Toys from the 70's Rock!


Being an only child, I’ll admit that I have had many advantages as a kid—my own toys, my own bedroom, my own playroom, and of course, all of my parents’ attention. Knowing how sentimental my mom still is about my childhood, I wasn’t surprised when she told me that she very neatly tucked away all of my baby toys in her upstairs attic. Perhaps she thought I was going to have siblings, or knowing her, she packed them away precisely for what she’s using them for now, her grandchildren. (She’s that proactive.) I forgot about them, but little by little, they started reappearing each time my mom had a chance to watch Little Lewie.

At first I thought the notion was cute—“Awww, look, Little Lewie is playing with my old toys. I guess you can say they’ve been passed down from one generation to the next.” However, as I started watching him interact with the toys, I realized that they were more interesting to him than his new toys. Sure his new toys have all the “bells and whistles;” they sing in different languages, they make sound effects, they move on their own, and they’re super colorful. They’re basically “eye candy” for the baby. They prompt him to push a button, and watch out—there goes a laser beam, a sound effect, and flashing lights. Parents don’t even have to be in the room for these toys to entertain. Nevertheless, besides pushing the button, Little Lewie doesn’t have to do anything else except be a passive observer.

The toys from my generation were a little different. Most required my power to operate them, and some of them required his ability to learn skills—hand operations way more advanced than simply pushing a button. Sure, in essence, they required more work on both his and my part, but believe me, the reward of seeing him giggle and coo every time they are taken out is well worth it. To provide some examples, I’ve decided to list his top three favorite toys—all former inhabitants of my old toy box.

1) Squeak-a-Boo (Fisher Price)—Squeak-a-Boo is a stuffed animal that looks like a brown furry triangle with large ears, small feet, and a bright orange/yellow face. (It kind of reminds me of a very primitive Ewok. My husband thinks he looks more like a flying squirrel.) His ears very cleverly have slots to place your fingers, so you can easily bend them to cover his eyes while squeaking them at the same time. Using one hand, I waddle little Squeak-a-Boo to my son while positioning his ears to cover over his eyes. Then, I say “squeak-a-boo” and squeak his ears respectively while lifting his ears to show off his bright blue eyes and face. I only show his face for a second because then I cover it with his ears again. “Oh my goodness!” I say. “Did you see his face? He’s playing peek-a-boo with you. Hey Little Lewie, are you ready…? Squeak-a-boo!”
Squeak-a-Boo hops all over the place—to the right, to the left, on top of my son’s head. My son laughs each and every time Squeak-a-Boo squeaks and/or uncovers his face. The design is brilliant—way better than any other stuffed animal in his collection.

2) Peek-a-Boo Block (Fisher Price)—Yes, I know, another peek-a-boo concept toy, but he loves it! When Little Lewie was seventh months-old, my mom decided to take it out. It’s a yellow plastic block (a little larger than a traditional sized Rubik’s Cube) that has four bright red wheels. It’s connected to a pumping device with a fairly long cord. When you press the pump, the air makes the block squeak and pushes a little cylindrical shaped boy out of the top. The top of the block has a little door, so the door is pushed open every time the little boy comes out and closes again when the boy falls back inside. Since the pump has a long cord, my mom and I drag or roll the block around while we control the squeaking and the surprise appearance of the little boy.

When my mom dragged the block out for the first time, my Little Lewie went buck wild. “What is it?” we asked him as he curiously watched the block roll, squeak, and surprise him at varying times around the room. Sometimes the block would squeak without the appearance of the little boy, and other times, if we applied more pressure on the pump, the block would squeak with the little boy coming out at the same time. He loved the surprise element—the fact that he couldn’t predict just when that little boy might pop up.

If his thunderous laughter wasn’t loud enough the first time, it became all the louder as we brought the block up close to him, so he could see it in full view. He’d try to put his little hand on top of the block to examine it, but every time he did, we’d surprise him. “There he is. Oh no, there’s the little boy again. Can you catch him? No, he’s too fast!”

