Posts tagged ‘baby’

February 9, 2012

Meet my family

Everyone else has WAY cooler blog names for their family than I do. Ironic Mom Leanne Shirtliffe calls her twins Thing 1 and Thing 2. Kathryn Apel, children’s writer and author of This is the Mud, interviews a young writer named Squashed Cupcake. And Chase McFadden blogs at Some Species Eat Their Young while referring to his four children as Slim, Perpetual Motion, The Hellcat, and Tax Break #4.

After a lot of brainstorming with my husband, I’d like to introduce my family. Although it’s only fair to note that my husband did NOT agree to his own nickname. Tough luck on that one.

Middle School Crush: My husband, whom I met in seventh grade, likes to fuel my enthusiasm for my own writing with comments such as “what was your book about again?” And a personal favorite, said not too long ago as I was plotting out my chapters on sticky notes all over the walls, “Is that really helpful, or is it like rearranging deck chairs?”

The Wizard of Why: My 3-year-old makes me realize how much I don’t know about the world with all the questions he asks. Things we’ve talked about in the past 24 hours:

  • whether or not robots live in outer space
  • why robots don’t “live”
  • why some robots don’t have faces
  • why trains don’t need steering wheels (this was upsetting)
  • why large cats with sharp teeth eat meat and what exactly meat is (also upsetting, but not as much as not steering trains, partially because he doesn’t believe me about the meat)
  • why a T. Rex eats “real meat” and why that may or may not be made from animals (this was a heated discussion)
  • why an hour is 60 minutes and why a minute is 60 seconds and how long that all takes exactly
  • why the dashboard of my car tells me how much gas we are using
  • why some cars use a lot of gas
  • why using too much gas is bad for the planets like Earth
  • why Gyroscope’s birthday comes before his, even though Gyroscope is younger

Well, I think there was more, but you get the picture. Plus, to say we are obsessed with the Wizard of Oz is a huge understatement. We are coming up on the one year anniversary of that obsession, so that will be a good 25% of his life. So that’s the reasoning behind that one.

Gyroscope: Gyroscope, who is almost one, hasn’t stopped moving since he entered our lives, which he did as quickly as he does everything else (a mere 3 hours after announcing his intentions and a short 30 minutes after we crawled (he and I, that is) into the hospital). Favorite activities include: playing with anything the The Wizard of Why is currently playing with, crawling on the dining room table, standing on his head in a downward dog position.

So–even if you don’t have a blog, what would be your blog names for your family?

July 23, 2011

Just stand back and let them do it

Today I’m blogging about giving kids responsibility over at Nashville Parent. Check it out!

May 24, 2011

I named my son after a werewolf (and other woes of the personalized book)

Finding the right name for your children is an involved process.  Did you see the Pregnant in Heels episode (not that I watch, of course) where the couple used a think tank, a focus group, AND a dinner party to judge reaction to baby names?  And then chose the name they liked (Bowen) even though no one in any of those groups liked it?  I loved that—baby names are personal…that’s why no one tells until the baby is born.  Once the name is on a kid, no one can insult it…until that kid goes to school, that is.

For us, we thought about how the name sounded, what it meant, and where it came from.  We definitely wanted a family name.  Children, after all, are about as Darwinian as it gets, and in ensuring the continuation of my genes, it was important to me to honor those who carried these genes in previous lifetimes.

As soon as we learned we were having a boy, I got out the family trees.  I typed every male name into a document and we narrowed it down to a list of the final four names—-and then kept changing those every few weeks.

When we decided, it seemed obvious.  We liked the sound of the name, Jacob.  We liked the symmetry of the ancestry—Jacob was a great grandfather to my husband and my older son was named after a great grandfather to me.  Most importantly, we liked the idea of honoring this person, and this person’s family, by giving his name to a new member of our family.

The name hadn’t been on our top lists for the simple reason that it was so high up on the nation’s list.  I had really wanted something more unique.  But we decided to go with the name we thought was right for us, and if he had a few friends named after the Biblical character, well, that would be okay.

But here’s the thing: my dad called recently to say that he read an article that said Jacob was a popular recent name, not because of grandparents, Bibles, or Torahs, but because of Twilight.  Because of the Native American werewolf.  My husband is now threatening to tell everyone that we named our son after Taylor Lautner.

Werewolf or no, Jacob is our little Jacob and when I say his name I think about my grandmother-in-law and the father she once had.  And I’m so glad that in some small way, he lives again.

