If you’ve noticed I’ve been absent on the blog over the last little bit, it’s largely because we’ve been traveling. First we went to Colorado to visit my husband’s family, and then we made a sad and unexpected trip to my parents’ house when my grandma suddenly passed away. All of this time with family was wonderful, but I also have to admit that traveling with two small kids is often also extremely stressful. I find myself gritting my teeth and wondering why my shoulders are so tight in the days before flying with our kids. I was especially anxious this time, because the last time we flew, last October, Etta screamed bloody murder through an entire 2 hour flight, completely inconsolable, refusing movies, snacks, and screaming “DON’T TOUCH ME, MOMMY!” every time I even tried to help her. Then, of course, she perked up right in time to land, and cheerfully bid farewell to every single passenger as they deplaned, while they gave her looks that said “see you never, demon child.” To everyone on that flight: I am soooooooo sorry.
Since I haven’t written about traveling with twins since the girls were babies, and since this trip actually went darn smoothly, I thought it might be time for an update on some of the things that work for us when traveling with the toddler and preschool set. (If you’re traveling to Disney in particular, check out this post on doing Disney with two toddlers and only one small backpack.) Continue reading “travel tips with three-year-old twins”
A friend asked on Instagram if I’d consider doing a post about the bufflogals’ toys, and her wish is my command.
She noticed that the gals’ toys are generally wooden and rather atypical from what is generally on the market for babies and toddlers. This is by design. I want our home to be peaceful and happy, stimulating but not overstimulating, full but not cluttered. And if it’s not too much to ask, I want the stuff we bring into it to look good! This extends to the choices we make for our girls’ toys. While I have only begun to educate myself on things like Montessori and Waldorf, my general inclination and instinct is that their toys should be about them using objects to educate and enjoy themselves, not just being entertained by lights and music and bells and whistles. For us, this means nothing that lights up or makes sounds, pretty much nothing battery operated, and very little plastic. Again, this isn’t because of any particular ideology, but just the result of me following what feels right for me and my kids. I’m not in any way saying other sorts of toys are bad, but this is just where we’re at and what we want for our home.
Etta and Claire have two main play spaces, their room and our den. In each space, it was important to me that the toys be arranged where they could get them out themselves (and eventually, put them up themselves), and to have things displayed and accessible rather than buried in a bin under a million other things. Things they can see actually get used, whereas things in a giant pile get forgotten.
Here you see the girls’ play space in our den. The shelf and tent are both from Ikea, and my mom found the chairs at a flea market. They have a little white table that goes with them, but it’s being used as a side table until we find an actual side table to go next to the couch. Also pictured is the Little Wheely Bug, which I found for a steal at a local consignment sale. Etta’s just now able to really start to use it at 15 months, and it’s the smaller size. The green-sided walker was a Christmas gift, but I have to say, I’m not as crazy about it as I thought I’d be, as it seems more prone to tipping, though they still sit in front of it and play with it. I REALLY love the walker wagon Claire’s kneeling with, which is a brand called Janod from Oompa.com, which along with Amazon is one of our main toy sources.
Is it kid powered? If it requires batteries, I don’t want it. (I took the batteries out of these toy keys before I ever gave them to the girls. They still love them.)
Is it used BY the kid, or does the kid just watch it go?
Does it help hone skills or encourage creativity or imaginative play?
Does it make noise? I’m fine with instruments the girls use to generate noise, but I don’t want to hear bad midi files of classical music. I’d rather put on my old iPod, which I’ve loaded up with tunes for the kiddos.
Is it possible to find this made of wood or other natural materials?
And, generally, is it fairly gender neutral? I’m fine with the girls playing with dolls, etc, as they get older and ask for such things, but in the meantime, I see no reason to push them toward gendered objects.
A few people who have visited our house have asked how we got all the grandparents and other relatives on board with this plan. The truth is, I grew up with these sorts of toys, so my parents were all about it from the start, and everyone else has been pretty happy to shop from the Amazon wish list I keep constantly updated for Christmas and their first birthday.
From the top, let me make it clear: no one sponsors me. These are just the things I like after a year of this baby gig. These are all things either we purchased for ourselves or received as gifts at our showers.
