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When I last posted about Simon’s favorite things, he was young enough that most of them had to do with getting him to stop crying or easing his reflux.

Now that my little buddy is 20 weeks old, he’s got new favorites that are more about fun. Below is a list of some things that bring genuine pleasure–not simply calm or pain relief–to our lives. Some help Simon doze off, some provide good quiet alert time, others make him laugh out loud, and nearly all add to each day.

Dirty Duck: Dirty duck is a soft blanket toy given to me when I was 19 weeks along by my friend Elizabeth, who was then 22 weeks along herself. When she first gave it to me, I didn’t get it. It was like a large soft washcloth with a duck’s head attached to it. What do I do with this? Now I get it. Simon is at a phase where he loves to hold things and he loves to put things in his mouth. Instead of yanking on urp clothes, his bibs, or my hair or glasses, he now holds onto dirty duck. Why “dirty”? Because it’s been in and out of his mouth nearly non-stop and I’m not sure how to wash it. Yuck.

Patty Cake: You can “pat it and roll it and mark it with a ‘B’,” which Simon likes, or you can “roll it up, and roll it up, and put it in the pan,” which makes him laugh out loud almost every time. The key to putting it in the pan is to make your voice so high it’s a squeak, smile like a lunatic, and wiggle his hands into his belly. Sometimes now when Simon starts to look fussy, I’ll skip straight to pan-putting, and he’ll perk right up. And I laugh almost as much as Simon does when Matt accesses his rock-star falsetto to put it in the pan himself.

Crunches: Once a day at least, I prop Simon up in bed, sit in front of him, and pull him up to sitting by his arms to work on neck muscles and upper body strength. Each time he pulls up with this head level with his back, I cheer him. This has now become a game that Matt calls “crunches”. Despite all this exercise, we have seen no sign of a baby six-pack developing.

Crib-side Aquarium: A present from Aunt Bobbie, the crib-side aquarium sat unused until two weeks ago, when the Snuggle Nest came out of his crib. Not only does Simon like watching the bubbles, lights, and fish, but he will also fall asleep while looking at it. This is a huge milestone for us, as Matt has now put Simon down for the night while he was still awake almost every day for two straight weeks. If this pattern holds, we’ll have a lazy route to sleep conditioning.

All My Loving: “I’ll pretend that I’m kissing, the lips I am missing…”. I bought the Smithereens’ Beatles tribute a while back (after hearing about it on NPR of course), a dutiful, song-for-song cover of “Meet the Beatles.” Simon likes the whole thing, but track six, “All My Loving”, seems to be the great favorite so far. I’m not sure if it’s the song he likes or the fact that I know all the words and can hit all the notes. I’ll pretend it’s the former. Whatever the case, this track is the one we are most likely to dance to.

Redheads: That Simon is all smiles for his Auntie Jen came as no surprise to me. She sees him often and always has a high-pitched hello and big smile for him. But then on Valentine’s day he immediately fell for Dan’s frend Jessica, who also has red hair. As I have a thing for red-heads myself, it’s entirely possible I’ve passed this on. I’ll be on the lookout for signs that he’s taking a shine to Tristan (who has, incidentally, taken a shine to Simon), and I can’t wait for him to meet his Auntie Cindy and pen-pal Fiona.

The Busy Elephant: This pachyderm is a large blue aesthetic horror. It’s got one ear that crinkles, another with a bell in it, a phone dial in one leg, etc. It’s every baby toy imaginable packed into one stuffed package. Simon hasn’t noticed most of its features, but he’s all over a belled ball that sits on the tip of its trunk and loves to swat at it. To which we say–after Simon took several swings at his old man–better the busy elephant than us!

Books: I had read that a bedtime ritual was a good way to help babies sort out day from night and be ready for sleep. The suggestion was to give baby a bath, have some quiet time, and then read a bedtime story. HA! Now that Simon can focus, there is nothing quiet about story time. He looks at pictures, listens to us, and then gets totally wriggly and hyper, not unlike the little mouse in the story “The Very Noisy Night”. (This hilarious story is about a little mouse who wants to crawl into bed with a big mouse. But big mouse is having none of that because, in his own words, “You are wriggly and your paws are always cold.”)

The Changing Pad: There’s no question about it. Simon has some of his happiest moments on the changing pad. He smiles the minute you put him down, and by the time he’s down to just a diaper he is usually kicking and laughing like mad. It’s hilarious–but does make for some rather difficult changes.

Chinaberry: A favorite of mine: When I was pregnant, my boss Karen asked me several times what I needed and where I was registered. I demured. I had almost all I needed. If you must shop for me, I told her, surprise me.

Boy did I score. I not only got three delightful books and an organic cotton stuffed animal that I adore, but I was also introduced to the company whence they came, Chinaberry. Chinaberry features children’s books sorted by level, books on parenting, some adult good reads, and a selection of gifts and educational toys. All are selected by its owner and staff as best in breed, and all focus on non-sexist, non-violent stories that engage the imagination and foster intellectual development, gentleness, and nurturing. Once I saw their catalog I was hooked. I’ve now got one book on parenting (Parenting Well in a Media Age), two books for Simon (I Kissed the Baby! and This Little Piggy), and a washable outdoor blanket on the way. If you shop for kids, I highly recommend this outfit.

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