The Eight Month Baby Update

Taken at 7.5 months old.

It’s that time again — another month has gone by, and as of this past Sunday, Lillian is officially eight months old! The latest installment in the series of photos with the stuffed bunny, taken a couple weeks ago, is shown at the top of this post. The backdrop for this photo is our new(ish) living room rug, and the bumblebee outfit was just too adorable* to resist. To see all the previous photos in the series, click here!

* Teenage Lillian, if you’re reading this someday, I am so sorry for any mortifying embarrassment the adorable bumblebee outfit photo may cause.

One interesting thing that I don’t think I’ve talked about much on the blog is, I’m pretty sure we have a ginger baby on our hands. As a newborn, Lillian looked pretty distinctly blonde, but as the wispy baby hair has gotten thicker, it’s also gotten redder and redder. I think the following photo does a pretty good job of illustrating her current hair color:

A closeup showing how much redder Lillian’s hair is getting.

I’m told that my hair was red when I was a baby, and that it later darkened into the medium brown color I have now, so it’ll be interesting to see if the same happens with Lily or if she’ll stay a redhead like both of my siblings. (Yep, I was the only kid in our family who didn’t have red hair.) The photo below shows both of us at a recent family barbecue for easy comparison:

Me and Lillian sitting on a blanket at a recent family barbecue.

Onto another topic… Remember how at four months, Lillian seemed to find most baby toys boring? At least compared to my keys, or key-like baby toys with lots of intricate moving parts? Those days are long gone. Lillian has reached the phase where she’s fascinated by absolutely everything. Like wrist watches, or the tags on people’s clothing:

Lillian poking at random things at a recent family barbecue.

She’ll even pull the glasses off your face and try to taste them if you’re not careful. But she also likes toys of all varieties now, and particularly loves stuffed animals — especially ones that crinkle or rattle.

Speaking of being fascinated by everything and loving stuffed animals, we happen to have this furry creature running around our house, and it jingles when it moves and everything! Lillian has a tendency to squeal with excitement whenever she sees Grendel, and will try grabbing fistfuls of fur whenever the poor cat comes close enough. Sometimes Grendel scurries away alarmed, but other times (if she knows she’s out of reach) she’ll just hang out grooming herself and doing other cat things. Here’s a short video to illustrate the general “baby sees cat” phenomenon:

When it comes to food, Lillian’s favorites still seem to be apple and pear, as well as other “fruit medley” type purees. (We haven’t bothered with banana in quite a while now, although it’s probably a good idea to give it another shot every once in a while just to see if her tastes have changed.) And she didn’t care for the “mixed greens” baby food much at all, an event that we managed to catch on tape:

(Side note — you know that feeling you get when you hear yourself in a recording and you’re like, “Oh my god, I sound like that? That person’s voice is so annoying! I’d want to shoot them if I had to live with them!” I get that a little with this particular video, although in my defense I think I have an unconscious tendency to talk in a higher-pitched voice when there is a baby involved.)

Anyway, the funniest part about the mixed greens incident is that despite making faces with every bite, Lillian actually polished off almost the entire container by the end. And a few days later when we tried green beans, she devoured the entire thing with enthusiastic lip-smacking gusto, so I think we may have found our go-to vegetable.

One last update: for all that talk about taking a summer road trip to New York, we ended up having to cancel our plans due to my getting a job offer. The new job has a slightly shorter commute and significantly better pay than my previous one — a good thing for our little family in almost every way, except that taking a week off to go on vacation is going to be out of the question for a little while. But we can still go on long sightseeing walks around our own city, or even take a weekend excursion here and there, so there may still be the possibility of some traveling adventures this summer.

Nursery Furniture Update: The Rocking Chair and Cubbie Shelves

Well, it’s been quite a while since I made any kind of update about the nursery — I think the last time I even mentioned it was in my post about using the child gate to keep the our cat Grendel out of there. In the time since writing that post, we’ve taken the gate down because (1) Lillian is old enough to roll over on her own now, and (2) if Grendel was too fat and lazy to jump over the child gate, it was probably a good bet that she’d be too fat and lazy to jump up into the crib (which has so far been totally true).

