Ben at Nine Months

Ben at Nine Months


22 pounds

27 3/4 inches

He’s begun really crawling this week and he can pull himself up to stand. But he can’t figure out how to sit up when he’s flat on his back.


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  • I agree about Barbies and merchandising and open-ended toys. With two little girls just turning one I’m kind of dreading the “gifting” of Barbies or something Princess themed (ack). I also weed out any characters from the kids clothes (preschooler son); why do I want to advertise a company on my child? Anyway, everyone is different but I agree.

  • Years ago the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) imported a programme called Fat Tulip from the BBC (British …..).  Tony Robinson was the only character and he told the story of Fat Tulip and his adventures.  I loved it and so did my children.  The programme disappeared from our TVs and only recently I discovered that the BBC pulled it because there was no possibility of any spin off marketing because the characters only existed inside the head of the story teller and his audience.

    Tony Robinson was Blackadder’s sidekick Baldrick for those who are familiar with British programme.

  • Diana,

    If there are any toys the girls receive that I particularly dislike they often don’t get removed from the gift bags. The girls glance at them in the haste of opening presents but seldom remember what they get. At any rate there are usually so many toys received at a birthday or Christmas that the disappearance of a few won’t be noticed.


    That’s the kind of thing that makes me fuming mad. Fat Tulip sounds like the kind of program I’d love.

  • Well I can’t say I agree, or use, any of the rules you described above—I’m pretty sure we have at least one or more of each non-approved category.  That’s OK, though: your house, your rules.  We OTOH are much much more likely to have strong opinions about acceptable music!  I’d like fewer as well, but there I am outnumbered.

  • I pretty much agree with the preference for toys made of natural materials, especially since i grew up with Holgate toys myself.  The irony is that I gravitate sometimes to wooden toys that have some sort of synthetic or polymer-based surface treatment that preserves the wood.
    I’m not as adverse to plastic toys, but that could be beause I worked so much around engineering plastics that I actually see beauty in plastic’s beautiful usefulness.  Loud shiny plastic toys, no thank you. But sometimes a wonderfuly detailed durable toy can oly be realized in plastic, like Playmobil, or Early Learning Center (who also does beautiful wooden toys) play sets from the UK we’ve been able to buy in Hong Kong , and especially Legos. Oh my the engineering behind Legos is so incredbily sophisticated.
    I’m still torn about Barbies, only because Barbies were my favorite in grade school.  Maybe Ginny dolls, so that she gets the dress-up doll fun without the skewed anatomy lesson.
    And what will you choose abuot Matchbox and Hot Wheels? I gave in.

  • I love your toy rules.  But I would agree with Jen that there are many exceptions about plastics.  My third child loved the Playmobile 1-2-3 and used them to act out family stories after her younger brother was born, just as my first had used the old (now unobtainable) Fisher Price little people after HER younger brother was born.

    Neither of my girls liked dolls at all.  They used stuffed animals instead, infinitely.  I was relieved when Beanie Babies became popular, because they were so much smaller and easier to store (like you, we had lots and lots of aunt and uncle gifts).  We did end up buying my oldest an American Girl Doll (hideously expensive and I don’t recommend them!!!!) for social reasons – a girl at her school had started a club but you had to have a doll to join. 

    My sons live in a plastic world, however.  Lego, Lego, everywhere… and not a piece to spare.  They build the sets, and eventually disassemble them and make up their own creations.  I look at the initial sets as good for developing building skills and ideas, and I’m not afraid of them being a closed set any more.  When my oldest son reached fifteen and (somewhat reluctantly) ceded official title to the Legos to his ten year old brother, the immediate result was a fight between the ten year old and the five year old about whether the ten year old would also have to cede title at age fifteen.  It was hilarious!  Now we are approaching that magic fifteenth birthday, and lo, the Legos will indeed be passed to a new owner.  With some reluctance, and with some sadness on my part to see my next-to-littlest growing up.  Well, he’s six feet tall, so I guess you could say he’s pretty well grown!

    We used to dread the sound of our oldest emptying the one blocks basket in the morning.  Little did we realize! Enjoy these years, they pass quickly.

  • I also agree with the preference for natural toys and toys that encourage creative play. They don’t always go together in our house though. For example, we have a nice sized collection of Mr./Mrs. Potato Head and my girls definitely get creative with them (I never would have thought of an umbrella for a nose!). We also have some Fischer Price Little People and Zoo Animals with which the girls get very creative.

