Category Archives: Babywearing

Month Six: The (Sometimes Wild) World Around Her

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Maybe not the most relaxing…

She sleeps in her big red stroller as we navigate the city crosswalks. I’ve learned to look ahead for curbs so I know where I’ll be able to get off and on the sidewalk before the walking man stops blinking and the cars swarm every inch of available asphalt.

Navigating San Francisco’s streets was much easier when I didn’t have two kids. Now the cursing bums, racing cars, and excrement-ridden streets present a gauntlet obstacle course. Her big sister stops to pick up leaves and I cringe at what might be on her hands. A bath is definitely in order.

We cross the path of a homeless woman drinking a forty. She has no hair and her makeup is thick, as though she performed on stage all week and didn’t bother to wash it off. She mumbles something about E being cute. E stops and looks her in the eyes, curious. I nudge her along but she sees something in the woman.

“You’re so pretty,” she says with complete wonder, as if she’s looking at an entirely different person than the rest of us see, if we even bother to glance her direction at all. I’m certain she’s the only one to look this woman in the eyes all day.

The woman stares back, speechless.

“She thinks you’re pretty,” I say as I pull E down the street to keep pace with her dad, who is pushing the stroller. After years of living in Berkeley, we know better than to let our children visit unfamiliar homeless people.

“You’re really pretty!” E yells from a few yards down the street, her eyes still glued to the woman despite being dragged the other direction.

I’m touched but also a little heartbroken. There’s no good way to explain to a three-year-old why she can’t stop and talk to this woman. Homelessness and mental illness are among the concepts that must wait, at least for now.

Last week my sister’s boyfriend had to put his dog down and E overheard us talking about it. Since then we’ve fielded a barrage of questions about life and death and who can possibly make the dog’s heart work again. She wants to believe doctors can fix all hearts. And, hearts, of course, are the magical secret to what keeps us alive. Adding homelessness to the list of big life ideas just feels like too much right now.

The rest of the weekend in the city passes without much drama. We get smarter and avoid long walks through the CBD. I’m acutely aware of how suburban we’ve become and how sheltered our children are already, but I prefer it this way, while they’re this little.

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Silly me for thinking we’d use two beds!

We order room service and enjoy the calm of our hotel room, fourteen stories up. The girls do their own thing while we eat and it’s as peaceful a dinner as I can remember in the last three years. The next day we go to the Academy of Sciences and M sleeps most of the time as her sister runs and explores, chasing real birds on the lawn outside and hiding from pretend earthquakes in the simulator.

For dinner, we decide to be brave and try a restaurant two blocks from our hotel. It’s the kind of place we would’ve picked before we had children. Stellar reviews, seven tables, authentic Italian cuisine. It also promises minimal street time and the possibility of sitting through a real, grown-up meal. Our first, alone, as a family of four.

We start off strong with M asleep in the carrier and E still in good spirits, a miracle really after such a busy day. I ignore the older woman at the table by the door, who loudly announces this isn’t a place she’d bring children. We’re not talking five star gourmet. This is a quaint, hole in the wall on a busy street. We’re not the only family present.

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Moments before the pizza incident.

M awakens after the first course and is all smiles. A relief, we just might make it through a whole meal! Then the waiter delivers the pizza and she sticks her little fingers straight into the hot dough and starts wailing. There’s no coming back. We get doggie bags and finish our meal in our room, a funny memory for later, despite my present disappointment. To console ourselves, we order two huge, but sadly mediocre, pieces of cake from room service.

Our first adventure to the city ends and we lie awake in bed at home, talking. E is sad to leave the castles, insistent we should’ve stayed forever. Out of nowhere, she finishes the evening with a sort of revelation.

“You know that woman I said was pretty, Mommy?”

“Yes…”

“She could’ve saved N’s dog.”

“What do you mean?”

“She was special, Mommy.”

An angel, perhaps? Or maybe just the excellent imagination of a three-year-old.

