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What We Learned from Parenting Books

17 Apr

Like all parents, Don and I bought, downloaded and borrowed a myriad of parenting books. You’ll note that I did not say we read these books, only that we obtained them.

This is because:

1. We have an infant. There is no time for reading about him. We are too tired to read and would rather gaze upon him than read anyway. And also,

2. They are sort-of pointless.

When my friend and new mom Karen shared the Portalandia clip above with me, I laughed for five minutes.

“Ryan, did you actually read the book?”

“Of course I read the book!”

No one reads the books.

Actually, we did read a little bit of all the books.  About three pages or so. I’m pretty sure that makes me an expert at parenting techniques so I thought I would share my wisdom with you and save you the trouble of acquiring these books yourself. Unless you want them to fool people into thinking you are well read on the subject of your baby’s development and want to place them in strategic locations around the house. In that case, by all means purchase a few. Don’t forget to leave one open on the coffee table for unexpected visitors.

Let’s start with the book above, Your Baby’s First Year Week by Week. In this book we learn that every week your baby will do things things radically different than the week before. For example, in week one your baby will focus on objects 8 – 12 inches away and in week two your baby will stare at objects 8 – 12 inches away. Wow. It’s crazy, right? I didn’t make that up; it’s in the book.

In Baby 411 we learn that all parents have questions. In fact, all parents have the same questions. For example: “My baby usually poops with every feeding. Now he hasn’t gone in 24 hours. Is he constipated?” The answer, I am both happy and sad to tell you, is no. Turns out constipation in infants is determined by the consistency of the output, not the frequency. That’s why as a new parent you will spend far too much time thinking about poop. People who don’t have children think that they will never be that parent. But you will. It’s inevitable. And really, you won’t even care.

I read my three pages of What to Expect the First Year on the plane ride to California to collect the Bird. I read those three pages for six hours because it was hard to concentrate for some reason. Therefore I am an extreme expert on pages 49  and 54-55. In the edition of the book we have those are the pages on infant reflexes (bottom line: he has them) and bottle feeding. I got to skip over pages 50 – 53 since those were the pages on breast feeding. Skipping pages was exciting to me. I felt like I had been promoted a grade in school. I stopped reading when I realized a HUGE portion of the bottle feeding section was about sterilizing the bottles and I had no idea how we might accomplish that in a hotel room. I mean, I’ve seen the “Dateline” specials. Nothing about hotel rooms is sterile.

For reasons we didn’t fully understand, we knew we would be swaddling the Bird from birth until he started Kindergarten. We knew it was valuable, we just didn’t know why. That’s why I checked out a copy of Happiest Baby on the Block at the library. A note about checking out library books as the parent of a newborn: Don’t do it. In my sleep deprived state, the book languished on a side table in the living room for weeks after I learned all I needed from it and I never made it back to the library to return it. The overdue fee would have paid for a new copy on Amazon, I think. Plus, you don’t even need this book because I am going  to tell everything you need to know. If your baby is fussy, turn him on his side and make a loud SHHHH sound. It sounds horribly cruel – like a really mean librarian. But honest to Pampers it works. We were already swaddling so we didn’t learn anything new about that, but the shushing was helpful when the Bird turned 6 weeks old and went crazy. I even downloaded a shushing app for my phone because I was getting dry mouth.

We put copies of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare on our Kindles. Every time I have turned on my Kindle since December 13 I have fallen asleep so I can’t tell you much about this one. Nonetheless, I still feel I can offer two pieces of expert advice on this book having tried to read it a dozen times. 1. It’s an excellent sleep aid and 2.  Your parents read an earlier edition of this book and look how you turned out. Interpret that in any way you like.

Finally, I was excited to learn that Cindy Crawford wrote the forward for Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Did you know she was a correspondent for “Good Morning, America”? I didn’t either until I read this book. See how much I learned? Actually, along with Happiest Baby on the Block, this book has been helpful even though I read so little of it. We started putting the Bird to bed earlier and even though it hasn’t stopped him from waking up twice a night to eat, we get a little more rest because of it. We had been putting him to bed between 9 and 10 p.m. when he fell asleep and he would wake up at 1 a.m. for a bottle. Now we put him into his crib at 8 p.m. and he coos to himself for 10 – 20 minutes before drifting off. He sometimes still wakes us up at 1 a.m., but we have an extra two hours of down time.

I think those are all the books I “read” to gain my expert parent status. Do you have a parenting book you would like me to review? I won’t actually read it, but I will be happy to read ABOUT it on Amazon and then tell you everything you need to know.

We Won a Baby Book!

27 Mar

Somewhere in my parents’ house, there is a baby book. It’s has a yellow cloth cover and several cards stuffed in the back, but it’s mostly empty. My mom and dad didn’t meet me until I was eight months old, tw0-thirds of the way through my first year.

