Thursday, March 24, 2011

Separated at Birth: Baby Edition

I've noticed that at different times growing up my babies have resembled certain celebrities. Some are less flattering comparisons than others, especially for James in those lean months where he looked like he had male pattern baldness. Julia's (other) twins are all really really odd.

Alfred Hitchcock

It's more that James resembles the classic Hitchcock profile. The jowls don't hurt either.

Butch from The Little Rascals

Grandma noticed this resemblance at one week old, particularly when James cried.

Kit-Cat Clock

Winston Churchill

James Pilloff, the slightly-British-on-his-mother's-side bulldog.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

World War II figure? Check. Bald? Yep. Must look like James then.

Hannibal Lechter

Mayor of Munchkinland

Michelin Man

I don't know about the new Michelin Man's "scarf."

The Cockatoo from Baretta

One day I will have to style Julia's hair straight up into an awesome mohawk.

The Joker

Gene Simmons

Brendan found the picture on the left disturbing so he made this not-at-all disturbing version on the right.

Mr. T

John McCain

Nikita Khruschev

Once when James didn't get his way he banged Julia's shoe right into his mouth.


The Grand Poobah from the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes

Rush Limbaugh

I saw this New Yorker cover and was like, "That's James when he cries!"

Tweedledee (or Tweedledum)

Some that I skipped because I decided they were to weak include Leonid Brezhnev, Konstantin Chernenko (who?), Ivan "I must break you" Drago, Jonathan Winters, and King Hippo. And if I included John McCain and Nikita Khruschev you know these must have been weak.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kathy's Unsolicited Advice for Parents-to-Be, Part III

11. Toys are good bribes.

As your babies get to be 4-6 months, it's good to bribe them with toys on the changing table and in the car. Changing table toys keep little hands away from the task at hand and keep them happy. Also, be sure to give them plastic, easily cleanable toys. The last thing you want is a fabric toy to land in that dirty diaper.

12. Stock up on those hospital blue pad things that your doctor and hospital uses for changing and weighing babies.

They're disposable and great for putting on who-knows-what's-been-there travel changing tables.

13. Brush your teeth in front of them.

Early on, I was so busy I didn't have a chance to brush my teeth. Or so I thought. If you brush your teeth in front of them (at least with an electric tooth brush), they're fascinated and stop everything just to watch you.

14. Don't buy a thermometer.

Yep, that's right. When I was leaving the ER for the SECOND time with James, the nurse gave me a regular electronic thermometer and said to put it in his armpit to take his temperature. I was originally told that when you take it this way (referred to as "axially") you need to add a degree, and when you take it rectally you need to subtract a degree, but according to this chart it's more accurate to add .5 to 1.0 degrees. It takes awhile to get an axial reading but it's a lot easier than taking a rectal temperature in the middle of the night.

15. Join a playgroup, go for strolls, and get out!

Kaiser's Newborn Club used to try to encourage me to go to Mom and Me classes when the babies were first born, and all I could think was, "Are you kidding me? I don't have time!" But now I realize it was more about getting the mom out of the house and around other moms. I wish I'd connected with other moms earlier. Although we have playdates with individual babies or sets of twins, I'm envious of people who see the same group of people every week for a playdate.

My babies at a playdate where they waited like vultures under their friend Ronan's high chair waiting for him to fling down chunks of tofu. (Thanks Stacy for the picture!) (14 months)

I also thought going for strolls was too big an ordeal - especially with twins - so I avoided that for the first two months. And then I went out with my mom one day and it was like a revelation - the babies were quiet during the stroll and JUST looked around or slept. Walks are a nice mental break.

Time to whip out our legs in different directions at the same time!

And lastly, when it's safe to take your baby out in public, definitely go out to restaurants. I thought it would be a disaster to go during the first six months, but who knew that they fall asleep in their strollers and give you a nice peaceful meal? This stage doesn't last long so take advantage of it. Because the doctor recommended my twins not be in public places for three months, my mom and I used to go to The Old Spaghetti Factory and sit in a spare room all to ourselves, and it was delightful.

