Saturday, January 28, 2012

Looking Up

We're not the best tummy timers over here, but little E does spend a fair amount of time in the Moby wrap, which we've been assured "counts" as tummy time. In the wrap, he has the option of holding his head up, but doesn't have to, and I think being in it really helped him with his neck control when he was younger. I don't quite see how he'll get a chance to work on upper body strength in the Moby, and we would like him to be able to crawl eventually (!), so we did a little tummy time yesterday. This is what happened:

We had no idea the little guy could prop himself up and lift his head so high!

Looking good!
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I didn't get a picture of it, but he also put out his arms and legs so just his tummy was on the ground, in exactly the "airplane" pose that I'd read about in our baby book, wow!

(We still have sheets over the chairs in the background there in case of spit-ups. When I cut out dairy and unfermented soy from my diet, the spit ups essentially disappeared. We just did an experiment yesterday involving a couple tiny slices of cheese, and they were back with a vengeance last night and early this morning. Sigh. But at least we know what causes it.)

P.S. I finally fixed the time stamp issue :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Review: Instead of Education

I recently read Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better, by John Holt. Holt wrote a number of books on education, mainly in the 60's and 70's. In Instead of Education, he discusses the difference between what he calls S-chools (capital S schools) and s-chools (little s schools). The S-chools are your typical elementary schools, high schools, etc. that fulfill a child's compulsory education requirement. He refers to these as "educator" S-chools, in contrast with "do-er" s-chools. This second category contains places where one may go voluntarily to do something, such as dancing, cooking, and language schools.

The book seemed to me to largely focus on the benefits of s-chools over S-chools. I think Holt's descriptions of the detriments of S-chools are examined more closely in some of his other books, perhaps in How Children Fail, that I haven't read yet. While I was reading Instead of Education, I tried to concentrate on the ideas related to how children, especially young children, learn (I'm sure there are many more of them in Holt's How Children Learn, which I already have checked out from the library). For instance, about a child's natural curiosity: "Children do not need to be made to learn about the world, or shown how. They want to, and they know how." (p. 7) I see this in E all of the time! He watches his world so intently, you can almost see the little wheels turning.

Holt also distinguishes t-eachers (generally found in s-chools) from T-eachers (found in S-chools), although it seems to me that parents could fall into either category, depending on their philosophy. I jotted down a few notes on some of the qualities of the former. "The most valuable and indeed essential asset the student brings to any learning task is a willingness to adventure, to take risks. Without that, he can't learn anything. The teacher must not kill this spirit, but honor and strengthen it." (p. 71) S-chools, he believes, kill this spirit in many children. Also, "We must be careful not to use every do-er's question as an excuse to turn life into S-chool, to T-each a lesson, and then give a little quiz to make sure the lesson was learned." (p. 86) The part about not always giving a little quiz caught my attention, I can see how giving one would be tempting. Holt prefers to let the asker be responsible for comprehending the answer and asking additional questions if necessary, not the answerer.

Some ideas about letting kids be. As long as they're not dangerous, don't prevent the child from doing tasks that you consider too hard but that he wants to do. Only when he is getting frustrated should you suggest an easier, more doable task. I can also see how keeping him from doing "hard" things would be tempting too, it's something I'll have to be consciously aware of. In order to encourage the child to take such risks, Holt imagines the "watchful but not anxious parent saying to the small child, 'Don't worry, you are free to explore and try things out, because I won't let you get into serious trouble.'" (p. 78) (emphasis added)

Holt is also a big supporter of the importance of letting children watch what's going on around them without being interrupted - he quotes from The Self-Respecting Child: "Watching is an important activity; the child's need to watch should be respected and he should not be distracted from his absorption in watching the others, or 'stimulated.' ... Some children ... like to see others do things before they try to do them themselves; they like to ponder and consider what they will do before they do it." (p. 128, emphasis Holt's) One reason he gives that supports this idea is "... children move into the world by great leaps here and there, spasms of exploration and activity mixed with long periods of reflection." (p. 102) Those periods of reflection, i.e. the thinking and the watching, are what enables the occassional "great leaps." I also see this keen watching in E. He's sometimes really interested in watching what Hubbo and I or doing, like eating or folding laundry. It really looks like he's studying our movements so that he'll be able to replicate them some day.

