January 29, 2012

Building baby's library

Almost as soon as I had that positive pregnancy test, I started collecting books for Baby Lu's library. I ordered books willy-nilly from Amazon, poured over "best of" lists, scoured thrift stores, asked friends and family to recommend their favorites, so that my daughter's library would be as interesting and well-rounded as I want her to grow up to be.

In the months since Lu came, we've tried to get creative with finding books for her collection. Here are some of our favorite ways to build her library from the ground up.

Look in the attic:
Chances are, your parents have saved a few of your old favorite reads, for sentimental reasons. Ask them to take a look to see what they have. There's something sweet about books bridging the gap between generations.

Find books to honor loved ones:
Over at Constance Reader, I blogged about a gift someone gave Lu for her first Christmas: a book featuring a character with my grandmother's name. Other readers chimed in to talk about their tribute books--buying a book about a teacher, to honor a parent with that profession, or a book that features a sibling's nickname or favorite color.

Collect milestone books: This has been a fun one in Lu's first year. Whenever she hits a milestone, we buy a book to commemorate it. The first time she slept through the night, we bought a copy of Goodnight, Moon to celebrate. When James's sister was married in Maine, he brought back Blueberries for Sal. We've just ordered a copy of Slither and Crawl in honor of Lulu mastering this skill last week! When it comes, I'll write the date and occasion inside the cover, and how old she was, to make a bookish kind of time capsule.

Make your own books:
Lu has one set of grandparents in the area, but my side of the family lives at the other end of the state. We don't see them as often as we'd like, so I used Shutterfly to make photo books featuring all of the smiling faces we miss. Each person in the family picked a color, and we took a picture of that person wearing or holding something in that color. A good way to teach Baby Lulu about the rainbow, and to keep in touch with the family she doesn't see every day.

Host a book-themed birthday party:
Offbeatmama has some great ideas for planning a book-themed birthday party, including invitations, cakes, favors, and decor. When friends ask what baby needs or wants, ask them to bring a copy of their favorite book, with birthday wishes written inside for baby to treasure all her life.

How do you build your child's book collection? Are there any books that mark special occasions in your child's life?

January 24, 2012

Waltzing Matilda (or Grace)

These are the sorts of conversations that go on at our house every day. Tell me we're not alone in this?

Mamma: Gracie, please finish your food before you get down from the table.

Grace (already down): Well, I can't finish eating right now.

Mamma: Why not?

Gracie: Well, I just have to dance for a little while.

And so she danced. What, like I'm going to stifle that impulse?

Gotta Dance!

January 19, 2012

My momma told me

The last time my mom visited, we put on makeup together in the bathroom, and I told her about a trick that she had showed me when I was younger: only put mascara on your top lashes. She didn't remember telling me. "That's common knowledge," she said. "You probably read it in a beauty magazine."

"Nope," I said. "You said it." She wanted to know how I could be sure she had. "Because what you say sticks with me," I said.

Recently I came across a list of quotations by famous writers, musicians, athletes, et cetera, talking about things their mothers had told them, and I thought it was interesting how deeply some of these quotes stuck with them, and shaped there future lives.

Here are some of my favorites from that list:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” -(Mr.) Fred Rogers

"You don't have to prove anything," my mother said. "Just be ready for what God sends." -William Stafford, poet and pacifist.

"My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors." -Maya Angelou

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” -John Lennon

"My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent. " - Ruth Bader Ginsburg

"My mother always told me, even if a song has been done a thousand times, you can still bring something of your own to it. I'd like to think I did that." -Etta James

"I hope they're still making women like my momma. She always told me to do the right thing. She always told me to have pride in myself; she said a good name is better than money."
- Joe Louis

What's something your mother told you that's stuck with you?

Learning CAN Be Fun.

Do any of you remember Discovery Toys? They were an AWESOME part of my childhood. Toys and games that truly were educational, helping to make learning fun and relatively painless. My favorites were the Think-Links and those little wooden shapes that you could lay out in different patterns to make various pictures.

But the best, the very best thing of all, was the Sounds Like Fun cassette tape. My sister and I listened to that all the time, had every song on there memorized.

So when, a year or so after Carl and I were married, we went to a county fair and I saw a Discovery Toys booth there, I immediately looked to see if they had Sound Like Fun.

I wasn't as impressed with some of their offerings - as with most companies, the quality seemed to have slipped since I was a child (though their marble sets were still COOL), but oh joy! oh bliss! they had Sounds Like Fun in CD form.

I bought it, for the future when we had kids. And then I made Carl listen to it on the way back from the fair. Because I am EVIL. (And yes, I sang along with every. single. song.)

We started playing it for Joy when she was a newborn, and Grace as well. Now, it is their favorite CD, and they have all the songs memorized. It has helped them learn phonics without even realizing it, counting skills, the months of the year, good manners, and how to count to 10 in Spanish, plus more.