We’ll probably never know, but it’s a story I plan to keep for always. M six months old, a happy observer of this miraculous, crazy world, and E, almost 3.5 years, already throwing herself into the complex mystery of it all. I fall asleep between my two little loves, grateful to be in my own bed.

Secrets to Enjoying Toddler Travel

This was probably our peak moment of anticipation, not knowing how E would do on the 5 hour flight to Honolulu.
This was probably our peak moment of anticipation, not knowing how E would do on the 5 hour flight to Honolulu after a short night of sleep.

How to survive (and even enjoy!) toddler travel is a hot topic. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I’ll admit I was pretty nervous about traveling with 16-month-old E this summer. Below is what worked best for us, (a big thank you to everyone who shared ideas!).

1. Don’t count on technology to do the trick. While downloaded television shows and apps saved us a couple times on the road, they were worthless on the airplane. Having a back-up plan was key.

2. Busy bags are amazing. They may be filled with simple-seeming items, but wrapped presents doled out strategically throughout our flights really helped to keep E occupied. Look for an entire post devoted to busy bags later this month.

3. Naps matter, but not always. I was paranoid lost sleep would make for terrible travel days, but I was wrong. She did fine on (much) abbreviated sleep. As long as I balanced it with chances to sleep on other days, she really hung in there and did an excellent job. We just made a point to give her as much time as she needed on non-travel days, especially when she started to show signs of exhaustion.

Our busy bags of wrapped goodies proved to be the most useful on the plane.
Hip-hip-hooray for busy bags filled with wrapped goodies!

4. STICKERS. Back to the idea of a busy bag, stickers stopped a lot of fits. All I had to do was offer her one before she got too wound up. In fact, stickers might be the best thing ever.

5. Double check your luggage before you leave. Toddlers like to move things to obscure places, like leaving behind much-needed shoes under beds.

6. Thrift stores can be lifesavers when you need to replace lost items, (like those pesky missing shoes!). A lot of towns have really cute second hand shops devoted specifically to kids stuff, which can be fun to browse. They’re also great for picking up used toys for cheap entertainment in otherwise sparse rental homes and hotel rooms.

7. Bring a set of extra clothes everywhere you go. The potential for food, bodily fluid, and/or excrement messes is high! Plastic bags to store soiled items are definitely helpful. I made a point to organize everything in my diaper bag in different zip-lock bags. This allowed me to find what I needed quickly and prevented spills from ruining everything.

An unexpected perk was traveling with cousins. We couldn't help but joke about finding E an older sibling instead of a younger one.
An unexpected perk was the benefit of traveling with cousins. We couldn’t help but joke about finding E an older sibling instead of a younger one.

8. Umbrella strollers rock. I was tempted to use our baby carrier and ditch the stroller but a friend offered to let us borrow her super compact umbrella stroller. While the carrier was great for going through security without having to chase E around, it saved us a lot of back ache to also have a compact stroller to check at the gate. As a bonus, she enjoyed pushing it around the terminal while we waited for our flight. It also fit easily in the car with all of our luggage, which is great because our regular stroller would’ve been much too big. On a side note, I discovered hiking strollers can be rented for reasonable fees and are delivered straight to your hotel room, so lugging around an enormous stroller isn’t necessary if you’re tight on space.

9. Airlines might pleasantly surprise you. Hawaiian gave us an open seat for E even though we didn’t purchase one for her, (and I’ve heard many moms say the same thing). The extra space was great, especially since it was free. However, it also made me realize her own seat was nice but unnecessary. We shared a seat on the way home and we both did fine. While I understand the car seat safety concern, I also know E would be a screaming mess if I insisted on strapping her into her seat during a flight. I considered the risk of her getting hurt pretty low, although I know this is a hot topic in mom groups.

Hawaii ended up being a pretty ideal place to take a toddler. Understandably, beach is her new favorite word.
Hawaii ended up being a pretty ideal place to take a toddler. Not surprisingly, “beach” is her new favorite word.