Finally, Holt explains that S-chools can install in children a belief in the "Divine Right of Experts" which they carry with them for the rest of their lives. He explains that through the attitudes of S-chools, "... we naturally learn to believe that all through life, in any situation, there must be experts somewhere who know better than we do what is best for us and what we should do next." (p. 174) I suffer from this belief sometimes, being aware of it is the first step to getting over it though!

All in all, I'm glad I read this book, although some of it was a bit pie-in-the-sky hippy-ish to me. I'm looking forward to reading Holt's other books.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Happy Year of the Dragon!

We celebrated Chinese New Year with the in-laws on Monday! We had lots of tasty food that I unfortunately didn't get pictures of. Dumplings are a traditional food to have on Chinese New Year, and we had them with spring rolls for lunch. For dinner there were meatballs, a five-spice pork and veggie stew, shrimp, and sautéed spinach. Nom, nom!

E also got his first red envelope (hong bao) from Hubbo's parents.

Baby's first red envelope, hee hee

We're still working on rolling over here. The camera is full of pictures of half-rolls like this!

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The hospital where E was born hosts a weekly "R & R" meeting for new moms and their babies. We haven't been going lately, but back in the fall we met a couple of other moms who also had little boys within a few weeks of when E was born. They've returned to work, so we got together on Sunday since we don't see each other at the meeting any more. There's always lots to talk about with other people whose babies are so close in age!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sits & Stands

Besides chewing on his tasty hands, E has picked up a few more fun things to do recently. He can sit and stand (just for a little while) with some help! Sitting is tricky because his head still has a tendency to fall forward.

(The camera must have been focusing on the carpet, or on something I cropped out of the picture)

E really gets to work on his balance when he practices standing. His little legs can only hold him up for a short time, but he likes to get right back up after a quick break.

Look at me!
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I also really enjoyed these two posts about music for children over at Montessori Ici. We haven't been playing too much music around here, partly because I'm not sure what "good" choices would be, but the second post there has tons of ideas. I know what little E will be asking for next time a nice person wants to give him something!

P.S. I'm still not sure what's up with the time stamps...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hands & Hats

Starting about a couple of weeks ago, so probably right around the 4-month mark, little E has been really interested in putting his hands in his mouth. Mostly he's chomping on his index finger or sometimes a thumb. He's started to put toys in his mouth too, it's definitely time to be extra on the look out for those choking hazards now!

Tasty hands!

I just finished up a little hat for a friend who's expecting a girl (also a baby E) at the end of February. She requested pink with braids and little ears, I hope she likes it! I made the "preemie" size because my friend mentioned having E wear it for her newborn pictures, but I think it came out rather big. I hope being a little over-sized will be cute! I really like the way the edging around the bottom makes the hat looked "finished." I like the edging (which was crocheted) way more than I was expecting to. Ravelry link for the project here.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: Getting Things Done

There must be tons of reviews of Getting Things Done, by David Allen; the book even has its own Wikipedia page. One of the ideas that David mentions in the book, and that I've heard elsewhere, is that taking notes as you're reading, or at least having pen and paper handy so that you have the option to take notes, helps you to think more critically about what you read. I've found that to be true, so now after reading the book I have all these notes sitting in my Filo that I need to do something with - hence, book review! I've included page numbers for my own reference.

GTD, as the methodology in the book is frequently referred to, is basically a time management system (although David doesn't particularly like that label because "time can't be managed", but you get the idea). One of its key tenants is "making sure that everything you need is collected somewhere other than your head (p. 27 and elsewhere)," i.e. everything should be in your "system" - professional tasks, personal tasks, reference material, right down to the smallest piece of work you have. As a stay at home mom now, I really like David's definition of work: "anything you have a commitment to making happen" (p. 196). If you've agreed, with yourself or with someone else, to make something happen, that's work.

