the adventures of ernie bufflo

things magical and mundane


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i am the toddler, sometimes

“And for those of you traveling with small children or those acting like a child, be sure to put on your own air mask before attempting to assist others.”

She wasn’t quite viral video worthy, but my Southwest flight attendant on the way home from my sister’s bachelorette weekend had jokes.

I breathed a sigh of relief that, for a change, I wasn’t flying with twins. I may have failed Southwest’s boarding system and ended up with a middle seat every dang leg of the trip, but compared to flying with a toddler in my lap, it felt like first class. In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, the only person I had to worry about was me. No toddlers here.

Except that really, sometimes I’m the toddler.

No slappy hands here, just puppy love. (Not our puppy, though I was tempted to steal her.)

No slappy hands here, just puppy love. (Not our puppy, though I was tempted to steal her.)

Told she can’t have something she wants, my toddlers will get out their slappy hands. They’ll throw themselves to the floor. They’ll use the word “mama” like something you can’t say on television. They’ve been known to throw whatever’s nearest, or to sweep an entire stack of books off the shelf, just to prove a point.

Just a toddler being irrational, I’ll think to myself. One day they’ll be able to control themselves.

Except that sometimes, a lot of the time, I’m the one being irrational. I am the one who can’t control myself. When angered, I have been known to throw things. I’ve been known to use my words as weapons. I’ve been known to make a lot of noise, to flop down on my bed and cry, or to attempt to run away. I’ve wanted to slap away hands that try to hold me. I deceive myself into thinking that I’m a grown up, able to handle myself, but the truth of the matter is, a lot of the time, I don’t really WANT to control myself. I want to be out of control, crazy, to let the storm of my emotions rage. And nothing provides such constant provocation quite like my kids.

Parenting toddlers means I often must first stop to put on my own air mask, or rather, to parent the toddler inside of me who is triggered to rage by the toddlers I birthed. I find myself telling myself the exact same things I tell them. Take a deep breath. We don’t throw things. We don’t yell. Your feelings are OK but what you’re doing with them is not. When you feel so mad that you wanna roar, take a deep breath and count to four (OK, that one’s from Daniel Tiger.)

Parenting toddlers means I’m finally facing how, in a lot of ways, I’m not really a grown up. I still have much to work on. Luckily, mercifully, blessedly, for as crazy-making as they can be, my toddlers are also excellent models of forgiveness and grace. This morning, we got off on the wrong foot. Sippies were thrown, lids flew off, and apple juice exploded everywhere. Of course, now having no apple juice to drink, fits were thrown. I am not proud to admit that I yelled and then hated myself for yelling, because it scares my kids. I treated all of us like toddlers– muscled us through the motions of getting dressed, got us some breakfast to calm the hangry, refilled our cups with apple juice and coffee. Soon, I was snuggled in a chair with sweet babies with soft hair that still smells like baby shampoo. I was covered in wet toddler kisses. All was again right with the world. They don’t dwell, and neither should I. We just move on, we grow up a little each day, and we keep on working. Kisses help. So does coffee.


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it’s a small world: the happiest 2nd birthday party that ever sailed

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When we went to Disney World last October, hands-down, the bufflogals’ favorite attraction was It’s a Small World. I have to admit that though the song is a bit of an earworm, I love it too. I love the look and the spirit of It’s a Small World, and, after doing a bit of research, loved it even more after I learned its look was largely created by a woman named Mary Blair– love supporting a woman artist! After we got back from that trip and told my Disney-loving parents how much the girls loved the ride, they gave us a Small World storybook that came with a CD of the song. That CD now lives in my car stereo and is deployed whenever someone starts screaming in the car. Instant happy.

The girls’ love of It’s a Small World led me to choose it as the theme of their second birthday party. My vision was bright colors and international food. I wanted to get crafty and creative without going too over-the-top. I think I achieved my goals. We had the party the weekend before last, and we had a great time celebrating two years with our girls with our friends and family.

