Archive | Pregnancy RSS feed for this section

PPD, Two Years Later

16 Jun

I haven’t even begun this post and it’s already misleading. I guess I’ve battled PPD for two years now but really it started before that, before Isobel was even born. While I was pregnant the doctor diagnosed me with antenatal depression and anxiety, so really this began nearly three years ago.

I put off writing about the nursery tour on purpose because of my experience with PPD. Even after I thought I was recovered I’d look at this room and think about how naive I was and how easy I thought it’d all be and god, what a failure I was. I think it’s a measure of how far I’ve come that I look at this room now and think about all the great times we’ve had and how I still love the decor and I just feel light and free.

For me the worst part of PPD was feeling like an utter failure. Nothing particular happened to made me feel this way; as best I can describe it that’s how PPD felt to me. I had a rough labor and needed emergency surgery after Isobel was pulled from my belly. I was awake when they had wheeled me into the OR ,when they had ordered me, mid-contraction, with a catheter bag full of blood, to climb to the operating table, but by the time Isobel emerged, I was out.

I saw Isobel for the first time on my camera’s small screen. My whole family got to meet Isobel before I did while doctors dug around inside of me.  I felt like a failure. From the first minute of motherhood.

Comparatively, my PPD was not that bad. I never had thoughts of harming myself or anybody else, I had no problems lovingly caring for Isobel, and I was only ever prescribed a low dose of a common antidepressant that I no longer take. But overall it deeply affected not only me but my whole family. I am so grateful that I have a loving husband, wonderful friends, and a supportive family, because without them I’m not sure how I would have ever been able to climb out of that pit of depression. I still see my therapist from time to time.

If you have PPD it doesn’t make you a bad mother or a bad partner. It’s a chemical imbalance brought on by the myriad of hormones coursing through your body. If pregnancy itself is making you feel out of control, or if having a newborn is overwhelming, talk to your family, talk to your doctor, talk to your partner. Talk to anyone you trust.  You can recover, and you can thrive, even if you feel miles away from any semblance of normal. You are not a failure. You are not alone.

Advertisements

Thrifted Home Tour: The Nursery

13 Jun

I have put off writing this post for the Thrifted Home Tour for about a year now because of PPD, and although I’ve technically never done the library or the guest bedroom either, the nursery was the room I balked at. For almost two years my sister lived in our guest bedroom so that room was off limits, and our home library has needed a lot of work so I never really took pictures of it to include it in the tour, although I should just for the awesome green vintage filing cabinet alone. I did post photos of the office/library here and you can see years-old photos of some vintage goodness in the guest bedroom on flickr, including the trunk that came over with my family from Sweden. It held all their worldly goods and you can still see the address to “Amerika” carved on the side.  You can read the previous installments of the Thrifted Home Tour here.

(What is the Thrifted Home Tour? I’m glad you asked! I’ve decorated my entire home with vintage goods either passed down from family members or found while trolling estate sales or thrift stores. I am showing off different rooms of my house to display how thrifted items can be worked into the décor to be useful and inspiring items. Partially it’s because I’d love to promote my vintage Etsy shop, and partially because that’s just how I roll. I think more people should decorate their home with thrifted goods. Here’s why .)

I made these curtains myself from Heather Ross fabric I ordered from someplace online. They look horrible, and this is because I tried to make them after I went on maternity, and getting down on the ground with a giant belly to cut fabric was DUMB. Don’t try it at home.

The nursery set got a lot of views on flickr and I still occasionally get emails from people about something that was in the photos or if they can use a shot for something. It was featured on Esty, Ohdeedoh, and Spearamint Baby. I had the most fun creating this room and I can’t wait do to it all over again when the time comes. We had a miniscule budget but I managed to put this room together by shopping thrift stores, Etsy, and my own family’s hand-me-downs.

I guess I should start explaining things now since I’m several photos into the tour. The chair in the photo above belonged to my grandparents, as did the side table next to it. The chair itself is pretty gross one side. All the cats decided it was the perfect scratching post, but I chose that chair not for its looks but for its comfort. I’ve slept in that chair while cradling the newborn Isobel many times, as has Anthony and I think maybe even my sister and mother. The pillow in the chair was an old one I bought for my first apartment at MacFrugals. It is UG-LY, but I bought a ten dollar pillow cover from Etsy seller Lindylou2. I still love it.

The blanket that’s draped over the chair was handmade by a coworker’s mother, and the one draped across the crib was made by Anthony’s Grandma.

I bought some cheap album frames from CB2 and filled them with record album covers from the thrift store with the exception of Sgt Pepper, which was my parents. My mom actually saw the Beatles at the Cow Palace way back in the day and I talk about it at every chance I get. Because DUDE she saw THE BEATLES. The magazine holder next to the chair came from my grandparents and we filled it with storybooks that we now read to her at bedtime.

Anthony and I scored both the bookcase and the dresser from a yardsale from an old neighbor. My Dad painstakingly painted the dresser pink but we left the shelf the way it was. All told I think we spent about fifty or sixty bucks for the set. Our buddy Jose gave us the thrifted “How Things Work” books which are amazing and have since been saved for Isobel for when she’s older. I miraculously came upon some old, hardbound Highlights for Children books at a book sale, and one of the doll’s quilts was thrifted as well.

The vintage print was found in a Costa Rican fairytale book from the library. I made a color copy and framed it an an old frame from an Estate sale. I got the wooden mushrooms from Etsy seller craftsty. Isobel now uses them as part of her cooking set. I got the firefly jar lights from etaknamdoow.

The closet was filled with clothes that were gifts plus a few things I picked up while thrifting or were hand-me-downs. People’s generosity was so overwhelming, it’s bursting at the seams. I decided it needed to be organized so I made these closet dividers for it and I posted a tutorial here.

I created a template for these guys that’s available for free over here.

I still use these to organize Isobel’s clothes, though we’re running to the end of the sizes I made them for. They are really lovely,  but I’m not going to lie–they were a lot of work. But seriously, they are useful, so check out the closet divider tutorial and see if you can streamline the process for yourself.

The changing table we scored for I think fifteen bucks at my favorite local thrift store, and the baskets underneath all came from Target. You can find where to purchase the cloth diaper pail liner here, and the pail itself is actually an unused garbage pail bought new from Target. You can see the lovely pink dresser my dad painted, too.

The cats above the changing table were purchased for fifteen bucks at an antique store, and Isobel used to look up at them and giggle when she was just a few months old. The old hamper next to the changing table (the wooden one) was my grandpa’s and back then I used it as a table to store wipes, powder and other essentials. Once Isobel was mobile enough to get into them I moved them to the dresser. The hamper now stores all of her dress up clothes.

I got a lot of comments on Isobel’s crib, and I wish I still had a link for it. We bought it relatively cheaply from the Babies R Us website. It was a moderately priced crib, so maybe $250? Cute modern cribs were so expensive and after striking out on Craigslist we just went ahead and bought this one. The joke’s on us though! Isobel coslept for all but about three months of her life. Hopefully kid #2 will spend more quality time here.

We ordered the decal off Etsy but I’m not going to post a link. I didn’t have a great experience with that seller so I’m not going to link to them. A quick search for “vinyl decal” or “wall decal” will yield more results than you eve r thought possible, so scour Etsy if you’re looking for something similar.

There’s sweet Peachie, sleeping on the changing table. I miss him and Tinkerbell incredibly.

