Post #7: Feeling Pinspired

I promise that my next post will bring me back to my blogging roots and actually focus on the sightseeing and cultural components to our hockey-lifestyle. Despite how it looks, I have not been a hermit since my arrival over a month ago. Scotland is GORGEOUS, and deserves way more blogging-rights than I’ve given it. So here’s just one more motherhood musing…

When Brayden was a newborn, I spent many a late-night hour snuggling, feeding, and pinning. In line with the baby books, I tried not to interact with the little babe during his midnight feeds because “too much stimulation at night interferes with the development of a natural sleep cycle” or something like that. But I often needed some sort of stimulation to prevent from nodding off myself.  I’m not a fan of infomercials and I only had so many recordings of Cupcake Wars on my DVR. Therefore, Pinterest was a much better mindless alternative to television at 3am. And so I pinned. A lot. I happily organized my pins into categorized boards and built enthusiasm for all the projects that I’d collected for myself to carry out… And then, I never looked at them again.  With the exception of a few recipes, I didn’t re-visit my account for months. Christmas passed without even a cursory glance at my “Jingle Bells” board, and Brayden move into toddlerhood before I’d had the chance to use my collection of infancy tips stored in my “Oh Baby” folder.

For whatever reason, (new desire to become a domesticated?,  pregnancy cravings for cheesy or chocolaty deliciousness? Good-old-fashioned-nesting?, peer-pressure from my sister to check out the hilarious board she’s made for me?) I’ve been feeling Pin-spired. When Baby 2 wakes up at 11pm with a serious case of the hiccups, I spend the next hour in bed kick-counting and exploring the Pinterest universe. Unlike during my last Pinterest craze , I click on the links and read before actually pinning. Then, soon after, I put some of my pinning to practice. Brayden and I crafted colorful bowling pins with plastic bottles and a little bit of paint poured inside. I made vegetarian chili, a quinoa and chicken entrĂ©e, and chocolate chip cookies. I looked at book recommendations for one-year-olds and used them as guidance during library trips. And, most recently, I bought a bunch of little craft supplies necessary for the plethora of wonderful toddler activities I’d found during my midnight pinterest prowls.

There is only one problem. My toddler son STILL puts everything in his mouth. So I have to forget about all those cute smiley face stickers, mini pom poms, crayons, paint brushes, and, well, rocks, leaves, and sand. As it turns out, he’s not quite ready for anything even remotely inedible or that could potentially function as a choking hazard. So much for that really awesome moon sand made of baby oil and flour and so much for all that crafting paraphernalia. I needed something else, and fast. Why was this so urgent? You wonder…

Well, for anyone who doesn’t know Brayden, he likes to GO. He always has, especially since he started walking at 10 months old. And when he’s on the go, running from room to room, practicing his slapshot, climbing on castle ruins, following big kids around at the park, and riding his Lightning Mcqueen push car, he’s REALLY happy. And a happy baby is a LOUD baby. When he’s not on the go, happy and loud, he often gets bored. And a bored baby is a LOUD baby too. This is a problem for a daddy that often has practice until 12:30 in the morning and classes at 8:00. There is a two-hour window after Brayden’s 6am wake-up where mommy is on duty and daddy needs to sleep. As do our neighbors for that matter. Since it’s much too dark to go outside and the 24-hour Wal-Mart-like store is quickly losing its appeal, we are stuck in the apartment. And we need to be considerate. i.e. we need to be quiet. i.e. we can’t be running around i.e. we can’t be bored. What’s more is that I can’t always be 100% dedicated to making sure those three conditions are met. I need activities that aren’t entirely dependent on my involvement. While we love cozying up with a book, building ramps for his car, playing with his kitchen set, and making/demolishing block towers, sometimes I need my 17-month old to be quietly AND independently engaged. Like when I’m making breakfast, for instance.

