Friday, February 26, 2010

Touchy Feely Books

Baby L. learned to grab things just about a week ago. She loves to grab at her toys, and especially at books. She must get her love of books from her mama!

I love it when she wraps her little fingers around the outside edges of her board books - It looks like she's about to turn a page! So cute! It's her first step toward developing concepts about print!
She loves-loves-loves her touchy feely books-- her books that have parts that are textured. Our favorite touchy feely book is Good Puppy!, a fabric book that has nice soft crinkly ears on the dogs, perfect for developing fine motor skills. Lily oogles at the vivid colors, perfect for encouraging her to study the details in the pictures. And she loves to grab on to the soft pages and pull on them (usually toward her mouth). We also love our Dwell Studio and Usborne touchy feely books.

Plus it’s just fun to say "Good Puppy!" on every other page. Indigo, our dog, loves hearing those words too! He’s never far away when I’m reading to Baby L., and his little ears perk right up when he hears us reading that one. Pretty soon he'll be turning the pages too! Good puppy.

L. is not the only baby who loves her touchy feely books, either. Here's another mom's post on a boy, a book & a dog. Mama L & Little D love their textures (and their dog) just as much as we do!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Songs to Sing About Peace and Love

Baby L. loves it when Daddy B. and I sing to her, so naturally we sing all kinds of songs: counting songs, alphabet songs, silly songs, animal songs, and sweet soft lullabies, just to name a few.

Our favorite songs of all are the ones that carry a little meaning - but are still really easy to learn and remember. Here's our gift to you: Ten easy-to-remember songs to get you thinking (and singing) about peace on earth with your little one. To hear each song, just click on the titles!

Peace Like A River by Elizabeth Mitchell: Elizabeth Mitchell is our favorite children's artist to listen to in our house. Check her out and you'll see why! On her website you can listen to songs, and even download a songbook so that you can sing along.

We Shall Overcome, Pete Seeger's version: Baby L.'s favorite civil rights anthem, along with This Little Light of Mine. Still appropriate today, don't you think?

Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles: When I taught fifth grade, this was one of my students' favorite songs to study. Kids love the Beatles (and so do I!). More recently, this has become one of my favorite songs to sing to Baby L. - it makes a great lullaby!

Imagine by John Lennon: Need I explain? Of course this song is on our list of favorite peace songs!

Give Peace a Chance by John Lennon: Yes, I realize this is the third Beatles/Lennon song on the list. So what?

We Are the World: When I was a kid, we did the "Hands Across America" thing at my school. Remember that? Around the same time, we all learned We Are the World. The video is awesome.

From a Distance by Better Midler: Cheesy, I know, but kids still dig it!

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? by Peter, Paul and Mary: To this day, I have my elementary school teachers to thank for all the Peter, Paul and Mary songs I know like Puff the Magic Dragon, Leaving on a Jetplane, and this one.

With My Own Two Hands by Ben Harper & Jack Johnson: Some of the first graders I taught didn't even know that there were Curious George books-- they had only seen the movie! But along with the movie came a really good children's album - so we have that to be thankful for.

What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong: These days, when I do workshops for teachers, I often use What A Wonderful World as an example, because everyone loves this song, no matter how young or old. Even adults will sing along to this song-- and that's saying something.

As a teacher, I always used songs throughout the day, especially for what we teachers call "shared reading," to study how words and language work and to spark conversation. Singing not only helps babies and children develop phonemic awareness, but the songs we sing also introduce new vocabulary and ideas. For more songs about peace and love, try these resources: Culture of Peace, Spinner, and Rolling Stone.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Writer's Block

So, you’ve been trying to keep a journal ever since you found out that a baby was on her (or his) way, but whenever you have time to write (which is never), the words just don’t come pouring out the way they ought to.

Here are a few strategies from Writing Workshop to get the writerly juices flowing:

1. Think of just one tiny meaningful moment to write about in great detail, bit by bit, instead of trying to summarize everything that has happened since the last time you wrote. It might even help to start with dialogue to get things rolling. (i.e. "Could you wash the bottles for me?" I asked.)

2. Try writing detailed descriptions of important images. Close your eyes and just picture something important that happened, and remember it as a snapshot. Now write down everything you see.

3. Still not happy with how your writing is going? Topic choice is everything. Continue writing and thinking about your happiest and most joyful moments, but also consider moments of uncertainty, frustration, or fear. If there’s a new baby in your life it shouldn’t be hard to think of moments like these! You may find that it’s not only a huge relief to put these moments down on paper, but it might turn out to be some of your best writing.

Keep writing! Keeping a notebook is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and your family.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Taking Care of Memories

Everybody always says it goes by so quickly. As children we heard our own parents say it about us, and once you become a parent, everybody reminds you constantly that your baby is becoming older by the minute. "It goes by so fast..." people say. "In the blink of an eye..." "They grow up so quickly..."

I swear that when I come home from a day at work, my four month old baby girl is a little bit bigger than she was when I left in the morning. It’s almost magical. I never thought I would say this, because before Baby L. I just wasn’t much of a baby-person, but I wish she could stay a little tiny baby forever!

Since I can’t slow her down, I do the next best thing. I save everything – from her hospital bracelets, to her first onesie, to her special “My First Thanksgiving” socks. Anything that was a “first” or a favorite gets saved… at least for now, anyway. Eventually I’ll narrow it down to the things that seem most important.