10. Accept things will be different than your pre-toddler days. I was able to fit in most of the activities I love, but for smaller chunks of time. Instead of being bummed I didn’t have hours to snorkel, read books or lie in the sun, I really made the most of the little stretches of time she gave me to relax. Same goes for restaurants, site seeing, etc. Roll with it while it works and move on when it doesn’t. The joy in seeing her explore her new surroundings helped to offset the lack of down time and regular naps gave us the opportunity to recharge while enjoying the view.

Over all, traveling with a toddler was much more enjoyable than I expected. Have tips I missed? Please share as I’m certain we’ll have many more adventures to come.

Why Hello, Mama Tiger

Keeping another person alive, happy, and healthy can sometimes feel like a daunting task!
Keeping another person alive, happy, and healthy can sometimes feel like a daunting task!

Yesterday I got angry. I’m not sure how I reacted on the outside, but inside I was a ferocious beast. I left E in a supervised care area at a business that shall go unnamed and let’s just say she was less than supervised. I came back to her crying as popcorn was pulled from her mouth. Another child had fed her. There were only three children total in the space. She does not have molars and could have choked.

This should not have happened.

In retrospect, everything was fine. She lived. I lived. All good. But the experience got me thinking about the times parents lost their cool with me as a teacher, as well as the times they didn’t. I once had a kid electrocute himself without anyone getting angry, (granted he was in fourth grade and old enough to know better than to stick a paperclip in a socket). I also gave the Heimlich maneuver twice, (again, these kids had the appropriate teeth), but still those parents remained calm.

Maybe it comes with more practice.

Then again, there were all the parents who didn’t keep their cool about everything from grades to having to sit criss-cross-applesauce at the carpet. Oddly, I kind of get it. I used to take it personally, but now I realize they felt their children were in some way threatened. Our basic instinct is to respond emotionally when it comes to protecting our children. If I ever return to the classroom, I will be more understanding.

Speaking of which, teachers really do deserve more credit. They have to keep 30ish kids safe all day while also teaching each child at his or her individual level. That’s a HUGE job. Add in the scrutiny of rightfully-protective parents and WHOA. Talk about pressure. Makes me want to give all the teachers I know a hug, (and a raise).

So, this afternoon, I’m thankful for a lot of things. E is fine. I met my inner Mama Tiger and have a better understanding of both what it means to be a parent and to take care of other people’s kids. Turns out both jobs can be pretty intense. Thank goodness they are also rewarding.

Primer: The Underground Mom Market

Using the resale sites (and some money we made selling clothes) we turned stroller A into stroller B for a major upgrade!
Using the resale sites (and some money we made selling clothes) we turned stroller A into stroller B for a major upgrade!

Used stuff has come a long way since I was a kid. Sure thrift stores still exist, but now you can also buy used kids stuff on Facebook from families in your community. If you are already a pro, no need to read on. However, if this concept is new to you, might be worth the read.

In Folsom, where we live, there are two main groups with thousands of moms selling used kids’ items. If you search “moms” and/or “kids” with the name of your neighborhood, similar groups will likely pop up, (and, if they don’t, you could always be the first to set one up!). Usually the groups are closed, so your profile will need to state your location in order to be added.

I wish someone had shared these groups with me before E was born because I am sure it would have saved us money. Then again, purchasing the new stuff is kind of a rite of passage. You think you want everything fresh for your baby, then he or she arrives and you realize how quickly you go through different items for different stages.

That’s the beauty of it. Most of what I have purchased has been practically new and what I have sold has been the same, (do you know how many baby outfits she wore only once?). In our case, I regularly go through her clothes, toys, and other items and post anything I would not use (or do not want to store) for our next baby.

I save the cash received for use toward future items. For example, I got an entire summer wardrobe of cute, minimally-used clothes for just $7. I also sold our umbrella stroller and threw in just $60 to upgrade to a compact jogging stroller. Barely-worn shoes, toys, the list goes on!