This butterfly mobile is so gorgeous. It was custom made for us by Etsy seller Khamm75 and in full disclosure I have to say that I adore this seller. We convo’d a bit and she liked my photos of the mobile so much she offered to buy them for use in her listings. I had my eye on this birth date print so we arranged a trade, and now when you click on mobile listing you see my photos. She is super nice, great to work with, and her shop is filled with gorgeous wares.

It looks amazing above the crib next to the mobile.

There’s my sweet Peachie boy again.

I found this vintage owl picture while thrifting and a friend of mine said the owls look really pissed off. I didn’t think that before but ever since she said that, I always think that and it makes me giggle. They do look kind of miffed. It  adds to their charm. Below it is this great vintage brass lightswitch plate purchased from Etsy seller lexigirlcreations. I looked through a lot of light switch covers (so that’s what I did with all that carefree, childless time!) and it was by far the best.

The woodland animal pictures were handmade a long time ago and I found them while thrifting for ten cents each. The first picture is a chipmunk on a mushroom and the second features a fox and some butterflies. I luff them. Below is a yellow thrifted bowl that I keep Isobel’s hair accessories in and a thrifted bowl decorated with babies playing ping pong on it. I use that bowl for storing the rubber bands that I used to keep infant socks together. The light is vintage Irmi from the seventies. It was actually in my nursery and my mom saved it! The gold frame was also thrifted but the adorable ABC print inside came from Etsy seller studiolyon. She was another fantastic seller to work with. I also spent an inordinate amount of time researching ABC prints because I had seen so many fantastic ones featured on design sites and they were all at least $50 before shipping. This one was awesome and nine dollars. I guess sales exploded after I put up the nursery set since it was featured at different places and she sent me an email thanking me. Which is ridiculous, because we should be thanking her for producing lovely art affordably.

I found this frame and the mushroom plaque while thrifting.

This is what Isobel looked like most of the time while in her crib: awake. Here she’s chilling next to some elephants a great aunt made for me as a baby.

Isobel’s closet was ridiculous from before she was even born. We got tons of clothes as gifts but got even more things handed down from cousins and friends. I saved some of the really cute gift bags from her shower and used them as closet organization and storage for things like slings and receiving blankets.

There’s my sweet Tinky, hiding in the closet.

I didn’t get this footstool till later on during a yard saling expedition, but it was nice to have.

And I’m going to end with a photo of Tinky, who probably slept in the crib more often than Isobel.

Thanksgiving, Then & Now

25 Nov

The photo above was taken on Isobel’s First Thanksgiving. She was in the womb and it was a wonderful time to be pregnant: a holiday devoted to eating as much as possible and sitting around afterward, fat and happy, awaiting room in your belly for pie.

Holidays are a nice way to revisit the previous years. Here are two videos, one taken last year on Thanksgiving, and one taken a few days ago. I can’t remember how she was ever so small.

LAST YEAR

She can barely stand! Don’t worry about her falling at the end, she doesn’t cry. She’s mostly dismayed. She barely ever cried last year at this time. This year, however, she’s very keen in exercising her right to throw a fit.

At one point in the video, my sweet orange Mensa kitty Tinky walks by the camera. At the time, I never would have thought that she wouldn’t be with us this year. I miss her and Peach on a daily basis.

THIS YEAR

Isobel is so different compared to last year, but her wonderful laugh is the same.

It’s impossible not to notice Zorro in this video. He is all up ons the camera. He must think I’m recording him.

In this video you can hear a glimpse of Isobel counting. She only says up to “two” before she starts giggling (she’s anticipating tickles) but she can count up to five. Additionally, she can count backward from three. So, I’ve officially become a Horrible Bragging Parent.

Hold on a second. I think I hear my karma coming.

Holiday Appetizer Inspiration

20 Nov

The holy four-day weekend known as Thanksgiving is upon us and if your family is anything like mine you turn to your tried-and-true staple dishes every year. There’s a certain comfort and familiarity in preparing the same dishes and the same way: you know exactly what to plan for, how much to buy, and who hates what. Our family has been eating pretty much the same dinner for as long as I can remember. For the last eight years or so we’ve been hosting the dinner at our house so in addition to much of the dinner I’ve also been in charge of appetizers. Family drives in from far away bringing their special, unchanging-dishes in with them while we plan in advance to create the bulk of the meal. Until Thanksgiving was hosted at our house, appetizers were an afterthought.

Since my family doesn’t eat lunch on Thanksgiving Day we rely on appetizers to hold us over till dinner. I love to plan the appetizers because I can change them each year as they are not bound to tradition. Here are some of the ideas I’m considering for this year:

JALAPENOS

One of my favorite appetizers is one I can’t always eat: stuffed jalapenos wrapped with bacon. Sometimes I can indulge my love for these and sometimes I can’t. It depends on the heat of the peppers. But they are so, so good. The cream cheese becomes molten to match the jalapeno-pepper fire in your mouth. I don’t even need to add that the bacon just makes the whole thing taste that much better. Recipe can be found here.

BAKED BRIE

I am not embarrassed (thought maybe I should be) to admit I’ve eaten whole wheels of baked brie for dinner, let alone indulging in it as an appetizer. I blame my mother in law for introducing it to me. What you do is you take a wheel of cheese. Butter the top and sprinkle it with sliced almonds. Drizzle it with honey and set it in an ovenproof dish. (I plan to have several attractive vintage ones up in the shop soon.) Put it in an oven preheated to 350 F and bake for 25-30 minutes. Cut through the rind and dip into the gooey goodness with poached asparagus spears, pear or apple slices, or my favorite: crusty bread.

EDAMAME

Healthy, green, fresh… edamame are perfect for guilt-free snacking. These beans are the young version of the soybean. Boiled and salted they are quick and satisfying. You can often find them in the frozen food section if your grocery does not stock them in the produce aisle.


FRUIT ARRANGEMENTS

I’m sure everyone’s seen the incredibly dumb edible arrangements ads on TV. I shake my head when I see them thinking wow, they’ve made something good into something mediocre. For an edible fruit arrangement to be good, it has to be fresh. Then it’s not just good, it’s spectacular. My friend Julie is amazing at putting these together, like this one that she made for my baby shower. If you want to cement your friendship with anyone who is pregnant, prepare fresh fruit for them and they will love you forever.  First she wedged a head of ice burg lettuce into a bowl that just barely fit—the heavier the bowl, the better, because that will counter-balance your skewers. Then, take bamboo barbecue skewers and thread fruit such as strawberries, orange crescents, grapes, and pineapple wedges on it. (This exact fruit arrangement led me to realize I was mildly allergic to pineapple while pregnant.) In addition to being perfectly delicious as is, fresh fruit always benefits from a slight sprinkling of balsamic vinegar, a drizzle of chocolate, or an avocado citrus dip.

SWEET POTATO FRIES

Our Thanksgiving meal is fixed in nature and varies only very slightly from year to year. One thing we never have on the menu is sweet potatoes. That American concoction with the scorched marshmallows on top? I’ve never had it. So I was thinking of making sweet potato fries at appetizers.  As a bonus they can be prepped (peeled, sliced, even doused with oil and rolled in seasonings) and frozen in advance. I don’t have a double oven and space is an issue sometimes, but I can make do. I particularly love curry powder on my sweet potato fries. Bake at a 400 F oven for 25-30 minutes. If you want to go all out, fry them.

CRUDITES

My family is full of health nuts and vegetable lovers (myself included). We always, without fail, have crudités as part of our appetizer spread. We do like to change up the dip from time to time. Recently I’ve been infatuated with spinach dip although homemade guacamole always goes over very well.


