Bossy Okayest Baby Gear Advice, By Request

People keep asking me for baby gear advice. Not sure why… maybe my okayest attitude helps people know I would help them sort through the muck. Here’s what I have been telling those moms-to-be who have asked for my bossy opinions:

Everyone tells you how fast they grow, but it’s really hard to believe how true that is until you watch it happen. There is so much that you won’t need. For six months, he’s just a backpack. And then, he will be crawling away from you! With that said, modern life/ modern inventions do indeed make mothering much easier. This is a list of my favorite things and my super-opinionated opinions.

Please know that my first son came to us in a hurry, as we adopted him after only three days’ notice. One cool thing about that was that we were spared a lot of unncessary product comparisons and reading baby gear reviews ad nauseum. I just asked my favorite momma (my cousin’s wife) for a quick list and she didn’t waste any time. She just said which brand of bottles and which brand of this and that, and I loved it. When my twins came along, I had more time to prepare, of course, but I had no time for frivolous baby stuff. We had one mode, and it was survival mode!

My point is that you can take my opinions with a grain of salt, because they are just that: opinions based on my experiences. And my experiences haven’t been normal, because I have never had a normal one-pregnancy-equals-one-baby situation. I’ve had one pregnancy for three babies from two different moms.

Anyway, here’s my bossy advice, in no particular order:  

Feeding pillow: Must have a Boppy! It’s good for arm support for nursing and bottle feeding (or BOTH AT THE SAME TIME if you have twins). I had four when I had the twins (two on each level of the house), but you won’t need that many! I have noticed that my short friends and my extremely bosomy friends don’t need the Boppy as desperately as my tall friends and/or my petite-breasted friends. We just have a lot more area to cover between our laps and our boobs, okay?

Homemade Moby Wrap is good idea; carrying twins this precariously is not.

Homemade Moby Wrap is good idea; carrying twins this precariously is not.

Carriers: I love the Moby Wrap when they are infants (although I made my own from 18 feet of t-shirt fabric); I love the Ergo when they can hold their heads up. Both carriers saved my back more than that stupid Baby Bjorn. Wear the baby in one of those for all your chores, and you will get exercise and baby will be happy. If you decide you like the Moby, practice tying it often before the baby arrives. I usually wore it all day, often without a shirt, and took the baby in and out throughout the day. (I hear there are all sorts of amazing new hybrid carriers out there now, which kind of combine Moby with Ergo… You’re on your own, because my knowledge is already outdated!)

Swing: Must have. Get one that swings side to side AND back and forth. Babies with reflux can’t go back and forth, and you won’t know if your baby is fussy/refluxy until after you buy the swing! Also look for one that plugs in. DO NOT try to save space and get a “travel size” one or folding one or anything- they only swing one direction and none of my kids liked them anyway. I seriously think having a full sized swing (or two for my twins) was what kept me out of the mental hospital. My favorite was the Ingenuity brand, but it ran on hundreds of Costco batteries. My kids all slept in swings until they were 4 months or more. No guilt. No shame!

diapers in bulk

One month’s worth.

Diapers: Whatever brand is cheapest that won’t get poop on your clothes is what you want! I have decided that people have different diaper opinions that are based on their child’s butt shape. And they don’t even seem to know that. But some kids have tall butts, wide butts, whatever. We are generic Target diapers and generic Costco wipes people. Love generic! (However, when they were newborns, we gratefully used anything and everything because people gifted us so many different brands of diapers.) (Also, I will splurge on name-brand for night diapers.) If you compare prices as strictly as I do, be sure to do it PER DIAPER and not per pack. Unit prices, people! We have the Target Red Card, for 5% off, and then I wait for the sale where they offer their bulk packs of diapers at a discount and with a refund gift card. PS, You will know they have outgrown their diaper size when you get peed on.

The forward-facing age recommendations have changed since this picture was taken.

The forward-facing age recommendations have changed since this picture was taken.

Car seats: I got the cheapest and lightest. Not picky in that department! I liked the cheapest version of the Graco brand because they were light and basic. DO NOT get “convertible car seats” unless you have a giant van. I have heard that convertible car seats in the rear-facing position usually will not fit in regular cars. So buy a regular rear-facing seat, and later buy a forward-facing seat, and it will cost the same or less than a convertible seat anyway. (We seriously just have the $25 cheapos for forward-facing too.)