Anyway! Today’s post is a long-overdue update about some furniture-related developments that have taken place in this room: the addition of a rocking chair and some cubbie shelves.

As you might guess, the rocking chair was added before Lillian was born. Rather than going with the traditional nursery glider, we opted for a Lazy-Boy style reclining rocking chair in a neutral color — in addition to being a very cushy and comfy thing to sink into (which was really nice during those night feedings in the early weeks and months of parenthood) it also appealed to us since it could easily be transplanted into a living room setting once Lillian outgrew the baby phase. Here it is in the nursery:

The reclining rocking chair in the nursery.

You’ll also notice the white table next to the rocking chair — it’s a LINDVED side table from Ikea. Coincidentally, this table was purchased earlier on the day we headed to the hospital to welcome Lillian into the world (though we didn’t know it at the time) and Joe assembled it a day or two after we brought her home. We figured that having a small side table would come in handy for setting down bottles and burp cloths and other paraphernalia needed while tending to a baby.

But… while the LINDVED side table has the benefit of being very cheap (only $19.95) I don’t think I would recommend it for a nursery. The reason is that it’s made out of metal — very lightweight metal, granted, and it doesn’t have any sharp edges or anything. But being made out of metal means that it can be loud. Setting something down on this table too carelessly is like banging a gong, and sadly, I’ve actually woken Lillian out of a sound sleep this way. (Which is really saying something considering how sleepy a baby she was in the early days.) So overall, I’d be more than happy to kick this thing to the curb upon finding an inexpensive replacement.

Over on the other side of the room, we brought in some white cubbie shelves for storing toys, books, and other random items as needed. These shelves weren’t added until a few months after Lillian was born — I’m sad to say that for a while there, we just had a big disorganized heap of baby stuff on that side of the room. The cubbie shelves provided some much-needed storage space, and still have room to stash even more items if needed:

The cubbie shelves in the nursery.

And speaking of the nursery, there’s also been the addition of a handcrafted mobile, which I made several months ago yet somehow never got a chance to blog about. So stay tuned for a sequel to this nursery-related post, hopefully in the next few days! And in the meantime, feel free to share any thoughts or advice on side tables, storage shelves, or nursery furniture in general in the comments.

Sightseeing with a Baby in the Summer Heat

My sister Laura, who you may remember as the talented art student who painted the mural in Lillian’s nursery, currently lives in New York. She moved out there to go to college and lives there year-round, attending courses during the school year and working during the summer. We’d been considering taking a road trip out there with my parents, both to visit Laura and to see some of the famous New York City sights while we’re there.

An aerial photograph of New York City, showing part of Central Park.

A random New York photo showing Manhattan and Central Park, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Since neither Joe nor I have ever been on a proper tourist-style trip to NYC, we started making a list of some of the places we wanted to visit — Times Square, Central Park, the World Trade Center memorial. But then we started wondering: how much sightseeing could we reasonably expect to do with a baby in tow? Would Lillian tolerate being in her stroller and on-the-go all day long? If it was hot outside, would she just end up fussy and miserable? How exactly would feedings, naps, and diaper changes work out?

Before we set any unrealistic expectations — or worse, made any non-refundable reservations — it seemed like it would be wise to try and figure out the answers to some of these questions. So a couple weekends ago, we devised an ingenious super-scientific experiment to simulate a day of New York City sightseeing right here in Chicago.

We took a Sunday and planned a day downtown — ride the train into the Loop, do a lot of walking with the stroller, and check out some of the tourist-type attractions that our own city has to offer. It was about 95 degrees outside, one of the first really hot days of the year, so it also provided a good worst-case-scenario of what it would be like to be outside with a baby in the summer heat. (Worst-case-scenario because if it’s hotter than mid-nineties, forget any concerns about the baby, we’ll be staying indoors so we don’t melt ourselves.)