    I am adverse to anything too loud and I do not like Barbie and will not let one in my house. I had her whole house when I was growing up but can’t say as I ever cared about her or her stuff (except maybe that convertible car). Didn’t care for her then and don’t now. That said, I did grow up on Disney and my family is fond of Disney so Disney Princessess and the like are in our house. Now I definitely have my limits. For example, no princess themed bedding or furniture. But my girls like to play dress-up as Cinderella and Minnie Mouse and Tinker Bell and we do have figurines of various Disney characters that the girls do get creative play out of. Disney is pretty much where we stop though. We have no Barney, no Dora, no Sesame Street (although, being from NY, I grew up on that one too).

    I guess our house is a bit of a mixed balance but with limitations. If I were completely surrounded by Disney Princesses, I would be sick but likewise, I guess having lived with Disney for 30 years, I don’t mind having some Disney in my house. But Barbie is forbidden.

  • Interesting post—I’ve long admired the way you are bringing up your children as it reminds me of how my mother brought me up.  Of course, we didn’t have the bombardment of choices that are available now, so there were fewer distractions and options.  But it was lots of books, dolls, games, imaginative play, etc.  Do you allow your girls to watch TV or videos?  I’ve often wondered that, as I don’t recall you mentioning it before. 

  • Jen,

    We’ll probably do Legos too at some point.  I do acknowledge that sometimes plastic just gets the job done. But I’m still conflicted about it—I’m not even sure why exactly though it may be lingering shreds of an adolescent Romanticism inspired by too much Little House and Anne of Green Gables.

    Hot Wheels/Matchbox already has a toehold here in the form of about half a dozen cars I don’t quite have the heart to purge and I sort of don’t mind except I’m paranoid about Ben getting hold of them and swallowing a wheel.

    Katherine, Dom’s family are all big into Disney too and he doesn’t get why I am not. I think maybe it all goes back to my feeling of betrayal when they butchered my beloved Little Mermaid. I’ve never forgiven them for that.

  • Mary,

    They don’t generally watch tv. Every once in a while they peek over Dom’s shoulder at football, baseball or NASCAR or the occasional cooking show. Our family saves most tv watching till after the kids are in bed.

    When she was younger Bella did get to watch Finding Nemo on the car DVD player (it came with the car) on long road trips. And once or twice when she’s been sick I’ve put a video on for her.

    Mostly the girls watch short videos on You Tube. I have a playlist of favorite music videos they watch occasionally. Some classical pieces, some folk songs. I’ve tried to look up videos for many of the songs in a songbook I got for the girls that they love me to sing from. I love that they will sit through Bach’s Magnificat. I’ve taught Bella the names of quite a few musical instruments so that she can tell the difference between a cello, violin and guitar.

    Also, there are a few cartoon shorts that Dom will sometimes play for them to keep them amused during dinner prep time.

    But watching videos isn’t a daily thing. And they can go weeks at a time without seeing a video.

    In fact I find that the more they watch, the more they want to watch. The are never satisfied with one viewing but seeing one will make them beg for more videos and more videos. It’s very addictive and I don’t like that at all. I limit screen time mainly as a self-preservation tactic. The less they watch the less I have to fight battles to limit their viewing.  As they grow older I think watching videos will become more frequent; but I think small children are better off with little or no screen time.

  • I really truly love toys.  Most of ours are from ebay and garage sales.  I agree with most of your manifesto, but we are also in Legoland here and have some Playmobil, in addition to some old Fisher-Price things, and I love all of them.  And are you going to keep Ben away from the Thomas the Tank Engine franchise?  It’s hard to do, believe me.  In fact, an interesting thing about the Thomas franchise is that it appeals to educated, upper-middle-class parents, which made the recalls in 2007 more of a shock, since those wooden engines aren’t your dollar-store junk toys.

  • I suppose I could have been clearer that this is more of a wish list than a description of how things actually are around here. I meant to illustrate with pictures of our toy baskets to show the mix of plastic and wood. But they were all bad shots and the photos of the girls at the park throwing sticks just screamed to be used instead.


    I’m hoping maybe to have a nice non-franchised wooden toy train set like my brothers used to have.

  • I hope you can stick with the non-franchised wooden trains, Melanie.  My little boy wasn’t interested after a while in trains that “didn’t have faces.”  You’d better not let him watch Thomas videos on Youtube, of which there are many hundreds.  I love watching those videos myself.  I want to live on the Island of Sodor.