Still, I know what it’s like to be hunting blogs looking for REAL information on baby gear, to be Googling “how to register for twins,” totally overthinking the baby gear, so I thought it might be helpful for someone out there to share the stuff that really got us through this past year, as well as the stuff that turned out to be not worth the hype. Let’s start with…
The thing I probably obsessed over the most was the double stroller. A double stroller is CRUCIAL for a twin mom, because you basically can’t go anywhere alone without it. I read lots of reviews and lots of message boards before settling on the Baby Jogger City Select. Mostly, I love it. It worked great when the girls were in their infant car seats, because I got the adapters. It was so easy to unfold the stroller, pop on the second adapter, and click the seats into place. I also love how smooth it pushes, how easy it turns thanks to its compact size, the giant basket, and the off-road-able wheels. Dislikes: you have to take off at least one of the seats to fold it, and really both of them to get it to fold down to its smallest size. Also: it takes up almost the entirety of our Pontiac Vibe’s hatchback.
For the last few weeks, the stroller getting the most use is our new one, a MacLaren Twin Triumph the girls got from their Nana and Papa for their birthday. It folds super small, is very light weight, and has worked great for getting the girls into and out of daycare and stores and even on a picnic. It’s definitely a bumpier ride, but the gals actually love that–they like to make little sounds and hear their voices go up and down as they bump along. It’s about a third of the price of a BJCS, and if you had a Double Snap and Go for the infant car seat days, would probably make a great choice as a main stroller, provided you aren’t into a lot of off roading.
If I didn’t have twins, I have a feeling I’d be a babywearing-obsessed hippie mama. It’s just *so much easier* to strap a baby to your body and go about your business than it is to haul a stroller around. I may get a little jealous of singleton moms who can wear their babies all the time. I’ve tried: a Moby Wrap, a linen ring sling (that I made!), a BabyBjorn, a BabyBjorn Air, a mei tai style wrap and tie carrier, and an Ergo. Here’s what I thought of them:
Moby Wrap: was excellent when Etta the attachment baby was a tiny, clingy newborn. Once I got the hang of tying it properly, we loved it. She always felt super snug and super secure, even when she was super duper tiny. Still, getting it on and the baby in place felt like a bit of a production, and I almost never wore it outside the house. Also: you’re basically strapping a hot water bottle to your body using yards and yards of fabric. It got hot hot hot in the Arkansas summer after the girls were born, and I can’t imagine wearing it a lot outdoors in the heat.
Ring sling: Once the girls were able to hold their heads up and sit on a hip, I loved it especially for hip carries, but it was great from the start, even with a front hug hold with a tiny baby. I wore a baby in it on my hip for an entire holiday party (when they were about 9 months old), and I still use it now that they’re one. If forced to choose between the Moby and the ring sling, I just might choose the ring sling, because while I’ve unloaded my Mobys, I’m still using the sling. I ordered my rings online and made my sling using these instructions.
The BabyBjorns: I loved these when the girls were about 6 months to 9 months. I may have wondered to myself why this carrier has so many haters, and why anyone would pay all that money for an Ergo. I found it easy to get on and off, and easy to get baby in and out of. Being able to face them in or out was especially nice. But by about 9 months, they had reached a weight that really started to take a toll on my back, and the way the Bjorn put all the weight between my shoulder blades wasn’t helping. I have since unloaded the Bjorns.
My mei tai carrier was an Infantino Wrap and Tie I got on super sale. I liked it, but not as much as the Moby or Bjorns, so I gave it to a friend. I can imagine it would have had similar limitations as the Bjorns, being hard on my back as the babies got bigger.
The Ergo: like the one ring of baby carriers. If I knew then what I know now, I’d have skipped the Bjorns and the mei tai and just gotten an Ergo. Much like the way a backpacking pack has a waist strap to help you carry the weight on your pelvis instead of your back, the Ergo shifts the weight of baby to a much more natural, comfortable position. I still use this carrier all the time, and I know people still using them well into toddlerhood. Don’t screw around. Just get one. Or, if facing baby outward on your front is really important to you, consider a similarly-designed Beco that offers that option. You can even get an infant insert that allows this to be the only carrier you need from birth through toddlerhood.