My little boy did eventually tire of the block. It happened about two and a half months later when he started realizing how we controlled it. Nevertheless, I’d say almost four months of everyday use and laughter is quite an achievement for a toy.

3) Busy Surprise Box (Kohner Bros. Inc.)—The Busy Surprise Box is a plastic yellow box, with carrying handle, that gives Little Lewie five different types of levers to pull, push, dial, flip, or slide to master hand coordination. When triggering these levers, a colored door pops up with a “surprise.” Among the “surprises” are a lion, a cat, a dog, a little brown haired boy, and a little red headed girl. (There are modern toys that are similar.) In the beginning, I almost labeled this toy obsolete because it had a rotary dial. “Who uses a rotary phone anymore?” I questioned, but the reality is that each of these skills is important to master as they improve overall hand-eye coordination.

Initially, I wasn’t sure how Little Lewie would like the toy since it doesn’t have flashing lights or sound effects. The pop-up doors are pretty basic; the only sound that comes from them is the noise of the trigger releasing and plastic hitting upon plastic. Still, it turned out to be on the top three list of favorites. It keeps him busy and entertained as he tries to figure out each of the levers. (At nine months-old, he has now mastered three of them.) For close to an hour, he practices his little skills and appreciates the “reward” or “surprise” when getting them correct. Even more, he has figured out how to close, or push down, the doors themselves. I’m not sure if this is an early sign of OCD behavior, but after each door pops-up, he makes sure to push it down again before proceeding. This toy makes me so proud of my little boy!

So, in closing, if you have old toys in an attic somewhere or have a chance to frequent a local tag sale, flee market, Goodwill Store, or Freecycle center, it might be worth investigating what treasures are out there. There may be some cheap but exquisitely designed toys that will make your baby’s list of favorites.

Diaper Dilemma


While most pregnant women are worried about important things like their diet and health, I fretted for months about baby diapers. Being the tree-hugging environmentalist that I am, I read about the carbon footprint I would be causing and leaving for future generations if I simply bought the disposable diapers, threw them in the trash, and let them take up precious space in our nearby landfill. Firstly, I could predict that my Little Lewie would probably be using anywhere between 5,000 to 8,000 diapers during his baby years, and then many reports agree that these diapers take hundreds of years to biodegrade. (I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be around longer than a dumb poopy diaper.)

My first response to this dilemma was to entertain the idea of using cloth diapers. I had read in magazines that the newest cloth diapers were hip—they used Velcro attachments instead of pins, they came in varying sizes for a snug fit, and they were designed to prevent leaks.

“Do you know how much laundry you’d end up doing?” my mom asked concerned.

“I don’t know,” I responded naively.

“We’re talking about at least one load a day. Plus, what are you going to do with the poopy diapers?”

“Well, I’d scoop the poop out into the toilet and rinse them out.”

“Annette, do you really think you’re going to have time to do that with a newborn. Let’s be serious here.”

“Well, people had no problem doing it back in the day.”

“Just ask your Great Auntie Sarah about cloth diapers. I’m sure she’ll have a few stories about their inconvenience.”

I took my mom up on the offer. Surely my Auntie Sarah would be able to provide some guidance. In fact, maybe she’d even be a little proud of me for taking up such a noble cause and doing things the right way.

“You want to do what? Use cloth diapers? Are you kidding? Annette, I slaved over those damn cloth diapers. Let me tell you. They were no easy chore. You guys are lucky to have the convenience you have today.”

“But Auntie Sarah…”

“Annette,” she interrupted. “You can’t even get those diapers clean. Oh how I scrubbed and scrubbed and still there’d be a yellow stain. Even if you use bleach, don’t expect them to be white again.”

