Friday, September 3, 2010

Tip for Tat

Sticky Baby’s 1st birthday is right around the corner. Ah...hold on....WHAA? I remember spooning a body pillow to sleep (sorry Papadada) and rubbing litres of oil on my giant pregnant belly like it was yesterday.

A lot happens in the first year of being a mum. Some events are big, monumental, memorable. Others are small, subtle, re-occurring. It’s a learning curve like no other. There are times I wonder if my brain-cells have taken a year-long sabbatical to Tahiti, but then I stop the self-deprecation and remind myself of just how much I have learnt and how many skills I have acquired in the space of 12 months. It’s nothing short of amazing. Bow. Applause. Thank you very much.

So, in honour of being a mum for nearly 1 year, I have put fingies to the keyboard to give you a mish-mash of my top mama tips, tricks and tools of the trade that I’ve picked up in the first year of Sticky Baby’s life.

☺Babies are fickle, dis-loyal little creatures when it comes to toys. In the words of Heidi Klum on Project Runway, "One minute you’re in, the next minute you’re out”. Toys can cost a bomb and when your baby disses the new gadget/fluffy thing within 10 minutes of hauling it back from the shops, you’re going to feel like poo. Frustrated and broke poo. So, get thee acquainted with your local Toy Library! This is a genius and fun resource for new mums and bubs. Borrow different toys and games for the period of time that suits you best. Return them and choose something new! It’s a boredom-buster and money-saver. My local toy library charges 10€ per year for membership. This gives parents complete access to the impressive toy inventory and a say in what is purchased too. LOVE! If you don’t have a Toy Library in your town, it’s just as easy to set one up amongst your mum-friends. Borrow, swap, return, clean off excessive saliva and cracker crumbs to your heart’s content!

☺Sticky Baby lurves him some fridge magnets. When your baby is at the pulling-himself-up-on-everything stage, magnets will be his joy. Position them so that bub has to reach and stretch to grab them. Baby calisthenics AND a gorgeous look of achievement on your baby’s face! Make them big, bold and brightly coloured.

☺Turn cleaning into a baby-activity! Yes, you heard me. Cleaning can be a wicked-cool game for bubbalinos. Babies are the biggest copy-cats ever and the more accurately they can imitate you, the happier they are. Sticky Baby has developed a deep love affair with the mop, bucket and vacuum cleaner. When he sees me pull out these items, he gets funny in the pants. You can purchase baby-sized cleaning items, as modelled by Sticky Baby:
They are scarily similar to their life-size counterparts and oh my God, so cute! Instead of Sticky Baby taking a dive headfirst into my hot bucket of mopping suds, I pull out his own mop set and he goes ballistic on the tiles alongside me. You can do the same with clean sponges or rags when you do the dusting. Just nix the toxic cleaning products. You get the drift. Sticky Baby also enjoys the occasional mopped floor Slip ’n Slide. I let him loose in his onesie on the slippery floor and the rest makes for brilliant entertainment.

☺Sticky Baby veers on the side of kamikaze. Baby-proofing was a must. So I chose to do the 'cupboard-shuffle' in the kitchen. Plates, platters and poisons were moved wa-hay up high, and fun, pseudo-toys like storage containers, colanders, wooden spoons, salad spinners, cake tins, were re-homed at Sticky Baby level. This translates to a stress-free kitchen environment, where baby can happily dig through cupboards without mama screeching like a anxiety-ridden banshee. Win-win.

☺As much as I love my idiot box of an evening, I’m not a fan of letting Sticky Baby watch much of it at all. Now that he’s a little older and his attention span has surpassed that of a goldfish’s, I do allow one episode per day of the truly remarkable children’s show In The Night Garden. Sticky Baby and I watch a new episode every morning over breakfast. It’s 25 minutes of calm, melodic, colourful, sing-along, brekky togetherness. And then we switch it off.  Find a quality program, something with repetitive themes, nothing too crazy or hectic, and make it a special part of your daily routine. Controversial for some, I realise, but in a controlled environment, I really don’t see the harm.

☺My readers know that I’m a sucker for hanging out with my peeps and their offspring. It alleviates that pressure of being a stay-at-homer, when some days the freaky baby toys walls feel like they’re closing in on you. My solution? Mothers’ Group! Best concept since Tyra’s  America’s Next Top Model shows. It doesn’t need to be a structured group. It can be an informal “hey I’m crashing through your front door for a cuppa in approximately 10 minutes with my snotty child in tow” type of set up. They’re the best. Find like-minded folks who like to hook up, make some plans and be merry! Pram walks around the 'hood, swimming lessons, park dates, back yard sessions, you name it. Good for bub to see other kidlets and good for mum to retain her sanity and ingest some form of caffeine. Tea, Coffee, Diet Coke. Pick your poison.

☺Community play centres are also wonderful things. In France, each town has a network of different centres, all of them government-run and free of charge. There is always a baby-nurse on hand, for any burning new-mama questions, as well as a couple of early-childhood assistants. Cool toys, fresh faces, new environment. Great option for a morning or afternoon out of the house. Ask around your neighbourhood for something similar. 

☺The library. Geek? Nope. Amazing, talented, animated story-tellers for free? Yes! On the first Saturday of every month, my local library offers 90 minutes of sensational story-telling for children. I think it’s a tremendous way to introduce the wonders of books to kids. You should see all of those little mouths agape, staring up at the guest reader. Cute factor = very high. If your local library doesn’t host this sort of event, why not make the suggestion?

