Saturday, April 14, 2012

updated baby essentials

Saturday, April 14, 2012
My days spent with my sweet, precious baby seem to be passing at a speed that I can hardly bear.  Lots of our friends told us that it would only get better every day, which is true.  A is so funny now, such a little person with his own sense of humor and a fierce will.  He's intelligent and curious, and the laughs that we longed for so much in the beginning come fast and furious.

As one might expect, the baby "stuff" we use on a regular basis has changed.  My essentials are still relevant at this point, but I thought I might document the items that should be added to the list.

aden and anais bibs. If it weren't so drafty and briskly cool in our house, I would be all about perching baby A in his little seat wearing nothing but his diaper.  I am sure it's the vastly more practical choice for the early days of solid foods.  As that option really isn't an option for us, I determined to find the best, most practical bibs for our new eating adventures.  I settled on Bumkins waterproof bibs, sure that I would be glad that I could quickly wipe them down or give them a quick rinse in the sink.  Baby A didn't exactly jump on the solid food bandwagon with enthusiasm, however, and the Bumkins bibs have become more of a distraction than anything else.  He inevitably crumples the bib in his chubby little hands and stuffs it into his mouth, its slick, crackly surface entirely irresistible.  Cloth bibs seem to work much better, even though they create a greater mountain of laundry.  These aden + anais bibs, while expensive, are simply wonderful.  They provide more of a drape, something akin to what we wear when getting our hair cut, which means baby A's shoulders remain immune from flying splatters of pear and sweet potatoes.

the best homemade baby food on the planet and start fresh: your child's jump start of lifelong healthy eating.  I should say upfront that I'm a recipe person.  I am perfectly aware that all I need to do when it comes to creating my own delicious foods for my little baby A at this stage is blitz various fruits and vegetables to pureed oblivion using my trusty immersion blender.  However, I tend to do better with a guide, and these books, in conjunction, are just about perfect for that.  Yes, some of the recipe titles in the best homemade baby food are a little on the cutesy side, but that's probably the case with most baby food cookbooks. Interestingly, I received three of them as gifts, with not a single repeat.  I far prefer these above the rest, and not just because it's not suggesting I whip up a hearty combination of lamb and millet to serve my baby when he's seven months old (I'm looking at YOU, Cooking for Baby!) Nothing against lamb and millet, but it's a bit intimidating to imagine for a baby, especially mine.  I love the general structure and careful advice.  We waited until six months to begin solid food on the advice of our pediatrician, as baby A is prone to eczema outbreaks and it seemed wiser so as to avoid allergies if possible (side note: I have since thrown caution to the wind and started introducing as much as I could think of, though I'm hardly walking on the wild side).  Both of these cookbooks keep things like that in mind, and devote a chapter to each month (starting with 6) until a year (or in the case of start fresh, monthly groupings based on texture) each containing helpful charts about appropriate new foods to add.  Not only do I find this a useful tool, I appreciate that I am not blindly stumbling about the produce aisle throwing random items to try in my cart.  The back of each book contains a chart tracking each recipe with a rating system.  I was able to document the date I tried each new recipe as well as baby A's reaction.  I now have a convenient record of his strong disdain for apples.  It doesn't hurt that the font and general design of both books are incredibly appealing. I am sure this is a situation where each parent's style and preferences are going to affect which cookbooks work best for them, but I am very pleased with both.  A strike against "the best homemade baby food" would be the persistent direction to boil the veggies and fruits rather than steam, but that is easily ignored. . .Start Fresh does a better job focusing on the end goal: the whole family eating the same meal, even if it's pureed for baby.

fisher price rainforest jumperoo.  It gives me great happiness to write about this toy, because it is the first "hand-me-down" shared between cousins.  My beautiful niece L enjoyed it until just past her first birthday, when she generously gave it up for a temporary loan to baby A.  It is INDISPENSABLE.  Both babies had the same reaction, as it turns out-boisterous joy and loads of vigorous bouncing. Baby A had grown a bit tired of his bouncer seat, and this provided the perfect alternative.  It brings him great pleasure and distraction, and I am able to eat breakfast and lunch every day comfortably, knowing that he's safely contained and happy.  Occasionally, I put the delightful device in the kitchen so that I can wash dishes, load the dishwasher, or perhaps do a bit of cleaning.  Of course, I'm very glad that the cousins are sharing toys, but I should tell you that this one is literally worth every penny, and if we weren't lucky enough to have L in our lives, I would have certainly purchased my own.