The book guides you through collecting and processing all of your "incompletes" into seven categories of stuff in the end (p. 140):
  1. Projects list (where a project is anything that takes more than one step to complete)
  2. Project support materials
  3. Calendared items (things that must be done on a certain day)
  4. Next actions list (every active project must have a next physical action that will move it forward and these actions are organized by "context," i.e. where you can do them - at work, at home, at computer, etc.)
  5. Waiting for list
  6. Reference materials
  7. Someday/Maybe projects list
David makes the point that "everything you experience as 'incomplete' must have a reference point for complete" (p. 252), i.e. you have to know when you're done or you never will be done with a project. Likewise, imagining what a successfully completed project would look like can help lead to a successfully completed project - "You often need to make it up in your mind before you can make it happen in your life." (p. 69) And keep that negative thinking away! "Ceasing negative imaging will always cause your energy to increase." (p. 242)

As you process your "stuff" into the "system," you are obviously supposed to decide what to do about it, but sometimes that's tricky. When the next thing you have to do is decide what to do, "determine what you need to do in order to decide," for example, "draft ideas re: X." (p. 130) Also, "it's OK not to decide as long as you have a decide-not-to-decide system, e.g. calendar reminders." (p. 172) I missed these two points the first time I read the book, and things that needed tricky decisions had a tendency to sit around in the in-basket for a long time. (Another GTD tenant is keeping your inbox empty as much as possible - don't let stuff stack up to be processed.)

The book does spend a bit of time on project planning, a topic that I didn't make many notes on. One phrase that stuck out was "If the project still on your mind, there's more planning to do," (p. 78) which is another example of GTD's underlying principle of getting everything out of your head so you can concentrate on what you're currently doing.

Finally, it ends with the suggestion to reread it in three to six months - I plan to!

Other Quotes

"The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators." --Edward Gibbon (p. 7)
"Anything that causes you to overreact or underreact can control you, and often does." (p. 11)
"We all have times when we think more effectively, and times when we should not be thinking at all." (p. 194)

"If you know what you're doing, and what you're not doing, surprises are just another opportunity to be creative and excel." (p. 198)

"Your work is to discover your work and then will all your heart give yourself to it." --Buddha (p. 201)

"There's always too much to do." (p. 226)

"The secret to getting ahead is getting started." --Mark Twain (p. 239)
A Gap in GTD?
One topic that I didn't see covered in the book is that of repeating tasks. Say I have to make dinner every day - is that the next action that I don't cross off for a never ending "Make Dinner" project? Or do I cross it off and rewrite it every day (I don't think David would like that)? Do I move it to the next day in my tickler file every day? I don't think any of these choices are very satisfactory, so then I seem to be left with .... keeping it in my head, oh noes!

Maybe it's just an issue of where the line is drawn. Obviously your time management system isn't going to remind you to breathe, perhaps routine tasks like making dinner are in the same category. Something to Google for sometime...

Today's unrelated picture is of part of the Pembroke Terrace in Abbeyleix, Ireland, taken on my honeymoon. A sign in front of the houses reads, "These 19th century houses were built for and named after Lady Emma de Vesci, daughter of the 11th Earl of Pembroke after her marriage to Thomas, the 3rd Viscount de Vesci. This terrace originally housed the Post Office, the Hibernian Bank, the Police Barracks and the R.I.C. Inspector's House" (Taking pictures of signs is great.)

I just made a DVD of honeymoon pictures for my dad, since he's tentatively planning a trip to Ireland!

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Domino

My planner is a personal size Filofax Domino in a color that I can't quite remeber the name of which seems to have been discontinued - I didn't see it on the either the US site or the UK site. I first saw Filofax binders on my honeymoon while we were in London. I think the one I saw was an A5 Classic, a leather binder with a hefty price tag. The leather felt so super soft! It looked so fancy! But it was over £100 and I didn't know what I'd do with it at the time.

My Domino

I went with the Domino (a non-leather binder) when I bought my planner about a year ago since I was preggers and didn't want to worry about a kidlet mucking up a nice leather one. I'd worry about the leather getting beat up in my purse, too. But I wouldn't mind having one some day, maybe an A5 that would live on my desk.

