Best Gifts for 2-year-olds

Isla’s 2nd birthday just came and went, so I thought I’d share some of Isla’s favorite toys right now, in case you’re looking for a great gift for your favorite 2-year-old.

Best Gifts for 2-year-olds

Melissa & Doug Fill & Spill Picnic Basket

This is a soft picnic basket with plush food items that are simple and easy for little ones to use. The sandwich items come with velcro so they all stick together. Isla loves pretending she’s making sandwiches and eating ice cream. She likes to bring this basket to other people and “feed them.” Cuteness quotient: out of control.

ABC/123 Blocks

You can’t beat the classics. My husband and I both had almost identical blocks growing up, and they have become synonymous with childhood. And no wonder! These blocks are fantastic because they allow so much open-ended play, creativity, and learning.  Plus, kids love them, proving that simple things often make the best toys.

Lego Duplo Set

Another classic that both my husband and I had! And another that Isla has had a great time with. She occasionally gets a little frustrated when she can’t get the pieces to line up just right, but these are great tools to teach patience and build fine motor skills. Also, they’re so much fun! Kellen and I both are always happy to sit down and play with Legos.

Sidewalk Chalk

Sidewalk chalk is bright, messy, colorful fun! Isla loves art of all sorts–and getting head-to-toe dirty–so sidewalk chalk is a big hit with her.

Coloring Books, Stickers, and Markers

Isla gets totally absorbed in coloring and stickers. They’re also a great way to let her express her creativity and develop fine motor skills. Plus, they’re pretty cheap! I usually hit up Dollar General and $1 bins at Target for these items.

Rocking Horse

Isla loves rocking horses. My parents have one, as does another family we know here in Austin, and Isla is completely taken with them. She can get on and ride for half an hour, squealing “Yeehaw!” and making horse sounds and grinning from ear to ear. It is adorable, and I love seeing the pure joy on her face.

Diggin Jump Smart Trampoline

Our babysitter has this, and both the sitter’s 2-year-old and Isla have a blast on this thing. I have to pull Isla off the trampoline screaming at 5:30 most evenings. It has handles for them to hold onto, and it plays music. It’s basically a toy geared toward causing your kid to burn off every last ounce of energy they have, and toddlers have a lot to burn. Technically, it’s meant for 3 and up, but with close supervision and a coordinated 2-year-old, you shouldn’t have many problems other than the tantrum when it runs out of batteries.

Other great gifts include: clothes, books (Isla loves Little Blue Truck and Ten Twinkly Stars right now), and “experience” items like a trip to the zoo or a music class or a dance, gymnastics or swim class geared toward toddlers.

Good luck finding the perfect gift!

Fitness Friday: You Are Not Your Enemy

WTF, fitspo?!

Around a year ago, I was sitting at a table eating lunch with my daughter. Seated at the table behind me was a bevy of young, beautiful, thin women. The sort of women who have incredibly successful blogs and Instagram accounts devoted almost entirely to selfies. The sort of women who instantly make me shrink and feel conspicuously ugly.

I happened to catch a snatch of their conversation, though, and was intrigued. The group of women–none of whom could have been larger than a size 6–were griping about how they looked. They never called themselves fat, but there were complaints about how their minuscule thighs were too large, their flat stomachs too convex, their taut upper arms too flabby. One girl with perfectly coiffed hair complained of a bad hair day. Despite fitting into virtually all of our society’s beauty ideals, none of them seemed very happy with themselves.

It made me wonder. Beauty standards aren’t just about how we actually look. They’re about how we think about ourselves and our bodies and our worth. They’re about the words we use to talk about our bodies. Our beauty standards are about viewing ourselves with a constantly critical eye and defining ourselves not by the things we are and do and have, but by the things we aren’t and don’t do and don’t have.

Magazine covers with weight loss features

I feel like as a woman, I’m constantly being told to view my body as a never-ending improvement project, even as an adversary. What’s keeping me from the ultimate reward, which in our society an incredibly thin, toned body with nary a flaw? Me. And so I’m apparently supposed to wage war on myself in order to torture my body into the shape society says it’s supposed to have, even though  1) most of the images we see of ideal bodies are so heavily photoshopped, even the people photographed don’t actually have those bodies, 2) the people with “ideal” bodies typically spend several hours a day getting those bodies, and 3) my body may never, ever look like theirs, even with hours-long work outs every single day.

