Sunday, January 15, 2012

Halloween 2011: Pebbles and James James

I actually decided what the babies would be 360 days before this past Halloween. I saw a picture of Mark's college friend Maggie's twins, dressed like Pebbles and Bam Bam, and thought, "Brilliant!" So in August I started looking online for those costumes, but had no luck. I e-mailed Maggie to ask where she got hers. She said her mother made them, but would we like to borrow them? And I was like, "Uh, YEAH!" So we got awesome costumes without any fuss. But then there was a problem - Julia's costume was just too small. I was barely able to get it on her once, and I didn't want her to start despising a costume she was going to have to wear over and over. Thankfully Maggie included extra material when she sent the costumes so my mom was able to sew Julia a costume that matched James's. (A HUGE thank you to Maggie and my mom by the way!) Julia already had a leopard print diaper cover (doesn't every toddler?) so she wore that too. Maggie sent a giant bone for Julia to carry and I bought James a Bam Bam bat. I considered getting Julia a red wig to be Pebbles, but I thought her natural hair looked cute, and trying to get her to keep a wig on would have been a big headache. So they weren't exactly Pebbles and Bam Bam. Instead we called them our Cavebabies.

The next tricky part was convincing Julia to wear a bone barrette I bought. After putting it in her hair once, she had no interest in ever wearing it again. Eventually I showed her how pretty other barrettes were in her hair and I would tell her I was putting one of those in her hair while instead attaching a giant bone to the top of her hair. Over time she discovered my ploy and actually liked wearing the bone. It would be funny if in the future she refused all other barrettes in favor of the bone, as though it was a perfectly normal look for a 2 year old girl.

"Hey! Where's the other barrette I thought was in my hair?"

Side note: because of the bones in their costumes, the babies now refer to the letter "I" as "bone" since the "I" in their alphabet set is shaped like one. I like to think that they sing the alphabet song:
A, B, C, D, E, F, G
H, bone, J, K, L, M, N, O, P...

James models the letter "I."

The first Halloween event on the babies' agenda was Googleween for Kids. We had to park really far away and then Julia wanted to walk though the parking lot backwards. I laughed at Mark trying to speed her up, because I was holding the hand of "normal-walking" James. There ended up being just too many people in line for activities the twins wouldn't care about yet (like facepainting) so we didn't enjoy ourselves. We left and showed off the babies around Mark's office instead, and went to Googleween for Adults, kids in tow, the next day. There, the babies enjoyed their first funnel cake. (By the way, James had a run in with the ground a week before Halloween. That's not animal carcass blood smeared across Bam Bam's face.)

The babies play on a green sofa in Mark's office.

The only picture taken at Googleween itself. Apparently I was a victim of a zombie apocalypse. Who knew?

Next on the babies' busy schedule of Halloween activities was the Las Madres Cupertino 2009 playgroup's Halloween party held at a glamorous locale called a Sports Basement community room. Some of the parents organized Halloween crafts but my kids were more interested in carrying around balloons and eating quesadillas. Each parent brought a non-candy item (we brought bath toys), and the kids went from parent to parent trick-or-treating. (To the parent who brought Halloween pencils: Seriously? When is my under 2 year old going to be using those?) The babies also sat in my lap for song time.

"Who cares about crafts when we have balloons?!"

Why does James always get so serious when he holds balloons?

James the bashful

It's like Where's Waldo? but with Cavebabies.

The big trick-or-treat night was next. Last year I thought they were too young and it was too hard with their early dinner time, so this was our first time trick-or-treating. They got the hang of taking candy pretty quickly. We ending up having so much fun I wish we had gone last year. We've only lived at our house for a little over the year, so it was our first time meeting many of our neighbors. Sometimes the neighbors would start chatting with us but Julia would say "bye" and turn to leave, having decided that "Operation Take Candy" was complete. And, as if walking with toddlers wasn't slow enough already, much like at Googleween Julia also preferred to walk backwards.

Setting out for their first trick-or-treating.

The house full of single guys next door didn't know how to deal with babies so they just put the candy on the sidewalk and backed away.

The babies, like the cave-people they portray, know nothing of cars and traffic safety. Luckily Mommy does.

