The hubby had a tough day on Wednesday. For the first time in probably three months, Nate decided that 4:30am was a great time to get up for a fresh diaper, full bottle, and smiley playtime.
Poor hubby. He was off from work on Wednesday, so that means it was his responsibility to get up in the middle of the night. The problem (aside from 4:30am just stinking overall) was that he was unable to sleep until 3:30am due to the terribly long (11 hour!) and stressful (i.e. crappy) work day he had on Tuesday. Nate usually gets up around 8:15/8:30am, so at 3:30am the hubby is thinking he'll get five hours sleep, totally enough to function.
Except Nate had other plans. You know that joke about how to make God laugh? (Answer: Make plans.) I think the same goes for babies. Want to entertain a baby? Try to make plans around what you expect them to do. (This is why taking Nate for his three month pictures and planning his baptism party terrified me. I knew that "planning" was really just a relative term we adults use to make ourselves feel like we have any iota of control over what a three month old being wants or needs. Ha, as if.)
But back to the hubby yesterday. Nate did go back to sleep, but he doesn't sleep long or much during the day so the hubby had about three hours of sleep. No one was around to come over and help and he didn't feel safe getting in the car and driving anywhere with Nate. I had those days during my maternity leave and the best you can do is work to keep Nate busy and entertained throughout the day so, if nothing else, he's happy.
So let's be honest: playtime with an infant is more about keeping them busy between naps, diapers, and bottles than it is about much else. Sure, they're learning motor skills and communication skills and their brain is constantly creating maps about the world around them. They've got all that going on. But you, as the central play partner, are basically just keeping busy.
So here's what keeps Nate busy these days, in case you were interested in what a 16 week old boy does with his time (or, more accurately, what we do with a 16 week old boy's time).
The first and still often useful item was/is his Infantino Twist and Fold Activity Mat:
I love everything about this playmat, especially how it's designed. (And it's designated as a playmat for boys, but really I think it's totally perfect for boys or girls.) Early on, this became an easy, safe place to put Nate down where I knew he wouldn't fall (like if he wriggled off the couch or a bed) and he would be at least somewhat entertained. It's also where I would do tummy time with him. It does "twist and fold" easily so I also take it with me to my parents' house when I go do laundry there on Friday. The domed parts make me feel even better about leaving him on there because it's like no one can accidentally not realize he's there and step on him. (Am I the only cuckoo mother that worries about that?) The domed parts are also good for hanging other things up.
Like... this LeapFrog Caterpillar:
My cousin Linda gave this to me for Nate when he was not even a month old, I think. And, truth be told, it overwhelmed me at first. Every button I pushed did something different. And then when I pushed these other buttons, all the first buttons did something else. (Truth be told, taking a shower and getting dressed overwhelmed me that first month.) But once I figured it out and Nate started actually enjoying toys (which was after he was already two months old), this became a favorite. And I have to admit, the songs are really catchy. You know, the kind of catchy that gets stuck in your head until you want to bang your head on something to get the song out?
Five little ladybugs meet for lunch. Five little ladybugs munch and crunch. One! Two! Three! Four! Five!
Four little flowers blowing in the breeze, four little flowers, pretty as you please. One! Two! Three! Four!
You get the idea. (Note: doesn't the bluebird look like the Twitter bird??) Well, Nate loves this toy - and what I've discovered is that he loves things that have voices that talk or sing. He's not so much into plain music as he is into singing. (I find this very interesting.) The caterpillar has velcro straps on it, so it can attach to the dome, stroller, or crib.
Side note: one of his favorite songs to have sung to him is "Do Re Mi" from The Sound of Music, one of my very, very, very favorite movies/musicals of all time (favorite like I can recite every single line of the movie, including all the songs, so you don't want to watch this with me). Well, he was fussing on my lap a bit Tuesday night when a commercial for a television broadcast of The Sound of Music came on. He instantly became still and utterly transfixed by the television and the songs. When I tell you I squee'd with joy, I kid you not. If he quite possibly loves that movie, I will be the happiest mommy on the block. (I'll add that I do not want him watching television yet, so I'm actually just hoping he enjoys the music.)