As I wait for Brayden to grow out of his put-everything-in-the-mouth stage and grow into all of those fantastic crafty activities I’ve pinned, I’ve stuck to a few that are Brayden-proof or could be made so with a little modification. They achieve a little free-time for mommy AND quiet-time for baby. I figured, should there be another toddler like mine out there, I should share those ideas and save some other mother the learning curve. I will include the links that provided inspiration to give credit to those amazingly creative mommies that have enriched our morning routines.
  1. Baby Word Book: I made this for Brayden before leaving for Scotland so he can remember his loved ones back home, and learn all their names. I chose to use a small three ring binder I found at Staples because it fit a half-sheet of computer paper perfectly. Each page simply has a picture with a name in large print underneath. I popped each word-page into a sheet-protector with a sheet of cardstock paper to make it sturdy and Voila! I’ve since added a section for “animals”, “things that go”, “food” and “the outdoors”.  It’s basically just a flashcard system, but I like that it’s personalized for Brayden, and that I can add words of new things he likes in 10 seconds flat. He’s pretty happy flipping through the book himself. But, sometimes, I will remove a section’s worth of pages, spread them on the floor and ask him “Can you find me the monkey?” or “Where’s the lion?” and he’ll bring me back the match. I'm happy to give you the template for my cards so that you only have to right click the image and select "Change Picture" to make your own. I'm just not tech-saavy enough to link it here, so you'll need to message me your email. 
  2.  Water Play: During the summer, with the luxury of having a back deck, Brayden was easily entertained by a large plastic tub of water and an assortment of various-sized cups, spoons, and water toys. I don’t know why I never thought to bring water-play indoors, but thankfully someone from Pinterest did.  I cannot believe how content B is with pouring water between a few plastic teacups and little yogurt containers. Beyond keeping him entertained, he’s gotten really proficient at drinking from a cup. So, if you want a happy, well-hydrated baby, throw a towel under the high chair and serve up a bit of water.
  3. Penne Pasta: Stick kebab sticks in a piece of foam or, in my case, a cardboard egg carton. Have baby put pieces of dry penne pasta on the posts. Since we usually do this after breakfast, B isn’t very interested in eating the uncooked pasta. “Yuck”. But, if he is nearing meal-time, threading cheerios onto pieces of thin spaghetti is an edible alternative. Such clever ways to promote motor skill development in your toddler while you’re doing the dishes or folding laundry (or writing for your silly little blog).
  4. Flour Power: ‘Sensory Table’s are all the buzz in early childhood development. I know because I have a sister who works in a Pre-K center and happens to be incredible at what she does. Her sensory tables are always suited to the week’s learning theme. Of course, I can’t steal most of her ideas because, again, my baby can’t handle manipulatives like sand, dried beans, or acorns just yet. But what about flour? It sure doesn’t taste good by itself, but it’s harmless for B who inevitably tries it EVERY time we use it. Put a little scoop of flour in front of baby and give him a few props. It’s really that simple.
    Sometimes he ends up a bit of a mess, like when he sneezed directly into the powdery mound in front of him. But it’s super easy clean-up. Done and done.

  5. Baker Baby: I’m not the first person on the face of the planet to let their baby, pour, measure, and mix while baking. But, I also didn’t need Pinterest to plant this wonderful idea in my head. My momma did that for me a long time ago when I was just a wee girl. I love to bake. Babies love to bake. It’s the perfect activity to do together. I will happily play with cars, splash in mud puddles, wrestle and play hockey with my dear sons. But they will bake with their mommy, gosh darnnit, however boyish they may be. For at least as long as I have a say in the matter… How long is that, anyway? I’m hoping for a couple of years, but maybe I’ll get lucky and it’ll grow on them. This activity clearly requires supervision because, despite my efforts, B hasn’t quite gotten a grasp on reading recipes or understanding fractions ;-) However, I’d be baking anyway. And baking together checks something off my list while also accomplishing the goal of entertaining the toddler. Most recently we made easy, but yummy biscuits to go with our beef stew dinner. Brayden played with the left-over dough while the first batches were in the oven. He loved it!
    Look at his tongue hanging out there in concentration while he’s using the canteen-bottle rolling pin. 
    I chose the recipe because it only called for a few ingredients, and an egg wasn’t one of them. (It’s funny that I’ve joined the Raw Egg Police when I think of all the cookie dough I’ve consumed, laughing off my mom’s fears about salmonella poisoning. Things really do come full circle, huh?) Obviously eggs are an integral part to baking. But, when baking with baby, I use this handy substitution: 1 egg = 1 tbsp flaxseed + 3 tbsp water. I’ve also tried subbing apple-sauce for oil with great results just to make it a bit less sinful and messy.

And there you have it. Five things everyone probably already knew about babies, but took me nearly a year-and-a-half of mommyhood and several hours of pinning to learn for myself. Oh, and by the way, when all else fails, there are Baby Einstein videos on YouTube. They might not make geniuses out of babies like the creators had claimed, but they are inexplicably captivating to my little guy when I’m desparate for 15-minutes of calm. A mommy’s gotta do what a mommy’s gotta do. And where’s the harm in letting him watch a montage of short clips portraying ocean creatures, farm animals, or ‘things that go’? (Set to classical music no less!) It’s not like I’m using the Kardashian brood to entertain my impressionable son. They’re for my amusement… at the end of the night while he’s sleeping soundly in bed and I’m sweeping up the flour, cheerios, and pasta off the floor. The end of another lovely day. Be well, mommas!

Here are some links to more toddler activities! (I'm especially excited about the make your own paint and playdough recipes.)




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