I thought about both my mom and aunt’s remarks and realized that maybe the washing would be too difficult for me to do on my own. I went online and looked in the yellow pages for a laundry service. Surely, there had to be one that was local. Cloth diapers were a growing trend, or so I thought. After days of searching and asking around, I learned that there was a laundry service out of East Hartford and another out of Norwalk, both well over an hour away (not including traffic) from my home. Now, I’m no mathematician, but something told me that cloth diapers weren’t going to have a better carbon footprint either. Firstly, these laundry vans would be using up gas (probably diesel) to come back and forth to my house. Then, because they would collect everyone’s diapers and return a clean set (that might have been used by someone else), I’m sure they’d have to use bleach and any other harsh, non-environmentally friendly chemical to kill germs and bacteria. Finally, were these laundry services using Energy Star ® appliances? After all, I’d also have to consider the amount of water and energy they would be using in cleaning these things.

My husband kept silent during my diaper breakdown, mostly to keep away from an argument. I had to admit that he was good about recycling, about tossing food scraps into the woods, and even about shutting off lights not in use. However, his environmental efforts stopped at a point. He was no more willing to scrape poop out of diapers than my mother, my in-laws, or any of my friends who’d be watching Little Lewie from time to time.

Then, one day in April 2008, I was scanning through a baby magazine and saw the answer to my prayers—gDiapers. gDiapers combined the best of both worlds because they were cloth diapers with a disposable insert. The insert was biodegradable and could easily be placed in a compost pile or, since I knew nothing about composting, flushed down the toilet. I immediately reviewed their website and saw they were not only affordable, but they also had a lot of cute styles, too.

During the rest of my pregnancy, I bragged to anyone who cared about how I had solved the “diaper crisis.” “Oh, I’m not putting the Diaper Genie on my registry,” I’d proclaim, “I’m using gDiapers.” People were intrigued by the idea of the gDiaper and although friends of mine weren’t interested in using it for their own babies, they still wanted an update on the product once I would start using it for Little Lewie. A co-worker of mine kindly bought me a “starter pack” as a bridal shower gift. Inside the box were two tiny, newborn cloth diapers—one cream colored and the other orange. They had a little “g” written on the front and used Velcro flaps for closure. The insert, which reminded me of a wide maxi-pad, would simply be placed inside the diaper; it was definitely large enough to cover the pee-pee and poo-poo areas respectively. Still proud of myself for finding such a unique product, I savored opening the very thoughtful gift, and placed my little gDiapers and inserts into a special drawer below the diaper changing station.

When Little Lewie was first born, we used the hospital’s disposable diapers. I knew I wouldn’t have the energy to give everyone a gDiaper lesson, so I saved the very exciting experience for a private day of my own with him.

“How do those diapers work again?” my mom asked inquisitively.

“Well, when I change him, I just remove the used insert, and I put a clean insert in its place. I don’t have to actually wash the cloth diaper unless it gets dirty.”

“Are you going to throw away the insert?”

“No, I just flush it down the toilet. It’s environmentally friendly.”

“Is is okay to be used with a septic system?”

“I think so,” I muttered, frustrated that my mom may have found a flaw with my perfect diaper.

Being held up with trying the new diaper again, I researched the question on their website. The only advice the gDiaper company could tell me was to “know my septic system.” After all this fanfare, there was a possibility that our septic might not be able to handle the diaper after all. “Shitttt!!!” (No pun intended.) Having to make concessions again, I decided I would throw away the pee-pee diapers and only flush the poopy diapers.

On the day of reckoning, within minutes of dressing Little Lewie into his special diaper, he thanked me with a big stinking dump. Watery in consistency, it had soiled both the insert and the diaper itself. “Good grief,” I spoke to myself angrily as the new diaper only lasted five minutes. I removed the orange diaper, placed it in the bathroom sink to soak, and plopped the poopy insert into the toilet. Keeping my fingers crossed, I flushed the toilet and watched the insert vanish without a trace. “Okay,” I thought to myself, “this seems to work.” I placed the second cream colored diaper on Little Lewie and waited until his next diaper change. During his next change, the insert was only wet. I promised myself that I would throw this one out, but I couldn’t resist the temptation of flushing it down the toilet again. “Here, I’ll just cut off the part of the insert that’s dry so that only the wet part will be flushed down the toilet.” I flushed it down, and again—viola—it was gone.