Even though I've had the Domino since last January, I didn't use it for much other than the "diary" (a.k.a. calendar, in American English) last year. I read David Allen's Getting Things Done and enjoyed it, but fell off the bandwagon when it came to actually implementing the strategies in the book. A few weeks ago, I reread it from my new stay-at-home mom perspective. Obviously most of my day is spent taking care of little E, but when I have an hour or two to myself in the morning while he's still asleep, it's great to have organized lists of all the things I could be doing.

I knew I wanted to use the Domino for implementing GTD, but I wasn't really feeling the love for my binder. I recently figured out the two reasons why. First, I wanted to use my fountain pen with it, but my pen had skipping problems right out of the box that made it very frustrating to use. I was ready to give up on fountain pens before I'd even really gotten started! I finally asked about it on the Fountain Pen Network, and the nice people there told me to try washing the nib with just a little bit of dish soap. That did the trick, one problem down! The second thing holding my binder back was the bland manila-envelope color tabbed dividers that come with it. I realized this was when case when I saw this post that mentions making your own tabs from card stock linked from Philofaxy (a blog for Filofax fans!). Things have been smooth sailing since I put the new tabs in:

Purdy tabs!

This is getting pretty long already, so I'll have to save my other thoughts on GTD as well as what goes behind each tab for another day!

Here's Mr. Tiny looking out the front window. The clingers are a snowman scene, not Christmas, so they can stay up since it's still winter! (Not that you can tell from the weather, it must have been close to 50 degrees yesterday! In Chicago! ZOMG!)
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Monday, January 9, 2012

Rolling, rolling, rolling!

Lately, E has really been trying to roll over on to his side, but mainly while he's getting his diaper changed. The changing pad is more or less concave, so that wasn't making it any easier for him. I finally realized this morning that the reason he would try so much on the changing table was that his diaper wasn't hindering him! So this morning I put him down on the floor sans diaper (but on a couple of cloth diapers), and tada - rolling from back to side! I hope that now that E knows rolling is really possible, he'll be encouraged to do it even with the diaper on.

Also super exciting to me is the fact that at this very moment he is taking a nap on his little crib mattress without anyone touching or holding him! Of course, I am sitting on the floor right next to him so that I can talk to him when he starts looking anxious, but this is Progress. (For some background, what usually ends up happening is that he falls asleep after nursing, and at that point he's already in my lap. He usually wakes up within a few minutes of being put down in that situation, so I've just learned to keep plenty of things to do at our nursing chair. The difference this time is that he fell asleep while I was toting him around, no nursing involved.)

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I took this picture this morning out of our front window, I just liked the colors - the blue and orange in the sky with the dark branches of the winter trees. I know they taught us in art class that blue and orange are somehow complimentary colors or something, but I don't generally like how they look together (Illini blue and orange excepted of course). This blue and this orange do look great to me though. I think that this blue/orange/brown combo might be awesome in some sort of knitted garment that incorporated a three color pattern from this book.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Four Months!

Today baby E is four months old! Hubbo and I can't believe it's already been four whole months since we brought our little guy home. He's gotten much more accurate with his hands this month, now you can watch him take careful aim and reach slowly for things sometimes - other times he still loves to wave his arms around like mad!

Here we are in a Boba carrier that I rented (only $5 to take it home for a month!) from a local-ish babywearing group:

I only wore little E on my back for a few minutes, because I felt like I couldn't get him snug enough, as if the straps might have been too long given the combination of his current size and my size. We just dropped in to this month's babywearing "meeting" briefly to return the Boba, and I asked about wearing him on my back. One of the leaders said that maybe E doesn't have good enough neck control yet (I don't really think that was the problem), or we could try a "Baby Hawk" - it's basically like a mei tai carrier with neck support, or just wait awhile longer. She also recommended gradually increasing the amount of time I spend with him on my back, i.e. just start out with five minutes at first.

We might go back to the meeting in February or March to check out another carrier, although I took the Boba home with me because it was the most comfortable for me with E on the front, and I tried a lot of the soft structured carriers the first time. A friend said that you can put a baby on your back with a Moby (which we already have, thanks Aunt Steph!), we'll have to try that too.