If you are trying to not get ALL THE CARRIERS, here is my recommendation: get a ring sling and an Ergo or Beco Gemini (like an Ergo or Boba with the added option that baby can face out when worn on your front) or Boba. The ring sling will be great for tiny baby days, or when they’re older and you do hip holds, or when you don’t want to haul a big soft-structured carrier around. The Ergo/Beco/Boba will continue to be comfy as baby grows, even into toddlerhood.
Baby Gowns. Everyone told me I just had to have gowns to make middle of the night diaper changes easier. Except to me, gowns were just always a hassle. Feet were always escaping, and worse yet, the gowns kept me from being able to put the girls in the swing and the bouncer, both of which were the keys to us getting any sleep in the early days. And you know, no matter how sleepy I get, I can still snap snaps or zip zippers.
Bibs. People love to gift bibs, but not all bibs are created equally. After a year, I have concluded that you only need three types of bibs. My first bib love was the Aden+Anais dribble bib. It doubles as a burp cloth and is a great thing to have in a diaper bag for on the go feeding. The second type I loved are just plain terrycloth teething bibs. They were GREAT in the spit-up days, and I still put them on the girls on runny-nosed days (they make great nose wipes that are always handy because they’re around baby’s neck) or on particularly drool-y days. The third, and as far as I am concerned, the only bibs worth buying for your solids-eating baby are Bumkins bibs. They’re cute, they’ve got a handy pocket to catch drops and dribbles, and they’re super easy to wash in the sink because they’re super thin and they dry quickly. Also, you can machine wash them without them falling apart, unlike some of the laminated type bibs we tried. Seriously, don’t waste your time on other bibs.
Swaddles. It’s true that babies love to be swaddled, but not all swaddles are created equally. I tried the Miracle Blanket, but I’m pretty sure it’s smarter than I am, and I could never get it on right–arms always escaped. Similarly, I loved the Aden+Anais muslin swaddle blankets for just about everything except swaddling– it’s not always easy to get a baby swaddled in them correctly. Ultimately, what worked the best for us were the Halo Sleep Sack Swaddles. I even ended up cutting the swaddle part off of one of the sacks so I could swaddle Etta’s arms and still put her into the bouncer.
The Nosefrida Snot Sucker. Let me be blunt: those bulb syringes you’re supposed to use to clean out a baby nose? They suck. Or rather, they don’t. And when you’ve got an exhausted, germy baby who can’t sleep because she can’t breathe and all you want to do is sleep, you will do anything, even things that seem kinda gross, to get the snot out. The NoseFrida uses the suction you can generate with your mouth to suck that gunk right outta baby’s nose. Couple it with a few squirts of saline before you suck, and you’ve got a magic nose-clearing machine. I promise, there’s a filter and a whole lotta tubing that insures none of that gunk gets anywhere near your mouth, just out of baby’s nose. Baby will breathe easier, and you’ll all be able to sleep. Get one.
THE BABY BJORN BABYSITTER BALANCE SEAT. This is my number one most favorite baby thing. Etta, especially, needs to have the heck bounced out of her to calm her when she’s upset and often to help her get to sleep. I can really make the Bjorn seat bounce with my feet– like, head-bobbing bounce. Also, they’re good looking. I know, we’d all put our kiddos in the ugliest thing ever if it meant less screaming and more sleep, but the Bjorn seats are just really good looking. Even better, they fold completely flat, which makes them super handy in a small apartment or house, and even better for toting them around. When the girls were still largely lumps, we’d take the seats with us to friends’ houses so we’d have a place to park babies while eating and hanging out. The covers are also super easy to remove and wash, and the seats have a high weight limit. We’re still using the heck out of them after the first birthday, and I know we’ll be using them for a while yet, but, thanks to a good design, the girls were also secure in the seats even as little tinies. I am not even the least bit exaggerating when I say I’m not sure we’d have survived the first year with twins without these seats. Best baby gear we own.