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The cake table. I painted the Small World facade on a sheet after drawing it from some illustrations online. The actual ride facade is pastel, but the inside of the ride is vibrant primary colors. I wanted bright colors for the party, so I took some artistic liberties with the colors of the exterior because I felt they were keeping with the spirit and look of the ride. There are some lovely pastel versions out there though which served as my inspiration. The table runner is from Hobby Lobby, saved from the girls’ First Fiesta first birthday party.

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I made funfetti cupcakes and used premade frosting. Honestly, I prefer homemade cupcakes because I don’t like a giant tower of frosting taller than the cake part itself. This was easy and cheap– I had plenty of cupcakes for less than $15. I bought the files for the pictures of the international kids on Etsy and my sister kindly sized them all onto a page so I could cut them out and glue them to toothpicks to make cupcake decor.

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Here you see the food setup in the kitchen. The paper lanterns and flag banner are from Oriental Trading, and the runner is from Hobby Lobby, another leftover from the First Fiesta. Food-wise, I went with an international theme. We had veggies and pita chips with hummus and ranch; tortilla chips with cheese dip, salsa, and guacamole; beef taquitos; chicken egg rolls; and fresh fruit.

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In the front room, we had It’s a Small World coloring pages (click those links to get to the free printables) and crayons set up as an activity. Almost no one colored. I made some of our adult friends sit down and color after most folks had left! Still, this is an easy, cheap, thematically appropriate activity for this type of party, and I think it would have been a useful thing to do if more of our guests were in the 3-6 age range.

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For the kids, the biggest hit of the party was definitely the ball pit my husband’s parents bought off of Amazon. You can see that Claire is so stoked, she can hardly contain herself. Pretty much every kid there spent most of the party in and around the ball pit. I love that it folds up like a laundry hamper and that the balls go into a zip-top bag, and plan to pull out the ball pit on rainy or cold days when we’re trapped inside and need some fun.

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For the adults, the biggest hit of the party was definitely the margarita machine. We borrowed it from one of my husband’s coworkers, and it was so much fun. For the kiddos, I did one side in KoolAid fruit punch, and that worked great, too.

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It was hard to get a picture of the birthday girls in the Small World dresses I sewed for them, but here you can at least see them! They were a little too big, and Etta kept pulling her arms inside. Oh well. I had fun sewing them, and that’s why I made them.

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The birthday girls were all about the singing and cupcake part of the festivities.

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Allllllllll about it.

Overall, I think It’s a Small World made for a really fun party theme, and we had a great day celebrating our girls. Couldn’t ask for more in a birthday party! If you want more Small World party ideas, check out my Pinboard.

 


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A Claire Update

Having just spent my morning getting myself and the girls ready to go to Spina Bifida Clinic, three hours and change trapped with two two-year-olds in one exam room, and having gotten them home without car napping and successfully into and asleep in their beds, I pondered a daytime adult beverage. Instead, I wrote a blog post.

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We climbed strollers and played iPad games.

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We made sure everyone had a drink while watching Cars. “Heredo Sissy.”

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We kind of lost our minds.

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What this mama looks like when she feels more than a little insane after a rough morning in clinic.

Spina Bifida clinic is always like this– they try to line up 3-5 services to see patients all in one day, and this leads to a lot of waiting for one or the other to get out of an OR or out of another patient’s room to see you. All day clinic visits were rough with infants, but they are just essentially impossible with toddlers. I was well-prepared with snacks, toys, iPhone and iPad, and even a movie, but by about hour two we were losing it. I even got both girls strapped into the stroller and told the clinic coordinator we were leaving, which prompted her to kindly give us some snacks and swear that the orthopedist was definitely actually on his way for real this time, no kidding. These long days make sense for people who come from all over the state to the clinic and don’t want to drive to Little Rock for multiple services. But for someone like me, who doesn’t always have childcare and lives about 3 miles from the hospital, it doesn’t make sense. From now on, I’ll be making appointments to see only one service at a time. No more trying to corral my little ones in a tiny room for hours on end.

