Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Language Acquisition

Lately, Valerie has been watching Sonic the Hedgehog on Netflix. (Yeah, yeah, I'm a terrible mom, I know.)

Which means we've been roleplaying a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog. The first few times she asked to play, she told me, "Mom, you be the blue head." Which was a logical way of referring to Sonic, since, well, he has a blue head. Sometimes, she would call him "the blue super bear," so I think she didn't know what a hedgehog was. She knows porcupines (and pygmy marmosets and naked mole rats - Thank you Philadelphia Zoo!) but I don't think she's ever seen a hedgehog before. And, to be fair, even if she had, Sonic doesn't look much like an actual hedgehog.

Then she started calling him "Yonic", which was amusing to me in a nerdy, "Ha ha, my daughter is using inappropriate words that are way beyond her realm of understanding" kind of way. Then she started calling him "Onyx", which is a simple shuffle of the "s" sound from the beginning of the word to the end of the word ("onics"). "Onyx" is also the name of a horse on another show that Valerie likes to watch. I have noticed that, when faced with a new word, Valerie will often replace it with the closest word she already knows. When I offered her a poncho the other day, for example, she called it her "pom pom".

Then, a few days later, Valerie asked me to be "the blue head jog". That's when I realized that Valerie may have known what a hedgehog was after all, but Sonic wasn't a "hedgehog" to her, he was a "jog" with a blue head. A "blue head jog". Say it out loud.

But these adorable Valerie-isms don't last long. Because after she hears it the "right" way a few more times, she usually stops doing it. Sometimes, it takes a lot of self-restraint on my part not to reinforce her adorable misconstructions, but I know it does her no good in the long run to sacrifice accuracy for adorableness. I don't correct her, but I do say it the right way myself, and eventually, she abandons the cute alternative. (Although sometimes she spends a lot of energy beforehand arguing that her way is right. She just finished watching a new show called 64 Zoo Lane, and as the credits ended, she said, "Mom, it's called Zixy Call!" I said, "Oh? Sixty Four?" and she said, "No, Zixy Call, listen to the song!" and then she started the show again so I could hear them singing the Zixy Call theme song.) Her pom pom became a poncho within a few days, and I know Onyx will suffer the same fate sooner or later. Yesterday, Valerie said to me, "Mom, you be the blue super bear... er... hedgehog."

Watching her learn is pretty adorable, too, though.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

New York City!

I spent the day in New York City yesterday with a 13-month-old strapped to me, a three-year-old in and out of a stroller, a big, heavy diaper bag, a camera, and a friend who was also pushing a stroller with a ten-month-old inside. New York City is awesome, and there are so many things to see, and we walked as much as we could, but sometimes, you just have to take the subway. And for every subway entrance in NYC with an elevator, there are about 20 that just have long, narrow flights of stairs.

As my friend and I were fumbling with our children and our strollers at the top of the first of these flights of stairs, a helpful man came along and offered to help. He took the bottom of Karla's stroller, and helped her carry it to the bottom of the stairs. And as he was helping Karla, a helpful woman came along and took Valerie's hand as she was about to slip on the wet stairs, and helped her to the bottom.

I thought, wow, that was neat. Two helpful people in this city that is renowned for its rude, rushed population. We thanked them profusely, and went on our way.

But then, we came to another flight of stairs at our destination. And two more helpful people jumped in, and this time one of them helped me carry my stroller with my 30+ pound kid STILL INSIDE. And it happened again, and again. At every single subway station, at least one, but usually two or three, helpful people rushed over to help us with our strollers and our children. When my coat fell off the back of my stroller, the person behind me picked it up and handed it to me as soon as I was at the landing. (And, in one particularly awkward moment, an older gentleman actually picked Valerie up and carried her to the bottom of the staircase. I was a little too stunned to say anything, and at least he was carrying her towards me, but it was still rather uncomfortable.)

