever for me because children thrive in predictable routines.

I've been trying to set a consistent schedule for Sophie: get up, go potty, get dressed, walk Lola, cook and eat breakfast. It started well in the fall, when she had just turned one.

But things changed at the beginning of the winter.

She'd sometimes get happily dressed, either by herself with my help or by letting me dress her. But other times she wouldn't let me help at all. She would get too frustrated (all those layers!) and I'd end up walking the dog by myself, for instance.

So I followed her. Often, she would spend a long long time practicing in full concentration, putting on her clothes and shoes, which was amazing to watch. I only helped if she asked. 

But I know that we both need consistency and structure. 

I asked my Montessori teacher, Karen. 

She said, "At 18 months your schedule will be very loose due to the important work that a child has to do at this age. Allow big blocks of time for things such as dressing whenever possible. She is learning a lot with her repetition and practice. A schedule will work on days you can do work time… just keep it loose and not too structured yet. At this age you will be introducing her to a more structured time."

 

Below are a few ensembles that Sophie chose on her own. Although she still needs help with a few things like snaps, buttons and zippers, at 18 months she's pretty much able to dress herself.

Which doesn't mean that she always wants to do it ;)

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Sophie's Table

This is Sophie's weaning table. We've had it since Sophie was nine months old. 

She began learning how to set the table by watching me do it. 

She started to set the table herself when she was walking steadily, at around 12 months. There is no documentation of any of that because I had my hands full, spotting and guiding her.

When I felt she was ready, we emptied one of our low kitchen shelves to make room for Sophie's dishes and utensils. 

This is what her shelf looks like these days (She's 17 months old.) I only added the glass this week. 

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The shelf is supposed to hold ALL of her napkins, cutlery, pitchers, etc. But I tried that, and Sophie took all the items (not just one of each) and brought them to the table and played. I'll keep trying periodically to see when she's ready to take only what she needs.

 

To set her table, Sophie first takes her rolled placemat in her hand and brings it to her table.

She then places her napkin, fork and spoon on her tray and brings the tray to the table. Toddlers love to work hard, so she enjoys walking back and forth.

Next, she brings her glass.

I usually end up bringing the little towel myself. I'm also still in charge of bringing her tiny water pitcher.

Here she was at 16 months:

Yesterday was the first day she carried her breakfast in her little plate herself. She's very proud and happy.

Now, this is not something expected to happen perfectly and right away. It's happening over time, with repetition. 

Actually, when she first learned it, she did it exactly the way I showed her a few times, but after that, there have been ups and downs of sorts. 

Some days, while setting the table, she might do things in a different order, or she might skip the tray and carry her stuff in her hand, or she might experiment with setting the placemat in a corner or even chew on the placemat for a second if she's teething. When that happens, I try to gently redirect her after a little while. I try not to correct her or interrupt is she's discovering something new. 

Other days, she goes to her shelf on her own, opens it, and sets her table without any guidance. This is usually when she's quite hungry. 

The idea is that she will be able to take care of herself and her environment by the age of three. We're advancing slowly and enjoying the process, which is the most important part—not the end result. 

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Tiny Bed

Tiny things: broom, mop, drinking glasses, fork and spoon, watering can, porcelain plates, gardening tools, a cutting board, even a knife.

Babies feeding themselves. Toddlers dressing themselves. Toddlers cooking. Toddlers looking like both mystics and scientists in total concentration: pouring, serving, polishing. 

I did grow up hearing my mom's praises for Montessori education and wishing I'd received it. Then I saw the wonders it did for my nephews and niece. Then I studied dance education and learned more about Dr. Montessori's genius. But I had never heard about Montessori for babies and even less about Montessori at home. 

The first time was from someone posting on the Baby Bumps subreddit. She said she was working on her baby's nursery, and that she had decided to use a Montessori floor bed. 

The Google gods delivered, and I found pictures of a few beautiful rooms. Sure enough, each had a little mattress on the floor, instead of a crib. I'm a dancer, and dancers love the floor more than anything, but it still felt almost disrespectful to put my baby on the floor. 

I asked my sister if she'd heard about it. 

"That's brilliant," she said, "I wish I knew about it when my kids were born. They all fell off their crib."

 Baby Sophie's floor bed. The recommendation is to use a twin mattress, but many parents choose toddler beds at first. We simply used the bassinet's mattress.

Baby Sophie's floor bed. The recommendation is to use a twin mattress, but many parents choose toddler beds at first. We simply used the bassinet's mattress.

 Taking a nap at 8 months. 

Taking a nap at 8 months. 

 Sophie's a big girl now. Time for an upgrade! 

Sophie's a big girl now. Time for an upgrade! 

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Unconditional Love

My friend Dorit said one day, way before I ever imagined I'd become a mom, that I should read The Drama of the Gifted Child. 

With such a title I sure did, expecting to hear about what a wonderful, gifted person I was.

Um, nope.

It's a short book I couldn't put down. I cried the entire time I read it. Why? Well, I won't give it away, but I'll say that because of that book, a seed was planted in my mind that if I ever became a mom, I would give my child unconditional love, at least for the first two years of her life. 

So the plan was to give unconditional love, but how? Would I even be able to do it? I'm only human. What would "loving unconditionally" mean on a day-to-day basis? Would that actually be good for my child? 

The first time we took Sophie to the pediatrician, he said, "Wow, you guys are really calm. Most new parents come freaking out." We were off to a good start. 

Soon, as Sophie became more mobile, I found myself surrounded by warning notices like "Choking hazard" and "Risk of death if your child falls off this dresser/bassinet/swing/chair." 

More and more I started to worry about her getting in trouble. I swore I wouldn't let her fall off the bed, even though everybody told me that it happens to everybody, but… yep, she fell off the bed. She had been rolling only a certain way and, in a matter of seconds, she figured out how to roll and then roll again in a different direction, and down she went, and I saw it happening through the mirror, unable to stop it.

She didn't even cry at first—the soft bassinet next to the bed, the carpet, and her own hands cushioned the fall. But she did cry a lot when I, for the first time in her short life, jerked her up and showed her my face of terror and asked her loudly, "Are you okay?" The unconditional love was gone; all I gave her at that moment when she needed me most was fear and negative energy and the message that I didn't trust her.

And that's when I went on a quest to find the ideal baby and toddler instruction manual. Ideal for us, of course.

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