The good news is, Claire is doing great. I have never felt more smug than I did this morning, watching her walk in front of a rehab medicine doctor who previously said she’d never walk. Now, I get irked with other parents of kids with disabilities who seem offended when doctors say their kids can’t do something, as if the doctors are trying to be mean when they say these things. I appreciate both as a patient and the wife of a pediatrician that doctors are just trying to provide realistic expectations. I don’t think it’s about deciding what a kid can and can’t do, or limiting them in any way. HOWEVER, this particular doctor had, in my opinion, at the time of making that declaration, not done a particularly thorough exam, and didn’t seem to be listening to me when I told her Claire was already doing things that, if this doctor were right, she wouldn’t be able to do. This was particularly frustrating when our amazing orthopedics team has always been very optimistic about Claire’s potential to walk and had also done a very thorough exam to see exactly where she has sensation and strength and where she doesn’t. So, watching Claire, strapped into her AFOs, strutting across that tiny exam room made me proud as proud can be. I resisted the urge to stick out my tongue and say “TOLD YA SO” though, because I am an adult, most of the time.

We did get a prescription for a reverse walker, so you might see Claire using one in photos in the future. We don’t think she will need a walker forever, but it will be something she can use while she’s still getting strength and her legs under her, and will allow her more independence in the meantime. I have visions of taking it with us to the zoo and her zooming all over. I can’t wait to get it!

We didn’t see urology or neurology today, but both rehab and ortho think she’s doing great, and I agree. She’s just figuring things out and making new strides all the time, and I am so very proud of her. I’m proud of both my girls.

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watching Frozen with my daughters: disability as superpower and the power of sister-love

My kids are only two, so I’m still not fully in the loop of kid-culture. Frozen largely stayed off my radar during its run in theaters, because I am NOT crazy enough to take these two to a movie in a theater yet, and I didn’t even see trailers because we don’t have cable and they don’t show ads for movies on Hulu very often. I’d see posts in my social media feeds from moms of older kids complaining about watching it for the umpteenth time, or having the songs stuck in their heads, and I even saw a few videos shared that related to the film, like those self-declared good-looking parents lipsynching. (Tip: unless you’re Derek Zoolander, never talk about how good-looking you are.)

All that said, the other day we bought Frozen and tried to watch it as a family. The girls had had a long, late nap that day, so we were looking for a low-key evening activity. And I’d been kind of curious about a movie I heard was about two sisters– I have a sister and am raising a pair of sisters and YAY SISTERHOOD, you know? I popped popcorn, and all four of us snuggled on the couch, and we pressed play. Elmo? the girls asked. And kept asking. Basically, through the entire movie they wanted to know where the heck Elmo was, and if Elmo wasn’t in this movie, why were we watching it at all? We didn’t even finish before putting them to bed.

But I caught enough of the movie to dig a fairly feminist message of sisterhood and familial love being as strong and important as romantic love, and I knew I wanted to really watch the film, despite my distaste for Olaf the Abominably Annoying Snowman. So the other day when the girls were napping, we watched Frozen again, without the girls. And upon this viewing, I noticed something different. I started to see a disability narrative where I hadn’t seen one the first time, perhaps because I was distracted by all the demands for Elmo. As I watched this time, I started wondering which girl was Anna and which girl was Elsa, the same way my sister and I used to say, “I’M BELLE!” back before anyone needed a Buzzfeed Quiz to identify with a fictional character.

And it occurred to me, my little white-blond Claire is Elsa. Not just because of the hair, either, but because of Spina Bifida, too. Like Elsa, Claire was born with something that makes her different. Something that has risked her life, something that many might think she should be ashamed of or at least try to conceal and minimize as possible. Like Elsa, Claire will have to learn how to live with this difference, and will perhaps grapple with it, struggle against it, though I hope she will not. I hope she’ll accept her whole self as a whole person, and I want her to see her disability as just another way of being a person in the world, but I do know that like any other part of ourselves that makes us different, she may struggle a bit before she decides how she feels. Elsa, for much of the story, has the idea that her difference is something that must be hidden, that is dangerous to others, that is a barrier to her participation in both family and work life. Notably, this is something she is taught, as at first she plays around with her powers and sees them as a way to connect with her sister. I never want Claire to get the idea that her difference is something to hide. “Conceal, don’t feel” could basically be summed up as the opposite to my philosophy on identity and self.

