Our Favorite Toys for Babies, 3-6 month edition

When I went to the big re-sale a couple months ago, I had a very specific list of items that I knew the babies would need in the short term. When I saw the huge area of big toys, I froze. I tried to think about the next 5-6 months and what the babies would do or learn or want or play with. And I had utterly no idea what, say, a 9 month old could use.

So I figure that as I go along, I’ll keep track of the toys we use in age-ranges of our babies, in hope that someday, another mama will find it useful! This isn’t an official review or sponsored post, it’s just what our babies have liked.

(Previous gear lists: Pregnancy, New Babies part 1, New Babies part 2, New Babies part 3)

If you’ve seen any other lists like this, or have things to add, please let me know in the comments!

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Sophie the Giraffe–goes without saying. They like them, but they don’t actually love them. For awhile, they would get frustrated because they had trouble holding it and getting part of it in their mouth. As they’ve gotten bigger and more dextrous, they like it better.

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Winkel–I saw this on a few lists/blogs awhile ago and got one. They’ve loved it for months–at first to look at, and then to very slowly practice their gripping and holding, and then to try to eat.

Activity Ball (on the bottom right)–A bigger, louder version of the Winkel. Picked it up at a re-sale and sure enough, the babies really like it.

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Squishy books–a friend sent us three of these, and seriously, they are still some of their favorite toys. At this point they don’t care about the touchable stuff on the pages, they just love that a) the front page crinkles, and b) they can tug and pull to their hearts’ content.

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Baby Einstein Take-along Tunes–the orthotist had this in her office to entertain babies, and it was an instant love for Emmett. We got one the following week and both babies adore it.

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Bumbo–it’s not very fun or interesting, but it’s somewhere for the babies to sit with support.

Baby Super Seat–like a Bumbo BUT BETTER. Supported sitting without fat little legs getting stuck, AND an attachable activity tray. The babies’ favorite activity is playing with (ie, banging and eating) the little cups! Slowly they’ve learned to manipulate and play with/gum the other objects.

We’ve been using the Bumbo and Super Seat as seats while we feed them. Very mobile and convenient.

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Piano mat — We had a regular activity mat with the hanging toys, but then I heard about this one. I waffled on it for awhile, but I am so glad we got it. It’s really fun for the babies. It’s an activity mat but it also has a kickable piano at the bottom! Plus, as you see, the piano can change position so that babies can sit at it. In theory, then, it should last far longer than the standard activity mat.

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O Ball¬† It’s a bendable ball full of holes. Easy for baby to grab and try to eat. Tons of fun.

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Jumperoo–Love it. They are so adorable when they bounce! Also, as they’ve gotten bigger and better with their motor control, they’ve discovered more of the toys and functions.

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Exersaucer–Love it too. And just like the jumperoo, they’ve figured out more fun stuff that this does and noises that it makes.

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Taggies ball–Tinkly bell sound plus big and squishy plus lots of tags to grab/eat. What’s not to love?

Tell me what your babies love to play with!

7 months!

Dear sweet babies,

You are seven months old!

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Strangely, this past month feels like it’s been really long. I guess it’s good that time is slowing down a little, because I don’t want to rush any of this baby time. And this is a pretty good time for all of us–you are extra adorable and interactive, but we’re not worrying about chasing you around our dangerous house.¬† In general, we’re all doing pretty well.

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The biggest “first” for this month is probably eating “solids”. You tried out high chairs for the first time, and we started feeding you some rice cereal and oatmeal. (Separate post on that coming soon.)

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There are still no teeth to be found in either of your mouths, but you’re both still grabbing and gnawing on everything you possibly can. I’m sure that soon we’ll finally see some baby pearlies pop through.

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You guys continue to wiggle and roll to the side a lot. Malcolm, you rolled from your back to your tummy exactly twice this month, but don’t seem to care about practicing. You’ve also apparently forgotten or decided to abandon rolling from your tummy to your back. Emmett, you roll from your tummy to your back after about two seconds, and you are SO close to rolling over from your back to your tummy.

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You both can rotate on your tummy to turn to something you like. It’s pretty fun. Emmett, you now rotate in the crib if you’re in your sleepsack, and Malcolm, you recently started scooting up the crib on your back.

You are both really good at standing. You’ve been doing it for a couple months, but now, we only have to hold you lightly to balance–you fully support your entire weight on your strong little chunky legs!

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No crawling or anything yet. Thank goodness–I’m not in any hurry for that to happen! But, when I hold you, sometimes you do this jumpy-leg thing, and I wonder if that is a crawling pre-cursor.