Which brings me, rather long-windedly, to a personalized book that I will read to teach Jacob his name.  The wonderful folks at Marblespark gave me a free copy of their books (with my son’s name!) so that I could see their work and share it with you.  I’m excited to do that here.

Title: Following Featherbottom
Author: Philip Haussler
Illustrator: Brad Sneed
Genre: Personalized Picture Book
Age: 0 – 7

Summary and Review:

This book makes a great baby gift.  Each page adds another letter of the name, which spells itself out at the bottom of the pages as you read the book.  With each letter is an illustration of animals on an adventure in a different part of the world (that starts with that letter).  For example, the J in Jacob gives us this page: “A stop in Japan offers jillions of J’s. / Just watch out for jellyfish in all of its bays.”  Or the C gives you “Next we need a C so Cairo’s where we’ll stop / And listen as the camels go clippity-clop-clop.”  As you read the story, you travel the world picking up the letters to spell your child’s name.  The illustrations are my favorite part–they are beautiful with soft colors and a great sense of humor.

One of the cool things about creating this book online is that not only are you personalizing each page by the letters in your baby’s name, but you have choices for each letter.  For example, if there is a C in the name, you can choose Cairo or Chile, among others.  As you create the book online, it shows you the page, tells you what the other options are and if they are used already elsewhere in the book and lets you decide the trip your child will take to pick up his letters around the world.

Adding a middle name is an extra few dollars, and when they gave me the code, they actually recommended that I not do so because it lengthens the book so much.  This is true, and we ended up with a pretty long book, but I’m not really reading this only as a story; I’m reading this so he can see the wonder of his name, and I wanted all of that to be there.

Follow-up with the kids:

If you read this blog at all, you know that I like books that encourage kids to interact with them.  Not only does this book encourage your child to think about his name and learn the spelling, watching the name appear across the bottom of the page, but it introduces letters in other ways as well.  Each illustration contains items that start with the corresponding letter, which are written next to the picture.  You and your child can search for the items, practicing out loud how to say them, emphasizing the sound of the first letter, which they will all have in common.  Check it out at

While you are there, check out their community-built picture book project, a public book written by the masses that raises funds for charity at

March 12, 2011

It takes a village to deliver a child…

Blogging about villages, childbirth, and the future of the world at Nashville Parent.  Come visit me over there!  In other news, there are a few giveaways coming up, so look out for those!

January 24, 2011

I’m pregnant–and what’s happening?

The overstuffed bookshelves at every store are proof that when women get pregnant, they all have questions. And they look for answers in the wide array of books their bookstore has to offer.  Being someone with a lot of questions as well as someone who likes to research answers, I’ve read a lot of these books.  My book repertoire was increased with number two, given that all my pregnancy books from number one were stashed away in storage, three thousand miles away and thus pretty much unreachable.  So I got a few new ones, and this is one of the ones I liked.

Title: I’m Pregnant!
Author: Lesley Regan, MD
Genre: Parenting

Summary and Review: It has pictures!  Good photos are my favorite part of a nice research book.  Photos that help illustrate something and make it more readable.  I really appreciated and enjoyed the photos and detailed medical drawings in this book. The book’s sciencey feel was nice–she describes what’s going on, and shows you with pictures.

The scope of the book is also great.  It covers diet and exercise, rights for the working mother, prenatal care and the choices you can make (which is so wonderfully unbiased–thank you!), growth and development of the baby throughout the trimesters, labor and birth, and even things after birth such as the physical recovery of mom and feeding the baby.  This part is great, because I’ve talked to a lot of first-time moms who read all the pregnancy books but hadn’t started the baby books yet–and then they had this hungry, squirming thing and so many more questions!  So it’s nice that you will get an overview of some of those topics while you are reading your pregnancy book.

The book’s author writes in a nicely balanced, nonjudgmental tone, which I really appreciated.  That said, it is a book by a doctor and it assumes a hospital birth in a fairly modern-traditional way.  However, she expresses a balanced position on pain medication and uses “doctor or midwife” to describe the provider.  She doesn’t set out to make anyone feel bad about choice they are going to make, unlike some authors I’ve read.

I enjoyed the book, and even though I’ve done it before, I found it reassuring to follow along as my pregnancy progressed.

