playground for the one and under set

toys

Two new moms friends have asked me about the delightful topic of toys. Sadly, no matter the toy, it’s only going to occupy them for a few minutes everyday, and only when they are feeling fresh after a rest, or after having been outside. With gusto: if you don’t want toys that make noise or take up space, absolutely don’t keep them in the house (but do eagerly place them within reach when at the library drop-in). 

Incidentally, if dear Matilda drops something from her chair or stroller, and you don’t give it back to her, you’ve introduced an intuitive sign-language for both of you to use from now on: Matilda doesn’t want it anymore, and dropping means it goes away. Easy.

Alma has a little tin of toys that we carry about and offer to her once or twice a day, alongside a few board books for chewing on. The tin is itself a nice toy because it rolls easily and makes a metallic thump if you hit it, or kick it against the wall, which she does. I put the tin out when she was six months and it will stay out until her first birthday and then I’ll hide it again, up with the sweaters and aging humidifier in my closet.

The tin contains a fondly amnesic graveyard of my toy hopes from when I first offered them to Lux: this will be the toy that she loves! A banana chew, a soft mouse, a wooden ring, a leather key chain, a wooden fish rattle. How the drily squeaky Sofia giraffe has made the cut these five years, I have no idea {leaves laptop to pick up Sofia and put it in a giveaway bag}.

In reality, movement is the only engaging challenge that they will throw themselves into, objects just can’t compete.

Here is the playground of the one and under set: reaching for things under the couch, tugging on a rope (that perhaps you’ve tied to the arm of a chair), steadily unpacking a paper shopping bag of objects like a spoon, a tupperware container, a plastic water bottle sealed with a little bit of water in it or maybe something that rattles, like dried chickpeas.

It does build an argument for living room playdates though, particularly in the winter! Build a rotation of friends to trade-off hosting each week, lay a couple blankets on the floor, prop a mirror in the corner, and all three or four babies will tackle your small assortment of toys with delight, then boredom, then the playdate will be over. Next week: new territory.

When Alma turns one I will ask for a wooden pull toy for her to pull around as she walks, it will be adorable and she will love it. As with everything BABY, if you are delighted by something, by all means, own it. Waldorf wooden toys, engaging stuffed animals, rainbow ring stacks, handmade wooden rings…there’s so much to love!

one day in August

Ashleigh Coleman, a Mississippi-based photographer, lover of old cameras and even older buildings, and mother of two visited Boston in August. We met up with our kids and sweated through a day of greenway fountain play and cold noodle salads from Bon Me. My girls and Ashleigh’s daughter Merrimac were having so much fun together, so after that we came back to our place for a bit. All three girls sprinted around on their strong legs, bug bites scabbed over from too many scratches, suntanned skin mixing with the dirt on their heels.

Ashleigh is Gwyneth-tall with long blond hair, tall enough to very nearly hide her six-month baby belly. She has many cameras but one of her favorites is one she inherited–a hasselblad 500c/m, an elegant black Swedish brick of a camera that she cradles naturally. (I love this photo of  it.) She frames the photo by looking down into the lens, almost as one might page through a magazine they aren’t planning on buying, arms extended, lightly flipping the dials and lens.

As we talked she took a few photos that I mentally tagged as doomed because the light seemed so dim in my room at the time. That was my iphone-training, obviously, because the hasselblad managed it perfectly.

And Ashleigh captured and preserved just a few things that already feel distant this September–a humid afternoon with the girls sharing art supplies and reading a book, Alma just a bit more baby than she is today.

preserved: Alma’s way of grabbing a hand. Not just mine, she’ll do it with almost anyone when she’s sleepy. I spend a lot of time in the evening sitting on the couch next to her bed, my arms through the bars, holding her hand as she settles into sleep.

preserved: Alma in her crib, with the mattress raised. There is something magnificent about a baby in a crib before they’re strong enough to pull themselves up. Like a cheery red cookbook on a shelf over the stove, ready to be plucked up and read on the couch.

Once they pull themselves up, you are obliged to rush in and drop the mattress down and mutter to yourself now she’ll be getting into everything I suppose. And then to get them out after a nap, you must lean down and pulley them up into your arms, a crane dutifully unloading a freight of shipping containers.

preserved: Joan’s barely-there curls. This weekend Joe gave her a courageous bang trim in the front and absent-mindedly trimmed just enough in the back for the curls to disappear. They’ll be back in a few weeks, but here they are too look at now too.

I love looking at these and I love that I get to share them with you here. Thank you Ashleigh! Ashleigh’s beauuutiful instagram account.

Night Sky Party

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a star party, for our girls who love the moon, constellations, and the stories behind the constellations. ^^ invitation postcard, back and front. Designed by Joe, and the included star chart is really useful to have! ^^

July has been beautiful in Boston, but the night we chose for the outdoor in-the-park party was cloudy and cold. I had visions of a quilt of blankets in the Public Garden, children with flashlights weaving through the trees, but oh well, maybe next year.