Malcolm, you have mastered tripod sitting and can now sit unassisted for quite awhile, provided you don’t try to look up too far, or you topple over. Emmett, you’ve got tripod sitting and are almost ready to sit up without guidance.

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You’re both ticklish!! If I tickle the back of your neck/shoulders, you hunch up and make this huge grin and high-pitched giggle. Super adorable!

Also, you still have these amazing squishy chunks of thighs which I love to squeeze and nibble. You seem to also find this delightful and will often giggle.

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Oh, speaking of giggles–Malcolm, you have a high-pitched, high-powered giggle. (I need to get this on video!) Emmett, yours starts out as a Beavis and/or Butthead (I never could remember which was which) “heh. heh. heh” that then transforms into a regular higher-pitched giggle.

Emmett, you started playing your own version of peek-a-boo, or really making us play with you. We look away and then look back at you, and you laugh. Sometimes, you actually do the looking away!

Not only do you reach for things you want, even if they’re out of reach, now if you drop something, you go trying to find it. Previously once you dropped it you immediately forgot about it. And, Malcolm, you have figured out that if a toy is not quite in grabbing distance, you can grab and pull the blanket to bring it closer to you! Genius!

You are getting really good at manipulating the toys on your various babygear. Spinny toys are particularly fun, along with noisy buttons that you seek out on purpose instead of accidentally. Any toy or object you can pick up, you alternate between trying to eat it and banging it/waving it around.

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Another big development is figuring out how your mouth and tongue and voice work. Emmett, you do kind of a gibberish noise and do raspberries, and Malcolm, you go through phases of raspberries, lip sucking, and various syllables (mahmahmah, etc).

Sleeping has been interesting this month. Your nap schedule is kind of out the window, but the flip side is that you started taking at least one longer nap. Up to now you’d only do 45 minutes at a time, but now most days you’ll take one hour and a half nap (occasionally up to two hours), in addition to three other 45 minute naps.

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Night sleep has been very up and down. For a few weeks, one or both of you would be up for an hour or more in the middle of the night. (On one memorable occasion, you did that back to back.) However, several times when one of you was wide awake, the other slept completely through it with zero wakeups. And then, miracle of miracles, we actually got a few nights here and there with neither of you waking up even once! Sometimes there are still a short wakeup or two, but it seems to have gotten better from earlier this month. Thank goodness! Mama and Daddy are really enjoying and needing that extra sleep.

Malcolm, I finally made myself trim your baby wings last month, and this month it was finally Emmett’s turn. Your hair was getting seriously long and shaggy in the back. I trimmed it enough to look a little more presentable. I couldn’t bring myself to touch the top craziness, though. That’s all your original baby hair, and it’s so wild and funny! You really will need a professional haircut very soon, though. baby blog pics 3

One of the reasons we really need to get your hair reined in is of course because you got your helmet this month. Happily, it’s not bothering you and you continue to be your normal cute happy self.

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This month was your first Father’s Day! You have such a great Daddy who loves you so much.

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When we hold you, you are always so alert and looking around at everything and everyone. No more little baby snuggling into us like you used to. But sometimes when you’re tired or upset, you’ll cling a little extra and lay your head down on our shoulder. It is so sweet and we love those moments.

And of course, in general, we love you! You are such wonderful and adorable babies. Thank you for being you.

Love,

Mama

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Thank you

Wow, thank you so much, everyone, for your kind words on the last post! So lovely and heartwarming.

I am much less emotional about it now. It’s been a week and a half with the helmet, and I’m pretty much used to/resigned to it. Emmett is still doing just fine with it and doesn’t seem to notice or care. Plus, we’ve been out and about with it a couple times and haven’t gotten any questions or comments. I’m sure we will at some point, but it’s a relief to know that maybe it won’t be every time (since we already get comments about having twins most of the time).

Thank you again. Internet hugs for everyone!

Imperfections

Our babies have flat heads.

At our two-month appointment in January, I asked about it and was told not to worry (we saw a nurse practitioner for that one, not our regular doctor). At the four-month, I asked again, because they were still flat. Our pediatrician said it would probably be fine, but she said we could have the craniofacial specialists check it out.

I was simultaneously scared to have it confirmed and not have it looked at. But I did the grownup thing and made an appointment. (It’s a huge university/hospital complex at the top of a big hill in northwestern Portland. Huge buildings and structures everywhere you look–honestly I felt like I was in the Jetsons or something!)