I've noticed for a long time that James is often very cautious around men. This was definitely noticeable while trick-or-treating. At one house he clung to my leg when a man answered the door, and then at another where a woman answered he started to walk inside.

It didn't take long to catch on to the idea of "take whatever you want."
(I think this is the house where after taking the candy, James decided to head inside and make himself at home.)

Julia's already distracted by the thought of her next candy score.

The road of the candy-chaser is a dark and lonely one.

The babies didn't eat their candy treats (more for Daddy!), but they loved carrying them around the house, as though they were new toys to collect and hoard.

The trick-or-treating haul.

Last on the babies' activity list was their weekly Mom's Night Out playdate, this week at Stacy's house. She hosted a Halloween playdate where the babies dressed in costume, put stickers on a pumpkin, and colored a treat bag (full of Halloween goodies). They also ate ghost-shaped Rice Krispie treats. James polished off his; meanwhile we found half of Julia's in the toy box. (Thanks, Stacy, for many of these pictures and for all the Halloween treats.)

The key to making the bone look work is to just own it.

James can't get enough of his Rice Krispie treat.

"I will reluctantly eat half of this Rice Krispie treat, but you'll find the other half hidden somewhere else in the house."

James models his Bam Bam bedhead while covering his pumpkin with stickers.

Stacy's house has rocks in front, so we decided it would make a good photo op.

Julia is clearly channeling Raquel Welch in
One Million Years B.C.

"Cavebrothers are weird."

Rachel P. took this cool Hipstamatic print version.

Because of James's run in with the ground, I elected to wait a few weeks later when his face had healed to take photos of the babies running around in costume.

James licks his chops before heading in for the attack.

Sometimes cavemen take a break from catching their quarry to read a book about rainbows.

Julia looks like she's doing a witch doctor dance. (I recognize those from Scooby Doo.)

Here are some Scooby Doo witch doctors. At any rate, Julia has the right arm upraised, but is missing the crucial "skull staff."

Blunt weapon stand-off

"Captain Cavemaaaaaaaaan!"

James is more of an open mouth kisser.

"Help! I'm being attacked by vicious Cavebabies!"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Best Books Part II: 15 to 24 Months

We’re finally moving away from gimmicky lift-the-flap books to some with a bit of plot. Here's my first post on books: Top 10 (or 11) Books for Babies 15 Months and Under. Although the books included on the previous list were the twins' favorite books when they were younger, easily half would still appeal to an older toddler. We now must have over 100 books, between purchases, gifts, hand-me-downs, and garage sale finds.

James gets stuck in book quicksand. (22 months)

James climbs to get to the stacks of books. (22 months)

Top 10

Hug (by Jez Alborough)
This book has few words so as a parent telling the story instead of reading it, you’re less likely to get bored. But the main attraction is the really sweet story. My kids loved it so much that “Bobo” was literally their second word, and they’re so cute yelling out “Bobo” whenever they see their favorite little monkey in the book.

James reads about giraffes hugging. (23 months)

Barnyard Dance! (by Sandra Boynton)
The text of this book has a great square dance-rhythm that makes it a joy to read. I put both babies on my legs and bounce them to the rhythm which makes them giggle. When we get to the end they say “more” and I read it again and again until my legs give out. All the Sandra Boynton books I’ve encountered have been good. From Horns to Toes is fun - they learned how to shake and shimmy from that. And Birthday Monsters! is a favorite (Julia gets super excited by the cereal confetti), and I imagine it will become even more popular as they learn about birthdays.

Good Night, Gorilla (by Peggy Rathmann)
This is another book with minimal text so you have to tell them the story. It’s really cute with lots of fun details. (Look for the stuffed animal version of each animal in their cage. I like that the elephant has a stuffed Babar.) Julia thinks the wide-eyed expression of the zoo keepers' wife is hilarious, and says "Eyes! Eyes!"

Wheels on the Bus (Raffi Songs to Read)
This book prompted me to sing the song to the babies. I know you can sing it without the book but they love looking at the pictures while also doing the hand motions. The book clearly takes place in an unnamed European country that may or may not have crazy Frenchies packed into a bus.

Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? (by Dr. Seuss)
It's a classic for a reason. The babies love imitating the noises, especially the page with lightning and thunder.