“This is starting to be fun,” I thought to myself as I decided to use the toilet for my own personal relief. I no sooner flushed the toilet when the water, including my pee and the toilet paper, rose back up and out of the bowl like a tidal wave. “Shit!” I screamed as I watched everything in the downstairs bathroom—the sink, the washer, the dryer, and the walls— become surrounded by water. Grabbing the mop and bucket, I tried to start collecting the water, but my two week-old Little Lewie wasn’t happy about being put down.

“Lewie,” I called my husband at work, “something’s wrong with the toilet. It’s clogged, and water has backed up all over the downstairs bathroom floor.”

“Do you need me to come home? Is it an emergency?” he asked.

“Yes,” I shrieked, terrified that mold would start growing on the walls any minute now.

My husband, God bless his heart, bought a snake, dislodged the blockage, and cleaned up all the water in the bathroom, even after learning that I went against his and my mother’s advice and flushed the gDiaper down the toilet.

Fellow environmental comrades, please do not be too disappointed with me. I tried, but for now, I have surrendered to modern convenience. We use disposable diapers now.

Sunglasses Make Me Giggle


I’m in the midst of packing up the car to go shopping when my then eight month-old, Little Lewie, stares at me inquisitively and begins to giggle. The giggles start off slow, but then they become loud and fierce. What did I do? I laugh and giggle back. His laughter is contagious. A few minutes later, I’m still giggling with him wondering what on earth even started this silliness.
When I lift him up to put him in his car seat, I’m finally aware why he thinks my face is so funny. He eagerly takes a swipe at my sunglasses and giggles all the louder. “Hey, Little Lewie,” I sing. “Do you like mommy’s sunglasses?” He uses his little rake like motion to grab them off my nose and then clumsily pulls the interesting object away from my ears and face. “Hey, what are you going to do with that?” He looks at me, looks at them, and then looks back at me. Apparently, he doesn’t know what he’s going to do with them either, but at the same time, he doesn’t want to let go of his new found treasure.

I let him look at them for a few minutes, making sure he doesn’t pinch his fingers, (I’m a first-time mom, you know) realizing full well that the lenses are about to be covered with tiny little fingerprints. Do I have a tissue, I wonder. Then I realize that my shirt should clean them just fine. I snap him into his car seat and then take the driver’s seat of my little silver Poniac Sunfire. (Just two days ago, I received a letter in the mail saying that the Pontiac brand was officially ending in 2010. Soon my car would be labeled either a collector’s item or a piece of junk. I had no idea that six years after my new car purchase, I would be driving an extinct car.)
“Little Lewie, can I have my sunglasses back?” I chime as I try to playfully reach for them. “No way,” his little movements answer as he uses all his might to hold on tightly and move them out of my reach. I grab his favorite red hippo rattle to distract him and then finally reclaim my glasses.

At eight months, my little boy is really exhibiting his personality. Before, I could do almost anything to make him laugh, but now his taste is more discerning. Making fart noises only gets half a laugh, and bobbing my head looking like a wooden puppet on strings (or a total mental case—your choice) gets a mere smile. Like any parent, I’m constantly trying to think of new and fresh ideas to revitalize his funny bone. It’s a game of chance, and half the time, he’s laughing at something that wasn’t even done deliberately.