I admit that I worry that difference will come between Claire and Etta, that one will resent the other either for being able-bodied or for requiring more care and attention, just like Elsa’s powers come between her and Anna. I also must say that I hope they realize the bonds of sisterhood and family love draw them closer than any difference could ever separate them.

Maybe one day, when my girls are a little less Elmo-obsessed, they will be able to watch and identify with Frozen. I hope they don’t get caught up in who has power or who is different. Instead, I hope they understand that for both of them, able-bodied and disabled, the things that make them different are essential to who they are, and that the love and the bond of twin-sisterhood between them is stronger than any difference could possibly be. I’d be fine if they avoid cavorting with annoying snowmen, though.

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happy birthday, bufflogals!

Etta and Claire are two today. The last two years have been the craziest, hardest, best, most beautiful years of our lives. And every day they just get better. I’ll spare the sap, but here’s a little photo retrospective.

brand new bufflogals

brand new bufflogals

I didn't get to hold Claire, because she had to be immediately transferred to Children's Hospital to prepare for her spina bifida closure surgery.

I didn’t get to hold Claire, because she had to be immediately transferred to Children’s Hospital to prepare for her spina bifida closure surgery.

Still can't get over how tiny they were. I was pretty proud of my 6 lb 34 weeker twins, though.

Still can’t get over how tiny they were. I was pretty proud of my 6 lb 34 weeker twins, though.

First photo as a family of four, 9 days later, in the NICU with Claire.

First photo as a family of four, 9 days later, in the NICU with Claire.

First birthday cake/pudding.

First birthday cake/pudding.

One year as a family!

One year as a family!

And last weekend.

And last weekend.

And now they’re two. I expect a little bit of terrible but a whole lot of terrific.


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never say never to say this

photo-4I feel like every day a new post like this pops up in one of my social media feeds. Today it was “9 Things Never to Say to the Parents of a Newborn.” I’ve seen others about things not to say to pregnant women, or twin parents, or even parents of kids with disabilities. And even though I have even shared a post of things you actually CAN say to parents of kids with disabilities (because hey, that one was actually helpful), I think my list of things you should never say is rapidly boiling down to only one bullet point:

 

  1. Never say a list of things people should never say.

 

My rules for relationships are all summed up in one very wise quote from the movie Bill and Ted’s Most Excellent Adventure: “Be most excellent to one another, and party on, dudes.” The gist is: be kind to others and yourself. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Know that generally, things said by people who care about you do come from a place of caring. If they ask how your wife who just had a baby is doing, why not assume they are sincerely asking? Instead of writing a blog post about what a moron someone is for asking you to let them know how they can help out with your new baby, why not say “hey, actually, could you come rock and snuggle the baby while we shower and nap?” People LOVE to rock and snuggle babies, and lord knows every new parent needs a shower and a nap.

Being Most Excellent also means assuming that the people you care about and talk with are doing the best they can with what they know, and will generally ask for advice if they need it. Being Most Excellent means that if you can’t make that basic assumption, that someone is doing the best they can to make the right choices for themselves and their kids, maybe what you need is to not be friends with them, rather than attempt to shame them either outright or via passive aggressive article posting about baby sleep/baby feeding/car seats. Being Most Excellent means thinking for just a second before you speak, which would save you from something dumb like asking if boy/girl twins are identical, or offering some unsolicited advice to a mother of a child with a disability.

And Being Most Excellent means that sometimes, you might have to talk with someone about how they said that thing they just said and how it made you feel. I know I sometimes need to give myself a talk about using ableist language like using “lame” as a pejorative, for example.

Rather than publish a list of Things Not To Say to a Mom of a Child with Spina Bifida, I’d rather offer an open invitation to people who know me or read my words: if you have a question, even if you’re worried about how I might take it, please feel free to ask. If you’re coming from a place of Being Most Excellent, I promise to do my best to Be Most Excellent right back. I think if people felt more free to talk and ask about hard things in life, we might spend less time tiptoeing around each other and more time really connecting. I remember being sincerely asked how I was doing when the girls were newborns and breaking down sobbing in the arms of some friends, because it was exhausting and hard and I needed a break. And you know what? Just connecting, and literally crying on someone’s shoulder, and getting a hug and some encouragement? It was way more valuable than some weird polite attempt from someone who’s read too many “never say” lists and become afraid to ask how someone’s doing.