green toys my first stacker.  I am not such a "crunchy" mom that I think it's feasible for baby A's stash of toys to be entirely pure, wooden, and made in the U.S.A., as much as I would like for that to be the case.  I certainly do aspire to keep his toys as safe and LIMITED as possible.  I know he doesn't need a voluminous pile of toys, not only because I eventually want him to be entertained more by books and outside exploration, but also because I'm making a sincere effort to cut down on the amount of "stuff" cluttering our house and lives.  I have made a few careful purchases, however, about which I feel virtuous and responsible, one of them being this humble stacker set, constructed out of recycled milk cartons.  It's entirely green, eco-friendly, BPA, PVC and phalate free, and baby A is crazy about it.  Months after I bought it, it's still one of the first things he goes for in the toy box.

beaba first stage spoons and bowls.  Eating solid foods, as I've mentioned, has not been exactly a walk in the park for baby A and I.  My dear sister-in-law tells me that for A, solids are sort of like "dessert", which makes me feel good about milk production, but bad about how long it's taking him to figure out the joy that is food.  I know that stressing about it will only make it more difficult, so I'm taking it one day at a time and trying not to worry so much about what I introduce and when.  That said, a good spoon is actually a great help.  Beaba products aren't cheap, but are extremely high quality and well-designed.  Baby A loves to suck and "gum" on the spoons, and the bowls are sturdy and shaped in such a way that make them a pleasant distraction during dinner time.  Incidentally, Beaba is a French-based company, and OF COURSE my aforementioned mom friend V employs them on a daily basis.

I'm sure there will be more things that we can't live without, but if I had to select a choice few, these would top the list!

Friday, April 13, 2012

The genes are strong

Friday, April 13, 2012

I took baby A on a "walk" to Krispy Kreme today, and he stared longingly at me while I INHALED a sugar donut (and possibly an original glazed). He's a baby after my own heart.
P.S. Yes, that would be a "pet yard" surrounding my baby. He can be a bit too mobile for his own good!
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, April 6, 2012

what we're reading now

Friday, April 6, 2012
For the longest time, I have had an entry entitled "baby library" sitting forlornly in a list of unpublished posts (there are many of these, by the way).  I aspired to write about baby A's rather extensive collection of books, selecting the ones I thought best to recommend.  I don't mean to brag, but my knowledge regarding children's literature is extensive.  I come from a long line of librarians, and great number of my family are employed as educators.  Books have been a part of my life as long as I could remember.  Naturally, I wanted baby A to be exposed to just as many wonderful ones as I was, almost from the moment he emerged into the world.

As it happens, I have spent a lot more time reading books with baby A than I have blogging, which is of course a good thing.  Now that we have naps under control, I am earnestly hoping I might have a few extra minutes to write again.  I can't promise a lot of coherent thoughts, however!

I thought it might be interesting to attempt a bimonthly post on the books we're particularly enjoying.  Granted, it's mostly me that's enjoying the books, though I can definitely tell there are a few titles that A likes more than others.  We're at a stage now where he wants to "explore" the books, and his favorite thing is to slam the cover down and beat relentlessly on top of the book with his chubby little hands.  It takes us a while to finish, as you might imagine.

Rain Drop Splash, by Alvin Tresselt. A beloved family friend who also happens to be a former librarian passed this along to me.  Actually, every time she see us, she brings baby A a new book-a generous tradition!  I wasn't familiar with the Alvin Tresselt title, though my mother ensured that I had a copy of his White Snow, Bright Snow.  Both books were recipients of Caldecott Medal honors.  I was initially a bit disdainful, having grown used to the splashy illustrations and bright colors of our modern picture books.  There is something entirely captivating about Rain Drop Splash, however, which I discovered the first time I cracked it open, on an appropriately rainy day.  It's an incredibly soothing, peaceful book.  I think even baby A was lulled by its essential concept, the path of a single rain drop as it eventually spreads into the sea.  