Unrelated, afterward we stopped by a pen/stationary/planner store. I needed to pick up a 2012 "diary," as the British say, for my planner (it's a British brand of planner binders). I also wanted to check out the fountain pens, because I don't super love the way my Lamy Safari feels in my hand - it feels a little cheapy because the body is all plastic. The shop owner was really nice and showed me a bunch of other pens, but I didn't end up getting any of them. The one I liked the best was the Platinum Plaisir in this pink color:

Photo from Goulet Pens
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... except that I'd really like a grey or charcol color pen (to look pretty in said planner). And I don't think that you can change the nibs on the Plaisir? The shop owner also said that there were no cartridge converters for them, but Goulet Pens does sell one. Still on the lookout for a possible second pen, but the Safari I have is great for now!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

First Book

A couple of days ago, on the third, I successfully read little E his first book! I had tried to read to him before, but he wasn't too in to looking at the pictures. Lately though, he has been super interested in looking at and touching the books on the bookshelf in our living room, I'm guessing because the spines are so colorful, especially the ones that are black/white/red. So I thought the time might be right to give reading another try!

The book I chose was ... *drumroll* ... Pat the Bunny. I loved this book when I was little (my mom says that she had to buy a second copy because my sister and I completely wore the first one out). I didn't remember the book just from hearing the title, but when I opened it up it all came back to me. We made it through the whole book and E even touched some of the textured pieces, like the bunny and "daddy's chin." The mirror seemed a little spooky to me because it shows a somewhat distorted reflection, so we buzzed by that part.

The little guy loves to smile at people (even strangers!), but not at the camera. Here's one of the better smiling pictures, a little blurry:

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(I dunno why the timestamps are coming up with Pacific time. I entered my state in my Blogger profile, so maybe next time they'll come up as Central. I do mainly get a chance to write in the morning, but not quite 4:30am early!)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Baby's First Christmas - Ornaments

A little late since we took the tree down yesterday (only one day later than I was hoping we'd get it taken down!), but Baby E got some great Christmas ornaments for 2011. Up first is his "Baby's First Christmas."

Cute teddy bear! I was having a bit of a time finding a baby's first Christmas ornament that I liked, until I check out Kohl's (thanks for the suggestion, Mom!). They had many to choose from, and this one satisfied the two main criteria of being cute and including the year. My sister and I shared three baby's first Christmas ornaments growing up and none of them were dated, so we never knew whose was whose!

Also very cool is this ornament that my folks made for E. He shares my dad's first name, and my dad has an ornament just like this from his birth year:

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This was such a great idea, thanks parents!

We also got a cute little glass angel ornament from my official ornament giving aunt (she gave me and my sister an ornament every year when we were kids). It's lots of fun to look through those ornaments now because they each are dated with the year that we received them. They also are all labeled with our names, so there was no fighting about who got to put up which ornament - good thinking!

Seeing as it's the start of a new year, it seems like a good time to look back on 2011 and remember a few of the high points:
  • With a September baby, much of the year was dominated by the pregnancy and birth. I'm thankful for a relatively uncomplicated pregnancy and birth of our healthy boy.
  • We received a lot of help from family and friends since September, for which we are very grateful.
  • Hubbo and I were able to take an awesome vacation to Hawaii in the spring, with a visit to an old friend in Phoenix tacked on to the end.
P.S. It took about 24 hours for the ink to come off my fingers.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Inky Fingers Indeed

Happy 2012!

I was lucky enough to get some cool new accessories for my fountain pen for Christmas, a cartridge converter (so that I can fill the pen with any bottled fountain pen ink!) and an italic nib. I was all out of the original ink that came with the pen, so I ordered an ink sample pack too. The ink arrived yesterday (very speedy shipping!), and I filled up my pen this morning, leaving my fingers looking like this...

My fingers, a lovely shade of Sherwood Green

and I was being careful! They say that's just part of using a fountain pen, although I wonder how long it will take to come off.

I might write more about the ink and new nib later, but I will say that I was surprised with how much ink was laid down. I'm curious to see how long it will take to go through one cartridge converter's worth of ink.

Gratuitous baby picture :)

Mr. Tiny Muffin himself