Note: this Be Most Excellent thing pretty much only applies to people you have an actual, established relationship with. A friend asking me about, say, Claire’s leg braces would be quite a different thing than a stranger in a store, where the asking serves to point out her difference and put her on the spot in a way that I don’t want her to be when she’s just going about her day to day life. But if you’re close enough to come over with food or rock my newborn, I promise you are close enough to ask me about just about anything, and I promise not to jump down your throat. I can’t promise not to tell you if the language you use is problematic or hurtful, but I do promise not to be a jerk about it. Let’s all try to Be Most Excellent. Party on, dudes.


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two

In three days my two will be TWO. It at once feels huge and also like no big deal at all. Huge because they are definitely not babies anymore. They’re walking, talking, singing, thinking, hugging, kissing little humans. And no big deal at all because I am a giant sap who Lives in the Moment and Loves Each Phase as it Comes, and frankly, they just keep getting cooler and more interesting and more themselves, and there’s no room to be all that sad about that.

The best thing about firmly arriving in toddlerhood and leaving babyhood behind is the love. I am always telling my girls, “Thanks for the love! I love the love!” This is usually after some tiny arms have been thrown about my neck and a big, wet, open-mouthed kiss planted on my lips, with possibly some snot thrown in. Or after Etta has made a bee-line for me across the room, suddenly dropping all toys and play, to climb into my lap, lay a head on my shoulder, and let out a sweet little sigh before going back to the serious business of filling a doll stroller with play food. Or after Claire, sitting in a stroller pushed by her daddy as we go on an evening stroll, reaches out her dimpled hand to hold mine and holds on tight for 20 minutes to home. They still need me fiercely, but now they are able to reciprocate my affection for them, and I just love it. I can’t get enough of it. It explodes my heart.

On top of all the love, Claire has really really taken off in the talking department. By which I mean, she is constantly talking unless she is eating, pretty much. Etta isn’t much of a talker, and to be honest, I think Claire’s incessant babble wears her out a bit. She’ll actually say to her sister, “Shhhhhhh baby.” She calls Claire “baby” and Claire calls Etta “Sissy” or sometimes “Eddie.” (Claire’s first word was Etta, you may recall.) Sometimes the talking wears me out, too, but mostly it delights me. Her tiny voice is just crazy adorable. She loves to say “puppy,” possibly because what word in all the world could be happier? Her descriptive language is just exploding and the things she comes up with are amazing to me. I came into the room where she’d been hanging out with her dad, and asked her where he was. She said, “Daddy coming. He potty.” And sure enough, he had left to go to the bathroom. She’ll bump her head and say “I bonked it.” She talks about airplanes and elephants and her snazzy new braces and how she uses a cath to go pee pee. She’ll even say “tank you” when you give her something or do something for her. As a wordy mama, it thrills me to no end to hear every little thing she has to say, and I admit I sometimes have a hard time not worrying that her sister doesn’t talk all that much. She clearly understands most of what I say, though, and follows instructions, and does say some words, and luckily I live with a pediatrician who can reassure me there is nothing to worry about and like everything, language develops at its own pace.

My two are two. They are hugging and kissing and walking and talking and getting more interesting and coming more and more into their own. What a lucky lady am I!


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a privilege

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It’s the second time she’s woken up in the night. Just 30 minutes ago, I was dosing her with ibuprofen and brushing her sweaty hair from her fevered brow, praying she’d go back soundly to sleep and wake up feeling better. But she’s up again, shivering and sweating, sobbing and shaking, and I scoop her up and bring her into my bed, nestling this hot little human against my chest, holding her tight as she sighs deeply, kissing the top of her sweet little head. These nights are long, but oh what a privilege. Oh what an honor to be what she needs and wants when she’s feeling so awful. What a blessing to be the arms that hold her and the heart that loves her and the lips that kiss her and whisper, “It’s OK. Mama’s here.”