SOUP

I’ve been contemplating doing soup this year. Nothing too heavy, but something that can be sipped on that will tide you over till dinner. The added bonus is that soup could be prepared in advance, frozen, and then thawed and reheated the day of. Pumpkin is a natural choice, unless at this point you are all pumpkin’d out. Which is quite un-American of you, really.

 

How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving?

Midweek Update: Overshare Edition

17 Nov

It’s been awhile since I’ve done any sort of update, and those of you who follow me on twitter probably don’t need another update from me because damn, I update a few times a day anyway. But seeing as how it’s Overshare Wednesday on twitter, why not?

* (By the way, I never seem to lose any followers on Overshare Wednesday. At first I felt really good about that. Yeah, I thought, my followers get me, they really get me. But then I realized my numbers hardly fluctuate at all no matter the random crap I spout. This lead me to assume that at least 90% of my followers are bots that don’t care what I say. Fair enough, Twitter. Fair enough.)

* I feel like I should preface things by saying good lord I am so busy. But I am always busy. I exist in a perpetual state of laundry, errands, and looming deadlines. The business is so constant and boring I feel like I shouldn’t bother sharing but it’s the (non)glamorous truth: I am always busy.

* Last weekend I did a photoshoot with my friends Erin and Jaime who are expecting their first child. Their happiness is obvious.

* Thanksgiving is coming. Two years ago I was pregnant during the holidays and I decided that being pregnant during a holiday in which all you do is eat and eat and eat and eat is just about the best reason to get knocked up in the first place. (Unless you have rampant morning sickness. Then this is an awful time for you and I pray for your soul.) I’ve made Thanksgiving dinner so many times now I can practically do it in my sleep so this year I’m focusing on getting creative with the appetizers. A post on this is coming.

* On Thursday Isobel and I are hitting the road with my cousin Liz and her daughter Victoria and we are going to go see YO GABBA GABBA LIVE. OMG, I’m so excited I can hardly contain myself. Isobel is too young to understand what is coming but I am pee-my-pants excited for her. Her head is going to explode. I never thought I’d be able to take her to YGG (as it is known in my house to prevent extensive requests for Babba? Babba? BABBA?! from the toddler). Tickets are expensive and besides, Anthony really didn’t have an interest in going. However, my cousin received four FREE tickets to YGG Live in Sacramento and she invited us to go with her.

* I promised Shanti a guest post for the month of November. It’s coming! It’s my goal to guest post at a different blog each month. I’d happily do a guest blog exchange if anyone’s interested. I haven’t scheduled anyone for the month of December yet so if you’d like to exchange guest blogging services with me, let me know in the comments.

* Isobel is such a little girl now that it kills me. She echoes almost everything we say and uses simple sentences like a champ. My mom is still teaching her sign language and she knows so many signs that I can’t keep up with them all. For example, the other day I noticed her tapping her face with her finger. What a little philosopher! I thought She’s a deep thinker all ready! Later I found out that was her version of the sign for water. The poor dear wanted a drink. Still, I’m still proud!

* When Isobel eats something and finds it delicious she exclaims, “Mmm! Pizza!” no matter what it is she’s eating. She knows it’s a noun, but she uses it so often to describe something that’s delicious it may as well be an adjective. Anthony and I are trying it out in normal conversation. For example, “That move was SO PIZZA!” or “Man, honey, you sure do look PIZZA today!”

* Last weekend we went to my friend Leonard’s birthday party in Stockton and I’m happy to say we didn’t get mugged once while we were there. Stockton ranks really high on the Places It Sucks To Live list but fortunately we always have a great time. Mom watched Isobel so Anthony and I could enjoy a childfree evening. My husband got a little wild on the keytar and the night ended with the entire room singing a chorus of Bohemian Rhapsody. Melynda and I got a couple of duets in and I had so much fun singing Undone: The Sweater Song that I think we should probably create an all-female Weezer cover band. Before I left I sang Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4 with Leonard, which we both happen to know because we grew up with a serious condition known as White Parents.

* I am at home with Isobel today because Mama Juani had to have emergency dental surgery and our back up person (my Mom) is out of town visiting family. I’m torn about this: I absolutely love being here with her but as a solo librarian they close the library’s doors when I’m gone and the kids miss out. And I miss them. And I feel guilty for letting the school down. Boo. But here we are, dancing to Here Comes Science and having a great morning.

100 Games to Play with Baby, Part IV

30 Oct

I mentioned previously that if I were to write a book on Things You Didn’t Know About Parenting that book would be called, “Babies: Not the Most Riveting of Company.” Sometimes I needed ideas of games and activities to play with Isobel when I had been home with her all day and was feeling uninspired. I combed through the library and scoured the internet for ideas, and also added things that worked well for us. I gave this list to my Mom who watched Isobel when I went back to work and decided to share it here to help other uninspired parents and to keep it somewhere safe for when I need it next. I’m posting this in four installments.

75. Rags: Without realizing it, I taught Isobel that when you spills something on the ground you go over to our little rag cupboard in the kitchen and use a rag to wipe up the spill. Isobel loves playing with the (clean) rags, folding and unfolding, and shoving in and out of the cupboard.

76. Coloring: Start with crayons as soon as you dare, knowing that they will eventually go in the mouth and on the walls. Get safe, nontoxic, wipable crayons made for this purpose and be vigilant. Chalk is fun from an early age but it’s very messy so make sure your kid’s wearing something you’re not attached to. Lastly, I highly recommend a Magnadoodle. We go ours second hand so it was free. It’s been very useful on car trips and perfect for drawing pictures and asking Isobel, “What’s this?”

77. Renew: Make baby’s toys ‘new’ again by only having a third or so of their toys accessible at one time. After a few weeks, exchange those toys (excepting favorites and comfort items, of course) with toys that haven’t been seen for awhile. Before Isobel was mobile I kept a basket of different toys in almost every room of the house so no matter where I had to go she could have something to play with. Also changing rooms sometimes is enough to entertain a very young baby and keep them stimulated.

78. Loves: Teach your toddler how to hug and love their stuffed animals and dolls by embracing their toy and saying “HUUUG!” and “LOOVE!” in a singsong voice. You will be overwhelmed with cuteness when you see your child imitate you. Isobel’s latest thing is to say, “AWWWW!” when she gives a hug because she’s heard us say it so many times.

79. Flickr account: I love my flickr account and it didn’t take long for me to realize that Isobel is fascinated by it, too. Specifically, she loves looking at my contacts’ photos with me—as long as they feature children, babies or animals, of course. It’s fun to show her the photos and talk about what’s going on in them: who’s in the photo, what they are doing, colors, etc. She is getting very good at remembering and even sometimes saying the names of people or pets in the photos. It’s also a great way to familiarize her with people we don’t get to see often.

80. Scarf: I’m always on the lookout for nice vintage scarves. When Isobel was quite little I used to wave the scarf gently over her head, occasionally brushing her face with it, while making silly noises. It always made her giggle. After I’d let her wave it around in her tiny, grippy baby fist.

81. Play: I encouraged Isobel’s fascination with watching me do, well, everything by giving her a spoon (a real one, like the one mommy uses), a plastic cup and bowl, a toothbrush and a hair brush. She likes to pretend to slurp up soup from her bowl and spoon, drink out of her cup, and brush her hair and teeth like Mama.

82. People watch: Even before your child is old enough to play at the park they will probably still love just going to the park. Isobel’s number one favorite thing to do before she was mobile was to people watch. She loved going anywhere she could look at people, but the park was by far her favorite as children are ten times more fascinating than adults. Even now that she is able to walk around and play at the park she still spends much of her time there watching other children play.