Truthfully, I know plenty of   people who have yet to fill in a single page of the books they bought for their own babies so this is not something unique to adopted kids. However, there are pages and pages in the typical baby book that don’t really tell the whole story when it comes to adoption.

I should I have assumed that some enterprising folks out there would remedy that situation.

A few weeks ago our agency announced on Twitter that it would give away one copy of an adoption-specific baby book to someone who re-tweeted them. I did, and I won.

The book is really cute. Here are some photographs of the pages in the book that are different than the traditional baby books you’ve seen on the market.

All the requisite stuff is there with spots for highlights and firsts, but there are also pages about the match (when and how it happened) and the birth family. There’s also a page where you can explain why you chose adoption and a page to describe what the waiting was like. Instead of baby’s first year or baby’s first birthday, the language is written more carefully to fit a variety of circumstances  like “Your First Birthday with Us”. I think it’s unlikely that someone who adopts a 5-year old is going to want a baby book, but it’s entirely believable that people who complete international adoptions and bring home children just slightly over a year old would enjoy the tradition.

The best page in the book comes right after “Your First Year With Us”. It’s titled “Your Adoption Day”.

It might be a long time before we can use that book. In fact, if the experience of other moms and dads we know is a guide, we may never use the book. But I’m glad to know that if we’re so inclined there is a book tailor-made to the unique way our family will be made.

Did you fill out your child’s baby book? Did you have an adoption-specific book?

The Decor, the Game and the Favor Bags

8 Feb

I think this is my last baby shower post. Thanks for hanging in with me guys.

To recap:
For our Book Worm Baby Shower, there were invitations, there was food, there were onesies (not actually book worm-themed) and there were Hershey Kisses.

Today we’re going to take a look at the decor, plus reveal Katy’s fun game and cute favors.

First the decor. Back in early December when I scored those Hershey Kisses for 70 percent off, I also found this great Hanukkah banner on super sale. It was a semi-DIY kit – the ribbon, blue circles and white circles are all separate pieces. There were also felt letter that I discarded. I printed out new letters to spell out BABY and Jaimie and Dean’s last name (you’ll have to use your imagination on the image below since I had to block out the last name to respect their privacy).

Here’s a closer look:

The mantle also sports those cute little blue tissue paper puffs. Here’s a tutorial from Pinterest, or you can do what I did and buy the kit from Martha Stewart. When I first looked at a tutorial (I’m not sure if it was that one or another one), it seemed kind of confusing. Now that I have done it from the MS kit,  I know it’s actually pretty easy and if I ever have to do it again I will start from scratch (and make them bigger).

Here’s a look at the table centerpiece:

It’s pretty simply – just a couple of white flowers in a square-ish vase on top of a small pile of children’s books. I was inspired by the awesome book themed party I saw on Pinterest.

Now, on to the games and swag. Cooking and decor is a lot easier for me than games, so when Katy offered to pitch in I gladly took her up on the offer. As you may remember, Katy is herself a new mom (I couldn’t help but link here and above to different pictures of Katy’s cute little man).

Well, when it came to the party game, Katy rocked it! She came up with Kiddo Catch Phrase, a game in which (much like the real Catch Phrase) teams compete to see how long it takes them to guess 20 correct answers in a randomly assigned category. In keeping with our literary themed shower, Katy came up with appropriate categories like fairy tales and nursery rhymes (my team was assigned fairy tales). Katy started the timer and handed the first person a card, then you had to get your teammates to guess what was on the card without saying any of the words on it. So for example, one of my cards read “Puss in Boots” and I gave the clue, “It’s a cat who wears shoes.”

Some of them were so hard and I was really impressed with the teams who had super heroes and nursery rhymes. It was also funny to see who knew some of the more obscure things like “Wee Willy Winkie”. Katy’s mom is a recently retired librarian so I bet she was very proud of Katy for coming up with this game – especially since it required making something like 120 unique cards and knowing what all of those things were so she could help us out (which she did pretty liberally – thanks, Katy!).

Here’s the sign she made for the game:

Can you tell what the pictures are on the outside edges of the poster? They’re little cards / stickers depicting The Cat and the Fiddle nursery rhyme. Here’s a closer shot:

I think everyone really liked the game … and you just never know with this things. No one wants to smell and taste any more melted candy in baby diapers, right?

Katy also put together the darling little favor bags with our Hershey Kisses and these cute little notebooks that look like a library collection:

Yup. That pictures says it all: Thanks Katy!

Okay – back soon with actual adoption stuff.

Baby Shower Invitations

5 Feb

When my friends Jaimie and Dean first talked about decorating their nursery, they thought about going with a Winnie the Pooh theme. A few weeks later they decided on a Yankees theme. 