Later, it will be her daddy’s turn. He’ll hold her and rock her and bounce her as I get some sleep. He will be the arms that encircle her and the chest that she rests upon. He will be the voice singing softly. He’ll be the hand brushing her hair from her cheek. Oh what a blessing. Oh what a privilege.

Our sweet Etta is on day 3 of a feverish illness, and she just wants to be held close until she wants to sleep again, and then she wants to be held, and then she wants to sleep. Last night she told us “night night” all through dinner and was in bed by 6 pm. I added some extra curtains to their room to help her sleep even through the bright Daylight Savings sunset in her West-facing window (thanks Pinterest, for teaching me how to do that using bungee cords). It’s been a sleepy, sweaty cuddle fest around here. I mind that she’s sick, but I don’t mind the snuggles a bit. I will always count it my privilege to be needed.

 


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why babywearing rocks, especially with special needs

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of babywearing (that would be the hippietastic term for strapping your kid to your body with some sort of carrier, wrap, or sling)– I’ve been doing it from the start, and even though my kiddos are now giant almost-two-year-olds, I’m still at it. In fact, I just traded in some of my fave carriers so I could get one that works better for wearing toddlers. People see me with Claire in a carrier, especially, and wonder how/why I wear such a heavy kiddo (probably around 30-32 lbs, though she hasn’t been weighed in a while) around, so I figured I’d share why.

Because of her spina bifida, Claire has disability in her lower body. Her legs are weak, and she doesn’t have great sensation in them, either. This means if I want to carry her on a hip, the way most people tote toddlers around, I’m entirely supporting her with my arm. She can’t “cling” with her legs to help support some of her own weight. Where I can pretty easily sling monkey-child Etta on a hip and she clings to me like a little suction cup, Claire is 32 lbs of weight, which I end up trying to support with my left arm. It doesn’t work out. I can barely do it just around the house, walking from one room to the other, or trying to juggle her and fill a sippy cup at the same time. Carriers solve that problem. I can strap her on in a sling or carrier and have the kind of hands-free ease I have with Etta on one hip.

Also, since Claire doesn’t yet walk, and even though she’s close to walking, she likely won’t be strong enough for extensive walking for a while yet, having her in a carrier allows me to hold Etta’s hand and have her walk beside us while also carrying a diaper bag for us to get into and out of places without requiring a stroller. As a twin mom, I have long been pretty dependent on a stroller to go anywhere on my own, so it’s nice to be able to get out without it once in a while.

So, now you know why I’m still toting my tots in slings and carriers!

I figured I’d also share my thoughts on the various carriers I’ve tried over the last two years.

Moby Wrap

wearing infant in moby wrapThere are other wraps out there too, like the Solly Baby Wrap, and even Ergo Baby has gotten in on the wrap game (cool feature: it folds into its own attached pocket), but the wraps we had were Moby. I loved them in earliest infancy, and Etta the colicky newborn spent days and days strapped to us in a Moby. They’re soft, stretchy, and comfy, and though the wrapping process seems complicated, you quickly get the hang of it. I think the stretchy but tight support probably feels fairly womblike for baby, and my kids found it very comfy and soothing. However, the thing is basically just yards and yards of stretchy material, and I never liked putting it on in public because it would basically drag on the ground as I got it on. It felt like a process. It was also pretty hot to wear in a Southern summer after the girls were born. Verdict: If you’ve got a little baby who wants nothing but to be held all the time, this will be a lifesaver. However, the lifespan of a stretchy wrap is short, so you may prefer to skip this type of carrier in favor of a ring sling.