83. Book: Since I’m a librarian we definitely have been trying to encourage a love of reading with Isobel from the get go. I remember the first day we brought her home from the hospital I read “Love You Forever” to her while she nursed and I sobbed crazy hormone tears for thinking that someday she won’t be a baby any more. She was already FOUR DAYS OLD, after all. Around the four to five month mark Isobel became fascinated with books, but the kind she liked were realistic picture books, especially if they had cats, dogs, or people in them. She didn’t care for board books so much (unless she wanted to chew on them) but books with photos were captivating. One of her favorite books featured photos of astronauts in space, but her most beloved book, of course, was nothing but cat photos.

84. Buttons: cause and effect never gets old for babies. If there is a button to push with a visible result your baby will find it and amuse themselves with it for months. My bestie’s baby Kingston loves to sit under the ceiling fan and use the remote to turn the light on and off and to switch the fan to different settings. He’s not verbal yet so he sits there with his head tilted up, giggling with the remote in his hand. It’s fucking adorable. Isobel’s favorite is to turn the TV on and off (usually while Mama’s trying to watch her stories) and then she’ll lift up her hands and say, “UH OH!” She loves to turn the light switch on and off too—it makes her kind of drunk with power but hey, it’s stimulates your kid so it’s worth it!

85. Talk talk: before you donate or responsibly dispose of your old cell phone, give it a new life with your baby. As early as 9 months Isobel was carrying on babbling “conversations” with Anthony’s old Razr. Her first actual phone conversation when something like this:
“Hello? Okay. Bye.”
It’s so funny to hear your child mimic the speech patterns they hear when you’re on the phone.

86. flash cards: I’ve been meaning to make personalized flash cards for Isobel but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’m thinking of making cards that have different animals, people she knows, shapes, letters, anything really so we can sit together and I can ask her, “Isobel, what’s this?” For every correct answer I plan on tickling her or giving her a raspberry, because she loves this. Even preverbal babies can recognize pictures on the cards and you can have a (one-sided) conversation about them.

87. blanket ‘fort’: I discovered accidentally that even very small children love forts. I bought a large crocheted blanket while thrifted and had just finished hand washing it and wringing it out when I set it on the table to finish air-drying. It was a bedspread large enough for a queen so it covered one whole end of the table and still touched the floor. Isobel immediately grabbed some toys and started playing under it. Even better, the kittens weren’t far behind her.

89. watching interesting weather: to a baby, everything is new. I remember when Isobel was just a little under-3-month-old squirt we had a wind and rainstorm surge through the Valley. The trees were particularly interesting and thrashing about and the water as it poured off the roof made interesting patterns on the windows. Isobel’s buddy Noah, who’s almost a month older than she is, spent an entire afternoon in his bouncy seat, fixedly staring at the storm outside the window with interest.

90. computer:  Have you ever noticed how quickly a baby pounding on a keyboard can completely change or settings or turn off your computer? It’s like they are geniuses at ruining things. When Isobel wanted to play at the computer we took her to this site and let her have at it. She ADORED it. Cause and effect, people. It makes babies drunk with power and they love it. For a special treat, my dear friend Stef let Isobel play on her piano keyboard once and she was HOOKED. Great, now we have to try to afford some PIANO LESSONS, STEFANIE. If you have an old laptop you can try to tempt your baby with it, but there’s no comparing it to the Real Thing.

91. fish tank: My FIL has an impressive salt water fish tank and even as a new born Isobel spent lots of time staring into the glass with wonder. Colors! Shapes! Floaty things! Now that she’s older she excitedly waves to the fishies but she’s always been enthralled by it. We don’t have a fish tank at home, but we always be sure to visit the aquarium section of the pet store when we buy cat food, and Grandpa has even taken her on a trip to the specialty aquarium fish store to gawk at their giant tanks.

92. pinwheel/ chimes: in the spring the dollar store and other discount retailers carry such fun things and pinwheels and patio chimes. Our local grocery store had a display all summer and she had to visit them once before we left on each trip. Make sure the pinwheel is safe for your baby to play with (no sharp edges or pokey parts!) unless you’re there to supervise her. Make sure whatever wind chime you select is sturdy enough to handle a kid whapping on it without danger of it shattering.

93. racetrack: we went to a party for Noah’s first birthday and he had a race track set up with a bunch of hot wheels for the cousins to play with. Isobel loved setting a car at the top of the ramp and watching it race down. You don’t even need to buy a fancy race track for this: a couple of cheap hot wheels and a board for a home made ramp and you’re set. If your neighborhood is safe you can race cars down your drive way.

94. containers: In addition to loving any sort of box to play with Isobel also likes to make a game of climbing into and out of things. This requires constant supervision until their strength and balance has developed, but they will love it. Things Isobel likes to climb into include: the pet carriers, her toy box, her giant bucket, the laundry basket, and pretty much any other large container lying about. Daddy likes to put her in the laundry basket or bucket and give her rides through the house. He’s an excellent father.

95. case study: Take old CDs and DVDs that aren’t near and dear to your heart and let your baby open and close the cases. She’ll have fun figuring out how to do this and how to pull the CD/DVD out of the case and try to put it back in. This is great fun, trust me. The reflective surface if the disc and any pictures on the cases add to the fun.

96. Gamblin’ man: give your baby a bucket or other small container filled with different colored poker chips. They make a fun sound when you run your fingers through them and are interesting to feel and play with. Also, they’re not much of a choking hazard, which is always a plus in my book.

97. So touchy: For very little babies who are just discovering they have arms and legs I liked to increase their awareness by gently blowing in their hands and feet as I named them. You can also kiss their feet, their toes, and their fingers, give them raspberries or make other silly noises when you kiss them. Once your baby learns to smile you’ll know how much she appreciates this game.

98. Refresh: When Isobel was a tiny squirtle she loved toys that could hover above her for her to kick and gurlgle at. Every once in a while I’d take random toys and tie them onto the bar and she would be surprised and entertained by the sudden appearance of the new toy.

99. Push: Babies learning to walk independently often go through a pushing stage. They push the laundry basket around, they push their toys around, they push anything around they can. Isobel loved to push a sturdy chair around the kitchen and it was so cute to see her rolling the yoga ball around the living room. She still quite enjoys pushing her own stroller around but now she’s old enough to know you really should fill it with stuffed animals first.

100. I love technology: I wrote a post on baby-friendly iphone apps and Bab Bab Lite in particular has saved us from dramatic meltdowns in the car so often I’m indebted to the iphone creators for life. If you need a quick distraction in the car, the doctor’s office, or long enough to put some laundry in the drier, I can’t recommend it enough. Even the basic youtube app has brought lots of kitten-related giggles to Isobel’s sweet young life.

This is part two in a four-part series Games to Play with Baby. You can find part one here, part II here, and part III here.  Please use common sense. Supervise your child with the appropriate amount of supervision for their developmental age and always watch out for choking hazards, falls, suffocation, or any other danger that might befall a helpless baby. Which I’m sure you already do already, you good parent you.

100 Games to Play with Baby, Part III

25 Oct

I mentioned previously that if I were to write a book on Things You Didn’t Know About Parenting that book would be called, “Babies: Not the Most Riveting of Company.” Sometimes I needed ideas of games and activities to play with Isobel when I had been home with her all day and was feeling uninspired. I combed through the library and scoured the internet for ideas, and also added things that worked well for us. I gave this list to my Mom who watched Isobel when I went back to work and decided to share it here to help other uninspired parents and to keep it somewhere safe for when I need it next. I’m posting this in four installments.