*sigh* I know, there’s no accounting for it. They are both from New York so it can’t be helped I guess. Don keeps alternating between saying he won’t babysit for them at the house because he won’t put the kid down in the Yankees room and saying that he wants to babysit so he can take down all the Yankees gear.

Anyway, when they ruled out the Pooh nursery theme I thought I would make the shower Pooh-themed instead. That’s why when I sent the Save the Date announcements way back in December, I used the little image of Pooh and Piglet and the quote that’s just perfect for a new baby:

Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.

I was actually having a hard time coming up with stuff that really inspired me for a Winne the Pooh themed shower though, and it was not for a lack of pouring over Pinterest and the Interwebs looking for inspiration either. My poor mother-in-law was even dragged around on a fruitless shopping venture over the Christmas holiday.

By that time, Jaimie had mentioned to me that she would love for guests to bring a book to help grow a great children’s library for her little boy. An idea had been wiggling around in my brain, and finally I decided to change the whole shower theme to books.

I was shopping for supplies at Michael’s when I ran into our friend Karla. She’s just as excited about Jaimie and Dean’s bundle of joy as I am, and she very graciously and generously offered to buy the supplies for the invitations. Not only was that just so darn sweet, but it also allowed me to splurge on some fun matching envelopes AND make coordinating thank you cards. So, thank you Karla!

Here’s a look at the invitations and matching thank you cards.

The invitation itself is made of two pieces of paper glued together. The piece in the back is blue-, white- and brown-striped scrapbook paper and the piece on the top is white card stock. I printed the invitations on our ink jet printer, three per page. The little bookworm is just made from blue and brown circles – like the ones of the top and bottom of the cards. The text in the large blue circle explains the baby book idea. Here’s what it says:

Greeting cards are nice, but only get read once or twice.
So instead of a card to be put away,
please bring a children’s book to be enjoyed some other day. 

Our friend Katy offered to plan a game with prizes AND put together favor bags. So with those matters in capable hands and the invitations done, I just had to plan the bookworm menu and decor. Yup. I had a couple of fun book themed decor items, too. Stay tuned (I’ll also tell you about the super fun game Katy put together that matched our theme!).

Have you been to, planned or been honored with a themed baby shower ? What was it?

Bookworm Food

4 Feb

My friend Jaimie’s baby shower was this afternoon. I am so excited for Jaimie and her husband Dean and I wanted to make sure we had a great event with lots of thoughtful touches.

Jaimie mentioned that she would like for people to bring books for the baby. I decided that sounded like a great theme and I put together plans for a Bookworm Baby Shower. Even the food was themed based on childrens’ books. Here’s what we served:

Green Eggs and Ham
Spinach & Ham Egg Quiche

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Rainy Day Meatballs (Yeah, these I just bought at Ikea – everything else was homemade.)

Savory Madeleine Cookies 

Pete’s a Pizza
Petesa Balls

Chicken Little
Little Chicken Pockets

Peter Rabbit
Peter’s Veggie Cup

Blueberries for Sal
Blueberry Ricotta Flatbread

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Caterpillar’s Fruit Salad

Super Fudge
Fudge Crunch Ice Cream Cake

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Charlie and the Chocolate Cookies

James and the Giant Peach
James and the Giant Peach Bellini 

Lemony Snicket
Lemony’s Lemonade ( just regular low sugar lemonade with lime and orange slices floating)

Red Fish, Blue Fish, One Fish, Two Fish
Just the Red Fish
Here are the menu cards (the book cover with the name of the food item below it) if you’d like to host your own book-themed lunch or baby shower. I think the chicken pockets were my favorite.


2012 Children’s Book Awards Announced

24 Jan

Photo courtesy of Meagan Fisher
Children’s book collection
courtesy of Meagan Fisher

Next week I am hosting a bookworm baby shower for my friend, Jaimie. Remember the Winnie the Pooh Save the Dates I shared? Instead of a card I asked people to bring children’s books for the baby and everything we’re making for the shower is book themed. I’ll have lots of images to share when it’s all over, but in the meantime I’ve been on a baby book binge.

That’s why it caught my attention almost immediately that the American Library Association’s annual list of top books, video and audiobooks for children and young adults – including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards - had been posted. Since these are all new books and I don’t have any children to read to yet, these were all unfamiliar titles to me, but I have fond memories of Newbery award winning books from my own childhood.

In particular, these Newbery winners are all on my own personal list of favorite children’s books:

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg (Atheneum)

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Farrar)

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White (Harper)

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Harper) (Really all of the Little House books were favorites, but I particularly loved this one)

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary (Morrow)

See a list of other Newbery winners.

Are any of your favorite books on this list?