Monday, April 30, 2012

Babywearing: What and Why

I realized the other day that even though I've talked a lot about babywearing and the gear I use, I've never dedicated a whole post to the topic. So, today... ta-da! Babywearing!

If nothing else, motherhood has challenged my sense of control. So many things have not worked out the way I anticipated... not that that's necessarily a bad thing. Babywearing has been the one major exception. When I was pregnant I dreamed of being able to carry my baby as much and for as long as possible. I imagined the bonding it would give us and the convenience it would allow. I have not been disappointed! I loath being told and refuse to tell others what they "should" do, but I do love to share our experiences!

First a little bit about babywearing. Like everything, it has its fundamentalists. Those who believe that strollers, swings, bouncy seats, and infant car seat carriers are evil. Those who believe that parents that use these tools are lazy and uncaring. I AM NOT ONE OF THESE. Babywearing has been an enjoyable experience for myself, Turtle and Daddy Turtle and has even saved our sanity at times. I believe the principles and gear are things new parents should be aware of so that they can know what their options are. I feel for the brand new mama in the mall, carrying a fussy newborn in her arms while trying to push an empty stroller. I wonder if she knows about all the options that are available to her. Today I'm going to start out telling you a little about babywearing (as I see it) and what my experience has been, and then I'll tell you a little bit about the different types of carriers and what has worked for us in the next post. Disclaimer: This is nothing more than OUR experience. Hopefully, it will be helpful to someone somewhere, but there is no judgement implied for any parent who does things differently than we do!

For a thorough overview of babywearing, you can see this Wikipedia article. In a nutshell, babywearing is as old as human kind. As a central part of the Attachment Parenting model of child rearing, it has experienced a resurgence in popularity, but it's far from a new thing. Whether doing domestic tasks or gathering nuts and berries, parents have had to juggle child rearing with performing their daily tasks. Babywearing was born out of necessity and is seen in many indigenous societies even today. It is also purported to have bonding benefits as well as calming benefits for the baby. I believe these to be true, but only on a baby to baby case. Some babies want to be held and rocked, some need their alone time. Even Turtle got touched out sometimes and just needed her space. On the other hand, though, in our modern world of baby gear for every situation, it can be easy for a baby to be placed in a infant car seat in the morning, remain in the car seat while running errands or shopping, remain in the car seat during a lunch out, then having fallen asleep in the car seat be placed directly in a swing and gone a majority of the day without being held. This is an extreme case of course but you can see the potential problem.

We actually opted to not purchase an infant car seat because I was so committed to babywearing. I wouldn't go that far if I had it to do over again (those seats are so much easier and more convenient during those early weeks when they are so floppy) but I really loved carrying her. Turtle has always been a snugly little one so babywearing was a perfect fit. In fact during the height of her colicky days, when I had reached the end of my rope, I could always take her to a mall, pop her in a carrier, and walk around for as long as I wanted. As soon as she was in the carrier, she would fall asleep! It was magical. Then after Daddy Turtle started going to school 4 nights a week, my soft structured carrier was the only way I got all our stuff carried in the house or anything done in the evening.

We do have a stroller which I love and Turtle loves to ride in it as well. We have also been using grocery carts since she was able to sit up, but babywearing has always been a part of our routine, and I don't see that changing any time soon. There are plenty of times were a stroller is more of a hassle than a help. Crowded festivals for instance. Daddy Turtle and I love the freedom of being able to strap her to one of our backs, the other carries the diaper bag and we are off stroller free. We also use it a lot when running quick errands where getting a stroller in and out of the trunk would be a hassle.

You know I'm a gear junky so I'm sure you're asking the question, "What do you have in your stash?"  I'll tell you about that tomorrow. Have a great week everyone!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Working With Whatcha Got

For months now I've been looking for ways to organize our life.  Before our life got so crazy (i.e. both parents working 40+ hours a week away from home, daddy in school 4 nights a week, 4 day a week single-motherhood, etc. etc. etc.) I could deal with the disorganization.  I had time to muddle through the morning looking for my keys or searching for that one pair of jeans that make my thighs look skinny.  Then everything changed, and after spending weeks and months underwater, I finally realized that one of the main problems was a lack of organization. 

One of the things I hated was that everything and its brother ended up on my dinning room table.  My purse, Turtle's diaper bag, the mail, shopping bags, the PJ's Turtle wore to grandma's that morning (or god knows which morning), no less than four pairs of shoes of all sizes, and during the winter at least three jackets and/or cardigans. 