51. Blanket outside: if you have nice weather, take your baby outside (appropriately dressed) and set them on a blanket outside. Make sure your baby is protected from the sun. Often I sat Isobel outside on her Bumbo while I watered plants. She was content to watch me and got a thrill whenever the breeze ruffled her hair. I am fortunate to live in a place with mild winters, however, and I know not everyone can do this.

52. Get crafty: Pom-pom play; star garlands: many crafty doo-dads from big box craft stores can be used to entertain baby. A box full of different colored, different-sized pompoms can be a fun thing for a baby. Use common sense about what’s safe and appropriate for your child’s age and development.

53. Empty cardboard boxes: empty paper bags and boxes of all sizes and shapes always attract cats and children. If we have a box around they are usually squabbling with each other to get in first.

54. Stickers: these were not a long term source of entertainment by any means, but Isobel certainly enjoyed the sheet of realistic cat stickers we bought her. We found cats stuck to things for days after that experience.

55. Horses/Cars: If you have plastic horses or other four-legged animals you can teach your baby to make them “run” on the ground or other hard surface. I like to make horses “run” up her arm while singing the theme to Bonanza. Driving cars across baby’s feet is fun, too.

56. Electro shock therapy: This is one of her favorite games. We take two blocks and hit them together while making a ZZZZT! noise, as if they have an electrical charge. We do that a few times to “charge” them up before sticking the blocks in her armpits and tickling her with them while sustaining the ZZZZZZZZZZZT! noise. She thinks this is the funniest thing EVAR and asks us to do it over and over and over again.

57. Burrito baby: Isobel loves it when we lay her on a blanket and wrap her up and pretend she’s a newborn baby, or, even better – a burrito! The best part about wrapping her up like a burrito is pretending to eat her at the end.

58. Move it: Before Isobel could even sit up on her own she would erupt into a fit of giggles if anyone moved in unexpected ways around her, such as jumping up and down, kicking or punching your arms and legs, or, in the case of my sister, doing yoga. Isobel loved watching (and climbing on) auntie doing yoga.

59. Get Silly: Anything unexpected can make baby laugh. Often while I’m folding laundry (especially diapers) with her I’ll put a diaper on my head and one on her head and it will start a whole entertaining game of Putting Things On Our Heads And Laughing.

60. Baller: use larger bouncy balls that don’t pose a choking hazard and throw maybe four or five at a time in a safe area. Your baby will love watching the balls bounce all over the place and ricochet off things. Just be sure your baby’s at a safe viewing spot out of the way of flying balls.

61. Splashy: Most babies love to put their hands in water and even just a little water can satify their urge to splash. Fill a basin or bowl with a small amount of water and let them have at it. Add a little measuring cup or bath toys for interest. Monitor your baby very closely around any water-related activity because children can drown in very, very small amounts of water.

62. Noodle Arms: Pool noodles or pipe insulation: Isobel loved the feeling of swinging around pool noodles or strips of pipe insulation around. She also loved the feeling of biting it. Just be careful they don’t try to eat them.

63. Cat Fancy: Cat magazine/ calendar Zoo: name the animal specie (helpful along with books or TV) Isobel always looks forward to my mom coming over because Ama (aka Mom Mom) would always bring an old cat calendar or her copy of Cat Fancy magazine. (What can I say? My family is HARDCORE.) Isobel has a great time talking and petting the kitties on the page.

64. Watch and Learn: When they are very little babies are sometimes quite entertained just watching you do things like mowing the lawn, clearing the dishwasher, cooking, punching a heavy bag, practicing kicks, or jump roping. Isobel used to be fascinated by me brushing my teeth.

65. Toymania: It’s frustrating to buy an expensive toy that your child is interested in the store that then turns boring once you’re home. Some thrifty ideas of getting toys or making them new include: 1. thrift stores 2. yard sales 3. hand me downs from older children 4. toy swaps with friends about the same age: choose a few toys you’d be willing to let go for a few weeks and trade with another family. At the end of two weeks, toys go back to their original owners.

66. Achoo: buy an inexpensive box of plain Kleenex just for your child to destroy I mean play with. Once all the tissues are out of the box you can teach your baby to stuff them back in and begin again. When that’s over, you have a neat box to play with. A roll of toilet paper is also pretty amusing, if you’re up for some clean up later. This has been a lifesaver for me during car rides, as well.

67. That’s how we roll: Roll a ball to your baby and see if they will roll it back. Demonstrate with an older child or another adult so they know what to expect from you. Start with a smallish, soft ball, but as your baby’s skill grow include many different sizes of balls. For a long time Isobel’s favorite ball was the yoga ball.

68.  Where is it? Get three bowls or cups plus a small toy that fits underneath. Like that classic gambling game, cover the object with one of the cups or bowls and line up the others next to it. Shift them around to see if baby follows the one with the object and can find it.

69. Mimic: copy the noises your baby makes and see if you can get your baby to copy sounds you make. Start with animal noises like, “Moo” or “quack” after they’ve mastered vowel sounds.

70. Drop it: I’ll admit it—this is not my favorite game to play. But sometimes, Isobel just loves it, so what are you going to do. When your baby is in the right mood the most entertaining thing of all will be dropping something and picking it back up to be dropped again. This is most entertaining, of course, if baby is doing the dropping and you are doing the picking up.

71. Blocks: Build a small tower or stack of blocks and let your baby knock it over. This is fun for very young babies and is still fun with a toddler. Now she tries to build her own towers of blocks. When she’s even older we can sort the blocks: by color, by number, by letter, etc.

72. Trippy: Megan Boley’s young baby B loves watching iTunes visualizer effect. I wish I had tried this when Isobel was teeny.

73. Beans: along the same lines as playing with birdseed, you might encourage your kid to play with dried beans. Watch for choking hazards.

74. Hats: Wear a hat for your baby and say, “hat!” while pointing to it over and over. Have other hats on for your baby to wear or to put on her dolls and animals.

This is part three in a four-part series Games to Play with Baby. You can find part one here and part two here.  Please use common sense. Supervise your child with the appropriate amount of supervision for their developmental age and always watch out for choking hazards, falls, suffocation, or any other danger that might befall a helpless baby. Which I’m sure you already do already, you good parent you.

Eight DIY Couple’s Costume Ideas

24 Oct

Sometimes it’s not enough to have a costume. Sometimes you need a costume that matches another costume. Here are eight suggestions to get you started.

COSTUME: VAMPIRE & VAMPIRE HUNTER

My husband decided to be a vampire hunter for Halloween the year I was pregnant with Isobel. I decided to be a vampire, not because I have a particular interest in vampires, but because I was not going to tolerate my husband hunting anyone but me. My options were still wide open since I was in the middle of my pregnancy still—my only caveat was that I needed a high-wasted, flowing dress. Which is easy enough.

We recycled parts of other costumes to create the Vampire Hunter look. He wore a pair of thrifted black leather pants, thrifted black combat boots, a simple black t-shirt, and some creative accessories. The he made the stakes himself by slicing up a wooden dowel into the right shape and covering the handle with black electrical tape. He borrowed a cross from my parent’s house and bought a plastic gun at the flea market for a dollar. A bandoleer found while yard saling and some garlic finished off the look.

I’m the first to admit my costume isn’t very convincing or inventive. It was actually supposed to be a lot better: I had ordered these lacy black gloves and matching kneesocks on etsy but the seller flaked out. Boo. And I bought some stick-on fangs that David recommended but the adhesive was SO FUCKING NASTY I couldn’t go through with it. I bought some knit black stockings at Target at the last minute and added a sparkly thrifted broach.