Anyway, the woman we saw there was wonderful–very warm, loved the babies, and was very open with us. It was clear that she had no agenda, wasn’t going to automatically make us do helmets, but was very objective. She measured their heads, and sure enough they were flat. Emmett’s worse than Malcolm’s, by a lot. We’d already been able to see that, but the numbers were stark. There’s a certain measurement difference cutoff that would make a baby eligible for a helmet; Malcolm’s was below, and Emmett’s was above. But both have acquired positional plagiocephaly (the medical term for flat head).

She gave us exercises and stretches to do with both of the babies, to work on their torticollis, which would also help them move their heads and necks better. She wanted us to have the babies do fifteen minutes of tummy time every few hours, which was WAY MORE than what we’d been doing, and quite frankly, way more than the babies wanted to do. We were to come in again two months later to check the progress.

We did fairly well with the tummy time, and the babies got a lot better about tolerating it. We would give them toys and squishy books, or lay them on our laps facing out/down, and they would be okay. The stretches really helped their neck tightness ease and loosen. We also had them do a lot of supported sitting–in the Bumbo, activity seat, jumperoo, exersaucer. Lots of playtime not laying on their backs.

By the follow up appointment, Malcolm’s head had gotten noticeably less flat, and his measurement difference dropped in half. Emmett’s had also gotten less flat, but his hadn’t improved as much, and he was still over the ‘cutoff.’ Too flat.

Time for a helmet.

The specialist was again very honest and caring. She told us that after a year or two, heads/skulls aren’t really that malleable anymore, so if you wait, a helmet either takes longer to round out the head, or won’t work at all.

Three weeks ago we had our first appointment at the orthotist so his head could get scanned for his custom helmet. Doesn’t he look like an adorable little Ewok?

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Last week we went back to get the custom-fitted helmet.

The night before, I took a special photo of his cute, happy little self.

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At the office, still happily unaware.

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The doctor had to adjust the helmet openings to fit his head. It’s made of molded foam and has a rounded back to guide his head growth over time.

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Here he is back at home, getting used to wearing the helmet for an hour. This first week is a schedule of increased time wearing it so he can get used to it. Starting at the end of this week, he’ll wear it 23 hours a day. He’ll have it for 3 to 6 months, depending on his growth.

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It’s been a few days now, so he’s worn it for hours at a time, including for naps. He seems to be doing just fine with it. When we go to put it on him, he moves his head around to look at it, and then I swear, he recognizes it and lowers his head so we can put it on. When we take it off, his head is sweaty and his considerable hair is plastered to his forehead. But that’s just how it goes, so we’ll be washing his hair and cleaning the helmet every day during the one-hour break.

Okay, so those are all the facts about Emmett’s helmet.

Now for my feelings.

I’ll sum up: as the orthotist put the helmet on him that first time, tears welled up and rolled down.

When the craniofacialist confirmed the flatness for both and that Emmett would probably need a helmet, I felt my heart sink. Sadness. Guilt.

My poor little babies. Their heads were perfectly fine when they were born. But since they slept in the Rock N Plays pretty much all day and night for the first however many weeks and months, and they both leaned their heads to the right, they got flat spots on that side. I could have held them more. Or forced them to sleep in the co-sleeper (they didn’t sleep as well in there and also spit up more). I could have carried or wore them more. (With naps, feedings, and pumpings, and two babies…I don’t know how.)

The specialist told us that twins are extra susceptible to flat heads, especially Twin A’s (the twin closer to the ‘exit’, if you will). Emmett was our Twin A and his head was wedged in my pelvis for the last three months in utero (Malcolm was breech; neither of them ever flipped), so I guess it’s logical that his little skull already had some extra pressure on it.

So in theory, it happens to a lot of babies and it’s not my fault. But I still feel like it’s my fault, like I let him down, like I didn’t do my job. I dreaded the fact that something was Officially Wrong with one of my babies. We have been so incredibly lucky that our babies have been so healthy thus far. I know that many twins have a lot of medical issues right away, and that sadly many babies come down with flu, RSV, whooping cough, and all kinds of other scary things. We’ve avoided all that so far. I also know that flat heads and helmets aren’t really a health problem, and that he’s still a healthy baby, and I should shut the fuck up with my whining.

But oh, my sweet little baby. We already get looks and comments all the time because they’re twins–and now there’s another reason people might gawk and say dumb shit. He won’t know any better, but I will. I know that we’ll be glad to be helping his head round out, and it’s only temporary, and he won’t remember, but I feel bad that we’re making him look ‘different.’

I’m getting used to it, sort of. I’m happy that Emmett doesn’t care and is his usual self. I still think he’s really cute. It’s harder to kiss his adorable little face with the helmet in the way. And I still have a little sinking, sad feeling when I see it. My poor baby.