Ring Sling

wearing a newborn in a ring slingSoon after the girls were born, I got some linen, ordered some rings, and made myself a ring sling. I loved it for belly to belly carries when the girls were tiny, and believe it or not, still use the sling with my toddlers to carry them on my hip hands-free. I think ring slings are some of the most versatile carriers on the market, and while learning to get baby in safely and comfortably may seem intimidating at first, it’s pretty easy to figure out (YouTube helps!), and you’ll soon be a pro. Ring slings can be kind of pricey (looking at you, Sakura), but I really don’t understand why. You can easily DIY your own, like I did. If you don’t sew, I have started selling my slings to friends and friends of friends– my 100% linen slings are $40, and since I’ve been using the first one I ever made for nearly two years now, I can attest to their sturdiness and versatility. Hit me up! (Eventually I want to get an Etsy shop started.) Verdict: a ring sling is one of my fave carriers. If you only get two carriers, make it a ring sling and a soft structured carrier like an Ergo, Beco, or Boba.

Mei Tai

wearing baby in a mei taiMei Tais are like a step between wraps and slings and more structured carriers like the Ergo. The one I had was an Infantino Wrap and Tie. A popular but pricier option is the BabyHawk Mei Tai. Pros: affordable, easy to use, fairly comfortable for smaller babies. Cons: I don’t think these are very comfortable with a baby over 20 lbs or so, because you carry all of the weight with your back/shoulders instead of on your pelvis. Verdict: a good, affordable carrier, but not in my top 3.

Baby Bjorn

IMG_8559The Baby Bjorn original carrier is polarizing among hardcore babywearers because many say it doesn’t properly support baby’s hips, even when baby is facing in, and they are often used to wear babies on the front facing out, which many say is also bad for baby’s physical development. Here’s the thing: we had them. We liked them a lot *for a while*. They were easy to get babies in and out of, but by 9 months old, our kids were getting too heavy to be worn comfortably because of the lack of waist belt on the Bjorns– I could feel all of their weight burning between my shoulder blades. It was at that point that we saw the light, sold the Bjorns, and discovered the wide world of better soft structured carriers out there. Baby Bjorn has since released the One carrier, which looks to have adopted some of the features from carriers I like better, but I haven’t tried one, so I can’t speak to them. Verdict: Because there are other carriers that can be used longer and more comfortably (for parent AND baby), I don’t recommend a Baby Bjorn.

Soft Structured Carriers

There are a LOT of soft structured carriers out there. The differences among them are subtle, and I really think it’s hard to go wrong. If there’s a baby store near you that would let you try on different carriers, that may be a great way to figure this out. The things that rock about these carriers are the wide, padded waistbands that shift weight to your pelvis rather than your back, allowing you to carry baby comfortably even into toddlerhood. Also: they generally have padded shoulder straps for added comfort, a sleeping hood and wide, supportive seat for baby, and can be worn on the front (best for smaller babies), or the back (best for older babies and toddlers). Some require extra inserts to do so, but generally these carriers can be used from birth through toddlerhood. I have tried a few and am interested in a few others, so here are my thoughts:

  • 20140318-112643.jpgErgo. Ergo’s soft structured carrier is probably the most popular on the market, and for good reason. They are comfortable and easy to use, and fit a wide range of people– my husband and I each had one, although I believe it is more comfortable on my 5’8″ frame than his 6’3″ one. I still have and use an Ergo with my girls (age 2), but do find that the shell/seat is a little shorter/narrower than is comfiest at this age. Note: if you want to use this from birth, you will need to buy a separate insert for infants. If you don’t plan to do much babywearing after age 2, this carrier could very well be the only carrier you need.
  • IMG_7227LilleBaby. I found a LilleBaby on sale and decided to give it a try. It’s almost exactly like an Ergo with the added feature that it can be used to carry baby on the front facing out. If you have a kiddo who isn’t happy without a great view of the world, this carrier is a great option. Another feature I liked was the higher shell with the optional neck support to support bobbly babies without completely covering them with the hood. It’s just as comfy as an Ergo as far as the straps and waist belt and weight distribution go. It also doesn’t require an extra insert to support babies as small as 7 lbs. I didn’t *really* need this in addition to the Ergo, and neither of my girls is crazy about front facing out, so I passed this carrier on to my sister in law, and I know she will love it.
  • Beco Gemini. I have not personally used a Beco Gemini, but wanted to list it as a quality option here, because I have used their other carrier (below). It looks a lot like a LilleBaby carrier in that it can be worn with baby on the front facing out,  has the extra head/neck support that can be folded up and down, and does not require an insert to carry infants. One thing that sets it apart is the shoulder straps can be worn crossed across the back, which is just a nice feature for keeping the straps from feeling like they’re sliding off your shoulders, and helps support the weight more evenly.
  • 20140318-112658.jpgBeco Soleil. I recently bought a Beco Soleil after selling one of my Ergo carriers. It’s a lot like the Ergo, but the seat is wider/more padded and the shell is taller, which provides more comfortable support for older kiddos. Also, the straps can be worn across the back for more even weight distribution. A Soleil can be used from newborn through 45 lbs, but does require an extra insert for the infant days.  My toddlers and I are both more comfortable in it than the Ergo, but I still like and use the Ergo too.