On almost every subway train, somebody noticed the baby on my back and offered me their seat (which I politely declined, since it's not very easy to sit on a subway seat with a baby on your back, but I appreciated the sentiment). I thought back to the time I came to NYC when I was pregnant with Valerie, and I never had to stand on a subway once, because someone always jumped up to offer their seat to the pregnant woman. And once, when I arrived at a bathroom with a long line, the women in line unanimously bumped me to the front of the line because, "You're pregnant! You can't wait!"

I'm sure there are rude people in NYC, but there are a lot of people in NYC. As a percentage of the population, there are probably just as many rude people in your hometown.

I want to make a television commercial for New York City. It will have a hipster standing in Times Square, saying, "Yeah, we used to be rude, but then it got so mainstream." And then he'll see a lady struggling with a stroller and rush off camera to help her. Anyone have half a million dollars and a hipster they want to give me?

Thank you so much, people of New York City. We had a great time!






Sunday, December 04, 2011

Easy, Almost-No-Sew Car Seat Poncho

Okay, for starters, I want to make sure you know that you should not be putting your child in his/her car seat wearing a big, puffy winter coat. In a car accident, all that down/poly-fiber can compress, and your child could pop right out of both the coat and the car seat, even though the seatbelt seemed to be fastened correctly. The safest thing is to remove the child's coat before strapping him/her in, but when it's cold in the car, it can be a battle to get that coat off. (And, if your kids are like mine, it was already a battle 2 minutes ago to get the coat ON in the first place, just to make the short trip to the car.)

So, here is my solution. A poncho that can SAFELY be worn in the car seat! And you can make one yourself for a little over $4 if you possess the ability to cut with scissors and sew on two buttons. This took me 45 minutes, including the time it took to take pictures and nurse a baby. It probably will take you half that time if you are working uninterrupted.

Here's how the poncho works: (Tutorial is below the demo pictures)

1. Put poncho on child, with buttons/opening to the back. Any child will do. (These pictures show my 13 month old and my three year old wearing the same poncho.)



2. Place child in car seat, and lift the poncho out of the way so that it doesn't get caught underneath them.


3. Hold poncho out of the way as you buckle the seatbelt. The poncho should be entirely free of the seat belt.



4. Tighten belt as usual. Return poncho to cover the child so they can keep warm until the car warms up.


5. Once the car warms up, the child can just lift the poncho over their head and take it off. (Or, an older passenger can reach over and pull it off for them.)




BONUS USE: When you arrive at your destination, and you put your baby/child in a carrier, you can just turn the poncho around so the buttons/opening is at the front, and you have a cozy babywearing poncho!



Alright, are you ready to make your own?

Here's what you're going to need:
-a fleece blanket (I got mine at Family Dollar for $4)
-a tape measure
-a permanent marker
-sharp scissors
-two buttons (I just found two I liked in my extra button box)
-a needle and thread.


1. Fold the blanket into quarters. Starting at the middle of the blanket (the corner with no edges), measure towards the shortest side of the blanket (if your blanket has trim/edging, stop just before the edge of the blanket). Lock the tape measure to save this measurement.


2. Using the tape measure as a compass, mark a spot every few inches in an arc all the way across the folded blanket.


3. Cut a smooth curve just inside the marked line (so that the marker marks won't be on your finished project). Cut through all four layers of fleece.




4. Discard the edge pieces, or use them for another project.


5. Lock your tape measure at 6 inches. Starting from the same corner you used before, mark an arc with a 6 inch radius. Cut it out.


6. Unfold once. You should have a rainbow shape two layers thick.


7. Fold one side about 1/3 of the way across.


8. Fold the other side across so that the edges of the outer portions overlap by about 3 inches (give or take, depending on the size of your child's head - you can pin it, and make sure it fits over your child's head before sewing, if you'd like).


9. Line up two buttons at either edge of the overlapping section. Sew them in place, taking care to only go through the top four layers of fabric, not the bottom two.


10. That's it, you're done! You could add decorative edging, or sew around the neck hole, or add embellishments, but I'm not going to bother with any of that. Fleece won't unravel, so you can leave the cut edges as is, and it looks fine!