We stuck with the special post-dinner time, but moved it indoors.

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A few photos, all taken before the party started, of course…

Joe and Lux gave their finest effort to making moon pies for the evening, but the recipe was junk and they turned out like so. I think the idea of moon pies popped into my mind from one long ago teenage summer spent reading Ellie’s Peopleyoung adult novels set in an Amish community. The story’s characters were always going to picnics, building barns, and looking forward to moon pies. (it turns out the Amish moon pie is different from what I imagined, it is similar to an apple hand pie.)

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After the moon pies crashed on us, we turned at the very last minute to an icebox cake made with chocolate wafer cookies and whipped cream. I’m so happy we discovered this dessert because it’s incredibly easy to make and the girls ended up making their own with the leftover ingredients–it is really so fun. I put it in the freezer the day before. Frozen it tastes like a cake version of cookies-n-cream ice cream, and it was delightful to share the icy slices in a warm kitchen with our friends.

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We dimmed the lights, and put little ikea lantern lights in the dark stairwell. Joe helped the kids make a star can, something we use frequently for indoor star shows. Buy a tin coffee canister, empty out the grounds, and use a can opener to cut off the bottom. Cut out the inside of the plastic top, leaving the edge. Cut out circles of paper, punch the holes for the constellation pattern (the big dipper being the easiest of those, looks similar to this) and put the circle of paper under the lid. Then shine a flashlight through to project the constellation on the wall. We’ve also made fun, non-constellation shapes like cat’s faces and bunnies.

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Lux originally fell for the stars peering out of her bedroom window at night, during the very-early-dark winters we have here in Boston. She could see just a few constellations, and it so happened that Lepus, the bunny constellation, was one of them!

I don’t know if it’s something about this age, the amazing brains of five year olds!, but we also attended a friend’s five-year-old Rocket Ship Party, and I’m loving the photos from Hudson’s Astronaut Pool Party. Interestingly, our girls aren’t really interested in the gear/gizmos of space travel, just the planets and stars of space.

Our two favorite books on the stars are H.A. Rey’s The Stars and Find the Constellations. And we’ve saving up for one of these incredible constellation quilts from Haptic Lab.

 

the getty, with kids

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I love these photos. When Joe and I are feeling like things are moving along as nicely as water transported via kleenex, we say things are getting scramble-ramble. “This is too scramble ramble” is how it usually sounds. Meaning this is totally cool on many levels but we’re missing it all. Meaning, our situation was not quite what we were hoping for. As soon as we set foot off the tram at the Getty I realized it was huge mistake to have brought grumpy un-napped Joan along with us, but there we were. Three surely she’ll fall asleep in the car/stroller/once we’re walking…later and we were still stuck with the wide awake Bea.

But anyway I knew when we headed to Los Angeles that I wanted to see my internet friend Noelle and meet her son West for the first time, and maybe even her partner (whom she refers to as “le bf” online) if we were extra lucky. It all came true at the Getty and we got to eat lunch together in a beautiful place. It was a pretty different scene conversationally from the last time we met up, but I was so happy to see them nonetheless. Noelle is deep into life with West but when she climbs out for a few minutes here and there, her food blog is my favorite.

Midway through our meal Joan dumped an entire bottle of water on herself, just as Joe had suggested to me she would, just as I had sagely suggested she would not. Noelle lent/gave/thankyousomuch us West’s backup clothes she’d packed for the day and saved everything because that water was cold.

Noelle told me that my How to Make Mom Friends post helped her make one of her best mom friends that she now picnics with weekly. It made me so happy!

It was scramble ramble; it was good.

family picking walking viewing

Note the Getty is actually awesome for kids. Free strollers available at the coat check, a perfectly simple and pleasing kids art room, and obviously: lots of open space.

World’s Best Mom Watch

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photo from American Apparel. Not my long fingers, alas. 

This tiny Casio edition, released by American Apparel, is the best mom watch ever. The six numbers across the top designate a timed alarm you can set with the push of a button. I use it daily to pleasantly resolve sharing fights with my girls. The timer goes off 3 or 5 minutes later and they trade whatever toy was in dispute. They believe in the power of the timer because it is loud enough that we can all hear it beep, thus I never forgot to tell them to trade.

I also use it for clutch phrases such as “We’re leaving in 5 minutes.”

It tells you the date and day of the week. It’s slim, lightweight, and the leather strap is pinch-free. It doesn’t have a light, which is a bummer with infants’ night waking. (Or is it?)

I used it obsessively after Joe bought it for my birthday last year, then I lost it on vacation. Then last month, my Aunt Anne bought me a new one, hooray!