Nobody’s perfect, and everyone has a ‘thing’ or issue. But I didn’t think I’d have to accept imperfections for my small babies quite yet. I know that over time there will be plenty more and it won’t be a big deal. Maybe this first hurdle is the biggest.

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Update: He outgrew the helmet three months later! Read the post here with more details about the experience with the helmet.

Father’s Day

I told my husband years ago–well before we were even married–that I thought he would make a great daddy. Right away, after the babies were born, I knew it was true. He really is a wonderful father. He loves our babies so much, and plays with them, changes their diapers, snuggles with them, reads to them. Everything a good dad should do.

[Scratch that–everything a dad should do. The “good” shouldn’t be a qualifier. Ever since he’s had babies, he’s bristled at the concept/term of “involved” father. (I hope to be able to persuade him to write a post about it someday…) As he says, would anyone talk about someone being an “involved mother”? It’s offensive that people don’t expect a dad to do much and then overpraise or act surprised when a father acts like a parent.]

Anyway, my husband has done a wonderful job being a parent to our babies. I love watching him with them and seeing so much love and joy. They are so lucky to have him as a daddy, and to have him as a role model as they grow up. He will make sure they are thoughtful, intelligent, athletic, well-informed people. He’s also made sure that I’m well-supported and as well-rested as possible as a mama, for which I am supremely grateful. I am so lucky to have him as a partner in raising these beautiful babies!

We had a nice family day on Father’s Day. I took the breakfast shift so Andy could sleep in a few more hours. We walked to the farmers market for some fresh air and fresh produce before the babies’ lunch. In the afternoon, my dad and sister came for a visit and we went to a late brunch. My little sister is 13 years younger than I am, so she’s never had any baby experience. She came down at Christmas for a few days and loved hanging out with the dudes. They were only a month old then, so she was shocked at how huge and interactive they are now! And I know how she feels–these big babies have grown and changed too much!

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Andy’s first Father’s Day portrait!

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The inevitable outtake of one baby trying to eat the other one:

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Blog ADD

First, I really dislike when people throw around actual medical diagnoses as personality quirks. Liking your towels folded a certain way does not mean you have OCD. Stop it.

That said, I honestly feel like my attention to blog posts is in deficit sometimes. I have nineteen drafts at the moment, and here I am starting a twentieth. I was mentally composing this post earlier tonight while washing my hair. Before I turned off the shower, I had mentally skipped around to two or three other new or existing posts. (And dammit, now I can’t remember what I was ‘working’ on! I need a waterproof notepad!)

So I haven’t posted a ton lately, because I haven’t been able to bring myself to commit to these drafts, to finishing these posts. I don’t know if it’s laziness or inattention, or just lacking the time to really focus on making them ‘good.’ Whatever that means. I like thinking up post ideas and then starting a whole bunch of drafts. Some of them are just titles, some of them are more than half written, some of them need pictures and I get lazy about resizing and then loading them into wordpress.

And instead of working on any of those nineteen drafts, I’m writing this nonpost about drafts. It’s after midnight and I feel antsy for getting ideas out. Well, “ideas” because really, this sucks and it’s pointless. But at least it’s a post? Sort of?

I go back and forth on the type of blog I wish this were. Some people have update blogs that talk about day to day stuff, all everyday-like, casual, fun. Then there are Issue Blogs, which focus on a single issue that the writer is really into. And then there are the Writer Blogs, where the person creates a moving piece about simple things like going out to dinner, with the perfect words just so that make the reader sigh, laugh, cry, or all of the above at the same time.

I really wish I could be the last one, but I don’t have the writing chops, innate creativity, or perseverance for that. (At least, not more than a couple times a year.) But I can’t quite bring myself to do the everyday-blog kind of deal either. Maybe because I already do some of that on flickr, facebook, and instagram. And I like having stories to tell occasionally, or work through my thoughts on Bigger Issues. I don’t know how much of a voice I have, because the posts veer all over the place. Sometimes I do want to craft an essay-type post that details the arguments I have on a particular topic, and edit it carefully so I can try to be as articulate as I can. (Which, frequently, is not terribly articulate at all.) Buuuut, sometimes I want to just write out a list of random crap. Or post a bunch of pictures without coming up with witty asides. And sometimes I write dumb blog posts about writing goddamned blog posts.

So I’m in the remainder bucket of blogs. With my blog ADD. BADD. Oh dear! I guess if you’re out there, sorry for this drivel, back to cute babies soon, and thanks for sticking around.