I will never have large breasts or a completely flat stomach without surgery. I will never have a flat rear-end. I will never be free from stretch marks and scars and blemishes. And I most certainly will never have a thigh gap. I say this as a person who once weighed 95 lbs. and wore a size 2. A thigh gap is never going to happen in this body.

Fitspo photos

But I’m still told this should be my goal: big boobs, flat stomach, flat butt, thigh gap. Even if it’s totally unachievable for me, the point is not achieving the perfect, but undergoing this constant process of trying to be perfect. It’s the hating yourself and beating yourself up and constant comparisons to everyone around you and the unproductive cycle of fad diets and fitness routines and pain and self-loathing.

I don’t think it’s healthy to approach fitness by looking at pictures of other people and saying, “I should look like that.” I certainly don’t think it’s healthy to approach fitness by telling myself that my body is my enemy, and I need to punch my flab in the face or that I need to destroy parts of myself that aren’t “perfect.” I want to like my body. I don’t think you can ever get to a place where you truly like your body if you see yourself as constantly trying to achieve someone else’s body, which may or may not even really be their body depending on the photo, and continually looking at all you aren’t versus all you are.

I certainly don’t think you can ever achieve happiness with yourself if you’re constantly making yourself feel bad every time you eat the wrong food or skip a workout.

Fitspo photos

You will skip work outs. You will eat ice cream. You will have periods in your life–maybe long periods–where other things are more important to you than being thin, being fit, being healthy, working out, eating the “right” foods. And guess what? That doesn’t mean you’re letting anything to go to waste or that you don’t deserve good things in your life or that you shouldn’t be happy.

You will never find happiness by falling into this fitness philosophy that happiness only happens for as long as you’re fighting with yourself to look better. Happiness is always one more workout, one more denied cookie, one more carrot stick away. It depends on you doing the “right” things, all the time, and no matter how many right things you are doing, there’s always more you could be doing. Meaning: there’s always one more thing to hate yourself or berate yourself for not doing. This is why even thin, beautiful women hate the way they look and obsess over diets and workouts and every little “imperfection.”

Fitspo: be the best version of you

How you look is only how you look. It is a teeny tiny portion of all the things in your life you can be happy about and proud of. The best version of you has nothing to do with your washboard abs or your amazing triceps. You can have all those things and still feel terrible on the inside and have very little you feel proud and happy about.

My approach to fitness is that my body is amazing. Walking and breathing and talking and thinking and writing and reading and feeling joy and loving and laughing…these are all miracles. Life itself is a miracle. I am so lucky I get to wake up every day and experience it. My body has allowed me to do so many things and see so many things and experience so many things. My body grew a person. I fed that person with my body. I prefer to view my body as the vessel that allows me to experience the world and life, and I don’t want to view that vessel as an opponent. I want to work with my body to keep it as healthy and strong for as long as I can, but that doesn’t mean I have to hate myself for enjoying french fries or sitting on the couch some nights. I love french fries. They’re delicious. How amazing is it that something so simple can taste so good, and that I can enjoy that with this incredible body?! Of course, I also love vegetables. I love getting exercise. A lot of things that are good for you are actually fun and enjoyable. Focusing on the deprivation and sacrifice aspects makes healthy living a punishment, a sort of perpetual martyrdom in the name of “fitness.” It doesn’t have to be.

I want to treat my body well. I want to love it, and I want to enjoy every moment I have in it. I don’t want to hate it. I don’t want to fight myself. I don’t want to feel guilty about things I do or don’t do with it, just because of how it might affect my appearance. My youth and beauty (because, yes! I am beautiful, even if no one wants to see a blog of nothing but my selfies) are ephemeral. Someday I will be old, and being conventionally pretty will be entirely beyond my reach, and all I will have left is how much I can do in and with my body. I don’t want to continue to be locked into an approach to my body where I’m constantly hating it for all it’s not, rather than all it is.

My best self is not 115 lbs. with 18% body fat. My best self is being a great mom and wife and friend and coworker. My best self is reading good books and traveling to new places and enjoying sunsets and playing in the dirt with my daughter. My best self is random acts of kindness and advocating for a better world for everyone.