October 24, 2010

Our nation’s pastime, in funky illustrations

My mother-in-law bought us this book.  I still remember meeting her at Barnes and Noble with growing newborn in his sling.  She took one look at me and burst out laughing, and admittedly, it does look funny when the baby is hidden away in a sling.  He was getting bigger, but still able to fit inside the sling, tucked away from all the world around him.  At some point during the shopping trip, she picked out this book.  At that point, he was too young to read for himself, so I was choosing books that I liked to read, like Winnie-the-Pooh chapter books or really anything short of a Biology textbook because, seriously, it didn’t really matter.

This book was one of my first introductions to board books as a parent (and I don’t remember them as a kid so it was really my first introduction).  I remember wondering what was the point of board books, especially since it would take quite a few of them to meet our nightly reading ritual of fifteen or twenty minutes.  My husband wondered too.  Not for long.  It turned out to be a brilliant choice of a book, my son’s favorite above all other books and as I sit here writing about, two years later, the same copy sits here next to my computer held together with tape on my desk.  And now, our son “reads” this book to us.  If that isn’t beautiful, I don’t know what is.

Title: Home Run!
Author/Illustrator: David Diehl
: Board Book, Sports
Age: 0 – 3, although I can tell you right now, we are going to be older when we stop reading this book

Summary and Review:

Each page is a colorful and fun illustration of a crucial part of the baseball game, usually with one simple word to describe it (bat, ball, glove, etc.)  I love the drawings, and if I knew more about art, I could probably describe with with some sort of high-falutin’ word, but I can tell you that they are fun and slightly funky.  One of the greatest things about this book is that even though it appears at first glance to be just a list of baseball terms, one on each page, it actually reads as the story of a whole game.  There are hits and slides, runners who are safe and those who hit fly balls and get out.  And of course, there is a home run, which looks by the scoreboard at the end of the book to be a game-winning, bottom-of-the-ninth, grand slam.

To say that my son loves this book would in no way capture his true feelings.  He knows it by heart and has for some time.  He recently took it to school with him to share with his classmates.  And it’s almost always in our car, ready to go with us wherever we end up.  As we enjoyed this one so much, we’ve since bought the soccer and basketball ones, and there’s a football one as well.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

Invite your child to really interact with the art in this book.  What does the umpire do when he calls a “strike”?  My son loves to throw his hand up in a fist and yell “strike!”, imitating the book, even when we are playing baseball at home and he’s the one with the bat in his hand who just missed the ball.   Same with the sign for “safe” which I am all but required to deliver when my son slides onto our carpet after running around the bases, which is either a lap around the house or about twenty laps around the carpet, necessary of course because almost everything he hits he declares a “home run!”

You can also engage your toddler in the story.  Instead of just showing him the “grounder” page and the “out” page, show the two-page spread as part of a story.  The fielder is getting the grounder, so the runner is then tagged out.  This will help them recognize story format, even in a simple board book, and also help teach them the flow and rules to America’s greatest game; which, seriously now, is an important lesson.  On the next page, the two pictures are “steal” and “slide”, and you can do the same thing–telling the story of the base runner who slides when he steals a base–with these pictures as well.

The pictures are simple, so asking your child to recognize details can also help them become good observers.  (I have to laugh every time I use the word “observe” now because it’s something they taught my son as part of some introduction to science lesson and now he is fond of complimenting almost everything I say with “That’s a good observation, Mom.”  Seriously.  But an example: the “on deck” page shows a donut-style bat weight on the bat.  Ask your child if he notices anything different about the “on deck” bat and the other bats and then you can tell him or her about the weight.

At the end of the game, the final score is 8 to 9.  Ask younger children to read the numbers and ask older children which is the higher number–i.e., which team won the game?

And then, if it’s the right season, head out to the ballpark and test your toddler’s new knowledge in the real world.

October 21, 2010

The first time he laughed

That, at least, is how I will always remember this book.  As the first time my baby laughed.  There might have been other times, but I remember this one.  In the rocking chair, reading the brilliantly simple language and looking at the beautifully simple illustrations of Leslie Patricelli.  Every time I read the loud pages, he laughed.  I think we tried to film it; not sure if we were successful.

Title: Quiet LOUD
Author: Leslie Patricelli
: Board Book
Age: 0 – 3

Summary and Review:

If you are a baby, the whole world is a wonderful mystery, waiting to be discovered.  It’s easy for adults to forget this, but this is one author who hasn’t.  Her simple books are to be loved and marveled at for the talented way she makes us see everyday actions and items for what they are–truly amazing.  This book is a great example of that.