Vampire Hunter Accessories: garlic, steaks, gun, cross, bandoleer, combat boots, badassery

Vampire Accessories: cool gloves and tights from etsy, fangs, dress, sparkly thrifted broach, baby bump

COSTUME: DRYAD & WOODSMAN

Stef rocks the dryad costume with a thrifted green dress and her natural beauty. She added a “crown” made of ivy and berries and made matching wristlet and belt circlets as well. Dave has the beard and physique of a lumberjack, so this costume wasn’t a stretch. Add a piping axe made out of foam, PVC pipe and duct tape, and you’re good to go.

Woodsman Accessories: beard, hat, flannel, jeans, “axe”, stoutheartedness

Dryad Accessories:  ivy crown, belt and wristlets, green dress, natural beauty

COSTUME: PREGNANT PROM QUEEN & UNSCRUPULOUS SCIENCE TEACHER

Angela was very, very pregnant during Halloween one year, and when you’re 8 months pregnant it’s hard to find more than one pair of pants that fit, let alone a costume. But she and her husband Justin had a great idea: she would be a pregnant prom queen and Justin would be her lecherous high school science teacher/baby daddy. The funniest part about this scandalous couple’s costume is that Justin unzipped his pants and put part of his shirt through the fly.

Pregnant Prom Queen Accessories: giant belly swollen with child, fancy dress, tiara, beauty queen sash, vacant stare
Unscrupulous Science Teacher Accessories: corduroy blazer, glasses, dress shirt, tie, leering stare

 

COSTUME: ZOMBIE & ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE SURVIVALIST

My friends love a good zombie story and have often theorized about what it would take to survive an apocalyptic zombie outbreak scenario. Caleb dressed as a survialist prepared for a post-zombie world and equipped with a toolbelt, work gloves, and 2 liter of Mountain Dew. My husband enjoyed zombification via white costume make up and fake blood. He wore old clothes that he could rip and spill blood onto for effect.

Zombie Survivalist Accessories: tool belt with leatherman, bowie knife, first aid kit and firestarter, back pack, work gloves, hat, and ability to shotgun a can of Mountain Dew
Zombie Accessories: make up, fake blood, old ripped clothes, unrelenting appetite for brains

 

COSTUME: MICHAEL JACKSON & THRILLER ZOMBIE

Poor Melynda. She was really distraught the year Michael Jackson died. As a fan of his music she dressed as MJ in homage to his life for Halloween. Her boyfriend, Justin, dressed as a low-key zombie and they both did the Thriller dance together. A moving tribute.

Michael Jackson Accessories: one sparkly glove, hat, shoulder-padded jacket and MJ makeup–don’t forget the pasty skin!

Low-Key Zombie Accessories: ashen face, circles under eyes, halting walk

 

COSTUME: EPIC LORD OF THE RINGS EXTRAS

All the romance of a dime store novel! None of the sheepish embarrassment of purchasing it! Stef and Dave win the Most Epic award for costumes with this one. Stef purchased this Arwen dress online but similar dresses could be found by the conscientious thrifter.  Dave’s craftily-inclined mother made him the knight’s tunic. I’m not sure about the cape. Anthony had a very similar cape made by a seamstress friend of ours, but Cindy could have made this, too. I’m not sure if Dave borrowed Anthony’s or not. Either way? Epic.

LOTR Knight Accessories: tunic, cape, official LOTR merch leaf-pin, large hairy feet

LOTR Elf Accessories: princess dress, regal bearing, soft focus lens

 

COSTUME: JAPANESE HOUSEWIFE & ADORABLE PIECE OF SUSHI

Here’s a post about my daughter’s first Halloween costume: a piece of sushi. To complete the couple’s theme, I was a Japanese housewife. My awesome friend Valerie sewed up the salmon pillow and green nori belt for Isobel and we put her in a plain white onesie. I just happened to have a beautiful kimono and obi belt given to my by our friend Aiden who was stationed in Okinawa for a few years while serving with the military.

Japanese Housewife Accessories: kimono, obi belt, parasol, graceful manner (which I probably lacked)

Adorable Piece of Sushi Accessories: White onesie and leggings, nori belt, salmon pillow, excessive cuteness

100 Games to Play with Baby, Part II

19 Oct

I mentioned previously that if I were to write a book on Things You Didn’t Know About Parenting that book would be called, “Babies: Not the Most Riveting of Company.” Sometimes I needed ideas of games and activities to play with Isobel when I had been home with her all day and was feeling uninspired. I combed through the library and scoured the internet for ideas, and also added things that worked well for us. I gave this list to my Mom who watched Isobel when I went back to work and decided to share it here to help other uninspired parents and to keep it somewhere safe for when I need it next. I’m posting this in four installments.

26. Play with Pets: Isobel is old enough at 17 months to grab string or ribbons and play with the cats. She loves nothing better than to run down the hall, trailing a ribbon, with the cats in hot pursuit. When she was really little, however, she used to explode in a fit of giggles when we played with the cats while she watched. String, ribbons, laser pointers—anything that made the cats go nuts was highly entertaining for her.

27. Balloons make me happy: Babies of all ages love balloons in my experience. All sorts of balloons: regular air-filled balloons, helium balloons, Mylar, any and all are worth at least 20 minutes worth of happy distraction. Isobel loves it when Anthony and I pretend to play volleyball with one.

28. Mirror, mirror: Isobel is attracted to any sort of mirror or reflective surface. We have a large mirror in our bedroom that she loves to kiss and talk to, but she’s just as entertained by small hand mirrors. Unless it’s a baby toy, practice common sense and don’t leave baby unsupervised with a breakable mirror.

29. Hide the Toy: Around 5 months or so Isobel loved it when I took a favorite toy and covered it with a blanket or diaper. She’d always grin when she pulled the blanket off like, TA DA! I KNEW IT WAS THERE ALL ALONG!

31. Game Face: Very early on we started naming Isobel’s eyes, ears, nose, mouth and hair. Then we’d name our eyes, ears, nose, mouth and hair. Then we’d find a doll and name the doll’s features, etc. She loved this game and will sometimes play it by herself when she’s on a car ride. She especially loves to stick her finger up my nose and say, “NOSE!”

32. Glow Baby Glow: activate a glowstick and put it in a fabric or other opaque bag. The mysterious glow will fascinate her. Be vigilant with teethers, though—the last thing you want is your baby to bite through the glow stick and ingest gross stuff.

33. Cups: Gather plastic cups of various sizes and put them into shoe box. Pull them out one by one in front of baby and eventually she’ll want to pull the cups out of the box, too. She’ll probably want to inspect them. Show her how to band them against each other to make noise.

34. Photographs: Isobel loves looking at photos on the fridge. Change them up. Help your baby say people’s names or put up animals or other things she recognizes. I took this idea a step further and made a book for Isobel to learn our friends’ names. I’m currently working on one that has all of our family members in it.

35. More mirrors: to combine looking at a mirror with naming facial features you can name your baby’s facial features while looking in the mirror.

36. Talk to yourself: Various books I read suggested holding a constant dialog with your baby, narrating their life for them. It’s supposed to build vocabulary and promote awareness for the world around them. This was really hard for me because when no one but Isobel was around I felt distinctly odd to be talking out loud and it felt very forced. After she became more expressive it got a lot easier, because then it felt more like I was having a conversation, and less like a voiceover on The Wonder Years. The important things these books recommend you point out are adjectives and nouns (see the fluffy kitty! he’s a big boy!), sensations (it sure is windy today), and colors (the grass is so green).