You’re never going to find happiness through hating yourself. Stop putting yourself down. Stop feeling guilty. Stop focusing on your “flaws.” Love yourself. Love your body. Love your life. Love others. Love them unconditionally, radically, and without reservation. That’s the path to happiness.

Review: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

Ina May's Guide to ChildbirthNumerous people have recommended Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth as the quintessential book for anyone hoping to have a natural birth. Because I am hoping to have a natural birth experience with baby #2 (no, I’m not pregnant), I decided to pick it up and give it a read.

I was not as impressed with this book as I thought I might be. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the opinion of Ina May Gaskin’s opinion and expertise on the subject of natural birth, but I found this book to be a little heavy on the side of opinion. Which is not to say there is not a lot of good, hard evidence for natural birth in this book. Gaskin makes an excellent case for natural birth in cases where mother and baby are healthy and tolerating labor well, and provides fact-based evidence for using medical interventions like narcotic pain medication, epidurals, labor inducing medication, and c-section sparingly.

However, I found the facts to be interwoven with opinion and anecdotal evidence, and the two were at times treated as almost interchangeable. There was more than one occasion when she made conjectures about outcomes of natural birth and medical interventions without good evidence other than personal experience. While I believe that Gaskin’s opinions are, in many cases, probably correct or at least heading down the right track, it always makes me a little uncomfortable when experts don’t make clear delineations between hard evidence and speculation.

The other thing that bothered me was the fear-mongering around hospital births. I understand that Gaskin has strong opinions about her preference for home births over hospital birth, but I did not appreciate that most of her examples of hospital births swirled around death and other women’s horrifying experiences of near-torture. I say this as a woman who had a pretty awful hospital birth. I think terrifying women about the prospect of a hospital birth is no better for women than the doctors I see terrifying women about the prospect of home births. I think women should have real, slant-free information about both options (and other options, like birth centers), and be allowed to form their own opinions based on evidence. Fear is not a good place for anybody to make a decision from, and trying to scare women into one situation or another isn’t responsible.

Beyond that, the book was a little hippie dippy for my tastes. A large portion of the book shares women’s real life natural birth stories, most at home or at The Farm. The stories are inspiring and for the most part made me feel much more determined and capable of having a natural birth. Every so often, though, there was one that was just too out there for me to get on board with. When I came to those, I usually had to put the book down for a few minutes and take a few deep breaths and convince myself it was worth it to keep reading.

The book did contain some really great information about the side effects and potential risks of various drugs to induce labor, various artificial means of pain management, and c-section, and I think these are excellent because you won’t hear doctors or nurses mention these very often. You may have to sign a form acknowledging something may go wrong, but no one ever really tells you how often those things happen or how likely it is to cause difficulties later in your labor and birth experience or how it might impact future fertility, births, and general health.

The book also contained some excellent recommendations on how to get labor moving and strategies for handling common difficulties in labor and birth, as well as how to find a health care provider who will be on board with allowing nature to take its course unless there is clear evidence that something is not right.

On the whole, I would say it’s worth the read. Just be aware that some of the evidence put forward is more anecdata than hard data and that her portrayal of hospital birth is a little extreme. She makes multiple valid, evidence-based points, but she tends to lean more heavily on exceptional cases and experiences. Balance out your reading here with other, less dogmatic books.

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

Diaper Laundry

My cloth diaper laundry regimen has changed a lot in the last two years. When Isla was first born, we lived in Portland, where the water is very soft and where Isla’s breastmilk poops could easily be laundered away with a little bit of gentle, environmentally-friendly soap. Over time, though, as we’ve transitioned to solid foods and moved to Austin, where the water is hard, we’ve had to change how we wash our cloth diapers in order to keep them clean, fresh-smelling, and stain-free.

Despite the changes, though, there are a few constants to successfully keeping your diapers clean:

  • Launder with hot water.
  • Launder with enough water.
  • Launder with enough of the right detergent, which will vary depending on the hardness of your water, your washing machine, and your feelings about the environment.
  • Do not use fabric softener or detergents with fabric softeners.
  • Remove excess poop from diapers before laundering.
  • Wash all diapers within 3 days of use.
  • Avoid using diaper rash creams that contain petroleum jelly, paraffin, mineral oil, and also possibly zinc oxide when your baby is in cloth.