Now they are calling it Sounds Like Learning but it's still the same CD. If you have a chance to get one, do so. It's amazing how much easier it is to memorize and absorb things when they are set to music. The fact that I have never taken a Spanish class in my life but can easily say "Good morning, how are you," and "I'm very well, thank you, and how are you?" in comprehensible Spanish is proof to that!

January 18, 2012

Words to live by

I came across this plate on Pinterest (are you pinning? I want to follow you!) and I'm going to have to track it down and buy it, because I love the quote embossed in it. I love this plate so much that I've set it as the background of my work computer. If I owned it, I would eat breakfast off of it every day, as a reminder to myself.

So often, it's easy to think of happiness as a luxury instead of a necessity. This quote inspires me to make a real effort to be happy...not only because I deserve it, but because it's true. Happiness is good for the health, and my happiness benefits everybody around me, too. Nobody likes a mama who's under the weather!

What quotes inspire you to seek happiness throughout your day?

January 17, 2012

Little Miss Sunshine

I've suspected it for a while, but after last night, there is no denying it.

My baby has a downright sunny disposition.

People are saying it to me all the time: She's so happy! She's so delighted all the time! She never cries (a notion I could disabuse them of. Lulu does cry--copiously, at times). But she'll go to strangers with little to no prompting, no tears. She has a smile for everybody she meets. Even when I am firm with her--when she bites me while nursing, and I respond with a loud, meant-to-shock-her NO--Lulu smiles. And laughs.

(It's actually kind of annoying. Not to mention PAINFUL.)

Last night, we bundled our croupy baby up and ran her to the ER to get an attack of croup checked out. The triage area was full of babies wailing miserably, of little kids with tear-stained faces. But Lulu was laughing and waving, even while barking out those awful-sounding coughs.

The doctors and nurses commented on it, as she allowed them to examine her without a peep, as she showed off her six pearly teeth in face-splitting smiles. Did you give her anything? What, like Xanax? Um, no. Is she always like this? Well...yes. We sat and watched Lu play contentedly with the cords of her oxygen monitor, while the neighboring cubicles resounded with sounds of PURE WOE.

Totally unconcerned with the fact that somebody just stuck a q-tip down her throat.

I have a happy baby. I sort of didn't believe it could happen. James is a pleasant-enough guy, but he can be cynical and fatalistic to a fault when he feels like it. And with my struggles with depression...I thought we would pass along our worst traits to our little one.

But Lulu is happy. Even when things are bad. And she is teaching me--something else I didn't think would happen, at least not for a long while--to do the same.

They say that a mother can only be as happy as her saddest child. But that goes the other way, too: when the child is happy, that happiness is infectious.

In my unhappy moments, my sunny baby cheers me up and gives me confidence that I must be doing something right. And for that, I am so grateful.

my whirlwind girl

If I had my way, no unhappiness would ever touch her life. But if (when) it does, I will remember the happiness she brings me now, and pay it back as hard as I can.

January 10, 2012


Joy tends to be pretty withdrawn, unsure of herself in new situations. So after much discussion, Carl and I decided to sign her up for skating lessons this winter. She already loves the ice, and we figured it would be a great chance for her to learn that she can, in fact, do something without a parent, grandparent, or aunt right there with her.

(Plus, you know, the earlier she starts preparing for her Olympic career the better)


I wouldn't go with her for her first day of lessons. She panics more and clings more to me, and I wanted to give her every chance to not give in to fear. So Carl took her, and I stayed home with Gracie and a knotted stomach.

She loved it. "And I wasn't even a little bit scared!" she crowed as she leaped into my arms when they got home.

"Are you excited for next time?" I asked.



This time, at least, we made the right call.

According to Carl, she was pretty much just humoring the pros by using the bucket. They quickly caught on that she didn't, in fact, need it.

Actually sitting and listening - amazing! Instead of tuning out and doing her own thing! Incredible what happens when someone-not-your-mother teaches you!

So very ready to go it alone, but still following the pro's directions. Yay Joy!

January 8, 2012

A Mother's Best Friend

It's no secret that we're readers in this house. I grew up with my nose in a book, and while Carl doesn't have the same background as an avid reader that I do, it only took him a couple of years into our marriage to start amassing an even larger library than I have (in my defense, this is only because I still get most of my books from the library, whereas Carl just purchases his. Also, his books are bigger than mine, so when I say larger library, it doesn't necessarily mean he has more than I do, just that, literally, it is larger). We were reading to Joy from our first day home - one of my favorite memories is of her tucked up in her little bassinet, with Carl sitting next to her reading aloud from Winnie-the-Pooh. The nurse on night duty in the birthing center laughed when she came in to check on Grace and me after Grace's birth - there we were, with Gracie only a few hours old, and she was comfortably tucked up in one arm, nursing, while I was holding a book in my other hand and reading. "You've done this before," the nurse said. Yep. Read through two Charles Dickens books in Joy's first few months nursing! She took almost an hour to nurse each time, so I had lots of time for heavy tomes with her. Grace, on the other hand, was about ten minutes start to finish each time (they call her - SUPER-nurser!), so I quickly learned to only read books I could take in short doses with her.