Our first walk

Our first walk

Stroller: I am a big fan of the cheapest and lightest strollers, called umbrella strollers. They are less than $20. However, baby can’t sit in them until he can hold his head up… So that’s where baby-wearing comes in handy. Usually, the more expensive a stroller is, the heavier it will be. I take a double or triple stroller in and out of my van everyday, so trust me when I say weight is a big deal!

Most worth-it splurge: That “Jumperoo” thing is a great splurge even though they only use it for a couple months. Totally not necessary, but I promise you will be able to make dinner if you have that thing.

Seats: My first kid sat in the “Bumbo” for months. I thought it was the greatest invention ever made. My second kid was too fat to fit in it, and my third kid was too wild to sit in it. He was flipping it over. So, if someone gives it to you, great, but save your money in case your kid is a bolt of lightening or super fat. (Again, a whole new generation of seat thingies has been born in the two years since I used baby gear, so I’m outdated already.)

First Aid Must-Haves:
1) forehead thermometer – You can even swipe it on their head while they sleep.
2) Infant Tylenol (generic is always fine) – you will use this A LOT.
3) Children’s Benadryl – Benadryl says it’s for ages six and up, but if your baby has an allergic reaction to something, the doc will tell you the infant dose. We have had to do that. No house should be without emergency Benadryl!
4) anti-gas medicine (simethicone) for infants

High Chair/ Booster Seat: Your kid won’t need a high chair until he can sit up. If you are feeding him baby food in a reclining seat, he is too young to be eating. Therefore, avoid fancy high chairs. My best tip is to avoid any padding or cushion on a high chair. Totally unnecessary, and you will be washing it every single day. Ridiculous. I have been through about three high chairs with padding, so trust me! When I switched to the $20 Ikea cheapo one, I was so.very.happy. You will want something that you can hose off outside if necessary. (Seriously, I have actually done that.) When the twins got older, we switched to the Ikea “Junior Chair”, which is simply a regular chair with taller legs. At $40, it costs the same as some booster seats, but there are no crevices to clean!

Clothing: People will give you all sorts of adorable things, and you will be grateful for every single thing, but take a tip from a twin mom: you will want as many jammies that ZIP as possible! For newborns, those sack nightgowns are great too. You will be so deliriously tired that you will not be able to maneuver snaps and buttons in the middle of the night. You really won’t. Unless your kid is some sort of freak who sleeps six hours a night from birth and you’re super well-rested. Anyway, zippered one-piece footed jammies, and elastic-bottomed nightgowns were my best friends. (Twin moms who are trying to nurse two babies sometimes have to lift/heave a newborn one-handed, and then all the snaps pop open. Zippers, people! Zippers!)

Swaddlers: I am a biiiiig fan of swaddling. All three of my kids were swaddled for every nap and every nighttime for at least a couple of months. One of mine wanted to be swaddled until he was six months old (but I had to leave his legs out when he was bigger so as not to injure his growing body!). Another of mine didn’t need as much swaddling because he was so relaxed already. Their personalities determined how long they needed it! They sleep longer and feel so secure. In the old days, when babies slept on their tummies, they didn’t need swaddling. Now that babies sleep on their backs, their arms flail and wake them up. Swaddle them tightly and they will feel like they are in the womb. Great for reflux too. My favorite was the Halo SleepSack, which is a cotton or fleece swaddler with Velcro. The Miracle Blanket was also pretty amazing.

Reclining Chair: Make sure you have a chair in your house that you can sleep in. Seriously. For my first child, I picked out a cute glider rocking chair situation. It didn’t recline. Guess what? He was super sickly and never slept – and had to sleep upright because of severe reflux. That meant that *I* slept upright in that dang glider for a few months. In retrospect, I now know I should have just begged/borrowed/stealed to get myself a dang recliner. I was too sleep-deprived to know what to do. When I was pregnant with my twins, I found two cheap recliners and made sure I could sleep in them. It turns out, *I* was the one with the reflux and had to sleep upright in those chairs during my twin pregnancy… and my twins turned out to be good sleepers who were satisfied with the swings and cribs and bassinets and whatnot. Oh, irony.