With a good cleaning regimen, you should have diapers that smell good, are free from stains, and which do not repel or cause rashes or redness on your baby. If a diaper stinks or is stained, it isn’t clean, and if a diaper is repelling or causing redness, it’s likely that soap, detergent, diaper rash cream, and/or yeast and bacteria which need to be removed from the diaper. More on that below.

Launder with Hot Water

Make sure you wash your diapers with hot water. You can do a cold pre-rinse and a cold rinse, but when you are washing your diapers, hot water is best. The reason for this is less about killing germs, as most washing machines don’t get hot enough to be very effective at killing germs. Rather, most detergents work best in hot water. If you use a detergent formulated to work well in cold water, then consider using cold water, but for the most part, hot water is best for cleaning our most disgusting items–like towels, sheets, socks, gym clothes, and diapers–because that’s how you get the most cleaning power from your detergent.

Launder with Enough Water

This is a pretty obvious issue and often an easy issue to troubleshoot if you’re having laundry issues. Plenty of water is required to give clothes and other items enough room to agitate out dirt and soil. When you wash anything in a washing machine, once the machine fills with water, the items in the wash should be able to move about freely. A good rule of thumb is to dip your hand into a machine once it’s filled with water and see if you can move your hand easily through the items. If you can’t, you aren’t using enough water. If you’ve noticed your diapers stinking, one of the first things you can try to fix is making sure you have enough water. Shrink the size of your loads or up the water settings. Sometimes, this is enough to solve your stink problems.

Launder with Enough of the Right Detergent

Detergent has become something of a controversial topic in the cloth diapering world of late. You will generally find people are of two opinions: 1) Tide and other conventional detergents are the Holy Grail of cloth diaper laundry, and 2) the road to cloth diaper laundry hell is paved with Tide, and you should stick to cloth diaper-friendly detergents. My personal opinion? Both sides have valid points, and both sides are typically able to find a successful way to launder their diapers without doing too much damage.

  • Conventional Detergents: Many people manage to use conventional detergents on their diapers without many problems. Particularly if you live in an area with hard water, you might find that conventional detergent gives you the bang you need to knock out persistent stink issues, as the petroleum-based surfactants in conventional detergents are specifically geared to combat minerals in hard water which can build up on your clothes. Conventional detergents are also typically less expensive than cloth diaper-friendly detergents. The downside to conventional detergents are: 1) they are not environmentally-friendly and contain a number of chemicals you may not want to expose your child to, including fragrances and dyes which your child or even you may be allergic to; 2) some chemicals in conventional detergents, including optical brighteners and fragrance, can lead to build-up on your diapers, which long-term will trap bacteria and may cause diapers to repel and stink; and 3) the chemicals may be harsher on your diapers and cause your diapers to wear faster than with a CD-friendly detergent, and for this reason, using conventional detergents may void the warranty on your cloth diapers from certain manufacturers.
  • Cloth Diaper-Friendly Detergents: These detergents are often made without the fragrances, dyes, and optical brighteners that can cause build-up on diapers from conventional detergents. Because they are made with gentler chemicals, they may allow your diapers to last longer, and using these will ensure the manufacturer warranty on your diapers remains in tact. Cloth diaper-friendly detergents are made with natural oil- and fat-based surfactants, and less of other harsh chemicals, which generally make them better for the environment. You are less likely to encounter chemicals and fragrances which cause allergic reaction on babies. The downsides to cloth diaper-friendly detergents: 1) they typically are more expensive; 2) they can be hard to purchase locally; 3) the oil- and fat-based detergents may not work as well if you have hard water, so you will need either to find a detergent which is intended for hard water (like Rockin’ Green’s Hard Rock) or use an additive which combats hard water, like Calgon, to prevent soap and detergent build up on your diapers.

