Sunday, September 12, 2010

adventures in (early) potty training!

I have never been so proud of Ruby as I was tonight. She and I were lying on the floor on a futon mattress (that's a whole other issue--trying to "wean" her of sleeping in our bed--that I haven't had the energy to tackle via blog yet) and she was nursing to sleep. She was almost there, eyes closing for a few seconds at a time, and then she suddenly she became alert again and pulled back. She looked at me with wide eyes and said: "Poppy!" My immediate thought was that she meant my husband, so I said: "No, honey, daddy's at work," and tried to comfort here into sleepy-mode again. But she was insistent: "Poppy! Poppy!" Finally, she pushed herself up to standing and just marched out of the room, with me trailing behind. She stopped at the bathroom and pointed to the potty: "Poppy!" So, I quickly unsnapped her onesie and pulled the sides off of her gDiaper and she plopped herself down and--sure enough--proceeded to do her business (no. 2). Amazing!

So, Ruby has actually been using her potty for about three months now, but what made this special tonight was that she actually called it by name (or a version of it) and went directly to the potty on her own. It was a proud moment for both of us!

Now, yes, Ruby is only 14 months old. I actually never would have even thought to put her on a potty (much less buy a potty) as early as I did (she didn't even walk until she was 13 months, but she was using a potty at 11 months!), but it actually all happened pretty organically. Here's the scoop on our adventures in early potty usage:
  1. We live in a small apartment. When Ruby started going through the phase of needing to be with us 24/7 (at around 8 months), we started keeping Ruby's Bumbo chair on our bathroom floor so that we had somewhere to put her if either of us was home alone with her and needed to go potty ourselves. She would sit happily in her Bumbo in our tiny bathroom and wait until we were done and picked her up again.

  2. After a few weeks, we began to notice that Ruby got into the habit of peeing and/or pooping in her diaper in her Bumbo chair while in the bathroom with one of us! At first we just thought it was funny and laughed about it, but then I told my mom about it and she said: "Duh! Obviously she gets the concept of a toilet. Why on earth are you putting her on a chair in her diaper when you know she's going to go to the bathroom? Get a potty!"
  3. I ordered the Bjorn Smart Potty (the key here was something small--again, we have a tiny bathroom in our little apartment!). It came in the mail when Ruby was 11 months old.
  4. We switched out the Bumbo for the Smart Potty. The very first time she sat on it she peed! We cheered. She was proud.

  5. From that moment on, we have put Ruby on the potty every single morning when she wakes up. And every single morning she waits until she is situated on the potty before she pees. She has actually never not peed in her potty in the morning since she started; she understood the morning potty ritual from the get-go!
  6. Now, for the rest of the day: we haven't pushed the potty at all. For the first month or so, she was probably using the potty for only about 20 percent of her elimination besides the early morning pee. But gradually, it's become more like 50/50. Ruby has developed a sign (a hilarious sign, btw--she balls up her fists and shakes them while making a noise like she is straining...haha!) to tell us when she needs to go no. 2. It's not a perfect system, but by this week I'd say she was getting about 75 percent of them in the potty. We even travel with the potty (the Smart Potty is small and light, so I put it in a plastic bag and packed it straight into our little carry-on suitcase! This pictures is in our hotel room at the Jersey Shore a few weeks ago!

  7. Then, tonight! I cannot believe she had a word for it (she has about 10-15 meaningful "words" right now)! And walked herself there so nonchalantly! She is WELL on her way to being potty-trained. So exciting!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

baby + passport = ready for anything!

In the spring, we were toying with a couple of opportunities that were presenting themselves for us to go abroad this summer. We didn't have any definite plans (and ended up not making them after all), but realized that--duh!--Ruby should have a passport, just in case.

I just thought about this again recently because my cousin and her husband just got an offer to move to Switzerland through work. They are super excited, but the fact that their two kiddos didn't have passports yet delayed their visa applications and, thus, their move.

Jude and I are both spontaneous people and can each cite numerous examples of last-minute trips we have taken throughout our lives, whether for work or for play. We always make sure that our own passports are up-to-date so that we are ready if a cool opportunity comes why shouldn't Ruby be ready for anything, too?

Anyway, last March, we spent a morning at the post office applying for Ruby's passport. She got it in the mail a few weeks later. International travel, here I come!

