Welcoming a New Family Member

welcoming a new family member.

My kids got a new baby cousin in the wee hours of April 13th, and all week long they asked when they would be allowed to meet her. We drove them out on Saturday, and they were so thrilled!


Little V took hold of Emma’s finger, and Emma was so pleased! Johnny thought V was very sweet, but was a little disappointed that she was so sleepy. Newborns do tend to act that way!


Lily has always adored babies, and she held her for ages with this beatific expression on her face. I don’t know that I have ever seen Lily looking quite so contented!


Anna mostly played with her little cousin S (V’s big brother, who my kids also got to meet as a newborn), but she definitely thought V was cute!


Watching Emma and Lily play with V was so sweet! This little girl has a band of very devoted little cousins!

afterschool linky

2014 After School Party HOSTS

The Educators’ Spin On It
Planet Smarty Pants
Boy Mama Teacher Mama
Coffee Cups and Crayons
Little Wonders’ Days
Mama Smiles
Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational
The Measured Mom
This Reading Mama
What Do We Do All Day

How was your afterschooling week? Are there any new babies in your family or circle of friends? Please share you elementary school aged activities in the linky below (by doing so you are giving the linky hosts permission to feature your post and to pin it to our After School Activities board on Pinterest). I loved this crayon batik project from sparkling buds and this roll a pizza game from Mess for Less from last week’s link-ups!

Activities for Babies: Stacking Cups

simple baby play idea: stacking cups - from mamasmiles.com

Baby toys are fantastic, but I find that everyday household objects can also be used to create highly engaging activities for babies! Emma’s favorite baby toy was a clear plastic shampoo bottle – she loved to watch the air bubble go up and down!

Anna saw these cups that were left over from Johnny’s birthday party and wanted them, so I decided to hand them over to see what she would do with them. She played with them for about an hour the first day – stacking, unstacking, putting them right-side-up, up-side-down. She has played with them several times since, also, although always for shorter lengths of time now that she has a basic idea of what she wants to do with them. Playing with cups is a great way for babies to practice fine motor skills, learn about cause and effect, and develop planning skills! Here you can see a short clip of Anna using this homemade toy:

Plastic cups are great for older kids, too! Set up a challenge on a rainy day to see who can make the tallest stack, or who can make a stack the fastest. Build plastic cup forts and attack them with ping pong balls. Which design is strongest? Fill a cup with marbles or candy and have kids estimate how many marbles/candies are in the cup. Have older siblings decorate cups using Sharpie pens!

What simple games have your babies enjoyed playing? You can find several of our favorite baby play pastimes in my post on activities for the very young who eat everything. Anna has stopped putting everything in her mouth (always an exciting milestone), but she still enjoys all of the activities on that list!

Looking for more baby activities? Check out this wonderful ebook!

a book full of baby play ideas that will help you enjoy parenting a baby and bond with your baby.
Do you have games that your kids like to play with plastic cups? What homemade baby toys did your children enjoy?

Birth Stories and Identity

birth stories and identity

Having my first baby was easy – to the extent that having a baby can be easy. I can’t say the same of the other three. Pregnancies got easier with each child; actually delivering the child got harder. The contrast – which many people have felt the need to point out to me, most frustratingly by an extremely grumpy delivery midwife – has made me think a lot about birth stories and identity.

I remember getting pregnant with Emma, and suddenly having women tell me all sorts of birth stories. Having a child is a life-changing experience, and there isn’t a formal space (or wasn’t, until mommy blogs came along) to talk about it. So, when someone gets pregnant for the first time, they get to hear the stories!

Sometimes, when we listen to birth stories, we get caught up in the details. Did someone have their baby at home? In the hospital? Did they get an epidural? Did they have their baby naturally? The phrasing of that last question always strikes me as odd. I have yet to meet an artificially born baby!

If you struggle with infertility, the questions get worse.

Birth Stories are important. Adoption stories are important. Infertility stories are important. Child loss stories are important.

And there isn’t actually anything wrong with the details, if you can hear them without judging. Sometimes the details are important; there are a lot of different ways to have a baby, and knowing what works and what doesn’t work for others might someday help you make a decision about the best delivery option for yourself. Sometimes the teller needs someone to hear the details as they process their own story.

But, if you are going to judge, maybe it’s better not to ask for details. At the end of the day, there are two things that matter: Is mom doing well – emotionally as well as physically? Is the baby healthy? If the answer is yes, it’s time to celebrate! And, if the answer to either of those questions is no, the last thing anyone needs is judgment.

How has your childbirth experience impacted your identity?

Best First Baby Foods: Baby-Tested Favorites


I remember feeling a little bewildered when I started my first baby on solid foods. There is a lot of conflicting advice out there for moms – what to feed babies, when to feed them, how often to feed them – basically, you won’t find a solution that will make everyone happy! Here are a few baby-friendly foods that were a big hit in our house – and pretty healthy as well! My kids have all loved feeding themselves, so these foods are perfect for that as well.

  • Diced avocado – it’s soft enough for even new eaters to gum, and fantastic nutritionally
  • Black beans with grated cheese and diced tomatoes
  • Diced bananas
  • Grapes – cut in half for smaller grapes, in quarters for larger grapes
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Yogurt tubes – freeze them to make them less messy, and for added teething relief! We like the Chobani Champions tubes
  • Soup – sometimes I give my kids the vegetables out of vegetable soup without the broth, for times when the kids want to feed themselves.
  • Diced peaches

On the go with little babies, I like to have pureed food in reusable baby pouches. Here are some of our favorite steamed puree combinations:

  • Bananas with blueberries
  • Potatoes, spinach, pureed with grated cheddar cheese
  • Apples and strawberries
  • Potatoes, tomatoes, pureed with grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Here are some foods my babies have fed themselves with spoons (yes, very messily) as they have gotten older:

  • Applesauce
  • Oatmeal
  • Soup
  • Lasagna (cut up)
  • Spaghetti
  • Lentils with rice
  • Fried rice

I find that my kids LOVE food with spices! My seven-year-old was born in the UK, and the vegetable-based baby foods there all have spices added in. Not surprisingly, they taste much better than the mostly-spice-free American store-bought baby foods!

What baby foods did your kids like best?

Baby Sign Language


When we moved to Massachusetts, Emma (now seven years old) was nine months old. I decided that I wanted to teach her sign language. I taught myself a bunch of signs frequently used with babies, and she learned along with me – with great success! By the time she was 18 months old she could sign over 200 words! Signing with Emma was wonderful – it was so easy to communicate with her! We could tell her to be quiet in church without saying a word, and during play dates I could sign share instead of having to talk to her about it. I planned to do the same with Johnny, but he was an early talker, and just didn’t seem to care much. Then Lily came along and I had three children under four, plus she was another early talker. I didn’t even try. Now Anna is nine months old and not talking, so when I was offered the chance to review the Deluxe Baby Sign Language Kit I jumped at the chance to bring sign language back into our family!

This baby sign language kit comes with a poster of basic signs, a teaching guide, and a signing dictionary, but my favorite feature is the flash cards! These cards are made like very durable board book pages, and Anna loves looking at them. She is a little young to interpret the drawings, but they are fun for her to manipulate and Emma, at age 7, can look at the pictures and learn/re-learn signs. The dictionary has most of the words you would need to sign with your baby, and there are some wonderful signing references online that you can use to expand your vocabulary. Johnny (now 5 years old) and Lily (now 3 years old) weren’t very interested in signing as babies, but they think it is really neat now! I love that this kit has brought sign language back into our home, beyond the few signs we had held onto from Emma’s babyhood!

Did you use sign language with your baby? Have you used it with older children?