Once you’ve picked the right detergent, be sure you are using the right amount. If you have soft water, you will need less detergent. If you have hard water, you will need more detergent. If you use too little detergent, your diapers will not get clean. If you use too much detergent, the detergent may not be completely washed out. You can tell you are using the right amount of detergent when your laundry is soapy and sudsy on the wash cycle, but much less so in the rinse cycle. Too little detergent, your laundry will never get soapy or sudsy. Too much detergent, and your diapers will still be very sudsy in the rinse cycle. You can rinse out a diaper in your sink in this case to see just how much soap lingers on the diaper when you use too much detergent. A lot of people recommend doing a second rinse, even when you use the right amount of detergent, just to make sure you’ve gotten all the detergent out.

Note that if you have an HE washer, you will either need to use less detergent or use an HE-specific detergent.

Do Not Use Fabric Softener

This is a biggie, and virtually everyone agrees that fabric softeners on diapers are a terrible idea. Fabric softeners work by creating a coat of lubricating chemicals on fabric. If you’ve ever used too much fabric softener on your towels, you might be aware of what too much fabric softener can do to fabrics–fabrics lose their absorbency! Obviously, diapers’ ability to absorb is the entire point, so we don’t want to do anything to cause them to start repelling liquids. Don’t use fabric softeners and be on the look out for fabric softeners (not to be confused with water softeners, which help to soften hard water and make your detergent more effective) in your detergent.

Remove Excess Poop From Diapers

From my personal experience, this really depends on your baby’s diet and the kind of water you have, but generally speaking, it’s always a good idea to remove excess poop from your diapers before throwing them in the machine. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, this is one you can skip, but once you add solids, and certainly once your older child is exclusively eating solids, poop can become a big, stinky, chunky mess.

Dump all solid poops into the toilet, and for runny poops, do your best to remove as much of the excess as you can by dunking, swirling, and spraying into the toilet. A little poop in your washing machine will pretty easily be broken up and washed down the drain, along with everything else, and breastmilk poops are water-soluble and will break up easily as well. But if you have a lot of poop in a diaper, it’s not going to break down all the way and you may end up with tiny chunks of fecal matter all over everything in your washing machine. (I’m not saying this happened to me, but if this did happen to me, I would pull everything out of the laundry, remove as much poop as I could into the toilet, thoroughly clean the washing machine, and then rewash everything.)

Popular tools for removing poop:

  • Diaper sprayer: This bad boy attaches to your toilet and is a quick and easy way to spray excess poop off your diapers and into the toilet. Also helpful if you are having problems with ammonia build-up. Spraying down all diapers as soon as they come off your baby/toddler helps prevent a lot of the issues with ammonia and bacteria building up on the diaper, which can be difficult to get out in the wash, especially the longer you go between washes.
  • Spray pal: This is a splatter shield for your diaper sprayer. If you’re one of those people (like me) who can’t seem to use their diaper sprayer without getting half the bathroom covered in water, this will help you direct the water–and the poop–into the toilet instead of all over the place.
  • Diaper liners: You can get either disposable or reusable diaper liners. They’re strips of fabric you can put in the diaper so that when your baby poops, you can just pull the liners out and either flush them, trash them, or dump them into the toilet.

Wash All Diapers Within 3 Days of Use

The longer you let your diapers sit in a pail or wet bag, the longer you allow bacteria to breed and ammonia to form on your diapers, which means the more your diapers smell and the harder it is to wash the yuckies out. Wash your diapers at least every 3 days. I once forgot about a batch of diapers for 5 days, and it took nearly 2 months of laundry experimentation to get them back to normal again.

The other benefits to frequent washing are: it keeps your load sizes small and more manageable, and you don’t have to buy as many diapers.

Avoid Non-Cloth Diaper-Friendly Diaper Creams

Diaper creams that contain petroleum jelly, paraffin, mineral oil, and also possibly zinc oxide are known to cause diapers to repel. These diaper creams work on your baby by creating a water-proof layer between your baby’s skin and diaper. Unfortunately, if these things get into your diaper, they create a water-proof layer between your baby’s skin and diaper. Try to find cloth diaper-friendly diaper creams that will keep your baby’s bottom dry and rash-free without creating build-up on the diaper which won’t easily wash out of the diaper in your washing machine.

If you’ve already made this mistake, and your diapers are repelling, try scrubbing the offending diaper cream out with dish soap and a tooth brush. Make sure you rinse really well to get all the soap out, because dish soap can do a number on your washing machine later.

