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.

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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”!

Screwing Up Christmas: The Stories Behind the Pictures

I cannot stress enough to my readers – or to my children – how much effort it takes to do normal things in this house. If unloading the dishwasher is nearly impossible, the idea of Christmas is, um, whoa. “It was like trying to borrow a dollar, getting turned down, and asking for fifty grand instead.” (Although, don’t Google that High Fidelity quote, because it’s about sex, not Christmas.) You can look at the pictures of our Christmas season, and think, “Oh how cute/picturesque/normal…” BUT IT’S NOT! It’s only okayest, at best. I want my children, as well as other overwhelmed mothers, to know that providing anything “normal” these days takes great strength, planning, and patience. The pictures do not tell the whole story in my house, and I sure hope they don’t tell the whole story in your house either. Here are a few normal things that took Herculean effort in this house.

First snowman

Photo: Perfect cute snowman

Photo: Perfect cute snowman

Wow, so cute. So normal, right? Well, Daddy had to be home for this to get done. Momma couldn’t quite manage to get all three kids dressed in boots, coats, snow pants, hats, and mittens. I break out into a sweat just getting them dressed in a diaper with regular clothes. Plus, I don’t think we even have enough snow gear for all of them- they might have to share.

Reality: Babies hide snow gear and get stuck inside while crying "BUBBA!"

Reality: Babies hide snow gear and get stuck inside while crying “BUBBA!”

So, when Daddy was home, I asked him to take R outside to play in the snow. Getting him dressed involved about seven trips up to the bedrooms and down to the basement to dig out appropriate-sized snow gear (to include two boots that are the SAME). Meanwhile, the babies ran amok. I finally got all of R’s gear piled in one spot, and, while we wrestled him into these clothes, one baby managed to run off with the boots and hide them. The other baby took off with the mittens and dumped them behind the dog crate, I think. We finally got R dressed and out the door, and then the babies stood at the window, crying “BUBBA!” (“Brother!”) My mommy-guilt was sky-high. Daddy built the snowman with him, though, so I’m gonna go ahead and call this a victory.

Christmas-Tree Farm

Photo: Cute family at the cute Christmas Tree Farm

Photo: Cute family at the cute Christmas Tree Farm

Looks so picturesque, right? Looks so easy, huh? Let me impress upon you the amount of planning it took to even GET to the farm in the first place. Here is a window into the conversations going on between Mr. and Mrs. Okayest before and during the tree farm trip:

1)      What vehicle would we drive? We used to take the 1988 pickup truck. I used to squeeze in the middle, between Mr. Okayest and a carseat. Now, our family is too big. I would prefer just to throw the babies in the bed of the pickup, but we’d probably get arrested. So we would have to take two cars this year. Wait, no, maybe the tree could just fit on top of our VW? My husband found an old yoga mat to use as a pad on top of the car. Yep, we’re good to go. We would just take the VW to the Christmas tree farm this year so we could all ride together.

2)      When would we go? Every Saturday is filled with obligations and/or chores and/or homework. Okay, we could go on one of Mr. Okayest’s Fridays off. Yes, that would work. Wait, what do you mean the tree farm is only open from 2-5 PM on weekdays? That’s naptime! We have to skip nap to get a dang tree? Uh-oh. It’s worth it, right? It’s only once, right?

3)      How would we get around the farm? Hmmm. Our babies can walk, but they can’t exactly cover great distance on uneven, snow-covered, mud-puddle-ridden ground. We usually take the triple stroller with off-roading wheels for situations like this, but we knew that with the recent snow melt, it would be far too muddy for that. Hmm. Maybe we could use the Ergo carrier and the hiking backpack? What is the weight limit on those things? We haven’t used them in a few months. Would the babies still fit? Would they tolerate not walking? How would we wear an Ergo with a coat again? Would the buckles of the hiking backpack fit around my big husband and his coat?

Reality: Daddy has to saw the tree down with one twin on his back, while R saws with a plastic saw and cries.

Reality: Daddy has to saw the tree down with one twin on his back, while R saws with a plastic saw and cries.

4)      How would Mr. Okayest cut the tree down with a baby on his back? Maybe he could take the hiking backpack off and set it on the ground, with the baby still in it? Oh, wait, it’s too muddy this year. He could just cut it down with a 28-pound kid on his back. Saws and babies – that’s cool, right? Yes, that would work.

5)      How would we make sure  R is included? R insisted on bringing his own saw to the tree farm. He has three toy saws (hand saw, hack saw, and chainsaw), and he knew the right one to bring. How could we argue with that? (You can see him using it in the pictures. He got a face full of sap for that.)

6)      How would we even pay? What do you mean you only take cash or check? Holy crap, we never carry cash or check. Ugh.

It would have been so much simpler and cheaper to get a tree from the grocery store. I’m not even going to write about how long it took us to get loaded up to go home.

Putting up the tree

Photo: Perfect Tree

Photo: Perfect Tree

1)      First, where would we even put it? We bought one of those baby fences (actually two), but we ended up using them around the fireplace and the speakers and other untouchables. Hmmm. With one kid, I totally trusted him (or could just watch him well enough), so this wasn’t an issue. With three kids, I can’t manage. I just can’t. We decided to put it in the dining room and keep the whole room gated off.

Reality: To get this done, we had to gate ourselves into the dining room during the babies' nap, while Momma had a migraine. R put a million ornaments in one cute spot.

Reality: To get this done, we had to gate ourselves into the dining room during the babies’ nap, while Momma had a migraine. R put a million ornaments in one cute spot.

2)      How would we do the ornaments? There is no time – or, more accurately, no energy. Last year, we put lights on the tree, but never got around to the ornaments. This year, R was old enough to be excited about decorating. (He says  the word “decorate” in about 17 syllables.) I had to find the energy to do this. I had to. Mr. Okayest put the tree in the dining room and got all the lights on it – but the ornaments were up to me. I had a 4-day migraine. I could barely see or handle basic life, but I had to do this. I got the ornament box from the basement, gated R and myself in the dining room during the babies’ naptime, and started to unwrap the ornaments. R was tremendously interested and gentle. He helped me for a good hour with his lengthy attention span. He put about 25 ornaments into two square inches of tree, but it looked cute and I left it that way.

I fail at a lot of things with this many small children. I can’t make the cookies I used to make; I forget to put Christmas music on; I am not reading them Christmas stories; we have no Christmas lights on the house this year; all their presents are hand-me-downs or consignment sale toys. But, THIS, this is the one thing I did right:

Photo IS Reality: My son plays with the nativity that his Great-Great-Grandma made by hand, and learns about the birth of Jesus. Win.

Photo IS Reality: My son plays with the nativity that his Great-Great-Grandma made by hand, and learns about the birth of Jesus. Win.

And it’s the only thing that matters. Here is a picture of R playing with my nativity set that my Great-Grandma made – and by “made”, I mean she hand-cast the porcelain and painted it. He was playing with his Great-Great-Grandma’s nativity, and learning about the birth of Jesus. It’s the only thing that matters. I did it.