  • re:  Thomas

    Get the book.  I mean the really, really big “all the Thomas books in one” book.  The stories are great.  The video series (at least the oldest ones) are just reading the stories with illustrative video, so I didn’t mind them if I needed a video for before-dinner sanity or safety.  The stories were written by an Anglican minister around WWII or just postwar.  They all have a good moral, and I loved, loved the characters of the trains.

    I was so sad about the recall—our Thomas-buying days are on hold until grandchildren now, but it’s hard to trust a franchise when there’s been a problem.

    We just bought the trains (often as potty training rewards), and got knock-off tracks at TJ Maxx.

  • I agree with most of your manifesto, too, and toys are one of my “issues.”  Having said that, we have entered the Barbie era, and I’m even trying to limit my trademark pointing-out-flaws approach to crummy toys and crappy books.  I think my feelings on the subject are pretty transparent to my kids, and that they know I am frustrated by the number of things that keep coming into our house.  So I don’t harp too much on the few Barbies my daughter has acquired, because I think it would come across as “Mommy hates Barbie” and not “Mommy has well-reasoned arguments against Barbie which you’ll understand when you’re older.”

    Anyway, you inspired me to blog on the subject.  Maybe we can have a tea party sometime and play with the beautiful handmade wooden Noah’s Ark my children refuse to notice.

  • cmh,

    I’m sorry you were insulted by what I wrote but I’m also rather perplexed. I don’t think you read what I wrote very carefully. Or else you are reading with extreme prejudice and don’t actually care what I wrote. You attribute to me many things that I did not say.

    “I don’t think you should assume every woman would enjoy nursing and nurse in public constantly if not for Barbie or modern secular society “sexualizing” the breast.”

    I never assumed anything of the sort. I think that women who don’t enjoy nursing or don’t enjoy nursing in public probably have many and varied reasons. Also it’s rather a secondary point to my flippant attempt to dismiss Barbie; but I could write quite a long essay on the many and varied reasons that women choose or choose not to breastfeed their babies.

    I do think that breasts’ primary function is the nourishment of babies. I do know that many other societies have much more relaxed attitudes toward breastfeeding in public.  I suspect a part of why our culture is so opposed to it is because of an over-sexualized attitude towards breasts.

    I don’ disagree that breasts are sexual. They probably have been attractive to men since Eve first grabbed some leaves to cover herself. What I said is that our society over-sexualizes them. Somehow in these other cultures women who expose their breasts to feed their babies are not thought of as arousing and don’t feel a need to cover themselves while feeding their children in public. Why is that exactly?

    Somehow in our society the idea that the primary purpose of the breast is feeding a baby has been lost. I suspect that the advent of formula is the primary reason. But Barbie and Playboy and Victoria’s Secret have all perpetuated the disconnect.  They contribute to the fetishization of breasts, the objectification of women as sexual objects.

    “I almost always avoid nursing in public, not because I’m somehow ashamed of what I’m doing but because for 50 percent of society breasts are arousing, whether there is a baby attached to them or not.”

    That’s interesting because it exactly supports my point. I never implied that shame comes into it at all. not sure where you got that. Just that people think of breasts as arousing whether a baby is attached of not. That’s it exactly. Men and women too have been trained to think that a woman’s breast that is always and everywhere about sex, regardless of the presence of a nursing baby. That seems unnatural to me.

    “if I had daughter… I’m not sure I’d buy dolls on the basis of whether or not their fake anatomy could support nursing or an ergo sling.”

    Yeah, it’s not high on my priority list either. Mainly, I don’t buy them dolls at all. My primary criteria are whether they encourage creative play. I also look for dolls which I find aesthetically pleasing. Barbie to me is ugly and unnatural looking and ties in with a lot of what I find troubling about modern Western civilization.  Your mileage may (obviously) vary.


  • There are lots of points I agree with, Melanie, but I’m afraid I find your comments about breastfeeding and Barbie odd, if not a bit insulting.

    I didn’t play with Barbie when I was young (too expensive for my parents, probably) but I still don’t enjoy breastfeeding and I don’t think you should assume every woman would enjoy nursing and nurse in public constantly if not for Barbie or modern secular society “sexualizing” the breast.

    First, the breast IS sexual and I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen with the advent of Barbie and Playboy in the 1950s. I almost always avoid nursing in public, not because I’m somehow ashamed of what I’m doing but because for 50 percent of society breasts are arousing, whether there is a baby attached to them or not. 

    Second, if I had daughters (just sons so far!) I’m not sure I’d buy dolls on the basis of whether or not their fake anatomy could support nursing or an ergo sling.

    So, again, some good points but I had to voice my objections to that one area.