Brendan and Lila join us in the Chevys bar even though it means they have to be in the presence of babies. (2 1/2 months)

James and Julia at Armadillo Willy's. For some reason this is Julia's favorite place to poop. She's gone three out of four visits (and that fourth visit we discovered she'd pooped when we got home so she probably was attempting some sort of fecal grand slam). (10 1/2 months)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Top 10 (or 11) Books for Babies 15 Months and Under

I meant for this to be a top 10 list but apparently I can't count.

My babies love books. I'm not saying it like I'm bragging like they're so advanced. It's more like they love holding books, opening books, turning them over, and chomping on them. They pretty much freak out when they realize they're going to be read to. All I have to do to make them go insane is make the sign for book. They start making panting, happy sounds and try to crawl after me as I go to the next room where I store the books.

I used to read to the babies by putting one in my lap and one in a Bumbo seat, but they've outgrown the Bumbos. Even before they outgrew them James would hurl himself out to get to the stack of books behind me so he could help himself. These days I put the pile of books I'm going to read to them on top of the changing table so they can't get to them, and they just gather round me. James loves to stand in front of me and practice his professional wrestling maneuver of falling on me repeatedly, while I read. Their favorite part is when reading time is over and I give them a few to hold. I have to be selective because James has succeeded in ripping a couple board book pages. James is the bodybuilder-ripping-a-phone-book of the baby set.

We keep a few books on the sofa for convenient access but we have to hide them behind the cushions because the twins will freak out if they see them. (We're not fooling anybody though because as soon as they are on the sofa they're reaching to see what's behind the cushions.) At their 12 month check up the pediatrician asked if we read to the babies and I accidentally let it slip that we hide books from our children. And he was like, "Why are you hiding books?..."

Who Loves You Baby? (by Nina Laden)
Well first of all, good luck finding this 2007 book. It's going for $55 used on Amazon (yeah right), though I'm sure it must be available somewhere else. There's a mirror on the last page of the book and each page has the eyes cut out of a different animal (so far it sounds like the Room Full of Crazy in a serial killer's lair). There's also a caption on the facing page ("You are my Lovey Dovey." "You are my Busy Bee." etc.) If positioned correctly, your baby can see their own eyes/face inside the animal's. You know you have the mirror positioned correctly when you see your baby get a big grin. I've also seen the twins turn over the book to see if something was behind the mirror (but then again, they seem to do that to every book). And best of all, the babies have put their mouths right up to the mirror and kissed the other baby. (Well, at this age it's more of a mouth on the mirror than a real kiss, but still, sweet.)

Julia is my Lovey Dovey. (10 months)

James is my Busy Bee. (10 months)

Tails and Heads (two books, both by Matthew Van Fleet)
Wow. Tails is yet another book that's out of stock on Amazon, but at least it's available used at a normal price. This is marked as appropriate for ages 2-5, but the babies love it now AND hopefully they'll continue to love it for a few more years. This book has it all - textures, parts that move when you pull the tabs, half pages they can race to flip open, and cute illustrations and rhymes. James loves it so much he ate the swishing tail that moves and Mark had to pull it out of his mouth. He still grabs for that stump of a tail when I read it. He is a boy obsessed.

Heads is in print, has texture and eye-popping, clever parts of the book that move, and is actually even better than Tails. If you end up really liking these books, the same author put out Dog, a fun book with more texture and motion. (There is also Cat if you're so inclined.)

Hooray for Fish (by Lucy Cousins)
Are you kidding me? Are all the books I'm recommending out of stock? Again, it's available from other Amazon sellers. My friend Leslie got this for the twins from the Monterey Bay Aquarium because inside the book there's a "twin fin-fin fish." The story with Mom at the end is darling, and the illustrations are detailed and hold my babies' attentions which is hard to do when there are no flip-up parts.

