Links to Amazon are affiliate links*
Dear Caroline,

This was your 2nd Christmas, but kind of your first real Christmas. In 2014 you were just a month old and not even interested in the lights on the Christmas tree. This year, however, you loved them! We bought a real tree from the fire department down the road. We only hung the indestructible ornaments on the tree this year- and lots of lights (of course). 


Every morning, we'd come downstairs and you'd point to the tree. I'd set you down and turn the lights on. You'd walk up to the tree and look, occasionally touching an ornament. You never really pulled at anything and listened so well when we asked you to be gentle. 

This morning the tree was gone (12/28/15). We had to take it down because Nana Bella and Grrrrrandpa are visiting for New Years and we need the space. You pointed at where the tree used to be and looked confused. I told you we'd celebrate again next year and we played with some of your new things.


On Christmas Eve, it is a tradition in my family to have taco salad for dinner. We have carried on that tradition in our family as well. You are usually not a fan of taco salad, but on this night you tried it (yet again), and this time you asked for more. That's my girl! You got to open a couple of presents on Christmas Eve as well. We told you to go pick out a present, and you did. You knew exactly what we meant!

Christmas morning rolled around, and it was no different of a day for you. You don't know the concept of Christmas yet, and there is no extra excitement this year. Next year will be a different story. This year, however, you are just over a year old and every day is like Christmas for you!
We started the day by eating breakfast with Daddy. It is very rare that we get to wake up with Daddy at home! When we do, you are always excited! We then took the dogs and went to the golf course and let them run around. This is our 2nd annual golf course visit, and we plan to continue for a long time. The golf course is quiet on Christmas morning, and we can have the place to ourselves (for the most part). This Christmas was a beautiful day. So nice, that we could wear short sleeves! Last year you were all bundled up in a carrier against Mama. This year, you were walking down the path on your own. You were splashing in puddles, looking at the tee markers, and simply having a blast!

When we came home, it was time for your nap. You slept, and then woke to have Christmas snacks! We didn't make much, since it is just the 3 of us, but we had some good things for you to try. You loved the cheese spread on Ritz crackers, and, of course, liked the pizza rolls.

Then it was time! Time to open presents! You helped rip the paper off, and then you were extremely excited to play with the paper and boxes! You really didn't care much about what was in those boxes. :)

Now, a few days after Christmas, you have shown us that you love your presents. You flip through your new books, and you love your new flashcards! Your great auntie gave you some wooden animal toys that click together. You are enjoying figuring out how to pull them apart and click them back together. You are trying on your new clothes, and cuddling with your new lion that we named Lisa. You immediately gave her kisses when you opened the package!

One of your favorite things this year was going to see the Christmas lights at Seneca Park. When we got there, we got you out of the car seat and you sat up front on Mama's lap. You were thrilled! You pointed at all of the lights, pointed at the moon, and touched all of the buttons in the front of the car. You had a blast.

We had such an amazing Christmas- just the 3 of us. I love you so much. I can't wait to see you next Christmas! You are going to be so excited for Santa to come!

Kisses for a lifetime.

Love, 
Mama

This sensory activity was amazing! In our discussion group for Mamas Organized Chaos we set up a weekly play activity event. Each week, a new member of our mamas group is choosing a new idea. This week, the activity was to create a jello sensory play.

All you have to do is use gelatin and make a jello mold. I used 2 gelatin packets and added 1/2 cup of ice cold water and stirred. I then added 1 1/2 cups hot water, and again stirred. I poured this mixture into a pie pan and added magnetic letters (you can use any easily washable toys). I then put it in the refrigerator for several hours.

I popped out the jello mold, gave Caroline a spoon and let her have at it! She was unsure at first, but then dove right in. The gelatin doesn't have much flavor, so she wasn't inclined to eat it. She did thoroughly enjoy throwing the jello, however!

She got a couple of the letters out, made a HUGE mess, and then decided she was all done. She motioned the sign with her hands and informed me of this! Such a big girl!

We are definitely planning to do this activity again! As Caroline gets older she is going to love figuring out ways to get the letters (or other items out) of the jello.







Well, year one is over, and to celebrate, Caroline thought she'd get her FIRST tooth! She's been teething since the day she turned 1 year old. It is now about 3 weeks later and we can finally (kind of) see the tooth! LOL

I started to feel the tooth ever so slightly the day of her first birthday. We went in for her 1 year well check the next day, and the pediatrician confirmed my thoughts! Her bottom right central incisor was making its appearance! She also agreed that her entire top gums were swollen and getting ready to do something as well!