Diaper Bag: NO. Just no. If you have a baby on your hip, why do you want a big bumpy diaper bag bouncing around on your hip too? Most of them are even heavy when they’re empty. It’s ridiculous. I went through about 14 diaper bags, much to the dismay of my husband every time he opens the guest room closet and they all fall out. Trust me: just get a big backpack. Then you have free arms and nothing on your hip except your baby. And if you have twins, you don’t have a choice. Two babies on two hips means a backpack is a must. Plus, once they are a bit bigger, you’re just going to keep all your supplies in your car anyway.

I hope that helps.

***

I have received no compensation for any of these recommendations (although that would have been kinda great). These items were really what I use for my own kids. This is not “a crummy commercial”!

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Dear Husband, While You Were Away, These Things Happened

wpid-wp-1436299044992.jpeg

You may have received a few weird texts from me while you were away. Allow me to explain.

Dear Husband,

While you were on your business trip, eating at restaurants and having full conversations with adults, reading in your quiet hotel room, and wearing nice suits into secure facilities, many things transpired. I don’t know where to begin. You’ve seen quite a few strange texts from me in the last few days.

I am a woman alone with three male toddlers. Boymom.

Someone pooped on the deck. A child. A person. Twice.

I spent as much time as allowed by law at the gym. The children were at the gym daycare for exactly 120 minutes a day. Not one minute less. Yes, I did my strength training class. (I even imagined that my instructor was Parker Posey in “Dazed and Confused”, and she was about to bust out the ketchup and scream “Fry, like bacon you little freshman piggies, fry, fry!”) Also, in full disclosure, I spent a lot of time just idly peddling on the recumbent bike while I listened to U2 and googled the cost of a hip pair of fluorescent gym shoes.

I threw a party in the basement after the kids went to bed one night. A party for moms. We ate that nacho cheese that gives me a stomachache and a headache and watched “Footloose” and didn’t wear bras.

The dog ate a diaper. I didn’t clean up all those little beads that exploded out of it. I was hoping the rain would wash it away but it seemed to make the problem worse. I feel guilty and want to apologize to the earth, but not to you.

I didn’t make the kids clean up their toys. I thought they didn’t notice that I had silently changed the rules, but one of them told his grandmother that “We aren’t cleaning up our toys because Daddy is gone.” Oh, snap!

I fed them fish sticks – or “dick dicks”, according to Twin A. I would never feed them dick dicks if you were here.

I handled a lot of my bidness myself for once. I managed to fix the baby gate when I broke it, finally! I got the trash AND the recycles out on time. I even updated the PlayStation system (with your help via the phone during my mom party when our movie wouldn’t play).

I did not kill the children.

I spilled yogurt all over the deck and the children when I tripped over them. I didn’t clean it up. Thankfully, the rain and the dog were actually helpful in this regard.

The kids were dirty because I haven’t bathed them – because you’re not here to do it for me. I added a couple squirts of Burt’s Bees soap to their baby pool that was full of rain water. Yes, yes I did. They slipped and slided and made a lot of suds. That totally counts as a bath. What?! I’m short-staffed.

I tried to get a tan on the back deck during naptime, and I even managed to take a selfie for you while doing so. I was a bit weirded out when one son kept staring at me through his blinds. Also, the baby monitor informed me that I had to go upstairs approximately 47 times to separate twins and generally restore order. While covered in greasy oil and wearing a bikini. The twins were a bit weirded out as well.

Pinterest fail. It's a sprinkler. Sort of.

Pinterest fail. It’s a sprinkler. Sort of.

I tried to be a Pinterest Mom and failed. I tried to poke holes in a pool noodle and attach it to the hose to make a sprinkler for a dollar. But the water just seeped out instead of shooting out and the kids were totally bored. I even hung it on a tree to make it work better but they weren’t impressed. (When you have an engineer for a dad, mom’s inventions are super lame, I guess…)

I had an anxiety attack. But not about the Pinterest fail.

I binged watched some stuff on Netflix. And by “some”, I mean, a lot. I don’t plan to tell you what I watched because I’m embarrassed. (Oh, dang, I just remembered that Netflix has a history, unlike flipping channels on cable, so I’m sure you will know anyway. And you won’t care.)