First, get yourself together. Here's what you'll need to do and gather:
  1. Find an application center nearby. Many USPS post office branches have passport services. Check the hours and the rules for the passport window at the location you choose--many times, the passport windows have separate hours than the rest of the post office, and some even require an appointment.
  2. Get a passport photo. The location in downtown Brooklyn that we went to with Ruby did passport photos on-site, but not all locations do. Make sure you know whether this is an option. If not, many photo shops, drug store chains, and business centers do passport photos. Ruby was old enough to sit up on her own, so I just propped her on my knee while I stood with my foot on the chair.
  3. Fill out the DS-11 passport form. I suggest filling it out online and then bringing a printed copy with you, but just don't sign in until you're in the presence of the official "Acceptance Agent" where you apply for the passport.
  4. Gather the necessary documents. Things you'll need: a) baby's original birth certificate (they'll take it for the application and send it back to you with the passport in a few weeks) with both parents'/guardians' names on it, b) baby's social security card, c) photo IDs for each parent/guardian (valid passports or driver's license), and d) photocopies of parents' IDs and the baby's social security card. If you have extenuating circumstances or further questions, check the government page on applying for a passport for a minor.
  5. Make it a family outing! Both parents, as well as the baby, need to be present while applying for the minor's passport.

Here we are heading to the post office for the passport application. Unfortunately, I didn't do the timing well and she fell asleep on the way there, so we had to wake her up and take her hat off for her photo.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

beach baby, take two

So, almost a year later, we snuck away for another quickie beach vacation (this time in the opposite direction to the Jersey Shore) with the baby. We pulled our baby beach tent out of storage and, to my delight, found that it actually fits into our large suitcase for traveling!

Ruby loved to crawl in and out of the tent and was happy to sit inside playing with toys and reading books.

Plus, bonus: she and I still fit inside together (she might be bigger, but I am significantly smaller!) for quick nursing sessions.

portable snacks for hungry tots

Ruby is finally starting to get into foods in a big way. Up until very recently, she was still getting close to 100 percent of her actual nutrition through breast milk, but she is finally starting to see the pleasures of trying new foods (we've been "feeding" her other things since she was little, but she is such a nurse-a-holic that she just has never been all that interested). Now, she will try just about anything. Her favorite foods currently include: bananas (she alternates between wanting to take bites from the whole banana or wanting you to mash it up for her), hummus, homemade ricotta souffles, rice pudding, shredded cheese, peaches from the farmers' markets, puffed rice (we won't let her have Rice Krispies cereal, which she got to try the other day at a hotel we were staying at and loved, because they have HFCS, but we got her a bag of natural puffed rice that she likes just the same), and, of course, snacks, snacks, and more snacks!

Ruby is obsessed with HAPPYBABY organic puffs...P-u-f-f-s is the first word we've had to start spelling out around her so she doesn't get too over-excited. She points to our hiding places and makes a little noise that sounds like "oo-wah!" to tell us that she wants them. They are expensive at the little grocery stores in my neighborhood, but you can buy them in bulk (6 canisters at a time) at

I just found a new easy snack at a natural foods store while on vacation that is just as portable and Ruby loves just as much. Plum Organics "fruity fingerfuls" for tots. It's organic freeze-dried fruits and grain bites (in the shape of hearts). It comes with strawberry, banana, or apple fruit pieces. The packaging is BPA-free, too. It's funny to watch Ruby go for the heart-shaped grain pieces in her bowl and then reluctantly resort to the fruit bits once the grain is all gone! I haven't seen this brand in the little grocery stores in my neighborhood, so I was excited to find them in bulk from

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Petit Appetit cookbook: mother tested, baby approved

As you may know, I get a bit overwhelmed in the kitchen and much prefer to eat my husband's amazing cooking than try to whip anything up myself. However, Ruby is going through a phase where she's not interested in eating anything besides mama's milk. Even though Jude's been making her purees and foods for months now, she just up and decided that she would refuse everything but the boob.

So, I pulled out Lisa Barnes' The Petit Appetit Cookbook today because it promises: "easy, organic recipes to nurture your baby and toddler." I wanted to see if there was anything that was simple enough as to not scare me off from making it and delicious enough to coax Ruby out of this new habit of avoidance. I was so pleasantly surprised to see recipe after recipe that I felt confident I would have the time and energy to try! I made two of them today ("bananafanas" and "baked ricotta cake"), chosen based on what was already in my fridge and cupboards, and both were incredibly simple and delicious (for Ruby and, admittedly, myself)!