Tubby (by Leslie Patricelli)
This is part of a series of books in the same style. (I'm sure Potty will be a winner when the time comes.) The drawings and writing are funny and charming for adults and babies. I try to read this before and after my babies take their daily weekly bimonthly bath.

Where Is Baby's Belly Button? and Where Is Baby's Mommy? (by Karen Katz)
Karen Katz has a whole series of really cute flip-up books. I have a bunch including Where Is Baby's Birthday Cake?, Daddy and Me, Grandma and Me, and Grandpa and Me. Where Is Baby's Belly Button? is the simplest (in fact it was the first favorite book of the twins) and helps teach parts of the body. Where Is Baby's Mommy? chronicles a search for Mommy who's playing hide and seek. Baby looks for Mommy in some uh.. interesting places. For "Is Mommy behind the shower curtain?" I like to add "about to have the shock of her life."

James enjoying Where Is Baby's Mommy? without hurling himself backwards out of his Bumbo seat. (10 1/2 months)

Baby Talk (by Dawn Sirett)
This is a short and simple book showing an emotion for each baby (hungry, sad, sleepy, etc.) My twins like lifting up the flaps and enjoy looking at the babies. They always seem to smile when they see the "happy" baby.

That's Not My Monster (by Fiona Watt)
It's currently unavailable on Amazon but listed by one seller for $999! (There are many others in this "touchy-feely" board book series that might be as good.) That's Not My Monster is simply the best textural book I've seen. The babies always want to touch the textures in this book, as opposed to some books with such lame textures I have to lead the twins' hands to them. The one exception is the fluffy texture - James never wants to touch soft texture in books! (Typical boy or James?) Besides fluffy, the textures include bumpy, bobbly, and rough. Rough is like sandpaper, and the babies fight to touch it.

Guess Who Farm Friends (by Jodie Shepherd)
Yet another book not currently being sold new by Amazon. (Did all my books go out of print immediately after we received them?) If you get past the surreal aspect of animals covering up their faces with their hooves to play peek-a-boo, this is a nice and different sort of lift-the-flap book. There are rhymes, you can do different animal voices while reading, and you can teach them what sound each animal makes. (James thinks it is HILARIOUS to hear me say "Peekaboo. I'm a horse" in horse voice.) Beware the pop-up tableau of animals on the last page - my babies love to attack it. There was a mauling incident we won't speak of involving the horse. Let's just say now he can't hold his own head up. His head may end up in a pop-up Godfather board book soon.

Fisher Price Little People: Christmastime Is Here!
There are many Little People books - this just happens to be the one I have. There's really no story to it. The babies go nuts for this one because each page has a lot of flaps for them to lift. You will find yourself saying what happens under each flap repeatedly. ("The frog has a long stocking." "It's a book of the book." "The bunny tripped on the ice." "Puppy dog is giving her a kiss." "The elf is taking a bath.") These sentences may seem nonsensical now but if you've read this book you KNOW what I'm talking about... My babies were obsessed with the ornament numbered 23 on the last page (not sure why) and it finally tore off from overuse. One nice thing about this book is that when you are tired or want to watch TV you can plop your baby in your lap with this book and let her entertain herself.

My brother and dad reading Christmastime Is Here! to the twins (and by "reading" I mean letting the babies lift up the flaps). (12 1/2 months)

Honorable mentions:

-Corduroy (by Don Freeman). This is the version with a large board book shaped like a bear. Not much to the story but James loves it.
-Anything in the Peekaboo! series. We have Hoppity Hop Peekaboo! and Playtime Peekaboo! (these have texture and the babies' beloved flaps), Noisy Peekaboo!: Vroom! Vroom!, and Noisy Peekaboo: Choo! Choo! (flaps that create sound if you choose the right answer).

Julia holds Noisy Peekaboo: Choo! Choo! (10 1/2 months)

Pssst! Julia! You can find Squeaky Mouse under the cheese slices!