In the stroller on the train headed downtown. So far so good!

The following were some of our concerns with spending a day with a baby outside in the summer heat:

Dehydration – We’d heard that babies can get dehydrated more easily than adults (more info on that can be found here) so this was something we wanted to watch out for. Our solution was to fill one of Lillian’s bottles with plain purified water, and anytime Joe and I felt thirsty enough to stop for a drink, we’d offer her some as well. Sometimes she would take a few swallows, sometimes she’d be uninterested. Over the course of the day she probably had about three ounces, which isn’t much, but still a lot more than she has on a typical day (which is none).

Sunburn – Sunburn can also be a serious concern for a baby’s sensitive skin, more so than for adults (more info on that here). To fend it off, we picked up a bottle of SPF 50+ baby sunscreen and a big floppy sun hat to help shield her head and face — so between that and the built-in canopy on the stroller, she was very well-shielded. (The sun hat may have been a little too big and it kept sliding down over her eyes, but she didn’t seem to mind.)

Joe and Lillian in Millenium Park.

Naps – Babies need their sleep, and Lillian has been on a pretty predictable nap schedule these days. But if we were out and about all day, would she be too distracted and stimulated to be able to get that much-needed downtime? This was something we worried about a little, but it didn’t turn out to be a problem; she had no problem dozing off in her stroller, and ended up taking one nap in the noodle restaurant where we had lunch and another nap in the shade of Grant Park.

Napping in the stroller in various places.

Feedings & Diaper Changes – These didn’t turn out to be that challenging, since there were plenty of public restrooms with changing tables — the only minor downside was that it was a little crowded, with at least one other mom and baby ahead of me each time. And feeding could be done pretty much anywhere that had a bench or chairs for us to sit down. We were even able to feed her one solid meal using the stroller as a makeshift high chair.

At this point, you may be wondering if with all of these baby-related accommodations, there wouldn’t be any time left to do anything… but we actually managed to cram a fair amount of sightseeing into the day. Like a visit to the gigantic reflective Cloud Gate sculpture in Millenium Park that has been affectionately nicknamed “The Bean” due to its shape:

The Cloud Gate Sculpture (AKA The Bean) in Chicago

The Cloud Gate Sculpture (AKA The Bean).

And a stroll over to Buckingnham Fountain, which is ridiculously huge and has a water jet that shoots 150 feet into the air every hour:

Buckingham Fountain in Chicago

Buckingham Fountain in all its fountainy glory.

We even got a chance to check out the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Model City exhibit, which was surprisingly awesome (in addition to giving us a chance to get out of the heat for a little while). It’s an elaborate, accurate scale model of Chicago cast in colorless plastic:

An overview of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Model City exhibit.

An overview of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Model City exhibit.

The amount of detail put into this thing was pretty incredible, and it was really neat to be able to walk around it and look at all the familiar landmark buildings from every angle. My favorite part was how the Cloud Gate / Bean sculpture was actually shiny and reflective in mini form:

Detailed closeups of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Model City exhibit.

A detailed view of the buildings along the Chicago River (left) and the Bean sculpture (right) in the Chicago Model City exhibit.

Lillian seemed to find the indoor museumy places a lot less interesting, though, and would just lean back in her stroller blowing raspberries the whole time. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty well convinced that continuous fart noises are baby-speak for “this is boring, let’s go back outside!”

Less than enthralled in one of the indoor gift shops.

But overall she wasn’t really fussy at all, and generally seemed to be less bothered by the heat than we were ourselves. On the way home from the train at the end of the day, I was tired and sweaty and my feet were sore and I was just ready to be home, and meanwhile Lillian is bursting out into random giggles in her stroller. I don’t even know what was so funny, but she was having a great time apparently!

So I guess the big lesson we learned from the experiment was that this baby is up for just about any adventure we can throw at her — and as sad as it may seem, we probably have to worry about ourselves wearing out before she does.