37. Listen: Babies, especially young babies, know the world through their five senses. Whenever I’m outside with Isobel she’ll inevitably shout “Chucho! Chucho!” and when I stop and listen, sure enough I’ll hear a dog barking that had tuned out. It’s nothing for me but to Isobel that sound means there’s a puppy somewhere. And she loves that. Listening to sounds is more of an ongoing game: whenever there’s an unexpected sound I try to name it (do you hear the birds chirping? Or the ice cream man going by?). We often play this game on walks or at the park where there’s lots of activity. Not so fun if you’re at home (hey! I’m hearing the dryer again!).

38. Taste: this sense has to wait until your baby is on solids, of course, but a fun game I love is called food squish. Only play this game before a scheduled bath, strip baby down to her skivvies and bib, and prepare yourself for destruction. I like to give her foods just for the purpose of squishing it and feeling the texture. Cooked pasta, peas, bananas, etc. are great to put on the plate for your baby to enjoy. If she eats some, so much the better. Isobel also really loves lemons and limes. She’ll take a huge bite, make a sourpuss face and then demand more. While she’s playing with her food it’s good to ask things like, “does that feel squishy? Does that feel smooth?”

39. Feelings: a much less messy version of the touch game is to collect several objects with different textures: soft, smooth, sticky, rough, etc, and let your baby feel them while explaining the sensation. I liked to give Isobel scraps of fabric, for example, that had many different textures. I felt confident about letting her play with fabric and putting it in her mouth. Faux fur, or thrifted snippets of real fur, are fun for baby to explore, too.

40. Scent: Isobel eagerly sniffs any plant in the area after first declaring it a ‘flower.’ Other things your baby can smell are fruit: cut lemon, cut (mild) onions, cut herbs, or just things around the house like baby powder, shampoo, soap, things like that. Monitor your baby very carefully, though. Babies have been known to suffer from seasonal allergies, and I read in What to Expect (I believe) that some babies react very negatively towards strong chemical scents. Some babies won’t breastfeed if the mother wears lots of perfume. What I like to do is name any particularly strong odor in the area, just like I might describe what made a sudden, loud sound.

41. Kiss the cook: It didn’t take long before Isobel began exploring our kitchen cupboards and drawers. We baby proofed the most dangerous drawers and cupboards, but I wanted her to have a place to explore so I put baby-safe kitchen items in bins for her to discover. Her favorite items include: measuring cups, a whisk, measuring spoons, cookie cutters (dull edges), sealed plastic containers of sprinkles, and other kitchen ephemera. She also loves to bang on pots and pans and make all sorts of noise. Classic baby play.

42. Paper towel tubes / TP Tubes: babies make even the most mundane object a toy and paper towel or toilet paper tubes are no exception. She always liked playing with them but now that she’s a bit older I taught her how to make noise into them like it’s some sort of horn. Hilarious. For younger babies you can take the tubes and put some small toys inside. See if they will try to get them out. Make that process easier or harder depending on the skill of the child.

43. Magnets: one of Isobel’s first toys were plastic letter magnets for the fridge. She looooves magnets. She loves that she can move them around and attach them to the fridge. When she visits Ama and Papa (my parents) her favorite toys are also magnets. She has a special kitty magnet and a frog magnet that she loves to play with.

44. For the birds: I mentioned before that Isobel loves to feel the texture of birdseed. She loves to scoop it out and pour it through her fingers. Occasionally she’ll put a seed in her mouth but she doesn’t like the taste or texture and spits it back out immediately. When we play outside she almost always wants to play with birdseed. It’s the cleaner version of the sandbox, really, and when we’re done I just brush her off and sweep the excess onto the grass—where I was going to put it for feeding the birds, anyway. If your baby is really young and is insistent about putting the seeds in their mouth I might wait on this activity. Since the seeds I use are millet the grains are very small and not a danger.

45. Feathers: I found out how handy feathers were as a baby toy because they were attached to so many cat toys. A collection of soft feathers, such as those found on a clean feather duster or boa, is fun for a baby. You can stroke it on their feet and tell them it’s soft, you can show them how the feathers move when you blow on them, and you can tickle them on the nose with them. Closely monitor your baby if you use a boa, though, as I’m sure it’s a strangulation hazard.

46. Music: From a very early age babies can appreciate musical instruments, especially maracas, shakers, bongos, and jinglebells. Isobel liked playing with them with or without music to play them to, but I think she preferred them with music. Be sure any jingle bells you use are secure so as not to pose a choking threat.

47. More textures: a clean and safe way to introduce more textures to your baby is to get some sturdy old socks and fill them with sand in one (in a plastic bag first ), rice in another, and small pebbles in another. That way baby can squish and shake and feel the textures through the safety of the old sock. Be careful you don’t accidentally make a sap.

48. Beaded Necklaces: My mother in law Olivia gave Isobel a collection of mardi gras beaded necklaces and from very early on Isobel loved them. They were colorful, fun to feel, easy to shake and wave. Now that she’s older she loves to wear them and put them on her dolls. Beware the strangulation hazard.

49. Ribbons: tie different colored, shaped, and textured ribbons to a ring or a stick and work on naming the colors and sensations as you feel them.

50. Music: play music for your baby. I’m not touting any Mozart effect or anything (which has been discredited as an IQ booster for babies) but play different genres and types of music and see how your baby responds. She will prefer different music at different stages of development. When Isobel was very small, she loved very melodic songs. Now she tends to prefer very percussive songs.

This is part two in a four-part series called 100 Games to Play with Baby. You can find part one here.  Please use common sense. Supervise your child with the appropriate amount of supervision for their developmental age and always watch out for choking hazards, falls, suffocation, or any other danger that might befall a helpless baby. Which I’m sure you already do already, you good parent you.

100 Games to Play with Baby, Part I

18 Oct

Babies are cute, and lovable, and cuddly. And you know what else? Babies can be really boring company. It’s true! No one told me this when I wanted to become a parent. It’s completely worth it of course: the hard parts, the boring parts, and the urine-soaked parts are all outweighed by the snuggles and kisses and laughs.

But nobody bought me the book called, “Babies: Not the Most Riveting of Company.”

(Probably because I just made it up.)

They can’t hold a conversation and love to eat their own feet. Cute and all, but after day 35 of staring at their hands I tend to get bored out of my skull. If your baby is somewhere between 3 months and a year, you know what I’m saying. They aren’t old enough to entertain themselves yet so it falls on you to not only cater to their every need but to stimulate and play with them constantly, too. Now I love my baby, and I love being a Mom, but before summer vacation was over I was scouring the library for books on How To Amuse My Baby For Long Periods of Time Without Harming Myself or Others.

(I also suffered through a gripping case of PPD at the time, so that definitely colored my experience.)

I scoured the library and the internet for a list of baby-approved activities that appeal to their sense of object permanence, their natural curiosity, and their infatuation with cause and effect. When work started back up for me I printed up this list, punched some holes in it and put it in a binder for my Mom who watched Isobel several days a week. In addition to all the toys, books, and cats this list managed to keep her entertained all winter long while the weather kept her from her beloved “outside.”

Isobel is, without a doubt, so much more fun to take care of now. She is old enough to do activities, participate in (limited) conversation, and her own personality is clearly coming through. I sometimes miss my little Baby Blob who contentedly sat on my lap throughout dinner and didn’t mind the constant snuggles. But Isobel 2.0 is so much better.