I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen. A very funny book that will probably be more amusing to me than to baby A for years to come.  The illustrations are great, as you can see, and the book was favorably reviewed by the New York Times.   I'm not entirely sure how I feel about A eventually understanding that the bear in the story gobbles up the rabbit that steals his hat...then again, I'm all about fairy tales, and we know they feature all kinds of wicked behavior!

Llama Llama Home with Mama, by Anna Dewdney.  I came across the Llama Llama books after reading an article on Baby Center or some other parenting website about the best books for kids.  Initially, I had no interest in looking at them, because I am a ridiculous book snob who felt that anything I hadn't heard of simply wasn't any good.  I HAVE SINCE MENDED MY WAYS.  Repentantly, I tell you that these books are adorable and perfectly pleasing for baby A.  Even at his tender young age, I can tell he appreciates the singsongy rhymes and vibrant illustrations.  We have three Llama books including this one (Llama Llama Red Pajama and my personal favorite, Llama Llama Misses Mama), which we've read a lot lately because baby A had a minor, but annoyingly persistent cold.

George and Martha Round and Round, by James Marshall.  George and Martha are certainly beloved literary characters, and I confess to feeling a nostalgic sense of deep satisfaction every time I crack a book that was read to me as a child.  There is something special about the enduring charm of a classic, which might explain my occasional frequent bouts of snobbery when it comes to newer titles.  What is a bit unusual about the George and Martha canon, I admit, is that the humor in the illustrations largely defines their appeal.  The stories themselves are refreshingly short and simple, but they aren't for babies.  In fact, you could eventually count on your child's vocabulary improving a bit after being immersed in a bunch of George and Martha tales.  I decided to purchase a GREAT collector's edition that contains all of the stories.  Baby A and I usually read 3 books before each nap, and a good ol' George and Martha story is perfect for the days when he's a bit sleepier.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff, by Paul Galdone.   When I worked at PS 209 in the Bronx, an entire section of our reading curriculum was devoted to fairy tales.  I was excited about this prospect, for who doesn't enjoy a delicious fright or humorous lesson shared via tale or fable?  There are many modern derivations of fairy tales, such as Jon Scieszka's The Frog Prince Continued and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs or James Marshall's versions of Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks and the Three Bears (all of which I heartily recommend, by the way) but our curriculum opted to employ the classic retellings by Paul Galdone.  At the time, I grudgingly went through each book with little enthusiasm, far preferring the funnier versions.  I'm not exactly sure what brought about the change-perhaps it's that I am 1,000,000 times more invested in my own darling child than I was with my kindergartners (whom I did adore, of course)-but I now confess that there is something truly wonderful, and also very important, about a traditional fairy tale.  One would be hard-pressed to find someone who has done this better than Paul Galdone.  Right now, our favorite (ok, my favorite) is The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  Incidentally, while searching for an image to go with this section, I happened upon Anita Silvey's Children's Book-a-Day Almanac. Silvey, an esteemed editor and publisher, features a different book each day, accompanied with info about the author and trivia for the date.  Very cool.

The Little Mouse, the Big Hungry Bear, and the Red Ripe Strawberry by Don and Audrey Wood.  Baby A has the board book version of this little gem.  Board books were another thing that I used to thumb my nose at, but I've changed my tune.  I love that A can really manhandle them, gnawing and throwing about to his heart's content.  It's good exploration, and I don't have to worry about the book's condition.  This particular treasure is one that I first discovered while teaching the aforementioned, especially adorable kindergarten class in the Bronx.  It's an extremely simple story, so I'm imagining it's going to be an early favorite.

There we have it!  My first edition of "what we're reading now."  Of course, we've actually been reading a lot of bunny books over the past few days (PLEASE look up I Am A Bunny-it's so sweet and delightful!) and an Easter book post might have been more appropriate.  Alas, this will have to do.  Happy reading to all!