Here are some of the advantages of using Facebook for used kids’ items:

  • You can see the profile of the person you are going to meet, which helps minimize the “stranger danger.” I often note if we have friends in common and stalk through a few photos.
  • You can leave items on your porch for pick-up, eliminating the awkward examination of used goods and making it super easy to collect cash. My husband often laughs when I pull out an envelope of money from under our welcome mat. “What did you sell this time?” is a common question around here.
  • Unlike Craig’s List, the community is moderated. If someone is repeatedly reported for breaking group rules, they get removed. I am pretty sure this helps eliminate people who yell at you for not being willing to deliver a free crib. Yes, that is my Craig’s List sob story.
  • Items generally sell for about half of what they cost new. This has opened up our baby gear collection to brands and items I wouldn’t have considered purchasing otherwise. Toys often sell at even greater markdowns, while babywearing wraps and carriers have their own niche groups and often sell at or above retail if hard to find, (HTF).
  • It’s also a wonderful way to cut-back on the guilt of consumption. I read an article about how many barely-used breast pumps end up in landfills. Sites like these help to conserve resources and lessen waste.

If you’re new to resale groups, here is how it generally works: Someone will post a picture and description of the item for sale, along with pick-up information and price. You comment with Int (interested) or NIL (next-in-line) if you would like to purchase. The seller will then contact you with a private message. If you decide to pass, the next person in line will be contacted.

My sister and I were laughing the other day about all the acronyms and jargon used on these sites. I’m sure there are more but here are some of the most common to help you acclimate a little faster:

-GUC: Good-used condition

-EUC: Excellent-used condition

-NWT: New with tags

-NWOT: New without tags

-Int: Interested

-NIL: Next in line

-Pass: Changed mind

-PU: Pick-up

-xposted: Cross posted, or posted on more than one group page (so you might not actually be first in line!)

-ISO: In search of

-PM: Private message

-TIA: Thanks in advance

There you have it! Children’s shopping made cheap. Just be warned, it is also addictive.

Oh What a Year…

Hard to believe her first birthday party has already come and gone!
Hard to believe her first birthday party has already come and gone!

I am sitting in the carnage of a first birthday party. The living room is strewn with presents and bits of wrapping paper. Cards are scattered across the floor, each animal picture carefully kissed and then thrown to the carpet. Somehow the scary stuffed dog that talked to me in the darkness found her way back home.

It reminds me a bit of Christmas and how my dad likes to leave the mess in the front room for days. I get it now. Some messes slow down time.

Two more days until E is officially one. A year ago I prepared for battle. With leaking fluid and a ticking clock, I knew it was just a matter of time before she arrived. I dragged my feet in hopes I could avoid induction. I napped and ate pizza and timed contractions. I cried when the rhythm slowed each time I got into the shower. I cried again when they told me Pitocin was in the cards.

We ate the same pizza at her birthday party yesterday. I had wanted to throw a small celebration at home, but it grew bigger than our little house, so we headed to the park instead. The weather gods were on our side, a glorious spring day outdoors, trees blooming and sun shining bright. I handed her over to her adoring fans despite my desire to hold her close and never let go.

I also walked her home for a few more sweet, sleepy moments on our own.
I also walked her home for a few more sweet, sleepy moments on our own.

It hit me yesterday, as I strolled her to her party (another attempt to slow down time); I have no choice but to share her with the world. With each coming year, she will be more independent. She is not mine to keep forever. I sobbed a deep and unexpected sob as I typed those last words.

This year has been so precious. Ours and (mostly) ours alone. Hours of cuddles and milk, kisses and books, walks and doggies, giggles and sweet time spent curled up together in bed. When I think of all the letting go my parents have had to do with me and my siblings, I begin to wonder if they love(d) us with that same intensity. I know they must and then my heart aches for them and for me and for all parents and all people who deeply love the children in their lives.

Sometimes I worry myself to tears over what would happen if I died without leaving E a lasting impression of what she means to me. Luckily she will always have my words. I print these posts and put them in her baby book just in case the internet disappears but somehow her baby book survives (turns out moms worry about every eventuality).

I am just beginning to grasp the enormity of it all. This past year has ripped me inside out. Gratitude and awe does not even begin to describe it.

One year.

365 days of wild emotion.

I think I will leave the party mess a little longer.