I think all new moms have the same fantasy (and no, not the one about a weekend away with no responsibilities, a quiet hotel room without a partner or kids, and no wake up call). I’m talking about that fantasy where we manage to be the one household with babies that exclusively uses beautiful, artistic wood toys in subdued colors that fit perfectly within the existing aesthetic of our homes. Call me naive but I too shared that fantasy. When putting together our baby registry, I picked clothes, toys, and everything in between in gender neutral colors that I would want to wear in a Honey I Shrunk Myself situation. Of course a million pink outfits and blankets came our way regardless, but that’s not the point. My vision was neutral, natural, and fitting of a Jenni Kayne vibe.
I did as much as I could do go down this path. We registered and received the Loverery Activity Gym, which she adored for the first few months. I got her beautiful teethers that she and I both love. We stocked up on super cozy grey crib sheets, grey blankets, you name it, it was neutral and we were happy. Nez had always been a sprightly baby but could never entertain herself, which I attributed to her age. I always had to sit on the floor with her, rattling a toy, moving things around, doing anything I could to keep her happy. If I got up to use the bathroom, she would start crying instantly. I thought this was my life and this was my daughter. You can’t win ’em all, I thought…
Then we got a wakeup call. Tommy, Nez and I headed out to LA to visit his parents. My sister-in-law and her baby boy would also be joining. They had lived with my in-laws in the first few months my nephew was born (looking forward to sharing that story with you when I interview her for the Real Goods Podcast!) and had a bunch of gear they’d left at the house, so we were fortunate that we didn’t have to bring much at all. Grandma had a well-stocked home of colorful toys with flashing lights that sang those high-pitched songs that you find yourself singing in the shower, days later. As soon as Nez was introduced to these toys, everything switched. She would lay down on an activity mat and be absolutely mesmerized by the bright colors, the repetitive songs, and flashing lights. She cooed and stared, flapping her arms and legs. I could go to the bathroom and not hear a peep. WHO IS THIS BABY?!
A few days later, we flew back to Portland and after walking through the door, I plopped Nez down on her activity mat so I could start unpacking. Instant freak out. She screamed, flapped her arms and legs (but not in a good way), and straight-up lost her mind. I remember yelling ‘I can’t live like this!’ as I picked her up to strap her into her car seat. Without hesitation, we headed off to Target to pick up a selection of hypnotic, annoying, bright colored toys and gear that would unquestionably look horrible but would solve the problem I desperately needed to solve. I needed my sanity back and my hands back. I needed to pee without the background noise of a baby screaming bloody murder.
My house now looks like a cartoon puked all over it but I don’t care. I lay her down on her Finding Nemo activity mat (I know.) and she flails about in delight as her Baby Einstein Symphony Star sings the same song for the 473rd time. I just finished writing this blog post at our kitchen counter while she’s on the mat, so the proof is there. Yes, I love the beautiful things that she has and one day I would like to live in a blissfully neutral home, but overall, I’m over beauty. I’m about functionality and peace of mind. Oh, and always having extra batteries on hand.
In the spirit of sharing, below is a lookbook of entertaining toys and gear that have served us well. Nez loves all of this and I hope your little one does too!