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 2

This began to grate on my nerves.  Especially on the weekend when I'd have to push everything off in order to have a simple family meal and made it hard to pack the diaper bag in the mornings without fighting with half of my house.  For a long time, I've loved the look of a beautiful Pottery Barn style "mud room". I've dreamed of having an entry way were shoes, bags, mail, etc. could be dropped and one could shake off the outside world before entering into the sanctuary of our home.  Unfortunately, when you are moving from an 800 sq. ft. apartment, every house looks big and I neglected to hold out for my mud room. 

But I was determined not to let reality get in my way.  So, I started looking around my house to figure out how I could work with what I had.  My first thought was to move the dinning table into the "formal dinning room" off the kitchen (which had since been used as my craft room) and make the little dining nook into the mud room.  But with more thought, and input from Daddy Turtle (who's exact words were, "isn't that going to look weird?!?!") I decided that might not be the best idea.  Then I thought about using the formal dining room where my crafts were, but that seemed to out of the way of the flow of traffic.  Plus it's carpeted and if you're going to have a place to kick off your shoes it seems better to do it BEFORE not ON the carpet.

Then one day out of the blue, I saw it... this tiny unused doorway between our kitchen and our formal dining room.  It's right near the side door where we enter through and wasn't being used for anything other than the trash can.  In fact it had been blocked off with a baby gate for months and no one had even noticed the loss of that doorway. 

So, I started sifting through the images I had collecting on my Pinterest boards of beautiful "mud rooms".  I knew I wanted somewhere to sit and take shoes off/put shoes on, a bin of some kind to wrangle shoes because it's delusional to even think they would get placed neatly on a shoe shelf in my house; a shelf of some kind to put baskets or boxes filled with hats, gloves and scarves; and hooks to hang things like purses, keys, and the random baby carrier.  Something like this.  Only in a space approximately 34" wide and on a shoe string budget.

Then, one day while window shopping at IKEA with my friend, I found it.

$20 baby! Booyaa! And this past weekend, Daddy Turtle hung it for me.

I told him I "probably" wouldn't post this picture, so shhhhh! But how cute is that?! I couldn't NOT post it. Turtle wanted to be right by his side the whole time (i.e. under his feet).

Once the self was up, I started moving things around... an ottoman we were using as a baby gate in the living room became my bench, and a fabric bin I had in the other room became our shoe wrangler.

The next day I added a little piece of art my bestie gave us as a house warming gift and some boxes for the top.

There's still a few other things I'd like to do to the area like getting a smaller bench to make it feel less bulky and I have a couple sturdier hooks I want to mount so that the diaper bag can be hung up as well, but for $20 and a vision, I think it's not too bad. And it really does make things easier to organize, and on a busy, hectic, pre-caffeine morning, that can make the difference between retaining my sanity and losing it!

Have you had an "work with whatcha got" projects lately?

Thursday, April 19, 2012


As you can tell from my lack of blog posts over the last 6 months or so, there has been a whole lot of surviving around our house and not much thriving.  For a long time there I felt like I would take a deep breath on Sunday night and not exhale until sometimes Friday evening.  Gradually, though, over the last few weeks, I've noticed something changing. Like surfing, I feel that I've finally caught the wave of our current life.  And to follow the surfing metaphor one step further, I've learned that the harder I try to control and direct our lives, the more frustrated I get.

For a long time, I found myself catching the rhythm of our life for a day or two and then it would change, and I would spend the next two weeks trying to force the new rhythm to sound like the old one before finally giving in, just in time for the rhythm to change again and the cycle would repeat. Slowly, I began to see that this desire to control things was what was tripping me up the most. For a while, the word I would use was "surrender".  I was learning to surrender to what was instead of try to make it be something it wasn't. But I struggled with the negative side of the word. Sometimes I felt like I was giving up, sacrificing what I wanted and needed for what was. Like a losing army, I felt like I was surrendering to defeat.

But something happened a couple of weeks ago. I decided to plant some flowers around our mail box.  I know, you weren't expecting that were you?!?! One of the things that causes me stress is our front yard. It's gone from not-all-that-great when we first moved in to omg-do-they-own-a-rake? (Why does it bother me? Because I worry about what other people in our neighborhood think. But that's a discussion for another self-reflective blog post.) So, one day I decided that I was going to take advantage of the beautiful weather we are having and the fact that Turtle loves to be outside and make things happen! And what do you know, with a trip to Home Depot and some help from grandma (gardening advice and babysitting) I got this...

Is it perfect? Absolutely not! Is there a ton of dead grass behind it that seriously needs to be replanted? Yep.  But you know what, it's a step in the right direction, and crazy schedule or not, that's the only way things happen. If I spend all my time being overwhelmed then nothing gets done. So, instead of feeling like I'm surrendering to defeat, I feel like I'm riding a powerful wave. Instead of sitting out at sea getting pummeled by every wave that comes by, struggling to stay afloat, I can catch it and let it propel me. Just like some rides are better than others, some days/weeks are better than others. But that's ok.