Here's what I made:

Baked Ricotta Cakes
First, I whipped up these little baked ricotta cakes. It is essentially more of a souffle than a cake (it puffed up and then crashed down after coming out of the oven before I could snap this pic), but incredibly simple to make. I only had half a cup of ricotta left in my fridge (I get this delicious Salvatore Brooklyn ricotta from the market every weekend that is handmade around here), so I did only a half recipe. You'd get four little ramekins (rather than my two) if you made the full recipe. Here is the whole recipe:

1 cup whole-milk ricotta
2 cage-free, organic egg whites
4 tablespoons honey* (I actually think this is too much--would have been just as good half as sweet, but maybe it was because I used really yummy raw organic honey?)
2 cups mixed fresh berries (seasonally, of course!)

*Remember that honey should never be given to a baby under one year in age (because of risk of infant botulism), so leave this out if you're making this for an infant.

Preheat oven to 350 degree. Place the cheese in a bowl and break up with a wooden spoon. Beat egg whites in a small bowl until soft peaks form (I had to ask Jude about this because I don't know what this're basically making it start into a meringue-like consistency...once you can lift the spoon and the egg whites stand up on their own). Add egg whites and honey to cheese and mix thoroughly until smooth.

Lightly grease four ramekins. Spoon ricotta mixture into ramekins. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cakes are risen and golden.

Cool, turn out of ramekin, and top with berries, if desired. Or enjoy warm out of the ramekin (that's what we did).

TIP (this is also from the book, not mine):
Ricotta is recommended for babies because of the mild flavor and creamy texture. It also has less sodium than cottage cheese, used in similar recipes. Ricotta comes in whole-milk, low-fat, and skim-milk versions.

I mean, Ruby loves bananas on their own, too, which is the simplest of all...but these were fun and easy and she loved them as a special treat. Plus, they are a good way to use up browned bananas that are yucky to eat by themselves. The book suggests for older kids to top them on yogurt, waffles, or pancakes, etc.

2 large, ripe organic bananas
1 tablespoon organic orange juice
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Cinnamon, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a glass baking dish. Cut bananas in half crosswise and lengthwise, so there will be 8 pieces. In a small bowl, combine orange juice and syrup. Place bananas in greased dish and spoon syrup mixture over each banana. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake bananas for 15 minutes, or until soft and golden.

Clearly I'm not a very precise sprinkler of the cinnamon. These taste better than they look!

Mmm...ricotta souffle!

Yum, mama! Thanks!

Finish up the meal with some milk from daddy. Love the creamline whole milk from Ronnybrook Farm!

beach baby, beach baby

As the end of summer is drawing near, I'm itching to make it out to a beach somewhere on the coast before it's over. If I do succeed in planning a little mini-vacay, I'm going to need to pull out my tot tent from storage. That thing was a great-great purchase for a beach trip with an infant and I'm excited to get some more use out of it!

Last fall, before I went back to work, we took our first family vacation to Montauk. I wanted to be able to spend time on the beach, but with a two-and-a-half-month-old baby, there were logistics to think about...How do I keep the sand out of her face? How do I keep the sun from melting her? Where will I breastfeed? The answer to all of these questions was a little pop-up tot tent! I read lots of reviews and chose this one. It was perfect for our needs. It was compact for traveling, it popped up and was easy to close, it has open flap pockets lining the outside to weight down with sand so it wouldn't fly away, it was big enough for me to crawl in and nurse the baby, and it had a screen mesh zip-door so we could see Ruby when she was napping. Good stuff! One thing I did that was *really* helpful was that I brought enough gallon freezer bags for each of the pockets plus an extra one. That way, I didn't have to get the actual tent super sandy to weight down the side pockets. I filled the bags each day at the beach and plopped one in each pocket. Then, at the end of the day, I would dump out each bag and stuff them all inside the clean, non-sandy carrying bag and pack them up with the tent. Clean and easy.

Here is Ruby's wonderful napping place, with real-life ocean sounds to lull her to sleep and fresh breezes!

Happy blue-tinted baby in her little hideout:

Big enough for mama to fit inside to nurse!

I'm excited to use this tent again now that Ruby is on the verge of being a full-fledged toddler!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

books with little pals = big hit!

Ruby loves to pull all of her books out of our shelves and go through them one by one. Her favorite book (by far) these days is In My Nest, given to her as a gift by one of her aunties. She acts like that little blue felted bird that sticks out in every page is her best friend. She nuzzles it nose-to-nose and gives it kisses. I was at a store with her yesterday and found the rest of the line...As I handed her each book, she proceeded to give each animal--fish, bunny, bear, butterfly, owl--a kiss and a little nuzzle. I bought the In My Tree (owl) book and she goes back and forth between the two like she doesn't want to hurt either of their feelings! Love these little books (and, of course, my sweet little girl)!