Making a Flower Bed out of Weeds and Grass

When we first moved into our house, the front yard was entirely grass, with five little evergreen shrubs in a row up against the house. The shrubs are Taxus x Media ‘Densiformis’ more commonly known as Yew — we know this because the tags were still on the plants from where they were bought, indicating that they were put in the ground shortly before the house went up for sale. They’re nice enough shrubs, although by this spring they had gotten to a pretty shaggy-looking state:

The bushes in front of our house as seen in March.

The above photo is straight out of my springtime lawn care post — as you can see, the bushes had gotten very overgrown and uneven in the time since we moved in. You can also see how the lawn just extends around them, which makes it a bit of a pain to mow, and ever since we planted those tulip bulbs last fall (which you can see sprouting up in the spaces between the bushes in the above photo) I’ve been wanting to turn this area into more of a proper flower bed.

The supplies needed for this project were pretty minimal: mulch, a digging tool of some sort, and a bit of spare time to work on it. There was already a trowel in the garage, and Aunt Marty kindly donated three large bags of hardwood mulch, so all that was left was to reserve a weekend afternoon to dig into it (pun intended).

Oh, there was also a measuring tape involved — based on the size and placement of the bushes, around four feet seemed like a good width for a flower bed, so all I did was measure it and start digging up green stuff, re-checking the measurement as I went to keep it even. Here’s an in-progress shot showing what it looked like partially dug up:

A photo showing partially dug up grass, being removed to create a flower bed.

The dirt and grass around the bushes, halfway finished.

Overall it was more time-consuming than difficult — I probably spent three or four hours digging away at it while Joe and Lillian hung out inside. Once all the grass and weeds were removed, it was just a matter of spreading out the mulch on the newly cleared ground, although we ended up having to go back for a fourth bag. (In the beginning the three bags of mulch seemed like they would be plenty, but turned out to be not enough to cover the whole area.)

As for how it all turned out, how about a dramatic before-and-after sequence to reveal the end result? First, here are the bushes again, this time shown as they looked when we first moved in:

The bushes along the front of the house, as seen when we moved in.

And here is a shot of the same area, taken from the same angle, showing what it looked like after some much-needed attention:

A photo showing a flower bed in front of a brick bungalow.

The finished and freshly mulched flower bed.

I think getting rid of the grass has been a big improvement, although trimming the bushes into smaller, tidier, rounder spheroids also helped a lot. And in the future it’d be nice to add a border of brick or stone for a more polished, finished look, although we may not get to that this summer.

Anyway — just for fun, let’s take a closer look at what those tulips turned out to look like after months of suspense since planting them last fall. We had quite a variety pop up, including some traditional-looking tulips in purple and orange:

A closeup flower photo showing a vibrant orange tulip.

Traditional orange tulip.

And then we had some very full double-petaled tulips in a lovely shade of pale pink:

A closeup photo of a hybrid double petal tulip in pink.

Pink double petal tulips.

And last but not least were these interesting-looking tulips with fringed edges, the likes of which I’d never even seen before:

A photograph showing tulips with frayed, fringed petals.

Pointy-looking fringed tulips.

They almost look thorny, but when you touch them the edges are really soft, like frayed silk or something. You can read more about fringed tulips here.

Anyway, in the time since taking these pictures and writing this blog post, the tulips have passed their prime and lost all of their petals, though we’re leaving the green plants (with minimal trimming of any dead brown parts) until they die naturally — they may look a little ugly for a little while, but apparently this ensures that the bulbs get the energy and nutrients needed to bloom again next year. (More info on tulip care can be found here.)

But now that spring has passed and the tulips are gone, this area will remain flowerless unless we plant something else, so we’re planning on putting in some annuals just to fill things out — more info on that coming in a future blog post! In the meantime, have you guys been up to any gardening or landscaping lately? Have you seen the fringed tulips and double-petaled tulips before? Do you prefer them to the traditional variety? Feel free to share your thoughts or stories in the comments!