While Little Lewie has a unique personality, he still has similar interests to most babies his age. For example, he loves playing with anything that makes crinkle sounds, and he loves tags. After viewing Little Lewie’s nursery, a friend of mine once asked, “Why does he still have tags on all of his stuffed animals? Are they just for display?”
“No,” I answered, “ You see. I can’t explain it, but Little Lewie doesn’t seem to care that this tiger is soft and cuddly, nor does he care that he has blue and white stripes. He likes his little tiger because of the big red tag that’s on his ear. If I take it off, then the tiger’s allure is gone.”

Parents know about the tag phenomenon. Lewie enjoys his stuffed animals, his blankets, his towels, and his washcloths as long as they all have tags. He’ll search until he finds them, and then he’ll spend the next 20 minutes or so exploring its texture. “Is it sharp? Is it smooth? Does it taste good in my mouth? Oh how I love flicking this tag again and again with my fingers.”

Peek-a-boo is another favorite pastime for giggling. I suppose every parent has their own version of it. I first discovered his interest in it, while I was peeking at him in his Jumperoo from the kitchen. I was just peering at him in the living room to make sure he was okay, but he found my peering hilarious. Squeals of laughter came from that little mouth while he bounced so furiously in his Jumperoo that I was forced to check the weight limit again. (Are you sure that thing won’t collapse?)

Our peek-a-boo game started with me disappearing completely, only to surprise him by popping my head out from the wall that separates the kitchen from the living room. I’d say, “Peek” and then disappear again. Of course, Little Lewie was so entertained, he’d be constantly looking and waiting in my direction for me to do it again. Soon I’d start playing the game every day, but somehow peek-a-boo transformed to me now saying, “Peep” as I look around the corner. I don’t know exactly when I decided to become a barnyard animal, but to keep it interesting, I now also peer at him from our staircase, our living room window, behind the couch, and even the coat closet. (Damn those hangers keep attacking my hair!) I often wonder if my life was visible to the outside world, what people would think? “Look how cute” or “Oh my God, that woman really needs to get herself a life!”

When Little Lewie’s not in the Jumperoo, we still play, yet, another version of peek-a-boo. I’ll lie him down on the floor, cover his head with a light blanket or cloth, and announce, “Where’s my little boy? Where did he go? Where did he go?” I’ll remove the blanket but still move my head and eyes around as if I’m still looking for him. Then, when I think he least expects it, I swing my head around, gleam at him, and say, “There he is!!!” His laughter and big smile are so darn cute that I’m transfixed into repeating it again and again. By the fiftieth time, I swear my husband deliberately disappears into the bathroom so that he doesn’t have to hear my playacting anymore. Oh, he says he has to go “dootie,” but I know it’s his version of “Get me out of here, before I strangle my wife and kid.”

Are my little boy’s giggles contagious? Absolutely. Just as I need oxygen to breathe, I find that I need his giggles to get me through the day. I need them to reassure me that I’m a good mommy and that I made the right decision in giving up my full-time job. Even more, I need them to know that maybe he’ll turn out to be a healthy, happy, well-adjusted boy after all. Now where are those darn sunglasses?