My hope is that Caroline just blasts through and catches up on teeth! Rip the band-aid off and just do it all at once! This might limit her misery and mine as well haha.

I knew it was real this time, and all I can say is things were just a little bit different than the many other times I thought she might be teething (and never was).

Her teething symptoms:

- CRANKY
- Slightly elevated temperature around 100.8
- Runny/loose stool
- TIRED
- Decreased appetite

Now, mind you, not only is she teething, she is now walking, she is in her year 1 wonder week (leap 8), and she is learning a ton! So, the tiredness and crankiness is most likely a combination of all these things happening at once. As mentioned recently, not only are we solidly on a 2 nap schedule at the moment, her naps have been moved earlier and bedtime as well to accommodate her extra cranky/tired mood. She is now napping at 9:30 instead of 10, and 1:30/2 instead of 2:30/3. Bedtime is 6:30 instead of 7:30.

The tooth is taking FOREVER! We can just start to see it when she opens her mouth, 3 weeks after I felt it for the first time! Amazing how long this is taking. I am really hoping the others go faster for her sake.

What we are doing to help her:

We noticed that she was taking a very long time to get to sleep at night. She seemed to have trouble getting comfortable, which is unlike her. So, before bed, we started giving her ibuprofen and putting Orajel on. During the day, I only gave tylenol on an as needed basis (if she seemed extra cranky and nothing else was working). We give her frozen teethers, and she is eating a lot of pouches to supplement for the decreased appetite- which very well may be because her gums are hurting and she isn't interested in chewing.

Excited to see when the next teeth come in! I am so very happy that she waited until we were done nursing to get her first tooth! Hooray for my nipples being safe! LOL
In early November (about 3 weeks before Caroline turned 1 year old), Caroline took her very first unassisted steps. We were outside doing some exploring. She loved holding onto my hands and walking, so I decided to bring out her walker. She pushed it along the sidewalk and was having a blast. Suddenly, she stopped and walked around her walker. She took a couple of steps without holding on, and we were both so excited that she fell into my arms!

That day she repeated taking a few steps at a time. She was thrilled and so was I! Daddy was on a trip, unfortunately, but we got on Skype that evening and showed off her new abilities to Daddy, her grandparents and auntie.

By her 1st birthday she was taking about 15-20 steps at once.

About 2 weeks later she was wanting to walk instead of crawl and was doing a fantastic job!

She taught herself how to stand up in the middle of the floor. Once that happened, she was off and running!

We are now 3 weeks out from her 1st birthday. She walks everywhere. She falls on occasion, but simply stands back up and gets back to walking. She is a pro!

As soon as she started walking, a switch seemed to flip. She was a toddler, and acting like one! Of course, multiple things were and are still happening in these weeks. She learned how to walk, how to stand, she is getting her very first tooth, and she is in the year 1 wonder week (leap 8), and learning lots of language skills. She is tired due to all of the extra energy she is exerting while walking. She is tired due to her body dealing with teething, and she has been in pain on some days from teething as well. She is learning so much during this leap.

As a result of all of the above, she is not only on 2 naps every single day, those nap times have been pushed up to accommodate her new tiredness and crankiness :) She naps now at 9:30 instead of 10, and at 1:30 instead of 2:30/3. She is also going to bed at 6:30 instead of 7/7:30! Once we adjusted her schedule, she was a much happier toddler!

It has been amazing to see Caroline learning so much in the last few weeks. I love that she can walk and go explore on her own. One of our favorite things to do is simply to go outside and walk down the sidewalk together. She finds squirrels, trees, leaves, etc. She points at cars and watches people. We walk down to the swings and swing. She is  growing up so fast!

In all of this growing up, she is actually giving me more snuggles than ever. She is so tired and exhausted all of the time, that she loves being held and loves giving hugs and kisses right now. I was even able to take her in to mama and daddy's bed for a 10 minute cuddle session! YAY! Best part of my day!



Our discipline philosophy includes the word "no". It also includes explaining to our child why we expect a certain behavior, or why she is not allowed to do something. Continuing with our "start as you mean to go on" post and philosophy, we started this early. Really from day 1 we have been taking the time to explain things to Caroline and also expose her to the word "no". 

There are times that I felt silly doing all of the above, when clearly she didn't understand me yet. I viewed it as her and I both getting practice, however. So, even when I knew she didn't understand, I went ahead and explained things to her. 

Now that she is 1 year old, I can clearly see that she does understand much more. I believe she is starting to understand what "no" means at this point, and she has little toddler tantrums when she isn't allowed to do something. There are times that she simply ignores me, and I wonder if she really does understand. Below I have a list of some things that she clearly understands, however. Knowing that she understands these phrases makes it easier for me to realize that she probably understands "no" as well at this point.

