For the past two or three years, Dave and I have spent a lot of time downsizing and getting rid of stuff we don’t need. I’ve written about this quite a bit. Part of our plan to stay downsized was to avoid buying more stuff. It seems obvious, right? Get rid of crap. Then, don’t buy more crap. Easy!
Downsizing has worked wonders for us. It feels fantastic to get rid of stuff you don’t need. It really does. I have a review coming of Tammy Strobel’s book You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too. Clearing out clutter in your life is totally doable, and it’s super rewarding. We are still diligent about avoiding accumulation, and we are still so, so happy to not be ruled by our “stuff.”
So imagine the horror, the impending doom, the approaching shit storm of tacky plastic crap headed our way when we found out we were having twins. Holy crap. It just seemed an insurmountable frenzy of consumerism: all the stuff you have to buy for babies. It’s an avalanche. A tsunami. A goddamned belching volcano of tacky, awful, soulless plastic crap for babies.
You might be able to tell, I have rather strong feelings about this. Dave and I dreaded hearing about all the stuff we would “need” for the babies. We had spent so much time painstakingly eliminating the excessive junk from our lives. And now we would have to fill our space back up. It actually pissed me off. It wasn’t even stuff we wanted. It was thoughtless, mass produced, big box “cutesy” crap meant to “stimulate” baby’s tiny, mushy brain.
So Dave and I decided from the very beginning NOT to get any of that crap. We would withstand the pressure. We’d reject the hype. The only plastic stuff I was excited about was getting Legos, and that is still years down the road. All the other crap could bite my ass.
Right? So. Here we are. We have three and a half month old twin boys. They are starting to “wake up.” They can clearly see past their noses and out into the world. Their eyes follow me around the room. I can see them actually starting to figure things out. They are starting to need…toys. Goddamnit.
I asked my pediatrician what she recommended for this stage, since I can’t be hovering over them during their every waking moment. She said “A play gym!” This is a mat with arms that arch overhead, loaded up with lots of plastic toys and noisemakers. Awesome!
I realize I may be sounding snotty about all this. Maybe I am sacrificing our babies’ development and “stimulation” because all the consumerist baby crap offends my aesthetics. But then, babies don’t fucking know any better. Babies could be stimulated by a poorly designed $57 gizmo that parents are convinced they must have. Or they could be stimulated by a can of creamed corn. Honestly.
But yes, I get that the babies need something to keep them entertained. Right now, that has been me. And I can only be in one place at one time. Last week, I boiled over my oatmeal three times because I had two fussy babies, and I made the mistake of also getting hungry at the same time. Silly me.
I was not going to go to a big box store and get a tacky play gym. And I didn’t want to spend over $100 on some beautiful wooden thing from Germany, either. And almost everything I saw wasn’t really big enough for twins anyway.
I began to think about how stupid easy it would be to make something myself. So that’s what I did. I got some PVC joints from the hardware store. I got some wooden dowels. I got some enamel paint.
I got four dowels at 3 feet long, and 4 dowels at 2 feet long for the legs. The idea was to make a cube, so that both boys had enough room on either side to keep them entertained without feeling cramped.
I soon realized that 3′ x 3′ was huge. And it had a big stupid empty space in the middle.
I thought the empty space in the middle would be a waste. I could have secured the whole structure with bungee cords in the middle, but this whole project was already low rent. I was trying to avoid full-on trashy. I figured it would be better to maybe make it as a cross.
But then, I realized I’d need different PVC joints than the ones I had picked up. I already needed different paint because the paint I bought at a goddamned unnamed big box craft store sucked. I hate goddamned craft stores.
So I needed new joints. And I needed new paint. My enthusiasm was beginning to wane.
Then my dad came over, and I explained the whole thing. And he’s an engineer. And he said I ought to try doing it as a triangle.
Smart, right? My dad is smart.
So that is what I did. I got different paint for the plastic pieces. I cobbled the wooden pieces into the joints and made them snug with masking tape. I hung a bunch of soft toys and mostly inoffensive stuff on it.
They actually seem to like it. The boys don’t have full control over their hands yet. But they bat at the toys, and you can watch them, they are almost figuring it out. Hey! That toy moves if my hand touches it! Wait! Is that my hand?
But what they are really saying is, Ma, stop eating your oatmeal and come play with us.