A Look at My Body, Nine Months after Childbirth


A Look at My Body, Nine Months after Childbirth
May 19, 2009
Okay, I chose not to write about my body right away because it seems to be common knowledge that it takes our bodies a while to get back to “normal.” Before having Little Lewie on August 11th, I had gained fifty pounds during my pregnancy, so my once lean 135 lb. body had become a round mass of blubber weighing in at 185. No matter how many times I vowed to myself that I was not going to gain a lot of weight during my pregnancy, my voracious appetite would sabotage my efforts: “You know you want that chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. It would be great for the baby. It’s high in calcium and protein. Plus, it tastes ummmm so good.” Yes, this was the advice that would keep me up at night and keep me snacking away from early morning until bedtime. The recommended extra 500 calories per day, tripled for me, and let’s just say that carrots and celery sticks were not high on the priority list.
While I was six and seven months pregnant, I loved my body. My belly was this perfectly round glowing ball, which stirred up a lot of attention from thoughtful and supportive onlookers. My face beamed, and my body felt the best it had in years. However, by the time I had reached the end of my pregnancy, the light weight round ball felt and looked more like a heavy sack of potatoes. My thighs and butt had doubled in size, and even my arms and face looked bloated. The one body part that I was actually looking forward to seeing get bigger, to my disappointment, only changed somewhat. I had heard stories about how women with “A” cup breasts had suddenly gained these voluptuous “Double D” size boobs. Oh, how fun it would be to finally have cleavage! My husband, trying to make me feel better, said my “oranges” had now become “grapefruits,” but when I actually put my boobs to the test, I had changed from a 36 B to a mere 38 B/C. (I bought the C bra to make myself feel better, but let’s just say the cups were never completely filled up.)
The day my son was born, there was no secret why I only appeared in one or two of the thousands of pictures. After 22 hours of labor, an hour and a half of intense pushing, and a two-inch tear in my vagina, I wasn’t exactly a pleasant site. Firstly, everything from my head right down to my tree trunk legs was swollen. My make-up couldn’t begin to hide my red, puffy face, nor the excruciating pain I felt. (I swear the pushing created a few more permanent wrinkles in my forehead, too.) My hair was still matted up in knots, and I was walking and sitting like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. (It took a while for my back to straighten up after feeling the residual pain from having the epidural administered.) Finally, I was amazed to see that I still looked pregnant. Nobody in the Lamaze or Hypnobirthing classes told me that my large, protruding belly would still be there. Even my husband was amazed: “Wow, you’re still…um…big.” (Thank you for your words of encouragement, dear.)
The next few months were tough. On the one hand, I was thrilled to have Little Lewie. Tears would stream down my face frequently at the thought of how blessed I was to have him in my life. On the other hand, I was depressed about my body. I couldn’t fit into anything except for my maternity clothes, and since I didn’t have much energy from lack of sleep and sheer exhaustion, I often found myself wearing the same pajama set or sweat pants and T-shirt over and over again. Comfort came before style, so I’ll be the first to admit that my pumpkin orange cotton shirt looked less than appealing with my rainbow striped velour pants. The only value to wearing this hideous clothing was that it proved to be a great form of birth control.
Once November approached, and the days became colder and shorter, I really felt miserable. Before and during my pregnancy, I was used to walking three to four miles a day. Now with the little one, my walking time and duration was limited or halted altogether depending on the severity of the forecast. “You can’t take the baby out in this, or he’ll catch a cold,” my mother would predictably nag at the start of each day. I knew by now that germs actually caused colds, not the weather, but what if…God forbid… he did come down with a severe chest cold or ear infection? I’d never be able to forgive myself, and consequently, my mother would never be able to forgive me either. Good grief!
So now after this very bizarre journey, here I am, nine months after the birth of my son. I go on monthly trips to the chiropractor because my back and arms ache from carrying our extraordinarily solid 25 lb. son. My posture can use some work as I’ve become addicted to slouching, mostly from breast feeding and from carrying our little boy. My face, I feel, looks a little bit older and tired. I’ve lost 40 lbs. of the baby weight. I still don’t look like the super slim pregnant girl from church that left the hospital looking like she just left a photo shoot, but I’m getting there. My biggest problem area, surprise-surprise, is my belly. When looking at a side profile of myself in the mirror, I still look about two months pregnant or like I just came home from overeating at the China Buffet. The excess skin hangs over the beltline of my pants. I have a series of redish-purple stretch marks around my belly button that (I’m told) is supposed to fade in time. My belly button is larger than it used to be, but at least it’s not popped out like a turkey timer anymore. The linea negra (dark line) on my belly is still there, but that (I’m told) is supposed to fade too. Will I end up wearing my bikini to the beach this summer? I’m not sure. I have a magazine that promises me tummy results. Should I be proud of my battle wounds or should I hide them? I still have a few more months to decide…