☺ Get yourself a bike! And add a baby seat and a couple of helmets! Seriously, I have no words to explain how wonderful the experience is. You don’t have to be Lance Armstrong. A few practice runs sans baby to make sure you haven’t forgotten your 2-wheeled skillz, and then...on your bike! There’s an amazing sense of freedom and simplicity that comes with introducing your child to the great outdoors. Do it. Do it now.

☺ Get yourself a sling/baby carrier! Seriously, in the spirit of simplicity, sometimes it’s just awesome to forego the big, bulky, high-tech, titanium strollers and just pop your baby bundle on your hip or in a sling and GO! I’m all for being prepared, but gee whiz it’s good to detach oneself from the nappy bag once in a while and leave behind all the baby bells and whistles and just BE. Give it a try sometime.

☺ All hail the almighty drop sheet! It took me a while to cotton on to this little tip of mine. But when Sticky Baby’s messy eating got hella-outta-control, I figured it out pretty quickly. Placing a drop sheet underneath the high chair (old sheet, plastic table cloth, tarp) makes cleaning up SO easy! We use a plastic table cloth that we hose off after each meal. (Yes indeedy, we hose). Sometimes, the stress of keeping your baby from making a mess far outweighs the task of actually cleaning up. Putting down a drop sheet eliminates the stress altogether. Total Oprah 'A-ha' moment, no?

☺ Eventually your baby will get to a stage where the act of eating isn’t all that entertaining in itself anymore. Sticky Baby has entered this stage, and it’s a real punish. Distractions are key. A toy/item he hasn’t seen before, his teddy-bear perched on his high chair as an eating companion - these work well. But what works super-dooper well is giving him his own little bowl and spoon and dishing out a small amount of the food you’re attempting to feed him into this container. Your baby will be so busy trying to master the action of feeding himself that you’ll be able to shovel his dinner in his cake-hole before he even knows it. Best distraction ever, all while learning a new skill.

☺ When Sticky Baby reached the age of snacking and finger foods, I was alarmed at the lack of healthy options in the grocery store baby aisle. All those pre-packaged yoghurts and fruit smashes are loaded with sugar or at the very least, are super super artificial. Don’t get me wrong. We do buy some of these. The healthier-looking, less coloured varieties. But I was desperate to come up with snacking options that didn’t always involve artificial sugar. Sticky Baby is an adventurous eater, so we’re lucky in that regard, but why not try some of these and see how your baby goes? Chick peas, frozen peas, olives, mini-gherkins, rice cakes/crackers, broccoli florets, diced carrot (semi-cooked, but not too soft), home-made sweet potato fries, dried apricots, dried apples, string cheese, and lots and lots of fresh fruit!

☺We keep the most random collection of items in our car for Sticky Baby to play with. These items never make it inside the house. They are purely ‘driving’ toys. Examples? Swimming goggles (makes for a great teether), old pair of sunnies, a pop-top sports drinking bottle. It’s not like Papadada and I sat down to strategise over this. No, our car is just a mixed bag of randomness and it just so happens Sticky Baby has developed an attachment to a handful of things in there. Keeps him busy for the duration of most car trips. A box of teething rusks never goes astray either.

☺I’m a big believer in rocking it out to MY music in the car. The radio is almost always tuned to the top 40/Pop station. It’s my attempt to cultivate my son’s appreciation for Lady Gaga and any Train song. But I also think that a good children’s music cd is always nice as back-up. We go for The Wiggles and a traditional french nursery rhyme cd. His eyes do light up when his tunes come on. Although his eyes also light up when he sees me ‘car dance’ to Ke$ha.

☺Ah, the pains of teething. For babies AND their parents. This is what has worked for us:

- We keep a small container of teething toys (pacifiers, rubber spoons, teething rings, baby toothbrushes) in the freezer. We pull it out a few times a day for Sticky Baby to get stuck into. The cold items soothe his gums and he loves discovering the contents of the container. Wash after each drool-fest and re-freeze.

- Frozen watermelon, froze grapes, ice cubes placed in a  mesh feeder. Tasty and takes away the pain too.

- We keep our teething gels in the fridge, for added relief. Works a treat.
- Clean face washers, dampened with water and chilled in the fridge. Great to suck on.
- Teething rusks by the truck load. Always have a few in your nappy bag, in the car..pretty much everywhere you go.
- When bub is old enough, the crusty end of a baguette! Makes a great chew toy.

Voila, my peeps, I hope some of these ideas may help you out, here and there. Sharing is caring. Feel free to return the favour with other nifty parent-tricks you may have up your apple sauce-stained sleeves.


Mrs G said...

Thanks Mama L! I'll be sure to re read your post next year when Bubba G is in town...totally agree with everything you say though :) i'm really hoping I get put into a nice mothers group...however I do have a few girls from the football club who are full time mums and love a coffee and walk around the park! x

Mama L said...

you were def in the forefront of my mind when I wrote this!

Natalie said...

So true, how fast the time flies! Love all your tips! I wonder if we have a toy library in the states, sounds fabulous!!

Erin said...

Note to self: find a vacant space and open up a toy library. ASAP. Genius!

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