She understands simple tasks. Caroline understands when we...

Ask her to come over to us.
Ask her to put something in a specific location.
Ask her to put away her toys in a specific location.
Tell her we are going out and to please go get her shoes. (she goes over to where we put them on)
Tell her it is naptime/bedtime.
Ask her if she is ready for her nap.
Ask her if she is "all done" at the table.
Ask her if she wants "up". 
Ask her to share.
Ask her to give kisses.
Ask her to be gentle.
Ask her if she wants a bath. (she goes to the bathtub)
and much more...

She also understands simple "commands" as I'll call them. She understands when we say...

"Touchdown" that she is supposed to put her hands in the air.
"High five", she gives a high five.
"How old are you?", she puts up 1 finger.
"Clap", she claps.
"Dance", she dances.
etc....

As a result, I have to assume that when I ask her to be gentle with something or when I tell her "no" we can't do something, that she is to the point that she understands me- even if she doesn't stop what she's doing or start being gentle instead of rough, etc. 

Yesterday, Caroline had her toolbox and threw it. I explained to her that we don't throw (she's heard it many times before). I asked her to be gentle with the toolbox (since I know she knows that term), and I used the word "no". She did this about 5 times. I repeated my explanation, and told her no each time. Each time I was a little more stern with my voice. She chose to ignore me. So, on the fifth time, I took the toolbox away and put it up on the table. She was extremely upset and threw a little tantrum. I also took the opportunity to tell her that I know how frustrating it can be to not get something you want. I made sure she knew that I understood how she felt. I explained to her how this could have been avoided as well. I then redirected her attention to something new and explained that, while she couldn't have the toolbox back, she could play with any of her other toys. She calmed down and after several minutes of calm playtime, I put the toolbox back on the floor. She obviously is not to the point that she understands everything I am saying yet. She doesn't understand when I explain to her that I understand she is frustrated and that it is ok to feel that way. I say it anyway. I want to be in the practice of saying these things, and for her to be used to hearing me. 

This was my first time having to take a toy away. While she didn't listen when I asked her to be gentle, I do think this was a good experience for her and for me. We will focus on being consistent and clear with her. She is now old enough and understands so much, that my expectations are growing with her. She is going to be allowed to cry and work it out. I will help her through it, of course, but since she understands so much, she will not simply get what she wants simply because she is crying. It is hard to not give in, but it is worth it to get the desired outcome and positive behavior. Again, consistency is going to be key. We'll update more as we have more and more experiences to share!

I am now an Usborne Books Consultant and I am so excited to share these books with other mamas. They are amazing!

Picture of Peek Inside the Garden
When Caroline was 6 months old, we were gifted our first Usborne book. The book is called Peek Inside the Garden and is one of the Peek Inside series. I was immediately impressed with how sturdy the book is. It has flaps with hidden treasures on each page, holes to look through and so many details. Caroline is fascinated with the colors, the details, and, of course, the flaps! She is now 1 year old, and none of the flaps have ripped (this book has been through 6 months of baby handling), and it is still one of her favorites. As she gets older, she finds more details on each page. She is learning and exploring the book in new ways each month! I was planning on getting more of these books because of how impressed I was, so I decided to become an Usborne consultant. I want to share these wonderful books with as many mamas as I can! The books are high quality, and there are so many options and different types of books with Usborne. The website even allows you to shop by age, which is incredibly helpful! I definitely put my mama approved stamp on these, and Caroline has put a baby and now toddler approved stamp as well!

 If you want to keep up with all the latest discounts and deals, friend me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/katrinavillegas.usborne 
    





















My wish list is so long, now that I've had a chance to really learn more about these books.

Here are a few of my favorites:


Picture of Look Inside Your Body
Look Inside Your Body
The Look Inside Your Body book looks amazing. Lots of flaps within flaps to discover more information!


Picture of Very First Reading Set
Very First Reading Set
The Very First Reading Set is a great first set for kids to learn to read. There are parts for the adult to read followed by simple reading for the child.