I felt terribly uncomfortable at night now that our attack dog is going deaf.

And, to top off the week (drumroll please), one of your sons fell off the lower deck, naked, while peeing.*

I think we need a man around.

Sincerely,

Your wife

***

*He fell 8 feet, but was miraculously fine. I am happy to report that I am indeed calm in an emergency. As he was falling, I was actually running through my list of who to call to watch the twins in case I had to rush him to the hospital. Since the doctor told me I would have to wake said fallen rubbery naked child every two hours all night long to check for signs of concussion, this situation was still grave and worrisome. However, I do believe that it will become a funny story in our family lexicon sooner or later.

Also, I long ago decided that there is a special angel who watches over playing children. Also, I decided that children are made of rubber.

It Must Be Weird to Be a Twin When…

wpid-wp-1437338656094.jpegYour brother kicks you in the scrotum in utero, and the ultrasound tech sees it and laughs

Your brother gets birthed and you’re just hanging out alone in the womb for the first time, just for two minutes

Your twin learns to poke your eyes, roll over onto you, or crawl away from you for the first time, and you can only lay there and kick your legs like an upside-down bug

You forget you’re not actually the same person, and accidentally open your mouth when the spoon is going in your brother’s mouth

You are minding your own business and your mom yells at you because she got your names mixed up

Your mom tries to change your poop even though she just changed your poop five minutes ago and can’t remember which one of you she changed

Your brother bites you for the first time

You wake up in the morning with a squeal BECAUSE YOU CANNOT BELIEVE HE’S STILL THERE and you have a built-in playmate

You start crying because you’re hurt, but then realize it’s actually your twin who was hurt (you got confused and had major sympathy pain)

Your mom takes you to the doctor alone for the first time, while your twin stays home healthy… and you look around at his empty car seat and freak out

You get called the wrong name, again

Your mom takes you to the church nursery alone for the first time, while your twin stays home sick… and you freak out

We try to put you in Daddy’s Volkswagen for the first time, with only one carseat, and you act like a cat trying to be squished into a crate, because you didn’t know there was such a thing as a car that only held one of you

Your brother is melting down about his “wrong” pants/ blanket/ shoes / cup, and you think he’s acting like a fool, because your pants/ blankets/ shoes/ cup are just fine

He convinces you for the first time to undo that child lock or jump off that bookshelf and your mom disciplines you instead of him

Your brother steals your identity and all you can say is “hey!”

You have both grown so much that you jostle for space on your mom’s chest so much that you end up fighting like alley cats, on her chest, because you don’t know why you don’t fit there together anymore, and you assume it’s his fault

You learn to hug, but your twins rejects you because he assumes you’re trying to fight him again

You wake up and he’s not there

You end up going in verbal argument loops, such as this one:
“Ah-choo!”
“No, that’s MY ah-choo!!!!”

“It’s Not Your Season,” Says My Mom

“Mom, I just wish I could have some energy to do an exercise DVD after they go to bed.”

“Honey, it’s just not your season. There will be plenty of time for that.”

 

“Mom, I just miss reading so much.”

“It’s just not your season, honey. Do you think your aunt ever read a book when she was raising her five boys? Now look at her!”

 

“Mom, sometimes I feel like I’m going to scream if I have to eat PBJ for lunch one more time! I just want to go out to lunch ONCE! Just once!”

“It’s not your season.”

 

My mother is referring to The Book of Ecclesiastes: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Eccl. 3:1)

Before I was a mother, I heard a quote from one of our church leaders that stuck with me: “[A woman] need not try to sing all of the verses of her song at the same time.” [i]

Sometimes I try to sing too many verses simultaneously. Then I remember to back it up and focus on one thing at a time. But, on a larger scale, that line explains perfectly why I am a stay-at-home mother. I had a long career as a student. I had a five-year career as a kindergarten teacher. I had an eight-year career as a wife, but not a mother. I am currently having a career as a wife AND mother. And, someday, I will be able to read/exercise/go out to lunch again. It’s okay with me to do things sequentially.