Julia makes my friend Natascha read her Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? (20 1/2 months)

Which baby is not one of Natascha's twins?

Just Like Daddy (by Cecilia Johansson)
Each page of rhyming text shows a baby and daddy animal. It's pretty adorable and there's textures for them to feel, too.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (by Eric Carle)
Again, a classic for a reason. The babies love touching the holes left by the caterpillar eating through the page, and having me name all the food. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (we have the "slide and find" version) by the same author is another good book. In fact James likes it so much he will name the animal on the next page without seeing it, and knows them all in order.

Daddy Kisses
(by Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben)
This is another cute daddy book. Each page shows a different animal daddy and how it kisses its baby (on the nose, on the eye, on the paw). And then it's fun to kiss your own little one there. Julia learned to "aroooo-ooo" like a wolf because of this book.

The babies usurp Mark's Father's Day gifts: Daddy Hugs and Daddy Kisses. James doesn't seem to be enjoying his Daddy Hug too much right now. (18 months)

Potty (by Leslie Patricelli)
As far as I can tell every book in this series is awesome, but I'm trying to only name one book per author. We also have my favorite, Tubby - which made my last list, as well as Yummy Yucky. This is by far my favorite book to read about the potty, and they laugh and get excited when the baby finally goes - and I quote - "tinkle tinkle toot."

Shake a Leg (by Constance Allen)
This is a good book (featuring Sesame Street characters) to get kids acquainted with different body parts. It's fun to watch them try to flap their arms, honk their noses, and make muscles.

Honorable Mentions

Dr. Seuss's ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book! (by Dr. Seuss)
This book also has a nice rhythm. The babies love it - mostly because Daddy likes to rile them up with the “Jerry Jordan’s Jelly Jar” page. Now they skip the beginning and go right to this, their favorite part.

Baby Einstein: My First Book of Numbers
I don't actually read the text. Each page shows a different number and that number of items. So on page one there is one baby, one flower, one marble, one duck, and so on. It's funny to watch the babies imitate me counting.

Put Me in the Zoo (by Robert Lopshire)
The twins love this classic, especially since they're obsessed with colors and the leopard's spots turn a different color on every page.

James is engrossed reading about what color the leopard's spots will turn next. (16 months)

Go, Dog, Go!: P.D. Eastman's Book of Things that Go
This is another beloved classic for a reason. I show with my fingers how the dogs go up the ladder to the top of the tree at the end and it's funny to see the babies mimic me.

James is excited about Go, Dog, Go! Meanwhile, Julia doesn't like sharing a lap. (22 months)

ABC, A Sliding, Pushing, Turning Book! (by Moira Butterfield)
This is a good interactive book that's a bit unique.

James is obsessed with the x-ray on the other side of the water spout. (20 months)

Ten Playful Pups
I call this their "abacus pup" book because there are 10 puppies that can be moved to help them learn how to count.

Julia moving her abacus pups. (17 months)

Gossie (by Olivier Dunrea)
This is a cute little book and one of the first one's they've liked with some plot. I also like Peedie by this author, but Ollie is a bit of a slog.

Spot Goes to School (by Eric Hill)
This is a nice book with flaps (but it's not all about the flaps) that excites kids about starting school. Julia particularly loves this one.

Books that Most Pain Me to Read (a.k.a. I inwardly groan when the babies hand these books to me to read and sometimes I "accidentally" skip pages)

You Can Name 100 Trucks
There's nothing to read, just illustrations of 100 types of trucks. And some of the trucks are really obscure like the grapple skidder.

Julia usually likes
You Can Name 100 Trucks but today she shares my opinion on it. (21 months)

James falls asleep while reading the most boring book known to baby-kind. He probably fell asleep somewhere between the foam pumper truck page and the crab loader page. (22 months)

Five Little Ducks
Anything involving counting down *slowly* from five to zero with the same text on every page except for a different number. Kill me.

Humpty Dumpty
It's always been a stupid story, and at this age it's particularly stupid. Who wants to explain what Humpty Dumpty is and what he's doing sitting on a wall?

Naked Humpty Dumpty story time! (Actually, Julia's wearing a diaper.) (18 months)