Picture of Secrets of the Seashore
Secrets of the Seashore

The Secrets of the Seashore book is part of the Shine A Light series. You literally shine a light through the pages to discover hidden pictures! So much fun!
I'm going to miss this view...
Weaning from breastfeeding/formula is actually a gradual process from birth! As you take away feedings and graduate to the next phase, you might not be thinking about weaning yet, but you are well on your way. I'll talk about the specifics of the later months below, but to start off, here is a look at how our transition took place month by month:

Newborn (1-2 weeks): 8 scheduled feedings during the day + ~3 MOTN feedings
Newborn (3-4 weeks): 6 scheduled feedings during the day + 1 MOTN feeding
Month 2: 7 scheduled feedings during the day + 2 MOTN feedings
Month 3: 5 scheduled feedings during the day + 1 MOTN feeding
Months 4-8: 4 scheduled feedings during the day & no MOTN feeding
*Started solids in month 4 
Month 9: 3 scheduled feedings during the day & no MOTN feeding
Month 10: 2 scheduled feedings during the day & no MOTN feeding

The 2 nursing sessions that we had left during month 10 were first thing in the morning, and about 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. Going down to 2 feedings was when I really started to focus on weaning. Our goal was to wean from nursing at 12 months of age.

My plan from here was to remove the morning feeding at 11.5 months and replace it with whole milk.

At 12 months, we would remove the last feeding before bed and replace it with whole milk as well.

Caroline's doctor preferred that we wait until closer to 12 months before introducing whole milk. Two weeks didn't seem to matter in my mind, but we went with the flow.
 
My new plan was to then remove the morning feeding at 12 months, and 1-2 weeks later remove the bedtime feeding.

What actually happened was an accelerated version. I needed to be on medication that was not nursing friendly 1 week prior to Caroline turning 1 year old. As a result, with doctor approval, we weaned her off of nursing in pretty much 3 days.

Our actual weaning process:

- 1 week prior to turning 1 year old: Removed morning feed & replaced with whole milk.

- The next day: Removed bedtime feeding as well & replaced with whole milk.
Caroline was NOT happy with this, so I nursed her before bed.
 

- Day 3: Only whole milk offered.

It took Caroline and I a few days to adjust. She was not used to the taste of cow's milk, and we had to figure out the timing and temperature for her to drink the milk successfully.

Our goal was/is to get 12-20 oz of milk in her per day, and this was not happening in the first few days.


Here's what ended up working for us:

- Offering milk first thing in the morning and as a snack after her 2nd nap. These have become the 2 big offerings. We offer about 6 oz each time.

- Offering a little bit before bed. She typically doesn't want this, and she also doesn't ask to nurse. We offer about 4 oz and she drinks probably 1-3 oz depending on the day.

- With meals we still only offer water. We want her eating solid foods, not getting full on milk.

- Warming up the milk helped a ton! She likes it as hot as I can make it without it burning her! (She's become less sensitive to this after a couple of weeks).

- Having Daddy offer milk. At first I made the mistake of offering her milk when I normally nurse her, and even where I usually nurse her. That was a no go before bed anyway. We had Daddy offer it, and, while she didn't really drink it at first, she also didn't cry to be nursed.

- Offering in the same style sippy cup that she's been using for water. We give her a heads up that it is milk, but since she's accustomed to drinking out of these sippy cups, we wanted to keep it the same.


All in all, the process went extremely smoothly for us. Caroline never seemed to bat an eye or really complain about not being nursed. It was a bittersweet process, and I struggled emotionally with not nursing anymore over the course of 3 days- it was just more sudden than I had envisioned. In an ideal world I would have been able to stick to the plan, but we all know- that doesn't usually get to happen!


Here is my letter to Caroline as we stopped nursing. I might have cried while writing it, and every time I've read it since...

I would like to announce an exciting opportunity! I connected with another blogger recently, and it turns out she is a food blogger that has a toddler/baby recipe book coming out. She is partnering with us for an exclusive look at a handful of the recipes! All we have to do in return is try the recipes (um, YAY!) and rate them! I am so excited about this because I am constantly looking for new recipes to try with Caroline, and I am always hearing other mamas ask for recipe ideas as well. This is a perfect way to get some motivation and be introduced to some fabulous new ideas!

For starters, I'd like to introduce this wonderful food blogger! Her name is Sonali and she is a board certified Emergency Medicine physician, mom, culinary school graduate, recipe developer and cookbook author.  Such an impressive resume! Check out her blog (The Foodie Physician) for tons of great recipes!



Her new book, entitled Natural Baby Food, will be published in early 2016 by Hatherleigh Press. You can pre-order this book on Amazon! The book has over 125 recipes and includes food for toddlers and even purees for babies.




The exiting news for us is that we get to preview several of these recipes, try them, and rate them! We are going to take on 1 recipe per month, so it won't be too time consuming and you will all be able to participate :)

If you are interested, please go to my facebook page and join our discussion group. Don't forget to read the group details and pm me the info needed!  The event is open to any mamas in our group. Happy eating!