It occurs to me that there are probably parents out there right now who are pulling their hair out trying to find ways to entertain their 4-month-old. Or, their 8-month-old. Or their 15 month old. The best part about most of these activities that I found is that they are appropriate for more than one age level and they will appreciate it in different ways depending on their stage of development. Playing with bubbles at one age is completely different than doing the same activity just two short months later. Babies must age in dog years, but like really, really smart dog years.

It’s amazing and so rewarding to see your kid change from a tiny baby into an actual tiny person.  Amazing. Anthony and I try to do enriching, educational things with our daughter, but honestly we can’t teach her to be human. We can’t teach her the things she needs to know. No one can. All we can do is assist her while she learns how to be human by herself.

Every game isn’t appropriate for every age level but I found it was worth it to keep trying them at different stages because something your baby ignored at one stage might be captivating the next. Then they might get bored of it but in a few months, it might be entertaining again in a whole new way.

I’m also listing them here for selfish reasons: sooner or later, I’m going to have another baby, and the fun (and mommy-brain memory loss!) will start all over. I came up with 100 games for the list but I’m separating the posts into four parts so I’ll post 25 ideas at a time.

Sing-song type games are great to introduce to baby because you’re displaying language, social skills, rhythm and melody, anticipation, and if you incorporate motions and engage your baby, it becomes a bonding activity as well. Even before your baby can speak you’ll notice that they recognize certain songs and they will begin to anticipate things, like the POP! In Pop Goes the Weasel.

My mom had books on finger plays and rhyming games that she’d bring with her when she babysat and we received a book on nursery rhymes at a shower. I had forgotten most of them so it was great to have the book to turn to for inspiration. Here are some of our favorites:

1. Itsy Bitsy Spider: doing the hand motions, even before your baby can reciprocate, is great because she will watch you with interest and eventually try to mimic you.

2. Twinkle Twinkle: I made up hand motions to go with this but most often when I sing it I just grab both of her hands and swing them back and forth. When we’re done she usually says, “MAS!” which means “more!” in Spanish. She reminds me of the baby dinosaur from the TV show Dinosaurs sometimes.

3. Ring Around the Rosie: adding an interactive element always makes it more interesting for baby. I like to pick her up and swing her down when I get to the line “we all fall down.”

4. Pop! Goes the weasel: I clap at the POP!

5. Row your boat: I make swimming motions with our arms.

6. Frere Jacques / Brother John: I just sing this, no hand motions except for the “ding ding dong” at the end when I poke her belly button.

7. Patty Cake: it’s never too early to patty cake.

8. Peek a Boo: Ditto. You’ll be surprised how early your kid will try to play Peek-a-Boo back with you.

9. Happy and You Know it: Basically anything that takes advantage of your baby’s urge to clap is a favorite.

10. This Little Piggy: if your baby is like Isobel then she loves to take her socks and shoes off and inspect her toes. When I was little my mom always made up funny variations of the places the piggies were going and what they were doing. My mom, a Weight Watchers enthusiast, usually said at least one of the piggies was going to Weight Watchers. This made my sister and I collapse in a fit of giggles every time.

11. How much is that doggy in the window: If I don’t make the proper accompanying barking noises when I sing this one, she lets me know I’m doing it wrong.

12. Yellow Submarine: she loves it when I sing this one to her, or when I make her animals sing it to her or each other. I don’t add hand motions but I usually sing it in different voices and sometimes we march to it. At 17 months, she’s VERY into marching. (I was a band geek, so it’s probably genetic.)

13. Old Mac Donald: not my favorite song, but hearing your baby make animal noises is so cute it’s worth it. Plus animal noises are a great way to teach basic phonics and rudimentary vowel sounds.

14. B-I-N-G-O: one time Isobel had a meltdown in the car when we were about two minutes away from home. The only thing that stopped the screaming was Anthony and I singing “BINGO” over and over. Except we got bored so we started changing “Bingo” to names like, “Ringo”, “Dingo”, “Lingo”, “Gringo”, and most notably “Disco.”

15. So Big: My sister really liked SO BIG. And very early on babies can participate in this one by holding their arms up. Even littler babies can participate if you move their arms for them. Usually they find that hilarious.

16. Where is Thumbkin?: our friend Justy bought Isobel finger puppets so I like to do this while wearing them. We usually don’t get very far into this game before she pulls the finger puppet off my finger, but that’s okay.

17. Headbutt, Little Goat: Anthony’s family taught Isobel to play this game and there’s an anglo version called “Ah Boom!” but, um hello, “Headbutt, Little Goat” is way cooler. (We say the phrase in Spanish but I have no idea how to spell it so I’m not going to try. Except for the “little goat” part: ‘chavito.’” Basically we say “headbutt, little goat!” as we lean in and gently headbutt her. At first she just laughed and laughed but very early on she learned to anticipate the game and when you started it she’d lean in to headbutt you, too. That was amazing to me. She loves this game, just remember to be gentle.

18. Here’s where I flaunt my 1970s roots: call me a dirty Californian hippie but I grew up listening to Marlo Thomas’ Free To Be on vinyl from a young age thanks to my awesome mother. Can’t recommend it enough, along with the Muppet Show and vintage Sesame Street. That’s right, I’m recommending judicious doses of TV along with music. Hate away, haters. Baby Picard Jesus loves me unconditionally. When Isobel was young I only let her watch a few minutes via Youtube while she was on my lap. We kept up the all-important parent-child interaction that way and her screen time was very limited. Now that she’s older she’s very into Yo Gabba Gabba and she gets a half hour a day. I know, I’m a terrible, terrible person.

19. Bubbles: Isobel went through bubble-indifferent phases, bubble-curious phases, and bubble-infatuation phases. She’s currently infatuated with bubbles. She love to watch them float around, she loves to pop them, she loves to try to blow them. She requests bubble time on a daily basis. If your baby likes to pop bubbles a fun thing to do is to get a bubble gun and make a huge pile on the ground and let your baby go to town popping them.

20. Make Some Noise: When Isobel found out she could make different noises by blowing raspberries, sticking her tongue out, clicking and doing things with her mouth, it was a revelation. Even very young babies will mimic you if you stick your tongue out. And they love it when you repeat their nonsense words with them. I like to this of this as one of Isobel’s first conversations.

21. Signs: My mom started Isobel on sign language very early. I was amazed when she started signing. I don’t remember how old she was but she was very young. It will take lots of repetition before your child attempts it, but it’s worth it.

22. Gimme Five!: start prompting how to give five very early and give examples of you giving five to other people. Adding a word such as “POW!” or “HIGH FIVE!” each time reinforces it. High Five is great for us because Isobel will eagerly high five people she is too shy to wave to.

23. Tupperware Party: we learned how much babies love Tupperware (or other plastic container) when we watched my cousin Victoria. They like stacking, sorting, putting things in the containers and taking them out. She can’t manage opening the lids yet, though, so don’t seal them unless you want to give your baby rage issues.

24. Zippy bags: Isobel also enjoyed putting things in zippy bags and taking them out again. The clear aspect of the bag makes it very interesting. The object is inside but you can still see it. Fascinating!

25. Crinkles: Little babies are fascinated by crinkly sounds from newspaper, tissue paper, wrapping paper, crumpled paper, and if they are strong enough, bubble wrap. Isobel particularly loved playing with an unopened package of ramen. Satisfying crinkles, weird-textured noodles, crunchable bits! Fascinating.

This is part one in a four-part series Games to Play with Baby. Please use common sense. Supervise your child with the appropriate amount of supervision for their developmental age and always watch out for choking hazards, falls, suffocation, or any other danger that might befall a helpless baby. Which I’m sure you already do already, you good parent you.