I love being a woman. I love being a stay-at-home mom. My husband checks in with me frequently to make sure that I don’t feel “marginalized”. I ask him what that means, exactly. Does he want to know if I felt like the margin on a page, when he is the main print? If so, the answer is no. I am not a margin. This here, this work that I do every day, IS the main text. Everything else – work, friends, distractions, hobbies, reading books/exercising/going out to lunch – is the margin. Everything else is FOR THIS.

all three at sink

He works for THIS.

r cuddles

I quit my career for THIS.

storytime

He comes home for THIS.

tied down

I wake up for THIS.

e cuddle

“Your children are not distractions – they are the very purpose.” [ii]

He wants to be sure I don’t have regrets. I assure him that even though this is hard, this was the plan. This is what I was meant to do. I am a nurturer. My decisions are supported by wonderful friends and family.

Nevertheless, there are times when I feel like I am going to cry. And I do. There are times when I feel like I am going to scream. And I do (in the bathroom, silently). There are time when I feel like I am going crazy. And I do – but it passes. Today, I was changing one baby’s terrible terrible diaper mess, and the other baby was getting into the prescription diaper cream, while they were both crying, and the dog was barking, and the oldest was whining, all together. And I told myself, “Breathe. Just wait for this to pass. (And don’t let any poop go flying while you wait.)” Experience has taught me that those moments do pass.

There are times when I feel like nobody ever recognizes the good that we stay-at-home moms do. My husband might get an award or a bonus or a good grade, but I don’t. I just get more poop and more diaper rash and more barking and more whining and more crying. Bless his heart, though, because he says, “WE got an A-plus today. WE got a bonus. WE got a time-off award.” And often, my husband recognizes what I do around the house and with the children. But, as Dr. Phil says, there is a lot of “invisible work” that spouses don’t see – like the way I mop under the table three times a day. Or the way I miraculously read twelve books to wiggly one-year-olds today. He assumes, but he doesn’t really know. It’s the same as how I don’t see all the invisible work that he does to diagnose, repair, and maintain our dryer/ lawn mower/ beige minivan.

I remind myself that heaven sees what I do. God, Jesus, maybe my grandmother who died – I believe they see me and my hard work and my love for my children every day. There are countless witnesses above who may be watching me.

On earth, I have only three witnesses of what I do every day: my children. Most of the time, they don’t care, but every once in a while I will catch them showing empathy to each other in a way that mimics me, and I am so grateful. I will catch them pretending to read a book in the same sing-song-y fashion as me, and I am so proud. Every movement of their bodies can be attributed to something I have taught them- words from their mouths, spoons to their lips, hugs from their arms – it all attests to my hard work.

All that is the point. The main text. Not the margin. And that’s why I quit my career. That’s why I have no regrets. That’s why I don’t feel marginalized. And that’s why I have to remind myself that “it’s just not my season” for the things in the margin. Or, more accurately, I can call my mom and she can remind me.

My work is the main text, not the margin.

 

***

 

[i] James E. Faust (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1986/09/a-message-to-my-granddaughters-becoming-great-women?lang=eng)

[ii] Richard and Linda Eyre, from a fireside address, as quoted by Dwight Egan, Church News contributor (https://www.lds.org/church/news/father-of-8-missionary-sons-shares-advice-that-helped-him?lang=eng)

 

This post was originally written for Beyond Infertility, a website about parenting after infertility. I am a regular contributor to their website.

Carts.

My whole entire life revolves around carts. Store carts. Okay, not my whole life, but most of my mother-strategizing revolves around carts.

When I had one child, the extent of my tactical planning about shopping was 1) bring some goldfish crackers, and 2) park near the cart corral in the parking lot.

Once I had three children under three, however, the logistics were cranked up to a whole new level. We’re talking The Situation Room just to leave the house. Intelligence analysis. I had one who couldn’t reliably walk through a store and two who couldn’t hold their own heads up. Shopping carts were not an option at all. My only option for shopping alone was to take my triple stroller. I could only buy what would fit in the basket of the triple stroller, and (I’m speaking from experience here) that was NOT a pack of diapers or a can of formula.

costco cartOnce the twins could, you know, sit up, my options improved dramatically. Then I could actually fit two kids in the front of a cart, and one kid in the back. The problem with this plan was that the only place that had double-seater carts was Costco. So, at least I could go to Costco, right? Right – if all I wanted to buy was maybe a can of formula. Not much else is going to fit in the back of a cart with a kid back there.