I always knew I wanted Nate to sit at dinner with us, even before he would be eating with us, because I think it's good to have family time at the table and for Nate to see us sitting together, talking, and eating. It's a key way children become interested in food and begin to learn how eating happens: by seeing others eat. So how to keep him at the table with us before he's big enough for his high chair?
This Fisher Price bouncy seat was a gift "from" his cousins, TJ and Brooke (my sister's kids). It's one of the items we use where I can really see how big he's gotten because in the beginning not only couldn't he reach the characters dangling on the bar, he didn't even care they were there. Now not only does he laugh at them, but he grabs them - with his hands AND his feet! And on my birthday, he actually dozed off in there while my friends and I ate cupcakes (I don't remember him actually falling asleep in the bouncer ever before or since - must've been a birthday gift for me!).
Nate doesn't sleep in his crib yet (he still sleeps in his Fisher-Price Rock & Play Sleeper in our bedroom). We have put him in the crib for a few naps recently, but those last about fifteen minutes if we're lucky. He does hang out in there, though, and "talk to his friends" sometimes while we prepare bottles or dash to the bathroom. Who are these chatty friends of his?
His Tree Top mobile friends, of course! He loves this and I've used it so much that I actually know that if you wind it up to the fullest, it runs for two minutes, nearly exactly. Imagine making dinner in two minute segments while you run back and forth to keep winding up the mobile. Welcome to some of my evenings.
But this brings us to Nate's room, which also includes his changing table, which he loves. I take a long time to change his diapers because he loves to lay there and babble to me and practice sitting up (if I let him hold my index fingers, he basically will draw himself up, nearly into a straight standing position). While he's on the changing table, this often comes into use:
Yes, his American Red Cross Healthcare and Grooming Kit. He likes the rattle it came with (you can see it here with the yellow, orange, and green balls in it) and he loves having his hair brushed. (Uh oh, what kind of trouble does that portend? Or should I be happy he loves his hair being brushed??) I love the time with him on the changing table; it always feels like special Mommy/Nate time.
But mentioning Nate's love of standing on the changing table brings us to the latest addition to our brood of busy-keeping toys - this Evenflo Exersaucer:
I don't have a link to provide for this, though, because it was voluntarily recalled in 2009 (my sister had it and handed it down to us). Why are we using a recalled Exersaucer? Well, the recall was only for Stage 3, when you use it open like the lower of the two pictures above. We don't and won't use it for Stage 3.
We use it as a place where Nate can stand and our arms don't get tired - and (bonus!) we can get stuff done! The day after we picked up the Exersaucer from my sister's house, I texted her, "The saucer is great! I was able to refill my RX online, empty AND reload the dishwasher, go pee, and change my clothes!" You don't realize how hard it can get to do those things until you have a little someone who only wants to stand, but isn't capable of standing yet and, thus, requires your arms for assistance all day long.
(I just realized that text makes it sound like I had to change because I peed. I trust you believe that wasn't the case. Thank you.)
Now, of course he gets tired in there, but being able to put him in there for even fifteen minutes at a time is a huge, huge help - much better than the two minute increments of the crib mobile. And he LOVES the Exersaucer. He spins around with it and pushes the buttons so the music plays and stretches, trying to grab for the various toys. Sometimes he flings himself around in it in a way that reminds me of early-to-mid 90s moshing. This teen/20something of the 90s is so very proud of her little moshing baby.
Nate loves to look at letters (like shirts or boxes with words on them), but he isn't interested in books yet unless they play music and sing. So we don't spend a lot of time looking at books right now, but I hope my next list of "What Keeps Nate Busy" includes some great kids' books. He already clearly loves The Sound of Music and has a penchant for moshing. Mommy's little boy has got to love books next, right?
Squarespace's spell check doesn't recognize the word "moshing" and suggests mashing, joshing, and noshing as alternatives - all of which are activities that also keep Nate happy, go figure! Oh wait, joshing and noshing sounds like something that would come out of that caterpillar toy. Oh no. The ladybugs. They munch and crunch. Help. Send help.