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#momlife

fort

joe: Wow, such a cool fort. Did the girls just sit in it and play all day?

rachael: Um no, they ignored it and laid blankets in another part of the room and pretended they were at the beach.

on the plus side, I discovered an awesome reuse for these copper wire lights I originally bought for our Christmas tree. They are so lightweight you can suspend them anywhere without needing support, perfect for forts (loved or ignored).

favorite podcasts

One of my favorite things about living in the year 2013 is podcasts. Among my favorites:

  • spilled milk which is like having two giggly foodie pals over for dinner on the back porch
  • the sounds in my head which is like listening to the hippest radio station with a goofy self-deprecating DJ and no ads!
  • the writer’s almanac which, though just five minutes long, is like drinking a large glass of pinot noir while looking at the mountains
  • the longest shortest time which is like talking on the phone to your funny best friend about how your baby won’t stop crying and having your friend successfully calm you down and make you laugh.

I want to highlight the longest shortest time as I have a bunch of readers who are new moms and because she’s just launched two cool campaigns.

The first: free cards that you can send for to jump start conversations in playgroups, library meet-ups, drop off at your OB’s office, pin on the bulletin board at your local playground, and the like. Printed on heavy card stock with funny quotes from the show, they are beautifully done:

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Read more about those and order them for free right here.

And: she just launched a kickstarter campaign so she can afford to begin a whole new season of episodes. I love Hillary’s style–she has a wonderfully relaxed way of interviewing and asking all the questions you hope she’ll ask. One of my favorite episodes had personal interviews with the two sides of the sleep-training debate. It was so refreshing for me to hear it all hashed out like that. I think once you have the chance to listen to a few episodes, you’ll be pledging for a second season, just like I did!

by the way, I use Apple’s free podcast app to easily download and listen to podcasts on my iphone when I’m cleaning up the kitchen, driving, or walking around in circles waiting for Joan to fall asleep.

 

Endless Diaper Boondoggle

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By my calculation we spend about $80 every two months on diapers for each girl. Quite a bit of money. So I think it makes sense that early on in diaper purchasing I became a bit neurotic about where I was buying them from. I’m not sure if it helped or hurt that each diaper supplier helps you break it down by giving you the per-diaper cost. For the first year, I used Amazon’s “gift” of prime membership to all new moms and bought from them. Then I started buying them from Whole Foods because Amazon started charging for shipping, and I liked the Whole Foods ones better anyway. They were $.30 each.

Briefly I attempted diapers.com but I got really sick of their whole email-discount-code song and dance. They force you to keep up with their emails and hunt through them for coupons. And then some months, the coupons just mysteriously disappear and you pay 20% more than you did last time. No thank you, crappy business practices. (incidentally diapers.com is owned by Amazon, which just feels like another mind game.)

I looked at Honest Diapers at the time but found them quite expensive. I don’t know if I wasn’t doing the math right or if they dropped their prices, but I’ve since revisited them and now they seem like the best deal in town.

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I like how nicely their website is designed and how easy it is to work with their interface. I like that when I call them to change or last-minute-delay an order I get a happy American on the other end of the line. I like that they send me two warning emails before they ship. I like the fun graphics on the diapers that gives Lux a distracting conversation topic when I’m changing her diaper. I like that they try to make their diapers as low-an-impact on the environment as possible (though at this point, several brands do that, so it’s not a distinguishing factor). I like that all of their employees appear to enjoy working there, unlike Amazon. And they are a certified B corporation which looks at how a company treats their employees, health care options, workspace design, environmental impact, etc. (incidentally if I care about things like ‘certified B corporation status,’ I should stop nickel and diming everything right there, probably.)

Lux’s size 4 works out to $.43 each. But they include four packages of wipes with each order, which you can value at a minimum of $10. So then it’s $.37 per diaper. Whole Foods for her current size is $.35 each, but then I have to get them home from the store myself. Seventh Generation via diapers.com is $.36. is this getting neurotic enough yet?

 What is my point here? That basically all diapers cost the same amount and if I’ve found a company that has at least two or three practices that distinguish themselves, it’s worth sticking with them.

What do you think? Have you obsessively broken down these pros and cons too? Who’s your favorite vendor? Am I missing anything obvious? This is not a sponsored post at all, but I have linked to Honest Diapers with my account’s code, so I would get an initial credit if you signed up from this post, just fyi.

And for you cloth-diapering mommas: I’m with you! We just operate from a laundromat right now, so it doesn’t work. But someday!

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Escape

Do you have blogs you visit to escape? Some of the blogs I visit, I read every word, and then there’s some where the photos and I sit together for awhile and my eyes mull in the colors. Like listening to an album, but visually. Usually this ends up being relaxing and inspring. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and jealous. It’s a fine line, and I find it is up to the tone of the writer to make it work well. 101cookbooks is one that inspires me. She’s much healthier and more intentional than I’ll ever be, but I still feel comfortable in her presence.

In this case, I’m inspired to get some more interesting glassware. Photos below, the rhubarb & rosewater syrup, and the blood orange gin sparkler.

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