Once my oldest could reliably walk beside me in a store, my options opened up ever more. Then I could go to Costco, with the twins in the double-seater front of the cart, and my oldest walking beside me. (I still couldn’t go anywhere else, because nowhere else has double-seaters. And I can’t trust either twin to sit in the back of a cart yet.) I could fill up the back of the cart with all our groceries, instead of my kid. Well, I could do that… when I wanted him to whine “I’m tired. My legs hurt. I want to go home. I can’t walk.” through the entire store.

Another option that became possible was shopping with the double stroller, which is SO much lighter than the triple stroller, while having my oldest walk through the store (again, while tantrum-ing). I could only buy what would fit in the bottom basket of that stroller, though, or what would balance precariously on the top of the handles of the stroller.

I, of course, buy diapers in bulk, so I have to balance that bulk box on top of the handles of the stroller, while steering it, and while a grouchy kid clings to my legs. Suddenly, he will decide he wants to steer the stroller himself, which keeps him happy and then I can carry the big box in my arms… until he careens into innocent bystanders.

And SPEAKING OF BYSTANDERS,

Why does no one ever help me? I think I look pretty friendly and open. Maybe it’s because I have the look of a crazed animal in my eyes. Maybe it’s because I haven’t slept in years and my ponytail is always askew. I think if I saw a mother with three children careening around and a giant box of diapers balanced precariously on top of the extremely-heavy-and-hard-to-push stroller, I would offer to help. But nope. Never. What’s the point of living in the south if no one is going to be chivalrous? Sheesh.

Other options I have tried include:two carts

-getting two carts. I push one and pull the other. I look ridiculous, I crash a lot, I usually amputate one of my kids’ legs, and it really hurts my wrists. But it works in an emergency.

-asking a friend to meet me there and push a cart for me. This only works if you have friends without children. Or friends with children in school. Since I am mostly friends with other Mormon moms who have about 17 children each who aren’t yet in kindergarten, this option is a pipe dream.

-parking next to the BIG DADDY CART.

My oldest said, "Look, momma, we found a cart that fits all our children!"

My oldest said, “Look, momma, we found a cart that fits all our children!”

<— You know what I’m talking about. Each Target has, like, maybe one of these things.

The Holy Grail of Carts, The Big Daddy Cart, is the monstrosity with the cart and the wagon all together. This cart fits one child in the basket and two children in the wagon. Sadly, my Target does not have one of these. Sometimes, I will drive ten more minutes to the next-closest-Target, hoping against hope that I can get that cart. I believe the next-closest-Target has one of these crazy contraptions in its entire store. ONE TIME, I was lucky enough to snag it… and my husband happened to be there that time, so I didn’t even need it anyway.

And, the only possible way that I can even USE the Big Daddy Cart is if it happens to be in the parking lot cart corral. I will circle the entire parking lot in my minivan, looking for that thing. If that thing is in the store, how exactly am I supposed to get all three kids across the great expanse of life-endangering parking lot? One of my kids is a bolt of lightning who doesn’t hold hands. I would have to secure the twins in the double stroller just to get them across the parking lot, then hope that the Big Daddy Cart would be waiting for me inside. Then I could fold up the double stroller and put it inside the Big Daddy Cart with all three children. Then I could shop.

It never works. I usually can’t find the Big Daddy Cart and then I am just stuck with buying, again, what will fit in the basket or what I dare to balance on top of the handles, while my oldest yells that his legs don’t work anymore and he needs to lie down on the Target floor for a rest.

And, oh, yeah, he has to go to the bathroom now, too.

Just then, a mom with merely twins casually strolls by me in the only Big Daddy Cart in the whole store, with ONE EMPTY SEAT. How dare she? She smiles at me with her non-askew ponytail and I want to make it go askew.

 

***

Just FYI, I don’t attempt any of these maneuvers on a regular basis. My husband took over the grocery shopping when I was on bedrest – and I will take it back when the twins go to Kindergarten. Or college. I do the shopping for the diapers/household goods/accidentally-purchased-cute-dresses when my sweet in-laws come for their weekly visit. I am a very lucky momma.