“Thinking is quiet.  Singing is LOUD.”  This might seem obvious, but this book makes it seem like a wonderous mystery of life, and to your baby, that’s probably what these mini revelations are. Each two-page spread includes one of these pairs of opposite sounds and then the final spread includes a whole page on each side of many quiet things (pillows, bunnies, and plants, for example) and many loud things (teakettles, burbs, and fire trucks).

The illustrations are perfect–kids get them and they love them.  And if there was a way to illustrate loud sound, Patricelli has found it in this book.  Other similar titles by Leslie Patricelli include Yummy YUCKY and BIG Little.  So the fun doesn’t have to stop with this one!

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

First, just have fun with the book.  Whisper the first page “whispering is quiet”, and then shout (or speak loudly) the next one “screaming is loud”!  Continue that pattern throughout the book–you are teaching your baby about sounds, volume, opposites, and of course, having fun.

Because of the repetition, this is a good one for early talkers to participate in.  Leave out the last word as you read: “whispering is …” and let them finish in their own whispered voices and screams!  (But beware that you will get what you asked for!)

When you get to the last pages, these provide a great opportunity to learn words.  Ask them to point to the bunny or the firetruck.  Or ask them to point to something quiet and tell you what it is in a whisper.  Or make the noise of one of the loud objects (a drum, horn, rooster, etc.) and ask them which ones makes that noise.  Or point to an object and ask them to make the noise of the object.  There are an infinite variety of these games to play!  Have fun, and if you enjoy them, try some of Leslie Patricelli’s other books!

October 20, 2010

We turned his nose orange. By accident, I swear.

It was total strangers who noticed it first.  They would comment on how cute he was (as if perhaps to soften the blow) and then, as if they just noticed, ask how he got such a bright orange nose!  Family members started noticing it when the photos were emailed around and we had to admit they were right.  But the thing was, he LOVED orange foods!  Mostly pureed butternut squash, sweet potato, and carrot.  Also some mango.

Mmmmm, who wouldn’t?  Two years later, he still loves mango, but we’re working back up to the squash and carrot.  Somehow, he isn’t convinced when we tell him that he once loved those vegetables so much it turned his nose orange.  Either he doesn’t believe us, doesn’t care, or doesn’t want his nose to change colors, all of which seem fairly legitimate to me.

But his love of all kinds of foods started with this book.  The book is dogeared and stained as any good, well-loved and well-used cookbook should be.  I used it to fill our freezer up with ice-cube sized frozen meals of peas, lentils with apples, tofu with bananas and pears (tofu is still a favorite today), and lots of other yummy concoctions.

Title: Easy Gourmet Baby Food
Author: Chef Jordan Wagman and Jill Hillhouse, BPHE, RNCP
: Parenting, Cookbook
Age: Anyone who likes to cook!

Summary and Review:

This is a great cookbook.  If you only buy one cookbook for your baby, this is the one to get.  Your baby will get lots of yummy and healthy food and you will save so much by not buying those really expensive jars of baby food!  The book comes with a thorough introduction about nutrition and eating tips and each recipe comes with a nutritional analysis. The book also gives you ideas about

Don't be afraid to go for the spice rack! It's good for you and the baby and will wake up those taste buds!

when it’s appropriate to introduce different kinds of foods, which was super-helpful.

With few exceptions (although I might argue there should be more), each recipe also comes with a “not just for babies” section that tells you how the whole family might enjoy the recipe, for example, folding a green bean/basil puree into mashed potatoes or using an apricot/squash puree to top a pork chop.  The ideas for using the recipes with adults is great if you are making them in small quantities for baby to eat NOW, which is not really something I did the first time around when I was working full time.  Instead, I would spend a weekend afternoon making gigantic batches of something and freezing it, so I didn’t really need to use it for my husband and I.  Although there was one puree–onions, broccoli, potatoes, peas, and maybe something else–that my husband and I loved to eat hot as soup.  Yumminess…although I couldn’t find the recipe in this or my other baby cookbooks, so maybe I improvised it off of something else.

The book continues past baby recipes into “real” recipes a toddler and whole family will love, and I’ve tried these less, as I know find myself making the usual foods I like to make and sharing them with my son.  However, it is nice to have new ideas of healthy ways to introduce foods to my son.