And you know what I've discovered, I like working outside.  Which my mom found not surprising at all seeing that her mom, my grandmother, loathed cleaning the house but could spend days outside weeding and planting and tending to her plants.  I guess it runs in the family. So, now I have a list of things that I want to accomplish outside. One project at a time.  One day at a time. One wave at a time.

p.s. One of my favorite blogs Young House Love really deserves some recognition here.  Their recent posts about their landscaping efforts have really inspired me. I encourage everyone to check out their blog!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Toddle Along Tuesday

I'm doing something different today and linking for Toddle Along Tuesdays hosted by Growing Up Geeky and Love, Lattes and Lullabies.  I came across both of these mommies on the bump message boards, but have never linked up before.  This week though, the theme was A Day in the Life.  I did a post on this back in October and it's one of my favorite posts.  Although it's quite a few months old, I'm surprised by how similar our life still is.  Thankfully, Turtle is now less klingy so I don't have to wear her as much, but other than that, the routine is pretty much the same.  So, without further ado, here is the original post.  Maybe soon I'll do an update.

A Day in the Life of a Working Turtle Mama

What about you? What's you day like?

Monday, April 16, 2012


I have a new love and her name is Instagram.  I've been familiar with the app for a long time. My cool iPhone owner friends had it and I loved seeing all the cool filters it used to make crappy cell phone pictures look kind of cool (or stupidly retro, depending on your persepective, hehe).  So, after waiting almost a year, the Android app was finally released last week.  Three days before I got my new iPhone. ... isn't it ironic, don't you think. (hehe. I'm a dork, I know it.)

So, not familiar with Instagram? Basically, it's a social network based around sharing pictures.  I love the "real time" aspect of it. Often times, the Pioneer Woman (for instance) will post what is going on on their ranch and it makes me feel like I'm there. It has also challenged me to take and post more pictures even if it's just from my phone.  Seeing that there are some major gaps in my photographic documentation of Turtle's first year, I'm thankful for anything that encourages me to take more pictures.  Plus this new phone (iPhone 4s) takes much better pictures than my old, stupid EVO did.

So, what do these Instagram pics look like? I'm so glad you asked!

Here's Turtle taking in all the action last weekend before the Bobcats vs. Hawks basket ball game we went too. She loved the hubbub of the pregame stuff.  And she is fearless! We are going to have to get a baby leash soon because she is getting fast and could be lost in a crowd very easily.

Here she is a couple hours later.  I have no idea how she was able to sleep through all that noise, but she did.  So, it no longer surprises me that she regularly sleeps through the tv I watch in the evenings.

Here are a few from Easter.  I got her a dress even though we were only going to our friends' house.  I figure she'll wear it for Mother's Day too.

She liked playing with the eggs but not so much "hunting" them.  And even though she watched me put gold fish in them, she still didn't seem to care.  Oh well, next year.


And finally, my two favorite people in the world! 

I suspect you'll be seeing a lot more Instagram pics on the blog from now on. Happy Monday everyone! It's going to be a great week!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Bringing Home Baby: These are a Few of My Favorite Things

So, I've shared some of our favorite things at different stages throughout this first year, and may of them have been very useful but only for a short time.  There are a few things that have been consistently useful and I don't know how we would have survived this first year of parenthood without them! Note that these are in no specific order!

My Turtle Necklace

This was my gift from Jay for my 1st Mother's Day. I knew when I started back to work that I needed something that I could wear so that I could carry my Turtle with me. I've worn it every day for almost a year now and besides my engagement and wedding rings this is my favorite piece of jewelry.  It's the strongest chain I've ever seen because it has stood up to a year of pulls and tugs from Turtle and all her little friends. 

Universal Paci Clips

We are a paci household. I know it's controversial but pacis help reduce the risk of SIDS in the early months and I decided a paci would be easier to wean from than her thumb. These are by far my favorite paci clips. The loop on the end (as opposed to a snap) allows it to be used for any type and brand of paci. We continue to use these even though we are working on weaning her off the paci.

Paci Wipes

These are in my must have category. We never go anywhere without them. I've been known to lick her paci and give it right back to her, but there are times when I don't even want to put it in my mouth, like when it falls on the ground in the Target packing lot. YUCK! These are a lifesaver. They are food grade so there's no worry about harsh chemicals. And now we use them for toys and all kinds of things.