Other soft structured carriers that may be worth checking out even though I haven’t used them: Moby GO, BabyHawk Oh Snap, and the Tula Baby Carrier.

Ultimately, if I were starting over with baby gear, this is what I would get: a ring sling and a soft structured carrier. I’d use the ring sling in early baby days and for convenient hip carries into toddlerhood, and the SSC for more extended babywearing or for doing things like cooking.

*Note: this post is not sponsored. Every sling I’ve tried I made or paid for. None of these links are affiliate links.


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how my nerdy childhood prepared me for motherhood in the age of pinterest

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As I sat on the floor during naptime, muffin tin full of paint by my side, sponge brush in hand, Pinterest open on the laptop beside me, painting a replica of the exterior of It’s a Small World on a sheet, it hit me: 1) I might be insane, and 2) I was perfectly prepared for such a 2nd birthday party-planning moment as this by my deeply nerdy childhood. Specifically, by my involvement with Odyssey of the Mind, aka OM.

Did you do OM? Have you even heard of it? It’s an international creative problem-solving competition for kids. Picture TED Talks, if TED talks were actually entertaining, by which I mean, presentations that solve the world’s big problems, but enacted as short skits by kids wearing costumes they made themselves in front of sets they designed themselves, while speaking lines they wrote themselves. (I mean, maybe TED presenters should have to wear handmade costumes, and then I’d be interested.)

The year my team went to WORLD COMPETITION (in the metropolis of Ames, IA), our skit was about the dangers of substance abuse, and had to involve the work of an impressionist artist. So, our skit was about Toulouse Lautrec, hopeless alcoholic, in love with a can can dancer he could never have, and her efforts to convince him to stop drinking. Our set, like Lautrec’s work, was pastel on cardboard. I remember hand-dying a lace thrift-store dress to just the right shade for my can can dancer costume. And, though I was only a fifth-grader, I wrote our whole skit in rhyme, incorporating and interpreting the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Our team was comprised of 7 girls, and our girliest, blondest member dressed in drag to play Lautrec. Basically, when Moulin Rouge came out a few years later, I was certain Baz Lurhman ripped us off.

Another year, our problem was something historical, and our skit interpreted the French Revolution. Instead of seeking world domination, our Napoleon was trying to market a new energy snack, Power Balls, which were shot out of a small working cannon, and his enemy and arch-rival Wellington was trying to rip him off. I had some super techy boys on my team that year, so there was a Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates vibe to the rivalry. I played Josephine, a hapless secretary. There was a mime in the style of Marcel Marceau. And the whole thing, again, was in rhyme.

After this kind of extra-curricular, throwing my kids an elaborate yet homemade birthday party almost seems too easy. Sure, I can make It’s a Small World setpieces and sew custom dresses, but don’t I also need to work in a moral lesson and maybe some rhyming? Will there be a spontaneous round where I just brainstorm creative solutions to weird problems? And is there a medal at the end? Can I go to World Competition in some small town in the midwest, maybe?

Instead, there are no medals. I’m just in the throes of birthday party planning for my almost two year olds, and I’ve gotta admit, I’m loving it. In an age of Pinterest overload and crazy party-planning moms, it turns out, I might be in my element.

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