Other Potential Issues

There are other things which may come up in the course of laundering your diapers which it’s good to be aware of.

  • Your washing machine: Every model of washing machine is a little different, and especially with new washing machines, they may have “efficient” water and heat settings which may not get your diapers as clean as you like. For instance, I found out my new washing machine has one rinse setting which only does a spray rinse. The other rinse setting does a full rinse. The spray rinse caused my diapers to smell pretty bad, so I had to make sure to use the right rinse cycle to get my diapers clean. Your washing machine may have special quirks which can help you or hurt you in finding the right regimen for your diapers. Research your washer!
  • Dryer vs. Line Dry: The nice thing about using your dryer for your cloth diapers is that it’s faster and more convenient than line-drying. However, dryers are harder on all fabrics, and especially on the waterproof linings of diapers, so the dryer may shorten the lifespan of your diapers. Line drying provides many benefits, besides preserving the lifespan of your diapers. Line drying is a huge help at reducing nasty stains on diapers, and what’s more, the rays of the sun are a great natural way to kill bacteria on your diapers. Your diapers will look, smell, and actually be cleaner if you line dry.
  • Ammonia: Ammonia build-up is a common problem with cloth diapers, especially as children get older and become heavier wetters, if you cloth diaper overnight, and if you go a little bit longer than you should between washes. Honestly, the best thing I’ve found at handling ammonia problems is Rockin’ Green’s Funk Rock. I did an ammonia bounce on my entire stash a while back and had excellent results, after weeks of trying to overcome ammonia issues with my diapers. Now, I use a tablespoon of Funk Rock with every single wash, and I haven’t had any more ammonia issues. Other prophylactic measures can include rinsing all your diapers before you put them in the pail or wet bag, leaving your pail open to allow air to circulate, using a wet pail, or putting some sort of additive in your pail to combat ammonia.
  • Bleach: Bleach is another controversial topic among the cloth diapering community. Some rightly point out that bleach is very corrosive, especially for natural fibers, and that in many cases it will void the manufacturer’s warranty. Others argue you can’t get your diapers clean without bleach. While I have used bleach on some of my diapers, it has always been as a last resort and with great trepidation, using the least amount of bleach I possibly could to get results. Honestly, if you are that worried about germs on your diapers, the best and safest thing you can do is hang them on a line in the sunshine.
  • Stripping: If you find you need to strip your diapers, chances are, there’s something going awry somewhere in your laundry regimen that needs to be adjusted. However, if your diapers are so far gone you can’t just clean up your laundry regimen, stripping may be in order. In the past, I’ve done the Dawn + bleach method with decent results, but it’s a method I’m less inclined to recommend now, given what I know about how well it works (not very) and how Dawn and bleach might affect your washing machine and diapers. Before you bust out the bleach and dish soap, start simple. You can rock a soak on your diapers or do an ammonia bounce, if ammonia is the issue. You can try RLR or Mighty Bubbles. All of these methods not only won’t void the warranty on your diapers, they’re also less likely to do serious damage to your diapers. And in my experience, these methods are very effective at resolving pretty much any stink issue, given that you’ve already made adjustments to your laundry regimen to prevent the problems from persisting. Bleach and Dawn should be the desperate last resort, only if your final step is throwing the diapers in the trash. I’ve heard of others trying Cascade soaks, some with disastrous results for their diapers and their babies, so honestly, if you’re considering that, don’t.

This sums up my diaper laundry wisdom. If you have any questions or your own advice, please feel free to share in the comments!

Also be sure to check out: Types of Cloth Diapers and Cloth Diaper Accessories

 

Isla’s 2 Year Update

Isla at 2 years

Isla is officially 2 years old, and she’s pretty much what she’s been since the day she was born. A bright-eyed, curious, busy busy busy little girl. She loves to go and see and do, and she loves it best of all when she has an audience.

Her favorite place is probably our back yard. She loves to talk to the chickens and feed them fresh treats from the garden. The previous residents, with their two little boys and two dogs, left behind an array of balls that she’s constantly dragging out and throwing around. She loves to play in the mud and the dirt and the rocks and hunt for caterpillars and snails. And when planes flying low, headed to the airport, buzz over our house, she loves to lay on her back and watch them go by.