Paci Holder

These are invaluable and one of the first things I bought after Turtle was born.  There is nothing that will make a new mom loose her schmidt faster than listening to a screaming baby while she digs in a cavernous diaper bag for an itty-bitty spare paci. We've had a few different brands and I don't really have a preference. Just, if possible, look for one that will hold more than one spare.

Circo Jeans from Target

We have had at least one pair of these in every size. The elastic waist band makes them easier to work with and they fit Turtle better, and you can't beat the price ($6 a pair).
Hand-Me-Down Clothes

We have been the thankful recipients of lots of wonderful hand-me-down clothes and they have really saved us. Children's clothes are amazingly expensive. And having to buy an entirely new wardrobe every few months is overwhelming. For this reason I highly recommend accepting any and all clothes! Whenever I get a new batch, I always go through them right away. I sort them into the different sizes and pack them back up in clearly labeled boxes or bags. (Nothing fancy, I just use a Sharpie to write on the outside of an old diaper box or white trash bag.) Then when she gets ready for the next size, I go through what I have and pull out and wash anything that is seasonally appropriate. When she outgrows a size, I pack it up again, in clearly labeled boxes or bags that way it's easier for the next person.

Baby Center is my go-to website for most of my questions. I love that it seems to be very balanced and not biased. It gives different perspectives and advocates very few hard and fast rules. It will cover the "old school" rules while also discussing newer research.  I've used it for everything from developmental milestones to how to start solid food.

Veteran Mothers

More than anything else, I have been so thankful for all the veteran mothers in my life over the last year. Those first few weeks are brutal in that you are trying to make decisions on whether a behavior is normal when you have no idea what normal looks like for your baby! It's nerve racking. I don't know what I would have done without my friends, especially my mom.  I'm so thankful to have such a close relationship with my mom. Watching her with Turtle, watching what she was concerned over and what she wasn't helped me hone my instincts so much.


So, to wrap up this series, here is my best advice to prospective or new parents out there.

1) Trust your instincts! All the books are great but know that the "right" way is what works for you and your family. It might feel like you don't have any instincts, especially those first few days and weeks, but know that you do. You just have to be quiet and listen to them. Oh, except for the one (as my friend says) that will occasionally tell you to eat your young, or sell them on Criagslist! :-) That one is normal but it means you need a break as soon as possible.

2) Remember that your baby needs love first and foremost. Give him or her that and everything else will fall into place.

3) Judgement is a part of being a parent.  No matter what you do someone will judge you for it. Breastfeed, formula feed, co-sleep, sleep train... someone will have an opinion about it. So, make the decision that is right for you and your family and the heck with anyone else. Stay far away from controversial parenting topics on the internet (people get brutal) and feel free to use the hide, unfriend, and block features of social networking sites.

4) Things WILL NOT go as you plan. Some things will but some things will not. That's ok. The sooner you surrender to what is instead of trying to force it to be what it was supposed to be, the easier life will be. Also, my experience has been that as soon as I get comfortable with Turtle's routine or rhythm then she will change it. The harder I try to fight the change, the worst it is for everyone. And sitting around with moms of teenagers and even my mom who has adult children, it seems that change is the only constant in parenthood.

5) Parenting is super hard on a relationship. Just like they say the first year of marriage is the hardest, the first year of parenthood is super hard too. I was surprised at the strain it put on my relationship and we have a pretty solid one. We are still working this out so I don't have any real advice on how to make it better, but know it's going to be hard so you're not surprised when it sneaks up on you. And there is no shame in couples counseling. You don't have to be on the verge of divorce to go. In fact it's much more effective if you don't wait that long.

5.1) Allow your co-parent to struggle. That's how you learned too. Rescuing my husband (in my case) was one of the worst mistakes I made early on. It killed his confidence and communicated to him that I had no confidence in him either. You learned how to change a diaper or what needed to go in the diaper bag by trial and error. Let your partner do the same. If he or she forgets something, it's ok. You'll improvise or run by the store and they will learn just like you did. And resist the urge to criticize the way he or she does things. Just because it's not your way doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong.

5.2) Try not to keep score. It's suuuuuuuuuuuuper hard not to some times! Especially the more sleep deprived you are. If you need help or feel like the other person isn't pulling their fair share then just communicate that. You don't have to justify if by pointing out that you've changed the last three diapers and they have only changed one. Communication, negotiation, and compromise are going to save your sanity and possibly your relationship.

What to check out the entire series? Here it is:

Bringing Home Baby:

A Pregnancy Must Have List

A Newborn Must Have List

A Newborn Nice to Have List

A 3 Month Nice to Have List

A 6 Month Nice to Have List

A 9 Month Nice to Have List

A 1 Year Nice to Have List