Ah, memories.

Anyway - we still love to read to and with the girls, but sometimes, we want them to be able to enjoy a story without us, you know? Like, so we can take a shower or eat some food without immediate demands on our time? And since we do try to limit their tv intake, and since Joy is only tentatively starting on the path toward reading herself and Grace is nowhere near there yet ... I was beyond thrilled when one of my friends posted a link to this site on her FB page.

Books Should Be Free

Now, they have more than just children's audiobooks here, but I still have yet to make it past the children's page. I immediately downloaded the Beatrix Potter treasury (my girls adore Potter - oddly enough, Peter Rabbit is only mildly amusing to them, but they love the more obscure stories, like The Pie and the Patty-Pan, or The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes), and let them listen to it on my computer while I did housecleaning yesterday. Bliss.

Then I remember the iPod (with no charger, because it got lost) that my sister gave to me a few years ago when she got a new one, and thought, "a-ha! I finally have an excuse to buy a charger for this thing." A few purchases later, downloading stories from Mamma's computer onto the iPod, hooking the iPod up to our sound system, and this morning, Gracie has a decent consolation for having to stay home while Papa takes Joy to her very first skating lesson.

A morning curled up on the couch listening to Just-So Stories? Well, it may not be ice (this fall, baby, I promise - after you turn three you'll be old enough for lessons), but it's still quite nice.

(And yes, I rhymed that on purpose. Accolades accepted.)

January 5, 2012

Signature scent

My grandmother had a signature scent. It was Giorgio, by Giorgio Beverly Hills. Every Christmas, she would receive a new yellow-and-white striped box of it. Every time I'm missing her really bad, I go to the Macy's perfume counter and get a sample and I'm right back in her arms.

For that reason, I love the idea of a signature scent. I'm a perfume girl--for the past few years, my go-to has been Vanillary by Lush. But normal perfumes are too harsh for poor little Lulu's sensitive skin, and so I had to stop wearing perfume after everything I tried made her break out into a rash.

But I think I might have found a compromise.

L'Occitane's Mom & Baby Water has a gentle almond smell with a light floral note, sort of like if clean laundry and vanilla sugar cookies had a baby. It's so mild that it won't cling to baby's hair and skin and stink her up, but it's got staying power to last through the day. It's alcohol free, and enriched with glycerin, which means that it won't harm sensitive skin.

I love the memories that smells evoke and I love the fact that this scent (along with Burts Bees Baby Bee!) will always evoke for me the first months of motherhood.

What's your signature scent? Are there any kid-friendly perfumes that you just adore?

(Dried spit-up doesn't count. Because nobody adores that.)

The 4 o'clock slump

My SAHM mom friends refer to it as the "4 o'clock slump"--the last hour in the long day before their spouse comes home, when they are tiredest and the kids are at their most grumpy and trying.

In my house, it's the 7 o'clock slump. Because James and I both work at home, our day looks a little different. By 7 o'clock, we've both put in a full day at the "office." We're both exhausted. We've read stacks of books, been to the park, given baths, done a craft or activity, and the house is a mess, dinner still needs to be prepared, a forgotten load of cloth diapers is soaking in the washer, waiting to be rinsed and hung up to dry. From 7 to 8 o'clock comes the hour in which we snipe at each other over wet towels left on the floor, when we get resentful about the things in the day we planned to do but aren't going to, now, when Lu is laying on her stomach on the floor at we have no idea what to do with her because we've run out of ideas and there's still an hour to go until bedtime.

It's probably because we still aren't on a schedule, nine months into this parenting thing. WAH gives us the freedom to start our day whenever we want. We wake up when we wake up. We feed the baby when she seems hungry. We bathe her when she's dirty. We put her down for the night whenever she happens to fall asleep. My goal for 2012 is to get on a schedule, and stick to it. Hopefully, that will make things a little easier. (At least more predictable).

Most of the time, we spend our days doing wonderful things. Like taking Lulu to the National Gallery of Art for the first time.

And giving her her first taste of gelato.

She was shocked by the cold...but it didn't stop her from going back for more.

And through it all, I keep thinking of what a difference a year makes:
January 2011 versus January 2012

I hope that during tonight's 7 o'clock slump I'll think back on these happy moments and won't let the one difficult one define my day.

But I could use some tips on how to keep myself from going crazy from 7 to 8 PM every night.

What do you do to get through the slump? Any tips are appreciated.