As a baby, my son didn’t love all the recipes in the book (wouldn’t touch zucchini/basil puree with a ten-foot pole, for example, but I credit this book and the others I used with helping him to grow up to be a healthy eater!  I plan on using it for his little brother and hope that we will have the same luck!  Of course, we’ll try to reign in on the amount of squash, but it will be hard–he’ll be at pureed food age in the fall, just like his older brother.

I did have a couple of other baby cookbooks as well: DK’s Organic Baby and Toddler Cookbook by Lizzie Vann and the petit appetit cookbook by Lisa Barnes.  The first is gorgeous, with plenty of full-color photos and some good tips.  But I’m always turned off by people who use the term “organic” so loosely.  After all, any cookbook is organic if you use organic ingredients, and this one is not if you don’t.  The petit appetit also has some good feeding ideas, but neither of these books really got my full attention.  The recipes either seemed too simplistic (one ingredient steamed which hardly begs for a recipe) or just didn’t appeal to me.  But they are both well-written books and everyone has different taste, so they might be worth checking out to see if these recipes are more up your alley.  Both include symbols to easy identify vegetarian and other recipes specific to certain eating habits.

October 5, 2010

What’s a big brother to do?

Okay, you might notice a theme here, but these are the books my son and I are reading right now.  I suppose it’s a good thing he wants to read them over and over.  I am in the middle of some middle-grade titles, too, so more on that coming up.

Title: What a good big brother!
Author: Diane Wright Landolf
Illustrators: Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
: Picture Book
Age: 9 months and up 🙂

Summary and Review:

Cameron’s little sister Sadie cries a lot, and Cameron helps his parents.  He hands his dad some wipes (LOTS of them!), gets the nursing pillow for his mom, and rubs her tummy when it’s naptime.  But what to do when no one knows what is wrong?  Cameron’s soft touch not only calms the baby, but gets her first smile, too!

The story isn’t complicated–it’s really just what I’ve written above, and it gives kids at least a somewhat realistic expectation of what to expect with a baby–i.e., lots of crying and some helping of mom and dad.  It shows a young boy who gets pleasure in that kind of help, which is great.  And it shows the brother really involved in the baby’s life.

Just to warn you, the illustrations are a bit much.  They are gorgeous, but the backgrounds are this crazy hodge-podge of colors and patterns.  In fact, my son even asked what was wrong with the boy at one point because he had some red dots on him which had carried over from the turquoise-purple squares with red dots background.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

This book introduces a lot of topics you can talk about with a sibling-to-be, mostly that babies are a lot of work, but they are also wonderful to share time with.  They cry a lot because they can’t talk when they need something.  Always reminding your older one that he or she was once a baby is helpful.  In fact, the first few times you read it, you might only refer to it that way–yes, you used to cry like that because you couldn’t talk!  You used to nurse like that before you knew how to eat!  This will help the older one realize that it’s not just about the baby and, while 2-year-olds are not developmentally empathetic, it at least gives them a framework to reference the baby in comparison to themselves.

September 13, 2010

Is there anything as exciting as a cardboard box? This kid wouldn’t think so.

Title: The Birthday Box
Author: Leslie Patricelli
: Picture book
Age: 0 – 6

Summary and Review:

I love this book.  It’s quite possibly my favorite picture book.  (I know, I know, I’ve said that about other books.  But this one, well, just take a look at it for yourself.)  The pictures are wonderfully cute and spare.  The writing is just as spare, eloquent in just a few words, which takes great talent.  But the best part is simply the kid himself–a kid who unwraps his birthday present to find a cardboard box–and he’s so excited!  It’s a airplane!  A boat!  A robot costume!  A great place to take a nap–which he takes (and I love this part) with the stuffed dog he later finds inside the box.  Not even considering for a moment that the dog was the actual present, the boy simply gives the dog a name and excitedly shows him the box.  Brilliant.  Genius.  I could read it over and over again.  (And I do.)

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

No, no, no.  Don’t have a conversation.  Just get out a cardboard box and have fun.  Decorate it, cut it, get inside of it.  Copy the activities of the boy in the book or come up with your own.  My guess is that your child will teach you as much about what the box is as you will.  Just have fun!

And while the whole point is to use a plain box and your imagination, for another time, I encourage you to check out one of my favorite kid websites (Green Party Goods), which has recycled (and recyclable) play structures made out of cardboard.  No giant plastic thing in your living room.  And when they are down with it, it goes in the recycling….