 Isla tastes green from the gardens

Isla has embraced her terrible 2′s in the same way she’s embraced everything: with gusto. She’s had her fair share of tantrums and time outs. She revels in doing things she knows she’s not supposed to, just to see how we’ll react. She also has boycotted eating pretty much anything that isn’t macaroni and cheese. Even mashed potatoes won’t make it past her lips these days. She will occasionally surprise us by trying a bell pepper or a piece of spinach or even some greens fresh from the garden, but it’s promptly spit out and usually tossed onto the floor for the dog to turn his nose up at, too.

Isla can also be incredibly sweet and loving, though. She will give you a big hug and a kiss and tell you “I love you” in the sweetest voice totally unprompted. She loves to snuggle up on the couch and read books, and sometimes when we’re reading she turns around and just looks at me in a way that makes my heart melt.

Isla playing with marker lids

Potty training continues to be a learning process. Isla still asks to go pretty regularly when we are home, and in the evenings at least is routinely successful, and we’ve been putting her in underwear for stretches on the weekend. At this point, she’s very curious about going potty and knows what’s supposed to happen on the potty. Sometimes she’ll let us know she needs to go and sit and push and push and nothing comes out, only to come off the potty and have an accident 5 minutes later. We’re not in a rush, though, and are happy to let her take things at her own pace. I think we’ve learned at this point that it all goes pretty fast, and there’s something to be said for enjoying the present. Even if the present does include a lot of dirty diapers.

Isla in the garden

The best part of this age is all the talking. Isla is now able to string together words to make a sentence and can understand a reasonable amount of what we’re saying. It’s so much fun to get a glimpse into her world and see how she sees things. It’s great to finally know what exactly it is she’s looking at and interested in and thinking and what she likes and doesn’t like.

Isla is as busy as ever. Sometimes, it feels like she never stops moving until the end of the day when she finally collapses into bed exhausted. The nice thing is now, we can sit back and let her play on her own and even trust her enough to leave her in a room by herself for a few minutes unsupervised, something I never would have dreamed of doing 6 months ago, given that 6 months ago, she wasn’t afraid of anything. She navigates our back yard and her bedroom like an old pro these days, though, and has a pretty good grasp on what she can and can’t do without killing herself, and I am very grateful for her newfound independence.

Sleep continues to be pretty good. Isla is sleeping in a big girl bed full time. Bed time can be a bit tricky, but most nights, after a story and some songs and a shuffle from me to Kellen, she’s out like a light by 8 PM and doesn’t wake up until 7. Thank goodness!

Isla sitting in the rocks

2 is really shaping up to be a great year. Isla is a lot of fun, and I’m loving this age. I’ll gladly take the tantrums for all the communication and good humor and sweetness. I feel like every day she becomes more and more herself, if that makes any sense. She was born with such a big personality and such an intense curiosity and desire to be part of the world…and each day she learns a little more and goes a little bit further out into the world, and she does it all with such unbridled joy and enthusiasm. It’s amazing to watch.

My ebullient explorer. My sweet baby girl. Happy birthday, bitty boo.

Isla’s Rainbow 2nd Birthday Party

On Sunday, we had Isla’s 2nd birthday party. We did rainbow theme, in part because of St. Patrick’s Day and in part because it was easy. A few balloons, some streamers, and we were pretty much good. I’m all about keeping it simple, especially since our budget was pretty limited and our time even moreso.

Rainbow Birthday Decor

Isla had a great time. She had a couple of her friends over, along with their parents and my family. We played golf out in the yard and got to watch the chickens eat a head of cauliflower that was at the end of its life. She and her friends played hide and seek in her toy box. There was delicious cake courtesy my husband (chocolate, nutella and strawberry…oh my!) and lots of presents to be opened, including from our long distance family in the Pacific Northwest.

Isla's 2nd Birthday Party

All in all, a fun little party. I can’t believe my baby girl is almost 2. I keep looking back at old photos and wondering where my itty bitty peanut went. It’s a cliche, but it’s true: it goes so fast.

Isla with her bear at 3 days old, 1 year old, and 2 years old

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