Whenever I come home from one of L.'s doctor’s appointments I dig out her baby book and get everything all caught up. I figure this is as good a routine as any since she gets weighed and measured at the doctor’s, so I can fill in all the latest details while everything is fresh on my mind.

There are a million things that I don’t want to forget when Baby L. gets older, and the baby book doesn’t have spots for everything, so I also keep track of all of L.’s firsts on a baby calendar that my mother-in-law gave us as a shower gift. The calendar came with little stickers for the big events, like Baby’s First Smile and Baby’s First Laugh, and I just write the rest of them in by hand. It’s so cute that I gave one to my friends, A.S. & J.W., when they were expecting their daughter!

On top of the baby book and calendar, nearly every moment of L.'s first few months is captured either in photographs or on video. On Snapfish I even made one of those cool photo albums that come in hardcover, bound like real published books.

Not only that, but I also ordered a baby-safe ink pad so that we could make our own handprints and footprints. I had to hold Lily down and grab her slippery little hands as best I could to try to get a print of each one for the baby book. There are smudges everywhere, but we did it…. eventually.

I’ve become addicted to keepsakes, in the hopes that the more keepsakes we save, the more I’ll remember later on. I smooshed Lily’s hand into a special baby-safe plaster mold to make a handprint ornament. Her little hand print fit right in with the bunch of “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments that we received as gifts, and the personalized pillow from one of Lily’s aunties. Not to mention the special baby picture frames, the digital photo slideshows set to music that I’ve created, the handmade sweaters that people have knitted for her, this very blog… and the list of keepsakes and artifacts goes on.

I can't help feeling a little tight in the throat when I think about my little baby getting bigger and bigger. Since I can’t keep her from growing, at least I can keep some of her things, just for the sake of... well... just keeping.

I guess that’s why they call them keepsakes.

Books Can Be Like Like Old Friends

Caps for Sale, The Runaway Bunny, and Millions of Cats. Those are just a few of the zillions of favorite books I remember from my own childhood.

Maybe you've saved some of your books from when you were a kid. Maybe you've received a couple classic titles as gifts. Or maybe you went out in search of those old books on the web or in a vintage book store. It's always fun to revisit a book that you haven't seen in a long, long time. It's like reconnecting with an old friend.

Everybody has an old favorite or two. Click here to read about another mom who remembers her favorite books and reads them to her daughter: Bedtime for Frances--and Lil Bits, Too.

What are your old favorites? Post a comment and share the love!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Street Smarts for Babies (& Grown-Ups Too!)

In my neighborhood there are a few streets in particular that make me nervous when I’m out and about with the baby and dog. The corner of Metropolitan Avenue and Graham Avenue is notorious for traffic, big trucks, unruly bicyclists, and frequent accidents. Meeker Avenue, which runs under the BQE is not well lit at night, and is home to the ramps to the highway, where cars race through red lights and speed down the three lane avenue. My own street, Grand Street, is noisy and congested, and the lights take so long that impatient pedestrians rarely wait for the lights to change to cross the street – they just walk right out into the slow-moving traffic, signaling to drivers, “Please-don’t-hit-me” with their hands as they cross in front of city buses and Mack trucks.

Now that I’m a new mom, I’m much more careful about crossing the streets around here. All the safety rules that I learned when I taught babies, toddlers and preschoolers at the Burlington Children’s Space have been coming back to me, one by one. Here’s a quiz to find out how street smart you are when walking your little one around the ‘hood.

Safety Quiz!

  1. Do you always look both ways? Even on one-way streets? Bicyclists in our neighborhood sometimes do not follow the rules of the road, and don't always ride in the correct direction on one-way streets.
  2. Do you wait for the lights to change? Even if you have jaywalked your whole life, it’s never too late to change.
  3. Do you stay on the sidewalk while you’re waiting? And do you stand back a foot or two from the street? Cars jump curbs all the time. Haven’t you ever noticed how beat up the trashcans and light posts are on street corners? What do you think has been running into them and leaving dents? Squirrels?
  4. Do you hang up your phone while walking with your child? Talking to your child while you’re on your walk helps you stay focused on your little one, and incidentally, helps develop their ever-expanding vocabulary.
  5. When passing in front of parking garages or blind driveways, do you slow down and look in front of your baby’s stroller to check to make sure there isn’t a car careening out the drive? Some garages have a bell or horn that goes off when there is a car on its way out – but with all the ambient city noise its easy to not to hear it, even when the alarm’s sounding five feet ahead.
  6. Do you watch out for taxis? (That’s a no-brainer).
  7. Are you careful about passing dogs? Even the cutest dogs might be fearful of small children. And no matter how friendly your own doggy may be, it’s better to ask the adult if it’s okay for the child to pet a dog.
  8. Do you put the stroller’s brake on if you need to stop to dig something out of your purse? Even if the stroller doesn’t appear to be rolling away? Better safe than sorry!
  9. Do you use the crosswalks? Crossing the street between parked cars when you’re walking with a baby or small child isn’t the safest thing in the world.
  10. Did you teach your babysitter? If you have a babysitter or nanny who will be taking your little one for walks, it might be a good idea to take at least one walk together.

How did you do? Did you get all ten? For more ideas on neighborhood safety visit Stroller Patrol. Call me overprotective, but I suppose you can never be too careful. I’ll be making sure to look both ways the next time I’m crossing a one-way street.